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Some "big news" recently that the woman who worked for British Airways who had already won a ruling to allow her to wear a cross in the workplace, has now taken that same case to the European Court of Human Rights and proven that she has the same right there too.

Cue ridiculously misleading headlines:
The Independent: "Christian woman wins landmark discrimination case."
("Landmark"? Seriously?)

The FT: "BA employee wins right to wear cross."
(She already HAD that right. FFS!)

And of course, the Daily Fail: "'Thank You Jesus' Christian British Airways employee tell of joy as after European court finds she DID face discrimination over silver cross."
(Thanks Jesus! You've allowed a court to re-state the obvious! Well done!)

What most of the coverage is failing to make clear is that there were in fact FOUR court cases being brought before the ECHR and the other three ALL LOST their court cases.

One of those who lost their court case was Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor who refused to counsel gay couples because of his religious views. I previously posted an interview with him here (shocked at the lack of opposing voices provided in the interview, but fairly pleased with the amount of pressure placed by the interviewer himself).

The other two were:
- Lillian Ladele, a chaplain who refused to perform civil partnerships. It has now been decided that her wish to discriminate on religious grounds does not trump gay rights or the requirements of her employers.

- Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who had refused to accept the option of wearing a cross a different way in her workplace, such as in the form of a lapel pin. She lost the case that wearing the cross on a chain, which is against the uniform rules for nurses in UK hospitals, was a necessary part of her freedom of religious expression in the workplace.

Andrew Copson, as always, delivers some proper common sense below:

(video link)

Interestingly, a google image search for "ECHR religion rulings" mostly comes up with images related to a case from 2010 where a woman was unable to get her abortion within Ireland in spite of a risk to her life. There were a lot of protests against the ruling by anti-choicers, but perhaps if Ireland had taken that case a little more seriously (since unlike the above, it actually contradicted their own rulings) Savita might still be alive.

(cross-posted to atheism)
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(video link)

This time Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland decides to come out with the same BS that we've seen in the past. He says that Christians are being persecuted for wearing crosses in public.

0:31 Beginning of relevant report.
2:24 Interview with Andrew Copson on the issue.

Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association strikes again. Once again he explains very clearly and diplomatically why the latest "Christians are being marginalised" story is BS. (His phrasing: "their claims have very little basis in fact" rather than "they are making s**t up".)

Also liking the new beard. :)

Cardinal O'Brien has previously claimed that when the New Labour government were in power there was "a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values". Why's this? The introduction of civil partnerships, allowing adoption by same-sex couples, allowing embryo research and not passing a law to lower the legal time limit in which an abortion may be carried out. He also referred to the Equality Bill as "legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom". And now he has the audacity to push the lie that Christians' rights to wear crosses are under attack. Ugh!

(cross posted to [ profile] atheism )
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I previously posted an article about Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, entitled "The Slow Whiny Death of British Christianity". I also included a video about how a Christian bigot's appeal that his discriminatory practices ought to be somehow defended by law were answered with the following claim by the judge:
"Religion is entirely subjective, not objective. It's beliefs and practices are therefore completely irrational and have no basis whatever in fact... The protection of religious beliefs and practices are divisive, capricious and arbitrary."
(The guy who made the video noted that these words will now act as a precedent in future civil suits.)

Anyway, the bigot himself appeared on Radio Four recently and I was quite shocked to see him being sought out for an opinion, especially considering that there were no other interviewees to counter some of his ludicrous assertions (though admittedly the interviewer made a special effort to very diplomatically make up for this lack of balance).

Interviewer: The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, publishes a leaflet today, it’s called “Not Ashamed”, encouraging Christians to defend their faith which, he says, is under attack in an increasingly secular society. Among those who support Lord Carey’s alarm, Gary McFarlane is a man who’s often used as an example of some contemporary attitudes. He was a counsellor working for Relate. You may remember the story. He objected to giving therapy to gay couples because it was in conflict with his own personal beliefs. He lost his job as a result and he failed to get the high court to back him. And he’s with us now. Good morning.

Gary McFarlane: Good morning.

