Category Archives: Religion

The War on the Poor (continued)


Food Banks
I’ve mentioned before that, though I don’t respect religion, I have a great deal of respect for some religious people. The Trussell Trust is a Christian organisation that battles poverty and injustice, best known for running food banks. There is no religious test to receive their help, however, so I can happily endorse them, even though I’m an atheist.
Some Christians are less sympathetic. Iain Duncan Smith has accused the Trussell Trust of having a “political agenda”, and his DWP lackeys regularly brief against them. The Trust’s crime? Telling people facts about their work. There are more food banks than ever before, and they are used more and more.
Now the Mail on Sunday has joined the fray, sending a reporter to a Citizens Advice Bureau office to obtain a voucher by misrepresentation. That he succeeded is not an indictment of the Trussell Trust, nor even of the CAB really, though they could beef up their procedures a little.
It is an indictment of the Mail and its staff. Just because they are dishonest, and because they can find a few other people who are, doesn’t mean everyone who uses food banks is a crook.

 

There has been one positive note following this story. The backlash against the Mail has encouraged more people to donate to the Trussell Trust. If you’d like to add your donation, click here.

 

More from around the web:

Dyno-Rod Dave, the Messiah of Downing Street


St Cameron

David Cameron has resurrected his “Big Society” idea, long after it was discredited the first time. It was widely mocked, and quietly dropped from any Tory publicity. Until now.

Now Cameron has claimed divine inspiration, despite his government’s various attacks on the very people Jesus was supposed to have been most concerned about; the poor, homeless, the hungry, the sick and disabled.

The only fundamentalist position he hasn’t adopted seems to be homophobia.

He also wants people to think of him as “a giant Dyno-Rod”, but if there’s a Biblical reference to professional drain-cleaners, it’s passed me by.

See also:

“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us”


“This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us” says Keith Hebden, in a “Comment is Free” piece for the Guardian on Monday. As an atheist, I have no automatic respect for religious rituals. I think it’s a good idea to eat fish at least once a week, for example, but I don’t see why it should be a Friday.

So a religious man, doing something that ties in with his religion, but taking it a little further, is just a publicity stunt. One that I applaud.

We can probably all recall at least one Tory politician who has spent a week on as much money as someone on benefits gets, to show how, with a bit of planning, it’s possible to adequately look after yourself. These cynical ploys are undermined, either by abject failure, or by revelations of cheating.

Keith Hebden isn’t trying to prove anything by fasting. He isn’t trying to show either how easy it is, or how difficult. He almost certainly won’t suffer any long term health problems, though I hope he has taken, and will heed, medical advice. He isn’t even evangelising for his faith, as he concludes his article with:

“We can all help: whether you are spiritual, religious, or just that wonderful thing called “human”.”

He’s fasting to raise awareness of a very real problem. The phrase “publicity stunt” is usually taken to mean that there’s an ulterior motive, but it doesn’t have to and, in this case, I don’t think there is.

 

 

You can follow Keith’s progress on Twitter by clicking here.

Voluntary Slavery?


starvationarmylogo2

I really thought that the Salvation Army in the UK did a lot of good, on balance, despite my antipathy to religion and religious organisations. Their involvement with workfare has finished off any residual respect I had for them.
The government doesn’t like the word “workfare”, and neither does the Sally Ann, They always talk about the people who are forced onto these schemes, with a withdrawal of benefits as punishment for not complying, as volunteers, which is adding insult to injury when the only alternative is “volunteering” to starve, or freeze, or go homeless. Or all three.
All this is bad enough for people who have just left school, many of whom may have families to support them, but it’s often older people, who have worked for decades and don’t need “work experience”, who are placed on these schemes, and the government have extended the scope of workfare to include disabled people, with the added sting that their placement can be indefinite. If the “volunteer” doesn’t turn up for any reason, such as a vital hospital appointment, they can lose all their benefits.
Even workfare for younger, fitter people is detrimental to society though, as it depresses wages. Why would an employer pay decent wages, when they can use free labour? In fact, why pay wages at all?
An organisation that claims to work for the greater good should not have any involvement with workfare, and quibbling about the name won’t persuade your opponents.

