Charlie Hebdo & the importance of free expression.

January 15, 2015

For the most part, the response to the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week, has been one of staunch solidarity with the values that separate the civilised from the barbaric. The freedom to express ones thoughts and ideas, the right to criticise and satirise ideas, the rule of law; values that were attacked that day in the centre of Paris. This includes the freedom for religious folk to believe and express ideas that I myself find incredibly offensive. But every so often, we hear voices referring to themselves as liberal, or as progressives, making excuses for the violence whilst trying desperately to insist that they’re not making excuses for the violence. As the new edition of Charlie Hebdo went on sale this week, with a picture of Muhammad on the front, Sky News apologised for showing it live on air, and several commentators referred to it as needlessly ‘provoking‘ Muslims. The excuses tend to start with a line like “There can be no excuse for murder, but….” followed by a tirade of victim blaming. For example, Mehdi Hasan’s obscene article for the Huff Post here in which he begins by suggesting it is those who pronounce “Je suis Charlie” who are playing an “us vs them” game, and then himself goes on to play that very game far better than anyone else, by manipulatively implying that Charlie Hebdo focused entirely on Islam, when in reality it mocks the Pope often, Judaism, and Christianity, along with political figures across the World… Here:

“And why have you been so silent on the glaring double standards? Did you not know that Charlie Hebdo sacked the veteran French cartoonist Maurice Sinet in 2008 for making an allegedly anti-Semitic remark? Were you not aware that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet in 2005, reportedly rejected cartoons mocking Christ because they would “provoke an outcry” and proudly declared it would “in no circumstances… publish Holocaust cartoons”?
Muslims, I guess, are expected to have thicker skins than their Christian and Jewish brethren.”

– He must have been asleep (or, as he puts it “so silent”) when Charlie Hebdo printed this:

charliehebdo5
– He must also not be aware that Catholic organisations have attempted to sue Charlie Hebdo on countless occasions for ‘offending’ them. So you see, contrary to Mehdi’s false game of us VS them, Islam is one in a list of ideas that Charlie Hebdo satirised. After this manipulation, Mehdi then proceeds to inform us that he isn’t sure why we’d feel the need to mock religions, but not the Holocaust. One being a 7th Century idea, the other being 6 million people murdered less than a century ago.

There are then several issues I take with the response outlined above. Firstly, I think it is vastly counter-productive. It implies that Islam is in some way different, and must be treated differently to other ideas, and that a protected space must be carved out specifically for one ideological framework of power (in this case, Islam), that no other system of belief is granted. That sort of subtle demand, is then backed by false narratives, like Mehdi’s. There was no anger or claims of racism when Charlie Hebdo mocked Catholicism. If Have I Got News For You mock conservatism, it isn’t usually followed by the suggestion that the show has ‘taken free speech too far’, nor Mehdi Hasan suggesting that Have I Got News For You should consider satirising 9/11 just for some balance. These ideas – Catholicism, conservatism, liberalism, Hinduism, capitalism – are all rightly granted no implied protection. Thus, they are considered on a level playing field, open as they should be, to criticism, mocking, and satire (despite the Pope’s bizarre insistence today that we shouldn’t ‘offend’ religious beliefs). There is no legitimate reason to protect religion – or a single religion – from the forms of criticism that all others are open to. It is in fact vital, that all religions – and in fact, ideas in general, be open to that criticism and mocking. Contrary to what detractors may assume – anti-Muslim hate (that is, the abuse of Muslims, the denial of rights, the demand for denial of equal rights, dehumanising) is not in any way to be compared with mocking the religion. One is violence aimed at human beings, the other is dis-empowering an ideological narrative, & system of morality. To conflate the two, is deeply problematic for a whole host of reasons, and the complete antithesis of secular, liberal inquiry and free expression.

In other words, it is not those of us who openly criticise, or mock Islam that create a taboo around that particular faith. On the contrary, we treat it like any other ideological framework of power. We do not seek to deny Muslims equal rights, we believe those who commit anti-Muslim hate, those who attack Mosques, are grotesque human beings lacking any sense of decency, and we will always defend equal rights & dignity for all, including Muslims. People deserve that, not ideas. Ideas must be open to critique and satire. It is those who seek to protect Islam from mockery (whilst themselves defending the freedom for the religious to continue to believe and express a belief in offensive ideas to the rest of us), that not only create a taboo out of the faith – hence, counter-productive – but also give credit to the extreme idea that one must be a little less forthcoming with our expression on one particular idea, if it might ‘offend’ believers in that one particular idea.

I would also suggest that it is a betrayal of those Muslim voices fighting for secular, liberal values, & free expression against a poisonous narrative within their faith, for liberals who should be on their side of the fight, instead choosing to give credit to the narrative on the extremes.

Secondly, it is a reflection of the authoritarian nature of a religion, when its followers suggest we should either unquestioningly respect the faith, or else keep quiet. Which, in turn, means it is vital that it be open to criticism and satire. If satirising that religion is even a matter of debate, it already has far too much power.

Indeed, your freedom to believe that non-believers are destined an eternity of violent torture in the pits of hell – alongside our apostate and LGBT friends – is my freedom to openly mock that ridiculous (and frankly, offensive) belief. The freedom for Mehdi Hasan to refer to believers as keeping the moral high ground, whilst non-believers as those who “live their lives as animals“, is my freedom to express a distinct lack of respect for that particular moral anchor. Any less, implies that your belief that I am morally lacking, to be eternally tortured, is deserving of a level of unquestioning respect, that my objection (however I express that objection) simply isn’t. Further, if your religion – or political ideal – in any way, extends beyond the individual, to the lives of others (be it non-believers, apostates, the LGBT community) – not only in belief, and writing, but also in practice in many countries on this planet – then it is absolutely vital that that religion be open to the same criticism and satire as every other system of oppression. Indeed, the greatest indicator that a religion so desperately requires being opened up to free expression in all its forms, is if it can result in your murder for doing so.

Islam – like Christianity – is a system of power, regardless of how it is framed by those seeking to protect it. When it has any sort of political power, it is oppressive. This is why it is vital to stand up for the necessity of free expression. But on a purely individual basis; if your religion insists that I am to be burned for eternity in hell for non-belief, then I’m afraid you’re not going to get away with telling me that it is I who is the one being ‘offensive’ for mocking that belief. The freedom to express one, is the freedom to express the other.

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Spirituality does not require religion.

August 26, 2014

Buddhist Temple in Leshan, China.

Buddhist Temple in Leshan, China.

Back in 2010, the culture editor of Jesuit magazine ‘America’, the Jesuit priest Reverend James Martin wrote a book titled ‘The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything‘, in it, he criticises those who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. I thought I’d offer my criticisms of several points Martin raises.

I felt it worth pointing out first – as a reference – exactly what spirituality means to me. For me, spirituality is serious inner engagement with what it means to be human. Whether we as individuals choose to involve religion or not in our personal journey, we are all spiritual, because we are all flawed and we do not like flaws. As a complex and diverse species blessed with curiosity and a burning desire for definitive answers – this, I believe is the reason for the development of religion – we cannot deal too well with flaws. We want definitive answers now. Prior to the scientific method of inquiry, we invented wonderful tales and myths to explain the seemingly inexplicable – and often terrifying – in a simple way, because we need answers, even when answers seem so complex and far away. It is how we explained volcanoes and earthquakes, rainbows and vast oceans. Not only that, but we evolved as a group species, across habitats, with a yearning for individual freedom, creating diverse social bonds. We are intrigued by beauty, we cry at the pain of others, we try to grasp fleeting happiness and make it last, we have different triggers that anger us, and we have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time, and that’s a frightening idea. We are simply very confused apes. Spirituality is a way we deal with that confusion. Evolved human intelligence has produced brilliant, yet tangled minds that brought great development aiding the survival of the species, but at the cost of inner emotional turmoil that affects us all. Spirituality is simply an individual shaped by the majesty and flaws of human evolution, and by their own experiences and memories, attempting to reconcile those confusions and those contradictions, a sort of unraveling of tangled wires in our minds, by our own minds. If religion helps an individual with that, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

Martin says:

“Religion can provide a check against my tendency to think that I am the center of the universe, that I have all the answers, that I know better than anyone about God, and that God speaks most clearly through me.”

