Leave the Catholics alone…

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster
Should a modern nation allow religious groups an exception from laws protecting minorities from discrimination? Should groups professing essentially 1st Century prejudices be exempt from 21st Century legislation?

You can’t innoculate a society against intolerance. It’s probably written into the genome by hundreds of thousands of years of adrenaline-fueled tribal existence and by the pretty basic caveman fear of the unknown. Prejudice towards minorities is atavistic – a throwback to simpler, scarier times when the unknown might… well… eat you.

You can aspire to transcend your intolerance, though, and our body of laws expresses this aspiration. Permitting Catholics (or Muslims or Scientologists) to opt-out and ignore these laws is a crappy compromise with the history of bigotry but probably a necessity. I hate the idea that loving couples ready to care for needy children should be shown a big ‘No Gays’ sign by these backward adoption agencies but, on balance, I think we need to be tolerant even of backwardness occasionally.

Taking a legislative cosh to the Catholics would be mean-spirited and unhistoric. Seeking proposals for reform and setting reasonable deadlines would be better: a grown-up approach, respectful of the church’s difficulty reconciling the here-and-now with ancient doctrine.

Magnus Linklater in The Times is worried about the consequences of a possible Kelly resignation. Stephen Bates in The Guardian knows that the Archbishop of Canterbury has personal experience of the quality of gay parenting. The Beeb has a handy gay adoption Q&A.

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The beards and the purple robes

Mediaeval Clerics need Mediaeval Clerics. Mullahs of the old school need pre-enlightenment Popes. Benedict’s perfect foot-in-mouth intervention into Christian-Muslim harmony is really just getting into character. Not Rome nor Avignon but Constantinople. The symmetry is perfect: a Crusader Pope takes on the modern-day Saladins. They deserve each other.

Vatican Radio has that lecture in full and, from the hilarious Vatican web site, here’s a helpful press release (my favourite bit of the site is the prominent link to the Vatican’s Secret Archives on the home page)…

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While I’ve been away…

I’m sorry, I’ve not been concentrating properly lately. Also, I’m not 100% sure you can even see these entries since I got Robin to upgrade me to MT 3.2 the other day. From my house I can’t see anything more recent than the Eurovision Song Contest. Anyway, here are some great things: Elvis Costello’s collaboration with Allen Toussaint. Juliet hates Costello so I’m winding her up something rotten by leaving the album playing in the car whenever I switch off. It’s quite awesome. About ten absolutely brilliant songs that I can’t stop singing (the kids shout at me to shut up on the school run – I have become an embarrassing Dad). Toussaint and Costello are men in their prime: driving, soulful, humane, er… tromboney (also, this year’s best lyric: “What happened to that Liberty Bell I heard so much about?/Did it really ding dong?/It must have dinged wrong/It didn’t ding long.”).

Obviously I’m a regular listener to ‘On Your Farm’, the BBC’s weekly farming show that goes out at the crack of dawn on a Sunday. Last week it came from a dairy farm in Somerset run by a friendly sounding geezer called Michael Eavis (of course, no one at the Beeb thinks it worthwhile keeping stuff like this available for longer than a week so here’s an MP3).

It’s sort of rambling and not, perhaps, the toughest critique the author will see but I am an absolute junkie for Freeman Dyson in any context and his review of Daniel Dennett’s anti-religion book in the NYRB is readable and clever and full of good anecdotes (my own view is that scientists don’t serve the scientific cause as well as they think they do when they wade in to demolish religion. In fact, I think they almost always wind up making a series of category errors that make them look obsessive and pedantic and not lofty and disinterested as they no doubt intend).

God versus Santa…

As far as my kids are concerned, I believe in Father Christmas but not in God. Over the years, since they started to ask, I’ve spent a fair amount of time constructing complicated responses to various God questions: “no. I don’t believe in God but I think the stories about God and Jesus are important and that we can learn things from them” and “of course I don’t mind if you believe in God – you’re free to make up your own mind” and, “yes, of course there’s nothing wrong with singing about Jesus at school” and so on… (What a load of rubbish. I make myself sick…)

Anyway, with Santa it’s much simpler: “Of course he exists”. “Santa visits every home on the planet in less than 24 hours using magic, obviously” and “Yes. Santa provides all the presents except the ones that have been imperfectly concealed on top of the wardrobe for the last three weeks which were bought by us on his behalf. OK?”

So I’m selective about my imaginary, bearded old geezers. So sue me.

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Get over it

This image courtesy of churchsigngenerator.com
A genuinely free market will produce whatever you need whenever you need it. so here you can create your own church signs. And why not?

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New religions

If you were to invent a new religion – a post-enlightnment, post-Darwin, post-DNA, post-space travel religion – what would it look like? Would it scrap a conventional, external deity in favour of some kind of meditation-enhanced ego? Would it have an extra-terrestrial creation myth? Would it have a ‘chief scientist’ and be active in gene science? Would it clone human beings?