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The one thing missing from the Olympic opening spectacle – this country’s Christian inheritance

An evening of wonder and spectacle could feature the industrial revolution without the Salvation Army

By on Monday, 30 July 2012

London Olympic Games - Day 0

On holiday earlier this week in Scarborough, I came across a copy of the Ethical Record, the monthly journal of the South Place Ethical Society. This Society, which has been patronised in the past by humanist luminaries such as A J Ayer, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) and Sidney Webb, is an educational charity “whose aims are the study and dissemination of ethical principles based on humanism and free thought, the cultivation of a rational and humane way of life and the advancement of research and education in all relevant fields”.

This particular copy of the journal had an article aimed at disabusing members of the Society from thinking that the UK had once been a group of Christian islands. After all, the writer pointed out, look at the origins of the days of the week: cobbled together from Norse pagan mythology – how Christian is that, I ask you? And what about Christmas and Easter? Really a celebration of the winter solstice, followed by a spring fertility ritual.

What the writer hadn’t realised, obviously, is that it is part of the genius of Christianity to adopt “nature” and transform it into something of grace. So of course, from a philological point of view, one might recall the merely pagan origins of the names of the days of the week while at the same time rejoicing at the new life breathed into the calendar by the Christian liturgical year.

I thought of this narrow and abridged interpretation of our country’s history by the Ethical Society when pondering Danny Boyle’s spectacular showcase of “Great Britain Limited” in his Olympic opening ceremony last week. Jim White in the Telegraph described the film maker’s quirkily brilliant imagination as “ninety minutes of dazzling theatre, dance, film and music; a mash-up of our cultural history delivered at breakneck speed.” Yes – it was all that, and it even made Boris Johnson cry. Yet at the risk of sounding like a beggar at this rich feast for the ears and eyes (if not the mind), I want to add that you can’t separate a country’s cultural history from its spiritual history, especially if this goes back for nearly two millennia.

Danny Boyle comes from a working class Irish Catholic family, was educated by the Salesians and thought about becoming a priest in his youth. Now he describes himself as a “spiritual atheist”. How can you be both? I don’t think the famous thinkers and writers I listed above would have described themselves as “spiritual humanists”. Danny Boyle’s problem is that atheism on its own sounds stark, boring, even ugly. Adding the word “spiritual” gives you an extra dimension: soulfulness, creativity, the divine spark of the imagination, which he brought to such zany triumph in his introduction to the Olympics.

What could Boyle have added to his island story that might have acknowledged the deeper underpinning of our cultural heritage? It’s hard to suggest anything that wouldn’t appear comic or naff, or simply struck a wrong note – but here are my thoughts. Perhaps the evening’s early theme of our “green and pleasant land” to the accompaniment of William Blake’s “Jerusalem” sung by choir boys could have included a nod to the legend of Joseph of Arimathea coming to Glastonbury, especially as a Glastonbury-style tor was included in this tableau. OK, it is only a story – but a pious, ancient, Christian one.

Much has also been made of Boyle’s working-class and therefore Left-wing roots. But being a socialist in the past was never seen as incompatible with being a Christian. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was a working-class man whose Christian faith led him to devote his life to the poor. When the theme of the Industrial Revolution was being played out in the stadium, why could we not have thrilled to the sight of a Salvation Army band, something odd, loveable and quintessentially English?

If the band had played that great Christian hymn “Abide with Me” (which was actually sung at the end of the evening as 50 dancers dramatised the conflict between life and death) it would surely have stopped the entertainment feature of the night in its tracks for a brief moment? Boris Johnson might even have wept.

And another thought: there was Rowan Atkinson, running along a beach while the theme tune of the film Chariots of Fire was being played: what about a mention of the real Eric Liddell, a devout Christian missionary in China, who wouldn’t run on the Sabbath because it was no longer part of the pagan calendar but the Lord’s Day?

These isles are full of noises, as actor Kenneth Branagh, aka Isambard Kingdom Brunel, intoned; they are also full of wonder, as Danny Boyle tried to suggest in his idiosyncratic kaleidoscope. Let’s just not forget that the greatest wonder of all, which has changed history itself, is our Christian inheritance.

  • Gavin Wheeler

    So there were many references to Christianity – the article even cites some of them.

    Be honest – how ever many references to Christianity there were, you would not have been happy unless the entire show was solely about religion.

    “Danny Boyle’s problem is that atheism on its own sounds stark, boring, even ugly.”

