Australia and Contemporary Religion

Wonder Full. The Australian reaction to the terrible attack by a self-styled Islamic extremist was just that – wonderful. At the moment of grief – they deliberately reached out to all in their society, particularly in fact to peaceful Muslims. Peace is surely the anti-dote to terror. We knew that “an eye for an eye” failed over two thousand years ago.

The bearded men (men, funny that..) who machine gun children in Pakistan, hack soldiers in London and behead and sell women in Iraq – aren’t religious – Islamic or any other type; any more than were the IRA Christian Catholics when they bombed civilians indiscriminately.

Vladimir Soloviev put it like this (contemporary for him was the 1870’s):

“ I shall not dispute those who maintain a negative attitude toward the religious principle. I shall not argue with the contemporary opponents of religion, because they are right. I say that those who reject religion are right because the contemporary state of religion calls for rejection.. Speaking generally and abstractly, religion is the connection of humanity and the world with the absolute principle and focus of all that exists. Contemporary religion is a pitiful thing. Strictly speaking, religion does not exist as the dominant principle, as the centre of spiritual attraction. Instead, our so-called religiosity is a personal mood, a personal taste. Some people have this taste, others do no, just as some people like music and others do not…” Vladimir Soloviev. Lectures on Divine Humanity. St Petersburg 1878.

His point of course, is that true connection to the Divine is quite different from a self-styling religiosity. It’s easy to tell one from the other. Peace or war. Tolerance or dictatorship. Social justice or division. Joy or hatred.

As Christ said: “by their fruits shall you know them”. As Teilhard de Chardin said “Joy is the unmistakable sign of the presence of God”.

So – glory to Australia – for their wonderful reaction. Peace, compassion and social cohesion in the face of terror. Thank you. We’re not even on seven – never mind seventy times seven.

Peace, Radicalisation and Progesterone

It was striking in the recent Scottish referendum that the young and male voted in a markedly different way from the old and female. The call to fight is an appeal to testosterone. It rouses people out of their beds, out of the apathy of materialism or despair. However, it comes at a cost. Division. Us – against yous. Our poor, our oil, our land, our nation.Not yours. Alongside the passion there is and has been a considerable degree of radicalisation. An awakened anger seeking outlet,  but to what purpose? Passion in pursuit of a just cause is good, necessary and admirable;  but nationalism is always wrong. The fruit of that plant is always bitter.

Whilst there is no doubting the motive power of the raw male, testosterone fuelled  radicalisation has unintended consequences. The best way to rouse the young male is to find and to caricature an enemy. One that must be fought. Winning is all. The world has witnessed that from age to age. It’s how wars start, it’s how repression is justified; and worse. We can see that in radical Islam. What has IS and their beheading culture really to do with the religion? Could these young men stay in charge unless they had the USA (great satan) as an enemy? Is the motive force amongst these radicalised young that of that great peaceful religion Islam? I suspect its more to do with  the desire of young men to fight, kill, win and control their enemies and women. To its great credit, in Scotland it wasn’t the noisy, the young and the men who carried their way. It was the old and above all it was women. Both groups with lower testosterone. That’s called democracy.  We must prize it. It was the testosterone-lite who quietly said no, at least not now and not like this. Those who have an eye to continuity and the future. It is of course particularly women who care passionately for community, compassion and an integrated society. Not exclusively thank goodness; but I wonder what a world would be like if it were run by  women, educated and empowered.  Do you really imagine that there would be noisy cars racing round Edinburgh? The turning away from the excluded parts of society in Liverpool, Manchester and rural England? The beheadings in Syria? No, of course not. On the other hand – there wouldn’t have been the degree of social injustice in the first place.

I have come and gone with feminism. A one time supporter, a some time doubter; but if we could evolve a world and society where testosterone was not the key to decision making, then put the women and the old in charge. Feminism as leadership rather than equality. Bring it on.

Is this the way to peaceful radicalisation?  Perhaps in a connected world where strutting masculinity were side-lined and channelled – then we could focus together on what really matters. I put it to you (as a mere man, but aging) – that the plight of women around the world and of the poor, oh and of our children’s environment – are somewhat more important than whether one male tribe in these British islands – covered in woad – triumphs over another.