hobbit-humanist

Humanism, atheism, some politics and lots of common sense.

Archive for the category “Politics”

Turning Corners

I’ve not been blogging much of late. Health problems and a slight loss of my writing mojo haven’t helped. I often sit at the computer bookmarking sites with the intention of writing a blog only for nothing to happen, there’s certainly no lack of material out there to write about, especially religion.
The problem is when I look at other websites, Facebook groups and forums I see religion being bashed daily. Only this morning I noticed a Facebook group which had a title along the lines of ‘Fuck Religion etc etc’ probably with a few more expletives. This sort of thing doesn’t sit well with me neither does it represent what I stand for. Whilst I suspect I’ll always be an atheist and retain my views do I think all people of religious persuasion are bad? Of course not. As I mentioned in a previous blog I have a good friend that’s a Christian guy, I can see how he draws strength from his faith, it may not be how I’d go about things but I respect him all the same for it.
So rather than become just another atheist blog I’m going to change the direction of this blog. It’s still going to have atheist/humanist thoughts and musings but it will probably include more social commentary and politics. As I like to travel I’ll probably include more of that as well as other personal things. I did have a journal on Google’s Blogger.com however due to it being bugged somewhat I lost several years work, especially photos when changing the template on it. Added to that its generally more unwieldy to work with than WordPress and often produces irritating errors on screen saying it cannot auto-save etc. As I pay for this blog it makes sense to transfer to here.
So there you have it, some changes ahead but nothing too drastic, this blog will just broaden and hopefully those of you that have read in the past will stay with me for the journey.

No!

The votes are counted and the result is in. The people of Scotland have voted no to independence. Admittedly it was close and I feel for the Scottish people that voted no, it was their big chance really to make change. However that said this whole exercise will undoubtedly change British politics forever and has illustrated if people feel strongly about something they will vote for change, an 85% turn out is credit to the passion of the Scots about this issue.
The ramifications of independence would have been huge for both Scotland and England, we can only speculate what would have happened.
On the positive side it shows how democracy works and I do hope that even though the whole campaign has been divisive at times I hope the Scots come together in unity and realise they are truly an important part of Great Britain. This vote shows people have power and ultimately ordinary people can make a difference.

A Different Angle

Recently I’ve befriended a Christian guy who lives locally to me. I met him through another friend and soon discovered more about him and his beliefs. We often sit on the market square and talk about religion, philosophy and politics. He’s an intelligent guy, ex-teacher and accomplished artist, in truth he’s way more academic than me. Like many of us he bears life scars and suffered with depression for many years, he found faith some time ago I believe and is quite the staunch Christian in many ways these days. Though we share the same political view points we obviously differ on the issue of religion/faith/god et al but we do have an understanding and mutual respect.
It’s a shame more people can’t actually sit and talk like we do without ridicule and raised voices. We’re always going to be diametrically opposite in much of our thinking but we sit and debate politely. At the end of the day we can all agree to disagree on many things but there’s no reason why we can’t all get along either. The reality is this is never going to happen, a cursory look into the current Middle East conflict between Israeli’s and Palestinians illustrates this all too well.
My angle would be if we had no religions we’d have less conflict, I’m sure my friends angle would be different. I’m sure we would agree that we need to examine our humanity and more importantly our respect for each other more.

