Yesterday, I went out shopping in the morning, walking up past the Greek Orthodox Cathedral. There must have been a major religious festival, for the church was just emptying. I didn't have my camera, so I couldn't take a crowd shot. But here is an earlier shot of the Cathedral.
My area in Sydney was the location of Greek settlement in Sydney after the Second World War. Many Greeks have died or moved on, but it remains a centre.
There is an old Greek woman, I think that she is Greek, She has lost her English, that's often a problem with our older migrants, but we always say hello. Tuesday night on my way to tennis, I said hello. She pressed a number of sweets into my hand, said goodbye in heavily accented English, and then walked on.
looking at the crowd thronging the pavement outside the Cathedral, I thought how nice it was. There were old woman alone in their black, older couples talking to their friends, young people with their families. An older man, well he was certainly older than me!, hugged his daughters and then, cupping his granddaughter's face in his hands, gave her a kiss on the top of the head. I smiled, but it took my thoughts in a different direction.
When did atheism become a religion? That may sound an odd question in the circumstances, but let me explain.
I have noticed through the feeds I get and some of the blogs I read, an increasing an increasing stridency in atheist propaganda. The following is an example of what I mean. Now its perfectly rational to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that God doesn't exist and that, consequently, you are an atheist. However, when you use images such as the above, you have adopted an especially unpleasant faith that were you anyone other than an atheist would be roundly and rightly condemned.
The existence or otherwise of God or Gods, of a divine being or beings, cannot be proved or disproved. That is why it is a faith. When atheists concluded that god does not exist and seek to persuade others, they too have accepted a faith, a belief in the non-existence of the divine. That's fine, but when they use images such as the above in the attempt to discredit the views of others, when they selectively point to all the evils created in the name of religion. they have entered a new religious domain much loved by those they criticise. I am right, therefore you must believe.
Now the actual theological issue captured in that image has been much debated. How can an all knowing, all powerful god allow evil or indeed natural disasters to exist?, There isn't an easy answer. In the Christian tradition, it comes back to the question of nature and free will. Man has the freedom to make his choices and must suffer the consequences. That's actually very hard, for the innocent suffer.
Would the world be better off nobody believed? I don't know. I suspect not. The evidence of human history is that we all have a deep need to believe in something beyond ourselves, something that might help explain, to make sense of. the apparently unexplainable,
As knowledge has expanded, the domain of the unexplainable has shrunk. And yet, we still feel the need to believe. That need has created some of the worst moments in human history, but also some of the best, the finest. I don't think that we should lose sight of that.