Monday, 21 April 2008

"Religion is ‘the new social evil’" (Rowntree report)

Did you happen to see this report in the Times? Would have made the old Quaker quake, I daresay:
"Many participants said religion divided society, fuelled intolerance and spawned “irrational” educational and other policies... The findings contrast with [Joseph] Rowntree’s “scourges of humanity”, which included poverty, war, slavery, intemperance, the opium trade, impurity and gambling..."
Some of those old scourges have stuck around, of course. But what do you suppose has got people newly vexed about religion? Perhaps the sense that until recent years, in the UK certainly, religion had seemed not to impinge on any man or woman who had no use for it. Now it's irritatingly unavoidable in the atmosphere. I used to feel fairly glad that I had read the King James Bible and had a working knowledge of theology. At times I could see something in the Marxian idea of religion as "the soul of a soul-less world". You can't be a George Steiner fan (see below) and not have a use for some notion of 'transcendence.' And there is definitely a spiritual dimension to our lives, however one might choose to describe the spirit in question.
Used to, yes. Lately I'm rather coming round to the Bertrand Russell stance. Or as Christopher Hitchens said to Joe Scarborough: "I am atheist. I‘m not anti-Catholic. I am not anti-Protestant. I‘m not anti-Greek Orthodox or anti-Judaism or anti-Islamic. I just think that all religious belief is sinister and infantile and belongs to the backward childhood of the race."
I wasn't a respondent to the Rowntree survey, and don't know what the full report amounts to, but on the basis of the coverage perhaps I can say that as a citizen my views were in some sense reflected?

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