Atheists, calm the hell down!

A while ago I liked a post on Instagram, I think it was this one:

image

I thought it was a good point and left it at that.

The problem is that now in my “suggested for you” gallery there’s a host of atheist and “anti-theist” posts. And they are really grinding my gears.

I’d say I’m agnostic, leaning to atheist, but these guys do my head in. This is for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, a lot of the stuff they post is just not funny and rather nasty. A regular theme is snarky comments about Christians on Facebook posting stuff. They don’t like people shoving their beliefs in their face, these atheists, as they make IG accounts about their beliefs.

I get that you don’t believe in a god, that’s cool man, each to their own. But if you expect people to respect your beliefs then you gotta respect other people’s and stop being a d**k about it.

Or do they think one meme will do it?

That believers will see a snarky caption and think, “How could I have been so blind? This picture has totally blown apart a lifelong faith!”

The second reason is the smug, patronising attitude, as though atheism in itself means intelligence. The flip of this is that anyone with faith must be a moron.

That thinking is utter rubbish.

There are plenty of smart believers, hell, some of the smartest people I know have faith. There are also idiots who don’t think God is real.

Religious belief operates on a different system, its emotional and that’s distinct from intelligence. Atheists who dismiss all with faith as morons are blind to this and too busy patting themselves on the back to think about it.

The smugness also means when they do something stupid it appears all the more foolish.

For example, one regular theme is that Adam and Eve had belly buttons (or that Adam had nipples) which doesn’t make sense if they were made from the earth and a spare rib (mmm, spare ribs).

The argument they use is always a painting of Adam and Eve, sometimes with a caption, like so;

image

Some of you may have seen the mistake already.

See, that’s a painting. An artistic representation of Adam and Eve, probably made in the second millennium AD. The artist has drawn what he thought they looked like. Hence belly buttons.

This picture proves one thing- the artist made a mistake or didn’t get why we have belly buttons. No believer is gonna think “Oh, wow, this painting has belly buttons, everything was a lie!”

The belly button argument would only work if it was a photograph. A drawing is very rarely proof, for example I doubt any of us think Bill Clinton and Ronald McDonald went to war.

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I don’t think believers are idiots when I see this idea, I think the poster is. They actually think this is a valid way to argue. Do they use this guy as proof of alien life?

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I get that some atheists are passionate about their lack of belief in a higher power, but its weird to bang on about how you don’t think something is real. Also, if you are going to post why not try to avoid the ignorant, rude and intrusive theists you dislike so much? Because at the moment the message might be different, but the manner is the same.

I just think that whatever you believe or don’t believe you shouldn’t attack those who differ from you. Just focus on your life and leave people to get on with theirs.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: The Nun Diaries by Annie Konter

As an agnostic the idea of taking religious vows seems completely bizarre to me, and I think that even for many religious people the idea of sacrificing their normal life seems a tough, alien idea. So, the chance to read about one young woman’s experiences of taking vows was an interesting one, even if Annie Kontor is open about the fact she didn’t stay more than a year.
Kontor starts her account of the year by addressing that she spent years wanting to join a convent and the reactions of the people in her life when she told them of her decision.

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Kontor tells her story month-by-month and it makes for interesting reading as she shows what life in the order is like. She details her triumphs and struggles during this time, the struggles growing as she chafes against the strict confines of life as a Nun and also her issues with anxiety and depression.
Kontor is brutally honest at times, not holding back on the struggles and her actions but there are sections where she makes for a frustrating narrator. While she acknowledges that she acted badly in some instances and was hard to live with she still heaps judgement on the other sisters, criticising them for not being able to deal with a depressed girl.
This angry lashing out feels petulant and extremely self absorbed, not even considering how her angry, withdrawn and openly hostile behaviour must have been a struggle to live with, especially to other young women in a similar situation and no doubt experiencing struggles of their own.
There’s a petulance on her part as well that grates, and Kontor, while accepting her mistakes offers few apologies and does point fingers. She also complains about her fellow sisters talking about her behaviour behind her back, despite having done the same with other sisters.
While depression is a serious issue and it no doubt would have been incredibly different for Kontor to change her behaviour at the time, or considered its effect on others, but even years later in reflection she seems biased and more focused on her own feelings than how her behaviour effected others.
It’s a reasonably interesting book and Kontor is definitely put through the wringer, but her writing lacks depth or insight to raise this book, and while it’s good to see behind the convent door, one can’t help regretting that we weren’t provided a more insightful and even handed guide to this world.
Verdict: An interesting, if frustrating, read. Kontor offers a unique perspective but at times seems blinkered regarding her responsibility for events, but she writes well enough. 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Buddha never expected this!

