Wednesday 27 January 2010

Four Lions

Chris Morris was responsible for "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye". His latest film is about four bungling British suicide bombers. I can't wait.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

A Wonderful Blast from Richard Dawkins

From today's Washington Post:-

Haiti and the hypocrisy of Christian theology

We know what caused the catastrophe in Haiti. It was the bumping and grinding of the Caribbean Plate rubbing up against the North American Plate: a force of nature, sin-free and indifferent to sin, un-premeditated, unmotivated, supremely unconcerned with human affairs or human misery.

The religious mind, however, restlessly seeks human meaning in the blind happenings of nature. As with the Indonesian tsunami, which was blamed on loose sexual morals in tourist bars; as with Hurricane Katrina, which was attributed to divine revenge on the entire city of New Orleans for harboring a lesbian comedian, and as with other disasters going back to the famous Lisbon earthquake and beyond, so Haiti's tragedy must be payback for human sin. The Rev. Pat Robertson sees the hand of God in the earthquake, wreaking terrible retribution for a pact that the long-dead ancestors of today's Haitians made with the devil, to help rid them of their French masters.

Needless to say, milder-mannered faith-heads are falling over themselves to disown Pat Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists, missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.

What hypocrisy.

Loathsome as Robertson's views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonized theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable 'mystery', or who 'see God' in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti , or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God 'suffering on the cross' in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.

Where was God in Noah's flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for 'sin'. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock stock and barrel, as punishment for 'sin'. Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian, your entire religion is founded on an obsession with 'sin', with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the obnoxious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus' incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the 'sins' of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the 'sin' of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed? To quote the President of one theological seminary, writing in these very pages:

"The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe."

You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson's suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the devil. But you worship a god-man who - as you tell your congregations even if you don't believe it yourself - 'cast out devils'. You even believe (or you don't disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the 'devils' in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class. Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?

Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for 'sin' - or suffering as 'atonement' for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.

( Note from quedula. I was going to summarise RD's polemic, but it is so perfect I couldn't bear to leave anything out!)

Friday 22 January 2010

Make sure Blair faces tough questions at the Iraq Inquiry

Last June Blair tried to persuade Brown to hold the Iraq Inquiry in secret. When Brown proposed a secret inquiry, 38 Degrees members were part of the outcry that forced Brown to change his mind. It's thanks to people like us that Blair is being forced to answer questions in public at all - now together we can push the inquiry team to toughen up their questioning.
  • When did you first promise George Bush you'd back an invasion?
  • When did you really realise Saddam Hussein probably didn't have WMD?
  • Did you cover up advice that the war might be illegal?
  • Why did you decide to ignore the anti-war protests by the British people?

Thursday 21 January 2010

A Dark Day for the Enlightenment by Bruce Bawer

The Geert Wilders trial is an affront to Western Liberty. 

To read the official summons addressed to him—a sitting member of the Dutch Parliament and the head of a major Dutch political party—is all but surreal. It is to feel as if one has been hurled back into a distant, pre-Enlightenment era; it is to feel that in one fell swoop, the illusion of freedom in Europe has been extinguished. (An English translation is available here.)

The charges are itemized. First, Wilders is charged with having “intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion.” Second, with having “incited to hatred of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion.” Third, with having “incited to discrimination . . . against people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion.” Fourth, with having “incited to hatred of people, i.e. non-Western immigrants and/or Moroccans, based on their race.” And fifth, with having “incited to discrimination . . . against people, i.e. non-Western immigrants and/or Moroccans, based on their race.”

Supporting these charges is a long list of statements from Wilders, many purely factual, others opinions that follow logically from those facts. Among them: “The demographic composition of the population is the biggest problem of the Netherlands” and “those Moroccan boys are really violent. They beat up people because of their sexual orientation.” Absurdly, among the statements cited in support of the charges against Wilders are his direct quotations from the Koran in Fitna, such as “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers in fight, smite at their necks; at length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them” and “Fight them until there is no dissension, and the religion is entirely Allah’s.” The summons also mentions footage shown in Fitna of imams preaching against unbelievers: “What makes Allah happy? Allah is happy if non-Muslims are being killed” and “Destroy the unbelievers and polytheists, your (Allah’s) enemies and the enemies of the religion. Allah, count them and kill them up to the very last of them. And do not spare a single one.”

In short, Wilders is charged with stating facts about Islam and its adherents; drawing logical conclusions from, and forming opinions based reasonably on, those facts; correctly quoting the Koran; and making a film that shows actual imams doing actual preaching and that shows other Muslims expressing violently hateful opinions about Western liberties, gays, Jews, and so forth. And for having done these things, Wilders is deemed by the public prosecutor to have offended Muslims and incited hatred and discrimination against Muslims and other non-Western immigrants, and thereby to have committed serious crimes punishable under the laws of the Netherlands.

In fact, all that Wilders has done is expose vital truths about a dangerous ideology. The bottom line is clear: in the Netherlands today, it’s not an offense to incite violence in the name of Islam against gays, Jews, and infidel women, but it is an offense to draw public attention to these incitements of violence. We are supposed to pretend not to know what the most devout members of a certain religion believe, what they say among themselves, and what they want to attain. What we are witnessing here is an upside-down world—an Orwellian nightmare come to life.

Wilder’s trial—the event today is a pretrial hearing—has been in the offing a long time. It was first announced a year ago. And yet one still finds oneself staring in disbelief at this list of charges, this document that embodies the Netherlands’ surrender of its freedoms in the name of an illusory domestic social harmony. In recent years, in the Netherlands’ major cities, young Muslim gangsters have acted with increasing frequency and aggression, incited by Islamist leaders to brutality against gays, Jews, and infidel women. And in response to this atrocious situation, increasing numbers of Dutch families have begun emigrating to places like Canada and Australia (American immigration laws make it more difficult for them to move to the U.S.); gays have begun fleeing cities like Amsterdam for smaller towns; Jews are checking out and moving to Israel. The land of Erasmus is headed into a future that looks more and more like something out of a dystopian novel. Yet instead of focusing on these alarming developments, the Dutch justice system has chosen to go after Wilders, whose only offense is shining a light on them.

