catching up to the new diversity
Working with people who don’t have faith.
In my political career I have always found it easier to work with people of faith, since all religions share basic moral principles. I’ve been a leader in my Anglican church, and
I know that such principles, such as the Golden Rule, don’t
actually appear in the Bible, but we still believe in them:
‘Don’t do unto others what you would not have them do to
you.’ People who don’t have faith – well, I
don’t know how to work with them.”
With that pronouncement a Canadian
senator resumed her seat. She had spoken
out in a public forum on religion and pub-
lic life in Canada. Apparently confident
she had set things straight, she had instead
demonstrated attitudes common to many
of our leaders, particularly of a certain age.
First, she divided the world into two
kinds of people – those “of faith” (whom we used to call “reli-
gious people” or “believers”) and those who don’t have faith.
The initial problem here is that a number of life philoso-
phies we are used to calling “religions” do not, in fact, require
faith. The ancient form of Buddhism known as Theravada
expects self-discipline, not faith. The foundational form of
Hinduism, Dharma Marga, is the “way of duty,” not faith.
Confucianism and Daoism in their “higher” or “philosoph-
ical” forms do not require faith. So being “of faith” is simply
not synonymous with practising a major religion, as any
first-year university religion course will teach you.
Another problem is that a lot of people in religions that
do teach faith don’t practise it. Instead, they are mystics or
moralists, people who believe and act as if goodness will
come to them if they just do the right things. That’s not trusting God. That’s relying on yourself.
Second, the senator implies all people of faith share the
same moral outlook, while people not “of faith” do not.
That’s why she says she can work well with the former and
not the latter.
Let’s note just briefly that her self-proclaimed leadership
in an Anglican church has not translated into basic Bible
knowledge. The Golden Rule is, of course, in the Bible: Luke
6: 31. And it is much more demanding than the Silver Rule
she confuses with it, since the Golden Rule is positive: Do
to others, rather than just Don’t do to others. The Silver Rule
seems Canadian enough – “Leave other people alone.” But
the Golden Rule is Canadian too. We have worked with each
other, and for each other, all along.
A number of life
are used to calling
“religions” do not,
in fact, require faith.
JoHn STacKHouSe teaches theology and culture at
Regent College, and is the author of Making the Best
of It: Following Christ in the Real World
(Oxford, 2008). Find more of these columns