“To be boosted by an illusion is not to live better than to live in harmony with the truth; it is not nearly so safe, not nearly so sweet, and not nearly so fruitful. These refusals to part with a decayed delusionare really an infection to the mind. Believe, certainly; we cannot help believing; but believe rationally, holding what seems certain for certain, what seems probable for probable, what seems desirable for desirable, and what seems false for false.”
(George Santayana) Smith 1880

 US Bishop John Shelby Spong in conversation with Don Cupitt in 1993 in New Zealand

Spong: “People inside the church who are still wearing their religion as a kind of security blanket, who feel I might be pulling the edges of their blanket  away and exposing them. Well, any time I can threaten your God, your God is so inadequate that your God ought to be threatened. We have to go through this process time and time again.”
Chair: “How do you respond to the criticism that you’re taking away the comfort and security of the old lady/  old man who believes that every word in the bible is literally true. They’re happy with it – why not leave them with it?”
Cupitt: “Perhaps you should be giving up those things you’re clutching at and clinging at. Perhaps the way to salvation lies through loss and emptiness and the void. Ask how life might be remade on the other side.” (i)

“Religion can lay that spectre of futility and meaninglessness, which man’s selfconsciousness and thoughtfulness are always liable to raise. The convert says to himself, in the words at the end of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “My whole life, every moment of my life, will be, not meaningless as before, but full of deep meaning, which I shall have power to impress on every action. ” The great comfort of such a belief is obvious. If his religion also makes him believe that death is not the end of life, this more than doubles his feeling of comfort and security. A man who deprives the people of comfort is often regarded as a ‘cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the poor and wretched’ (ii).”

But is it a cruel oppression to preach atheism? The implication is that truth is below comfort in value.


(i) “Frontiers of Faith” New Zealand Radio Connexions series 1993, published by St Andrews Press, NZ. (p.11)
(ii) Edmund Burke “Reflections on the French revolution” Works v.432


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