Not long after putting up my latest post criticizing the view - this time from John Gray - that belief 'has never been particularly important' within religion (because it's practice and ritual that count), I came across reports of what Frank Skinner had said (£) in conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Amongst the things he is reported to have said are:
If you believe in God, all bets are off. There can be angels. The Red Sea can part.
There's too much apologising... for the magic in religion, making concessions on the virgin birth or the resurrection. Don't give in to them!
Skinner also admitted to sometimes having doubts about his beliefs, but observed that doubt 'is at the centre of being human'.
All of which tends to bolster my view that there are religious people who see their faith as importantly involving belief, Karen Armstrong, Terry Eagleton, John Gray and company notwithstanding. One of the ways I know this to be the case, apart from its being widely attested, is that, each time I've posted on the subject, I get emails from people of faith among readers of normblog who say that it isn't true of them that their religion doesn't centre on belief, whatever else it may also involve.
If I may venture an analogy here, the Armstrong contingent are like a group of cricket fans who, when chided by others saying that cricket is a boring game, respond with the argument that watching cricket isn't principally about finding the game interesting or entertaining; it's about sitting at the ground and enjoying a day out with your friends. For many who love cricket, that response would be a travesty of their relationship to the sport. It would be so for the very simple reason that... well, not only but also.
Still, the defence of religion as not being mainly about belief but about practice is a revealing one. It shows a lack of confidence among those mounting it in the beliefs in question.