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Saturday, 31 October 2009

The British Bullshit Corporation

“The BBC thinks people can’t get enough religion and spends millions of pounds of licence payers’ money promoting it,” says my fellow blogger Roy Saich in a news release.

He’s writing on behalf of Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists, who aren’t happy with the Beeb’s attitude to religion.

“In spite of cuts elsewhere it is to transmit, starting on Thursday, 5th November, on BBC 4 television at 9 p.m. and on BBC HD at 10 p.m., yet another religions documentary,” says Saich.

“It is called A History of Christianity and is in six parts and produced jointly with the Open University, another publicly funded body. The BBC has never produced a comparable series about the Humanist ethical tradition.

“With this in mind the AGM of Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists passed a motion which requested ‘the BBC to produce a series of television programmes on the Humanist ethical tradition in the West from ancient Athens and Herculaneum to the Present day’.

“Please help to persuade the BBC to produce such a series. To contact the BBC write to BBC, PO Box 1922, Glasgow, G2 3WT.”

What are you waiting for? Get writing.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The right to be a bigot

This is interesting, but not new. It’s from our friends at the Christian think tank Ekklesia, who tell us that gay-rights supporters have “expressed support for the freedom of those who criticise them, casting doubt on claims by a Christian group who suggested that gay rights activists are trying to stifle free speech”.

The Ekklesia report goes on:

The Christian Institute accused the “homosexual lobby” of trying “to shut down any criticism of homosexual conduct”. The comments were made following a police investigation into a Norwich resident who expressed allegedly homophobic views.

However, several gay rights campaigners have themselves responded to the incident by affirming their support for free speech.

Pauline Howe complained to her local council about Norwich’s first Gay Pride event, claiming that there are only “a minimal number of homosexuals”. In a letter in which she described gay people as “sodomites”, she blamed “their perverted sexual practice” for spreading diseases and for the “downfall of every empire”.

Her cause was taken up by the Christian Institute after she was visited by police who thought her letter to a public body might constitute a “hate incident”. The police decided to take the matter no further.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, which campaigns for lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s rights, said that “her views are pretty offensive, but nevertheless this is disproportionate”.

Meanwhile, the gay human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell told Ekklesia that he believes that “freedom of speech is important and must be defended”.

He said that he considers that the police were right to point out to Pauline Howe “the harm and damage such intolerance can cause”, but is glad that they took the matter no further.

“Although Ms Howe used very offensive, inflammatory language to abuse gay people, I would not agree with criminalising her” he added.

We blogged about Howe on Wednesday, and made the point that we may not like what people say but we must defend their right to say it. If we don’t, our own freedom of speech could well get trampled on further down the line.

The nice guys at Ekklesia cite Stonewall and Peter Tatchell, but it would have been nice if they’d cited Pink Triangle, too. We’ve been banging on about it for long enough, and in several posts, even incurring the wrath of the odd commenter. Maybe next time, eh, chaps?

See also Symon Hill’s take on this in another Ekklesia article, in which he says that constant references to Howe’s Christianity can give “the impression that religion is an excuse for prejudice and that Christians can be expected to be homophobic”.

I, for one, don’t believe all Christians are homophobic, or that we should expect them to be so. That many are, and rabidly so, is, though, evident daily, especially when it comes to raving nutcases such as those at the Christian Institute. One thing that can be said for Ekklesia – and this is why we quote and cite them so often – is that there’s no homophobia there, and, while we wouldn’t go along with their explanations for the origin of the universe or who’s making it continue to tick, they often have a lot of good sense to impart.

Other Christians could learn a lot from Ekklesia.

Sick-making “journalism”

You couldn’t get a bigger dollop of glutinous, oleaginous sycophancy if you tried. The Herald in Scotland is clearly looking forward to next year’s proposed visit by one of the most evil men in the world, Pope Ratzinger.

Look at this choice phraseology on the part of the writer, Michael Settle (the emboldening is mine):

  • “The strongest likelihood is that His Holiness will visit Glasgow to . . .”;
  • “The Scottish Secretary, who has been tasked by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to lead the UK Government’s liaison with the Vatican over the expected papal visit, told The Herald his meeting with His Holiness was an extraordinary personal moment”;
  • “Yesterday morning, after an interview with Vatican radio, Mr Murphy attended the Pope’s general weekly audience with pilgrims and then had a personal meeting with the Holy Father accompanied by Cardinal O’Brien”.

What is all this “His Holiness” and “Holy Father” shit? Why is a journo using these terms? What’s wrong with “the Pope” or “Pope Benedict”?

Is it really the job of a journo, doing an ordinary news story, note, not a comment piece, to be so partisan, and give this monster these slimy honorifics? Isn’t a straightforward news story supposed to be down-the-middle neutral?

I’ve put the link to this greasy lump of verbal stodge up top somewhere, but go to it only if you really feel you ought to read the story. I warn you: it’s enough to make you want to projectile-vomit all over this journo’s keyboard. In fact, it’s very likely Mr Settle did just that – and out popped his article.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Scientology – an “organised fraud”

So the silly Scientology movement is just organised fraud. At least, that’s what a French court has found.

The “Church” of Scientology reckons this is just another Inquisition and says it’ll appeal.

Inquisition, eh? The one that dreamed up all manner of excruciating tortures for the kinky, sadistic delight of Catholic inquisitors, who did it under the guise of protecting the faith? (Some did think they were protecting the faith, of course, but I have my doubts about others, knowing a little about human nature and, notably, the kind of evil that religion is capable of engendering in people – not just engendering, but legitimising.)

At least two of the comments on that story I’ve linked to above talk of the poor “suckers” who have been duped by this huge con trick called Scientology, whose founder, L Ron Hubbard, is supposed to have joked that the best way to make vast amounts of money is to invent a religion.

But they do say a fool and his (or her) money are soon parted. If people are going to let themselves be taken in by these con artists, they have only themselves to blame. The likes of Tom Cruise can afford it, of course, but Joe and Jane Public can’t. If Joe and Jane are going to part with money that would have otherwise brought them healthier pleasures or fed their families, they must look to their own morals.

However, it’s hard to criticise Scientology, if by criticise you mean demonstrating, as we saw back in May 2008 when a demonstrator had to dump his placard. See also here and here.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Why Damian is a dribbling loony

So Damian Thompson thinks Richard Dawkins is a prat. Well, he doesn’t say that, but he does call him a loony, and here is what he does say, and, since it’s such a short piece in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, I’ll reprint it all:

Richard Dawkins’s latest attack on the Catholic Church is worthy of a dribbling loony on the top of a bus. He calls the Church “the greatest force for evil in the world”, “an institution where buggering altar boys pervades the culture” and describes it “dragging its skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp”. (Pimps in skirts – that’s a new one.) And all in The Washington Post.

The peg for this piece? The Pope’s offer to make special arrangements for Anglicans converting to Rome, a matter I would have thought was none of Prof. Dawkins’s business. But I’m not going to bother to argue with any of his points, because these are the ravings of a man who appears to have lost all sense of proportion. Seriously: is there something wrong with him?

Your point being, Damian? To paraphrase, if the crap fits, wear it.

The Catholic Church is just that, and has obviously succeeded in getting hold of your mind.

But then we have to look at your credentials to see just why you’re saying these things.

You’re blogs editor on the Daily Telegraph, but are also editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald. You write for a Right-wing, Establishment newspaper, which has its good points, but it’s still Right-wing and Establishment. And you are a Catholic. You actually subscribe to that utter tosh.

