Cosmetic surgery for the soul

7 Feb

There is an old saying that religious converts soon move on to another conversion. I think it very likely that the majority of converts are those who perceive that their lives are devoid of the spirituality they crave. This has been described as the God shaped hole. On the other hand, we all wish for confirmation of our beliefs and prejudices, and it is all too easy to project these beliefs onto a religion or philosophy. If religion is adopted for these purposes it is a form of cosmetic surgery for the soul. Such actions are superficial, easily changed and speak of egotism rather than true humility. They are lazy thinking and are almost always transient. Potential converts should instead listen to the still, small voice inside, a sort of Jiminy Cricket without the Disney schmaltz.

There is surely a core of beliefs that the vast majority of us can intellectually sign up to. The problem I have with the 10 commandments is that they are nine-tenths negative. It would be much better is they encouraged good behaviour rather than condemning everything. Personally, I have never coveted my neighbours ox or ass. In fact, rules such as these might serve well in one age and environment and be inappropriate for some other time or place. Do unto others as you would be done unto is a pretty good start, except if you are a sadomasochist. So let’s say that being pleasant and helpful is better than being grumpy and difficult. Even being polite is quite important, showing some respect for others. On the other side of the coin, selfishness, greed and cruelty should be discouraged. In ‘Wall Street’ the character, Gordon Gecko, says ‘Greed is good.’ No it isn’t. Not for anyone. Not for the world.

There was a radio programme a few days ago where the comedian Mark Steele visited Southall. Among the jokes, observations and comedy was the statement that Southall has the largest Sikh temple in Europe. At the temple there are huge kitchens and they feed, on a daily basis, over a thousand people. There is a duty for Sikhs to feed the needy. This is an act of unconditional love, and as Mark Steele pointed out, you don’t see queues of hungry people outside of Richard Dawkin’s house. Acts of faith like those should be praised most highly. In contrast, where a convert is persuaded to become a human bomb, the preacher involved is a conduit of hate and evil, and should be consigned to the innermost circle of their own private hell.


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