hobbit-humanist

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

Archive for the category “Politics”

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.

Progress

So after a full day of debating in the House of Commons the British parliament are moving forward with gay marriage proposals/legislation. It’s not over yet though, there’s more to come and of course the House of Lords putting their stamp on it. I do feel a sense of pride being British today though at the news, which is a bold step towards greater equality.
It didn’t go without event though, many Conservative members of parliament were against it, one female Conservative standing up and saying;
‘My constituents aren’t homophobic they are just opposed to this bill’.
Well if they aren’t homophobic then why the opposition? Religion of course and most of the British middle and upper class probably like to be seen as Christian even if they aren’t really, doing ones bit to be seen at the village church on Sunday is probably the done thing. Ironically its the upper class that usually get caught up in sex scandals that regularly grace the tabloid press!
The reality is that same sex civil partnerships have been legal here since 2004, so the new proposals are just an extension as I see it really, a greater step towards acceptance and equal rights.

Papal Particularization

The Pope and the Vatican seem to be dominating the news of late. A couple of days ago we had the Pope denouncing unregulated capitalism in a new years address he gave. I did try to find out how much wealth the Vatican has but there doesn’t seem to be any clear figures from articles, books and videos but the general opinion estimates it as being vast even if the extent is unknown. Historically you have to take into account Popes have been in business for a long time, though not too powerful initially the power gradually increases through the ages in line with the spread of Christianity. There’s countless stories of Vatican gold stored in various banks, treasures, historical works of art, and property including many buildings, hotels, tv stations, factories and so on. I could go on to mention stories on money laundering and deals but you get the point! The truth is the Vatican has thrived under capitalism and accumulated wealth through the ages.
The next story to catch my eye today was on RT news which ran a story on the Vatican introducing chipped swipe cards for employees. Is it because of the recent Vatileaks scandal and to ensure no more embarrassing information gets revealed, scrutinize employees more or beef up security? Your guess is as good as mine but I’ll go with all of the above. You’d think the Pope would know if someone was up to no good in the Vatican though because he has a direct line to God but ironically the Vatican is resorting to technology. The church is master of contradiction though and denounces technology when appropriate, for instance it wouldn’t approve of this blog but it would like technology that could remove this blog.
Whilst the Catholic church historically had periods of time where it literally ruled the roost and could send armies off to kill and colonise in the name of Jesus it often finds itself in situations where other powers arise. If that happens of course then it results to …. you guessed it – deals!
When Mussolini seized power in Italy the Vatican was quick to move towards a deal with him. The Lateran pact in 1929. The terms of the deal included that Catholicism became the only recognised state religion with monopoly powers over things such as birth, marriage, education and death (pretty much all the main stuff then). In return though the Catholic church would urge its followers to support Mussolini’s party and herald him as “The man sent by providence” as Pope Pius XI put it. All in all a very hand in glove relationship you might say.
The Catholic church either remained silent on Mussolini or fully supported him either way it got involved with many fascist regimes of the time including Spain, Portugal and Croatia. Pope Pius XI blessed Italian war planes off to bomb Ethiopia. In return Mussolini justified actions such as using poison gas by quoting Monophysitism and Pope Leo as some in the old Eastern Christian Empire (mainly Egypt, North Africa and Syria at the time) had rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D and deserved punishing. whilst Mussolini was trying to recreate the Roman empire by attacking poorly armed Albanian patriots or Abyssinian tribesmen and often losing a much greater power was forming in the north.
When the German national socialists arose under Hitler alarm bells were ringing in the Vatican. Nazism was a sort of quasi-pagan phenomenon infused with Aryan races myths and glorification of old Germanic heroes and Nordic myths et al. One common interest though was Jew hatred and whilst the Catholic church was supporting ethnic cleansing in areas like Albania who didn’t have the ‘right sort of Christians’ Like the Nazi’s it didn’t like Jews either. Not all pulpits supported what was going on though and I guess there was some concern over the long lasting damage that may be caused by supporting such regimes. That said the Catholic Church has spent a lot of time post war trying to explain its passive stance during all the carnage and mass killing.
Back to Hitler and the Vatican. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power there were some 23 million Catholics in Germany, many of course not supporting what was going on, so it made sense to appease this part of the population. The very first accord undertaken by Hitler’s new government on July 8th 1933 was to sign a treaty with the Vatican. This treaty gave the Nazi’s more power and forced the Catholic centre party in Germany to disband and involved lots of abstentions in politics, re-education and re-unification so the Catholics and National socialists could be welded into a people with the same ideals. It comes as no shock then that Hitler saw these changes significant in the struggle against ‘International Jewry’.
Pope Pius XI wasn’t really fond of Hitler (though as mentioned liked Mussolini) and when Hitler first visited Rome he took himself to a papal retreat. The thing is though, old Pius XI was continually out manoeuvred by his secretary Euginio Pacelli who did meet Hitler and  when Pius the XI croaked in 1939 it was Pacelli that became the new Pope Pius XII. On becoming the new pope he wrote a letter to Berlin enthusing about future Papal-Germanic relations. The rest many of you will know, Hitler waged war and built death camps and the Papacy turned a blind eye. It wasn’t until the Godless Red Army and the Allies came sweeping into Germany a few years later that the game was up, God it seems chooses his sides in mysterious ways! After the collapse of Third Reich the Papacy was on hand to help many high ranking German officers escape to similar regimes in South America. Catholics will argue that Pius XII did some good, indeed he did employ some Jews and did some good things but when you read about his period as pope during the war it doesn’t really read too well.
I don’t want to tar all religious people with the same brush during this period and many Christians of course helped people escape Hitler’s regime or opposed what he was doing, people such as Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
So that’s all for Pope and Vatican for now, some recent news and some history to show what both are capable of, food for thought indeed.

