I’ve long enjoyed listening to Phillip Adams interview interesting people on his Australian ABC’s Late Night Live program. Given that Adams is an avowed and somewhat evangelical atheist, this may seem strange. However, it is not, and I challenge any Christian with a truly open mind and a love for human kind to read or listen to him and not find something to enjoy or even love.
Yes, he will call you a ‘God botherer’, but I’ve been called far worse and lived! However, unlike his firend Richard Dawkins, he will treat you with respect, especially if you are as equally genuine in your beliefs as he is in his.
I’ve just read the introduction to his new edition of Adams Vs. God: The Rematch. This is a collection of essays from more than two decades of Adam’s jounalism.
From my reading I gain the distinct impression that the sort of religion Adams is so appalled by, any genuine follower of Jesus would also reject, as I do. Let me indulge myself by quoting one passage, from pages xxiv and xxv:
One of the problems with religious upbringing, with childhood indoctrination, is that beliefs are rarely, if ever, tested. To a large extent, most true believers are not entitled to their beliefs because they’re entirely unexamined. This is painfully apparent in the letters I receive from Christians. It matters little if they’re aggressive or patronising – whether they threaten me with damnation or undertake to pray for me so that I’ll be more quickly propelled down the road to Damascus. These correspondents have one thing in common. They know far less about Christianity than the atheist they’re writing to. Theirs is a comfortable Sunday school Christianity. They remain in the kindergarten of faith knowing nothing of biblical scholarship, of the history of the Old Testament or the contradictions of the New.
Oddly, their ignorance of their professed faith makes them more confident, or at the very least more complacent. They’re true believers in belief, blissfully unaware of the disagreements in the approved gospels let alone the existence of the gospels that were rejected. The essential difference between those who write to admonish and those who write to save is that some believe that every biblical word is holy and beyond challenge whereas others can see that perhaps Noah’s ark will not be unearthed on Mount Ararat. But whether they’ve eaten the three-course meal of Christianity or have chosen to pick at the food, to go on a sort of religious diet and reject the high calories of virgin birth, bodily assumption and eternal damnation, their innocence (a kind word for their ignorance) is astonishing.
I’ve more sympathy with the unthinking than the half-hearted, whose low-cal version of faith often encroaches upon agnosticism or the turf of the atheist.
Of course, Adams isn’t being original here. Jesus got there first in Revelation 3 with his admonition to the church in Laodicea.
Where twenty years ago Adams thought that religion was in its death throes, he now seems content to hope that it will simply become reduced to some sort of historical hobby. I think that even in this he is being wildly optimistic – the real Jesus is not going to go away. Neither are the opposing forces nor the fakes.
Of course, Adams does know more about Christianity than many Christians, but in common with many of them he also ‘knows’ and believes a lot about it that is erroneous. Having rejected God on logical grounds at the age of six, it is to be expected that he has not put himself in a position to encounter a great deal of the genuine article since then, but has certainly come across a lot of the sort of Christianity that would cause Jesus to roll over in his grave, in the unlikely event of anyone ever finding one that could hold him.
But Adams is a genuine believer in his own worldview, and if you’ll excuse my use of an old cliche, this is one which takes a great deal more faith to hold on to than being a follower of a living person that one has actually met and conversed with.
Besides, according to Adams, and I believe him, we have him to thank for the formation of the Family First party, following the challenge he put to a group of Pentecostal leaders that Jesus was not at all conservative.
And even God was apparently impressed enough by him to strike his plane with lightning twice while flying over the Vatican. At least, that’s Adam’s interpretation of the event (surprising for an atheist, even if tongue in cheek). Personally I’d advocate a far different supernatural and more troublemaking source for those particular atmospheric volts and amps.
Phillip Adams might feel justified if he included me in his list of the patronising, if he bothered to think of me at all, but that is not how I feel towards him. Yes, I believe he is wrong about many things, but I would not try to change his thinking unless he asked me to. What I will do is to continue to enjoy listening to and reading a very erudite man, and recommend that you do also.