Friday, 5 August 2011

Dutch vicar tells his congregation: this life "will probably be the only one you get"

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly):

An interesting report on the BBC website describes the efforts of Rev Klaas Hendrikse, a vicar in the Dutch Protestant Church, to offer a modern interpretation of Christianity free from notions of the supernatural. In one of his sermons, Hendrikse tells his congregation:
"Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".
Interviewed by the BBC's Robert Piggott, the Reverend explains his philosophy further:
"Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death. No, for me our life, our task, is before death. When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."
It's easy for atheists to joke about this kind of story, and no doubt firm believers would also find it absurd. But I think it's worth noting that Hendrikse's perspective (which is shared by one in six Dutch clergy, apparently) probably reflects the way millions of churchgoers (and followers of other faiths) feel about religion – for many, it's not about literal belief in the supernatural, or even the promise of an afterlife, but rather about accessing a mythology that imparts meaning and helps make sense of the world, as well as a like-minded community. This is made clear by one of Hendriskse's colleagues at the Exodus Church in Gorinchem, central Holland, the Rev Kirsten Slattenaar, when she explains her perception of Jesus:
"I think 'Son of God' is a kind of title. I don't think he was a god or a half god. I think he was a man, but he was a special man because he was very good in living from out of love, from out of the spirit of God he found inside himself."
Of course, atheists or agnostics may also dispute the allegorical value of the Bible, but that's a slightly different argument than the one over the existence/non-existence of God(s). There's a tendency in the "God debate" for atheists to reduce religion to its fundamentalist, creationist variety, and I think we risk underestimating the appeal of religion if we don't consider the kind of perspective taken by Rev Henrikse.
blog comments powered by Disqus