Atheist bigotry

Can anyone explain how and when Sam Harris became an atheist spokesman? I missed the email.
Which is lucky, because I find many of his views (eg he thinks torture is ok) as repellent and unrepresentative of mine as, say, the average muslim would find the views of the latest islamic wingnut hate figure.
There’s a superb – if unfashionably long – piece by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian about his response to Murtah Hussein’s article on Al Jazeera. and Nathan Lean in Salon – both of whom pointed out the bigotry expressed by the atheist media stars.

Contrary to the assumptions under which some Harris defenders are laboring, the fact that someone is a scientist, an intellectual, and a convincing and valuable exponent of atheism by no means precludes irrational bigotry as a driving force in their worldview. Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian

I’m talking about Greenwald’s, rather than the other, articles because:

  • I wouldn’t have seen the other posts except for his article;
  • His arguments seem self-evidently true to me; and
  • because his article attracted a flurry of comments. (4913 at the moment of writing this.) I find many of those comments, at the least, disturbing, even allowing for the fact that the Guardian’s comment pages have basically become a vanity publishing platform for trolls.

Commenters referred to Greenwald’s being a gay jew:

“As a gay Jew, you must realise that in most Middle Eastern countries you would be persecuted. The exception being Israel.”

” If Glen expected to be an open and practicing gay man in Qatar he would be imprisoned.”

I presume that these rational beings have not come across the concept of a non-sequitur. The only way to read this is that these people genuinely believe that Islam is a huge monolithic block, that every person born a muslim is responsible for every injustice committed by every other muslim and any other majority islamic state, and so on.

In one comment, a Harris defender complained that his words had been taken out of context, then provided the “context” which turned out to be at least as disturbing as the paraphrase.
I am particularly offended that the pro-Harris writers seek to present themselves as the defenders of a rational scientific worldview. And then take their political and social opinions straight from the “Holy Book of Neocon Ideas about Global Politics.”
“Bugger rationality in that case, then, fellow rational people. Don’t bother trying to understand global politics and religion, because they’re really really hard to follow and you might find your simplistic world views too hard to maintain. Just keep your minds closed and go along with the war and torture stuff. It’s not as if non-atheists are human beings or anything.”
That is the Sam Harris message and it seems to have had at least a greater than zero influence on fools.

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.

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.

Dawkins is the Devil – lying for jeebus…

Previously I mentioned about how Ruth Gledhill had monumentally missed the point with her TimesOnline blog post about the latest Humanist campaign to try and stop people labelling their children without given them a choice.

It seems Ruth is not the only person who has missed the point (for example Jacqui’s comment on my previous post) but, as is often the case, the commenters on her post really set a new standard. I have tried a few times to leave comments on the Times article, but they never seem to make it past moderation…which makes it even more bizarre that these comments have made it through.

The one which really made me laugh was from Iain Carstairs (posted 0725AM, 21 Nov 09). It begins:

Dawkins is a fanatic, true, but he is a more dangerous one than a religious zealot.

Wow. Call the Whitehouse and MOD. Get all the troops back from Afghanistan and prepare to invade Oxfordshire (or where ever Dawkins is living now). The War on Terror was obviously a mistake (“at last!” I hear you cry) and now we need to begin the War on Thinking. (OK, I agree, this has already been going on for centuries in some places).

Joking aside, this is nonsense. But it continues:

A suicide bomber can kill a small crowd, and hardline Christians have been known to shoot abortionists. The Israelis are steadily dehumanising the Palestinians, and are on their way to exterminating them: with the blessing of the US and the UK of course.

No, seriously? With this in mind (if we think of the WTC and Madrid as being a “small crowd”) then the whole furore about terrorism is nonsense. Sadly, I agree, but for different reasons.

But Dawkins is attempting to remove the spiritual dimension from life. It is as if he is attempting to prise the eyeballs out of a billion sockets, simply because there is no scientific proof of God.

ZOMG!! Oh Noes!11!!!1!1! Dawkins is making people THINK. Evil, pure evil. Torture in fact. Wont anybody think of the children. (and so on)

This is so crazy it almost defies belief (puns intended). This is a common misconception from people who are blinded by their belief – they ignore the true majesty of the universe and the beauty that life demonstrates. Look at the deep field pictures from Hubble for examples. They take this grand beauty of nature and spoil it by creating an invisible puppeteer who controls every action for some unknown, yet unarguably cruel, purpose. This is not allowing people to see the beauty of nature, but a cruel way of blinding them and controlling their actions. It is evil.

