Today I've enjoyed the company of hundreds of Christians as we celebrated the wedding of my brother-in-law. As a body of people there is rarely warmer or more charming company. Now you might think it strange that I, as a passionate critic of religious ideas should venture this? Sounds a bit of a mixed message, doesn't it? Well no, and for the following reasons. The very best of British Christianity emerges from those who at least try to live lives that reflect the nobler teachings of Christ. Compassion, concern for the vulnerable and the disenfranchised; hospitality to all comers, and of course forgiveness. I admire these qualities despite having grave doubts about the historicity of the Biblical record itself. I recognise that I've often shown disdain for some of Christianity's more damaging teachings, but I've always attempted to at least acknowledge the genuineness and sincerity of honest to goodness believers.
I am, after all married to a Christian. Many if not all of my closest friends are Christians. This has taken resilience on their part because I've never flinched when aiming both rhetorical barrels in their direction.
Before you ask; no, I have not had a spiritual epiphany. I still don't believe the truth claims and do not subscribe to the belief that Christ was the son of God. Furthermore, I continue to think the legacy of some of Christian teachings have proven a stumbling block to the advancement of a tolerant and just society. But these aren't quarrels for today. Today is to acknowledge the many genuine people of faith who are living out their beliefs with sincerity and integrity; those who are actively involved in projects and initiatives intended to alleviate suffering rather than increase it. More than that, a lot of them do so without fuss or ceremony, which is a quality I greatly admire.
I'm not going to stop critiquing religion. It's fare game and has a lot to answer for. And I think many forms of American evangelical Christianity are sorely in need of a good hand-bagging. There are some religious goons out there who really mustn't be given an inch, who really do cause unnecessary harm and guilt and need people like me to be all over them like a rash.
But I don't want you to think me blind to the good one's. I know they exist. They are a significant part of my life. A bit like the late Christopher Hitchens, I believe that disagreement; even passionate disagreement, does not have to equal discord.