Letters: A timely lesson in the problems created by religion

These letters appear in the Monday 21st edition of the Independent

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The Good Friday edition of The Independent provided rich pickings for me as a humanist.

I try to be good, kind, compassionate and fair because I believe, rationally, that they are the right principles by which to live, and that they lead to happiness and contentment in a just society, not because I will be spared the torments of hell.

I was, however, pleased to read the editorial commending the proposed changes in the Catholic Church which would allow priests to marry, allowing them a normal sexual outlet and saving future generations of children from abuse, and them from lives of loneliness.

I agreed with Mary Dejevsky that there should be absolute separation of Church and State. I also agree with her that the Prime Minister should keep his religious beliefs to himself. I find it increasingly distasteful to hear this being referred to as a “Christian country” as though that implies some sort of moral superiority.

So-called Christian values (the good ones that is – about kindness, compassion and so on; not the bad ones – about consigning non-believers to the fiery furnace and torturing them for all eternity) predate Christianity by centuries and are also common to all major religions.

I was horrified to read of Michael Williams boasting at not having fainted or looked the other way as his son was genitally mutilated, that is, circumcised, as part of his initiation into Judaism.

I was delighted to read of Abu Hamza being brought to trial in the US, charged with helping with the training of jihadists.

While I appreciate that many people who have religious beliefs are decent, I find it unfortunate that so many base their so-called morality on myths initiated by goatherds living in caves thousands of years ago.

If only they would stop mindless and cruel practices such as circumcision, stop taking such pleasure in the idea that non-believers will suffer horrific tortures in the hereafter, stop insisting on a celibate priesthood (and therefore engendering child abuse), stop the oppression and disempowerment of women, and stop proselytising barmy superstitions, then there may be a place for them in modern society.

It was a wonderful edition, and it enriched my secular Good Friday holiday.

Katherine Scholfield, London W8


Zaki Cooper (letter, 19 April) claims that the established Church protects all religions. Whether it actually does so or not, I do not know, but it does appear to have a duty to do so. This appears to be a relatively recent attempt by Anglicans to clad themselves in quasi-secularism.

However, it is clear that the established Church is bound to favour some religions over others and any religion over no religion. The point about secularism is that it is inherently fair in that the right to hold any belief or none is protected, and the right to practice a religion or not, allowing that this does not unduly infringe the rights of others, is also protected.

Ian Quayle, Fownhope, Herefordshire


Sasha Simic (letter, 19 April) doesn’t need to parody the scriptures. David Cameron’s philosophy is already there in Matthew 13:12 – “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall  be taken away even that  he hath.”

Peter Garside, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire


So David Cameron has got religion. Has he heard the First World War-related comment that there are no atheists in the trenches? It sprung to mind instantly.

S Lawton, Kirtlington, Oxfordshire


Schools 'choice' is about making profits

As for many politicians, “choice” for David Laws who argues that “Creating new schools gives parents real choice” (letter, 19 April) has a narrow meaning.

There was no “choice” for the thousands of parents and governors up and down the country who didn’t want their schools turned into academies. No “choice” for local authorities in the creation of new schools: they have to be free schools.

As for free schools offering “good value for money”, this is laughable. The Discovery New School closed after less than three years at a cost to taxpayers of £3m.

“We are building schools at a fraction of the cost of the former government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.” Really? £45m for an elitist sixth-form college sponsored by Tory donor Lord Harris’s Harris Federation and a Westminster public school, at a time when funding for other sixth-form colleges is being slashed.

What Mr Laws’ “choice”  is about is the creation  of a market in which unelected and unaccountable businesses can profit from public funds. He is overseeing an increasingly fragmented and chaotic system in which schools expend more energy and resources on PR and competition to the detriment of the education they are supposed to be providing for children.

I’d like to make a different choice, Mr Laws.

Colin Tucker

Beeston, Nottingham


Perhaps we have to make the earth move

Peter Grove (letter, 19 April) raises a point more complex than simply that loud pop music (pollution to my ears) causes permanent hearing impairment.

He will also, I expect, agree that this phenomenon of live pop music noise damage invites closer scrutiny – and delving into our ancient past of tribal music ritual, where the primary purpose was to evoke the gods of yore by setting up massive acoustic ground loops as earth vibrations via stamping, singing, shouting and so on in natural locations and man-made auditoriums.

I suggest that amplified pop music is akin to antiquated cultural expression – more about getting the ground under our feet a-thumping, the human diaphragm  a-bumping and the heartbeat a-jumping.

Why? You tell me?

David Lloyd-Howells

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire


Unwanted reminder of the blackshirts

On returning to Gatwick Airport last week from Sicily, I was shocked to be confronted at immigration control by the incredible sight of Border Agency staff wearing black shirts with black ties.

I had a spontaneous flashback to an incident in the 1930s, when my 5ft-tall Jewish grandmother attacked Oswald Moseley, no doubt flanked by blackshirts, striking him about the head with her umbrella. Needless to say, this courageous act made her something of a heroine in the family.

Tony Tugnutt, London WC1 


Philanthropist with a great vision

You ask: “Where are the great British philanthropists?” (Editorial, 17 April). Generally, those who live and hold their assets in this country do their bit by paying taxes, thereby delegating the role of “philanthropist” to the Government. The problem is that while taxpayers may have a strong belief in where their funds should be directed, they have no control over the process.

A Briton with a vision who took the role that you advocate was James Martin, who died last year. He believed that only through the power of our collective intellects can the world survive and prosper in the 21st century.

He backed his belief, making the largest benefaction to the University of Oxford in its history, enabling it to found the Oxford Martin School to study the challenges that must be addressed to enable his vision to come true.

Terry Lloyd, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire


What did St Trinian’s have to do with it?

Howard Jacobson (19 April) says: “We are all being called to account in the matter of sexism.” Ten pages later, Simon Read’s piece on a new solar panel scheme for schools is illustrated with pouting, stocking-clad actresses from a St Trinian’s film. Isn’t that just a teeny bit gratuitous? I agree that the Your Money section isn’t riveting, but trying to perk it up with a sexist picture is a tactic that the tabloids use to far greater effect.

Carrie Winter, Ashley Green, Buckinghamshire


Criticism that dare not speak

The Tom of Finland postage stamps have caused some press ripples of modest proportions. I have not been aware of any adverse commentary. Had the stamps portrayed women in comparable poses the response would have been different, I fancy.

Steve Ford, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland


Laughing at the crucifixion

I enjoy Monty Python’s Life of Brian too, and I’m not even sure I count as a Christian any more, so this is not an outraged harrumph... but, in reaction to the caption on your lead photograph of a Good Friday observance, I did wonder how many other world religions you would have the guts to take the mickey out of on their holiest day of the year.

Richard Jeffcoat, Harborne, Birmingham