Blog

2010

What's going on with me?

I've been working on a book (the first draft is with my agent) and below you will find the beginning of the revised Preface with a link to the whole document if you would like to read it. As you will see the phrase "The Scandal of God" has been my theme this year!

THE SCANDAL OF GOD: WHY FUNDAMENTALISTS (THE RELIGIOUS AND THE ATHEIST KIND) HAVE IT ALL WRONG

PREFACE

The impetus to write this book came after a public conversation broadcast on local public radio in San Francisco with Christopher Hitchens about his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I enjoyed our conversation and afterwards I wondered whether it might be worthwhile to take on the new atheists. I had a lot of misgivings. The issue was already getting a bit stale, and I was realizing more and more that I really didn’t care whether people believed in God or not, which may seem an odd admission for a priest. Religious people got into trouble when they tried – about three hundred years ago – to treat religion as if it were like science – an explanation of how God runs the world. When religion sets itself up as if it were a scientific explanation of the world, it looks increasingly ridiculous. That’s why I think that, at this moment in history, arguing about whether God exists or not is a waste of time. But I was still left with the question, what did I care about? Had I given my life up to an illusion? Had it all been a waste of time? What did I really care about?

Not long after my conversation with Christopher Hitches, I began my retirement from being dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. My wife and I flew to Singapore and enjoyed having over two months at sea on a container ship to “nowhere”. I say to “nowhere” because while we stopped at wonderful sounding ports – Shanghai, Nagoya, Kobe, Pusan, Montevideo, Santos and Rio – we had little or no opportunity to experience these places for very long. Staying in port costs the ships money, so the turn-around was made as fast as possible. I’ve languished outside Shanghai but haven’t seen it. I’ve spent two hours in a shopping mall in Durban, South Africa, and had coffee at Starbucks in Kobe. The trip gave us the opportunity to experience the world-as-shopping-mall, the globe as one great engine of consumption. The ship became the container of all my questions.

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