Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, April 18, 2003  

I spent this Good Friday with my family. Not my immediate family - neither my father nor my sister lives in Trinidad - but my mother's family, my mother's siblings and their children, and my grandparents, at my grandparents' home up in the hills of St. Ann's. The significance of religious holidays is nil for me, though I do continue to abstain from eating meat on Good Fridays, probably the only religious practice (such as it is) that I maintain. It's not simply tradition, nor is it out of any residual anathema to the idea of partaking of animal flesh on the day that Christ was supposedly crucified. I guess one could call it an identity marker, a recognition of the fact that, though I no longer hold to its tenets, or take part in its observances or rituals, I was baptised and confirmed into the Christian faith.

For although I have long given up any form of religious or spiritual belief, and all traces of resulting guilt have been bled away, the idea of religious identity still holds some sway over me, despite my current agnosticism. There's no rational reason for it, just a tenuous if absurd feeling of taking part in something bigger and older than myself, which, along with simple tradition (and fear) is the reason most believers believe, anyway.

Therein of course lies the paradoxical problem with religion. Yes, it gives hope and comfort to billions in a world hard-pressed to offer better alternatives. But inherent in the comfort that religion offers is the belief that God is on your side, as Kevin Baldeosingh noted in yesterday's Express.

We know all too well what such thinking leads to, has lead to, throughout history. Wars continue to be fought because of it, on battlefields, in classrooms, courtrooms, parliaments, and most serious of all, in minds. In Trinidad & Tobago we continue to be burdened by religious thinking, thinking that is not only often regressive, but outright dangerous, and that leads to the most absurd of actions.

Our apathy and complaisance continue to encourage the doctrinaire effects of religious dogma, at all levels of society, in so many ways. How we engage this problem, taking all sides of the religious question into account is a question that, as I bite into one of my grandmother's hot cross buns, will remain before us for some time to come.

posted by Jonathan | 9:40 PM 0 comments


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