Every now and again, I find myself uttering that phrase.
You see, every day I come across men who seem to believe that my religion is a therapeutic or a crutch. A tool I use to deal with the world.
It can serve these purposes. But it is not my religion because I find it helpful. On the contrary, several times a day I find it profoundly unhelpful. Rather, it is my religion because I think it is true.
I think a man really rose from the dead. And because He really rose from the dead, His claims about reality take precedence over the claims of historians, scientists, and other philosophers by a country mile.
I may have misunderstood the Resurrected Man, to be sure. Though He claims to be merciful and the author of language itself, so I trust that any misunderstanding is either willful on my part, or else temporary. Hopefully always the second, even if the first. But because He Lives, I am no fool for favoring His account even if evidence seems to point the other way.
Man or Rabbit
C.S. Lewis once addressed the question of whether you can lead a good life without being a Christian. His essay, Man or Rabbit? formed the foundation of my habits of thought. For in it, he he repeatedly returns to hammering home the same concept.
One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing. When that desire is quenched in anyone, I think he has become something less than human.
I don’t give two figs whether Christianity is useful or not. I care whether it is true. I follow it in my own mangled, befuddled way because I am convinced it is true. If it were false, I would rather believe what was true, whether it was Odinism, Atheism, or Taoism.
And while I am pleased to be a believer now, I have not always been. For long decades of my life, I was convinced that Jesus was the Christ, the Risen Son of God, and I wished it were not so. But even then, I did not discard it.
I am not much of a man. I will not win many fistfights. I have not earned a great deal of money, or skillfully managed my affairs. My foes have many vectors to mock me.
But at least I am no rabbit. I am devoted to that which I am persuaded is true. I swear fealty to the God who lives. And if I learn different, I will not abandon my faith easily or lightly, but I will abandon it. I will take up the true faith.
I am dead serious. I have already switched from revivalist non-denominationalism to Confessional Lutheranism, and come within a hand’s breadth of swimming the Tiber. I am not devoted to my tradition because it is my tradition. I am devoted because I believe it to be true.
Diversion: The Paucity of Pagans and Pragmatists
Now, every week or so, some gentlemen on social media says that to save the West, we should abandon Christianity and become Odinists. After all, Odinists fight. Odinists can stand against the SJWs.
I rather suspect that the proportion of Odinists with blue hair greatly exceeds the proportion of blue haired Christians. But even if it were not so, even if Odinists always fight and Christians always lay down and die, I would hold there is one and only one reason to become an Odinist: that Odin is really and truly king of the gods, and Jesus is not.
If Odin is imaginary and Jesus is imaginary, which I strongly suspect to be the real belief of most Odinists I meet, then the manly thing to do is own up to it. “I am playing make-believe for the psychological and social benefits.”
Well, I make children’s books. I play make-believe professionally. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with calling it a religion.
A religion is a practice spawned by an honest assessment of reality. It is service to the gods because they are gods, not because they are cool. A real Odinist really sacrifices real goats to really Odin. He doesn’t just braid his beard and wear a meowmeow amulet for funsies.
When a man tells me “give up your faith, mine is far more practical”, he tells me he believes lies on purpose for their benefits. In short, he tells me he is not a man.
A beast may be stronger than me. Elephants are. A beast may be wealthier than me. The housecats of elite widows are.
The dignity of manhood may be improved by strength or funds or cleverness. But without it, you are simply not a man.
Beliefs Have Consequences
As soon as we have realised this, we realise something else. If Christianity should happen to be true, then it is quite impossible that those who know this truth and those who don’t should be equally well equipped for leading a good life. Knowledge of the facts must make a difference to one’s actions. Suppose you found a man on the point of starvation and wanted to do the right thing. If you had no knowledge of medical science, you would probably give him a large solid meal; and as a result your man would die. That is what comes of working in the dark. In the same way a Christian and a non-Christian may both wish to do good to their fellow men. The one believes that men are going to live for ever, that they were created by God and so built that they can find their true and lasting happiness only by being united to God, that they have gone badly off the rails, and that obedient faith in Christ is the only way back. The other believes that men are an accidental result of the blind workings of matter, that they started as mere animals and have more or less steadily improved, that they are going to live for about seventy years, that their happiness is fully attainable by good social services and political organisations, and that everything else (e.g., vivisection, birth-control, the judicial system, education) is to be judged to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ simply in so far as it helps or hinders that kind of ‘happiness’.
