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Friday, 31 July 2009

Secularists threaten the end of the world, shock, horror!

Here we go again. Evil secularists threaten the end of the world.

Christian Today tells us, “The future of freedom and equality of expression have come under threat from the dominance of ‘the religion of secularism’ in the public sphere, a new report from the Jubilee Centre warns.”

The report is called “Sustaining Democracy”, and in it the Christian think tank warns that secularism is jeopardising civil liberties and human rights, and claiming the privileges of religious judgement for itself to the exclusion of other religions.

“Democracies cannot shake off their Christian past without shaking off the liberties which flowed from it,” warns the report’s author Dr Philip Sampson.

Who’s asking you to shake off your Christian past? This secularist isn’t. History is history. All we ask is that Christians and Muzzies and others of the Deluded Herd stop having special privileges.

Christian Today continues, “He criticised the tendency of some secularists to disregard religious views as ‘ill-considered’ and ‘prejudiced’. ‘Where would this have left the abolitionists or the civil rights movement?’ he said.”

But we’re not talking about historical events – and, anyway, as these people never seem to realise, good people will do good things. If they do it as a band and call that band A, then A did it. Were all abolitionists Christians? I doubt it. People wanted to abolish the obscenity of slavery because it was just that – an obscenity.

And you’ll notice, old chap, that the civil-rights movement you speak of is often at loggerheads with pushy religionists.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Assisting dignified death

Could a change in the law on assisted suicides come a step closer tomorrow when the UK’s highest court delivers its judgment in the case of Debbie Purdy, whose long legal fight has put her at the centre of the controversy?

“Purdy,” says the Guardian, linked to above, “who has multiple sclerosis, claims that uncertainty as to whether her husband – the Cuban violinist Omar Puente – would face prosecution for assisting her suicide abroad breaches her human rights. She will learn tomorrow whether the Law Lords agree with her and demand a clarification of the law.”

Only religious dinosaurs could possibly disagree with a law that allows someone to help someone else to die a dignified and painless death, because the only objections to it – once all possible safeguards against bumping off Granny because we need her dosh/bedroom/classic dildo collection are in place – are irrational. Religion is irrational.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Crap journalism – again

It’s just amazing how the scum Daily Mail works, isn’t it? It does a story about Camp Quest, a summer camp (summer? what’s that?) in the UK that’s meant to encourage young people to think for themselves.

Any other camp that had this as one of its aims would be OK. If, one assumes, it had a religious element, or didn’t specifically say it didn’t. But this doesn’t have a religious element, and it does say that it doesn’t. When it says think for themselves it means think for themselves.

Given that, have a look at this Daily Mail article and see how it sets the camp up just to knock it down. You’d think that atheists were spawn of the Devil, sent here to destroy Earth and then repopulate it with their evil seed.

But, then, the Daily Mail is a scum paper.

Humanist bus ads

Bus ads are still getting them going.

The latest person, and one who should know better, is McGill University professor Charles Taylor. He calls them “pathetic” in an interview published on Monday by the British-based magazine Philosophy Now.

“A bus slogan! It’s not likely to trigger something very fundamental in anybody,” scoffed Taylor, a defender of religious faith and the recent winner of philosophy’s two most prestigious international prizes following the 2007 publication of A Secular Age, his latest acclaimed critique of modern life.

Charles Taylor was awarded the $2million Templeton Prize in 2007 for his “exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension” through decades of philosophical writings, highlighted by what the Templeton judges deemed his “definitive examination of secularization and the modern world” in A Secular Age.

Cries for help

The number of boys calling the charity ChildLine with worries about their sexuality has more than trebled in the last five years, with many concerned about coming out, Pink News reports.

“In 2007/08, 3,510 calls from boys (six per cent) were about their sexuality, compared with only one per cent of calls from girls,” the online news source says, adding, “Although the total number of boys calling the line has doubled, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says calls about sexuality have still risen proportionately to more than three times the amount five years ago.”

Now why should anyone – assuming they are – be surprised that jibes about sexuality are causing young people to be worried about their sexuality?

While there are adults, who ought to know better, bleating about how evil it is to be gay – adults in organisations such as the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, mosques and what have you – is there any wonder that boys are going to be made to feel like shit?

But that’s religion for you.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Two-track church

The Archwizard of Cant reckons there’ll have to be a two-track church now that homosexuality is something that’s here to stay. Well, he doesn’t say here to stay, but there’s resignation in his tone: we’re not going to get rid of gays in the church, so we might as well make the best of a bad job.

Rowan Williams has issued a lengthy response to decision of the he Episcopal Church in the USA to open its ordination process to all individuals, including gay people.

He’s acknowledged the possibility that the global body will have to adopt a “two-track” model in which there would be “two styles of being Anglican”.

He writes:

It helps to be clear about these possible futures, however much we think them less than ideal, and to speak about them not in apocalyptic terms of schism and excommunication but plainly as what they are – two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion.

In other words, gays exist, and we’re going to have to learn to rub along together; the 77 million-member body will have to try to work together while holding different theological convictions over such issues as homosexuality.

Big of him. But you’re not going to please the real nasty buggers such as the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who’s the leading light in a rabidly gay-detesting breakaway group called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

I can’t imagine that those bigoted bastards will just learn to rub along, somehow.

My tweet lord, Part II

Nobody can be bothered to get off their arse and onto their knees to pray any more, that’s for sure.

We have prayers sent via Twitter for insertion (by someone else) into the Wailing Wall, and “A Note to God”, some geek’s idea of using an iPhone to send a prayer into cyberspace.

I thought communicating with the Almighty required you to do something to indicate your obeisance. Kneeling, with or without a hassock, has been the traditional way in the West; head-butting the floor and sticking your arse in the air if you’re Muslim is another way; there are no doubt more.

While people are doing it in churches, at least they’re keeping the floors of these often historic buildings polished; now they’re just clogging cyberspace and boosting the demand for more bandwidth and connection speeds or whatever technical stuff is required, and making it harder for the rest of us to tweet about whatever scintillating stuff we’ve got up to today.

Perhaps priests, though, could take a lesson in brevity from the Twitter generation. Imagine keeping a sermon to however many words a mere 140 characters would take up.
Related link:
My tweet lord

Monday, 27 July 2009

Gays not good enough to adopt, it seems

A paediatrician has been allowed to resume work on an adoption panel after getting the push for refusing to recommend same-sex couples as adoptive parents for children.

“Dr Sheila Matthews had been removed from Northamptonshire [UK] County Council’s adoption panel because she was not willing to recommend gay couples as suitable candidates to become adoptive parents,” says the Sunday Telegraph.

However, the council has now decided that “she can continue with the central part of her role – conducting medical examinations of would-be adoptive parents and children waiting to be adopted. She will not be allowed to take part in the adoption panel’s votes on whether candidates would make suitable parents.”

A small victory for common sense, then. But get this: “There is research which supports my position that a same-sex partnership is not the best family setting to bring up children. As a Christian and a paediatrician I believe that children do best with a mother and father in a committed, long-term relationship. Therefore, I cannot recommend a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for.”

“As a Christian and a paediatrician” she has come to these conclusions. However, she’s paid to be a paediatrician, not a Christian. If the county council were paying her to be a Christian, too, it could deliberate on how well she’s doing in that role (very well, I would imagine, most Christians of that particular stripe being nutters).

But she’s paid as a paediatrician, and should do her job with that hat on and no other. As far as we know, the only drawback in placing kids with two mums or two dads is that they could get the piss taken out of them by peers. And why is that? It’s because there are Christians like this one who put it about that gays aren’t suitable for bringing up kids.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Quakers and queerdom

British Quakers, about sixteen hundred of them, gather in York today for what they call the Yearly Meeting Gathering – their week-long annual conference. And they’ll be discussing gay sex.

Seems religionists have gay sex on the mind, but the Quakers have traditionally been among the gay-friendliest.

“The event is likely to be dominated by a decision on whether to carry out same-sex commitment ceremonies on the same basis as heterosexual weddings,” says the Christian think tank Ekklesia.

The change is thought to have the support of a majority of British Quakers, but it is vigorously opposed by a vocal number of people who insist that marriage can only involve individuals of opposite sexes. Rather than voting, Quakers will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead them into unity.

And, of course, depending on which Holy Spirit is on duty today – the one believed in by Catholics, the one the C of E folk pray to, the evangelists’ favourite or the one the Quakers prefer – we’ll get an answer, no doubt, as to whether gay sex is a Bad Thing or OK.

We know what the first three Holy Spirits think. Poofs are evil. What will the Quakers pull out of their hats?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Casting out demons

They’re here. They are on our shores. You thought this could happen only in America? Well you were wrong!

Exorcists – the type who think homosexuality is demonic – are alive and well and living in Blighty. Praise the Lord and get ready to dodge the green vomit.

The human-rights activist Peter Tatchell is organising protests against hardline Christian churches in Britain that perform these bizarre and dangerous practices on lesbian and gay people in an effort to purge them of their homosexuality.

“The exorcism rituals involve the casting out of alleged demons and witches that supposedly possess a gay person’s soul and turn them away from heterosexuality,” says Peter Tatchell, quoted in an Ekklesia bulletin.

You can see two videos on so-called gay exorcism, which Pink Triangle carried in late June. I’ve embedded the one featuring the actual disgusting ceremony beneath this post, too.

