What's the point of religion if you can't be bigoted?

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I WAS brought up a Roman Catholic, so when I was a child I was frogmarched to church every Sunday. Like most children, I found Mass rather a bore, but there was one particular type of service I loathed and detested. About once a month, our local church would have an evening Folk Mass, and my mother would drag us along because she saw that the ghastly creatures who sung on these occasions strummed guitars, and she associated all guitar strumming with pop music. Seeing that we were already drifting away from the faith, she hoped that we would be so excited by the lovely pop music of the Folk Mass that we would leap back into the fold. Being teenagers, my sister and I were so speechless with rage that our parents existed at all, it was impossible to communicate with them on any level, let alone try to convey to them that Marc Bolan yelling, "Oh you don't fool the children of the revolution! No! No! No! No! No!" or Alice Cooper screaming, "No more Mr Nice Guy!" is not the same as some myopic semi-hippie and his red-faced sister bleating, "Oh Jesus is a-coming again! Tra-la! la! la! la! la! He is our savey-yah! Tra-la! Tra-la! Tra-la! Tra-la! Tra-la! la! la! la! la!". I remember simultaneously cringing with embarrassment and fuming with anger. I was going through a Maoist stage at the time, and I used to pray for Red Guards to storm into the church, drag the singers to the front and shoot them.

I ALSO hated school assembly. Different teachers took assembly each day. There was one woman who was Plymouth Brethren, and would jabber on about meeting a chap who was selfish and unkind, so she'd dunked him in the sea and he'd come out lovely and kind and speaking in tongues. We called her The Mad Old Bag. Then there was the deputy headmaster, who kept reading us drivel from a book by Cliff Richard on how he saw the light. I have hated Cliff Richard ever since, and wish him nothing but harm. Only the headmaster read from the Bible and gave us what we wanted, Christ performing miracles or Elijah bringing down fire and brimstone on the priests of Baal, and we thanked him for it. It's not that we were Conservative, it's just that if we had to be religious, we wanted our religion to be religious, not stupid.

IT SEEMS to me that the Church of England is going down the road to Tra-la! la! la! la! la! land. Now it wants to allow people who live in sin to be welcomed into local congregations. It already allows women priests, and is under pressure to recognise the fact that many vicars are homosexual. All these measures are designed to bring it into line with modern society and rid it of hypocrisy. But the whole point of religion is surely that it is a mixture of faith, bigotry, irrationality and hypocrisy. I suspect that most people in the C of E like that blend, and if it is all sorted out they will leave in their droves.

THE CHURCH of England seems to be changing under the guidance of the likes of Peter Tatchell. His pickets seem to be speaking louder than Leviticus, which states that homosexuality is a sin. Perhaps when he has had Leviticus disowned he will start picketing churches to get old soldiers to "come out" and admit they killed people in the war so that he can get "thou shalt not kill" banned from the commandments. The church has beaten Tatchell to denying adultery is a sin, which he must be pretty browned off about. Then, of course, there are women priests, so don't mention St Paul. It won't be long before the church will bring forward a document recognising that after death the brain haemorrhages and makes rising from the dead after three days physically impossible.

I DON'T think there's anything wrong with gay or women priests, or worshippers who live in sin, or denying the validity of commandments or the word of St Paul or the virgin birth or the resurrection. People should feel free to be in a church that caters for all these things. I just question whether this is the church most members of the Church of England want to be in. I also question whether such a church would last very long. If religion bends to society's whims, like Peter Tatchell himself, it ceases to be religious, so what's the point?

People don't want to go Tra-la! la! la! la! la! They want that blend of faith, bigotry, irrationality and hypocrisy that gives them certainty in an uncertain world. Look at Northern Ireland. Who is the most popular man in the pulpit? Ian Paisley.

LIKE most lapsed Catholics, I will probably return to the fold when I start to fear death. When I do, I want the Bible to be as it was 2,000 years ago, not a new improved version, and I want Gregorian chants, not Tra-la! la! la! la! la!s. I'll be sorry there aren't women priests, but that's St Paul for you. I know there'll be lots of gay priests and bishops, and I don't mind at all, it's between them and their consciences, and if they preach against homosexuality from the pulpit, they are supposedly conveying the word of God, not their own opinion as fallen men, and as a fellow fallen man I won't judge them. A priest spreads the word, and as a private person he should live by that word, but if he fails, it is because he is man, not God, therefore he is a sinner. He can ask to be forgiven for being a homosexual, or if he doesn't believe his sexuality is a sin he can answer to his Maker when he dies, as I will have to answer for sins I have committed but don't accept, like supporting homosexual rights in society and using contraception. It's not really a big deal. Call it hypocrisy, call it irrationality, call it bigotry, call it faith - I call it religion. Without all these factors, the Catholic church would not have survived for two millenniums . If people don't like this strange mixture, fine, like Peter Tatchell they shouldn't be religious. But unlike Tatchell, they shouldn't try to mess with other people's faith, for they won't change it, they'll destroy it.

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