Need I say more, except that you're a dribbling loony, Damian, an apologist for an evil organisation that is responsible for more deaths – through its opposition to birth control and condom use as a barrier against disease, not to mention suicides – than Richard Dawkins could achieve if he were equipped with an Uzi and unlimited ammo and let loose in a shopping mall?

Then they came for freedom of speech

Do gays really need the degree of “protection” being offered by overzealous local authorities in the UK?

I think not. And so does the gay Andrew Pierce, the Daily Telegraph’s royalty correspondent, writing in the paper yesterday (Tuesday).

He cites a 67-year-old woman who wrote to Norwich Council to object to a gay pride march. Then she got a visit from the police.

In her letter, she had said that gays were “sodomites” whose “perverted sexual practices” were responsible for spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

He then goes on to repudiate that, saying that other things are more culpable in that department.

But, and quite rightly, he upholds this bigoted woman’s right to say what she said. We can’t legislate against bigotry. We can educate, yes, and we can ensure equality for all – or try to. But there will always be bigots like Mrs Pauline Howe of Norwich.

We’re into the debate over freedom of speech again, and the inevitable consequence of threats to free speech are that free speech will continue to be eroded. Eventually, that erosion of free speech will affect the people who wanted to curb free speech by others in the first place.

But they won’t have seen it coming, because initially it wasn't their freedom of speech that was being trodden on.

“First they came for . . .” wrote Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). You know the rest of the poem, or the gist of it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Christian ethics of investment

The Church of England have been found culpable again. For all their claims that Christianity is full of love and concern, they have some pretty dodgy investments, as we’ve seen here and here.

The think tank Ekklesia now – again – has pointed out that:

A company in which the Church of England has a £29m shareholding will face allegations of human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction as campaigners publish an “alternative report” into its activities today.

The Church is seeking to profit from a portfolio of mining companies including BHP Billiton, which campaigners say are having a massive detrimental impact on poor communities around the world.

The company will present its own report on its activities at its London AGM this Thursday, 29 October. It will claim to work to the highest corporate responsibility and environmental standards in the industry.

But today, critics of the company will present an alternative report outlining the negative impacts of many of the company’s operations – in Australia, West Papua, PNG, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Colombia and Chile.

The report is the work of organisations from many countries working with directly impacted communities, including church groups.

The report catalogues abuses of human rights, particularly of affected communities, issues of worker health and safety, livelihood and food security, and environmental problems. It also raises issues around climate change and BHP Billiton’s commitment to increased extraction and promotion of both coal and uranium for power production.

Ekklesia’s story tells us that recent publicity over four other London-based mining companies – Vedanta, Rio Tinto, Monterrico and GCM Resources, some of which the Church of England also invests in – has “drawn attention to London’s key role in financing destructive mining activities around the world”.

Primitive and malicious

You wouldn’t think anyone could hate gays more than some malevolent spawn of the Devil in Uganda – a politician who wants to send gay people to jail for a long time.

This vicious MP, David Bahati, has tabled a new bill that could mean the death penalty for gay and transgender people convicted of what he calls “aggravated homosexuality”.

This, it seems, means having sex with anyone under 18 or anyone who is disabled (whether with that person’s consent or not), and in any way promotes or disseminates materials that affirm homosexuality.

If someone knows of the very existence of a gay person and doesn’t report it to the authorities within 24 hours of being told, he or she could face a jail term.

The Care 2 blog tells us:

Perhaps the full, awful scope of this bill does not become clear until one reads that the proposed law would punish a citizen with life in prison for “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality”. How they will measure or define such an intention remains unclear. In fact, lack of clarity seems to be the entire basis of the bill, so as to give the authorities greater powers to victimize and, indeed, terrorize Ugandan LGBTs.

It’s just frightening that politicians can think in this primitive and malicious, not to say cruel, manner.

While Britain’s Section 28 (of the Local Government Act) was not quite as bad, this does rather remind one of it. That legislation was introduced by the Tories in the late eighties. They’ve changed their tune now – for as long as it suits them – but, at the time, local authorities couldn’t do anything that would “promote” (whatever that means in this context) homosexuality. They couldn’t do anything that would put being gay in a good light.

It led to a lot of self-censorship until it was eventually repealed by NuLabour (belatedly so), even though no prosecutions were brought under the law itself.

Let’s not forget that there are still Tories around who supported that piece of spiteful, malicious, shameful legislation. We may not, for a few years yet, find things here in the UK as bad as our Ugandan friend would like, but we can’t sit on our laurels just because Tory leader David Cameron seems gay-friendly and we have civil partnerships. Politicians will change their attitude just as soon as it benefits them to do so.

Let’s not forget, too, that one of the world’s most notorious homophobes – the particularly malevolent Joseph Ratzinger, a pope – will be fêted by arse-licking politicians of all stripes when he sets his malicious foot on British soil next year.

(Hat tip to Helen Braithwaite for alerting us to this.)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Not such intelligent design . . .

Do more than half of British parents really think so-called intelligent design and creationism should be taught in school science lessons?

A survey that the Guardian is citing seems to say so.

If it’s true, then evolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, because 54 per cent of the British parents polled don’t seem to have evolved much in the brains department.

However, the statement these parents agreed with, as the Guardian has it, is this: “Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.”

That’s not the same as saying creationism and intelligent design should be taught alongside evolutionary theories. The statement seems to be saying that intelligent design and creationism are going to be taught anyway, and do you think it would be a good idea to have evolution taught at the same time?

One assumes that the Ipsos Mori survey – which questioned 11,768 adults from 10 countries – was a bit more comprehensive in its questioning, but the Guardian story doesn’t make it very clear.

Was there a statement, for instance, that asked you to agree or disagree along the lines of “There should be no place for creationism or intelligent design in the school curriculum”?

Or, better still, “Those who believe in creationism are lunatics. Are you one of them?”

On second thoughts, that might not be an entirely fair question.

Same-sex marriage – a debate

Is marriage a patriarchal, heterosexist institution? And are civil partnerships a second-class legal status?

Let battle commence, because these questions are being asked tonight at a debate in London. More questions on the agenda are:

Does the demand for same-sex marriage embody a conformist, assimilationist agenda?

Should both civil marriage and civil partnerships be open equally to gay and straight couples?

How would you feel if the government banned black people from marriage and offered them civil partnerships instead?

Are civil partnerships a form of sexual apartheid?

It’s being sponsored by the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils and is being held at 7 p.m. at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square (the nearest Tube station of Holborn), and it’s free to get in.

The gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will be on the stage debating Maire Dailey. Sorry, but I’m not sure who Maire Daley is. No doubt someone will put me right.

While it’s only fair that, given that there’s official marriage for heterosexuals, there should be the same for gays if they really want to submit themselves to it, it’s open to debate as to whether gays really ought to wish to ape the hetties and thereby merge into a society that makes us all convenient pawns for governments and big business to tag and move around the global chessboard.

I, for one, would not opt for either a CP or marriage, but you may disagree.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

’Tis the season to be honest

Bishop Jonathan Gledhill of Lichfield is at it again: urging that Christianity should trump the true meaning of what we call Christmas.

There was a tale on the BBC Radio 4 eight o’clock news this morning, but, at the time of writing this, I can’t find it on the Beeb’s website. No doubt it’ll find its way there. You can, however, see it here on the Lichfield diocese website.