The Ekklesia story continues:

He is urging people to write letters containing “calm, compassionate, rational arguments” to one pastor involved – but also says that he should be reported to the police and his MP.

“There are claims that gay teenagers and young adults are being subjected to exorcisms at the insistence of their parents and pastors, in an attempt to rid them of same-sex attraction,” says Mr Tatchell.

“The exorcisms can include traumatic emotional scenes where the victims are surrounded by a group of church elders who scream at them to drive out the evil spirits and who sometimes shake their bodies.

“When this is done to youngsters under 18, it is a form of child abuse and the police should intervene to stop it.

“Some gay adults have been pressured into exorcisms by their family members or faith communities. Other victims are people with learning difficulties or mental health problems. They have been preyed upon when they are in a vulnerable state and are not capable of giving fully informed consent.

“There needs to be a thorough police investigation of all the churches that are doing these exorcisms,” added the human rights campaigner.

One London church admits it does exorcisms on four or five gay people every year. This church, United Pentecostal Ministry in Harrow north London, was exposed by the Metro newspaper late last month.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. John Ogbe-Ogbeide, said he did the ritual to cast out the demons and evil spirits that he believes are responsible for homosexuality. Sometimes people were calm during the process but sometimes their body convulsed, he conceded.

Exorcisms can be performed on gay children or on those who are suspected to be gay. There is no minimum age for the exorcism ceremony because a demon could possess a person at any age in life and could incline them to “wrong” sexual thoughts and behaviour, said Rev. Ogbe-Ogbeide.

Mr Tatchell commented: “United Pentecostal Ministry says it performs four or five exorcisms on gay people each year. It is just one of hundreds of fundamentalist churches in Britain. Gay exorcisms are likely to be performed in many of them. It is possible that dozens or even hundreds of LGBT people could be subjected to exorcism abuse in the UK. Because it takes place behind closed church doors and is kept secret, it is impossible to give an accurate assessment of the numbers involved.”

Enjoy the video. Yeah, right.

Related link:
PTT condemns exorcisms
Exorcism storm

PTT condemns exorcisms

Further to our earlier blog entry about dangerous Christians in Connecticut, USA, trying to cast out “homosexual demons” from their gay children, we now learn from Peter Tatchell that these crazy practices are apparently being carried out in the UK!

In my capacity as secretary of the gay Humanist charity the the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), I've issued a press release roundly condemning these exorcisms. Here it is in full:

The gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) has roundly condemned the exorcisms being performed on lesbian and gay people in a bid to purge them of their homosexuality.

PTT secretary George Broadhead said: “The revelation that these exorcisms are being carried out in a London Pentecostal Church and elsewhere is appalling. However, it comes as no surprise as this crackpot church, which originated in the US and goes in for speaking in tongues, is ultra homophobic. Such actions are much more dangerous than the so-called conversion therapy since they can cause physical as well as mental harm.

“It is worrying is that this could be much more widespread than it appears since there are almost 1 million Pentecostals in the UK.

“The sooner the authorities put a stop to these bizarre and dangerous practices, the better.”

If you can stomach it, here, again, is the video from Connecticut:

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Hatch, match, dispatch and the odd goat

“Morning, Vicar. We’d like to get married. Oh, can you sprinkle the sprog with some of that holy water while you’re at it. Oh, and Grandma’s dropped dead. Perhaps you can fit in a few words over the box.

“Then we’ll have had hatch, match and dispatch all in one, ha, ha.

“Oh, while you’re at it, can you bless the nanny goat?”

OK, bit of hyperbole. But it’s true that the Church of England is now going to allow people to get married (heterosexual couples, that is – but of course) and have their baby done at the same time.

Which just shows up the hypocrisy. On the one hand, same-sex partners should not have sex, because sex is for the married. They can’t get married in the UK (they can have a civil partnership, but that doesn’t count as marriage, you see), so they shouldn’t have nookie. It’s a sin.

Yet the unmarried can have sex if they’re opposite-sex couples, and that’s OK. All right, strictly, it’s not, but it is, if you follow me. Some traditionalists don’t think so, of course, and for once I agree with them. If the church stands for what it believes are biblical standards, then it should stick to them. Then we’ll all know where we stand. (Preferably, outside the bloody church!)

However, as you would expect, the church denies that all this goes against its teachings on the “sinfulness” of sex outside marriage. Well, in that it wouldn’t shy away from baptising a baby born a bastard these days, yes. It would, of course, baptise that sprog whether it had been born within or without wedlock. But by making it a family affair, where little Petunia or Justin can attend Mum and Dad’s wedding, the church is recognising (not merely noting) that people actually shag when they’re not married.

By association, it’s condoning it. There’s no getting away from it.

Of course, it’s dressing it up to make it sound all very jolly. The BBC story linked to above says, “They hope that by combining the two sacraments, the Church will be meeting the needs of real families who might have been discouraged from having a church wedding.”

Yes, get them into the church at all costs. Bugger the Bible. Let’s have more shows, lovely costumes, music, big white dress specially cut to accommodate the bump for the next one, which is on the way.

The church has got to do something to keep the interest up.

“But of course I’ll bless your nanny goat, my son. If you want to bring the billy in, we can do a wedding. Do you keep hamsters?”

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Good Christian parenting

If the story we discuss below is true, then so is what Philip Larkin says when, in the opening line of his poem, “This Be the Verse”, he declares, “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

We hear that the parents of a US student, Bryce Faulkner (23), who is thought to be in “ex-gay” therapy, have threatened legal action over a website set up to find him.

This is according to Faulker’s boyfriend, who has said Faulkner is believed to be at an Exodus International ministry in Florida after his parents discovered he was gay.

“His friends have said he had no choice as his parents took away his phone, his car and his money,” we’re told in a story in Pink News.

His boyfriend Travis Swanson, 24, and gay rights activist Reverend Brett Harris have set up a website urging people to help find him.

Swanson told “Bryce’s parents both called me and left messages threatening lawsuits and have contacted Rev. Harris saying the same thing. They said they want [the website] removed immediately.

“They have been informed that the only way that will happen is if Bryce tells me face to face alone that he wants it down. Mrs Faulkner assures us that will never happen. We told her in that case the site and movement will continue forward stronger than ever.

“She keeps telling us Bryce has known about the site for weeks and has talked to reporters about how silly it is but she refuses to say which publications they belong to. He has not talked to any that I have talked to, which is many from around the world.”

Last week, Swanson said he had spoken Faulkner briefly as he was being taken to the ministry.

In the tearful phone call, Faulkner described the “hateful” things he had been told about his homosexuality and described being made to read Bible passages.

Swanson said a friend of the family had heard Faulkner would be in Mississippi for three weeks and then in Florida for 14 months.

Exodus International has six ministries and 16 churches in Florida. Swanson believes Faulkner may be at one in Pensacola.

The church movement promises “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ”.

Gay rights activists have said the controversial therapy does not work and can be deeply damaging.

It typically involves repeating Bible passages, periods of silence and no contact with the outside world.

God’s love, eh? Loving parents, eh? Loving Christians, eh?

Oh, by the way, the first line of the second stanza of Larkin’s poem, still referring to parents, is, “But they were fucked up in their turn”.

Make what you like of that. Meanwhile, enjoy the video we've embedded below, and check out the website in "Related links" below that.

Related links:
Save Bryce website
Therapists in need of therapy – or are they laughing all the way to the bank?
Ex-gay? Can't be done, say shrinks

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ooh-la-la! Not PC?

This should get them going. It’s French, but I’m sure there’ll be those who’ll say that using gay cops to advertise condoms is just not – well, PC.

The scene with the cops doesn’t come till 48 seconds into the 58-second ad, but some of the rest of it is quite amusing, so stick with it.

The ad closes with, “Les préservatifs qui donnent envie”, or “Condoms that give you desire”, hence the way the couples show signs of getting horny as the floating johnny drifts past.

Here’s the video. Enjoy!

Who's an atheist?

It’s begun. The filming of Series 5 of Doctor Who started in Cardiff yesterday, giving us the first view of Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in action.

The Doctor’s changed and so has the man in overall charge, but, hopefully, an air of atheism will remain. Executive producers Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat are both atheists, and both have incorporated nonreligious elements in their writings for the show since its return in 2005, culminating, in 2008, when Richard Dawkins played himself in The Stolen Earth.

That’s not to say that there aren’t religious elements, too. In Father’s Day, in 2005, it’s writer, Paul Cornell, had Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor seeking sanctuary from the Reapers in a church. Presumably, this was borne out of Cornell’s own Christian beliefs.

In Davies’s own scripts, the Doctor has often been portrayed as a Messiah-like character; notably in the 2007 Christmas Day special – Voyage of the Damned ­– complete with murdering angels, the Host, and, controversially, earlier in 2007, when David Tennant’s Gotham-like Tenth Doctor was “reborn” in Last of the Time Lords.

And it’s not confined to 21st-century Doctor Who. In the 1970s, in The Face of Evil, Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor was worshipped by the Sevateem tribe as their god in a story that, apparently, was originally called The Day God Went Mad.

However, in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, in 2008, Moffat resurrected the Doctor’s wife, River Song, in a computer programme, and, according to a piece on Noise to Signal, “[Moffat] was untroubled by the issue of her earlier death. The concept of a soul is simply not part of this worldview, and so was not present in the story.”

