LONDON (AFP) - Religion should be outlawed because it lacks compassion and promotes hatred of homosexuals, gay pop star Elton John said in an interview.
The singer was speaking in a special "gay edition" of The Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine, where he shared his views on subjects ranging from being a music icon to Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance on the Iraq war.
At a time when religion is the subject of fierce debate in Britain over the right to wear the Muslim veil and other faith symbols, John complained there was a general lack of leadership from spiritual leaders.
"I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. From my point of view, I would ban religion completely," he was quoted as saying.
"Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really 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?" he said.
"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 anymore.
"If John Lennon were alive today, he'd be leading it with a vengeance."
John complained that too many people were protesting online to take to the streets, highlighting the effectiveness of the February 2003 march against military action in Iraq that mobilized millions around the world.
With spiralling violence in Iraq, such opposition to Blair's backing of the United States had "come back to bite him on the ass," he added.
On homosexuality, the 59-year-old -- who sealed a civil partnership with his long-term partner, the Canadian film director David Furnish in December last year -- said he was happy to be viewed as the "acceptable face of gayness."
He also vowed to continue his fight for gay rights and AIDS charities: "I can't just sit back; it's not in my nature anymore. I'm nearly 60 years old after all. I can't sit back and blindly ignore it and I won't."
Good for him! The more we can get people to hear us saying things like this, the more they'll begin to at least acknowledge that we unreligious people exist, and that we're getting tired of being shoved to the back of the bus, when we're allowed to ride the bus at all.