After some more of this drivel, Iain finishes with:

Without spirituality, we become Dawkins’ descendants: hoodies, yobs, sociopaths.. the greedy and addicted children of materialism, who make this world a living Hell.

Wow. Lets look at this again. The hoodies, yobs and sociopaths that Iain refers to are not “Dawkin’s descendants” they are growing up in the time of Dawkins. At best their children could be described as Dawkin’s descendants as its only in the last couple of years that Dawkins has been in the public domain.

The children who “terrorise” the communities inhabited by Mail readers (and presumably Times readers) are from families where, on the whole, belief still remains prominent. The vast majority of greedy and addicted materialists are religious.

Lying for Jesus is still lying.

Please dont label me

As I am sure most of you are aware (I am still catching up from my travels – lots of strange things have happened while I have been away), there is a new poster campaign:

Please dont label me

Please dont label me

The idea behind this comes from Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion (and a zillion places elsewhere):

There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents. … Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder. Everybody’s consciousness should be raised to this level.

This strikes me (obviously) as making complete sense. As the oft-quoted remarks go we wouldnt describe a three year old as a “marxist child” or any other combination of their parents interests, hobbies and beliefs. We find that normal, while ignoring the oddity of treating “Muslim Child” as normal.

Part of this may be to do with the fact parents who have faith in a particular belief system will begin indoctrinating their children at a very early age. So, for example, children from a devout Catholic family will have learned their prayers by the time they can talk. However, this is not the same as making the informed choice to adopt that belief system. It is telling that religious groups put so much effort into catching children when they are young (and more susceptible to crazy stories about invisible people living in the clouds), hoping to force their ideas to such an extent that a minority stray from the fold – notably, most converts from one cult religion to another turn out to hold extreme views as that is what is needed to break the shackles.

So, that said, it is obvious why the BHA (et al) want a campaign like this, and obvious why religious groups are opposed to it (as always). The idea that children are given a free choice is comical at the best of times – atheist parents will try to leave their children to make up their own minds, while religious groups (under state sponsorship in the UK*) will try to convert them; meanwhile religious parents will continue to indoctrinate. What this poster campaign does, however, is educate adults. It brings the double standards we practice in daily life into public view. Painful it maybe, but this is a good thing.

With that background out of the way, there is an interesting post on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, on TimesOnline:

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.
With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.
Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.
Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.

I am not sure, exactly, what the motivation behind this item was, but it seems to be massively missing the point while proving the whole reason behind the campaign. It is hard, to work out where to begin with this, it all just seems a bit misguided.

First off: The pictures are from a stock photo gallery. When they were chosen there was no “background check” (despite how much we get off on that sort of thing in the UK) carried out and nor should there be. Can you imagine if iStockPhoto (or the like) demanded to know the religious background of any of its models. Rightfully, newspapers like the times would be outraged.

Secondly: Some minor “celeb” (dont make me laugh) drummer for a (ahem) popular Christian musician does not make them “one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.” That is just meaningless words where Ruth has lowered herself to a tabloid standard while trying to mock the post campaign. Its comically pointless.

Thirdly: This underscores the need for the campaign. These children are aged 8 and 7. They are too young to vote, drink alcohol, drive, own a gun, smoke, etc. They are below the age of criminal responsibility so they cant, legally, be held accountable for their actions. They can not, in any way, have made the concious, informed decision to commit to a religion. They are not “Christian Children” but “Children of Christian Parents.” Ruth seems to massively miss this point, but it not her worst blunder here.

Lastly: Where does it say they are, or should be, atheist children? The idea is not that only atheist children are happy, it is not that all children are atheists (although they are born that way), it is that we should stop labelling them. There is nothing wrong with having “children of Christian parents” on the campaign poster. This is a campaign that, should, be equally supported by every religion. It gives a greater chance for Christians to “save” children from Muslim, Hindu or Jewish families – sadly for them the opposite is true.

All Ruth has done with her post is show how quickly we fall into the trap of labelling children based on what ever ideas their parents have. No mention is made of the children being interviewed, just their father who appears to be speaking on their behalf.

Obviously you can be too young to think for yourself, but not too young to believe…….

I have missed this level of irony during my travels.

[EDITED TO ADD]

It seems great minds think alike :-) and The Freethinker has taken the times to task over this madness.

