HAVE THE BABY BOOMERS KILLED GOD?

Baby boomers – ie those of us born in the two or three years after the end of the Second World War (just in case there’s any argument about this – lots of people claim the status, but few can justify it: I can ) – are to be blamed for everything, it seems. It’s our fault that nobody can afford to buy houses any more because we pushed up the prices to ridiculous levels. Nobody’s going to get a decent pension in the future, and what little they do get they’ll be too old to enjoy because they’ll have to work ’til they’re 95, because we’ve had our greedy fingers in the pension pot and taken all the dosh. Oh yes – and, as someone whined in The Guardian the other day, we may have generously promised to leave our big, fat over-valued houses to the next generation but they are not going to inherit them until they’re 50 or 60 because – guess what? – we’re living too long.
It’s become a kind of received wisdom over the past few months, as the nation and the world struggles with the biggest financial mess in history, that we – the baby boomers – have somehow conspired to cause this Armageddon. How we were supposed to stop house prices rising, or call a halt to over-generous pensions (which actually seemed quite modest at the time) or make sure we died in time for our children to inherit our property at a more convenient point for them, is never explained.
But now, amazingly, another voice is raised against us and this time the charge is of a different kind altogether: we have,  it seems, killed off God – or at least, any serious debate about God and the meaning of life. It comes from no less a figure than Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and a leading theologian, who in a recent sermon in Ripon Cathedral had this to say: “There is an overlooked reason why a more serious atheism is not on the agenda at the moment [than that promulgated by Richard Dawkins and his ilk]. This is because in recent decades the world has been dominated by the so called baby boomers, those born after World War II who came of age in the 1960’s. This is a generation . . . who have never had to fight a major war, who have had a standard of living that is unprecedented in human history, who are healthier and who will live longer than any previous generation, many of whom are on final salary pensions, and who can fill their lives with interesting things to do.”
One effect of this, says Bishop Harries, is that “there has been little incentive to raise the big questions in life . . . Where life is a daily struggle to survive, you tend to be both more open to the big question of what it might all be  about, and looking for spiritual strength to continue.”
Is he right? I’m not convinced: I think you could just as well argue that when life’s a struggle for survival you’re too busy wondering where the next crust or killer bear is coming from to fret about the meaning of life. You could even say that it’s only those of us who have lived lives of relative ease who’ve had the luxury of time to reflect on the big questions. What else would we do on the luxury cruises to which the bishop thinks we are overly-prone?  Existential angst is surely the luxury of the over-fed, not the starving.
The full text of Bishop Harries’s lecture is here richard harries lecture

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