Tag Archives: Christianity

Easter persecution show

“Are Christians Being Persecuted?” on BBC1 tonight posed that ludicrous question. The description on the BBC site started with a contentious intro:

For years now, some town halls have been renaming their Christmas Lights as Winter Lights festivals. More and more Christians are ending up in court, defending themselves against what they see as victimisation for not being allowed to wear a cross to work or to pray for a patient.

It’s doubtful if “Winter Lights Festivals” are anything except an urban myth. But, anything is possible. Rebranding things on a random basis has somehow become compulsory in Britain. (For instance, the Department for Trade and Industry is on its third renaming in as many years. No one suggests that this means that Business is being persecuted.)

Ah ha, the programme has actually found a council that called its Christmas decorations “Winter Lights” one year (not “some town halls” and not “for years” then.) The council has now again rebranded the light switching-on procedure, as “Christmas in Autumn” or something.

Wny is the name given to street lights even remotely newsworthy?

Because of the media that feels no shame in trying to stir up controversy about nothing, maybe.

Or because of the activities of a tiny fringe group of extremists who are being quite successful in rebranding “Christianity” – redefining their religion in terms of items of jewelry and acts of bigotry. (At the same time, bringing into the UK fundy beliefs – like Intelligent Design – that mainstream UK Christians still laugh at.)

This was a truly annoying programme. It gave yet more credibility to the extreme wing of Christians, accepting their self-definition, so confusing the boundaries between them and the mainstream churches.

Although no member of the mainstream churches seems to have got into any dispute over wearing crosses, etc., any act of overzealous-personnel-management-madness directed against these people now gets seen as representing an attack on Christianity as a whole.

If you could bear to sit through the whole dull 60 minutes, the programme finally concluded that UK Christians aren’t actually being persecuted …… well, at least not compared to Christians in the Sudan. That almost defines “damning with faint praise.”

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)

Religious Ironies

Excommunication doesn’t seem much of a sanction to non-believers, granted, but it’s a bit rough for Catholics. It seems you can do just about anything and still remain a Catholic, from holocaust denial (you can apparently even be a bishop, in that case) to taking part in mass murder in Rwanda.

However, what you can’t do and remain incommunicated is arrange an abortion for a Brazilian nine-year-old who was pregnant with twins, after being raped by her stepfather.

In fact, having sane social views can also get you suspended as a priest in Brazil, if not completely excommunicated.

It appears that Father Couto landed in trouble with the Church authorities because of an interview that he gave to a local newspaper defending the use of condoms as a matter of public health. (from the BBC)

Unlike the more senior Brazilian Catholic church hierarchy…

…. He has received threats to his life in the past for his opposition to death squads that operate in the north east of Brazil.

So, it appears that being genuinely “pro-life” – in any sense of the word that doesn’t mean “supporting breeding, whatever the human cost” – can get you into trouble in the Catholic Church.

But death squads, AIDS deaths and raped children are just part of god’s unquestionable plan.

The second set of ironies come from yet another church shooting in the US.

A week ago, the Guardian’s Saturday magazine had an seemingly-interminable parade of born-again American christians talking about their firepower. (That “Turn the other cheek” stuff really must be too fragile to survive the rebirthing process.) The piece was clearly just there to make us English people feel smug.

I remembered an old post that I did here about Wingnut daily and its claim that going armed into church would just make worshippers safer.

This referred to a book called “Shooting Back” published by Worldnet Daily itself, the message of which seems to revolve around always having a revolver. Even – or indeed, especially – in church.

What would you do if armed terrorists broke into your church and starting attacking your friends with automatic weapons in the middle of a worship service?

Well. oddly, this seems to be a not-unheard of occurence, now. But, surprise, surprise, they aren’t organised “armed terrorists” but good old traditional yankee “lone gunman” figures. The very people who are claiming that it’s their inalienable human right to bear arms, no less.

It’s been a while since I underwent the reading-wingnut-daily experience. Scanning its ugly intro page, I spotted a link to a piece of nonsense in our old friend, the English Daily Mail.

Which was unsurprising, given that as soon as I looked at the worldnet daily site content, I saw the extreme wing of the Daily Mail’, with its trademark mix of political scare stories and crackpot health stories.

OK, worldnet daily doesn’t have the Mail’s prurient celeb stories with its daily fake concern about starlet x’s love life or singer y’s bulimia problems. But then, the Mail doesn’t have the insane nonsense about Obama’s being a secret muslim or not being a really American. So, on balance, I think this is – for once – a win for the Daily Mail and its acres of celebri-toss. If it didn’t have that, it could easily tip over into worldnettery and then the UK would be in serious trouble.

