Letters: Do we all worship the same God?

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The question whether Jews, Christians and Muslims "worship the same God" is the wrong one (letters, 23, 24 August). All three are convinced there is only one God; it's impossible to worship any other. The only question is whether some are worshipping falsely.

But all three also agree that worship is not primarily intellectual assent, but trust, awe and service. So I can't ultimately tell how you are worshipping, and propositions about God, though vital at times, come second. How different do such propositions have to be before one can say that others are worshipping falsely? The letters have shown it is easy and credible to argue either way. Letters – indeed lengthy tomes – will not settle the matter. But the three faiths also agree that God is not divided, and so God's one creation is capable of unity and harmony. There is hope and purpose in dialogue over the differences – thank God.

Fr Patrick Morrow, London SE5

It's untrue to say that Muslims and Christians worship different Gods (letter, 24 August). Belief in the Trinity only appeared in the fourth century AD. There is no mention of it in the Bible. Many early Christian writers (Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian) did without it. No one knows the precise meaning of "person" or "'substance". In recent centuries both the Congregationalists and Baptists have shown themselves none too keen on the topic.

The great popularity won by Mohamed's message in eastern lands in the 7th and 8th centuries AD was due not least to the fact that it simplified the complex view of God which had wound Christianity into knots in the centuries following the Council of Nicaea (325).

In churches in the Arab world one finds the word "Allah" used for God (in Syriac, "Alloho"). That is not surprising, since the word is closely related to the Hebrew term Elohim, which appears in the first verse of Genesis.

Christopher Walker, London W14

Your interesting obituary of the founder of Jews for Jesus, Moishe Rosen, (24 August) quotes him as writing shortly before his death that "within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism."

It is of course true that Jesus is not recognised as messiah/ saviour in Judaism, but at the same time, on the liberal wing of Judaism, it is now not uncommon to find among scholars an understanding of Jesus's teachings as being fully in line with the Jewish prophetic tradition. (I am thinking particularly of the work of Geza Vermes.)

However, because of the history of Christian anti-semitism, it will be a long, long time before this scholarly understanding can be given open expression even in the most liberal synagogues.

Ken Cohen, London NW6

In reply to Alan Howe (letter, 24 August), according to him, I'm not a Christian. I'm a Unitarian, part of a great tradition which embraces Florence Nightingale, Mary Carpenter and Elizabeth Gaskell. Would he prefer us to call ourselves Muslims?

Lorna Verso, Kingswood, Gloucestershire

Alan Howe says it "defies reason" to believe that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, because Muslims deny the deity of Christ and reject the doctrine of the Trinity. What's irrational in believing that Muslims and Christians (and Jews) worship the same God but have different ideas about what she's like?

Dr Robin Orton, London SE26

Dismal record on languages

Rightly once again you highlight our dismal record in languages education (25 August). Although you focus on the further decline in GCSE, the impact is much greater. The numbers continuing post-16 are also at an all-time low and viable groups are becoming limited to the independent sector or specialist language colleges.

Where sixth forms have tried to protect languages, they have done so with very small groups. These will now be particularly vulnerable as schools face difficult budgets. The implications for higher education are clear.

Meanwhile, across the rest of Europe it is now the norm for young people to learn two or three languages through to the age of 18. These are the very people who will be competing for jobs in a global economy with our school-leavers and graduates. Elsewhere in Europe the ability to speak several languages is seen as a basic key skill.

We are in this position because of the structures put in place by the previous government, not least the move to "alternative" qualifications to boost league table positions. We have lost sight of the longer-term educational needs of both our students and our economy.

Let us hope that these statistics provide food for thought to the current government, which now needs to show strategic leadership. The news of yet another review does not bode well and will not address the urgency of the situation. We had the Dearing languages review as recently as 2007. A starting point would be to implement the recommendations from that review seriously.

Paul Harrison, Richmond, North Yorkshire

In your admirable coverage of the language crisis in British schools, it was rather unfortunate that your headline contained an error: having used the formal register for French (Parlez-vous) and German (Sprechen Sie), the correct Italian equivalent is Parla Italiano?, rather than the informal Parli.

Perhaps this might serve as a reminder that this beautiful and fascinating language, with such resonance in the fields of cooking, art, architecture and music, should be more widely available in schools. One of the obstacles to language learning is the limited choice available to students: the promotion of Italian would be a step in the right direction.

Oliver Webber, London NW10

Huge supply of useless degrees

I've never taken much of an interest in politics. It always seemed irrelevant to me. Of late I have become aware that it is probably a bit more important than I had expected, what with me now being a graduate with little hope of ever finding a graduate job, because of the financial shambles which I am reliably informed by David Cameron was caused by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Many graduate employers won't even consider an applicant without a First or 2.1. This makes me annoyed.

Tony wanted everyone to go to university. He thought this meant everything would be better for everyone. All the world will be a graduate and we will be a very clever country.

However, why did no one at the time think to themselves, hang about, won't this have some kind of effect on the value of a degree? How will the universities cope with this massive expansion? Will the numbers of graduate jobs rise in proportion to the increased number of graduates each year? No, they did not. This appears to have come as a massive surprise.

The class of 2010 is in a pickle. Now it seems that if you didn't get a 2:1 in your degree you might as well not have one for all the use it will do you. Thus a large proportion of graduates have nothing to show for their last three years but astronomical debt and a hangover. Tony should be giving out refunds.

Alexandra Coleman, Chelmsford, Essex

Congratulations to June Kent (letter, 23 August) on her degree from Manchester University, and commiserations on her fears that this achievement may be devalued by the degrees granted by "mediocre" universities. No doubt graduates from the 25 British universities recently ranked above hers are even more worried.

Professor Chris Barton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Labour and the middle class

In "The myth of the forgotten middle class" (25 August) Diane Abbott argues that the Labour Party need not run like "scared rabbits" from anything left-wing in order to maintain appeal to the middle classes, because much of the middle class is radical and in favour of traditional left-wing policies. Her arguments are simplistic.

The great Thatcherite trick, brilliantly reinvented by Cameron, was to convince the working class that they were actually middle-class.

I remember, many years ago, canvassing homes on the working-class council estate where I lived, being sent packing by a guy who asked why he should vote Labour when he had "all this". Without a shred of irony he indicated the council house made of concrete slabs he had bought for £22,000 just before it was announced that they were falling down and needed £11,000 of repairs.

He had replaced the porch with two plastic gothic columns, painted the concrete cream and installed a cheap wooden door with a large brass-effect knocker, and thus believed he was middle-class and therefore voted Tory.

Diane Abbott's thinly veiled appeal to the left-wing rank-and-file membership, while criticising Ed Balls for supporting the removal of the 10p tax rate and David Miliband for initially supporting tuition fees, omits to tell us why she sent her son to a private school. Many of us who are long-time members of Labour never embraced the New Labour experiment. We are socialists and are quite sure of what we believe in.

Graham Teager, Brackley, Northamptonshire

BBC's duty to the arts

David Lister (Essay, 24 August) is quite right. I have long argued that the licence-funded BBC has a duty to show the work of the major subsidised theatre, opera and ballet companies, while the companies have a parallel duty to show their work to the widest possible audience.

I believe the Government should make the licence fee and the subsidies conditional on this sort of arrangement. Fourteen years ago I had the chance to put this case to the then shadow arts minister, Chris Smith. He assured me that he intended to do exactly that. But nothing came of it.

More than ever today it seems to me the only way that both the BBC licence fee and the subsidising of the National Theatre and Covent Garden can be justified – as well as being good for the arts and good for audiences.

John Campbell, London W11

Football needs video evidence

I have to take issue with Alan McKay's case for goal-line technology on the basis that a "legitimate goal" was ruled out at Stoke on Saturday (Sport, 23 August). While goal-line technology might well have declared Stoke's goal over the line, only video replay technology would have seen justice done by exposing Robert Huth's foul on the Spurs goalkeeper.

I cannot understand the clamour for the use of goal-line technology in football. The solution to so-called injustice on the football pitch is already in use and, if officially sanctioned, would actually save time.

With a fifth official adjudicating the action on the telly and instantaneously relaying information to the referee, there would be no point in players challenging any decisions, and no question of undermining the referee's authority to make his own decision based on the information presented to him.

