Getting really cross

“Sell everything you own and buy yellow precious metal, fashioned in the form of one vertical long stick crossed with a horizontal shorter stick. And wear it publicly at all times, as a sign of your devotion to me. Blessed are the jewellery wearers for they shall inherit media attention” Book of Ratner ch19.v4

(As Jesus directed his followers in a previously little-known apocryphal bible book covering the Jewellery Company Years)

Determined cross wearers Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida (a former nurse and a former British Airways worker) have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights

Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida take cross fight to Europe.
Shirley Chaplin said “hiding” her cross was akin to denying her faith
(headlines on the BBC report)

I can’t see that it matters what styles of jewellery people wear. I think that their employers have behaved insanely (although I bet they were a real trial to employ). Although, if you know that a job has a uniform and you refuse to stick to the uniform rules, you shouldn’t really take that job.

The problem is that the cross ladies picked this fight on purpose. To bolster the picture of the UK’s imaginary condition of “discrimination against Christians”.

Christian Concern website (find it yourself, if you want, I’m not keen to post a link) is always willing to place itself at the centre of any case that it can use to promote the fantasy that we live in a parallel universe in which European Christians are beingpersecuted.

Increasing numbers of Christians have been penalised for their faith in the public sphere, often due to equalities legislation and the promotion of homosexual rights. Some Christians have been threatened with disciplinary action, suspended, and even sacked for refusing to act against their consciences. At Christian Concern we vigorously resist any restrictions on freedom of speech and expression for Christians.(from Christian Concern)

What? Equalities legislation and homosexual rights are a threat to Christians?

Passing blithely over the irony that people who feel threatened by human rights legislation are resorting to the European Court of Human Rights for redress, do they claim that they are being compelled to become homosexual in order to get human rights? No, I think I get it, maybe they claim the right to persecute gay people is the human right that they are in danger of losing?

Christians have been sacked for refusing to act against their consciences? I would have much sympathy – nay, admiration – if their consciences were telling them they had to resist the government’s ongoing programme to attack the poor and the NHS or if they were campaigning against wars or using their resources to feed the hungry and house the homeless…

But their Christian consciences aren’t stirred by such insignificant social issues. Their moral sense is roused by rules about wearing jewellery in work.

And their consciences can only be accommodated by following the Book of Ratner and wearing jewellery with malice aforethought.

Oh, and spending vast resources on getting their own way through the courts. What would Jesus Do? Well, the same, obviously. I believe he was working on his latest designer jewellery collection for Argos when he was crucified. He thought the cross shape would be really great for the brand.

Self belief

The philosopher Julian Baggini discussed the silly Pascal’s Wager in the Guardian. He argued that even the Simpsons had presented a more logical view.

even Homer Simpson can see the problem with this: “What if we’ve picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder?” (Julian Baggini)

Baggini was sparked by a journal article by Tim Mawson, which basically presented Pascal’s Wager in a slightly new guise:

In this paper, I argue that atheists who think that the issue of God’s existence or non-existence is an important one; assign a greater than negligible probability to God’s existence; and are not in possession of a plausible argument for scepticism about the truth-directedness of uttering such prayers in their own cases, are under a prima facie obligation to pray to God that He stop them being atheists. (Tim Mawson)

What?!? What sort of “atheist” assigns a greater than negligible probability to the existence of a personal god who listens to individuals’ prayer requests and gives them what they ask for? No sort. There must be many church ministers – at least in the non-fundamentalist wings of the christian churches – who wouldn’t accept such a concept of “god”.

In any case, as Baggini points out, the atheist praying for belief would come smack bang up against the question “Which god, then?” It could be very dangerous to pick just one, from the many pantheons of gods that we even know about, and risk enraging all the others. (As in Homer’s Wager, Odin might be mightily pissed off if I were to pick Isis.) Don’t despair, all you other atheists. I think I can solve the problem for you.

If I were to “pray”, the only being I’d be talking to would be myself. Although I am a bit short of supernatural and universe- creating powers, I do actually have the power to make myself believe, unlike any of the better known gods. As the prayee, I therefore choose not to answer my prayer by making myself believe anything.

On the bright side, unlike a more traditional “jealous god”, I am not going to smite myself for failing to worship myself.

Qualified win

“Free” Schools won’t get public money to teach creationism. A rare bit of good news in UK politics, which seems determined to outdo its own Worst News record on a daily basis.

“Free” schools are a rubbish idea for so many reasons that adding creationism into the mix was almost superfluous. But, nevertheless, it was in there:

Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of “intelligent design”, as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.(from the Guardian)

I’m not too sure about the wording of the exclusion, though:

Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

This seems to spread the banned-ideas disturbingly wider than stopping science lessons becoming an outpost of bible study. It implies that “non-evidence-based” religious nonsense is fine – but, as “non-evidence-based” pretty well defines creationism, surely it will be allowed.

Maybe I’m being too bloody literal, assuming that words are supposed to have a meaning. Charitably, maybe it’s just that officials at the DofE aren’t allowed to release any document that doesn’t have the words “evidence-based” in it, even if they have only the vaguest idea what it means.

