Religion


Two out of three ain’t bad

Two of the leaders of the three main parties in the UK are now on record as not believing in God. Ed Miliband admitted his atheism in a Radio Five interview earlier this week. I’ve said before that religion doesn’t mix well with making decisions which affect the running of the country. You only have to look at Blair and his cowardly cop-out about how God would judge his decision to go ahead with an illegal invasion to see the sort of arrogance and blindness it can cause.


Not Ashamed? You should be 4

Not Ashamed is a campaign which would like to sideline anyone who doesn’t adhere to a narrowly defined version of Christianity. I found out about it because Salford’s wannabe holy politico Richard Carvath signed up to the campaign, which was an automatic black mark against it. On December 1st the Not Ashamed crew are going to present a petition to ‘leading figures in public life’ which will say-

WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is good news for our nation. He is the only true hope and solid foundation for our society.

WE CALL on government, employers and other leaders in our country to protect the freedom of Christians to participate in public life without compromising biblical teaching and to promote in our society the values that are revealed through Jesus Christ and that have so shaped our nation, for the good of all.

In other words they don’t think the opinion of anyone who doesn’t namecheck Jesus is valid and they want the right to be law breaking hypocrites. The freedom they seek will be to do whatever they can to restrict the freedoms of others, even when those freedoms are legally protected. One or two bigoted registrars refusing to perform civil partnership ceremonies isn’t going to stop them happening, but when they feel empowered to spit the dummy every time the subject comes up they will add unnecessary stress to the proceedings. And the suffering inflicted upon children awaiting adoption but denied perfectly capable parents because they didn’t conform to an agency’s ideal would be even worse.

No metaphysical entity should be used as the foundation for our society. The people behind this campaign should be ashamed for pretending that their beliefs automatically make them better than followers of other, or no, religions.


Atheists are Nazis and promoting health and prosperity is more evil than child abuse? Papally inspired stupidity 8

So, it’s been the first day of the Pope’s long weekend in Britain. He got off to a good start by implying that Nazism arose from atheism and modern secular society is headed down a similar path. It’s basically that old unfounded Christian lament that the belief system which still holds an unwarranted influence over the country’s politics is being discriminated against, but with added “unbelievers are evil!”. Hitler’s beliefs are open to debate, as they are in this comment thread on Richard Dawkins’ site, but a great many Nazis professed to be Christians, the Catholic church’s record during WW2 was less than perfect and it was the godless hordes of Soviet Russia who sacrificed the most to put an end to the evil.

Pope Rat should sack his speech writers and any advisers who thought that spouting this sort of nonsense was a good idea.

A selection of eminent humanists wrote a letter to the Guardian attacking the elevation of the Pope’s visit to that of a state visit, pointing out some of the crimes the Vatican “state” is guilty of and questioning its right to be given the same recognition as real countries. Stephen Fry is justifiably proud of being vilified by the Daily Mail for his signing of the letter. I’m jealous, I’ve long wanted to be hated by the Daily Mail. It’s been one of my ambitions for several years. Sadly I am not as eloquent as Mr Fry, nor yet known, let alone as well known as he. Maybe one day.

The letter also attracted the attention of Stewart Cowan, one of the less enlightened bloggers I follow for entertainment value. Cowan throws around some stupid insults, but makes no intelligent or coherent points and no doubt, in his head, thinks he’s won the argument. In Cowan’s bizarro world family planning, disease prevention, compassion and education are all greater evils than child abuse. Thinking like Cowan’s and the Pope’s is the cause of far more harm than anything done by the people they want to blame.


We in the Third World would like the Catholic church to reach our level

So a senior Catholic cardinal thinks that Great Britain is like a Third World country, and suddenly he isn’t accompanying the Pope here after coming down with gout. There’s been an outcry about the comment, and people are all offended. Personally I’m more amused by the deep insecurity Walter Kasper’s remarks reveal. Religious attendance is dropping in this country, and the Church can’t bully government as easily (though comments by Baroness Warsi may give them hope). I can’t help but think these are good things.

If anyone, Kasper should be apologising to people in the Third World, not so much for his comments as for the damage his church, and other religions, has done to their countries. As part of a church which gives out deadly advice to poor believers he should give up all his privileges and go and help the people whose lives have been blighted by Catholic doctrine rather than living the high life which, no doubt, contributed to his gout.

I like it here in the “Third World”. I’m able to make informed decisions and nobody’s telling me to hate other people because of biased interpretations of old books. Everyone’s welcome to join me.


