July 22, 2005

i'm sitting here listening and already i've turned to a life of crime

The following post goes against the grain for me. I really don't like getting involved in debates that involve religion, mainly due to the fact I am not totally sure what I believe myself, but the following piece by Polly Toynbee in today's Guardian was just too much, so I have to say something.

The Guardian Op-Ed piece on religion & state

I read, I quaked, I hid under the desk. Just the pure loathing in this woman's voice for religion had me reeling. Pretty much every religion under the sun gets a bashing, including the Buddhists, but she is at her most scathing about Catholicism, C of E, and, of course, Islam. Mrs Blair "a Catholic wife who consorts with crystals"?! Mr Blair, has "appeased, prevaricated and pretended", all because he is "a man of faith". Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, is slammed, and it is clearly pointed out that she is also "devout", indicating that this is the root of all evil. Religion, we are told, should be relegated to the world of dreams. It is the ending of the piece where, for me, the wheels truly come off the wagon. "The constitutional absurdity of an established church"? "Clouds of hypocrisy"? "Twisted thinking"? Calling for us to "stop this madness"?

At what point did being religious become such a crime? Men, and women, of faith have been great forces for good in this world, and by faith I mean any faith. For sure, men of professed faith have also caused great harm, but so have people who claim no religion: you need just look at the continued persecution of Christians in China to see the legacy of Communism and "religion as the opiate of the masses".

As for her argument that we need separation of church and state, I'd say take a look at the United States, which has a constitution that ties itself in knots to separate the two, but she already has done and admits they have a serious problem with fundamentalists and terrorism. They have had separation for the past two centuries, there is a total ban on Federal funding for religion in schools, organized school prayer is illegal, and as a result they have one of the most right wing Christian administrations in the world. Yet she wants us to follow the same path?

Stopping religious education is not the answer. It is by not exposing children to different religions that we get intolerance and misunderstanding. When kids aren't given the chance to learn about religions in a controlled environment so that they can make up their own minds, they can fall prey to extremists and fundamentalists. I was brought up and educated in a school that was nominally C of E. I sang in the church choir for a while, went to Sunday school, was baptised, and every week we had prayer in school assembly, and sang the odd hymn. But I also learnt about other religions at the same time, in fact I think in RE we were taught more about Judaism and Islam than all the Christian sects put together, and when I decided that C of E was not, after all, for me, that was fine. All along, the message imparted to me was that very British form of 'live and let live': "keep your beliefs to your self".

I can see the point that she is trying, badly, to make, but her solution is not the way. We should be inclusive in our outlook, not exclusive, and need to stop bashing people for their convictions. Tony Blair's personal Catholicism has never been a problem for me. He doesn't brute it about, and has clearly said on several occasions that whilst he may not agree with something, for example abortion, he won't impose his ethical views on the nation. On a personal level, I might have serious issues with his religion, and even more serious issues with his political stance, but those are my issues, no one else's. Because someone is religious doesn't make them a bad leader. In many cases, I would imagine far from it, for a strong belief in a given religion tends to imbue in a person strong ethical and moral considerations, making them arguably more capable of facing the dilemmas inherent in leading people.

Nothing is guaranteed to get my hackles up more than people like Ms. Toynbee going to lunch on a person's religious beliefs and blaming all the ills of the world on people who, as a rule, are to be congratulated for doing good. Surely there is a middle way between totally secular, and completely segregated, education, and it is everyone's moral obligation, regardless of creed, to find it.


At 1:20 AM, Anonymous meowkaat said...

'Bout the Jesus spamming the other day- that was crazy, heheh, the counter I use is at www.counters.cc/
Don't know if that's what you're looking for or not.
But golly, I'd think you'd feel honored to be visited by the Good Lord Himself. As for His stats, it's just "Heaven", silly.

At 3:35 AM, Blogger WereTeddy said...

The truly sad thing about these people is that it is they with a larger influence in the world then any other. It is they who spread hate and bigotry. And even more so, they do it without the use of facts. The Islamic Terror groups don't care about what we believe. It's our way of life that they hate and despise. If we don't agree with them, then we deserve to die. I'll keep my further opinions (however based in fact they are) on that subject to myself unless asked.

However, I don't hide my beliefs. I'm a Christian and proud of it. I came to these beliefs through a rational study and research into the facts surronding it and other religions. And I'm more than willing to debate anyone over it. In fact, I've found that some of the most stimulating and wonderful conversations can be over religion, as long as both parties agree not to get out of hand.

And on the issue of seperation of church and state...there is -nothing- in the Constitution of the United States that supports this philosophy. What the Constitution says is that the State will not Establish a Church, which is to say that the State won't control religion, not that religion will not be involved with the State. Religion will always be involved with the state because each and every person has their beliefs and as long as people are involved, those beliefs will hold great importance.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous meowkaat said...

K, wereteddy- sorry I've been off for a few days and I am just getting around to answering your ? from Dark Meadow.
I... A. believe Christ was Divine, B. Believe He died for the salvation of the world, mine included (thanks much, God) and... C. Try to live my life according to His will, which I *get* by prayer and meditation, not from a book written by men in a different language thousands of years ago and translated and retranslated over and again before it reached me, or from a man who stands behind a pulpit and talks about *his* opinion for an hour once a week.
I do NOT think the Bible is the undisputed, absolute word of God, unchanged for 2 thousand years. I do think it is a holy text that can be used for help in this stupid world, but care must be taken not to eat everything in it without research and consideration for flavoring.
And... lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I do not think every person who doesn't say a ridiculous "Sinner's Prayer" is going to burn for eternity in a lake of fire.
That's basically what I mean when I say I don't agree with them.


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