Right off the bat I’m going to have to admit that my knowledge of Buddhism is a bit on the weak side, what I basically knows is that they believe in reincarnation and the pursuit of enlightenment. Most of what I’ve gained has come from kung fu and Steven Seagal movies and a brief phase when I followed the Dalai Lama on Twitter until I realized most of his missives were covered by Bill and Ted’s motto “Be excellent to each other”:

Bill and Ted- Great modern philosophers

Bill and Ted- Great modern philosophers

Anyway, my major, uninformed, perception of Buddhists was that they were extremely chill, not aggressively out there trying to convert folks or preaching hate, although when pushed they knew kickass kung fu to defend themselves.

It appears that this perception might not be entirely accurate and paints the Buddhists in a positive light. Or at least it does when you hear some of the truth about the Buddhists of Myanmar AKA Burma. Apparently some Buddhist monks over there have joined in with some anti-Islamic feeling, which kinda sucks.

I get that religions differ, but at their core most are about being decent and give people instructions on how to live a good life, the only difference being those instructions and what the perceived reward is, and who it’s being handed out by.

Personally, I think more religious people should take the view of supporting and defending other religions. Think about it, if you’re a Christian you should defend a Jewish person’s right to keep kosher because there may come a time when your practices are under threat. As a religious person somebody should have an even greater sense of the importance on freedom of religious expression, or so you’d think.

It’s like that poem “First they came…”

Back to Myanmar, aside from the anti-Islam stuff, which is pretty terrible and could increase violence and division in the country, Buddhism has been in the news recently because of a court case.

The case revolves around the poster I’ve included below, which was used by New Zealander Phillip Blackwood to promote a club night and features Buddha wearing headphones, this fell afoul of Myanmar’s strict law to stop religions being insulted and/or damaged.

buddha headphones

Personally, I don’t think that this is particularly insulting or damaging, although as a non-Buddhist I’m probably not the best judge.

What I do think is that it’s not intentionally insulting, I don’t think this poster was designed to offend Buddhists, or Buddha himself. If it was, what’s it saying? Buddha would like music? I think the whole situation should have been resolved long before it got to a court room and wound up with three men facing jail for two and a half years.

Someone should have taken Blackwood to one side and said, “Hate to be a pain, mate, but you couldn’t go with a different poster? It’s just I don’t think this is a respectful depiction of Buddha.”

Long term readers may be suspecting hypocrisy on my part as I’ve argued against the depiction of Muhammad because it’s offensive to Muslims, but the difference here is that Muslims themselves don’t make statues/artworks of Muhammad, while there are giant statues of Buddha all over Asia.

Unfortunately when it comes to Big B’s image, the ship has sailed and it’s all over t-shirts and posters, many of which are slightly less than reverential. Go to any shop catering for hippies/stoners and you’ll see Buddha, or more accurately the “fat” Buddha on lighters or turned into bottles and bongs. That doesn’t make it right, but I’ve never heard anybody make a fuss. If these are offensive maybe the word should get out a bit more.

