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Monday, 30 November 2009

Let’s pretend it didn’t happen

Shades of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth here – this guy wants to rewrite history.

Britain’s Telegraph tells us that “a leading US Roman Catholic asked for a meeting with [Cherie Blair] to be struck from the record because he discovered her ‘opposition’ to some Church teachings”.

The Rev Jack Sullivan, 71, is said to have been healed of a debilitating spinal condition after praying to [possibly gay – tee-hee] Cardinal John Henry Newman in 2001 and was visiting the UK ahead of Newman’s beatification for the miracle by the Pope next September.

He initially said in a statement that he was “most impressed” by barrister Mrs Blair after visiting her last month.

But when he discovered her pro-choice views and endorsement of birth control, he tried to erase any reference to the meeting at Mrs Blair’s £5.75m home near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, contacting several newspapers to ask them to amend their stories.

What a berk!

The hex factor

Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to action after nearly two months of injury woes could be short lived.

This is according to a Malaga sorcerer, known only as Pepe, who said he was introduced into the occult by a Mexican sorcerer over thirty years ago. He says he’s been paid €30,000 by a “famous” former girlfriend of Ronaldo to put an injury curse on the player.

“The best is yet to come,” the 57-year-old is quoted as having told the news agency AFP at his office in the Mediterranean port, which displays burning candles, incense and statues of the Devil.

“I have given myself four months to end his career and I have said everywhere that once Cristiano started playing again he would play just one to three matches before being injured again.”

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Where are the spineless archbishops?

The United Reformed Church (URC) has become the first major Christian denomination in the UK to issue a statement condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, under which gays could be hanged for having sex in certain circumstances.

But where are the other churches in the UK? In a press release a couple of days ago, the URC said that its commitment to justice and equality meant it was “appalled” at the “draconian measures” proposed by Bill.

The URC passed an anti-homophobia resolution as early as 1999 at its general assembly.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined the Prime Minister of Canada in condemning the Bill.

So far there’s been nothing from either the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, or the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who grew up in Uganda. Nothing from the Catholic Church, either, as far as I can see, but that’s only to be expected.

An online petition launched by the Christian Think tank Ekklesia urges one of these snivelling bastards, Williams, to speak out against the Bill, and it’s brought signatories from priests, ministers and other church leaders around the world and “those who, despite differing beliefs over homosexuality, have come together to expose the religious rhetoric used by the Bill’s supporters”, Ekklesia says.

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill prescribes life imprisonment for any sexual activity between adults of the same sex, with the death penalty for anyone whose same-sex partner is disabled or is under 18.

The petition calling on the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Christian leaders to speak out against the Bill in public can be found here

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Christians who are happy to allow long, lingering deaths

A bunch of nutty Christians want everyone to respond to a consultation by the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions on assisted suicide.

“Following the case brought by Debbie Purdy,” Christian Concern for Our Nation write in an email alert, “the Law Lords instructed the Director of Public Prosecutions to draw up guidelines stating his policy on the situations in which he would or would not bring a prosecution against someone assisting in the suicide of another person in England and Wales, both within these countries and overseas.”

As you would expect, the extreme Christians would want everyone prosecuted. “If we consider life sacred and wish to see all life protected we must take this opportunity to raise the voice of concern. It would be good if we could create thousands of responses.”

So all life must be preserved even if life is intolerable. That, folks, is the nature of their “Christian concern”.

The group have submitted their own legal response. Click here to see it, but be warned that it’s a PDF.

Well, if they want us to respond, perhaps we’d better respond (PDF). We have until 16 December. Let’s say how we feel that life isn’t as innocently simple as this bunch of naïve loons would want us to believe, and that sometimes a person’s death is going to be far more welcome to that person than life is, and it behoves friends and other loved ones to help in any way they can.

You can print off and send a questionnaire if you prefer (PDF again).

It goes without saying that safeguards would have to be in place, but it’s not beyond human wit to come up with something that would be as watertight as possible. Nothing is ever perfect.

Sins of the fathers

There’s little point in going over the whole child-abuse thing that the Catholic Church has allowed its priests to continue to get away with in Ireland. It’s all over the press and other media. You can’t miss it.

I thought it might be helpful, though – because this stuff can’t be exposed too often (although it will be soon forgotten, except by the victims and their families) – to give a search link for your convenience.

Happy reading (I think not!).

No doubt we’ll see some hand wringing on the part of the Catholic bloody Church, and blaming the poofs and blaming everyone else and feeling sorry that the Catholic Church itself has had to suffer this ignominy, blah-di-blah, bullshit, balderdash, folderol, piffle, poppycock, rot, shite.

Ho hum.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Voicing concerns about education

Our friends in nutty Christian Voice, whom we don’t seem to have heard from for a while, are getting twitchy about recommendations that home-schooled kids in the UK probably deserve a better deal.

The Badman Report “will oppress-home schoolers”, say Christian Voice in an emailed alert to an online petition.

The email links to an article on a Guardian blog called Mortarboard, which says:

The government’s announcement of the review came wrapped in sinister language about the need to investigate “claims that home education could be used as a ‘cover’ for child abuse such as neglect, forced marriage, sexual exploitation or domestic servitude”.

As the same blogger, Adharanand Finn, said in January:

From the government’s perspective, the world of home education is full of unknowns. It doesn’t know how many children are educated at home. It doesn’t know how well the ones that are can read and write and meet other educational targets. And it doesn’t know if anything more sinister is going on under the cover of home education.

Now, whether you agree with compulsory education is another matter. Given that it’s the law that children be educated till the age of 16, you might argue that it’s up to the government to make sure the right sort of education is being administered. What you consider “right” education is, again, a matter for debate in another arena, but perhaps we can agree that, if children are being educated at home, we ought to be able to be satisfied that certain standards are being met and that kids are getting taught.

But, in the online petition Christian Voice want you to sign, they clearly don’t want any tightening up of inspection and supervision.

One wonders what they’re afraid of. Perhaps our more secular inspectors might decide that Mrs Godworthy is giving her kids too much Bible; or that Mr al-Bakri is shoving the Koran down his kids’ throats at the expense of English and maths.

I suspect Christian Voice won’t much care what happens to kids whose parents follow other religions, but they’d certainly be against removing any God-bothering nonsense from lessons.

However, where I might agree with them is that this seems on the surface to be more interference in people’s lives by a government that seeks to control everything we do.

If abuse occurs in kids’ homes – as the Badman Report seems to fear – social-services departments should be there to investigate, with police help if necessary. Forced marriages are an abomination, as are sexual abuse and forced labour. We need mechanisms to root out these evils. Perhaps the home-schooling thing is a way for the government to do it by the back door, rather than confront the fact that much of the abuse being talked of is likely to be among families whose culture is not indigenous – especially forced marriage and child labour. It would be very non-PC to suggest that, wouldn’t it?

