“I Would Ban Religion Completely”

Elton John So says Elton John in a recent interview. His remarks came in this context:

We should all be together. I’ve got this really naive idea of what life should be like – it’s an idealistic idea but it’s completely integrated. We can’t keep thinking of gay people as being ostracised; we can’t keep thinking of Muslim people as being [ostracised] because of the fundamentalism that occurs in Islam. Muslim people have to do something about speaking up about it. We can’t judge a book by its cover. From my point of view I would ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it. I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the beautiful stories about it, which I loved in Sunday school and I collected all the little stickers and put them in my book. But the reality is that organised religion doesn’t seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it’s not really compassionate. The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren’t they having a conclave; why aren’t they coming together? I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts: instead of more violence why isn’t there a [meeting of religious leaders]. It’s all got to be dialogue – that’s the only way. Get everybody from each religion together and say ‘Listen, this can’t go on. Why do we have all this hatred?’ We are all God’s people; we have to get along and the [religious leaders] have to lead the way. If they don’t do it, who else is going to do it? They’re not going to do it and it’s left to musicians or to someone else to deal with it. It’s like the peace movement in the Sixties – musicians got through [to people] by getting out there and doing peace concerts but we don’t seem to do them any more. We seem to be doing fundraisers for Africa and everything like that but I think peace is really important. If John Lennon were alive today he’d be leading it with a vengeance.

Earlier in the interview, he commented, “I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people.” Here, he makes the all too common mistake of failing to understand the distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin. (Interestingly, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is one of the first principles we need to bear in mind when we make an examination of our own lives.) To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton: There are limits to human charity. That’s the difference between human charity and Christian charity. We are called to love everyone, without exception. We are called to love Elton John. We are called to love Nancy Pelosi. We are called to love George W. Bush. We are even called to love Osama bin Laden. But just as we are called not to love our own sins — in fact, we are called to hate them, and to ask God for the grace to avoid sin in the future — so too are we called to hate the sins of our brothers and sisters, and as far as we are able, to help them avoid sin in the future. Love the sinner, hate the sin. It’s really very simple.

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