The religion question

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Terry Eagleton's The Gods Look Down was certainly one of the more acute and useful books I ever used, but to ask whether the "new atheists" are attacking immigrant communities for their religion (with all religions attacked as a smokescreen) is narrow of Neil Davidson's review of Eagleton's latest book, Reason, Faith and Revolution (Books, Socialist Review, June 2009).

In the 19th century Jews and Irish Catholic immigrants were attacked for their religion without religion being attacked in general.

Lloyd George started his political career in top juniors when he challenged a visitation of school governors and vicar as to why they were putting a Welsh speaking Methodist pupil body through English Anglican school assemblies and religion classes. Religion can be nasty without an immigration backdrop.

Religion deserved some of the kicking it got in Europe's revolutions for justifying the "ancien régimes" and corruption. Accordingly, clergy moved from "instruction" to "education", from fronting wars across history to promoting study sessions and trying to promote social peace and cohesion.

All religions behave like social "petrol". They can inspire the arts and a society towards teamwork and achievement; or they create pettifogging authoritarian enforcement of the minutiae of observance that stifles creativity and exacerbates sexual complexes.

Worse, there are no rules for which way the cat jumps and it sometimes contrives both at once, as under our own Puritans.

Frank Adam
Manchester