|The Virgin Mary depicted sharing her breast milk!|
I am very far from holding the view that there is a deep rooted prejudice and discrimination against Christians in Britain. I do think that there is an increasingly strident atheist element which could be more willing to promote a mutual tolerance and respect between those of all faiths and those of none, but this in itself seems unlikely to be enough to account for a decline in teaching in schools; indifference or even - whisper it - ignorance - may equally be contributing factors. Personally, I think it would be a great shame if we were to lose RE ; the study of religion has all sorts of things to teach us - about other cultures, about history and politics, about choice and ethics, about philosophy and about the central thing that that make us human, namely our search for meaning in its broadest sense.
Just as I was pondering all this, another item came on, an account of an exhibition of religious artifacts, featuring, to John Humprey's amazement, a vial purporting to contain the breast milk of the Virgin Mary. From a purely academic point of view, the exhibition sounded absolutely fascinating, at the same time the idea of bodily fluids being preserved as holy relics did bring to mind the sheer superstition often inherent in religion, that element of irrationality and anti-intellectualism, not to mention the atrocities it can spawn, that rightly makes people recoil in disgust and horror and think, "I'm not letting any of that stuff near our kids." The problem with religion is it can be infectious - some people would like it eradicated like the smallpox virus, and would long to see the blueprint destroyed.
The trouble is that human beings are spiritual animals ; we look for meaning as well as for knowledge. I do not think it will ever be quite enough for humanity to search for meaning wholly in science and in the explicable; there will always be the inexplicable, and human beings will want to explore it and create beliefs about the things they cannot fully explain. Humans are credited with a divine spark, and it is spark that can become a destructive fire. We have burnt our fingers with the destructive power of religion, that is not a reason to try to extinguish it. We should show children the beauty and power of religion, but also its danger and the need to handle it with care.