The thing is, even if the law in Myanmar states that you can’t insult/damage religion, you’d still have thought that Buddhists could intervene or argue for the defendants. They can appreciate the law, but given the religion’s seemingly peaceful, nice nature you’d have thought they’d defend the accused, saying that they made a mistake but don’t deserve imprisonment. And that would swing the tide, because according to the BBC around 90% of the population is Buddhist.

From what little I know of Buddha, I can’t see him taking a “lock ’em up!” attitude in this case, so maybe the Burmese should start wearing bracelets with “WWBD” on them, although they may ignore them as some Christians do with their slogan accessories.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Budapest Part 3: The Mummy’s Hand

St Stephen’s basilica is decorated in the normal, understated Catholic way of having gold and statues everywhere. Cherubs stare down at you creepily from the corners, Jesus, the disciples and even the Big Man himself are depicted on the ceiling and golden light fixtures stand on the walls.

The basilica at night

The basilica at night

Personally, I found it all a bit overdone and busy. With so much going on it’s hard to really enjoy or get a sense of wonder. The art on the inside of the domed roof was impressive, but some of the more overwrought examples off to the sides meant far too much was going on.

I had a similar feeling when I visited the Cistine Chapel a few years ago, where I felt that Michelangelo could have gone for a less is more strategy, and that aside from the central “creation of man part” the ceiling wasn’t worth getting a sore neck over.

For my money (200 HUF), the synagogue had been far more impressive and spiritual. It had been gorgeously designed inside, but there was a sense that this was to make the house of worship a nice place to be, whereas the basilica smacked of a “look at me, look at me” vibe.

Still, I snapped away a few shots, including of a saint who looked like Bill Murray, some of the gaudier, dare I say, tackier artefacts and at the dome, which was spectacular in all fairness.

MWG and I then went into a side chapel to see a rather interesting attraction, which was kind of weird.

In a reliquary they had St Stephen’s mummified hand.

Now, I’m always skeptical of the authenticity of relics. Back in the day there were so many pieces of the cross knocking around that it appeared that JC had been crucified on an entire forest and let’s be fair, one person’s bone looks a lot like everyone else’s.

I was even more skeptical that they claimed to have the hand of St Stephen, who, thanks to my childhood in a Christian household, I knew a little bit about. St Stephen was the first martyr, a young boy and follower of Jesus who was stoned to death and who’s feast day is the 26th of December.

So, bearing in mind the manner of his death and when he was killed, I found it highly unlikely that this was really St Stephen’s hand, firstly, they’d have had to keep it for nearly 2000 years, and secondly, the story didn’t hang together, and in fact shows the early Christians in a rather dark, morbid light (if one can have a dark light). Essentially if this was the real Stephen’s hand it means that after witnessing a young boy be stoned to death someone thought to themselves “You know what, we should really cut off one of his hands, y’know, like a souvenir?”

As it turned out, I was mistaken and it was a totally different St Stephen, this being St Stephen of Hungary, who was the Hungarian king who really brought Christianity to Hungary. Of whom, I know less, but is at least a few hundred years later and being a king far more likely to have been preserved. But still, it could be anyone’s hand.

And even if it is Steve’s hand, we’re glossing over the fact that it is creepy as all hell for someone to have kept a mummified hand lying around the place for around a thousand years!

Catholics go into this stuff a lot more than protestants, and thanks to my Dad being Catholic and a history fan, I’ve seen a few in my time, including a finger of some dude and a skull which St Michael (who’s actually an angel) had put a hole in when someone didn’t listen to him, or something. I was intrigued enough to wander in and check out the hand, because I have a morbid streak.

Creepy.

Creepy.

It was housed in a massive, ornate case and held in darkness, due to it’s fragile nature. You couldn’t take flash photographs of it but you could pay 200 HUF (about 50p) to light it up for a few seconds so you could snap a photo. I loitered next to it, squinting to get a look and hoping someone else would cough up the cash for it.

I wasn’t prepared to pay just to see a mummified hand, although I did like that the Catholics were staying true to their roots and getting money out of people’s faith/curiosity/morbid nature.