– For Catholics to speak of their faith as humble, despite having their own city state and a massive palace, takes quite the imagination. And so I would argue the opposite to that which James Martin asserts. Religion does not check a tendency to believe oneself to be the centre of the universe. Quite the opposite, religion teaches that the chosen few are the centre of the universe. We inhabit an infinitesimally small section of time, in a universe so massive in both time and space that it requires great arrogance to believe a small section of a global population on a tiny planet are the ones blessed by a universal creator. We do not know how a universe springs into being. It is religion that teaches us that a personal God did it. A God that created everything specifically for humans, and cares who you have sex with. Indeed, not only are the chosen few the centre of the universe, not only was all of time waiting for over 13 billion years for them to spring up for a few seconds, but the rules of the chosen few must be placed upon those who do not adhere to its beliefs. The shackles of religious privilege in a secular country like the US can be quite clearly observed when we note how long it is taking to afford equal rights to same-sex couples, and the absurdity by which Christian bosses at Hobby Lobby believe the private lives of their employees, are to be linked to God against their will. We see ISIS insisting that their brand of Islam must engulf an entire region, whether the people of that region accept it or not. Martin’s implication that spirituality requires religion, is not humility, nor is it checking a tendency to believe oneself the centre of the universe. It is the exact opposite.

“More problematic than Sheilaism are spiritualities entirely focused on the self, with no place for humility, self-critique or any sense of responsibility for the community. Certain “New Age” movements find their goal not in God, or even the greater good, but in self-improvement — a valuable goal — but one that can degenerate into selfishness.”

– This strikes me as a particularly bizarre passage. The implication is that without a religious base for spiritual development, there can be no sense of humility (again, ironic given the history of the Catholic church), self-critique, or sense of responsibility, yet the goal is self improvement; which requires self-crique, and a sense of humility and responsibility. Critique, humility, and a sense of responsibility are not wholly owned subsidiaries of the religious community, which is why Eastern traditions – like Taoism – do not invoke an all powerful personal God for spiritual guidance. Gautama Buddha rejected the notion of a creator and personal God, and by Martin’s standards, Buddhists are therefore lacking a key ingredient to spiritual development. Critique, humility and a sense of communal responsibility are evolved traits from a communal and individual species, that informs our decision making, our daily interactions, and our progress as individuals and as a species. Without the development of human intelligence from Homo Habilis, through to Homo Sapiens, there would be no religion usurping the legacy of our wonderful ancestry. Religion owes its existence to evolved developments in human intelligence, not the other way around.

“Human beings naturally desire to be with one another, and that desire extends to worship. It’s natural to want to worship together, to gather with other people who share your desire for God, and to work with others to fulfill the dreams of your community.”

– This is true. But it’s not limited to gathering for religious purposes. Spiritual people do not require a belief in God to gather and to share spiritual experiences and stories. Church or Mosque or Synagogue are places that may facilitate that communal sense in-built to human beings, but we’ve been gathering, telling stories, painting art works, playing music, listening to each other and progressing long before the first Church sprang up. Secular atheists do not require the invoking of God in order to gather, to share stories, and to ‘work with others to fulfill the dreams of the community’. We don’t believe in a God, so it wouldn’t aid our spiritual journey to do so.

As an atheist, my spiritual journey is an attempt to understand myself on a deeper level, to progress, to love, to be a better person, to experience beauty, to always question my motives and thoughts, to establish my place within the wider community, and to reconcile conflicts in my life and in my mind. It does not require a belief in God.

It appears to me that the Reverend James Martin has attempted to claim spirituality and the natural human ability for self critique and development, for religion. As religious folk attempt to do with morality, it seems the religious are now taking credit for the evolution of human intelligence. Quite contrary to Martin’s attempts, Christianity simply attempted to anchor the moral musings, as well as spiritual developments of a single time and place – 1st Century Palestine – for the rest of forever. Religion therefore jumped on a moral and spiritual train already speeding along the tracks, whilst implying that they have been driving the train all along.


The Myth of Monotheism

May 9, 2013

“Sinners receive pardon by the intercession of Mary alone.”
– St. John Chrysostom

At the summit of Montmartre in Paris stands the basilica of Sacre Coeur; a late 19th, early 20th Century political and religious prodigious Catholic Church dedicated to Jesus, and the decades following the French Revolution. Crowds flock to look out across the beautiful city from the highest point at the foot of the basilica. At night, the brightly lit Church illuminates the skyline of Paris quite wonderfully.

Last week, I sat in on mass being spoken at Sacre Coeur. It’s my second Catholic Mass in Paris. Previously I’ve sat in on mass at Notre Dame. As an outspoken Atheist, one would assume I would be quite averse to all things ritual with regard religion; and yet, I find it strangely alluring. To me, it reveals something about the human condition and its desire for guidance from ‘outside’. A sort of, lack of belief in ourselves. In much the same way as the air fills with the sound of the Islamic call to prayer from the stunning Blue Mosque of Istanbul multiple times every day, Catholic rituals intrigue me. If we start from the position, as I do, that there is no God, that Jesus was not divine and may not have actually existed at all; then the rituals I see at Catholic mass seem fatuous, almost child-like, and very alien. And yet, here we are, surrounded by throngs of people, beautifully crafted stone monuments, brightly coloured windows, inspired art of the geniuses, nuns, cardinals, priests, people kneeling before the altar, so passionately enthralled in prayer that somehow the pointlessness of the ritual becomes irrelevant and the human aspect of a desire for hope, a feeling of belonging, and outside interference becomes prevalent.

It is true that those who follow the line of the three main Abrahamic traditions insist that their one God is the key to salvation, and that believing so, makes their Monotheistic faith altogether different from the Polytheistic faiths that have inspired generations before them. But it would appear to me, that the idea of ‘one God’, is not enough for those who deeply require ‘outside’ guidance and the hope for a grand plan. Polytheism seemed to have all bases covered. The single God of Monotheism, regardless of the ‘omni’ attributes applied to it, still struggles to fulfil the very basic desires that religion is supposed to inspire. And so the religious work on ways to get round that problem, walking a careful line between Monotheism and Polytheism.

Catholicism is quite spectacular at subtly blurring the lines between Monotheism and Polytheism, whilst insisting on the faith being entirely Monotheistic. This blurring of the lines between the two ‘theism’s is not new for Christianity. Let us not forget that Satan holds great power over mankind, the only key difference between Satan and God appears to be the attributed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ concepts. Other than that, they are essentially two Gods, in much the same way that Hades of Greek Mythology, and king of the Gods of the underworld, was as much of a God as Zeus. Satan occupies an important and rather central place in the Pantheon of Christian icons. It is through a single conversation between Satan and Eve, that the entire ‘plan’ of God was forced to take a dramatic, and time consuming turn. The Christian defined plan of God, is one great attempt to undo the apparent ‘harm’ created by Satan in Eden. Satan is a rather powerful being, able to circumnavigate the apparent omnipresence of God. Christianity, in its entirety, exists through the actions of Satan, and the long, drawn out reactions of God. Perhaps we could call Satan a minor deity, but a deity nonetheless.

