Almost daily now, on the BBC, we hear religious leaders droning on about the importance of faith in our lives and the dangers of aggressive secularism. Now ‘we’ are sending Baroness Warsi to the Vatican, accompanied by 7 cabinet ministers, to join forces with the Pope to speak out against so-called ‘aggressive’ secularism which I would simply describe as reason and commonsense! I find this government mission frankly deeply misguided and almost unbelievable – and who on earth sanctioned that level of expense? We are the only country in the world (apart from Iran) to have theocratic ‘believers in the improbable’ as part of out legislature! As for being ‘aggressive’, secularists are simply employing reasoned argument to remove the priviliges these relics of the Dark Ages still enjoy!
Nick Clegg, as our Deputy Prime Minister (and as the atheist he most assuredly is) should be ashamed of himself for not lambasting this criminal waste of tax payers money. The Lib Dems are rapidly losing any credibility they ever had – nobody now ‘agrees with Nick‘ – not even other lib dems!
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson will also attend, along with International Development Minister Alan Duncan, Energy Minister Greg Barker and Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell of Guildford. Despite Duncan and Barker being openly gay, the forthcoming free vote in the Commons on introducing gay marriage is said to be firmly off the agenda. (With thanks to the Huffington Post).
How can the suspension of reason in favour of divisive policies at the heart of government be considered so important? We waste so much time in this world trying to cope with religious differences and prejudices that we really should have caught on by now – secularism is the safest place for religion to reside. Religion must be a matter of personal choice and NOT EVER part of central government. Here are just two examples:-
1) Just because Henry VIII fancied a new woman he invented the Church of England to rid himself of the Pope’s veto on his divorce. He broke with Rome in 1534, which led to hundreds of years of sectarian violence and death in England and Ireland. The wounds are still open today 400 years later. A religion created on a pompous monarch’s whim.
2) Just because early Muslims couldn’t agree on who should lead them in after Mohammed’s death in 632 AD, we have another religion divided (Sunni Muslim versus Shia Muslim) at each others throats for the last 1,400 years. The figures here for sectarian violent death are impossible to estimate but ‘100s of thousands’ is probably not too far out.
In the UK, both labour and conservative governments still think that creating more and more faith schools, which are, by definition, inherently divisive, is a good idea! Parents opt, mostly hypocritically, for a faith school, if they can, simply because discipline is managed better in faith schools, religious faith does not play much of a part in the decision for most.
Religion, whilst it remains at the heart of government, will continue to engage us in pointless activity trying to appease all yet pleasing none. Until we remove the shackles of ‘faith’ from our everyday lives we simply cannot make “reasonable” decisions and live in peace. Please note that I am concentrating on versions of the Abrahamic based religions as it is these which have caused most of the worlds strife. Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion and Hinduism with Sikhism both seem not to be bent on world domination!
A few thoughts from just a few well known thinkers might explain my position, a position based on reason:-
- Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 B.C.E.) “People think that epilepsy is divine simply because they don’t have any idea what causes epilepsy. But I believe that someday we will understand what causes epilepsy, and at that moment, we will cease to believe that it’s divine. And so it is with everything in the universe.”
- Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), “Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis.”
- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) “The most practical and dramatic victory of science over religion occurred in the 17th century, when churches began to put up lightning conductors.”
- Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) (1935 – ) “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
Despite these insights, spanning the last two thousand years, around 70% of the inhabitants of the USA think that world was created in 7 days by a god like man with a white beard who actually cares about them. He cares far more about Republicans of course 😉
The world has gone mad – faith has trumped reason despite the legacy of Socrates and the European Enlightenment philosophers, so where to start? ‘Reason’ and philosophy is the best place to start so here goes:-
- The Riddle of Epicurus (341-270 BCE)
- If God is willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
- If he is able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
- If he is both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
- If he is neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
If there is a god, he is no use to us because he / she / it made so many errors in the overall design of the universe, and us, that we have to invest billions in the NHS to save us from the disease pestilence and famine that he (in his own mysterious way) sent, so, even if there is a god, he obviously does not care about us one jot or tittle. The beautiful ‘theory’ of evolution just makes far more sense, and yes it is a theory but it is the best explanation that we have, so far, for the random, beautiful, unfair, chaotic but wonderful world in which we live.
If ‘he’ had a master plan for our ultimate “salvation” he did a very poor job in communicating it! The message should surely be the same for all, so why all these different religions with different back-stories and disagreements?
Its almost as if he / she / it / was some shadowy human Mandelson figure who makes up a different story every few hundred years and tries again 😉
For example, starting with the Jewish Torah, then on to the New Testament followed on a few hundred years later with a punchier version of the Torah because the New Testament was just a bit too… well, New Age! All that talk of love and peace PAH, let’s get back to smiting! So finally, to the Quran, the last and biggest Abrahamic story revision. Do take some time to read it – I have read it twice in two different translations and whilst I acknowledge the beauty of the Arabic oral rendition of the Quran – it is sheer poetry, mesmeric – one does not need to understand the words to feel the ‘power’, it is simply spine tingling when recited well.
For me however – the words of the Quran are those of a politically astute desert Arab who demands the suspension of personal reason, the sublimation of free will and demands complete submission to what HE says or else, and, since all he says is the will of Allah, there is no choice but to accept (very handy)! The Quran is a scarily primitive political polemic in which all Muslims seem to be trapped forever; after all, it is “the unalterable word of god”.
Christians have had their reformation but many, albeit in declining numbers, still take enormous comfort from the social structures it provides, but Islam is seemingly forever held frozen in the Arab deserts of AD 650 promoting misogyny and Islamic supremacy; it will take a very brave moderate Muslim scholar to reform all that!
I know I have missed out Rosicrucian’s, 7th day Adventists, Mormons and the ‘Beam me Up’ Scientologists, but they are all just too silly for words aren’t they?
Well aren’t they? Apparently not, some 40 million of us would disagree. (20 million Mormons claimed worldwide, 100,000 best estimate for the Scientologists (OK +0.5 for Tom Cruise ’cause he’s a bit short), and say another 20 million Christian and other religious factions).
So then, our government thinks it’s a jolly good idea to support a Catholic leader who still supports the protection of pedophile priests by doing nothing? Who on earth thought that an inter-faith dialogue would promote peace when all the evidence is that the slightest disagreement causes schism, death and mayhem as history demonstrates over and over again?
Oh dear me “Beam me up Scotty – take me away please”.
 I have a theory that it was his first wife who did most of the political thinking whilst coping with Mohammed’s ‘divine’ fits of epilepsy (see Hippocrates quote above).