    That’s like saying that Christianity sounds “stark, boring, even ugly” by characterising it as the worship of an act of brutal torture. It just reveals your own lack of understanding of Danny Boyle’s beliefs – and your lack of manners in belittling them.

  • JabbaPapa

    What a lovely comment !!

    My, we’re really dolloping out the gentle English charm this morning, aren’t we !!!

  • http://sjsa.wordpress.com/ Tim SJ

    I’m afraid I disagree – I think that the ceremony verged on the liturgical at times.  From the hymn singing, to the reflective space in the middle that stopped everything, to the powerful and symbolic lighting of the cauldron and the dove/angel rising to heaven.  The script was written by a practising Catholic Frank Cotterel Boyce – and direccted by a lapsed Catholic Boyle.  It was a wonderful work of Catholic Imagination…..  Catholic imagination as Andrew Greeley argues sees God lurking in the world and doesn’t need to make his presence explicit.  The movement to the transcendental was smooth on Friday night – this is in comparison to Protestant Imagination which emphasises the hiddeness of God, sees the world as antagonistic, and makes Gods presence explicit – and often feeling like it is shoehorned in.  Maybe that is what you wanted Frances?  to me that would have been clunky, and alienating to some of the Global audience. 

  • Boanerges

    I’m not surprised Boris cried – the whole thing was awful.

  • Jimmyc

    Have to agree with Tim SJ. The whole thing stopped for Abide with Me.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Why on earth would the organizers of the Pagan Olympic Games want any reference to Christianity in their opening ceremony? As a former Pagan myself, let me emphasize that the followers of this new religion – or rather ‘spirituality’ – broadly fall into 2 camps.  Those who won’t be happy until the Church has been driven from these islands, and those prepared to tolerate a bit of Christianity here and there as long as it remains entirely marginal to the mainstream of society.

    Francis Phillips refers to an edition of the Ethical Record which ‘had an article aimed at disabusing members of the Society from thinking that the UK had once been a group of Christian islands’.   Well surprise, surprise.  They would silence the church bells if they could, or better still, persuade the gullible churchmen to ring the church bells in celebration of this Pagan body-fest.  
     

  • Michael Moran

    It seems to be all about the worship of money,O Jesus I can’t follow you,but just let me cling to you, drag me away from this world.

  • Warren

    “Andrew Greeley argues sees God lurking in the world and doesn’t need to make his presence explicit.”
    Well, there’s a little thing called the Incarnation where God did make His presence explicitly known. He needed to do that because man had fallen and needed rescuing from the pagan idols fabricated by his unredeemed imagination. Why? Because God loves us.

    God may have not needed to make His presence known, but man surely did/does need to know His presence. It’s up to us to make God explicitly known among men for the sake of souls.

    Sacramentality? Sure. However, Andrew Greely, et al, too often used the “God is implicit” line to justify a shy (limp) approach to evangelization. If the “new” evangelization is anything, it’s a restoration of a more confident (and therefore explicit) sense of mission rooted in a heathy sense of Catholic identity, i.e., a confident affirmation of the Incarnation. We are the Church Militant, after all, not the Church Implied.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    “Now he describes himself as a “spiritual atheist”. How can you be both?” 

    Why do theists, who choose to believe a proposition devoid of all evidence usually as a result of early brainwashing, always confuse the ‘supernatural’ (also devoid of all and any evidence) with the numinous?

  • theroadmaster

    The history of these Islands, i.e Ireland and Great Britain cannot be understood in it’s entirety, if one does not pay homage or at least seriously consider the invaluable contribution which Christianity(primarily Catholicism) has made over 1,800 years.  One has only to consider the missionary efforts of Irish missionaries as they traveled all over these Islands spreading the Good News and by extension literacy.  The growth of universities, the common law,parliamentary democracy hospitals, social care and other such positive developments had their origins in a Christian milieu.  It seems that selective amnesia has taken hold when it comes to some accounts of the history of Britain

  • rjt1

    What is ‘spirituality’ if you don’t believe in the existence of spirit?

  • TreenonPoet

     A contribution from someone who either claims to be a Christian or who thinks that he/she is a Christian cannot be automatically attributed to Christianity, especially during a period when there was not a lot of encouragement to consider alternatives to Christianity (but sometimes a terrifying discouragement – such as burning at the stake). For example, whatever part so-called Christians may have had in the abolition of slavery, the driving morality was not peculiar to Christianity.

