Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Spectacle Hut being crass

2014-11-02 18.51.17This is Spectacle Hut in Hastings, UK. Nothing special, just one of those high-street opticians. They are open 7 days a week and there are eyesight test appointments available on Sundays. And how do we know this? Well through a crass poster (right).2014-11-02 18.51.02

Now I’m an atheist and certainly no friend of the Catholic Church; but this is just insulting. Put a fully made-up model in a nun’s habit and hey presto, point made. Spectacle Hut, if you are going to stoop this low, at least use a real nun.

Even God…

I’ve decided, after considerable thought, to follow God. On Twitter. One of the reasons for this, is that there are times when the world is incomprehensible, and some explanation is needed from afar. God is as far afar as is inconceivable.

A few days ago, after one particularly incomprehensible event, he tweeted the following:

It made me feel marginally better after 300 people were blown out of the sky by a rocket over Ukraine and a plane load of people murdered in Gaza, with more literally promised this evening by the Israeli Government.

If God has lost control, essentially he is saying, if I read him correctly, that humanity has to do something about this. What do I hear? The BBC doing its lazy ‘balanced’ reporting and my Government sticking to the tired and wrong ‘right of self-defence’ argument. This is obscene.





Halal meat

HalalRecent revelations that most UK supermarkets are selling unlabelled halal meat is not really a surprise. Supermarkets respond to demand – the halal market in the UK is huge (estimated to be something in the order of £1bn). Not to be in that market, with so much money at stake, would breach of most supermarkets’ responsibilities. That is, to make money for shareholders.

From what I understand, halal slaughter – which usually involves no pre-stunning of animals – is allowed in the UK under religious exemption. As an atheist, I have a problem with that. But the arguments made by some that too much attention is given to slaughter and not enough to the quality of life, has some merit. But as an atheist vegetarian, I’m inclined to reject that, too. Too much meat is eaten. It is unsustainable in terms of ‘production’, and not so good for the human population generally consuming too many saturated fats.

With respect to the argument about too much attention is given to the moment of slaughter, I have this to say. So often I hear that halal slaughterers are skilled and make their incision with precision such that the animals lose consciousness almost instantly and hence do not suffer. Now it is quite some time since I have had intimate experience of animal slaughter, what is clear is that animals remain commodities. Slaughter is an industrial process. Slaughter is not a craft profession. It is a volume business.

Finally, where animals are stunned, they are unconscious when they are strung up and bled. Correct me if I am wrong, but where animals are not stunned, they will be hung upside down prior to throat cutting. That seems unnecessarily cruel and offensive.


Killing on the streets of London

The covering of this story by the British media has been shameful. Readers of this blog know that I have no time for religion, and if there is a religious dimension to this killing, then I have no time for it. No God is a justification for killing. But if it is about ‘an eye for an eye’ and British State’s contempt for people in other countries in which an occupying army is present – as indicated by the perpetrator – then there is something to hear. And we are not hearing it.

The BBC, again, leads the charge. The Today programme on 24 May wasted time first on the ‘radicalisation’ debate of young men and then getting muslim religious leaders again to condemn what has happened. And any equivocation is pounced on as tacit endorsement for the act. Wrongly. And now it is reported that one-hundred British imams have signed a letter condemning the Woolwich attack in the name of ‘our’ religion.

BBC Newsnight on 23 May interviewed ‘radical cleric’ Anjem Choudary and – not surprisingly – he  refused to condemn the killing despite repeated requests by presenter Kirsty Wark. According to the Guardian newspaper “he said he was “shocked” by the murder of Lee Rigby who was killed on Wednesday afternoon but pointedly refused to say he “abhorred” the attack.” What is the point in this kind of questioning?

Radio 5 Live employs a gang of inept journalists to cover the ‘latest’ from the story. ‘The streets of Woolwich are eeriely quiet, but one can sense a change in attitude in the last few minutes’ – excuse my paraphrasing of nonsense heard on Wednesday’s blanket coverage. (This particular ‘journalist’ is skilled in this respect.); David Cameron is cutting short his visit to Paris to chair a meeting of COBRA. He leads us in condemnation and facing up to the ‘threat’ posed by terroristAdebolajos.

