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Thursday, 29 April 2010

UK election candidates audition for Glee

OK, the headline is misleading, but when I saw this pic on the BBC website I couldn’t resist nicking it.

What are they singing? Any ideas? Comments welcome. Be imaginative.

Gary and the gays: a case that’s just not very appealing

So religious belief has no objective merit to it. Somebody has at last said it in a court of law.

This is Lord Justice Laws, ruling in the case of Gary McFarlane, the relationships counsellor who wouldn’t counsel gay couples. He lost his job with Relate (formerly the Marriage Council Bureau), appealed against the decision, lost, and now, in the High Court, he’s been refused permission to take it to the Appeals Court.

This is the Christian Legal Centre’s take on the issue:

Mr McFarlane, a relationships counsellor from Bristol, sacked by the Relate Relationship organisation after he refused to provide sexual counselling to homosexual couples because of his Christian beliefs, asked that his case be heard by different judges to those who ruled against [Islington registrar] Lillian Ladele in December 2009

Church leaders have been deeply concerned by the ruling by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls, on behalf of the Court of Appeal, in the case of Lillian Ladele – a registrar who refused to conduct civil partnerships ceremonies because they were against her Christian beliefs – and have argued that the Court of Appeal’s decision effectively means that the right to express a strong Christian faith must take second place to the rights of homosexuals under Labour's equality laws.

It was argued by Human Rights barrister Paul Diamond that previous decisions had failed to grapple with the fundamental clash of rights that has occurred within the law between orthodox Christian teaching on sex and marriage and the protection of homosexual rights. It was argued that the Courts were required by Parliament to undertake such an exercise and have allowed instead one set of rights to trump another.

Lord Justice Laws refused Mr McFarlane’s application, and a personal plea by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury (1991–2002), and other senior church leaders, that the Master of the Rolls be asked to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings involving cases of religious discrimination because of “perceived bias” against Christianity.

Senior churchmen believed that Mr McFarlane would not have received a proper consideration of the religious convictions involved if his case was heard in front of judges who, they argue, had already shown a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs in previous cases.

In his Judgment, Lord Justice Laws accepted that laws in Britain can be influenced by Christianity and said: “The Judaeo-Christian tradition, stretching over many centuries, has no doubt exerted a profound influence upon the judgment of lawmakers as to the objective merits of this or that social policy.”

And Lord Justice Laws gave examples, such as the “core provisions of the criminal law: the prohibition of violence and dishonesty”.

However, he then seemed to draw a distinction between some moral positions of Christianity, where on merit they should be adopted by others, to other positions of Christianity, where he stated that it is “deeply unprincipled” to confer “any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture”.

Nobody would disagree that laws should not reflect purely irrational and subjective views of religious believers. However, it is deeply disturbing that Lord Justice Laws appears to place Mr McFarlane’s view on sex and marriage into the “subjective” category as opposed to the “meritorious” category. Hence it was held that the religious belief in question – namely that marriage as between one man and woman for life is the only proper place for sexual expression – could not be protected, because it is a belief held only on subjective basis with no objective merit to it.

Lord Justice Laws went on to say:

“. . . in the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims [my emphasis – AA].

“The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”

Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The notion that the Bible’s teaching, of particular focus in this case on sex and marriage is ‘necessarily subjective being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence’, is highly contentious to say the least. To put the reasonably held beliefs of Christians into a such a category is alarming and in effect seeks to rule out Christian principles of morality from the public square.

“Mr McFarlane simply wanted his religious beliefs to be accommodated by his employer, which in the specific facts of the case was not unreasonable. It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments.”

She doesn’t get it, does she? Religious belief has no objective merit to it. You can’t regulate real life based on this tosh.

McFarlane has put up a fight, just as Ladele did. Each stood by his/her principles – but not all principles are for the better good. Principles that hold religion above human equality and dignity certainly aren’t.

So some justice has been done, and has been seen to be done.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Politician regrets public debate! What?

So the UK’s Justice Secretary has “expressed his regret at triggering a ferocious public debate” when he said he didn’t like talking to women wearing bin bags.

Jack Straw famously told a Muslim woman constituent who had turned up at his surgery with only her eyes peeping through the dehumanising garb some of these people feel they have to wear that he felt uncomfortable.

