Sunday, 24 October 2010

What if, God forbid, we were atheists?

We live in the land of the fit and free. Thank God for that. Will we, in a fit of “let’s ape the Brits”, all start saying we are atheists now?

Ed Milliband, the new leader of the British Labour Party, has declared he is an atheist. Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister also believes in no God (or in his case would that be god with an uncapitalised g?) leaving the God-believer David Cameron in quite a singular, or rather minority state. Obviously there is no connection to the politicos in our land. Most of our politicians, besides being honourable and unassailable, are exceptionally pious and believe fervently in God and His militant Church. In Malta, besides the holiness of the blues, we also have some religiously fervent reds. Even the greens do not usually dare say anything which could be interpreted as going against the Church or its teachings. The Maltese politicians nearly all avoid anything that might prove they are agnostic or, God forbid, atheist.

Back to the Brits and their new Leader of the Opposition with his “I’m an atheist” confession. I don’t much care for British politicians (who are nearly as inept as their footballers) as they all seem sleazy, slimy and sinister. But regarding the Labour Party’s leader’s beliefs or otherwise in a God-head do we care? Or rather should we, or the British people, really care? Shouldn’t such beliefs be personal and not be bandied about in public?

If a Royal heir in Britain were to voice such thoughts, then there could be some constitutional, religious or existential problem of nerve-raking scope. Not sure what sort of constitution would be consulted as there isn’t one in Britain to consult as far as I know. The heir to the throne in Britain, once crowned head of state, automatically becomes the head of the Church of England. Could the ultimate in ironies be that you can head the Church and not believe there is a God? Now wouldn’t that be cause for some real worry and talk of annus orribilis to quote one of the most quoted quips by Queen Beth the second. It’s like us Catholics getting a new Pope elected and instead of the usual Habemus Papam we’d hear habemus ateium from the Vatican balcony. Or whatever an atheist is called in the August Latin language. All mayhem would be flung upon us, dear, devout, foot soldiers of Catholicism.

I never quite care whether anyone believes in God or an afterlife. Or whether angels had a great big fight back in the long gone past when one batch sided with good and the other sided with evil and the bad angels were consigned to hell and had to look after all the tormenting of us humans and possible androids and aliens who sin in life and have to suffer hell-fire for ever and ever.

Do such beliefs change the way we look at life? I daresay not. Even if this could win me the opprobrium of all the bishops and archbishops of the Maltese Isles, I would still insist that whatever we believe in our hearts of hearts is not important as long as those beliefs do not hinder us from letting others have their own beliefs however wacky they might sound.

Back to modern-day UK and its politics. I don’t have a clue where Nick Clegg is going to take the country and to what monstrous levels he will consign it in his atheistic ways. All I do know is that he comes after two deeply religious men held sway in Britain. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair were God-fearing, good men who, it is claimed went to church regularly and prayed fervently. When Tony Blair was out of Downing Street he converted and became a very “devout” Catholic. When Blair was heading the government (with Brown as one of his most powerful ministers), he took Britain into a war in Iraq which has cost countless lives all for an unknown cause. The only palpable reason I ever found for waging that war was because the other God-fearer, George Bush, dictated it. Bush was another big believer in God, an out-and-out Texan. So these three God-believers piled on the lies to get themselves into a war against Iraq. Does God actually come into these equations? Did God or belief in Him stop them from waging a uselessly harsh and unwarranted war?

The good Catholics cite Bush’s abortion policy (of limiting its ease of use) as a God-inspired way of looking at life that has contributed to our well-being. The senseless deaths that have happened in Iraq and Afghanistan are hardly Christian. As someone once quipped: would the USA be in Iraq if Iraq’s main export was broccoli?

More than God being the source of all political decisions I fear the worst demon still dominating life and politics is money, greed and desire for more and more power. I don’t care a fig or a leaf if the minister, prime minister or next door neighbour believes in aliens and is God-fearing or is a humanist and an atheist. It is not what people believe in that moulds them but their public and private actions.

This article first appeared in the Malta Independent on Sunday on October 24 2010

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