There’s an article – Doctor Who, Atheism, and God – on the blog, The Christian Scribbler, which discusses faith and the lack of it in the show. It’s an interesting read, although completely misses the point of why nonbelievers create Godlike figures to “fill the gap”, as it puts it. It’s not because there’s a God; the only reason God (and other gods) exist in the first place is because religionists create them!

Some Christians often complain of an “atheist agenda” in Doctor Who, much the same as others complain of the “gay agenda” in the show (for more on that, see my earlier blog entry Who’s gay?). In reality, however, there’s no more an atheist agenda under Davies or Moffat than there would be a religious one under Cornell. Just as there has been no more a gay agenda under Davies than there will be a straight one under Moffat. Simply put, a writer’s beliefs (or lack of them) will inform their writing in the same way as any of their other experiences in life.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Ray Gosling OAP

Last night (Sunday), BBC Four broadcast the first in Ray Gosling’s highly acclaimed three-part documentary series, Ray Gosling Reports.

Gosling is a journalist, author, broadcaster and gay-rights activist, who was an early pioneer of the British gay-rights movement. In the 1960s, he worked with Allan Horsfall (pictured with Gosling) – also a long-time gay-rights activist – in the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee, which later became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE).

Both men are still involved with CHE today, as well as, for many years, running Gay Monitor, which, according to its website, watches “court cases that involve male gay sex. Often we’ve befriended. Some cases have been very distressing. Of course there have been a lot of different kinds of cases … But one theme has cropped up again and again – this is historical abuse.”

Gosling was a prolific programme maker, becoming one of the best-known faces on television in the 1960s and 70s.

In 2005, Nottingham Trent University stepped in to save Gosling’s archive of work, described as “an amazing treasure trove of groundbreaking TV and radio work which was in danger of being lost forever”. The archive, which includes films, tapes, scripts, cuttings and background notes providing a fascinating perspective on 40 years of social history, is now safely preserved within the university’s School of Arts, Communication and Culture.

In 2007, at Grierson, his BBC Four documentary Ray Gosling OAP beat off tough competition from Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice to collect the Jonathan Gili Award For Most Entertaining Documentary.

The three documentaries are Ray Gosling Reports: Bankrupt, Ray Gosling Reports: Pension Crisis and Ray Gosling Reports: OAP. The second and third episodes can be seen on BBC Four tonight (11.30 p.m.) and Tuesday (11.30 p.m.), respectively.

Related Pink Triangle link:

Pink religion, anyone?

There’s been talk lately about a special part of the police in the UK set up to accommodate yet another religion – this time pagans.

An interesting editorial in Pink News asks why gays shouldn’t set up their own religion, and get special holidays. Seems like a good idea.

What sticks in the craw, though, about this amusing article is that for some reason best known to themselves Pink News have put a disclaimer under it:

Just to be clear, this article is obviously a joke. It provides soome [sic] light relief to readers ahead of the weekend. The author is not mocking religion. It doesn't represent the views of

Is it not up to us, the readers, to decide whether the article is a joke or not? And what if the author were mocking religion? Would that mean Pink News would go all politically correct and refuse to use the article? This disclaimer suggests that it would.

Failing to bring home the bacon

Another instance of how religion gets in the way of people’s work and the service they owe to others comes to us from the UK’s Mail.

Muslim care home owner “bans pensioners from eating bacon sandwiches”, says the headline.

The story tells us:

A Muslim care home owner has been branded “a disgrace” after banning his pensioner residents from eating bacon.

The 40 pensioners – none of them Muslim – were shocked when all pork products were cut off the menu by owner Dr Zulfikar Ali Khan.

He stopped deliveries from the butcher who supplied the home for years and instead ordered halal-meat only from another firm.

Bacon sarnies are a favourite at the home, and this chap, according to the Mail, didn’t even consult the residents.

Now he may have an objection to having dead pig on his plate, and no one’s asking him to eat it. But, if his job involves handling it and he wishes not to, he’s in the wrong job. However, he says the residents are now able to have whatever meat they want.

If he did refuse to serve them the meat they wanted, then he is a disgrace.

One unnamed member of staff said it was quite wrong for him to impose his cultural and religious beliefs on others. Not only is it a question of not allowing pork, it seems, but insisting that other meats be halal only – in other words, killed cruelly to satisfy religious whims, and allowed to be so by our supine government, which makes exceptions for Muslims in its rules on animal slaughter.

If this chap has changed his ways, then fine. But it’s time this sort of behaviour was stamped on.
Related links:
In favour of animal suffering
Animals suffer to appease Muslim prisoners
Whingeing Muslim loses employment case

Saturday, 18 July 2009


The venerable Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) – one of Britain’s oldest gay campaigning groups – has been given the heave-ho from the civil-liberties campaigning group Liberty.

Pink News tells us it was “allegedly over a motion which called for a time limit on reporting child sex abuse”. Its story goes on:

The gay rights group, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was informed in April that its affiliation with Liberty would be terminated.

A letter from Liberty director of operations Raj Chandarana said that “significant” concerns had been raised about CHE and the “appropriateness of continued affiliation to Liberty”.

The letter cited issues around “the nature and size of the CHE membership, governance structures, constitution, electoral process, policy-making process, financial transparency, recent issues and commitment to the objectives of Liberty”.

It added: “In particular, your motion on child sex abuse is also clearly contrary to the objectives of Liberty, as listed in Article 2 of Liberty’s constitution.”

The contentious motion read: “We urge the government to introduce a Statute of Limitation which would debar any criminal prosecution in respect of alleged child abuse unless the matter was brought to the attention of the police within five years of the complainant reaching the age of majority.”

CHE – of whose executive committee your humble blogger was once a member, back in the day – says that, in cases of historic abuse, evidence or acknowledgment of an accused man’s being gay can damage his chances of acquittal due to homophobia and confusion between homosexuality and paedophilia.

The organisation’s life president, Allan Horsfall, wrote in its latest annual report, “It is now beyond dispute that a proportion of historical abuse cases result from false allegations that are driven by the prospect of handsome compensation awards.”

Perhaps this is something Liberty is afraid of acknowledging. After all, the slightest suggestion of underage sex will get them twitching and thinking of old pervs abusing small children. Perhaps they believe that someone who is accused of having had consensual sexual contact, years ago, with someone just below the age of consent at the time ought to be pursued to the grave, never forgiven, never understood, never be considered to have maybe been innocent of the charge.

Horsfall told Pink News, “If Liberty didn’t like [the motion], they should have let it go forward to debate. It’s almost impossible to discuss.

“They just said, ‘We’re going to cancel your affiliation.’ They haven’t said the reason but we’re sure this is the reason.”

For years now, Horsfall and a CHE vice-president, the broadcaster Ray Gosling, have been running something called Gay Monitor, which, according to its website, has for 10 years been “watching court cases that involve male gay sex. Often we’ve befriended. Some cases have been very distressing. Of course there have been a lot of different kinds of cases.

“But one theme has cropped up again and again – this is historical abuse.”

I think Gosling and Horsfall are two men who know what they’re talking about. Gosling – in his idiosyncratic style – cites a recent case here. I recommend it.

Liberty wouldn’t talk to Pink News, incidentally. It would be interesting to know what they think. It would be interesting to question them and put them on the spot.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Do you torture people? Oh, good! Come in and have a cup of tea!

Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Colombia are among the abusers of human rights the British government is inviting to a jolly little gathering at which it hopes they'll buy weapons.

The Christian think tank Ekklesia pulls no punches with its headline, UK Government invites human rights abusers to arms fair.

It’s amazing how the great and the good can speak of upholding human rights while working with the abusers of those human rights to abuse human rights even further.

“The list of invited countries was released after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) to UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government body responsible for inviting delegates,” says an Ekklesia bulletin.

Read it all here.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Stonewall ignores its own study?

Further to Peter Tatchell’s recent comments – see my earlier blog post – copied below is the press release I issued in my capacity as secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust.

Gay Humanist charity incenced at the exemption for faith schools in the Equality Bill

The gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) fully endorses Peter Tatchell’s criticism of the government’s Equality Bill and is especially incensed at its intention to exempt faith schools from its plan to tackle homophobic prejudice and bullying.

PTT secretary, George Broadhead, commented: “As a gay educational charity, we were delighted that the government plans to compel schools to teach sex education but shocked to learn that it will grant exemption to faith schools and allow them to educate pupils in line with their religious beliefs.

“It seems that a get-out clause for faith schools will permit them to present sex education ‘in line with the context, values and ethos’ of the schools and clearly this will permit them to tell pupils (in line with the teachings in their holy books) that lesbian and gay sexual relationships are morally wrong.

“Homophobic bullying plagues the majority of our schools and shocking levels of bullying are meted out to school pupils and teachers who either are gay or perceived to be gay. That is the conclusion of a wide-ranging study carried by the gay equality organisation Stonewall. The study found that nearly two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils reported instances of homophobic harassment and significantly this figure jumps to 75% for those attending faith schools.

“It is surely unacceptable that a large proportion of our schools should be allowed to tell their pupils that same-sex relationships are wrong with the inevitable consequence that anti-gay bullying will increase.

“It seems that Stonewall is happy to go along with the exemption even though its own study found that homophobic harassment was higher in faith schools.”