Now, trying to get votes, he’s told a meeting organised by the campaign group Engage that his remarks were taken out of context (they all say that) and he still regularly sees women wearing the full veil.

And, according to the Daily Mail, he regrets having caused the ensuing public debate.

Why should a politician regret having caused a public debate? Isn’t politics about debate and getting the public talking about issues?

No, it seems. Public debates are to be regretted.

“He told a packed hall of local Muslim residents: ‘To be blunt, if I had realised the scale of publicity that they [his comments] received in October 2006, I wouldn’t have made them and I am sorry that it has caused problems and I offer that apology,” the Mail says.

Which shows that he’s willing to tone down his remarks and “regret” that they’ve caused public debate now he’s trying to keep his job.

The fact is that people wishing to engage in public with others – be that MPs, bank tellers, a courtroom full of jurors and lawyers, shop assistants, police or immigration officers – should be ready to show their faces. If they wish to play dress-up in their own homes – because their husbands make them or they believe their imaginary friend wants them to – fine, except that’s it’s in public, not in the home, that these women feel they have to cover up in case men get frisky and try to rape them.

I’m uncomfortable about an outright ban, because, with the litigious government we have at the moment (albeit “on hold” while the election campaign continues – and the next one is not likely to be any different), where will it end? But there’s no excuse for allowing people to hide their identities when it’s important to communicate with others.

Straw should have the courage of his convictions (if he has any convictions left) and say he meant it, that he felt uncomfortable, that he wasn’t calling for a ban, merely that a person should meet him face to face when appearing in his surgery to ask for help or advice.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A church not worth saving

The leaked memo concerning ways to mark the Pope’s proposed visit to the UK in September was a real hoot, you have to admit.

By way of a reminder, this story covers it pretty well, and this one tells us how it won’t affect the damned visit, which will cost the taxpayer up to £20 million, plus money from existing police budgets to keep the bastard from taking a well-deserved bullet.

However, in brief, some civil servants in the UK’s Foreign Office had a brainstorming session on the subject. Among the suggestions were the issue of “Benedict” condoms, that His Twatship should bless a gay marriage, that he should do a duet with our Dear Sovereign Lady the Queen (bless her cotton socks and squeaky voice) and open an abortion ward.

The atheist Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, grovelled to apologise to the evil organisation that was set up in Italy by a Fascist dictator, and the civil servant responsible was moved to other duties.

Anyway, the whole thing prompted my fellow Gatheist discussion group member, John Hunt, to pen a letter to said Miliband, which he’s given me permission to reproduce:

Dear Mr Miliband

Having seen reports of the memo allegedly circulated by a junior Foreign Office civil servant (though a senior official since held responsible has been transferred to other duties), and of the Foreign Office response (that this “is clearly a foolish document . . . clearly ill-judged, naïve and disrespectful”), it appears that neither the Foreign Office nor some journalists appreciate the grave and profound damage which successive popes have inflicted and continue to inflict upon Roman Catholic faithful, upon lapsed Roman Catholics, upon society at large, and upon LGBTIQ people in particular.

As just one example of the many evils inflicted (some deliberately, others unwittingly – but nevertheless condoned and concealed) by the Vatican machine, the UK and the world are still awaiting a proper response to the issue of decades (if not centuries) of global sexual abuse of children by priests. Yet while the UK and the world lose faith that such a response will ever be forthcoming, despite whatever divine inspiration Josef (“Benedict”) Ratzinger may be able to access, you reportedly declare yourself appalled to hear of this brain-storming exercise. Although some of the proposals are sadly not practical this year, others (whatever Benedict may think of them) would be interpreted by many as a token first step on the long, up-hill journey which the Vatican needs to undertake if it wishes to recover any moral standing.

Religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill wrote in the Times a year ago, “Even friends of the Church must be asking themselves, on reading this terrible litany of shame, whether the Church is worth saving at all.” Subsequent revelations indicate that, in the world court of public opinion, it most definitely is not. Amen.

It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, comes back by way of response.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Pass the bucket!

Oh, how utterly, utterly vomit-inducing!

Ekklesia, the religious think tank, has helpfully brought together the thoughts of the three main UK political leaders on matters of “faith” – and there’s not much to choose between them. Oh, Clegg of the Lim Dems says he’s not a man of “faith”, but he allows his kids to be brought up Catholics by his deluded wife. (OK, one of them had to win the argument over where to send the sprogs, I guess, but he’s not denouncing these dens of dogma.)