Read more... )

…but essentially what we’re dealing with is my ability to live out my faith in the way that I would seek to do as other faiths are actually entitled, indeed encouraged, to do.

I: Do you think that’s changed in the last few years?

Significantly so, in the sense that other faiths are given rights, are championed, if there is, for example, a festive occasion arising, then the systems, the NHS, will actually give those individuals rights. I have to look behind me, almost metaphorically speaking, to check “Where am I?” in case I’m going to have a conversation about the things of the Bible, Jesus Christ, in case it might offend somebody. I have to be cautious.

Read more... )

Asides from the introductory bit at the beginning, the section I have left visible (the rest is under the cut) shows McFarlane trying to claim that he is somehow disallowed from expressing his faith in the ways that others do. This is a rather sensible way of phrasing it disguises the fact that the principles of secularism (which he claims to be opposing) are actually intended to ensure that all people can express their beliefs equally regardless of religious affiliation (presuming that expression of those beliefs do not undermine important individual rights).

The thing is that he gives no examples of how he has less rights than any other religion. Do other religions have to avoid offending people? Heck, hate-preaching Imams and Fred Phelps are both similarly barred from entering the country. Not Pope Benedict though, so I guess that gives Christianity the upper hand, wouldn't you say?

As for special effort to celebrate religious festivals, this isn't America! Christmas lights are all over the town. There is Christmas stuff everywhere. We're not celebrating Hannukah right now (BTW Happy Hanukah!!!! all those who are celebrating that right now! :)) and I've long expressed my wish to include Diwali amongst our national festivals. (Experienced Diwali night in India and loved it, y'see.) Public celebration of Christian festivals is not an issue in the UK. This is just another example of an irrational believer in the bizarre "war on Christmas" myth. Give it a rest!

(To those people who are actually Christian on my f-list, please note that I do realise that this moron is expressing a minority position amongst Christians, in the UK at least, however that's precisely why it annoyed me to see this bigot being given time to express his views on a popular national radio station.)

X-Posted to [ profile] atheism 
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This might seem like a bit of a turnaround for me. I no longer think that Sharia courts in the UK are 'no big deal'.

That said, I stick by my assertion that there is FAR more to fear from independent Sharia courts than from Sharia courts working through arbitration with the UK justice system. As such, the decision to encourage Sharia courts to work through arbitration (meaning their rulings are overseen and checked against British law) is still preferable to independent Sharia courts and it is particularly hysterical when Islamophobes start posing the introduction of Sharia law as part of an inevitable "Islamization". In the end the people affected by Sharia courts in the UK are all Muslim.

The individual who has convinced me that Sharia courts are still worth getting concerned over (though not hysterical mind you) is ex-Muslim secularist Maryam Namazie. She explains my point above as follows:
There has been much controversy about Muslim arbitration tribunals, which have attracted attention because they operate as tribunals under the Arbitration Act, making their rulings binding in UK law.

But sharia councils, which are charities, are equally harmful since their mediation differs little from arbitration. Sharia councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions. Councils call themselves courts and the presiding imams are judges. There is neither control over the appointment of these judges nor an independent monitoring mechanism. People often do not have access to legal advice and representation. Proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements. Nor is there any real right to appeal.

(Read the rest of the article here)

(Maryam Namazie is also involved in a protest to save a woman from being stoned for adultery in Iran.)

There's another good article about the problems with Sharia courts here.

(Cross-posted to atheism)
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John Milbank of the Radical Orthodoxy movement has written a new public article. After publishing an anti-feminist tirade (requesting that we set up a new feminism biased in favour of men) on The Guardian's "comment is free", John now writes in response to an extract from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book on

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's extract on that website is no longer available, but I was able to find a cached copy of it, which is copied under the cut. John Milbank quotes a chunk of it, so instead of posting that same chunk twice you will find it bolded in my copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book extract below.Read more... )

So, I was surprised to find that, after an introduction which I found deeply dodgy, there are some parts where John Milbank talks a bit of sense. I guess he's less likely to have an article brim-full of fail when he's discussing religion rather than feminism. Below I have bolded parts which I find particularly dodgy and, in places, I have included links which I believe aid refutation of those statements (and I shall explain those links below). Those parts I find myself agreeing with or approving of are underlined as well as bolded, because I don't feel it is fair to only point out the bad points while ignoring the better parts.