His message is that Christians ought to wear crosses and other symbols this Christmas in order to let the world know what Christmas really is.

Well, Bishop Gledhill knows as well as all of us that Christmas was a latecomer to the winter festivities on these isles. He blithely forgets that Christians hijacked the period in order to make the nasty, horrible pagans accept the story of Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.

Christianity was a sort of spiritual cuckoo. “Get out of the nest, you heathen savages – it’s mine! Cheep, cheep!”

However, what the BBC story didn’t tell us was that this bishop had made this same plea – or a similar one – just three years ago. It’s hardly news, or indeed surprising, that a bishop wants his version of the winter festivities to be recognised above all others.

I do agree with him that it’s daft to refuse to decorate public areas or the workplace for fear of upsetting people of other religions, though. The decorations don’t have to be tacky religious ones – just tacky non-religious ones. Better still, those things that signify the continuation of life from one year to the next, such as evergreens, which is why holly and ivy were favourites.

It’s perfectly possible for those of “faith” and those of none to enjoy the winter festivities, which I’m happy to call Christmas, and not annoy the hell out of each other.

And I doubt that many Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Jedi and worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are going to kick up a fuss because the host culture wants to put up a few deccies.

But what about cribs and straw and angels and donkeys? Well, if an organisation that happens to be a Christian one has a space in a public area and wishes to decorate it, how can I object? As long as that organisation doesn’t crib about the pagan one next door.

And, while I write for a blog that is decidedly nontheist and much against organised religion, I do reject the idea that we should shun the word Christmas. We’ve got used to it. It’s part of our history, and talk of Winterval and saying “Compliments of the season” instead of “Merry Christmas” seems a bit contrived.

I made the case for continuing to call it Christmas in a seasonal article in Gay & Lesbian Humanist last December. It’s got nice pictures, too.

Friday, 23 October 2009

More on the church and the BNP

Talking of the odious Nick Griffin, as we were here and here, the excellent Ekklesia reckons that, whatever their views about the rights and wrongs of his appearance on Question Time last night, “church leaders will now have to think long and hard about some of the arguments they employ”.

“Last night,” writes Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley, “the leader of BNP used the words ‘Christian country’ three times in setting out what he believed about what it means to be British – which many in the churches should find a little close for comfort.”

Many Christians don’t, of course, do themselves any favours when they espouse the Right. Your mainstream Christians – the likes of Jonathan Bartley – don’t, of course, but that leaves a lot who do. Their treatment of women and homosexuals marks them out as having some fascistic tendencies – and the redneck, brain-dead fundamentalists in the USA and to some extent over here just wouldn’t dare, I assume, to criticise the BNP for fear of being accused of having similar prejudices.

The Anglican Church is such a broad church that you can’t blame the BNP for trying to climb into bed with it. There’s plenty of room.

A law for Matthew

Good news comes to us via Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, where Black Tsunami writes:

The Senate passed groundbreaking legislation Thursday that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Obama has said the country must make significant changes to ensure equal rights.

The expanded federal hate crimes law now goes to President Obama’s desk. Obama has pledged to sign the measure, which was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill.

President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure.

The bill is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998.

Thursday’s Senate vote approving the measure was 68–29.

Naturally, Black Tsunami is cock-a-hoop, although says more work needs to be done in other areas – and he also has a go at the more barmy and dangerous members of the Deluded Herd, when he says:

The religious right’s main lying claim about lgbt-inclusive hate crimes legislation is that it will lead to attacks on the free speech of those who think that homosexuality is a sin.

They say that pastors will be arrested in the pulpits for simply saying that homosexuality is a sin.

Well as soon as President Obama signs the Matthew Shepard Act, I will be creating an online clock that will count up how long it should take from Obama signing this bill to the arrest of a pastor for simply saying that homosexuality is a sin.

Of course no pastor will be arrested for simply calling homosexuality a sin. And that is the point of the online clock.

The religious right likes to spin a fear story. I say we hold them to it.

We get that sort of thing among Christian lunatics over here in the UK. They think it will be impossible to discuss homosexuality for fear of falling foul of the law. No, it won’t.

We, too, believe in free speech. If any preacherman is arrested for merely criticising homosexuality, I’ll be among the first to criticise that. If he incites violence or libels or slanders someone, that’s a different matter.

This is why I believe that Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, should have got what he did get: a chair at the table on BBC1’s Question Time last night.

I detest him and the racism and homophobia that he stands for. But let him have his moment in the debate, because, once we start denying odious, loathsome individuals like him the right to free speech, how long will it be before you and I are allowed the right to free speech?

And, as we’ve said before, those who have better arguments will soon shoot the likes of Griffin down in flames. Those (such as Peter Hain, MP and Welsh Secretary) who would deny him a seat at that table are obviously not sure of their own arguments, or whether they’ll be able to muster them effectively.
Related link: Ten years on, but more to be done, says Matthew’s mom

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The church and the BNP

“If churches are to be effective in challenging the BNP [British National Party] they need to drop their rhetoric which fuels the party’s ideology,” says the Christian think tank, Ekklesia, in a news release.

It goes on to say that its advice “comes after a number of churches and church leaders issued statements distancing themselves from the BNP prior to [its leader] Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC1’s Question Time [tonight].”

The statements expressed concern that the BNP was portraying itself as a “Christian” party.

But the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, which has been studying the relationship between the BNP and the churches for the last five years, says that references to “Christian Britain”, often employed by church leaders, are encouraging the association of national identity with religion, and playing into the racist party’s hands.

Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia’s co-director said: “Whilst the major church denominations have rightly been outspoken in their challenge to the BNP, their messages have consistently been undermined by continual references to ‘Christian Britain’.

“With their work in deprived communities and care for immigrants and asylum seekers, churches are ideally placed to challenge racism. But they also need to dissect and reject the conflation of faith, race and nation, not endorse it. If they do not, they will continue to play into the BNP’s hands.”

As long ago as 2004 Ekklesia highlighted how the BNP was seeking to identify itself as a “Christian” party, and recruit members by using a mythology of “white Christian Britain”. Ekklesia also brought to public attention how the racist party facilitated the establishment of a front organisation “The Christian Council of Britain”. Ekklesia’s analysis of the BNP’s membership list revealed a number of party members self-identifying as Christians and as active members of churches.

Of course, the arguments have continued over whether Nick Griffin should be allowed to appear on tonight’s programme. We get seasoned politicians such as Peter Hain wanting the Beeb to bar Griffin from the programme. Hain should know better.

Yes, he is, I believe sincere in his hatred of racism, but the only way you debate is by debating. If Hain is so sure of his own stance, he’ll be confident that Griffin will be well and truly crushed by the argument that will be marshalled against him. If Griffin and his party are plain wrong in all they say, this will be shown up in argument. If you’re afraid of going on a stage with such people, it has to be asked just what you’re afraid of – that your own argument will be found wanting?

One thing’s for sure: the Beeb will be assured of good viewing figures tonight.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

How the church makes money unethically

We’ve already seen how our concerned Christians invest in slave labour.

Now they get help – albeit indirectly – from a British judge to continue with dodgy investment.

We learn from Ekklesia (which also provided us with the information linked to above):

A High Court judge has today (20 October) blocked an attempt to launch a legal challenge over the government's use of taxpayers’ money in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) investments which harm the environment and undermine human rights.

