Search This Blog

Saturday, 25 December 2010

What’s in a name?

The lane from chez nous in rural Wales leading up to the nearby village

Greetings, and a happy Christmas, all! No, I don’t balk at using the word “Christmas”. What, as the Bard asked through Juliet, is in a name? That which we call a festival by any other name would be as merry – potentially, anyway.

I’m no apologist for Christianity. I recognise its role in Western history and what it has brought, culturally, to our way of life and the language we use. I also recognise that, without it, other influences would have come to bear, but humankind would still have built its moral code, because a moral code comes not from a religion, but from humanity.

That people attribute their moral code to their Christianity or their Islam or their Hinduism or whatever is entirely up to them, and that may be the top layer, as it were, of the articulation of what is their code of ethics and mode of living.

Beneath it, though, is that thing humanity. It was the human in us that devised the religion that in turn codified our outer persona, the one we present to the world, the principles we live by. Most people are probably essentially good, but with flaws. Some are essentially bad, but are so because of their belief in religion’s edicts and diktats.

Some, of course, are just bad. I have a few politicians in mind, but let’s not go down that road, tempting though it may be.

That said, if people find comfort in a belief system and don’t wish to dictate how others should live their lives, I’m OK with that.

So I’m no apologist for Christianity, but it’s given its name to the midwinter festival that punctuates the seemingly relentless darkness and (in the UK at the moment) coldness and misery of winter, and brings us hope of a new season on the way. Bit of a laugh in the UK, of course, where we don’t seem to get proper summers any more, but there you go.

I’m not one to go about saying “Happy holidays!” or “Happy Yuletide!” It would make be seem a bigger prat than I already am. So it’s “Merry Christmas and happy New Year!” That’s the expectation, and those who know me know that I use the term “Christmas” as a descriptor. Saying the word doesn’t make people believe more in the mythology.

I leave it to my learned blogging colleague George Broadhead, secretary of this blog’s parent, the Pink Triangle Trust, to tell us the true origin of Christmas, though.

Atheists, agnostics, Humanists and other unbelievers are sometimes asked why they celebrate at Christmas time, or are even accused of being hypocritical for doing so.

The answer is that they celebrate at that time for the same reason as the early Christians – because everyone else was already doing so, and had been for centuries before the birth of Christ.

The last two weeks of December had long been a time of celebration throughout the ancient world in the northern hemisphere. It was associated with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, after which one could look forward to Spring, to crops, regeneration and new life.

Almost all the customs of the Festive Season pre-date Christianity: the giving of gifts, decorating the house and tree, putting up holly and mistletoe, and eating the flaming round plum pudding – the most obvious solar symbol of all. And the familiar crib scene originated in ancient Egypt.

Among the Romans, the Festival of Saturnalia, which began on 17 December, involved the hanging of greenery and laurel leaves, the lighting of candles and the giving of presents. Like the present Festive Season, theirs was a season of goodwill.

In the third century AD there was great rivalry between Christianity and Mithraism, especially among the soldiers, upon whose support the Roman Emperors depended. Eventually, early in the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine decided in favour of Christianity but, during the rivalry, the Christians could not afford to appear killjoys in December when Mithraic soldiers were celebrating the triumph of Good over Evil.

The 25th of December may be attributed to the fact that in the year AD 274, at a time when the Roman emperors were trying to replace the ancient Roman polytheism with sun worship, the Emperor Aurelian declared 25 December to be the Sun’s official birthday.

So those who have no religion (47% according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, January 2010) need have no qualms about celebrating at this time of the year if they wish.

And with that, here’s hoping for happy holidays, happy Winter Solstice, happy Christmas, happy whatever you want to call it to all of Pink Triangle’s readers, and we all hope you have a great New Year.

We’re putting our feet up for the rest of the holiday and will be back with a few choice entries early in the New Year, by which time we may have sobered up a bit.

Friday, 24 December 2010

How the BBC ‘offended’ Christians

Yeah, but wheres the halo?
I’ve been watching The Nativity on BBC1. Not bad as these things go. I like TV drama, and I don’t really care – when a drama is based on myth – which myth the said drama is depicting.

Note the word “myth”. Were it about, say, the ancient Greek pantheon or the stories in the Bhagavad Gita I’d probably still enjoy it – if it were well enough written and performed. The Nativity is OK – not brilliant, but watchable. So I committed four half-hours to watching it.

Now it seems that some Christians don’t like it. That may surprise you, until you learn that it’s because the so-called Virgin Mary is “portrayed” as a whore.

I happened on a Christian website called The Way the other day, and on an undated page one Amanda Hopkins writes a short post beginning: “Christians have reacted angrily to a BBC production which portrayed the Virgin Mary as a prostitute.”

She cites the Daily Express. Whether that was her only source, I can’t say, but just hang onto the word “portrayed” for a moment.

Now see what the Daily Express said on 19 December: “The BBC has angered Christians with a TV drama in which the Virgin Mary is branded a prostitute and sex cheat” (emphasis mine).

I fly no flag for abominable rags such as the Express, but it got it right – in that regard anyway, since we’ll for the moment put aside the notion that the BBC angered Christians, when it was they who chose to be angered (and then it was only Stephen Green and his nutcase Christian Voice outfit).

So you see the sleight of phraseology here. The Way says the production “portrayed” Mary as a whore; the Express says that, within the drama, she was “branded” such. And that’s the way it was: characters branded her a whore and spat on her and threw stones at her.

But such is the myopia of so many Christians and others of the Bewildered Herd that they can’t separate the doings of characters from the intentions of a television network. I left a comment pointing out the misleading nature of the intro, but, predictably, up to the time of writing this it had not been used, yet some that came after had been used.

Chances are that, if there was such a girl who gave birth to the guy who was eventually portrayed as the Messiah, she’d have been bonked by a Roman soldier or passing goatherd. One pundit a few years ago put forward a similar theory, anyway, in a docudrama on TV about Mary.

But it does raise an interesting question: what if she had had a bit of nookie on the side and then found she had a bun in the oven? She would lie about it, probably say she was raped.

And then the entire Christian world would turn out to have been based on one teenage girl’s lame and pathetic excuse for not having kept her hand on her ha’penny when some hunk in a tunic happened by and gave her the wink.

“It was the Archangel Gabriel, Joe, honest. He says I’m carrying the Light of the World in my womb.”

“Oh, all right, then.”

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ratzo goes unchallenged in flagship news prog, NSS not too pleased

The National Secular Society is not a happy bunny today. Understandably, it’s up in arms over the fact that Ratzo the Vile is getting an unchallenged slot tomorrow – Christmas Eve – in Radio 4’s flagship Today programme.

It’s actually in that programme within Today called Thought for the Day, a slot that allows people with weird views to rabbit on about invisible entities, sky fairies and what other people should be doing with their lives.

Ratzo – hot on the heels of his controversial visit to the UK in September – recorded his slot yesterday in the Vatican.

The Daily Mail quotes the NSS’s Terry Sanderson as saying: “The Pope has a lot of questions to answer about the failings of his church and its guilt in covering up child abuse.

“I doubt whether any of this will be addressed in Thought for the Day and nobody will have the opportunity to ask him for clarification.

“Rather than giving the Pope an uninterrupted platform, why won’t he be invited to take the 8.10 interview slot on the Today programme with [anchor] John Humphrys to ask the awkward questions that the Vatican constantly sweeps under the table? Instead we’ll just get the usual whitewash and the Pope rewriting history.”

But, then, the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, is one of the more prominent members of the Bewildered Herd – and a devout Catholic to boot. He had a cosy little visit to the Vatican in February, where it’s believed this dodgy little deal was born.

If any ever doubts that religion gets privileges, this ought to put them straight. One of the most controversial figures in the world gets to speak in what is often a hard-news programme and not one question will be put to the evil bastard.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Another Tory is gay – but it was an open secret

So Tory MP Nigel Evans is gay, eh? It comes as no surprise, because I’ve known it for some time. And his constituency party in Ribble Valley, England, have been telling him to jump out of the closet for quite a while, it seems.