Extract from:-
A Dark Day for the Enlightenment by Bruce Bawer, City Journal 20 January 2010
Bruce Bawer is the author of Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom. He blogs at

Sunday 17 January 2010

The Haitian Earthquake blame game . . .

A blogger called DrastiContrast is supportive of Pat Robertson's idea that the  Haitians themselves are to blame for the earthquake. The argument is that, although Haitians are 83% Christian, they have in fact called down God's wrath with their residual voodoo practices. (I suppose eating Christ's body, drinking his blood and kissing crucifixes is OK but not sticking pins in dolls).

DC first responded to a post by a moderate (by US standards) christian lady Patrice on 'Rural Revolution' and then continued to rant on his own blog 'Exodus'. Quedula has been in pursuit with short pointed comments and thinks she might have nailed him with her latest, reproduced below. (But better not hold your breath)


Thank you for interrupting  your busy schedule to respond to my posts. 

I assure you a basic ontological discussion is not required as your starting point is made clear in your opening sentence. In common with the middle eastern bronze age scribes, you assume the existence of some supernatural entity and on that assumption erect an edifice of dogma. The difference between you and the ancient writers is that they at least had the excuse of ignorance about the workings of the natural world, indeed were in outright terror of plagues, earthquakes, storms, famines.

You are entitled to your own opinions but not to present them as authoritative. A very large section of the christian community prefer to interpret their religion in an entirely different way including I believe Patrice and the Church of England. Your extraordinary need to find a way to blame the Haitians for the natural disaster that has befallen them tells me more about your own personality than  the validity of your beliefs.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Sunday 10 January 2010

Letter to Parliamentary Candidates

I have sent this letter to the 4 main Parliamentary Candidates for my constituency:

I was disturbed to read the recent statement by the Prime Minister; “I don’t subscribe to the view that religion should somehow be tolerated but not encouraged in public life, that you can somehow ask people to leave their faith at the door when they enter a town hall or a Commons chamber.”

This is exactly the view I DO subscribe to.

I am also against the recent appointment by John Denham of 13 so-called "faith advisors". What are they qualified to advise on except their religious dogmas?

Government policy should be based on rationality, reason and scientific advice. The bishops should be removed from the Lords and religion restricted to the private sphere.

I should be interested to hear your views.

Friday 8 January 2010

Iris Robinson's affair

Iris Robinson MP, and wife of Northern Ireland's First Minister, is a Pentecostal Christian. A taste of the state of her god-addled mind is given by her statement on television that both  murderers and homosexuals can "find redemption in the blood of christ" (whatever that may mean). Is it any wonder therefore that she attributes her romantic fling with a 19 year-old youth to a "mental illness", not, as many would be more inclined to describe it, as the sign of a still healthy libido in a healthy body.  True, the situation poses simple questions of morality relating to the age difference (she is 60), and the possible effects on her husband and marriage. Apparently her religion was unable to provide, as is so often the case, (vide abusive priests), sufficiently compelling guidance in these matters. It merely served to intensify her feelings of guilt after the event.
I am not a psychologist but is it possible that in cases like this religious belief is more likely to be the cause of mental illness & depression rather than a refuge from it?

Thursday 7 January 2010

We have a right to know why we went to war.

I recommend this article by Michael Mansfield QC in the Law section of today's Times.

He sets out our hopes for the outcome:
"This inquiry should have as its core question — how it was that a sophisticated, multifaceted parliamentary democracy failed to detect, let alone prevent, such a misconceived and costly military adventure? On this, there has been a singular lack of scrutiny and accountability. Particular sections of the public, servicemen and women and thousands of dead, injured and displaced Iraqi citizens have a right to know, with a full public explanation and protocols for change."

goes on to detail its many procedural failings, for example:
"What would have led to a better understanding of the whole of this process was an opening statement, in public, by the inquiry about where it was going and what information it already had. This task is normally performed by a team of lawyers who are thereafter enabled to ask focused and pertinent questions."
(No lawyers are on the inquiry panel.)

and ends with the statement:
"The truth is rarely pure and never simple but without it lessons will not be learnt, let alone remembered. This inquiry must ensure with all the means at its disposal that the truth is sought and found."

Saturday 2 January 2010

Most Influential Female Atheist of 2009.

Blag Hag has put up a poll for the most influential Atheist of 2009. Ariane Sherine is on the  list and I suspect for most UK atheists she will be the natural choice.  Her Atheist Bus Campaign touched a nerve and rapidly drew enormous support.  As a result atheism, humanism and secularism have become respectable mainstream life choices and more and more people are willing, even eager, to speak out against the dead influence of superstitious, archaic belief on our lives.

Blag Hag provides a list of 16 nominees with short biographies and a place 'Other' for suggestions. It names some atheists that I hadn't previously heard of but I look forward to getting to learn more about them soon.

Good luck to them all.

Friday 1 January 2010

Atheist Ireland blasphemes. . .

The new Blasphemy Law passed by the Irish parliament several months ago came into force today and as they promised Atheist Ireland have immediately challenged it by publishing on their website 25 quotations that they hope will stimulate a prosecution.

The list of contributors contains many of my favourite atheists and it is interesting to note that it also contains eminent religious figures who themselves have blasphemed against religions not to their particular taste. It just goes to show what a nonsense such laws are. The Irish parliament and Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, in particular, who pushed the law through, should be ashamed of themselves.