Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Honest to Richard, I've been busy!

As a rule I try hard not to do guilt, but I've been feeling the odd twinge lately about not contributing anything beyond a wistful thought or two to my blog, and when Chaucer's Bitch left a comment here the other day wondering what had happened to me, I thought perhaps I'd better find the time to share a few thoughts.

As luck would have it, there do happen to be a few things going on at the moment which are making me foam at the mouth.

Take the piece this morning on the Today programme about the grand opening of evangelical bampot Ken Ham's creationist 'museum' in Kentucky, complete with models of humans happily co-existing with dinosaurs and mock-ups of the grand canyon, which Ham claims appeared just 2,000 years ago in the wake of the great Biblical flood. Hmmm...

Of course it would just be funny were it not for the fact that — according to this morning's report — around 50 per cent of Americans actually believe that the account of the creation in Genesis is fact, and that Mr Ham has cunningly situated his monument to credulity within 'a day's drive of two thirds of the population of America'. And people wonder why Richard Dawkins and his pals get so upset.

Talking of whom, I went to the Hay Festival at the weekend to touch the hem of his robe, so to speak. My mum and my auntie Betty — living proof that there is a gene for atheism — came along too, and having limbered up with a very enjoyable talk from AC Grayling, we endured several hours of appalling weather — sideways rain and everything — as we killed time waiting for Dawkins and the main event to begin. As the rain beat down on the roof, threatening not only to drown out Mr Dawkin's replies to the gentle grilling he got from Rosie Boycott, but to bring the marquee down around our ears, it was hard not to muse on the fact that if there was a god, he might well have conjured up the weather specially.

And after all that stimulating, intellectual dialogue, what do you think my mum and my auntie had to say about their first real-life encounter with Darwin's rottweiler? "Oooh, isn't he dreamy!" I suppose I've only got myself to blame, encouraging them in the first place, and I rather think that they found the experience of being inside a large tent with almost a thousand gently steaming fellow non-believers a little over-exciting.

Later, having dinner in the excellent Old Black Lion Inn, and over-excited again because we'd had a couple of glasses of wine and Ian Rankin was at the next table, we had great fun musing on the fact that, godless though we are, we still insist on using phrases like 'honest to god', 'for god's sake', 'god almighty' as exclamations, and resolved instead to invoke the lovely Mr Dawkins. While 'honest to Dick' and 'for Dick's sake' had us howling with laughter, it didn't quite convey the dignified sincerity of our feelings (ha!), so once we had calmed down we decided it would be more respectful to use his full name.

Enough silly nonsense, and on to the much more serious issue of Cardinal Keith O'Brien's latest foray into politics. Furious at what he sees as the 'marginalisation of christian values in public life' he has now resorted to blackmail, declaring that pro-choice politicians should 'consider their stance on receiving communion'. No matter that MPs are elected to represent a constituency and that the people in that constituency might be overwhelmingly pro-choice, the hysterical cardinal is urging his fellow catholics to 'reject candidates who defend a social evil', equating abortions with the killing of children in the Dunblane massacre. The man really has no shame. And the Bishop of Paisley, invited onto Today to add his tuppence-worth, had the nerve to say that actually what the cardinal had said was a little more 'nuanced' than was being reported. Oh, really?

Finally, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry about the news that there is to be a theme park based on JK Rowling's creation, Harry Potter, but on balance I've decided to laugh. Not that I'm a big fan of the books (I don’t think I can be the only bedtime-reading parent who objects to the series simply on the grounds that the chapters are too bloody long), but I know that the news will get right up the noses of Ken Ham and Cardinal O'Brien.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

For all of you out there who think that we should leave other cultures to get on with it, that what people do in the name of their religion is their business, take a look at this. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that anyone can see this and stay silent without feeling thoroughly ashamed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


It is not racist to condemn religious violence

Excellent piece by Johann Hari in yesterday's Independent, saying what really needs to be said. Too many of us are crippled by our liberalism, and by the fear that speaking out against cultural violence and abuse will lead to accusations of racism. It is not racist to object to abuse, even if it is abuse that is sanctioned by religion or cultural tradition. As Maryam Namazie says, we should respect human beings, not beliefs and traditions.


Here we go again

Well, it's started. Just when I thought secondary school was going to be all about dealing with bullying and standing over Max with a big stick to get him to do his homework, home he comes with news of evangelists at morning assembly brandishing free bibles.

The usual suspects were behind it, of course — Gideon's International. "They come in every year," someone at the school tells me. "they don't do a hard sell, but leave them to decide whether to take a bible after assembly."

Oh well, that's alright then. Except… no it bloody isn't!

It's one thing to teach kids about other people's religions as a way of promoting tolerance and acceptance, but proselytising is another matter altogether.

Can you imagine the uproar if a mullah or a scientologist turned up at school looking to recruit members for their religions? Do you think the powers-that-be would cheerfully herd the whole school into assembly to hear the pitch, then smile on beatifically as copies of the Koran or Dianetics were handed out?

Doesn't seem very likely, does it?

So what's the bloody difference? Why are the christians still allowed to do it? They're always bleating on about respect. What's respectful about going into a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith school and telling them that your's is the only true path? That's not respect, that's arrogance.

There is a funny side to it all this, though. Max and his mates skimmed straight through the little volume until they found a passage which, depending on how you wanted to interpret it (and remember they're all 12 year-old boys) seemed to suggest that jesus was a paedophile. Another of his mates (the son of an enthusiastic atheist mate of mine) tore the pages out one-by-one and ate them!

We must be doing something right!

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