Thursday, March 29, 2012

An excellent point-by-point rebuttal to faith-healer defending UK MPs

You probably know the story. The Advertising Standards Agency ruled that a leaflet handed out by a Christian group in Bath was misleading and its claims could discourage people from seeking essential medical advice.  This is because it contained a list of medical conditions which could be ‘healed today’.

Three MPs didn’t like the ruling, so they decided to complain to the ASA in a letter which is a master class in stupidity:

Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury
Chairman, Advertising Standards Agency
21st March 2012

We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.

We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.

It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?

We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Streeter MP (Con)
Chair, Christians in Parliament

Gavin Shuker MP (Labour)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Tim Farron (Lib-Dem)
Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

The most disappointing part for me is that I can’t get as angry about it as I’d like to because the bit about Gary Streeter’s poorly hand is so hilarious.

Martin Robbins does an excellent job of pulling the letter apart.

I have only one thing to add: it’s known that faith healing discourages medical treatment and that people die as a result. How can these ignorant fools promote that?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How tediously silly can you get?

This man thinks that the Turing Shroud fooled people into thinking that Jesus rose from the dead.Illusion? The image of Christ as it appears on the shroud. Christians believe it was the burial cloth that wrapped Christ's body after the crucifixion

His theory is that in the mind of a person 2,000 years ago, the image on the Shroud would have been astonishing - far beyond their normal experiences and truly unsettling.

'They saw the image on the cloth as the living double of Jesus,' he said.

Because people 2000 years ago were unable to tell the difference between a person and a crude two dimensional image of a person.

He ‘explains’:

'Back then images had a psychological presence, they were seen as part of a separate plain of existence, as having a life of their own.'

I don’t know what any of that is supposed to mean, but I think people would have been able to tell the difference between a picture and a person.

Needless to say, there’s some conspiracy crap about the shroud’s dating. Whatever the guy needs to ignore the facts.

This is a life profoundly wasted.

Monday, March 26, 2012

An extraordinary perspective

This year’s York Mystery Plays will involve lots of actors scattered around the city representing biblical characters who will tell you their story. Quite a nice, interactive idea. 

However, BBC’s Breakfast show interviewed the man who will be playing Noah.  He said that Noah is a great character to play because he gets to save all humanity.  You see, I would say the opposite: Noah condemns all of humanity – except for his immediate family – to destruction.  Not to mention all the other organisms that would have been destroyed had the whole story not been made up.

He’s undoubtedly the most unpleasant character in the Bible apart from Yahweh himself. 

He could have warned people.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mean spirited marriage laws

Apparently, under current British law, if a married person changes sex, they are legally forced to end their marriage.  This makes no sense at all: they’re the same people.  Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to tease out the ‘reasoning’ behind this idea.  Oh, so you want to be treated in law as a woman now do you?  Is that what you want is it?  Well FUCK YOU, sunshine: two women can’t be married.  How do you like THEM apples?

Hey, what if a man and a woman get married and both change sex at the same time? Is it OK for them to stay married?

To his credit, Nick Clegg is trying to change this.  The proposal says:

  • Same sex couples will be allowed to marry in civil ceremonies.
  • Civil partnerships will be retained for same sex couples and religious trappings will still be banned in those ceremonies. This is important.
  • Transsexual people won’t have to end their existing marriage or civil partnership.
  • There will be no changes at all to religious marriage ceremonies.

I could live without the last point.  I don’t see why organisations should be allowed to discriminate solely because they’re religious. But it’s clear that Clegg needs to pick his battles and that would probably be too big a step at this stage.  It hasn’t stopped bigots from pretending that the changes will somehow undermine their marriages, though. 

This is an absolutely bewildering argument: the idea that allowing other people to marry somehow changes my marriage is beyond my comprehension. Does my legal position change?  My human rights?  Those of my wife?  What about our moral obligations to each other? Will people perceive our relationship differently if some homosexuals get married too?  No on every count. And yet people unashamedly use this argument all the time with straight (and po) faces.

The Face of Po

And while we’re on the subject of bigoted, moralistic, judgemental wankers, have a gander at the Archbishop of Westminster, the Everso Really Really Tremendously Very Reverend Indeed Vincent Nichols (reverend).

