Parliamentary Sketch : ‘Calm down’

I hope you’re sitting comfortably, and that everything is calm…

…that’s good. Because all the signs are that we’re becoming angrier. Instead of calm and rational, we’re becoming irrational and bigoted.

“But how so?” I hear you ask. And you’re right. It just doesn’t make sense. We’re more educated (in terms of qualifications) than we were, and therefore wise. We’re less insular and travel more. More people from different regions, cultures and creeds travel here too. So we should have a better understanding and appreciation of each other. And, of course, we now have that wonderful information superhighway; a quick fact checker and vehicle for smart communication.

We also have the calming influence and persistence of faith. Religion itself seems to be a human phenomenon – not practised by other animals, it seems. I take a close interest in the survival of tribal peoples and with few exceptions, all newly discovered tribes – some, previously uncontacted – share a belief system and engage in one form of worship or another.

Even those atheists who are not bigoted enemies of religion will agree that these systems have often made a positive contribution and more often than not are based on values which should engender mutual respect, and the promotion of virtue.

But most religions have (or perhaps attract) their fair share of ardent fundamentalists who are intolerant of others (particularly those not of that sect) and can develop a bigoted interpretation of their faith.

Religion is too vast, universal and complicated to be considered in simple binary terms or belief and un-belief. Even the most evangelical atheists are not renowned for their sceptical doubt, though I know there are many religious practitioners who have a healthy uncertainty of their own beliefs.

So is religion and the clash of religions the cause of anger and intolerance? Not on its own. It still needs its own followers and their often extreme interpretations to create the conditions for that.

But I’m just a humble politician who is constantly told I should never mix my slimy profession with such subjects. None of this, however, explains why we are becoming angrier and more intolerant. So I’ll calm down and come back to it next week…

7th February 2012

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