November 03, 2005

This Christmas stamp issue

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm so completely hacked off about so many aspects of this Christmas stamp business (link) that I thought I'd have a rant. So, in no particular order:

– Why on earth did the Post Office officials not assume that something like this would cause offence? To me depicting Hindu characters in a position that could imply the worshipping of a Christian god would obviously be controversial to both Hindus and Christians. And so it has been.

– Why did the PO think it necessary to include icons from other world religions in the Christmas stamps? Christmas is about Christianity, not about any other religions. As a Christian state why should we try to soften our celebration of our own religious festivals? It's political correctness and racial equality gone barmy! We are so fanatical now about respecting the religions of our ethnic minorities that we forget to defend and uphold our own!

– And above all, why is the world so preoccupied with this when there are thousands of people dying from floods and earthquakes in India and of food shortages in all parts of the third world? We are getting to the point where we get so bogged down with tiny details that we forget the bigger picture!

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  1. I haven't heard a thing about this.
    Also – how Christian is this country now? Can we really be called predominately Christian anymore?

    03 Nov 2005, 17:30

  2. Well, according to National Statistics, 3% of the population declare themselves Muslim, which is second behind Christianity, which has over 70%, and there are no administrative areas in the UK with a majority of a non-Christian religion. The closest you get are;

    (I quote) The district with the highest proportion of Sikhs is Slough. One person in seven of the population of Leicester is Hindu. One person in nine of the population of Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, is Jewish. Over one per cent of the population of Cambridge are Buddhist. Brighton and Hove has most people stating other religions (0.8 per cent).

    The districts with the highest proportions of people with no religion are Norwich, Brighton and Hove and Cambridge, all with over one-quarter.

    (end quote, but start anew)

    The English region with the highest proportion of Christians is the North East (80.1 per cent). London has the highest proportion of Muslims (8.5 per cent), Hindus (4.1 per cent) Jews (2.1 per cent) Buddhists (0.8 per cent) and people of other religions (0.5 per cent).

    That is all. This little trip through the census records satisfies me that I live in a christian country.

    03 Nov 2005, 22:14

  3. Fair play. But was there a "no religion" option on the last census?

    03 Nov 2005, 23:31

  4. Yes there was Phil mentioned it.

    Also, significantly, Britain is actually a Christian state: Christianity is our official religion, as opposed to the USA, for example, a secular state. Thus I see no problem with properly recognising Christian festivals without worrying about offending anyone else.

    Apparently, in one London borough, they now have 'winter lights' instead of 'Christmas lights'. This kind of thing annoys me deeply. And I'm not even a Christian!

    04 Nov 2005, 08:30

  5. Ah sorry.
    Yeah – PC can go too far (I'm the master of the understatement). Wasn't Christmas going to be renamed… ? Winters-something. Would be amusing.

    But then again: How Christmas is Christmas anymore? Not very, to most people.

    04 Nov 2005, 09:36

  6. Justin

    I saw a very interesting Letter in the Telegraph which said that Hindus ought not to be offended by the stamp as "Many Hindus do worship Christ, though of course they have different views about his significance". Also that the mark on the forehead is not excusively for Hindus. Aparently many ancient churches in south India have their own iconograph which is a mix of Christian and Mughal traditions.


    04 Nov 2005, 19:33

  7. I seem to remember some city (Birmingham/Leicester) calling it a Winterval a few years back. It didn't go down very well.

    I also didn't mention, and neither does NatStat, that many people declare themselves Christian when they aren't particularly religious. But then I suppose religion is a matter of what people define themselves as. I myself am a Catholic. Not a lot of people know that.

    Note as well that the quote from the telegraph is also true if you replace Hindus with Muslims, but that you would all agree that to say Muslims worship Christ is the start of an argumentative (and possibly literal) minefield. Hindus have just as much right to be offended as other religions. The second point is valid however. The mark isn't exclusively hindu.

    05 Nov 2005, 01:08

  8. Does being 'Christian' have to mean being a devout churchgoer or can it just be the class you'd put yourself in rather than saying you have no religion? A lot of people may put 'Christian' because it was the tradition they were brought up in and is the national religion of our country. It'd be interesting to be able to ask the people who ticked the 'Christian' box but aren't practising whether they think they actually believe in the principals of the Christian faith or not.

    Justin, as I said last night, yes it's all very well to look at the details of the matter and say that they shouldn't be offended, but the point is that in this day and age these things do offend and most people would probably have assumed beforehand that these stamps would. However, as you said, not releasing the stamps is thus pandering to the hyper-sensitive political correctness we have at the moment. ARGH, a vicious circle!

    05 Nov 2005, 11:11

  9. Mehwish Sarosh

    Just to clear something up. Phillip, Muslims do not "worship" Christ but he is a recognised prophet. (the definition of prophet= A person gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression. therefore the word prophet does not necessarily have to mean something wholly connected to God but can and is used in that context as well). In Islamic teachings, before the prophet Mohammed (pbh) there were many prophets who helped to guide people and one of them was Jesus. There are some basic similarities between christianity and islam that many people fail to recognise. If there was a stamp that had muslim and christian symbolism then a muslim who understands his/her religion should not be offended, but should welcome the unity. However, those muslims who are not comfortable with their religon and who do not completely understand it and have total faith are the ones who become the most defensive.

    As far as I know there are no similarities in teachings and beliefs between hinduism and christianity and therefore trying to bring there two together seems irrational. Hope that made sense!!!

    10 Nov 2005, 12:47

  10. ros

    hi i don't know if you are still discussing this topic but I am actually focusing 20 mins of my current affairs radio show to this very topic on Dec 7th. I have the Presidents of the Christian, Hindu, and Islam societies of Bristol University to interview. I am in the middle of formulating the questions for them, do any of you have any ideas?
    thank you!

    24 Nov 2005, 20:52

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