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Religion and Jam Tarts

How to stay optimistic about the future of mankind is a problem I face largely by trying to ignore it.  The facts are too stark and frightening to contemplate seriously. 

We could start with the world economy, which evidently is sustainable in its present form only if 10 percent of the population is left alone to exploit the other 90 percent.  The salient motivation of the 10 percent is that enough is never enough.  That the rich get richer and the poor get poorer may be an old saw of the labouring classes, but statistics prove the case. 

“Greed is good”, said Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, supposedly a cinematic satire on that particular deadly sin.  On the real Wall Street, though, and its various branches around the world, the film is viewed as a documentary, with a silly moralistic ending tagged on to assuage the righteous.  

And then there is the current crop of wars. 

Battles that were first fought when the combatants used spears or bows are now fought, for pretty much the same reasons, by people who can obliterate their enemies by pushing buttons on mobile telephones.  The development of weapons of mass destruction powered by technology is hardly surprising.  What shocks is that the motives for using them have scarcely changed.  When the more extreme adherents of the Muslim faith call for the destruction of infidels, they are merely seeking a vengeful reversal of the Crusades of the twelfth century. 

That those religions formed in a time when people believed that the earth was flat continue to flourish in this supposedly enlightened age of science and emancipated scholarship is nothing short of astonishing.  It is as if the theories of Galileo and Newton and Darwin and Einstein were merely the ravings of dangerous eccentrics. 

The Christian religion, among others, insists that the universe was created by an omniscient supernatural being bearing a magic wand.  That in itself is fatuous rather than sinister.  What is not harmless is that the most prominent branch of a religion founded by a humble man who preached tolerance and forgiveness continues to propagate the notion that men are in all respects superior to women, and that homosexuality, abortion and divorce are mortal sins.  Worse, that the same church insists on condemning children whose membership has not been embraced by what was devised as a celebratory ritual of welcome to an eternity of limbo.    

Islam, despite protests to the contrary by its more moderate elements, still teaches that non-believers are infidels, and tends to turn a blind eye when the more extreme wing advocates wiping them out if they can’t be persuaded to convert to the ‘One True Faith’.  Meanwhile, mercifully, the extremists seem less concerned with us barbarians than with sorting out Sunni from the Shia.  

How disheartening it is that we have learned so little over the centuries of bigotry and blind faith. 

My advice is to avoid listening to call-in radio stations, many of whose callers underline the point. 

On one of them, this morning, an articulate man declared, his mind apparently impervious to doubt, that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was God’s punishment for man’s sins.  There could be no other explanation.  I wonder if he’s had his flu shot.  I’ve had mine, by the way. 

On a different subject, another caller, someone almost needless to say from a religious organisation, averred that a supermarket security guard who ejected two ladies for a mild public display of affection – to wit, a peck on the cheek – was contributing to the salvation of the nation from the pestilence of lesbianism that he and the callers are convinced is destroying society.   

Television viewers are not above the crusade.  A silly programme called The Great British Bake-Off, watched by millions, is being tainted by a sudden prevalence of sexual innuendo.  Inevitably, some people are bound to infer something salacious from making jam tarts.  But who are they?  Housewives in Surrey, I suppose, my neighbours. 

Strictly Come Dancing, the most popular show on the box at present, also comes under fire today, for allowing a Russian dancer to take the stage in a flimsy costume, and dancing ‘suggestively’.  She was performing a rumba, a dance of which, as far as I can see, the whole point is suggestiveness.  And isn’t all dancing?  What other reason could there possibly be for tuning in to such vacuous entertainment if it is not to see a little female flesh, or some pretty boys with meaty abs?   

We are all going mad.  No, we are not; we’ve always been mad.  We’re just going a little madder each day.

Now I concede that it’s a fair distance from the medieval excesses of religions with a lust for blood, or for damning the souls of children, to a few mildly saucy incidents on the telly. 

But try telling that to the rabid ‘soldiers’ of ISIS or even to octogenarian red-cloaked princes of the Vatican.     

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