Cameron for the toffs is just dying to see the Holy Twat put his dainty red jackboots on our soil.

And Brown? Well, he’s NuLabour. What do you expect? Just sycophancy (he did, after all, visit Ratzo and then invite him here), status quo, let’s not upset people just because they’re deluded, misguided idiots, let’s not actually use our political influence to show what a monster Ratzinger is and refuse him a state visit.

Read Ekklesia’s report on what was said in last night’s prime-ministerial TV debate here. But here’s a bit from each of the leaders.


I do think it’s welcome that the Pope is coming to Britain and if were your Prime Minister I would want to support that visit and make sure I could do everything in my power to make it a success.

There are millions of people in our country who would welcome that, who share the Pope’s Catholic faith and I think we should try and sic] make a success of it but do I agree with everything the Pope says? No. I don’t agree with him about contraception, I don’t agree with him about homosexuality and I think the Catholic church has got some very, very serious work to do to unearth and come to terms with some of the appalling things that have happened and they need to do that but I do think that we should respect people of faith, I think faith is important in our country.

I think faith-based organisations, whether they are Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu do amazing things in our country, whether it is working in our prisons or providing good schools or actually helping some of those vulnerable people in our country, so a country where faith is welcome, yes. A good visit from the Pope, yes, but does that mean we have to agree with everything he says? No.

No, but you’re not saying we, the taxpayers, should not have to fork out an estimated twenty million quid for this unutterable shit.

And how do you define a successful visit by this man? My definition would be that we give him a welcome so warm that he combusts. No different from the treatment his kind used to mete out to those who didn't agree with them. But it's better that he not come in the first place, and be told he’s not welcome.


My wife – I’m not a man of faith – my wife, Miriam, is Catholic, my children are being brought up in her faith so I have a little bit of an insight into the immense feelings of anguish in the Catholic community here and elsewhere and I think many Catholics themselves feel really extremely torn apart by what’s happened and I think they do want to see the Catholic church express greater openness and repentance.

You can’t keep a lid on sin and of course you need to move with the times. I do welcome the Pope’s visit but I hope by the time he does visit there is a greater recognition that there has been terrible, terrible suffering, there has been abusive relationships which have left immeasurable scars on individual people’s lives and we need a process of openness and then healing. You can’t undo the tragedies of the past but you can be open about them so people can start to move on.

And you can help people to move on by keeping that monster out of our country – or at least sending a very strong message that he’s not wanted here (Geert Wilders was banned from our country by NuLabour for far less).


I’ve met some of the people who have rightly complained about the abuse that they were subject to when young and it never leaves them, it’s something that is with them always and no matter what you can try to do to help, there is always this problem that they have to face up to every day that they were abused, cruelly abused, by people in whom they placed their faith and trust. So the church has got to deal with these problems and it has got to make sure there is an open and clean confession about what has happened and that we help those people that have been put into difficulty by this abuse.

But, you know, I welcome the Pope’s visit to Britain, and I want him to come to Britain for two reasons. One is the Catholic Church is a great part of our society and we should recognise it as such and I hope every British citizen wants to see this visit by the Pope take place, and secondly, we must break down the barriers of religion that exist in our world.

The faiths must come together and recognise that they have common values and common interests. We all believe that we should be good neighbours to each other, I’m from the Presbyterian religion but I support the visit. I not only support it, I want religious faiths to work more closely together in society.

Well they’re clearly not going to be able to work with the evil Catholic Church, are they – the church you allow to run schools that are allowed to torture the minds of kids and make them feel utterly ashamed of themselves for being natural? No, because the Catholic Church will not move an inch on that bit of dogma – and many others – will it?

This makes me determined not to vote for any of them: the smarmy toff Cameron, the hypocrite Clegg, the sycophant Brown.

Now, will someone pass me the bucket!


Related link: Gay & Lesbian Humanist article by yours truly on the “invitation to a monster”

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Death to all gays!

Pink News tells us that a geezer in Wyoming who painted “Leviticus 20: 13, to be gay = death” on his fence won’t be prosecuted because he’s not breaking the law.

Maybe he isn’t, but it makes you wonder whether there’d be a different outcry if he left the biblical reference out. Is he being more tolerated because he’s quoting the Bible?

