Sunday, August 12, 2007

Anglican atheism

On this morning's Sunday programme Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, and Master of Trinity spoke interestingly about being an Anglican atheist.

He said he was largely sympathetic with the views of Richard Dawkins, but still held in high regard the culture, tradition and values represented by the CofE. In this respect, he said he felt he was like some Jews, who are content to practice the domestic and social rituals, even the prayers of their cultural and spiritual background, for their expression of the highest human values, but without any need to acknowledge a transcendent divine source to all that exists.

Come to think of it, a recent Sunday programme featured an article about an American Jewish atheist of poetic bent who has re-translated the Jewish manual of prayers as collection of humanist meditations which dispose of references to God.)

I guess the same may be true for many occupying academic Oxbridge positions, where the appointee has traditionally been drawn from among Anglican church members - probably since Enlightenment influence really took hold. No doubt they are excellent at their job and jolly decent fellows. It's better that Anglicanism is a community which (a bit like Hinduism) embraces wide ranging beliefs and convictions, than it is to be exclusive and persecute people of integrity and good will, as some 'orthodox' seem to relish. Even so it's a bit of a puzzle.

How can institutions settle for leadership from good chaps who are so comfortable with humane endeavour and achievement that peering into the beyond unknowable, in search of the ultimate truth and value that embraces us, seems for them to be a discarded option? Has the power of today's intellectuals totally disposed of the spiritual power of holy people? Are there any left?

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