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.

When religion really is to blame

As anyone who reads FSTDT will know, Yahoo! Answers provides rich pickings when it comes to bizarre, crazy and downright wierd religious viewpoints. While idly browsing through it, I noticed a question asking “During the middle ages, how many were killed because they questioned the loving and kind Catholic Church?” (See original question thread)

Having a passing hobby interest in medieval history, this question appealed to me, so I read through some of the answers. A lot were standard Yahoo-fare, for example the “best answer” claims 150 million died, which seems a bit odd compared to the population of Europe in the middle-ages.  While sources are a bit made up, Wikipedia claims the population of medieval Europe peaked at about 100 million in the early part of the fourteenth century. This requires some interesting mental arithmetic to make the two sets of numbers add up, even if the 150 million deaths were spread out over 300 years.

However, the one that caught my interest the most was from Misty0408, and it makes quite a few points I would like to address here: [emphasis mine throughout quotes]

Crusades or Inquisition?

It’s easy in hindsight to judge a time and society we no longer experience or understand.

I agree with this to an extent as our ideas of what is “right” and “wrong” do change over time. This is not always a path from a “bad past” to a “good present/future” though, sometimes we take a few steps back. Crucially, there isn’t any real point to judging the past – we cant change it and we cant (for example) punish the Romans for keeping slaves.

I may have misread the question, and know nothing of the person who asked it, but I didn’t really think it was trying to judge the past. This made me think that Misty0408 might have a few axes to grind.

The Crusades were a series of defensive battles against Muslim attacks. They were not organized and run by the Church, but tended to be upstart groups of Catholics who took things into their own hands. Many non-believers joined in to reap the benefits of pillaging. There was no telephone, email, text messaging, etc. to get word out and tell people to stop. It took time for the Pope to know what was going on, and time for word to get back to those who had run amok.

Interesting. This also seems pretty much 180 degrees from the history lessons I remember. So much so that this cant be a simple lack of education, this is someone wilfully taught an incorrect sequence of events.

Pope Urban II instigated the crusades. This is the fairly famous quote he made in the call to arms:

All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion!

All the crusades were blessed by the Papacy. This is a far cry from the idea that the pope was busy running around trying to put a stop to the brutality.

It strikes me as a bit dishonest to claim that the church was not the organiser of the Crusades – yes the Crusading nobles will have gone through the actual logistics, but the Pope ordered them to and offered forgiveness for all their sins if they went.

The Inquisitions were also driven, in part, by the society and times in which they happened. Civil law and Church law were linked. If you spoke heresy you were condemned by civil law to die…not by the Church. In fact, in many cases the Church worked to get people to recant their heretical statements to save them from death. Death sentences were carried out by the civil authorities.

Again, some reasonable truth mixed with weirdness. The inquisitions were indeed driven by the time and society – however this society was intrinsically Catholic. Civil and Church law were mixed, yes, but this didn’t mean secular rules got mixed in with the religious ones. It basically meant that the Church set the law. The idea that heretics were condemned to die by secular authorities and not the church is batshit insane. Yes the Church worked to get people to recant, but not to save them from death. If the Church hadn’t declared some statements heretical (and demanded death as the punishment) I would agree they were not complicit in the torture. How on Earth can heresy even be a crime by secular standards?

While death sentences were indeed carried out by the civil authorities, they were given the moral authority to do so by the Church. The Church can not wash its hands of the crimes because the pope did not burn each heretic personally.

Its true, that at that time, the Church thought that a good way to deal with heretics was to torture them, and force them to recant. The Church has since apologized for this.

That makes it OK then.

But again, we see this error in hindsight. The medieval times were violent times for the entire society. Most punishments for breaking the law involved sentences we consider barbaric today. People were hanged in public, drawn and quartered etc. This was the society.

So why did the church apologise? How does this sliding scale of moral values lie with an inerrant word of God being handed down to the heads of the Church?

If the Church felt it was in keeping with Scripture at the time, what has changed?

The Spanish Inquistition was state ministry, not papal organization. Blaming Popes for deeds of Spanish Inquistition is incorrect. However kings of Spain used Dominicans (catholic order) as judges etc. because clergy (especially mentioned monks) were genarally far more educated than ordinal people.

Wow. An even bigger dose of madness wrapped around a kernel of truth. The Spanish inquisition was indeed instituted by the secular Monarchy.