The biblical verse referred to does say that men who lie with men as with women should be put to death, not merely that they’ll die of old age or exhaustion – or both. So you could argue that this is some kind of incitement.

If he just said, “The Bible says to be gay is wrong” or whatever, then we could hardly argue – with his daubing it, that is, not the sentiment itself, which is clearly barmy. He may be a nutter, but part of our tolerant society is that we tolerate nutters – until they begin to threaten the freedom and safety of others.

Ratzo’s in his haven and all’s well with the world

New York Times:

Buffeted by a sexual abuse scandal that is quickly defining his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI marked the fifth anniversary of his election on Monday by telling a group of cardinals that he did not feel alone at the head of what he called a “wounded and sinner” church.

Well, he wouldn’t, would he? He’s cosy in a world that has protected him and his kind since they were immersed in it, with no idea at all of what goes on outside it other than what he has seen. Well we’ve all seen things outside our experience. We have TVs. We walk through cities. He can no more empathise than I can, and probably not sympathise very much, either.

Anyway, as the NYT points out:

His remarks seemed yet another small and indirect reference to the growing sexual abuse scandal, which has focused more directly on whether Benedict, before he became pope, and his subordinates acted strongly enough against pedophile priests.

Quite. Trite words. Totally irrelevant.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano says that Ratzo “very strongly feels that he is not alone; that he has on his side the entire college of cardinals, sharing with him tribulations and consolations”.

Well, I’m sure we’re all very happy for him. They’ll share his tribulations while the victims of the child abuse Ratzo – and others – permitted while he was himself a cardinal can go screw themselves and take their own tribulations with them.

He’s done an apology; he can now enjoy the comfort of his pals and the luxury of his position, paid for by the poor followers who have over generations been duped into believing the shit he claims to believe in, and thereby submitting to the very powerful control his organisation wields.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Homosexuality is to blame for abuse scandal! Oh, it all makes sense now!

There are some things that really bring out the urge to kill.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, effectively the deputy to Pope Ratzo, is one of them.

It’s homosexuality, not celibacy, that is at the centre of the huge scandal over pervy priests, you see. Once again, it’s the gays who are to blame, says this twat in a frock who lives among men and who, if he’s stuck to his vows, has no practical knowledge of natural love, though, like his fellows, would no doubt be eager to tell us what is unnatural love.

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told [!], that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia,” he told journalists during a press conference in Chile, effectively inciting homophobes there to form lynch mobs.

And what of the paedophilia that has men raping girls, Cardinal? Is that homosexual, too, you raving nutcase?

Even if he were right, what has that got to do with the price of eggs? Priests – Catholic priests – raped and otherwise abused kids. The scandal isn’t about C of E priests (although there has no doubt been some hanky-panky there, too). It isn’t about Hindus or Buddhists. It isn’t about Jeddi Knights or New Agers or Zoroastrians. It’s about the Roman Catholic Church. End of story.

I know it’s very unlikely that a successful arrest of Ratzo will be made – as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens hope – when he visits the UK in September, but I sincerely hope that and the other healthily bad publicity the old sod and his cardinals and priests have had will continue to cascade on the Vatican like a thousand cartloads of horseshit – once a second.

What an utter waste of space that place is, filled as it is with monsters in frocks and reeking with their evil!

Yes. OK. I’m annoyed. I’ve shouted a bit. I’ll calm down. I’ll shut up now.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Muslim medics may be allowed to be less hygienic, it seems

If I refuse to be treated by a Muslim medic in a British hospital, does that mean I’ll be shown the door? Will they say, “You’ll have to be treated by whoever is on duty or you can bugger off and die of your injuries”?

The reason I ask is this. It seems that Muslim staff in hospitals will now be able to escape a hygiene rule, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Female staff who follow the Islamic faith will be allowed to cover their arms to preserve their modesty despite earlier guidance that all staff should be “bare below the elbow”.

The Department of Health has also relaxed rules prohibiting jewellery so that Sikh members of staff can wear bangles linked with their faith, providing they are pushed up the arm while the medic treats a patient.

One of the reasons for the below-the-elbow ruling was to cut down on hospital-acquired bugs, which are dangerous, not to say deadly, little critters.

This guidance was introduced by Alan Johnson, the current Home Secretary, when he was Health Secretary in 2007.

The rules were drawn up to reduce the number of patients who were falling ill, and even dying, from superbugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile.

