One thing that's really getting to me these days, is the whole necessity for everyone to be PC about stuff – especially about religion.
You know what, I'm not really religious. I went to a Church of England school. I was christened in a Church of England church.
Most people hold some kind of religious belief or faith, even if it's really basic. Me, for instance, I find myself praying to God when there's a bit of turbulence on a flight. I occasionally pray for continued good health. But you know what? Generally speaking, I just get on with my life. I hope for the best, like most people. One thing I don't do is go on and on about my religion. Mainly because I'm not that religious, I am quite skeptical about the whole thing. I find that wherever there's religion there are problems, often problems linked with war and violence (think Northern Ireland, think the Middle East, think anywhere there's unrest).
So I take a step back and I think, hold on a second, why even get involved with this stuff? And I don't get involved. I can't be bothered. I'm not interested in other people's religious beliefs and I don't care if they're interested in mine or not. You know what? The last thing I'd want to be involved with is 'Jihad' or 'Holy War'. What the hell's that all about? Who would want a holy war and why? There's nothing holy about war.
I have no ambitions whatsoever to convert anybody to follow my religion, that of the Church of England. Why would I want to convert anybody? Equally, I don't want to be converted to other people's religions because ultimately I believe they are all questionable.
Whenever I see the Pope I almost laugh out loud at the ridiculous outfit he has to wear to set him apart from 'lesser mortals'. Marx referred to religion as the 'opium of the people', a form of social control, keeping people in their place. Think of the 10 commandments, they're all rules we're supposed to follow through life and listen here, I'm not saying they're wrong. Thou Shalt Not Kill. Well, of course not. Why would you want to kill anybody? So, in a nutshell, I'm not particularly religious and while I accept that other people are, I don't expect anybody to try and force their beliefs on me. It's a free country over here in the UK and we're all allowed to preach what the hell we want (well, let's not get started on whether or not there's freedom of speech in a democratic country as there's plenty of evidence that says we're not as free as we think we are).
So, let's get back to the Muslims. I wish them all well as long as they don't expect me to convert to Islam. I don't want to convert, not because I think Islam is good or bad or whatever. To be honest I know little about it, other than there's a book called the Koran, like my Bible, they pray in Mosques, not churches and, thanks to the mass media, we're all told to beware, thanks to the work of Islamic State and the Taliban and so on.
The mass media has stirred up folk devils and created what sociologists call a 'moral panic'. We see a man with a beard and a Mediterranean tan and we all wonder what's in his rucksack. No wonder the Muslim world is a little pissed off with the west. They're not all extremists, are they? If you believe the right wing media, they ARE all extremists.
But for me, I say live and let live. But also, don't bother me with your religion because I won't be bombarding you with mine. I don't want to know. For me religion, if it exists at all, is a personal thing. It's something you keep to yourself. You don't bother others with it, you don't try to explain your religion to others. Why should you? And why should anybody listen?
People always say never discuss politics or religion with anybody. They have a point. It's so boring, especially when you remember that a lot of it is hard to believe in the first place. It's magic at the end of the day, and who believes in magic these days?
It's not that I find religion boring, that's not it at all. Religion is interesting, of course it is, but we all have things we engage with and things we don't and for me another man's beliefs are another man's beliefs. I'm not saying that I don't find them interesting, although invariably I don't, but I'm simply saying that he can keep his beliefs and he can forget any idea about trying to convert me to his way of thinking because it simply isn't going to happen. And the reason for that is simple: I don't believe. Politics, fine. That's real. It's not 'magic'.
There are merits in left and right, Republican and Democrat, Tory and Labour, and I can see the arguments and understand why they exist. But religion! No, I don't believe in what the Bible or the Koran has to say. Does God exist? Who knows? Somehow I think not. If God exists, it's something like Mother Nature. Now that's a great wonder of the world, the fact that we and the animals and the plants and the seasons are all built in a certain way. The human body is amazing. Why? Now that's the question. What's the plan? But is it an old man with a white beard and a stick? I doubt it; things just 'are'.
So I don't want some guy with a beard and a copy of the Koran, or the Pope with a St. Christopher, or whoever, telling me THIS is how it is, because in simple terms, it isn't. Nothing is like it is. It all comes down to freedom at the end of the day. We should all be free to think freely and in whichever way we want.
The Syrian conflict isn't about religion. Alright, there are a lot of religiously-motivated people involved in the conflict, more's the pity, but it's not a fight about who believes what; it's a fight about a regime that people don't particularly like and want to change. Those with religious motivations are getting involved and that's a shame, but it's not about one 'God' against another.
I'm not about to change my view unless, perhaps, I witness a miracle. I don't know. Freedom is the answer and not being forced to believe something against our will.