From the Revd Professor David Martin
Sir, - Reading the article by the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth (Comment, 16
January), I am surprised that anyone can suppose that there is
one religion with many manifestations.
I think that this is where I may differ seriously from Karen
Armstrong. If one follows Max Weber, one can reduce religions to a
limited set differentiated by their acceptance or rejection of "the
world" with regard to violence, sexuality, power, and wealth.
Of course, given the ubiquity of violence, from state relations
to domestic relations, all religions will code the struggle between
Us and Them for scarce resources of power, wealth, honour, and
women. But, in terms of validating this struggle, New Testament
Christianity and Buddhism entertain profound reservations, whereas
for Islam "the world" is OK.
The Abrahamic religions, so-called, may apparently worship one
God, but in the scope they allow for Blake's "Old Nobodaddy", with
his hanging and warring, they worship very different Gods.
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From the Revd Tony Graham
Sir, - Peter Kosminsky is making entertaining fiction out of the
story of Henry VIII's Reformation (News, 23 January),
but he is quite wrong if he thinks that religions start with
violence and learn gradually to be peaceful.
The Way of Jesus started in peace until after nearly 300 years
it was hijacked by the Roman Empire. The Jewish theologian Marc
Ellis says that this is a process that all religions tend to go
through, and he talks about Constantinian Judaism as well as
Constantinian Islam, etc.
To see how the peaceful Way of Jesus was turned into intolerant
and deadly Christendom, read James Carroll's Constantine's
Sword. To help us in the urgent task of prayerfully recovering
what Jesus had in mind, read Ched Myers's Binding the Strong
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