Revised guidance which relaxed the requirements for some religions was published last month.

Some Muslim staff and those from other groups may be allowed to use disposable plastic over-sleeves which cover their clothes below the elbow and allow the skin to remain covered up.

Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, said: “My worry is that allowing some medics to use disposable sleeves you compromise patient safety because unless you change the sleeves between each patient, you spread bacteria.

“Scrubbing bare arms is far more effective.”

The Department of Health spokesman says, “The guidance is intended to provide direction to services in how they can balance infection control measures with cultural beliefs without compromising patient safety.”

If scrubbing is best, how do they not compromise patient safety. Or by “balance” do they mean, “Well, we can tolerate a few deaths to appease the superstitions of Muslims”?

What has changed since that guidance was issued to give the impression that maybe scrubbing is not the best way after all?

Is this all smacking of our old friend PCGM (political correctness gone mad) here?

Friday, 9 April 2010

Trust slams Tory leader over religious schools

The gay Humanist charity and this blog’s parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), has condemned the UK’s Conservatives’ successful blocking of Labour’s plans to introduce compulsory sex education in schools. It has also condemned Conservative support for religious schools teaching it “in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs”, meaning that, for instance, Catholic Schools can tell kids how evil all gays are.

In an interview with the Catholic Herald, Tory leader David Cameron said, “I do think that sex and relationship education is an important part of learning about responsibility. But schools should be allowed to teach it in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs, and parents should be free to decide whether or not their children should take part in these lessons.”

Commenting on this revelation, the PTT’s secretary George Broadhead said, “Mr Cameron has claimed to be supportive of gay and lesbian rights, but doesn’t he realise that, if faith schools are permitted to teach that same-sex sexual practices are morally wrong, it will do irreparable harm to their lesbian and gay pupils and cause an increase in bullying?

“Faith schools now make up one-third of the total number and all three main political parties intend to expand them further. Unsurprisingly, a Stonewall survey revealed that a higher proportion of anti-gay bullying occurs in these schools than in others. How is this going to be tackled if such schools are permitted to teach pupils that lesbian and gay sexual relationships are sinful?

“Faith issues dominate American election campaigns and this is the latest indication of the growing use of this style of campaigning by the Conservatives.”

As a Humanist charity, the PTT is also opposed to Cameron’s view on assisted suicide which he expressed in the same interview.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Tories want to help religion! Surprise, surprise!

The Daily Telegraph:

[Tory leader] David Cameron has pledged to review Britain’s abortion laws and stop assisted suicide in moves designed to place religious issues at the forefront of the Conservative election campaign.

Well, I wasn’t going to vote for the Tory toff, anyway, but now I’ll doubly not vote for the slimy, smarmy bastard.

The Torygraph continues, “The Conservative leader has laid out his plans in an interview with The Catholic Herald, one of his first interviews of the election campaign. It is understood that Mr Cameron’s aides requested the interview.”

Well, we know they’ll say what their audience want to hear, these dissembling politicians, but this, it seems, was a requested interview – requested by Cameron’s lot.

And to think this twassock could be our prime minister in a few weeks’ time.

Or it could be Gordon Brown.

And it’s unlikely to be Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems, we know, but in the case of a hung parliament he could have serious influence – and his lot have pledged to do more for bloody religions, too.

Talk about a rock and a hard place!

Dearly beloved . . .

So religions have actually welcomed the idea that gay people can get “married” on their premises. Well, some of them have.

You see, it was, as far as I can see, never intended that churches would be forced to splice same-sex couples. They would always have the choice

As it happens, they will have to apply to register their premises – just as nonreligious venues do now. They can decide not to bother.

But, as ever, to suit their arguments against gay people per se, some religionists bleated that vicars and other befrocked individuals who camp it up in churches, mosques, synagogues and the like could be sued if they refused to carry out a ceremony.

We wait with interest to see what arguments, if any, the nastier end of religion will come up with now to criticise this new provision, which came in with the Equality Bill, now through its final stages in the House of Commons.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Let them eat hake

“Muslims wishing to eat halal would go to a restaurant and it was fish or nothing. Now we have a choice,” boasts a Muslim in France in a Guardian article that seems to celebrate the fact that middle-class Muslims have ensured that many hundreds of thousands more animals are slaughtered inhumanely to satisfy superstition.

