Christianity rules – OK?

If you live in a European country, or one which used to governed by a European colonial power, the chances are that the Christian religion impacts on all areas of your life whether you are a believer or not.

In the country of my birth, England, Christianity is actively followed by a tiny fraction of the population, about 5% depending on how you define ‘actively’, and only 2% attend church regularly. But it makes its presence felt everywhere. Every village, even the smallest, has a church, although most attract barely enough people to make up a cricket team most Sundays, and the majority of these are long past taking to the field.

Yet, despite the fact that it is not subject to any form of democratic control, the Church of England (Anglican Church) is an integral part of the UK’s system of government. The monarch (unelected) is its Supreme Governor; its Archbishops and bishops are chosen by the Prime Minister (who, unlike, say, the US, French or German presidents, is not directly elected by the people); and its senior bishops (unelected) sit in the Upper Chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords (which is appointed, not elected). The electorate don’t have any say – it’s the way it is, and it would take a revolution to change it.

Ironically, Roman Catholics, who have recently overtaken Anglicans as the largest Christian denomination in the UK based on active church membership, are barred from holding certain offices or marrying into the Royal Family. Heaven knows what would happen if one of them wanted to marry a Muslim!

Furthermore, Christian ideas are guaranteed a special place in the media, since the (unelected) governors of our revered national broadcaster, the BBC, are charged by law with delivering a specified minimum amount of Christian material. There’s a ‘Prayer for the Day’ and ‘Thought for the Day’ on the radio every morning, both predominantly Christian, and several hours of programming on a Christian theme every Sunday, such as the ‘Sunday Service’ and ‘Songs of Praise’.

Then, of course, the Church is wheeled out on state and military occasions. When dead soldiers are brought back from foreign wars, Church of England clergy (unelected) are there to pontificate on the tragedy of it all and lead the mourning. They’re there in their cassocks at times of national crisis and celebration, often with members of the government and Royal Family prominent in their congregations alongside celebrities of one sort or another.

Churchmen not only make their opinions known on matters of social policy, economics, medicine, science, international affairs and so on, but also sometimes insist they have the right to override the law of the land, for instance over the implementation of equality and diversity legislation on gay marriage and adoption.

The Christian religion also has its grip on the country’s educational system. All state schools are required to have a daily act of worship, which generally means Christian. In addition, a significant proportion of schools obtain a proportion of their funding from either the Church of England or Roman Catholic Church in exchange for a seat on the Governing Body and influence over recruitment and the curriculum. Faith schools have been strongly encouraged by the government in recent years.

So there’s no escape, not even for people who are nonreligious, which is the majority of us. Which begs the questions: Where do Christians and other religious people get their legitimacy? Do their ideas stand up to scrutiny, and why do they deserve such prominence? How true is their ‘truth’? Does mainstream Christianity still have anything useful to offer in the 21st Century other than a general exhortation to behave well and be nice to each other?

And why – in a supposedly democratic country – does the political influence of this implausible 1st Century philosophy seem immune to challenge?

©David Lawrence Preston, 22.8.2016

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Front cover 201 things

Balboa Press, 2015


Told ‘No’ 100,000 times by the age of 12

Our country is suffering from an epidemic. Every day most of us come into contact with sufferers. You may even suffer from it yourself. And yet it often goes unrecognised. The condition? Acute low self-esteem and a chronic lack of self-confidence.

Yes, low self-esteem is endemic in society and it wreaks more havoc than cancer, AIDS and heart disease put together. It is behind most crime, eating disorders, drug taking, relationship and family problems. It affects our happiness and industrial performance and is largely responsible for underachievement at school. It is at the root of most stress and illness, but unfortunately is not a physical condition. If it were, the government would declare it a national emergency and get together with the pharmaceutical companies, setting aside massive funds and organising a national publicity campaign.

We all want to be happy, healthy, successful and enjoy peace of mind, but the chances of realising any of these are remote unless you feel good about yourself. Yet many people don’t particularly like themselves and feel they’re not capable of very much. Without good self-esteem, all they can hope for is a life of quiet desperation.

What’s brought about this malaise? The answer generally lies in childhood experiences. Few parents understand the importance of communicating with their children in an uplifting and encouraging way. Some don’t even understand the importance of communicating with them at all, preferring to talk into a mobile phone while walking down the street!

Many don’t appreciate that judicious praise is one of the prime means of raising a psychologically healthy child. They take it as their duty to belittle their children, pointing out their every fault and every mistake they make, often in a disparaging, insulting or even abusive way. The problem is exacerbated for some by a religious tradition that emphasises the need for redemption and frowns on positive self-regard.