Inequality Bill

Earlier this week, Peter Tatchell spoke out against the UK government’s new Equality Bill in a news release:

“The Equality Bill should be renamed the Inequality Bill. While other vulnerable groups are protected against harassment, protection is denied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. We are explicitly excluded from the anti-harassment clauses of the Bill,” said Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage!.

“This legislation was supposed to harmonise and standardise all equality laws, so that everyone has the same rights and protection. Sadly, it enshrines in law discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The leading gay lobby group, Stonewall, supports this discriminatory legislation, claiming that homophobic and transphobic harassment are not significant problems and can be dealt with under existing legislation.

“Stonewall boasts that its stated purpose is to ‘promote equality’, yet it is ignoring the unequal treatment of LGBT people in this Bill. This collusion with discrimination reinforces the fear that Stonewall has compromised its political independence and is too closely identified with the Labour government.

“At the same time that Stonewall is laudably campaigning against homophobic bullying in schools, it is supporting legislation that effectively allows school authorities to harass LGBT pupils. Schools are exempt.

“The so-called Equality Bill denies protection against homophobic harassment by school authorities, by the owners and managers of properties and by the providers of services. Such harassment is outlawed on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, race and sex but not on the grounds of sexual orientation.

“This omission gives a green light to homophobes. They won’t face sanctions for homophobic harassment under this proposed law.

“Exempting schools from the anti-harassment clauses is particularly shocking and unforgiveable, given the widespread bullying of lesbian and gay pupils. We urge the government to amend the Equality Bill immediately.

“The legislation has an anti-transgender bias. Protection against harassment is restricted to those people who are proposing or have undergone gender reassignment, and transgender pupils in schools are excluded from the Bill’s anti-harassment protections.

“The definition of transgender people is too narrow. Those who are not yet planning or have not yet undergone gender reassignment are not protected by the Equality Bill. The legislation should be amended to give protection on the wider grounds of gender identity, not the narrow grounds of gender reassignment.

“The Equality Bill has the overall good intention of harmonising and equalising all equality laws, to create a level legislative playing field. But this positive goal is undermined by the government's recent announcement that it plans to exempt faith schools from its action plan to tackle homophobic prejudice and bullying. They will be allowed to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with their own religious values, which often include the idea that gay people are sinners, unnatural, immoral and inferior human beings.

“Such values reinforce homophobia, which can lead to homophobic harassment, discrimination and violence,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

The discriminatory clauses of the Equality Bill:

Clause 28 – Provision of services – Ban on discrimination, harassment and victimisation

Clauses 32, 33 and 34 – Disposal and management of premises by landlords and freeholders etc. – Ban on harassment

Clause 82 – Schools – Ban on harassment

Inclusivity, Christian style

More evidence, as if it were needed, of the way religion likes to think itself inclusive but is anything but comes to us in a report on the Ekklesia website.

A girl wanted to get into a Christian “faith” school in Wrexham, UK. But she was the wrong kind of Christian, so couldn’t.

It’s called the St Joseph's Catholic and Anglican School, but Aston Padley (11) is not from an Anglican or Catholic family.

“Under British law,” says Ekklesia, “church schools, although funded almost entirely by the taxpayer, can give priority in admissions to families who attend churches linked to the school.”

And there’s the rub. Funded by the taxpayer. By you and me. Education is a national institution. For better or worse, there’s also a national curriculum, which ensures that, broadly, each pupil in the country potentially leaves school with some familiarity with certain central areas of knowledge.

But Christians – and others of the Deluded Herd – don’t like that: they prefer that they can get kids nice and early and bombard their brains with utter crap (their own utter crap) till they go on and breed and then indoctrinate their own kids with more of the same kind of crap, thus adding fodder to their brand of “faith” school in the future.

And so it goes on.

Fortunately, a lot of pupils wash their hands (a biblical reference that fewer know the origin of these days, it seems) of this toxic nonsense and develop a degree of rationality, scepticism and thinking for themselves.
Related link:
The Bible? Is that the one with Charlton Heston?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Facebook pulls Causer pages

What is Facebook playing at? For some reason a group page concerning the murdered gay Liverpool (UK) hairdresser Michael Causer has been taken down. So far, no one seems to know why.

Here’s an email Pink Triangle (among others) has received from Matthew Fox of the Liverpool (UK) Charity and Voluntary Services:

Dear Colleagues,

Facebook remove Michael Causer group

Facebook have removed the Michael Causer group without warning and without giving any specific reason to the administrator, Michael’s cousin. The family are understandably devastated by this as the group includes many, many tributes to Michael posted by family and friends.

The group had 6892 members with over 900 messages and tributes relating to Michael’s life and death – all of which have been lost, removed by Facebook.

Individuals are free to complain to Facebook at this link:

or indeed by emailing:

Related link:
Attack on gay hairdresser (it’s a news page from Gay & Lesbian Humanist; search on this headline to find the story)

Breakaway bigotry

The Church of England could back conservative breakaway Anglicans in the USA after the Episcopalians there lifted a temporary ban on appointing gay bishops.

That, anyway, is the view expressed in a BBC news story by Canon Chris Sugden, a leader of the newly launched UK section of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), which I blogged about a few days ago. Monday’s decision by the Episcopal Church to drop the ban was “extremely worrying and serious”, he tells the Beeb.

Oh, they really don’t like poofters, do they, these “confessing” Anglicans? Why don’t they just confess that they’re twats?

[Sugden] said it could increase support for a motion at the Church of England’s General Synod to declare fellowship with the breakaway Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

The ACNA is a union of traditionalist groups which split from the Episcopal Church following the appointment of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire.

At the same time, Canon Sugden complains, advocates of a “gay agenda” in the Church are determined to keep pushing the issue.

This includes bringing Bishop Robinson to speak at the UK Church’s youth festival, Greenbelt, in August. “A number of us are very concerned about that,” he says.

Canon Sugden is the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, a body set up in 2003 to represent “orthodox” views in the Church following the appointment of Bishop Robinson and of the gay Canon Geoffrey John as Bishop of Reading – an appointment he later renounced [under pressure from the Archbishop of Cant, Rowan Williams].

Canon Sugden is also secretary of the organisers of the FCA in Britain and Ireland – which was launched at a 1,600-strong meeting in Westminster on 6 July.

Well, it would be no loss. The C of E is hardly gay-friendly, even though it’s stuffed to the gills with gay men.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Thoughts on the Thought

Bloody hell! The BBC may open up Thought for the Day to contributors other than those of the Deluded Herd? Unheard of! Very un-BBC!

But the Guardian was talking about it yesterday, saying the BBC Trust had launched an investigation.

Non-Brits may need a sentence of background. Thought for the Day is a mini-programme-within-a-programme (the Today news-based morning programme) and it has traditionally allowed spokespeople for various delusions and superstitions to spout for about three minutes about whatever takes their fancy, though mostly linked to topical events.

Secularists have been trying for years to get it opened up to non-religionists. That’s not to say they’d improve on what’s there, but at least it would make it fair, since we could have a little homily without – necessarily – the religious baggage.

To be fair, it has to be said that sometimes the speakers make sense, and you find yourself believing that the little talk has been interesting, with some good points made. The talk can sometimes be entertaining, especially when it's (the gay and out) Rabbi Lionel Blue. But that is not the issue.

What the silly thing is still doing in the middle of a major, flagship news-and-current-affairs programme is something known only to the rulers at the BBC and the churchmen who have them by the throat. But there you go. This is Britain, and we’re British. We can’t help it.

TFTD (it often finds itself reduced to an initialism) rather comes over as something you’d expect in a children’s programme, or a mini-sermon delivered to appeal to people of all levels of intelligence – and even those with no intelligence at all – in church on a Sunday morning. If we need a break for reflection, it would be far better if the BBC broadcast three minutes of total silence.

Now that would be brave!
Related link:
The politics of Thought for the Day”, in which Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley gives more background, tells of a personal experience and links to an interview he did on the Today programme.

Maintaining dignity on the BBC

How good to hear a news bulletin this morning that talked of two people who made their exit from this world via the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, without wheeling on a man in a frock to say how evil it all was!

That’s not to say men in frocks won’t be wheeled on in other bulletins, but all I heard was the way the 8 a.m. Radio 4 Today programme’s main bulletin treated it. I was waiting for the, “But a spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Right Reverend Doctor Moron Cretinous-Pillock, said . . .”

Nor is the story on the BBC news site cluttered with clumsy clerical claptrap, either – at least the version I viewed and have linked to here; maybe it’ll get updated.

The story is of the renowned British conductor Sir Edward Thomas Downes, CBE, who has died at the age of 85, after travelling to right-to-die clinic Dignitas with his wife Joan, who was 74.

“After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems,” a family member is quoted as saying.

Even the headline on the Beeb version, British conductor Downes dies, 85, is not judgemental in any way. It could have had “suicide” in it, or “controversial”, but it doesn’t. Let’s hope it stays that way.
UPDATE: The headline was subsequently changed to UK conductor ends life at clinic. Why did they have to spoil it?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Seeing things

The Freethinker tells us of “thousands of Irish Catholic eedjits [who] have flocked to a County Limerick church to pray at the stump of a recently cut willow tree”.

And why? Well, it “allegedly bears a resemblance to She Who Was Once Knocked Up by the Almighty”, that’s why.

So it’s a case of here we go again. Ever looked at a cloud and seen a shape you recognise, perhaps the face of someone you know? Chances are that, if you asked the person next to you what she saw in the same cloud, she’d say something totally different.