First off, it was based on Papal Inquisitions (which were remarkably similar); secondly its purpose was to ensure people upheld the Catholic Church’s doctrine; Thirdly it was established by a Papal Bull from Pope Sixtus IV. Crucially, the Catholic Church could have stopped it, but chose not to.

Seems like the Catholic Church has to shoulder a fair amount of the blame for this.

The Church, even though the true Church of Christ, is not made of perfect people. She is protected from ever teaching heresy, but this protection does not give those in charge a crystal ball, or the power to know more than the current times in which they live.

Wow. Huge dose of irony there. The Catholic church can never teach heresy, but because there is no crystal ball its teachings may change and even contradict previous ones.

You’ve got to love the logic that belief grants you…

As far as the actual numbers of those killed, no one has a real count. But we do know that over the years the number has increased in direct proportion to the number of anti-Catholics. Those who claim in the “millions” are way off base. Not even close, more likely in the thousands. But just to give you an idea:
The Spanish Inquisition, assuredly the most vigorous and corrupt of the various inquisitorial bodies that existed in Europe, held 49,000 trials between 1560-1700 and executed between 3 and 5,000 people.

Again, it starts off well but then gets all conspiracy theory.

Worryingly, Misty0408 seems to be implying that because the numbers killed were “only” in the thousands this makes it OK. The idea that any people were tortured to death on the orders of a “loving” church is monstrous.

Bit of number crunching: I assume Misty0408 got the figures from Spiritus-Temprois.com, which doesn’t break down by year. If we assume each year was equal, that means there were 350 trials a year. Almost one a day. 350 people tortured each year. Just because these only resulted in between 21 – 35 executions each year doesn’t make it better. For most the period in question, Spain had a population in the region of between 5.4 and 7.5 million (source: The Population of Europe, Table 1.1, p8, by Massimo Livi Bacci, Cynthia De Nardi Ipsen, Carl Ipsen). This means that around 1 in 20,000 people were tortured by the inquistion – that is the equivalent of 3000 people a year in the modern UK, or 15191 people in the US – being put on trial for heresy each year.

This may seem trivial when compared with modern incarceration rates (which may be as high as 1 in 136 people in the US), but these people were in addition to all the “normal” criminals. Their only crime was not following the Catholic Church’s orthodoxy.

Yes, they may have been imprisoned under the orders of the Secular monarch, but it was done for, and with at least some blessing of, the Catholic Church.

Too often religion claims to be cause behind people doing good deeds, but then when bad things happen the nature of “Man” is blamed. This is a massive fallacy. The atrocities of the Crusades and Inqusition may not have been carried out (entirely) by uniformed members of the Catholic Church but it is fully to blame for them. Its doctrine lead to these acts. Its leadership endorsed them. Its priesthood encouraged them.

It really is to blame.

Proof Of God – Christian Voice

Who would have thought Christian Voice would have cracked under the pressure of the No God bus campaigns in London? OK, most people I suppose. Still it is entertaining that they are riled by a simple poster to the extent they are demanding the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency to rule on the proof of God.

From the BBC:

An atheist campaign claiming “There’s probably no God” has been reported to the advertising regulator.
Posters with the slogan appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground.
But organisation Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority saying they break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.

Pardon me for a moment while I fall off the chair laughing.

They are saying that the claim there is probably no god is insubstantiated and / or not truthful. How on Thor’s hammer do they intend to convince the ASA of this one wonders…

But Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

More laughter rings out around WhyDontYou Towers. Evidence for God exists in “personal experience” – surely this alone is a self defeating argument because if I do not have that experience the advertisement is accurate as stated. I do not have that personal experience, therefore (should the ASA be reading this) the banner is 100% correct. Thank you Christian Voice.

I assume Christian Voice have lodged similar complaints over any advertising that mentions non-Christian religions, so any posters for Mosques, Temples (etc) will have to come down. I would never suggest people be petty enough to go through Christian advertising with a fine tooth comb – each day on the way to work I see a huge poster telling me that I will die for my sins, where is the proof of that I wonder?

In a wonderful bit of understatement (and acting a lot more adult than Christian Voice…), Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said:

“I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what their decision is…

Nativity Evidence

A London church commissioned a market research survey which found that most people don’t believe in the nativity story. 70% of those questioned didn’t believe it, including a quarter of the Christians who replied. A fifth of Christians also didn’t believe that Jesus was both God and man.

Without being wholly convinced of the validity of this research, I am cheered by the thought that most English people – atheists and Christians alike – seem to be still sanely sceptical.

St Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate, London, which commissioned the survey, has produced a film of “sound evidence” supporting the Bible’s account.

