Category Archives: Religion

You Want Respect? Earn It!

MoHebdoMost people commenting on the murders of Charlie Hebdo staff last week have said, unequivocally, that there is no excuse for the killings. However, there was a body of opinion that claimed that they “brought it on themselves” by being “offensive”.

A simple counter argument could be that I find religion itself offensive, and my solution is to refrain from taking part in it. Maybe the murderers, who claimed to be acting on behalf of their prophet, Mohammed, should have taken the same stance, and refrained from buying the magazine that so upset them. That’s assuming they even saw it. The violence that followed the publication of cartoons in Denmark was stirred up, largely, by people who hadn’t seen them.

This is the cover of the first edition of Charlie Hebdo since the murders (My own take on it is above):


A few people have whined about this cover. (“It’s not exactly hilarious, is it?” missing the poignancy, and the point.)

There have also been more people asserting that the magazine staff were, at least partly, to blame for their own deaths. “They should show some respect, there are millions of Muslims who will be upset!”


The kind of offensive behaviour that should be illegal already is. If the cartoons about Mohammed had been pasted on the walls of a mosque, that would be harassment, Going into a mosque and shouting abuse would be the same. Calling for Muslims to be assaulted, or even killed, is illegal.. Laughing at Islam should not be illegal, and cannot be a justification for murder. The same applies, of course, to any religion.

One of the most ridiculous apologies for religious terrorists was that, if it’s OK to mock Islam, it should be OK to mock the Holocaust.

I’m undecided on whether the Holocaust should be open to mockery. I certainly don’t find any humour in it, but I can appreciate the argument that, in the interest of free speech, one should be free to say pretty much anything, short of incitement to repeat any of the atrocities. In any case, the two subjects are not in the same category.

The Holocaust saw upwards of 6 million real people slaughtered, while Mohammed is a fictionalised version of a man who lived and died in the sixth century. Even now, there are people who can remember the horror of the former. Nobody alive can have met the latter.

Blasphemy is a victimless crime. If there really was an all-powerful god, he would be perfectly capable of fighting his own battles. That so many adherents, of various versions of the delusion, have felt it necessary to kill in his name suggests to me that they don’t really believe what they preach. I couldn’t possibly respect such hypocrites.

There are some religious people I can respect though, like Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer, killed while upholding the values the murderers despised so much. I don’t respect his religion, not one bit, but his integrity in upholding French secular law is another matter.


If all that appears muddled to you, try this post from “The Gerasites”. It’s much clearer!


Doctor Who and the “Lesbian Kiss”

Doctor-Who2Apparently, Peter Capaldi’s debut episode as the Doctor, “Deep Breath”, attracted some complaints. Not about the writing, though some do think it wasn’t up to much. Certainly not the acting.

No, it was a supposed kiss between Madam Vastra and Jenny. It wasn’t that they were of different species, Vastra being a lizard person from prehistoric Earth and Jenny a human, but that they were both female. Some have suggested that the kiss amounted to porn!

Leaving aside the fact that it wasn’t really a kiss, as such, but a “kiss of life”, how does a kiss equate with pornography? Can we expect complaints about kisses between men and women? Obviously scenes of gratuitous lifesaving should be banned in case children see them and get the idea that saving lives is somehow admirable!

The other thing that’s being used to justify complaints is that the Doctor Who team are pushing a “gay agenda”. I have yet to discover what this agenda is. Though I’m not myself gay, I know a few gay people, and they’ve not been able to enlighten me.

Not many of those that make the claim can tell me either. They tend to go quiet when pressed on the issue!

There are a few people who will tell anyone who will listen that the gay agenda is to make everyone gay, but they tend to get laughed at by anyone with a functioning brain.

The characters of Vastra and Jenny happen to both be female. Aside from the occasional line, usually comic in nature, their relationship can easily be skipped over by younger viewers who may not understand even heterosexual marriages. If they are capable of understanding straight marriages, then they should be able to cope with gay marriage. After all, they’re more likely to hear about those on the news than an episode of Doctor Who, even an episode featuring Vastra and Jenny.

Same sex marriage is a part of modern life, and television programmes should reflect that. People who don’t like modern life probably shouldn’t have televisions.

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?


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!