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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Sharia Law: Islamic Justice

Following on from a post made to this blog yesterday – Up to our necks in sharia – and The shame of sharia post today, this video may be of interest:

It features the front cover of the Autumn 2005 issue of Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine.

The shame of sharia

Sharia is a truly hideous legal system. I’ve just read an article by Denis MacEoin, the man we quoted in yesterday’s post on the subject of this scummy, shady system, in which he looks in one long detailed paragraph at how shitty sharia is to Muslim women.

Read the entire article, but this is the paragraph:

If couples do not marry according to UK civil law (and I have seen a fatwa ruling that they need not register their marriage with the British authorities), there may be serious consequences in the event of divorce; in the custody of children (which always goes against the woman); with respect to alimony (a man does not have to pay any, except for the children) and with regard to rights to a share in the family home (which a woman does not have). During the marriage, a man may coerce his wife to have sex, (though wives do not have that right); a husband may confine his wife to their home; if one or the other partner abandons Islam, (the marriage is declared null and void). It is considered wrong to reject polygamy. If a woman wishes to divorce her husband, it is made dependent on obtaining her husband's permission and the agreement of a sharia court. A woman may not marry a non-Muslim and a man may marry only a Jewish or Christian woman. Legal adoption is prohibited, but if a child has been adopted, he or she may not inherit from the adoptive parents. The Leyton-based Islamic Shariah Council has issued rulings including one that forbids a woman of any age to marry without a male "guardian"; another that says a man only has to intend to divorce for it to be valid; one that insists that a polygamous marriage must be maintained even in the UK (Islamic Shariah Council); and another that excuses a man from making alimony payments after divorce.

But will our tenth-rate politicians listen to this kind of caution. Nope. As long as there are Muslim votes and they can continue to adhere to political correctness, they don’t give a gopher’s gonads for the rights of women, because they’re Muslim women, and they know that Muslim women are not as likely to kick up a fuss as non-Muslim women, who, generally, are not the chattels of men, to be used and abused by them as the men see fit.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Stonewall revisited

“[A]lmost every Fortune 500 company has policy that covers LGBT people. And I know having worked for both Brown University and the State of Rhode Island that health care and insurance benefits are available to the partners of gay people.

But it isn’t enough. Until we all have the same rights the fight is never over.”

So writes Truthspew, one of our frequent commenters, on his blog, Spewing the Truth in the Face of Lies, in an interesting piece on the Stonewall Riots.

Quite right, too.

And of course you can read about the Stonewall Riots in our sister publication, the free, online Gay & Lesbian Humanist.

Truthspew keeps a tidy blog. He’s there in our sidebar. Drop in from time to time.

Exorcism storm

The American teen who’s homosexuality was “exorcised” by swivel-eyed lunatic Christians has become quite a star.

The Christian think tank Ekklesia tells us that the video of the barbaric ritual – posted on YouTube and embedded in our original story last week – has caused quite a flurry of outrage, with many human-rights types and Christians appalled by it.

Robin McHaelin of True Colours, an advocacy group for young gay people, said she had come across a number of cases of adolescents being threatened with exorcism because of their sexuality.
She suggested that those who carried out such ceremonies on a young person were “killing his spirit”. She is planning to report the YouTube case to the local welfare authorities.

Here in Britain, Sharon Ferguson of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said she’s frequently come across people who have been subjected to exorcism ceremonies in the UK.

“It [. . .] fills me with horror that this sort of thing is still going on,” she told Premier Radio, adding that it did “untold damage”.

Up to our necks in sharia

It’s reported today that there are now 85 sharia courts in Britain.

This is 17 times higher than previously accepted, says a Daily Mail story.

OK, we know they’re not legally recognised and any judgments have to be ratified. But that, apparently, is easily done, and it’s women who lose out, because Islamic law belongs in the Dark Ages and doesn’t give a toss about human dignity and equality.

“The spread of sharia law has become increasingly controversial since its role was backed last year by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, who stepped down last October,” says the Mail, citing a study by an Islam specialist, Denis MacEoin. The story continues:

The report added: “The fact that so many sharia rulings in Britain relate to cases concerning divorce and custody of children is of particular concern, as women are not equal in sharia law, and sharia contains no specific commitment to the best interests of the child that is fundamental to family law in the UK.

“Under sharia, a male child belongs to the father after the age of seven, regardless of circumstances.”

It said: “Sharia courts operating in Britain may be handing down rulings that are inappropriate to this country because they are linked to elements in Islamic law that are seriously out of step with trends in Western legislation.”

More appeasing and kowtowing by our politicians, who ought to be stamping this evil out, and insisting that all disputes that require a decision that will have legal status be begun and ended in proper courts, not imported kangaroo courts run for invisible sky fairies and ancient scriptures rather than real people, living now, in this country, facing 21st-century problems.
Related links:
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

Sunday, 28 June 2009

National ceremonies for all

“Disestablishment will actually pose major problems for society,” writes a bishop, the Rt Rev. Paul Richardson, in Britain’s Telegraph. “Every country needs shared rituals and celebrations to foster a sense of community and provide a backdrop to major national occasions.”

And why should disestablishment pose this problem, Bishop? Many secularists, this one included, have said for yonks that having religion at the forefront of national celebration and national mourning and other markings of historical events has effectively shut out those who want no truck with religion.

Ceremonies at a more personal level – for funerals, marriages, baby-namings, for instance – are devised by secularists, and in principle can be every bit as beautiful and memorable as an event that has religious overtones. So why can’t we do this on a national level?

Why can’t suitable readings, speeches, music, dance, other performance art and processions be incorporated to create an occasion that the religious and nonreligious alike will enjoy or consider meaningful and moving?

If national events were devoid of religion, everyone could feel a part of them, and religionists do themselves no favours by arrogantly proclaiming otherwise.

But, to give him his due, this geezer is recognising that the Church of England in Britain is almost a dead duck. And his Telegraph article gives some worrying stats – worrying for the Deluded Herd, that is.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

That's shoe business!

At least one person is up in arms over the perceived desecration of a religious artefact. But we’re unlikely to see riots, murders, shouting and jumping up and down in the streets.

“Sight-seeing in Switzerland does not leave a vacationer horrified,” says a story in the Times of India, “but Patna’s Prabhat Choudhary, his wife and daughter were shocked to see a Lord Buddha statue garlanded with a pair of shoes at a footwear shop in Geneva.”

The paper quotes Prabhat as saying, “We were strolling on shopping street when my 15-year-old daughter insisted that we got into Anne Fontaine, a designer footwear shop. There in the shop, we saw a four-foot statue of Lord Buddha on the shelf displaying shoes and slippers, garlanded with a pair of shoes.”

Prabhat’s daughter, was furious, says the paper. “Though her parents were a bit frightened, she persuaded them to let her shoot the sight with her videocam. The girl, a student of Patna’s prestigious Notre Dame Academy, accomplished her mission without anyone – the shop staff or the crowd of customers – knowing about it.

“Back home, Prabhat has sent a letter to the ministry of external affairs, requesting it to take up the matter with Swiss authorities.”

And that’s as much as we get in several sources.

Imagine what would have happened if a Muslim symbol had had a pair of shoes strung about it. The mere existence of a representation of their “prophet” would be bad enough (since he’s not supposed to be represented in likenesses), but to hang a pair of shoes about his neck . . .

It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Stonewall Riots, 1969

On 27 June 1969 – 40 years ago today – New York City police raided the Stonewall bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The gay men inside didn’t meekly comply, but fought back.

In "Gay Liberation", in the current issue of G&LH, John Lauritsen remembers a seminal moment in gay and social history.

Meanwhile, in "Gossip from Across the Pond", Warren Allen Smith recounts some little-known facts about the Riots, and, in "Out of Print", looks back at the publication in 2004 of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.

The counsel of Councillor Pritchard

Fundies in America are not the only ones who think homosexuality is some sort of demon, it seems.

“In Wales,” says the BBC website, “a councillor has been disqualified for 12 months after referring to homosexuality as a ‘notorious disability’.”