(I couldn’t find anything about the survey on the BMRB site or the church’s site but I found a bit of video about Christmas there. I thought it was a parody site.)

The “evidence” cited in the BBC report seems to be that:

“Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome just before Herod died… we’re talking about events that are anchored in real history not in ancient Greek myths.” (Simon Gathercole, Cambridge University)

I like this line of argument. If I say that green cows are somersaulting down the street, does the story gain any reflected credibility if I also mention that Barrack Obama recently became President-elect? So saying that events that supposedly took place around the year 0 AD took place at the same time as other events around the year 0 AD can’t possibly provide support for whether the doubtful ones are true.

Does the bible even mention Augustus? I don’t think so, but I have no intention of actually reading it to find out. The book of Matthew apparently mentions Herod as being the person who ordered the massacre of the innocents. Wikipedia suggests that

Most modern biographers of Herod do not regard the massacre as an actual historical event. Many scholars portray this and other nativity stories as creative hagiography rather than history.

Indeed, even a hundred years ago, the Catholic church must have found the massacre of thousands of babies story a bit hard to defend to:

The Catholic Encyclopedia in 1910 suggested that these numbers were probably inflated, and that for a town of that size probably only between six and twenty children would be killed, with a dozen or so more in the surrounding areas.

In fact, with reference to the gospel of Matthew, the word “identity theft” springs to mind.

The Early Christian tradition attributes the Gospel to Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples. Beginning in the 18th century scholars have increasingly questioned that traditional view, and today most scholars agree Matthew did not write the Gospel which bears his name. Most contemporary scholars describe the author as an anonymous Christian writing towards the end of the first century. (From the Wikipedia article on the gospel of Matthew)

If the BMRB survey is to be believed, almost 3/4 of British people accept this academic evidence and doubt the supposedly “sound evidence” offered by St Helen’s Church, Bishopgsate. How encouraging is that?

Lard Buddha vs Chocolate Jesus

Spot the difference between a relatively-godless religion and a god-heavy one.

Gurkha chefs won a silver medal in some military cooking competition with a lard Buddha. Well, not really much of a news item, but 100 hours of solid and “boring” lard-sculpting must count for something. At least some Gurkha Buddhists can obviously mix comedy, creativity and philosophy in a way that could shame the monotheists.

Compare and contrast this appealing effort with the hysteria over chocolate Jesus in 2007, which sparked a response the BBC, perhaps hyperbolically, described as an “outcry.” (A bit strange, given how much more appealing chocolate is than lard, when measured only by the criterion of edibility.)

A New York art gallery has decided to cancel an exhibit of a chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ after protests by a US Catholic group…..
We’re delighted with the outcome,” said Kiera McCaffrey, spokeswoman for the League.
Ms McCaffrey had called the exhibit “an assault on Christians”.

The chocolate fuss was as nothing compared to the Piss Christ issue. Although to be honest, it seems as if the artist was blatantly taking the piss. $15,000 of funding for a plastic crucifix and a cup of urine. (Then again, Damien Hirst can get sums exponentially larger for pieces of “art” that are physically created by his workforce and his work doesn’t even make you laugh. So, good luck to Serrano.)

That one actually made it to the Congressional record. I started counting the rant words (“outrage”, “shock”, “indignity”, and so on) but got distracted by the idea that it was obviously some game of outrage bingo. With congressmen trying to outdo each other in their plundering of an imaginary Rhetorical Rage Dictionary.

Do I even need to mention the Mohammed cartoons furore? And so on,

So congratulations, Gurkha chefs, for your charming lardtastic efforts.

Is this Britain?

In the past (“Emailing a myth“, for example) I have commented on how people send out emails which are basic rants by right wing Americans, but they change a few references and try to pass it off as meaning the same over in this green and pleasant land. It seems, however, that there is still a hard core of people who do not realise that the UK and the USA are different countries, and have different histories.

In the online edition of the Mail today (yes, I know, the only reason that you would buy the paper version is if you ran out of toilet paper), there is a comical ranting “news” item about a woman who is upset that the Nintendo version of Scrabble had some rude words in. From what I can see the words she objected to were tits, fuckers and shit. Oh, woe is me. The evil of language. Now, before I go on, I have no real issue with her for being upset. As the parent of a child under the age of majority, she really does get to decide what words her 8 year old is exposed to at home. I may think different words would be better, but I have no say in their house. It is comically likely that her 8 year old son is already fully conversant with all three words from the school playground but that is another conversation.

