You know what a crab looks like when you disturb it on a beach, it raises up and starts snapping at you and looks all cross - woe betide you if you get too close. Well writing a public article on religion is like disturbing loads of cross crabs. All of them would happily inflict a sharp stab of pain if only they could get a good grip. Honestly! You can understand it if I was writing about hell fire and brimstone, or telling people they were wicked and doomed to hell or how they were utterly wrong and only the god-fearing saw the true way - but I'm not.
But it says something about how people perceive religion as a perpetrator of something bad, not good, and who's fault is that? Probably a legacy of how badly religion has been taught for so many decades, but it is now much better. Partly because people feel threatened by faith, (but not sure why), and partly because most religions (Catholic included) are bad at portraying a face to the public that allows them to understand the very heart of what this about - which is love. All people see is the regalia, the pomp and ceremony and the conflict - which is such a pity.
If only they saw the people like Pat Clarke, or Fr Leo Dolan, who I am meeting tonight and who works with the poor and landless in a violent and lawless part of N Brazil, or Sr Dorothy Stang, who was murdered fighting for the rainforest and the poor, or the countless other men and women who are driven by love to do great things for others.
Yes there are religious wars - but decrying all religion because of extremists who have no understanding of the heart of faith is like saying everyone who enjoys a sherry at Christmas is an abusive alcoholic.
Yes some faiths have teachings that are out of step with modern ways of thinking, and the Catholic objection to birth control is right up there with that one. But the way to tackle these is to discuss openly and with respect - not throw insults. I have a lot to say on this, but not here, but I understand that population is a massive issue and we have to all take this very seriously. By far the best way to do it is to reduce poverty, educate women and ensure a society cares for its citizens. In every instance when these things happen birth rate declines, irrespective of the religion of that country.
Come on cross crabs, put your claws down, read what I'm really saying and then tell me that urging billions of people to care for the earth, and each other is bad, but don't just see "religion" in the title and fire off without trying to understand.