MWG, however, reached new levels of suspicion that made my own skepticism seem naive. She whispered to me that she suspected that there was no hand, and the button actually set off a hologram display or projection, and that’s why you couldn’t take a flash photo because it would reveal the lie.

Who knows? Personally, I think there is a hand there. Is it St Stephen’s? Who knows? I still find it far more interesting that people would keep a hand, anyone’s hand, as some kind of talisman/holy artefact, it just seems a little creepy to me.

MWG and I left the basilica and headed off in search of an all-you-can eat buffet place we’d heard good things about, and debating whether we should pay to ascend the basilica’s towers and take in the view. By the time we’d eaten, the basilica had shut up shop, and utterly stuffed, we set off to work out Budapest’s public transport and head for home.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


Lassana Bathily. Remember his name.

Like most of the world I’ve been watching in tense horror at the recent terrorist attacks in France. It’s been depressing viewing and like most folks my thoughts and sympathies go out to the victims and their families.

Following the initial shootings in Paris which targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after they published cartoons of Muhammad, which is a big no-no for Muslims. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech, but I take the view that just because you can something doesn’t mean you have to, and I feel that the magazine was disrespectful to the religious beliefs of many people. But I think a strongly worded letter would have been the appropriate response.

Killing and using violence to intimidate or censor your opponents is most definitely not on and what makes it worse is that this small group of nutters is just making life harder for the normal, decent Muslims. Many of whom took to the net to denounce and condemn these vicious attacks, which is kind of sad. Do Christians and religious leaders have to come out and make statements when a Christian psycho goes on a rampage, no and that’s down to prejudice. (Here’s an article about that issue).

It doesn’t help when douchebags like Rupert Murdoch weighs in claiming that all Muslims are somehow responsible.

murdoch tweet

Thankfully this was shot down by comedy, with journalists, Australians and white men quickly distancing themselves from Murdoch or suggesting that until they destroy “their growing Rupert Murdoch cancer they must be held responsible”.

Murdoch’s crass generalization is tragically widespread, and it’s depressing that a religion with approx 1.6 billion followers, should be condemned for the actions of a minority.

Most Muslims are just the same as the rest of the world, regular folks just trying to get through their day-to-day life and be good, the only difference being what they eat or how they pray.

If there was any justice then instead of the gunmen being remembered the emphasis would be put on someone else. A hero, who just happens to be Muslim as well.

I talk of Lassana Bathily, who worked at the kosher supermarket where another extremist took hostages to try and help the original gunmen get away. Four hostages were killed before the French cops stormed the place and took him out.

Bathily, originally from Mali, was working at the supermarket when the gun waving nutter burst in, and thanks to his quick thinking saved people’s lives.

He led several (reports vary between 7 and 15) of the hostages down to the freezer unit, turned it off and told them to hide there and keep quiet. Thanks to his actions these people were away from the gunmen and safe when the cops stormed in.

Lassana Bathily, hero

Lassana Bathily, hero

Lassana Bathily is the name we should remember, marking the heroes of this story, not the villains. We should also use him every time someone tries to negatively generalize or stereotype Muslims or immigrants, for they are just the worst example of their group, and Bathily is one of the best.

Also, his words in an interview given to local television need to be heard and spread, because he gets it exactly right:

We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims. We’re all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.

In the face of extremism and terror we need to pull together, not apart, because those divisions, those conflicts are exactly what these gun wielding thugs want.

Source.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Everyday Awkwardness: Hello? Do I know you?

I recently made my triumphant return to the world of customer service call centres, and it’s a rollercoaster that only goes up, my friends.

