Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Gay & Lesbian Humanist Magazine


Many thanks to the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Magazine for their review of this blog.

Ban "Platitude of the Day" . . .


Platitude of the Day should be banned! It is having a most insidious effect. I now look forward to hearing Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" the better to enjoy the ensuing "Platitude".

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Archbish thinks we aren't getting enough!


The Archbishop of Canterbury has complained to the Director General of the BBC about the decline of religious programming at the Corporation. I think he means Church of England programmes and he may have a point. Telegraph article.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Geert Wilders' exclusion, part 2


I have now had a reply, forwarded by my MP from Jonathan Sedgwick, Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency. I extract the pertinent section on which the whole flimsy case for exclusion appears to rely:-

" . . The Home Secretary needs to form a view of the evidence relating to that individual, so as to act consistently, proportionately and reasonably in applying the appropriate powers. In her consideration of Mr Wilders' case, the Home Secretary took particular note of the decision of the Amsterdam Appeals Court that Mr Wilders should face trial for incitement to hatred and discrimination, charges that are similar to inciting racial and religious hatred under English law."

It goes on to say that the Home Sec. also has "regard to any representations made by groups and individuals" (that will include Lord Ahmed presumably), and that the principle of free movement for EEA citizens should not apply to "criminals or for extremists intent on inciting hatred or discrimination, regardless of their religion or background".

So the Home  Secretary acted as judge and jury before Mr Wilders' case had even been heard and, partly relying on the representations of Lord Ahmed, came to the verdict that  Mr Wilders was intent on inciting hatred and discrimination. Whereas, as those of us who have seen his film 'Fitna" will know,  he was, in fact,  intent on highlighting the passages of hatred & discrimination contained in the Koran.

A nice footnote to this is that the Dutch High Court has recently cleared a Dutchman facing very similar charges to GW and Lord Ahmed is currently in jail for dangerous driving.

I like this one . . .


"Every pulpit is a pillory, in which stands a hired culprit, defending the justice of his own imprisonment."
Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899).

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Why pick on Jesus?


Romulus 771 BC: Born to a virgin, ruled an empire, turned water into wine, physically ascended into heaven.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Taxpayers stump up millions to reinforce religious fantasies


. . .– that theology is a con-trick, a means by which grown men can spend their whole lives trying to convince themselves that fairy tales are true. One wise owl once opined that if science disappeared from the world, we would be returned instantly to the Stone Age. But if theology disappeared from the world, nobody would notice.
Now we learn that the taxpayer is stumping up millions of pounds to fund “theological colleges” around the country. It was announced last week that St Mary’s University College in west London has been awarded £1.2 million over the next four years from the Higher Education Funding Council for its “research”. Michael Hayes, vice principal of St Mary’s, was, of course, delighted. He said it represented a 269 per cent increase on its previous funding from the HEFCE. “The biggest growth in research has been in theology,” he said, adding that a significant proportion of the new funding would go towards enhancing that research. Research into theology? Research into nothing.
Extract from Terry Sanderson's editorial in the NSS Newsletter.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

More on the New Scientist Article.

A further New Humanist article suggests that the Amanda Gefter article was pulled due to legal action by James Le Fanu, a British GP and writer who has criticised the theory of evolution and whose book on the subject received uncomplimentary reviews by Amanda Gefter.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunday, 15 March 2009

How to spot a Hidden Religious Agenda

This is a New Scientist article written by Amanda Gefter which was later pulled from their website due to some unspecified complaint. To make sure it doesn't get lost forever I'm copying it here:-

As a book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives. I have learned to recognise clues that the author is pushing a religious agenda. As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to… well, evolve. That means ensuring that references to pseudoscientific concepts like ID are more heavily veiled. So I thought I’d share a few tips for spotting what may be religion in science’s clothing.
Red flag number one: the term “scientific materialism”. “Materialism” is most often used in contrast to something else - something non-material, or supernatural. Proponents of ID frequently lament the scientific claim that humans are the product of purely material forces. At the same time, they never define how non-material forces might work. I have yet to find a definition that characterises non-materialism by what it is, rather than by what it is not.
The invocation of Cartesian dualism - where the brain and mind are viewed as two distinct entities, one material and the other immaterial - is also a red flag. And if an author describes the mind, or any biological system for that matter, as “irreducibly complex”, let the alarm bells ring.
Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.
When you come across the terms “Darwinism” or “Darwinists”, take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for “evolution” and “biologists”, respectively. When evolution is described as a “blind, random, undirected process”, be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. When cells are described as “astonishingly complex molecular machines”, it is generally by breathless supporters of ID who take the metaphor literally and assume that such a “machine” requires an “engineer”. If an author wishes for “academic freedom”, it is usually ID code for “the acceptance of creationism”.
Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religious motives make shameless appeals to common sense, from the staid - “There is nothing we can be more certain of than the reality of our sense of self” (James Le Fanu in Why Us?) - to the silly - “Yer granny was an ape!” (creationist blogger Denyse O’Leary). If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn’t need science in the first place.
Religiously motivated authors also have a bad habit of linking the cultural implications of a theory to the truth-value of that theory. The ID crowd, for instance, loves to draw a line from Darwin to the Holocaust, as they did in the “documentary” film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Even if such an absurd link were justified, it would have zero relevance to the question of whether or not the theory of evolution is correct. Similarly, when Le Fanu writes that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species “articulated the desire of many scientists for an exclusively materialist explanation of natural history that would liberate it from the sticky fingers of the theological inference that the beauty and wonder of the natural world was direct evidence for ‘A Designer’”, his statement has no bearing on the scientific merits of evolution.
It is crucial to the public’s intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.