Papal Resignation


prancingpope21So, Joseph Ratzinger has announced his resignation as Pope, and the news media are abuzz with speculation about who his successor will be.
Ratzinger’s Papacy was certainly controversial. His membership of the Hitler Youth raised a few eyebrows. That was a little unfair, as he had very little choice in the matter, and his family would have been threatened if he had refused to join. Indeed, there is evidence that he and his family were opposed to the Nazis. My criticism of him in this regard is that he was in a position to know that the Nazis were by no means atheists, as he claimed on a recent paid holiday to the UK.

The criticism of his handling of the child abuse scandal within his church is on firmer ground, though there is still a degree of hyperbole. It would be wrong, for example, to assert that he is himself a “kiddy fiddler”, but it is true that his lackadaisical attitude to paedophile priests, both before and during his reign, meant that more victims suffered, and for longer, than if he’d acted promptly.

Some people are lamenting the departure of a Pope so adept at bringing the Roman Catholic Church into disrepute, but I’m looking forward to a whole new era of scandal especially if, as is being mooted, the next Pope comes from Africa, a region in which the Catholic Church has particularly bloody hands.

Meanwhile, rumours abound over the precise reason for Ratzinger’s resignation, since “failing health” hasn’t tempted his predecessors to quit.  Perhaps he has had a better job offer!

PopeResigns

#WowPetition – Please Keep It Going!


Who's been at the communion wine?

Who’s been at the communion wine?

When I started this blog, I intended to write, for the most part, about religion, and my continued opposition to it. I seem now to write, almost exclusively, about social justice and, lately, the ConDem government’s War on Welfare.

I suppose I could shoehorn religion in, by mentioning Iain “Duncan” Smith’s devout Roman Catholicism, and noting that his faith does not, contrary to the many claims of religious apologists, make him a good person. To emphasise this point would, however, be to ignore the many people who are religious who stand firmly against all that Smith stands for. It would be wrong, as well, to ignore atheists in government, like the Quisling Nick Clegg who, at the very least, stand idly by while Smith hounds sick and disabled people, sometimes to death.

So, just as members of the government, religious and non-religious alike, can join together to persecute the poor, so I will happily stand with my religious friends to fight them. Some people, on either side of the religious divide, will call me opportunistic, but I don’t see it that way. Sometimes, one principle has to make way for another.

Of course, the government side has the best armaments, having better access to the mainstream media than us, and it has been suggested that on-line petitions and social media aren’t going to help so “why bother?”

This defeatist argument often comes from people who are well aware of the role of social media in the “Arab Spring“, so I don’t understand why they’re so sure it can’t work here.

In any case, it’s worth a try, and it’s better than just rolling over and accepting defeat so, if you haven’t already signed the Wow Petition, please head over to http://wowpetition.com/ and do so and, whether or not you’ve signed, you could also help by passing the message along to your friends.

The Daily Mail – Dishonest, or Merely Asleep?


Dawkins Headline

The Daily Mail today published an article titled “‘Being raised Catholic is worse than child abuse’: Latest incendiary claim made by atheist professor Richard Dawkins”

There are problems with the article , but there are a couple with the headline itself. For one thing, the “latest incendiary claim” was made in 2006! Furthermore, Dawkins’ contention is a great deal more nuanced than is suggested by the “journalist”, Daniel Martin.

I’m not keen on some of Dawkins’ wording in his original writing, all those years ago. For example, he wrote:

” Doubtless, too, some fall at the violent end, which is terrible but I would make two points about it. First, just because some pedophile assaults are violent and painful, it doesn’t mean that all are. A child too young to notice what is happening at the hands of a gentle pedophile will have no difficulty at all in noticing the pain inflicted by a violent one.”

It can, and I believe should, be argued that any assault is a form of violence, and I would have preferred the words in that quote that I’ve bolded to have been in quotes. Even better would have been more appropriate words but, in fairness, I can’t think of any myself, so I can hardly criticise Dawkins for not being able to.

What Dawkins is saying is that there are different levels of severity of child abuse. This is as true of religious teaching as it is of physical abuse. Many of the people who are horrified and offended by Dawkins’ stance on this issue probably don’t realise just how cruel some of the more extreme religious adherents can be. Often, the two go hand in hand, with the indoctrination used to further the sexual and/or sadistic predilections of the abuser.

