Saturday, September 18, 2010

A challenging read for people of faith

I am a great fan of the Guardian writer Polly Toynbee. Even if I don't agree with her, which is rare, I always find her articles pertinent and challenging. No great fan - indeed often a cynic - when it comes to institutional religion I found her recent article "Sex and Death lie at the poisoned heart of religion" worth more than one read.

As Ben Goldacre pointed out in this paper on Saturday, while this pope claims condoms "aggravate the problem" of HIV/Aids, two million die a year. Ann Widdecombe's riposte that the Catholic church runs more Aids clinics than any single nation was like suggesting the Spanish Inquisition ran the best rehab clinics for torture victims.

Women's bodies are the common battleground, symbols of all religions' authority and identity. Cover them up with veil or burqa, keep them from the altar, shave their heads, give them ritual baths, church them, make them walk a step behind, subject them to men's authority, keep priests celibately free of women, unclean and unworthy. Eve is the cause of all temptation in Abrahamic faiths. Only by suppressing women can priests and imams hold down the power of sex, the flesh and the devil. The Church of England is on the point of schism over gay priests, women bishops and African homophobia. The secular world looks on in utter perplexity.

That's quite a taster. Do read the whole thing.