“Pope Benedict was accused of stoking homophobia today after a speech in which he declared that saving humanity from homosexuality was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction.” The Times 23rd December 2008

[The Archbishop of Canterbury] Dr Rowan Williams insisted that the country had been “going in the wrong direction” for decades by relying on financial speculation to generate wealth quickly rather than “making things”. BBC “Today” Programme 21st December 2008

Who will rid us of these turbulent priests? Why would any sentient being take moral guidance on their sexuality from a celibate geriatric like the unspeakable Pontiff Benedict? What right does this prejudiced, ignorant, narrow and preposterous man have to tell me or anyone else who I should choose to sleep with? And what right does the head of a church that is dying on its feet have to lecture me on economics? Does Williams’s entitlement to dress up in funny clothes and pontificate from a pulpit also give him the right to speak on matters on which he is unqualified and about which he only displays his superficial ignorance?

The evil that men do lives after them, and this is decisively and disastrously so when it comes to religions. There are tenets in all three of the great monotheist religions which give us guidance on how to live our lives – and these shared tenets are neither controversial nor contradictory. But whilst I might comfortably align myself with some of the original teachings of the New Testament, or the Koran or the Torah I find it utterly repellent to bow to the evil dictats of the modern Church, Synagogue or Mosque. Indeed it is arguable that within years of the establishment of the core principles of Judaism, Christianity or Islam men were using these religions as a rationale for some of the greatest injustices ever heaped by man on man. Man has persecuted his fellow man on the grounds of religion more than any other reason. Catholics against Protestants in Ireland. Jews against Muslims in Palestine. Sunnis against Shiites in Iraq. Institutionalised religious discrimination in much of the Islamic world. Hindus burning mosques; Muslims burning temples…

Hardly a month passes without that some obsessive religious bigot commits a crime against humanity. And when, as was the case with George W Bush, this bigot happens to have the world’s greatest military force at his disposal disaster inevitably followed. When Bush spoke back in 2001 of a “crusade” (the so-called “war on terrorism”) it was not a slip of the tongue – it was from deep-down in his consciousness. This born-again hypocrite clearly saw that the enemy fought under the sign of the crescent and star and that he had to be countered by the forces of good uniting under the sign of the cross. And his conspirator in prayer Tony Blair no doubt thought the same and needed little to persuade him to join in the crime that was the illegal attack on Iraq.

As the informative website “The List Universe” succinctly puts it “Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse, or driving force, for some of the worst atrocities imaginable. From pre-history to modern history, religion is, for many people, just an excuse to kill other people.” So when one of the world leaders of these religions stands in a pulpit or a minbar and tells me how to live my life excuse me if I turn away and  say to them in return “You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye”.

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