America is going completely mad. We have a Democrat president who is right wing in most of his approach, but is called a socialist and the Antichrist. We also have a Republican Party which has lost its way so fundamentally its main candidates to challenge the incumbent next year are outright, batshit crazy morons who campaign against gay people and call climate change a lie. The country is screwed. I’m not really in any doubt that Obama, despite waging war at least as gleefully as Bush, is going to be re-elected next year, but you’d have to wonder, given the way these nutjobs have strangled the political system around him, why he’d want to.
The current paranoid climate about Christianity is continuing:
Phones4U has been criticised by the ad watchdog for “mocking and belittling” Christianity in a national press campaign that featured a winking Jesus and the headline “miraculous deals”.
The ad featured an illustration of Jesus Christ grinning broadly and winking with an image of the Sacred Heart on his chest, alongside the headline, “Miraculous deals on Samsung Galaxy Android phones”. It was created by Adam & Eve. Media was planned by the7stars.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ad after 98 people objected and claimed it was offensive to the Christian faith because of the imagery used, the use of the word “miraculous” and because it was published during the Easter period.
Phones4U defended itself by saying the intention of the ad, which ran in the Metro, was to portray a light-hearted, positive and contemporary image of Christianity.
The phone company issued an apology to all those who complained and withdrew the ads.
The ASA acknowledged that the ads were designed to be light-hearted and humorous, but ruled the ad was “mocking and belittling core Christian beliefs”.
The watchdog said the ad was disrespectful to the Christian faith and likely to cause serious offence and as a result has banned the phone company from running the campaign again.
So 98 people had enough time to burn to be offended and do something about it? The ad is gently humorous, it doesn’t even resort to mockery. It’s abundantly clear it doesn’t ‘belittle’ Christian beliefs, but even if it did – who cares? Since when should Christianity or any of its icons have legal immunity from being lampooned? This is crap of the highest order, and a display of unbelievable cowardice by the ASA. We have laws to prevent incitement of religious hatred, which is correct – we don’t and should not have any laws to protect anyone from being offended.
(via British Humanist Association)
Somegreybloke has something to say about #rapture today, seeing as it’s 21st May, and I think it sums up the day pretty nicely. If you have any evidence of the Second Coming of Christ today, however small, don’t hesitate to share it with me right here. I could do with a good giggle.
A quick demonstration of how Nick Clegg has utterly lost his way. His long-promised House of Lords reform isn’t going to be anything of the sort:
The Government’s proposal to retain 12 reserved seats for Church of England Bishops would actually mean an increase proportionately of the presence of Bishops in the House of Lords. Keeping any reserved seats for the Bishops would be an affront to democracy and antithetical to the aims of a fairer and more egalitarian parliament, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has claimed.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg set out the Government’s plans in a statement to the House of Commons from 15.30 on Tuesday 17 May. The Government’s proposals include a significant reduction in membership of the chamber, from nearly 800 at present to 300, and between 80-100% elected and the remaining appointed. At present, 26 Bishops of the Church of England are entitled to sit in the House of Lords as of right; the only such example of clergy holding automatic membership of a legislature in a modern democracy.
Under current arrangements, Bishops make up 3% of the House of Lords. Under the Government’s proposals that would increase to 4%. Reducing the number of reserved seats for Bishops from 26 to 12 would actually increase their presence proportionately in the chamber.
This is palpably absurd. The Bishops represent the views of unaccountable organised religion and haven’t been voted for by anyone. They are an appalling anachronism in what now, more than ever, needs to be a modern parliament, bent on ever better representation and not privilege. The Bishops should not be there at all. It’s a good thing that the Deputy Prime Minister wants to transform the upper chamber into an elected body, but retaining an increased undemocratic element can’t be allowed to happen. I saw the word ‘religiophobe’ used on Twitter yesterday, and an even better definition:
Religiophobe: One who strives for the elimination of religious privilege in government and public service.
I couldn’t agree more. That’s a badge I’d wear with pride.
It should come as no surprise to those of us who track the HateMail’s bigotry, but check out the guy on the left’s right arm.
