What a quarrelsome lot are The Scotsman’s correspondents on religious issues. As a pagan who venerates Jesus I’m glad not to fit either into the “Christian” or “atheist” camp. I’m sure that Steuart Campbell (Letters, 15 May) is well aware that I said Jesus’s version of the golden rule was “within the limits of the culture of the time”, which would be for Jews a relatively parochial one, despite their reluctant membership of the Roman Empire.
But the Gospel writers record how Jesus appeared to be developing an understanding that the golden rule applied to Jews as well as non-Jews.
Examples are the Roman centurion in Matthew 8, who accepts Jesus’s unusual power with an open mind, and whose servant is healed, the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, whose wit and persistence Jesus admires so much that He cures her sick daughter, and the Samaritan woman in John 4 who cleverly debates theology with Jesus.
In fact, “within the limits of the culture of the time” Jesus’s attitude to women – that they are equal with men in every respect – was most unusual and one which was ignored by Christians from the Church fathers up to today.
Surely there is a danger, given the oral nature of storytelling in the Jewish community of the time, in rigid interpretations of what Jesus is supposed to have said or didn’t say – in the latter context nothing about same-sex relationships, and very little about sexual relationships in general.
Instead Jesus used irony and playful analogy, rather like Socrates did, to point out the absurdity of many accepted “religious” principles.
It would be a modern-day miracle if all people of goodwill could seek to agree on what matters most for the salvation of the human race instead of refighting historical battles that have no relevance to contemporary problems.
(Dr) Mary Brown
Neil Barbour (Letters, 15 May) is correct: not all secularists are atheists and some secularists “just don’t want any one religion to have disproportionate advantage in the public sphere”.
But the fact remains that spokesmen for secularist groups are prone to attack any comment from a Christian perspective, and engage in indiscriminate mudslinging at religion, when Christians do nothing more than contribute to debate.
In place of compromise, accommodation and diversity, many secularists seek to impose their ideology on everybody, in the name of neutrality.
There are some relatively minor ways that churches enjoy privileges, and I don’t defend all of them, but they pale into insignificance compared with the massively “disproportionate advantage in the public sphere” exploited by the secular liberal BBC, government-funded gay rights charities and humanist and secularist groups that are granted media access out of all proportion to their tiny memberships.
I marvel at the mental gymnastics that enable people to assert that atheistic, secularist communism “is a religion”. Bruce Crichton (Letters, same day) is right about one thing though: “replacing an omnipotent god with an omnipotent state” can lead to “a totalitarian regime”.
SOLAS Centre for Public Christianity
St Peter Street, Dundee
Please can we have a break from letters about religion.
I know the subject is of great importance to those who care about it but they’re going round in circles.
Some of your regular correspondents on the subject seem more focused on shouting their own points across than showing any willingness to understand anyone else’s point of view. Perhaps they could get together and thrash it all out between them, because this reader has had enough.