Two of my coworkers who went through training with me are Muslim girls who wear the veil that only shows their eyes. I think it’s called niqab (if that’s inaccurate, let me know).

niqab

I know a couple of people who have issues with the niqab, their objections coming from places of ignorance and/or prejudice. One of the problems is that the whole face is covered, which people have an issue with because you can’t identify the individual, which is kinda understandable, but we’d also have to ban most Halloween costumes, all masks and those morph suits.

morphsuit

Personally I’m against banning them, as they did in France because it just feels like an infringement on people’s religious freedom. A woman wearing a veil doesn’t harm anyone, and making it illegal for her to do so just seems wrong and intolerant to me.

The second is this assumption that any woman who wears one is the victim of this horrible, oppressive religion and forced into it. I’m not saying that this is never the case, but to assume that all Islamic women who wear a veil is a bit patronizing, some women may have made the choice themselves as part of their faith.

Anyway, I’ve never really had a problem with it, live and let live, I say, and as long as it’s the woman’s choice, she can wear what she likes.

But there is one thing that I do have a problem with and that’s the increased awkwardness. Due to the veil, I can’t recognize these two young women, unless they talk to me, which is fine, apart from the fact that I work in a call centre, meaning that I can’t actually hear something.

The other day I was sat at my computer, turning back and forth in my chair as a customer droned on and on in my ear. Approaching me was a woman in a niqab, clearly about to go on break.

As she got nearer I realized I faced a dilemma, to say “Hi” or not to say “Hi”, that was the question.

If it was one of the girls I knew and I said “Hello”, then all was dandy.

If it wasn’t one of the girls I knew and I said “Hello” it would be a little awkward but I could pass it off as being friendly.

If it wasn’t one of the girls, and I said nothing, again all was dandy.

If it was one of the girls and I didn’t say anything, then that would be rude.

Four options, two fine, one potentially awkward and one rather rude and definitely awkward.

I settled instead for what I hoped was a friendly smile.

The problem with my friendly smile is that I don’t know what I look like when I do it, or rather I do, but I don’t know how I look to other people. Does it look friendly and relaxed? Or does it look creepy?

creepy

Would the little smile make them uncomfortable? To a stranger it might seem a bit weird, but it might even seem creepy to one of the girls I do know, because I don’t know them well. Too late, I’d smiled and prayed to the gods of social interaction that it hadn’t looked creepy.

It left me wondering how people can identify their friends when they wear niqabs. Unless your friend is unusually tall, short, small or large, then it’s going to be hard to tell women in niqabs apart. I understand that the all black look is for modesty and so as not to draw attention, but perhaps nametags might work, and cut down on potential awkwardness.

It’s possible that I’m overthinking this. Hell, it’s probable that I am, but it still made me feel awkward.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Leashes not lashes

I doubt it needed to be said but Iran really doesn’t sound like a fun place to live. This is a country with extremely strict laws which curtail the rights and freedom of it’s people and still uses physical punishments like lashes and executions. These are two things I am definitely against.

Earlier this year there was a case of a woman being executed because she murdered a man alleged to have attacked her, I was pleased to see that a lot of folks got up in arms over it, but couldn’t help feel that for many the reason to argue against it was either (a) her gender or (b) her apparent motive. If the lady in question was attacked and killed this fellow while acting in self defence, I agree that should have changed the ruling of her guilt, but whatever a killer’s gender or reasoning, capital punishment feels wrong to me.

That however, is not what this blog is about. This is about another news story coming from Iran, and also dealing with excessive punishments. Recently hardline members of parliament in the country have submitted a bill proposing a punishment of 74 lashes.

Being whipped 74 times seems excessive for any crime but it’s particularly shocking to discover that this plan is being suggested as a punishment for people who play, pet or walk dogs in public.

I understand that in Islamic culture dogs are regarded as unclean, and are kept by many only as working animals, not pets. I must admit that my grasp on Islam is shaky at best and so if anything I write in this blog is incorrect, I apologize and am always keen to receive polite corrections.

The subject is open for debate as some Islamic scholars like Malik ibn Anas deviated from this view and some feel it actually has roots in pre-Islamic traditions. Others feel that while dogs are ritually unclean they should still be treated with kindness.

