Church extorts people – ignores WWJD?

In the week that Nick Clegg rightly called for disestablishment – and of course got shot down by all the usual suspects, explaining all the good and charity that the Church supposedly does, we also have this:

Not very Christian: Rural communities in uproar as 250 Anglican churches use ancient rules to bill them for thousands in repairs

…wherein the Anglican Church basically extorts random people, who just happen to own property near(ish) a church that was built before 1536, into coughing up thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of pounds, to pay for church repairs.

The most galling example is this – how very Christian of the Church!

Andrew and Gail Wallbank became responsible for maintaining 13th century St John the Baptist Church in Aston Cantlow, Stratford, when they inherited a farm. After centuries of not being enforced the local PCC invoked the liability in 1990 demanding £100,000. Their 18-year legal battle ended in 2009 with the Law Lords ruling in the PCC’s favour landing the Wallbanks with an overall bill of £350,000. They auctioned the farm to pay for their costs.

Is that in any way in the spirit of Christ? I’m no expert but I tend to think not.

So yes, we DO need to disestablish this anachronistic monstrosity as soon as possible, today rather than tomorrow. The church can do all its purported “good deeds” when not tied to our government. What would stop them?

Inversely, we would be rid of gross injustices like these outlined in the article, and which just provide another example of the famous Steven Weinberg quote that “With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

What’s wrong with the ‘left-wing’ newspapers recently?

Putting a DENT in Independent: in one week, Independent publishes outlandish attack on “new atheists” for their being “Islamophobic” and follows this up by giving a free, unedited, unbalanced platform to Andrew Wakefield, utterly discredited and dangerous MMR scare lunatic. Comments not allowed (anymore in either of the articles either.

The Guardian going down the same road, publishing one attack on new atheism after the other and publishing an uncritical “science” piece about a clearly bogus “remote hepatitis C detector”.

What is it about left-wing newspapers lately? Is it the humanities graduates running them? Who never learned to think critically? Who think that in every debate there are two, equally worthy, sides? There’s no need to suck up to religion, superstition and other woo. Leave it, please.

Marriage according to the Bible

I was recently in a hotel in Ireland (so they obviously had a bible in the bedside cupboard) and decided to have a fairly random flick, see what I’d find.

Now, I live in the UK and there’s this whole kerfuffle going on about gay marriage, with most against claiming that marriage ‘always has been and always will be’ between one man and one woman. I also read that that is definitely not what the OT says. So I thought, let’s check for myself.

So the first bit I found, don’t recall where, was about what to do with what bit of an ox (I presume after a sacrifice unto the lord), which goes on for what looked like a whole page or more.

Then I bumped into a passage (IRC somewhere in Deuteronomy) that first described what to do if you capture a slave girl that you fancy: something along the lines of: change her clothes, let her grieve for a bit (because you’ve killed all her family) and then have sex with her, which makes her your wife. Charming.
And just below that a passage that started like “suppose you have two wives, one loved and one unloved, and you have a child with both.” One man, one woman? My holy arse. And again, charming.

And I literally found that shite within a few seconds, not after hours of searching.

On a side note, I agree with what has been said, that if anything should make one lose their belief, it is READING the freggin’ thing.

And as to the debate about same-sex marriage, I don’t understand that anyone can get away with the argument about “one man and one woman” because that is just a patent lie – if even an avowed atheist like me can find passages that disprove that claim in minutes, anybody can – and Christians themselves certainly must know it (and therefore lie), or have a seriously different way of reading the Bible from other people.


The C of E and the Catholic Church contradict each other

They really need to coordinate better and make up their mind.

In this (pretty appalling, of course, but I don’t have time to point out all the errors) piece a senior catholic figure pointed out (mistakenly) that same-sex marriage would violate the ‘rights of a child to have a mother and a father’.

At the same time, archbishops of the Church of England have spoken out against gay marriage, but for other reasons. One would think, at first sight, that these two religious behemoths would (excuse the pun) sing from the same hymn-sheet.

But wait a minute… why is the Church of England different from the Catholic Church to begin with? Precisely –

the CofE supports DIVORCE.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but if there’s one thing that is bound to violate the ‘right of a child to have a mother and a father’ it is the right to allow those same mother and father to divorce.

I’m waiting for the campaign, run by the Catholic Church, to make divorce illegal for everybody for the same reasons they oppose same-sex marriage, and publicly attack the CofE over this. I’m not holding my breath though.

Lack of opinion (to ban or not to ban)

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I do not have a clear opinion. Really! Right now the only issue that comes to my mind upon which I’m undecided is:

Should the burqa be legally banned?

