October 03, 2010

Of course the message has been adulterated, perverted, and hijacked to justify or promote any number of dumb and barbaric acts. That is humankind for you. It only takes one crazed preacher or politician with a messianic bent to create a bloodbath. Look closer, and you will find that religion is more often the fig leaf rather than the cause; it has a lesser role in atrocity than power-play, land-grab, resource-theft, tribalism, and ethnic tension. Even the Crusades, though given papal blessing, were led by princes, nobles, and knights drawn by greed and intent on plunder. No surprise, then, that the Templars were the age’s biggest bankers and the Hospitallers dominated the lucrative sugar-trade from the Levant.

Having witnessed loved ones”€™ passing”€”and speaking only for myself”€”the Holy Rites and the privilege and wonder at being there created something no rational scientist or God-hater could explain. The spirit flees, and left behind is an empty vessel. Quite some mystery.

So allow us our leap of faith and the ringing of our church bells. Celebrate Christianity’s role in nurturing and reinforcing our Western democratic values and way of life. If you doubt what I say, seek out a country or community that eschews religion”€”you will find nowhere more anemic and soulless. In Caen Cathedral recently, with its piped music and lack of obvious worship, I discovered how secularism can strip even the most magnificent structure of purpose and create an environment as depressingly sterile as a dentist’s waiting room.

Without faith in something, it is hard to find meaning. In a changing world, a creed that is constant and unafraid to make moral judgment or declare there is such a thing as right and wrong is no bad thing. We may disagree”€”sometimes profoundly”€”but thank God for the conscience and dimension religion provides.

In Britain, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is situated in Westminster Abbey. No sky burial or humanist claptrap for those mortal remains. The Abbey is where Christianity and England’s essence meet, where history is cherished and sacrifice is honored, where our greatest monarchs including Queen Elizabeth I and King Edward III are buried. Take out the religion, and you would be left with a theme park.

Perhaps what the Pontiff’s visit to Britain has done is to shock the Anglicans into punching their weight and again proclaiming their mission. In Benedict lies a church leader unapologetic of his faith and actually willing to voice an opinion”€”a miracle in itself. Admittedly, saints, holy relics, and confessionals leave me cold, and a priesthood crawling with pederasts makes me want to firebomb the lot. And yet I return to the original message from an ancient corner of Galilee. It has brought solace and joy, given us Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah, caused the building of inspiring and breathtaking edifices, and has elevated man. A single English church’s beauty will outlast and outshine ten thousand shopping malls”€™ gleaming ugliness every time. Heed what I say. Ditch the new religions and adopt the old ones anew.


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