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Religion not to blame for today’s troubles

Religion not to blame for today’s troubles

Sir, – On September 2 you reported that Spencer Fildes, of the Scottish Secular Society, stated “religion is now perceived as the catalyst for the horrors we see on our televisions every day”.

I suggest that, if held, such a perception is unreasonable.

It seems to be based on generalising from particular instances to the whole population of religious organisations and, as indicated by David Robertson (September 3), ignores the many benefits that religions have contributed to society.

For example, you recently reported research which showed that regular attendance at places of worship is positively associated with higher levels of happiness.

A review of past and present beneficial contributions to society that were motivated by Christian beliefs and ideals would be very extensive and is not appropriate here.

It is undeniable that religious beliefs have sometimes been misused by groups which have used them in the pursuit of unacceptable objectives, such as political and military domination. ISIS is a current example of this phenomenon.

Such misuse of religion must be condemned, but to use it to condemn religion as a whole is unjustified generalisation.

It is similar to claiming that, because motor cars can be used as weapons, all motor cars should be banned.

Similarly, Spencer’s implied reference to child abuse by a few people working in religious organisations is an inappropriate challenge to religion.

Many teachers have been prosecuted for child abuse but it would be foolish to claim that education is therefore evil and should be abandoned. Why does he want to impose a different criterion on religion?

Personal failings due to human weaknesses are widespread and it is not reasonable to systematically attribute them to the organisations with which the failing individuals are associated.

The weaknesses in Mr Fildes’ position seem to me to arise mainly from generalising from particular examples to a population as a whole, without sufficient evidence.

His statements become declarations of his personal beliefs and not of facts.

They are merely unsubstantiated assertions.

More than 50 years ago, a wise professor taught me to avoid such pitfalls.

It appears that Spencer did not have such a tutor!

John Grinyer. 1 Dundee Road, Broughty Ferry.

Little faith in Salmond’s words

Sir, – Back-tracking from his strange and divisive statement that he “prefers people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith”, Alex Salmond has now said that he “prefers people who are able to believe in something rather than believe in nothing” and “what exactly is it that they fear about religious faith which makes them so sensitive?” (September 6).

Mr Salmond can be assured that moral integrity, community spirit and faith in humanity are entirely possible without any sort of religious belief.

Secularists, whether religious or not, have no “fear” of religious belief.

We have the greatest of respect for private viewpoints but we oppose the privileges enjoyed by Christianity in Scotland: unelected seats on education committees; access to the developing minds of children in state schools and claims to exemption from equality and employment laws which apply to everyone else.

Mr Salmond is free to break bread with any sub-group he chooses but he should expect criticism when someone of his public profile uses his platform further to promote his personal religious preferences and to discriminate against half of all Scots.

Neil Barber. Edinburgh Secular Society, Saughtonhall Drive, Edinburgh.

Traffic problems disappointing

Sir, – On Saturday, about 2,000 women and men from all over Scotland enjoyed a day in Dundee at the Church of Scotland’s Guild Gathering.

The facilities in the beautifully refurbished Caird Hall, complete with handsome floral decorations, were most welcoming.

At lunch we sat in the sunshine in the square or were given hospitality in the town centre churches or in the local cafes.

However, at 3.45pm there was chaos in Crichton Street as hundreds of people tried to board the coaches that were assigned to pick them up.

Coach drivers were given parking tickets or told to keep driving round the block until there was a space that did not impede the flow of buses.

I trust that the local authorities will have a more efficient traffic management scheme in place before the next big event in the Caird Hall and especially before the opening of the V&A when we can expect lots more visitors.

Mary A. Smith. 33 Brent Road, East Kilbride.

Sobering truth on bad driving

Sir, – The excuse given by the driver who was clocked at 140mph calibrating his new fuel system was described as an “astonishing explanation” by a road safety campaigner (September 3).

It was undoubtedly astonishing, but there are two other factors here which could well be described as even more astonishing.

Firstly there is the design, production and selling of vehicles which travel at this speed.

As a young person, I was tempted to find out just how fast my motor cycle could actually go and many other people do the same.

Therefore, producing extremely powerful vehicles for public use surely cannot be justified.

Secondly, and this is very common, a man who has broken the law to this extent is permitted to drive again after a short ban.

The sober truth is that driving is too great a responsibility for certain people and not everyone should be granted a licence.

Those measures may well be a great inconvenience to our modern society, but are surely worthy of consideration in any serious effort to make driving safer and so reduce road fatalities?

Stuart Wishart. 12 Walnut Grove Blairgowrie.

Not what you’d call hospitality

Sir, – I could not agree more with Gordon Kennedy (September 2).

A cousin of mine was coming to Edinburgh celebrating his golden wedding.

I booked a bed and breakfast for my wife and I, one night only, at £115.

My cousin had to put the date forward a week due to his difficulty with their accommodation.

I called the establishment approximately three weeks in advance, asking to adjust the booking for a week later.

A man said the week in question was fully booked, saying I might get a refund if the room was re-let, which is fair enough. I managed to get a room elsewhere: shared bathroom, continental breakfast in the room on a tray. Having said that, adequate for one night at £95.

Then I received an email from booking online saying I had not appeared and was being charged the full amount.

I replied saying I had called three weeks prior and explained the situation. They inquired but were told the bed and breakfast had no knowledge of my phone call, which is a downright untruth.

Edinburgh, capital city of a nation famed for hospitality. What a joke.

Alan Sim. Burnside, Fettercairn.

Time to show compassion

Sir, – I was shocked at some of the letters in Saturday’s Courier displaying the selfish stance of preventing people coming to the United Kingdom in search of safety and human kindness.

We in Scotland have benefited from emigration and have been welcomed in countries around the world when seeking a better life, not least after the Highland Clearances and times of economic adversity.

We have offered sanctuary in the past to others fleeing conflict and persecution.

Many of us are children or related to refugees welcomed into this country.

If the UK Government is dragging its heels on this issue then how can people from Courier Country activate local communities to offer housing and support immediately?

We need to both challenge our local councils to take action and meantime offer what we can as individuals through local networks.

In addition to social media, are there alternative suggestions for communicating our offers of support? Let us show central government how to act with compassion.

Dorothy Degenhardt. Snabs Farmhouse, Longforgan.

Scotland ready for a change

Sir, – Kenn McLeod accuses me of the “politics of the playground” (August 31) and then goes on to infer, quite disgracefully, that my “hatred” of Trident, child poverty and so on means I hate No voters.

That need not be dignified by a rebuttal.

His main gripe, though, that the Yes camp should accept defeat and get over it seems to have been resoundingly answered by the enormous surge in support for the SNP since the referendum and, now, by the sensational poll finding, this week, that the Scots would now vote for independence.

Are we daft, or fickle, or has the penny dropped that the scare stories and false promises put about by the unionists last year were just that, and that the prospect of a long period of illegitimate Tory rule of Scotland is simply unacceptable?

Diehard unionists cannot see that everything changes.

The union is well past its sell-by date and the exciting prospect of a modern democracy, rooted in the needs and choices of the Scottish people, is tantalisingly close.

David Roche. Hill House, Coupar Angus.