The timing today of Cardinal Ratzinger’s appointment as the new Pope – Benedict XVI- and his subsequent speech – seems an apt time to reflect on ‘credo‘ – what is it we truly ‘believe.’ Recently, NPR (national public radio) has reinstated a regular series asking both prominent and commonplace Americans to respond, via essay format, to the question “This I believe.” The last essay was done my novelist/essayist John Updike. As I was listening to him read his essay – his personal ‘credo’ – I was taken by his last statement regarding the place of religious faith:
“Cosmically, I seem to be of two minds. The power of materialist science to explain everything — from the behavior of the galaxies to that of molecules, atoms and their sub-microscopic components — seems to be inarguable and the principle glory of the modern mind. On the other hand, the reality of subjective sensations, desires and — may we even say — illusions, composes the basic substance of our existence, and religion alone, in its many forms, attempts to address, organize and placate these. I believe, then, that religious faith will continue to be an essential part of being human, as it has been for me.”
Will religious faith continue “to be an essential part of the being human?” Has “religion” out stayed its welcome? Certainly, as one looks into the future vis a vis Sci Fi, ‘religion’ qua religion seems to morph and twist in its importance and, frankly, relevence. On the one hand, you have the religious migration of the ‘Star Trek’ series – moving from a moralistic a-religious universe of humanistic potential forged in Kirk and Spock in the 1960’s original series, through the self divination and existential angst of Betazoids (“I feel… great pain…”) and Androids like Data in “Next Generation”, to the fundementalist fervor of radical Islamist deism in that great shopping mall in space – “Deep Space Nine”. When one turns to the recent re-imagining of “Battlestar Gallactica” on the Sci Fi channel, we find that it is machines (the Cyclons) who has a deep and abiding belief in God – not just some transcendental ideal, but the Hebraic God who is calling forth a new eschaton – and not humanity. It is the Cyclons who live by faith… humans left this “opiate for the masses” long ago it seems.
How do we answer “this I believe” today? Is this too ‘reductionistic’, too ‘foundational’, too ‘essentialist’, too ‘fundementalist’ in the worst sense of the word? Or is this merely the question we have become too sophisticated to honestly answer?
This I believe…?