Now, that is refreshing: Richard Holloway, Scottish Episcopal Church (Anglican) bishop is an agnostic. He’s got a point of course saying that if there’s room for “hand clapping” evangelicals, bell-and-smells Catholics, women priests and gay clergy (Sydney Morning Herald), there should be room for the author, broadcaster and retired Bishop of Edinburgh to be a non-believer in god. I do agree. After all, all religions have elements of Carnivàle about them, presenting the weird and wonderful (besides the macabre) to the world. And I certainly find the idea of a priest, leave alone a bishop not believing in god quite appealing.
Holloway, known for his liberal views, is not certain anymore about god and afterlife after a crisis of faith in the late 90s. What is intriguing though is how he can preside over the eucharist (communion), the priest’s consecration of bread and wine as christ’s body and blood, when he doesn’t believe in or at least is not certain of christ’s divinity. Simple: by reinterpretation. He sees the communion as a ritual celebrated by the community of the church, liking it to a family meal. Like any other family, the community of the church has believers and doubters, but all of them are united at the family table despite their own identities and differing beliefs. And it is the meal that becomes an expression of their commonalities as humans rather than their differences, and sustains the institutional church as a ‘social club, welfare organisation and counselling service’ (Sydney Morning Herald).
As for his doubts about afterlife, Holloway believes humans should live ethically as if there is a promise of an existence thereafter. “What I hold is another great philosopher, [the Spaniard, Miguel de Unamuno], who said, ‘Man is perishing, that may be, but if it is nothingness that await us, let us perish resisting and let us so live that it will be an unjust fate.’ I want people to live as though life had eternal meaning. Even if you don’t believe in a God of unconditional love, choose to live as though there were.” Well, nothing wrong with trying to be a good person. And as for not believing in god: Richard might take solace in the billboard by LowcountryHumanists (above), a group which whom he might share quite a few values anyway ;) .
Richard Holloway will speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival tomorrow, Friday and Sunday. See swf.org.au.
[Via Sydney Morning Herald]