But that’s all irrelevant.

I think everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs and so long as their beliefs and/or practices don’t harm others then it’s a case of live and let live. For people of the Jewish or Islamic faiths eating pig meat is not allowed, as someone who doesn’t conform to that view, I feel that I should be allowed to eat bacon sandwiches, but also be expected to take into account the beliefs of others and not just serve up a hog roast before checking with everyone.

It’s about respect and acceptance. You have to accept that not everyone in this world is going to think like you, or feel the same way about things. Nobody appreciates being told what to think and how to behave, but far too many people are quick to tell others how to.

I like dogs. I want a dog. I think that dogs are perfectly fine.

Miniature English Bulldogs Picture

However, if I knew a Muslim I’d tell them I had a dog at home before they visited, and ask if they’d prefer me to keep it in another room while they were there, just as I’d ask if it was okay to take the dog over to their place first, and not just show up with the dog in tow.

I’m not going to give someone a hard time for not liking dogs. I’m not going to force someone to pet or play with it. Doing that would be seriously uncool.

Clearly there are folks in Iran who don’t mind having dogs. That is there choice. Some people who live near them may disagree, and that is there choice.

But it just seems horribly unfair to punish someone for doing something you see as wrong but which doesn’t actually hurt anybody.

So what if Barry down the way is stroking his dog in the street? Does it really “harm the Islamic culture” as the bill suggests? Is that pat on the head really going to bring a centuries old culture and tradition crashing down around you?

Sure, Barry should ask if he can bring his dog round to your house, and he should clean up after the dog, and he should respect other people’s views on dogs, but they should also respect his viewpoint too. If Barry wants a dog, let him have one, as long as he treats it right and keeps it under control is it really a problem to anyone else?

The whole bill seems to be a depressing example of trying to force your views on the population and is saddled with a frankly ridiculous punishment. 74 lashes for playing with a dog? A crime that literally hurts nobody. If the dog is unclean then surely the only impure person is the owner, and as long as they cleanse themselves after it’s a case of no harm, no foul.

I hope that the law doesn’t get passed, especially as dog ownership is increasing in the country among urban middle and upper classes.

There are far more important things that the Iranian government should be dealing with, and forcing everyone to follow a religious law they may not believe in is utterly wrong. The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, and that’s fine. Forcing someone to follow Islam in Iran is just as wrong as stopping people from observing their faith in the West.

There are 7 billion people on this world, and we should worry less about what everyone else is up to and more about how we’re living ourselves, and how we feel about that. Unless what they are doing is causing hurt or distress to others, let them get on with it, just as you’d want to left alone yourself.

Story.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Do you go to hell for telling an Archbishop not to be a dick?

Okay, so last week gay marriage became legal here in Wales and across the bridge in England. Good times.

I know that civil partnerships were a thing already and some folks, like one of my flatmates, might argue that if they had that why were the gays getting so uptight about still wanting gay marriages?

Well, because a civil partnership isn’t the same thing. The fact they’re called something else shows that while legally they were pretty close they were still marked out as different, and seen by many as less. For true equality it had to be the same wording, and that’s why I’m chuffed that they became legal at the end of March.

Rainbow flags were flown in celebration

Rainbow flags were flown in celebration

There was a bunch of stuff online of couples celebrating and tying the knot as soon as it was legit, which was pretty cool.

Most of the folks I’ve run into are all for it, I mean, I am talking about mainly younger people here (30 and below, as I clutch at straws to remain a “young person”), but a fair few older people have expressed support too. I think the issue is less divisive than is made out, too. Sure there are some full on supporters in both camps, but lots of folks live in the “doesn’t effect me, so, whatever” middle ground, which let’s face it, is pretty much saying you don’t have a problem with gay marriage.

Of course, there are some of the “no” camp who are still unhappy.