All the government really needs to ensure is that kids are learning what they’re supposed to learn, and that there are examinations and other procedures to ascertain that.

I’d feel put out as a parent if a jumped-up tosser from some bureaucracy or other demanded to interview my kid without my presence, as seems to be one recommendation, and he or she would probably get some mouth from me and little by way of cooperation – in fact, hindrance stopping just short of illegal.

But if that official merely wanted to inspect the home-class work that my kid had produced in order to ensure that educational standards were being met, that would be another matter. And I’d expect him or her to frown hard on parents who stuffed their kids’ minds with gentle Jesus at the expense of subjects that will prepare them for life (life, note, not just the world of work and consumerism).

It’s an area fraught with problems, I suspect. How much “right” does a parent have over a kid’s education? How much “right” does the government have to impose a curriculum that merely grooms a kid to accept the status quo that sees powers beyond our understanding running our lives, never to question, never to challenge, never to rebel?

Education breeds good little consumers, just the way our politicians’ friends want them to be. Excesses of prescription and proscription can only turn kids into automata rather than freethinking individuals (yes, some of whom may grow up to embrace religion, but that’s life).

But automata are what politicians want us all to be, and – while I can see some possibly skewed reasoning in Christian Voice’s concerns, and know the organisation to be a big bag of nuts – I don’t believe we should be too hasty to try to turn home schooling into something that takes away its very purpose.

Must leave you with this, though: the Christian Voice email, from Stephen “Birdshit” Green, can’t restrict itself to talking about education and reports and petitions: it has to have as a valedictory, alienating many who might otherwise take the alert seriously, that reads, “Yours in our gracious Lord’s mighty name”.

Hat tip to Stuart Hartill over at Clinging to a Rock.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Why religious schools are divisive

Someone in Bolton, Lancashire, going under the moniker “Name and address supplied” makes some sense (apart from withholding his or her name and address, for which I can’t see the point here) with an argument about how divisive religious schools are.

She (let’s call him/her she) cites an application by Muslims to open what they like to call an education centre, but claim that it will be open to other faiths.

Ah, yes, says “Name and address supplied”, but Christians won’t wish to send their kids to a Muslim “education establishment”, any more than Muslims would want to send their kids to a Christian “faith school”. She writes:

It seems that every time there is a planning application from the Muslim community to convert a building into a school, education centre, or whatever they choose to call it, one of their arguments is that it will be open to anyone. Christian education establishments claim to have the same policy.

Christian families, however, would not want their children to go into such a centre/school any more than Muslim families would want to allow their children into a Christian school.

Real integration of the communities will never be achieved while we continue to allow religious schools to exist, and that includes Church of England and Catholic schools.

There is no reason why all religions should not be taught in all schools. The teaching of a particular religion and the practice of it, however, should be undertaken in the home or in a church, mosque, temple, synagogue, etc.

Turning an ordinary house into an education centre of any religious denomination creates a dangerous precedent.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

On the edge

A “unique coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered groups, political social justice activists, people of all faiths and none, trades unions and professional associations”, will be launched at the House of Commons in London today.

The organisation’s called Cutting Edge, and it will be “inviting all Parliamentarians to be briefed on why it believes faith opt-outs from the Equality Bill must be rejected, as the Bill makes its way to the House of Lords”.

A news release from the group says:

The Cutting Edge Consortium, building on ground-breaking 2007 & 2009 Conferences on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia & Human Rights, will hold an open meeting, EQUALITY BILL: OPT IN vs OPT OUT, to discuss religious exemptions to legislation on sexuality and gender identity in the Equality Bill. Creating a cutting edge by opening up new possibilities of dialogue between a huge diversity of interests and activist position, CEC has carved out a challenging space to voice support for the Equality Bill.

Hosted by Clare Short MP, speakers will include Sarah Bourke (Tooks Chambers), Andrew Copson (British Humanist Association) Maleiha Malik (Muslim Women’s Network), and Michael Rubenstein (Equal Opportunities Review). The event takes place 19.00–21.00, Tuesday, 24 November, in Committee Room 5, House of Commons.

Founder-member Maria Exall said: “It is vital that progressive faith and secular voices are heard loud and clear supporting the Equality Bill and equal rights for LGBT people.”

CEC continues the debates from its 2009 conference, grounded in its 2007 Conference Statement: “The Faith, Homophobia, & Human Rights Conference, gathered in London on 17th February 2007, calls on all people of goodwill, of whatever faith or none, to affirm and celebrate human equality in all its dimensions and particularly to work for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia and institutionalised prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

“We reject the activities of certain religious leaders, seeking exemptions from equality legislation, and attempts to base this on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, such a right being for all, not just for some. We deplore the internalised homophobia within religious institutions that fails to confront prejudice and hate. We encourage and support those faith organisations, which express their commitment to diversity and equality in practice and policy. We believe that full civil rights for LGBT individuals are not only consistent with the right to religious freedom, but are rooted in the best and fundamental teachings of all major faiths; love, justice, compassion, and mercy, such values being shared by all who seek the common good.

“We call for further progressive public policy that will deliver comprehensive and effective anti-discrimination legislation, including positive duties, on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and belief. We call on the newly formed Commission for Equality and Human Rights to listen to the experience of LGBT faith networks and those who have suffered homophobia from and within religious organisations.

“Today, the alliance of over fifty faith and secular organisations supporting this conference affirms and celebrates the values of human equality and social justice, rooted in the best of faith traditions, and shared by all who are committed to a fully human vision of a transformed society.”

The Cutting Edge Consortium includes the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, Interfaith Alliance UK, British Humanist Association, Muslim Education Centre Oxford, Liberal Judaism, Trades Union Congress, and A:Gender, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, Progressive British Muslims, Ekklesia, Inclusive Church, LGBT Consortium of Voluntary & Community Organisations.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Christian bigots may not get their way after all

So Christians who can’t get sex – i.e. other people’s sex – off their minds maybe won’t be getting their way on the question of freedom to discriminate against gays, if this story in Pink News is anything to go by.

The European Commission is now putting pressure on the UK government to drop planned exemptions from equality legislation.

As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’m iffy about denying freedom of speech (I leave that sort of thing to others who call themselves humanists), but, as we said recently, if these damnable people didn’t kick up such a stink about what others do with their private bits and pieces, there would be no need even to discuss discrimination and exemptions and the like.

The exemptions in this case would have allowed churchy types to refuse employment to gay people in order to avoid conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs. This is just bollocks! Why are religious beliefs always said to be deeply held while other beliefs are just beliefs?

Don’t gay people have deeply held beliefs that they should be employed by anyone, provided they can do the job?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Going with the flow

I was alerted to the chart above by fellow Gaytheist (discussion group) member John Hunt (thanks, John). It’s not new, but it’s well worth sharing with you. You can see it at the blog it first appeared on in October here. I hope they will accept our thanks.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Twilight of the gods?