Christianity, the Enlightenment and Islam
By John Milbank
ABC Religion and Ethics | 24 Aug 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali doubtless shocked many of her admirers and detractors alike when she concluded her recent article on the ABC's Religion and Ethics website, "Seeking God, but finding Allah," by praising Pope Benedict XVI's stance on Islam and calling for an alliance between atheists and what she calls "enlightened Christians" in their struggle against a common foe.
Read more... )

My Response

Read more... )
Another writer has also noticed the issues with John's article, decrying his article as "a throwback towards the more obscene forms of Orientalism and colonial arrogance".

Also there's another criticism of John Milbank here (on a different issue).

And he's found on a list of University Professors who have supported 9/11 conspiracy theories.

And if this didn't amuse you enough, here's a link to an old post of mine where I typed out a definition given by one of his Radical Orthdoxy contemporaries, Catherine Pickstock, of the concept of "transcendence".

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Well the big news is that Stephen Hawking has finally refuted all those religious apologists who were fond of quoting his final line from "A Brief History of Time": "For then we would know the mind of God".

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going," added the wheelchair-bound expert.
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist," he writes in "The Grand Design", which is being serialised by The Times newspaper.
In response to this The Times decided it was a good idea to invite Richard Dawkins to debate this. They decided to put Dawkins up against their religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill. Richard Dawkins can feel like a bit of a broken record at the best of times, but putting him against Ruth Gledhill was particularly pointless.

I have posted about Ruth Gledhill before when I noted a couple of previous articles of hers:

1 - "Catholic Church No Longer Swears By Truth Of The Bible" - In the older of the two, she reports on a reminder by the Vatican that they have no problem with the theory of evolution and are able to accept certain passages in the Bible as symbolic. Her response? The Vatican is now clarifying which bits of the Bible are right and which bits are wrong.

I feel the need to place the important bits of this article under the cut because, what with The Times now making the public pay for access to their site, there may come a time when you cannot use the link to the article anymore:
THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

Read more... )
2 - Children Who Front Richard Dawkins' Atheist Ads Are Evangelicals Rather handily, in this case pretty much all the problems can be seen in the title. The advert under discussion is the following one from the BHA:

"Please Don't Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself."

Just to confuse things there are two major atheist/agnostic lobbying groups in the UK. There's "The Secular Society" and "The British Humanist Society". The former is only intested in atheism, whereas the latter is concerned with the wider issues of "secularism" (e.g. issues like ensuring fair hiring practices for people of all faiths and none). No, I did not just get those mixed up.

So perhaps unsurprisingly, the BHA organised a campaign noting that children should not be used for the promotion of a particular belief system because they are too young to make such decisions. Gledhill's response? Well you've already seen it. She claims that these children are being used to promote atheism (um, no they aren't), but actually they are "Christian Evangelical children" (oh my goodness, you couldn't have missed the point more if you tried).

Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards. ... He said that the children’s Christianity had shone through. “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”
The British Humanist Association said that it did not matter whether the children were Christians. “That’s one of the points of our campaign,” said Andrew Copson, the association’s education director. “People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy, or that no child should have any contact with religion, should take the time to read the adverts.

Perhaps before choosing your article heading, Ms. Gledhill!
“The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.”
So yeah, Gledhill isn't really someone you should expect a high level of debate from. In fact Hannah Devlin, who chairs the discussion, seems to do a better job of getting some clear answers out of Dawkins than Ruth Gledhill manages later:
14:34 Hannah Devlin:
To kick things off, I'd like to ask Richard what he makes of Hawking's thesis. Is this the new Darwinism?
14:35 Richard Dawkins:
Only the new Darwinism in the sense that it finishes off God. Darwin kicked him out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace
14:36 Richard Dawkins:
It is not like Darwinism in any other very strong sense.
Read more... )I get the impression that Devlin was deciding what comments would be displayed, so Tim H was being specifically put forward as a question from the floor. Sure, not much that's terribly challenging here and Devlin clearly (and mistakenly I feel) expects more interesting ideas to be raised by Gledhill later on.