[END EDIT]

* yes, I know you can ask for your child to be excluded from communal prayer and other religious based teachings, but Religious Education is still mandatory and, in reality, who would want their child to be singled out for the dreaded “special treatment” in front of their school mates. It must be torture. On the positive side, mandatory RE / prayer never managed to even come close to convincing me, or anyone I went to school with, that God exists….

In heaven, everything is fine

(Temporarily) taking Pascal’s wager at face value, it would be silly to choose to believe a religion that didn’t offer some serious benefits. I.e. don’t pick a religion that doesn’t offer much in the way of tangible rewards.

So, as a public service to anyone wavering about what religion to choose, I think a cost-benefit analysis is in order. I assume that you want a religion that offers less of a penalty for not being too devoted an adherent more than you want one with a really great heaven, so the quality of hells was the main ranking factor.

Heaven and Hell for a few major religions

Heaven and Hell for a few major religions

I’ve put them in order of their desirability. Obviously, the ones with the least burning/freezing or torturing come up top. Equally obviously, non-belief can’t offer any after-death benefits but it definitely has no after-death costs.

Sorry, Pascal, (Loved the programming language by the way :-) ), when it comes down to betting on what’s going to benefit the believer the most, I reckon atheism is still ahead.

Song: Death of god

Here’s folk/rock singer Roy Harper singing “The Death of God“. The link is to part 1 – the first of 4. Roy Harper is given to really long intros, so the words don’t even really kick in until the end of Part 1.

He’s been writing and performing heathen songs for over 40 years. This is far from his best work but still worth a listen. To quote from his website:

He was raised by his father and step-mother, whose Jehovah’s Witness beliefs eventually alienated him. Harper’s anti-religious views would later become a familiar theme in his music.

Empty Argument

I know letters pages are traditionally fertile grounds for finding crazy opinions and attitudes but its not that often you get in on the Guardian (especially when compared with the Mail or even BBC Online). Today however we see a familiar empty argument trotted out by someone who apparently has taken offence that Atheists have dared to try and teach children – when everyone knows only the Church are allowed to brainwash.

Patrick Smith, from Essex, writes:

It is great that young people are being taught to think (Summer camp offers ‘godless’ alternative for atheists, 30 July). Alas, it seems Camp Quest will be assuming science is the only way to find truth, a view not shared by most of humanity. Experience of love, music, art and (yes) religion are just as important. Atheists can brainwash as shamelessly as any cult!

Now, correct me if I am wrong but this seems completely flawed. Mr Smith is missing the point by such a large amount it seems he must be talking about something else. I have no personal experience of the atheist camp, so I am (like Mr Smith, I suspect) forced to use the article referenced for background reading.

It seems the children are being taught to think:

The idea behind the camp is to give a “godless” alternative to traditional religious summer camps. In the morning the participants discuss philosophical ideas and learn about subjects such as astronomy.

But nothing there makes me think that it assumes “science is the only way to find a truth.” (I am a bit confused as to otherways to find a “truth” though). Children, 12 years old, discussing philosophy fills my heart with joy and renews some of my faith in human nature. (all irony is intentional). But it continues:

Then in the afternoons they take part in more traditional camp activities. They swim, they run, they climb, they row. In the evening – if the rain relents – they sit round the campfire and toast marshmallows.

Ok – this strikes me as all wholesome, childrens activities. It also carries the implication that they are still active in the evenings. Unless we assume they sit silently around the campfire then they are likely to be listening to music, talking about artistic subjects or learning how to interact with others.

This sort of leaves me confused what Mr Smith is objecting to – unless he feels, like lots of Christians seem to do, that without god being invoked at every sentence then the lessons are meaningless and unimportant. The unintentional irony in that viewpoint is there is a religion where god is mentioned in almost every sentence, and Christians seem to hate it.

For those with strong irony meters and in need of some laughs at the unintentional idiocy that “people with faith” can demonstrate, the comments on the Guardian article about the camp are very funny.

Summer camp

In case you missed this story, there’s an atheist summer camp for kids in the UK, based on an American model (Camp Quest) inevitably.

I admit the idea is mildly ridiculous – devising improving leisure activities for kids, like po-faced Victorian philanthropists.

However, this has got to be an infinitely better idea than the summer camps that try to teach religion along with the raft-building and tree-climbing. This camp aims to encourage critical thinking and offers a prize for doing it, in the form of a £10 note autographed by Richard Dawkins.

So, if you are parent who’s already dreaming of a few child-free summer days – or if you are a kid who wants to go camping and to disprove the existence of unicorns away from your parents – it might be well worth checking it out.