(I’m leaving the legal small print about whether I mean here or in Belgium, state-wide or local, &c, OK so no nitpicking)

Pro: I don’t like to see anybody wear them

Con: Unfortunately for me (and the general public), not liking something is not a basis for banning something. I also don’t like fat woman wearing spandex leggings, British men wearing nothing but shorts in summer, and chavs wearing… everything that chavs wear. The argument I read that in one Belgian town women wearing burqas were stopped by police because passers-by found them ‘annoying’ or ‘upsetting’ doesn’t sound like an argument to me.

Pro: It’s a signal of oppression to women

Con: The main problem here is that women who wear them fall into two categories. The ones that have been so brainwashed that they truly believe that they are wearing them out of free will, and the ones that are under so much pressure by their male relatives/spouses that they will claim to be wearing them out of free will. So trying to go this route doesn’t get one very far.

It’s like asking children if they are abused by their parents – you get the same two groups as above and no child will readily admit that their parents are abusing them.

(In my opinion this is really the same issue as with muslims wearing ‘ just’ headscarves except that these are less noticeable, but this would be too long a discussion here)

Pro: It’s a signal of religious fundamentalism/religious symbol

Con: Unfortunately, we live in a free society where everybody can follow any religion they like, however fundamentalist, as long as they don’t enforce it onto others.

But: Definitely true when it comes to public roles, where the state (at least on the continent) is bound by its constitution to be non-religious. You can’t have a police officer or judge wear religious symbols; what faith would a muslim have in a fair trial if (s)he takes a christian to court and the presiding judge is wearing a big fat cross around their neck?

We’ve had court cases here in the UK on a related issue – public sector christians who refused to marry gay couples. They’ve been resoundingly slapped down by courts forcing them to follow the law and not let their religions get in the way of their work.

Pro: It makes people impossible to identify. It’s a public safety issue.

Con: Only true in cases where you indeed have to identify yourself. In France apparently even when you withdraw money from a bank but come on, how often do we need to be recognisable? What about all these hoodies? I can grow a beard and dye my hair, too. This to me is a ‘technical’ reason, not a ‘real’ one.

Pro: it’s a health issue (vitamin D and all that)

Con: bikinis and UV

Con: It’s against freedom of religion/it’s islamophobic.

Pro/neutral: Freedom of religion ends where other, more important, freedoms begin. Whether women’s equality, public safety and the secularity of state are less important is up for debate.

It is my personal opinion that as long as in islamic countries women are forced not to wear short skirts, muslims have no grounds to complain if they are similarly forced to not wear something ‘here in the west’. I know that most religions have difficulties understanding they are not special, though, and they usually also have no problem with the asymmetry of claiming all their rights (under ‘freedom for our religion’ claims) whilst denying others theirs (under ‘freedom for our religion’ claims).

It’s not really about the burqa is it?

The real problem isn’t with the burqa, it’s what it represents. Shaving your head, wearing a bomber jacket and waving English flags isn’t bad in itself either (and isn’t prohibited, and won’t be, also in equivalent forms in Europe), it’s that it represents xenophobia, a penchant to fascism, and other signs of mental retardation.

On the flipside of the argument, it’s also not about the burqa but about people being scared of the perceived large number of muslims in europe and the islamisation of western society.

How to go about it?

So I can’t think of an easy solution to this problem – I actually think there isn’t one else we would have found it by now.

But I do think a solution might be found in carefully looking at how we deal with related problems, such as far right political views, and nationalism.

Opinion | Opinie 28/03/2010

Tim Minchin (thank you CC)

Three of many many things I like about my girlfriend are: (1) she’s got a great sense of humour, (2), she’s got a similar sense of humour to mine – now that didn’t come as a surprise after (1), did it :o) ? – and (3) she uses (1) and (2) to introduce me to loads of funny stuff I never knew before. That’s why I posted a YouTube clip of Dara O’Briain not too long ago, for instance. Yes, know him via her.

My latest found gem is Tim Minchin. Atheist, skeptic and funny, he’s just like me, so how can I not like him?!

Instead of trying to describe him, you’re better off just going straight to some of his clips (and if you’re desperate to read about him, go to his Wikipedia page or something.

First clip includes more homeopathy-bashing – always good – and some more spanking of various insanity.

He’s not always socially critical, as in this hilarious glorification of, well, see and hear for yourself:

And this is the most shocking – well it is if you are, roughly as he put it, a member of one of the major monotheistic Abrahamic religions. In which case I suggest that you do not watch this clip: