Letters: Still confusing religion with ethics

These letters appear in the 29 December issue of The Independent

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It was good to learn that the BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, believes that the BBC should do more for minority faiths, and that he defended his position by quoting the census showing 4.4 per cent of people affirming Islam as their religion (“BBC’s head of religion says more beliefs must be reflected”, 27 December).

However, he rejected the need for an atheist point of view, despite the census showing 25.7 per cent of people not claiming a religion. Most religions have opinions on ethical issues, and these opinions are often intrinsic to the religion. However, ethics is much bigger than that, and many of the 25.7 per cent have strong ethical views.

It is therefore time he changed his job title to just “head of religion” and left the ethical debates to someone else who can give a balanced point of view.

Steve Horsfield

Hoby, Leicestershire


Will the BBC’s head of religion and ethics live up to his job title by acting to end the ban on atheists and agnostics contributing to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day? This kind of broadcast apartheid might be justified if religious belief simply equated to virtue, but too much evidence – child massacres and murdered aid-workers – proves otherwise.

Peter Brooker

West Wickham, Kent


David Cameron again celebrates “our Christian values” in his Christmas message. But the values he clearly admires – tolerance, understanding, charity – should not be attached to one religious group, as they are almost universal and were aspired to many years before the birth of Christ.

And I am afraid our Christian values are not much in evidence when questions of immigration, gay marriage and treatment of the mentally ill arise. But for the PM I suppose any opportunity for an early election pitch has to be taken.

Professor Brian S Everitt

London SE19

Tories choose to destroy services

Danny Alexander says that “the Tory agenda to keep reducing public spending beyond what is necessary would result in the wilful destruction of important parts of our public services” (“Osborne savaged by his closest ally in the Coalition”, 24 December).

I’ve got news for you, Mr Alexander: it has already happened; you just need to get out more. It has always been an ideological choice of the Tories to do this. There were other options but the Tories decided that the weak, poor and vulnerable would suffer the most; and you, Mr Alexander, have gone along with this.

It is no use objecting now. Anyone would think there was an election due.

Barry Norman

Bradford, West Yorkshire


Now that Danny Alexander has so completely and so publicly rejected the Government’s entire economic strategy, I take it the Liberal Democrats will join Labour in pledging to vote down next March’s Finance Bill? Pretty please?

Ted Bruning

St Neots, Cambridgeshire


Your editorial, “Bad policy, good politics” (23 December) summarised the criticisms of the Government as “ritualistic booing” which will not make a difference. What will make a difference, however, if we all ask the candidates at the general election in May three questions:

How many people are sleeping rough in your constituency?

How many people are collecting food from food banks?

What are you going to do about the above?

All of us should put these questions to each candidate, by every means possible, such as local media and local meetings.

Your columns have made us face these issues. Let us make the politicians face them as well, in the glare of publicity.

William Robert Haines



There was a delicious juxtaposition in the recent anti-porn law protests outside the Palace of Westminster. While those protesting outside consented to face-sitting and aggressive whipping, those MP deficit-dominatrixes in the original House of Pain are gearing up to deliver another round of non-consensual and painful public spending cuts to prove which party is tough enough to deal with the deficit at the next election.

Ian McKenzie


Fight back against the gropers

Why wouldn’t Nigel Glover be angry at the suggestive approaches made to his daughters by “drunken louts” (letter, 27 December)? That men behave this way is disgusting. But they occasionally do.

The man grabbing his daughter’s crotch in Clapham should have been deterred with a swift knee in the gonads; the taxi driver’s number should have been taken and reported to his employers and the police; the deeply boring man in the bar should have been rebuffed whilst Mr Glover’s daughter joined her smoking friends, and finally, I suggest the carrot should have been snapped.

I’m at a loss to understand why Mr Glover feels his daughters’ education and erudition would have protected them from this sort of behaviour.  Time they “man up”, take control of their lives and stop moaning to Daddy.

Jennifer Towland



Nigel Glover rightly complains about the boorish and loutish sexualised behaviour of some men towards young women. While they are fortunately in the minority, men generally have lost the art of flirtation and of engaging in humorous verbal foreplay.

It is all too unsubtle and basic, and displays not only a lack of respect for women but a complete failure to understand that women appreciate compliments and courtship but not animal behaviour.

Roger L Davey



Quick, early death? Yes, please

Rosie Millard (27 December) raises the question of whether we should wag our fingers at those who are fat and suggests that the last social taboo, “the elephant in the room”, is obesity. But surely the real elephant in the room is death.

The decision was taken some years ago by the League of Friends of our local hospital that 10 defibrillators should be installed at various places in our community to ensure that if anyone dropped down with a coronary thrombosis they could be immediately resuscitated by a passer-by.

When I publicly suggested that those of us of a certain age, who might think that this was a good way to go and might not wish to be brought back to life, should be provided by the Friends with brass labels we could wear around our necks while out shopping with the words “Please do not resuscitate” there was outrage.

At least obesity shortens life, for the reasons that Rose Millard outlines. Hands up those who do not wish to end their days incontinent, arthritic and demented in an old people’s home.

Dr Nick Maurice

Marlborough,  Wiltshire

End this archaic honours nonsense

Having been put off my porridge by the image of David  Mellor and his partner on the front page (22 December) my mind turned to more seasonal themes such as meritocracy, egalitarianism, dinners at No 10 and New Year Honours lists.

Surely there is no real benefit to the common man from anyone getting a knighthood or peerage because they have supported some dodgy manifesto or have come from the “right” gene pool.

Has the time come to abolish our honours system and the Lords altogether? Countless other countries seem to do very well without such archaic nonsense.

I am sure that those who really do make a selfless contribution to healthcare, society, sport or innovation will be grown-up enough not to need a gong or an ermine robe plus expenses to keep doing what they do.

Marc Buffery

Upper Rissington, Gloucestershire

Finsbury Park train nightmare

If East Coast Trains had re-routed some services via Peterborough and Cambridge, customers could have changed to and from the London Underground at Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale stations, thereby relieving the congestion at Finsbury Park on Saturday.

But to succeed, such an arrangement would require giving customers a constant stream of accurate, up-to-date information, which appears not to be the policy of East Coast Trains.

Francis Roads

London E18

Cruel charade of the hunting snobs

The hunting lobby’s Boxing Day charades (“The tradition that refuses to die”, 27 December) are a useful reminder to the rest of us that an election victory for David Cameron would mean the re-legalisation  of this cruelty to wild animals, conducted for  the sake of kicks and snobbery.

Christopher Clayton

Waverton, Cheshire