Bill Pritchard, a former town councillor in Barmouth in Gwynedd, wrote to a minister in the Welsh Assembly Government, referring to two men involved in a local development who were in a relationship.

He described homosexuality as “a demon which can be driven out”.

This prat is quoted as saying, “It is definitely a disability rather than a sin. I respect them [gays] as someone who is struggling with a disability as I would with someone in a wheelchair.”

Gays can do without your caring concern, Mr Pritchard, thank you, no matter how well meaning you believe yourself to be.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Animal rites

“This regulation protects the fundamental rights of Europe’s religious minorities.”

Hang on, hang on, hang on! We’re talking here of the rights of religious lunatics to kill animals in a barbaric manner. Those rights?

Yes, it would seem so.

The quote we open with comes from Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, quoted in a story on the website.

Animal-rights campaigners are rightly miffed at the fact that, because of these primitive God botherers, meat slaughtered cruelly will now have to be sold throughout the European Union.

This is because – as we reported recently – MEPs ruled that Muslims and Jews should be allowed, without prior stunning, to slit the conscious animals’ throats so that the creatures can witness their own lives dripping out of their necks while, we are told, in pain and anguish.

The story says:

The new EU rules require all slaughter techniques to make sure animals do not suffer “any avoidable distress or pain”, but they make an explicit exception for “cultural traditions and religious rites” [. . .]

Conference of European Rabbis executive director Aba Dunner added: “The regulation specifically makes provision for the killing of animals for food by religious communities to be exempted from the requirement for pre-stunning, and it contains no discriminatory labelling requirements for meat slaughtered using the shechita [the Jewish kosher] method nor for post-cut stunning to be enforced.

Does this mean that you and I could buy meat anywhere – a local butcher, a supermarket – and have no right whatever to know how it’s been slaughtered? In the name of your damned religion, you primitive barbaric bastard?

Then we get another idiot:

Fhuja Shafi, chair of the food standards committee at the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said: “This is a human rights issue in terms of our ability to practise our religion. It’s a very humane method of slaughter. The incision with a very sharp knife produces a fast death and we see no problem with it.”

No, you wouldn’t see the problem with it, you thick moron, because you are not the animal (even if you have the brain of one).

Again, where is the “right”? Oh, yes, you have a right in law, it seems, but that doesn’t make it a moral right.

Stephen Evans of Britain’s National Secular Society (NSS) is quoted as saying, “This is further evidence of the grip that religion increasingly holds over our decision makers.

“Here we have a non-negotiable religious opt-out for a piece of legislation aimed at avoiding unnecessary suffering. The ruling is basically saying that it’s okay to cause animals to suffer, as long as you’re religiously motivated.”

The NSS tried to get a meeting with Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, but he wouldn’t meet them. However, having had some kind of irony bypass, his department said it would be continuing to monitor slaughterhouses and – get this! – the efficiency of stunning techniques would be regularly monitored.

Think about that for a moment. The efficiency of stunning techniques? What about the lack of stunning techniques? Those stunning techniques are pretty damned inefficient, in that, for halal and kosher slaughter, they don’t damned well exist.

Oh, but you don’t consider the lack of stunning as a deficiency in stunning. No, of course not. How silly of me even to consider that, for once, our politicians might put decency before primitive superstition.
Related links:
In favour of animal suffering
It’s still OK to be barbaric to animals

Thursday, 25 June 2009

It’s OK to bully gays, kids, ’cos God says so

We said before that Catholic leaders like to be utterly cruel to gay people.

Now we see that a bunch of the evil bastards in the States are happy that kids should be bullied because of their sexuality.

Oh, these loons dress it up in some highfalutin shite about how recognising sexual orientation as a genuine cause of bullying will lead to gay marriage (oh, wait for the sky to fall in), but it still amounts to condoning bullying on the grounds of being gay.

In Catholic Culture, we read:

Over the repeated objections of Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, the North Carolina House, by a 58–57 vote, has passed legislation that would require school employees and students to report “bullying,” “harassing behavior,” or a “hostile environment” that is motivated by a bullying victim’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

Then we get to the pathetic objections of this bunch of snivelling gobshites:

The School Violence Prevention Act (Senate Bill 526) is an attempt to eradicate bullying at public schools. Much of its language and its attempt to make all forms of bullying unacceptable are laudatory and this dimension of the bill has been endorsed by us. However, the inclusion of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” as specific examples of bullying to be eradicated, creates a potential for legalizing same-sex marriage in NC [North Carolina]. Codifying these terms into an anti-bullying law was used in the construction of “findings of fact” by lawyers to convince judges in California, Connecticut and Iowa to mandate same-sex marriage. We oppose this language because of its future implications for same-sex marriage. Efforts to remove this specific language and simply make all forms of bullying unacceptable have failed so far.

But the remove-it-from-all-forms-of-bullying argument is to say that some forms of violence (mental or physical) are not only to be discouraged (as all bullying should, of course) but that their presence – or the threat of their presence – should not be used as a means of indicating to potential transgressors that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is not to be tolerated. It’s about enhancing the message, as well as making it clear to those who think a gay person is a legitimate target that such behaviour will invite greater punishment.

These idiots would no doubt agree that killing a cop should merit a greater punishment, or that the tariff for other crimes ought to reflect motive and intent, as well as the crime itself, pour encourager les autres. But not if the victim is gay, it seems.

Doesn’t it just make you want to puke – right over a bevy of bishops?

Rite and wrong

Did you know that filthy queers can have the demon known as homosexuality ripped from them by an exorcism?

Well, a group of rabid – not to say highly dangerous – Christians in Connecticut seem to think so, if this story in the Lexington Herald-Leader and reproduced on its website is anything to go by.

It talks of a video that’s been made of such a ceremony:

The video shows the 16-year-old boy lying on the floor, his body convulsing, as elders of a small Connecticut church cast a “homosexual demon” from his body.

“Rip it from his throat!” a woman yells. “Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!”

You can see bits of the video (it’s a bit disturbing) by clicking below. It’s part of a news programme, and the anchors discuss the video after showing an excerpt from it. So you might like to play all 5:20 of what we’ve embedded below and hear the comments.

It does raise wonderful possibilities if it works, though. Imagine exorcising members of the Deluded Herd of the weird spirits that possess them.

That would make for an interesting video.

[Since writing this I’ve come across the entire video, so I’ve put it below the one we first embedded. Enjoy! If that's the right word!]

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Time to uncover

There have been quite a few calls for the body-covering burqa to be banned, following the French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call for it to be outlawed.

On the surface of it, you might argue that women should be allowed to wear what they want. But, in times that are ever more sensitive to security matters, it may not always be possible to be so tolerant of this alien cultural bin bag that some Muslim women choose to wear and some Muslim men insist be worn by their womenfolk.

The arguments for banning it, though, seem to be saying that it’s not necessary from a religious point of view; that there’s nothing in the Koran that says a burqa should be worn.

But, if there are objections to the burqa, would those objections be overruled if religion did insist on it? You get that impression.

Yet if those objections are genuine – whether from a security point or out of a feeling of discomfort and sheer impracticality during the normal exchanges of busy life in the public square – then they should trump religion, not the other way round.

The question has to be asked, of course, whether the matter could even be discussed here in the UK? Probably not, because our politicians – when not busy dipping their hands into the till to fiddle their expenses – are far too ready to cuddle up to religious demands.

But, anyway, this is what Agnès Poirer has to say on the subject in today’s (London) Times:

That such a debate is taking place again reveals the sturdy health of secularism in France, a tradition that doesn’t shy away from being confrontational even in a country with the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe.

Similar debates seem impossible in Britain. When Jack Straw dared to state the obvious in 2006 by saying that the burka and the niqab were “visible statements of separation and of difference” before asking politely that women visiting his constituency surgery consider removing them, it provoked angry protests from Islamic associations and the British liberal-Left, always inclined, it seems, to defend the rights of liberty’s enemies.

Anyway, the women would look a lot sexier without it. Er, am I missing something there?

