Monday 24 November 2014

Misplaced antipathy for religious intelligence

Published 19/11/2013 | 02:00

Pope Francis may help reputation of organised religion to recover.
Pope Francis may help reputation of organised religion to recover.

* I have noticed in responses to the letters section a growing antipathy towards any contribution that is indicative of religious belief. This would seem to be based on the assumption that Ireland could be a free-thinking paradise of clear-headed citizens if unencumbered by the alleged infantile utterances of religious believers. I, for one, see no rational ground for repressing the view that there is more to life than meets the eye or mind.

There is a crass assumption that believers are essentially dim-witted, despite the fact that intelligence shows itself among believers and non-believers in equal measure.

One of the sources of disdain has been some ill-conceived religious education that unwittingly eliminated critical engagement with what is on offer, undermining rather than illuminating the faith of many.

For example, the notion of original sin when badly presented implied that God had wilfully made us defective; thus flying in the face of the fact that we have emerged from millions of years of evolution.

We are beings in the making; we all have a stake in what we become and have a voice in determining it. The creation of the world is in our hands.

A recent bout of anti-religious sentiment followed the sex abuse scandal. There was fully justified outrage but it seemed to be irrationally and unjustly directed towards all priests and religious.

Religious understanding provides part of the debate about how we can conceive of a way of life that works equally to the advantage of all. There are numerous attempts to keep religious commitment in a subjective world of preference, rather than in the public realm of rational negotiation and debate where it belongs.

Philip O'Neill

Edith Road, Oxford

PROSTITUTION AND RAPE

* We can talk about sex trafficking but the only people who can really protect these women are the men who live in Ireland, whether they are born here or not.

They say prostitution is the oldest profession, that we should not criminalise those who use it. But to be non-criminal, you need to behave in a non-criminal manner.

If you have sex with a woman who does not provide consent, even if she is a prostitute, it is criminal behaviour. It is rape.

Your payment does not nullify your responsibility to gain consent or your responsibility to ensure the person is willing to have sex with you for monetary gain.

If this woman is there unwillingly, you, not the trafficker, are the rapist.

Pauline Bleach

Wolli Creek, NSW, Australia

MODERN MARSHALL PLAN

* Given the time that's in it, perhaps the next time Enda Kenny jets off cap in hand for his customary pat of approval from Angela Merkel, would it not be opportune to remind her that over 60,000 Irish citizens were slain in the killing fields of Flanders, the Somme, Ypres and the many other locations at the hands of the German military in the two world wars?

At the same time, he could remind her of the extraordinary generosity and vision demonstrated by the American people through the Marshall plan which, while also protecting against the advance of Communism, pumped $130bn in today's values into Europe and Germany, resulting in a remarkable resurgence of the German economy in a few short years.

It is probably equally significant that the expansionary and far-sighted Marshall plan afforded Germany the gift of hope and confidence to successfully emerge from its most savage and destructive epoch.

When extending the begging bowl for some generosity of spirit in the retrospective capitalisation of Irish banks, Enda would do well to demand a similar gesture for today's hapless Irish citizens, who, apart from a coterie of politicians, the rich and the elite, are again being brutalised and humiliated by the inhumane and destructive austerity policies, mainly driven by and insisted on by Germany and German unyielding fiscal ideology.

John Leahy

Wilton Road, Cork

HIGH STANDARDS IN AID

* Watching the unfolding disaster in the Philippines, let's hope that the arrival of aid and assistance is based on the same high standards of evidence that we now expect for health care in more routine circumstances.

The concept of evidence-based health care is widely accepted in routine care and should apply in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need to know what works, doesn't work and is unproven.

Good intentions are not enough. Evidence on the likely effects is required and it needs to influence decision and choices. In that way the response, whether at the level of communities or individuals, is likely to do more good than harm.

Mike Clarke

Founder and director, Evidence Aid,

Queen's University Belfast

TIME FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

* As of now, like many of my fellow citizens we are still awaiting the beginning of the long-overdue banking inquiry. I say this after reading the article in your paper that, the British Treasury did receive prior knowledge of the inclusion of Anglo Irish under the blanket guarantee bailouts.

Even more astonishing is the fact that democratically elected members of the Cabinet were left completely unaware what was about to unfold.

Moreover, the holding to account of public representatives is now a priority for this Government.

I find it incredible that the late Brian Lenihan, RIP, and Brian Cowen were the only two public-elected representatives present during the time when one of the most important decisions in this entire country's history was being decided on.

Mattie Greville

Killucan, Co Westmeath

THE POPE'S A HEANEY FAN

* The best news and picture of recent days has come to us from Rome. The Pope has become somewhat of a hero. Whether one agrees with organised religion or not, this man, and he is that first and foremost, has displayed hints of character that does the message his religion is founded upon great service.

Firstly, it seems the Cosa Nostra, or the Mafia, is thought to have Pope Francis in their sights. It would appear that the Pope is being a most annoying cat among the pigeons of the Vatican Bank. His work is causing a highly secretive financial institution's customers to become worried. Well done, Mr Pope!

Secondly, there is a picture of the Pope going through Rome in a vehicle that is not hemmed in by bullet-proof glass. In a move that contrasts with the visit of Mr Obama behind glass in Dublin; the Pope has, it would seem, found the courage of his faith. It would seem that Pope Francis is prepared to face his enemies without fear. He has nothing to hide or fear.

Thirdly, the Pope mentioned that Jesus indicated that sinners should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. What the reportage in some areas has failed to mention was that this was a reference to a certain type of sinner committing a certain type of sin. The sin that Fr Brendan Smyth was guilty of and a certain type of sin that the previous incumbent of the title of Pope had, according to some, a hand in covering up. One wonders if Pope Benedict is perusing the fashion houses of Italy for a designer life-jacket?

"Don't be afraid" are the reported last words of our poet Seamus Heaney – perhaps the Pope is a fan!

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

Irish Independent

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