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    Is religion a good thing?

    Why shouldn’t it be?

    It teaches there is a God and people should come close to Him through prayer and do His will through ethics. It has rituals that symbolise basic values.

    If religion didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.

    A wonderful book, “1066 And All That”, tells the story of England with a smile. The book comments on events, “That was a Good Thing” (or it wasn’t…). Presumably it thought religion was A Good Thing.

    But the more I think about it the less I am inclined to call religion A Good Thing.

    I think of two cries, both heard at racist incidents. The place doesn’t matter. Both are tragic wherever they are.

    One cry is: “O my God! O my God!” The other, “This is for Allah”.

    This cry comes every time extremists mow down harmless men, women and children. Like vultures on the attack? Worse. To call them vultures is an insult to the vultures.

    “This is for God”? If God really wants this I’d rather be an atheist. If these are really God’s policemen I’d rather not be a believer.

    “This is for God”? I prefer the Jewish idea: “Let them forget Me but live by My Torah”.

    When God offered the nations His law they asked, “What does Your Torah say?”

    One answer: “My Torah says, ‘Don’t kill!’” Some nations said that wasn’t for them. Some were told, “Don’t rob, commit adultery, pervert truth”. They said, “That’s not for us”.

    Those who accepted the Torah were told, “Love your neighbour, ease his burden, show him compassion, bind up his wounds”.

    They weren’t angels. They weren’t perfect. They didn’t always meet up to the heights of ethics, but they aspired to.

    They didn’t live by the sword or make others die by it. God told them to drop their swords and cry for others’ pain. His word mattered more than the war cries.

    Those who cry from the pain wreaked by the self-appointed avengers call, “O my God, O my God”. The cry is not abstract theology but real suffering.

    They cry for the loving Parent to pick them up and kiss them better.

    The Psalmist says, “Though others forsake me, God will take me up”. If only!

    The Almighty must be thoroughly fed up with those who claim to work in His name.

    “You think you’re acting for Me?” He says; “If you really loved Me you’d love My children! If I really mattered to you, you’d talk less about Me but fix My world!”

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