God is of limited use without a religion…
Our Church is a short, heartfelt book by the philosopher Roger Scruton, and it’s given me a rare view into the Christian mind.
Or the Church of England mind, at any rate. For Scruton, and doubtless for others too, the attraction of the Church of England is bound up with the enchantment (or ideal) of England the country.
He loves the lofty language of the Book of Common Prayer, he loves the words (and the music) of our best-known hymns. He treasures the ornamentation and architecture of the typical parish church. He approves highly of the Church’s ability to compromise and so be a national church functioning alongside a secular, parliamentary democracy. He loves the sacraments and the rituals of a church that is Catholic by virtue of being a continuation of the universal church founded by the Apostles, but that is not Roman Catholic.
When he tries to explain further why he is a member of the Church of England – in what is broadly a justification for Christianity – he talks of Jesus and his sacrifice without putting forward a convincing argument for Jesus’ unique place in the greater scheme of things.
Now, I’m happy with an instinctive belief in God – I’m not one of those who needs ‘proof’ of everything. But once you start getting into specifics and put a historical figure executed by the Romans at the centre of your religion, I think you do need to do more to be persuasive.
I value many aspects of the Church of England, and I’m just on the godly side of agnosticism. But liking doesn’t make something true.
I’ve long been intrigued by many aspects of India, which is why two of my three trips outside Europe have been to that country. But my interest in Hindu mythology, admiration for ancient South Indian temples, home-listening to Ravi Shankar music, taste for egg biryani, and awe of Himalayan splendours, doesn’t mean I can make any intellectual case for being a Hindu.
In common with most humans, I know what I like and I like what religion has to offer, even if indirectly: history, music, impressive buildings. But they’re fripperies compared to the question of God’s existence or His relationship to humankind.
I just about have a God. However, without a religion, I’m not too sure what to do about it.