A Times post by Carol Sarler entitled “Enough religion. Stop shoving it down our throats” made the point that, although religious belief and practice have all but died out in the UK,
(“At the moment, there are in Britain more practising anglers than practising Anglicans”) religious issues are constantly in the media. In a context that assumes that we should all respect the faiths of anyone who has one.
Good manners today disallow the questioning of a manâ€™s belief as sternly as they disallow jokes about it and to offend by either means may be, at least, a sacking offence or, at most, a matter of law. It has become a sine qua non of courteous interaction that those of us without a religious bone in our bodies must defer to those who have, and even determined antitheists are to hush our mouths lest we â€œcause offenceâ€ (in vain might we cry of the offence that we often feel).
Another Times blog on the same date (well, OK, it was 13 September, but there’s only so much effort you can put into keeping up with religion blogs and the Times correspondents are all too bloody reasonable to inspire rants) by Ruth Gledhill had the title “Save our Soldiers from Religion”. Talking about a North Korean complaint that religion is spreading like a cancer through its forces, Ruth Gledhill says:
Don’t delude yourself that it couldn’t happen here. Carol Sarler…. is by no means a lone voice in bewailing the manifold sins and wickedness of religion in the UK. Sarler and Dawkins should take note of the apparent truth that nothing propels a religion, in particular Christianity, to success like persecution.
(Ruth Gledhill goes on to print out an anti-religious diatribe from a supposed official North Korean military manual, linking it, in an uncharacteristically bizarre aside, to the McCanns. I am going to ignore that, out of politeness, because it doesn’t make logical sense.*)
I had to follow the link to the Open Doors Prayer Campaign for North Korea.
The goal is to have at least 1,008 prayer warriors, who each pray for ten minutes a week.
This Campaign has a website with a calendar applet that actually lets you choose the day of the week on which you will pray for North Korea. You click on a big time slot to open another set of timeslots so you can zero in on the EXACT ten minutes in which you will pray for North Korea. How modern and convenient. Plus you pick the US state you’ll be praying in. I don’t think that Korea is actually in there.
The theology underlying this is gawp-inducing.
I may have had a few snide words to say in the past about a God who will award success in pseudo-athletic events like World’s Strongest Man or such spiritually-demanding awards as the Oscars to his most fervent sycophants. (And contemptuously reject the prayers of the losers, of course.)
But, blimey, this is a God who will only intervene in the affairs of a whole nation if enough people pick out preset geographically-specific praying time-slots.
Is this a new God I haven’t heard of? It’s not the old Testament God. He’d be smiting the unbelievers and have done with it. Surely the North Koreans themselves would have to offer up their first-born sons? It can’t be the New Testament God because he doesn’t seem to do much except sacrifice his own first-born son. I could name dozens of other deities but none of them seem to have behaved like that.
It’s a new God of the Marketplace who drives a really hard bargain for his interventions. (But, it’s not Mammon or any of the gold-loving gods because this one only gets paid in prayers. )
I just don’t have the imagination to be a theist. I could never come up with the concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise etc being who would act like a bastard unless you did silly things to appease him all the time.
(*A good comment on Ruth Gledhill’s Times blog took up the point about the spread of extremist religions in other armed forces.
Speaking of soldiers and religion.
There is an ongoing religious war within all layers of the USA military too.
A war being conducted by fundamentalist Christian “true believers” with their binary “certainties” against quite literally, everyone else. Those who arent religious, those who are religious but not Christian, and those who are Christian but much more liberal and ecumenical in their outlook on things altogether.
This war has its approval, and even backing, from within high levels of the Bush administration–perhaps even the prez himself. It is also very much related to the end-time (armageddon) cultural script that mis-informs USA politics in the Middle East and USA politics altogether. The politics (or rather psychosis) of the coming “rapture”.