Gotta Have Faith

There’s a statue of Sir Humphrey Davy – inventor of the miners’ safety lamp – in Penzance.

I don’t really know if that’s true: The statue was there last time I was in Penzance, but that was over twenty years ago – anything could’ve happened to it by now. It could’ve been sold to the Americans, pulled down as a health and safety hazard, or simply stolen as a prank by a stag party – although what kind of stag party would go to Penzance I’m not sure. One from Tintagel, perhaps. But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I believe it’s there.

Not that it matters whether I believe it or not: If it’s gone, then my believing it’s there won’t make it suddenly re-appear. And if one of you feloniously makes me believe it isn’t there, when really it is, my lack of belief won’t make it suddenly disappear.

I’ve heard people who disagree with my Christian faith say things like (for example) “God hates gay people, and I don’t want to believe in a god like that”. As an aside, there’s no biblical evidence that God hates gay people; there’s plenty of evidence that a small number of people who call themselves Christians do, but that’s not the same thing. My point is, does it really matter what sort of god people want to believe in? I spent the last ten years not wanting to believe that Tony Blair was prime minister – it didn’t change anything.

What I’m leading to is some correspondence in magazines that I’ve seen lately, debating which is the “best” religion – if any – for the world to follow: The conclusion seems to have been reached that it’s Buddhism, because Buddhists believe in tolerance and letting people do their own thing, more than any of the other faiths do. But surely that’s a totally false trail? I’m a New Testament Christian, and I believe in the truth of the New Testament: Rather than get involved in the detail of that, let’s simply put the whole New Testament into one lump and call it “Fact A”: Like the existence of that statue in Penzance, Fact A is either true or it isn’t, and my belief – or other people’s unbelief – won’t change that.

Likewise, truth isn’t altered by what people think is most appropriate for the culture of the time, or suits their particular need: I’d like to believe in a God who says “That bit about gluttony being a sin – that doesn’t apply to short bearded bald blokes called Gottle, OK?”. Sadly, that choice isn’t available – like Blair’s disastrous premiership, what I’d like to believe doesn’t change the way things are, one way or the other.

I’ve always believed that faith is a personal thing, and is to be respected by others: If anyone asks, I’ll tell them why I’m a Christian and why I believe what I do, but I’ll leave them to make their personal decision based on that, and on any other evidence they can gather. What’s important is that religious faith – like deciding whether or not to believe Blair is or was prime minister – should be a decision based on what someone believes to be true, however inconvenient that truth may be. It can’t be a lifestyle choice based on what you’d like to believe.

As another aside, Wikipedia seems to suggest the statue is still there. But we all know that Wikipedia can be even less reliable than my memory.

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