Every once in awhile a priest says something that grabs you. This happened to me at Easter time and I’ve been meaning to post it here. These words come from Father Oswald Baker, a remarkable man who came to national prominence when he refused to say the New Mass after the Second Vatican Council. I found a pamphlet containing a selection of his sermons and this passage in particular really made me stop and think.
Here it is.
One reason for much irreligion is that the discovery of religious truth is different from any other discovery. If a man learns something he did not know, in astronomy, chemistry, or geography, it makes no difference to his way of life, his pleasures or his morals.
Religious truth involves oneself, one’s lifestyle, and personal obligations. To accept the existence of God will mean acknowledging obligations towards God. What is likely to keep men away from religion is not the truths we accept, the Creed, but the commandments bound up with the Creed.
The concomitant moral code requires us to regulate and reform our way of living. Much easier to shelve the question of religion, call oneself an agnostic, and behave as one likes …
Religion is not just a subject for discussion. It is a subject for decision. The claims of religion are not a challenge to intelligence, but a challenge to character. It is not a question of brains but a question of courage.
A man not courageously and honestly willing to accept truths involving obligations is not able to reason well on religion. He will astutely fit his creed to the way he lives. Belief and morals are interactive.
I fear this line – ‘A man not courageously and honestly willing to accept truths involving obligations is not able to reason well on religion.
I fear it because when I think about religion in my doubting moments, this is what’s holding me back. There are enough sound arguments – cosmological, historical, teleological – in favour of the existence of God to make possession of a faith reasonable. The deal-breaker is therefore not a question of reason but, as Fr Baker puts it, a question of character. Are you prepared to live a life of faith? To carry a cross?