    The religious aspect of missionary zeal has done a lot of harm. The religious component of what is taught in schools and universities continues to do much harm. Any law which has a religious bias can be assumed to be a bad law. In what way does Christianity support democracy (and not theocracy)? Even today, the good that hospitals do is countered wherever religion interferes.

    Such institutions that arose while Christianity dominated could be said to have succeeded despite Christianity. I wonder how much more progress would have been made without the religious interference in what we now call science (interference that continues today), without the religious conflict, etc. Morality can exist without Christianity. Christianity does not add to it, but generally subtracts from it. It is arguable that some religiously inspired art (within architecture and music, for example) might not have been matched in the absence of religion, but on the whole, Christianity is something to be ashamed of, not paraded in front of the world.

  • Nesbyth

    I have to agree with Boanerges!

     The whole thing was awful. It seemed to be saying that we’d gone hopelessly downhill since the early times of countryside frolicking; that the Industrial Revolution was a crime, that the Nat Health service was a delight (if only); that spooky “child-catchers” abounded (they do); but that Mary Poppins will save them (she doesn’t exist, so can’t) and then the main thing of importance to be celebrated was  the “pop” /”rap” culture and mobile phones.

    Rowan Atkinson was funny though.

  • Honeybadger

    The Modern Olympics were founded and developed by a devout Roman Catholic – Baron de Coubertin.

    The motto of the Olympics ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ was borrowed from a Dominican priest who also happened to be a good friend of de Coubertin.

    If you think that any Roman Catholic or Christian involvement and presence is absent from the Olympics – all you have to do is look at the Olympic Rings (Coubertin’s idea and design), read the motto and say quietyly to yourself:  ‘The resurrection of the Olympics we know today would not be possible without Baron de Coubertin.’

    Three hymns were featured in the Olympic Opening Ceremony: Bread of Heaven, Abide With Me and Jerusalem.

    Of all the years I have avidly watched the Olympics since Munich 1972, I have not heard any Christian hymns being sung during an Opening or Closing ceremony.

    By the way, apart from Coubertin, the part that Roman Catholics have played in the Olympic story cannot be underestimated.

  • Honeybadger

    The very question. The description ‘Spiritual Atheist’ is an oxymoron.

    If people don’t believe in anything spiritual or a higher being, then why be ‘spiritual’?

    Weird.

    Laughable.

  • Honeybadger

    Wind your neck in!

  • http://sjsa.wordpress.com/ Tim SJ

    I agree with you Warren, and am enthusiastic about the new evangelisation, and concur with your points about mission and identity, However the Olympic Ceremony, with its global audience, and representing a British culture which is at best ambivalent about explicit Christianity is not a platform for the New Evangelisation of the Catholic Church (however much we would like it to be).  My point being –  the ceremony was much more explicitly Christian in places, more than I would have expected, and it seemed to work. I was surprised Frances didn’t see that.

  • batb (been around the block)

    I’ve been making similar comments — without the apt suggestions of what might have been included (though I did think one of the renowned men and boys’ choirs from Westminster Abbey or any one of the Cambridge or Oxford choirs might have been included) — at the blogs I frequent here in Canada.

    It’s somewhat scandalous that England’s history, steeped in Christianity, precluded the faith upon which Magna Carta and Britain’s laws and institutions are based, taking a page, perhaps, from the Constitution of the European Union’s completely bypassing Europe’s Christian roots.

    Whatever else Danny Boyle may have produced, and however brilliant his vision may have been, he took the coward’s way out — probably in deference to Muslim sensibilities — when he made the decision to deep-six England’s Christian faith.

  • Parasum

     “Danny Boyle comes from a working class Irish Catholic family, was
    educated by the Salesians and thought about becoming a priest in his
    youth. Now he describes himself as a “spiritual atheist”.”

    ## Catholicism is wasted on the young :( Rather than being “brought up Catholic”, and dropping it as a load of unintelligible & unexplained & irrelevant & immoral gibberish, people should have to choose for themselves whether or not they want to be Catholic. Spoon-feeding them Catholicism from infancy, & treating the Sacraments as little more than rites of passage, is anything but wise: it merely ensures an abundant harvest of ex-Catholics. A vast harvest of apostates & pseudo-Christians is not what the Church was founded to produce.