The only issue I have with this woman getting newspaper space to complain about this is the basic lack of parenting she shows. If she wants her son to learn new words, while still controlling what those words are, she needs to spend time with him. Real time. Talking and playing time. Not buying him a Nintendo and fucking him off to his room time. (mini rant over)

Predictably, the real comic value comes from the comments. I am sure the only reason rags like the mail have comments is so that idiots can stand up and think they are important. Equally predictably, it is the religious right that wade in. Look at this line in baffling idiocy:

No OUP, Britain is not a modern, multicultural and multi-faith country, it is an historic, British and Christian country and publishers like you do not have the right or the place to delete words from our language and replace them with one’s of your choosing!
Nigel, Somerset, 7/12/2008 12:14

Mindbogglingly, this has been rated “up” at over 30 times. Sadly for Nigel, pretty much everything he has said is wrong. It is hard for him to be more wrong. (I suspect this is the mail fucking up its comments and this was in response to a different article)

Britain is a modern, multi-cultural and multi-faith country. No matter how much he may want to cry otherwise. We have mosques. We have Hindu temples and Jewish synagogues. We pretty much cater for every current world religion to at least some degree. You can put your head in the sand and claim otherwise, but reality will prove you wrong every time.

Being “Historic” is not the polar opposite of modern. You can be a modern country with a long and proud history. In fact, Britain pretty much meets that, as do most countries with a “long and proud history.”

Saying Britain is British is comical, so I will ignore that, but saying Britain is a Christian country is interesting. Yes, we do have a state religion but you are not forced to subscribe to it. We are not a “Christian” country in any meaningful sense.

Lastly, this is the Junior Oxford English Dictionary. It is for young people. It has a limited set of words it can hold, so logic screams out that more popular words should be included. I dont agree with the word choices but I am more than capable of teaching my children the missing words. For the record these are the ones removed: (categories made by the Mail not me)

NATURE
Bluebell, budgerigar, cygnet, dandelion, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, kingfisher, magpie, marzipan, minnow, newt, piglet, primrose, starling, willow, wren.
CHRISTIANITY
Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, monk, nun, pew, saint, sin
HISTORY
Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

Now I am intrigued why cracker is “Christian” rather than a food, but I suppose PZ Myers has a lot to answer for… At the end of the day, there will always be some words excluded. Get over it. There are more nature ones missing, and I very much doubt evolutionary biology terms get much space.

The next (and last) comic comment I want to poke is:

It is disgrace. This country is based on Christian principles and through these principles this country became prosperous. Why this country started hating itself? Who these modern politicians want to please by fighting Christianity? What is the ultimate aim of multiculturalism? We’ve had enough of this “modern” liberal nonsense.
Alex S, London UK, 7/12/2008 16:37

What blatant nonsense. What christian principles? Does Alex mean the invasion, enslavement and economic warfare that characterised a significan period of our history as Great Britain. Which Christian principles had the Irish subjugated, the Scots slaughtered and Catholics in hiding? What Chrisian principles allowed us to enslave half of Africa? Crucially, this is a country that has been in existence since long before Christ, so how can we be based on his teachings? Does Alex S think we have a pledge of allegiance and watch the superbowl?

I am not sure where Alex has aimed his comment, I can only assume it is also for the dictionary one. Removing some words with Christian connotations from the dictionary is not an attack on Christianity.

Why are Christians so quick to cry oppression and suppression?

Terrorism in the 21st century

Go on home Osama Bin Laden, you are so last century in your, frankly pathetic, attempts to destroy western civilisation. For over five years now we have heard the mantra about how evil Islamic Terrorists want to destroy the decadent, freedom loving, west and how they will try to bomb us into submission.

Basically they are just impatient amateurs. If they wait long enough we do it to ourselves.

Lets look at the world of 2008:

In my job, I travel by air a lot (*) and as a result get constantly annoyed by the idiotic rules we suffer under the guise of “security.” I get monumentally annoyed by the fact that I have to check in hours before my flight, but should I want a drink during the inevitable two hour delay, I have to pay extortionate airport charges because 101mls of water is deadly (while 99mls isn’t). I get really annoyed at the obnoxious attitude most airport security staff have – although, in all fairness this is probably a reaction to suffering annoyed passengers day in, day out…

Outside work, I am a hobby photographer. I love taking pictures on my travels and feel that the cities and towns of my own country are on a par with anywhere else in the world. However in the new world of “Security” taking photos in public places of tourist landmarks results in a uniformed member of the public (**) coming up to me and asking me what I am doing. Thor forbid that a terrorist group be inexpert enough to need to overtly set up a large Digital SLR to take photographs rather than use a mobile phone or compact camera (the millions of people doing that get ignored…).