Scotland’s creationists are devolving 6

Wannabe Scottish holy warrior Stewart Cowan has started what may be an ongoing series on “The Myths and Hoaxes of the 20th Century”. That he’s started with a weak swing at evolution should come as no surprise, neither should the fact that he fails to put forward a coherent argument.

Cowan bases his argument on a wilfull or genuine failure to understand an 18th century theory called uniformitarianism. (It’s doubly amusing that he links to the wikipedia page about it because whenever he or his cronies are presented with a wikipedia page which proves them wrong or shows up a weakness in their arguments they fall over themselves to claim the site is a liberal conspiracy.) He then ignores centuries of research, discoveries and advances and implies that this one theory is the only thing scientists have ever used to figure anything out. From this nonsensical conceit he wanders off into a bunch of Creationist talking points and fails to prove anything. He cites research with blind cavefish which he thinks proves his point, completely failing to see that it does the opposite.

Stewart Cowan’s never presented a coherent or convincing argument against evolution, but this one’s even weaker than normal. As the only people who can be bothered to continually comment on his blog are equally uninformed and blinkered he has no need to improve his arguments, so they seem to be devolving.


Let Christian Voice shout themselves hoarse 1

Manchester councillor Pat Karney, who’s responsible for the city centre, wants to ban the Christian Voice demo from chanting vainly at future Pride parades. The tiny band of narrow minded protesters have been a fixture of the parade for a few years. Last year I filmed an interview with one of them before the parade started. Annoyingly I have yet to get the footage onto a computer to do anything with it. They’re something of a sad bunch- except in their own heads where they’re no doubt fighting bravely against a tidal wave of sin and perversion- but they definitely shouldn’t be banned.

Twenty or so homophobes with banners get lost amongst the thousands of people who’ve come out to see the spectacle, spot friends and enjoy themselves. It’s almost symbolic- a tiny minority calling for a return to bigotry and oppression surrounded by the mass of open minded and joyful humanity. They shouldn’t be banned, that just feeds into their self righteousness and imagined martyrdom, they should be allowed to come back every year and humiliate themselves. Perhaps the realisation will filter through to some of them that they’re missing out on the joys of being a decent caring human being and find a nicer denomination or (even better) none at all.

As pointed out by some of the commenters on the report, Karney’s call, if not outright hypocritical, does show a lack of joined up thinking. If hate laws must be used to silence a few delusional god-botherers why weren’t they used last year to keep the English Defence League out of Manchester? The EDL’s values are just as wrong, if not moreso, and they’re a far nastier bunch to have to deal with. If you try to stop evangelicals showing their ignorance in public then you’re giving the Catholic church room to call for protesters with valid questions about clerical child abuse to be hidden away when the Pope visits.

Let Christian Voice protest all they want. The crowd will prove how wrong they are.


Let’s hear it for the Quakers, Unitarians and other decent Christians 2

Manchester Pride 2010

Manchester Pride 2010

Manchester Pride 2010

As I’m in an ongoing comment argument (on this post) with a couple of homophobic morons who think their religion gives them special dispensation to be bigots I thought I should show that some Christians are decent people who view the world from an adult perspective rather than one tainted by a few sentences in the Bible. I don’t share their religion, and I’ll no doubt disagree with them about a lot of things, but I respect their mature attitude to others.


I now declare you saint and saint. You may kiss the groom.

Academics have found evidence that, as recently as the 18th century, the church never used to have a problem with homosexual relationships and marriages. In fact most religions took a more enlightened view in the past than they do now. What happened to silence the decent wings of these religions and have the reactionary bigots dominate the debate?

This link was supposed to be part of last nights link dump from delicious, but the database/server was having one of its tantrums and they didn’t appear. I’m posting this one in particular because it was mentioned in the comments to this post.


Strange conversion

It was the sight of peach juice dripping from the chin of a teenage French female nudist that led a Cambridgeshire public schoolboy to convert to Islam.

Really? That’s the sort of thing that would have made me want to convert to being French. But I never went to a public school, who knows how that could upend your priorities.

The moment is given a little more context later in the article

“In my teens I was sent off by my parents to a cottage in Corsica on an exchange with a very vigorous French Jewish family with four daughters,” Winter recalls. “They turned out to be enthusiastic nudists.

“I remember being on the beach and seeing conjured up before my adolescent eyes every 15-year-old boy’s most fervent fantasy. There was a moment when I saw peach juice running off the chin of one of these bathing beauties and I had a moment of realisation: the world is not just the consequence of material forces. Beauty is not something that can be explained away just as an aspect of brain function.”

It had quite an effect on him: “That was the first time I became remotely interested in anything beyond the material world. It was an unpromising beginning, you might say.

