Rather controversially maybe, I am known (mostly by the people I know) for saying that teaching children religious concepts at an early age is tantamount to child abuse.
I stand by this, as any rational examination of the situation will show that religious teaching is merely a form of indoctrination of children which has been passed from parent to child over a staggering amount of time.
My view is that children should be shielded from any form of religious belief until the age of fourteen or fifteen, after which they can be taught the basics of whatever faith they are born into, and then choose whether to believe it or not.
Of course, many religious parents would strenuously object to this as they are well aware – albeit in denial – that a child who has grown to a point where s/he can make rational decisions would not be likely to suddenly start believing in an undetectable invisible entity.
This is one of the reasons that I am in two minds about Martin Shaw’s new supernatural drama ‘Apparitions’ in which Shaw plays a Catholic Priest whom factions of the church would like to see as the next Chief Exorcist.
In the first episode Shaw is approached by a young girl who is convinced that her father is possessed, mainly because he posts video-blogs much like this one, and reads the works of Richard Dawkins, such as ‘The God Delusion’ (an excellent and refreshing book which I highly recommend). Shaw begins to realise that the girl is right, and sets about exorcising her father. There is the obligatory gay character – in this case a priest who was cured of leprosy by Mother Therese herself – and is fighting his urges so that he can become a priest. I was quite surprised to discover that the Catholic Church does not allow gay men to be ordained.
I always thought it was more or less a qualification for the job, and as priests are supposed to be celibate surely it would prevent much of ‘that sort of thing’ going on, as Father Ted might have said.
As a drama it was very good, and has set the scene for the Church’s battle against the Devil, who is gearing up for a war.
What worries me is that many people will see this as a work based in reality, rather than a work of sheer fiction. One expects there to be an announcement at the end of the episode along the lines of ‘If you, or your family, are suffering due to the effects of demonic possession, there is a helpline which has been set up specifically to deal with the pain and trauma of these issues. Please ring us at Demonbegone on 0845 blah blah blah blah blah blah.
So, just to clarify:
1. There are no such things as demons.
2. Demons do not exist.
3. All scientifically examined cases of possession have been shown to be frauds or simple cases of mental illness.
4. There is no devil.
5. Martin Shaw cannot exorcise anyone, so please do not write to him, requesting him to do so.
6. Gay men should have more sense than to want to become priests anyway.
OK. Now you’ve taken all that on board, enjoy the show.