Last night I watched the most recent episode of Bill Maher's Real Time program. One of his guests was acclaimed author and political blogger Andrew Sullivan. At one point, the two of them got into a heated argument about religion and politics. Maher claimed that too many Americans and American politicians are influenced by the "magical thinking" of Christianity and religion in general to solve our pressing domestic and international problems, and he implied that we'd be better off if we and our politicians rejected all religion and its nonsense.
Sullivan, a Roman Catholic, strongly disagreed. While he conceded that biblical fundamentalists like Sarah Palin might well be compromised by their simplistic religious beliefs, he argued that many religious people embrace much more sophisticated religious understandings that can be reconciled with the secular truths and approaches of the sciences, economics, politics, and so forth.
However, Maher vehemently disputed this. He argued that nonsense permeates all Christian beliefs and can't help but influence the way all Christians think about the world and try to solve its problems. At one point, he mockingly remarked to Sullivan: "You're saying God had a son, and he sent him on a suicide mission that he survived because he was really him." Sullivan bristled at this. "Don't describe my faith to me," he retorted. "You mean I don't have it right?" challenged Bill. "No, you don't have it right," Sullivan replied. Yet, the discussion continued without Sullivan ever elaborating on this.
It seems to me that Maher does have it right. Even "sophisticated" Christians believe Maher's characterization, whatever elaborate theological structures they build on this foundation and then, like Andrew Sullivan, try to fool us and themselves into believing that they don't do this. In other words, Christianity is based on nonsense.
The question is, does this, as Maher claims, inevitably taint the Christian's approach to all secular problems and concerns, or can wiser Christians do as Sullivan claims and realize "that there is a difference between heaven and earth. Some of us believe in that difference and can deal with the earth on secular terms and with our faith on religious terms."?
But doesn't one's "faith" concern both heaven and earth?