“In a Christian context, sexuality is traditionally seen as a consequence of the Fall, but for Muslims, it is an anticipation of paradise. So I can say, I think, that I was validly converted to Islam by a teenage French Jewish nudist.”

Nope. I’d still rather be French than religious. (And that’s not being snide. I’m fond of our Gallic neighbours. If I ever manage to finish a comic project it will be more suited to the French than US market. They make some very good films. Their pop music is awful, but their hip-hop is quite interesting. They also do interesting tax breaks for artists. Admittedly the Belgians make better beer, but nowhere’s perfect.)


I don’t believe in you!

The New Scientist has a special report on the roots and methods of denialism. Should be useful reading for anyone who ever finds themselves talking to creationists/climate change deniers/9/11 Truthers/anti vaccination types/that bloke in teh pub who knows what really happened to Elvis.

How to be a denialist

Martin McKee, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also studies denial, has identified six tactics that all denialist movements use. “I’m not suggesting there is a manual somewhere, but one can see these elements, to varying degrees, in many settings,” he says (The European Journal of Public Health, vol 19, p 2).

1. Allege that there’s a conspiracy. Claim that scientific consensus has arisen through collusion rather than the accumulation of evidence.

2. Use fake experts to support your story. “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility,” says Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut.

3. Cherry-pick the evidence: trumpet whatever appears to support your case and ignore or rubbish the rest. Carry on trotting out supportive evidence even after it has been discredited.

4. Create impossible standards for your opponents. Claim that the existing evidence is not good enough and demand more. If your opponent comes up with evidence you have demanded, move the goalposts.

5. Use logical fallacies. Hitler opposed smoking, so anti-smoking measures are Nazi. Deliberately misrepresent the scientific consensus and then knock down your straw man.

6. Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature. Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected.


Would you trust Benedict brand condoms?

A junior civil servant has been “put on other duties” after distributing a memo with some silly, and quite funny, suggestions for events to mark Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK in September.

The Foreign Office has apologised for a “foolish” document which suggested the Pope’s visit to the UK could be marked by the launch of “Benedict” condoms.

Called “The ideal visit would see…”, it said the Pope could be invited to open an abortion clinic and bless a gay marriage during September’s visit.

…..

The document went on to propose the Pope could apologise for the Spanish Armada or sing a song with the Queen for charity.

It listed “positive” public figures who could be made part of the Pope’s visit, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and 2009 Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle, and those considered “negative”, such as Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.

If anyone should be apologising at the moment it should be the Catholic church, for so many things I won’t even start listing them.


The Christians demand special treatment 1

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wants employment tribunals involving Christians to be adjudicated by judges “with a proven understanding of religious issues”. In other words, judges who’ll rule in favour of the Christian defendant no matter how weak their case. This was reported as a good thing, to be supported and defended, by the Daily Mail and inspired the usual drivel from Melanie Phillips. Just imagine the frothing anger that would have been on display if a prominent imam had said it instead. (And is it any surprise that they make Lord Neuberger, with his very Jewish name, the bad guy of the report and opinion piece?)

Workers have every right to refuse to perform certain tasks if they deem them to be dangerous, illegal or counter productive. I don’t believe that using your religion to justify your prejudices counts as a valid reason not to do your job.


Is the Pope the Antichrist?

These people think he is. I was searching for something completely different, but this was too good to pass by.

The world is expecting the antichrist to come in the near future. Will the antichrist announce his arrival when he gets here? An essence of evil surrounds the term antichrist, and evil rarely works openly. Instead, evil usually wears a facade of righteousness to cover its real character in order more easily to deceive.

THE ANTICHRIST HIDES BEHIND A FACADE.

What better facade than a “church” to cover the antichrist’s real identity? The Bible tells us that Satan, the devil, “deceives the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9). Everyone in the world has been deceived by the devil and by his agent, the antichrist.

ATROCITY

Hitler has been thoroughly condemned by the world for murdering six million Jews during the Second World War. This holocaust is frequently talked about even today, and many books have been written on this subject condemning Hitler and his associates.

THE GREATEST ATROCITY

During the Dark Ages the Catholic Church slaughtered over 150 million Christians, and this atrocity is never mentioned today! The world has almost completely forgotten the many millions of people who were burned at the stake by the papacy because they wanted to worship God according to the Bible.

The slaughter in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Croatia is a direct result of the Vatican’s involvement in this area, but you will never hear about it because the Jesuit-controlled news media not only refuse to mention it but they lie about the situation to keep the papacy from being suspected of their true involvement.