We must also note the veneration of Saints in Catholic tradition. They may not be ‘Gods’ in a very strict sense, but they play a key role once reserved for Polytheistic Gods of old. The Saints give us a human face to a faceless religion. They surround the square of St Peters in Rome. They appear in Catholic Churches and Cathedrals across Christendom. Saints days are celebrated, and intercession of Saints is a key doctrine in many Churches. They provide an example of how one ‘should’ live according to the faith. The Saints replace the minor Gods in the old Roman Pantheons, in charge of, and able to intercede within the realm of certain human causes, that a single God seems to lack sufficient time to commit to each. Saint Peter is the Saint of long life. Christina the Astonishing (able to perform miracles) is the Saint of Mental Illness. Florian is the Saint against Fire. Gerard Majella is the Saint of expectant Mothers. The Saints play an important, supernatural role in the running of the World; a human, Earthly role that we find easier to relate to, than a faceless, mysterious ‘one God’ entity.

Crucially, according to Catholic doctrine, the Saints also hear our prayers. They hear the silent prayers, of millions of believers, in many different languages, all at the same time, from all over the World.
The importance placed on the ability of the Saints in heaven, to be able to intercede on behalf of Christians on Earth, naturally elevates the Saints to a status beyond that of human, but just below that of ‘God’.

“All those who seek Mary’s protection will be saved for all eternity.”
– Pope Benedict XV

Popes throughout the ages have placed great emphasis on salvation through Mary. She exists on a platform as close to a ‘God’ as one could possibly get. The blurred lines are evident. Popes demand her worship, without actually using the term worship:

“What will it cost you, oh Mary, to hear our prayer? What will it cost you to save us? Has not Jesus placed in your hands all the treasures of His grace and mercy? You sit crowned Queen at the right hand of your son: your dominion reaches as far as the heavens and to you are subject the earth and all creatures dwelling thereon. Your dominion reaches even down into the abyss of hell, and you alone, oh Mary, save us from the hands of Satan.”
– Pope Pius XI

If Catholicism, with its God of the ‘omnis’ were truly Monotheistic, it would not require the intercession of Saints on behalf of humans. It would not require Patron Saints suddenly able to hear millions of prayers, in different languages, in different places, all at the same time. It would not require Mary having any dominion. They would need no control, nor need to intercede within a certain realm. The Ave Maria, the rosary, would be meaningless, and yet it holds a meaningful and rather curious centrality within the Catholic faith. This represents the careful line, mentioned above, between Polytheism and Monotheism, and an interesting way to reconcile the problems presented by Monotheism, with some of the comforts offered by the Polytheistic past.

Similarly, we see Muslims often living by and focusing on the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad as opposed to just the Qur’an, despite the great emphasis placed on the worship of just one God, in the Qur’an. Islam does not accept the ‘worship’ of any other God, but Allah (an old Pagan God). They seem however, to play rather fast and loose with the term ‘worship’ when it comes to the Prophet Muhammad. The entire concept of death for apostasy, comes from the Hadith, and not the Qur’an. Muhammad’s life and sayings occupy a key space in the faith of Islam. There is no need to live by the words and life of the Prophet, if the faith is Monotheistic. He is simply a man. He makes mistakes. He is fallible. The Hadiths are pointless, if the Qur’an is the true word of the one God. If the only requirement of Islam, is to live by the words of the Qur’an, then the faith can be considered far more Monotheistic, than it is the moment we introduce Hadiths into the equation. Muslims undoubtedly hold the life of sayings (even outside of revelation) of the Prophet, in high regard. To question the actions of the Prophet, is to insult Islam. To negatively depict the Prophet, is to insult Islam. They may not call it ‘worship’, but it is as close as devotion gets to worship. Mehdi Hasan of New Statesman fame once told a crowd during a debate that he loved the Prophet, more than his own children. That is devotion, closer to worship than any other form. It places infallibility on a person, but simultaneously claiming not to. Again, it blurs the lines of Polytheism and Monotheism. The Islamic faith, like Catholicism, goes ‘beyond’ the simplistic ‘one God’ notion. Not quite enough to make it outright Polytheistic but certainly enough to render the concept of Monotheism in Islam suspect.

I don’t think it is possible to apply the succinct terms ‘Polytheism’ or ‘Monotheism’ so flippantly to the Abrahamic faiths. There are recognisable problems with Monotheism for the devoutly religious. It lacks a human aspect that can only be fulfilled by human actors; human actors who slowly become ‘worshipped’, relied upon for the continuation of the faith and as close to Gods as one can be without acquiring the name. Their lives and words are just as central to the faith, as the ‘revelation’ of their God. They are deemed untouchable. Polytheism did not die with the growth of the ‘Monotheistic’ religions. It simply shifted focus, blurred the lines, and the product of that blurring, can be seen when we sit in the dimly lit Basilica of Sacre Coeur and witness the unwavering and passionate devotion of the believers.


The curse of Mother Teresa

March 28, 2011

2010 marked 100 years since the birth of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu; Mother Theresa. She is a Catholic heroine, beatified by the Catholic Church in 2003 at St Peters in Rome by Pope John Paul II, and given a Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She is known the World over for her aiding the impoverished people of India, and in particular, Calcutta. She is often idolised, considered a wonderful, caring, selfless human being.

I could not disagree more with that perception.

There are a great deal of those beatified who are certainly worthy of such high admiration. Anne-Marie Javouhey is perhaps one of my favourites. She founded Institute of Saint Joseph of Cluny at Cabillon in the early 19th Century, dedicating her life educating the poor and slave populations across the World. She was an emancipator, far before my most revered emancipator, Charles Sumner was even born. Javouhey worked tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of the poor and the ill. For this, she deserves all the admiration that the Catholic Church bestowed upon her.

There are also a great deal of those beatified, who do not deserve it, and should be absolutely condemned. Isidore of Seville is a Saint, made so by Saint Clement VIII. Isidore once wrote an essay calling for the Christians to take Jewish children away from their parents by force, and educate them in the Christian way. A wonderful study by Bat-sheva Albert called “Isidore of Seville: His attitude toward Judaism and his impact on Early Medieval Cannon Law” shows that Isidore was concerned with writing instructions for the clergy to adhere to, and those instructions were unusually marred with vicious language aimed directly at Judaism, and perpetuated the persecution and suspicion of Jews during the Medieval period. We could claim that Isidore lived in the 6th Century and that we’re typically viewing and condemning him through 21st Century vision. The problem is, Isidore’s views on taking children away from their parents simply for being Jewish, were radical even for the 6th Century. Because the rational conscience of humanity is often at odds with the irrational immorality hell of organised religion.

Unfortunately, Mother Theresa is not even close to being as admirable in any way, in comparison to Javouhey, and actually closer in terms of the destruction to human life, to Isidore of Seville.

Her order, the “missionaries of charity” did more to inflict suffering, pain and poverty on people needlessly, than the actual causes of that suffering and pain and poverty itself. She believed that poverty was a virtue to brought one closer to God. The more a person suffers, whether they ask for that suffering or not, the closer they are to God according to the warped fantasy of Mother Theresa, recently beatified. Primitive equipment was used to treat wounds. No pain killers were used at all. Unsterilised needles equipment was used. People died far sooner than they would have had Mother Theresa actually bothered to recommend actual medical treatment for the poor that she was apparently “helping”.

