Friday, 4 July 2008

The G8 and the good

With the annual circus about to commence, I thought it might be interesting to discover to which religions the leaders of the G8 nations were inclined. I realised with some shame that I didn't actually know which nations comprised the G8 - off the top of my head anyway. Obviously, the US, Japan, Russia, Germany, France... the UK... but that's where I got stuck. I thought Italy was wrong, but I was mistaken, and would never have guessed at Canada. But I suppose that the size of Canadian oil stocks means that it kind of makes sense. Can it be long before China and India are included?

In any case, I have been looking at the religious affiliation for each of the leaders of these mighty nations. Interesting reading, I thought, though I'm really not sure what the point of it all is.

Canada

I don't know an awful lot about religion in Canada, which might mean that it doesn't play a great part in the country's identity, or else there's a strong possibility that it means I'm plain ignorant - especially about Canada.

The Canadian PM (I have recently discovered) is Stephen Joseph Harper and he is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Their focus, apparently (all quotes are from Wikipedia, but I promise to read around the subjects as much as possible) is on 'missions and missionaries (especially foreign missionaries)' They also want to place a 'greater emphasis on Jesus as a physical healer' (my italics - indicating that I think this makes them nut jobs) and focus on the 'doctrine of sanctification' - whatever that specifically means, as it has different meanings in different churches and branches of churches. It appears to veer between the idea that people can actually take on divine qualities in the Orthodox Church to identification with God through our own human suffering in the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

France

Monsieur Le Président is of course Nicolas Sarkozy. He is some kind of Catholic, though his matrimonial record does shift him a little closer to Henry VIII than Cardinal Richelieu, and there are many elements of Jewishness and some Protestantism in his family background - which is quite fascinating to read about. Perhaps he just worships at the feet of Carla like the rest of us?

Germany

Due to the shallow maleness of my personality, and the fact that I only judge women on their looks, Angela Merkel reminds me a little too much of Jacqui Smith for comfort. My negative tendencies towards her are also not helped by the comparison some have made to Margaret Thatcher. She is a Lutheran, and appears (as is usually the case with this northern European, more cerebral branch of Jesus-ness) much less bothered about religion than some.

Italy

We all know about Silvio, don't we? Yet another Catholic, whose own modus vivandi can hardly be said to imitatio christi. Get my meaning?

Japan

From what I'm reading, Yasuo Fukuda may soon be 'fuked' - please excuse me, couldn't resist - with his approval rating almost as bad as Auld Clunking Fist himself. However, it's not easy (as it seems to be with Western politicians) to discover to which religion he adheres. Maybe the religion of Oriental leaders isn't important. Who knows? He could be either Shinto or Buddhist. Or both. Or Christian, possibly. Or even all three. This would be a pleasingly pragmatic approach to the whole god bothering thing, wouldn't it? If anyone knows the answer I would be grateful to hear from you.

Russia

The Plus 1 of the G7 Plus 1 is, as in many other areas of life, something of a curiosity when it comes to matters of religion. The official line, as we all know, prior to all that Glasnost and Gazprom stuff, was a lovely bit of Marxist opiate of the masses, but things have changed, and the new breed knows how powerful a tool the Good Bok (sic) can be in manipulating the peasants.

Dmitry Medvedev, quoted on the BBC:

"Mr Medvedev also describes how he worked on a building site and as a street cleaner to help fund his studies at university. At the age of 23 he was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church, a decision he said he took himself.
"From that moment, I believe, a new life started for me," he said."

United Kingdom

Mr Broon from the manse has been written about up the wazoo. He was a Rector. Nuff said. Maybe it would be as well to look at the religious affiliations of David Cameron... Bastards both, in any case. Cameron is a descendant of King William IV, so has a fairly strong link to the Church of England, and of course makes a point of being seen going to church on Sundays. God knows why.

United States

As with GB (in both senses) above, only more so, there's little point in writing about Dubya's religiosity. Been there, seen that, got the t shirt, etc. Obama is another matter. In perhaps no other country in the world is the religion of its leader so talked about. Reliable opinion has him down as a member of the United Church of Christ. One thing's for certain - he sure as shit ain't no Muslim.

5 comments:

don cake said...