Anyway, this is where Gledhill arrives and makes the statement which Pharyngula quotes and ridicules. These statements actually originate from an interview with David Wilkinson. Thanks to "Rupert Murdoch's Greed" (TM) you will need to subscribe to The Times if you want to read that. Fortunately, there is a site with some videos where David Wilkinson sets out his view on the "fine-tuning argument", not as an argument, but as a "pointer" to the truth of Jesus and Christianity (I'm not fantastic with google searches, so it took me a while to find that link btw) The basic gist of his position is that the set of events which took place in order for life to come about make us want to make shit up to explain it and making shit up is a sensible decision. Anyway, moving on...:
14:43 Ruth Gledhill:
Tim, I just interviewed David Wilkinson, principal of St John's Durham and astrophysicist, and this is what he said (full interview at my Times blog Articles of Faith):
The science Stephen Hawking uses raises a number of questions which for many opens the door to the possibility of an existence of a creator and for many points to the existence of a creator.

'One would be the the purpose of the universe. Although science might discover the mechanism, we are still left with the question of what is the purpose.

'Second is where the laws of physics come from. Science subsumes the laws but we are still left with the question of where the laws come from.

'Third is the intelligibility of the universe. It strikes me as interesting that Stephen Hawking can make it intelligible. Albert Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. For many of us who are struck by the intelligibility of the physical laws, the explanation is that the creator is the force of rationality both for the universe and for our minds.

Dawkins' Response To Statement One:
Why on Earth should anyone assume that there IS a purpose?

Read more... )

Dawkins' Response To Statement Two:
Even if we are left with that question, it is not going to be answered by a God, who raises more questions than he answers.

Read more... )

Dawkins' Response To Statement Three:
What would an unintelligible universe even look like? Why SHOULDN't the universe be intelligible?

Hannah Devlin taking questions she's selected from the floor: Ruth, Richard, I'd be interested in your views on philc's point - is religious belief irrational? If not, why?

Read more... )

The debate goes on longer than this, but then again this re-organising thing is a bit too much of a time-waster, so I'm going to stop there. I kinda feel sorry for Gledhill on this point. It's irritating for me seeing Dawkins pulling "my belief that I am Napoleon" out of his old bag of tricks again, so it must be even worse for someone who disagrees with the point behind it. That said, her response is quite vacuous to the point where I'd actually have been more impressed with "oh don't be so daft Richard" as a response. If the only thing you know about God is that you are not it, you aren't really in a good position to be a religion correspondent (not that this comes as any surprise).

Still, one last thing that could do with a quotation is the following point where Dawkins' decides to betray Islamophobic sentiment (and annoyingly Gledhill isn't interested in responding to it, never mind tackling it).

Comment From Jerry Coyne: Question to Ruth: If faith helps you, then does it make any difference to you whether what you believe about God, Jesus, the Resurrection, and the like is true? Devout Muslims, for example, are also consoled by their faith, but their beliefs about Jesus, Mohamed, etc. are completely contradictory to those of Christianity. Both can't be true.

Richard Dawkins: Quite right, Jerry. And even if there is some similarity between the Abrahamic religions, the Greeks believed just as sincerely in their pantheon. I agree with Dan Dennett that universal education in comparative religion would be a hammer blow to religious faith.

Ruth Gledhill: Jerry, in some liberal theological circles, it is not regarded as impossible that there is truth in both Islam and Christianity.

Richard Dawkins:The Islamic penalty for converting to Christianity is what, Ruth, perhaps you know?