Travel around the UK and you will be recorded on CCTV along pretty much every urban street. Go into a shop and you will be recorded on CCTV. Drive along the road and you will be subjected to all manner of electronic surveillance – because, basically, you cant have any expectation of privacy in a public place (***). Despite the idea all people are innocent until proven guilty, the government have decided that Islamic Terrorists are different and the state should be able to imprison them for 42 days before it has to show enough evidence to make a charge, let alone convict. Thank the Lords this has been rejected (for now).

In the UK, religion has always been a minor part of public life and thank Odin, this is still pretty much the case. However, since the Evil Islamic Terrorists appeared, there has been a (so far minor) upsurge in people equating “Christian” with “British.” As such, an attack by Islam on Christianity is being sold as an attack on our fundamental “Britishness” to the point at which the tabloids and tacky local TV have people talking in all seriousness about how the United Kingdom is a “Christian nation” and “Britain was founded by Christians for Christians” – obviously these historically challenged dullards are watching too much American propaganda but that is another issue.

This is the non-religious, freedom loving, civilisation that is so threatened by Islamic terrorists. Hmm. Osama would love it here. Ironically, even our recent fear-inspired legislation wasn’t quite enough to smash western civilisation.

Trumping an army of Osama Bin Ladens, when it comes to smashing down western civilisation the real master is simple free market economics.

It is a sad state of affairs that we can pass laws regulating every aspect of your private life, but even in the face of an economic melt down the thought of regulating “The City” is beyond the pale. City traders can, effectively, lose millions of other peoples money with not even a hint of censure – still getting huge bonuses on the eve of begging the taxpayer for a fortune to cover their losses. The crazy irony of this sees us giving them money so they can give it back to us and tell us it is our own savings… Despite their monumental failings, and complete lack of anything resembling expertise, the banking sector still claims it “knows what it is doing” and should be allowed to function unregulated. Can you imagine catching a con-artist stealing your money, then giving them more money because they know how best to get your money back!!! Insane is an understatement.

The collapse of Iceland’s banks, and their governments apparent refusal to honour international agreements, has caused huge damage to the UK economy – on greater scale than any caused by terrorist attacks (if you ignore the cost of ensuing wars). If I deprived my next door neighbour of £100 I would expect to be arrested and probably jailed, however it seems if you add a few extra zeros everyone forgets about it. Iceland basically have held a gun to the governments head and taken our money. Wars have been fought over much, much less.

In an amazingly scary example of economic understanding, the Conservative shadow Chancellor said that the government should reimburse the councils that lost money to Iceland otherwise council tax would have to be increased to cover the loss. This seems sensible until you realise the effect would be to increase the tax burden on everyone to cover the mistakes made by a few. How would that be fair? Is this what we are to expect from a Conservative government?

I agree with the Government that the national banks and banking infrastructure is critical to the well being of the United Kingdom. I also accept the assertion that it is so important, spending £50,000,000,000 to shore up a system broken by greedy, selfish scumbags is in the public interest. I accept that this will mean other aspects of the national infrastructure will suffer and I accept that this is a necessary evil.

What I cant understand is:

  1. How can something so vital to the nation be outside complete government control? More importantly, how can something so vital be so heavily influenced by foreign nations which, when push comes to shove, have national self interest at stake? This really confuses me.
  2. Why is no one being punished for this? The bank failings are either malicious (in which case why don’t we invade a random country like we’ve done in the past) or negligent. Or both. The claim this is just the “market” is nonsense – the city traders claim to be financial wizards but abjectly failed to see this happening – either they are crap or they were played. Either way someone should be held accountable.
  3. Why the **** haven’t we enforced rock solid legislation to control such a critical asset? We’ve spent over £1000 per living person in the UK on them, why aren’t we having any say in them?
  4. How on Earth are the bankers getting away with claiming they “know best” on how to handle the current situation? (See 2) Blatantly they don’t or if they do, they are working against the national interest.
  5. Why are UK public bodies (Police and councils) allowed to invest money in foreign institutions? The quest for an extra percent of interest has meant public money is being sent to a foreign nation. Let me reword that – money paid by UK taxpayers has been given to a foreign country. Rather than invest in the UK economy dozens of UK public bodies chose to throw it down an Icelandic toilet and when they inevitable happened they cry to the government for more money….

I am going to have to stop here. The madness makes me want to scream. If anyone can explain this to me I would be very grateful.

* Apologies to environmentalists, but unless you are willing to pay me not to fly, my choices are limited.