First it was Harry Potter, now it’s Edward Cullen and his fellow vampires in the Twilight series of films.

The two films so far – of the books by Stephenie Meyer – have been Twilight and New Moon, the latter of which opened in the UK on Thursday night. The third book, Eclipse, is being filmed with a pencilled-in release date of June 2010.

The Catholic Church – but of course – are getting twitchy about it, according to a story in the Daily Mail, and think the saga is “a deviant moral vacuum”.

The second film opened only this week in the UK, but, according to some prat from the Vatican, it is “a mixture of excesses aimed at young people and gives a heady esoteric element”.

Great. Bring it on.

A few years ago, Pope Ratzinger was saying of the Potter series that it has “subtle seductions” and could corrupt the Christian faith?

Amen to that!

Go on. Read the story. Have a laugh.

Oh, by the way, your humble blogger has tried to close his eyes to the fact that Meyer is a Mormon – reasoning, he guesses, that other religions have wacky elements, too, and it’s hard to know whether one is reading a book by one of them – and is reading New Moon, having polished off Twilight a few weeks ago.

Good stuff, romance with a bite, well told by a good writer who has one or two annoying writers’ tics, but otherwise provides some good character development and almost makes the vampires and werewolves believable in the way these concepts are introduced into the stories.

Perhaps Potter and Cullen and many other books of this genre that are springing up will simply take the place of a need to believe in what religion claims, and this is what’s worrying the likes of Catholic nutcases. Perhaps they’re worried that this is the Twilight of the gods.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Bye-bye, Christmas? We don’t think so!

Oh, dear! Christmas could be banned, shock, horror! And gay “rights” may have to be upheld (the quote marks are deliberate – read on).

The wacky UK Christian organisation Christian Concern for Our nation (CCFON) are worried about the Equality Bill, which is “so complex that interpreting it could lead to bizarre decisions by town halls and other organisations”, and are quoting bishops who have voiced this very fear.

Basically – and you can read CCFON’s concerns here – they feel that equality will mean a council, for instance, won’t be able to favour Christianity above, say, Islam or Hinduism, and so will be reluctant to call something Christian or Christmas, but wil have to bow to the other religions, too, and come up with something else.

If this really is the case, and councils will ban the use of the word “Christmas”, then that would, indeed, be a shame, because that’s what we call it. We don’t have to believe in what it means to Christians, and many people don’t understand the significance of it, anyway. It’s just a time for overeating, getting pissed and receiving presents. And, whether we like Christianity or not, it applied the name “Christmas” to this time of year centuries ago, and that’s our tradition.

We don’t complain that days of the week are named after gods such as Odin and Thor and Frigga (or Fricka, take your pick).

Even among those for whom Christmas is a more reflective time, there will be many who see it as a time for family and friends, concerts and just doing different things, but won’t “celebrate” the birth of guy two thousand years ago who may or may not have existed at all, and almost certainly not in the clinical way he’s portrayed.

But historically it’s still called Christmas, and I, for one, don’t even mind the odd carol. See my article in G&LH of last December on why I wouldn’t want to take the Christ out of Christmas – but see it only as a syllable.

However, it’s a syllable that’s part of the word that we’ve come to use historically for a time of the year when we begin the climb to spring and punctuate the darkness of winter with mirth and joy, however we decide to do it.

I do wonder, though, whether these Christians are overstating things. Quite often, tabloids come out with all kinds of horror stories about how Christmas is being banned, and it turns out they’ve got the story arse about face or are just stirring it for ethnic minorities.

CCFON also obsess, as you would expect, about sexuality, of course:

Under the provisions of the Bill, public bodies could also be forced by law to promote homosexual and transsexual “rights”. Also, churches and other Christian groups could be forced to employ practising homosexuals, transsexuals and civil partners.

Note the scare quotes around “rights”. If atheists put quotes around the word when talking of Christian “rights” (oops, I just did it!) they’d be moaning. They refuse to see that it’s not a question of rights above others’ rights, just rights to be treated equally and have relationships recognised in the way hettie relationships are recognised. What’s wrong with that?


Thursday, 19 November 2009

No sharia here! One Law for All rally in London

The One Law for All campaign against silly and potentially dangerous Muslim laws is holding a rally in London on Saturday.

The campaign is against the setting up of sharia courts and other religion-based tribunals in the UK.

Read about the rally here. There are details of where, and a list of speakers, including Maryam Namazie and A C Grayling, Taslima Nasrin and the excellent columnist Johann Hari of the Independent.

In an emailed bulletin, the campaign says:

The rally aims to oppose religious laws in Britain and elsewhere, show solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia, and to defend universal rights and secularism.

Simultaneous acts of solidarity and support for the rally and its aims will take place in countries across the world including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Nigeria, Serbia and Montenegro and Sweden.

Moreover, winners of the campaign’s art
competition exposing the discriminatory nature of religious law and promoting freedom and equal rights will be announced at the event.

One Law for All Spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, commented, “Sharia law is becoming a key battleground, particularly because it is an extension and representation of the rising threat of Islamism. Sharia matters to people everywhere because it adversely affects the rights, lives and freedoms of countless human beings across the world. Opposing Sharia law is a crucial step in defending universal and equal rights and secularism and showing real solidarity with people living under and resisting it everywhere.

“November 21 is yet another important day for further strengthening the mass movement needed that can and will put a stop to Sharia once and for all.”
Related links:
Sharia: creeping ever closer
How do you solve a problem like sharia?
Creeping ever closer! When will they ever learn?
Sharia in the workplace
Sharia – the disturbing story continues
The danger of sharia courts
Sharia – a waste of time

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Some more thoughts on “Thought”

It’s hardly surprising that the religion-soaked BBC has effectively rejected a call for its “Thought for the Day” slot (within the flagship news programme Today) to be open to those who are not part of the Deluded Herd.

The BBC Trust has said that the slot – usually full of platitudes and meaningless drivel, with the occasional gem of wisdom that doesn’t need a religious perspective, anyway – “is religious output and that it is a matter of editorial discretion for the BBC executive and its director general as editor-in-chief as to whether the BBC broadcasts a slot commenting on an issue of the day from a faith perspective”.

What does it mean by “is religious output”? That implies that it has to be religious output. It doesn’t. It could be called something else. So that’s a non sequitur.

Then the chairman for the Trust’s editorial standards, Richard Tait, says having it as a God-bothering slot doesn’t breach BBC editorial guidelines.

This is another specious argument, since there’s really no need to argue over whether editorial guidelines have been breached as such, but merely to argue from fairness and from the premise that speaking as if there were sky fairies, with no challenge from an interviewer, is rather silly during what is mainly a hard-news programme (not that you should believe all that news programmes contain, but that’s another story). But it was editorial guidelines on which complaints were raised.