The brain wants to make sense of random swirls. Psychologists use an ink-blot test to see what the subject’s brain comes up with. We recently had Jesus’s face in the lid of a Marmite jar.

And the so-called Virgin Mary was seen in a griddle.

Now here’s a nice little video for you. I was waiting for an opportunity to use it. It’s worth a look – and a laugh.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

How well do you know your Bible?

Bible knowledge is on the decline in Britain. Fewer than one in twenty are able to name all of the Ten Commandments, and a number of youngsters thought the Bible “old-fashioned”.

Well, it is, I suppose. It’s been around for quite a while now.

A survey, according to the Reuters story linked to above, says that 40 per cent “did not know that the tradition of exchanging Christmas presents originated from the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts for the infant Jesus, while 60 per cent could not name anything about the Good Samaritan, the Durham University study found”.

Not sure about that: gift giving on special occasions is as old as the hills, but let’s let it go. It could be right.

The story continues:

Atheists, however, were not unduly worried about the decline in the Bible’s popularity.

“It shows really that religion is becoming less important to people,” said Pepper Harow, campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association.

“The fact that people have little knowledge of the Bible perhaps suggests that it’s becoming less and less relevant to people in the 21st century,” she said.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm about the Bible among the 900 respondents, three-quarters said they owned one and almost a third said it was significant in their lives

I’m only half celebrating here. Although I’m a nontheist, I find that so many phrases, aphorisms, adages, maxims and mottos crop up in other literature, including Shakespeare, that a knowledge of where they came from adds to the enjoyment of the place we’re now finding them.

Rational-minded people tend to eschew the Bible as a source of useful fact, yes, but it’s nonetheless a collection of writings that make interesting reading, just as those from any religious tradition might make interesting reading to those who care to study them – theists or not.

The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, likewise, make interesting reading and often have morals embedded, but no one is going to pretend that Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, the Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel or the Frog Prince existed in real life.

It’s a pity that it can’t be taught as part of literature lessons, without all the need to believe in the God stuff. As it is, it’s pushed down kids’ throats as part of boring old RE, which many older pupils opt for because it’s an easier ride than, say, Eng. lit. or physics, and younger ones have no choice in the matter, anyway.

If it were taught in a way that makes it interesting, makes the words enjoyable in themselves, perhaps more people would have a reasonable knowledge of it.

It’s hard to believe, too, that there are people walking about probably aware, vaguely, of the phrases “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal”, without knowing they’re two of the Ten Commandments (the shortest two, as it happens).

Or that the oft-used phrases “graven image” and “sins of the fathers” are be found in the second Commandment; or “honour thy father and they mother” in the fifth (in the Anglican tradition, anyway).

And that’s only about the Commandments.

And there’s nothing to make us think that a lack of knowledge of the Bible denotes a movement away from religion in all cases, because so many people follow like sheep and know jack shit about what lies behind their blind faith. They perhaps can’t quote a Commandment or tell you whether Exodus is the first, second or third book of which testament (assuming they know it’s split into testaments), but they’ll be out there demanding special privileges for religion – specifically their religion.

That said, the idea of cramming, as happens in madrassas, where kids are force-fed the Koran and made to memorise it, is just pisspottery. They end up able to quote it – uselessly – but that in itself doesn’t make them any better able to understand what lies behind it.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that many secularists and nontheists know more about the Bible than many professing Christians do. I have a brother who, while admitting knowing less about the Bible than I do (and that’s not a lot), professes Christianity; and, if I’d thought of it when he declaimed it in a conversation a few years ago with the words “Well, I’m a Christian”, I’d have said, “How do you know?”

Ah l’esprit d’escalier, eh?

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Judge jails hate Muzzo and defends Freedom of Expression shock!

Ali Beheshti (above) poses with gun.
He admitted to conspiring to endanger life.

We are all used to Muslim extremists being given the red carpet treatment by our self-serving legal profession (as well as free housing, £30,000 a year to live on and endless benefits for relatives on the scrounge), but in an unusual case of legal common sense this week , a judge told three Muslim fanatics: "If you choose to live in this country, you live by its rules. There is no such thing as 'a la carte citizenship' and, in your case, there is no such thing as 'a la carte obedience' to the law."

Quite so. Well said!

It is Mrs Justice Rafferty whom we have to thank for this clarity of purpose, common sense and decency - remarkable in an age when feeble liberal-left politicians and greedy "human rights" lawyers bend over backwards to soft-soap and indulge any religious extremist that comes their way.

Ali Beheshti, 41, a fanatic who once paraded his 18-month old baby in an "I love Al Qaeda" hat during the notorious "cartoons" protest of 2006, was jailed for four and a half years at the Royal Courts of Justice, for firebombing the home of a publisher who was preparing to publish a supposedly disrespectful novel about the prophet Mohammed. Beheshti is known to be a follower of the hate cleric, Abu Hamza.

The book, called The Jewel of Medina, by author Sherry Jones, is a fictional account of the prophet's child bride.

Departing from the notorious Regents Park Mosque, Beheshti and his accomplices (also jailed), used diesel as an accelerant, causing fire damage to the front door of the publisher's house. However, unbeknown to the Muslim gang, police had been tracking them in an intelligence-led operation and were able to seize the religious arsonists as they fled the scene.

Andrew Hall QC, the lawyer acting for Beheshti, claimed, in the fanatic's defence, that the arson was: "an act of protest born of the publication of a book felt by him and other Muslims to be disrespectful, provocative and offensive". In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the "human rights" brigade, it seems that setting fire to somebody's house isn't any of those things.

The publisher, Mr Martin Rynja, of Gibson Square Books, was praised by Mrs Justice Rafferty as a "principled man" who had exercised critical judgement on a literary work and was prepared to stand up and be counted, knowing that publishing it put him at risk. He had bought the rights to the book after the faint-hearted, but prescient, Random House publishing company dropped plans to publish it, fearing it might "incite acts of violence".

The author, Sherry Jones, said that The Jewel of Medina is, in fact, respectful to Islam. The publisher, Martin Rynja, said last October that he felt its publication was part of a liberal democracy.

How refreshing that, for once, freedom of expression has been stoutly defended in the courts and three Muslim fanatics have been sent down with a judge's condemnation ringing in their ears!
Related link:
Jail for fanatics who wanted to dictate our reading habits

Friday, 10 July 2009

Barmy swami

Psst! Wanna be cured of being a poofter? Easy-peasy. Just get into the lotus position, take some deep breaths, let them out slowly (remember to breathe in again after each exhalation, though, or you might go blue in the face).

Hey presto! Before you can say Bhagavad Gita, you’re straight.

Well, that’s what this barmpot thinks who’s featured in a Pink News story I read yesterday.

Swami Baba Ramdev (pictured), a yoga guru, has filed a challenge to a Delhi High Court judgment from earlier this week that said homosexuality should be decriminalised.

He filed the challenge saying homosexuality was a “disease” and could be cured by yoga.

According to the Indian Express, he said: “It can be treated like any other congenital defect. Such tendencies can be treated by yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises) and other meditation techniques.”

So now you know. Just like other religionists, this guy thinks a bit of body bending and breathing is a cure.

What he’s done is to give yoga a bad name. In and of itself, stripped of any required belief system, it’s good therapy, both physical and mental. No one can doubt that good breathing is important, as is body suppleness. An ability to meditate and empty the mind of “noise” must also be a good thing.

But to say it’s a “cure” for homosexuality is akin to saying it can “cure” maleness or having a palm on your hand.

Talking of which, I’ve just thought of the best way to experience the clapping of one hand. You use the one hand to slap the face of Swami Baba bloody Ramdev.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Where are all the feminists?

Where are the feminists when you need them? Why are they not asserting themselves over the question of the burqa, and how it dehumanises women?

Pat Condell asks just that question in his entertaining video embedded below. Enjoy!

Jail for fanatics who wanted to dictate our reading habits

Religious fanatics have been jailed for an attack on the UK home of a publisher. His “crime”? He dared to want to publish a novel about Aisha, the child bride of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.

Now, according to The Times, among others, three Islamic fundamentalists have been banged up “for an arson attack on a London publisher who planned to print an ‘offensive’ book about the Prophet Muhammad”.

The attack was on the home of Martin Rynja, and “has been compared to the campaign against the publication of Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses”.

You can see from the links below just what a fuss was made by these and other morons, who believe that historical figures don’t belong to all, and if we wish to write fiction based on them, draw cartoons of them, make sculptures of them or paint them, we should be allowed to do so.
Related links:
How Muslims rule what we read
Aisha author should be compensated, says Rushdie’s QC
Cowardice condemned

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Let’s ban gay music

Here’s a little something to brighten up an otherwise dull Wednesday. It’s a video I came across on the Atheist Nexus site (well worth signing up to), and it’s all about why homosexuals should not be allowed to write songs.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

One sends one’s good wishes

Not only have a bunch of atrocious individuals formed an evil cohort with what seems the sole intent of telling queers how vile they are, but our dear sovereign lady the Queen has seen fit to wish them well in their dastardly deeds!

Damn woman! (Oops! Can she have me sent to the Tower for saying that?)

The leading light in this spawn of the Devil known creepily as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, whom I got a bit miffed about on this blog the other day.