By toutatis!

Enticing as this BBC story is – Pagan Police Get Solstice Leave, as so often, the content doesn’t live up to the hype.

Pagan police officers in some areas are being allowed to take as many as eight days leave a year for events such as the summer solstice and Halloween.
It comes after the Pagan Police Association was set up following discussions with Home Office officials.

Just in case you are a police officer reading this and you think can see hitherto-unsuspected benefits resulting from a quick faith change – of the kind that so many people undergo when their children reach school age – there aren’t actually any extra holiday opportunities for pagan police.

You would only get to swap your standard bank holidays for pagan bank holidays.

Which is a pity, because I was wondering if the “extra leave” principle might transfer to other jobs and other belief systems. Or at least, there’s a chance that non-believers could slip in under the pagan wire, given that a dictionary meaning of pagan is probably “non-christian”. I was wondering if even my employers could be persuaded to look sympathetically on my need to stay off work on Darwin days and Russell’s Birthday celebrations.

However, although you don’t get any more holidays, don’t despair yet, pagan police officers, just move to Hertfordshire. The BBC says that it has appointed two – note that, not just one, but two – pagan police chaplains. How unutterably cool is that?

Christians as atheists

The Christians were generally designated as atheoi, as deniers of the gods, and the objection against them was precisely their denial of the Pagan gods, not their religion as such.

from ATHEISM IN PAGAN ANTIQUITY,A. B. DRACHMANN, PROFESSOR OF CLASSICAL PHILOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, GYLDENDAL, 1922

oh, the ironing.

(Atheism in pagan antiquity on Archive.org. H/t to Nullifidian’s post: Britain’s First Newe Atheiste for directing me to the delights of archive.org)

Creating an absurdity

I see that mouthy atheists are to blame for the spread of creationism. ROTFL. * chortle immoderately * etc

Well, so it says in the Guardian special on the rise of creationism.

They also claim that the aggression of the new atheists is helping them. They paint Dawkins as a “recruiting sergeant” for creationism because he links evolutionary thinking with atheism. “He has been a real help to the ministry, ” says Randall Hardy.
Creationists argue that the new atheists are fuelling the dogmatism; Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford and a theistic evolutionary, last week threw that accusation back at them. “Creationists totally misunderstand the Bible,” he said. “Genesis is in the business of story, myth, poetry, metaphor. They [creationists and atheists] feed off one another. The debate has an unreality about it. Those of us who are not fundamentalists can’t find a place.”

Thus, even the relatively sane Bishop of Oxford puts atheism and creationism in the same conceptual “fundamentalist” box. And the full-blown creationist believes that -people who believe in God think they can’t believe in evolution, just because Dawkins links evolutionary thinking with atheism,

That is giving Dawkins much more influence than he can possibly dream of having. I refuse to believe that most people have even the vaguest ideas about evolution. Nor that more than a tiny minority of the population have ever read the God Delusion or even watched a Dawkins tv programme. (You would think that, almost by definition, people stupid enough to believe in creationism are too stupid to read erudite books or watch demanding tv)

Indeed, even the article undercuts the implications that there are grounds for this “Blame atheists for creationism” viewpoint.

Almost all Christians used to go along with the idea that Genesis was a bit suspect on dates, and that the six days of the Bible were metaphorical, with each day representing a vast geological age. The majority of Anglicans, theistic evolutionists who have no difficulty in believing in a Darwinian God, would still abide by that. But the publication in 1961 of Henry Morris and John Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood, which set out to give a scientific demonstration of the literal truth of the Bible, emboldened those who refused to accept evolution.

1961? Dawkins was 20 then. I’m pretty certain this predates The God Delusion by a few decades. Well, Wikipedia informs me that the God Delusion was published in 2006.

What on earth was fuelling creationism in the intervening decades, then, if noisy atheists are to blame now?

Or are we to start dating the “New Atheism” in creationist terms, so that we are to accept not only that dinosaurs walked with men but that an undergraduate Dawkins managed to spark the rise in creationism with his strident atheist complaints?

This article does provide creationist “answers” to two questions that have long baffled me.

  • Question: Why didn’t Noah take all the dinosaurs into the ark if humans and dinoasurs were all happily living together?
    Answer:

    Creationists, who argue that the world was created no more than 10,000 years ago, believe dinosaurs and man co-existed in the pre-Flood period (they date the Flood to around 1,600 years after the creation), that there were dinosaurs on the ark, but that they were eventually wiped out by the changes in climate which followed the Flood.