This celibate old man, with his complete lack of experience of marriage (and who from the picture is quite clearly Martin out of Frasier) has decided to stick his fingers in his ears and shout “la la la, I’m not listening.”  What homosexual couples have, he insists for no reason, is a ‘profound friendship’.  That’s not the same thing as a marriage, apparently.  Perhaps he thinks that heterosexual marriages are not profound friendships, but he probably means that heterosexual marriages have something extra that homosexual ones do not.  He’s right. They have the sleazy approval of sanctimonious bigots like him.

Vincent Nichols: We must protect true meaning of marriage, says Roman Catholic leader

Obviously the same person

I bet you’re wondering how disingenuous his arguments are, right?  Judge for yourself:

"Marriage is about bringing difference together. Different sexes, sometimes different families, different tribes. It's been used to bring kingdoms together. It's about bringing difference together, out of which comes a new start and a new life.

The gender difference is essential for its creativity and its complementarity."

This statement has a kind of fractal preposterousness.  It gets more ridiculous the closer you look.  He’s actually using the example of forced political marriages of yore to justify the denial of rights to ordinary modern citizens.  It’s hard not to feel sorry for Vincent.  He’s been trained to believe that rambling, nonsensical, dishonest arguments like this are valid.

He said it was "utterly astonishing" the consultation did not make reference to children.

"It is excluding things that are of the very nature of marriage.

What mention would it make of children, exactly?  Oh we all know what he means: if we pretend that marriage is all about producing and raising children, we can also pretend we’re not bigots.  It’s hardly a novel argument.  But seriously, Vincent, what could the proposal possibly have to say about children?  Once again, the more closely you look at his argument, the more it fragments.

"I think it's not in the long run a good idea to change, to shake, that fundamental idea of marriage in which a man and a woman call each other husband and wife."

But that’s the very thing, isn’t it?  That’s all the proposal says.  Slightly change a bit of language on some legal documents nobody ever reads or cares about anyway.

He said he hoped the consultation would be conducted in a "measured and reasonable" manner.

What is it with religious people and their passive aggressive threats?  What he means is that he hopes people will pretend that his bigotry is somehow OK. 

I think Nick Herbert might be my new hero:

Nick Herbert, the Home Office minister, said the Archbishop had a "sad misunderstanding" of the nature of homosexual relationships. "It is akin to a union between a man and a woman in a heterosexual marriage," he said. "What is wrong with wanting to show a commitment towards someone?"

He went on: "I don't seek to dictate to the Archbishop what happens inside his Church, what standards he sets and what he seeks to do. It would be quite wrong for me or the state to do so. But equally I wonder why he should seek to dictate the institution of civil marriage outside of his Church which is not a matter for the Church."

Indeed so.  None of his fucking business. Toward the end of her life, one of my grandmothers became increasingly obsessed with what she considered her neighbours’ starlings stealing the food from her own bird table, which was intended for ‘her’ blue tits.  I can’t help but think of her Starling Crusade when I see parochial, stupid, bigoted arguments like Vincent’s.

He said same-sex unions would "strengthen the institution" of marriage.

Agreed. How could it not?

By way of contrast:

Peter Bone, a Conservative MP, told the programme the twelve-week consultation was a "sham" and the proposals did not appear in party manifestos.

"If you are going to change something that's 2000 years old put it in your manifesto, see if people vote for you, and then bring it forward in the next Parliament."

He added: "This is not my party; it's the Coalition Government. It's because of a dirty deal with the Liberals behind the scenes."

Oh grow up, you little small tiny man. You’re exactly the kind of person the word ‘prig’ was invented for.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ding dong the witch is dead

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has announced that he’s retiring to take on a different sinecure as Master of Magdalene College. I’m glad the blithering old fool is going, but there’s some concern that even bigger idiot John Sentamu will land the gig.

The prime minister, David Cameron, said in the Guardian: "I would like to thank Rowan Williams for his dedicated service as archbishop of Canterbury. As a man of great learning and humility he…

Wait, what? Humility?  This is a man who has two palaces and at least one solid gold hat and says he knows what the creator of the universe wants.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone less humble.

…guided the church through times of challenge and change. He sought to unite different communities and offer a profoundly humane sense of moral leadership that was respected by people of all faiths and none."

Ah yes, to unite different communities by, for example, advocating Sharia Law in the UK. That’s right, Rowan.  Throw women under the bus to strengthen the execrable notion that faith – regardless of creed – is good.  Don’t worry that Sharia courts don’t consider women to have the same rights as men.  Never mind that any such move would surely result in Muslim women being denied justice.  Just cosy up to Muslims because they are your brothers in delusion.  You need them as allies in your hand-flapping attempt to stave off the inevitable decline of religion.