Notwithstanding, if editorial guidelines haven’t been breached, but we’re still left with only God botherers doing “Thought for the Day”, doesn’t that argue the case for changing the editorial guidelines?

UPDATE: However, we learn from the ever-helpful Ekklesia that the BBC Radio 4 Controller, Mark Damazer, has given the strongest indication yet that the BBC may eventually open up the slot to a wider range of contributors. So God knows what’s happening!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The festering hatred that is the Catholic Church

If you want to see just how low religionists can sink, take a look at this.

They’re Catholics, of course – some of the most pernicious and spiteful God botherers on the planet. They’re willing to pull the welfare rug out from under the poor in the USA, and all because they continue to obsess about what people do with their choice portions and dangly bits.

The AlterNet site I’m linking to above puts it like this:

They lead a church that claims to stand on the side of the sick and the poor, the meek who shall inherit the earth. But in the course of a single week, the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed themselves willing to see health-care denied to millions of uninsured Americans, and to yank the social-service rug out from under the feet of tens of thousands of urban poor in the nation’s capital – all to serve the bishops’ obsession with the sex lives and reproductive organs of others.

Yet our great and good continue to listen to the Catholic bloody Church and its heartless prelates who make such a fuss about loving the sinner while hating the sin, whereas by doing the latter they simply ensure that the so-called sinner is shafted. Quite how that is classed as loving the sinner beats me.

Go and read it – and be very annoyed.
Related link: How the Pope kills Catholics

Support for Islamic bigots diminishes

It looks as if support for a dangerous idea by Muslims to try to get the UN to outlaw “defamation” of religion – as if defaming it could make it look any worse than it is in many areas – is losing support.


You can read about it in the Abu Dhabi paper The National here.
Related links:
When one religion wants it all its own way
Human rights – on our terms, says Muslim

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ungandan church dithers over evil antigay Bill

The Anglican Church in Uganda says it doesn’t have “an official position” on the new Bill that would criminalise homosexual acts to such an extent that some gay people would be put to death.

Why are we not surprised?

OK, it may come out and condemn it, but why is it dithering?

The think tank Ekklesia tells us:

In a statement last week, the Church of the Province of Uganda repeated its assertion that “homosexual behaviour is immoral and should not be promoted, supported or condoned in any way” but said that it did not have a stance on the bill itself.

However, the secretary of the Church, Mwesigye Kafundizeki, said that the death penalty clause should be removed from the bill, proposing “another punishment instead of death”. He appears to support the bill overall.

The Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, is well known for his anti-gay views. He has backed allegations about “homosexual recruiting in our schools”, suggesting that young people were being bribed “to become gay”. He did not explain how a bribe could enable a person to alter his or her sexual orientation.


Meanwhile, the Archbishop of York, himself raised in Uganda, has also said he will remain silent on this shocking state of affairs. He should be ashamed of himself. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement tried to contact the Archbishops of both Canterbury and York. York says he will not be making a statement on the issue, while Canterbury has not so far responded.
Related link: The inconvenience of human rights

Bigots out in force

Hate crime, I know, can open a whole can of worms – not the crime, but the idea. What constitutes a hate crime? Shouldn’t all crime be treated equally?

However, if this writer is correct, then religionists want the idea of hate crime to apply to all but one particular community.

You’ve guessed it. Gays.

And this is due to happen today, when, writes Carrie Poppy, “pastors and other clergymen (yes, clergyMEN. Get your feminist head out of the gutter.) will be congregating at our nation’s [the USA’s] capitol to publicly defame homosexuals, in order to ‘challenge’ the Matthew Shepard Act, a congressional act which protects citizens against hate crimes committed because of the victim’s perceived sexuality”.

“The pastors don’t have a problem with hate crime legislation itself,” says the writer, “but specifically with this hate crime legislation, which limits their god-given rights to incite violence against gay people”.

Poppy’s piece continues:

Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation League (oh, yes) had this to say about what happens when hate crime laws include homosexual victims:

"Christians are singled out for prosecution, with threats, imprisonment and fines simply for refusing to stop doing what Christ commands: proclaiming the truth."

In the interest of sympathy, let's put ourselves in these Christians' shoes. How tragic it is, that so many people devote their lives to spreading hatred, not because they are hateful people, but because they have been indoctrinated – brainwashed – with a bronze age story about the origin of the universe. When someone asks you, "Yeah, but what harm does religion do?" point them to examples like this.

Whenever we teach our children that groundless faith is a virtue, we pave the way for groundless violence.

Rest in peace, Matthew Shepard.

We second that.
Related links:
Remembering Matthew
Ten years on, but more to be done, says Matthew’s mom
A law for Matthew

Saturday, 14 November 2009

It was God wot done it

It’s so amusing to hear members of the Deluded Herd crow about how God did it for them.

This time it’s a wacky British organisation called Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON), which is going on about an amendment in the UK’s Coroners and Justice Bill that would protect free speech when it came to Christians who wanted to have a go at their favourite target: the LGBT community.

The Christians wanted to be able to continue to criticise gays; the government wanted more protection. This Bill has been to the upper house a couple of times, but the lower house has now admitted defeat.

Christians will be able to talk critically about homosexuality.

And that’s fine, as long as they’re not risking a world war or inciting people to beat gays up in the street. It’s unfortunate, and it means that these bigoted twassocks can use speech that could conceivably lead to more bullying of gay people. That’s why the pro-gay lobby wanted the restriction.

It’s always a toss-up. Do you deny free speech to one group because a given thing might be the consequence of allowing it, only to permit free speech on another issue, giving critics the opportunity to draw comparisons and cry inconsistency?

I reckon that, if it weren’t for these toxic people in the first place, and many like them – and, of course, society’s seeming willingness to give credence to their rantings – there’d be less hatred for gay people and the considerations about free speech just wouldn’t be high on the agenda. People wouldn’t bully gays just because a nutjob had said something.

But they’ve created a climate, a series of expectations, and it’s within the context of that climate and those expectations that all kinds of skewing of what should be straightforward and unproblematic takes place. In other words: no religious bigotry would mean less need for special protection; therefore there would be no need for opposition to special protection, and the whole thing wouldn’t be an issue. But it is.

The nice people at CCFON send me emails. They probably wouldn’t if they realised that I think they’re a bunch of right-wing, bigoted lunatics, but, for the moment, I’m on their list. Of this issue, they say in their latest bulletin, addressed to their “Dear Friends and Supporters”:

We are writing with wonderful news of deliverance from the pernicious attempt by the Government last night (11th November) to remove Lord Waddington’s free speech shield from the face of the laws of this land.

In a remarkable debate the House of Lords stood firm against the Government’s fourth attempt to impose its will upon them. Thanks to their steadfastness the vital democratic right to free speech was upheld, the police will have clarity about cases they do not need to investigate and ordinary, peaceful Christians and others who wish to be free to express orthodox Christian views on sexual ethics will not have their freedom so to do unreasonably interfered with.