Her use of fairy tales to promote suffering and pain should be viewed with the contempt it deserves. She believed suffering was good, abortion was wrong, and birth control was evil. In a country like India, villifying birth control is reckless at best. According to a freelance writer, Judith Hayes, Mother Theresa once told a cancer patient in her care that she did not need pain killers, because:

“You are suffering like Christ on the cross, So Jesus must be kissing you.”

How else would someone come to such a positively dangerous position that does nothing but cause unnecessary pain and suffering, if not for belief. Why would a sane human being refuse pain killers to a dying lady in pain, other than a belief in a God. And what a poor argument for an all loving God that would be.

Mother Theresa sat on a fortune. Banks accounts all over the World, filled with millions upon millions in donations. People were led to believe that they were giving money to alleviate suffering. Instead, the millions of dollars sat unused, like a bottle of water and loaf of bread hanging over the mouths of the starving, being held just out of reach by an insane Nun who wallowed in her feet being kissed by impoverished “Calcutteans”.

Calcutta itself, the capital of West Bengal, is home to far more people than it can sustain. Almost 6 million live in Calcutta and the streets are paved with the homeless. 6 million people, in 71 square miles, is ridiculous. That being said, it has cultural heritage that far surpasses anything else in India. Mother Theresa tried to persuade people against the use of condoms. In a city vastly overpopulated, she was attempting to ban condoms, and persuading people that abortion was a great evil; even for victims of incest and rape. Millions of people were being put at risk, because Mother Theresa and the Catholic Church indulged in an irrational campaign against the use of contraception.

In New York, a homeless and poor shelter was going to be installed in the Bronx. The plans included two storied building. The City Planning Commission insisted that for the disabled, their must be an elevator. The Nuns applied for a waiver of the Disabled Access Laws, on grounds of nothing else but “religious belief”. Mother Theresa and the Nuns refused to allow an elevator to be installed because their religious beliefs forbade them from using “modern conveniences”. When the Commission refused them the waiver, Mother Theresa and her Nuns threw their toys out of the pram and abandoned the project. They would rather let people suffer, than install an elevator.

Susan Shields, an ex-member of the Missionaries on Charity tells her story, about what she witnessed when she was a Sister in the organisation run by Mother Theresa:

When Mother spoke publicly, she never asked for money, but she did encourage people to make sacrifices for the poor, to “give until it hurts.” Many people did – and they gave it to her. We received touching letters from people, sometimes apparently poor themselves, who were making sacrifices to send us a little money for the starving people in Africa, the flood victims in Bangladesh, or the poor children in India. Most of the money sat in our bank accounts.

The flood of donations was considered to be a sign of God’s approval of Mother Teresa’s congregation. We were told by our superiors that we received more gifts than other religious congregations because God was pleased with Mother, and because the Missionaries of Charity were the sisters who were faithful to the true spirit of religious life.

Most of the sisters had no idea how much money the congregation was amassing. After all, we were taught not to collect anything. One summer the sisters living on the outskirts of Rome were given more crates of tomatoes than they could distribute. None of their neighbors wanted them because the crop had been so prolific that year. The sisters decided to can the tomatoes rather than let them spoil, but when Mother found out what they had done she was very displeased. Storing things showed lack of trust in Divine Providence.

Mother Theresa once claimed that doing good for the sake of altruistic reasons, is wrong. She claimed:

There is alwayst he danger that we may become only social workers or just do the work for the sake of the work. … It is a danger; if we forget to whom we are doing it. Our works are only an expression of our love for Christ. Our hearts need to be full of love for him, and since we have to express that love in action, naturally then the poorest of the poor are the means of expressing our love for God.

She was essentially saying that the only moral course a person must take in regard to charity, is to extol the virtues of poverty, let the sick and dying suffer, abandon painkillers, and ban birth control, all because it will take us closer to “Jesus”. It is virtually impossible to reason with someone who is so shockingly unreasonable, it borders on psychopathic.

When Mary Loudon, a volunteer in Calcutta asked one of the Nuns responsible for patient “care” why she was not sterilizing the needles, the nun replied:

There is no point.

And continued to wash the needle under a cold tap.
Loudon then tells a story about a fifteen year old boy who went from having a simple kidney problem, and by the time she was writing this, he was dying. The Nuns had refused to give him antibiotics and would not allow him to be taken to the local hospital. He needed operating on and was just being left to die, whilst the delusional Nuns of the order of Mother Theresa prayed for him. The Nuns argued that if they did it for one, they’d have to do it for all of them. Not withstanding the fact that they were running a shack with unsterilized equipment, they also were sitting on millions of dollars; enough to build a top class hospital. The decision not to use that money to help people, was entirely down to religious belief.

People in the care of Mother Theresa, were given no painkillers, treated with dirty implements, given no specialist care, no professional diagnosis, and more often than not, died because of easily curable injuries and disease. They were indoctrinated to believe that if they doubted Mother Theresa, they were doubting God, and would be punished in the afterlife. They died, for the sake of a multi millionaire religious fundamentalist.


If we believe absurdities, we commit atrocities…

March 6, 2011

You are perhaps going to have to forgive me for writing a blog that is all over the place, this is a subject that I have tried to grapple with for the past few days, almost non-stop, and so this blog is almost just a bunch of thoughts splashed on a page. It may not make sense.

On Thursday night I went to along to a debate between the Muslim International Public Speaker and Researcher Hamza Tortzis and Atheist Philosopher and editor of the Philosophy magazine “Think“, and senior lecturer at Heythrop College in the University of London Dr Stephan Law.

Allow me to set the scene.
95% of people in the room – Muslim.
5% – Atheist.

The fallacies set fourth by Tortsiz were just too easy to discredit. Law was good, but he didn’t have enough time to really get to grips with the arguments. And he was faced with a room full of people who had already decided he was wrong, before the debate even began.

After the debate I got a few minutes to try to debate with Tortzis myself. Unfortunately he had to leave and so I didn’t get the chance. But he very kindly left me his email address, so that we could carry on the debate via email.

One of his points that I took issue with, was the subject of objective morality. It is widely used by the religious community. Tortzis claimed that one can only have a sense of objective morality through God, because the Bible/Koran are books that anchor morality. I find that claim to be ludicrous. It is ludicrous because if it were the case, we would still be advocating stoning people for working on a Sunday, and selling slaves. We have outgrown religious morality, and so it cannot possibly be anchored, transcending time and culture.

I emailed this:

Firstly I wanted to debate a couple of points you made.
You suggested that we Atheists can have no moral basis, simply because we don’t have a belief in a God. You somehow linked a lack of belief, to a lack of basis for morality, to….. Hitler. As if Scientific rationalism (which i’d even agree, can be flawed) lead to Hitler and the holocaust. You mentioned Hitler and the holocaust in relation to a lack of basis for morality several times. The Pope actually made very similar remarks when he was in England.
Firstly, Hitler was Roman Catholic. He certainly wasn’t Atheist.
Hitler in 1922, said this:
“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. .. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison.”
Hitler in 1933, said this:
“Today they say that Christianity is in danger, that the Catholic faith is threatened. My reply to them is: for the time being, Christians and not international atheists are now standing at Germany’s fore. I am not merely talking about Christianity; I confess that I will never ally myself with the parties which aim to destroy Christianity.”
Hitler, also in 1933, said this:
“We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”
Hitler in 1934, said this:
“National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity.”

