Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Thought For The Day

"Death can achieve far more than life."

Is this a quote from an extremist Muslim cleric motivating young suicide bombers?

No, it's from today's Christian Thought For The Day on Radio 4, by the well-known homophobe Anne Atkins.

It's a reminder that martyrdom is revered in most religions and that most of them contain the seeds of violent extremism with their belief in a fantasy after-life that is more important than this life.

That's not to say that all, or even most, of their adherents are violent extremists. But it is to say that it is religion itself that is the problem, particularly when its extreme forms are allied to political objectives.

8 Comments:

At 12:17 PM, Blogger JayMaster said...

Have you not learnt yet to switch off whenever Anne Atkins comes on? Just hearing her voice is enough to set my teeth on edge and start hyperventilating as I struggle to find words with which to express my loathing. About 10 or 11 years ago she was due to speak at a meeting of the Christian Union at Newcastle University. I went to see the chaplain to explain why I thought her views were discriminatory, inflammatory and downright bigoted, but he proceeded to let her speak. She actually said nothing about homosexuality and just droned about other pseudo-religious perspectives on life. I have been amazed at her rise in the media world, were even R4 seem to think she is a respectable speaker. Lord help us!

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

jay, I think I had mentally switched off when that phrase jumped out at me and prompted that post. Usually I just swear at the radio.

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger cello said...

'Thought for the Day' is an evil institution, promoting the exact opposite of what it says.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Pashmina said...

I am quite equivocal about TFTD - sometimes it's quite harmless, very occasionally someone says something worthwhile, but so often it gives a platform of R4 respectability (as jaymaster says) to the likes of Atkins whose world view and bigoted morality are completley indefensible. She is a truly ghastly individual.

I don't actually have a problem with religion per se. The problem is more with different interpretations of what those religions mean, what extremists (of whatever persuasion) read into their sacred texts, and the way in which they twist their moral codes to fit in with their own prejudices.

I completely agree that these days there are more outrages committed in the name of religion than with secular intent - but if it wasn't religion it would be something else. For some people it's just the hook on which to hang their hatreds.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I don't mind Radio 4 having a TFTD, just as they have a Prayer For the Day very early in the morning. What annoys me is having it in the middle of a news programme. You don't get assorted God-Botherers popping up in the middle of Newsnight or the 10 O'Clock News to sermonise at viewers.

pashmina, I think there's some truth in your last paragraph. The religious always argue that the great crimes of the last century were done in the name of political ideologies, not religion.
My answer would be that we have enough problems fighting poisonous politics without having to fight poisonous religions as well. And religions lay claim to a much higher moral ground than political movements.
Secondly, you could argue that some of those political ideologies are, in effect, secular religions, relying on faith, belief and autocratic and infallible leadership. If so, we're not really talking about two different phenomena.
There are those who would claim that my own brand of liberal-secular-socialism is itself an ideology. Can an anti-ideological belief system be called an ideology? That's a tricky one. I think there are some fundamental differences, mostly based on a distinction between the public and private spheres of life, something that religious fundamentalists and political ideologues tend to reject.
But at this point I have a strong urge to stop thinking and go and water the garden.

 
At 5:17 PM, Blogger Steve said...

"I don't actually have a problem with religion per se. The problem is more with different interpretations of what those religions mean, what extremists (of whatever persuasion) read into their sacred texts, and the way in which they twist their moral codes to fit in with their own prejudices."

The joke of all interpretations of so-called "sacred texts" is that each interpretation is as valid as the other. Why should the intolerant nutter be accused of false representation for his position any more than the moderate ecumenicalist?

TFTD was the reason I finally kicked R4 in the head. Recently though I've discovered R2 have the same thing between 9 and 9:30.

Pontificating twats the lot of 'em. Probably.

 
At 6:47 PM, Blogger Pashmina said...

Steve said: The joke of all interpretations of so-called "sacred texts" is that each interpretation is as valid as the other. Why should the intolerant nutter be accused of false representation for his position any more than the moderate ecumenicalist?

Very good point. To draw on Willie's equally good one about political and religious ideologies not being so different from each other, arguably moderate and extremist readings of religious texts (and the shades in between) are no different from moderate and extreme versions of political beliefs, in that to a large extent it's a matter of interpretation.

Clearly this falls down a bit in that I for one fundamentally disagree with the tenets of the British Conservative party, for example, probably more than I do with the principles of most of the big religions (or at least 'moderate' readings of them) – not that I'm an expert.

Willie: it's one of the interesting points that arguably the major – or most notorious – crimes of the last century were committed in the name of political ideology – Hitler and Stalin were anything but religious. And I do think that religious rather than political extremists are the greater threat these days. Actually maybe we don't disagree that much.

Anyway I've wittered on for long enough and I have to go and watch Lost now. I haven’t got a garden.

 
At 7:57 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

steve, that's a good point and of course the Bible is full of contradictions, particularly between the Old and New Testaments.

pashmina, if you know what the tenets of the Conservative Party are, it might be an act of kindness to tell them. They seem rather confused at the moment.
Hitler may not have been religious as an adult but he was brought up a Catholic and was, I believe, an altar boy. To draw any conclusions from this would be unfair to Catholics, not that that usually stops me.

 

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