She was an outspoken agnostic, with a leaning towards atheism, but she believed as strongly as I do that our traditional rites of passage are important, if only for the survivors. So, having scarcely ever darkened the doors of our parish church, three minutes from our house, she is now buried in its churchyard.
Billed as the first joint appearance by both presidential hopefuls, it was tightly controlled to avoid clashes. John McCain and Barak Obama hug each other. This was not a debate. It was a “civil forum” organised by Saddleback Church, a huge and hugely influential ministry run by Pastor Rick Warren, a multi-million selling author. He arrived on stage with smiles and to great applause.
First of all, let me tell you what this isn’t. It’s not some “I-was-lost-and-now-I’m-found” sob story. These days, many people reach out to faith “to find peace”. I had too much peace in my life already. In faith, I was looking to be troubled – on behalf of other people.
These proverbs from Slovakia show the other side of “family values”. This is the name of a whole system of control which can prevent a woman from leaving an abusive marriage and further cement her in place by burdening her with unplanned children. The control imposed by the Vatican disproportionately affects women. That’s because the hierarchy of obedience which goes from the pope to the parish priest doesn’t stop there: it continues on, from the head of the household down to his wife.
Women must be kept at home and bearing children for the Church. Ordaining them as priests would give them dangerous authority. On 29 May 2008 the Vatican issued a decree “Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman”. This is such a grave offence that it incurs automatic excommunication, on a par with heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope.
Battered by rising petrol prices and despairing of the ability of politicians to ease their pain, Americans are turning to the one figure they think can help – God.
Campaigners are holding religious vigils at petrol stations throughout the US, harnessing the power of prayer to ask a higher power for lower pump prices.
You know what organised religion needs? More power and influence. Thank God, then, that Channel 4 are on hand to give it the helping hand it so desperately requires in the form of Make Me A Christian (Sun, 7pm, C4), a spiritual makeover show in which four hardcore Goddites attempt to convert a rag-tag band of sinners into full-blown Jesus freaks in just three weeks.
Do you believe a religious leader who fights to save Section 28 and says gay people spread disease is a fulminating bigot? Do you believe a “leading cleric” who advocates stoning gay people to death should be denounced? Do you believe sharia law – which requires gay people to be lashed or stoned – is always and forever unacceptable? Then, according to an energetic and aggressive group of white straight boys who surreally consider themselves to be on the left, you are an “Islamophobe” and “objectively pro-Nazi”.
In June, I blogged for Cif about the rather unsettling religious adverts which were running on London buses. These ads featured a link to a website warning that non-Christians would “spend all eternity in torment in hell” if they failed to recognise Jesus Christ other than at the height of passion. A solution, I suggested, was for 4,680 atheists to spread reassurance by each giving £5 towards a bus ad saying: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.”