By-Election Contention

A cloud of contention seemingly hangs over my Facebook feed at present, this has been caused by a sudden local by-election initiated by the resignation of Patrick Mercer the local Conservative MP of many years leaving under a cloud of controversy. Politics is now a big deal locally as the media and press have descended on the little market town I live in, it’s been a hive activity, vote mongering suits a la Matrix style, members of parliament and local activists (including some not so local too). With the next general election less than a year away the town where I live has become crucially important for all the political parties eager to know which way the winds of public opinion are blowing.
Multicultural me.
My personal political feelings are mixed presently but to understand my thinking and for me to convey thoughts better I have to take you back quite a few years. My ancestry is of French/Irish origin which makes me the descendent of immigrants I guess, though I see myself as a proud British citizen. I wasn’t christened as a kid, my parents having no religious leanings but I did have a godfather metaphorically speaking, his name was Charlie, a Caribbean guy my father had befriended and who lodged with my dad’s family back in when they were both young. Yes, a black guy living in a mining village consisted solely of white people. Not only was Charlie accepted but he was embraced by the local community.
In later years my dad had an apprentice work for him, an Indian guy by the name of Jinda. I recall my dad saying how hard he worked and that he was probably the best apprentice he’d ever had, not only that but he became a family friend and sometimes came to eat with us. School wise, I attended a large comprehensive comprising of two thirds working class kids and the rest being of middle class backgrounds. I can only recollect three families attending the school of different ethnic origins to everyone else, a couple of black families, one that who lived just down the road from me who were and a middle class Indian family who I didn’t know so well. This would have been the time from the mid 1970s until I left school in 1984. I also went on a French cultural exchange holiday whilst at school and took a lot from it, living with a French family still evokes fond memories for me. Racism didn’t seem an issue back then, there were several comedies I recall on tv containing various ethnic origins all poking fun at each other and the only troubles I can remember are riots on the news, but they always seemed in far away big cities. The point to this section is really that I’d say I had an awareness of difference and indeed multiculturalism though the term wasn’t bandied around so much as it is today. On leaving school and joining a government training scheme I developed an adolescent crush on an Indian girl who I heard many years later went on to become a model I believe. Oh and I’m also travelled a fair bit in my years.
Back to Politics.
In those early post school years came the first election that I was eligible to vote in. Being politically naive at the time I asked my dad’s advice, which was unusual back then because I was of that age when I thought I knew best. My dad’s reply was simple and with conviction “Any working man can’t afford not to vote Labour”. I took his advice, after all this was the Thatcher era, unemployment was an issue and the national euphoria of the Falklands war was fading fast. The miners strike had just happened and caused much unrest in the local community, my parents came from mining families so had no real love for the Thatcher regime of the time. Interest rates had gone up to 15% and my parents although earning a decent wage were struggling despite their hard work. Thatcher won the first election I ever voted in, which would have been the election of 1987, I recall the press constantly poking fun at Neil Kinnock and historical sources state the country after that election seemed more polarised than ever.
Later under the Thatcher government came the unpopular community charge (Poll Tax) which I refused to pay. The reason being I was on a low factory wage at the time and by the time I’d paid my lodgings to my parents I was practically broke. Not paying of course ended up with a court appearance but I wasn’t alone, several hundred non payers were summoned which the court couldn’t process and so nothing really happened. Back then I was inspired by the likes of Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner who urged people to refuse paying and it wasn’t long before the whole affair led to the tax being abolished and the beginning of the end for Margaret Thatcher as the prime minister. On reflection despite my misgivings about her I recognised she was a strong leader but unfortunately a belligerent and divisive one lacking any noticeable empathy with the nation she governed. It was Thatcher who crushed communities during the mining strike that still causes bad feeling to this day, during her terms in office it was beginning of the end for the unions, but this isn’t an essay about Thatcher so I’ll close this section here.
Years dropped off the calendar and my voting remained the same, Blair gained office and for a while I thought things changed for the better. The reality was that Blair was just Thatcher-lite, adopting her economic and foreign policy thinking. It was the Blair/Brown government that signed the Lisbon Treaty which affects much how people think today. Personally I don’t think the whole Europe project has worked, just look at all the countries its affected negatively for a start, then of course we have the big issue of today – immigration.
