Bahai News - Our new hymn for Easter . . . Anything Goes
Our new hymn for Easter . . . Anything Goes
This year I am spending Easter in Cyprus. It is the first time for
years that the Greek Orthodox Easter and ours coincide so it's
possible to make some useful comparisons. In Britain all the talk
this Easter every Easter is of jetting away. Nobody leaves Cyprus
at Easter. On the contrary, Easter is the time when expats do their
best to come home. Easter is a time for the whole family to get
The churches have been bursting since Maundy Thursday and
restaurants and shops not directly involved with the tourist trade
have been kept firmly shut. Today, Easter Sunday, is a day of
How different from our own country. The other day one of our
newspapers talked about the 'run-up' to Easter. Funny that, I
thought, whatever happened to Holy Week? Runup to Easter indeed! In
the future, I suspect, historians will spend a great deal of energy
discussing how it came about that a country which once took religion
very seriously ended up with virtually none. When I was a boy I
remember a Britain which in this respect at least was very much like
Cyprus today. We, too, used to be closed for business for much of the
Easter weekend. There were no newspapers on Good Friday, the most
solemn day of the Christian calendar, and all shops, cinemas and pubs
were shut. That wouldn't work today. We now live in a strictly
secular country. The right to shop has become enshrined as a basic
Closed for Easter? Barbarous.
Because we are no longer primarily a religious people, many will
read the above and say: 'A good thing too.' I am not so sure. We have
lost our religious faith but what have we gained in its place?
Precious little, I'd say.
There appears to be in us all a basic need to have somebody or
something greater than us, outside our own personal experience to
whom we can attach mythic powers and virtues. I have long since
argued that the modern cult of celebrity fills a void left by the
saints of the Christian calendar. I really don't think that's too
farfetched. People need icons.
For most societies religion has fulfilled this want. We have
rejected that course. We bow before the altar of a consumer society.
Our heroes are bimbo TV presenters, pop stars or footballers. Great
sports arenas are described as cathedrals; young boys and girls will
'worship' their idols.
Someone like David Beckham is routinely described as a sporting
You may think I make too much of this but as long as we have ears
to hear the language people choose to use we have a glimpse into
Thou shall not worship graven images, say the Commandments. We
sure as hell have forgotten that one.
They don't get much more 'graven' than the lot we have before us
I don't think there can be many who believe society has on the
whole benefited even though religious observance has sometimes been
We all know that zealotry combined with religious faith can be a
volatile brew. But we also know that the ethical foundations of the
Judaeo-Christian tradition which has dominated the political and
social philosophy of this society for the past several centuries lies
at the very heart of describing the kind of people we are. You cannot
simply disregard that great edifice, or seek to dismantle it, and
expect that as a result we will necessarily change for the better.
Schools, in this politically correct age of ours, teach that all
religions have equal value. This is not entirely undesirable. The
belief that there is only one true faith, whatever that faith may be,
has led and leads still to the assumption that it is acceptable to
persecute those of a different persuasion. But there is a downside
Here is my list, in alphabetical order so, in the modern way, no
favourites, of world religions with more than three million
adherents: Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism,
Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism and Vodun (Voodism).
There are thousands more with fewer adherents some pretty obscure
such as Caodaism or Macumba, some less so like Zoroastrianism. All
are interesting and worthy of study and respect.
It is perfectly possible, as many do, to believe none of them. It
is quite simply impossible to believe all of them.
Yet that is what is implied by our educational system. Our
political class has so lost confidence in itself, its own history and
beliefs, that in this matter like so many others it is afraid to lay
down a line which we can follow for fear that we might reject it.
Instead, it lays before us a Religious a la Carte, which permits us
to pick and choose with few parameters to make that actually
possible. If you say all religions are equally valid you must end up
believing none is. That is dangerous. We are left with a society
without direction or the compass with which to find one. Denied the
idea that we are on Earth for some greater purpose, the young are
encouraged to believe there simply isn't any. So, in the words of the
song Anything Goes, we accept any behaviour provided it is not
fattening or illegal. The ethical restraints which religion imposes
have all but gone.
Some rationalist philosophers used to argue that when religion
disappeared we would enter a new age of reason.
Some hope. We have dispensed with the old and in its place all
we've got is sex, sin and rock 'n' roll. This is the Age of Unreason!
Cyprus is not a perfect society by any means. They have great
problems which they don't look close to solving. There's as much
corruption and greed here as there is anywhere.
But on some important levels which will never show up in official
statistics they are to be envied. The family is still at the heart of
everything. The old beliefs have not simply been jettisoned because
of passing fashion. There is here still a sense of cohesiveness and
community which comes from shared beliefs, disappearing fast in our
People feel they belong.
It would be nice to imagine that in our forthcoming Election some
of these issues, overarching all others in their seriousness, would
be discussed by our politicians. But somehow I doubt it, don't you?
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