A short time ago Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw MP, announced that the Commons will not attempt to send this particular question back to the Lords yet again under this Bill. On this basis it would seem that the immediate danger to our vital freedom has passed. However[,] you can be assured that we will be vigilant and will let you know if another assault comes to light.

For now at least though we can thank God for this wonderful victory for Christian freedoms, free speech, democracy and common sense. Thank you all for your prayers on this vital issue. We believe they have availed much. [My emphasis.]

God bless you all, and thank you for your concern and your support.

Oddly, when they do a lot of praying and wringing of hands and lose on an issue, they don’t blame God for not listening to, or at least not acting on, their prayers. Now, if they think God is infallible and listens to their prayers, they have to accept that, on occasions when he’s not gone in their favour, they were wrong.

But they wouldn’t admit that, would they? It just gets swept under the carpet of dusty obfuscation, along with all the other uncomfortable niggles that prevent religionists from squaring their nutty beliefs with reality and logic.

But there you go. They must be a bit touched to believe in all that shit in the first place.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

In praise of heroes

Let’s hear it for the heroes. You can celebrate heroes if you’re in Scotland on 28 November.

Because Edinburgh Gay Men’s Chorus (EGMC) will be celebrating “Heroes” at their winter concert, to be held in St George’s West Church, Shandwick Place, that evening at 8 o’clock.

“In these desperate times when economies are failing,” says their news release, the” King of Pop is dead and John and Edward have got into The X Factor live shows, who can people turn to?” It goes on:

The forty-strong EGMC have the answer: what we need is a band of Heroes to lift the gloom, add some sparkle and camp it up for the sake of the nation. The Chorus intends to save you from Strictly [Come Dancing] and High School Musical with an action-packed evening of songs about all things heroic. If you’ve been holding out for a hero, look no further.

So here’s Pink Triangle’s free plug: tickets cost £7 (£5 concessionaries) and are available by clicking here. Or you can call 0131 473 2000.

“Also”, the press release adds, to give you every chance possible to be there, “from Chorus members and at the door.”

We’re not told whether they’ll be wearing kilts or what they’ll have on underneath. But guessing is half the fun.

Bankers (spelled with a “w”) are doing God’s (dirty) work

Bankers are doing God’s work. It’s true, I tell yer. How do I know this? Well, a banker told me.

Well, he told the Sunday Times, actually, and, because I rarely read about these people – bankers, that is, spelled with a “w” – I missed it.

But Ekklesia has picked up on it, and the fact that the parasite concerned, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, has come in for some stick.

Now we all need banks, yes. Why? Because the world has been created that way. We’ve been funnelled into an existence whereby we can’t do without them, by politicians who have big business – the bigger the better – at heart, politicians who can sanction the decanting of billions of pounds from taxpayers’ funds into these monstrous institutions at the drop of a crocodile tear from . . . well, from bankers (spelled with a “w”), yet won’t fund socially cohesive institutions such as the Post Office.

But to say bankers (spelled with a “w”) are useful in a useful sense of the word “useful” is just useless. They produce nothing, but move money around, create money out of people’s debt and don’t have to have actual funds to match the stuff that’s owed to them. They decide to pay themselves obscene bonuses, and then claim that what they are doing is God’s work.

Well, this raving idiot claims it, anyway.

“We’re very important,” the pompous arsehole tells us. “We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth.”

It’s not the only model, you know, but it’s the model you would support because it keeps you in more money than most people would have space to store it if it were given to them in large-denomination notes.

If he cared about helping companies to grow, really cared, banks would make it cheaper. They have to make a living, but do they have to make so much? Get real for a moment: who needs that sort of money? Only pompous arseholes such as Mr Lloyd Blankfein.

“Goldman Sachs last month announced that its top staff would receive combined bonuses of £13.4 billion, a record sum,” says Ekklesia, adding, “The resulting criticism led to suggestions that the bank would donate around £600 million to charity.”

Church Action on Poverty have declared themselves “puzzled and offended by the assertion that the continual creation of more wealth – concentrated in the hands of those who are already wealthy – is somehow ‘God’s work’ ”.

Mind you, didn’t Jesus say the following?

Matt 13: 12: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

Matt 25: 29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

Mark 4: 25: “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”

Familar scenario, that.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Gods move in mysterious ways

Terry Pratchett, eat your heart out! Visitors have flocked to the temple in the Indian coastal district of Kendrapara, eastern Orissa, bearing rice and fruit to pay homage to . . . a turtle

And the villagers have refused to hand over the creature, even though it’s illegal to keep turtles in captivity.

Just as a god was trapped in the body of a turtle in Pratchett’s Small Gods, the villagers believe the god Jagannath is the turtle-incarnate entity.

The priest of the temple, Ramesh Mishra, told reporters, “Lord Jagannath has visited our village in the form of a turtle. We will not allow anybody to take the turtle away.”

Religion isn’t working

Islam is trouble. There’s no getting away from it. Just ask employers in France.

According to Europe News:

A third of French companies say they are concerned by demands from their employees regarding wearing the headscarf, holidays and prayers. “Managing Eid [a Muslim religious festival] is a real headache,” says the manager of a transport company. “Half of the bus-drivers are Muslim. When they all ask to be absent on that day, how do you assure 100% service?”

Quite. All the more reason why religion should be given the same status as stamp collecting or trainspotting. The fact that some people really get off on it is neither here nor there. They’re being a bloody nuisance to the rest of us by insisting on special arrangements for their ridiculous superstitions.

Whether it’s an insistence on wearing clothing that’s inappropriate because of hygiene or safety concerns, demanding days off or refusing to handle certain goods or perform certain services, religionists in general, and Muslims in particular, are letting other people down, and it’s only out of political correctness that employers let them get away with it, and a combination of political correctness and grubbily grabbing votes that prevents politicians from legislating against this nonsense.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dead man cures backache

A Catholic deacon in the USA claims that praying to dead Cardinal Newman cured his backache.

He’d been suffering agony, and he prayed, “ ‘. . . please, Cardinal Newman, help me to walk, so that I can return to classes and be ordained [as a deacon]’. Suddenly, I felt a tremendous sense of heat, very, very warm and a tingling feeling all over my entire body. It was very strong and lasted for a long time.”

Yes, it’s called a placebo effect; it’s psychosomatic. The mind is very powerful, you know. It doesn’t have to be the intercession of corpses – not that there’s anything left of Cardinal Newman (see “Dem bones, dem bones, dem gone bones”).

One wonders whether this deacon chappie would have been praying to Newman if he’d known, or at any rate believed, that he really did have a boyfriend.
Related links:
Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones
Dem bones, dem bones, dem bones of contention

Monday, 9 November 2009

PC in the US of A

Political correctness is alive and well and living not only in the UK but in the USA, too.

