This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Demeaning faith not an argument
FO Hipwell's letter (Mailbox July 3) appears to seek evidence of existence of God and fails to note that religion is 'a faith or belief' not 'a fact'.
Atheism is neither a religion nor an ideology or a doctrine. It is a-theism, ie lack of religious faith. It does not present any system of ideas, nor does it promise any salvation. In this sense it is a "negative" or "impoverished" stance.
Of course, spirituality in the intellectual, cultural, or moral sense is common to believers and non-believers in various degrees.
By way of illustration, I would say that very many survivors of the atrocious conditions in Russian death camps, both in the 1930s and during the Second World War, have stated that only religion made them hold the very strong belief that there would be an end to their suffering – and their belief resulted in their survival.
In their opinion, lack of faith would have resulted in their deaths.
Religion is also a part of our Christian culture.
If, as is suggested, religion is a myth, what is one to do when one studies the biographies of Pythagoras, Galena (accused of witchcraft because he was a successful doctor), Averroes (logic in Islamic philosophy), Paracelsus, Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus (a famous free thinker), Newton, Goethe….? They all declared their faith in God. As did many a poet, composer and sculptor.
What are we to do with the works of these famous people in a secular world?
Already children know very little about these people and many other historical figures.
When asked, they look blankly at you and ask 'You what?"
Knowledge of Shakespeare's religion is important in understanding the man and his works, because of the wealth of biblical and liturgical allusions in his writings.
Demeaning people of faith does not advance Mr Hipwell's argument. One can only sympathise with his own "personal experiences" which led him to hold his current views.
Michael Myers, Leicester