    One can be “spiritual” & an atheist. Total rejection of theism is not logically incompatible with what passes as “being spiritual”. One can believe in some indefinite power, personal or not, without thinking of having any communion with it, or supposing it to be independent of the self; just as anything whatever can be a god. Are all who go through the Twelve Steps theists ?  

  • batb (been around the block)

     “Even today, the good that hospitals do is countered wherever religion interferes.”

    Proof? Otherwise, this is just a gratuitous insult.

    (You’re a tree and a non poet? I could tell …)

  • Parasum

    Having read about it – not watched anything – I think it sounds dire: utterly tasteless, undignified, shallow, self-regarding, intellectually & morally vacuous. I’m surprised there wasn’t a parade of bouncy castles, or something equally infantile & infantilising. 

  • batb (been around the block)

    … which wasn’t shown by North American networks.

    I was able to view “Abide With Me” on a blog. Otherwise, North Americans watching the recap on the telly had no access to this lovely hymn. Even though the singer did a beautiful job, nowhere was the Christian Church included in the presentation as an integral part of England’s history.

    ‘Astonishing omission. Maybe that’s why the Queen looked so grumpy. It made me a little grumpy too.

  • deerpark

    Type your comment here.

    In his Guardian piece (Frank Cottrell Boyce: The night we saw our mad, fantastical dreams come true)
    FCB, practising Catholic and ex Marxist(lots of us out there; St Augustine  flirted within Manicheanism before his conversion …)  is clear that the Opening was implicitly Catholic, if at  times crypto Catholic.

    Probably the most Christian  opening ceremony in a long while; Danny Boyle must  have  realised this when he asked FCB to  become involved.  

    God writes straight with  crooked lines.

    The NHS piece, nurses forming the acronynm NHS, is very close to IHS , the Greek Christogram. Just don’t tell the Guardian.

  • batb (been around the block)

    I hear what you’re saying about the “implicit” Christianity in the opening ceremony. But why should Christianity have to hide?

    I was happy to hear “Abide With Me” when I encountered it on a blog, but it seemed a surreptitious way of getting a little Christianity into the ceremony. IMO, we should have seen a church in the presentation — or somehow a recognition that all of the country’s universities, hospitals, laws have Judeo-Christian roots based upon Judeo-Christian teachings and principles.

    The ‘hiddenness” of Christianity in the opening ceremony may be pleasing to those “in the know,” but I suggest that it was premised not so much on the innovative “Catholic Imagination” as on the intention of not offending that “other” religion — you know?, “the religion of peace” which isn’t so peaceful when it’s riled.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    The religious should be kept out of hospitals, where some of their preachers try to enlist the dying. This is dreadful.

    It would be kind for people who are not theists to go around the religious sick and to tell and explain to them that their childish beliefs are just that. Cruel? No, they could be encouraged to own themselves, at least for a few days before they die.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    Religion is a great evil in the world. The  ‘inspiration’ of religion would be the most likely candidate as the trigger for a nuclear exchange and wider war beginning in the Middle East. 

  • theroadmaster

    The leading abolitionists of slavery across Europe and the US were driven by their Christian Faith during the 18th and 19th centuries.  You cannot divorce the Faith of such iconic anti-slavery campaigners as William Wilberforce from the work of  their lives.  Thus although people do not have to be necessarily a believer in a divine creator to be outraged and involved in campaigns for e.g. social justice, invariably people of Faith seem to be at the forefront of such activity.  At the heart of Christianity is a belief in the integrity and worth of each human being, for whom Jesus Christ died on a cross to free from the wages of sin and death.  The higher ideals which represent good, beauty and truth are not materially measurable in a scientific sense but are abstract and were there before the universe or world came into being.  The 10 commandments as handed down to Moses on Mt Sinai by God, codified these ideals and they have 
    formed the basis historically for common and parliamentary law right across the world.

      Your ridiculous and unsupported assertions about the effects of Christianity on education in schools, universities and  parliamentary legislation need to be challenged.  Catholic schools puts the student at the centre of their whole philosophy and strive to help each of  them to fulfill their full potential in a both a social and moral sense.  People of non-Christian belief or without any Faith in large numbers chose religious schools such as the Catholic parochial system for their discipline and ethos.  I think Catholic schools present a threat to your world view because they are successful and promulgate spiritual values which take their pupils beyond the dead-ends of atheism or materialism.  In terms of the laws which we take for granted, legislative prohibitions against murder, stealing, etc were derived from Christian sources in our liberal western democracies, and thus your negative point about laws with a “religious bias” does not stand up.

