LET me, at the outset, make it very clear that I have no religious affiliation. Once I escaped the clutches of a violently fanatical Christian father, I made up my mind that I would never criticise the beliefs of anyone else, so long as they kept those beliefs out of my face, and I think I have pretty much managed to stick to that. As far as Scotland’s sectarian divide is concerned my attitude is one of “a plague on both their houses”.

This tolerance, however, does not extend to historical inaccuracy, nor the illogical defence of segregation or political interference.

READ MORE: Letters, January 13

Scotland became a recognisable entity in 843AD, when the principal form of worship was the Celtic church, an organisation not much loved by Popes because it permitted the marriage of priests and divorce. It was not until the marriage of Margaret of Wessex to Malcolm Canmore in 1070 that Roman Catholicism actually began to become the recognised religious regime.

Following the burning at the stake of Patrick Hamilton in 1528, Cardinal Beaton could be said to have lit a fire under the Scottish Reformation, which blazed even more brightly when he burned George Wishart in 1546. His own death, at the hands of John Leslie and friends some three months later, surely marked the end of Roman hegemony in Scotland for some time to come.

READ MORE: Letters: Religion should be kept out of politics

The Reforming Parliament of 1560 – which, among other far sighted actions, decreed the establishment of a school in every parish – certainly turned Scotland largely Presbyterian.

All of which makes Scotland, since her inception, 233 years Celtic Church, 458 years Roman Catholic, 32 years conflicted and 459 years Presbyterian. All this might seem more than a little pedantic, but it is better than reducing highly complex and confused social activities to sweeping generalisations.

All of which leads to two modern, relevant political points.

The first is that it makes little sense to divide scarce educational resources on the basis that one part is of a religious persuasion and everything else is not, for there is no such thing as a “Protestant” school, merely non-denominational ones, even if the one I attended 60 years ago was pretty certain that its remit was to inculcate the King James Bible into us! It makes even less social sense to separate children and let them understand that this is because “the others” are different!

The second is that it is perfectly honourable for an elected politician to follow his conscience. What is not honourable is for a politician elected in a constituency where, for example, a clear majority of the electorate support remaining in the EU, same-sex marriage, abortion etc, to ignore their views and vote against their expressed wishes. The honourable course would be to resign.

Les Hunter

THE recent report that the Scottish bishops intend to be more proactive politically has caused a predictable reaction among secularists, uniting under the inane slogan “keep religion out of politics”. I reply: tell that to Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Oscar Romero, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day, and Daniel Berrigan – to name but a few.

This cliché is nonsense. Politics and religion are both concerned with how people treat each other; interaction is inescapable. The bishops are perfectly entitled to intervene. What is disappointing is the nature and scope of their intervention.

Apart from (rightly) upholding respect for human life at every stage, the concerns mentioned are all about sexual behaviour. Morality is synonymous with genital activity. In fact, Jesus didn’t say very much about sex, but did tell us to love our enemies and to put away the sword. Having the biggest arsenal of hydrogen bombs in Europe dumped on us is surely a matter of both moral and political concern. All Unionist parties support Trident, and all independence parties take a principled opposition to it.

Trident is a sin crying to heaven for vengeance; yet the hierarchy briefly referred to it before the independence referendum, and before the last General Election. Were they apprehensive about appearing to take sides?

This coyness is all the more baffling considering that in 2017 Pope Francis said: “Now is the time to affirm not only the immorality of the use of nuclear weapons but the immorality of their possession”. This marks a seismic change in official Catholic teaching, and demolishes any justification for deterrence. No longer can nuclear apologists hide behind the shameful words of Cardinal Basil Hume: “The deterrent may be tolerated, but for a time only”. (NB this was said in 1983. Like a piece of string, “for a time” can be just as long as you want).

For more than half a century Catholic nuclear apologists have made the ethically spurious distinction between possession and use, as if a state could possess nuclear weapons without being prepared to use them should the deterrence situation break down. Now the Pope has denounced this blatant dishonesty.

At the time of the Early Church the state demanded that all citizens sacrifice before the statue of Divus Augustus, the Emperor. This was an essential demonstration of loyalty. Christians considered it idolatry and refused. You could not offer sacrifice at the pagan temple and be accepted as a Christian. The issue had “Status Confessionis”, that means it was absolutely central, not an optional extra.

The time has long come for nuclear idolatry to be given “Status Confessionis”. Those who persist in this should be regarded as ipso facto excommunicating themselves.

Dare the bishops follow the Pope and denounce sacrifice to the nuclear Empire?

Brian Quail