Before I delve into my thoughts on immigration I feel I need to make a clear point that I am not racist, if you’ve read the previous paragraphs you’ll understand that and if you know me personally you’ll know it too but such is the current climate of opinion regarding immigration people readily jump to conclusions but more on that later.
In the beginning when borders opened up Britain saw an influx of people from Eastern Europe, mainly from Poland. Poles have long had ties with this country, there’s a mining village down the road from me that had a sizeable post war community that worked hard in the mines and there’s a Polish service men’s memorial just down the road from where I live. Initially we saw skilled Polish people arrive and work here, you’d catch the odd Polish accent in the street and wouldn’t bat an eye. Then later it became more noticeable as many more arrived, although mentioned in the news back then the general outlook was they were here in small numbers, were skilled trades people and unlikely to settle. The truth is the Labour government at the time had no idea how many were coming to the United Kingdom (there’s no clear figures even today), this is something they have widely acknowledged now. Migrants came and came, and it’s not hard to understand why really. As a friend put a simple equation to me;
“If you offered a migrant £5, £25 or £50 absolutely free, which would they take?”
Of course the UK is pretty much the £50 of the equation compared to other countries in Europe. Good free health care, benefits, cheap food and clothing. Added to this lots of jobs working in factories and fields, admittedly jobs many English people don’t want to do, and I have to admire the Polish work ethic. It doesn’t take a genius to work out those industrious Polish pioneers told the folks back home how good it was here, let’s be honest Poland may have some nice historical cities but it also has lots of post communist era drab grey ones and also has a poorer economy compared to the UK.
So the steady invasion from Eastern Europe began unchecked, unregulated and uncontrolled and in some areas of the country slowly began to be concerned, legitimately in my opinion. Some trades, especially the construction ones felt immediate impact, cheap foreign labour undercut many a small business and allowed many firms to employ a lower paid work force, this also applies to factories and farms. For business’s it was all good, a readily available labour force happy to work all hours without union representation. As I mentioned earlier Thatcher had all but destroyed the unions so companies these days can act pretty much as they wish, we have zero hour contracts and lower wages than we once did. I remember working back at a brewery in the 1990′s and earning more than some people do today. Companies can now employ foreign labour to work pretty much any hours/contracts they want, so they get rich on the exploitation of others, again I admire the work ethic of the Poles but I also feel despair that all the unions once fought so hard for in the workplace has all but gone. Not only is the exploitation amongst companies its among landlords too, who are happy to rent rooms or houses to immigrants, often in appalling conditions with many sharing facilities. The influx of migrant workers has contributed to lower wages generally. Immigrant labour is now big business, some agencies solely recruiting Eastern Europeans as a recent local story uncovered. The real issue though is the social and integration one.
A short lesson in past immigration.
Post war Britain invited people from the Commonwealth to help reduce the labour shortage we had after World War 2. We were a nation rebuilding with a serious shortage of manpower. So people came from all over the Commonwealth and did a multitude of different jobs from the service industry to surgeons. Those migrants differed greatly to the ones we are witnessing today. They shared the same work ethic but migrants of that era wanted to become British, they wanted to fit in and become a part of things. As a nation we prospered from this, we became multicultural, we gained things we regard important today, things we take for granted now, reggae music, Chinese take-away, curry, fashion and so the list goes on. There were other benefits too, foreign doctors bolstered the ranks of the NHS, many taking knowledge back to their native countries for the benefit of many. Believe me I’m all for multiculturalism but the fundamental difference is that the past and present multiculturalism are two different entities. Few of the current wave of East Europeans actually want to mix at all, they’re happy to work here, learn some basic English but that’s as far as it goes for the main, in all honesty they are bringing nothing culturally to the table. They want to open their own supermarkets and socialise with their own people. I’ve even had Polish friends say to me that they’ve invited other Polish to come and drink with them and their English friends only to be rebuffed. One Polish friend who I think is a great example of the few wanting to integrate said to me that he feels there’s too many Polish people here. The truth is few Eastern Europeans want to mix like their post war brethren once did. This is reason why things aren’t working immigration wise today.
Work Experience.
