Sunday, 15 November 2015

The events in Paris yesterday

were appalling. Words cannot describe the deliberate carnage. Everyone I know is distressed by it.
I now want to say something that may upset some of you. It may mean that you will stop reading my blog, block me from your Twitter feed, Facebook, and your lives. It still needs to be said.
My working life, most of my daily life, for many years been about providing communication assistance for the people who deal with disasters. Some of them come across this sort of thing from time to time - a bomb in Beirut, a suicide bomber in Kabul etc. They risk their lives going in to help in the sort of circumstances any normal person flees from. I admire them. It is one of the reasons I go on helping.
They have varying views about "God" and "Gods". Some of them believe firmly in "God". It is their reason for being there. They are not the sort of people who proselytise. I leave providing assistance to missionary types to other people. But yes, there are people I help who have a belief in God. Others "don't know" and still others are confirmed atheists. They all have one thing in common. They believe in helping other people. They believe people have a right to be safe, secure, fed, housed and - I think - as happy as the circumstances allow.
There is a very strict religious sect here - and elsewhere in the world - which preaches something rather different. Not long after the Boxing Day Tsunami one of them stood in the supermarket and told me, "God does not mean us to be happy."
I was - and still am - appalled by that statement. I think it is wrong on many levels. The idea that "God" is some sort of vengeful, evil being who wants to constantly punish all living things is vile. What sort of humane, compassionate person believes in that sort of "God"? 
The members of that particular sect call themselves "Christian". I think they genuinely believe they are Christians. 
I know atheists who are more Christian than some people who call themselves Christian. There are atheists who have spent their entire lives helping others for little or no reward. 
I think the same is probably true of other faiths. I don't believe that Islam is a "religion of peace" but I do believe that the vast majority of Muslims prefer to live in peace. They just want to get on with their lives.
Whether great numbers of them can do that side by side with the values and beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition is something rather different. We talk about "multi-cultural" societies, equal opportunities, human rights, religious freedom and more. I have no doubt many people genuinely believe in those things. They would like to believe we really can live in a world where each individual has the freedom to believe in and experience such things.
I think the reality is rather different. There are vast differences between living in a democracy and living in a theocracy. There are vast differences between the laws built on Roman Law and, later, the Magna Carta and Sharia Law. These impact on the way we view other people, how we treat gender differences, care for those in need, provide education, employment and more.
We can't, as the German Vice-Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to discover, take in great numbers of people who view things differently and not expect society to have to change. It will change. 
I have Muslim friends. They say they want things to change but, probe a little further, they want things to change to their way of thinking. They want Sharia Law and they view the role of women in society rather differently - even when they "agree" with other thinking. It is what they have been taught to believe. My friends are ordinary, decent people but they still "know" I am "wrong". I am not going to be able to change that.
Our former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, made waves when he told a gathering in London that the West cannot take in huge numbers of refugees and not see society change. It is not a popular view but he may be proved right.
Yesterday's attacks in Paris were not solely about "revenge" or "vengeance". They were not solely about "evil". They were also a warning - a warning that things like music, a friendly football match, eating out with friends, and other simple acts are viewed as wrong. It's that "God" who doesn't mean us to be happy which tells them this. 
I suppose I am an agnostic. I think I believe in something other than myself - but I don't know what that something else. I just think that the world is too vast, too complex, too interesting, too full of things I know nothing about to be lacking in something other than me. I want to believe that most people care but I am not sure about that any more. 
And I don't want to believe in a "God" who is vengeful or doesn't mean us to be happy. We have to fight that. The human race cannot survive that sort of thinking. 


Southern Gal said...

Thank you ... i agree. and there are some men in washington and london and paris and a woman in germany who should read this.

good for you!

Anonymous said...

I agree too -well put. Bob C-S

Helen Devries said...

Well said...about time we stood up for the way of life that took some fighting to obtain.

jeanfromcornwall said...

For myself, I have always been wary of those who know what I must think, and the present wave of barbarism seems to be created by people who have decided that killing and destroying are the things that will elevate them above the common herd. They will not change me. I am for life.

catdownunder said...

Thank you all - I wasn't sure about actually saying it at all - but I am glad I did.

Anonymous said...


I could not believe in a god who does not want the best for his, or her, believers. If I couldn't believe in them, I couldn't follow them. I guess that I follow the simple Christian rule, Do unto others as you would have them do to you. To me that makes sense. I try to do good for me, my family, my friends and acquaintances, and everybody else. As for those who abuse others in any way, they lose the right to be able to live freely amongst others, regardless of what they believe or who they believe in.