The thing is, dear old Nige used to vote against gay law reform. He voted against the lowering of the age of consent, although he did get better when it came to votes on such things.

Some years ago, when I was editing the print edition of Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine, we came by an online claim that he was among several MPs who were gay, who were voting against gay equality, and who were still in the closet. He was one of them.

As I recall, the website either withdrew the entire claim or subtracted the names. I didn’t use any names, either, in the news story I wrote – a decision based on journalistic judgement.

But there was Nige.

I sat in his flat in Swansea a few years ago as a radio reporter, shoving a microphone under his nose and wondering about him, able to see a bottom corner of his bed through the living-room door, across a corridor and through the open bedroom door. I was wondering at the time whether he shared it with a wife, a girlfriend or a boyfriend.

He was spouting antigay stuff as a county councillor at the time (this was before he got an MP’s job), and there he was: gay.

Well, at least he got better, voted in the right way, and has now decided to come out of the closet – something that is likely to happen today.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The alpha and the omega

This may surprise you, but I’ve already selected next week’s four-part BBC drama The Nativity on my DVR. I watched that Passion thing, too, the other year – the one with Joseph Mawle as JC.

I like dramas. Whether they’re based on facts or myths or entirely made up from scratch, it doesn’t matter. The Passion – JC’s personal omega, if you like – was not challenging and, like the curate’s egg, good in places. Mawle was good.

I suspect The Nativity – his alpha – won’t challenge me, either, although it is written by Tony Jordan of Ashes to Ashes and Hustle fame. So good form.

But will it be mawkish and Christmas-card-ish, or will there be something new brought to it? Who knows? Suck it and see.

I suspect I’ll end up preferring this video below, which is amusing. Not sure whether it’s sincere or a piss-take, but it’s a hoot, and tells the story of the supposed Nativity in emails, social networking and other forms of online communication – including trying to book tickets to Bethlehem.

Enjoy.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Poor Christians! Always getting it in the neck – or not!

Christians and Christmas, as we know, are under attack. The forces of political correctness, evil militant atheists.

Well, one of my favourite comics, Marcus Brigstocke, has been having a go at those who think Christians are being badly done to. Have a look at the video below.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Author of Springer has become a creationist!

Stewart Lee has converted to creationism. I kid you not. This creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera, this stand-up comedian and writer who had ridiculed religion for as long as I’ve been aware of him, believes in God. And he’s praising “militant atheist” Richard Dawkins for it (oh, the quote marks there are not quoting Lee, but the usual suspects for whom anyone who questions religionists’ claims or demands facts is a militant, rabid atheist, out to get them).

Anyway, take a look at this very short video below. It will explain all!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

PTT welcomes royal seal of approval for atheists

The British gay humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), this blog’s parent organisation, has warmly welcomed the Queen’s recognition that people of no faith can lead moral lives and make an equally important contribution to society.

A PTT press release says:

Addressing the Church of England General Synod, the Queen told members that believers and atheists were equally able to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of the country.

The Queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England, said: “In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none.”

The PTT secretary George Broadhead commented: “This is a remarkable and very welcome recognition. Coming as it does from the Head of State, it is also extremely important. For far too long religionists, even relatively moderate ones, have tried to claim that only they can lead moral lives and that religious faith of some sort is vital to society’s wellbeing.

“The Queen’s words knock this on the head and should be a lesson to all those who denigrate unbelievers and – in the case of Islamists – threaten them with hellfire and death.

“We hope that the Queen’s words will be noted by those political parties who grant religionists completely unfair privileges, as well as the media which is often grossly prejudiced in their favour.”

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Griffith Vaughan Williams, 1940–2010

Griffith Vaughan Williams,
who has died aged 70

We're sad to announce that one of the gay movement’s greatest friends, Griffith Vaughan Williams, has died. He was 70. Williams was lately secretary of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, one of Britain’s oldest gay campaigning organisations, and he was one of its longest-standing supporters.

Let’s let CHE itself have the first word. In a statement today, it says:

It’s with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Griffith Vaughan Williams, Secretary of CHE. He was 70 years old. Our condolences to his partner, Paul.

Griff was born on the 9th of November 1940 in Bangor, North Wales, and was educated at a local grammar school and then at a college of journalism in Cardiff. He worked for a number of magazines and provincial newspapers around the country, and later in the press office at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which he left about 20 years ago to become a freelance journalist. After retirement he threw himself into many voluntary causes, serving on committees, attending conferences, and forever asking questions at company meetings.

Griff had been a gay activist since about 1964, and was a leading member of CHE from its very earliest days. In recent years, despite ill-health, he had continued to be the driving force behind many of CHE’s activities. He will be very much missed. His final act as Secretary was to sign the contract commissioning a new book about the history of CHE, a history which he had very much helped to make.

We hope to compile a fitting obituary for Griff, and we would very much welcome any memories and thoughts about him. The CHE reunion at Friends House on the 27th of this month will include a tribute to Griff.

Fellow blogger George Broadhead, secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust, said today of Griff: “He was best know in CHE’s heyday as its conference organiser and was mainly responsible for keeping it going when it declined some years ago.

“I had been friendly with Griff since I joined CHE in the 1960s and, with my partner Roy, set up one of its local groups – Chilterns CHE – in 1970. I’ve been in touch with him many times since then, notably concerned the cooperation of CHE and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association in running the winter fairs at Conway Hall in the 1980s and their joint sponsorship of Winter Pride at County Hall and ULU later in that decade. This is described by Griff in detail in the book Out of the Shadows, which will be promoted at the CHE Reunion on 27 November.”

On a personal note, I’d known Griff on and off since 1978 when he did a recce in Coventry, where I lived at the time, in preparation for holding the CHE conference at the De Vere Hotel there. His beard was sort of brownish then.

I worked for a while on the CHE exec with Griff in the late seventies, and met up with him at various functions. Lately, it’s been only voice contact, because I’ve had some input into the CHE annual report and its review of the year.

With telephone contact, you could put the phone at one end of the room and listen from the other side, I remember, so clear (not to say loud) was his delivery. He was also annoyingly (though I say that with affection) averse to modern communications, never, as far as I know, embracing the Internet and email; and getting copy from him for any work I did on the CHE reports necessitated his having to pass it on to someone with a computer, who could then type it up and send it on via email. I think he relied on his trusty fax machine for several years, that being as technological as he got (unless he changed in the past year and I didn’t know).

When someone has been ill, it should come as little surprise that they might die, but it still has the power to shock. As soon as I saw the subject line of an email from George Broadhead this morning – just “Griff Vaughan Williams” – I guessed. When someone has died, that’s all you usually see at the top of an email that brings the sad news. If an email has just a person’s name in that line, I fear the worst.

GVW was indefatigable in his efforts for the gay cause, and was, of course, involved with CHE for decades. He put in hard work and sustained commitment to the cause of gay rights for many years. I’m sure there will be tributes aplenty over the next few days, because there can’t be many in the gay community more worthy of such praise.

Griff was a hard worker, a good organiser, a committed campaigner. He’ll be sorely missed.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise*

Some seem to be saying it’s a good thing that the supermarket giant Tesco, destroyer of many a good high street, has taken over a disused church building in Bournemouth in the South of England.

I’m not so sure.

Oh, yes, it’s good to see religion’s hold on us diminishing to the extent that buildings are falling into disuse. It’s good to see buildings put to a purpose other than propagandising on behalf of superstition.

However, if the religionists concerned – in this case it’s a former Methodist church – want to meet in a building to do their thing, I see no problem, other than that, by dint of being a religion, it gets special tax advantages paid for by you and me. If it weren’t for that, I’d say good luck to them. Just don’t try to impose your beliefs on me and others and on our schools, and don’t try to gain unfair advantage. Just enjoy your religion.

My main concern, though, is that it’s just another milestone on the road to total Tescopoly. Sometimes, yes, a Tesco store is the only place you can get this or that, although one can’t help but wonder whether, if it weren’t for the existence of an edge-of-town one-stop supermarket with handy free car parking, more shops would exist in the high street of said town to provide the this and that you can now get only at Tesco.

