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RELIGION OF HATRED; the Chattering Classes Who Really Rule Britain Become Ever More Shrill in Their Sneering at Christianity. Here, a One-Time Doubter Who Returned to the Fold Says We Should No Longer Be Cowed by These Secular Zealots

Daily Mail (London), April 11, 2009 | Go to article overview

RELIGION OF HATRED; the Chattering Classes Who Really Rule Britain Become Ever More Shrill in Their Sneering at Christianity. Here, a One-Time Doubter Who Returned to the Fold Says We Should No Longer Be Cowed by These Secular Zealots


Byline: EASTER ESSAY by A.N. Wilson

AWEEK ago, there were Palm Sunday processions all over the world. Near my house in North London is a parish with two churches. About 70 or 80 of us gathered at one of these buildings to collect our palms.

We were told by the priest: 'Where we are standing in Kentish Town does not look much like a Judaean hillside, and the other church to which we are walking does not look much like Jerusalem. But as we go, holding our palms, let us try to imagine the first Palm Sunday.' And so we set off, singing All Glory, Laud And Honour! and holding up our palm crosses, to the faint bemusement of passersby, who looked out of their windows at us, tooted their horns as we blocked the traffic or smiled from sunny pavements.

We were walking, as it were, in the footsteps of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey while crowds threw palms before him.

Except our journey was along the pavements strewn with the usual North London discarded syringes, chewing gum and Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes.

When we had reached our destination, a small choir and two priests sang the whole of St Mark's account of the last week of Jesus's life -- that part of the Gospel that is called The Passion.

It is said the chant used for this recitation dates back to the music used in the Jewish Temple in Jesus's day.

We heard of his triumphal, palm-strewn procession into Jerusalem, his clash with the Temple authorities, his agonised prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, his arrest by the Roman guards, his torture, his trial before

Roman guards, his torture, his Pontius Pilate, his Crucifixion and his death.

So there we were, all believers, and a disparate group of people, of various ages, races and classes, re-enacting once more this extraordinary story.

A story of a Jewish prophet falling foul of the authorities in an eastern province of the Roman Empire, and being punished, as were thousands of Jews during the governorship of Pontius Pilate, by the gruesome torture of crucifixion.

This Easter weekend we revisit the extraordinary ending of that story -- the discovery by some women friends of Jesus that his tomb was empty. And we read of the reactions of the disciples -- fearful, incredulous, but eventually believing that, as millions of Christians will proclaim tomorrow morning: 'The Lord is risen indeed!' But how many in Britain today actually believe the story? Most recent polls have shown that considerably less than half of us do -- yet that won't, of course, stop us tucking into Easter eggs (symbolising new life) and simnel cake (decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 11 true disciples, with Judas missing).

FOR much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.

Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been 'conned' by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died..

Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity? Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and antireligious.

The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

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RELIGION OF HATRED; the Chattering Classes Who Really Rule Britain Become Ever More Shrill in Their Sneering at Christianity. Here, a One-Time Doubter Who Returned to the Fold Says We Should No Longer Be Cowed by These Secular Zealots
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