To even have suggested Atheism can lead to the rise of people like Hitler, is a gross manipulation of the historical fact, which shows quite clearly that Hitler’s motives came far more from a belief in organised religion, than it ever did from some sort of Christopher Hitchens style Atheism. It is simply wrong of you to have suggested that, it cannot be presented in any other way.

Another reason why it is wrong to have suggested that it is Atheists who have no basis for morality, is that it would appear you chose to ignore the absolute atrocities committed throughout the history of religion, in the name of religion. Atheists did not imprison Galileo. Atheists did not torture people of other faiths. Atheists did not start a war, killing innocent people, over a piece of land in the middle of the desert. Atheism did not behead, torture, rape, encourage our “brothers” to kill in the name of our religion like the Catholic Church did in the 16th Century, or like Protestant England did around 1534 onwards. Atheism is not responsible for the idea that it is perfectly acceptable for a grown man to suck the blood out of the mutilated penis of a baby boy, like the Jewish Mohel is employed to do. It wasn’t Atheists who called for Salmon Rushdie to be beheaded, simply because he wrote a book. It wasn’t Atheists who burnt down a Danish embassy, simply because a cartoon “offended” them. It wasn’t Atheists who moved to the Colonies of the United States and began the biggest mass genocide up until that point, in history. It isn’t Atheists who shoot abortion doctors in America. It isn’t Atheists who go to Uganda and profess that condoms actually cause AIDs. It isn’t Atheists who torture and kill people in Africa simply for being in love with someone of the same sex, because their vicious dogmatic hatred tells them that is acceptable. It isn’t Atheists who blocked the entrance and constantly picketed and threatened staff at a cancer unity, and made that cancer unit in England give it’s donation back to the writers of Jerry Springer the Opera because they considered it “blasphemy”, thereby depriving that cancer unit of key equipment. Religions claims on morality are bordering on laughable, given the history of it. Where is the morality in that? Those people aren’t Atheists. They are religious, and they genuinely believe what they are doing is right by their God. Christianity even has ten commandments, in which most of them are just rules on how to not make God jealous, rather than something like “do not molest children”. You chose to ignore all of this, and by doing so, presenting just one simplistic version of what morality is, you managed to make a bunch of people who clearly could not think for themselves, sat in front of me, say constantly “great point!! Atheism is fucking nonsense”. And again, for our Atheist debater to have not picked up on any of this, was incredibly frustrating. What you essentially did, was ignore the immorality of religion over the years (which is so vast, I don’t even know where to start) and point to the holocaust, as evidence for where a lack of moral basis can lead, and even that was flawed because as seen, Hitler was Roman Catholic. So that entire five minutes of your argument was just invented history.

On to the subject of Atheist morality itself, you suggested we have no basis for morality. I would argue that my basis for my sense of morality comes from the progress society has made to get to the point we are at now. It is all a process of Natural selection. My basis for morality is the history of morality. We have acquired such “codes” if you will, to survive. The same can be said for religious evolution. Have you noticed that people who have so-called “Conversions” almost always convert to a religion that is predominant in their culture anyway? I never see a person in Leicester suddenly decide they need to convert to Taoism. It is rare to find a person in Leicester suddenly, out of nowhere, decide they had a religious experience in which they saw an elephant with a blue face and several arms, it will almost always, in the West, be a conversion to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. There will be the odd one or two discrepancies, but if research were undertaken on this, I’m fairly certain we’d find that “conversions” are very much influenced by cultural values already quite strong in whichever area one grew up. This, i’d suggest, is because religion updates with the rest of society. If we were to abide by the Biblical or Quranic “ethics” of 1500 years ago, I cannot imagine we’d all be too happy.

You argued that Atheist morality cannot have objection meaning. Well, nor can religious. Religious people will always argue that their book can be interpreted in many ways, so by definition, it is subjective. An Islamic fundamentalist will no doubt read the Quran far differently to how you do. Does that mean he is wrong? Why is he wrong? He is interpreting the Quran in his own way. He is getting out of the Quran, how his mind interprets it. So on the one hand an Islamic scholar may completely deplore Islamic fundamentalism, and on the other an Islamic scholar elsewhere may condone it. Subjective morality based on apparently objective values. If Christians were to interpret the Bible in the way that early Christians did, then the institute of marriage now would be between a man/rapist/child molester and his virgin woman, another woman, another woman, a few more women, a hostage, a rape victim, and the female children of parents who have just been slaughtered. But never a homosexual, because that is apparently where they draw the line, quite amusingly.
So religion itself can be very subjective, because it rules are ambiguous and in many cases, very out-dated (as of my interpretation, i’d guess you might interpret it differently – proving my point).

To his credit, he emailed back almost immediately with:

Hi Jamie
Thank you for your email
I will read thoroughly and respond appropriately
But one thing you need to understand, I never claimed Atheists have no moral foundation or are immoral, not once did I say this.
What I said was that in absence of God you do not have a conceptual anchor that transcends human subjectivity. In other words there is no foundation for objective morality.
With regards to the Nazi Germany point, I never claimed that Hitler was an atheist! My point was that if we take social pressure as a foundation for objective morality then we cannot fully condemn such atrocities which were the result of social pressure.
You really need to listen to what I am saying, and not skew what I say via your previous experiences with religious people etc.
I will respond in more detail. But in the mean time please read “Ethics” by J L Mackie (who was a leading atheist philosopher) and you will see that according to the atheistic perspective there are no objective morals. They are just relative.
Warmest Regards
Hamza

I never said I thought he’d told me that Atheists are immoral.
The line:
“My point was that if we take social pressure as a foundation for objective morality then we cannot fully condemn such atrocities which were the result of social pressure.”
…. is a again misleading, because if we take Religion as a foundation for objective morality, we cannot fully condemn such atrocities that are committed by people who genuinely believe what they are doing glorifies God.

Also, the line:
“a conceptual anchor that transcends human subjectivity”
is very unnerving, because a concept, by definition, is surely man made? And so a concept cannot transcend human subjectivity. A conceptual anchor is just another way of saying a theory. A concept cannot be an anchor because it is not, by definition, truth. Surely a conceptual anchor could also be a political theory…….. like Fascism? To its adherents, it transcends human subjectivity.

The greatest adversaries of morality, are those within the religious community, who sincerely believe that the acts of great cruelty and evil that they commit, are permitted and encouraged by their God and that they will be receiving a reward in an afterlife for committing such acts.

If your book of “objective morality” can permit such acts, or be interpreted to apparently condone such acts, then I do not want your objective morality; it’s fucking horrific. I never once claimed, nor do most Atheists, that we base our moral foundation on social pressure. I certainly don’t. I base it on the one rule that outshines every other when it comes to morality: Treat others as you would be happy to be treated yourself.

Are we honestly saying that for hundreds of thousands of years, the evolving man raped and murdered his way across the World, and then, in the middle of the Desert, 1500 years ago, God suddenly said “okay this needs to stop”. How ridiculous.

Surely an objective truth is objective to the person making the moral statement, unless he is lying. So if there is only subjective morality and I say “It is moral to slaughter millions of Jewish people“, that is objective to me, in the same way as a Muslim suicide bomber would argue that it is morally right to fly a plan into a building.

