Perhaps it's not so odd that a person who is not particularly religious should choose a day like today to think about beliefs! Here we are, a Public Holiday in the Western world and a normal weekend in the Arab world! A happy coincidence for believers in Christianity who today celebrate Christmas and who live in a Moslem country where December 25th and a Friday will only happen four more times in the next 30 years.
I actually only started to think about it when I got a call from Dubai today, and then thought back on some of the changes that have taken place in our world over the last few decades. How parts of a majority Christian country like Britain have decided that to celebrate Christmas is discriminatory against the minority who choose to believe in other things. How it seems no longer appropriate to wish people a Merry Christmas, in case they are not believers in Christ, and default to a tamer Happy New Year instead (even though this particular New Year is based on a calendar introduced by a Catholic Pope (actually, aren't all Popes Catholic?).
It is a sad reflection on a world where, after centuries of having been ravaged by wars that have had a basis in religious beliefs, we still don't seem to have learnt one of the basic tenets of every one of those religions - tolerance and an understanding of others.
The most recent case in point? Perhaps the fact that the Swiss, in their open transparent and democratic way,have exercised their right to ban the building of minarets in Switzerland. A motion so clearly passed, despite opposition by the Government, the mainstream political parties, religious groups and business interests, that it highlights the increasing rise of right wing nationalism in Europe. A worrying trend.
But the move was applauded in other countries in Europe, so I wondered in this particular case whether it was actually all about nationalism, or are people just getting fed up with being asked to tolerate this and that - against their own beliefs? I know that various commentators since the referendum have called the vote an "attack on religious freedom". I would ask those same commentators to ask the Saudi Arabian authorities to let them know how many churches have been allowed in Saudi Arabia. The answer will be zero. And I recall a building in Riyadh having to be modified when I was there because part of the structure resembled a religious cross.
Ask those same people what they think of the various "laws" by which other religions abide. The death penalty by beheading, removal of limbs, stoning and, in a recent "judgement" the removal of tongues and ears. I presume that this is included and approved of in the "religious freedom" they talk about.
I am all in favour of allowing people to believe in whatever they choose to believe. And if they are a guest in someone else's country they should respect the rules and the laws of their hosts. But all too often now, people in various countries are being asked to bow to the wishes of the new minorities - without any form of reciprocation. Perhaps if Saudi Arabia allowed churches, Switzerland might be inclined to allow minarets.
When I lived in Malaysia I was struck by the fact that at Hari Raya (Eid), everyone joined in - Muslim, Hindu and Christian as well as anyone else. It was the same for Christmas and Diwali. Despite the occasional Government rhetoric, it was a pretty harmonious society.
But today we increasingly live in a world of intolerance. This is the wrong direction, surely, no matter what our beliefs. Don't we all want to live in a peaceful and harmonious world? If we don't I would suggest there is something wrong with us.
Isn't it about time we were all allowed to believe in whatever we want to believe in? To do so sensitively - but not to try and impose your beliefs on others.
It is just past midnight on the 25th of December. A little early for a New Year Resolution, but one that might be just worth thinking about.