Thursday, 25 January 2007

Force for Good?

How anyone beholding the myriad wars, internecine civil strife, and social discord incessantly provoked, stirred up, and prosecuted by religious factions and individuals against each other, and even more against non-believers, because of their ‘supernatural’ fantasies can believe that religion is a force for good in the world beats me.

From the global clash of faiths between Christians, Muslims, and Jews which is causing incessant death, destruction, misery, and ruined lives to absurd power-plays like the current Roman Catholic posturing over homosexuals and adoption, the upholders of ‘faith’ act like global blow-flies, spreading millions of poisonous germs wherever they plant their malodorous feet.

On an earlier thread, Jose said “alas, when churchmen get embroiled in politics”. But there is no such thing as non-political religion. The whole purpose and thrust of religious groupings is to impose their pet versions of what is ‘good’ and ‘right’ upon everybody else. Ultimately, the seriously religious aspire to rule the world. There is no gainsaying that this is the case with the most vocal segments of Islam – a religion that draws no distinction between faith and state, despises democratic pluralism and free speech, and envisages a worldwide theocratic Caliphate. It is undeniable that the Roman Catholic Church aspired to a similar supremacy over temporal rulers in Europe for several centuries, until its wings were clipped by the Reformation. One pope – Pius V – even had the temerity to absolve her subjects from allegiance to the ‘heretic’ Elizabeth I. And Protestantism – especially in its Calvinistic versions – has behaved similarly whenever it has obtained a sufficient stranglehold.

It may be that we in England are exceptionally fortunate – or complacent – because our national church was created by a wilful monarch to ensure that religion did not trump his personal rule. Even so, religious disputes have endured and sometimes dominated the political scene, as in the long-running 19th and early 20th century disputes between Anglicans and Nonconformists about the control of education. That battle is still far from over, with a retrograde lurch towards the creation of ‘faith’ schools and academies under the auspices of a credulous prime minister.

With the air filled by increasingly shrill cries from religionists that they are under attack from immoral Godless atheists, and a bunker-like mentality developing amongst their shrinking congregations, while the great majority of sensible people simply want to get on with their day-to-day lives without all the clamour, it does look as though a political settlement will have to be imposed by parliament sooner rather than later, reaffirming the basically pluralistic, tolerant nature of our modern democracy and ensuring that the religious do not encroach further on the freedoms of others. Religions are tribal. They depend on a sense of ‘superior us’ versus ‘inferior them’ – “We’re OK, they are not OK.” This toxic stance cannot possibly be conducive to social harmony.

For myself, I think that we have reached a point in world history when religious beliefs are no longer merely outmoded – they are clearly anti-social. Constantine's adoption of Christianity as the Roman Empire's state religion was one of the worst things that happened to the West. The rise of Islam, its early conquests, the Crusades, and the constant inter-faith strife between Christians, Muslims, and Jews have not made the modern world a better or more peaceful place. Humanity would be better off without such strident, holier-than-thou religions.


Jose said...

You know my stance regarding religions - I am not a religious person - has a nuance as compared to yours. My opinion is that religions in themselves do not damage the individual nor do they damage anybody if conveniently applied. What's always happened - I dare to say since Emperor Constantine manipulated the First Council of Nicaea, earthly powers have ever used religions in their own benefit. And what is even more shameful is that the faithful - that is those who really uphold the religion - believe what those manipulators have to say.

Dual morals at work.


Richard W. Symonds said...

Well, the US Neo-Cons managed to con the politico-religious Judaeo-Christian electorate into a right-wing corner - that's for sure.

That support looks as if it's evaporating - thank God.

lavenderblue said...

I only wanted to say 'hello' because I can now........
I don't understand a word of all this.
I found a bible in the garage - does that make me acceptable ?
And if so, to whom ?

Jose said...

Lavenderblue, that you have a Bible in your garage or not only can or cannot make you acceptable to yourself. Nobody is entitled to interfere in your personal feelings or beliefs.

anticant said...

A Bible in the garage? You have a GARAGE?? And a Rolls-Royce???

You need the Bible in your repertoire - a rich repository of ruderies. There's a tale of some children who lived in a large old country house and were sent to play in the attic one rainy day. They were so quiet that their parents wondered what they could be doing. When they came down to tea they said "We found a dusty old book called Holly Bibble, and it waa full of the FILTHIEST stories!" As Jose will doubtless tell you, there are some uplifting ones in it too.

lavenderblue said...

Oh thank you for that, Anticant !
I cannot recall ever having read the bible....I remember with deep loathing Sunday School, and Assembly.
Maybe i should dust it down, it's quite an ornate affair.
I also have a deep dislike for 'born again christians'.
A motley crew if ever there was......
It's a funny thing, Jose,that people ALWAYS feel the need to interfere with personal feelings.
I don't have any beliefs.....

Richard W. Symonds said...

But I sense people believe in you, Lavenderblue.

anticant said...

Of course you have beliefs, lavender - everyone does. I take it you believe that you exist?

The King James version of the Bible contains some of the most wonderful passages in the English language. You really should read the New Testament for the rhythm and prose-poetry - you might even get some useful ideas from it! [The horror-stories are mostly in the Old Testament.]

Born-again Christians are something else. Katharine Whitehorn once immortally said that she wished most born-again people hadn't been born the first time.....

Jose said...

Yes, Lavender, as Anticant says you must have some belief in yourself, perhaps covered with a layer of veneer, but there it is. Don't you believe in at least some human beings? Don't you believe in Nature? Don't you believe what your parents taught you years ago? Don't you believe in yourself?

And as Anticant implies in his posts, a person should read everything, be it the Bible or other topics that perhaps some consider prejudicial. Our free thinking should do the rest.

Jose said...

And, Anticant, thanks for opening the blog. It is more pleasant sending posts and reading them immediately afterwards.

Richard W. Symonds said...

Talking about "free thinking", I noticed this quote at the top of a solicitors's advert (?!) yesterday :

"Mind is like a parachute : function best when open"

(hat-tip : Sabeers Solicitors)