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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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EditorialsUp Front 2/17

Up Front 2/17

I was about ten years old when I overheard my father explaining to someone that he was an atheist. ‘When you die, you die’ he told her. As one of his business activities was organising funerals, I had to assume he knew what he was talking about. However, his conclusion was a huge surprise to me. My mother had been a devout Christian and it seemed that many of those around me were also set on a fervent religious path. It was amusing to later discover that many of the people drinking coffee with ‘just a drop’ of whisky whilst waiting for the pub to open on a Sunday morning, were also waiting for someone to tell them the subject of the priest’s sermon so they could pretend they had been to Church. But the biggest surprise about my father’s statement was the fact that he was one of the most Christian men I knew—yet he didn’t believe there was a God. Until that day I had lived under the illusion that anyone who didn’t believe in God was a potentially bad person. Yet here was a man that people travelled the length of the country to come and talk to, whose kindness and generosity was discussed in hushed tones and who believed that all people were created equal and should be treated as such. In time I realised that the practice of kindness and caring wasn’t solely the domain of the religious. Indeed there were times when it seemed to act as a mask for the very opposite. But 2016 must have challenged the core beliefs of many, and I’m sure it would have challenged my father’s beliefs. What would he have made of seismic events such as the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump? Would he have seen Brexit as a solution to overbearing interference in a sovereign state or would he have believed that trying to somehow hold the EU together would stave off potential conflict in the long term? Would he have thought that Donald Trump’s two-dimensional world view might bypass unwieldy efforts to solve some of the world’s problems? Or would he have thought that 140 character communication, an alternative view of facts and, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it, ‘an attention deficit President’ might stir up a hornet’s nest? Who knows? One thing I might hazard a guess at is whether, if he were alive today, my father would be moved to prayer, and looking at the possibilities for 2017… I think he just might.

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