A religious bent
YouR report (24 September) that some senior Scottish judges were blessed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow raises some important questions.
Firstly, senior Scottish judges are appointed by the monarch – and the Court of Session receives and takes care of a monarch’s oath under the Acts of Union of 1707 to “preserve and maintain the true Protestant religion and presbyterian church government in Scotland”.
In assenting to being blessed by a Roman Catholic bishop in this way, the judges who are appointed by the monarch could be seen as deserting this obligation. Protestant people involved in court proceedings with these judges might well also have cause for concern that such behaviour by judges might prejudice the due impartiality expected in court proceedings.
In addition, the crosses worn on the robes of many senior judges, as in your photograph, suggest that they are Christians. Might not this religious identification of the senior judiciary again raise doubts that members of other religions and that large proportion of the population that is atheist and/or non-religious can receive fair treatment in the courts?
Will the judges consent to be blessed by religious functionaries of the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Bahai and Mormon faiths, such as now routinely appear in the weekly Scottish Parliament’s Time for Reflection, to reassure members of those faiths?
And how can they reassure the large non-religious proportion of the Scottish population?
Walter Allen and Margaret Salmond (Letters, 24 September) asked why there are Muslims who resort to violence to defend their religion, as they see it. Interestingly, a noted psychologist, Professor Peter Herriot, has written about this in a book called Religious Fundamentalism and Social Identity.
He suggests that many of us, especially those who consider themselves marginalised or ignored by wider society, seek to boost our self-esteem and individual significance by joining family groups, sports teams or religious movements.
When Islamic society was powerful and influential, in the early medieval period, it was noted for its tolerance and respect for other religions.
Today it appears that it is often the poorer and less educated Muslims, manipulated by extremists for their own purposes – often to redirect attention from their own misgovernment – who regard their religious beliefs as equivalent to following a football team.
Their thinking goes: “My god is better than your god, and I’m going to fight you for it.”
In Scotland we are still trying to move beyond this attitude in the Celtic/Rangers conflict. The difference is that, in the Western world, we now live in mainly secular societies; although this has its own problems, such as excessive consumerism, many of us, even religious believers, would prefer secular government to that which mistakenly considers itself a theocracy.
(Dr) Mary Brown
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