CURIOUS. When we last talked I seem to have got off on the wrong foot with you. I was not trying to hassle you, or talk you into a corner.
EAGER: It was a little scary. What were you trying to do?
CURIOUS My folks were people who talked much the way you do about God. I sort of went along with them, and then when we studied science in school, I just couldn’t believe the kinds of things they did. I found it hard to repeat creeds that made me believe in the Virgin birth and things like that.
EAGER: So you’re not a Christian now?
CURIOUS I am not sure what I am, agnostic maybe? But I miss something, and I really want to understand what makes believers tick.
EAGER: So you ask a lot of questions. Okay. But you also gave me some answers or some thoughts which doubted what I hold dear.
CURIOUS No offence intended. I want to find out things I really don’t know.
EAGER: Okay. Does science help you find things out, spiritual things?
CURIOUS Well, science shows us a wonderful world of nature. But the only permanent things seem to be energy and matter, in physics. All other things, from cells to human beings, come and go. Medical science helps a lot, but I end up feeling how fragile we people are. And now the ecology of the world is pretty fragile too. Death is built into the framework of the universe.
EAGER: Are your father and mother still living?
CURIOUS. Yes. They’re okay. Why do you ask?
EAGER: Did they make you feel that life would be permanent, that you would always be safe?
CURIOUS Yes. Till I found out about sex!
EAGER: Sex! Why sex? Didn’t they explain it to you?
CURIOUS Mostly what I should not be doing about sex! But then I realized that they did sex, and everyone does it, and that it is just part of a big circle we are all part of, kept moving by Sex and Death.
EAGER: Even primitive religions pick up that circle as divinely ordered, and have myths of resurrection based on the renewal of life in Spring.
CURIOUS So, isn’t the Christian story a myth. It’s much like Adonis and Persephone.
EAGER: Yes, it looks like the myths. I even have a friend who wants to say Happy Persephone Day at Easter! But Christians believe that the events of Jesus’ life really happened, and their reason for believing is that they experience a new life in their community of believers, and that new life is a resurrection.
CURIOUS But traditional believers stress Jesus bursting out of a coffin and reanimating the bodies of the dead, no matter what their stage of decomposition.
EAGER The artistic paintings put two different things together: Jesus’ resurrection, and a projected resurrection of all the dead. Artistic representations of faithful beliefs do not deal with population logistics!
CURIOUS So resurrection is some kind of new life experienced by Christians?
EAGER Yes. Hopes of life after death are a part of the belief, but the more immediate belief is the personal and community experience of Christians.
CURIOUS And does that new life experience give you a sense of the permanence of human life, beyond the circle of birth and death?
EAGER: Not so much permanence, as new birth.
CURIOUS So what is so comforting about that new birth, if it does not ensure that you will go on living?
EAGER: The new life we experience is one in which God is experienced all through our lives, and we see nature and other human people as in harmony with the beauty and certainty of God’s love.
CURIOUS How about pain, suffering and death? Where do they fit in the new kind of life?
EAGER There is one thing above all about God which makes these endurable and even meaningful.
CURIOUS What is that?
EAGER: That God never leaves us, never has, and never will. That God is faithful, such as what a human lover and beloved can experience.
CURIOUS Isn’t that sex again?
EAGER: Yes, and just as sexual love is risky, and parental love has risks, so God’s love is risky: we do not risk losing God, but even as in the new life we experience now, we risk losing ourselves, even losing our human lives and hopes and friends, but God is always there.
CURIOUS What I need to know is whether there is anything among scientists like that experience of a God who is always there and is in some sense faithful.