Supermarkets are now heaving with halal food, says the article, and much of it is meat.

Nowhere does the article even hint at the methods of slaughter. I don’t know what French conventional slaughter methods are, but we all know what ritual slaughter means: slitting the throat of an animal hauled up by its hind legs while the animal sees its own blood painfully drip away.

And religion is driving this. And this will happen in the UK, where conventional slaughter regulations do require prestunning, but, as a sop to the superstitious and for the sake of appeasing Jews and Muslims, the law allows special dispensations to the religious to kill their animals in a barbaric manner.

In spite of recommendations by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the British government continues to permit this barbarism, and there’s no indication that any other party with a chance of winning the next general election would do otherwise.

If we had strict laws, Muslims would be forced to eat fish or nothing. Or they could get on with sensible life and, if they have to eat meat at all, eat extensively reared organic meat that’s prestunned before the fatal cut is administered.

As a French princess is supposed to have said (in a saying widely attributed to Marie Antoinette), “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat cake). Let’s rephrase it, then, to “Qu’ils mangent du poisson.” Or, you could say, “Let them eat hake.”

And, if you thought I led this entire post to that conclusion just to get a good headline, you’re dead right!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Oh my dog!

I never thought I’d ever post a picture of a dog’s arse on this blog. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I don’t go around looking for such opportunities. In fact, the thought of a dog’s arse doesn’t even occur to me more than fourteen times a day.

Anyway, look carefully, and you’ll see – ta-da! – our Lord Jesus Christ!

I nicked it from this website, which has several of the funniest places Jesus has been found, be it dogs’ arses or chapattis.

Of course, you can make sense of all kinds of random markings, as anyone who’s ever gazed at clouds will tell you. Some are more recognisably this or that than others, and some are vague enough for different people to see different things.

But it never ceases to amaze me how people claim to have seen Jesus or the Virgin Mary in a toasty or the inside of a Marmite jar lid, having no idea, of course, what the originals looked like (even if they existed).

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Regenerating Jesus

It’s Easter. Which can mean only one thing. Forget Jesus and all that crap. The new series of Doctor Who was resurrected by the BBC five years ago (Easter weekend, 2005), with the one-time Son of God Christopher Eccleston playing the Doctor. He was replaced that same year by a son of a Scottish preacher, David Tennant. And now, he’s been superseded by someone who’s young enough to be my son!

After his brief debut on New Year’s Day, Matt Smith made his first full appearance as the Doctor in last night’s episode, The Eleventh Hour (which can be seen again this evening on BBC3, at 7 p.m., and in the US on BBC America, on Saturday, 17 April, at 9 p.m.).

And his isn’t the only debut. The award-winning writer Steven Moffat has taken over as the show’s lead writer and executive producer from Russell T Davies, who held that position from 2004. Davies was the creative force behind Queer as Folk, and, during his time on Who, was often – ridiculously – accused of having a “gay agenda” and an “atheist agenda”.

Davies and Moffat are both atheists, and both have incorporated nonreligious elements into their stories, culminating, in 2008, with Richard Dawkins appearing as himself in The Stolen Earth.

Davies is openly gay, while Moffat is openly straight, but both have incorporated gay characters and storylines into their episodes, the most obvious one being the character of Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman.

The “gay-agenda” conspiracists welcomed the announcement that Moffat was to replace Davies, until Moffat pointed out that it was he who had created Captain Jack’s character traits!

And the nutters keep cropping up. Over at Gallifrey Base, the world’s premiere Doctor Who forum, someone going by the name of Django Fett has had this to say:

The BBC have scheduled the broadcast of the first episode of the new Doctor Who series (on BBC1 in the UK) for Saturday 3rd April 2010.

This is also smack bang in the middle of the Easter Weekend.

The show features a newly regenerated Doctor.

Are the BBC trying to associate Doctor Who with the resurrection of Christ and thereby implying that watching the show will be some kind of religious experience?

I think that the BBC are thumbing their noses at one of the most important Christian festivals of the year. They are trying to cash in on this association by comparing Doctor Who to the Son of God. This is highly distasteful.

Fett claims to live in the Vatican City, so, hopefully, he’s having a laugh (though, these days, you never can tell – just take a look at the rubbish Christian Voice’s Stephen “Birdshit” Green spouts!).

