Category Archives: religion

On Covid-19, And Morality

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Aleister Crowley, fraudulent English occultist.
There is a scam doing the rounds. You are called by someone claiming to be from the NHS. You have been traced as being in contact with someone diagnosed with the Corona-19 virus. You need to take a test. We will send it by post, cost £500. Banking details please.
Most people spot it. Some do not, which is how scammers make their money.
As someone on my Facebook page asks, how do these people sleep at night? Making money out of all this misery?
Rather well, I suspect. Criminals need to make a living, and they do so by committing criminal acts.
Let us conduct a small thought experiment. (Sorry, this is one of my regular musings on philosophy and morality. No religion involved, I promise.)
You are in a queue at the bank, say, and there is ahead of you an elderly person, obviously not well off. He or she walks away from the counter and accidentally drops a £20 note. Which he or she clearly needs more than you do.
What do you do? Rationally, you pick it up unnoticed. You spend it on a couple of good bottles of wine, a (pre-lockdown) night at the cinema, whatever. There is no downside, you just get something enjoyable for free.
Yet you don’t, do you? Because you would not enjoy it, knowing your enjoyment came from someone else’s suffering.
This is called conscience. From the Latin, knowing with. The ability to feel others’ pain, and not add to it. It is the basis of most religions and most moral systems.
Now put yourself in the place of someone whose response would be to surreptitiously pick up that £20. They have no conscience. They are, without getting too technical, sociopaths.
I have interviewed any number of business leaders I believe were sociopaths. It is sometimes easy to rise up the greasy pole in business, politics or anywhere if you can treat colleagues, subordinates like pieces of furniture, to be moved around according to your will, without regard to their feelings.
I have worked alongside several others I also regarded as sociopaths. (Being very careful here; some of you who know me will know why.)
I am forever glad that I am not, and never will be, one of them. If you are on my Facebook page, neither are you. Take a brief moment to celebrate your good fortune. How awful to be like that. No matter what the material rewards.

On Italy, And Hunky Priests

We have just returned from Rome, of which more anon. (I have found a cure for my obsessive fear of flying, which is to write throughout the process. Will get around to posting my latest short story in due course.]

I am reminded, though. of one oddity of this Catholic nation. In bookshops and on street booths you can buy calendars. Cats of Rome, with little kitties pictured on the Forum. Views of the sights of this great city. Or of hunky priests.

I recall these now, from earlier visits. Each month there is a new one in the calendar. February’s is Federico, say, who smoulders out of the picture, all dark good looks and four o’clock shadow. And his grey robes and dog collar.

Then March, and Umberto, ditto, smouldering good looks and four o’clock shadow. And dog collar. Priestly pin-up of the month. There is just one problem with this picture, is there not? He’s a priest. He’s not actually on the market, shall we say? By definition.

Still, women, I assume, must buy these and enjoy looking. Good for them. Actually, priestly abstinence is a relatively late development in Catholicism, and of little scriptural relevance.

Odd thing, religion. No offence intended.


On Churches, And Christmas

My wife went to a midnight mass in church on Christmas Eve in the small Norfolk village where we were staying. She walked out after 15 minutes. It was, she said, utterly lacking in magic or a sense of seasonal mystery. It seemed like a social event held in a community centre.

This is, I suspect, because it was held for believers, as opposed to those who wander in for an annual helping of nostalgic spirituality. God is everywhere, we are told by those who believe in Him. It does not require a picture postcard service of Christmas sentimentality to worship Him.

There are arguments both ways. I suppose it must be a touch galling, for those who worship all year around, to have to cater for spiritual tourists, and put on that sentimental show, with the candles, the crib, the donkey…

On the other hand, Christmas Eve may be the only time non-believers or partial believers venture into church. It is the shop window for a faith that is still shrinking. Is it not better to have a decent audience of uncommitted worshippers once a year, not necessarily there for the right reasons, some of whom may choose to visit more often?

On Teenage Nihilism, And Radical Islam

Anyone who has ever shared a house with a teenager knows they can be very silly indeed. Part of the act of growing up involves the adoption of daft, deliberately controversial, often nihilistic beliefs as a way of rebelling against authority.

When I was a teenager, this might involve growing your hair, going to live in a squat and getting into the underground scene, as it was then known, which generally involved a lot of drugs.

When I was at university, there were plainly individuals who had adopted extreme political views, mainly Trotskyite, as a rebellion against authority, as embodied by their prosperous, middle class parents.

There was not much damage done by all this. Those teenage Trots probably settled down as lawyers, accountants, whatever. Some may have gone into politics, but of a more moderate kind. Admittedly I knew two contemporaries who ended up with drug-induced schizophrenia and one gentle soul who died, subsequently, of a heroin overdose.

The Radio 4 programme had an item the other day about radical Islam, its pull on young Muslims, and the actions being taken by the authorities to prevent this. The reporter did not have to travel too far to find a few simpletons outside a school who said that, yes, they could see where Isis was coming from.

And one complete idiot who said he was tempted to travel to Syria to fight for the cause. And kill fellow Muslims, he was asked? Well, the ones he would be killing wouldn’t be proper Muslims, would they?

It is tempting to see this yet another example of teenage nihilism, one specific to young Muslims. Except for two big differences. There are people in their community encouraging them. And the consequences can often be lethal, to those teenagers and to others.