Wikipedia defines this term as: “Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, “speaking in defense”) is the religious discipline of defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse”. In the 20th century, C. S. Lewis was one of the best-known Christian apologists. An Oxford professor of classics, Lewis knew a thing or two. His Narnia chronicles portray the Christian gospel through the lives of sentient animals in a make-believe land of Narnia. While critics may deride Christianity itself as make-believe, Lewis’ Narnia helps people understand the fundamental Christian teachings in a familiar way through storytelling.
It may seem odd to talk about Christian apologetics in a column connecting religion, science and technology, but because technology has supplanted much of the religions of Abraham (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), we need a modern-day C. S. Lewis to reinterpret basic religious ideas not against the backdrop of Communism and a godless industrial revolution, but against the relentless takeover of the god of Abraham by cell phones, computers, modern medicine and social media. What is unhelpful in this endeavor are altar calls, pushbacks by literal readers of the bible, claims of Christian superiority (triumphalism) and political cover for such nonsense.
What areas of Abrahamic religion are being supplanted by science and technology today? Let me count the ways…(here are two from a long list)
  1. Epistemology (how we know things) – Religion has an implicit understanding of how we know things that is mostly connected to ancient Greek thought. We know things to be true by our senses (observation) and our logic (human reason). Along with this very western, modern idea of knowledge, the ancients also understood things to be true through the power of narrative storytelling. The ancients didn’t get all wrapped up about the “truth” of their mythological gods in their pantheon. The stories of the various gods conveyed timeless truths about nature itself (it is capricious and hard to predict) and human nature. The irony is that modern-day fundamentalists in Judaism, Christianity and Islam all tend to take their god and the stories about their god as seriously true in the sense of observational or deductive logic. From there, they go to making unique claims of possessing “the truth” about god and human nature. It is the fundamentalists of all stripes who have driven modern, rational people away from religion of all kinds. What we lose in this terrible bargain is the power of stories (the bible for instance) to tell us about ourselves and about powers that are beyond us. This is why most funerals I do outside of my own church at Grace, Muskogee, are awkward affairs. People have lost sight of hope, trust, perseverance, and providence. They don’t know what to think or how to behave when confronted with the ultimate – death.
  2. Sacred – (Wikipedia) “connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.” From the Latin (sacer) to be set apart or restricted. What does it mean to be sacred? “Something sacred is holy, devoted to a religious ceremony, or simply worthy of awe and respect. Sacred is an adjective used to describe a person or thing worthy of worship or declared holy.” But today, nothing is sacred, nothing is holy. The underpinnings of this sad state of affairs we can blame on an intellectual trend developing since the 1950s of “post-modernism.” Some of the tenets of which hold that authority is always suspect, truth is subjective, morality becomes relative and norms and institutions should be deconstructed. It is a program not unlike the god of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) telling the Israelites to destroy idols. Only in the modern sense, god becomes the self and the idols being destroyed are churches, mosques and synagogues. We can lay another irony at the feet of fundamental religionists. The more they personalize religion and make it more about personal salvation or going to heaven, the more post-modern adherents will reject any of the Abrahamic religions in favor of the god of self. In the modern world, only “I” matters, not “you” or, heaven forbid, “we.”
I hope that we can return to the days before monotheism when people did not take their gods too seriously. There were no religious wars and no religious converts. Religions were part of cultural identities. The stories of their sacred texts helped the ancients understand the world and guided how they got along with each other. Would that be too much to ask of our religions today?

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