I was looking at the postgrad prospectus the other day and one line about the chaplaincy struck me:
“Embracing all faiths the chaplaincy welcomes all students”
Now the second part of that statement I agree with but I found the first part troubling. Firstly it’s just not true. The chaplaincy was founded as a Christian Chaplaincy nearly 50 years ago when Christianity was the only game in town and it could only change to a multi-faith chaplaincy with a lot of work. None of which has actually been done. One of the most important things that needs to happen is someone needs to build a muti-faith centre and they cost about £1,000,000.
I was more concerned with the idea that I embrace all faiths. Clearly I don’t. I’m not talking here about Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or Hindus. These are all respectable faiths; I’m talking here about the Scientologists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Mormons. How can we embrace their doctrine?
Some things people believe... well, they are just weird aren’t they? I’m not being a blind bigot here. Can anyone seriously expect me to take a world view with Xemu the alien ruler of the Galactic Federation depositing souls here on interstellar Douglas DC-8s as seriously as... say... the Quran? Can I put the Mormons on the same footing as Hindus?
Look at Jehovah’s witnesses. On the surface they are just a bunch of slightly conservative Christians. Dig a little deeper and actually they view the “Watchtower” magazine on a par with the Bible. Then there is the Bible itself. They believe that only the Jehovah’s Witness’ authorised translation (the so called “New World Translation”) is accurate. But there are many translations of the Bible and I can’t think of a single scholar who would agree. Indeed what JWs end up having to believe is that on courses where they teach you how to read the Bible in the original, there must be a special lecture at some point. All the doors will be locked and then lecturer says “Now we all know that the JW Bible is much more accurate than all the rest but let’s all keep that a secret.” Presumably Alex Jones (the chaplaincy resident Bible translator) has been to this lecture. Of course she hasn't! THAT WOULD BE LUDICROUS. As is believing it happens.
I’m not saying that these views are not held sincerely. Nor am I suggesting that those who hold them are in any way bad or morally deficient. I’m not saying Mitt Romney can’t stand for US President, I’m just pointing out that he’s the only candidate wearing God-pants and that’s a bloody good reason not to vote for him.
I do not believe all religions lead to God, nor do I believe that all beliefs are of equal value. That’s not a problem because, if you’re being honest, you don’t either.
Despite Richard Dawkins making out that we are all nutters self evidently there are some beliefs that make more sense than others. I have to draw the line somewhere. I choose to do it on this side of “weird”.
So I shouldn’t have to pretend I embrace all religions. Should I?
Nah, I didn’t think so either.