Mike Hosking, Aldbourne, Wiltshire

Men and women in hospital

I will tell Andrew Lea (letter, 24 August) why patients need the security of single-sex wards.

The reason patients are in hospital is that they are usually ill and vulnerable.

They are generally dressed in night clothes. They are often undergoing personal and intimate examinations and procedures, and discussing personal parts of their life with nothing more substantial than a curtain between them and their neighbours.

If Mr Lea is one of the sort of people who is happy to live such embarrassing moments in front of strangers of the opposite sex, bully for him. Just allow fellow humans a modicum of dignity. This is nothing to do with the Taliban.

Liz White RGN, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Andrew Lea may satisfy himself with his sanctimonious assertions about how we should ignore the general societal consensus that unknown-to-each other men and women should have separate accommodation (and bathroom facilities), but the reality is that the public who use the NHS prefer to be segregated in this regard.

There is no reason why putting a wall between men's and women's quarters should be vastly more expensive than forcing them to share a ward. Regardless of how he personally condemns men and women for preferring to be able to sleep separately, hospitals cater to the desires and preferences of the patients.

William Saunders, London SE21

The private life of golfers

Stephen Glover is worried about threats to the freedom of the press (Media Studies, 23 August). But unless he can explain to me why it is important that a huge media organisation should be able to profit from exposing the private life of a golfer, I will continue to think that he should worry more about the freedom of the private individual.

Rather than refer to "famous people", or "celebrities", Mr Glover continually uses the term "public figures". But as far as I'm concerned, a public figure is somebody paid from public finances. I don't care what a golfer gets up to in the bedroom any more than I care what my neighbour does. It's none of my business, is it?

Perhaps Mr Glover knows why it is.

David Woods, Hull, East Yorkshire

Schools not just for the rich

Your article "Aspiring dreams" (12 August) has fallen into the common trap of equating attendance at an independent school directly with wealth and socio-economic background.

Children from a range of backgrounds attend independent schools, with more than 30 per cent of pupils at ISC schools receiving financial support. You also used the oft-repeated statistic that 7 per cent of the population went to independent schools. Although about 7 per cent of children attend independent schools at any one time, ISC research shows that about 14 per cent of adults have attended these schools at some time in their school careers. Many children dip in or out of state and independent education.

The article also overlooks the fact that top-performing state schools, from which universities recruit many of their students, tend to be in areas where there is less poverty, and thus have a higher proportion of affluent parents.

The key to getting more children from poorer backgrounds to university lies in improving education, raising aspirations and giving pupils the right course advice across the board. This is not a state versus independent school issue.

David Lyscom, Chief Executive, Independent Schools Council, London WC2

High-speed rail can pay

Trains running at 400 kilometres per hour (letters, 20 August) do use more energy, but they carry three times the people – being longer and more popular.

As a two-and-a-half-hour journey time typically takes 90 per cent of the market, these trains would switch nine times as many people from oil-based air to electrically powered rail. Right now 90 per cent of people fly between London and Glasgow and only 10 per cent use today's slow trains.

Our electricity generation is becoming greener faster than air travel will ever be.

Far from harming the deficit, funding is not needed until 2015, and 200mph rail typically does pay back its construction costs. TGV in France earned £1bn profit in 2007.

John Jefkins, Croydon, Surrey

Intelligent planet

Just a thought. If individually unintelligent insects such as ants, bees and termites can act in collectively intelligent ways ("Secrets of the of swarm", 23 August) then it is no longer unthinkable that the totality of the Earth's living systems – Gaia as some would say – could also have some kind of cumulative intelligence. Could such a capacity run to an ability to deal with damaging parasites? It starts to seem possible. Oh dear ...

B J Fearnley, Debenham, Suffolk

Europe's trade

Your article "Business grandees shun Cameron over trade job" (16 August) omits the key fact that, since 1975 all Britain's trade relationships and treaties are determined by the EU and in particular the EU Trade Commissioner. Britain's next trade minister and the British Government have no power to make trade deals. Perhaps that is why, as the article states, "Mr Cameron ... has failed to attract anyone suitable for the brief".

William Dartmouth MEP (UK Independence Party) Brussels

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