Its been one hell of a godless week. A smattering of press articles on the under-scrutinized subject of religious mania in Scotland appeared and Bill Maher's religious-bating comedy-documentary Religulous arrived on the doorstep courtesy of the entertainment spirit known as Lovefilm and all to a soundtrack of melodic intellectual punks Bad Religion with hymns to non-belief such as American Jesus and Don't Pray on Me.
It is one year since the first Sabbath breaking ferry gave those on Lewis who are not affiliated with one of Abrahamic splinter groups, sects and outright heidcase cults the 'Satanic choice' of travel on a Sunday. It is roughly 5000 years since pre-Celtic inhabitants erected the first Calanais stones, probably because of some vague religious stimulus, ironically in the rough shape of a Celtic cross - predating the suicide mission of the son of God (or was it just God himself in a convenient flesh and bone package?) by some 3000 years. Surely the best scuppering of Roman glory until Italy's recent embarrassing exit in the World Cup.
A recent BBC report brought a smile to my face in which a spokes-mortal from the Free Church Continuing denied that his band of Old Testament obsessed zealots were bullies or 'Taliban'. Some may point out that were the various churches that exist in the Isle of Lewis that extreme then they would have wasted no time in removing yon monument to paganism that is the idolatrous complex of stones at Calanais as did the Taliban with ancient Buddhist statues.
I cannot claim here to offer documented proof of the following as there are so many sub-sects of hardline Presbyterianism active. Further to that, even island congregations of the more 'moderate' Church of Scotland tend to be more extreme, like some kind of St Kildan mouse - more rugged and robust than its effete mainland cousins. To my knowledge though the 'Wee Frees' demand rigid adherence to the Old Testament of the King James' Bible. This results in opposition to:
- the theatre - I've never really seen the theatre as a kind of petri-dish of Satanism but I guess King James' grasp of ancient Hebrew was better than mine
- Sabbath breaking - only 'work of necessity' should be carried out on the 'Day of the Lord'. However, if you are gonna be anal about it, then the Sabbath means Saturday. End of.
- pleasures of the flesh - the classic bogey man. Gay sex, women's rights, masturbation, adultery, sex outside marriage, abortion, scud mags, contraception etc... The usual bugbears of virtually every religious heidcase from Stornabad to Islamaway. But why cherry pick these fruits? Do they also demand that every boy is circumcised? After all, the guid book tells us that God almost killed Moses, of all people, for refusing to mutilate his son's genitals. Or how about women's 'monthly uncleanliness'? While Biblical enthusiasts may shout about the above on a regular basis, they seem less forthright about their chosen punishment for those of us who fall by their spiritual wayside - death. Maybe its this one point more than the others that sees equation with the Taliban as a given. Traditionally, such sinners were put to death by stoning or burning. Do they uphold this? I look forward to learning more.
- music - as per the theatre, another test tube in which Satanic microbes breed uncontrollably. Unfortunately, according to Professor Willie Ruff of Yale University, gospel music has its origins in the Presbyterian psalm singing of black slaves. Join the dots from gospel to RnB to blues and the irony of it is that the unaccompanied psalms of Gaelic-speaking puritans may have given birth to the very rock 'n' roll that sees young girls seduced by ageing Rolling Stones and Oi Polloi singing 'When Two Men Kiss'.
- vanity - myself and the Wee Frees may find some common ground if we were discussing the forthcoming Tom Cruise family reality show but of course, the Wee Freaks take it all too far. I was told by an islander of a native Niseach who went on Radio nan Gaidheal to talk of his wartime experiences only to be later castigated by his local kirk for 'vanity'. He may have survived being torpedoed by both the Nazis and the Japs but the guided missile of Calvin didn't miss.
- dancing... Auld joke time: "Why are Presbyterians against sex standing up? It may lead to dancing."
- black magic - or an sgoil dhubh in Gaelic. One reverend who recently called for Calvinists to 'lighten up' and see the likes of Harry Potter for the classic kids' literature that it is was criticised for "endorsing witchcraft".
"A posse of Calvinists came to Lewis three or four generations ago. They were very effective. They turned Lewis effectively into a theocracy."(Click here for the full article from the Herald)
Though the Leodhasaich may now travel to the mainland by ferry or plane on a Sunday some normal aspects of everyday life are still banned by the cowardly Comhairle nan Eilean Siar such as keeping sports centres closed. Is this out of respect for a dwindling number of mostly aged Christians? Or do they really fear the wrath of god as some proclaimed was witnessed when a whirlwind hit Stornoway last year?! Whatever, some islanders are campaigning for the right to swim in Lewis like you can in Catholic Barra.
Religion remains a poison. Good morals come from common sense and not from ancient middle-eastern texts that encourage us to see women as second class, foreskins as evil, literature as Satanic and whatever other people do with their bodies in their own bedrooms as our fucking business.
You can read an islander's perspective on Iain MacIver's blog here.