Adding to my argument and concern about the downside of immigration is actual experience. I’ve worked for two projects with immigrants in a local city. A large portion of the people I worked with were immigrants of Polish or Romanian origin, most of them homeless. The Polish problem seemed two-fold. Many of them had come over with the promise of work, only to work for a few weeks then lose their jobs (we are back to exploitation again). So they end up on the streets hoping their fortunes might change only to descend into drinking and crime. The others were criminals, on the run from authorities. In fact the local council tried an initiative to return some guys home, bus or plane fare paid and some money in their pockets too. On taking them to the Polish consulate in Manchester it turned out many who they’d be calling names they thought belonged to them had in fact other real names. As I’m aware some went home but the majority didn’t. I can even recall a Polish guy they drove over here and his car happened to break down in the city where I worked, he had no money, abandoned the car and began to wander the streets, I’m not sure what became of him. Another incident I recollect was a fight between some Polish and Caribbean guys caused by racist comments by a Polish man. The police were called and the next day I asked a Polish guy why the dislike for black people? It turns out there isn’t many Afro-Caribbean’s in Poland and they didn’t really understand why we were so friendly with them and mixed with them so well, racism is isn’t confined to any country. The Romanians, who are culturally different again from the Poles mainly consisted of Romany women made to work by their husbands as vendors selling magazines on the street. It later came to light some of those were also involved in benefit scams and fled back home when it was revealed in a newspaper and before they could be questioned. This isn’t representative of Romanians as a whole as I’ve met some really nice ones, same goes for the Polish people, these are just a few examples of the stories I can tell.
Geographically speaking.
Personally I think immigration has had such an impact in certain areas, is firstly the large scale of it and the effect it has had on services. Towns like Slough and Boston have become overwhelmed, schools, doctors surgeries, services and housing have been major concerns. Some towns just haven’t been able to handle the increasing numbers very well which has of course led to resentment from local people that feel they now have to jostle for services they once took for granted. Demographics in towns have changed dramatically and this is causing concern. It may not be so noticeable in the large multicultural cities but it is definitely causing issue in provincial towns not used to this level of migrants. In the larger cities immigrants several generations in that came post war and have struggled in recent decades with employment are now concerned too, they rightly see themselves as nationalised Brits fighting a losing battle in the work place. London and the big cities may be more multicultural but they are also factionalised too. Most people from London will tell you it’s like a collection of towns joined together but it’s also fair say many communities are of certain religious or ethnic origins. I often muse if London will become like Los Angeles which some neighbourhoods are no go areas for certain races. Not so long back I recall being on Brick Lane in London with a friend, an Asian delicatessen caught our interest, as did the spicy smells from within. On entering we were continually ignored at the counter until we decided to leave. It felt very bizarre indeed. All in all though I’d argue for Britain being multicultural and accepting. I’m all for different peoples coming here it’s just I find the current influx of Eastern Europeans isn’t really working that well partly because they are economic migrants with no wish to integrate more than they need to. It’s argued that in uncertain or bad times we often blame immigrants, historically speaking that’s true, Jews have been kicked out of this country in the past many times but I don’t think politically or socially things are so bad at present, just the numbers coming here that’s causing concern. In the grand scheme of things I think multiculturalism did work but very distinct cracks are beginning to appear, not just here but across Europe.
The Neighbour (yep where does she figure in all this?)
My neighbour is a Polish woman. It’s fair to say at when she moved into the apartment next to me we didn’t immediately get on. Before she moved in I’d practically had the United Nations living next door, a Hungarian girl, a Nigerian guy and a Korean fella. All of them were lovely people and we got along fine. However my Polish neighbour was very noisy at first, a feisty door slamming party animal, often until day break. This of course didn’t sit well with me, I complained to her at first, then when it continued I went through the letting agents and more official means. It did calm down but things were tense, I was even harangued in the street by some of her friends, not a great start you might say. Then one day a parcel came, a rather important one it turned out. The postman rang my buzzer and asked me through the intercom if would I accept on her behalf and sign for it, otherwise she’d have to travel to a town a few miles away to pick it up. I deliberated but reluctantly said yes. When she returned I knocked on her door, she wasn’t pleased to see me but then I presented her with the parcel. Suddenly it all changed and we began to talk, I don’t think she thought I’d do her a favour as I’d been quite sustained (yet justified) in my complaints. She began to apologise for the parties and I asked her in, we talked, she helped me do a sign for the stairwell door in English/Polish which said ‘Please don’t slam the doors’. Recently she did my mail for me when I went on holiday and I got her a gift by way of thanks. Now, through mutual effort we get on well, she can be a little noisy at times but it’s usually confined to Fridays when she has friends over, and then it’s not late. This is what more people need to do – communicate. Whilst I feel many Poles can be appear to be aloof and don’t want to mix, Brits can be the same too, in an ideal world people would make more effort.