    Ah, it wasn’t that Noah just didn’t like dinosaurs. (Mentally upscale the conceptual size of ark needed, from one the size of France to one the size of Asia) He did his level best to save them but somehow they proved unable to survive in a changed environment. (Oh, you mean, like evolutionary processes?)

  • Question 2:
    What have creationists got against the biological sciences that they don’t have against mathematics or physics or geography?

    Answer:
    It seems that biology is nothing special. They are indeed just as willing to abandon all sciences where they conflict with the Bible.

    …..virtually all existing science has to be rewritten – and the creationists are ready to do the rewriting. The speed of light, Rosevear argues, used to be 300 times faster than it is now – necessary for creationists to explain cosmology and the distance of other solar systems from our own; the great cataclysm of the Flood explains the formation of sedimentary rock and the distribution of fossils; …

The Guardian writer either assumes that almost any reader will see the creationists as self-evident nutters or he lacks the most basic information-processing skills. For example, he uncritically reports “findings” from all those surveys (e.g for Theos :-) ) that supposedly show that sizeable minorities of the population are creationists.

And his naivety seems incomprehensible when he says this:

British creationism is surprisingly independent from the far bigger, better funded, more vocal, highly politicised movement in the US, where creationists and intelligent design organisations (often a front for Christian creationists) are fighting perpetual legal battles to get creationist teaching into the classrooms of state schools.

The Portsmouth Genesis Expo may be a saggy old cloth cat to the Cincinnati Creation Museum’s roaring lion. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t manifestations of the same species, seen once in tragedy (Creation Museum) ; the second time in farce (Genesis Expo).

If I had to choose between whether to blame “The New Atheism” or the media (who present the opinions of lunatics as if they have some validity, in a “two sides to every argument” distortion of the concept of balance) for the rise of creationist lunacy, I know where I’d lay most of the blame.

.

Respect for the dead

Funerals are obviously for the living. John Mortimer wouldn’t have welcomed his church funeral if he was alive to see it, but then – d’oh – he wouldn’t be having a funeral then, would he?

All the same, there seems something deeply disrespectful to the memory of a noted and outspoken atheist to have god-infused funeral. It’s as if – even though he notably failed to come up with a death-bed repentance of his unbelief – his mourners decided to do it on his behalf. Maybe this is how the myths about death-bed conversions get attached to the lives of unbelievers.

Sir John called himself an atheist for Christ,” the vicar said. “He always came to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But he emphatically did not believe in life after death. My hope,” she added, “is that he has had a wonderful surprise.”
John Mortimer’s atheism was one of his most cherished convictions. He loved to cross-examine an archbishop about God and find his evidence deficient.
Yet it was at the little medieval church of St Mary the Virgin, in Turville, near Henley-on-Thames, where his parents are buried, that Sir John’s family and friends gathered yesterday to sing The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended at his funeral. (from the Times)

He went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve? He probably loved carols. Doesn’t everyone? He may have enjoyed a bit of traditional ritual. I’ve attended any number of rituals for belief systems that I don’t seriously entertain for a moment. I hope they don’t all start scrapping over my bones when I’ve gone.

I can’t see attendance at the odd Christmas service as justification for a metaphorical religious dancing on his grave.

The celebatheists site described Mortimer as

…an unbeliever who is very much sympathetic to the ethical and cultural aspects of Christianity. (From celebatheists.com)

I still don’t think that justifies a church funeral. Even in his 80s, John Mortimer was writing and campaigning about civil liberties.:

The latest novel, Rumpole and the Reign of Terror, concerns a Pakistani doctor accused of terrorist activities, giving Mortimer the chance to lay into what he sees as the erosion of civil liberties. And he is already engaged in formulating the next Rumpole plot, which will be about Asbos.
……. Now he’s on to the subject of identity cards.”One thing my father said was that if you find yourself in a country where you have to carry papers, you know it has a lousy government.” (from a Guardian interview in 2006)

If you were to find out that a Special John Mortimer Memorial Edition ID card had been issued, because Mortimer once complimented the design of a sample ID card, this would be no more startling than to find out that well-known atheist had been given a church funeral.