The three NGOs who brought the case condemned the decision and declared that they would appeal.

The news will please the Church of England, which is a major shareholder in RBS, having a stake in the company of £8.4 million.

One wonders why an organisation that claims that the ideology that it follows is full of sweetness and light and humility and caring and compassion would not pull out of any investment as soon as it smells anything that’s unethical.

And who would possibly trust a bank, of all things, to invest ethically?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Complaints rise after journo’s Gately slur

The complaints are at 21,000 and counting, it seems, after that obnoxious Daily Mail journo Jan Moir (pictured) wrote about the death of the gay Boyzone star Stephen Gately.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not one of those never-speak-ill-of-the-dead people who believe that no criticism should be laid against those who have recently snuffed it. If they deserve it, they deserve it.

I remember causing some hilarity in an Internet radio rant I did a couple of years or whatever ago when the right-wing, religion-soaked homophobe Jerry Falwell shuffled off this mortal coil. “My mum used to tell me you should only speak good of the dead,” I said. “Well Falwell’s dead. Good!” (All that’s just to prove my creds, OK?).

But this Moir woman just seems to want to find dirt either where there isn’t any, or where it’s just not relevant, and not in the public interest. It’s not as though Gately went about boasting of impeccable behaviour and then committed an immoral act, thereby showing blatant hypocrisy.

So what is she playing at?

Anyway, the story is in the Pink News link we’ve provided up top. If you feel moved to complain, complain.

Monday, 19 October 2009

British Humanist Association boss moves on

Hanne Stinson is leaving the British Humanist Association (BHA) next month, after eight years as chief executive.

A BHA press release says:

Hanne describes those eight years as challenging, exciting and incredibly busy, and she praised the BHA’s highly committed staff team, which she said had achieved an enormous amount over that time. “Leaving the BHA is going to be a huge wrench” said Hanne, “but I think I am leaving it in pretty good shape. When I took on the BHA in 2001, I felt it was an organisation with a lot of potential.

“That is just as true now as it was then, and I feel sure that a new Chief Executive will be able to build on what we have achieved in the last few years to create an even more influential organisation. I am sure that he or she will have the support of the Board, of a committed, professional and highly effective staff team and – equally important – our growing and increasingly active membership.”

Robert Ashby, Chair of the BHA, said, “The BHA Board of Trustees, on behalf of all British Humanists, recognises a great debt of gratitude to Hanne for the dedication she has shown to our cause over the past eight years – a dedication that even lead to her being tattooed with the BHA’s Happy Human logo in the cause of fundraising.

“We all wish her well in the next challenges that she will no doubt take on. I and my colleagues are confident that we can continue to gain momentum with our public awareness and key equality and human rights campaigns, at the same time developing inspiration and support for all humanists in Britain.”

Sharia? Not here!

Not all Muslims want sharia law in the UK, it seems. Well, I suppose we knew that already, but we can’t help worrying – as we have often on this blog – when aspects of this system start seeping into our own laws.

We know that sharia law can’t usurp UK laws – yet. Given the constant kowtowing to Muslim demands, however, it could be only a matter of time – and then chickens will come home to roost.

The Muslims who are against it are featured in a story on the Ekklesia website. They’re against a proposed march by some Muslims to demand sharia law in the UK.
Related links:
Sharia: creeping ever closer
How do you solve a problem like sharia?
Creeping ever closer! When will they ever learn?
Sharia in the workplace
Sharia – the disturbing story continues
The danger of sharia courts
Sharia – a waste of time

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Proving Wilders’s point . . .

Geert Wilders is in the UK, and the protestors who met him seem to have proved him right about Islamic violence – or at least the threat of it.

According to the Telegraph, Muslim protestors carried banners saying “Sharia is the solution, freedom go to hell” and “Geert Wilders deserves Islamic punishment”.

If the cap fits . . .

See the Telegraph’s video below.

Journo’s Gately slur

A Daily Mail columnist has really put the right-wing, reactionary, bigoted cat among the gay pigeons with her suggestion that there was something sleazy and unnatural about the death of the gay Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.

The whole story is in Pink News, and the Daily Mail writer, Jan Moir, has blamed an “orchestrated campaign” for the backlash of complaints against her.

Something approaching a record number have been lodged with the Press Complaints Commission, but such are not in its remit to investigate. If Gately’s family lodge a complaint, the PCC may enter the fray.

However Pink News tells us that some big brands, such as Marks & Spencer, have asked for advertising to be removed from the offending online page.

Nestlé also said it did not share the views expressed in the article and had asked for its advertisement to be removed.

Moir’s comments provoked a wave of anger on the internet as the news of her comment piece spread around Twitter and Facebook today [Friday].

She apparently suggested that Boyzone singer Stephen Gately died because he was gay and said his “sleazy” death struck “another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships”.

In a statement released this afternoon, Moir refused to apologise and denied her article had been homophobic.

Well, she would, wouldn’t she?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Wilders is on his way

It looks as if the controversial Dutch politician and filmmaker Geert Wilders is on his way to the UK, after the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, decided in a moment of absolute lunacy to ban free speech when he had been invited to show his short anti-Koran film Fitna to two members of the House of Lords.

As we reported on Tuesday, his ban for allegedly being likely to be a threat to public order – as if we didn’t have many far more potentially disruptive people coming into the country (instance the Pope’s visit next year) – has been lifted.

The BBC tells us he’s on his way.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Muslim challenges Wilders to debate – so let battle commence

We’ve crowed about the fact that the Dutch politician and filmmaker Geert Wilders has now been allowed into the UK, after silly Jacqui Smith banned him while she was Home Secretary.

So now let us see his mettle. He wants free speech, and now he’s been challenged to debate by someone who comes over as an enlightened Muslim.

“The decision by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal* to rescind the unjust ban on Geert Wilders [. . .] entering the UK should be heartily endorsed by all true democrats,” writes Dr T Hargey in a reader’s letter the UK’s Guardian. He continues:

When Jacqui Smith issued her prohibition order last February preventing the controversial leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands from coming to the UK – apparently at the urging of certain pro-Labour Muslim groups – this was a worrying triumph for intolerance and fanaticism. The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford opposed the Wilders proscription as a denial of his fundamental democratic rights and freedom of expression.

Hargey, an imam, echoes our own sentiments in this: let debate commence. What is the point in banning someone and stifling debate – especially when many of those whom he seems to be against would welcome the opportunity? Hargey continues:

In fact, last April, on behalf of enlightened British Muslims, we challenged this far-right Dutch politician to a properly moderated public airing of his mad prejudices against Islam in a neutral venue of his choice, but he has thus far remained strangely silent and non-responsive. Now that Wilders plans to come to Britain next week, will this bigoted populist just play to the viscerally anti-Muslim crowd here, or will he be bold enough to get together in robust intellectual debate and honest dialogue? Is this extremist Islamophobe merely content in peddling a toxic mix of half-truths, caricatures and myths about Islam, or does he have a genuine interest in Europe’s future?

Since Wilders has not had the courtesy even to acknowledge our repeated correspondence, does he have the guts to engage with a progressive Muslim in an earnest and regulated debate? Is he capable of defending his facile claims in a protected public forum in the UK? We are ready whenever this white knight in shining armour is brave enough.
Goodness knows what lunacy possesses the Guardian’s editor, but even proper nouns are left uncapped, as “Asylum and Immigration Tribunal” was in the letter above (which we have corrected). How are we to know whether it’s a name or just a description? But that's trendiness for you – trendiness for trendiness’s sake. This has nothing to do with the post above, but I thought I’d make the point. Indulge me!