The Rise of the Right.
Well it’s not a sudden thing really, the right has been on the rise across Europe for some time, disenchantment with how the Euro-zone is working and immigration has caused widespread resentment and a renewed sense of nationalism. Getting back to my point of how factionalised we have the Scots currently banging the drum and wanting independence, nationalism if I ever saw it, though not of the right wing kind. Britain is a tribal nation of sorts, lots of accents, perspectives and outlooks. Lancashire people will cite Yorkshire people as rivals or the butt of jokes. Yorkshire people resent Nottinghamshire people for the Miners strike and most Brits will happily make fun of people from Essex of Liverpool and on it goes. Too much importance in my opinion is based on London, it’s almost like everything within the M25 is a different country, multicultural yes, affluent yes (though it has its poor areas) but in many ways out of touch with what is happening outside of it.
I completely understand the rise of the right in some areas of the country, immigration has become a real issue in large areas and until recently hasn’t been addressed. That said most people I’ve talked to from other areas of the country has mentioned a distinct change in their local demographics too.
Media Manipulation.
Years back the newspapers vilified the ‘Loony Left’, scared if its increasing influence they ridiculed it at every turn. In the present we have Ukip (the United Kingdom independence party for readers abroad unaware of them) that present a threat to the media establishment. Ironically it’s the same press that have that have previously supported them that are now alarmed at their rise in popularity, sat in their London offices they are as out of touch as many politicians are. What we essentially have here is two party politics. Ukip are mainly disenfranchised Tories and Euro sceptics, so we can pigeon hole them with the Tories. The Lib-Dems were born out of the ashes of the Social Democrats (Shirley Willians/Roy Jenkins et al) which left the Labour party and Liberals. As for the Liberal party? No longer a political force, so in essence we have two mainstream branches of politics gravitating more politically centrally than they ever did.
Anyway back to the point. The press of today revel in sensationalism over news, I personally don’t trust them and their stories vary and contradict each another wildly. The press have a political agenda and the truth is they’ve always favoured the Tories in government apart from the minority of left wing newspapers. We are in an era in which out of touch neo-liberalists want to call the shots and circumnavigate the real issues. They’re probably loving the fact thousands of people aren’t thinking whilst posting press stories/links on social media. This is how they want it, a nation of sheep hanging onto their headlines. If anything the recent by-election has illustrated this point. Everything the Ukip candidate has said has been scrutinised then reported in a different way. Had another candidate said anything remotely controversial it would have been brushed aside, such is spin and politics these days. Social media has become akin to a kind of Neo-McCarthyism of late, if you vote right wing you’re a racist, left wing and you’re a communist, it’s really quite pathetic how some people are thinking.
How will I vote?
I never tell anyone how I vote these days, it’s my business and its personal yet informed decision. People have been saying on the likes of Facebook ‘Please vote but don’t vote for Ukip’. Do we assume that every Ukip voter has turned into a right wing bigot over night? No, people’s concerns are legitimate and obviously very real judging by Ukips gains in the recent Euro elections. The truth is people are concerned about Europe, the unseen people running it and where the money goes, immigration is just another concern within the wider ranging issues.
Personally I can’t trust Labour anymore, all I hear is sound bites with little conviction, I also think Ed Miliband is totally unsuitable as leader, promises of a return to left wing values? I don’t think so. Plus Labour via the Lisbon treaty are culpable to an extent.
The Conservatives. I probably will never vote for them, they represent everything I dislike and their treatment of the National Health Service and unemployed has been diabolical.
Liberals. A complete joke.
Ukip. I understand why Ukip have become so popular but they are a young and unproven party. Ok I could vote for them and give them a chance but I can’t ignore the fact they only seem to be addressing Europe and Immigration, thus a two trick pony. As much as I don’t believe everything I read about them I feel there’s some elements they need to get rid of. Their leader Farage is a great orator but still a free market Tory at heart. It’s a shame someone of Tony Benn’s calibre isn’t representing them, left wing ideals but anti Europe. Their local candidate is 70 years old with Christian ideals, far too old fashioned in my view (I’m not ageist but seriously?!) and doesn’t resound with me personality wise. Ok so one man doesn’t represent the whole party but he’s really not for me.
That leaves the Socialists, Greens, Independents and Monster Raving Loony Party (yes we really do have such a party) !
So in conclusion, yes I’m a Euro sceptic concerned about immigration and the practicalities of it but not remotely racist. I’ve no idea who I’ll vote tomorrow but I feel it’s best to be informed of as many things as you can, don’t always believe the press and make your own decision based on your feelings and convictions.
Lastly apologies to any one abroad who hasn’t a clue what I’m on about !

