While preparing a funding application on a related subject, it felt serendipitous to hear ‘Start of the week’ on Radio Four last night by chance. A couple of quotes that were almost exactly what I was after:
In response to the question: “What do you believe?” Jonathan Safran Foer said: "I'm not only agnostic about the answer, I'm agnostic about the question."
An earlier post- 'Don't believe everything you hear about belief'- makes some sense of that. Moreover, Richard Holloway, whom I hugely admire, said he was a deeply religious person, but did not profess to any particular belief structure becuase he didn't think you could capture the mystery of existence in any particular 'formula'.
And Andrew Marr, opened the discussion by referring to "an increasingly hot tempered public struggle between religious believers and so-called militant atheists, and yet many people, perhaps most people...live their lives in a tepid confusing middle ground between strong belief and strong disbelief....today we are gathered on what I would suggest is that interesting more debatable territory."
I agree with that and my impression is that people who live in this 'tepid confusing middle ground' are indeed a silent majority. Unlike religious believers and committed humanists or atheists, we are neither clearly positional nor particularly tribal. We do not have a kind of 'religious class consciousness' to bind us together and lobby on our behalf.
'The tepid confusing middle ground' is not the most elegant expression, but it gets us away from some of the problems with the 'spiritual but not religious' language that I have considered earlier.
Maybe there is some fruitful link between this kind of existential middle ground, and the economic ground of the 'squeezed middle' that Ed Miliband likes to talk about?
If you’ve ever had experience of psychotherapy you’ll be used to being asked how you feel about something. You typically start by explaining your emotions, but soon you realise you’re not feeling anything at all. You’re just talking.