These people can’t bear the fact that the Anglican Church is largely populated with gays (it would probably fall apart but for the gay clergy, so I’ve heard said).

So now they’ve formed this breakaway movement and Betty Windsor goes and sends them cheery little letters telling them what a jolly good band of people they are.

I suppose to be fair I should report that sources have, according to the Telegraph story linked to above, said the Queen was not endorsing this gang of Christian thugs, and pointed out that she corresponds with a great number of organisations.

It still sends out the entirely wrong message, though – and a huge number of palace staff won’t be too pleased about it.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Homophobic bullying? Start with religion, Mr Balls!

The UK’s Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, is to crack down on homophobic bullying among pupils.

Perhaps he ought to begin with the General Teaching Council for England, which last week watered down its code of conduct to appease “faith” groups.

A section of the code designed to tackle discrimination was changed from “promoting equality and diversity” to “demonstrating respect for equality and diversity”.


And then Balls might try Catholic schools, which will be allowed to tell gay kids they’re less than OK when it comes to compulsory sex education.

He might cut down on some bullying if he looked at these crazy superstitionists and their pathological hatred of gay people, which can only encourage bullies to take it out on gay kids trying to come to terms with their sexuality.


Further to Andy’s blog entry earlier today, copied below is the press release I issued in my capacity as secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust.

Gay Humanist charity slams Christian positions on homosexuality as: “Preposterous”

Commenting on Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester’s call on homosexuals to repent and “be changed”, George Broadhead, secretary of the gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust, said: “The Bishop’s homophobic outburst is hardly surprising given that he has repeatedly spoken and voted against gay human rights in the House of Lords, defending homophobic laws like the unequal age of consent, criticising civil partnership legislation and opposing IVF fertility treatment for lesbian couples.

“Predictably, the bishop defended his view by referring to the deity saying: ‘We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made. People who depart from this don’t share the same faith. They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible.’ Equally predicable is the view of Christian apologists for homosexuality like the Revd Dr Giles Fraser, the president of the Inclusive Church, who said: ‘Homosexuality is not a sin. It is the way many people love each other and is a gift from God.’

“Of course these positions can’t both be right, and in any case they are preposterous since neither protagonist can prove that the deity exists, let alone what he/she/it thinks about homosexuality.

“What is really reprehensible, however, is that ghastly homophobes like the Bishop of Rochester are permitted to sit, as of right, in the House of Lords and influence our legislation.”

Michael Nastier Ali

A new organisation of lunatic bigots gets under way today, after its leading light said gay people should “repent and be changed”.

This is arch homophobe Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, UK.

Change into what? A nice skimpy low-cut number with sequins? And repent for what? For not keeping you out of the country when you immigrated here from Pakistan?

Nazir-Ali spoke as tens of thousands of people, including Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister’s wife, joined the annual Gay Pride march in London.

A new coalition of evangelical and Anglo-Catholic bigots today begins the Devil’s work of hating poofs. Sorry, they love the sinner, don’t they, and hate the sin? I was forgetting. Since within this context the result is the same, it hardly matters.

This is what this disturbed individual tells the Sunday Telegraph in the story linked to above:

“We want to uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible. We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made.”

And how do you know? You can’t possibly prove it. But I interrupted you. Do continue, you blithering loon.

“People who depart from this don’t share the same faith. They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible.”

God revealed nothing. It was all made up. But do continue, you raving twassock.

“The Bible’s teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the way to express our sexual nature.”


“We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed.”

Oh, go to hell, you bloody waste of space!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Islam damned

Quite a damning analysis of Islam is made in Europe News under the headline The Silent Holocaust: Why Humanity Must Achieve Victory over Islam.  Here’s just a short extract:

Essentially, Islam is a set of beliefs and rules that militate against human prosperity, happiness, welfare, freedom, equality and knowledge. Islam and a full human life are contradictory concepts, opposed to each other. Islam under any kind of interpretation is and always has been a strong force against secularism, modernism, egalitarianism and women’s rights. Political Islam, however, is a political movement that has come to the fore against secular and progressive movements for liberation, and against cultural and intellectual advances. Violence and disregard for human dignity are inherent in the manifestos of political Islamic groups.

Strong stuff. And it doesn't let up any. It makes for compelling reading.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Coming out of two closets

Which is the worse: coming out as gay or coming out as an atheist.

There was an interesting piece in the US paper the Examiner a few days ago on this very subject – and the writer reckons it’s often harder to come out as atheist.

She relates an old joke:

If you’re afraid to tell your parents that you’re an atheist, just tell them you’re gay and after they are done flipping out say, “Don’t worry, I’m not gay, I’m only an atheist.” The interesting thing is that coming out atheist can be much harder than coming out gay.

That’s in the States, of course, where religion plays a bigger part in people’s lives. Here in the UK, it’s probably seen as cool to be an atheist. Certainly, I never encounter any antipathy on the few occasions I’m in a conversation with someone and say I’m a nonbeliever. Often, the other person is, too.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Church’s investment in slave labour

How’s the Church of England going to get out of this one?

The Christian think tank Ekklesia reports today that the church has got its sticky fingers into all sorts of ethically unsound pies.

We knew as much, anyway. Is there really such a thing as a clean investment, unless you know every single thing about the company you’ve put your money into?

Ekklesia singles out Tesco to begin with, because the supermarket giant is about to celebrate the fact that it’s making billions off the backs of slave labour.

Well, it wouldn’t exactly put it like that, but the chain has come under fire for its 7p-per-hour garment workers in Bangladesh.

Shareholders are rubbing their hands – and so must be the Church of England, which has an investment of £27.5 million in Tesco.

Ekklesia goes on:

The news comes as the third uncomfortable revelation for the Church in four days.

Yesterday, the Guardian newspaper revealed that Exxon Mobil, in which the Church of England has a shareholding valued at £17.2 million, is continuing to fund lobby groups which question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial. On Tuesday, campaigners announced that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) would be the subject of a legal action after it was linked to climate change and human rights violations. The Church has a £8.4 million stake in RBS.

Now the charity War on Want has cited research revealing that employees work up to 80 hours a week making Tesco clothes in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka for as little as 1663 taka (£14) a month.

No doubt it will gloss over all of this by using the same bullshit it uses to convince us that there is a sky fairy who loves us all. I’m just waiting for the “. . . er, stutter, er, stammer, er, well, it’s like this . . . er . . .”

But no: just like politicians and big business, it’ll have some slick PR wallah to make it all sound glossy and we’ll all go home and watch EastEnders and forget all about it.

Ekklesia quotes Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, who says, “While Tesco has smashed all records with more than £3 billion profits, it is also breaking promises to ensure a living wage and decent conditions for its garment workers. Tesco cannot be trusted to keep its word. The British government must act to stop this abuse.”

So this is the sort of company the Church of England is investing large sums of money in. Unlike an individual shopper, it can’t even say it invests only in Tesco Value Krispie Kokonut Splodge and not its clothes. When you invest in a company, you invest in all it does.

Teachers crumble under superstitionists’ pressure

A bit of spineless kowtowing to religion seems to have affected England’s teachers – or some of them.

Pink News carries a story about how the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) has “been accused of rewording a teachers’ code of conduct after faith groups complained they would have to ‘promote’ homosexuality under the code”.

It continues:

According to the Guardian, a section of the code designed to tackle discrimination has been changed from “promoting equality and diversity” to “demonstrating respect for equality and diversity”.

A briefing document revealed the changes had been made after hundreds of objections from faith groups, who felt the code would require Christian teachers to “promote beliefs and lifestyles at odds with their faith”.

The story quotes Sarah Stephens, director of policy at the GTCE, who says the wording has been changed to relate only to teachers’ actions, and not their values or beliefs.

But isn’t it their actions that are going to screw up kids’ minds if they’re gay and find that any equality and diversity for their kind is merely encouraged while the same for another group is promoted?

It’s not the first time the great and the good – be it among government or other organisations – have licked the boots of demanding and whingeing religions.

A few weeks ago, gay organisations showed how pissed off they were over government plans to allow “faith” schools to teach sex education in line with their superstitions.

Pink News deals with this in the same story:

Under the recommendations of the review, “all schools will be forced to teach sex education. However, faith schools will be allowed to present lessons in line with their own “context, values and ethos”.

This will allow them to tell pupils that homosexuality, sex outside marriage or using contraception is wrong.

It then goes on to quote our own George Broadhead of the Pink Triangle Trust, who wrote to the Schools Secretary Ed Balls, saying, “It is surely unacceptable that a large proportion of our schools should be allowed to tell pupils (in line with the teaching in their holy books) that homosexual relationships are morally wrong, with the inevitable consequence that anti-gay bullying will increase.”
Related link:
Today, children, we’re going to tell you how evil you are
Good morning, children: some of you are morally evil

The sham and shambles of shameful sharia

Apart from being seen as unfair, sharia law is also arbitrary and a total shambles, if this article in the Guardian is anything to go by.

The writer, Zeinab Huq, has been on the receiving end, and she says some rulings are carried out by no more than an imam on the end of a phone.

She cites in instance of how she and her sister had to make do with far less of her father’s estate:

When my father died, my mother decided that, although under British law she was entitled to everything, she wanted to settle things according to Islamic law so she could “die with a clear conscience”. She asked my brother to call an imam. The imam said my brothers would get twice the share of my sister and I and so on. On learning that my father had a son by a previous marriage, the imam said my half brother must also have a share in my dad’s estate. So, a man who is a stranger to us tells us that another man who is a stranger to us is entitled to a stake in our family home, where we have lived for 25 years and he has never set foot in.