The vocal man with the bloodied hands – Michael Adebolajo (right) – makes his case pretty coherently. He uses all of the sources open to him – in this case the ability and willingness of witnesses to use their mobile phones to record the aftermath. It seems clear to me what the motive was; but I have yet to hear a discussion on the grievance and how that translates to killing in the street. I have heard no parallel news stories dealing with the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan; made all the more surreal with President Obama talking on the same day and almost in the same breath about drone strikes – soldiers in the USA attacking citizens of far-away countries from the safety of a military base on the US mainland.

The British public respond with a tacit endorsement of Fascists who are quick to get onto the streets to stir up unrest. They also then give the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ their best fund-raising day since establishment.

Politicians and journalists revel in these kinds of stories. There’s capital to be made.

Since writing this post, Mehdi Hassan in the New Statesman has written a piece drawing on the link between foreign policy and violence. This piece – which is not available on the New Statesman Website – has elicited a response suggesting that it is half right. Readers of this blog can access this argument here:; It is right to point out that there are many different groupings within Islam and one may not be able argue that violence against Shia muslims in Iraq equates with violent reprisals by Sunni muslims in the UK.

New Pope

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013Now the dust has settled, time to reflect. First, the BBC. I was listening on Radio 5 Live whose coverage was baleful. There was a time when the election of the Pope was reported as that and the pantomime around it – the Conclave, etc. – was largely ignored. Now it is an event in its own right.

BBC Radio 5 Live had the fawning Shelagh Fogarty in St Peter’s Square talking to some “academic” theologan who clearly believed that the Holy Spirit had the casting vote in the “election”. Mingling with the faithful was Dominic Laurie, 5-Live’s business and economics correspondent (though a freelancer), asking inane questions and getting obvious answers. What was he doing there? Well, seemingly in his youth he taught English in Rome for a year prior to becoming a journalist. Suitably qualified.

Of course the funniest moment – despite the briefings and so-called expertise on hand – was the failure of both the radio and the TV to identify exactly which cardinal had been elected. The TV and radio correspondents had different thoughts until the confusion was sorted after an AP wire. Such ineptness.

Then there is the nonsense about the Church more generally. Why does the BBC pay such homage to a corrupt and abusive institution? For the same reason it pays homage to the British Monarchy? It defeats me. The manipulation of the media by the Vatican is not subtle. The spinning going on is quite extraordinary. Here we have a new pope who is a simple man, who lived in a flat alone and cooked his own food. Goodness me, he also used public transport. And he wears a wooden cross (though not in the above photograph). Now we learn that he called his own newsagent in Buenes Aires to cancel his daily newspaper as, seemingly, he will not be going back. These are fripperies. He heads up the Catholic Church – a vile corporation – with a mission to exploit, misuse resources, lie/cover-up, subjugate women, etc. The BBC – of all news gathers – should not legitimise it.Musei_vaticani,_cappella_sistina,_retro_02

The fact that the Church was ever able to afford to build and maintain the Vatican and is the home of those great works of art; for example, the Sistine Chapel (right), says it all.

Now I know there are some good people in the Church. The monks who have persistently put their own lives at risk in Brazil hiding those who oppose the land grabs of the loggers, are a case in point. Equally, many hospitals and schools in South America and Africa are run by the Catholic Church to compensate for the failure of states to provide basic services. I commend the people behind these enterprises. But Iwould argue that education and health services in the 21st Century are the responsbilility and preserve of states, not churches.

Pictures: Pope Francis

Sistine Chapel: Sailko (Wikipedia)

Women Bishops

So, the Church of England has voted against the ordination of women bishops at its General Synod on 21 November 2012. How progressive is that? What is particularly troubling is the number of women in the laity who have argued for their own subservience on this issue. It turns out that half of those voting against were women associated with the conservative evangelical group Reform or the traditional Anglo-Catholic movement, Forward in Faith (surely wrongly named?).

I am inclined, however, to call for the expedition of the removal of bishops from the House of Lords on the grounds that they represent an organisation with strict discriminatory policies; namely, that women cannot actually get to the top on the basis of some bizarre reading of stories that may or may not be true and of dubious authenticity. Equally – and for not dissimilar reasons – it is time to disestablish.

Or maybe on the grounds that a belief in the supernatural should not be rewarded with a seat in Parliament.

