Parris a Bright Atheist

Matthew Parris is an atheist but I like his style. I like his articles (though I don’t pretend to have read that many) and I enjoy listening to him on BBC Radio4 (are there other radio stations?).

His article in The Times1 entitled “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God” is a good read. A friend read some bits to me and I then looked it up on-line.

I find that some people who get entrenched in their tribal views get too blinkered to think freely – atheists and believers alike. Though an atheist, Mr Parris is able to see the value of Christianity even thought he is an outsider. Surprising then the opening of his article, “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem”

He tells of the his return, after 45 years, to the country he knew as a boy, and his impressions of the work of Christians there in Malawi.

I recommend the article as a good read, but these are a few quotes to wet your appetite.

“Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

“… but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

“But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

“Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

“It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

Nice to come across this just after my ‘brights’ post and what had inspired me to write that one.

  1. December 27, 2008 []

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