So – short of having it as something more useful such as a farmers’ market, selling local produce and helping the local economy – maybe the building would be better being used as a church after all (with all the above caveats, of course).

Having a bunch of people singing and doing their mumbo-jumbo is probably far less harmful to the fabric of our traditional shopping areas, which just cannot compete with Tesco on the fringe, sucking the lifeblood from them, as has happened in towns near where I live.

Now Tesco – in the guise, in this case, of its Tesco Express stores – is moving into hitherto untried territory in the form of churches, it’s just strengthening its hold.
__________
* John 2: 16: “And [he] said unto them that sold doves [in the temple], Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Want to save money? Stop paying for kids to attend “faith” schools

Just the way to save money in these straitened times: stop paying for the Deluded Herd to send their kids to school.

It’s happened in Lancashire in England (and a few more places in the UK, too), and the county council there could save a couple of million quid by not paying for transport for kids to go to “faith” schools.

Quite right. If parents want to send their kids to “faith” schools, let them pay. It’ll cost them £2 per day per child. One “faith” school, St Christopher’s in Accrington, pulls pupils in from far afield.

Some bloke there says the move will hit parents with more than one child at a religious school. Then let them send the child to a school nearer home.

As more councils knock this silly nonsense on the head, it may just start a change in parents’ priorities, and “faith” schools may have to become like ordinary state schools, taking kids from their natural catchment areas, whatever their “faith”, or whether they have a belief system or not.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

British ad watchdog cosies up to Catholic Church

If ever you needed proof that those in any kind of authority are only too pleased to accommodate those of odd persuasions, you need look no further than Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority.

On the strength of just half a dozen complaints it has banned an ad showing two male priests about to kiss.

You couldn’t make it up.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Blessed are the pillaged poor, but ‘listed places of worship’ are more important

Oh, whoopee! The “listed places of worship” in the UK have escaped the ravages of Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review (of which you can read oodles here, among many other places).

But the only thing so far, according to the think tank Ekklesia, that the Church of England has had to say about the review – which will mean mainly the poorest picking up the tab for the financial recklessness of the very rich – is “Thanks for saving our Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme.”

And this isn’t just listed buildings, don’t forget. Not just buildings that are valuable to the national heritage. They are listed places of worship. That makes them more important, then, and is worth a few more pounds out of the pockets of those who can least afford it.

And religious lunatics keep going on about how marginalised they are.

This is what Ekklesia has to say about the selfish Church of England response:

In a statement issued just a few hours after George Osborne’s announcement of the cuts in public spending which will see an estimated 490,000 public sector workers lose their jobs, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and Chair of the Church Heritage Forum, said: “I am very glad that the Department for Culture Media and Sport has announced that the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme will continue. Abandoning the scheme, which affects every part of the United Kingdom, would have been tantamount to a tax on fundraising; a great disincentive to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who care for our churches and a blow to the credibility of the concept of the Big Society.

“While I regret that the additional concessions on professional fees, organs and bells, secured in 2006 and already withdrawn, will not be reinstated, I very much welcome the Government’s recognition that church buildings make a large contribution to the community as a whole.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have campaigned tirelessly within the Church of England for the scheme to be maintained and also to the Heritage Minister for his informed concern and determination to find a solution which balances economic necessity with a recognition of the role and potential of our church buildings.”
The Church of England has so far issued no other statement following the spending review.

And he has the gall to regret that concessions on organs and bells and “professional fees” (for whom?) won’t be reinstated. Even if we allowed that old churches can be valuable parts of our heritage as pieces of architecture, not all are, and there is certainly no need for a working organ or a working bell just to keep a building up to scratch.

But that is to ignore that the Church of England is such a huge landowner that it can well afford the upkeep of its churches. If they were owned by the state, that would be a different matter.

Methodists come off a bit better in their response to the big spending review. In a statement yesterday, the president of the Methodist Conference in Britain said the government’s cuts strategy should be judged primarily on how it impacts upon the poorest in society.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Where to draw the line?

CatholicCulture.org tells us:

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, who retired on October 15 at the age of 79, said on the eve of his retirement that he was willing to go to prison rather than accept the provisions in proposed Philippine legislation that provide for widespread distribution of contraceptives, including abortifacients such as the IUD.

A man of his word, then.

“God forbid, but if they succeed I would be the first to go to jail because I will break the law,” Vidal is quoted as saying. “We’re not supposed to talk against it once it becomes a law, but I am wiling to go to jail because I will continue to talk about and go against it.”

He says the law does sanction those who speak out against it. I can’t say whether he’s technically right or wrong; but, of course, the law shouldn’t so sanction. He should be allowed his free speech, and the best way to counter it is by debate and, if necessary, ridicule, satire, lampoon. These are, or should be, the rights of a free society – but so, too, should this chap’s opinion on contraceptives, nutty though it is.

What he shouldn’t be allowed to do is somehow prevent a lawful act in an unlawful way. Mind you, what is unlawful there is anybody’s guess, if citizens really aren’t allowed even to speak about contraception.

If he seeks to dissuade people from using contraceptives merely by expressing an opinion, then he ought to be within his legal rights, and I say that as a supporter of contraception for anyone who needs it.

But we’ll always meet fuzzy lines. What if he spoke from the vantage point of a very powerful pulpit (I’m using that word in the widest metaphorical sense) and succeeded in stopping people from using contraceptives, possibly even putting their lives at risk? His church is powerful in some places, because it captures the minds of the faithful and threatens them with excommunication and tells them they’ll probably go to hell.

So maybe talking about it in his case would amount to more than the same act by some bloke in a café.

But, then, where do you draw the line?

So I’m vacillating. Hmm.

Oh, OK, then, send him to jail!

On second thoughts . . .

Thursday, 14 October 2010

It’s OK to rape your wife

So it should not be considered a crime if a husband rapes his wife, eh? This is the opinion of some Sharia Council chap here in the UK.

The link above is to Digital Journal, where a few people in the comments section below aren’t too pleased, either. One commenter says, “Three words. THROW. HIM. OUT.”

Let us continue to go forth and multiply, then, eh?

From today’s Independent:

In an authoritative and ominous warning, the 2010 Living Planet Report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the definitive survey on the state of the planet’s health, signals that that tropical ecosystems are being degraded and tropical species are declining at an increasingly rapid rate, with the world’s population now consuming the output of one-and-a-half sustainable Earths [our emphasis].

And ridiculous Catholics will continue to tell us that we must continue to breed and will not let a little thing like overpopulation sway them from their strict line on family planning.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Claire Rayner: a friend to gay people, a friend to secular humanism

We’re sorry to hear today of the death of Claire Rayner. She was a friend to gay people and a friend to secular humanism.

Rayner died at the age of 79, and, she told relatives that she wanted her last words to be, “Tell David Cameron that if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and bloody haunt him.”

Claire Rayner
She had intestinal surgery in May, and has been ill since then. She died in a hospital near her London home.

Rayner has praised our sister publication, Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine, and has often been in contact often with members of our parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust.

Of G&LH’s return as an online publication in 2008, Rayner said:

Great to see you’re back. This beats any other resurrection (Lazarus? Eat your heart out!) about which you may have read in the Bible – which of course, sensible atheists read from time to time so that they can stop believers in their tracks with apposite quotations. What with this and the emblazoned bendy buses all over London, I begin to think we may be getting somewhere – and the other indication is the growth of religious fundamentalism. It shows the religionists are running scared!

Here’s to happy godless future where people matter more than popes and their like. Every power to your elbows!

“In 1996,” says the BBC website, “she was awarded the OBE for ‘services to women’s issues and health issues’.

“She was involved with 50 charities, and was a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission on Nursing and the last government’s Royal Commission on the Care of the Elderly.”

Rayner was also an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and a vice-president and former president (1999–2004) of the British Humanist Association.

On its website, the BHA quotes Rayner as having said, “I was a humanist without knowing it for many years before I found the Association – when I did, it was like finding a sort of home. Here were people with a range of views that matched mine, who shared my respect for life in all its forms and who, above all, did not in any way try to bully other people to follow their beliefs.”

