A Muslim Professor in Cairo, a well-known authority on Islamic history, once remarked to me that religion, in his view, was not so much a matter of science as of art. When I asked what he meant by this, he explained that in a scientific monograph the strict accuracy of all the relevant facts was of fundamental importance, while in a poem the basic question was not whether every detail would stand up to scientific analysis, but rather the aesthetic impact of the composition as a whole. Similarly, in matters of religion, the criterion was not whether the facts on which Christianity, Islam, or any other religion was said to rest would stand up to historical investigation, but whether the religion concerned made those who followed in it happier in themselves and more helpful to others.

I replied — somewhat flippantly, I fear — that when I was a boy at school we played a football match against what was then called a lunatic asylum. (I vividly remember being locked in while we changed our clothes, so that we should not get mixed up with the other lunatics!) And we were told that one of the patients in that institution firmly believed that he was a poached egg, and went about every day asking for a piece of toast to sit on. If he was given this, he at once became contented and amenable, while if it was withheld he remained unhappy and fractious. But I could hardly believe that my Muslim friend would regard that as an adequate religion!

J. N. D. Anderson, Christianity: The Witness of History (London: Tyndale Press, 1969), p. 8