Friday, December 28, 2007

Quote of the day

"Around the English-speaking world, the hottest publishing phenomenon this past year seemed to be books preaching atheism. Christopher Hitchens' book about 'how religion poisons everything' was excerpted in these pages and provoked a vigorous response. Mr. Hitchens' argument -- echoed with moderately less vehemence in other best-selling books from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris -- was that the world would be better off without religion, confining itself to the data of science and the coolness of reason.

"It is not an entirely new argument. Scientific data and rigourous logic tell us a great deal about the world we live in, and we who live in it. Yet there is a perennial temptation for some to insist that what they know is all that is to be known. In our time, 'secular fundamentalists,' as the Archbishop of Quebec called them, have made this error. Every age of history has its fundamentalists, both sacred and profane, who wish to close off paths of knowledge and discovery.

"There are many things about which the tools of natural science have nothing to tell us. A microscope is of little use in discovering the purpose of life. Even the most powerful telescope brings us no closer to understanding why there is something, rather than nothing -- the oldest of philosophical questions. And the most sophisticated medical imaging cannot tell us about those matters of the heart that bring joy and affliction: love, loneliness, serenity, suffering. A society that has no place for the supernatural, the metaphysical and, yes, the religious, is closing itself off from the most profound questions. There has to be room for the things of God.

"The Christian claim about Christmas is startling: That God has chosen to reveal himself by coming as one of us. He did not send us another learned philosophy, or a more powerful research tool. The great scholar Saint Ambrose gave us the famous principle: Non in dialectica complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum -- It did not please God to save his people by means of logic. Rather, he sent his son.

"Moreover, he came as a baby. Just as a mother with a tiny baby draws people to her side, so too Christians are drawn at Christmas to the nativity scenes, with little children peering at the one in swaddling clothes lying in the manger. There was no room for him at the inn, but God knew that a baby will always make room for himself. In every culture, at every time, the baby comes as a sign of hope and an occasion of love. Even the unexpected child -- and who could be more unexpected that the son of a virgin? -- finds a place, and usually, a welcome.

"It would be a hostile culture which has no room for the child. The child brings with him questions about life and love, about his origin and destiny, and a culture closed to those ultimate questions would be hostile to the human drama too."

— From "Room for God," the Christmas editorial in Canada's National Post