I’ll err on the side of optimism and assume that it won’t mean that schools can’t debate ideas that challenge “established” ideas about history and science, as, surely, that process would define a real education….

The problem with the afterlife

This is quite a good summation of what is happening to those who sit around waiting for the afterlife:

If you think your afterlife will be better than your current life, you're not really living. You're just waiting to die #atheist #atheism
@kaimatai
Another atheist

Admittedly not every religious zealot “waits around” – but the fact is a significantly non-zero number of people are giving up on their real life because they are waiting for it to all get better in the next one.

Smells of fail if you ask me.

Christians trying to do some good

Sorry Yanks. Our Baptists and Methodists are much better than yours. (Well, there had to be at least one thing we could crow about.)

While American baptists include people like Pat Robertson. some of OUR baptists seem to be more sane – wise and admirable, even.

The baptists, methodist and united reformed churches in the UK haven’t just got together to speak out against the condem government’s massive cuts in public spending and welfare, they’ve even had the grace to challenge the made-up statistics that the condem government is using to support the cuts:

The Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Baptist Union, said the £5bn figure Mr Osborne quoted in his spending review speech wrongly depicted the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves.
President of the Methodist Conference, Alison Tomlin, said it was a question of fairness.
“Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor” she said. “Let us be clear this recession was not caused by the poor, those on benefits, or even benefit cheats.” (from the BBC)

The Moderator of the United Reformed Church has described her organisation as “concerned” about the cuts. Although. they actually put it a bit more strongly than “concern”.

Mrs Val Morrison, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, warns about the long term effects of yesterday’s comprehensive spending review (CSR) on the UK’s infrastructure. She says: “I worry about the futures of communities across the UK – these cuts could undo years of constructive effort to build community cohesion and tolerance in the UK. And, on an individual level, the stark reality is that most households will be badly affected by the CSR and the ideological shift – from Big State to Big Society – that it represents.”…

…. Addressing the disproportionate impact that the cuts to welfare spending will have on the poor and vulnerable in the UK, Mr Simon Loveitt, public issues spokesperson for the URC, commented: ….. “As Christians we reject the rhetoric which seeks to revive a disciplinary approach to welfare, only concerned with controlling, rather than supporting, individuals; and sees poverty as an issue about personal behaviour and dependency, rather than economic inequality and justice.”

(What a great name that spokesperson has. Don’t you just, etc?)

In your faces, raptard baptists.

Sunday morning tv

Only a person who forgot to do anything appropriately debauched on a Saturday night would be awake and watching tv at 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning. Bah, that would be me then.

Lo and behold, a show that cost about 50p to make, focussing on the topics that are guaranteed to bring froth to the mouth of a Daily mail reader. Is Sunday Morning Live the future of public service religious broadcasting under financial heavy manners?

The format: A studio discussion of ethical/religious issues. Webcam contributions from the public. A bottom of the screen rolling feed of quotes from viewers’ emails. Meaningless text message yes/no polls. Etc.

The wisdom of crowds. On the cheap.

As it says on the show’s page, today’s issues were:

This Sunday we’re back on air and we’ll be asking:
Should prostitution be socially acceptable?
Are we soft on Islam?
Should we allow gay marriage in church?
You can debate live with Susanna, our studio guests, and other callers

Are we soft on Islam” turned out to be a photo-opportunity for Stephen Green of “Christian Voice.” A chance to reel out a load of untruths about how Christians are persecuted in the UK – sacked for waeraing crosses) and Muslims get all manner of advantages. (I think he mentioned providing a few women-only swimming sessions at some public baths as the evidence for this.)

Yes, it’s that Stephen Green unwilling star of a Channel 4 Dispatches exposé that I can’t find on tinterwebs or there’d be a link here.

His organisation is wonderful at getting the media to misrepresent its extremist views as a mainstream Christian viewpoint, despite the fact that he represents a tiny minority of Christians. He was described as a “disgrace” by the moderator of the United Reform Church.

He complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the atheist bus ads. He failed to make this complaint stick but, by the grace of the all-powerful god Irony, the ASA banned his advert that claimed that the cervical cancer vaccine caused infertility.

He’s a chap with an appetite for the law but a distinct unwillingness to pay the costs involved in using it. He prosecuted the BBC for showing Gerry Springer the Opera, then demanded that the BBC pay his costs when he lost :-D.

And now, here he is popping up on the BBC – even getting an appearance fee, I fear – presenting his noxious views. Truly the man is an Irony bishop.

Viz comic gave him a well deserved award in 2006.

Great minds thinking alike

This may be a unique event, this blog and the Archbishop of Canterbury (oh, all right then, and millions of other people) speak with one voice. The idea that UK Christians are being persecuted is silly.

Rowan Williams (C of E Archbishop) expressed this so well that it bears repeating:

.. told a congregation at Canterbury Cathedral that “wooden-headed bureaucratic silliness” combined with a “well-meaning and completely misplaced anxiety about giving offence to non-Christians” should not be mistaken for persecution. (in the Guardian)(