Elton John and religion - Is he right ?

Elton John has today in The Observer spoken out against organised religion. He claims that organsied religion encourages people to

"turn hatred towards gay people". Organised religion lacked compassion and turned people into "hateful lemmings", he told the Observer.

Elton is making a point that has been made for centuries, that being that most wars are caused by religion, which even today is still true, but he goes further than that by also linking the idea of hatred towards other people being fostered by organised religion.

I personally don't think that it is relgion that fosters this hatred, it is the people who organise the religion that do this.

Why is it that those who are most religious are often the most inflexible and least willing to accept differences and be tolerant towards others ? Just look at the extreme mullahs in the middle east as an example of this. The way that Islam has been twisted by extremists to turn people in to mass murderers and breed hatred does a dis-service to all muslims. However, it's not just Islam. Hindu extemism in India has caused the death of thousands and misery and pain for many millions of non Hindus. But bofore Christians get smug about any apparent superiority in the way they treat people, just look to America.

Christians in America seek to ignore plain truths such as science in order to preach extreme christianity. The adoption of "creationism" in some US schools, the ludicrous suggestion that Charles Darwin was wrong and that evolutionionary science is a load of old bunkum, shows just how extremism within Christianity can be used to ignore science and mislead children. Hardly a good example. On top of this, what about those Christian evangelist with their celebrity lifestyle and superstar friends who drive sports cars, wear expensive jewellery and live in mansions whist they peddle their extreme brand of christianity to the vulnerable and infirm. All this while their audience and their donors struggle to make ends meet.

And what of the Christian groups who campaign against homosexuality by trying to brand gay people perverts are deviants. In America and in other parts of the world, some "Christians" stand on the streets with placards claiming that homosexuality is the work of the devil, whilst others claim that it is the influence of the modern world and that homosexuality never existed in the past. Again, this attempt to label people, to make them hide, be ashamed and lie about their true feelings is an attempt to control people and make them conform. It says nothing about love and compassion.

Finally, of course, we have the Christian terrorists who kill and mame people involved in any way with providing advice or support to people seeking an abortion. Again, organised extremist religious zealots. Christianity, in its organised form, has nthing to to other religions when it come to peace and understanding.

Religion provided answers to all questions that couldn't be answered in the past before humanity discovered science. If aliens landed today and saw that we had all the knowledge of science, geology, astrology, physics, biology and chemistry I'm sure they would ask why do we need to believe in a god ? As an agnostic, this is my view too. All the answers to the big questions can be answered by science of by humans looking at their own behaviour. If we could put our religions aside, we could also solve the problems of wars, poverty, and hunger too !

So was Elton right ? As a liberal I wouldn't want to see organised relgions banned as I don't really like to see anything harmless banned, and that's what religion should be, harmless. What the great religious books preach is compassion, care, thoughfulness, responsibility and love. What I would like to see is those people who organise the religions actually teach these things instead of what what we actually have. I know people who attend church every week and are thoroughly decent people. I also have gay friends who attend church each week but dare not "come out" for fear of the reaction they would get.

Whilst I wouldn't ban them, I doubt that some of those who organise religion wouldn't choose to ban things they don't agree with, if they had the chance !


B said...

I struggle with this issue on a daily basis. As it happens, I am still a Christian, but I used to think that religion was a positive concept even if God doesn't exist. Now I see the hurt it causes at home and abroad, historically and in the present day. I seriously hope God (or some form of Deity) does exist: the possibility that the persecution was all in vain is too awful to contemplate!

That said, I agree that banning religion is a manifestly would be a manifestly illiberal response even if the scientific evidence against the existence of God were stronger. All we can do is foster tolerance and respect for human beings of all faiths and none, and place restrictions on incitement to violence, undue influence and dehumanisation of certain groups.

Rob said...

I think the one small bit of his interview that touched on this has been "over egged". However, I agree with his (Elton's) general argument.

Matt said...

I agree with what he's said actually and am surprised this has been said by a pop star and not an academic as what he says is very sensible.

As for being a liberal meaning you wouldn't like to see religion banned, should intolerance be tolerated? I wouldnt ban religion as such; everyone should, of course, be allowed to worship in whatever way they wish. Banning religious organisations in an ideal world would be a great leap forward but isnt really feasible.

A positive step would be to put a religious study on the curriculum that looks at the nature of religion rather than just teaches its beliefs. Also faith schools should certainly be banned, as this is seperating and dividing children as well as indoctrinating them from an early age.