Bye-bye, Bishops?

Bishops could be banished from the House of Lords. Oh, good!

It would not be before time if this anachronism were lifted from our legislative machinery.

For the sake of those outside the UK, the situation is that 26 Church of England bishops have the right to sit in the upper house as of right. Just because they’re bishops. Their collective name is Lords Spiritual.

Yeah, I know, it makes you puke, but it happens here, honest.

Now I have no objection to a bishop in the House of Lords, provided he or she— Oops, we don’t yet have women bishops here, which is another reason why the dinosaurs of the Church of England should be kicked out.

But where was I? Oh, yes. I have no objection to a bishop in the House of Lords, provided he is put there in the same way as anyone else is put there. It’s supposed to be on some sort of merit, but of course it’s largely a system of favours and influence and occasionally bribery, as one or two scandals have illustrated.

One option under consideration is a move towards an all-elected upper house.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is said to be considering some options for reforming the upper chamber, one of which sees an elected House of Lords, where there would be no seats reserved for Church of England bishops or any other religious leaders.

And that’s as it should be

These men in frocks sit in the Lords because the Church of England is the established church. Would getting rid of them be the start of disestablishment? We can only hope so.

As we’ve said often on this blog – well, I have, anyway – it’s entirely up to individuals whether they follow a religion and join (or remain within) the Deluded Herd. It’s quite another thing to say that our country is of this or that religion.

Culturally, the UK owes much to Christianity, yes, but that’s just historical. No doubt that fact will continue to influence things long after disestablishment (should it ever come). Some of its influence is neither good nor bad – just there.

Anyway, it would be silly to try to throw out everything connected with a religion just because it’s no longer the established one. I’d miss the music. And you’ve got to admit: religion does give us a laugh here and there.

But let’s for goodness’ sake get rid of this nonsense whereby 26 cassocked individuals can have an influence on our laws, just because they are bishops.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The preposterous Mr Poots

Unless he’s changed his wacky views since I last read anything about him, Northern Ireland has as its Environment Minister a man with some strange notions. His name is Edwin Poots.

Apart from his rather cute and memorable monker, Mr Poots has weird ideas – ideas that make you wonder what sort of environment he thinks he’s presiding over.

For Mr Poots, you see, believes that the world was created in six days, until the Lord got knackered and shagged out and decided to put his feet up for a day (and who can blame the old geezer?).

Then God had a change of mind, and decided to use his spare time to create some pillocks.

Unless Mr Poots has changed his wacky views, Mr Poots is one of them.

G&LH, June 2009

The latest issue of G&LH is now available FREE by clicking here.

Gay Liberation

Although the fight for gay rights can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, 27 June 1969 marks the birth of the modern gay liberation movement that has continued to the present day.

On that day New York City police raided the Stonewall bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. The gay men inside didn’t meekly comply, but fought back. Two days of rioting ensued and in July the Gay Liberation Front was born.

Unlike most gay-rights activity in the UK and elsewhere today, what there is of it, the GLF was a truly radical organisation that had a vision of gay radicalism that embraced the antiwar movement, a far cry from the UK’s Stonewall organisation, that undemocratic, unaccountable corporate lickspittle of the New Labour establishment.

That said, perhaps GLF was a little too radical as it rapidly decayed into disarray, as JOHN LAURITSEN describes in our keynote feature “Gay Liberation”, which recalls the Stonewall riots and what followed.

WARREN ALLEN SMITH also writes in “Gossip” of his memories of the Stonewall riots and the setting up of the Stonewall Riot Veterans. In what is an amazing and little-known story, Smith describes how the group’s president came out to him in 2006 as a total fake! Smith continues the Stonewall riots theme in our “Out of Print” article, which first appeared in the print edition of G&LH in 2004.

Although now forty years old, the modern gay-rights movement is still very far from its goal of full gay equality. In fact, in many parts of the world – especially in Islamic countries such as Iran – little progress has been made at all and homosexuals are often murdered by state executioners for “crime” of being gay.

However, there are definite signs that things are at last beginning to change. The homosexual students of a number of Iranian universities have put their names to a groundbreaking letter to the Student Movement of Iran calling for the recognition of gay people and respect for their rights and freedom. The letter, which was translated into English by SAGHI GHAHRAMAN with the assistance of MIKE FOXWELL, is reproduced here in G&LH.

Even in many countries in Europe, the road to universal gay rights has a long way to go. COLIN DE LA MOTTE-SHERMAN tells of this other Europe in Part 1 of a three-part article that explores in detail the national and cultural differences within Europe.

Although progress is being made here by the gay-rights movement, he warns of the dangers of not understanding cultural nuances that can lead foreign campaigners to hinder, not help, the indigenous gay-rights organisations in these countries.

Sherman also reports on the Riga Baltic Pride 2009 event, which was held in the Latvian capital despite attempts to stop it, albeit within the confines of a completely fenced-in park!

While on the subject of Europe, the Anglican Church pitched into the recent European election campaign by calling on the UK electorate not to vote for the British National Party, a somewhat hypocritical stance, as MIKE FOXWELL points out in “BNP Bishops”.

Ordained minister NEIL RICHARDSON is also on the political campaign trail and takes a closer look at the Christian Party in the UK, which causes him to question whether or not he belongs in a church after all.

JOHN HEIN, militant atheist and editor of ScotsGay, also casts a jaundiced eye over religion in “Kirk Session”, where he takes a look at Scotland’s principal God botherers at their annual jamboree on The Mound.

Meanwhile, MARK REES-ANDERSEN tells in “Philosophy Game” how a small Danish publisher is being sued by the infamous Catholic organisation Opus Dei over trademark legalities surrounding its new game.

Christian zealots have been causing trouble too, in the Isle of Man, where STUART HARTILL was barred from a local Amnesty International meeting in the name of free speech! Hartill tells us the full story in “Amnesty”.

On a lighter note, we feature a new book by CRYSTAL TOMPKINS titled Oh, The Things Mommies Do!, which is a celebration of lesbian mothers and their children. In “Airings”, EVGENY AFINEEVSKY talks to us about his new film Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!, which tells the story of what happens when a Jewish family try to get their gay son off with another “perfect” girl.

PETER WELLEMAN’s cartoons have appeared regularly in G&LH and this month we get to know Welleman and his work a little better in an interview with him conducted by ERIC GEERS. We feature more of Welleman’s work in our regular “ ’Toons” page and also another in the popular Jesus and Mo series.

And, of course, ANDY ARMITAGE takes his regular look at what’s been happening right here on our Pink Triangle blog. He also peruses what’s been happening in the news recently in “News Watch”, while GEORGE BROADHEAD casts a global eye over the world’s news in “World Watch”.

If you missed any of our previous online editions, go to our archive.

Finally, as always, we hope you’ll feel the urge to write for us if you have something to say. Please see our Contact page for details of how to get in touch. We would be particularly interested to hear from you if you have an article or letter you would like published.

Whatever you have to say, we’d love to hear from you.

The latest issue of G&LH is now available FREE by clicking here.

Happy reading!

Keep it to yourself

A very good argument for keeping your religious beliefs to yourself is given on the website in a letter – and its simplicity is entirely convincing.

The argument of the Deluded Herd goes that it’s not nice to try to repudiate others’ beliefs, just because you don’t share them.

Yet, says the letter from Alan R Pendragon of Leicester, every time a Muslim proclaims his faith, he’s denying the Christian her faith, because the Muslim does not believe Jesus held the same status Christians believe he did.

If a Christian proclaims her faith, she denies the Jew his faith, because she’s saying Jesus was the Annointed One, the one they had all been waiting for, while the Jew reckons that figure has yet to set foot on the earth.

Yet all these people are encouraged to flaunt their delusions in public (and we’ve seen what a sorry state it’s led to in places). If any of them is right, it can be only one. Which proves that the others are wrong. QED.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Imagine no religion? Easy! Part II

Got an interesting response the other day on another blog I write for, Infidel Bloggers Alliance, when I posted the piece I had already written on here about the MP who thinks we can’t manage without religion.

