One of my hobbies is photographing ladies’ loos from around he world. I’ve got some doosies from India, both beautiful and horrible.
Another of my globalised frivolities is the observation of ‘good hats’, mostly associated with religious masters. Notably, there are few really great hats for female religious leaders. If you recall Felini’s Roma, a movie which featured a splendid fashion parade of ecclesiastic garments, each more extravagant and obscene than the previous, you can guess where I am taking this.
Hats are just a manifestation of wider obsessions associated with our greatest faiths. There are the beads, the chanting, the travelling in circles while hitting brass bells, the offering of candles, or flowers or burning herbs to scare off demons. Hinduism requires that one move only clockwise through temples. Islam used to demand praying almost the whole day (was 20 times?) , but in the interests of rationalism (and getting the chores done) they reduced it to just five times.
Religion gives succor not just through social programs, fellowship and shared beliefs. It also unites adherents by fostering shared rituals. Successful religions quickly turn these into controlling practices that command ever more detailed compliance. Power demands it, and those who question the link between being a good person and dressing or eating in particular ways are ostracised. Is there any religion that actually encourages fornication? If there is, I’ll consider it carefully, but I’d want to see the hats first.
Humans are herd animals, and I guess both the Inquisition and the Reformation were successful in their own way. Faced with torture, I would have converted to almost anything, and adopted the required rituals. Or maybe I would have been burned at the stake.
A religion that is preoccupied with negating other religions can’t be helpful to its members. In sixteenth century India, Akbar the great became tolerant of other religions. He even formed his own fusion of Islam and Hinduism, but it didn’t work out. Today, after more than 60 years of partition, there are 160 m Muslims in India, and the various religions still don’t get along that well.
You won’t be surprised that it brings me great comfort and solace (but no rituals) to hear that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Geoffrey Robertson are in effect impeaching the Pope. El Papa ain’t immune from the virus of outrage, and the same useful lacuna in British legal systems that allowed Pinochet to be arrested is going to be applied to the once almighty head of the Catholic church.Would you believe he put the Church’s reputation above protecting children?
All together now, 3 times in an equilateral triangle, and then in reverse: hats off to the high priests of atheism!