He writes about whether it is possible, in an era when belief in God is no longer central to the culture's claims about truth, to have a religious belief with integrity.
One can imagine a happy suburban member of a religious congregation who, in addition to finding fulfillment for herself in her lofty and ennobling religious pursuits, experiences the aspiration to this kind of fulfillment as one demanded of all other human beings as well. Indeed, one can imagine that the kind of fulfillment she experiences through her own religious commitments depends upon her experiencing those commitments as universal, and therefore depends upon her experiencing those people not living in the fold of her church as somehow living depleted or unfulfilled lives. I suppose this is not an impossible case. But if this is the kind of fulfillment one achieves through one’s happy suburban religious pursuit, then in our culture today it is self-deception at best and fanaticism at worst. For it stands in constant tension with the demand in the culture to recognize that those who don’t share your religious commitments might nevertheless be living admirable lives. There is therefore a kind of happiness in a suburban life like this. But its continuation depends upon deceiving oneself about the role that any kind of religious commitment can now play in grounding the meanings for a life.
This is the tension for the modern religious person. I wonder about his premise in this passage, though. Does it have to be the case that a person who experiences the hold of God in her life sees those without that experience as living diminished or "untrue" lives? Is there such a thing as religious humility?
More on this later...