A hard-hitting piece in the New York Post has the headline, Call this horror by its name: Islamist terror.

It concerns Nidal Malik Hasan, the radicalised Islamist army officer who last week went on the rampage at Fort Hood, killing and wounding several fellow army personnel.

Ralph Peters, writing in the Post, says no one wants to call it an act of terror or associate it with Islam:

What cowards we are. Political correctness killed those patriotic Americans at Fort Hood as surely as the Islamist gunman did. And the media treat it like a case of nondenominational shoplifting.

This was a terrorist act [his emphasis]. When an extremist plans and executes a murderous plot against our unarmed soldiers to protest our efforts to counter Islamist fanatics, it’s an act of terror. Period.

When the terrorist posts anti-American hate speech on the Web; apparently praises suicide bombers and uses his own name; loudly criticizes US policies; argues (as a psychiatrist, no less) with his military patients over the worth of their sacrifices; refuses, in the name of Islam, to be photographed with female colleagues; lists his nationality as “Palestinian” in a Muslim spouse-matching program and parades around central Texas in a fundamentalist playsuit – well, it only seems fair to call this terrorist an “Islamist terrorist.”

But the president won’t. Despite his promise to get to all the facts. Because there’s no such thing as “Islamist terrorism” in ObamaWorld.

There were a lot of warning signs, says Peters, and it’s “appalling that no action was taken against a man apparently known to praise suicide bombers and openly damn US policy”.

Islam in action

Islamists in southern Somalia, reports Scotland on Sunday, have stoned a man to death for adultery but spared his pregnant girlfriend.

Spared his pregnant girlfriend, that is, until she gives birth. Then they’ll stone her to death.

“Extremist group Al-Shabaab, widely seen as the Taleban of Africa, executed 33-year-old Abas Hussein Abdirahman in front of a crowd of around 300 in the port of Merka,” the paper says, continuing:

An official from the group, which is officially regarded as a terrorist-supporting organisation by US authorities, said the man’s unidentified lover would face the same fate after her child is born. The infant will be given to family members.

Al-Shahaab have already stoned two other adulterers to death this year.

And all in the name of loving, peaceful Allah.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Evil in Uganda

Prompted by appeals from the Sexual Minorities Uganda Group (SMUG), the gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) has written a letter of protest to Joan Rwabyomere, the Ugandan High Commissioner in the UK, concerning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Bill 2009:

We are writing to you to express our great concern and dismay at the proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

As you will be aware, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 was recently tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. The Bill’s provisions are draconian and among them are:

Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty.

Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face very heavy fines or three years in prison.

Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties.

Any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV.

All of the offences covered by the Bill as drafted can be applied to a Ugandan citizen who allegedly commits them – even outside Uganda!

The existing law has already been employed in an arbitrary way, and the new Bill will greatly exacerbate that effect. There is a continued increase in campaigns of violence and unwarranted arrests of homosexuals.

We regard this sort of bigoted homophobia as a gross violation of the human rights of a sizeable minority of the Ugandan population and quite contrary to civilised humanitarian norms.

Please bring our concerns to the attention of the authorities in Uganda.

George Broadhead commented, “In March this year, American Christians travelled to Uganda for a conference that pledged to ‘wipe out’ homosexuality. Seven months later, a draconian Bill has been introduced that pledges to make good on this threat.

“This witch hunt has all the hallmarks of leading American Christian Evangelicals. The Family Life Network, one of America’s most powerful Christian Evangelical organisation’s, seems to have converted Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to its antigay brand of Christianity, and this is the impetus behind the anti-gay crackdown.”
Related links:
Primitive and malicious
The inconvenience of human rights

Saturday, 7 November 2009

How the churches seek to control

The churches have for years been ensuring that nonreligious voices don’t get a say on BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the Day” slot in its flagship morning news programme Today.

So says the think tank Ekklesia. A new paper released yesterday by the think tank highlights “how, since its origins in the wartime programming of World War Two, the extension of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ (‘TFTD’) beyond their own voices has been resisted by Church leaders”. Ekklesia says in a news release:

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley was a Christian contributor to “Thought for the Day”, but was dropped by the producers of the slot after he appeared on the BBC’s Today programme and called for the non-religious to be included.

The new paper traces how the origins of “TFTD” came in a context of BBC religious broadcasting which was originally viewed as “evangelistic and missionary”.

It’s hardly surprising that the churches and other religious organisations would wish to hold onto all the publicity-grabbing machinery they can. Organised religion is largely about seizing and keeping power. Anything spiritual is incidental. That’s not to say churches don’t do good works in the charity sense or give people a place to gather, but people’s spirituality doesn’t need to be organised by hierarchies of priests, the more senior of whom spend half their time keeping hold of the ear of government and the media.

If groups and individuals wish to do good works, they can do so – as many nonreligious organisations do – without kowtowing to men in frocks who run around expending needless energy not doing much for the lot of their fellow human beings, while holding onto their power and privilege and the exalted status afforded them by the Deluded Herd.
Related links:
Nonbelievers need not apply
Thoughts on the Thought
Thoughts on “Thought for the Day”
More thoughts on “Thought for the Day”

Friday, 6 November 2009

Atheist youth speak out

There seem to be so many old farts associated with freethought, rationalism etc. (myself included), so it’s great news to report on a promising blog called Young Freethought, which went live this week.

See it here, and support it. I for one will be looking in on it from time to time, if the quality of the writing so far is anything to go by.

In the “Welcome” article posted on Tuesday, its editor, Michael Campbell, says:

Young Freethought is here to try and give a voice to a small section of society that, we feel, is currently being ignored. Young atheists and freethinkers are abundant, but trying to find out just what they think is a difficult thing. This is why we will accept submissions from anyone aged 16–21, on issues relating to Freethought. This could be a book review, an opinion piece on current news or even a small essay. The first few pieces will be going up later this week. They will be written by myself and my two colleagues at first, but we soon hope to be too busy reading submissions to be able to write our own pieces. If you’re an experienced writer, or have never tried your hand at it before, it doesn’t matter. We consider all entries equally.

The box at the top of the front page declares:

Young Freethought is an independent blog, open for anyone, but with the aim of providing a way for young people to find the ideas of like-minded peers regarding issues such as rationalism, humanism, science and philosophy.

The latest post – at the time of writing – went up yesterday, and in it Campbell takes on the mighty, with a swipe at John Polkinghorne, who was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University between 1968 and 1979 and was the 2002 recipient “of that infamous award – the Templeton Prize”.

Polkinghorne is one of those people who can believe in all that science has uncovered, be that genetics, evolution or quantum field theory, but still hold onto the idea that there is a creator god. Indeed, he became an ordained Anglican priest in 1982.

I think we’re going to be treated to some challenging reading from Campbell and his team.