And, of course, the thing would not be contested, because the womenfolk were too afraid to question it. If it were questioned outside this primitive belief system with its Dark Ages “law”, the machinery of probate would ensure that the estate would be divvied up according to law – proper law, not “law” taken from some holy book.

She also says that sharia law “isn’t even written down and most Muslims will dip in and out of it when it suits them”.

And yet we’re allowing some of these decisions to be ratified under the Arbitration Act in the United Kingdom, instead of insisting that every dispute both begin and end within a properly constituted system.

If Muslims were then found to have ruled on something that has a legal status and should have been ruled on under law, they’d he hauled up before a court for it. A proper court.
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
The shame of sharia
Sharia Law: Islamic Justice

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Bedside manner

The National Secular Society reports that “doctors have voted down a Christian motion at the BMA [British Medical Association] conference that would have given carte blanche for religious medical practitioners to ‘share their faith’ without restraint”.

The NSS’s president, Terry Sanderson, is quoted as saying, “The BMA conference has been very sensible in refusing to give this unfettered permission to religious doctors to offer prayers to patients. The restrictions are there for a very important reason – to protect patients from embarrassment, irritation and possible conflict with their doctor.

“If patients want to raise the issue with their doctor or nurse, that is a different matter, but the initiative should rest entirely with the patient.”

And that is the point. I might feel a bit miffed if a nurse or doctor came up to me while I was nursing my terminal galloping lurgy and offered to pray.

A good bedside manner means, among other things, being a good listener, and, if a patient were to mention that she prayed once a day or missed going to church, it would be appropriate for the medic to use whatever means available to comfort the patient.

That might mean his saying, merely, “Do you get comfort from prayers?”, thus leading the patient to say more, and that could be followed by, “If you like, I can arrange for the chaplain to come and see you.”

Hey presto! The medic is seen as understanding while remaining neutral on the subject of religion, leaving the patient to lead the situation.

While a patient’s possibly weakest moment is not a time to impose unwanted sky-fairy notions on her, it is not a time, either, to refuse to acknowledge that she might find religion comforting – albeit that it would, in the nonreligious person’s eyes, be a placebo.

Whether there should be such creatures as hospital chaplains is, of course, another issue, and one that has been hotly debated.

Very naughty Brian lives on

Brian keeps coming back. Not the Messiah, but that “very naughty boy”.

His eponymous film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, was banned in nearly forty towns and cities when it came out nearly three decades ago.

It’s so hard to believe that anyone could have objected to it even back then, let alone now. But they’re still protesting, and did so in Glasgow this week when city councillors decided to grant it a licence.

It’s such an anachronism that local worthies – many of whom wouldn’t know a good piece of cinema if it hit them between the eyes – can sit in judgement. It’s bad enough that the British Board of Film Classification still does so, but you might just console yourself – a little – that it’s made up of people who are supposed to know what they’re talking about.

Anyway, Brian gets its showing, according to a story in the Scotsman, in September (hard to believe that’s only the month after next!) at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

The paper says:

But Christian groups said the decision to grant the film a 15 certificate was a reflection of declining standards in society, and called it a “sad day”. The Biblical satire, about a Jewish man accidentally mistaken for the Messiah and crucified, was turned down for an AA certificate – the equivalent of the current 15 rating – in February 1980.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside a Sauchiehall Street cinema, where councillors were attending a private screening.

The late Pastor Jack Glass, who spearheaded the protest, famously said the film “crucified Christ afresh” and thrust three nails at the committee chairman, John Chatham. However, the pastor admitted he had not seen the film and was basing his views on a script.

And that is often the case. It happened in the Mid Wales town of Aberystwyth when the mayor – who played the part of Judith Iscariot in the film – wanted to get it shown. It was shown, and you can read about that in the links below. But there was an objection from at least one person who had not seen it.

And – wouldn’t you just know it! – Stephen “Birdshit” Green was invited by the paper to put his four penn’orth in:

But Stephen Green, director of the radical campaign group Christian Voice, which has organised protests against shows such as Jerry Springer: The Opera, said: “We know Glasgow was the last place in the country to keep the ban in place, as the only other area, Aberystwyth, had a screening a couple of months ago. It is a bit of a shame it’s now been granted a licence in Glasgow, but it shows how much we have let standards slip.”

I don’t know whether Green has seen the film, but, if he has, he has obviously missed out on the fact that it actually treats the Jesus figure respectfully. It’s a jokey film with a jokey premise set against a historical backdrop. Had it been set against the historical backdrop of, say, Henry VIII, as Carry On Henry (1971) was, there would not have been a peep of protest.

But there’s no accounting for how the brains of religious nutjobs work.
Related links:
Bring on Brian
Brian is back
About Brian

“Maareke giry”

Further to my blog post on Tuesday regarding the Sharia Law: Islamic Justice video, I see that someone going by the name of “Anonymous” has posted the following comment:

[T]he young boy whose arm was run over was not being punished for a crime. He was part of a “Maareke giry” or street magic act and allegedly performed the stunt for money (note the gentleman speaking into a microphone in image #1). The seventh and eighth pictures in the series, which appear to show the child shaken but otherwise unharmed after the ordeal, were omitted from the email flier but can still be viewed on (where all the images are attributed to photographer Siamak Yari).

Click here for the source of this information, which includes some of the photographs – here and here. Unfortunately, the seventh and eighth photographs referred to by “Anonymous” in the quote above, are not included. Furthermore, on visiting, I’ve been unable to clarify whether or not the website does indeed include these two photographs as it is not in English.

“Magic act” or not, these images are disturbing, but I’d welcome clarification from anyone who can supply it.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

A Pop Star Has Died. Boo hoo.

Yes, I know. I'm being unforgivably flippant about the sad demise of Michael Jackson – and yes – I do have several of his songs on my i-Pod, including his eloquent plea for racial harmony Black Or White (that rare thing, an uplifting message song that is also a successful piece of danceable pop). He was indeed a pop genius, flawed like most geniuses, but now his name will forever be uttered in the same breath as those other 20th century superstars, Chaplin, Presley and Lennon. How tragic that a handsome and talented black man should end up ravaged by too much plastic surgery, looking like a cross between Max Wall and Edvard Munch's painting, The Scream. I'm truly sorry he is dead, but – on the plus side – at least there'll never be another Earth Song.

However, the purpose of this post is not to discuss Michael Jackson, but to muse upon public displays of grief and mourning from a non-religious (and gay) perspective.

At the end of 2006, I remember going to see the film Evita, starring Madonna, and contemplating the public scenes of mourning that greeted the death of President Peron's wife in 1952, a woman who had somehow connected with – and engaged the loyalty and affections of – the ordinary people of Argentina. What event, I wondered, might cause a similar public outpouring of grief among my own disparate and apparently indifferent fellow countrymen, here in Britain? Just 8 months later, that question was unequivocally answered when the former Princess of Wales, Diana, met an untimely end in a Paris road tunnel.

Back in 1997, public displays of anything – beyond the beery disappointment of the England cup squad failing to achieve anything on the football field – belonged to an almost folkloric era, long past. John Lennon's death, at the hands of a disillusioned gun-toting fan in 1980, had perhaps provided a foretaste of the kind of seismic shock of a cultural icon cut down unexpectedly, but in England at that time, popular music didn't mean that much to the generation that had its controlling hands on the levers of our national media, so without the immediacy of the internet and real-time satellite link-ups, the tragedy was filtered down to us mainly via newspapers still suspicious of rock 'n' roll and the BBC's avuncular Nationwide programme (who can forget Frank Bough posing the idiotic question to one of Lennon's former associates "Presumably this puts paid to any hope of a Beatles reunion?")?

Even in 1980, Churchill's funeral and lying-in-state was a dim and distant memory to many of us, and anyway, he died after living a full life. Things are rather different in America, of course, where Elvis Presley's death in 1977 and the assassinations of the Kennedys were truly momentous events, sutured into the very fabric of American culture. The difference with Jackson's death, of course, is that we now have a tried and tested media formula for such events, a formula that has been shaped by President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Elvis Presley's death in 1977 as well as Princess Diana's death in 1997. Already we have those iconic aerial shots of Jackson's shrouded body being wheeled into the hospital on a trolley (let's hope that no strange photo-synthesis took place, resulting in the King of Pop's image being transferred onto the sheet – one Turin Shroud is quite enough!).

Back in 1997, in the immediate wake of Diana's death, the British media were ill-prepared for the tsunami of public grief and shock that swept the British Isles and beyond. We had no real precedent for it, certainly not with the immediate global reach of the new media technologies. To those who say it was all just an embarrassing display of emotional incontinence, whipped up by cynical media professionals, all I can say is that, for those first few days, at least, the shock and sense of grief was real and palpable. At the time, I worked for an outside broadcast engineering company that was involved in preparing for the televised funeral. And for the whole of that week, our predominantly male, chippy and "hairy-arsed" workforce toiled in a very subdued atmosphere of contemplative sadness. Tears were not unknown either.

