Sunday, 1 July 2007

Good God!

Apparently, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, thinks the recent spot of bad weather that has large parts of the UK paddling is an act of God. This wacky story made the front page of the Sunday Telegraph today, perhaps because it fits in so well with the reports of terrorist activities that are otherwise filling the front pages. After all, one form of religious extremism is pretty much like another.

According to the Batty Bish and friends (he's not the only senior man of the cloth to express these views), "In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want."

Yep, that's a sign, sure enough. Not, I hasten to add, of impending divine retribution - if that were on the cards, surely all umbrella and inflatable boat manufacturers would have been turned into pillars of salt by now - but of how seriously round the bend this guy really is.

Certainly, the British government has delusions of divinity, but their error lies not in saying that people can do as they (the people) wish, but in insisting that people do as they (the government) decree. The nanny state rules with a rod of iron, and the only thing to be thankful for is that the Batty Bish isn't running the show.

You will, I think, have deduced by now that I am not a religious kind of guy. To my mind, religion constitutes an irrational belief in something that, by definition, cannot be proven to exist, and is therefore irrelevant. I prefer a rational system of thought, logic and deduction to blind faith. However, unlike the Batty Bish, I do not have any problem with silly people doing silly things in oddly shaped buildings at ludicrous times of day, whatever faith they happen to be.

It is the very permissiveness that the Bish decries that prevents me from suggesting that he, and all the others like him, should be instantly banged up in a rubber room for both their own safety and the good of mankind in general. Of course, this attitude may turn out to be a mistake - how many wars and conflicts are driven, at least in the beginning, by religious differences? Is that not the fundamental excuse for a couple of nut jobs smashing a Cherokee into a perfectly servicable airport?

But, for the moment, we live in a country that is still, just about, free, and I respect the rights of the Batty Bish, and everyone else, to express his views. Naturally, that doesn't extend to the terrorists amongst us, who, in my opinion, forefit their right to hold any views whatsoever, and, indeed, to possess a head in which any prospective views may be contained, the minute they decide to become terrorists.

I cannot imagine, however, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other senior figures in the Church of England - or, indeed, any other serious religion, are feeling quite so well disposed towards Dafty Dow. Certainly, these ludicrous comments - which may, of course, have been misreported by the press - have attracted some attention to the Church. But it's hardly the right kind of attention, is it?

I would be delighted to see the institution wound up, its proponents forced to get a proper job and a new age of enlightened, rational logic take its place. But other, less rational, people would not, and if they are to get their way in this era of rapidly dwindling congregations, it is essential to get more bums on pews if the Church is going to have any kind of future whatsoever. How many rational people are going to be inspired to visit a church where that kind of lunacy is part of the sermon?

Very few, I should think. Nor can I can imagine anyone other than the badly deranged taking the Batty Bish seriously, and the merely mildly unhinged, who visit churches for a pleasant sing-song and a little moral pep-talk, are not going to stick around for long if this sort of nonsense is forced upon them.

The Batty Bish has probably done more to unwittingly hammer a fistful of nails into his beloved religion's coffin than any atheist ever could, or would wish to. I wonder if he will suffer any form of divine retribution for the damage he has inflicted upon the Church?

And now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to invest in a boat, some wellies and a lightning conductor.

Billy Seggars.

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