This is in response to the story about Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy succeeding in their case against Peter and Hazel Bull, zealous Christian B & B owners who wouldn’t let them share a room on religious grounds.
Join with me here in condemning the HateMail yet again, and continuing to encourage everyone we know who still buys that rag finally to stop.
The zealous Christian owners of the Bed & Breakfast which refused a double room to a gay couple have been found guilty of discrimination:
Devout Christian hotel owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double room acted unlawfully, a judge at Bristol county court ruled today.
Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who are civil partners, won their landmark claim for discrimination in a case funded and supported by theEquality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The ruling, one of the first made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, is likely to provide those in partnerships with greater protection from discrimination.
The owners of the Chymorvah private hotel in Cornwall, Peter and Hazel Bull, do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.
The Bulls asserted that their refusal to accommodate civil partners in a double room was not to do with sexual orientation but “everything to do with sex”. The restriction, the owners said, applied equally to heterosexual couples who are not married.
In his ruling, Judge Andrew Rutherford said the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation and awarded them compensation of £1,800 each.
A great result. I’ve heard numerous complaints that the Bulls should be allowed to discriminate against anyone they like, but the Sexual Orientation Regulations of course apply because they are providing a service, which may be conducted within their home, but which constrains their freedom to discriminate there. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall points out:
During passage of the 2006 Equality Act, Stonewall fought hard to secure pioneering “goods and services” protections for lesbian and gay people, protecting them for the first time against discrimination in the delivery of public and commercial services. The preceding legal entitlement to deny gay people a service was every bit as offensive as the notorious signs outside guesthouses that once said: “No blacks. No Irish.” And people certainly took advantage of it, as lesbians denied smear tests and gay men refused holiday bookings were well aware.
The Bulls suggest that it’s their freedom, and not that of a gay couple, that is compromised by the existing law. But no part of the current and carefully calibrated compact in Britain’s equality legislation forces anyone to do anything. However, if a couple choose to turn their home into a commercial enterprise, why should they be any more entitled to exempt themselves from equality legislation than from health and safety laws?
Of course they shouldn’t – common sense says they shouldn’t. But the Christian devout keep protesting their right to discriminate as a necessary component of their religion trumps every right gay people have to be protected from discrimination. We’ve had relationship counsellors, civil registrars and others professing their right not to serve gay people in the same manner as they would others, and they’ve all failed. Judge Andrew Rutherford said:
the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”.
No doubt the devout will continue to insist they’re being persecuted, but I would insist that quote proves conclusively otherwise.
by Terry Sanderson, reposted from the National Secular Society
We have reported on Newsline many cases of Christian activists trying to use the law to gain special privileges in the workplace for their beliefs. Examples include Nadia Eweida, the BA worker who was supposedly denied the right to wear a crucifix over her uniform, and Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who didn’t want to perform civil partnerships. There seem to have been dozens of these people coming forward claiming religious discrimination.
Self-appointed “defenders of religious freedom”
The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have provided a wide platform for these moans, and helped groups like the Christian Institute and Christian Concern for Our Nation to create in the public mind a whole mythology about the ‘persecution of Christians in the UK’. A couple of weeks ago I witnessed Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, regurgitating it in an Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Geographical Society.
Such cases tend to come to grief when the full facts are uncovered in court. Freed from the distortions of the right-wing press, these cases nearly always turn out to be nothing more than religious activism posing as discrimination.
The latest case, thrown out of an industrial tribunal this week, involved paediatrician Sheila Matthews, who claims she was “forced out” of her position on the Northamptonshire County Council Adoption Panel because she would not recommend gay couples as adopters, however suitable they might be, because it is against her religion. Tellingly, she was represented at the tribunal by the usual suspects in these cases: barrister Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre.
But once under scrutiny in the court, the carefully edited version of events that had been given to us by the Christian agitators was shown up for what it was – a lot of disingenuous rubbish.
The Head of Children’s Services at the Council, Martin Pratt, stated in a letter to Dr Matthews: “There are three concerns that I have: that we have to comply with the law, that we attract the widest possible range of suitable adopters and that we comply with our own policies. I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt.” Dr Matthews said she did not think that gay couples should ever adopt.