Regarding The Japanese Prime Minister's religious beliefs, it is quite common for Japanese people to tell you that "I have no religion" just before popping down to the local shrine to perform a little gods-pleasing ritual.
The problem here, as usual, is in the definition of "religion". In Japan there is the common idea that all the problems of The Middle East are "because of religion" (although this is probably a common view everywhere). Therefore, religion is clearly something that people waving AK-47s around partake in and that's not like us at all, oh no.
However, a more reasonable view of religion would be to see it as a common belief system that binds people together. The interesting thing, of course, is that a lot of people proclaiming religion don't go along with this view at all. And because of this, a lot of Japanese jaws drop when told that both Protestants and Catholics are Christian.
But why aren't we staggered by the implications of this? Because we've grown up with it and have been taught not to question it, like any number of our cultural myths.
Exactly like the Japanese.

Myeral said...

'A common belief system that binds people together' is a nice way of summing up the opposite of religion, IMHO.

I am - honestly - not staggered by the implications of Japanese people not knowing that Catholics and Protestants are both Christian. I am slightly surprised that a nation fabled for the quality of its education (I know I'm making some assumptions here, and that my knowledge of the Japanese education system is very sketchy and based on no doubt sensationalist newspaper reporting) produces people who don't have an understanding of the development of Christianity. I'm not sure what the implications of this are though.

In terms of the Middle East, it may be simplistic to say that all of the problems are "because of religion" but it is surely the case that religion plays a major part in every event there - whichever way round the cause and effect lie?

It is interesting to me that religion is so much to the fore in much of western political posturing, but that it doesn't seem to play any part in Japanese politics. I've read of Shinto that it played a major part in galvanising soldiers during WWII, and that as a result it was somewhat stifled post 1945. That, along with the fact that it would be difficult even for a politician to use Buddhism as a tool for warmongering, might explain things.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful words, Mr. Cake.

don cake said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I'd like to try to clarify a couple of points.
Regarding the Protestant-Catholic Christian Axis, what I was trying to say is that if you have a basic conception of Christianity as a religion of love, peace and understanding, as the people of Japan might have, then the idea that those two groups have been busily murdering each other in many gruesome ways for the past half-millenium or so would come as somewhat of a shock. It's not that the Japanese are surprised, it's that we are not.
Regarding "education", could you give me your definition of that thing? Same for "religion" if you'd be so kind.
My own definition of "religion" necessarily needs to clarify the idea of "belief system". I would include Soviet Communism, Thatcherite Conservatism, New Labour and the arse-hole end of football supporting in this category. These belief systems all share the similar trait of communication avoidance. That is to say, a desire to avoid Description, Explanation, Asking and Checking.
In regards to your final point, I would say that religion does play a massive part in Japanese politics. It's just a different colour so people may not recognise it as such. What I mean is: If you came across a purple apple would you say:"oh, an apple."?

Myeral said...

Semantics, Mr Cake, are a fine thing. We might ask: 'What is the meaning of 'meaning'? and tie ourselves up in knots. I can define religion as anything I want, but there is (and has to be) a certain standard for such things or we are all floundering in a morass of split hairs. I might say that my religion is Man City, though I would by now be an atheist. As indeed I am.

If one were to pursue your erudite musings to a logical conclusion, one would have no up and no down. Even a table might seem to be something quite different, such as an elephant, for example.

In basic terms, in all of my writings on god (and stuff) I refer to hypocrisy - one of Jesus' favourite words, I think you'll find - on the part of those who would avow themselves followers of the 'Christian' theology. We don't need to be Japanese to notice this.

But perhaps the difference is that Shinto would not necessarily advocate peace & love. Just an understanding that the universe is the way it is, and that's that. Cut the hearts and flowers and let dog eat dog, for that's how we are.

As for edumacation, well I think your 'Description, Explanation, Asking and Checking' sums it up reasonably well. I am a product of a less than perfect school system (as you can probably tell) but nonetheless I have been allowed to ask. I have been able to learn that the stuff in the Bible does not form the only belief system in the world, and I do know that in Japan they do things differently.

Plus, they have all kinds of coloured fruit in Waitrose. Shalom. Salaam. Sawasdee. And may your God go with you.

don cake said...

So you don't really want to talk about this?