Catching Up!

Time management isn’t really one of my finer points, I often procrastinate or get distracted, so this blog is a catch up one really. I have been meaning to post on a variety of things but unlike some atheist blogs or sites I don’t feel the need to get on my soap box every day.
First up and totally unrelated to religion is the death of British politician Tony Benn who died last month aged 88. For me personally he was an iconic politician who came from a privileged background with a title but dispensed with his title through the courts and just became plain Tony Benn. He was a politician that fought for the rights of the working class man, he hated war and loved technological innovation. Back in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher introduced the widely unpopular ‘Poll Tax’ or (community charge as it was also known) he urged people to refuse paying it. I didn’t as did thousands of others and I ended up in court, a court brimming with other protesters. Nothing happened on that occasion because of the large volume of people to process but just a few weeks later the tax was abolished because of rising protest and resentment – people power won through. Benn was also a prolific writer and diarist admired by many in politics, even George Galloway who I generally disagree strongly with on many things had only positive things to say about him.
So moving on. Gay marriage is now legal in England and Wales from the end of March with many couples getting married as soon as the new law came into effect. Its a positive step forward for society in my view as the previous civil partnerships can now be upgraded to marriage status. Gay people still want church marriages to become common place and personally I find this vexing, ok so they may have faith or want the setting of a church wedding but they have to remember Christianity doesn’t really want to embrace it and never will, this won’t change any time soon either in my view. The only negative thing I have to say about gay people is they  like to bang their gay drums quite a bit, seriously I’m happy for gay people but some can’t stop evangelising about the fact they are gay.
Next up is the new Noah movie, and if you don’t like it there will be ‘No-ah refunds!’, pardon the pun! No shocks really that many countries have banned it already, silly really when its a fictional story of erm …. a fictional story! Allegedly there was several re-cuts of the film to appease religious groups but director Darren Aronofsky according to some of the media has made a secular film more likened to Noah being an Eco-warrior than a biblical character. To my amusement I found this article about a cinema in Exeter having to cancel its first screening of the movie because of a flooding incident! It’s fair to say the film hasn’t gone down well with the Abrahamic faith’s but then what do you expect?
My next snippet is the recent story of a preacher being held by police for a long duration without his medication, food or water. Reading the report I suspect he may have been baited to some degree but on the other side of the coin people generally don’t want to hear street preachers ranting gloomy biblical extracts on a busy city or town street. Seemingly the police made mistakes and the preacher received compensation but lets be honest here what would have been the outcome of people professing atheist thoughts a hundred years ago or more? Blasphemy laws are now gone thankfully but the saying of the boot being on the other foot is certainly true here. If you go back even further in history then denouncing god or having atheist views was punishable by death and of course still carries the death sentence in some Muslim countries even today. I’m all for free speech but when it comes to religious agitators, Muslims or evangelicals then they should hire places then advertise events, then people interested could attend.
Lastly and most recently in the news is prime minister David Cameron’s comments that Britain is a largely Christian country. Wrong! Every poll I’ve ever seen in the last couple of years on the subject shows we are moving away from religion in the tens of thousands each year. Understandably Cameron’s comments caused concern for many including famous author Terry Pratchett, humanist journalist Polly Toynbee and many other prominent members of society.
Britain may be viewed as a Christian country as its still the largest faith here and of course because of the monarchy, a minority of religious figures in the House of Lords and other stupid traditions but that’s as far as it really goes these days. Historically of course we’ve been deluded and misguided by Christianity for hundreds of years, its caused wars, witch hunts and mass social divisions, it definitely has a lot of blood on its hands. Cameron I suspect is trying to reach out to the wealthy middle class who go to church on a Sunday every now and again and reassure them, not to mention the elections next year when he’ll need every vote he can muster. The irony here being many charities and religious groups are setting up food banks (which we once never had) in all of the major cities and towns because government cuts and legislation are making some people so poor they are struggling to feed themselves.

