We need religion
Sir: Roger Scruton (‘Sacred hunger’, 31 May) describes a reason, dare I say a ‘purpose’, for religion in society. Evolutionary biologists such as the evangelical atheist Richard Dawkins should accept the concept of evolution in the social behaviour of Homo sapiens. Archaeological and anthropological evidence suggest that some form of religion played a part in the earliest of primitive societies, going back tens of thousands of years. If religion is so toxic to society, how could it have developed into so many complex and varied forms around the world unless it had powerful social ‘survival’ value? Indeed in countries where religion was outlawed, such as the USSR and China, it made the need for it even stronger.
The basic tenets of all religions have provided society with ethical and moral rules that form the fundamentals of a civilised society.
Bradfield, South Yorkshire
An educated Army
Sir: The former Gunner 146790 Patrick Halnan (Letters, 31 May) decries the lack of education opportunities given to servicemen today. As a Gunner myself, I can assure him that this is not the case. All soldiers are given literacy and numeracy lessons, workbooks and exams; indeed, their ability to promote is dependent on their ability to pass these. Every man is able to claim a one-off grant of up to £8,000 towards the cost of an educational course, and there are further annual grants available. And while some military career qualifications do have an admittedly limited value in the civilian world (training in the use of field artillery being one example), there are many that are worth a small fortune — as a farrier, in logistics and in oil and petroleum to name but a few.
Of course every man is trained to fight first and foremost, but the Army gains far more from having an educated workforce than it does an illiterate one.
Mansergh Barracks, Gütersloh, Germany
In defence of Ken Loach
Sir: I read Michael Henderson’s attack on Ken Loach with interest (‘Ken Loach is a bore’, 31 May). I disagreed with every word. I’ll bet the farm he hasn’t seen half of Loach’s films. Ae Fond Kiss? My Name Is Joe? Ladybird Ladybird? Raining Stones? Riff Raff? What about Up The Junction and Cathy Come Home on telly? The kitchen-sink movement that broke the dominance of drawing-room comedies on stage originated at the Royal Court before Woodfall Productions took advantage of the cultural upheaval and made those films Henderson admired. The leaders of that revolution were poshos like Anthony Asquith, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson. Loach was a grammar-school boy… Henderson went to Repton. What does he know about the working classes? Would he dismiss George Orwell’s political writing because he went to Eton and came from ‘a cosy background’?
Loach’s Hidden Agenda (1990), scripted by Jim Allen, was the first film that tackled the British involvement in the Ulster police forces’ atrocities during the Troubles. It was a brave, insightful, exciting movie — ditto Land and Freedom. Loach and Mike Leigh, two very different directors who share a passion for truth, gave the British film industry an integrity that otherwise might have been sugar-rushed into oblivion by the Richard Curtis school of middle-class romanticism.
Angus Wolfe Murray
Sir: Were Melissa Kite and Alexander Chancellor (Real life/Long life, 24 May) to have finished, as I just have, six months’ treatment for lymphoma at Slough’s Wexham Park Hospital’s Eden Ward, they might share the gratitude that I myself have towards some 50 men and women from the UK and all over the world whose combined efforts as doctors, surgeons, ambulancers and nurses have not only saved my life but also left me feeling better than I have for years. My doctor explained everything simply and I was treated promptly. I feel it my duty to write in evidence of the ‘other side’ of modern NHS treatment.
Maybe I’ve simply been lucky but I have nothing but praise for their cheerful, courteous dedication and expertise. Judging by the ward’s veritable wall of thank-you cards, I cannot be the only NHS patient to feel as I do.
In harmony with Pepys
Sir: I recently made the decision that if I cannot help with my grandchildren’s school fees, I could at least find and pay for a good music teacher. What a treat, therefore, to read Mary Wakefield’s reminiscences on the pleasures of learning the violin under Helen Brunner (24 May). Mary shares her enthusiasm with Samuel Pepys, who argued that no education should be without music. He described music as ‘a science peculiarly productive of a pleasure that no state of life, publick or private, secular or sacred; no difference of age or season; no temper of mind or condition of health… nor, lastly, distinction of quality, renders either improper, untimely or unentertaining’.
Andrew Hamilton Gifford
Three routes to Slathwaite
Sir: When it comes to the pronunciation of Slaithwaite (Letters, 31 May), may I assist? There are three different pronunciations depending on where you come from. Sl-ow-it (as in ‘Slough’) if you’re a native; Slath-waite if you live here but are a ‘comer-in’ and trying to integrate; Slay-thwaite for everyone else.