Another quotation the BHA cites is: “You think for yourself, and work out your own morality . . . I’m fascinated by the idea of trying to find your own way through the world with your own maps rather than someone else’s . . . All I know is there is no God in my universe. I’ve looked and looked, and there ain’t no God there. But I don’t want to be a dogmatic atheist. I like mythology, and a life without stories doesn’t bear thinking about, just let us not have supernatural beings. What is natural is awe-full enough. We don’t need a First Cause.”

Rayner, agony aunt to many, friend to many more, will be missed in many sections of British society. You’ll find tributes today wherever you look, no doubt, and we think they’re well deserved.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Appealing for the right to discriminate

When will the more extreme religionists learn that they’re losing their grip on the freedoms of other people?

You’ll remember that the Charity Commission here in the UK ruled against a Catholic adoption agency – Catholic Care – which wanted to discriminate against same-sex couples who wanted to adopt children.

After lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth, the agency – the last remaining one in England – has filed for appeal against that decision.

Simon Caldwell writing in the Catholic Review says:

The agency, which serves the dioceses of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hallam in northern England, had sought to continue its policy of assessing married heterosexuals and single people as potential adopters, which means it will not deal with gay couples . . .

Lawyers for Catholic Care are arguing that Section 193 of the 2010 Equality Act allows charities a limited right to discriminate if it represents a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

The commission has argued, however, that such “discrimination can only be permitted in the most compelling circumstances.”

Such a lot of energy, not to mention money and time, put into trying to do the dirty on people just because they have a sexual orientation that isn’t the one recommended in desiccated old scriptures written by ancient herders.

It’s a funny thing, life.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Stating the bleedin’ obvious

A Vatican official is objecting to the awarding of the Nobel Prize to a pioneer of in vitro fertilisation.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Vatican a valuable partner in fight against poverty? Pull the other one!

The National Secular Society points out fittingly that the damned Vatican is supposed to be a big partner of the UK in its fight against global poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and yet it does everything in its damned power to thwart said goals.

So much for its being a valuable partner. The whole thing stinks to high heaven.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

We probably know more about religion than the religionists do

Atheists and agnostics know more about the major religions than Catholics and Protestants.

Well, it’s not surprising when you think that so many people call themselves this or that when it’s just a habit. Their parents were Catholic, say, so they identify as Catholic. Even many of those who go to church probably don’t know much about what’s happening – just lots of bells and smells and men in fine and fancy frocks and magnificent music and rousing ritual and seductive ceremony.

I remember my brother – a professing Christian – saying to me one day that I probably knew more about his religion than he did. When he said to me, “I’m a Christian,” I wish I’d asked him, “How do you know?”

Ah, l’esprit de l’escalier, eh?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Blue plaque for Tatchell

Peter Tatchell gets a blue plaque tomorrow. It’s part of the scheme – running in the UK, other European countries and the USA – that recognises notable people by putting a distinctive blue plaque on the outside of their homes.

Actor Ian McKellen will do the honours tomorrow, unveiling the plaque and saying a few words.

Tatchell said today:

Ian McKellen
“It is a big honour. I am very grateful to the people who voted for me, especially since there were other notable, worthy and deserving nominees. I hope my receipt of this award will encourage others to campaign for human rights. I have lived in Southwark most of my life and I am very proud to be part of its long, illustrious history of distinguished authors, playwrights, scientists, inventors and social reformers.

“I appreciate this award, but the greatest honour I’ve had is the privilege to know and work with so many amazing, courageous human rights defenders in Britain and around the world. That’s the real, true honour to me.”

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Religion = good habits?

So abandoning “faith” leads you into bad habits, and therefore sends you on a downward spiral towards being an unhealthy wreck? Hmm.

Well this is a “finding” of a study reported in Christian Today.

“The study was conducted by Christopher Scheitle,” the online outlet says, “a senior research assistant in sociology at Penn State University, and is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior.”

This is what he says: “Strict groups typically require members to abstain from unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use.

“These groups also create both formal and informal support structures to promote positive health.

“The social bonds of belonging to the group might be another factor for better health.”

So far, he’s talked of groups – not religious groups. OK, he goes on to describe two cults – the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses – as strict religions. But so far – according to this Christian Today report, anyway – he hasn’t said that a strict group that keeps people on the “straight and narrow” has to be a religious strict group. Just a strict group.

The fact that there may not be many nonreligious groups that insist on no smoking, no drinking, no other potentially unhealthy activities is neither here nor there. The implication here is that it’s religion that’s holding people together when it comes to living “safe” lives (just how boring those lives may be isn’t mentioned). It’s not. It’s adherence to a code.

Anyone could adhere to a code. It helps if you belong to a group, and have peer pressure and peer support.

There are, of course, groups that deal with individual behaviours, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and various drug-dependence help organisations. Maybe there are secular groups – here in the UK and in the USA, where this study came from – that are designed to keep people off all potentially harmful substances, legal or otherwise.

But it’s nothing to do with religion, as the Christian Today says later:

“The sociologist said more studies need to be conducted to determine the correlation between leaving a religion and health. He emphasised that the study does not show that leaving a religion directly results in bad health.”

Oh, well there’s nothing like leaving the salient bits till last, hoping no one will read that far, is there? Most readers of this story will go away thinking it’s religion wot does it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Are you getting cruelly killed meat? Perhaps you won’t be told!

“Britain goes halal . . . but no-one tells the public: How famous institutions serve ritually slaughtered meat with no warning”, says a Mail headline.

Yes, it’s really quite disgusting. It’s a longish piece, but interesting. And it’s also rather disturbing that some places that sell halal and kosher (i.e. cruelly killed) meat as a matter of course don’t see the need to tell their customers.

Dawkins on video

Big turnout at the Protest the Pope rally in London Saturday. That’s heartening.

Meanwhile, you can see Professor Richard Dawkins’s speech on the vid we’ve embedded below. Enjoy!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Gay cardinal on the road to sainthood – but his love will be ignored

Ratzo is beatifying Cardinal John Henry Newman today – the last day of his highly expensive (to the British taxpayer) four-day visit to the UK.

But there’ll be no mention of his having been gay, and much in love with Father Ambrose St John, with whom his remains were buried.

And there’ll be a demonstration, too, as there have been throughout Ratzo’s four-day visit to the UK at enormous expense to the taxpayer.

See Digital Journal’s take on the story here, and our own previous posts:

Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones

Dem bones, dem bones, dem gone bones

Dem bones, dem bones, dem bones of contention

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Were the Nazis atheists? Is the Pope a Protestant?

The UK gay humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (owner of this blog) has robustly challenged the claim by Pope Ratzinger that the Nazis were atheists.

“In his opening address to the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on 16 September, the Pope referred to ‘a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society’,” says PTT secretary and my fellow blogger George Broadhead in a news release. “This is rubbish. Hitler himself was born, and remained all his life, a Catholic. The church never excommunicated him.

“In 1933, he signed a concordat with the Vatican. The church agreed to keep priests and religion out of politics while Hitler, among other things, granted complete freedom to confessional schools throughout the country – a notable victory for German Catholics.

“The Vatican even asked God to bless the new German Reich! It ordered all German bishops to swear allegiance to the Nazi regime with an oath that ended, ‘In the performance of my spiritual office and in my solicitude for the welfare and the interest of the German Reich, I will endeavour to avoid all detrimental acts which might endanger it.’

“So much for the Nazis being atheist,” Broadhead continues. “The Vatican was fully, if not enthusiastically, complicit with the Nazi regime. In Italy the Vatican state was set up under an accord (the Lateran Treaty) reached between the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and the Catholic Church in 1929. The accord not only created the state of the ‘Vatican City’ with full diplomatic rights but made a substantial financial payment to the Church and recognised Catholicism as Italy’s official religion.

“Bishops took an oath of allegiance to the Fascist dictatorship and the clergy were ordered never to oppose it or incite their flock to harm it. Prayers were said in churches for Mussolini and for fascism. Priests became members of the Fascist Party and were even its officers.

