Twenty-First Century Religion
Fresh in the knowledge (revealed this week) that the cost of maintaining the homes of the Church of England’s Bishops last year totalled £3.7 million and another £14.5 million for bishops’ staff and offices, one can’t help but ask what part religion actually plays in modern society.
Undeniable is the hope provided to the devoutly religious, who console themselves that death is not something to be feared because their souls will rise to heaven to sit with God on a cloud, assuming of-course that they comply with the almost fascist strictures of the Bible and do not break any of the commandments. What does religion offer then to the people who can’t help but contradict the attitude of ‘the Good Book’? The aggressively religious devotees offer no other elucidation to the homosexual man than that he will spend eternity in hell. Is this truly what any god (if in existence) would say to one of their children? Religious dogma declares with one breath that we are ‘all God’s children’ and that ‘God (and/or Jesus) loves us all’, apparently equally, and then in the next breath rejects and rebukes the factors in society which they are unable to comprehend. If God ‘loves us all’ then why does he not love us all? Why can he love you but not your gay next-door neighbour?
My family recently placed an insurance claim for a slate that had been blown off the roof and onto a car parked in the drive. The insurance company wriggled out of the claim, insisting that the wind which had blown the tile from the roof had been ‘an act of God’. Is this really acceptable for the twenty-first century? Insurance policies based on religious figures that rely on belief and no concrete evidence are surely an archaic antiquity. It’s like basing an insurance claim on a chimney broken by Father Christmas. My insistence that Father Christmas does indeed, most definitely exist and did quite unequivocally knock a tile from my chimney is no less substantial and credulous than their claim that God blew a title from my roof. What next, a return to ducking stools and witch hunts for the disgraced MP’s? If they don’t drown then they’re fraudulent!
I feel insulted and disrespected on behalf of every hero; every fireman who pulled a child from a burning building and placed the child safely in their mother’s arms only to witness the mother raise her eyes to heaven and thank God for saving her child. Was it not the bravery, courage and hard work of that one human man who saved that child? I suppose they would claim that God had given that man the courage to do what he did, but why should the glory and honour be taken away so coldly from the heroic human being? Every day the human race faces and conquers unimaginable pain and difficulty. People in their own lives struggle through hard times and come out the other side because of their own resilience and strength, not a man in the sky. I understand the comfort some people derive from believing in a higher power, but I think we should give humanity the credit (and often disapproval) that it earns for and by itself.
It was only very recently that a specific change in church ‘law’ and attitude occurred, meaning that children who are not christened do not go to hell. Before this change, what was said to all the mothers who miscarried children? If they chose to believe the Church, that their unborn, dead child was in hell because they hadn’t been christened? What place does a Church like this have in modern society? That ‘law’ has been changed now but how many others like it still exist? In a society endeavouring to encourage understanding and acceptance, why do these pockets of poisonous, religious hatred still breed? What kind of God would tell one of their followers to drive a plane into a building full of people or get onto a bus and detonate a bomb? Obviously religious fanaticism and terrorism are very different from actual religious piety and the two must be distinguished, but those people claimed they were taking lives in the name of God, a ‘holy war’. How many people have died because their family denied them a blood transfusion in the name of God? How many wars and violent deaths have happened across the world and on our streets in the name of God?
Denying people the right to believe in whatever they feel they want to believe is not constructive or acceptable, but when religion affects our lives against our will, when it invades our lives, which it does, do we have the right to protest? I feel I should have had the right to protest when my insurance company refused to process my claim. How can they write a policy based on ‘acts of God’ without having evidence that God exists? How can we form laws, rules and wars based on something which is no more than mythology? I appreciate that religion gives hope and that it provides structure and guidance in many people’s lives, that young men in gangs on the streets of New York may equally put down their gun in the name of God as take it up, but should hate be allowed to exist in that name too? Do we live in a time when it’s still acceptable for people in society to be told that they aren’t loved by God because they are different? When wars are started, bombs detonated, lives lost, all in the name of religion, is that really a valuable contribution to society? Like all things that exist in the world, there is some good and some bad. In one person’s life religion is something positive, beneficial, harmless and benign, but in the hands and mind of another person, the wrong person, religion becomes aggressive, hateful and detrimental to society. Hatred in any form has no place in our world. Anything which actively encourages its followers to hate their fellow human beings is injurious and poisonous to humanity.
Religion can admittedly do much good and give many people a better life, but it can just as equally be virulent, hostile and destructive. Like all things, religion can only have a part in society if it evolves and progresses. If religion is unable to keep up with the twenty-first century and lose its anachronistic attitudes based on ancient scriptures, then there is no place for it in a society which is trying hard to adapt to a modern way of life. Religion and all of its followers and practitioners, preachers and pontificators must leave behind a time when it could reject people from society on flimsy caprice and watch its flock starve and fade from gilded windows, dining on fine food and wine bought with the donations of the people starving. Religion must grow up and bring itself into the twenty-first century or it will continue to be a destructive and toxic tumour, detrimental to our progression.