And, anyway, it resulted in the above image being posted (by Kristoff) to the site, too. Anyone who’s seen a Time Lord regenerate in Doctor Who over the last few years will instantly get it!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Putting image before the suffering of children

My fellow blogger Roy Saich is among the latest to call for Ratzo’s proposed visit to the UK to be knocked on the head.

He runs the Humanists website, one of the oldest-established sites providing information on the humanist tradition, and says the Catholic Church is putting its own image before the suffering of children.

A press release says:

It is the wealthiest institution in the world. It holds millions of pounds in reserves of stocks, shares and bonds. Its headquarters in Italy is recognised as a separate nation state in its own right. It does not pay its proper share of taxes, but the British people are being required to pay for its chief to visit the country and will pay £20 million pounds for the privilege.

This is the same organisation which claims its own rules, which it calls “cannon law”, have precedence over national legislation and it fails to recognise human rights. Its whole reason for existence is based on myths. It puts its own public image before the sufferings of children.

Yet the Prime Minister and other British political party leaders want this organisation to run more schools, paid for out of our taxes. Now Gordon Brown has said in his Easter message that it is the “conscience of our country”. Has Mr Brown never heard of moral philosophy?

Meanwhile, the leader of Protestant Christians worldwide, Dr Rowan Williams, has rightly pointed out that the Catholic church as lost all credibility in the Republic of Ireland over its failure to address the issue of child abuse by its priests, and that he, Rowan Williams, sees no need to be in commune with the Roman church.

Humanists may well ask why the Pope has been asked to make a State Visit to this country at public expense at all. The invitation should be withdrawn.

Religion on the sidelines? We hope so!

A poll for the BBC reckons we in the UK are shunning religion. Good thing, too!

It’s commissioned a poll for a programme that’s going out on BBC1 tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

Forty-four per cent of people surveyed thought Britons were becoming less tolerant of religion. It’s hardly surprising, considering the business of pervy priests and the fact that religion likes to bleat and moan so much now that secularists are finding a potent voice.

Polly Toynbee will be the token secularist – great representative though she is – in the programme, Are Christians Being Persecuted?, which will go out on BBC1 television, although Shami Chakrabarti from Liberty will be on it, too.

The other voices seem to be religious: Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster; Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi; and Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Keep Iran out, say campaigners

The president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Sonja Eggerickx, has launched an international appeal to keep Iran out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

And our parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), has added its voice to the calls to keep Iran out.

“Iran has one of the worst human rights records on earth,” said Eggerickx, “yet it has had the audacity to announce its candidacy for membership of the UN Human Rights Council. The international community must not let this happen. We are calling upon the world’s non-governmental organisations to join us in our appeal to keep Iran out.” IHEU has started a petition on its website (it’s for organisations only, so, if you represent one, sign it) and is seeking signatures from other organisations.

IHEU says:

More than six decades after the United Nations proclaimed a set of universal human rights, respect for these fundamental freedoms remain “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

Yet, even within the organs of the United Nations, it has required constant vigilance and striving for these global standards to survive and strengthen. In 2005, then UN secretary general Kofi Annan called for the replacement of the UN Commission for Human Rights before it brought “the entire UN system into disrepute”.

In establishing the Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Commission, the UN General Assembly decided “that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

Now, just four years later, the UN is being asked to elect one of the world’s worst human rights abusers to that very Human Rights Council.

The PTT’s secretary and veteran gay activist George Broadhead said today, “When the Human Rights Council was established, the UN General Assembly decided ‘that members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’. Now, just four years later, the UN is being asked to elect one of the world’s worst human-rights abusers to that very Council.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world’s most blatant violators of human rights. This alone should disqualify it from membership of the Human Rights Council, because the UN General Assembly required that ‘when electing members of the Council, member states shall take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto’.

“Iran has an appalling record of persecuting LGBT people, denying freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, and violently suppressing democratic voices.

“The punishment meted out to gays by this Islamic theocracy, which includes floggings and executions, are reminiscent of the Middle Ages. In 2005 Iran sparked international outrage when it publicly hanged two gay teenage boys Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni.

“It is quite intolerable that such a murderous homophobic state should be considered for membership of the UN’s Human Rights Council,” Broadhead concluded.

Playing into the hands of racists

Bloody nannies in authority again, thinking they know better than the rest of us.

Nitwits in Dudley in the English West Midlands have banned an acclaimed play that features homophobia and racism because – well, because it features homophobia and racism.