And the Jewish penalty for having anal sex with another man is? I mean seriously, what was he trying to prove?
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The slow, whiny death of British Christianity

Posted by Johann Hari 

And now congregation, put your hands together and give thanks, for I come bearing Good News. Britain is now the most irreligious country on earth. This island has shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else. Some 63 percent of us are non-believers, according to an ICM study, while 82 percent say religion is a cause of harmful division. Now, let us stand and sing our new national hymn: Jerusalem was dismantled here/ in England's green and pleasant land.

How did it happen? For centuries, religion was insulated from criticism in Britain. First its opponents were burned, then jailed, then shunned. But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people. Their case was too weak, their opposition to divorce and abortion and gay people too cruel, their evidence for their claims non-existent. Once they had to rely on persuasion rather than intimidation, the story of British Christianity came to an end.

Read more... )

The article doesn't appear to get anything wrong, though it may contain a few sins of omission. Overall I think this article makes some extremely good points and their criticism of the activities of the former Archbishop of Canterbury since his retirement helps to explain why Rowan Williams is considered a liberal.

As far as the court ruling by Chief Justice Laws is concerned, there's a rather neat youtube vid about it:
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Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has done a lot that's annoyed me. He expressed support for the 'lower the time limit for abortion' movement which very nearly succeeded, he has always been cryptic on the issue of women bishops rather than giving them his full support and he has spoken out against secularism on a number of occasions.

All this being said, he has recently warned against giving too much support for faith-based activism:
Faith communities did not begin from a "clear Englightenment doctrine" of universal liberties, Williams said. "They are necessarily exclusive in the sense that they are committed to particular beliefs that not everyone shares. There is always a suspicion that they will favour their own or that they are using aid and development as a vehicle for propaganda on behalf of their own convictions, a cloak for proselytism.

"The development agency may come to see religion as a positive obstacle to liberation. Faced with the rise of aggressive religious conservatism all this longstanding unease becomes more sharply focused."

Read more... )

(Via BHA)

Cross-posted to Atheism
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A case has recently gone to the UK supreme court that a school called the Jewish Free School (JFS) uses racial discrimination in its selection procedure. The BHA have intervened in support of the prosecutors, insisting that racial discrimination should never be accepted, even with religious reasons involved. Interestingly, this turns out to be a result of the idiocy of Jonathan Sacks again.

The child's father was Jewish and the mother converted to Judaism. As such, the child has a Jewish mother and is eligible. The mother is a practicing Jew and the whole family attend synagogue so there is no reason to dismiss on the grounds of religious observance. Nevertheless, the Chief Rabbi ruled that the mother did not truly count as Jewish because she converted via a Masorti synagogue. Jonathan Sacks apparently doesn't count Masorti conversions and thus by the same reckoning the child does not count as Jewish either. The obsession over the place where the mother converted rather than both her and her son's religious conviction makes this a clear case of selection based on racial rather than religious grounds.

Also rather cool, Accord Chair, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain declared: “This is a defining moment. For too long state-funded faith schools have had a free hand to discriminate. This will be a big first step towards creating faith schools that serve the community around them, not just themselves.”

(Oddly it seems that the intro to the interview with Andrew Copson was quite biased in favour of Benjamin "at the cutting edge of fighting assimilation" Perl's side of the argument. It claimed that the idea that admitting a Jewish boy with a devoted Jewish convert mother was devastating to the Jewish community. Wtf? )

(Via BHA)

(Via Ekklesia)

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Lord Sacks blamed Europe's falling birth rate on a culture of "consumerism and instant gratification". He said the continent was "dying" and accused its citizens of not being prepared for parenthood's "sacrifices".

The 61-year-old, who took his seat in the Lords last week, said: "Wherever you turn today - Jewish, Christian or Muslim - the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families.

"The major assault on religion today comes from the neo-Darwinians."Read more... )

(Full article here)

This article seems like a combination of:
"ZOMG religious people are turning into atheists/heathens/heartless materialists!/ Won't anyone think of the foetuses!"
"ZOMG the Muslim immigrants are taking over"
and finally
"ZOMG why aren't more Jews using my Beth Din court on which my whole status as Chief Rabbi depends. Is there no decent sense of morality in the world anymore?"

