Lucretius Knew

‘Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum,’ Lucretius remarked* (that’s one of my few Latin tags. I failed Latin one year. You didn’t fail things in my school, it wasn’t done, but I managed it. I was quite good at failing things when I was fifteen) about what Agamemnon did to his daughter at the behest of a god (he killed her, that’s what, just to get a wind for sailing to Troy). What evil religion can persuade us to. He was right, old Lukers.

There’s this hajj business for instance. Brilliant. Make it a pillar of your religion that if you can make the trip to Mecca, you have to, once in your life. Keep that rule in place when the relgion it’s a pillar of goes from being that of some people in Arabia to being that of many people all over the damn planet, and when the population at issue goes from being – what? a few thousand? – to a billion or two. Then watch the fun. To make sure, arrange some bottlenecks along the way. Millions of people heading for a smallish place, all of them in a hurry – oh, oops, somebody tripped, oops, this fool behind me is pushing, oh shit I’m stepping on someone’s chest, oh hell oh hell oh hell I’m standing on someone’s face, I’m not having an easy time breathing myself –

Very spiritual, isn’t it. Uplifting. Meaningful. Millions of people throw stones at a pillar because ‘the devil’ once appeared there to Abraham – the story goes. Well that’s a good reason for everyone else to go there and throw a stone, and for them to do it on the same day. Yes, very good. Good thinking. And the police can’t do anything about it, because if they tried, there would be an even worse stampede. Well, god forbid anyone should just decide that the hajj is not an obligation after all and end the whole mess. I heard someone gently suggest something similar on the World Service – not even end it, but just maybe spread it out over the year perhaps? No, no, couldn’t do that. But it’s not an actual obligation is it? Yes, it’s an obligation, if you have the capacity, if you have the money and health, it’s an obligation. Oh.

And then there’s this pastor in Tottenahm. He’s very spiritual too.

A London-based pastor has been arrested on suspicion of inciting child cruelty following an investigation into allegations of witchcraft at an evangelical Congolese church in Tottenham. Dr Dieudonne Tukala, 46, from the Church of Christ Mission, is being questioned over claims that he diagnosed several children as “witches”, advising their parents to beat the devil out of them or send them back to the Democratic Republic of Congo so that he could pray for them to be killed…Dr Tukala was accused of telling one couple that their nine-year-old son was possessed. The boy’s father was jailed for five years at Snaresbrook Crown Court in November 2003 after branding his son with a steam iron and forcing chilli powder into his mouth “to drive the devil out”.

Branding his child with an iron. To drive the devil out. People trample other people to death in their eagerness to throw stones at a stone, in the belief that it has something to do with the devil, and other people burn children with irons and beat them, in the belief that they will drive the devil out. There are some things so stupid or so cruel that only religion can persuade people to do them.

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