** Sometimes referred to a “Police Community Support Officers” but that implies they are trained members of the law enforcement community, when in reality 75% of them are nothing more than jumped up busy bodies who get to wear a hat.

*** Well, this is true by definition. However there is a “spirit” of the law thing to consider. While you cant realisitically expect to be private walking down the street you can expect the state to not surveil your every movements. While it can be argued that the almost blanket CCTV coverage is not directed against you, the fact remains it is possible for someone to retrospectively search the databases and track your every movement. The fact the surveillance is directed against 65 million people doesn’t stop it being directed.

Pascals Wager – In Cartoon Terms

(another funny cartoon from FSTDT – this time the hat tip is to Tom S Fox)

Sadly, this was posted because some one commenting on the Daily Telegraph thought that an appeal to Pascals Wager was a logical argument.

Let’s see, if I choose not to be a Christian and there is no God, I die and nothing happens. If there is a God, I die and go to Hell.
If I choose to be a Christian and there is no God, I die and nothing happens. If there is a God, I die and have eternal life.
Which is the rational choice?

I mean, what century are we in? Are there really people who think this is a legitimate “rational” argument, much less a legitimate reason to have faith? Surely if the great Abrahamic Sky Pixie is so insanely jealous all must bow before him, he is going to get pretty annoyed at this line of reasoning….

Still, who ever said Christians were logical?

If it doesnt work, keep trying

(From the department of tastelessly picking on the distraught and clueless)

The ever comical Sunday Times has picked up on Kate McCann showing that, despite all the evidence of human history and the immediate evidence of the last year of her life, she still has faith…

In an article titled “‘Pray like mad,’ begs tearful Kate McCann” she apparently broke down in tears at a church and urged the congregation to pray for her daughter’s return. Now, I haven’t lived on another planet this last year, so I am aware that barely has a week gone by without something from the McCann PR Machine alternately proclaiming their innocence while begging everyone pray for the return of Maddie. It is a regular occurrence.

Despite all this, despite the prayers of almost every Christian (and lots of other faiths), despite the intercession of the Pope himself, Maddie McCann is not back.

What does this tell us? For the rational it is obvious. Prayer does not work. I am sure most sane people did not need the McCann tragedy to realise that, the evidence of cripples is a good start. The same is not true of the “faithful.” These seems to be a batch of people who will deliberately fight against the evidence of their senses. For them, a years worth of praying hasn’t worked just means “pray more” and “pray harder.” Is God deaf? Has old age made him hard of hearing? Does he have a Prayer-ometer and he only acts when it gets to a certain level?

On a more general note, maybe the McCanns just have it wrong. Millions of children die or go missing the world over. Why should God listen to their selfish whining for more prayers over the prayers of (insert random other child here)?

Still, it isn’t just their belief in magic that seems weird to the sane. Look at this:

In an interview before the anniversary the couple revealed they had been given
new hope in the search by the “massive” response to their appeal for fresh
information last week.

Their team of private investigators are combing hundreds of recorded calls and
e-mails for further leads.

Gerry said: “The lines have been overwhelmed; we’ve had to call additional
operators in.

What? Despite this massive response and huge amount of expenditure (they are approaching the financial turn over of a reasonable company now), they are no closer to catching the killer than they were a year ago. They spend more money on private eyes (and mediums but that is another story) than a normal police force. Yet they are still no closer.

Kate recently viewed footage from last year and said she could not recognise
herself.

Yeah, interesting. I wonder if coaching has anything to do with it.

The ultimate irony of this latest round of the McCann media train returns once more to poor old Robert Murat. Before you read on, remember the McCanns have a huge legal defence fund and are willing to sue at the slightest hint that they may have been involved…

Brian Kennedy, the home improvements tycoon backing the McCanns, admitted
yesterday that he flew to Portugal last November and spent an evening with
Robert Murat, apart from the McCanns the only other official suspect. A
source close to Kennedy said he was “gathering information”.

Kennedy’s lawyer, Ed Smethurst, approached Murat through a mutual friend and
said that Kennedy wanted to offer him a job.

But the job offer never transpired. Kennedy spent the evening with Murat and
his lawyers at his aunt’s house in Praia da Luz, discussing Madeleine’s
disappearance.

He left with a “flea in his ear” after being confronted over reports that
Metodo 3, the McCanns’ private investigators, had suspicions about Murat.

By Thor’s ear! The Portuguese police suspicions of the McCanns aren’t enough to avoid a court case, but a PI having “suspicions” is enough to get a rich financier to stage a fake interview so he can put a “flea in the ear” of someone who has less evidence against him than the McCanns.

