York ‘Thinking and Drinking’ 7 February 2008 – James Townsend
First, to take religion out of society would be to lose the myriad of positive benefits religion brings. In a world of conflict, it is surely helpful to have institutions preaching love, tolerance and sharing? All major religions provide this, as well as bringing a community together to do ‘good’ work – think of the many religious charities providing unqualified aid to people around the globe.
However this is not the religion we see on our news bulletins. That is a much less attractive, frightening and often repulsive distortion of religion. Surely the extremist fanatics must be included in any discussion of religion? Of course, and they for my second reason to oppose abolishing religion. Mankind naturally tends towards religious practice, and there is nothing we can do about that. By removing religion from the centre of our Society it will not simply go away, but be pushed to the extremities. Therein lies the danger. Without the scrutiny of being in the full public eye, and without regular moderate figures, the fanatics at the fringe can distort religion into the violent and divisive thing that causes so much suffering around the world.
My solution to this dilemma? We must embrace religion. Much like a boxer might hug his opponent so close that he cannot be hit, we must bring religion right to the centre of our lives. This will be a hard pill to swallow for many people who take a valid and respectable position as atheists, but it is a remedy to many of the things they find most repugnant about religion.
Some ideas suggested by people at the T & D meeting following the presentation and discussions:
“Fear of religion – lack of understanding; need education about different religions”
“It’s like multiculturalism. It’s difficult. We don’t understand it”
“We must get ban parental religious indoctrination”
“Have an oath of loyalty said towards Britain, not a faith”
“Religion is being replaced by consumerism”
“If you are encouraging religion, then all religions need to be encourage equally”
“Religion is uniquely a powerful justification for extreme actions”
- Tom Harding, Thinking and Drinking Coordinator