By leaving now he makes time for his successor to prepare for the next Lambeth Conference, a worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops due in 2018.

ROFL.  That’s longer than we’ve been preparing for the Olympics.  What does he need to do?  Book a room?  Make sure there’s plenty of bottled holy water on the conference table?

Williams is not a fan of gay marriage.  He says that the government isn’t allowed to define what marriage is, which raises the question of who is?  Marriage has changed enormously over the years.  For example, women now have more rights in marriage than they used to (and very much more so than when the Bible was written).  These changes reflect the times and the needs of the population and we’ve changed the law to accommodate them.  Isn’t a fundamental shift in the rights and expectations of women in marriage redefining what marriage is?  Williams presumably doesn’t object to those improvements to marriage, but draws the line when it comes to homosexual marriage.  Where have we heard that before?

According to the Mail:

Although I think there is also a lot of ignorance and rather dim-witted prejudice about the visible manifestations of Christianity, which sometimes clouds the discussion.

And this says it all. Whatever you do, don’t judge the church on what it actually does.  Judge it on the things you can’t see which – Williams says – are really really good, honest.

Yes, there is a challenge and yes, the Church's public role is more contested than it used to be, and yes, we have to earn our right to speak more than perhaps was once the case but that is probably good for us.

Good for you?  The church’s role is changing because it is increasingly irrelevant to everyone, not because you can spin it to make it seem like it was your idea all along.

I wish Williams wasn’t being replaced at all, but let’s at least hope that the ineffectual yet self-important bigot Sentamu doesn’t get the job.

David Cameron would be acting like a ‘dictator’ and overruling the Bible if he legalises gay marriage, Dr John Sentamu also warned.

Then we’re also overruling the Bible if we create laws to prevent slavery, sowing wheat and barley in the same field, wearing polyester, eating shellfish  or shaving.

Or the death penalty, including for adultery or working on the Sabbath or laughing at religious people for being bald..

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wait a cotton-picking minute: about marriage

The religious and religiously inspired are obsessed with telling us who we shouldn’t be allowed to marry.  Most of this is homophobic invective as you’d expect: their plan is to use the law to institutionalise their particular idea of morality. 

We atheists and secular humanists often (and rightly) talk about how religions shouldn’t interfere with marriage.  Marriage is no longer a religious institution in many parts of the world.  We have secular wedding services and can get married with very little ceremony.  Moreover, in many places, Marriage has nothing to do with sexual behaviour: marriage is no longer a de facto license to have sex and few people (in Britain at least) frown very much on sex outside marriage these days.

I’m all for keeping religion out of marriage, but what we don’t seem to talk about so much is keeping government out of our marriages too.  What possible valid role does government have in deciding who can marry whom other than insisting that the partners all consent?

Marriage is a contract administered by government, according to government terms,  We don’t get to negotiate those terms.  It’s only a marriage if we agree to those terms (and in the UK those terms include heterosexuality).  Since people can live together in any way they wish without actual marriage, what is its purpose?  Well, in the UK there’s stuff about who inherits when one partner dies.  In the US, there’s insurance related stuff.  These are important things, denied to some people because the government doesn’t recognise their commitment to each other as marriage.

Taking the administration of that contract away from government would serve two purposes. 

First, it would turn the contract into what it is: a declaration of rights and responsibilities that you take on and give up when you get married.  The marriage would be defined in terms of those rights rather than in terms of things like sexuality or the number of people in the marriage.  Everyone agreeing to a marriage contract would have the same protection regardless of circumstances. 

Second, it would make it impossible for the religious to interfere with marriages.  They couldn’t appeal to any institutionalised idea of morality other than simple fairness for all parties entering into the marriage.  They couldn’t hold governments to ransom and governments (as I suspect our current government in the UK might be trying to do) couldn’t leverage religious views to gain votes regardless of actual policies.

I think we atheists and secular humanists should challenge our governments’ role in marriage rather than those silly religionists’.

I wonder why we don’t talk about this more.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Inexplicable thing

What is this?  I mean, what IS it?

Friday, March 09, 2012

You want to ban men from wolf-whistling? That's a cute idea, sweetheart

OK.  I’ve taken seven or eight hundred deep breaths.

Behold this.

A group of militant feminists want to ban all men from wolf-whistling and calling women 'darling'.