Yet more thoughts on “Thought”

Getting those who aren’t members of the Deluded Herd onto the BBC Radio 4 God slot “Thought for the Day” (part of the Today programme) is gaining support.

The latest to come out in favour of opening it up is Lord (John) Birt, a former director general of the Beeb.

A story in today’s Daily Telegraph tells us that Birt had said that “the BBC must ‘loosen the stranglehold’ of established religious organisations and ‘embrace’ the humanist movement”.

I’m not so sure that only humanists should get a go. Not all of them are as freethinking as they like to freethink themselves to be, but he means nonbelievers and similar, as we will see.

The Telegraph says:

Secularists claim the three[-]minute slot – which is only open to representatives from the main faiths – discriminates against non-believers. They have complained to the Trust, the governing arm of the corporation, which is expected to deliver its response next week.

Lord Birt, who was head of the corporation between 1992 and 2000, appeared to agree that there needed to be a greater range of views.

Birt’s description of humanists is “a loose network of individuals broadly exercised by questions of the spirit, concerned to optimise the sum total of human happiness here on earth; individuals naturally respectful of others, wedded to rationalism and to scientific rigour, revering all life, unafraid to proclaim and to celebrate the joy of existence and the richness of human expression”.

Well, that’s a pretty broad description. I doubt anyone presses all the buttons, but it’s a start.

The best thing is just to open it up to people who have something to say (how they’re to be chosen is another matter and potential can of worms). If they happen to be religious, so be it; spiritually questioning with half an eye to the supernatural, so be it; total atheists, so be it. But why bother to label, unless their talk is inextricably linked to their affiliation or they need to declare an interest?

Why do we need to say today we have a religious person, tomorrow we’ll have a humanist?

Further reading: See Jonathan Bartley's take on this over at Ekklesia’s website, in which he talks of religions exclusion in history by saying, “The injustice of such [historical] religious exclusion from public space is now self-evident. But the tendency of some religious people to maintain a voice for themselves whilst effectively silencing others, still remains.” He then puts “Thought” into this context.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The inconvenience of human rights

The Ugandan psychopath who wants to kill gays for being gay has been further condemned.

“Diplomatic representatives from the USA and France are the latest to condemn a recently tabled anti-gay Bill in Uganda, which calls for the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’,” Ekklesia tells us, adding:

Humanitarian groups have called the legislation “appalling”. But there is deep concern about the number of religious figures inside and outside the country who have supported, condoned or failed to speak out on a measure which the US embassy in Kampala told news agency AFP yesterday (4 November 2009) “would mark a major setback in the promotion of human rights” if it became law.

“If adopted, a bill further criminalising homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda,” the embassy’s public affairs officer Joann Lockard declared.

The psychopath concerned is an MP called David Bahati. Another who has no regard for human rights – who, indeed, is “tired” of the very phrase – is the man laughingly called the Ethics Minister, James Nsaba Buturo, who, says Ekklesia, “said the country had no intention of heeding the advice of foreigners on the issue of homosexuality – despite the huge amount of international assistance the country receives and the language of partnership used around aid programmes”.

Buturo balked at the notion that the proposed Bill – which, among other things, would criminalise any public discussion of homosexuality and could penalise an individual who knowingly rented property to a homosexual – constituted a human rights violation.

“We are really getting tired of this phrase human rights,” he said.

Yes, human rights are very inconvenient, aren’t they, Mr Buturo?

Despised and ejected – censorship wins out again

Despised and rejected of men . . .* Well, by the GALHA committee, anyway.

GALHA is the UK’s Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, an organisation that began 30 years ago with noble intent, and has seen some notable individuals at its helm (including two admirable members of this blog’s team) and working tirelessly for its ends. However, it is now largely in the hands of spinmeisters and those who would rather only their own view of things be exposed to the eyes of others.

And yours truly plus fellow blogger Dean Braithwaite have been summarily dismissed from its discussion forum. Just like that.

I outlined the problems in a previous post, in which we revealed how one of the GALHA censors, Adam Knowles, would not allow what had become a regular post onto the forum – one that said that the latest issue of kindred magazine Gay & Lesbian Humanist was now available, and listing its contents, with a short paragraph detailing each one. The usual thing.

Mr Knowles did not like this, because the one that talked of the new-ish Gaytheist discussion group (see sidebar) urged people to leave the GALHA forum, he said.

But of course it didn’t, and the evidence is there.

It’s understandable that Mr Knowles should feel a bit put out by this, especially since it was pointed out to him that he was plain wrong. No one likes being proven wrong.

His action now is to cease our membership of the forum – a forum both of us have been members of for several years.

To top it all, there was no prior friendlier email explaining the decision, just an automated one saying we had actually put forward a request to leave the forum, which of course neither of us had.

Mr Knowles’s excuse for doing this was that our previous post (linked to above) contained a quote from his email to Braithwaite – which was part of an email exchange it is entirely within either party’s gift to quote from, and was written on behalf of a membership organisation, not an individual. It wasn’t as if Mr Knowles’s “private comments” concerned embarrassing personal problems or the colour of his underpants.

“It is the view of myself and the Committee”, he wrote to me after I had queried the automated email, “that it is unacceptable to have private comments from a moderator to a list member posted publicly without permission.”

He continued:

Further, this post includes a sustained personal attack upon myself as moderator, despite my acting on behalf of GALHA, under GALHA-agreed rules and with that authority.

For that reason I have today removed you as subscriber to the GALHA email discussion list. This is not because I have taken offense [sic] or otherwise been moved by your comments, but because it is in the best interests of the list for you to no longer be a member.

With this explanation provided, I consider this matter closed.

Again, no room for debate. Which speaks for itself.

Interestingly, if you care to read the GALHA list guidelines, as provided on its own website, you’ll see that we haven’t actually broken any of them. Simply put, it seems that we’ve been despised and ejected because we dared to challenge the committee’s authoritarian attitude against the very thing GALHA claims to support – freethought!

Under its legal disclaimers in those guidelines, GALHA has this to say:

GALHA is not responsible for the opinions and information posted on GALHA email lists; posts represent the viewpoint of the writer and are not endorsed by GALHA. Anonymous postings are prohibited.

This is actually untrue. GALHA is responsible, as its committee is fully aware, the legal responsibility having been pointed out to it only recently. But what’s really funny (we could weep, but not tears of joy!) is that, while preferring to take no responsibility for posts to its own list, GALHA thinks it has jurisdiction over others’.

We’ll have to take Mr Knowles’s word for it that he didn’t take it personally. Readers will make up their own minds. As to what “attack” there was upon Mr Knowles (and quite how it was “sustained”), well that’s open to conjecture. My pointing out that what he said was demonstrably untrue?
* Isaiah 53: 3; Mr Handel made use of the words, too – and nobody objected to that!

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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Queen of Heaven II

Oh, dear! This has got the frothy Christians at it.