Infidel Bloggers Alliance is not a nonreligious blog (although I suspect there are few contributors who are not members of the Deluded Herd). That’s why a commenter calling himself Revereridesagain thought I might come in for some flak. So far, I haven’t.

Anyway, I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing his supportive response here:

Andy, I know you’re going to catch hell for this so I’m just checking in to bolster the buffer zone.

MP Goodman has no idea what life under religion is going to be once the Muslims have become 25% of the population in Great Britain, but if there is any justice in the world he will live long enough to find out.

Living as an atheist in a religious world can be depressing at times knowing most people can’t understand how we get along without it. (Nicely. Thanks for asking.) But living in a world where religion dictated what I would wear, what I could eat, with whom I would associate, whom I could marry, what I could and could not say, what work I could do (if any), and in which I was explicitly considered to be worth a fraction of the value of a man and which threatened my life if I broke any of its rules would be unbearable.

Sadly, there are a lot of people in this country now who may understand that in theory but think it can never happen in Great Britain, let alone here. For them, the millions risking their lives to demonstrate against theocratic oppression in Iran are just a worrisome inconvenience because they might interfere with The Obammasiah One’s plans to make the world one big happy marxoliberislamationist family.

I know it’s hard for some to understand why, but the atheists here will never back down from this fight against Islam. But we know that our rights derive from our very nature and that no one has the right to violate them in the name of their god or their tribe or their sociological theories or anything else.

Looking on the bright side, at least Goodman won’t be an MP after the next election. He will probably be replaced by some guy named Ahmed.

Couldn’t have put it better myself, mate. Well said!

It’s still OK to be barbaric to animals

“Religious slaughter techniques practised by Jews and Muslims are cruel and should be ended, says a scientific assessment from the Government’s animal welfare advisers.” So writes Martin Hickman in today’s Independent.

But will our government do anything? It looks unlikely. Cuddly, cruelty-free, can’t-put-a-foot-wrong religion will trump being kinder to our fellow creatures any day.

Back in May, you may remember, Euro MPs voted that it was OK to be cruel to animals.

We reported then that the website was gloating that “Attempts to ban the production of kosher meat in the UK were dealt a major blow this week after the European Parliament voted in favour of declaring shechita a legitimate form of animal slaughter.”

The Indie tells us:

The Farm Animal Welfare Council [FAWC] says that slitting the throats of the animals most commonly used for meat, chickens, without stunning, results in “significant pain and distress”. The committee, which includes scientific, agricultural and veterinary experts, is calling for the Government to launch a debate with Muslim and Jewish communities to end the practice.

It was FAWC that brought out a report in 2003 (the Independent story makes reference to it). It declared that this type of ritual slaughter was unacceptable. To please the superstition lobby, our politically correct bunch of toadying NuLabour appeasers decided to ignore FAWC’s recommendations in favour of more suffering for the animal.

Even if our government – or the next one when the Tories get into power – decides to “launch a debate”, it will do no good: the Independent says the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said the cruelty will not be ended, and it will put religion first.

Rituals, tradition and desiccated old scriptures are more important to the practitioners than suffering by sentient creatures, and our politicians don’t give a monkey’s arsehole.

One bit of good news that the Indie reports is:

One Muslim organisation, the Halal Food Authority, already insists on the slaughterhouses it regulates stunning animals first on welfare grounds, as long as they are still alive when their throats are slit.

But there’s always a “but”:

But in other halal and almost all kosher slaughterhouses, animals have their throats slit without prior stunning which would render them insensible to the pain. Religious groups say that doing so would be against their interpretation of religious texts.

These barbarians can claim legitimacy for their brutality from exemptions they’ve been granted to the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995, which says creatures such as cows, goats and chickens be stunned first.

It’s thought that about 114 million animals are killed under halal and 2.1 million under kosher methods each year in Britain. That’s a lot of suffering – for the sake of superstition.

Demand “openness”

The saga of the UK House of Commons MPs and their expenses will long continue. Two key words are endlessly repeated: “transparency” and “redaction”.

These are key words because of what they hide. Transparency means things can be seen but not touched as through a window or a computer screen. This is often not enough. Something may look real but only be lifelike. That’s why so many MPs want this so they can then pull the wool over the eyes of the world.

The Humanist principle of “openness” is required, not “transparency”. To test if something is genuine and not a fake it is often necessary to be able to pick it up by the ears and shake it or to be able to turn it inside out. So listen out and demand “openness” and don’t accept mere “transparency”.

“Redaction” is a word being used by spin doctors to try to disguise their real activity of censorship to keep the public in ignorance of what is really going on.

It is clear from those supposed to safeguard the interests of others be they MPs or bankers that what is needed is public accountability. It is up to the public in all parts of the world to ensure that we get it.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Science versus faith

I came across this video (embedded below) over on Nuts and Reasons while I was browsing there today. The blog's owner, Quedula, says of it, “A beautifully clear exposition on the differences between science and faith”. It's certainly worth a look.

By the way, our sister publication Gay & Lesbian Humanist featured her blog recently in its “Blogwatch” slot (click here).

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Imagine no religion? Easy!

Religion has contributed to education, politics and morality, reckons the Tory MP Paul Goodman. “It is completely impossible to imagine human life or social life without it.”

Oh no it isn’t.

He was talking about how one in four of the population of Wycombe will one day be Muslim. He seems to think that is a good thing.

In and of itself, there’s no argument. People should be free to practise their chosen superstition (much as they hate it when some people choose not to practise any at all). However, because Muslims tend to be shrill and demanding, it won’t be long before sharia law creeps ever further into Britain’s legal system. All it needs is a concession here and a concession there, and each one becomes a precedent, and on precedent new laws are made.

His talk of how religion has contributed to education, politics and morality is like saying fresh air has contributed to education, politics and morality because people breathe it. Things would have happened without religion, because it’s human beings who have set the agenda.

Some agendas have been set by religious people based on their religious beliefs, yes, and we have some of those hanging about like a bad smell nowadays, such as religion’s propensity for interfering in what people do in their bedrooms.

However, when human beings have thoughts and make laws, they do so as human beings, and call upon a whole raft of reference points and examples. It is not hard to imagine a world without religion, Mr Goodman.

Given that we have religion, however, it needs to be kept in its place: behind closed doors and between consenting adults – just as homosexuality had to be when it was “legalised” (I prefer to think it was still criminal, but with a few exceptions) in 1968.

Religion was happy that that should be the case. But it bleats when the so-called New Atheists dare to criticise it and the toxicity of its influence in so many areas of life.
Related links:
Norman stormin’ against Islamic courts in UK
Sharia: creeping ever closer

And there was light

Religion does get ridiculous at times. Oops! did I say “does get”? I mean it gets even more ridiculous.

A Jewish couple in Bournemouth, UK, are suing their neighbours because said neighbours are “forcing” said Jewish couple to “work” on their sabbath.

It’s all to do with “motion sensors that turn on the lights in their communal stairwell, which they claim make it impossible for them to leave their flat during the sabbath”, says WorldWide Religious News, quoting The Times.

Like many Orthodox Jews, Dena and Gordon Coleman will not use electricity between sundown on Friday and Saturday night, which they regard as a day of rest. But since the sensors were installed at Embassy Court in Bournemouth, the lights come on as soon as the Colemans set foot outside their front door – which they say makes them responsible for switching them on and therefore prohibits them from leaving the building.

You’ve gotta laugh. But here’s a solution. All you have to do is imagine the lights are on by default (so you won’t have switched them on as such), but that their “offness” is caused by the absence of movement. So it’s the absence of movement that has done the “work” of switching them off.

You are doing the “work”, therefore, by remaining in your flat, and causing them to be off. So you can go out on the sabbath totally free of guilt.

Er, well, it sounded OK when I first thought of it!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Fighting to discriminate

“[S]elf-interest and an instinct to exclude rather than welcome is turning more and more people away from institutional religion.”

