Britain is currently experiencing a kind of heavenly soak, rinse and repeat cycle (my thanks to @TreyFarleyTV for this analogy). Jokes about building arks are beginning to wear a little thin. Our homes and businesses are flooded; our fields are lakes; and still the rain keeps falling. We began the year with warnings of drought; we are ending it wondering whether we are going to float away on a sea of mud and slime. So, let’s look at the raindrops coursing down our window panes.
What do you see? If, like me, you are a dour pragmatist, you’ll just see more grey water from the skies; if you are a deeply religious person, sensitive to natural beauty and the wonders of creation, you’ll see a whole world in a little, glittering like diamond, streaked with colour, ‘bringing life and freshness to the earth’. What makes the difference? Is religion no more than a kind of ‘feel-good factor’ added on to everyday experience? Or does it reflect a fundamentally different way of seeing things that determines our response to them?
Recently, the House of Lords debated religion and its role in society. There is an excellent summary here by Frank Cranmer on the Law & Religion UK blog. I was particularly struck by the three questions underlying Lord Popat’s contribution:
- What do people think the current role of religion in society is?
- What is the actual role of religion in society?
- What do people want the role of religion in society to be?
We are so used to trying to look at religion from the God-end, so to say, we can become a little dissociated from the people-end, especially if we are regular worshipers and tend to mix with a lot of like-minded people. I don’t entirely agree with Lord Popat’s conclusions, but I like his questions and hope you will find them stimulating, too.