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RELIGION: Mexico



Thank God literally that it is Sunday. Yesterday was the day of the Big Game, the annual football brawl at which Stanford and Berkeley fight for possession of The Axe, a warlike trophy which is scarcely a symbol of the friendly sporting spirit. It was held this year at Berkeley, and mobs of normally sane Stanfordites rushed across the Bay and shouted lustily in what became a shouting match. I gather that Stanford won. One educational reform I would like to impose would be an obligatory course in mob psychology.

Today is Sunday, and, as I often do, albeit not a Catholic, I watched on TV the mass from the Mexican cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. Not a mob, but a quiet, devout congregation which filled the church. The priest who gave the sermon impressed me as a sincerely kind man, the embodiment of the Christian spirit of compassion (but not Republican Bushite; most of the congregation were probably Democrats. Compassion has been singularly absent from the present electoral campaign, except verbally, i.e. pharaseically).

Then I turned on Mexican TV and saw "The sleeves of the vest," a weekly comedy show satirizing the week's events, like "This is the week that was". Mexican humor is sui generis, not much appreciated by gringos, but the crowd laughed uproariously. The startling thing is that it was the most anti-clerical program I have ever seen, ridiculing the Church, priests and the relations of Vicente Fox with them. An American TV station would never dream of airing such a program. I ask my Mexican friends: does this mean that the pious church congregations are simple folk, while the more affluent, sophisticated people who watch these programs are anti-clerical? I cannot imagine a sincere Catholic not being offended.

The problem is that religion is no laughing program. It has been the cause of persecution and wars. Hence the theme of the July 29 session of the forthcoming WAIS conference: "Are religions the enemy of global peace?" I have discussed this issue with the members of Stanford's Department of Religious Studies." They are clearly upset by the issue, and dismiss the explanation as a superficial one. Perhaps so, but it is hard to deny that religions have been at least a catalyst of war. Alas.

Ronald Hilton - 11/19/00


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