“The history of the Catholics’ collaboration with the German and Italian Fascist regimes is irrefutable,” he adds.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Left-wing atheists spitting venom? Oh, dear!

The Daily Mail never ceases to amaze me. In this story about Pope Ratzinger’s visit to the UK – which began yesterday in Scotland and continues in London today – it talks of how the 50-odd notable scientists, writers and entertainers who signed a letter critical of the visit were “spitting venom”.

As well as the “spitting venom” accusation (you need to scroll down to the second story to see this, or search on “Pope hit by a celebrity vendetta”, for there are two on the same page), the article adds that those who signed the letter were a “parade of celebrities – many of them Left-wing atheists”.

I suppose they needed to add “left-wing” to make the atheists sound a bit worse, and needed “atheists” (which I don’t think all the signatories are, incidentally) to make the left-wingers sound worse. A “parade of atheist left-wingers” would have done the trick equally well.

Believe it or not, these pieces come in the news section. No reporting of the news in the Mail, no down-the-middle straight reportage, telling it like it is. No, left-wing atheists have to be spitting venom.

It’s not what I’d call journalism. Put it in the opinion section, by all means. Everyone’s entitled to his/her opinion, after all, and you’d expect this sort of opinion in the Mail (the Daily Hate, as it’s often been called).

The piece – by Steve Doughty – goes on to examine one by one some of the signatories, and picks out the excellent fantasy author Terry Pratchett, an Alzheimer’s sufferer who has “claimed the right to assisted suicide”. The implication is, of course, that this is somehow a venomous, left-wing, atheist, and therefore bad, thing to do.

Journalism? You decide.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Suspended sentence for Ray Gosling

The broadcaster Ray Gosling – who runs the Gay Monitor campaigning website with Allan Horsfall of CHE – has been given a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to wasting police time when he confessed to a mercy killing.

We reported last month that he was likely to face a charge. I initially reported on the story in February, and said there were do-gooders afoot who wanted him prosecuted for a mercy killing. I stand by the sentiments there in principle, even though it appears he didn’t kill anyone.

Are we being too harsh on dear old Ratzo?

A British think tank thinks (well, it would, I guess: it’s a think tank) that secularists are treating that nice pope chappie a bit unfairly. They reckon it’s a bit of a witch hunt.

What do you think? Can any persecution of Ratzo the Vile be too much, considering what he stands for, which has been rehearsed time and time again on this blog and others? See this link, which will take you to oodles of posts (including this one – weird, I know, but that’s how it works).

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Tick-tock-tick-tock

Tick-Tock Muhammad: something
else to get Muslims jumping
We’ve all seen the “Turbomb” picture – the one that was published (among others) a few years ago by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten and upset Muslims so much that they started killing people. Now there’s a new take on it.

The ESHE streetware clothing company in Australia has produced a series of images, including the T-shirt you see here (called “Tick-Tock Muhammad”), one called “Pedo Pope” and some wallpaper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The case against Ratzo the Vile

The error of treating perpetrators of child sex abuse as sinners in need of fatherly counsel, rather than as criminals deserving of punishment, compounded by the motive of protecting the church's reputation at any cost, has been buoyed by the belief that, because the Holy See and its immune leader can do no wrong in the eyes of diplomatic law, they can do no wrong.

The words are those of Geoffrey Robertson QC, the barrister behind the intentions of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have Ratzo the Vile arrested for crimes against humanity when he comes to the UK later this month (the spineless UK government has moved to prevent such a possibility – as you would expect, politicians being such utter shits most of the time).

Robertson has a book out called The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, a longish extract from which is to be found in today’s Independent.

And did you know that the Queen will have to wear black because, according to Robertson, “only Catholic queens can meet the Pope in white”? You couldn’t make it up. While I fly no flag for royalty, I see no reason why the Queen of this country should be forced to dress in a particular way for a bogus head of a bogus state – and on religious grounds at that.

The Pope wants more!

To coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s UK State Visit, the Humanists website has produced four A4-size posters. They can be viewed and printed out by going to this page.



My blog colleague Roy Saich, who runs the website, says, “The need to make the Humanist voice heard is shown by the recent outburst from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh,” he says, “who has accused the BBC of harbouring an institutional bias against ‘Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular’. This is in spite of the hundreds of hours of radio and television given over to promoting religion out of licence payers’ money.”

Saich continues, “The BBC denied that it had marginalised mainstream religious issues, which it said were placed ‘at the heart’ of its schedule. A spokeswoman said: ‘The BBC’s commitment to religious broadcasting is unequivocal. BBC news and current affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and works closely with BBC Religion, ensuring topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all BBC networks.’

“The BBC produces no programmes about the Humanist ethical tradition. So much for BBC claims to be impartial! Its website does not include a distinct section about Humanism and ignores agnostics and gives Humanism as a sub-belief of atheism. The BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, is a Roman Catholic who has denied that the BBC gives job preferences to Roman Catholics. Ninety per cent of the UK population is not Catholic.”

Yes, and yet some people still seem to think the visit by Ratzinger should be treated with respect, even by those who disagree with his monstrous views concerning sexuality, the role of women, the use of condoms, abortion and a host of other things.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Does HIV cause AIDS?: the video

Gay & Lesbian Humanist published in spring this year an article by the AIDS dissident John Lauritsen. The online publication Digital Journal carried a story on that article, and it received a lot of fiery comments.

Recently, Lauritsen gave a talk at a conference in Vienna (and he mentioned G&LH in the course of it), which we’ve linked to below.

I know most people have orthodox views about whether HIV causes AIDS and whether the drugs doled out by Big Pharma cure or kill (Lauritsen believes the latter), but, when you have a few minutes, click and watch. It makes interesting listening.

Friday, 3 September 2010

How the Pope will bring chaos to our streets

“Mass disruption warning on Pope day”, warns the Scotsman.

The paper’s report gives details of the mass disruption for Edinburgh and Glasgow.

And that’s only Scotland.

This geezer obviously feels himself far more important than the lives of ordinary people who want nothing to do with his evil, and the Scottish and Westminster authorities are happy to go along with it, because even those politicians who detest Ratzo the Vile as much as I do are so bloody pusillanimous that they won’t stand up and say the Pope should be kept out of the country unless he’s on a pastoral visit paid for entirely by the super-rich Catholic Church.

Damn the Pope and his legions!

“Those muddled folk at Ekklesia are at it again!” says my blogging colleague Roy Saich of the Humanists website in a news release.

“Their Simon Barrow says that the only reason for opposing the state visit of the Pope to the UK is because of the Pope’s medieval social views.

“It is true that these views are more than enough for civilised people to disagree with the Pope, but that the British government should be so backward as to spend at least £12 million pounds of tax money on hosting the Pope, who is the bogus head of a bogus state, is more than enough to justify public protests.

“Add to all this such idiotic beliefs as a virgin birth, wine literally turning into blood, wafers into human flesh and a resurrected human being actually lifted up to heaven to return at any time after nearly two thousand years, would be laughable if it did not get the church huge wealth and political power. The tax concessions and media rights granted as well, prove we do not live in a sensible country – just consider so called ‘faith’ schools.”

“Useless”

And another fellow blogger, George Broadhead, secretary of this blog’s owner, the Pink Triangle Trust, isn’t too happy, either, nor with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), who laughingly reckoned that the damned Pope should be respected.

What?!?! I don’t usually mix up question marks with exclamation marks, but this is exceptional naïveté.

George Broadhead says in a post to the Gaytheist discussion group (see sidebar on how to sign up), “This shows how completely useless LGCM has become since the feisty Richard Kirker left it as General Secretary some years ago.

“At this time LGCM was always in the forefront of protest against religious homophobia from whatever source and Kirker never pulled his punches. I know this because I was then his counterpart in the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

“LGCM has obviously become as ineffectual as a campaigning organisation as the gay Catholic group Quest which I’m sure will be grovelling in awe of ‘his holiness’ despite his implacably hostile stance on gay relationships and gay rights.” (Excerpt used with permission.)

