Friday, September 17, 2010


The pros and cons of religion have been on my mind recently. As I travelled through Perú with boyfriend T, I've learned how the Spanish conquistadors forced the Incas to convert to Christianity. Religion has also been in my mind because the Pope is currently visiting the UK.

There are a lot of good aspects to religion. Focussing on Christianity which is the religion that I know best, religions rules such as the ten commandments must have helped people live together. We all achieve much more when we work together so that aspect is surely a good thing. The Golden Rule that one should treat others according to how one would like others to treat one's self is another very beneficial concept which appears in many religions.

However, religion is also a huge source of conflict, and that is surely a bad thing. It seems amazing to me that throughout history and still today, armies go to war with both believing that "God is on their side", even though war goes against the widespread religious concept that killing other people is wrong. This just emphasises how religion has always been used by a country's rulers to control their lower classes. The message "behave well in this life and your next life will be better" helps to stop poorer people from rebelling against their masters.

Another big problem is that a lot of religious ideas and rules are stuck in the past. For example, it's easy to find lots of out of date rules in the Jewish religion, as this famous response to an orthodox Jew's criticism of gay people shows. The Catholic Church still insists that contraception is not allowed, even though the world's population growth is probably out of control. It's easy to find out-of-date laws in Islam too, for example, as a banker I'm familiar with the fact Islam prohibits interest payments. The result is that a huge amount of energy is wasted in finding ways of getting round those rules and effectively paying interest anyway.

With all the different religions in the world, in terms of their spiritual component it seems very arrogant to me that anyone should believe that the religion that they were brought up with is the "right" one. Even more arrogant are the Christian missionaries, or the priests who came to South America with the conquistadors, with the aim of converting people to Christianity. If someone wants a religious aspect to their life, it strikes me that the logical thing to do would be to examine all the world's religions and then make a choice. Or better still, take the best bits from each religion :-). But of course logic and religion have never mixed, particularly in connection with religion's spiritual aspects.

I noted with a bit of pride how one of the Pope's cardinals, Walter Kasper, apparently told a German magazine that the UK was marked by "a new and aggressive atheism". To me, this means that a lot of people in the UK realise how flawed the existing religions are. As people everywhere in the world become more educated, my guess is that this trend will continue. In my recent holiday to Perú with boyfriend T, I was surprised to learn from one of our guides that Catholicism was even on the decline there. Stories about Catholic priests sexually abusing children can only make that decline faster.

Wandering through Arequipa with boyfriend T a couple of weeks ago, he spots a traditional picture of Jesus in a shop window.

"Do you find that image attractive?" he asks.

"What??" I reply, barely able to believe what he's asking, "are you asking whether I'd have sex with a guy who looks like that?"

"Yes of course :-). Why not!"

"Having been brought up in a Christian family," I respond, "I find it impossible to think of Jesus like that!"

"OK fair enough. But I quite like that look :-). As far as I'm concerned, he's more than do-able!"

Although the laws in civilised countries now enforce a lot of the basic religious rules like those found in the ten commandments, important ideas like The Golden Rule are likely to remain in the religious domain. Furthermore, the spiritual aspect of religions is entirely missing from secular societies. However, unless religions can find a way to update themselves and discard their historical baggage, their ultimate fate may just be to provide some eye candy for a perverse few!

1 comment:

Daniel Jason Binks said...

I'd like him to penetrate me, just so I can scream "Jesus Christ" with out looking like a pussy.