A child being told that a beloved grandparent, for example, has gone to heaven, even though in the view of some (including myself) it is not the best way to deal with bereavement, is not in the same league as telling that child that their friend, who as far as she can tell has been taught the same doctrine,  is going to be tortured for all eternity for having a different group name. The differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs are unlikely to be understood by the 7 year old in Dawkins’ example.

As I understand it, Dawkins isn’t saying child abuse is trivial, though in some cases the child may treat it as such. He’s saying that, sometimes, religious indoctrination can be even worse.

But it’s not just Dawkins saying this. The last word should go to the woman who wrote the letter to Dawkins that he cited.

“Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yuchy’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest ? but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.”

“Creeping Secularism?” Good!


Peter Bone MP has just succeeded in his bid to introduce a bill to amend the Charities Act 2011. If this amendment is passed, a religious organisation will automatically be given charitable status, regardless of whether it actually performs any real service to society. Being religious, and preaching one’s beliefs, will be regarded as beneficial to society.

I know many religious people who are kind and compassionate, and who give generously of their time and money, but I also know judgemental religious people and organisations who are the absolute opposite of what any sane person would call charitable.

The cultish Plymouth Brethren’s failure to be recognised as a charity is what kicked off this retrograde amendment. Apparently, some of their number helped out locally during recent flooding. So did people of other, and of no, religion. Such an act, though laudable in itself, does not make its participants a charity.

It’s not that I think religious organisations cannot also be charities. It’s that, like everybody else, they should have to demonstrate real charity. It should not be a given that religion is good for society. I certainly don’t regard it so. In his speech when introducing his bill, Bone complained of a “creeping secularism”, as if it was a bad thing. Yet again, somebody religious fails to realise that secularism offers protection to all religions against the prominence of one, as well as protecting  the non-religious.

I don’t withhold donations from genuine charities just because they happen to be religious. I will if this amendment is passed, as I won’t be able to tell that they really are charitable.

International Blasphemy Day


 

I was trying to think of something suitable for International Blasphemy Day, something suitably blasphemous, but a better idea occurred to me when I saw this story, an illustration of the stupidity of blasphemy laws.

I remember when the album, Jesus Christ Superstar, was first released, and checking it against the Gospels. Everything in the musical is in the book, though there are some bits of the book that aren’t in the book, obviously since different parts of the book contradict each other.

So some Christians are objecting to a faithful version of their story set to music, and this shows why blasphemy laws are such a bad idea.

Not only are atheists going to be caught by them, and members of religions other than the one applying the law, but if you like a style of music that isn’t approved by those in charge you could still be in trouble, even if you are of the “right” religion. As for the various sub-divisions of the various religions……

I expect that some people will be offended by my picture, if they see it, and would like their sensibilities protected by law.

They should be careful what they wish for.

Atheist, With No Artificial Additives


 

 

I’d promised myself that my previous post would be my last on the subject of FreeThoughtBlogs, but they had to go and surpass their already inane nonsense.

It seems that nobody can be a proper atheist unless they are Atheist Plus ®, and agree wholeheartedly with all the dogmatic pronouncements that accrue to that exclusive little club.

I criticised Richard Dawkins for his “Muslima” outburst, and I stand by that criticism. It seems, however, that there was some background to that comment, and that Rebecca Watson isn’t quite the calm and thoughtful person she presented in the “elevatorgate” video. That doesn’t excuse Dawkins outburst of course, but it does serve as mitigation.

Dawkins, along with the other “new atheists”, has been castigated by the FTB/Skepchick crowd for more than his words or actions; his very existence is apparently worthy of blame.

He is described as old (something his critics would presumably aspire to), white (an accident of birth. I blame his parents) and privileged. This last seems to be the most heinous crime, and it doesn’t appear to matter what your background is, nor how much money you have. The easiest way to become privileged, as far as the Atheist Plus ® adherents are concerned, is to disagree with them. That disagreement is profound, even if it’s just a word of caution about the wording of some premise.

I disagree with lots of people. I often disagreed with Christopher Hitchens, somebody I held in high regard. Even so, I felt I could learn something from that disagreement, if only the limit of my own knowledge.

Of course, I now learn, I’m doing it wrong. People I disagree with (so long as they’re not Atheist Plus ® acolytes) are to be treated as pariahs, and drummed out of the movement.

Just as God PZ Myers commanded.