Thus speaks Simon Barrow, co-director of the ever-sensible religious think tank Ekklesia, in a bulletin that tells us: “Representatives of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have told the House of Commons that they will fight to maintain their powers to discriminate in cases of employment and against limits proposed in the Equality Bill.”

The two churches, says the bulletin, say they “fear their ‘right’ to discriminate on the basis of factors other than religion, would be ‘unreasonably’ limited by the new Equality Bill”.

And on what grounds would they wish to discriminate other than religion? one has to ask. They’re churches. Religion is what they’re about. Perhaps they just want to sneak their religiously motivated bigotry in matters of marital status, gender and sexual orientation in by the back door.

Barrow, comments, “At times it seems as if advisers to the two largest churches in Britain are on a crash course with reality, with fairness, and with the very meaning of the Christian message itself when it comes to handling equality and diversity concerns. Negativity, self-interest and an instinct to exclude rather than welcome is turning more and more people away from institutional religion.”

He adds, “The churches do not seem to understand that inward-looking self-preservation is a self-defeating strategy. This is something the founder of Christianity declared very pointedly to his followers in the Gospel accounts. But the irony and poignancy of this still seems lost on some of his modern-day followers.”

That’s tellin’ ’em, Simon. Keep up the good work.

Of pots and kettles and totalitarianism and fascism

“Liberal totalitarianism” and “cultural fascism” are set to become buzz phrases among the Deluded Herd. You just watch.

These are accusations levelled against people who want to ensure that school pupils are properly educated when it comes to matters of sexuality.

The ones bandying these phrases about want their kids to be shielded for as long as possible from the idea that there is a sexuality that isn’t heterosexuality – in spite of the fact that some of them won’t be heterosexual.

This is happening in east London at the moment, where Muslim leaders are now calling on the council in Leytonstone not to prosecute parents for withdrawing their children from the lessons.

It’s not always Muslims who are pig-headed and bigoted about sexuality, of course, but pig-headed and bigoted they certainly are, and this story happens to concern Muslims.

They say that the parents facing prosecution for keeping their kids away from school are, according to Religious Intelligence, doing so “simply to secure a decent moral upbringing for their children”.

And a “decent moral upbringing” is only about “decent moral” heterosexuality – and, if your kids happen to be gay, let them suffer in silence as teachers trash their rights to express themselves freely, while their (heterosexual) fellows are encouraged to do just that. All in the name of Allah, of course.

“Rather than filling the heads of impressionable boys and girls with fatuous drivel about gay penguins, schools should be ashamed of the fact that they are sending children out into the world barely able to read, write and add up properly,” says Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamics.

The point being made about gay penguins is that homosexuality isn’t some construct invented by gay people to justify some chosen lifestyle. There are other creatures in “God’s creation” that prefer members of their own sex. It’s a case of doing what comes naturally.

Which means, Mr bloody Ahmad, that your Allah created poofter penguins, poofter pandas, poofter porcupines and poofter people. Get used to it, or bugger off to a country where your primitive prejudices will be more welcome.

And pupils might be better able to read, write and add up if so much time in Muslim schools were not spent cramming the Koran into their heads. If the national curriculum actuall forbade that useless nonsense, there might be a lot more numerate and literate students leaving school.

The Religious Intelligence story continues:

He accused teachers of promoting tolerance, but [they] did not tolerate the parents’ views that their children were too young to be taught about gay relationships.

“This isn’t education, its cultural fascism,” said Mr Ahmad.

He added: “If the local council does decide to go through with a prosecution, it would be in line with the government’s approach to the Muslim community. Muslims who believe homosexuality is a sin would be labelled as extremists.

“Liberal totalitarianism is a growing phenomenon in Britain and the west in general but many people will be shocked that the school can override a parent’s view of what’s appropriate or inappropriate to teach their children.”

Promoting intolerance of parents’ views? Cultural fascism? The words pot, kettle and black come to mind.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

If you act gay, get another job

It’s not hard to find at least one subject Islam and Christianity agree on: it’s called being gay.

We see an example of it in Holland at the moment, where, in a row over whether superstition-based schools should be able to sack teachers just for being gay, a representative of Islamic Schools, Yusuf Altuntas, has said “Judaism, Christianity and Islam disapprove of acting gay [. . .] If that is what you are, apply at a different school”.

“The Council of State – the highest advisory body in the Netherlands – was consulted by the ruling coalition on whether religious schools should be allowed to exclude gay teachers,” writes Robert Pigott, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent, in the story linked to above.

“Now its advice has been leaked, and has raised questions about how far the rights of religious schools should be extended.”

Article One of the Dutch constitution says that “all persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.”

On “any other grounds whatsoever”? Sounds a bit all-embracing. They wouldn’t discriminate against an axe murderer?

Anyway, Dutch law, it seems, currently says that even schools that treat the Bible as their foundation are not allowed to discriminate against a teacher for the “single fact” of her sexual orientation.

“But the Council of State suggests that the single-fact provision should be scrapped,” says Pigott, “and says religious schools may exclude homosexual teachers whose behaviour violates the school’s values, even if it takes place in their private life.”

Whether religious or not, schools are employers, and employers should all have to work under the same equality laws. Anything else is just pandering to bigoted, discriminatory, not to say Dark Ages, attitudes.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Religion versus education

Religion is a bar to learning. Surprise, surprise!

This is not what’s perhaps the more obvious interpretation: that religious mumbo-jumbo just ain’t real knowledge. It’s a bit more practical: doing prayers and Koran cramming in school leaves less time for the subjects that are meant to be taught.

This story about a primary school comes via the Irish Independent, and concerns the North Dublin Muslim School.

The [school inspection] report says that external personnel are employed by the school to teach religion. They work in all classrooms for 45 minutes each day, teaching the Koran and Arabic – in other national schools the normal period is 30 minutes a day.

Pupils in middle and senior classes also attend prayers for 20 minutes each day with additional time required for preparation, the report says.

However, the report says all of this eats into the delivery time for the national school curriculum.

Not only this, but the teachers have a habit of disappearing while this nonsense is being crammed down pupils’ throats, yet the report says the kids should be supervised at all times.

Bad though it is – kids being denied education for the sake of religion – it’s not all that this school has been up to. Another story in the same paper says the Department for Education and Science has been raising serious questions about its finances.

There’s been “little evidence” that grants and other funds have been spend appropriately. The department pays the rental for this school, and other running costs such as gas and electricity bills.

Taxpayers’ money going on what? The story continues:

It is not possible to ascertain how previous money and specific grants have been spent or what bills have been paid and what amounts are still owed.

There are few records of previous expenditure and there is little evidence of that expenditure in terms of maintenance, resources and equipment. Information on available finances is not communicated to the school community, the report says.

The board of management has failed to make available a sufficient range of teaching and learning resources to the teachers and pupils in the school.

The report also found that there was little evidence that department grants, issued to support curriculum implementation, had been spent appropriately.

And yet another story concerning the same school says A team of experts is to be sent in to monitor the school, “which has been strongly criticised in the most damning inspection report ever issued” by the Department of Education.

The paper talks of “a litany of shocking revelations”, set to “cause alarm within Ireland’s 32,000-strong Muslim community”.

Only among the Muslim community? I’d have thought that every taxpaying citizen, and every citizen who has any concern whatsoever for how the country’s young people are being educated, would be alarmed, indeed furious, over this.

Why do we in these isles (and elsewhere) feel that religion just has to be part of schooling? As this blog has said on many occasions, learning about it is one thing, but learning it for its own sake is quite another, and should be outlawed.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Let us not pray

A local council in England could be sued for having a talking-to-our-invisible-friend session before meetings.

In Cumbria, Kendal Town Council’s traditional prayer reading before meetings makes people feel excluded, according to Cllr Enda Farrell, who called for prayers to be scrapped or to be held in a different room, stressing that it was a matter of equality, and he’s threatening to take legal action.

“This council has to be seen to be acceptant of all people regardless of creed, colour or race,” he told councillors at a meeting last week.

But Cllr Graham Vincent argued that the council was a “Christian council” and he could see nothing wrong with the tradition.