To be fair, LGCM goes round the houses a bit to get to respecting the damned Pope. It begins by saying it’s an ecumenical group and has Catholics among its members and the Pope’s visit is a moment of celebration for them and LGCM honours and respects the beliefs and traditions of said Catholics.

What?!?!

How anyone – especially those who live by the “meek shall inherit the earth” and “blessed are the poor” school of Jesusism – can respect the “beliefs and traditions” of such a backward, death-cult, evil organisation is beyond me. If Jesus existed and matched all the “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and “love thy neighbour” epithets, there would be no place in his heart for the Catholic Church or the damned Pope and his damned cardinals and their damned beliefs and their damned traditions.

Come on, LGCM. We thought you were made of better stuff than this. Instead, you’ve copped out to inhumanity and ought to retract that nonsense or just fold up. You’re doing no good for gay people by asking for respect for the beliefs and traditions of that iniquitous and vile organisation. The odd belief, the odd tradition, yes. Find a few. Be selective. The Catholic Church will have some beliefs that chime with those of decent people – those beliefs that are born out of humanity. And you do say you have issues with the Catholic Church and its views on matters gay. But you then seem to lump the beliefs back together under a request for respect for Catholics and, by implication, their Führer.

Intrinsic moral evil

If you show meekness in the face of this monster, you are showing meekness to all his beliefs. That, at least, is what people are going to perceive.

So what about the “belief” that gay is sinful, an intrinsic moral evil? What about the “tradition” of keeping women out of the priesthood? Christians who support Ratzo and his kind will be seen to condone this stance, as will those who demand respect for him and his damned visit. Ratzo, do not forget, is not going to change his views, and any number of prayer vigils will achieve nothing. May as well get out there and raise hell (short of violence or incitement, obviously), and, in so doing, raise some publicity – big time.

What about the “belief” that women should have no dominion over their own fertility and that there should be no family planning apart from the rhythm method – in other words no contraception (even when said contraception can in some cases double as a lifesaver by acting as a barrier against disease)?

What about the “belief” that anyone who aids and abets an abortion – even if the mother is still a little girl who was raped and was expecting twins and wouldn’t survive the birth – should be excommunicated? (And those excommunicated in some instances believe, don’t forget, that this will lead to their eternal torment after death.) Don’t believe that happened? See this post from March 2009.

What about the “tradition” of calling for ever more people to populate a planet that is groaning under overpopulation, knowing full well that each new human being will be making a demand on the environment and contributing to poverty?

What about the “belief” that it’s OK to tell children, as some do, that they could burn for ever – for ever – in hellfire? That their bodies belong to God? What about the “tradition” of filling children’s minds with unproven and unprovable nonsense about virgin births and a god who comes to earth, dies and wakes up again and goes back into the sky – stories to be found in a number of traditions?

Come on, LGCM. Grow up. Show your Catholic members where they’re going very wrong and invite them to own up to their gullibility and repent, or get of your organisation. Yes, not all Catholics follow the damned Pope and his damned beliefs and traditions, and clearly your Catholic members part company with him on some things. But they prop him up, and his damned organisation, by being self-confessed, unashamed Catholics; they give some sort moral legitimacy to the damned Pope and the damned Vatican and the damned cardinals and all their damned beliefs and their damned traditions, just by declaring themselves Catholics and thus helping to maintain the numbers the Catholic Church claims follow its damned beliefs and its damned traditions.

Irresolute

If I joined an organisation and was inimical to its mission, I’d be kicked out. Perhaps your mission is a bit flabby and irresolute. Perhaps you should not campaign, then, but just be a quiet little group that is there for community and companionship and mutual support (something it does very well, no doubt), and stop trying to pretend that you care for the rights of all gay people. Clearly, some strong words are needed when it comes to the monster who will step onto our shores later this month. Those strong words would be all the stronger for coming from Christian mouths.

Gay you may be – most of your members are, anyway – but you do gay people a disservice by continuing to call for respect for the “beliefs and traditions” of damned and damnable Catholics – sometimes intelligent Catholics, educated Catholics, aware Catholics who ought to know better and be ashamed of themselves for allowing their identities to prop up the damned Pope, his damned cardinals and the damned Vatican, with all its damned beliefs and its damned traditions.

However, in spite of a rather lively condemnation of the Pope and his legions, I would not wish him to burn in hell, assuming there were such a place. That would be damned inhuman.

Oh, on the subject of respect, one organisation I do have some respect for is LGCM. I hope it doesn’t continue to disappoint me.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Intergroup on LGBT Rights takes up Igwe case

The UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) – this blog’s owner – has warmly welcomed the news that the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights has taken up the case of Leo Igwe, the Nigerian Humanist and gay-rights campaigner, who has been subjected to horrendous persecution in this religion-dominated country.

Igwe, who is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Association, and members of his family have been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment by police, involving multiple arrests on unsubstantiated charges, since 2007.

The Intergroup has taken action after an appeal to its president, Michael Cashman MEP, from the PTT’s secretary, George Broadhead, who pointed out what a stalwart campaigner Igwe is for LGBT rights in Nigeria.

Broadhead said, “In 2006 Mr Igwe made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. The Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that homosexual practice ‘is clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African’.

“The International Humanist and Ethical union, of which the PTT is a member, has made a vigorous protest to the Nigerian President about the appalling treatment of Mr Igwe, and it is very good to learn that the European Parliament’s Intergroup has protested to the Nigerian High Commissioner and Ambassador to the European Union. We hope that Mr Igwe will be heartened by this news,” Broadhead added.
______
Update: See comments for a clarification on this. The LGBT Intergroup may be taking up the case. Certainly, it’s been informed of the situation.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Trust criticises Tatchell

This blog’s parent, the PTT, isn’t too pleased with the gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at the moment.

While it’s good in many ways that Tatchell received a standing ovation at the Greenbelt Christian festival, to which he was invited to speak, he’s come in for criticism from George Broadhead, secretary of the PTT, for “putting a gloss” on Jesus’s teachings.

The criticism has gained publicity in the excellent Brighton gay mag Gscene (which for some reason puts all its quotations in both quote marks and italics, which is bizarre – but I won’t). You can see its story here – and read much more in that publication, too.

“Speaking about ‘the struggle for queer freedom in Africa’,” says Gscene, “he attacked church leaders who condone homophobic abuse, but praised the ‘brave, heroic Christians who refuse to go along with the persecution of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual’.”

The magazine’s article – written by Scott Hart – continues:

The turnout of 21,000 suggests that few had heeded a call by the socially conservative group Anglican Mainstream, to boycott Greenbelt because of Tatchell’s presence on the programme.

Tatchell drew enthusiastic applause from parts of the audience, and uncomfortable expressions from others, when he accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” with the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Africa.

Mr Tatchell said: “The Anglican Church and Archbishop Rowan Williams have a lot to answer for, because they have put church unity before human rights.”

He outlined the contrasting legal situations facing sexual minorities in various parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world. These range from South Africa, which was the first country in the world to outlaw homophobic discrimination in its constitution, to Uganda, which plans to introduce the death penalty for a repeat “offence” of same-sex relations.

Pointing out that most homophobic laws in Africa date from the colonial era, Tatchell said, “They’re not genuinely African laws. They’re laws that were inspired by a conquering imperial power.”

Gscene says Tatchell was “keen to make a distinction between Christians who oppose homosexuality and those who encourage persecution”, and quotes him as saying, “It’s one thing to say that homosexuality is wrong, and people are entitled to that belief. What they’re not entitled to do is to say that the law of the land should discriminate.”

Tatchell also praised Christians who have stood up against such attitudes, and mentioned South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ugandan Bishop Christoper Senjyonjo in particular. The latter had “paid a very, very heavy price” and been denied his pension.

He also spoke passionately of LGBT African Christians, including Davis Mac-Iyalla and Jide Macauley, who have risked their lives by being open about their sexuality.

It’s always a hoot when nutjob organisations criticise things and boost said things in so doing. It happened here, as Gscene points out: “Tatchell drew laughter early on in his talk, when he began by ‘paying tribute to Anglican Mainstream, who by their attacks on me and on Greenbelt, have boosted ticket sales and ensured a successful Greenbelt’.”

