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Thursday, 8 September 2016




Thomas Hoskyns Leonard


I am writing this article in response to a fear that our children are still being taught about

religion and spiritual matters in a much too prescriptive manner. Many caring adults remain angry at

the high-handed attempts made to 'control their minds' when they were young, and many lead

highly beneficial lives without needing to defer to a god or an institutionalised religion. It seems

much more important to teach children about human values, in empathetic ways. If we do this, then

many children will develop their own spiritualities which may well turn out be in remarkable

agreement with the key, non-fundamentalist, underlying messages of the main religions of the

world. A psychological relationship with an 'all seeing eye' such as a god or a Messiah may be

beneficial for some people, though not needed by others. 'Loving thy neighbour like thyself' can be

regarded as spiritually equivalent to 'Loving thy God with all thy might', as long as you regard

everybody to be your neighbour.


Let's forget for the moment about churches, mosques, and temples, and being told to say prayers. Lots of people think that there is a 'Spirit of human decency' which bonds decent and compassionate people together. Therefore as well as feeling compassionate inside, we can, if we wish, feel part of the 'Children of the Spirit'. in other words the many billions of caring people in the world today. In other words, if billions of people are caring and decent to each other, then this creates a world wide network of people of the Spirit.
Many Children of the Spirit think that it doesn't matter how we enjoy ourselves, as long as we don't harm ourselves or other people in the process. Many think that it is essential not to bully other people since this may cause far more harm to their victims' future lives than they might imagine. In more general terms, many decent people think that they should only treat other people in ways they would want to be treated themselves. Many compassionate people believe that violence should only be used as a last resort and in self-defence.
Some Children of the Spirit believe that they should always forgive other people their sins and bad deeds. However, others don't think that they should always do this, for example when an adult seriously harms a child or when a doctor poisons his patient or when a politician wages unnecessary war or votes for starving people or driving them to suicide. More about this key issue later.
If you are not ready to forgive somebody then it would seem important not to try to take revenge on them (apart from attempting to take just recourse through the law). This can, for example, harm your own psychology. You might instead take reasonable steps to defend yourself, or simply walk away from anybody who is damaging your life.
You don't need to believe in a god to be a Child of the Spirit. For example, many people who call themselves agnostics or atheists would find most of these ideas to be acceptable. In contrast many of the more fundamentalist religious people don't. I will sometimes refer to the fundamentalists as 'modern day Pharisees'

We certainly needs codes of law, since people need to be protected against evil doers and perpetrates of crime, and they need to feel that they are living in a 'safe space'. The law should however apply equally to everybody, and it should be equally accessible and financially accessible to everybody. For example, élite groups of people should not be allowed to regard themselves as above the law. Ordained ministers should not be made exempt from investigation by our local police forces for grievous offences against children simply because they are 'holy people'. Churches and the worst of our charities should not be permitted to feel effectively exempt for prosecution for fraud. More generally, the law should not be used as a mechanism by our cynical Establishments for controlling and repressing the population at large.
Many people believe that we should try to follow the 'spirit of the law' rather than the 'letter of the law', and that a bad law is there to be broken. For example, if there is a local by-law against feeding beggars in the street, then many Children of the Spirit would still feed them. If there is a by-law against pitching tents in local parks, then many compassionate people would ignore it if the tent was providing much-needed accommodation for a homeless person.
If an obstructive official deserves to be yelled at, then it may be worth 'breaching the peace' in order to do so. If there is a rule telling you not to share your school lunch, then you could well risk detention by offering your pea soup to a friend in return for extra apple crumble for dessert. If there is a law against wives in the State of Michisota tickling their husbands' tummy buttons, then who will be there to observe the transgressions? If a modern day Pharisee puts a sign up forbidding trans-folk from using the Church loo, then please feel free to tear it down.
In general terms, it is up to you to decide how to interpret the law and how much to push your luck when following the spirit rather the letter of the law. But be sure to be polite to the kindly policeman when he comes after your hide. While Mr. Plod's arguably there to 'maintain public order', he's primarily there as a 'puppet on a string' to express the whims and policies of our all-encompassing Establishment.


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