‘V’

Remember remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot !
Today children across Britain, especially the younger ones will have learnt about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot, I suspect a ‘lite’ version of it that isn’t too heavy on details but who would want to get too deep and heavy on a day of fireworks, home cooking and festivities?
If you read deeper into the story though you uncover a not so pretty version, one of religious zeal, torture, overseas wars involving religion and a plot which if it had succeeded would have been the 9/11 of the time. Thankfully it didn’t happen and as we know the plot was uncovered. In those god fearing days though god would have won on both counts, had the perpetrators blown parliament up then it would have been god willing, the fact they didn’t was by the grace of god. Personally I’m glad they didn’t succeed as we may not have had the society we have today, a secular, tolerant and democratic one.
Which brings me ironically to the most excellent film V for Vendetta. The hero ‘V’ (or anti hero as some may see him) fights a dystopian religious regime, intolerant of free speech, controlling and manipulative of the populace with a fundamentalist leader brimming with Christian fervour.
Now, if you have watched the film take a moment and imagine what it would have been like if Fawkes had succeeded and history had been changed ? If you haven’t watch the film then you really should !
I consider myself a modern day atheist/humanist ‘V’, though I don’t need to hide behind a mask because I live in a free thinking, free speaking secular society that isn’t dominated by religion.
Tonight fireworks will pepper and illuminate the darkness with luminescent colours and shrill noises I will be thinking about people in the world that live in repressive religious regimes that cannot express themselves and hoping their own 5th of November will one day come.
This blog is dedicated to those brave bloggers persecuted and detained in the last few years for free thinking and daring to question. My thoughts are with you.

Cruel World

I must confess that the last few days have been difficult. At the weekend two people in the town where I lived lost their lives to an explosion which wrecked their house (and those adjoining too), the cause is yet to be identified. Added to that my dad isn’t in the best of health lately and its causing some concern. For me personally though, my body blow came on Tuesday. I saw an eye specialist/surgeon who basically told me I probably will lose my eyesight prematurely because of a problem that cannot be resolved by surgery, in fact in some respects its just a matter of time. Travelling back home on the train I felt detached and numb, the current problems I’m having with my sight made me even more conscious of matters and it made me realise how truly vulnerable we are in this world. I think in the past I’ve relied on surgeons and medical help but the truth of the matter is they cannot cure everything. The news took some getting to grips with but will not deter me from living life to the full, though I face a problem, as the great Carthaginian general Hannibal once said “I will either find a way or make one”, and that’s how I view the current obstacle in front of me.
Then yesterday came those dreadful events yesterday in London in which a soldier lost his life to extremists, that alone made me realise how lucky I still am. Today David Cameron made a statement saying this had nothing to do with Islam despite the fact the killers had shouted “Allah Akbar” when decapitating the unfortunate soldier who they’d ran over in a cowardly fashion before doing so. The scenes on the news were shocking. It turns out one of the killers was a Christian before converting to Islam. A fleeting thought passed through my mind that you don’t see Christians killing people in this fashion but then images of Charles Manson, David Koresh and Dena Schlosser filled my head (among others).
Many cultures are underpinned by religion and when you have a multicultural society then religious views only serve to increase friction which ignites as they clash. Take away religion from multiculturalism and you’d not have nothing near the same problems. The prime minister obviously chose his words carefully on the news and so did various Muslim leaders on different news platforms because quite rationally nobody wants to incite more trouble but as we know violence breeds more violence especially if fuelled by racial or religious hatred. More bizarrely today the BBC published an article which said immigration was down, was this purely coincidental among current tensions?
Politicians and religious leaders chose their words carefully because words are power tools, whilst they tried to swerve away from Islam the blunt truth is the killers would have been inspired by words from the Koran that encourage violence, here’s some quotes of Muhammad;
“Slay the idolators wherever ye find them”
“Fight those who believe not in Allah… nor acknowledge the religion of truth”
“Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips off them”
“O prophet exhort the believers to fight”
The thing is, people still believe this stuff and similar rubbish in the bible and its time we grew up mentally and consigned religion to history. As for the greater Muslim community here, I know most of you are peaceful and yesterdays tragic events aren’t representative of all but I think your religion is backward and repressive. If we look at its sources its basically borrowed much from Christianity and added other bits, Muhammad’s main goal seems to have been conquest and conversion whilst he was alive and of course that continued after and is still continuing. That said, Muslim fundamentalists and Christian ones, they are all the same – aggressive.
Getting back to the title and point of the thread though, the reality is life is often very cruel, just take the recent Oklahoma tornado for instance, would any Christian like to try and justify that to me in a God sense? Many of us shy away from the reality and cruelty of life because it disturbs us but sooner or later reality comes knocking. nature and life are cruel at times and nothing sums it up better than this Gary Numan quote I found the other day;
“If nature is proof of God’s amazing creation then I have truly seen the light, and the light is black. Nature is genius at its most cruel and savage. No benevolent God could have come up with such an outrage.”
When you constantly see outrages, disasters and murders or experience the harsher reality of life yourself then it’s not hard to see how transparent, impotent and fictional gods really are …

