Don’t get me wrong. I’m not becoming a Christian. Nor an apologist for Christian religions. Nor am I changing my mind about the likelihood that there’s a deity (I’d lay odds of 20 billion to one against that possibility). But my views about religion are changing. I’ve said for a long time, and written here, that religious organizations engage in admirable endeavors. Providing shelter, helping with food after natural catastrophes, supporting food banks; those things are admirable and deserve our appreciation and support, regardless of our opinions about the philosophies of the organizations behind them.

But, today, it occurred to me that the outcome of such efforts, rather than the motives behind them, are the metrics of goodness.  My attitude on this topic was manipulated a tad more this evening as I watched 60 Minutes and its program about St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey. And listening to Cornel West on tonight’s program further cemented the fact that my views are changing. While I’ll adamantly argue against what I consider the lunacy of attaching supernatural influences to the scriptures, I can’t argue that the most important elements of teaching are not opinions but, instead, conduct.

Goodness is taught. Maybe it’s genetic to a degree, but largely it’s taught. So if we teach it in conjunction with fantastic stories about miracle-workers, I might object to the process but I heartily endorse the appropriate behavioral outcomes. While I might argue (and I know I would) that teaching children that there’s a powerful man in the sky is unhealthy, I would not argue that teaching children the “golden rule” and other such tenets of religious belief does anything but good. I look at the matter in much the same way that I view the early childhood stories about Santa Claus; there’s no harm in fabricating the tale, provided it it adequately debunked in early adolescence.  It’s the same with Christianity and Judaism, and Islam and the like.

Am I rambling? Yes, I suppose I am. But I gained insight today that I didn’t expect. So I’m sharing it in the least cogent way I know how. 😉

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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