2. Nov, 2017


Our front door step and a church door in Wittenburg, Germany.
Surely you must see the connection? No? Then read on gentle reader…

One 31st of October afternoon in the early 1990s.

One of our sons was then serving with the British Army in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles, (fewer being more troubled than us!) as Christians did their best to kill and maim other Christians in the name of the God of Love.

A knock on the front door. There on the doorstep were two individuals who introduced themselves as Christians and who promised to pray for us…

I smiled grimly and informed them that I was a committed atheist. By way of explanation I added, “because it gives me so much comfort.” Sensing their lack of understanding, I elaborated… “People who think like me don’t kill those who think differently…we leave that upto you guys as you are rather good at it”. Pause, (possibly pregnant),

“You have had a lot of practise you know… once you have killed as many unbelievers as you could find, haven’t you then turned on your own ?” ( A nod to Northern Ireland), “ Don’t you know what today is?”

They didn’t, I did. It was the day 500 years ago this week in 2017 that the German monk, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Theses (or objections) to the doctrines of the then monolithic Holy Catholic Church to the church door in Wittenburg. The Protestant Reformation was announced.

It was a match to gunpowder. Across Europe princes took sides in what became a Protestant v. Catholic struggle for economic, political, social, cultural and occasionally, even religious reasons. Not the least nation affected was my own.

Needing a divorce and money for an expensive Foreign Policy and his own capacious pockets, Henry VIII nationalised the Church in England, made himself his own pope, so got his divorce and by taking over the monasteries, their wealth to fund war on other “Christian” nations.

He also released a tsunami of religious intolerance and hatred that survives until the present day. Hence our son’s then presence in the firing line between Catholic and Protestant communities in Ulster and a serious colour problem in Scotland…not black and white but blue and green-The blue of Protestant Glasgow Rangers and the green of Glasgow Celtic soccer clubs.

Meanwhile, back in the 16th century, Christians really got the bit between their teeth, showing a hatred easily understood today, post-Brexit.
“They, (name your own) are perceivably different from us and a minority so let us blame them for all our misfortunes.” So it was that Brother Luther and Mr. Tudor began a fine tradition of burning and torture for the sin of heresy that is continued metaphorically today by the “Dandy and Beano” school of popular journalism favoured by our Red Top newspapers, (the concept of loyalty and dissent not necessarily being different, wilfully ignored).

Things came to a head, here in England on the fifth of November 1605 with the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. Naturally, the French could not let us English take all the glory for such ethic cleansing.
On the eve of St. Bartholemew’s Day. 23-24 August 1572, God-fearing Catholics massacred God-fearing Protestants on the streets of Paris. This dilution of personal responsibility spread to other parts of France and resulted in a modern estimate of between 10 and 70,000 being left for dead.

And the Germans? There are always the bloody Germans- hosts to The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) where it is estimated that as many as 12 million people died partly due to military action but mainly due to hunger and disease.

Religious intolerance, however, had taken a really firm root in England from 1600 onwards…a major cause of the Civil wars 1640-1658 and the horrific treatment of the native Catholic Irish; the deposition of James the Second in 1688, (the Coup d’etat otherwise known as the “Glorious Revolution”) and the Jacobite Risings in 18th century Scotland.

Any Protestant fears of running out of victims, hoever, were proved to be groundless…there were the immigrant Irish and of course the Jews arriving from eastern Europe. And since then? There have been West Indians, Asians, Black Africans- many disturbingly Protestant but never mind, they are comfortingly black so ripe for singling out as being different. Then of course there are the Muslims…suitably of colour, worshipping a different religion altogether, wearing funny clothing, living in apparently closed communities and we all know about them, don’t we?

So in drawing a line of development from 1517 to my own front door, am I suggesting that my country is institutionally prejudiced?

YES. (But like so many others)

Am I saying that all prejudice is one way?



Just two quotations, the first from the late Terry Pratchett…

“Evil, real evil, begins when people treat other people as things”…

…and the second attributed to the late Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War…

“So many claim to have God on their side, he must sometimes wonder who is on his!”