And since when was any local authority in Britain a “Christian council”, you twozzock? Is your part of Cumbria some sort of theocracy?

It’s a council that may have some Christians on it. Even if it were entirely made up of Christians, that does not make it a Christian council, just a council entirely made up of Christians.

It always amuses me that, when someone wants God fans to abide by some rule or other, they cry foul, but God fans want to impose their ways on people who don’t give a monkey’s arsehole about their infantile chants.

Monday, 15 June 2009


I’ve often argued that homeopathy shouldn’t necessary be dismissed, just because its mechanism isn’t (yet?) known. It may turn out to be bunkum, but the jury’s still out.

I don’t argue against the naysayers just because they say its efficacy can’t be proven or because they don’t believe it works. I argue against them because they simply dismiss it out of hand. Effectively, if there isn’t a man with a white coat and a clipboard and several strings of letters after his name recognised by official bodies, it can’t work, they say.

You find these naysayers among humanists and in the National Secular Society and among people who call themselves freethinkers.

Now this study that the Daily Mail reports on doesn’t entirely convince me, but it does tell me that there could be something in it – something we just haven’t got to grips with yet, perhaps something to be found in quantum field theory, which I understand has something to say about homeopathy.

There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence in favour of homeopathy’s efficacy, and, quite rightly, anecdotal evidence doesn’t convince the scientist. But it ought to make the scientist want to do more science.

This story doesn’t use the term “double-blind”, but I think we can safely assume that, if the trial was done by scientists, they would have used the method that ensures that information about which pill was the placebo and which one was the homeopathic medicine is kept from the subjects and those administering the stuff.

I recognise, also, that this study was done by doctors at a homeopathic hospital, and that should be factored into our assessment of it. It does not mean we should dismiss it, but we should be cautious.

So we can’t say QED, necessarily, not just yet, but this is enough to make us open our minds again to the possibilities that some things operate at a level we’re just not that familiar with – but one that, in principle, science can grapple with.
NOTE: You may also be interested in a letter in Saturday's Guardian that reads:

The apparent success of homeopathy for many patients is puzzling. But [the Liberal Democrat MP and National Secular Society honorary vice president] Dr Evan Harris MP is wrong to say it is “known not to be effective” (“£12m spend on homeopathy hard to swallow”, “Society”, 10 June). In fact, out of six reviews of the scientific evidence carried out by the independent and respected Cochrane Collaboration, two are cautiously positive and four inconclusive. There is also some evidence to say that homeopathy may be effective in the long term for chronic intractable problems. Inconvenient for those who oppose integrated healthcare perhaps, but very different from demonstrating homeopathy is “ineffective”.

If the NHS were to withdraw access to homeopathy, it would not save the £4m a year it currently spends. Patients now receiving homeopathy would still need treatment, almost certainly at a higher cost and with greater risk of side effects from treatment. The mistake made by Dr Harris and Professor Edzard Ernst is to assume that we have effective treatments for all conditions and all patients. We don’t. Some patients cannot tolerate existing treatments, often those with multiple morbidity – suffering from several conditions, each needing different treatment. For some conditions, we have no effective treatment at all. Is it morally acceptable to deny patients access to a well-established treatment they find effective when no conventional treatment is available? We would suggest not.

Professor George Lewith, professor of health research, University of Southampton

Dr Michael Dixon, medical director, Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health

Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Be-bop a loony bop: Part II

About that book-burning business we were talking about a few days ago . . .

You’ll remember that some Christian loonies in Wisconsin wanted the right to burn a book in public because they’d been “exposed” to it in a library display.

The book is called Baby Be-Bop, it concerns a gay teenager who’s beaten almost to unconsciousness for being gay and receives mental visits from ancestors, “each telling a haunting, lyrical tale of love, faith and self-acceptance”, according to the Amazon website blurb.

The Guardian carried more on this yesterday. It tells how the Christian lunatics found the book to be “explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian”.

The Guardian story continues:

Their suit says that “the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library”, and that it contains derogatory language that could “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike”.

“The word ‘faggot’ is very derogatory and slanderous to all males,” the suit continues. “Using the word ‘Nigger’ is dangerously offensive, disrespectful to all people. These words can permeate [sic] violence.” The suit also claims that the book “constitutes a hate crime, and that it degrades the community”.

“They’ve filed a claim against the city of West Bend [in Wisconsin] and the city has to decide if it is valid,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, acting director of the ALA’s [American Library Association’s] office for intellectual freedom. “Their insurance company is evaluating the claim, but I would be very surprised if they found any merit in it . . . Should they find any merit in this claim, we would certainly support the library in fighting it.”

Somehow, this kind of claim renders me speechless. So I’ll shut up and let you gasp.

Shock, horror

Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, is “shocked and horrified” that the British National Party (BNP) won two seats in the Euro election.

Now don’t get me wrong: I can understand why someone might feel shocked and horrified that odious people such as the BNP are gaining influence, but this woman is in no position to question any other party’s success.

What a prat! But I’m forgetting: she’s a politician, and there aren’t many of the honourable variety of that particular species around these days.

What makes me so intemperate in my assessment of this dim-witted remark is that she and her fellow third-raters helped to put the BNP there.

The BNP got two candidates into the European Parliament because NuLabour got a smaller proportion of the vote, not because the BNP got more actual votes. And why did NuLabour get a smaller proportion of the vote? Because they’ve proved themselves to be utter shysters, that’s why.

It wasn’t all NuLabour MPs who had their filthy, greasy hands in the till during the recent expenses scandal, but there were enough of them – including ministers – to justify little short of out-and-out hatred on the parts of the voting public.

And, although this wasn’t a Westminster election, people will punish or reward a party in the way they vote for a candidate.

So just why are you shocked and horrified, Ms Harman? You’ve brought this upon us. The BNP candidates were elected according to the law and the democratic process as it stands (you may think it has flaws, but it’s what we have, and all candidates were tested under it).

And it’s rich complaining about another party’s propensity for restricting freedoms, as you do by saying that the BNP’s “apartheid” constitution will be outlawed under new legislation, when your government managed to bring in 3,000 new laws – one for every day in office – in its first ten years.

But I’m forgetting, Ms Harman. You’re as big a bloody hypocrite as your cronies are.
Related link:
BNP bishops
Free speech, yes, but on our terms
How good the gravy tastes when it's to your own recipe!

Friday, 12 June 2009

A night at the movies in downtown Riyadh

Oh, it’s so good to see people sticking two fingers up to Allah fans.

It’s happening in Saudi Arabia, of all places, where, for the first time in 30 years last Saturday, it was movie night in Riyadh. More than 300 men crowded the King Fahd Cultural Centre for a film called Menahi, while angry conservative protesters promised merciful Allah’s wrath.

Mind you, the movie has been produced by the Rotana group, a regional entertainment giant owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Abdullah. Perhaps it would be unseemly if the 300 men (no women, note) were dragged out and given a going-over by the religious police, considering that they’re contributing to the already dripping-in-wealth coffers of the King’s family.

The website tells us:

Outside the centre a bunch of religious radicals shouted slogans about the moral decay caused by movies, how small steps in favour of an open society were bringing disasters on the country, citing a recent series of minor earthquakes in western Saudi Arabia.

Yeah, a guy goes to see a film and Allah decides to play with his tectonic plates. Logic or what?

Public cinemas were shut down in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, as the country’s deeply conservative leaders feared they would lead to the mixing of the sexes, and undermine Islamic values.

However, in the last few years a few steps towards reform have been taken under King Abdullah, small for the outside world but giant leaps for Muhammad’s birthplace. This has breathed new life in the local entertainment industry.

Although careful not to inflame the conservatives, the website says, Rotana, the company that made the movie, plans to show Menahi at least three more times over the coming weeks, and expects crowds to be larger – and include women.

However, in past few weeks the film was shown in Jeddah in a theatre where the sexes were separated, with men on the ground floor and women in the balcony.

Small steps, then.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Like a virgin

It looks like religion wants to trump real life again, with news that Catholics in Poland want to stop a Madonna show from going ahead.