As a result, by the time they start school, these unfortunate infants are already questioning their self-worth and doubting their own abilities. The average child has already been subjected to no less than 100,000 negative injunctions by the age of 12 – ‘Don’t’, ‘You can’t’, ‘Put it down’ and so on.

Once learned these negative thinking patterns remain firmly entrenched unless firm and persistent steps are taken to eliminate them for good.

In my years of full-time education and attending business training course I don’t recall a single session on self-esteem. Personal development courses focussed on team activities and inter-personal skills, with confidence as a by-product. How misguided! You wouldn’t teach someone to play a musical instrument by hoping they find the right notes by chance. Similarly, only conscious and deliberate steps can improve confidence once the need has been detected.

The exciting thing is, no matter what your background or current level of self-esteem, you can always improve. Everyone can learn how to change their thinking and feel better about themselves. Courses in self-esteem should be part of the national curriculum taught in all schools and made available for parents and teachers. What’s the point of knowing your 12 times table if you feel rotten and worthless about yourself?

If this were given priority, we could transform the prospects of our young people from the grass-roots up within a generation. Now isn’t that exciting?

©David Lawrence Preston, 28.3.2016

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Conf book cover

How to Books, 2010

Manifesto for a Better World

I recently came across a manifesto I wrote when I stood for Parliament in 1983. At that time Britain was suffering the Thatcher era and enjoying a brief period of jingoism after victory in the South Atlantic war. Reading it through it struck me how little the world has progressed in the past thirty years, and just how little I would change if I had to write it again. The issues are as live today as they were then.

‘All over Europe, the international Green Movement is making a major impact and demonstrating the increasing need and support for a new approach to politics.

Britain’s Green Party, is fielding about 100 candidates in this election. We differ from the other parties in that we recognise the wastefulness and destructiveness of our present way of life, and seek to create a sustainable society in which stress, competition and materialism are replaced by a natural enjoyment of life for all.

The purpose of our economic policy is to provide an adequate, sustainable standard of living for all, ending indiscriminate economic growth and discouraging the squandering of irreplaceable resources: we would introduce a resource tax.

We believe in low-growth jobs and would encourage labour-intensive industries. More incentives would be given to re-use, repair and recycling – less to raw material- and fuel-hungry manufacturing processes. We urge massive expansion of home agriculture and investment in energy conservation.

Work should be fulfilling to the individual and beneficial to the community. People have a need for and a right to work, but in present circumstances the stigma should be taken out of unemployment; a basic and secure income needs to be provided for all by the community.

We would phase out nuclear power as quickly as possible. Instead, investment in energy conservation and research into renewable energy sources will balance our energy requirements and provide tens of thousands of new jobs.

Massive energy savings could be made by investing in more fuel-efficient modes of transport and planning facilities nearer to where people live, to reduce dependence on transport.

We would withdraw from the EEC, since membership is incompatible with a sustainable, self-sufficient economy. We would reduce our dependence on trade and the activities of multinationals would be checked.

The way to harmony lies through a more just sharing of the world’s resources. If we appear to threaten no-one, we are more likely to be left in peace. We support a professional defence force, strongly armed with conventional weapons and backed by comprehensive civil defence measures at home. Nuclear weapons are no defence and only make confrontation more likely. All foreign military bases here would be closed.

Our attitude to the environment is uncompromising. Strict controls governing land, air and marine pollution would be enforced. The spread of concrete would be halted. Our investment in agriculture would promote organic, natural methods of crop raising, and the inhumane treatment of animals would be outlawed.

Our educational policy stresses comprehensive, co-educational schools controlled directly by the communities they serve and available to all. The curriculum needs to be broadened and to emphasise the fulfilment of each child’s potential in a non-competitive, non-exam-orientated way.

We support proportional representation; we would introduce a Bill of Rights and a Freedom of Information Act.

Finally, the most serious threat to world stability is our reliance on the resources of other countries. The conditions under which most of the world’s population live represent a scandal.  We would meet our obligations to the developing world fully, by means of more financial and appropriate technological aid, and more equitable trading arrangements.

It is important that everybody who supports our objectives stands up to be counted by voting Green on June 9th. This is the only genuine alternative to the destructive policies of all the other parties.’


Well, since 1983 the world has changed, the Soviet Union is no more, China is a force to be reckoned with and some of the developing countries are shaping up to be major economic powers. But one day, if we carry on as we are, Mother Earth will rid itself of the destructive beings that threaten its survival – us – and return to its natural state of balance and harmony.


©David Lawrence Preston, 10.3.2016

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