This is the last of my series on the New Testament, in protest at the receipt of a New Testament from the local churches to “celebrate” the Queen’s Diamond Jubillee.  

As you may have gathered, I think this is abhorrent on many levels.

It shows the Head of State using her position to spread religion; not just any religion, but one particular one. She does this uninvited by me by posting religious information through my letterbox. I have the strong impression from this action that she wants everyone in the country to become Anglicans. This gives me the distinct impression that she thinks that non-Anglicans are second class citizens. She may not mean it, but I’m sure you can understand the feeling, and I wonder if she considered if people would have those feelings. I think that it’s wrong for a person who represents me to do that.

She does this through the means of a church which, by its tax-exempt status and numerous forms of state funding, uses my earnings. I would love to say “Not in my name”, but I don’t have a legal choice about this. I think that’s wrong.

People in authority who spread information have a special responsibility to ensure that information they propagate is true. I am afraid that the NT breaks this rule, as would any religious dogma. I think this is irresponsible. The Queen may well believe some elements of Christian dogma, but she cannot believe all of it, and if she did, she’d be downright evil. If she doesn’t believe all of it, why is she giving it to me? I think that’s just thoughtless.

I think it’s wrong that the church is using the head of state to propagate its dogma. The CofE is in deep trouble, with falling membership and a pretty poor public image. It is clearly falling back on these forms of authority help itself survive. I think that’s wrong.

I also think it’s morally questionable to say you find Jesus an inspiring person who provides a moral example and comfort. As I have tried to show with this series of quotes from the teachings and life of Jesus, there are plenty of rather poor examples of behaviour and thinking in Jesus’ life, including suggesting that non-believers are evil and should be burned, thinking that the poor are less important than Jesus himself, animal cruelty, belief in evil spirits and demon possession, the disregarding of evidence as unimportant and the moral elevation of people who don’t question extraordinary claims, the suggestion that handicapped people are sinners, and that you should worship a God who punishes people who sin by imposing handicaps on them, the suggestion that the way to fix problems is to pray to an imaginary deity, and predicting an imminent apocalypse which turned out not to happen. The Queen and the churches must know all this, but they probably put it to the back of their minds. They would have a pretty hard time keeping Chrsitianity alive if these facts were taught to school children instead of the other stuff they cherry-pick out. It doesn’t stop them sending us the literature that says this though, and it probably doesn’t stop a minority of people actually believing that these things are true and that this is the best way to think and behave. I think that’s wrong.

So let’s finish the series with a look at the temptation of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 4. Verse 1 says: “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” This is quite amusing as in James 1:13 it says that God cannot be tempted by evil, which means that Jesus is not God. But in response to one of Satan’s temptations, Jesus responds that you shouldn’t tempt God, implying that he thought he was God. Somebody should have sorted out this mess.

In verse 2 it says “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungered.” He would indeed have been close to death after 40 days without food, as long as he was properly hydrated. Without proper hydration (I’m guessing that was true in the desert) he would have been long dead.

In the following conversation with Satan, Satan gets his scripture correct, whilst Jesus quotes scripture incorrectly or uses quotes that are contradicted elsewhere in scripture. I’m not surprised, given what his physical and mental state must have been like.

Jesus really did model his actions on an Iron Age view of the universe: humans as toys in a supernatural recreational activity, who had to appease their God to deflect its wrath in the face of temptations from other powerful supernatural forces. Are we really saying that we want to model modern society on this kind of vision of the universe? Is this 21st Century Britain? Forgive me for saying this, but I think the UK’s citizens deserve better than this. I think we deserve a leader that has a rational view of the universe, but who nonetheless takes their ethics seriously, basing them not on some Iron Age text or figure, but on the consequences of their actions in the here-and-now. I think we deserve a leader who does not use their position to encourage one particular dogmatic position on the rest of their citizens. And I think we deserve a leader who is at least as progressive and forward thinking as the citizens they serve. In short, I think the receipt of a New Testament through my door illustrates a lot of what is wrong with an established church and with the privelaging of religious views in our society.