28th August 2006


Madam, - In discussing reasons for belief in the existence of a personal God, Prof William Reville (August 24th) refers to the work of 20th century scientist Fred Hoyle and his view that a "superintelligence" must be responsible for the universe. Then he refers to the life and teaching of Jesus to support a belief in a personal God. He seems unaware of 20th century research into the life of Jesus. It's now clear that he lived to a considerable extent in a fantasy world. For example, he shared a belief that the Jews were divinely chosen to be a favoured race. He believed that since they were a down-trodden nation God would intervene one day to restore their fortunes because they were his favoured people (another fantasy), and he expected the intervention in his lifetime (another fantasy). While Jesus may have conceived of God in personal terms, some of his ideas are outdated and conflict with concepts of unconditional love such as his idea of a God who punishes and rewards with the threat of hell and the promise of heaven. There is no evidence that he was sensitive to gender issues in considering ways to think about God.
The idea of being divinely chosen is a dangerous fantasy. Muhammad thought in his lifetime that he was divinely chosen and most of his followers still believe he was. God does not disclose his will to his human representatives.
We have to try to work out the right way to live ourselves. -
Yours, etc,
Andrew Furlong

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