Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elton takes on Pope, Chief Rabbi, and all comers

Having taken aim at his employers last week, this weekend Elton John is taking on organised religion. All of it.

Elton meets with Jake Shears out the Scissor Sisters for the Observer Music Magazine gay issue - which obviously collapses into a predictable "me too" session that it hardly seems worth the effort of bringing them into the same room. Elton and, say, Chris Moyles - that might have revealed something interesting about one or both men, and their sexuality and attitudes. Jake Shears and one of the boyband closeteers, like Gateley - that may have been worthwhile, watching one man who built his career on his sexuality, and one who hid his sexuality for the sake of his career.

But Jake Shears meets Elton John? It's just lucky that Elton still blurts things out without thinking:

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.

We're not quite sure how one would lead a peace movement "with a vengeance" but it's sentimentalist twaddle to assume that Lennon would be organising peace marches. Lennon would be too busy organising his tax affairs to do anything of the sort.

Clearly, Elton hasn't even allowed this thought to half-form before sharing it with us - what the hell is a "hateful lemming" when it's at home? Something that really thinks it deserves to commit suicide?

And while we're no big fans of the Pope round here, it seems a little bit unfair to blame the Vatican for all the wars; Bush and Blair might think they're God's anointed but they're hardly representatives of an organised religion any more than Bin Laden or the Taliban are? And if Elton is really convinced that the leaders of organised religion are full of hatred and busily attempting to attack gays, how can he simultaneously suggest that they're the people who should be giving leadership and bringing peace?

Do you want organised religion banned, Elton, or do you want it at the centre of a more loving world? You can't have both.

If the leaders of the great world religions did come together, and announce they'd managed to whittle their various Bibles and Korans and Torahs and Rules of Association Football into a single, workable version of the truth, would that for a moment persuade the manufacturers of cluster bombs and the uranium depleters to go "blimey... better close up the shop, then."

Elton then splutters up this gem:

I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays. But there are so many Christian people I know who are gay and love their religion ...

Now, it's true that a lot of religious people do seek to cause misery for gay men and women, but to suggest that all religion makes its number one priority the persecution of gays is the sort of silly, slapdash stereotyping which would have Elton painting banners against if it was directed at gay men. Indeed, blinkered, unsubtle way in which Elton manages to pull all religious people into one mass and demonise them for an attitude he's assigning them is, surely, precisely the sort of thing he's calling organised religion on?