It’s on 15 August and coincides, apparently, with some date they consider “holy”.

The “holy” feast is the Assumption of Mary. This is the reception of the so-called Virgin Mary bodily into heaven.

Madge, on the other hand, wants to provide some uplifting music for people who actually exist, on Earth, at this time, in this dimension, in reality.

Being the Catholic stronghold Poland is, the authorities will probably bow to the Catholics’ demand. Let’s hope not, eh?

Madge’s Stick & Sweet tour features her arrival onstage on a giant cross, and it’s already sparked controversy. In Rome last year, she mischievously dedicated the track “Like a Virgin” to Pope Ratzo, angering God fans.

But religionists have to get it into their deluded skulls that the figures they revere are from history, or are amalgams of characters from history, or didn’t exist in history, and that they’re there for anyone to parody, explore, dispute, poke fun at, analyse or, indeed, venerate.

Catholics have the option of not going to the concert and not watching it on TV – if it gets that far.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Living color shows the following photo from Thai Rath, one of the oldest newspapers in Thailand: commented that, "David Carradine was hung accidentally by his neck and other body parts. Natural assumption from this is that he was engaged in some sort of auto-erotic asphyxiation."

From what I can see, however, he doesn't look very hung. That he was hanged, however, is right there in living color.

Free speech, yes, but on our terms

I'm well aware that the British National Party are gay-hating bigots, and I don't like them. Oh, they say they're not, but they think it (i.e. homosexuality) is something that ought not to be in the public square, not talked about in schools, that sort of thing.

That makes them gay haters in my book.

However, Nick Griffin, the BNP's leader, has been elected to the European Parliament. There wasn't an increase in the BNP vote as such, just a decrease in Labour's. Either way, he was voted in, by the election process that's been deemed legal and binding. He's an elected representative.

And that makes me shudder somewhat, but I shudder even more when I hear so-called anti-fascists declare, as one did on BBC radio yesterday, that freedom of speech is OK, but not for fascists.

I shudder when so-called lovers of freedom of speech halt a BNP news conference, as happened, by pelting the speaker with eggs. I'm glad that the anchor of BBC Radio 4's teatime news programme, Eddie Mair, gave the spokeswoman for a group called Unite Against Fascism (UAF) a hard time. And I don't think Mair is a BNP supporter, somehow.

According to the UK's Daily Telegraph:

Protest organiser Weyman Bennett, national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said he believed it was important to stand up to the BNP.

"The majority of people did not vote for the BNP, they did not vote at all. The BNP was able to dupe them into saying that they had an answer to people's problems.

"They presented themselves as a mainstream party. The reality was because the turnout was so low, they actually got elected."

Bennett has a point: the turnout for the Euro elections in Britain was pathetic. If more people had got off their arses – or asked for a postal vote and used it – the BNP might not have gained as much support.

But neither the UAF nor any other group has any democratic right to prevent me or anyone else from hearing the questions that journos might have put to Griffin and the answers he might have given had not this press conference been disrupted.

It seems that some people want free speech, but only the free speech they want.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Does God hate penguins too?

Everyboby loves a penguin, except maybe the creepy one in Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers. But in Bremerhaven Zoo, in northern Germany, two homosexual penguins have hatched an egg that was abandoned and are now rearing the chick.

All together now: "Ahhhhhhh!"

"Z and Vielpunkt, both males, gladly accepted their Easter present and began straight away with hatching the egg," the zoo said. "They are behaving in the same way as one would expect a heterosexual couple to" (bickering, presumably, and arguing over the remote control). "Both happy fathers are now diligently handling the everyday care of their adopted offspring," the zoo announced.

Z and Vielpunkt are part of a six-strong gay community among the zoo’s collection of endangered Humboldt penguins. In 2005 four Swedish females were introduced in an unsuccessful and controversial attempt to "cure" them, but the six males just flounced off muttering something about fish.

If barking mad evangelical Christians insist that God Hates Fags, then presumably God hates Z and Vielpunkt and the rest of the gay penguins who have turned Bremerhaven into an outpost of the Castro too!

Yet if homosexuality isn't "natural", how come we see it occurring naturally in penguins and many other species, like apes and dolphins? They do not have free will and therefore haven't chosen to deviate from God's pre-ordained sexual path. Their behaviour is motivated by natural instinct.

"Homosexuality is nothing unusual among animals," said the Bremerhaven zoo spokesman. "Sex and coupling up in our world do not necessarily have anything to do with reproduction."

This demolishes the argument of Christian numpties everywhere that homosexuality is unnatural. It clearly is natural and has always been part of the evolutionary journey on Planet Earth, no doubt playing some vital role in securing the sociability and success of the higher species, including mankind.

If God Hates Fags, then He hates all mankind and everything else He created, which begs the question, why did the silly old sky-fairy bother with the Creation in the first place?

Be-bop a loony bop

Help! I’ve been exposed to a book. Take it away before it napalms into my flesh and burns away my very bones. Aaaagh!

No, I haven’t gone absolutely bonkers, though some Christian headcases in the USA seem to have.

Get this. According to a website called the Drudge Retort (not to be confused with the Drudge Report), a Christian group in Wisconsin are “seeking ‘the right to publicly burn or destroy by another means’ the book and asking for $120,000 in damages because they were exposed to it in a library display”.

The plaintiffs in this case are the Christian Civil Liberties Union (“Christian Civil Liberties” – isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) and two other plaintiffs, who have been battling to get a particular book removed from the shelves of the library in West Bend.

Right, well, it’s time to reveal just what this piece of seditious, subversive, obscene literature is. It’s a book called Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block, and the blurb on the Amazon site reads:

Embroidering her prose with lushly romantic imagery, Block returns to the world of Weetzie Bat for this keenly felt story. A prequel of sorts to Weetzie Bat, the novel opens while Weetzie’s best friend Dirk is still a child, lying on his mat at naptime.

“Dirk had known it since he could remember” – known, that is, that he is gay. Tenderly raised by Grandma Fifi, famous for her pastries and her 1955 Pontiac convertible, Dirk struggles with love and fear: “He wanted to be strong and to love someone who was strong; he wanted to meet any gaze, to laugh under the brightest sunlight and never hide.”

After his first heartbreak, with his closest friend (who cannot accept Dirk’s love nor his own for Dirk), Dirk battles more fiercely for identity; beaten up by a gang of punks, he slumps into semiconsciousness and is visited by his ancestors, each telling a haunting, lyrical tale of love, faith and self-acceptance.

What might seem didactic from lesser writers becomes a gleaming gift from Block. Her extravagantly imaginative settings and finely honed perspectives remind the reader that there is magic everywhere. Ages 12-up.

So now you know. That’s just the stuff to bring an end to the world as we know it, innit?

Of the book referred to in that passage above  – Weetzie Bat Wikipedia has this to say:

The novel is set in a world not without pain, but seemingly without prejudice. Issues such as blended families, premarital sex, homosexuality and AIDS are described freely and without apology. This has led to some backlash from parents who do not believe that such material has a place in young adult fiction (which condemnation, in turn, has led to more young adults reading the book).

Ah, yes. Where would book and video and cartoon sales be without idiots who want to censor them? Perhaps we should be thankful that stuff gets out to a wider audience.

But back to the books. Now we’re getting some idea of why this bunch of deluded censors what to ban her material. Quite why 12-ups should not read about AIDS and homosexuality is beyond me. Both are phenomena that are likely to touch every 12-year-old in the world, directly or indirectly.

But there’s no accounting for these nutters. They just want to visit their own misguided and idiotic prejudices onto everyone else.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Some sensible Catholics

Gay Catholics have welcomed the decisions of the UK’s Charity Commissioners and the Charities Tribunal to refuse three Catholic adoption agencies permission to change their charitable objects in order to be able to refuse gay couples, says the Christian think tank Ekklesia.

Their story continues:

Commenting on the recent rejection of appeals by agencies in Birmingham and Leeds (Westminster did not appeal), a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in the UK said: “These agencies were seeking to exclude all lesbian, gay and bisexual people from the ambit of their services, including those who choose to live their lives celibately in strict accordance with Catholic church teaching.”