Now there are quite a lot of things which these two men could agree in doing for their fellow citizens. Both would approve of efficient sewers and hospitals and a healthy diet. But sooner or later the difference of their beliefs would produce differences in their practical proposals. Both, for example, might be very keen about education: but the kinds of education they wanted people to have would obviously be very different. Again, where the Materialist would simply ask about a proposed action ‘Will it increase the happiness of the majority?’, the Christian might have to say, ‘Even if it does increase the happiness of the majority, we can’t do it. It is unjust.’ And all the time, one great difference would run through their whole policy. To the Materialist things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day.
The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe. Consequently, with the best will in the world, he will be helping his fellow creatures to their destruction.
– Man or Rabbit? C. S. Lewis, emphasis mine.
A week or two ago, an anti-“Critical Race Theory” activist by the name of James Lindsay went around claiming the plain teachings of John 1, accepted by Papists and Lutherans, Greeks and Baptists alike, are that old heresy, Gnosticism, thereby setting himself up as a great defender of the Faith he doesn’t hold.
When Christians of every stripe questioned his theology, he got butthurt and salty and went around talking about how Christians could Save the West if they only stop being Christians.
Now. I am in favor of his crusade against CRT. I am a uniquely bitter foe of the vicious, abusive, racist policies of the American Government School.
But Mr. Lindsay seems to believe people choose religion the way they choose socks. Because they like the color and fit.
And maybe for many men, that is true.
But that’s not how religion works.
I would like to Save the West. I am fond of flush toilets and video games. When the collapse comes, I am ill-suited to be the local warlord. When the Stasi come to my door, I expect to die offering a futile token resistance.
But in the long run, the West is nothing; Christ is everything.
Moreover, the only Christians who could Save the West are those who believe the West is nothing; Christ is everything.
You cannot get the benefits of religion without really believing. And if you really believe, you will have to act in accordance with what you believe.
Deep down, Mr. Lindsay believes, or acts as though be believes, that everyone is secretly an atheist, who affects religion because it is practical.
But, Mr. Lindsay, if that is so, why do you want to be yoked with such dishonest men? Or if I have charged you falsely, and you think we really do serve the Risen God Man (in our own minds, anyway), why should we obey you and not Him?
And Thus, I am Unconcerned By the Dying Church
Many a man forecasts the death of the Church if it doesn’t do this or that.
Many a man within the Church on my side laments that the church has become emasculated. Toothless.
I feel your pain. I wish to see a righteous army stand undaunted against the foe. I wish to be part of this. To hold the line. To reconquer. To rebuild.
Which of you wants to tell the King of Creation that His Bride needs more chest hair?
If Christianity is true, Christ will preserve His Church, weak though she is, foolish though she is.
If Christianity is false, the church deserves to die. Because lies deserve to die.
The health of the Church is not my problem. Only the health of the local Church, in which I am a member, which I am to love as my own body. And my duty there is not to make sure they have rock bands to attract the youth, nor even specifically to protect them against rock bands (though that is more my wont). It is to hear the Word and repeat it. To be shriven. To take the Sacrament. And to love my neighbor as myself.
You know, I really do believe all that crazy stuff happened. That the sun stood still for Joshua. That Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. That a virgin conceived and gave birth. That water became wine and that wine becomes blood.
Because I really do think that a man died and returned from death. And what He says goes. Even if it doesn’t make sense to me.
Even if it’s utterly impractical.
And because I really believe all that, I have to live my day-to-day life as if it were true, even though it seems foolish to those who believe differently.
That’s how my religion works.
That’s how every religion works. You either act in accordance with it, or else you’re larping.