    You create a false dichotomy between Science and Religious Faith.  In fact if it was not for the marriage of Faith and Reason as exemplified by the medieval scholastics and clerics, Science more than likely would have been allowed to develop as it did in the Western World.  One has only to think of the ground breaking theology of Thomas Aquinas in his exploration of the natural world through such works as the “Summa Theologica” in the 13th century.

    There you go again, making wild assumptions without a thread of proof to support them. You stated “Christianity does not add to it, but generally subtracts from it…” in relation to the morality of laws.  But I go back again to the 10 commandments.  Here is a sample 5 of them-
    Respect your father and mother.
    You must not kill.
    You must not commit adultery.
    You must not steal.
    You must not give false evidence against your neighbour.
    I think that anyone with a basic understanding of the laws which govern Western societies, will see the influence of these core Christian tenets on their development. As for your point about hypothetical scenarios concerning Art and Architecture developing without the prodigious influence of religion, we have only to consider the beautiful religiously inspired works of Bach or Mozart or indeed the genius behind architectural medieval wonders like Chartres Cathedral to refute such scenarios.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    Were there no ‘sightings’ of our lady during the opening ceremony?
    Some people were looking for her and for UFOs.
    There are quite a few hits if you google it.

  • batb

    Are you aware, Judithjmidwinter, that most hospitals in your land and here, in North America, were founded by religious? My first daughter was born in a Catholic hospital, where the care was far superior to that in other more “technically sophisticated” hospitals (testimony of mom in next bed).

    There was no overt Christian presence, no priests or nuns trying to “enlist” anyone, but I was aware of the presence of prayer. I’ve never heard anyone who’s been in hospital talk about being “enlisted” by any priests — or told that their not being Christian was a bad thing — but have only heard how much people have appreciated being visited by and/or being prayed for by a priest.

    My second child was also born in a Catholic hospital where the care was fantastic. In that case, I knew the nuns who ran the hospital and they were incredibly supportive — and joyful at the birth of my child. I’m not sure to whom you’re referring in your comments saying that religious should be kept out of hospitals. I’ve never met either priests or nuns who have engaged in the kind of activity of which you are accusing them.

    In fact, it’s well documented that sick people who are prayed for recover far more quickly than those who aren’t prayed for.

  • Tridentinus

     Catholicism is wasted on the young :( Rather than being “brought up
    Catholic”, and dropping it as a load of unintelligible & unexplained
    & irrelevant & immoral gibberish, people should have to choose for themselves whether or not they want to be Catholic.
    To some extent I find myself agreeing with you as my attempt to bring my children up as Catholics has failed miserably. The Faith they were taught is not intelligible as I was capable of understanding it and they were no less intelligent than I. Nor was it unexplained, they were well aware of the main tenets of catholocism. Irrelevant, maybe, on account of the culture of unbridled hedonism they were introduced to in their teens as they fell away gradually as my authority over them declined. I don’t think that they ever thought religion was ‘immoral gibberish’ although they wouldn’t always readily agree with everything I believed in.
    The “vast harvest of apostates” was inevitable. Inevitable because self-gratification has become the major recreation of modern society among the young and is vigorously promoted by both the ‘establishment’ and the media and even deliberately ignored by the [local] Church.
    There is, however, a case for spoon-feeding Catholicism from infancy. Up-bringing and education play a large part in our formative years and there is always the possibility of the legacy; a return to the Faith later in life (once a Catholic, always a Catholic).
    As for ‘spiritual atheism’, well, atheism essentially denies God and any supernaturural interference in human dimension so it is difficult to see where the idea of the ‘spirit’ is invoked.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    Certainly it is undeniable that many non theists are spiritual people. They are often great artists, composers, philosophers and others whose visions are certainly much more than materialistic.
    They have abundant ‘knowledge of the numinous’ and can convey spirituality to others in their work.

    Spirituality of a feature of humanity, and it sets us apart from our cousins in the animal kingdom. Religion was simply one unfortunate by-product of this spirituality, which will die out in time. We are a young species.

    An atheist or non-theist simply does not accept the theist’s claim that the source of the cosmos is something that is interested in man. The theist not only makes this claim, but goes on to say that he knows about this source, God, who has spoken to his particular church and that there is an old and holy book which tells you about God.