The Caucus made a formal objection to the attempts by Catholic agencies to avoid the law on discrimination, arguing that such a stance was contrary to the values of the Church and the Christian faith.

I still can’t get my head round the idea that any gay person would choose Catholicism – or, for that matter, any religious organisation that treats gays the way the Catholic Church and the Church of England do – but there you go.

Why we can’t exist morally without religion

“Hostility to religion bodes ill for society”, reads the headline on a piece in Minnesota’s Star Tribune.

Really? I think we’ve seen how much ill religion – organised religion – can do for society. It wants to stamp on freedoms; it wants to push its way into all corners of public life; it wants to indoctrinate kids in their schools while their minds are still putty; many of its foot soldiers have abused children.

This piece by Katherine Kersten carries a standfirst that reads, “Without belief in a higher truth, people may give way to base impulses.”

People will give way to base impulses with or without religion. Why can’t people get it into their skulls that good and evil come out of people? Religion may be where some get their ideas (no one can really doubt that as a general rule loving your neighbour is a Good Thing), but that’s where it ends.

In the final analysis, a person decides whether to be good or bad, whether to pat dogs, see old ladies across the road, kick cats, shoot the boss. As we’ve seen from Christianity of old (I’m thinking of such delights as the Inquisition here) and Islam today (I’m thinking of gays being pushed off cliffs, of the 120,000 political prisoners who have been judicially murdered by Iran since the Islamic Revolution there – that sort of thing), religion is not exactly without “previous”.

In her article, Kersten has a go at the so-called New Atheists, particularly Dawkins and Hitchens, calling them materialists: “They are passionately committed to the idea that the universe is a random accident, that transcendent truth is a myth, and that man’s life has no inherent purpose or meaning.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve read Dawkins somewhere or other on the subject of the beauty of a symphony or a landscape, and the transcendent joy one can experience. That’s hardly materialism. And just what does she mean by transcendent truth? What sort of “truth” is that? And where would this “purpose” and “meaning” be stored? Those are the things man bestows on himself. These notions can’t be there at the beginning, since there’s no mind to hold them.

But, on the question of where we came from and what sustains the cosmos, there is evidence of material causes and no evidence of deities. That’s not to say we have all the answers, and I’m pretty sure the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens et al. would agree. Science is very much and always a work in progress; it has its fair share of arrogance and hubris, there are nutcases in white coats; there are people who do hold science, and hence materialism, above all else.

Judeo-Christianity teaches “that universal standards of right and wrong trump our personal desires”, writes Kersten, adding:

In addition, it raises troubling questions about the vision of scientific “progress”, so central to our modern age. The mere fact that we are capable of, say, genetically altering or cloning human beings doesn’t give us moral license to do so, it cautions.

There are many nontheists, your humble blogger included, who would say we don’t have a moral licence to do these things. If they are to be done at all, there have to be (a) good reasons, (b) good science and (c) benefits for humankind.

I can think of good reasons and benefits for some genetic alteration if that cures or prevents a debilitating illness and doesn’t produce unwelcome side effects, such as fangs, hairy palms or two willies.

Anyway, she goes on to question how we can possibly make the right decision without religion.

In my humble opinion, religion for some has been a guide. For some, it’s probably been a good guide. But, in the end, they have made the decisions that have affected their lives and those of others around them.

That a religion possesses ideas doesn’t mean the ideas are peculiar to that religion, that it can claim them as its own. Ideas emanate from the mind of man, not from a sky fairy.

While there’s a lot wrong with the world, much of that rests within religion and well as without. If people want to use religion as a guide to their lives, it’s little different – in principle – from using, say, the words of a lifestyle guru. Whatever floats your boat.

But to say that we can’t exist morally without belief in virgin births, divine visitations, resurrections, gods coming to Earth as humans and all the other twaddle is just arrogance on stilts.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Norman stormin’ against Islamic courts in UK

Our old friend the homophobic Norman Tebbit – sorry, Lord Tebbit – has put the right-wing cat among the Muslim pigeons with a remark about the hideous sharia law that is creeping into Britain.

The Daily Mail tells us how Tebbit has likened sharia tribunals to the kind of arbitration run by the Kray twins.

He told the House of Lords, “Are you not aware that there is extreme pressure put upon vulnerable women to go through a form of arbitration that results in [their] being virtually precluded from access to British law?”

Five sharia courts currently operate mediation systems approved under the 1996 Arbitration Act. Although their rulings are not legal under British law, once they’ve been through these kangaroo courts they can merely be approved by a proper judge.

As you would expect, Muslims don’t agree with Tebbit’s comment. The Mail says they’ve called it “baseless and ignorant”.

Well take a look a this post, and make up your own mind about sharia law. If they want to practise it, they know where they can bugger off to.
FOOTNOTE: It may be necessary to explain for the benefit of non-UK readers the reference to bikes below by one of our commenters. Tebbit once notoriously suggested that people out of work should do what his father used to do, which was get on his bike and look for work. "On yer bike" became a catchprase associated with Tebbit after that.

Friday, 5 June 2009

We need more religion in schools. Not!

The only way to get kids to be good people is through religion. And religion should be allowed to flourish in schools. At least that’s the view of the Catholic Arsehole-in-Chief for England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, the chap who’s just taken over from Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in that role.

The Telegraph tells us of how this frock-wearing nincompoop – whom, nonetheless, the Telegraph and other media seem to like to quote – says that treating students as “consumers” and neglecting their “innate spirituality” would damage society.

Well, he’s right. But we don’t need religion – a belief in six impossible things before breakfast – to instil into our kids ideas that are less consumerist and more spiritual (and regular readers will realise that I don’t mean spiritual in the sense of believing in spirits).

“The new head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales stressed that schools play a key role in developing virtues and a sense of civic responsibility,” says the paper

Yes, along with other factors in young people’s lives, they do, and should.

He then goes on to say that a tendency to view children in terms of their ability in exams rather than as people risks “polluting” their education.

I’m inclined to agree, Your Arseholeship. Exams have their place, but are not the be-all and end-all.

But we then get to why he’s spouting this wisdom.

“His comments”, says the paper “follow a growing call for acts of worship to be abolished in schools and accusations that faith schools are being selective in choosing children from affluent backgrounds.”

Faith schools, says Nichols, benefit wider society and religion must be freely expressed in schools.

Oh? Why? There’s nothing at all wrong with talking about religion in schools as part of an academic curriculum. We’d expect nothing less. It goes right up there with history – of which it's a part – geography, philosophy and a few others, no doubt.

But “expressed”? What does he mean by his choice of that word, exactly. Not taught, learned about, talked about, discussed, debated, you can bet. No, he means expressed in the way one might express liquid or air: exude, force out, give off, emit, ooze; in other words, radiate, display, exhibit, demonstrate.

I have no objection to someone who tells others he’s a Christian, or someone who in the course of conversation says she’s a Hindu. It’s part of the chatter that goes on among pupils and students. “I’m a Buddhist – oh, and, by the way, have you seen my Facebook profile”?

But I don’t think that’s what Nichols is talking about.

I think he means religion should be instilled into kids at every opportunity, that lessons should be taught within a religious context, that a religious service (at least one) should be held as part of school assembly every day. Or “continue to be held”, I should have said, because that’s the requirement in British schools now, but I suspect he would not want the limited opt-outs that are available for the more enlightened pupils.

I think he wants personal social and health education (PSHE) to say how bad it is for kids to be gay, and woe betide any teacher who suggests that it’s anything but a sin!

When are we going to stop putting these people on pedestals and listening to their words as if they were the very distillation of wisdom?

As you would expect, the National Secular Society has weighed in: Terry Sanderson, its president, says children are not interested in religion and should be allowed to be free of it in school.

“Religion already has a disproportionate amount of time and resources in British schools. The idea we need more of it flies in the face of all the facts that show it’s overrepresented and that children are not responding to it.”