The reliance on a God for the basis of objective morality, is subjective also because one cannot prove, or come anywhere close to proving the existence of God, and so one cannot prove, or come close to proving the existence of objective morality. I have just as much evidence to say that my God is a man with three heads and talks to me when I am asleep, and has told me that it is morally acceptable to kill all men with ginger hair. If we are to take the Theist argument, then that is my new basis for objective morality. You can be as absurd as you wish, and claim that that particular absurdity provides you with a foundation of objective morality, without offering any proof into the existence of the very thing that apparently gave you the morals in the first place.

Moral objectivism is contradictory, because it updates itself when new evidence is presented to the contrary. So it is subjective by nature. Maybe moral conservatism is a better term. If we are the follow the “objective morality” of the Old Testament, we must surely be arguing the case for slavery? Have the moral objectivists succumbed to so-called “social pressure”? Was the “objective morality” of the Old Testament simply “objective morality” within the context of the time period, in which case, it isn’t objective.

Suicide bombing is almost monopolised by religion. Shooting abortion doctors is definitely monopolised by religion. Chopping the foreskin off of a baby is definitely monopolised by religion (it is also a crap argument for design, if you have to cut off the foreskin of a babies penis, had God messed up when he created foreskin?). Marrying off children to older men is definitely monopolised by religion (and the Catholic Church is REALLY trying hard to make paedophilia a monopoly held by religion). “Objective morality” sent by “God” necessarily makes otherwise good people do awful things they would not normally do. Where would anyone get the idea that it is okay to mutilate a child’s genitalia, without their “conceptual anchor” saying so? Is that really what we’re calling a morally superior system?

How are we to judge whether what organised religion tells us is an objectional basis for morality, is moral in itself? How can you say for certain that it isn’t the work of Satan trying to mislead us? How am I to judge the morality of your Holy Book? Where does the objective foundation for my judging your Holy book come from?
It remains, that even if you conclude that objective morality can only come from God (which I absolutely don’t accept), there is no way to know that that basis, is moral in itself, for that you require belief.

Tortzis continued:

Whatever basis you select or decide for our sense of morality it will always render morals subjective, unless its God.

Take evolution and social pressure for instance. They both change and therefore make morals relative to biological or social changes.

Why must moral facts, come from a God? We can, as Atheists, say rationally that causality plays a role in our morality. We can say that by a given action, this will happen, we can deduce a moral judgement. David Kelley in “Logical structure for objectivism” (which I’ve just picked up at the library, for this very reason) states:

” Material needs such as needs for health and food: these values contribute directly to survival.
Spiritual needs such as needs for conceptual knowledge, self-esteem, education and art: these values are spiritual in the sense that they primarily pertain to consciousness, and contribute to survival by helping Reason to function properly.
Social needs such as needs for trade, communication, friendship and love: these values are social in that they occur only through interaction with others. Logically, their status as values is due to the fact that they contribute to the fulfillment of spiritual and material needs.
Political needs such as needs for freedom and objective law, which are needs concerning the organization of society. These provide the context for fulfilling our material, spiritual and social needs”

It is a similar point to what Maslow was getting at. Objective morality, they argue, is based on causality. Like religion though, the basis of that morality is quite clear, whilst the implementation may differ from person to person. My need for love being that with a member of the opposite sex, will be different to my gay friends, but the need for love itself, is objective. This doesn’t then lead us to say that that particular objective structure, could lead to the rise of Hitler or people like Hitler. Because you must introduce context to the action, because context is reality. Killing a snake as it about to bite us and killing someone on the street are two entirely separate things. The state of ourselves, the state of the thing being killed, the action needed to perform the killing, all lead to different results. One way, we are saving ourselves, the other way, we are a criminal who just murdered someone. The Bible states “Thou shalt not kill”. There is no context to that, we just must never kill. So, actually that is not objective, because it isn’t based on reality, because it doesn’t take into account context, and context is always necessary to make moral judgements. Dogmatic subjectivism cannot give moral answers. As we see every day with the way religious people use their religion to carry out horrific acts.

Thomas Paine noted this, two centuries ago:

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”

Are we to claim that those cruel and tortuous executions, that unrelenting vindictiveness is objectively moral?

So, i’d go one further and suggest that kinship is also a factor. In fact, i’d suggest objective morality is a very deep mental process that cannot be summed up with just “God”. It is a process of learning. It is kinship and the recognition of others right to life as we recognise it in ourselves. It is knowledge, education, health, freedom, friendship and love, and causation, leading to what it is that will make us happy without hurting those around us; treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. If we hadn’t developed this system of “codes”, we would not be here now, we would have been one of 99% of natures victims. If I bring God into the equation, I may treat others as I wish to be treated…. unless they’re Gay, or a non-believer, then I should unquestioningly presume they are going to hell, but just after I have sold my slave.

We have evolved to have certain characteristics; love, aggression, hate, friendship, compassion, anger. We note which ones give a positive response from others, and so that becomes a part of our moral decision making process.

Besides, I think I have found a moral in the Bible, that I actually like:

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But Thomas them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
John 20:25

I interpret this very subjective passage, to mean that one should question everything, until you see what is being fed to you as truth, demonstrated for you. I like that moral. I will stick to that moral, because that moral leads me to logically conclude that the god of the Bible, does not exist.

If we are to accept that the foundations of objective morality come from God, then why worry about anything that He has created? Humans existing and living in parts of the World that are largely uninhabitable? The fact that we have natural disasters that aren’t in anyway the fault of humanity? It’s all part of God’s plan. Why care? Do we have to care for the sake of reward in an afterlife, or fear of punishment? Is that moral? If my boss is saying to me “you either come to work, or you stay at home, but if you stay at home I will sack you”….. then morality suddenly has a context factor introduced, which renders it almost immoral; i.e – I am going to work, because if I don’t, I will be punished.

The morality of the Quran and the Bible seem to be “I, God, made you sick, with a sickness that I created, and now I have given you the chance to be well, but if you don’t get well, I will have you tortured for eternity”. If I were to enact that kind of regime on Earth, I would surely be labelled immoral by many different people, including the religious.

I find it simply absurd, that apologists of organised religion can have the nerve to claim they have a foundation for objective morality, when people within their own faith cannot even agree on its rules. It is a contradiction beyond anything I think I’ve ever stumbled across.
The mere idea of objective morality is just as troublesome, if not more so, than moral relativism.
Perhaps we should call religious “objective morality“….. “non-thinking morality” or “blind acquiescence morality“.

There are actually no amoral primate social groups anywhere in the World. Even Baboons have codes of conduct. The biologist Edward Wilson describes instances where chimps jump into water to save drowning mates. He suggests this is a primitive version of morality.

Michael Shermer, the American scientist has noted that certain traits are noticeable in great apes:

attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peacemaking, deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group.

This suggests a rather primitive form of moral codes, to aid the survival and progress of a social group.

I would argue that morality is innate, it has evolved along with humanity over millions of years. It is an essence of solidarity and survival. For a good person to commit a great evil, is far more often committed because the person believes they have permission from a God to commit such an evil. Evil people will always do evil things, good people will only do evil things for their “conceptual anchor” be it a political concept or a religious concept. A suicide bomber who blows himself up outside of a hotel or a school, is not necessarily born with the belief that killing innocent people including children is a moral act. Their interpretation of their faith is what guides them to commit atrocities, so how fucking dare the religious apologists try to suggest that they have the monopoly on objective morality, because for too long all it has achieved is the casting of a vicious and violent and hateful shameful shadow over humanity.

I would also go one step further and claim that religion came about as a product of morality, not the other way around. Fear of punishment was a great way to get humanity to obey certain rules of conduct, very similar to how Hitler used the abstract “conceptual anchor” of Nationalism.

