Matthew Parris on “The Only Question”

Here's an article that I guarantee will find itself quoted in evangelistic messages up and down the country within a month or two. It's by the brilliant writer and well-known atheist Matthew Parris, writing in The Spectator, and it's one of the most insightful articles on anything I've read in years. The last three paragraphs are particularly stirring:

Beware (I would say to believers) the patronage of unbelievers. They want your religion as a social institution, filleted of true faith. It is the atheists, who think this God business matters, who are on your side.

As an unbeliever my sympathies are with fundamentalists. They seem to me to represent the source, the roots, the essential energy of their faiths. They go back to basics. To those who truly believe, the implicit message beneath ‘never mind if it’s true, religion is good for people’ is insulting. To those who really believe, it is because and only because what they believe is true, that it is good. I find David Cameron’s remark that his faith, ‘like Magic FM in the Chilterns, tends to fade in and out’, baffling. If a faith is true it must have the most profound consequences for a man and for mankind. If I seriously suspected a faith might be true, I would devote the rest of my life to finding out.

As I get older the sharpness of my faculties begins to dull. But what I will not do is sink into a mellow blur of acceptance of the things I railed against in my youth. ‘Familiar’ be damned. ‘Comforting’ be damned. ‘Useful’ be damned. Is it true? — that is the question. It was the question when I was 12 and the question when I was 22. Forty years later it is still the question. It is the only question.

Put that in your Alpha supper and smoke it.

Andrew Wilson’s new book, If God Then What? Wondering Aloud about Truth, Origins and Redemption, will be released on 16 March, published by IVP, and is now available to preorder.

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