  • theroadmaster

     The servants of such pagan, nationalist and atheistic ideologies like communism and nazism slaughtered hundreds of millions of men, women and children to further their “ideals”.  I suppose they are just mere footnotes in history, as you try to create some future scenario in which religious devotees are responsible for a nuclear holocaust.  Religion per se is not bad, rather it is the misuse of it by some so called adherents as they try to use it to justify their twisted political ends.  The central tenets of Christianity are diametrically opposed to hatred, intolerance and violence which are all too common in our modern world.  Maybe you should read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel to clarify your mind on this.

  • TreenonPoet

     

    The leading abolitionists of slavery across Europe and the US were driven by their Christian Faith during the 18th and 19th centuries.  You cannot divorce the Faith of such iconic anti-slavery campaigners as William Wilberforce from the work of  their lives.  Thus although people do not have to be necessarily a believer in a divine creator to be outraged and involved in campaigns for e.g. social justice, invariably people of Faith seem to be at the forefront of such activity.  At the heart of Christianity is a belief in the integrity and worth of each human being, for whom Jesus Christ died on a cross to free from the wages of sin and death.  The higher ideals which represent good, beauty and truth are not materially measurable in a scientific sense but are abstract and were there before the universe or world came into being.  The 10 commandments as handed down to Moses on Mt Sinai by God, codified these ideals and they have
    formed the basis historically for common and parliamentary law right across the world.

    What makes you think that figures such as Wilberforce were driven by their religious faith rather than by a morality that may have overlapped the teachings of the religion? Do you think that Wilberforce would not have acted the way that he did if he did not believe in the resurrection?

    Do you think that without the 10 commandments, it would never occur to society that killing and stealing were generally bad?

    Your ridiculous and unsupported assertions about the effects of Christianity on education in schools, universities and  parliamentary legislation need to be challenged.  Catholic schools puts the student at the centre of their whole philosophy and strive to help each of  them to fulfill their full potential in a both a social and moral sense.  People of non-Christian belief or without any Faith in large numbers chose religious schools such as the Catholic parochial system for their discipline and ethos.  I think Catholic schools present a threat to your world view because they are successful and promulgate spiritual values which take their pupils beyond the dead-ends of atheism or materialism.  In terms of the laws which we take for granted, legislative prohibitions against murder, stealing, etc were derived from Christian sources in our liberal western democracies, and thus your negative point about laws with a “religious bias” does not stand up.

    Whatever good Catholic schools might do, the deeds that are specifically driven by religious faith (such as encouragement to believe in the supernatural) are bad because they are based on, and encourage, irrationality.

    Laws with a religious bias are discriminatory.

  • TreenonPoet

     At the time of writing this, my original reply to you has dissapeared. I gave eight links to articles which illustrated the damage that religion can do in medical situations. Perhaps DISQUS has emailed you the post.

  • Honeybadger

    Religion is a great evil in the world? Which one?

  • Honeybadger

    You again?

    You must be desperately bored to write your blige on a Roman Catholic website!

    Jog on, missus. Nobody’s interested!

  • batb

    Sorry, not there.

    Eight links, however, will not convince me of your thesis. Of course, there will always be priests and nuns and Christian lay people who do damage “in medical situations” — or in situations which have nothing to do with medicine; they’re human beings, after all and, whether religious or not, they’re wounded human beings. We’re all wounded human beings and all of us hurt, and are hurt by, others, whether or not we’re “religious.”

    Over the millennia, however, the connection between hospitals and Christianity — and especially today, in the Third World — has by and large done untold, and often unsung, good.

  • theroadmaster

    Wilberforce was directly inspired by the central message of Christianity which coloured his whole approach to the slavery question and his quest to abolish it.  Morality is not a standalone concept devoid of a source.  Without a fixed context i.e religious framework, it is prone to subjective revisions from generation to generation.  We intuit from the Natural Law that stealing and killing are wrong.  It is hardwired into our very being, which we can discover if we are thinking in a healthy and rational way.  These concepts are not susceptible to scientific empiricism and conceivably only such disciplines as Religion or Philosophy can cover them.

    So to you bad=supernatural and thus religion is bad.  Catholic schools proudly promulgate their Faith tradition i.e that every human is made in the image of God and is worthy of respect.  So this is really threatening to your atheistic outlook.  You seem to confine “rationality” to a narrow, scientific materialistic context.  Many perfectly balanced and sane citizens around the world see with the eyes of Faith and are not restricted by a bunker mentality.  A lot of these people lead well-rounded lives and work in highly professional jobs.  Some of them are even scientists.  So they are all unlikely to be irrational.