(Via ontd political)

x-posted to atheism

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Well so much for the BS that no moderate Muslims ever protest against Islamic extremism (which has been an increasingly bizarre discussion on the freeratio forums recently). In an earlier post I pointed out that, while disagreeing on Baroness Warsi's views on secularism, I was strongly in favour of her condemnation of Islamic extremism. She particularly pointed out a group known as Al Muhajiroun which had been protesting against soldiers returning from Iraq. Read more about Al Muhajiroun on the following wikipedia page or you can click here for specifically the controversy.

So without further ado, a recent counter-protest to an Al Muhajiroun spinoff group (known as Islam4UK) by the British Muslims for Secular Democracy. (Muslims4UK were also involved in their own counter-protest and on a less positive note so were BNP-affiliated "English Defence League".)

(Via MediaWatchWatch)

(Via BHA)

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This is my previous extra-long confused post, re-cut to make more sense and be FAR more readable:

Baroness Warsi and the National Secular Society

The BHA recently criticised comments by two prominent political figures: Tony Blair (for whom I feel no explanation is required) and Baroness Warsi (whose comments can be found here). Baroness Warsi is a Muslim politician in the Conservative party.

The National Secular Society quoted Baroness Warsi's description of "state multiculturalism" where she defines it as follows:
"Firstly, when we as Conservatives talk about multiculturalism we are not talking about the building of temples, or synagogues or mosques in any neighbourhood. For us that is religious pluralism and it is a defining British characteristic that began with the non-conformists.

"For me, state multiculturalism, as I like to define it is forcing Britain’s diverse communities to still define themselves as different, patronisingly special and tempting them to compete against each other for public funds."
The National Secular Society then respond by saying:
"We have been saying this for the past ten years. So far so good."
Sorry, but no it's not bloody good! Why the hell shouldn't religious groups compete for public funds just like everyone else? It's actually in this criticism of "state multiculturalism" that Baroness Warsi's criticism of secularism is most clear and obvious. She doesn't think that religious groups should compete against each other along with all the other stances vying for public attention. Instead she thinks religions should be granted priveledges by default.

Both are united against "state multiculturalism" - whatever the hell that is.

So where did the term 'state multiculturalism' come from?

Read more... )

Problems with the Conservatives' critique of 'state multiculturalism'

Read more... )
What should the National Secular Society have praised Baroness Warsi for saying?

Read more... )

Baroness Warsi's absurd examples of persecution. (The bit the National Secular Society were absolutely right about.)

Read more... )
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In my last few posts about Pat Condell, I accused him of being racist, xenophobic and even sexist. However, while what Pat had to say was most certainly racist, xenophobic and sexist in sentiment, his latest video suggests that he's actually suffering from paranoid delusions. How can I hold a man responsible for his words and actions when he is so thoroughly detached from reality?

His latest video claims that priests are part of a totalitarian system whereby they use religion to increase their own power and to control the populace. He claims that priests are making huge amounts of money and demonstrates this by the fact that certain Archbishops, as well as the pope, live in palaces.

The problem is that this simply doesn't ring true to anyone who actually ever listened to a sermon in an actual church. The priests aren't in some special upper class within society. It's also difficult to claim that their modest collections are part of some kind of racket when Church buildings are falling into disrepair and the biggest source of money for the Anglican Church is land ownership, not contributions on Sundays.

Now I'm a big fan of Nietzsche and he has a few passages where he talks about the oppression by "the priest", but this is an ideological oppression which Nietzsche even recognises is somewhat masochistic in nature. I find it funny that even Mitchell and Webb provide a more realistic impression of the clergy than Pat Condell provides (which also puts pay to the idea that Condell's argument only seems ridiculous because he's exaggerating for comic effect):

It's certainly true that, having achieved the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams lives in a palace. However, this is part of a long tradition passed down from a time when the Archbishop of Canterbury was a leading advisor to the King. Far from being a sign of modern corruption, it's a remnant of the medieval hierarchy. Even if it weren't the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace would still be in the same situation as today whereby it has regular guided tours, only it would probably be in posession of the National Trust rather than the Church of England.