The judge in the case — John MacMillan —said Matthews had no case against the Council. He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail. There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity. He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the Council’s legal costs. And yet still Dr Matthews says she intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The ear-bashing that she got from the judge was well-deserved, but you will notice from theDaily Mail’s account of the case that there is no mention of what he said about the futility and emptiness of Dr Matthew’s legal challenges – but the paper reproduces a lot of her homophobic opinion.
And this is precisely how the mythology of Christian persecution has been created, by partial reporting and gross exaggeration. When the case first comes to public notice those on the other side — usually local authorities or other public bodies — are bound by confidentiality not to give their side of the story until it reaches court. This allows the Christians to have a field day with the facts, carefully editing the tale for their own advantage.
It seems these self-appointed defenders of religious freedom cannot win their cases by telling it like it is (case after case that has reached court has failed) and so have to depend on sympathetic journalists to spread their propaganda for them.
Alom Shaha thinks we should:
I’m not suggesting that atheists don’t talk about religion or that they don’t continue to argue with believers. I think there are all sorts of things that would be better if religion were not such a powerful force in so many people’s lives. I’m often asked “why do you care what other people believe?” My answer is that I care because I care about the things that make our world tick. I care because our beliefs are defining qualities that play a huge part in our relationships with other people and the world at large. I care because what people believe determines how people act.
So I’ll carry on talking about my beliefs and challenging people about theirs and I’ll look forward to the continued work of Dawkins and others like him. However, I would encourage “campaigning” atheists and skeptics to think about the tone they use to deliver their messages. It should be obvious that how we say things is often as important, if not more so, than what we say.
Well yes that’s true of course, but it’s important to keep a divide between the two issues in play when arguing with believers and the irrational. I may privately think that believing in God is a little stupid, but I’m a little stupid too in a whole mess of ways peculiar to me – as long as our stupidities and inconsistencies don’t harm anyone else, who cares? And for that matter facts aren’t the only important things in all spheres – it doesn’t fundamentally matter who believes in homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, reiki or any other ‘new age’ practice for example. If voodoo medicine makes people feel better (but not make them better) that’s their affair, surely? On the whole I tend to leave private belief alone.
But I don’t think that’s the defining issue with Dawkins and ‘campaigning’/'militant’/'new’ atheists (why is noone noticing that the ‘new’ atheism is in direct response to the increasing expansion of unquestioning, militant political belief, infecting civil society throughout most of the world this century?). When Christianists and others label me ‘perverse’ or ‘wrong’ though merely for being gay I sure as hell won’t watch my tone, and why should I? The difficult centre of the argument is where these issues touch everyone in civil society. It may be frustrating that so many people ‘don’t get it’, but I’ve come to realise Enlightenment values in society as a whole have to be continually justified. And using the right tone to argue against faith schools, teaching creationism on a par with evolution in schools, or against NHS funding of homeopathy is indeed vital if we want to continue to prevail.
I’m back. Sorry for the protracted delay, but I’d lost my enjoyment of writing almost entirely for a spell. But I think that’s mostly passed, and I’m feeling more comfortable with what I’m going to write about and why I’m doing it.
I’ve recently had confrontations on Twitter with creationists and other religious extremists and nutjobs, who believe that they are only (in their minds) good people because they are religious. This delightful video has Christopher Hitchins breaking that argument into smithereens:
It’s a wonderful argument, not allowing Christianity (or any monotheistic belief system) take any credit whatsoever for morality, even hinting outright totalitarian intent behind even some of the Ten Commandments. I get incensed when the devout (who have an alarming tendency to behave in discriminatory ways) insist that they are better than others because of their blind belief in hocus pocus. It’s intellectually retarded to suggest morality can only come from religious instruction - I’m sure numerous children who are branded as witches in Christian communities and then abused would agree, as well as all the other victims throughout the ages of religion-incited violence, abuse and murder.
I’m going to try to vary my writing style in the blog from time to time to see what fits with people’s interests and enjoyment levels. More than anything what I’d like is discussion. If you think my argument’s hogwash then say so. If you agree with my viewpoint then add your own please.