Tuesday, 24 February 2009

God help us...

... or not. Preferably.

I'm waking up from the nightmare of essays and deadlines, thinking of all the nice, happy things I can write on my blog now that I won't actually have a deficit of time, and I'm listening to this on the Today programme: according to a new BBC poll, apparently 'most people want religion and the values derived from it to play an important role in British public life.'

Come on! Seriously? Still? Here? We've long teased the likes of the Americans for their fundamentalism, and feared the likes of the Afghanis for theirs, but it seems the British are as enamoured of the Old Fella as the rest. Oh dear.

This, too, despite the efforts of the 'increasingly militant atheist movement'. I didn't know we were arming ourselves. Let me take the opportunity, then, to encourage you to be touched by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Don't fuck with us atheists -- we fight dirty. (With things like reason and logic and satire...)

What also sucks is that people want religion to govern their lives, but don't seem to be very committed to the cause. The BBC report explains that baptisms, church weddings and Sunday service attendance are down, regardless of this professed desire to live by the dictates of the religions we can't seem to be bothered to turn out for. When I was Catholic -- and I was very Catholic (new of which is causing many of you to nod knowingly, I'm sure) -- I was really Catholic. If you are going to believe in the existence of an omnipotent being -- and an omnipotent being with a serious personality disorder, it has to be said -- it seems like a very, very bad idea to piss him off with your indifference. And it's like not voting: if there is any chance you can influence public policy, however slight, shouldn't you at least show up and register your voice? 'Please Lord,' you might pray, 'Please make adultery ok... just for this weekend?' Or something like that. You never know.

Will (my oldest son) and I were walking home from school one night before Christmas. Obviously, they've been teaching them about Jesus and the nativity story in class that day -- which is fine, good, even, because I want him to know the stories (as stories, thanks). So he asks me, 'Daddy, who's your favourite god?' Which is a great question, no? So, knowing he's been looking at Christianity, I say I like Jesus, because he had some great ideas on the importance of forgiveness and love, and that I like Buddha, because he had some good lessons on the importance of inner peace.

Will says, 'I like Jesus, too.' And that's good, I'm thinking, that he agrees with me on this. But then he adds, 'And I like Zeus, because he's got lightening bolts and can fry people!'

All of which understandable and cute in a 5 year old, but I'm thinking that far too many of that 62% of British respondents who want religious values reflected in British public life have not a very different conception of their god. And that makes me very nervous.

I know that not everyone has the five-year-old-boy view of religion, but my Uncle Dave just sent me a quotation I'm liking:

"God is a sound people make when they are too tired to think anymore."

More here. Do enjoy.


  1. It doesn't ask respondents what they actually consider to *be* religious values, though. I bet they public wouldn't be so hot to approve if the question explicitly mentioned genocide, rape and slavery.

  2. Yes, of course! That's the other issue here. Maybe the government should ban shellfish or tell menstruating women that they can't go to work.

    I'm all for most(?) of what Christ said, but very little of what in the intervening millennia has passed for 'Christianity'. (Poor guy, eh?)

    Thanks Sarah!

  3. One friendless day I'll post about the Worst Church Service I Ever Went To. Later, though.