Lighting a Candle (Saturday Sound-off)

At our local supermarket check-out this morning one of my neighbours was in front of me in the queue. Shortly after I left I caught up with her and we walked together down the hill, chatting about the weather and recent developments in our small retirement community. When we reached the church she parted company with me saying that she was going to light a candle for a friend and went on to explain how very ill this person was.

Found this image at

As an atheist I regard the idea of lighting a candle in the belief that it might effect a cure or ease someone’s passage into the after-life as somewhat bizarre. But I would not publicly ridicule a person holding that belief or all followers of Roman Catholicism for that and other, to me, futile practices.

Like most Catholics, however, I do condemn some of the behaviours attributed to certain members of their faith in recent times.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am saddened by recent examples of antisemitism and Islamophobia in British political life.

Of course I condemn the heinous actions of some who claim to be followers of Islam. Be-headings, bombings and other terror related activities are evil. I also feel saddened by the way some in Islam treat their womenfolk. That does not mean I hold all followers of that faith in contempt nor to I have a problem with the way some choose to dress.

In the same fashion, I condemn some of the policies of the Israeli government. But I do not have contempt for individual Jews or for the way some Jewish men choose to dress.

In fact, I have a real problem with the whole concept of racism and religious hatred. I’m old enough to remember a time when it seemed to be taken for granted that people of obvious African ancestry were of lesser intelligence than white skinned people. To my shame I believed it for a while.

I now know that we are all the same under the skin. We are all equally capable of attaining the highest level of education and achievement. And we are all equally capable of being foolish and allowing ourselves to be duped by dangerous rhetoric.

For me the definition of racism is any suggestion that one ethnic group is superior, or inferior, to any other. That, of course, includes such notions as that of a “chosen people” or the belief that centuries of residence in a particular land gives an ethnic group the exclusive right to continue to reside there. When the then South African government tried, in the 1960s, to establish that principle, designating certain areas as ‘tribal homelands’, insisting that people of such ethnicity must have a special license, or ‘pass’, in order to travel to, and work in, other parts of South Africa, the majority of the rest of the world condemned the policy, and rightly so.

And yet, if I condemn the military occupation of certain parts of the Holy Land and the forced removal of those until recently occupying those lands in order to accommodate Jews, as I do, I am guilty of antisemitism. I refuse to be so labelled. As I made clear above, I do not associate all Jews with Israel and the unacceptable policies of it’s government. Just as, in the past, I did not condemn all white South Africans because of the policies of their government, only those who actively supported the policy.

It is all very complex and confusing but there is, for me, one over-riding fact in all of this: anthropologists tell us that homo-sapiens first appeared somewhere in the African continent. Since then our ancestors have migrated North, East and West. So, logically, the only ‘ancestral home’ for any and all of us is Africa.

DNA analysis of human remains from the past have shown that Europeans are the descendants of migrants and invaders over many centuries, suggesting that objections to recent arrivals from outside the continent are misplaced.

No-one should be ridiculed for his or her religious beliefs, however bizarre they might seem to you and me. Neither should anyone be prevented, solely because of his or her ethnicity, from living anywhere in the world he or she chooses.

If I was going to light a candle it would be for greater understanding of our shared humanity and less animosity towards those who look different from ourselves.

9 thoughts on “Lighting a Candle (Saturday Sound-off)

  1. Great post, Frank, and I totally agree with you on every point made. We may have come a long way, in the Western democratic (mostly) world since you and I were born, but it seems to me that the impetus for positive change we were swept into during the sixties and seventies particularly, has been lost and sidetracked in recent times. Sometimes I get flashbacks of our tempestuous, anti-establishment rebellious ways and I shake my head wondering why the next generations didn’t pick up where we left off, as should have happened. If we allow ourselves to devolve thus, returning to a racist and exclusive mindset we are in for a rough and dangerous ride as a species having to share a “shrinking” world in terms of our continually rising numbers and corresponding penury of life-sustaining resources. The question remains, why can’t we get along? Whatever reason is offered for that, we need to, as a species, focus on eliminating those reasons because they are unreasonable.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Frank,
    You make great points and you are right that no one has the right to declare superiority over others or have the rights over others. However, when society is so divided by the hatred, bigotry, and racism, what do we do? If the UK and nations who belong to the EU don’t act in some manner, you could have the divisiveness as we have in the US right now. You could end up with a Government that promotes it like we have right now. We are in a quagmire until we can organize and boot our current leadership out of office. It will take years for the US to return its society back to a caring and our democracy to equality. I thank you for raising the issues and we need more awareness issues openly discussed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a once-upon-a-time septuagenarian/Catholic (now an octogenarian/deist), I can relate to this post as only an older/holier-than-thou person can (if a deist can be said to be holier than an atheist). Not that I’m bragging, you understand — it’s just that I don’t dismiss the possibility of a Creator entirely….though if one exists, it’s certainly not the God of any man-dreamed-up religion. By the time you get to be my age, maybe you’ll have mellowed a bit and reconsider your heathen ways! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mister Muse. Thanks for the follow and your comment. Like you I don’t completely dismiss the notion of a creator – but deem it irrelevant. Firstly it leaves us with the question “who/what created the creator?”. And, as you say, such a being certainly would, could, not resemble any of the gods mankind has invented. The notion that it is possible to change what he/she/it has created through prayer or the manipulation of objects of any kind is ludicrous.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I guess my answer to the “who/what created the creator” question is based on a Harry Truman quote in a different context: “The buck stops here” — an eternal entity outside of time and space. Of course, even if that’s so, that doesn’t mean there’s an afterlife for us, and if there isn’t, we’ll never know if there’s a creator. On the other hand, an afterlife with the creator of agony, suffering, and all the rest, might be a case of “Be careful what you wish for.”

    And on that pleasant thought, I must take leave, as I have a dental appointment in about an hour. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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