Is it true that without a divine dictator, everyone would do exactly as we wished? We would all be murdering our way through life? No. Of course not. Morality is socially evolved, and a product of survival. Nothing else.

“If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities” — Voltaire


My law on marriage

February 26, 2011

If we are to take the Biblical view, that marriage is between a man and a woman, we must look at what Biblical marriage stood for. Christians who oppose gay marriage, if they are going to use to the Bible to try to justify their prejudices, must be consistent and follow through with the Biblical guide to marriage. So perhaps we should use the Bible to structure a new Federal law on the Defence of Marriage. Let’s call it, Futile Democracy’s Defence of Marriage Act 2010. I took it upon myself to write it up:

Section 1 define marriage:
A marriage is defined as a union between a man and a virgin woman.
Deuteronomy 22:13-21
A marriage is also valid, in the eyes of God and so the eyes of the United States Congress, if it is between a man and his sister.
Genesis 20:1-14
The union also permits the man to take concubines whenever he sees fit.
2 Sam 5:13
2 Chron 11:21

Section 2 relating to women as captives:
If a man within the United States of America finds a desirable woman in a room of captives, he is entitled to marry her on the spot, without her consent.
After marrying a captive, it is required, by the consent of the United States Congress, that the man must first take her home, and shave her head.
Deut. 21:11-13

Section 3 relating to women as property:
Trading in women, is a perfectly acceptable form of property dealing, within the United States of America.
RUTH 4:5-10
Wives must not speak, or offer opinions, especially in Church, except in the company of her superior (husband) at home.
I Corinthians 14:34-35
If a man rapes a virgin, he shall pay fifty pieces of silver, and then marry her.
Deut. 22:28
If a woman is kidnapped at a party, this shall not fall under the law of the United States forbidding kidnapping, as long as the man marries the kidnapped woman.
Judges 21:19-25
When at war, is it permitted that you destroy their cities, kill all men and women and male children, take the female children for yourselves, and marry them.
Judges 21:7-23
Purchasing children of foreigners is acceptable in God’s eyes. You may marry them, as they are now your property.
Leviticus 25:44-46

Section 4 relating to adultery:
The punishment for adultery is stoning to death.
Death shall not be enforced before a quasi-trial is given for the wife. If the parents of the wife can prove that the wife is a virgin by spreading the cloth worn by the wife on a table to the City Elders, the husband must pay compensation to the parents and the wife is not permitted to see her parents ever again.
If she is found guilty, she must be put to death.
Deut. 22:22-30

Section 5 relating to pregnancy:
If a wife gives birth to a boy, she must spend a week in isolation because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, unclean.
If a wife gives birth to a girl, she must spend two weeks in isolation, because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, very very unclean.
Leviticus 12:5

Section 6 relating to the death of a husband:
Definitely don’t marry your dead husband’s brother.
Leviticus 20:21
Definitely do marry your dead husband’s brother.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10

Section 7 on divorce:
If a citizen of the United States of America abandons his wife and children, for Jesus, he will be rewarded.
Matthew 19:29
A woman who is divorced for a second time or widowed by her second husband, must not remarry her first husband.
Deuteronomy 24:3-4
Divorce and remarrying, is committing adultery against your first husband or wife in the eyes of Jesus and the United States Congress. This isn’t a law as such, just to let you know, if you get divorced, we think you’re scum.
Mark 10:2-12

Section 8 conclusion:
Marriage within the United States of America, is hereby described objectively as a union between a man, brother, rapist and a virgin woman, another woman, another woman, a few more women, a hostage, a rape victim, and the female children of parents who have just been slaughtered.
But NEVER let a homo marry. This is unnatural and immoral.

I think that just about sums up exactly what the new US law on Defence of Marriage should consist of, you know, if it really is about pleasing God, and not about simply being horrific bigots.

I found this poet, Alvin Lau, in a powerfully beautiful poem exploring the bullshit of Christian homophobic attitudes that are prominent on the American Right wing. I cannot think of a better way to put into words exactly how I feel on the subject of gay marriage, than Lau does:


Multiculturalism in England

February 5, 2011

At the Student protest rally in London last November, I saw a group of people marching together; laughing and joking, holding a sign saying “Jewish and Muslim Students Unite“. A Jewish guy was holding the hand of a Muslim girl. Sadly, I didn’t manage to take a photo of those two. But I got a photo of the banner. I cannot think of a better symbol of the success of multiculturalism in this country, than that group of young people. Whilst the older generation (and a few crazed extremists) likes to cling on to some oddly indefinable nostalgic sense of “Britishness”, the rest of us are getting on with each other, just fine.

David Cameron today has claimed that Britain has become too tolerant of extreme Muslims. It is an unfortunate speech because it comes on the same day as the biggest EDL rally in its history in Luton, later today. Cameron’s mistake is that he mentioned Muslim extremism particularly, and not English Nationalism too.

Both are intolerable thugs, yet both are just not important. They should be ridiculed and ignored.

Cameron makes this speech a year after Merkal of Germany made pretty much the same speech in which she argued that German Multiculturalism had failed, and argued for a strong German national identity……… a strong……. German…. national identity…………. I wont point out the obvious flaw there.

He claimed that too many Muslim organisations are showered with public money, without doing anything to combat extremism. The question is, are the extremists part of these groups showered with public money? If they are, then of course they should be trying to combat the extreme element. But if they aren’t, then why should they? It’s like claiming that all middle aged men should be using their time and influence to combat the fact that a large number of paedophiles, tend to be middle aged men.

It would be terribly ignorant to suggest that there isn’t an extreme element of Islam in the UK. There is. Is it a threat? No. It is a fringe group of fundamentalists, just like the EDL, or should not be acknowledged or given a platform whatsoever. When either EDL or Muslim groups start to propagate violence, then it is up to the security services to make sure they don’t make good on their pathetic threats. But whilst they keep talking about “the word of God”, we should shake our heads, wondering how humanity hasn’t managed to progress past the middle ages, philosophically.

There are many many English Nationalist bloggers who blog exclusively concerning Islamic fundamentalism. They never mention violence and racial discourse by English Nationalism, because they are a part of that propaganda machine intended to imagine Englanders as the great victims. It is of course nonsense, but it isn’t just English Nationalists who play that card….

The Islamic Standard takes fairy tale delusions to the next level. It is religious folk like he, that I despise. They are the cancer of the Earth. He states of a soldier who has recently died in combat:

The family said in a statement: “Martin was proud to be in the Parachute Regiment and serving his country. He served three years as a Police Community Support Officer in West Yorkshire Police before joining the PARAs.”

So not only was he in it for the money like many soldiers, but actually believed in this war against Islam and though anyone can change whilst still alive and become a better person, I can’t help feeling the world is a better place without this nationalistic enemy of Muslims on the planet.

One wonders why he thinks we should be a “friend” of his brand of Islam, when he preaches the total overthrow of our entire culture, and replacement by his.
It’s an ugly sentiment. It makes me angry to read it. But knee-jerk reactions, to Religious Fascism is what leads to the rise of National Fascism, and that’s fucking horrendous too.
It is ironic that he uses the term “nationalistic”. Nationalism is the mirror image of Religious fundamentalism. Both are fighting for a silly little concept, an outdated, human invention. A non-divine, delusion. He lives in a Country that allows him the freedom to wish death upon anyone who isn’t the biggest fan of his fairy tale delusion, and yet he condemns it. As an Atheist, I do not condemn him to death, I do not want to impose my ways on him. I’m sure he can be a nice, civilised, loving person, when he isn’t being a massively racist thug. Whether the man who died was a soldier or not, is irrelevant to Islamic Standard, because in his “about” section, he states:

We also don’t condemn our brethren who do violent acts in the UK, they have their evidence, we have our’s and we love them for the sake of Allah, they are our brothers and sisters and we would never agree to hand them over to the kufr Taghoot authorities and believe to side with the Kuffar, aid them in their war against Islam by either spying on the Muslims or joining their crusading armies and police forces are acts of Kufr Akbar (major disbelief).

