Letters, Friday, May 9, 2014

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Paine’s words are wise way to live

I HAVE to take issue with Mr Brown’s recent claim that secularism is intolerant.

 On the contrary, its proponents – and I count myself as one of them – are usually liberal and humane people, concerned by organised religion’s stance on, say, condoms, or its illogical attitude towards homosexuals.

 While I do not dispute Mr Brown’s claim that Christianity has underpinned this country and shaped many things, from its law to its literature, I would dispute that the countries which Mr Brown probably has in mind (North Korea, the old Soviet Union) as having a “purely secular society” are really genuine secular societies at all. North Korea is an unreconstructed tyranny that has no regard for secularism’s espousal of enlightenment values or pluralism.

 One country which quite possibly qualifies as a bona fide secular society is the United States. I have huge admiration for the USA’s secular foundations (something that is often overlooked by knee-jerk anti-American left-wingers, who wrongly think that the United States is an inherently Christian nation). We have their Founding Fathers to thank for these foundations – men like Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom; James Madison, the author of the First Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting any law respecting an establishment of religion; and of course Benjamin Franklin, who so hilariously and cleverly lampoons organised religion in his autobiography.

 I think it a great pity that many fail to properly understand and embrace secularism’s values.

 Thomas Paine, who has some claim to be another Founding Father, perhaps encapsulated the creed best: “My country is the world, my religion is to do good.”

 How better off we’d all be if we could only just live by Paine’s wise words, rather than clinging on to ancient, so-called holy books and commandments.

Wesley Crossland

Shocking abuse

ONCE more we have alarming images caught on camera of care home staff abusing elderly people.

 Again, we have the owners of these homes assuring us that this incident is, in fact, a one-off and that on the whole their homes are a safe and caring environment.

 They claim their number one priority is to ensure that the residents are well looked after, that they are kept safe, healthy and, just as importantly, happy in their day to day living conditions.

 There may, in fact, be many places that do look after their residents in the way they should, but it seems to me that there are still far to many elderly people being abused day in and day out.

 It is time to bring in stricter controls, not only on the owners of these homes, but also more stringent checks on people applying to work in them.

 It’s the very least our old people deserve.

M Mcardle,

Houghton