Victoire !

New Zealand approving same sex marriage last week and then France today, these are noteworthy victories for secularism, humanism and atheism. New winds are blowing in and the shackles of old are disintegrating, first century platitudes are losing out to common sense and rational thinking, the scales are tipping. These are great times we are living in, the sight of the New Zealand parliament hugging each other after the vote was fantastic to watch.
Christians, you are losing this fight, in an increasingly aware world your book of lies and fables is faltering daily, humanity is striving for greater things such as equality and acceptance and we are at last leaving dark days behind.
This is indeed a Victoire !

Contentious

Things are quite tough here in the United Kingdom at present. There’s a growing divide between rich and poor, increasing unemployment and rising discontent with the current government. Over the years I’ve seen massive changes in social dynamics here and I can say with some clarity the gaps in society are showing more than ever.
The Arch Bishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has spoken out about recent unemployed and family benefit changes, with the government seeking to cut benefits in almost all areas.
Personally I feel torn about the Arch Bishop getting involved. Yes, he has a right to speak out, and I’m happy he has but I feel this is a secular area and religion shouldn’t be involved. People have argued most of the clergy live in large houses and are somewhat out of touch, others say the church needs to get itself in order before criticising. There’s already too much church involvement in government with the clergy holding seats in the House of Lords, yes we are a secular country but religion does have a sort of indirect say. If we look to history we see religion and politics don’t mix very well and never have.
The reality is, things are getting worse, an increasingly vehement right wing government is purging the poor, using spin and leaking stories of benefit scandals and fraud to the right wing tabloid press in order to stir up social unrest. Some of the UK’s inner cities are no longer good places to go and the north south divide has never been so visible as it is now.
It’s not just Britain though, its worldwide, millions claiming food stamps in America, mass unemployment in some European countries (I really feel for Greece and Spain) and families displaced in the countries that are currently doing well to make way for construction and the rich.
I think its fair to say grim times are ahead, and for a good while too. Growing populations, social unrest, jobs lost to technology and of course possible religious conflicts. The future isn’t going to be pretty and can only be sorted by common sense and pragmatic workable solutions.
Clasping your hands and praying won’t solve anything, and never has.

Right Direction

I’m still feeling good after yesterdays news yet today I’ve woken to mixed opinions on atheist forums and I haven’t even checked religious ones yet. I fully expect the church to gear up and oppose it, especially the catholic church.
On reading things over breakfast this morning one atheist said he just didn’t get why gay people would want to get married in church at all. They added;
‘I am amazed that the gay community, (which has been murdered, tortured, incarcerated, condemned, ostracised, pilloried and vilified as an abomination by most, if not all of the Abrahamic religions for centuries), would want to go anywhere near a church or feel the need to have their loving union validated by religions.’
I get the persons point but I feel this is more about equality for gay people than anything else, purely having the right to get married in a church is better than not having the right. It seems this is how gay people feel mostly, for many its not about religion its about symbolism and being able to marry in church if they so wish and also be free of the state telling them what they are allowed to do. Let’s be honest many heterosexual married couples in the UK get married in church even though they don’t give a damn about religion but that’s perfectly acceptable. They just want their twee photos with the backdrop of a church and a traditional day and who can deny them that?
If I was gay I personally wouldn’t go near a church with a barge pole and I fully understand the above comment the atheist posted but I’m glad we are moving in the right direction because regardless of sexual orientation gay people are human beings. It did cross my mind that we have still some ways to go regarding equality in the world, let’s remember Abrahamic based religions have treated women appallingly for centuries and still do in some countries so there is still much to do.

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