Eight Good Things About Good Religion

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 13 December 2015.
By John Abbate.


What is the good of religion? We live in a time and a place where religion gathers open and often justified criticism. In the popular mind, faith aligns with unreason, the church with historical decay, and worse. Dr Macnab is rare among ordained ministers for being one of the most forthright public critics of his own religious tradition, for its failure to adapt to decades of social developments and scientific progress.

“I sit on a perch where you would think it rather odd if I said there is nothing good to be said about religion. But, in fact, over the years, I have balanced on this perch, sometimes a bit precariously, as I have named many things which are not good about religion and the religious institutions.”

Yet, even in the most secular societies, if Christmas is still celebrated, “somewhere amongst the wrappings there are some words about religion.” It is important at this time of year, amid the “stress and strife of Christmas,” to find something good in religion.

In his address, Dr Macnab fleshed out eight points that highlight religion at its best. I list them here in short form; a full discussion of each point is contained in the video recording of Dr Macnab’s presentation (linked below).


  1. Lifts us out of our anxiety and stress to focus the mind on the sources of serenity and peace.
  2. Lifts us out of our “half-being” to a new way to be, as fully realised persons.
  3. Lifts us to be part of the good, the true and the beautiful.
  4. Lifts us, through our fears, to the sources of courage.
  5. Brings out the best in us.
  6. Lifts us to be part of the spirit of stimulation and inspiration in the widest sense.
  7. Lifts us to embrace a world of awe and wonder.
  8. Lifts us to take part in the zest for life.

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