Religions seek power and privilege

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From: Mike Granville

Secretary, Sheffield Humanist Society

You printed three letters (Telegraph 19 May) referring to my previous correspondence. May I try briefly to deal with them?

First, thanks to Naomi Lopez for her support. People often tell me that they agree with the views I put forward. I wish they would be a bit more willing to say that through your letters page.

Thanks also to Huw Thomas for partly answering Barry Byles’s letter on my behalf when he says that we must follow the evidence. But Huw has somehow formed the idea that I and other Humanists have reached a decision and then firmly set our faces against anything that might contradict that position. I can speak only for myself when I say that it is a rare day when I do not question what I think and look for justification for it. If I were not so then I would still be a committed Roman Catholic who was (many years ago) on the point of deciding to enter the priesthood. I felt enough doubt about that not to take that step.

So I plead Not Guilty”of having a fixed view of anything.

Barry Byles’s idea of evidence is very different from mine.

A man called Jesus probably lived. Nobody is quite sure when. There is no evidence that he was the son of god. He died. Well, yes. But to draw the conclusions that are necessary to say that this man was dead and came back to life is to do so based on faith, not evidence. He may see things as “facts” because he believes them but there is more to “facts” than second-hand accounts written many years after the event.

Barry also makes the huge tactical mistake of referring to the work done by Christians like Wilberforce to abolish slavery. If he wants to do that he must also accept that various sects of Christianity down the centuries, from the Catholic church onwards, had provided biblical support for the keeping of slaves. Without that support, even if it was tacit, slavery would not have been possible.

Most notoriously, the Dutch Reform Church, a Christian sect, provided much of the biblical justification for Apartheid in South Africa.

These debates are interesting and sometimes entertaining, but they create the impression that Humanists want to abolish religion. That would be stupid and we are not stupid.

I hope it won’t sound arrogant to Barry when I say that I really don’t care what people believe. My concern is that religions seek power and privilege, which often works to the disadvantage of other people. They always have and they have never let it go willingly.

They enjoy privileged status and exemptions within the law. They enjoy tax advantages. Their indoctrination of our children in our schools is funded by general taxation.

All of this for a church-going minority which has been in collapse for years.

Now that’s arrogant.