Fiddling While Rome Goes ‘Meh’!

Today the General Synod of the Church of England announced that it had decided that it would begin the move towards having women bishops.

This was, of course, a cause for celebration amongst those who felt the church had to move forward (the nose dive in attendance was being linked to issues such as women priests being a demonstration of the church being out of touch). The same news was greeted by more traditionalist members as a bad thing.

By the vast majority of people the whole thing was met with a supreme chorus of ‘Meh’… Essentially we don’t care because it doesn’t matter.

The traditionalists demonstrate one of the many things wrong with religion. The rules they feel they need to abide by are a minor comment in the Bible. 1 Timothy 2:12 states ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.’. This is pretty clear, and unambiguous. In terms of following what the Bible says the church should definitely not be considering changes.

But the realists in the church appear to have realised that this particular rule sticks in the craw of many congregations. Labelling women as never being able to take on the role of church leader feels unacceptable in a world where CEOs, Prime Ministers and Presidents can all be, and have all been women.

And this is one of the central problems with religions. The rules of religions are codified in some book, or collection of rules. But they brook no consideration. And given the age of most of these writings the rules that are listed are either weird or laughable. Some claim that the ten commandments are the basis for most western legal systems, but most of the commandments are about sucking up to god. No god before me, no worshipping false idols and keeping the sabbath day. Murder and adultery are forbidden in the commandments, but the owning, buying and selling of slaves is not forbidden, neither is rape. The rules are not fit for purpose, but there is no method available for updating them. This fact is especially the case in populations where the book in question considers the books as the word of god. Such beliefs are, of course, untenable when you consider the number of translations that each book goes through, and what known translation errors there are (Mary being a virgin? Please… the correct term would be young girl, but then that would undermine the Madonna worship central to Catholicism at a stroke).

Bill Hicks said it most eloquently.

“People ask me what I think about that woman priest thing. What, a woman priest? Women priests. Great, great. Now there’s priests of both sexes I don’t listen to.”

I don’t believe religions are on the verge of dying, but in a time of mass access to mass information, they must know they are looking into the abyss, and a period when they can only expect a stream of kickings.


Can I Get A Witness?

Looking out of the window this morning we realised that our road was in for its regular visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I wasn’t really that bothered as they seem to have skipped our house for a while. But today we got a visitation.

I was in the mood for a heated debate. And I quite enjoyed it. I let them know right from the start that I thought that the bible was poppycock. They threw all sorts of stuff at me. The idea that science was confirming bible stories, the world would be a better place if everyone followed the bibles rules etc.

For instance: ‘Do you think the world would be a better place if people followed the teachings of the bible?’. I said that while it was clear some of the moral codes in the bible were useful, most of them were a reflection of the time and place that they were written. It made sense not to eat certain foods in a pre-refrigeration desert society where such foods would make you ill. Just like in Islam, a religion born of an arid region it made sense to have a hand that you kept clean and one you allowed to be less so. But the rules were for a time and place. In a world where we understand germ theory, have disinfectants and access to plentiful water these rules were less useful. But then some of the rules are just bizarre. Does it matter if you wear clothing of mixed fibres? And other rules are just objectionable, especially those around the roles of women.

As to the idea that the bible was being confirmed by science, I gave that very short shrift, pointing out that the bible seems only able to be confirmed by science by a retro-fitting of interpretations. I likened it to the predictions of Nostradamus and how people found indications of events like World War II in his texts, but only ever in hindsight. The bible, like Nostradamus has never had any predictive ability.

I enjoyed the whole thing. But I don’t think I will be hearing from them any time soon. Maybe I should have recommended ‘The God Delusion’ while they were here…