Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Dear God...

HELLO. I haven't spoken to you in a while, largely because I don't think you're there.

You kill people, and you invented paedophiles. I don't talk to people who do stuff like that.

But in case you are, and in case you're paying attention and not simply playing a celestial game of Angry Birds with us as the pigs to be obliterated, there are a couple of things I want to say.

The reason I'm addressing you at all is because I saw in the paper this morning that one of those men who reckons he's your best mate - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, heard of him? - has been kicking off about people who don't think like he does.

He said that a modern way of life was attacking religion, that morality and tolerance were being abolished and faith was being trampled on.

Speaking to fellow Catholics, he said: "The propaganda of secularism and its high priests want us to believe that religion is dangerous for our health. It suits them to have no opposition to their vision of a brave new world, the world which they see as somehow governed only by people like themselves.

"They conveniently forget that secularism itself does not guarantee freedom, rationality... or violence. Indeed, in the last century, most violence was perpetrated by secular states on their own people."

He even, quite amusingly, accused people of intolerance.

There's no point in me trying to have a word with the cardinal, as he's far too busy frothing at the mouth while preaching to the choir. But you're supposed to be the organ-grinder, so I'm going to pick a fight with you instead.

First off, the word secularism. On the one hand this means rejecting all forms of faith and worship, which is what the cardinal and every other man of the cloth who waves it around is talking about. And on the other it means not letting religion interfere with the human business of running a society - education, healthcare, politics. That's what the rest of us mean by it, and besides when religion is involved in all those things it doesn't go too well.

Your idea of education is to ban people knowing stuff you don't agree with. Your involvement in healthcare largely stops people having any. And whenever you've stuck your nose into politics it's ended in war and pain and misery.

Simple logic dictates life will be more fun for us without you in it.

I know what you're going to say. You're going to tell me that you just invent stuff and what we do with it is our own silly fault. Which I'd agree with, except for the bit about you inventing it because I think you're just taking credit for what happened by accident.

Humans are humans. But I'd rather we screwed things up and blamed it on ourselves, than point at the sky and try to justify it.

I note that neither you nor the cardinal take credit for the bad stuff. You forget about the Inquisition and burning people alive. You fail to mention the terror you spread over seven continents for millennia. You don't like to mention the wars, the rape, the babies that were killed, the diseases that were spread, the way in which women had their rights to property, safety, and justice systematically eroded to the point where your churches insisted they were a property themselves.

You, sunshine, are the reason people talk about 'the missus' rather than using a name. We are not a definite article. We are people, and before you came along we were doing a lot better.

That's not to say that religion is all bad. It has motivated many people to do good things, and if somebody wants to worship something - whether it's a bloke you can't draw a picture of, a ball of fire floating in space or an elephant-headed man with too many arms - I'm fine with that. I don't get it, but it's OK.

What really sticks in my craw I'm afraid is the way this particular representative of yours wants to blame the worst events of the past 100 years on a lack of faith.

The cardinal specifically accused non-believers - atheists like me - of killing more people in the past century than anyone with religion.

Allow me to remind you and the cardinal of a couple of things.

* The First World War - which gave rise to every subsequent war in Europe - killed 35 million people and was started by a megalomaniac Kaiser who was devoutly Christian.

* The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in human history, killing up to 72 million, and it was started by a man raised a Catholic, who promoted Christianity in Mein Kampf and set himself up as a modern-day Messiah.

* Pol Pot was a Buddhist. Joe Stalin was raised Georgian Orthodox. Catholic and Protestant churches gave the go-ahead for ethnic slaughter in Rwanda. Ratko Mladic, an Orthodox Christian, is on trial at The Hague right now for killing 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica only 17 years ago. There are terrorists all over the world claiming that Islam makes it all right to blow people up.

And it's atheists that are the problem? Please.

The cardinal's faith - and, to be honest, every other faith that's been started in your name - has killed far more people than anyone who was told from birth that you don't exist.

Whether it's Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, or smacking your bum with a birch twig at full moon, religion is used to justify behaviour that would otherwise seem pretty unusual. I've always wondered why Christians welcome people with an image of some poor sod beaten near to death and nailed to a tree. And don't get me started on banning bacon sandwiches.

Humanity is not much better off for your involvement. We've been worshipping you for thousands of years and still eighty per cent of us live on less than £6 a day. Around 22,000 children die every day because they're poor. A billion people can't read or write their own name.

Meanwhile your churches own more land and money than ever before. The Vatican is the biggest stockbroker on the planet, with more assets than any other organisation on Earth, and the Mormons have more cash than anyone else. Israel and Iran are run by religions and they don't seem to be broke.

Religion, as far as I can tell, doesn't do much for most humans. But it does a lot for you, and I reckon that if we didn't have any churches or stupid men in dresses telling everyone else what to do we'd blunder through on our own somehow, possibly with fewer wars and more money.

I can't help thinking the main reason for the cardinal getting his knickers in a twist is because he lives in a country where he used to have more of a say, and now he doesn't. Most of us don't mind gays, condoms or sex, and as the world gets more human and less churchy he is wailing about power that is slipping through his fingers.

There's not much he can do to change things, which is just as well if you ask me.

But I'm fairly tolerant, and if the cardinal wants to talk to an imaginary friend, he can.

I'd rather talk to people.

And that's about all I've got to say to you, God.

Go back to whatever you were doing.