Here is Chris O'Dowd: "thinks following a religion will eventually become as offensive and unacceptable as racism."
There is a force of nature at work in Oz culture. He is called Peter FitzSimons. Journalist and writer of excellent big books (e.g. the stunning Mawson and the Ice Men of the Heroic Age), Peter is also an evangelist for atheism (as in it would be good news if people stopped believing in an imaginary friend). Now it is not him but an SMH/Fairfax colleague, Sam De Brito who offers an evangelistic proclamation in favour of not believing in God by way of criticizing Matthew McConaughey's Oscar winning acceptance speech the other night.
If you saw the speech, Matthew first of all thanks God for his success. Sam De Brito asks, 'Why bring God into it?' Peter FitzSimon gives it the seal of approval, paradoxically with religious language, Amen!
AMEN Why bring God into it, Matthew McConaughey? http://t.co/jUzY1YJPva via @smh
— Peter FitzSimons (@Peter_Fitz) March 7, 2014
That sets off a bit of Twitter debate with @Peter_Fitz. Two Tweets catch my eye:
@Peter_Fitz I assumed god would be busy with famine & child slavery. I feel silly now.
— BaliBrett (@brettmckellar) March 7, 2014
Which seems like a knockout blow. I mean why would God help an actor star in a movie when others' needs are more desperate than that?
But a Christian theological nous, Rocky G, is at hand.
@brettmckellar @Peter_Fitz Hi Fitz, you don't seem to realise that you are actually making the moral argument for God's existence... :)
— Rocky G (@markch9v23a) March 7, 2014
That is quite a fair retort. Worrying about a god who helps movie stars ahead of the starving is a moral action with no rational foundation in a world without god.
But such good responses on behalf of the God of Jesus Christ do not change the fact that (as I read around on blogs and media outlets based in Oz and here) I notice quite a lot of bold criticism of Christianity (and Islam and Judaism) along the lines of 'why do people waste time believing in an imaginary friend?' Indeed De Brito himself writes of 'the world's most popular imaginary friend.'
It is quite a good line, is it not? There is no denial of the existence of God in some sense (imaginary = you think God exists and in a sense he does in your mind, but nowhere else) and there is an element of affectionate care (we all need friends, you have a friend, that's nice) laced in with the withering scorn of 'imaginary.'
Here, dear readers, is the great challenge of our age for Christians, for (perhaps) Australians and New Zealanders in particular: we now live not just in a world of unbelief but in a world willing to scorn belief. Whatever we make of challenges re issues of the day such as homosexuality, and however important it is to carefully assess whether our bishops are making a good job of being bishops (the essential issue in yesterday's ADU post about a controversy in Oz), they are trivial issues compared with the avalanche of disbelief and dissing of belief which is bearing down on us.
Let's be realistic about evangelism and how it 'works': we proclaim the gospel knowing our message is most effective when its hearers are already theists or at least agnostics with hearts open to the possibility of God existing. Atheists are stony ground territory. If our culture in the West, down here Down Under is on the cusp of turning from a few Christians, some theists and many agnostics to one where most people laugh at the notion of an imaginary friend, the future for the gospel is bleak.
The most important question facing Christians does not concern the blessing of relationships other than marriages between a man and a woman nor whether penal substitutionary atonement is or isn't the heart of Anglican understanding of the gospel.
How do we demonstrate that God our friend is real not imaginary, is available to the world and not just to imaginative Christians, and is the solution to problems in our world and not the cause of the problems?