Now for a great deal of the video Pat Condell makes some sensible points. The thing is, we've heard all this stuff before and last time it wasn't sandwiched by utter nonsense. So let's go through the true statements in the video that we've heard many time before, followed by summing up the more ridiculous claims of the video.


Read more... )


Nov. 1st, 2008 03:19 pm
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Okay, I've just randomly run into this article by Giles Fraser, a vicar who writes for The Guardian and he has just revealed something which I had suspected but hadn't been sure on until now.

Several months ago, I was working in a Register Office. There I discovered that there is a strict ban, not only within civil marriages but the building as a whole, on anything religious. The whole area is strictly secular. I found myself wondering what the point of this was, since surely the British Humanist Association hadn't campaigned for this and why would anyone want to limit the freedom of expression within non-religious marriages?

The actual rule is as follows:
"The law will not permit the use of any wording, readings or music which may have religious connotations at a civil marriage."

Read more... )
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I originally posted this on the 'Atheism' LJ group, but I wanted it on my own journal too.

It concerns a link found on the following site:

The Presidency of the British Humanist Association has formerly been held by the jazz singer George Melly, the comedienne Linda Smith, the agony aunt Clare Rayner and the scientist Sir Julian Huxley. The Association's newly-appointed President is the Guardian's Polly Toynbee. She spoke about why she has taken on the role and her plans for the future.

Here's the direct link to the audio file of her discussing her position as the new BHA president:

I'm afraid you need RealPlayer to listen.

Read on if you need a transcript of the interview:

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A Guardian article decides to make a note of Atheistic Theology. Only problem is he think dropping a single name is enough to make a big point. Unfortunately he just ends up sounding a bit under-read.,,2146483,00.html

1. From what I can see (and I may well be looking in the wrong places) Ernst Bloch only wrote "only an atheist can be a good Christian". It was Jurgen Moltmann who added "but only a Christian can be a good atheist".

2. He also makes the mistake of assuming that Dawkins sees religion as 'nothing but' a delusion. Of course, Dawkins notes in his book that there were alternatives to the word Delusion, but he would have had to used odd technical terms. Unfortunately, I'm not sure Dawkins is theologically literate enough to express what he actually did mean. He is always confused on the way the philosophical and theological positions are laid out (unsurprisingly, as they are fraught with complex if not outright obscurantist terminology), so he tends to wish to just be blunt in the hope of cutting the gordian knot (much to the irritation of those of us who've been trying to carefully untie it).

In any case characterising Dawkins as someone who dismisses religion as nothing but a delusion, is a bad start....

3. "The resurrection of God presents a challenge to those such as Dawkins and Hitchens because they continue to perceive religion as an opiate which is handed out by states and their tame priests and mullahs in order to keep people quiet, rather than as a home-grown product consumed by people in order to dull the pain not only of global economic disadvantage but also of a deep, yet unidentifiable sense of loss."

False dichotomy. It is both. The preachers exist because they answer a demand on the part of the populace.

Surely it is not a problem for Dawkins to admit that religion is a cry of despair? The preachers become a problem because rather than healing that despair, they encourage it and rub salt into the wound. The religious groups thrive on this despair and that is what is most frightening about the whole system.

4. He ends up on a note not dissimilar to Thomas J.J. Altizer's 'Christian Atheism'. The idea that the problem with religion is that it seeks an 'eternal return' (not to be confused with Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence). This 'eternal return' seeks to return us finally to some kind of 'primordial beginning' (the 'garden of Eden' so to speak). For Altizer the 'Death of God' and the 'Eternal Recurrence' are both Christian confessions of faith, where God sacrifices his transcendence in order to give absolute value to the 'here and now'.

I hope this doesn't sound too weird.

Anyway, I thought the writer had their hearts in the right place, but they need to read a bit more widely. Firstly, they could do with reading Dawkins' book, rather than just the title. Secondly, they could do with reading a few more Atheist Theologians rather than pretending that Ernst Bloch was the only guy to think of this kind of stuff....


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