I was told that during Fresher's Week at Sussex University 220 first years signed up to the University Secular Society, I haven't heard how many signed up for the various religious societies. I am struck by how young people want to discuss religion, wherever I go religion seems to be a subject for discussion. What most religious people are badly prepared to discuss are those things the non-religious want to discuss, those fundamental questions that science just can't answer or where science merges into religion.
In my Spooky post, I said that people are really not interested in the kind of religion that is so popular in most Catholic chancery offices these days. They're really not interested in the Church's good works in African villages. They want to know about the religious part of religion.
I remember some time ago, some UK secularist journalist whose name I can't remember, issued a challenge to the religious leaders of Britain to tell him why they think he should believe in God. (I'll call him) Dave Secularist said, in effect, "You people just can't keep on smiling mysteriously and saying it's all about 'faith'. You've got to have some reason for believing the things you do. Tell me what they are, so that I may believe too."
Well, he wrote a few stories about his conversations with Rowan Williams, who gave him his usual Olympic-class blither, and unsurprisingly, came out thinking he had been right all along about what rubbish it all was. None of the religious people were able to answer his straightforward questions.
Of course, it doesn't take more than a few minutes of googling and wikipediaing to discover the term "apologetics" and from there surf right on to the Five Ways and the Ontological Argument, so I'm sure it wasn't as innocent and honest as all that. Dave Secularist knows perfectly well how to look things up, and even if he's too old to use a computer, they've still got card files in the British Library. But from what I could see, the "religious" people made an utter hash of it, without even trying to make a reasonable case, as any fifth grade Sunday school kid could have done even 40 years ago.
But what they did talk about what not the actual religion part of the question. They didn't even get close to the nature of God. Didn't even glance at the first question in either Thomas or the Baltimore Catechism. They talked a lot about feelings and third world aid, as usual, but nothing Real.
This is what people want. They want the Real. The supernatural parts of religion. The Spooky.
Please sir, can we have some Reality?