Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time to abandon religion

There can be little doubt that more people have died in the name of religion than for any other cause. From the Colisseum to the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Penal Laws to the Jihadist terrorism of 911, Bali, London and Madrid, it is difficult to make a case that religion is not a force for death, destruction, prejudice and persecution in the world. Here in Ireland, many of us know it well. Since the Reformation many thousands lost their lives for not conforming to the State Religion of our occupiers. Tens of thousands of Ulster Catholics were dispossessed for the same reason in the 17th century under the Stuarts and Cromwell, to make way for colonisation that paved the way for the partition of our island centuries later. And while the Provo campaign in the North only started in the late 60's, the poison of sectarianism was hardly new, and segregation continues to ensure the two communities live largely separate lives, helping to enshrine sectarian tribalism into the fabric of Northern society, in a way which threatens to happen down here if we don't learn from the mistakes of multiculturalism across Europe, which arguably includes religious-based segregation in Northern schools. Catholic parents send their children to Catholic Church-run schools, while Protestants send theirs to state (effectively Protestant in composition) schools. This is harmful to mutual understanding and integration. The first step mutual understanding and the dispelling of tribal myths about "the other side" is to mix with them socially, preferably from childhood. As the failings of multicultural-segregation become increasingly apparent across Western Europe, it is imperative that religion and education be kept separate. It is encouraging that some voices in the Catholic Church seem to recognise this, acknowledging that a new form of multidenomination patronage in the South may be inevitable. This is all the more true as the country experiences a level of mass-immigration unseen since the Plantations. Let us hope the segregation that unleashed is not recreated in the South in terms of segregating Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews etc. in the classrooms.

But it is not enough to integrate the schools. The underlying problem with religion is that even if we tear down the physical walls between the differing denominations, we don't entirely tear down the psychological barriers. In particular I am referring to the growth of radical Islam, with a radically differing value-system from ours in the Judeo-Christian-Agnostic-Atheist Western value-systems. The growth of social-liberalism in the West has eroded much of the power of the Christian value-systems that constitute 'victimless-sins' - especially in Spain and Germany (legalisation of gay marriages), France (since the Revolution but recently in terms of civil-partnerships) and similar moves seem likely albeit long-overdue in Ireland. In particular this offers a golden opportunity to confront some of the remaining holdouts on separating Church and State - abortion and stemcell research. To argue that a frozen-embryo is a living person whose destruction in the course of stemcell-research is "murder" is superstitious prattle. It certainly has the potential to become life when implanted in the womb, but that no more makes it life than a seed constitutes a plant. Likewise recent research calls into question when "life" as we know it really begins. If you are a rightwing fundamentalist Christian, you will say it begins at conception. This - to me - is not a credible or scientific position. If the parts of the brain pertinant to self-awareness and consciousness are not yet in place, then how can we consistently call that life while also allowing for the life-support machine to be switched-off when someone is declared braindead? Surely these 2 situations are analogous?

If the authorities do not advance the secular-agenda, then by the time they realise the wisdom of doing so, it may be too late. There are 44,000 Muslims living in Ireland. If Turkey joins the EU, which our government supports, then we can expect Polish-levels of migration to Ireland. A recent poll in the UK found that 41% of British Muslims want to introduce Sharia Law. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand what that would mean for our Western freedoms - Middle Eastern-style adultery laws carrying the death-penalty, possibly by stoning. Homosexuality outlawed as a capital offence. Women forbidden to drive cars as in Iran and forced under the oppression of the veil. Rape-victims executed because they could not produce 4 male witnesses to attest that the rape indeed occurred. Female testimony in courts counting for only 50% of the credibility of male witnesses. We would have traded a Catholic theocracy on social-issues for a far worse Islamist one. Those who would scoff at such predictions would do well to examine the Islamist violence in other countries that once were cheerleaders for "multicultualism" - the riots in French cities in 2005, the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, the Madrid and London Bombings (involving British born Muslims of Pakistani origins). We have enough problems in Ireland without importing this kinds of problems. While I would not tar all Muslims with the one brush, it is difficult to deny that the Islamic world is experiencing a period of militant theocratic ideology that Europe likewise experienced for much of our past. Europe had an Enlightenment where we began to shake off some of this - though the task is not yet complete. Likewise, the Muslim world needs to experience one too. Until then, the answer to Turkey must be a polite no, and immigration-controls must be tightened on the Muslim world. The government of Ireland, first and foremost, is responsible for the safety of the people of Ireland. Ultimately, religion per se is the root cause of these dangers however, and the sooner the world learns to move beyond it like it moved beyond believing the world is flat, the better.


Anonymous said...

great post 100% agreement, you should discuss this on

Anonymous said...

I also fully agree with you! When are we going to expel these people from Europe???

Anonymous said...

Turkey is a secular state. A point which you seem to have glossed over completely. They have already achieved what you are calling for! Complete seperation of Church and State. Would we could achieve the same in Ireland.

I totally disagree with your views on Turkey joining the EU, I think they would be a great addition. However, you're 100% on religion. It's time the world moved on and we should drive to build a secular EU where religion has no influence on the government of the nation.