Guest Blog: Freedom of conscience is a bridge for two-way traffic!

This is an excerpt from a blog by my colleague from Washington State, Bill Scott.  His blog was entitled “My friend, Bob the atheist” so I thought of entitling my article “Bill and Bob” but it sounded a bit too much like “Bill and Ben…the Flower-Pot Men”  (Folks from the UK over 40 years old will know what I mean!) Bill’s article responds to one I wrote on new atheism, and I love his illustration that freedom of conscience has to – and will – go both ways.

The value of not judging others and being willing to converse constructively about religion can never be overestimated.  Besides fostering religious tolerance, it allows us to broaden our horizons and test our own convictions.  It’s encouraging to hear of those speaking in defense of these values in the UK.

Tony’s article reminded me of the first time I actively discussed religion with an atheist.  I was part of a small group of high school friends who enjoyed exploring all the profound life questions we could come up with.  Most of us were Christian Scientists, including Jim whom I admired for his deep convictions in theological areas I struggled with.  Questions like: “what’s wrong with pre-marital sex?”  And: “why is there evil if an all-loving God is always in control?”

Then there was Bob, who described himself as a confirmed atheist.  Bob was a deep thinker, perhaps more so than the rest of us.  He had no trouble with the latter question since he never accepted the premise of God in the first place.  Yet many times I grew impatient with his incessant and ongoing objections to God’s existence and the validity of the Bible.  I remember thinking that listening to Bob is what the apostle Paul must have meant regarding being “long-suffering.”  I always liked him nonetheless.

After graduation, we went off to different California universities and lost track of each other.  Twenty years later we all met again.  I was surprised that my friend Jim had left the study of Christian Science soon after entering college.  Apparently, his convictions were not as deep as I had thought and he chose another path.  More surprisingly, I learned that Bob was no longer an avowed atheist, but the First Reader of a Christian Science branch church!  (A First Reader is an elected position responsible for presiding over the church services.)  Learning this was humbling.  At the time, Bob was the only one of us to have gained the respect and confidence of a congregation in this way.

After the reunion, I had a greater respect for Bob.  I admired his courage in standing alone with his early atheist convictions.  His sincere search for truth, never settling for pat answers, eventually won him his own solid convictions of what is true.

Thanks, Bill.  His blog is: CHRISTIAN SCIENCE: WHAT IT IS, HOW IT’S MISUNDERSTOOD AND WHY IT MATTERS.

The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in several places in strong support of respecting everyone’s freedom of conscience, because she saw this as an intrinsic gift from God to all men and women. Here is an example: ‘Let us respect the rights of conscience and the liberty of the sons of God, so letting our “moderation be known to all men.”‘ (Unity of Good, p. 5)

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Categories: Christian Science, Uncategorized

Author:Tony Lobl

I write on spirituality and health for a diversity of online media outlets, from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I have been published by the Independent, the Washington Post, the Guardian, E-Hospice, MindBodyGreen and The Christian Science Monitor and I post regularly on the Huffington Post UK and BuzzFeed. In addition to writing and broadcast appearances I enjoy engaging with journalists, academics, health professionals and government officials about the possibilities for improving health outcomes through a greater emphasis on spirituality in healthcare and social care. I've also greatly valued the many opportunities I have had to travel globally for my church and to meet people around the world. My wife Jenny and I spent 10 years in Boston, USA, before returning to London in 2002, to take on a role as the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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3 Comments on “Guest Blog: Freedom of conscience is a bridge for two-way traffic!”

  1. Courtenay Rule
    November 28, 2010 at 4:24 am #

    What a great example! Thanks, Bill. And Tony… I never would have thought there’d be a way to work “Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men” into a blog on Christian Science! Could we please have “Thomas the Tank Engine” next?? (The real, original version, not that new CGI rubbish.) :)

  2. November 28, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    Thomas the Tank Engine? I am sure we can manage that in due course Courtenay…but it is going to have to wait till its authentic and relevant…! :) If you want to write an authentic and relevant guest blog centred around Thomas, let me know!!!

  3. Courtenay Rule
    December 8, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    Only if we can include the original theme tune (can’t stand the new one) and the narration by Ringo Starr, sorry, Tony.

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