Conspiracy theories are the new religion 3

I did promise the author of this blog post, which claims that conspiracy theories are suddenly more true than reality, that I would provide a detailed response. But it’s going to be too long to waste on someone else’s comment section, so I’m publishing it here.

Conspiracy theories tend to say more about the theorists than the alleged conspirators. I’m going to approach the examples cited by asking two questions- If the theorists are correct, what do the conspiracists get out of it? and Why might the theorists want to believe in this particular conspiracy? So-

“1) The theory: mass immigration is being used to re-engineer society.”

What do the conspiracists get? Errrrm. What do they get? According to the theory the mostly white, mostly christian engineers of this massed social change get a country where they lose a lot of their privileges because their constituents are less like, and less likely to vote for, them. And we know how willing MPs are to give up their privileges.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because they’re racists? Because they don’t like immigration? Possibly, as a great many of them claim to be christians, they’re scared by falling church attendance and don’t want to have to fight for believers with a younger, louder religion.

“2) The theory: climate change is not primarily manmade, but is a ruse to impose a world government which will tax and control us.”

What might the conspiracists get? They’d get to pay more tax. Which I’m sure they really want to do. The scientists will get to keep the funding which pays for their research. Even though they could be better off working in the private sector. I have a problem with the repeated line about paying more tax. The people who’ll pay more tax are the ones who are too dumb to find ways to make their lives more efficient. Those who cut their carbon emmissions will find they’re paying less money to corporations, and the government, so they will have more money for themselves and be financially more secure.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? See the last bit above about people too dumb to make their lives better.

“3) The theory: the BBC is a propaganda machine for liberals and socialists.”

What might the conspiracists get? The licence fee cut by the next Conservative government. Though that will probably happen anyway.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Because Fox News is Fair and Balanced.

“4) The theory: the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.”

What might the conspiracists get? The satisfaction of having turned real life into the opening sequence of the first X Files Movie.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Racism? Brown people couldn’t possibly have organised something this big, it has to be the work of the Illuminati and/or the Jews. (An early 9/11 conspiracy theory had all Jewish workers in the World Trade Centre being called up and told not to go in to work that day.) An inability to grasp reality. Given all the genuinely horrible, stupid, illegal and dangerous stuff the Bush regime did, why on Earth do some people need to make stuff like this up?

“5) The theory: the Theory of Evolution is a 19th Century misunderstanding, which is now clear from modern scientific discoveries.”

What might the conspiracists get? Confused, given that modern discoveries strengthen and refine the Theory of Evolution.

Why might the theorists believe in this conspiracy? Fear that science, and increased understanding of it, will undermine their religion. Inability to visualise a simple and elegant theory. The writer of the post is a Creationist, so this is a favourite subject of his. He claims masses of evidence for his belief, but can never present any that stands up to scrutiny.

This is a bit of a rambling post, because I started it as a comment then brought it over here. Feel free to add your own comments and help me refine and better explain my reasoning that way.


Make the Pope pay

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ask the Catholic Church to pay for the proposed visit of the Pope to the UK and relieve the taxpayer of the estimated £20 million cost. We accept the right of the Pope to visit his followers in Britain, but public money would be better spent on hard-pressed schools, hospitals and social services which are facing cuts.

Sign the petition.

via Pharyngula.


Some more political blogs 2

Jamie Reed is the MP for Copeland, which is where my parents live. His blog is relatively new, so I’ll give it a bit of time to grow. Wikipedia tells me he declared himself a Jedi in his maiden speech, so he can’t be all bad. I may have fallen out of love with Labour, but I’d support him for the Copeland seat in the coming election. Tory polling puts them a close second and the BNP a distant third but with enough support to be disturbing. Copeland may be 99.3% white, according to this list (nearby Allerdale and Eden are even whiter) but that’s no excuse for supporting the racist moron party.

The Tory candidate for Copeland is Chris Whiteside. He’s a Conservative, so I took an immediate dislike to him. But we’ll see how he fares over time.

John Redwood used to be referred to as the Vulcan. It wasn’t just because of his elongated and Spock like face, but because he was supposedly a man of great intelligence. Sadly that vast intellect isn’t in evidence when he posts nonsense like this about climate change. Rather than finding out about the subject he’s latched onto the talking points which conform to his ideologogy and prejudices. His specialist area is economics, I believe. Let’s hope he actually investigates and thinks about that before opining. Hope, but, on the evidence, don’t expect.

Stewart Cowan is a Creationist and homophobe (and possibly a few other things, I’ve only been reading since yesterday). I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about. It may be borderline classing this one as a political blog, but I found it through a comment on Jamie Reed’s blog and decided it should be included here.