But George Broadhead said, “It seems that Peter Tatchell has geared his speech very much to his audience and in doing so has put a gloss on the teachings of Jesus. What about Jesus’s puritanical teaching on sex or his horrendous teaching on hell-fire, for instance?

“I wonder what the Greenbelt audience would have made of the statement Tatchell made some years ago in an interview given to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme and reprinted in Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine,” says Broadhead, referring to an article some years ago in the print edition.

He then quotes Tatchell’s words:

The Church of England is an oppressive, homophobic institution. I think that any lesbian or gay person who is a part of that Church, unless they are overtly, actively campaigning to change things, they are part of the problem. They are helping to sustain that historic oppression of lesbian and gay people. I think ultimately it’s got to be their choice but I would hope they would make a decision not to be part of an institution which has for two thousand years persecuted lesbian and gay people. And I’ve got to say that the Bible is to lesbian and gay people what Mein Kampf is to Jews.

Well, George, you have a point. But Peter is a politician, and politicians gear their words to what they expect their audience will want to hear. Tony Blair (spit!) does it all the time.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Things can only get better . . .

Just when you thought African Church of England Bishops couldn’t possibly get more vituperatively nasty about homosexuality, along comes this story.

“The All African Bishops International Conference kicked off yesterday in Entebbe, Uganda with the clerics promising to strengthen their position on intolerance of homosexuality in the Anglican Church,” says Rwanda’s New Times.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was the lead preacher at this gathering of bigots. That’s not to say he shares their views. In fact, some of them are a bit miffed that he has a more tolerant attitude.

If he were that bloody tolerant, he’d be using his position to speak out for the fairness he would not doubt say his saviour would want. But that might split the Anglican Communion even more.

If it does, then so be it. Do you really want people like this in your church Dr Williams? They are scum.

One of said scum, Nathan Gasatura, Bishop of Butare Anglican Diocese, is among the twelve bishops representing Rwanda at the conference. He said the meeting would reinforce the need for a common voice among African bishops.

“We shall consolidate our position to really stand against homosexuality now with one voice,” he tells the New Times.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Self-loathing, isolation and depression among gays

“Evidence shows that gay men are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide. A research project at London’s University College hospital found ‘significantly higher’ rates of mental illness among gay men than their straight peers.”

So reports the UK’s Observer today, talking about the new issue – called the “Issues Issue” – of the lifestyle mag Attitude. Many homosexuals, says the Observer, suffer self-loathing, isolation and depression.

Well, it’s hardly surprising that there are such problems among sections of the gay community, given that they’re always having to fight the type of bigotry to be found spewing from the mouths of – largely – religionists.

Religionists are still given column inches and airtime (we reported on one such yesterday, who always gets wheeled out by lazy journos looking for a rent-a-gob quote), and it’s mostly (though not exclusively) they who have problems with other people’s bits and pieces and what they do with them in private.

Kids grow up with this shit happening around them all the time, whereas a heterosexual kid gets all the usual support from friends, family and extended family: “When are you getting a girlfriend, then?”; “Got a girlfriend, then? That’s nice. Getting engaged?”; “Oh, got engaged, have you? When’s the happy day?” And there’s nothing wrong with that, provided all this is being spoken to a straight person.

But if you’re gay you usually find matters of the heart uncomfortable to talk about, and it’s unlikely that, if you’re a gay teenager, you’ll take home your boyfriend/girlfriend and introduce them to your parents as such.

There are many understanding parents, but there are also unspoken expectations. When people talk of a young person’s future, it’s “When you have children, you’ll . . .”, and never, or rarely, “If you have children . . .”; it’s “When you get married . . .” (the implication being married to one of the opposite sex) and never, or rarely, “If you get married . . .” or “If you find a partner – of whichever sex . . .”

The world is still largely shaped for the man–woman family with the requisite two or three kids, and it’s hardly surprising if young gay women and men feel they don’t fit. Parents still see their offspring as heterosexual first, even if they later discover they’re homosexual, and are even supportive.

And most criticism of homosexuality, by far, comes from religions. They are making a big contribution to suicides, self-loathing, isolation and dangerous substance use among gay people.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Green is the colour . . . of the lunatic fringe

For the Sun it’s “Gay vicar weds Nigerian toyboy”.

For the Mail it’s “Gay vicar, 65, to ‘marry’ Nigerian male model half his age”.

For the Mirror it’s “Vicar intends to marry toy boy male model, defying church gay sex rule”.

And for the Express it’s “Gay vicar’s marriage is ‘an abomination’ say Christians”.

And the “Christians” in the last one are, of course, just one man. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Stephen “Birdshit” Green of Christian Voice.

Lazy journos again. They just go for the rent-a-gob quote, knowing that Green will say something totally off his head such as, “I fail to recognise him as a Christian because he doesn’t keep the commandments of Lord Jesus, who states ‘marriage is between a man and a woman’, so although this guy claims to be following Christ he actually isn’t.

“This is an abomination before God, not a holy union.”

Yeah, yeah, Steve, we’ve heard it all before. Go back into your cage.

The Sun’s story sees fit to say this: “Mr Coward has also refused to confirm he will stay celibate following the union – which is a Church of England requirement of gay clergy.” And, yes, the emphasis – italics if your browser’s working OK – are the Sun’s, not mine.

The Sun moralising through typography! What’s the world coming to?

Christian concern – unless you’re gay

Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCfON) are, as you would expect, not exactly chuffed that the UK’s Charity Commission has come down in favour of gay adoption and against concessions to Catholics.

We reported on this yesterday after the Charity Commission decided gay parents were OK, thank you very much.

Now the thing about conservative organisations such as CCfON is that they give you a way of complaining to someone, often providing a helpful email address or URL.

They’ve done the same with this one. You can go to this page, for instance, and see details of how to complain to the Charity Commission. I went to the page and wrote a very short letter of support instead.

Of you go, then. What are you waiting for?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Ray Gosling to be charged with wasting police time

Ray Gosling, who, with CHE’s Allan Horsfall, runs the Gay Monitor website, is to be charged with wasting police time after his “confession” earlier this year that he’d killed a lover who was terminally ill and dying in pain.

“The Crown Prosecution Service said Mr Gosling, 71, of Nottingham, should be charged over claims he made to BBC Breakfast's Bill Turnbull in February,” says the BBC website.

Gosling was freed on bail earlier this year after being arrested on suspicion of murder.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Common sense prevails

A religious charity, Catholic Care, has lost its appeal to be allowed to discriminate out of prejudice against gay people.

The Charity Commission has said gay people are suitable parents, and that’s that. Good old Charity Commission! Other, similar, agencies caught in this trap have either closed or, in the case of the more enlightened ones, severed their links with the Catholic Church.

”However, Catholic Care tried to change its constitution so that it would be committed to following Catholic teaching and placing children only with heterosexual parents,” says the BBC story linked to above. Yes, prejudice must prevail, even if it means changing the rules, it seems.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Divine protection

It may surprise you, but it’s not because it claims to offer “divine protection” that I’m glad Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority has come down on this here amulet thing that claims to give just that.

It’s just plain dishonest to claim that it does. Mixing its double and single quote marks willy-nilly, as so many are apt to do these days (don’t worry: we’ve corrected its punctuation here), the Telegraph says:

The magazine advert, placed by The Circle of Raphael (CoR), promised that the “seven angels amulet” would bring its owner “angelic blessings, guidance and peace” – and bring them luck at “games of chance” at the casino.

That’s the claim. The paper’s intro says that the “firm behind it could not prove that angels will protect those who wear it”. Well, claims have to be proven.

Religious schools: for and against

You might like to know about a programme on the UK’s Channel 4 this evening. It’s called The Faith Schools Menace and is presented by that arch atheist chappie Richard Dawkins. This is what the Channel 4 website has to say:

The number of faith schools in Britain is rising. Around 7,000 publicly funded schools – one in three – now [have] a religious affiliation.

As the coalition government paves the way for more faith-based education by promoting “free schools”, the renowned atheist and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins says enough is enough.