    Laws which are influenced by religious concerns discriminate in favor of the integrity of every human being, no matter how young or old i.e protecting life from conception to natural death.  Thus they discriminate positively in favor of the most weak and disadvantaged.

  • JabbaPapa

    What a ridiculous pile of codswallop.

  • JabbaPapa

    Your heavily indoctrinated opinions are of no real value.

  • JabbaPapa

    Atheists such as yourself need to be kept out of hospitals, where some of their anti-God cultists try to enlist the dying. This is dreadful.

    And it is BTW exactly what you yourself are positively advocating.

  • JabbaPapa

    The above makes no sense whatsoever, and it appears to be a sheer product of your atheist beliefs and the doctrines that you have been taught.

    No, spirituality is NOT the same thing as intellectuality.

  • TreenonPoet

     Yes, the eight instances did not proove anything, but were powerful backing for the paragraph which followed them which made the point that the essentially religious component of a medical contribution, being irrational, is far more likely to have a negative effect than a positive one, and it is therefore irresponsible to mix religious faith with medicine.

    That is not to say that religious faith is the only cause of negative contributions. The existence of other causes does not excuse the application of religious faith.

    Your claim that the connection between hospitals and Christianity has by and large done good makes the false assumption that, because some Christians have done good, Christianity is good. I say that no amount of good performed in the name of Christianity can excuse the bad parts of Christianity, and that the good parts of Christianity are not unique to Christianity, nor to religions in general.

  • Patrickhowes

    But it did include Christian references.”Jerusalem ,Abide with me and the Glastonbury Tor!

  • Nesbyth

    It was pretty much on that level…of bouncy castles!

  • karlf

    “In fact, it’s well documented that sick people who are prayed for recover far more quickly than those who aren’t prayed for.” Why is that? Does God help heal those who are prayed for, and not the others?

  • Patrick_Hadley

    It is odd to see Magna Carta mentioned in the context our Christian heritage. Pope Innocent III condemned Magna Carta as soon as he heard about it, and as we have seen in the treatment of his butler, Benedict XVI does not accept Clause 29 . “No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his
    Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or
    any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn
    him, but by lawful judgement of his Peers, or by the law of the land.”

  • theroadmaster

    No amount of demonstrating the invaluable contributions which Christianity has made/continues to make to western civilization and the world in general, will divert you from your repeating your distortions and misrepresentations concerning Christianity.  All religions and societies down the centuries have experienced dark periods brought about by the human propensity to sin.  But the civilizing and humanizing aspects of a global force like Christianity gives the lie to the mantra that all religion is bad.

  • TreenonPoet

     

    Wilberforce was directly inspired by the central message of Christianity which coloured his whole approach to the slavery question and his quest to abolish it.

    What is this message that is central, yet so obscure that many other Christians supported slavery for many years? A claim that the others were not true Christians would commit the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy. I suggest that the driving force behind abolition was the objective morality that the Church opposes (in favour of adherence to fixed beliefs).

    Morality is not a standalone concept devoid of a source.  Without a fixed context i.e religious framework, it is prone to subjective revisions from generation to generation.

    Like truth in general, morality is something that we can strive to get closer to. Objective revisions of ideas on what is considered to be moral are welcome. For example, the information that homosexuals are born that way ought to dispel ideas that homosexuality is wrong, whatever fixed scriptures might say to the contrary.

    So to you bad=supernatural and thus religion is bad.

    That is not what I wrote. By definition, the supernatural cannot exist in reality. To state that the supernatural exists is irrational. To instill irrationality into schoolchildren is very bad. Children who succumb may be afflicted for life.

    Many perfectly balanced and sane citizens around the world see with the eyes of Faith and are not restricted by a bunker mentality.

    This bunker that you refer to is reality. Mental excursions outside reality may be enjoyable, but a belief that the unreal is real indicates a deluded mind. (That does not preclude careers that require rationality, but is an impediment.)

    Laws which are influenced by religious concerns discriminate in favor of the integrity of every human being

    Those laws are influenced by morality, not specifically by religion. A law that allows ‘faith’ schools to discriminate against science teachers who do not share the faith is immoral and is influenced by religion. A law that requires schools to provide collective worship, and therefore requires teachers to lie is immoral and is influenced by religion. Etc.

  • Guest

    Just plain weird your Christian heritage wasn’t presented.