The recommendation of the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life that the House of Lords should include representatives of more faiths seems to me misguided and dangerous (report, 7 December). By all means represent the ethnic make-up of the country, but why inflict further the power of religious spokespersons upon the state? The Church of England is at least pretty benign these days – even its head is allowed occasionally to doubt the existence of a God and get away with it – so we’re making progress.
To promote the influence of the more radical faiths is asking for trouble. And what on earth has religion got to do with good governance anyway? The world is littered with examples that illustrate just the opposite.
East Molesey, Surrey
From a London perspective, no doubt the idea of downgrading the presence of the Church of England in the House of Lords looks attractive. But when you look at England as a whole, a different picture emerges.
The Church of England is the only organisation to my knowledge which has a presence in every community in the country. It also has a full-time representative in or very near all those communities: a representative whose support is available to all, regardless of religious affiliation. And believe me, they are used by all and sundry, at all times of the day and night.
I googled “Where is my local mosque?” There are five within 25 miles of where I live, but none closer than 20 miles away. My nearest synagogue is in Portsmouth, over 20 miles away: my nearest Hindu temple is in Southampton, 30 miles away. My nearest Christian churches, three, of different traditions, but flourishing, self-supporting and co-operating with each other, are no more than a 10-minute walk away. That is why the Church of England has representation in Parliament.
The response of the Church of England spokesman to the Commission’s report is dismaying, and shows breathtaking arrogance; it suggests that the Church of England has no intention of relinquishing its privileged position in the state, despite its declining membership and the increasing religious and cultural diversity of the UK.
These recommendations are hopelessly timid. It must be obvious that the Church of England should be disestablished; no cleric should sit in parliament unless he or she has been elected; and all schools should teach comparative religion, from a secular perspective. How can we hope to eradicate religious wars while we’re buttressing and coddling superstition?
With a news agenda dominated by the bombing of Syria, the struggles of the government, the problems within the Labour party, the tragedy in Paris, and the climate talks, surely at this time of year particularly we should remember the subject that dominated our thoughts a few weeks ago; the plight of the many thousands of refugees at our borders.
These people – cold, tired and desperately unhappy – haven’t gone away and are totally dependent on the charity of fellow human beings who will shortly lavish their friends and families with food and gifts far in excess of their needs.
You don’t have to believe in the more outlandish claims of Christianity to think that the slogans “Goodwill to all men”, “Love thy neighbour as thyself”, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and the parable of the good Samaritan are particularly relevant at this time. Surely we can find room at the inn for a lot more than we are currently planning to accommodate.
Diversionary tactics needed for floods
Schemes for diverting excessive water (report, 7 December) from the regularly inundated North-west to the often too-dry South-east have been in the planning stages for decades, but nothing has been done except talk about it.
A water-control scheme which moves water from westerly flowing rivers to easterly flowing ones would require one huge investment in channelling, piping and pumping.
But compare that one cost with the recurring costs every few years in various parts of the north and west. Buildings and contents are wrecked. People need replacement, temporary living quarters for up to a year. The economy stagnates, transport is restricted, farming wrecked, and insurance costs skyrocket.
The first tied cottage my wife and I occupied in 1977 consisted of an atypical townhouse. At street level was a garage and a small study. The first floor housed a kitchen and dining/sitting room. The top floor contained a bedroom and bathroom. As well as raising flood barriers, should not more houses be designed for “upstairs living”?
Rev Richard James
Given that recently installed flood defences in the North-west of England have been found not fit for purpose, is there not now a strong case for getting authoritative second opinions on new schemes being promoted elsewhere (eg the River Thames scheme)?
Rev Andrew McLuskey
Selfie generation fails humanity test
If you’re at the scene of a bloody knife attack at a London underground station, it’s OK to run away. It’s OK to try to help. It’s more than OK to try to stop the attacker, if you can.
But it is not OK to stand there and film it on your mobile phone. (Report, 7 December.)
The attacker at least has the excuse of probable mental illness. But I can think of only two motivations for the people filming: either they think it will make a good story or they think it will make them some money. Either is revolting.
And that should be the headline news about this event. Not that the attack happened: that’s a horrible thing, but it’s nothing new. The headline should be that a reasonable number of supposedly normal human beings now think it’s fine to stand there, do nothing and maybe make a few quid. Watching and thinking of how your page will look: it’s the culmination of the selfie-generation.
Emma Fox Wilson
The stabbing attack on innocents at a tube station in east London is appalling and unjustifiable. However, this incident might give rise to Islamophobic attacks against Muslims. Knife crimes are an everyday occurrence in the UK, and Muslims fell prey to criminal vengeance, just like any other community. Last year a Muslim student from Saudi Arabia at the University of Exeter was stabbed 16 times in a fatal attack while on her way to the campus. Not a single word was uttered about her attacker’s religion.
Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
Why does the US think it can fix Syria?
Your calendar of shootings in the US (“Another dark day: the US investigates its 355th mass shooting of 2015”, 4 December) graphically highlights the horror of the 30,000 people dying in the US a year. As Hillary Clinton said: “We lose an average of 90 Americans every day because of guns”. Obama has said that he is “distressed” he’s not been able to strengthen gun safety laws.
So I am truly baffled that the US believes that, with its allies, it will sort out Isis, and Assad and “regime change” in Syria. If this huge and powerful country cannot change the mindset of its own people, why does it believe itself capable of righting mindsets and matters so far from home?
Correspondents sneering that our bombers can add nothing to the war against Isis (Letters, 3 December) may wish to review the cockpit footage of our Tornado and Typhoon jets destroying Isis oilfields. And could one of these peaceniks please explain to us why their weird logic – that smaller donations are worthless – shouldn’t also be applied to charity campaigns?
Blinded by a case of tunnel vision
Instead of the proposed new £6bn tunnel under Woodhead Pass (report, 1 December), why not reopen the existing 2.5-mile Woodhead rail tunnel and carry cars and vans by train between Sheffield and Manchester? It might be cheaper.
Climate change in the vegetable patch
I, too, had to mow the lush grass paths in my vegetable garden today mainly so that I could get to the fat caterpillars of the Cabbage White butterfly that were devouring my cavolo nero. Caterpillars at Christmas at 250 metres above sea level on an exposed hill is a concept not easy to take on board. Who knows what other surprises, good or bad, may be in store?
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