– He does not condemn terrorism. He loves them, actually. For the sake of a fairy man in the sky, he loves terrorists. But he doesn’t love Western terrorism. The terrorists have to be Muslims. Violence and murder is perfectly acceptable, as long as you’re slightly Arabic. Because his God apparently differentiates between the skin colour or culture of his murderers. He condemns Western aggression throughout the World (which I do too), but he does not condemn Muslim extremism, when its aim is to install its punitive religious bullshit on those of us who would rather drink our own piss than submit to religious “values”. What if his “brethren” (a word that always makes me laugh, a product of religious delusion) who “do violent acts” kill a child? Is that not condemnable? What about an innocent old lady (I know extremists like to try to justify their inherently violent nature, by suggesting that no one is “innocent”, but that’s a cop out)? is that okay too, because it’s a fight for a massively overrated religion?
He, in short, is a thug.
But he is entitled to his bullshit, in this country. I entirely disagree with him. I find him a virus that the immune system of humanity should be intent on weeding out with logic and reason. But I will always defend his right to be a Fascist, in the same way that his mirror image – the EDL have the right to believe the bullshit that they believe. They are a very small minority who do not condemn violence against those who entirely disagree with them, but want others to understand, believe and treat them like our superiors. It isn’t ever going to happen from me. He condemns me for who I am. He condemns me, because I am not a Muslim.

Cameron argues that Multiculturalism has failed.
He’s wrong.
It hasn’t failed.
Thirty years ago, the Tories ran a campaign in Birmingham with a leaflet stating “If you want a nigger as a neighbour, vote Labour”. Thankfully, that sort of far right Nationalist bullshit is past us. Now, your kids could be white and Christian, playing football in the street with their black, Muslim and Sikh friends. My dad coaches youth cricket teams; the young players are all very very good friends, and are all mixed culturally. Cultural integration is a slow process that takes a generation or two to take hold. This new generation of children are far more culturally aware and integrated that we ever were. Cameron’s speech is inflaming a culture of suspicion of the “other” that until now has been left to the idiots on the far right. He is giving a credible face to that intolerance, especially by not referencing the anti-British values of the EDL.

That being said, I am no fan of organised religion, and if I had my way, no religious organisation would be receiving public funds, and I absolutely wouldn’t tolerate religious schools. I do not want Christian influence on politics and law, just like I don’t want Islamic influence on politics and law. I do not want fairy tales to influence reality. Cameron would do us all a credit, if he is taking a swipe at Islam, to also take a swipe at extreme Christians. Contrary to Christian belief, Western law is not based on Christian reasoning. It is based on social evolution and common sense. Law should be based on irrefutable fact, not on largely discredited miserable fairy tales from 1500-2000 years ago, in the desert. Whilst religious people like to suggest that homosexuality is unnatural, I would suggest that religious belief, is the most unnatural and vicious pessimistic invention humanity has ever had the misfortune to invent. The moment we no longer need such bullshit, is the day when we have evolved to the level that we can truly call ourselves civilised. Fundamentalist Islam, like Nationalists in the EDL are not civilised. They are barbaric thugs and nothing else. Do not let them convince you otherwise.

Multiculturalism has not failed.
The experiment of Nation States has failed. The experiment of one overriding National identity has failed. The experiment of organised religion has failed.
Nation States are a left over from Colonial days. They have nothing but a violent history. They are like a market place, always looking for resources to plunder. It doesn’t matter if it is Western Nations or Middle Eastern Nations; the rich ones always want more. It isn’t Islam vs Christianity. It is the rich vs the poor. Always will be. Religion is used as a way to separate the poor Westerners from the poor Easterners, when actually they have more in common with each other than they think. They should be joining hands and fighting back. Racism has always been used as a divisive tool to stop popular uprisings.

We are all a product of multiculturalism. A British identity has always been a little bit obscure. For most of our history, since the year 0, we were a Catholic country, in which the majority of our citizens considered themselves loyal to Rome before loyalty to the Nation. Protestants and Catholics fought for their vision of what it meant to be British. The English fought the Scots. The Royalists fought the Republicans. The Enlightenment thinkers struggled against the “traditionalists” of the elites. Darwin struggled to find a time to reveal the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, in the face of religious fundamentalists, so backward in their thinking, so dogmatic in their delusions, who would have liked him to have been silenced. We are a land of multiculturalism. I guarantee my idea of what it means to be British is far away from what David Cameron thinks it means to be British. Perhaps, in a very broad sense, we can deduce that to be British, is to believe in Democracy, the rule of secular law, and socially liberal values of acceptance. And tea drinking. Lots of tea drinking.

I have always argued that mass migration is linked entirely to global inequality. We, as a Western State had a foot up the ladder of global Capitalism long before Middle Eastern countries started to climb. We used our days of Empire to secure great wealth, that has kept us relatively privileged ever since. We pillaged the World and then blocked our borders to them. We stole resources and labour supplies, and gave nothing back. Now we are complaining that the people we left behind, want a better life for themselves and their families in the UK. That to me, is irrational. The balance has to be tipped toward the centre economically. Flooding the World with American and British multinational companies, is not fair. It is perpetuating the problem, it results in war and in hatred. Always will do. Especially when mixed with religion.

Fundamentalism in religion, is built on a bedrock of intolerance, hate, violence, delusion, anger, and whilst their mindset is undoubtedly influenced by their religious beliefs; they also must have psychological issues in the first place, to allow themselves to condemn large sections of humanity, who have done nothing personally to upset or hurt them, to a violent, miserable death. This is the legacy of religion. To call any religion, the “religion of peace and love” is a contradiction in terms.

George Bush said he had heard the voice of the Christian God, who told him to go to war in Iraq. Absolute madness. And very very worrying, that a man who has such strong delusions can acquire the position of the most powerful man in the World. It is the 21st Century and our leaders are no different from the 16th Century European leaders who were raging wars based entirely on religions. It is almost beyond comprehension that our history for the past 2000 years has been plagued by the dictatorship of a work of fiction. Christian fundamentalism has been the driving force behind the power of the Catholic Church for decades.

If those of us who are sensibly minded, and optimistic for the future of humanity, those of us who are not infected with the disease of organised religion, all accept that it isn’t Islam itself or Christianity itself that are the problems, that they are just systems for spirituality; and we accept that it is indoctrination into extreme tendencies that are the problem, throughout the World of organised religion, we are sure to prevail. Logic, reason, and fact always prevails.

Moderate Christians, Muslims, Jews, English, Middle Eastern etc should be banding together, and enjoying each others company, learning from each other, and progressing. We should not be suspicious of each other, and we should not be condemning each other, purely for the beliefs one has.

Be black, be white, be gay, be straight, be Muslim, be Christian, be Jewish, be Atheist, be female, be male, be fat, be thin, be happy, be miserable, be sporty, be artistic, be eccentric, be philosophical, be left, be right, and live together.

I do not want to see people as being Muslim first. David Cameron is pointing and saying “look, a Muslim, be suspicious“.