Bigot of the year

Stonewall, the gay rights campaigning group, it seems, risks losing valuable sponsorship from Barclays and Coutts banks. The two banks have threated to withdraw support if Stonewall runs its bigot of the year award again in 2013. Both banks are concerned about being associated with the award after it was given to Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at its annual ceremony last week. A deserved winner. Notwithstanding the bigotry, any award that two ethically-challenged banks struggle with must be hitting the mark.

O’Brien won decisively, reported the Guardian newspaper, “after describing gay marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion’ of the traditions of marriage and likened it to slavery. The cardinal called it an ‘aberration’ and claimed it might clear the way for polygamous marriages and would cause ‘further degeneration of society into immorality’.

That strikes me as being spoken by a true bigot. Pure folly as well.

Richard Dawkins and the empty chair

Richard Dawkins has declined an invitation (25 October 2011) to debate his book, The God Delusion, with William Lane Craig, despite the abuse that has come his way in recent weeks. At the top of this abuse list is bus advertising in Oxford (see left). This is, of course, a play on his own advertising claiming ‘There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’, that got the God botherers particularly worked up.

As Dawkins point out in in a riposte in the Guardian newspaper on Friday (here) the issue is not about debating the book but more to do with Craig’s literal translation of the Old Testament that commits him to defend genocide (of the Canannites in Deuteronomy 20: 15-17) and the goodness associated with the death of children (God is doing them a favour). The latter potentially leads us in a recent example, to be thankful that two vehicles ran over the little girl in China as she has most certainly gone to a better place and it was God’s will (see, for example, Huffingtonpost).

There are plenty of Dawkins provocations on the internet and in the press. Another Oxford Don, Daniel Came (who appears at the debate), writing in the Guardian, has accused Dawkins of cynicism and anti-intellectualism.  Let’s get this clear, Dawkins is a scientist. This God bit is not his life’s raison d’etre; despite that, nobody advocates atheism better. Life really is too short to debate with Craig. Just look at the review to see how true that is: see oxfordstudent

This has got to stop

Catherine Pepinster, again, has used her 3 minutes on national radio to defend her religion’s approach to child abuse, in the context the Irish Government’s call for priests to pass details of child abusers in confession on to the police. This is unacceptable, BBC. This is not a ‘thought for the day’; this is pure religious propaganda, and in this case Vatican propaganda. Stop it!

Thought for the Day – BBC

15 March 2011

It is time for me to have another gripe at the BBC’s Thought for the Day. Naturally the contributors are now turning their attention to Japan and how a benevolent God could allow the combination of earthquake and tsunami to happen (the nuclear emergency could conceiveably be put at our own door as humanity). The Catholic commentator, Catherine Pepinster (pictured, left), started the ball rolling on Saturday (12 March) with the following explanation: “For all the sudden eruptions of nature, God plays by the rules. Creation includes the thermodynamics that lead to earthquakes and tsunamis, but the same laws of chemistry and physics allow us to have brains capable of understanding those thermodynamics. There’s a consistency about the universe that means we can learn about the kind of world we inhabit in all its complexity.”Then yesterday (Tuesday) the extraordinary Professor David Wilkinson (pictured right), an astrophysicist, offered the following: “Yet underneath, is the search for a coherent long-term narrative, which understands the natural world and science as both good and risky. As a Christian I find such a narrative in the conviction that this world is the creation of a good God, who risks giving freedom to human beings and the natural world. Today the people of Japan will take inspiration from their own history of rebuilding a nation in the face of devastation. For those who are inspired by a God who walks the pages of human history in Jesus to demonstrate the prioritize compassionate action towards all those in need, the challenge to stand with them is clear.”
Decoding these rather insensitive bits of prose is not my task now. But the BBC’s continued concession to these people to have free rein to spout this nonsense gets increasingly intolerable.
23 January 2011
We have waited some time for the winner to be announced of the Platitude of the Day annual award – the Web’s antidote to the nonsense that is Thought for the Day on Radio 4. Those of us who are regular contributors to the Platitude blog agreed with the Adminstrator that it should be Clifford Longley for his consistency over the preceding year. The Adminstrator last week offered a list of nominees which included Ratzinger’s effort on 24 December (despite it not being particularly platitudinous). However, Ratzinger has offered plenty of platitudes over the previous year. Not enough, it was Longley. Incidentally, the quality of contributions so far this year has been poor relative to the last quarter of 2010.