In the last couple of years before her death, Diana had won almost universal admiration and respect for the pioneering humanitarian work she undertook, particularly against land mines (much to the annoyance of old school Tories) and her continued work on behalf of people with HIV&AIDS (to the evident irritation of the Queen, who asked why Diana couldn't limit herself to working with "nice charities"). Sympathy also played a part, as we witnessed the shabby way she was treated by the Royal Family and an ex-husband, who, as the journalist Julie Burchill famously commented, was "stiff, in all the wrong places."

What was truly interesting, though, was the emergence, or re-emergence, of ritualised communal mourning in an increasingly privatised and fragmented society. On the day of Diana's funeral, I went down to Kensington Palace Gardens and experienced that rare thing in London – a feeling of togetherness, remarkable for both its diversity and civility. The Metropolitan Police were unusually friendly and helpful, people gave up their seats on the bus to people less able to stand than themselves. Polite conversations were struck up, effortlessly crossing lines of age, race and class. It was a proud moment for Londoners, showing us how, sometimes, good things can proceed from bad in this big bad city of ours.

The challenge for secular and non-religious people, though, is how we respond to this re-emergence of public mourning in the "information age" of global communications. If you doubt that this re-emergence of public mourning and remembrance is happening, just consider how the death of 8 young Manchester United footballers - the so-called "Busby Babes" - in the Munich plane crash of 1958, was actually marked by more people on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2008, than it was at the time (thanks to the recent globalisation of both the media and the legendary "brand" of Manchester United Football Club Plc). Our War Memorials are also being restored after years of neglect, with renewed appreciation of the sacrifices made in the Great War and WW2, together with some long overdue respect for our soldier heroes fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting the modern day evils of despotic and Islamic extremism.

In an increasingly de facto secular society, such as ours, what is remarkable is the way that so many people, particularly young people, feel the need to participate in these mass grieving rituals (not least, those held for their peers who fall prey to knife crime). This cuts right across the prevailing trends of rampant individualism and the kind of "privatisation" epitomised by drinking at home, rather than at the pub, or watching a film on your home cinema system, rather than at the local Odeon (if, indeed, your local Odeon still exists). Dead celebrity idols, royals and those tragedies in which large numbers of innocents die (e.g. Dunblane, 7/7, Hillsborough), somehow awaken an elemental force in us that makes us want to share in the experience, to own a part of the tragedy, even to share in the conspiracy theories. Leave your tribute on the GMTV website, tie a rose or football scarf to the railings, buy the hastily-released CD single (surely, the modern day equivalent of a holy relic). You might also want to make a "pilgrimmage" to the site of the catastrophe.

Perhaps it is this "irrational" elemental force that makes it so difficult for the non-religious to participate in this collective phenomenon. In spite of going to Kensington Palace on the evening of Diana's funeral and in spite of having queued for hours to file past the Queen Mother's coffin when she was lying in state, after her death in 2002, I still felt like an outsider. My chief motivation, I suppose, was anthropological curiosity. I wanted to observe my fellow citizens at a moment of shared public feeling, unknown since my grandparents' day. Of course, I also admired Diana and the Queen Mother as well. What set me apart, besides this curiosity, however, was the religious and quasi-religious trappings that invariably accompany these public outpourings. In spite of our de facto secularism, in such moments, most people still reach for religious symbols and paraphernalia as a means of expressing their feelings. Even if they eschew actual hymns, prayers and religious leaders, there are the inevitable candle-lit vigils, one-minute silences, cruciform floral wreaths and so on. These seem appropriate, but also sit uncomfortably with anyone who is a casual atheist, like me, let alone a committed atheist.

Moreover, when we grieve for someone we never actually knew, or even met, be they a princess or a pop star, what are we actually mourning? Rationally speaking, unless we knew the person intimately, we are actually mourning a "media construct" a two-dimensional "icon" (note the religious connotation, once again). According to those who actually knew Michael Jackson, the "little-boy-lost" image and voice was an affectation - an affectation that quickly evaporated if you got on the wrong side of him, or got fired by him. His inappropriate behaviour toward young boys, even if it was asexual, seems to be all too easily ignored by his legions of devoted followers. And then there are the questionnable links to the Nation of Islam "mafia" group, notorious for its racism and shady business activities. But, hey, the guy recorded Thriller! (so that's all right then). This is just the first reason why the rational atheist/ humanist/ freethinker is actively distanced from public grieving rituals. An icon is not a real person and mourning an icon is not rational. What you are really mourning is what the icon meant within the realm of your own personal fantasy life, not the person themselves.

Secondly, the untimely death of a celebrity, or of innocents in an accident or terrorist outrage, invariably leads to the strange voodoo of conspiracy theories. The CIA blew up the twin towers with the connivance of the Israeli secret service, Mossad, some would have you believe. MI6 murdered Princess Diana because she had fallen pregnant to a Muslim whom she planned to marry. And so on and so forth. As rational, non-religious people prefer evidence-based, factual analysis – however pedestrian that may seem – we are further alienated by this secondary tier of unreality and hysteria. Unfortunately, gay people are unusually susceptible to all this nonsense, partly because they often enjoy the melodrama – a celeb fighting for life as they are rushed, by ambulance, to the nearest hospital – and partly because, they too, often feel "much misunderstood" and hard done by. The more effeminate the homosexual, the more likely he is to retreat into the private fantasy world of iconographic celebrity and fall prey to it's trashy death rituals and the quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding them.

As already mentioned, when Princess Diana died, the modern British media had no tried and tested formula for dealing with such an event. The wave of public shock and sadness soon passed, but the journalist johnny-come-latelies who had initially failed to anticipate the public mood in September 1997, more than made up for it over the next ten years, endlessly raking over the events of what may or may not have happened in the Pont de l'Alma Tunnel, the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital and at the French post mortem (the word "French" being a newspaper euphemism for "dodgy", of course). In Britain, Michael Jackson's death on June 25th 2009, probably means a lot less than Princess Diana's death, even within the black community, but this time, one gets the distinct impression the media are leading the public mourning, not following it – imposing a kind of mourning-by-numbers ritual on a public which has, by and large, got over the sad demise of Michael Jackson now that Andy Murray has reached the quarter finals of Wimbledon. It is in America where the already tedious Michael Jackson story may have some deeper cultural significance, not here.

But to return to the question of death rituals, why do non-believers often feel so excluded? Part of this is undoubtedly our society's reticence and awkwardness surrounding death, per se. We jibber-jabber endlessly about every sexual proclivity under the sun, but if you mention that your mother has just passed away, everyone looks at their shoes and feels embarrassed. In this regard, we have done a 180 degree turn since Victorian times, when no middle class Sunday afternoon was complete without a family sight-seeing tour of the local cemetery. Yet this reticence often leaves us non-believers unprepared for anything funereal and I feel sad when I see atheist and agnostic friends buried or cremated with Christian paraphernalia I know they would not have chosen, because no one had the wit or foresight to arrange an appropriate secular alternative. And secular alternatives do exist. The best funerals I have been to have been humanist ones, simply because the "dearly departed" is the focus of the event, rather than Jesus Christ who would otherwise muscle-in on the departed's gig. Recorded, or live music, readings, poetry, personal reminiscences and a celebration of the departed's life are not just more fitting and meaningful, they seem much more comforting to those left behind too.

For public remembrances and mourning, which all too often get hijacked by the religious and quasi-religious, perhaps the gay community's response to AIDS points the way forward for secular, non-religious people. The AIDS quilt was a stroke of genius, far more so than even the recent Atheist Bus Campaign. A quilt is not a religious symbol, yet it is ubiquitous and individual at the same time. Many of those who sadly succumbed to AIDS will have contracted the virus in bed, beneath a quilt, and ended their lives in bed, beneath another quilt, perhaps even the same quilt. Each quilt, decorated with pictures and words unique to the individual remembered, then sewn into a single giant patchwork quilt, makes the several AIDS quilts now in existence very moving, eloquent and above all, secular, public memorials. They celebrate humanity, its diversity, its tragedy and its desire to heal with love. This imaginative response is something the gay community can be genuinely proud of.

Alas, such imagination is all too rare. In July 2005, shortly after the July 7th bombings, I found myself in Kings Cross and took a walk around the makeshift public memorial garden that had sprung up outside the station. Inevitably, this had taken the form of numerous "shrines" with all manner of religious sentiment and paraphernalia, as people from all walks of life, understandably saddened and wanting to pay their respects, groped for something with enough meaning and resonance to express how they felt (hence numerous images of Jesus, the Pope, Ganesh, Buddha, as well as candles, crucifixes, New Age crystals and so on). The curse of multiculturalism was also much in evidence, with one Union Flag emblazoned with the words "Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jew - London United" (what, no Atheists?). Evidently, the irony that it was religion that had caused 4 Muslim youths to detonate their chapati-bombs on three Tube trains and a bus, was completely lost on these well-meaning, if inept, mourners. As far as I could see, not a single atheist or secular contribution was present. Why not? Surely, the National Secular Society (NSS) had prepared for such an eventuality and could stretch to a wreath? But apparently not. In despair, I bought some card and a marker pen from WH Smith's and wrote out a few lines from John Lennon's secular "hymn" that seemed perfectly suited:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

RIP all victims of religious terror.

We secularists/atheists/humanists/freethinkers are only just beginning to assert ourselves in the arena of public and private mourning rituals, but these are at least as important as things like "de-baptism" and civil partnerships. Rational rituals are part of our claim to freedom of expression.
Related link:
National ceremonies for all