Friday, February 22, 2008

Thought for the World - Christopher Brookmyre - Religion is like a cantankerous & malevolent relative on a car journey.

Christopher Brookmyre

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Christopher Brookmyre

21st February 2008

It was Shrove Tuesday recently, which reminded me that the Catholic period of Lent is underway. I like to be reminded that Lent is underway, because it always cheers me up to contemplate that I have had nothing to do with it throughout my adult life. My childhood experience of Lent was of being told we had to give up things that we enjoyed, for reasons that remain very poorly defined to this day. If memory serves, the scriptural explanation was something to do with Jesus going on some kind of extreme asceticism trip while the devil was trying to illegally tap him up for a Bosman transfer to the dark side. My ability to say no to Satan was apparently going to be vastly enhanced by practicing my ability to say no to Midget Gems and Liquorice Comfits.

At the very least, we were told, Lent was good for instilling self-discipline, and helped you develop will-power. However, in my experience, the weans who already had self-discipline and will-power were the only ones who were able to give things up for Lent, so let�s get that particular cart back behind the horse where it belongs.

Lent is a horrible concept, dreamt up by people who obviously thought that February and March aren't quite miserable enough what with it being wet, freezing and blowing a gale all the time.

I can't think of another period on the calendar that better illustrates how the principle practical consequence of religion is to make life harder than it needs to be. If life is a journey, then religion is the cantankerous and malevolent elderly relative your parents insist on bringing along for the trip.
Let's call her "Great Auntie Joy". She criticises the driving, moans about the route you're taking, and generally makes the journey far less enjoyable than it would have been if she'd never been allowed inside the car.

"Turn off the radio," she says. "Don't read in the back seat. Don't eat sweets. Stop talking."

Your mum and dad tell you to do as she asks. They don't offer any reason why, only that Auntie Joy said so, and Auntie Joy must be respected. "But why do we have to bring Auntie Joy?" you ask. "She always ruins the trip." Mum and Dad say we have to bring her because we've always brought her. And they tell you that if you knuckle under and keep on the right side of her, Auntie Joy might give you a treat when you reach your destination.

I think we should leave Auntie Joy at the side of the road and get on with enjoying the journey. And before we've even driven a mile without her, mum and dad will be wondering why they ever brought her in the first place. Enjoy the trip. Ditch the bitch. She won't be missed.

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