Thursday, 15 March 2012

When Religion Permeates Life, It's the Devil to Pay, or Why Thinking about Destiny Can Get You in Trouble

Sadly, we seem to be seeing more and more religion in public life these days. I don't mean references to a moral code such as "do under to others as you would have them do unto you" which underlies the teachings of most religous systems, but the intrusion and imposition of onbe group's values on others.

The rise of Rick Santorum in the US is one example, but there are echoes in the systematic way the Harper Conservatives are attacking efforts to gather facts and test hypotheses. (The latest, reports Le Devoir this morning, is the attempt to gut parts of the legislation governing the fishery.)

It is against this background that the Atwater Library book discussion group took on Thornton Wilder's The Bridge at San Luis Rey last night. The premise is relatively simple: five people perish in the collapse of a bridge over a chasm in Peru. The year is 1714, and a monk decides to investigate the lives of the victims and compare them with the lives of people who survive. His conclusion: that the good die young, because they are gathered in by God.

Whether the reader comes to that conclusion is another question, and clearly last night there was much difference of opinion. A healthy difference, I'd say, which is where the rise of public religion becomes problematical. When religious belief becomes public policy we all suffer. The extreme case is seen in the novel, where the monk is burned along with his book because his interpretation of events do not jibe with the precepts of the Inquisition.

Here's a trailer for the film made from the novel:

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