It’s a play – part of the Glasgay! festival in Glasgow (well, you probably guessed that from its name) – that depicts Jesus as a transsexual.

I say so what? He’s a historical figure – assuming he existed and isn’t some sort of amalgam or a figure invented for political reasons at the time or shortly thereafter.

As a historical figure – one of myth or legend or actuality – he’s anyone’s to do as they wish with. And that makes him fair game for art.

I’ve seen Julius Caesar depicted as a modern dictator (Mussolini, actually). Did Caesarists complain? No. People just enjoyed the play.

See our previous post on this here, when the gay-detesting Christian Institute (but of course!) were kicking up a stink.

Monday, 2 November 2009

The film that got Van Gogh killed

Remember Theo Van Gough? He was the man murdered by a Muslim fanatic for making a film, and today is the fifth anniversary of that act.

It’s called Submission and it deals with violence against women in Islamic societies, telling the stories of four abused Muslim women. The title Submission is a translation of the word “Islam” into English.

Here’s the film that got Van Gogh murdered by a religious nutcase. Of course, it would not now be on blogs all over the place were it not for that single act. Once again, the would-be censors – seeking to censor in this case with a knife – ensure that more people see the “offending” material. It’s just a pity someone had to die for it.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


This blog has talked about censorship and free speech a few times (yes, yes, it’s one of our favourite subjects!).

You don’t expect kindred organisations to censor you, but it happens from time to time. None other than the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has refused to allow what has been a regular post to its discussion forum, announcing that the latest issue of the free, nonprofit and kindred Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine is now available online.

One of GALHA’s censors, Adam Knowles, believes that, because it contains a paragraph referring to the Gaytheist discussion group, it is urging people to leave the GALHA group and join Gaytheist. It is not doing anything of the sort, of course, since it doesn’t suggest that anyone should leave the GALHA forum. Indeed, both forums have some members in common, and Mr Knowles is guilty of being rather economical with the facts.

My colleague Dean Braithwaite challenged Mr Knowles in an email, saying:

Thanks for your response. Actually, the email I posted doesn’t do anything of the sort. It simply states the fact that a new forum has been set up. We must be reading two different emails because nowhere does it recommend people leave the GALHA list for another one, as you claim.

Mr Knowles’s startlingly illogical response was to say in an email, “I’m afraid I disagree” – as one might disagree with gravity or the existence of air. Braithwaite’s assertion can be proven, of course.

Gaytheist came about as a result of GALHA’s censorship, as you can see from the background article below, and the link to a previous post here on Pink Triangle. Braithwaite, a fellow Pink Triangle contributor and member of the GALHA forum, tried to post the magazine’s usual news release to it, detailing all that was in the latest issue, but was told he could not.

So some people who see themselves as freethinkers would seem to be nothing of the sort. Anyway, here is the background article.

Freedom to censor

You may remember when we introduced the Gaytheist discussion group (see sidebar and join-the-group graphic below), and we hinted at the time that it had come about as a result of censorship on another group.

The actual wording was:

Unlike some groups in the atheist/humanist/LGBT community – and I’m thinking of one in particular – Gaytheist does not believe in censoring your posts. What it does do is respect you as a mature person who will be responsible in your posts, and one who will not break the law by libelling other people, or will not be gratuitously offensive.

We didn’t name that group then, but have done so now.

The setting up of Gaytheist came about as a direct result of the refusal of the GALHA Net Nannies to allow a post – one from yours truly, as it happened – that had the word “Muzzies” in it. Indeed, in an email to me, one of the GALHA people, Keith Angus, said it was akin to the use of the words “nigger” and “Paki”. That was an accusation of racism.

I posted that fact to the GALHA group, and the email was allowed. Since the word “Muzzies” was now being discussed as a word, that, too, was allowed. It would have been rather silly to do otherwise. (It was rather daft to block it in the first place, and someone could always have responded within the forum by saying that it was not a nice word, if they felt strongly about it; that’s what happens when you have freedom of speech and allow open debate. And there’s been no apology for the charge of racism against me.)

Now you may not like the word “Muzzies”, but racist it’s not. Islam is an ideology, and in many respects – especially as it relates to gay people – not a very nice one. We also use words such as “fundies”. So do other atheist/rationalist blogs that are equally well thought of. It’s whimsical, and echoes the fact that anyone using it does not hold much respect for Islam as an ideology (or fundamentalist Christianity in the case of the other term).

The use of “Muzzies” was actually discussed on the Gaytheist list, and some constructive debate was had by mature people. Some were neutral about its use; others didn’t particularly like it. But the latter would not have censored it had they been moderating a forum.

However, now we come to GALHA’s latest act of suppression: our sister publication, Gay & Lesbian Humanist (G&LH), has effectively been censored, in that the usual post that my colleague Dean Braithwaite sends to the GALHA group to say the latest issue is out (and available free by clicking here, by the way), has been blocked by one of the GALHA committee, Adam Knowles, who says the message was received but won’t be allowed onto the discussion list because a post that “recommends people leave the GALHA mailing list for another one is not in the best interests of the list”.

Actually, that is a lie. What it does say, in a reference to an article within the magazine about Gaytheist, and amid a full rundown of the contents of the magazine, is this:

Following a protracted row between subscribers of the online Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) discussion list and its controllers over censorship, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) (publishers of G&LH) have launched a new forum, Gaytheist, an uncensored discussion group for gay and gay-friendly straight atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. Gaytheist encourages free debate on all subjects loosely related to being gay and/or being a nonbeliever. Find out more about Gaytheist and how to join in our “Gaytheist” article.

And nowhere does it recommend that people leave one group for another, as if membership of one barred one from membership of another. As I say above, there is a small crossover of membership.

My colleague Dean Braithwaite challenged Knowles on this, saying:

Thanks for your response. Actually, the email I posted doesn't do anything of the sort. It simply states the fact that a new forum has been set up. We must be reading two different emails because nowhere does it recommend people leave the GALHA list for another one, as you claim.

Adam Knowles responded with the kind of sidestep one would expect from a NuLabour politician. He said, with not a thought for the facts, “I’m afraid I disagree.” The facts were laid before him. Not an opinion, but documentary evidence of what had been sent to the forum, but he disagreed with it. This is rather astounding, since you would normally disagree with something that is a matter of opinion, not something that is there before your eyes. But that is what he said.

Mike Foxwell, the editor of G&LH and the person responsible for the Gaytheist reference quoted above, had this to say:

These guys really don’t understand irony: they’ve banned publicity about a new freethinkers’ discussion list, which was only set up because of criticisms of censorship of postings on their list! It could make you weep; you really couldn’t make it up.

Why am I hanging out this dirty linen in public? Well, it shows that not all humanists and those who like to think of themselves as freethinkers are really freethinkers at all. In fact, the naïveté of Mr Knowles and his fellow Net Nannies beggars belief.

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