When will the Beeb give us a look-in? asks humanist group

A humanist group in England is demanding that the BBC produce programmes about the humanist tradition, which goes back to ancient Greece and Rome.

But, as usual, the Beeb has been “disappointingly noncommittal”, say Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists, saying only that the request has been registered “on our audience log”.

The group’s chairman, George Broadhead (also secretary of this blog owner, the Pink Triangle Trust), commented, “Humanism is the rational, ethical alternative to supernatural beliefs, including deism. It is obvious that people can lead happy, fulfilled lives and show concern for others without such beliefs.

“According to a Mori poll, 36% of British people – equivalent to around 17 million adults – are Humanists in their basic outlook, 62% of Britons believe that ‘human nature by itself gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong’, against only 27% who said ‘people need religious teachings in order to understand what is right and wrong’.

“Moreover, the Office for National Statistics has reported about the same proportion of people saying that they belonged to no religion as saying that they belonged to a Christian denomination, and the British Social Attitudes Survey has reported that 69 per cent of people either did not claim membership of a religion or said that they never attended a religious service.

“Despite this evidence, the BBC spends more than £10 million a year on religious broadcasting – much of it propaganda like Radio 4’s God slot ‘Thought for the Day’ – and nothing on programmes about Humanism.

“Research shows that Britain is one of the most irreligious nations in the world. So, why is the BBC so biased in favour of the so-called faith communities, and when is the large non-faith community going to get a look-in?”

Why, and when, indeed, George?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Wilders ban overturned

Someone has seen common sense at last, it seems, and the Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been told he can come to the UK after all.

He was banned by the ridiculous then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith (the one who’s had to apologise to the Commons for fiddling her expenses, and who really ought to be thrown out of the party and into jail, if only pour encourager les autres, but that’s another matter.)

As we said back in February:

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was praised by the Foreign Secretary, an equally politically correct appeasing nutcase, David Miliband, who claimed Wilders was breaking the law because there are laws against religious hatred and [Wilders’s short film] Fitna stirred up hatred.

Anything has the potential to stir up hatred. Muslim bleating has the potential to stir up the hatred of otherwise rather nice people who pat dogs and help old ladies across the road, who give to charity, say good morning to their neighbours and keep cats.

So it’s good to see that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal ruling has overturned that decision, which followed his being invited to give a private screening of his film in the House of Lords.

We may not like much of Wilders’s right-wing politics, but he ought to be allowed to make his points. Who next will be barred, just for wishing to express an opinion?

However, you can expect little more from the bunch of third-rate careerist politicians we have in the UK at the moment. The vote is what counts, and Muslims control a minority of it, but an increasing minority.

Any way our grubby masters can secure the vote for themselves will do, whether it goes against freedom of speech or not.

Human rights – on our terms, says Muslim

“We firmly believe that the exercise of freedom of expression carries with it special responsibilities,” said Pakistan’s delegate to the UN Human Rights Council, speaking for the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

The “defamation” of religion, he said, “results in negative stereotyping of the followers of this religion and belief and leads to incitement, discrimination, hatred and violence against them, therefore directly affecting their human rights”.

These words of wisdom come as the UN passes a resolution condemning “stereotyping of religion”.

So this geezer reckons that taking the piss out of religion can lead to consequences for individuals? OK, so how about Islam’s stereotyping of homosexuality as something that is “un-Islamic” or haram? Can that not lead to unfortunate, human-rights-affecting consequences for individuals?

The Index on Censorship piece linked to above says:

Following the OIC’s logic, one could equally apply the language of the resolution to Islamism, a political form which is arguably a “contemporary manifestation of religious hatred, discrimination and xenophobia. It results in negative stereotyping of the followers of other religions and beliefs and leads to incitement, discrimination, hatred and violence against them, therefore directly affecting their human rights.”

Yup. If you want everyone else to be nice to your hideous religion, Mr Pakistani Delegate, old chum, start being nice to other minorities and stop looking for special privileges and curtailments of others’ freedom of speech and expression.


Oi! Keep the noise down!

“A London church has been told by Lambeth Council to reduce the volume of its worship,” the Christian Legal Centre tells us.

In an extraordinary decision, All Nations Church in Kennington, South London, has been served with a noise abatement notice by Lambeth council after complaints from a couple of local residents about the level of noise coming from the church.

This is the first complaint that the church has received since it began meeting at the premises in the 1960s. Church leaders have been ordered not to amplify its music or sermons – something which will make worship very difficult for the 600-strong congregation – some of whom are elderly and hard-of-hearing.

The decision, which imposes a restriction on the freedom of expression of religion will, according to one of the church’s pastors, Victor Jibuike, seriously affect the congregation and potentially mean that some members will leave and worship elsewhere – something he does not want to see.

The Council Noise Abatement Notice was served on the church without warning on 25 September 2009, despite the fact a meeting with the local Councilor [sic] and residents had being arranged for 20 October with the intention of addressing the neighbours’ concerns. The Pastors of the Church wanted to do everything possible to solve the matter amicably.

Pastor Jubiuke [sic: different spelling from the one above!] believes the complaints which have led to the notice may also have been triggered by the church’s plans to develop a disused school into a community centre in partnership with the Council. He said: “The complaint has nothing to do with the noise and everything to do with our faith. Lambeth Council are driving us out and we feel harassed.”

The Church is being supported in its ordeal by the Christian Legal Centre.

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The real issue behind this complaint is hostility to the Christian message, and the law is being used as a pretext to harass and silence Christian viewpoints not approved by the State. All Nations Church is simply trying to make Christianity relevant to 21st[-]century Britain and it will be a great loss if the church, which is a great benefit to the community, has to curtail its activities and outreach programmes because of the Council’s actions.”

Who told the church to cancel its outreach work? The council, as far as I can tell, has told it to pipe down a bit, stop using amplified music. How does that affect the outreach programme?

And, if it’s so difficult to cater to huge congregations, then reduce them. Have separate meetings. Bring the hard-of-hearing to the front.

The fact is that, if you choose to live near, say, a nightclub, you might expect some noise, and I would hazard a guess that building regulations contain something about noise insulation. And a question I have: are churches obliged to apply for live-music permits, the way places of entertainment are?

When you live near a church, you don’t expect a huge horde of rowdy Christians belting out God’s pop songs like a strident chorus in a West End musical.

You might expect bells on Sunday (not particularly intrusive in a country that’s used to such sounds, and has been for centuries, with all of its indigenous citizens having grown up with them) or a few cars parking or moving away, maybe animated chatter – things at a human scale.

But amplified gospel singing (assuming that's part of the mix)? I think not. Not that I don’t like gospel, and have heard some fine examples of it. But that’s been when I’ve chosen to listen to it.

The Christian Legal Centre seem to be using this as yet another excuse to bash those who they perceive are bashing Christianity. Mostly, no one is bashing Christianity: they’re wanting things to be equal in the workplace, or for neighbours not to be bothered by unnecessary noise.