In this passionately argued film, Dawkins calls on us to reconsider the consequences of faith education, which, he argues, bamboozles parents and indoctrinates and divides children.

The film features robust exchanges with former Secretary of State for Education Charles Clarke, Head of the Church of England Education Service Reverend Janina Ainsworth, and the Chair of the Association of Muslim Schools, Dr Mohammed Mukadam.

It also features insights from child psychologists and key players in faith education as well as insights from both parents and pupils.

Dawkins also draws on his own personal history as a father, arguing that the government must stop funding new faith schools, and urges society to respect a child’s right to freedom of belief.

It’ll be interesting to see both sides of the argument. I suspect those entrenched on both sides won’t be shifted, though.

So far, the only argument in favour of these institutions is that they seem to get better exam results. But if they fiddle the entrance criteria that’s only to be expected. And there have been many accusations that they do – that they find a way of choosing only from areas where the kids are likely to be high achievers to begin with.

The Great Divide

A talented chap called Chris Jones of the band the Great Divide has sent us this:

I manage a Liverpool-based guitar band who are planning to release a single to coincide with the Pope’s visit to the UK.

The song is a comment on religion in the 21st century and all profits from UK sales will be donated to a secular based charity that works with victims of child abuse (for example NAPAC).

As I’m sure you are aware, the medium of music can be a very powerful influence, especially on young ears, and we feel this is a real opportunity to reach out to a generation and promote the secular message. The young people of today are tomorrow’s decision makers and if we can persuade individuals to start to question the role of religion within society, then perhaps, within the not too distant future, we could see the influence it exerts start to diminish.

The recording has already taken place. You can, however, listen to a rough mix of the song @ www.soundcloud.com/thegreatdivide.

Whilst I appreciate the genre may not be to everyone’s taste we feel the song has the ability to cross over in to the mainstream of popular music and is an ideal platform to promote the secular message, stimulate debate and engage young people.

I’ve listened to it. It sounds good. Give it a try.

I can’t say how long it’ll remain on this site, so, if you’re coming to this post some weeks down the line and it’s not there, you’ll know why.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The empty rhetoric of the Christian right

“It [the fight against same-sex marriage] is about a profound love and respect for an institution that the government did not create; an institution that predates churches, governments . . .; an institution that brings together the two great halves of humanity – male and female.”

This is a Christian – wouldn’t you just know it? – talking about what Christians bang on about all the time: homosexuality. He’s Brian Brown, president of America’s National Organization for Marriage (NOM), speaking during a rally on Sunday, and quoted by Christian Today.

NOM is prattling on, of course, about same-sex marriage and says it’s not worried about the seeming progress that the pro-gay-marriage lobby has been making.

So let’s look in detail at that one paragraph quoted above.

The government did not create marriage. Hmm. Your point being?

It predates churches and governments. Well so do the qualities that came to be called the Seven Deadly Sins. So do murder, rape and arson. So do worms and germs, gerbils and giraffes, gofers and goats.

And, of course, so do same-sex relationships. We would not have used the word gay or even homosexual in bygone ages, and the concept of a gay community was just not part of our worldview. But men had sex with men, women with women. And women with men, of course. It’s sexuality. It’s what happens. It’s nature.

The two great halves of humanity? Meaningless rhetoric. Men are great and are one half, and women are great and are the other half? Yes? So? Sometimes two members of one great half get their knickers off together. That’s natural. That’s what God intended, if you want to look at it that way, since, in the Christian mythology, he made the people whose sexual orientation led them to love members of the same gender.

Still, one thing the right-wing lunatics of Christianity do is keep us all amused.

Brown tries to answer comparisons between hypothetical laws banning interracial marriage and ones that (not hypothetically in most places) prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. He says, “Marriage is not based upon race. It’s based upon the fact that there are men and women and men and women are brought together in marriage.”

Marriage is based on the fact that there are men and women; men and women are therefore brought together in the marriage that is based on the fact that there are men and women.

Hmm.

There are men and men, too, of course. And women and women. Don’t forget that, you prat.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Trust outraged by Igwe attack

The UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (this blog’s parent organisation) has expressed its shock and outrage at a report it has received from the Nigerian Humanist and human-rights activist Leo Igwe. The report – which we blogged last Friday – concerns an attack on his home in which his father was brutally attacked and after which he subsequently had to have his right eye removed.

This, says the Trust in a news release, is the most recent in a series of attacks that have followed Igwe’s fearless human-rights campaigns, including those in support of LGBT rights, which the state authorities have done little or nothing to address.

PTT secretary George Broadhead said, “Mr Igwe, who is the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, has demonstrated his staunch support for LGBT rights.

“In 2006 he made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. The Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that homosexual practice ‘is clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African’.

“In May this year Mr Igwe was presented with the Rainbow Humanist Award by Nordic Rainbow Humanists for his ‘courageous defence of LGBT rights and dignity in the face of ferocious attacks from homophobic Nigerian politicians, parliamentarians and religious leaders calling for the imprisonment of those having homosexual relations and those who dare to support such relations, and for reminding fellow countrymen and -women in Nigeria of the need to safeguard the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the need for reason, common sense, thoughtfulness, knowledge, love, tolerance, solidarity and empathy, instead of hate and homophobia’. The presention took place at an event in London to mark the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

“This latest brutal attack on Mr Igwe’s family and the grave injury to his father is shocking and outrageous and we are very concerned about Mr Igwe’s own safety,” Broadhead added.

The PTT has sent a letter of protest to the Nigerian High Commissioner in the UK, Dr Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, and asked the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights to issue a public condemnation.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

The cost of entertaining monsters

The UK’s National Secular Society puts out a weekly newsletter called Newsline, and it’s understandably angry at the cost of entertaining that monster Pope Ratzo. The cost of security and entertainment has been gone over before, of course. Now the NSS turns its wrath on the entourage.

The entourage accompanying the Pope on his September visit to the UK will be accommodated in a luxury hotel in central London – with eleven of them being funded by the taxpayer.

Rooms at the hotel can cost up to £920 per night, and the Government has stumped up for eleven cardinals and other flunkies to stay there. They will also receive a daily allowance of £150 courtesy of the public purse.

The Tablet reports that the entire hotel, which it is not naming “for security reasons”, has been block-booked for 17 and 18 September.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Isn’t this visit draining enough out of the hard-pressed taxpayers’ pocket without putting people up in quite unnecessary luxury? The pope himself will be staying at the papal nuncio’s house in Wimbledon – surely a few more of his flunkies could have been accommodated there at no cost? The Catholic Church has enormous amounts of property in London that these people could have used. This profligacy is all the more scandalous at a time of austerity when it is likely to lead directly to the sacrifice of people’s livelihoods.”

Hard to add anything to that, really. It’s just obscene. People are having benefits cut, and are expected to live on £40-odd a week in some cases, while these obscenities are handed £150 per day to do as they wish with, and put up in luxury hotels while they’re here. I hope your blood’s boiling. I know mine is.

Whatever happened to the meekness their big man JC preached about? How can anyone possibly believe that these holy layabouts are good for anything at all, and still have self-respect?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Academies of hate

Academy-style schools, now becoming the default means of education for young people in Britain, it seems, are likely to create a less tolerant society, according to a Green MP.

Gay UK News tells the story:

In the Houses of Parliament [it means the House of Commons], Education Secretary Michael Gove recently laid out the plans for the Academies Bill, saying that anyone can bid to run academies and free schools. The South West Green Party spokesperson on LGBT rights Ryan Cleminson said this of the proposals, “The worrying thing about these proposals of free schools and academies is that they are likely to create a less tolerant society and not a fairer society. We all know that many of these academies and free schools are likely to be run by religious organisations, which signals that religious dogma about homosexuality being a sin will be taught.”

The answer is in the hands of parents. If they just put their collective foot down – easier said than done, I know – and said they were not going to allow their kids to be taught such crap, there might be changes. Religious nutcases have been allowed to get away with too much for too long, and they never cease to try to find ways of insinuating themselves into as many people’s lives as they can, by as many back doors as they can find.