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Letters: Bible is a collection of metaphors, not a book of evidence


Pope Francis sprinkles holy water with an aspergillum as a blessing during the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo: Reuters

Pope Francis sprinkles holy water with an aspergillum as a blessing during the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo: Reuters

Pope Francis sprinkles holy water with an aspergillum as a blessing during the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican. Photo: Reuters

Though I find the services of Holy Week deeply inspiring, I wish we would speak of the death of Christ without the sometimes excessive talk of sacrifice – a kind of discourse that gives the impression that we are serving a very demanding God who wills the sacrifice of his own son as recompense for the sins of mankind.

This is rooted in the literalist interpretation of original sin. Nobody sensibly believes that there was a historical moment when sin entered our world through an actual offence.

The concept of original sin is absurd if construed in a literal sense, a sense that would imply that God in creating mankind had deliberately created a defective species.

Whatever sin exists must then be the fault of God. As Christopher Hitchens, one of the most articulate atheists used to put it: "It looks as if God created us ill and commands us to get better".

We are beings in the making, requiring ever-increasing awareness of where we stand in relation to the world and to one another.

Sin is not so much an act of rebellion against God but an indication of the evolutionary journey yet to be undertaken. We offend one another. God cannot be offended.

The most challenging aspect of Easter is the Resurrection. Christ's overcoming death cannot or need not be construed as the resuscitation of a corpse but the expression of a life and a death that totally transformed the disciples. We are of course left with a thousand questions, not a set of definitive answers – the two key questions being: What do I mean? and How do I know?

A mystery, such as that of the Resurrection, is an invitation to explore not an invitation to darkness and bafflement.

We find its meaning in thoughtful reflection on our own life and death.

Our faith is not a destination reached but a journey we undertake with a confident rhythm animating our step.

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Happy Easter to all.

Philip O'Neil

33 Edith Road, Oxford, OX1 4 QB


* I thought that concert from the Albert Hall sounded like a singsong at a bad night in the local pub. By omitting the traditional it failed so miserably to bring the grandeur, the glory and the soul of real Irish music to a much wider audience.

That 'The Minstrel Boy' was spoken, not sung, and that 'The Auld Triangle' went on forever, and was the highlight, says it all.

The rest was mid-atlantic, discordant and non-Irish.

A Leavy

Shielmartin Drive, Sutton, Dublin 13.


* Regarding President Higgins' concert in the Royal Albert Hall, there were some excellent displays of Irish talent on show.

I thought Glen Hansard did an incredible job. It was brilliant to see John Sheehan and Imelda May, Elvis Costello and all the others.

Other Irish icons, like Christy Moore, Bono and the Edge may have had other things to do but it was all good craic. However, there was real quality and professionalism in display from the Irish stars.

We have lost so many stars to Britain but the concert reminded us that there is plenty to be proud of still, so take a bow one and all.

Ellen Fullam

Stepaside, Co Dublin


* The decision by the rank and file of Amnesty Ireland not to reduce their CEO's annual salary to that of the average industrial wage, means that I can add yet another "charity'' to my evermore growing blacklist of organisations to be shunned.

At this rate, I am going to be reduced to setting up my own charity.

Liam Power

San Pawl Il-Bahar, Malta


* Regarding your excellent article on the red card issued to (Ulster rugby player) Jared Payne in Saturday's Irish Independent.

The rubber-stamping of a two-week ban compounded the original decision.

I do not have the exact wording of the law that allowed this ludicrous decision, but the authorities need to do a bit of "argumentum ad absurdum" before further miscarriages of justice are perpetrated on some innocent players.

Bill Carmody

Oldtown, Hospital, Co Limerick.


* The Oscar Pistorius trial, despite becoming a gripping blockbuster for the news media, has highlighted the benefits of South Africa's legal system.

Presiding Judge Masipa will ultimately decide the outcome of the trial and she will be assisted by two legal experts.

Before the Pistorius case, I was unaware that the last trial by jury in South Africa was held in 1969 when the country was a very different place.

I think that the modern-day online media climate makes it clear that with the prevalence of touch-of-a-button information, jury trials can be really unstable, and that the risk of trial-by-media is at a peak.

In Ireland, if a public figure like this was involved in a murder probe, and this type of coverage was bandied about, a potential juror would numbly consume this damning dynamic of assumed guilt, and carry it with them into the jury room.

In South Africa, the judge and her experts will adjudicate the merits of the prosecution and defence solely on their basis in law; they will not enter judgment in the grip of a modern media malignance.

Justin Kelly

Edenderry, Co Offaly


* What a breath of fresh air for the country and for Catholics in Ireland at large to see the YouTube clip of Fr Ray Kelly singing a wedding service to the tune of Jeff Buckley's version of 'Hallelujah'. Eleven million hits during the course of a week.

We, in the parish here in Co Kildare are fortunate to have a few priests who take a practical approach to Mass and related religious ceremonies.

One young priest stood out recently when he brought a Sunday Mass forward in a local village so as to accommodate a very important sporting event.

Another parish priest is loved by all as he has cut through the red tape and doom and gloom of mundane homilies whilst at the same time, getting the required basic messages across.

He also involves children in events such as christenings by giving them little chores to attend to such as holding the towel, the oils, lighting candles etc.

Many of us who started our education at the age of four or five, were consistently exposed to the rules and regulations of a now obviously fading Catholic Church.

Yet, in many parishes, they persist in addressing us week in week out with the same old stories.

I'm no longer sure as to the reason why I attend church once a week but the Mass I attend is usually frequented by about 80 people with conservatively 95pc of the congregation being pensioners. However, making Mass more practical can only help the church.

Good on you Fr Ray, you lifted our spirits and we need more like you.

Stephen Talbot