The kingdom of heaven promised us certain things: it promised us happiness and a sense of purpose and a sense of having a place in the universe, of having a role and a destiny that were noble and splendid; and so we were connected to things. We were not alienated. But now that, for me anyway, the King is dead, I find that I still need these things that heaven promised, and I’m not willing to live without them. I don’t think I will continue to live after I’m dead, so if I am to achieve these things I must try to bring them about – and encourage other people to bring them about – on earth, in a republic in which we are all free and equal – and responsible – citizens.
Now, what does this involve? It involves all the best qualities of things. We mustn’t shut anything out. If the Church has told us, for example, that forgiving our enemies is good, and if that seems to be a good thing to do, we must do it. If, on the other hand, those who struggled against the Church have shown us that free enquiry and unfettered scientific exploration is good – and I believe that they have – then we must hold this up as a good as well.
Whatever we can find that we feel to be good – and not just feel but can see with the accumulated wisdom that we have as we grow up, and read about history and learn from our own experiences and so on – wherever they come from, and whoever taught them in the first place, let’s use them and do whatever we can do to make the world a little bit better.
I’m amazed by the gall of Christians. You think that nobody can possibly be decent unless they’ve got the idea from God or something. Absolute bloody rubbish! Isn’t it your experience that there are plenty of people in the world who don’t believe who are very good, decent people?
Yes. I’m just curious to know where it comes from.
For goodness’ sake! It comes from ordinary human decency. It comes from accumulated human wisdom – which includes the wisdom of such figures as Jesus Christ. Jesus, like many of the founders of great religions, was a moral genius, and he set out a number of things very clearly in the Gospels which if we all lived by them we’d all do much better. What a pity the Church doesn’t listen to him!