Done And Dusted

So the big event is all over in good old England. It was fairly unremarkable for me really and seems to get duller every year. We really do make a silly big deal about Christmas here, it seems to start around late October and then goes through to the new year.
I will at this point make a confession, I did notice (and liked) on visiting Malta for the last two Christmas’s how very low key they are about it, for a small country that is 98% Roman Catholic. There’s less lights and decorations, less frippery and although you’ll know its Christmas it doesn’t feel constantly hammered home either in a religious sense or commercial one. From what I saw it was family centred, they do church, they have a meal and probably sink a few drinks and celebrate later. So I’ll tip my hat to Malta and say well done on that.
Everyone here, believers and none believers alike tend to go a bit mad over it all. Its a drawn out affair in which people lose sensibilities. We get the mandatory Queen’s speech and the pope makes the news too, though he’s still very down on the whole gay situation I read. I’m not sure the Queen even contemplates such subjects. I actually envy America in the fact they disposed of the need for a monarchy yet I also know many Americans envy our royal family as they seem to talk about it a lot. One American I talked to recently could only name London as a city in the UK and pretty much thought London was all palaces, coaches and a twee magical place. I did have to point out we do have other things going on here besides the royals, and other places of interest too!
I did draw some ire yesterday for a comment I put on Facebook regarding the Royals and the Pope but then some people do have a problem with critical thinking. Evidently for some its easier not to think critically or to question, the easier option is to follow, and blindly so. I did stumble upon this video by a London Taxi driver which did make me smile, though be wary it does contain bad language. The real Queens speech is here, I think at about 5 mins 2o seconds we get to old JC and that’s where I decide to stop watching but then the Queen would mention religion because she is the big cheese in the Church of England and thus has a vested interest in mentioning god and the prodigal son. I wonder if she ever gazes out of the window and ponders what’s really going on?
So that’s Christmas, largely done and dusted except for more eating and drinking before we all get back to reality.

Lucky

I’m lucky, I can blog in a democratic secular society and not have to worry about the police coming and knocking on my door because of what I think and write. Unfortunately an Egyptian named Alber Saber wasn’t so lucky and now faces three years in jail for having an opinion.
That said Blasphemy laws were only abolished here in England in 2008 though the last prominent case regarding anyone being jailed for blasphemy was that of the first editor of the Freethinker magazine George William Foote who was arrested in 1881 and eventually charged for his publications and received one year and hard labour. On receiving the sentence Foote said to the Judge Mr North (a devout catholic);
“My Lord, I thank you; it is worthy of your creed”
Foote continued his writings and secularism for 25 years after he was released  and when he died its said that;
“He looked the fact of death in the face with the same courage and determination that he faced Judge North many years ago. A few hours before he died he said calmly to those around him, ‘I am dying.’ And when the end came his head dropped back on the pillow, and with a quiet sigh, as of one falling to sleep, he passed away”.
I hope the fortunes of Alber Saber change for the better and that he keeps strong during his ordeal and detention. My thoughts as a blogger and more importantly a human being are with him.

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