I found Christopher Pritchard’s response (March 9) to Nick Shields’ Pilgrim’s Progress of the previous week interesting.
On the one hand, Nick Shields criticises the likes of Richard Dawkins for the ‘agnosticism’, while Christopher Pritchard claims that Christians - like Nick Shields - can’t possibly have any direct knowledge of God, so they must be agnostic without realising it. This is fascinating stuff for those with a philosophical turn of mind like me.
But isn’t there a danger that we’re slightly missing the point here? This becomes an endless debate about words (such as ‘God’), with the protagonists going round and round in circles.
It may be useful for analysing different belief systems, for example those who believe in God and those who don’t, but it doesn’t really help with the important questions like: Who are we? Why are we on this planet? What are our spiritual origins and ultimate purpose? I feel sure that Nick Shields and Christopher Pritchard, despite their apparent differences, are agreed that such questions deserve an honest answer.
Let’s assume that Jesus was at least a great spiritual teacher. At his birth we are told that the angels promised peace on earth to people of good will. In his lifetime he uttered profound spiritual truths.
If a spiritual teacher appeared in 2012, what would we expect him to say?
Surely he would not engage in futile arguments about the existence or non-existence of God or the labels we use for ourselves and other people.
Hopefully he would address the main problems afflicting humanity, such as religious and political divisions, the curse of war, the threats to our environment, the scourges of hunger, injustice and poverty and the crime and terrorism that they generate.
Suppose the answer itself is simple. An answer such as justice and freedom, with sharing as the only way to justice, so creating a real peace for the world.
There would probably be plenty for work for human beings to do; we couldn’t passively await a divine or miraculous intervention to do it all for us.
And suppose also that the spiritual teacher isn’t here to create a new religion, so there’s no demand to join a new organisation, accept things on blind faith or sign up to anything.
Well, call me naive, but I believe such a teacher is in the world right now. It fills me with hope. And I believe that it will draw together people of all faiths and none, with none of the verbal disputes of the past to slow things down. Watch this space.
David JM Leyshon