But Christians are as capable as Muslims of choosing victimhood over common sense.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Let’s not be antigay, says bishop

Dr Peter Selby, the former Anglican bishop of Worcester, has, according to the ever-helpful Christian think tank Ekklesia, told a gathering of Christians "that anti-gay sentiment should not be setting the tone of discussions about Anglican polity and that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a responsibility to speak up for more than just holding church institutions together”. The bulletin continues:

“If homophobia is contrary to the intentions of those advocating the traditionalist cause”, as has often been said, “it has been allowed to provide a good deal of the fuel for the debate, and the Archbishop’s personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that energy is being used”, Dr Selby told the Inclusive Church residential conference “Word on the Street – reading the Bible inclusively”.

The gathering also heard lectures from biblical scholars Dr Richard Burridge, Dr Andrew Mein and Dr Paula Gooder, who argued that those who oppose recognising the faithfulness of gay people have no monopoly on sacred texts – which actually point in the direction of God’s embracing love and critique human attempts to manipulate God in favour of one particular group or class of people.

Other biblical scholars who have undermined the attempts of anti-gay activists to claim biblical warrant for their prejudices have recently included Professor Christopher Rowland, who holds the Dean Ireland Chair of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford, and Professor Deirdre Good, a New Testament specialist from General Theological Seminary in New York, with her book Jesus’ Family Values.

Bishop Selby said: “Our main concern has to be that what is being proposed is no way to discern the truth about the matters in dispute, and we must be sure to make that point clear at every opportunity.”

Speaking about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said: “The Archbishop has removed himself from his natural area of thought in the matter of sexuality, that is, his remarkable capacity to bring a godly wisdom to bear on secular developments, a gift we need more than any other in attempting to work out how to assess current developments in human attitudes and behaviour in matters sexual. Instead the issues that surround sexuality are now treated by him only as ecclesiastical problems, to be resolved as such.”

In a detailed analysis of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent “Reflections on the US General Convention, Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future”, he showed how the Anglican Covenant as currently proposed would send unintended messages of exclusion.

Dannii and Danyl – and some political correctness

Just what is all the fuss about Dannii Minogue and an alleged “slur” against a gay contestant in The X Factor?

I admit to watching The X Factor (but I don’t watch soaps, OK?), and to some extent enjoying it, especially towards the end of the competition when the dross has been filtered out and we get some quality performances.

Now Minogue was commenting on the fact that one contestant on Saturday night, Danyl Johnson, was gay. She’d read something, presumably, about his being so, and made the reference when he chose a song made famous by a girl.

Here’s how one source –, an Aussie website – describes it:

Danyl sang the Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls show tune “And I Am Telling You”. Dannii’s completely inappropriate comment referred to the gender change to the lyric. “Changing a girl’s song into a guy’s song, but if we are to believe everything we read in the paper maybe you didn’t need to change the gender reference in it,” she said.

Simon Cowell was gobsmacked. “What did you say? What did you say? What did you say?”, he fumed, to which Dannii then foolishly repeated her out-of-place statement.

Inappropriate? Foolish? Sorry. I don’t see the problem, and didn’t when I heard Minogue apologise for the reference in last night’s votes show. All she did was say, although not in so many words, that, Johnson being gay, he could have sung the song with reference to a man rather than a woman, since it would be relevant to his own sexual orientation. Fair enough.

I don’t know whether any gay groups have complained – and, to be honest, can’t be arsed to find out – but, if they have, they should be careful. Gay people will be put side by side with some Muslims, Christians and other religionists who get all prickly if there’s a reference to their religion that they perceive to be offensive.

Minogue’s reference to Johnson’s sexuality was, as far as I could make out, just that: a reference. It wasn’t a criticism. It wasn’t even a joke and certainly not a jibe – just a whimsical reference.

Let’s stop this political correctness. Please!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Religion and drugs

“Freedom of religion is an inalienable right, and until this right is extended to the oldest form of spiritual practice, our ability to explore who we truly are will be severely limited.”

The words are those of Alexander Beiner, author of the novel Beyond the Basin, which draws on his studies of shamanism and the use of sacred plants in South America.

His plea – and it’s in the standfirst in a Guardian “Comment is Free” feature – is that this “oldest form of spiritual practice”, the use of mind-changing drugs, should be allowed in law. That standfirst: “Freedom of religion should be extended to the use of drugs in spiritual practice”.

No, no, no.

Allow the use of the drug, yes, but why just because for some people it’s a religious practice?

Beiner makes the perfectly logical point that our society allows ciggies and booze to be consumed in whatever quantities we wish, so why not plant-based drugs?

Well, one reason could be that when these plant-based drugs are refined, they become more dangerous and have to be controlled. In their raw state, though, yes, why not let us use them if we wish? That doesn’t, of course, excuse the fact that tobacco and alcohol are capable of harm when misused – and harm to people other than the user, too – but it’s a point worth pondering.

But leave religion out of it, Alexander. Freedom of religion is not, as you say, an inalienable right, in that it extends only as far as it doesn’t tread on the rights of others. Often, it does.

I agree that to have a religion is an inalienable right. It’s in the how of practising it that things can get tricky. So let us not complicate matters further by having more special privileges – just because something is classed as a religion.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Beeb and the beeps – you can swear by it

Christians are crowing about the BBC’s decision to clamp down on some swearing on air, even after the 9 p.m. watershed. And religion looks like getting a special status.

Gratuitous swearing is never very clever, but I say that not because I’m against hearing the words, but because they simply lose their effect if overused. Carefully placed, the odd F-word can be funny or otherwise effective; used at every verse end, it’s not.

But the Beeb are even planning to beep out taboo words, it seems, when they feel it appropriate – in addition, I assume, to simply not allowing them to be used in the first place in their own-produced material. And, moreover, if swearing is combined with mentions of religious stuff, it’s somehow even worse.

Jesus fucking Christ on a stick! (Sorry – should have beeped that.) This is sheer lunacy. Just how much privilege is religion going to continue to get? And why is religion going to be thus privileged?

Because religious references can offend some people, that’s why.

No. People get offended. Religious people get offended. Because they’re religious. Let’s get it right. No doubt stamp collectors would take offence if their hobby were trashed with jokes and swearing. Owners of Lada cars must have winced when their pride and joy was the butt of jokes. Vegetarians come in for some stick.

Where will this end? Banning everything that can conceivably be taken as offence by somebody?

The watershed is there for a reason. It’s that time when kids are thought to be in bed and away from the telly. In practice, that’s very different, but broadcasters can do only so much. The rest is up to parents.

As for those who take offence, well they can use the watershed, too, and be prepared for an announcement – and there are such announcements – that the following programme contains language that some viewers may find offensive.

Are we to find that the odd F-word is now going to be bleeped out of comedy and movies? It’s done, incidentally, on the UK digital channel Dave, and just what the logic is beats me, because sometimes the participants in, say, Mock the Week (a topical panel show involving well-known comedians, mostly of the stand-up variety, even though they’re sitting down) say the word and it’s bleeped, and in another showing it’s not bleeped.

That illogicality apart, we should really be allowed to make up our own minds.

If thine eye (or ear) offend thee, dear viewer, pluck at the off switch.

More thoughts on “Thought for the Day”

We reported on Thursday on the debate in London about whether the BBC’s “Thought for the Day” ought to be open to nonreligious speakers. Over on our Gaytheist discussion group (see sidebar – join up), John Hunt told us he’d managed to get along. Here’s what he said:

The chain of circumstances unleashed by reports six months ago of my debaptism last year led in June to my unpremeditated ordination as a minister of the First Church of Atheism. As such I have acted (unofficially) in recent weeks as an atheist chaplain at my local hospital.