Jeremy Whines

Radio presenter Jeremy Vine was given space by the Daily Mail to complain about how unfair the UK is to Christians. The headline says:

Why I won’t discuss my Christianity on air, by Radio 2 and Panorama host Jeremy Vine

Let me stop you, right there Jeremy. You host a lunch-time radio show. Your job probably involves introducing records and refereeing phone-in “debates” about nonsense. If you started discussing your religion in that context, people would be as interested as they would be if the local newsagent explained why she followed the Nicene creed. They would switch off. This applies even more to Panorama, which is supposed to be a serious current affairs programme.

Show a bit of humility, Jeremy. A presenter is the linkman or linkwoman. The clue’s in the name. You are supposed to link items. People don’t watch Panorama to find out what religious beliefs the presenter holds. Just as they don’t care what you had for breakfast or how many stairs you have in your hallway.

He admitted that he avoided discussing the subject on air, saying it is now ‘almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God’. (from the Mail)

I would like to think that were true. But I suspect it’s only “socially unacceptable” in the way that traditional etiquette regards talking about religion or politics as unacceptable in polite society. Only true for that specific interpretation of “socially.” And discussing religion or politics is considered bad manners (not that that ever stopped me, but my manners are shite) because people start insulting each other and getting angry and “polite” society stops being “polite.”

If you are presenting a Panorama programme on the economy, it would be more than bad manners to say “… and by the way, I’m a Christian…” It would be like saying “Stop talking about boring things. Talk about ME.” Boosting your own sense of self-importance isn’t supposed to be in the job description.

His remarks follow a claim last month by Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor that Britain has become an ‘unfriendly’ place to the religious. (from the Mail)

Yeah, right. See the chart (Ok, it’s a US chart, admittedly. We are a bit more heathen in the UK and the kinds of non-christians are a bit different, but it’s just a graphic…)

A religion pie chart...

Religion...

“Has become”?… I don’t know whether Britain is any less religion-friendly than it’s ever been. I am pretty confident that shoving your religion in people’s faces, unsolicited, has never brought a friendly response.

The Jeremy Vine piece brought out the reliable harvest of Mail comment-nutters, many of whom seem to be suffering from fatwah-envy. This is one that could have come straight from the twat-o-tron without human intervention.

Mr. Vine’s situation is caused by PC run amok.
The world has a ‘Religion’ that is secular now.
It’s all about: group rights; gray-area standards; adjustable truths; climate change and radical ‘greeness’; and marginalising real faith as anachronistic and childish. (except for Islam ,of course. ) …

*snigger* (If I was playing Bigot-speak Bingo, I think this would give me a full house.)

That’s by someone from Texas, who would never get to suffer the effects if every UK daytime easy-listening radio-show-presenter started using his or her airtime to present his or her philosophy of life.

But 34 other people, who you assume haven’t thought through the consequences, have clicked to vote for this comment. (What am I saying? These are people who, almost by definition, can’t think through the consequences.)

Pretty consistently, the comments that are like that one get lots of pro-votes. The ones with the big-minus votes are the ones like this (minus 17):

I think Jeremy Vine is alone in feeling like this as most of the time it seems like every man and his dog insist on spouting out about their faith. Indeed several BBC radio shows have features dedicated to this.
Religion is reclaiming public ground, not only have the number of faith schools increased in the last few years but creationism is now going to be taught in science lessons!
It is interesting that some people of faith are now finding it uncomfortable to speak about their faith as this is how people of no faith have felt for decades…

Yes, there are well more than enough tv and radio shows that deal with religion. On purpose. People who want to hear about religion can choose to watch or listen to these. How hard is that to accept, Jeremy?

Let me explain. People who watch Top Gear want to watch a show about cars. If Jeremy Clarkson started discussing how to make feather-light shortcrust pastry, the viewers would get pissed off. Even if they really like cooking, they don’t expect cooking in a car show. They would use the remote control or the channel dial or the off switch.

(Ok, even if my radio had a broken off-switch, I wouldn’t listen to the Jeremy Vine show, but I think the point still stands.)

W00t. It seems that you can vote on Daily Mail comments without logging in. I will give it a try. I boost all the big red minus ones. This short and sweet one is still the lowest (at 34 minuses) even after my non-divine intervention :

Good, don’t discuss it as we don’t want to hear it. We hear enough rubbish from your religious leaders.

*smirk*

Wow, I just came up with a new hobby. Anyone can join in. Voting down all the bigotry-central Daily Mail comments and voting up the saner ones. If there were enough people willing to waste ten minutes a day, the Mail might even suspect it had misjudged the zeitgeist and rein in the tone of its more extreme pieces.