Monday, 23 April 2012

TIME TO PULL THE PLUG (Spectator Easter leader)

Heads bowed in supplication, candles flickering in the gloom, incantations being muttered and faith being reaffirmed in front of a multitude of fellow believers. A mass spiritual occasion, both live and on TV, is always a wondrous sight to behold. And so it was that the extraordinary outpouring of faith last weekend was truly humbling. From the leaning tower of Pisa to the Great Wall of China, via the Holy See of Circular Quay, no corner of the Earth was spared the rituals of devotion as a billion souls partook in switching off their lights for sixty minutes.

Atheists and agnostics, or sceptics as they are now called, often find such overtly spiritual and ritualistic activities quite bewildering. “But what’s the point?” they cry. Yet to the believer, logic and the demand for concrete proof is pointless. The act of supplication is fulfillment enough. The rituals are evidence of belief. And belief is paramount.

As with all religions, the original goal of this church is laudable. To draw attention to the sin of polluting the planet. But when society at large is forced to bear a heavy burden for no perceivable gain, when the economy is being distorted, and when those who dare question the wisdom or effectiveness of the remedies are cast out and vilified as heretics, it is way too late to quibble over the symbolic actions enjoyed by those whose faith is unshakeable.

A mushy, sentimental event with few practical outcomes (other than foisting solar lamps and cookers on people who’d much rather have the carbon-based ones the rest of us enjoy) this latest religion has evolved from it’s original awareness-raising advertising stunt to a bizarre quasi-religious gathering whose main goal – like all such cults – seems primarily to be the perpetuation of itself. It’s time to pull the plug on Earth Hour.

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