Wrong. This is just plain wrong. Who said money can’t buy you justice.

Hitler was no Atheist

(Hat tip Pharyngula)

For all those sensible people infuriated by the claims that Hitler was an atheist…

Hitler Loves Christians

The text reads:

“The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life” (‘My New Order‘, Adolf Hitler, Proclamation of the German Nation at Berlin, February 1, 1933)

The Nazis burned books trying to teach evolution.

Does all this sound familiar?

Emailing a Myth

Quite regularly, well-meaning friends of mine will “pass on” an email that claims to be trying to get people “British again” or some similar bit of nonsense. Normally these are along the lines of a heroic soldier, suffering for God and country and I am sure most people have had exposure to them in some shape or form. This is doubly ironic because, 9.9999 times out of 10, these emails are actually written by and for Americans (clue is often in the spelling or claims the country was founded on Christian principles) and they are invariably tipped towards a religious argument. These supposed friends of mine are more than slightly aware of my position on both the Americanisation of the UK and religious beliefs. Still they send the emails…

Anyway, today I got one which bucked the trend slightly. It weirdly manages to hide the merest kernels of truth in a whole package of myths, but then I suppose that is the goal. I assume that who ever went to the trouble to make up these bits of nonsense are trying to stir jingoistic pride in something which never existed.

The most recent of these is weird because it isn’t about the UK or the US as such. This time Australia is the source of cultural wisdom. Titled “Britain Needs A Leader Like This!,” the email goes on to explain why “Prime Minister John Howard – Australia” is a great national leader. As you can imagine, it is crying out for a point by point dissection…

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia , as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation’s mosques. Quote: ‘IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture.. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.’

Ok, while not a real quote it hints at a line taken by John Howard. Oddly this pretty much dates the message to February 2006, so we get the first hint that this is just nonsense that has been running round the internet like a ghost in the machine.

‘This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom

Wowser. This is good. Again, I can find no evidence it was actually stated by John Howard, so I now suspect this is the opening line from the emails actual author.

It is nice how this glosses over how the Australians “sought” freedom – I am sure the aboriginal tribes will have a different concept of “victories” and certainly a different idea of what freedom means.

‘We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!’

Again, this seems to be more an American worry than an Australian one. I never realised Spanish and Lebanese were significant languages down under. Even if it is genuine Australian it has two big flaws that are often overlooked by bigots.

First off, “mainly” is an important qualifier. Yes, English may be the language spoken more than any one other language but how does that reflect on the sum totals of other languages? Why, in such a vitriolic hate filled speech would you put a weasel word like “mainly” in? Secondly, but more importantly, what to the actual natives of the island of Australia think about this? What about their language and culture? Oh yeah, they don’t count because this Australia is one nation under God…

‘Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.’

Even more crap with a side order of bad history. Australia was not founded on Christian principles. The founding of Australia is clearly documented. The real history of Australia admits no “founders” to speak of and is a fascinating bit of reading. It really is. Spoiling it with this revisionist nonsense is a shame and a lie. And we all know that not only is lying for Jesus a sin, but lies make baby Jesus cry. So Hermes only knows why the obvious Christian who wrote this nonsense felt the need to lie so much.

‘We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.’

Hmm. “We will accept your beliefs” as long as they are the same as ours is what the email is basically saying.

‘This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom,
“THE RIGHT TO LEAVE”.’

Well, this is looking very un-Australian. “Our Flag” and “Our Pledge” scream out American to me, but I might be wrong. Now, if only we could get the aboriginal natives to apply this with precedence as being the real inhabitants of the country. If we assume for one second that this really is a true Australian view point, it becomes interesting how nations which came to be by systematically exterminating the local inhabitants are the most vocal when it comes to claiming rightful ownership of their land. Is it because they are scared others will do unto them as they did to others?

‘If you aren’t happy here then LEAVE. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.’

More irony about prison colonies…

Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, British citizens will find the backbone to start speaking and voicing the same truths.

Here we go. Does a collection of badly written lies and myths give people backbone? When the original author speaks of “British Citizens” does s/he just mean the white ones? What about the vast diversity of cultures who have CITIZENSHIP in the UK? Don’t they count any more?

If you agree please SEND THIS ON

I don’t so I didn’t send it on. If who ever emailed this to me is reading this – “you are an idiot – learn to spot nonsense.” If you are reading this and you have forwarded this message (or any of the similar bits of crap) on, then you are also an idiot – please stop.

P.S I think this also goes for us when going to other countries as well!

I wonder if this PS was part of the original.