What group is this?  Rick Dewsbury doesn’t elaborate because it’s an American group and therefore nothing at all to do with EU regulations, which he later tries to conflate it with. Let’s look at what this group cares about:

Hollaback! is a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology. Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay. At Hollaback!, we don’t buy it.

I don’t buy it either. But Rick Dewsbury thinks that women who feel like they’ve been attacked are “a band of bony-fingered killjoys” who would “happily have all men carted off to a hell-hole prison in the Mexican desert to be tortured until they accept their hellish sins.”

Rick Dewsbury thinks that women who don’t like to be objectified are not the sort of women he’d like:

One can only imagine that they sit around in WI style meetings sticking pins into voodoo dolls of men as they plot their bitter quest to create a dull and overly-regulated world.

The idea that people of all sexes deserve the same respect is the exact opposite of making the world dull.  It is buying into the fact that the world and its people are interesting.

Dewsbury on wolf-whistling: 

Just because a few sensitive little sweeties have taken offence they want to ban everybody from enjoying themselves.

Everybody, eh?  The point here is that women generally say they don’t enjoy it and look what happens: ‘men’ like Rick Dewsbury say that women who don’t enjoy being sexually objectified are spoiling mens’ fun.  What’s wrong with those bitches?

The rest of the article goes on in the same way.

With police numbers already stretched to the limit, we don't need them bogged down even more with pathetic complaints from pushy women.

Yep, it’s the women being pushy.

We're in grave danger or creating a police state full of Clockwork Orange style robots.

Yeah, that’s the 'danger’ of treating women with respect.

The Daily Mail has somehow outdone itself

I honestly can’t think of anything to say.  If you need me to say anything, you shouldn’t be reading this blog.  Holy fuck.  And the comments.  Jesus Christ Almighty, the comments.

Monday, March 05, 2012

*Jumped* the shark? O’Brien *is* the shark

Mainstream religion never doesn’t want it both ways.  Its proponents want everyone to think ordinary mainstream religion is moderate and compassionate and not at all associated with the barbarism of old holy books. But at the exact same time they want to force everyone to do what they say.

This is why clergy from archbishops down admit in private that miracles are silly, then insist from the pulpit the very next Sunday that they are literally true.

Those of us outside the religious community call this Lying For Jesus.  The theological gents justify it in various tedious ways.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has a solid gold hat.  He seems pretty pleased about it. He’s not very pleased about gay marriage, however.

He likened the legalisation of gay marriage to the legalisation of slavery:

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave’.

“Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?”

Let’s see.  Let’s actually tease this apart, shall we? 

We’d be outraged if slavery were legalised because it is an astonishing offence against the people enslaved. The victims are those whose rights are denied. For reasons hardly anyone would ever argue with (even though, of course, the Bible shows that Yahweh clearly expects the faithful to keep slaves). 

O’Brien’s analogy suggests a similar outrage about gay marriage. But who is the victim? Well, we know the answer by now.  It’s O’Brien and his cohorts who feel they are being oppressed if homosexuals are allowed to marry.  If homosexuals are allowed to marry, O’Brien and his cohorts are being treated no better than slaves.

He says a whole lot of unbelievably idiotic, hateful shit from the safety of his solid golden hat.  I don’t have time to go into it in as much detail as I’d like, so let me just cite this excellent article by Nelson Jones.

I disagree with one thing in particular: mainstream religion is the shark. It’s outraged when people do things it doesn’t approve of, while all the time pretending something about universal love.  We seem conditioned to think of mainstream religion as not extreme.  Fuck you, O’Brien. It’s extreme to say hateful things about a bunch of people. It’s extreme to arrogantly decide that there’s one way people should behave and that they are reprehensible if they behave otherwise.

Nelson Jones’ article is good, but O’Brien hasn’t jumped the shark, he’s just revealed where he wants to bite people.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Guess who said this in 1984

"We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson [of the Holocaust], for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief."

It was RONALD REAGAN. I shit you not at all.

The man was batshit insane, but you wouldn't get a republican saying anything like this these days. You wouldn’t get a democrat saying it either. It's the sort of thing we all hoped Obama would say, waste of time that that hope was. I even had a na├»ve hope that the atheist Nick Clegg would have a crack at secularism since he promised he would before the election. Well done, Nick, you were out-secularised by RONALD FUCKING REAGAN NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO.

Who could possibly have imagined that we'd be looking back at *Reagan* as an example of moderate, sensible, constitutional speechmaking?

Kudos to the scriptwriter who managed to get this through the stupidwall, I guess.