This evening [Thursday] I attended a debate on whether humanists should be allowed equal rights on “Thought for the Day”, with panellists Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association, Ariane Sherine of the Atheist Bus Campaign, “inclusive” cleric Giles Fraser from Putney, and the very same Bishop of Croydon who declined to meet me in March.

During the discussion I explained my (non-physical but spiritual?) relationship with Bishop Baines, and my works as a hospital chaplain. Afterwards I was buttonholed by a couple of members of the audience: allowing Nick Baines to do a runner.

Moved by the experience of this evening’s debate, I shall enquire whether the BBC “Thought for the Day” management team are prepared to include a minister from the Free Church of Atheism amongst their speakers.

And we hope John will share the results of that enquiry with us.

Meanwhile, over on Nuts and Reasons (which we include on our sidebar), we see that an appeal on the matter will be held on 5 November (will there be fireworks?).

“I feel we are approaching a watershed moment in this long-running dispute,” writes blog owner Quedula.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Growing disbelief

Atheism is a force to be reckoned with in American schools and colleges, it seems. We on the UK side of the Pond have tended to think religion is hardwired into the American psyche, as this article on a Telegraph blog points out.

Now, we learn that atheism is one of the fastest-growing movements in the 18–25 age group.

And there’s a Catholic cardinal in there complaining about it, as you would expect.

But there’s hope yet.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Playing gay

For once a Muslim can be sensible about coming into contact with that extremely haram phenomenon: being gay.

A 24-year-old actor from Cardiff – Said Mohamed – plays a gay man in a new film, Colonial Gods, which is being premiered at the gay and lesbian Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff.

His approach to the part – and he says he’s not gay – is one of professionalism, he says. He hopes most actors would bring a similar attitude to bear.

It’s not the first time a gay Muslim has been depicted – and at a higher-profile level, too. Dev Patel, star of the successful Slumdog Millionaire, played a gay Muslim, Anwar, in the British TV drama Skins. (Lovely line, when his mother knocks on Anwar’s bedroom door: “Anwar? Anwar? Are you masturbating? You should.”) And there was the celebrated kiss – not just a gay kiss but a gay Muslim kiss – in the UK soap EastEnders.

All a far cry from the Muslim footballers in France we blogged about yesterday, who, we were told, didn’t wish to play against a gay team, but we are now informed they will be playing after all (thanks to Dave McKeegan for that tip-off).

Thoughts on “Thought for the Day”

It’s the debate that’s exercised religionists, broadcasters and secularists for years: why can’t nonreligious folk have a bash at the BBC’s “Thought for the Day” slot?

For those living outside the UK “TFTD” is a slot in Radio 4’s Today programme. It lasts about two and a half minutes and goes out at around ten to eight each morning.

It’s mostly drivel, full of clichés and platitudes. Indeed, there’s a blog (linked to in our sidebar) called Platitude for the Day, which is well worth a visit.

The argument from secularists is: why are homilies and words of wisdom valid only when from the mouths of religionists? The religionists argue (well, some of them) that it’s a religious slot. So do the broadcasters. The BBC has steadfastly refused to budge on the issue.

Now there’s to be a debate, chaired by one of the Today programme’s more religious presenters, Edward Stourton. It takes place today at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, and the motion will be “This House Believes that Humanist speakers should be included in BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ ”.

For the motion are Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association and the comedian and writer Ariane Sherine, the brain behind the atheist bus campaign. Against the motion is one of the contributors to “TFTD”, Canon Giles Fraser, and the Rt Rev. Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon.

Let battle commence.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Talking balls

So much for the sporting spirit. A team of Muslim football players have refused to play against a gay team in France (see also here).

It’s against their religion. Being gay, that is (as if there were no gay Muslims!). And their superstitious beliefs are more important that football. They would probably complain if a gay (or any other) football team pulled out because they didn’t agree with Islam.

You would think the relevant football authorities had ordered both teams to have a group shag in the showers afterwards.
See an update on this here (see last paragraph).

Kicking religion in the goolies

So we should all bow down to the great god that is religion itself, should we?

That seems to be the message from the Tory Baroness Warsai, at the Tory Party conference.

The UK’s Telegraph quotes her as saying, “Under Labour, the state has become increasingly sceptical of an individual’s religious belief.

“We’ve all seen the stories, how appalling that in Labour’s Britain a community nurse can be suspended for offering to pray for a patient’s good health.

“How awful that a school receptionist could face disciplinary action for sending an email to her friends simply asking them to pray for her daughter.

“At the heart of these cases lies a growing intolerance and illiberal attitude towards those who believe in God.”

Idiot! We just don’t want religion in the public square. We might feel more tolerance towards people who believe in impossible things if those people didn’t want to shove those impossible things in our faces all the time.

Secularism is a growing movement. People are realising that gods were an explanation centuries ago for things we didn’t understand.

Then came the need to control people, so savvy types decided they could intercede on behalf of the gods, or a single god. Then more people began to believe.

Belief in gods is much the same as belief in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus; belief in religion is just a mistake, because it’s a control mechanism, and it’s a pity more of its adherents can’t see that.

It saps resources; it takes up valuable human energies; it causes conflict; it divides communities.

If people got on with their spiritual lives in their own way, they might get a bit more respect from those of us for whom it’s just not right.

But religions grab and grasp, they carp and complain, they demand and they damn anyone who doesn’t fit in – usually in the matter of sexuality – with what said religions say their gods say we should and shouldn’t do.

So I’m afraid, Lady Warsai, that, if we are truly giving religion a kick in the bollocks, it can be only a healthy thing.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Credit where it’s due

Let’s give credit where it’s due in the case of Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain. He thinks gays are given a hard time by Islam.

In a piece in the Guardian, he writes:

In Muslim communities the issue of homosexuality is very rarely discussed in a candid manner and is all too often wished away as if it is an affliction that involves other groups, not them. Not far from the surface, however, are reports of gay Muslim men being pressurised into rushed marriages by parents desperate to avoid any social stigma. The woman’s family is never told the truth about her husband’s sexuality, of course, with the result that another soul has to endure unhappiness due to the initial failure to face up to the issue. It is a highly dishonest and unethical approach.

Islamic scholars and imams should ideally be performing a much-needed pastoral role by helping in these situations and providing guidance. At the very least they should insist that any intimidation or discrimination against gay Muslims is unacceptable.

Why anyone should need a mojo man I don’t know; it’s up to them. But, if it weren’t for religion’s interference in the first place, most gays – Muslim and otherwise – would be a lot happier and at peace with themselves, and most others would never have thought homosexuality an issue in the first place. Religion is to blame for gays’ misery.

The hypocracy of Pope Ratzinger

Pope Ratzo reckons “spiritual garbage” is poisoning Africa.

It’s been afflicted by materialism, says the man whose organisation drips in wealth, who gets to live in sumptuous palaces, get dolled up in expensive dresses and never go hungry.

He’s also banging on about religious fundamentalism. Well, we know what most people mean by that, but you don’t get much more fundamental than Catholicism, with its literal interpretations of miracles and the intercession of saints and other impossible things.

Monday, 5 October 2009

More self-censorship

Here we go again: people are afraid to speak because nutty Islam might get uppity.

This time it’s a German publisher, reported by the blog Monsters and Critics, quoting Der Spiegel.