So it seems such matters can’t be discussed now, because oversensitive prats think they know better. The issues raised by the play are not “suitable for a school and community setting for the venue”, say the nannies, even though the play seeks to show up these things.

Chances are they’re philistines who know bugger all about theatre. But who am I to say? Maybe they’re not philistines – but are acting like idiots. Whatever. It just seems to be so much more of the nanny state we’re living in, where those in authority would rather do a national group hug than tackle issues, lest some sensitive souls be offended.

The fact is that it’s designed to show up the very concerns it raises. How do you do that with drama without depicting what it is you’re highlighting? Do you have a play about the KKK without a pointy hood, or a play about gangsters without gangsters?

The play is Moonfleece. It’s the latest offering from the controversial Philip Ridley and was scheduled to be staged in the town last night, two days before a rally by the right-wing group the English Defence League was due to take place in the same town.

The Independent tells us:

Last week, the producer, Will Young, received a message from the theatre informing him that, after lengthy discussions, it had decided not to stage the play for fear of offending the local community. Yesterday, Dudley council said: “The booking was cancelled as the school did not feel some of the issues raised within the play were suitable for a school and community setting.”

Moonfleece is about a young, right-wing activist who finds himself reassessing his beliefs as the brutality of the new-look British National Party (BNP) is exposed. It has a multicultural cast. It’s not a racist play. It's a play about racism. They are two different things.

The play’s director, David Mercatali, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, especially since the play had sparked interesting reactions in the areas it had already shown, which include Bradford and the Aston area of Birmingham.

Will Young, says the Indie, said they had deliberately planned a tour that took in areas where the BNP was popular – Bradford, Leicester, Birmingham, Doncaster and Dudley – before returning to London in April for stints at the Riverside Studios and Greenwich Theatre. “Some residents in Dudley recently began a protest aimed at the building of a mosque, which was finally refused planning permission,” says the paper.

The point being? So some anti-Islam people get twitchy about a mosque, and that’s reason, it seems, for banning a play about racism (not that being anti-Islamic is racist, even if some racist thugs do use it as an excuse to be racist, but we can’t legislate for such attitudes).

Banning this performance just plays into the hands of the monsters it's trying to show up.

Young is further quoted as saying, “It’s about homophobia and racism and he [Ridley] didn’t want it to play in a theatre made up of your usual theatregoers, who are relatively removed from the issues to which the play relates. So we went looking for areas with people who are not big theatre audiences.”

Yup. Sounds sound to me.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Putting a stop to stops: cash-starved church kills the curlicues

Here we go again. The Church of England is telling us how cash-strapped it is.

It’s one of the biggest landowners in the country, but every so often you get bleating stories.

The parish of St Barnabus-under-Flossock in Wiltshire has now ordered its clergy to cut down on paper and ink in the missives that are traditionally still handwritten to parishioners and others within the wider church.

This comes only months after another Wiltshire church, St Cyriac’s in the village of Lacock, was forced to sell a unique silver chalice worth £1.8 million. It was donated to St Cyriac’s about 400 years ago, but had never been accurately valued until recently.

St Barnabus has taken a leaf out of St Cyriac’s book in looking at ways to save money, and, in its case, has ordered priests and church staff to stop using underlinings on their signatures, and full stops where they’re not necessary, such as after a signature or a heading.

“Consider using full stops only at the ends of sentences,” says an internal memorandum. “If you are tempted to use a semicolon, think of splitting the sentence into two, and using a full stop instead, which uses one-third as much ink. Dashes can be handy, and are just as economical as parentheses to hold subordinate clauses – if the dashes are kept fairly short – but try to keep their use to a minimum, and consider using bracketing commas instead, since they use marginally less ink.”

The Rev. Mark Write is annoyed. “I can just about get my head around the idea giving up doing an illuminated manuscript for my shopping list – something I have given up for Lent, and now may never be able to resume – but the curlicues I put on letters to my parishioners are what define me,” he said. “I don’t think I can just give up something like that.

“Some of my colleagues are happy with mere underlinings, and even they are being asked to stop doing them. It’s outrageous. And all to save a few pots of ink.”

A church official would not comment, but issued a statement saying, “The Parish of St Barnabus-under-Flossock is very aware of its funding shortage and is doing everything possible to save money.”