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EditorialsUp Front 10/10

Up Front 10/10

The recent visit to the UK by Pope Benedict XVI was heavily covered by the media, and although Vatican related activity loomed large in my life as a child, I was surprised by the huge interest. I was even more surprised by the vitriolic response from some secular quarters. Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins saw Mr Ratzinger, as ‘head of the world’s second most evil religion’ whilst television personality Stephen Fry called the Pope ‘an evil presence’. Historian David Starkey described him as ‘a little clown in a dress and red slippers’. They are the sort of comments that some celebrities crave, it means they are still getting noticed, but I’m not sure Benedict XVI would have courted that kind of attention. I was brought up by parents who were polar opposite in their religious beliefs, and as so often happens in those situations the religious partner in the marriage tended to look after the children’s theological education. I have been told that I did have godparents but I never knew them and they played no role in ensuring my safe path to religious wellbeing. To my knowledge they never had to intervene in religious conflict either. However the battle between those that believe and those that don’t believe, whether it is that their God is the true God or whether it is that a scientific theory is the answer, is likely to rage for as long as the world survives. Last week I overheard someone talking about how his mother explained the difference between how Protestants and Catholics would get to heaven. While Protestants would probably go to heaven in a Mini Minor, she explained, Catholics would arrive in a Rolls Royce. It was not an uncommon analogy when I was growing up, and it has a gentle and tolerant logic. The sad thing is that in many parts of the world it doesn’t matter what type of car it is, as long as it’s bullet proof.

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