When a Troll comes Calling

The is the title of the most recent article in "The Freethinker". As always a witty, scathing, sometimes scurrilous read.
The magazine was first produced in 1881, for which the publisher G.W.Foote was sentenced to 12 months hard-labour. It is being published to this day by Brighton's Barry Duke.

Friday, 13 March 2009

NSS raises alarm over new Islamist threat to free speech

The National Secular Society has warned government officials that a new resolution proposed by Pakistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will define any questioning of Islamic dogmas as a “human rights violation”. It will intimidate dissenting voices and encourage the enforced imposition of sharia law. Read more: http://tinyurl.com/bh66wa

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Deborah 13 - Servant of God

http://tinyurl.com/ajx63c

Leaving aside religion, Deborah and her siblings seem happy & healthy members of a very stable family. The older brother has obviously made an easy transition to University life. On the other hand one worries about Deborah and her continual need to evangelise at every opportunity. Although she is very articulate and appears calm and balanced under fairly gentle questioning by her brother's friends, at the end of the programme she is shown in tears babbling about Jesus on the cross. Scary!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Email to the BBC Religions & Ethics Department

I decided to open up an attack on another front. Here is my email:-

Dear Madam/Sir

I have two questions for the Religion & Ethics Department:-

1) On the Religion & Ethics webpage you feature a drop-down "Religion finder" entitled "All featured religions/beliefs". Please could you explain why humanism is indicated as branch of atheism. I assure you it is not. There is nothing mutually exclusive between humanism and religious beliefs.

2) Why do you include atheism/humanism as one of your featured "religions/beliefs" yet never allow them representation in the Thought for the Day slot?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Geert Wilders exclusion.

My MP has replied to my letter of protest. He says that he has forwarded it to the Home Secretary for comment.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Politicians and religion

To quote a memorable phrase politicians in the UK "don't do God". What they really mean is that they want to hedge their bets. They don't want to upset any religious group sufficiently for them to withhold their votes.

We always suspected Tony Blair was religious but he didn't come clean about it until he left office. How hypocritical is that!

We aren't sure about the strength of Gordon Brown's religious beliefs but why on earth shouldn't we know? Why shouldn't politicians be precise about their religious position when they ask us to vote for them? Are politicians in effect  saying that we don't need to know because their beliefs don't make any difference to the way they act in office? Some beliefs in that case! And if their beliefs do make a difference to the way they act, aren't we, the voters, entitled to have chapter & verse?

Refreshingly Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has come out as an atheist and the Lib Dems are promoting a Freedom Bill. It makes one almost want to vote for them, but anyway, one can a least sign their Freedom Bill petition:-
http://tinyurl.com/dhbj9n

Will critizing Islam become a crime?

Christopher Hitchen:- http://www.slate.com/id/2212662/

Thursday, 5 March 2009

University Students

The monthly meeting of the Brighton & Hove Humanist Society last night enjoyed a talk by a Politics & Philosophy student of Sussex University. The title was "The Future of Belief". Like many of us he believed that the Church of England was in irreversible decline but that the intolerant, primitive aspects of Islam was a threat that couldn't be ignored. One of the more encouraging points he made was that on university campus the proportion of students who took any interest in religion was probably under 1%.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Stop Clause 152

If you care about fundamental rights and freedoms, privacy and confidentiality, the time to act is NOW.

Write to your MP - http://www.WriteToThem.com makes it very easy - and tell him or her that you REFUSE CONSENT to having your information shared under any 'INFORMATION SHARING ORDER', and ask him or her to vote to have CLAUSE 152 removed entirely from the CORONERS AND JUSTICE BILL.

Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill - currently being debated by the UK Parliament - would allow any Minister by order to take any information gathered for one purpose from anywhere, and use it for any other purpose.

Your information, your family's information, arbitrarily used without your consent or even knowledge. The very reverse of 'Data Protection'.

An 'Information Sharing Order', as defined in Clause 152, would permit your information to be trafficked and abused, not only all across government and the public sector - it would also reach into the private sector. And it would even allow transfer of information across international borders.

Please write to your MP now - AND TELL OTHERS.

If we act now, we can stop this. If we don't, another fundamental building block of privacy and trust will be lost.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Progress on my TftD Complaint

The answer is there has been no progress. The BBC Trust passed my complaint to the Director of Audio & Music for the 2nd stage of the complaints procedure. The Director simply  passed it to Mark Damazer who has now sent me exactly the same reply that he sent before. I.e. we are going round in circles! But maybe not quite. It implies that MD is the only person in the organisation competent to answer this particular complaint. I am surely entitled to assume that this completes the 2nd stage and go on to the 3rd stage by appealing to the BBC Trust. 

Watch this space.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Blasphemy

The following is copied from a posting on the facebook group supporting a  "Blasphemy Day International" on September 30th, 2009. I think it says everything that's needed.:-

Religions are ideologies like any others, and deserve no special treatment. The rise of militant Christians here and Muslims in the Middle East  is alarming. They continually attempt to impose their beliefs - which don't have a shred of evidence - on others. Rational people have the right and duty to try to stop this insanity spreading.

The idea that the other side can threaten our liberties and wreck our world, yet we shouldn't criticise them because it would offend, is outrageous. Religions are ideologies like any others, and deserve no special treatment.