Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Banning God

The historical backdrop to The Power and The Glory is the religious persecution of the Catholics in Mexico in the 1920s when priests were shot, churches closed down and most outward signs of religion were made unlawful. As always the quick guide to what it was all about is to be found on Wikipedia.

The idea of the persecution is of course great material for writers like Graham Greene and this book was filmed a couple of times, but it does make you wonder why some political leaders try to ban God. At the end of The Power and the Glory as another priest arrives it becomes clear that despite the threat of firing squads and rejection by a scared populous there will be more men coming to carry out God’s work.

A few years ago on a trip to Russia what struck me as I wandered through some of the most amazing churches on the tourist trail, full of mosaics and gold, that had been grain stores and museums of atheism under Stalin, was that no man can ever really ban God. It has returned and those churches are now used again as places of worship. God outlasted him.

Along with a lot of deep stuff about what makes a good or bad religious person in Greene’s book there is also this question being asked about how and why politicians feel that it is possible to wipe out something millions of people believe in. For that reason alone this book has a timeless quality rising above its particular historical situation becoming something that we all have to think about and decide for ourselves what we think, particularly in this day and age where people are only too happy to try and outlaw entire religious communities.

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