“A German publisher has cancelled plans to publish a mass-market novel out of fears that it might face violent protests due to a rude reference to the Koran,” it says.

It’s a crime novel about an honour killing. The story says:

It [the magazine] said the publisher had first asked the author, Gabriele Brinkmann, writing under the pen name WW Domsky, to tone down dialogue in To Those Worthy of Honour which might be construed as offensive, but she had refused.

Spiegel reported that the offensive phrase in question was a character saying: “You can shove your Koran up . . .”

A character, note, is saying this. It’s fiction. There’s no saying there would have been violence, of course, but it’s come to something when we’re forever censoring ourselves because of religious sensitivity.
Related links:
Aisha: the on/off story continues
Aishia: on . . . off . . . on again

Floyd on Humanism

The life of TV chef Keith Floyd, who died at the age of 65 on 14 September, was marked by family and friends at a Humanist funeral service, which took place in Bristol, and you can see a short video of it here.

I was not a fan of Keith Floyd, but was intrigued to learn that he had a Humanist funeral ceremony.

Other celebrities who have had a Humanist ceremony include the world-famous award-winning gay ice-skater John Curry (whose ceremony in Warwickshire I arranged!), comics Ronnie Barker and Bob Monkhouse, pop star (and later actor) Adam Faith, and jazz performers Humphrey Lyttlelton and George Melly, who, until his death, was a vice-president of both CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality) and GALHA (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association).

Sunday, 4 October 2009

It takes three to tango

“A controversial children’s story about gay penguins has come top in a list of books Americans have asked public libraries to withdraw,” the rabidly gay-hating bunch of tossers known as the Christian Institute tell us.

Their story goes on:

The American Library Association run an annual Banned Books Week which highlights books which library users have requested to be banned.

The book at the top of the list, entitled And Tango Makes Three, is about two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who raise a baby penguin.

Some of the reasons given for requests to ban it include “anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group”.

In the UK last year, children’s books about homosexual relationships were removed from primary schools after Muslim parents protested.

Well, Muslims would. They need to have something to complain about, and sexuality is a prime target, because they’re as rabidly homophobic as Catholics and the Christian bloody Institute.

And what right have religionists to demand that books deemed OK and important to young minds be removed? Is education not about educating? If young minds are being taught the facts of life concerning hetties, should they not be taught the equally factual facts of life concerning homos?

But this is an argument readers of this blog would, I’m sure, largely agree with.

The Christian Institute quotes a governor at one of the schools, Farooq Saddique, who said, “The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us ‘our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven’t even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet’.”

You haven’t, maybe, but if the school are talking about homosexual relationships you can bet your bottom they’ll have dealt with, or will be dealing with, heterosexual ones, too.

And, Mr bloody Saddique, you seem to be saying bullying is wrong, but keeping the facts of life away from our children is more important than preventing bullying, and if the gay ones get bullied that’s just collateral damage.

And, anyway, are the kids being taught how to do it? I don’t think so, somehow. They’re probably being told that same-sex relationships exist, just like the heterosexual ones they see around them every day and in all aspects of their quotidian existence: at home, at school, in the shops and supermarkets and so on and so forth.

So how can you say they don’t know about heterosexual relationships yet, when they see them happening all about them?

This is just homophobia.

Slobbering zealots

Oh, what a hoot! A councillor in Barnsley, Yorkshire, has summed up bone-worshipping Catholics as “slobbering zealots” – just the sort of phrase most of us would like to have used.

Councillor Tim Cheetham used the words on Twitter, and some people aren’t too happy about it.

May have been a bit silly, he being a councillor and all that. But, as Horace said, “Scire loqui decus est; decus est et scire tacere.”

Which means, “A word once released does not know how to return.”

His own words – which he could delete from Twitter, I believe – were, “With all those slobbering zealots kissing that glass case, I hope it has some mystical power to prevent swine flu.”

Well said!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Evil child-abusing Catholic Church not really that bad, honest, says Catholic

As we all knew already, the Catholic Church’s scandal over pervy priests was caused by . . .

But you’ve guessed already: not predatory, bullying paedos and sex attackers per se, but homosexuals.

A story in Pink News tells us:

A Vatican official has said that the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was caused by gay men preying on teenage boys, rather than paedophilia.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN, read out a statement after a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva.

He said: “Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.”

Tomasi added that it would be “more correct” to refer to ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than paedophilia.

The statement also attacked other religions, with Tomasi saying that most US churches embroiled in abuse scandals were Protestant, adding that the problem was also common in Jewish communities.

Tomasi said: “As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it.”

For a start, the tu quoque argument (others did it too, so our own culpability is lessened) is flawed. We’re talking about Catholic pervs for the time being.

I don’t know what proof he has of the sexual orientation of most of the priests who used their positions to prey on and attack young people. Let’s say he’s right. Does this change the degree of evil? Is it better to prey on girls than on boys? Does that make it just a little less heinous – a venial rather than a mortal sin?

The sex of the victims is immaterial, since the crime was attacks on them by priests in the employ of this evil organisation, an organisation that has gone to great lengths to cover up and play down.

Tomasi goes on to say only 2.5 to 5 per cent of Catholic clergy had been involved in pervy practices involving young people. The Times (London) has a “Holy See” diplomat called Monsignor Hubertus Megen saying very much the same thing.

Perhaps Tomasi was reading from a statement written by Megen. Who knows? Who cares? The fact is that the Vatican is up to its old tricks of playing down its priests’ offences against other – and vulnerable – human beings.

And that 2.5 to 5 per cent is still a helluva lot of offenders.

If you’d like to rub your hands while reading a thorough condemnation of Pope Twatzinger, try this one from the Guardian. It’s a humdinger, ending with the following paragraph:

So this is the man who is coming to lecture us about morality. Welcome, Benedict XVI, Episcopus Romae, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God. Don’t tread on the corpses.

Head case

If you can’t do your job because you’re wearing some unnecessary head gear, you expect to have to take it off, right?


A 31-year-old, turban-wearing Sikh cop, Gurmeal Singh, is now “in line for a payout from Greater Manchester Police”, says the Daily Mail.

There are some complexities in this story, and one suspects that both sides have perhaps not acted as well as they might, but this blog is, among other things, about religious privilege, and that’s what is happening here.

If someone else wanted to wear a huge jokey bandage around his head, just because he fancied it, he’d be told to take it off if it got in the way of his job. This turban did.

It’s bad enough that Sikhs get away with not having to wear crash helmets on motorbikes; now they can win compensation from their employers.

The solution is simple: if you feel you can’t do a job for religious reasons, don’t do the job. Do another job.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

More baying for blood in Bonnie Scotland

They still want not only the blood but the entrails of the chap appointed a priest in Scotland, it seems, just because he doesn’t fit with some people’s ideas of what a guy should and shouldn’t do in private between consenting adults.

The Christian Institute – a rabidly homophobic bunch of nutcases in the UK, who seem to have sex on the brain – report that more and more churches are ganging up on Scott Rennie.

We reported back in May how the followers of gentle Jesus, meek and mild, would like to see the guy hounded out of a job.

The Christian Institute says:

[A] group of like-minded congregations set up to oppose the move says it has received more than 100 requests for application packs from churches wanting to join.

The Fellowship of Confessing Churches say 46 churches are already members.

One might ask why Rennie wanted to get involved with the priesthood in the first place, and—

Oh, but of course, he’s gay, and the priesthood would probably fall apart were it not for its gay members.