There is a song by the Damned called Anti Pope. Captain Sensible sings "I've got nothing against Church, just the people who go there". Is he right? Over recent years the humanist movement has become ever more self confident, using every opportunity to attack the Churches and other religions (most recently Islam). The press was full of the story this week where Marks and Spencers were allegedly supposed to have a policy where Muslim staff could refuse to sell alcohol or pork. Many people were outraged that staff should be allowed to conscienciously object to selling such products on religious grounds. My own view is that is you don't feel comfortable working in a shop selling such products, don't work there. The issue however (as I understand) was not that the Islamic religious organisation were calling for such rules, but that one of their adherents took a personal decision to request such a rule.
There is a view amongst some quarters that "religion is dangerous". Again I would suggest it is not religion that is problematical, but human nature. A brief reading of history shows us that it was not "religion" that was the major problem in the last centry, but the "ism's". Which of the "ism's" has killed more people? Communism, Nazism or Capitalism? I had a debate recently with an avowed communist. He excused the excesses of Stalinism by claiming that Capitalism had killed ten times as many people and was keeping half the world in poverty. Whether he is right or wrong, I suspect that he'd royally missed the point. As with the statement of Captain Sensible, there is nothing wrong with ism's just the people who follow them. In fact the problem with ism's is the same as that with religion. The devout zealot, who believes they are totally right and cares more about the adoption of their ideology than the people who it is meant to benefit, is the true issue.
I had an interesting discussion with a friend, who is an expert on China, who told me that Mao's cultural revolution had been an incredible success. He stated that prior to the Cultural Revolution, China had fallen ever further behind the west in terms of pruductivity, output and innovation. He stated that by "purging" the old ways and ideas, it cleared the decks for Chinas current economic miracle. If you ignore the misery, death and destruction it caused, you could say he was correct. It is a totally stupid argument, like claiming that the success of modern day Germany happened because Hitlers war cleared the deck for a modern democracy.
The trouble with zealots is that they can always take any facts and twist them to produce any outcome they want. The sad, dull truth is that the best places to live are ones where zealots and ideologues are treated as eccentrics and not adopted as saviours. Religion should be used as a tool to guide us and make us more caring for our fellow man. As soon as we use it as an excuse to start and argument or denigrate someone else, we have lost the essence of what we are supposed to be promoting, which is peace, mutual respect, love and tolerance. It is the same with political ideologies. The biggest lie is that you "have to break a few eggs to make an omelette" as a political truth. If you are making an omelette, sure its true, but surely the best omelette is one where all of the ingredient work together and contribute to making a great omelette. The eggs aren't broken, so much as improved by being seasoned and cooked. It is like our current debate on immigration. People seem to forget just how much this country has benefitted from the constant influx over the last 2,000 years of immigrants. Isn't it something to be celebrated that people want to come to the UK?
I for one think that the fact that I can buy a curry, a kebab, a Pizza and a Spring roll from fine restaurants in Mill Hill is a massively positive development. When I go to Xmas Eve mass today at 6pm at the Sacred Heart to celebrate Xmas, I will be enormously reassured to be surrounded by people from every continent, all coming together in peace, harmony and friendship. Afterwards, as our family tradition, we'll go for a meal with family and friends in the Turkish restaurant in Mill Hill, an establishment run by Muslims. We'll have a fine meal and a few drinks. I don't actually agree with the Captain in his assessment of the people who go to church, although when I see the hate filled zealots who usually are used as examples of religion on TV, I most certainly understand where he is coming from. I however enjoy the Xmas service, the carols associated with this time of year and the traditions we've built up.
Have a great Xmas and don't forget those in our community who are lonely, disenfranchised and destitute.