Take for example the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Here’s the thing, someone needs out to point out that Welby has to get on board, because with gay marriage being the law of the land, the Queen’s on board, and the Queen is the head of the Church of England. That’s the way it works, and has done since Henry VIII started it up because the Pope told him he couldn’t have a divorce (which always kinda nullifies any CoE objections based on the “sanctity of marriage”).

The AB of C, Welby

The AB of C, Welby

So, first of all, get with the programme, Welby, but go ahead why are you still against the CoE backing it up? Well, in response to being asked if they’d accept it he replied:

“The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here.”

I read that two days ago, and the reason I’ve only got around to posting today is because I needed to calm down. Had I posted immediately after reading it, this post would have been entitled “**** Justin Welby, you *************************!”

Come on, don’t be a dick, your grace.

Stop trying to make your unacceptance seem like a moral stance, because you’re on some seriously shaky ground playing that card. I’d have more respect for you if you at least owned up to your prejudice.

In countries where homosexuality is illegal and those suspected of homosexuality fall victim to some seriously heinous actions, I doubt that the CoE accepting gay marriage is going to lead them to turn on the local Christians. I mean, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing in a lot of these countries the local Christians are probably quite vocal in their condemnation of the gays, in fact, what’ll probably happen is local churches will sever any ties with the CoE.

And even if this was the case, doesn’t it seem a bit defeatist. “Oh, if we accept gay rights, people elsewhere will get killed”.

We let women vote here in the UK years ago, after serious protests. Yet in other countries this would be unacceptable? Should we have not let them vote because women elsewhere who decided they wanted some rights would get hurt?

Similarly slavery. Abolition of slavery happened here in Britain (1833), decades before it happened in America (1865). Hell, in some parts of the States voicing anti-slavery opinion could get you in some serious trouble. Should we just have kept our slaves so that people elsewhere were safe?

You can’t deny people human rights at home because people elsewhere don’t have them. In fact, the opposite is advisable. The more rights we, and other countries, give our citizens moves things along. When we say that discrimination or denial of rights is wrong it sends a message. It lends our support to those suffering elsewhere, our human rights groups will campaign so that those rights are protected elsewhere, and that we are thinking of those people who still live deprived of those rights.

We set an example in embracing different people. It’s why preserving the rights of others is vital.

To change gears massively, it’s like Halal meat. We protect that because we accept other cultures and religions. Elsewhere, religious freedom isn’t a given. But we must hold firm. You can’t criticize the oppression of Christians abroad if you’re infringing on the rights of Jews, Muslims or any other faith, if you do your hypocrisy is plain to the world.

Here in the West we have the chance to set an  example of acceptance and equality. I’m not saying, that those countries Welby listed are just going to follow our lead, but we set that example. And the triumph of groups like Stonewall here emboldens those elsewhere to fight for their rights, to not hide in shame and fear, but to see that there is a potential for change, and a way for society to evolve into something more accepting. It won’t be easy, in fact, it’ll be heart breakingly difficult at times, and the cost may be high.

Sadly, that seems to be the way things work in this f**ked up world, for people to get rights others have to risk all, battle hard and sometimes suffer for. I wish this wasn’t the case, but you keep fighting and one day the world will be a better place, not just for your group, but for all. Because giving someone else rights doesn’t diminish yours, unless you’re afraid of losing the “right” to abuse and persecute.

The thing that gets me the most is that Welby’s comments seem painfully un-Christian. I mean, I may be misunderstanding my Bible, after all, I’m a retired amateur and he’s a professional at the top of the game, but I don’t remember any instance where Jesus takes the attitude of “Do the right thing. Unless doing the right thing hurts you and yours, in which case, screw ’em!” Which, is basically what Welby is saying, when you strip it down.

He talks about seeing a mass grave in South Sudan where Christians were killed over fears that it would force everyone to be gay (I’m not sure what he’s referring to but here’s the article). That’s a tragedy. A tragedy brought about by ignorance, prejudice and cruelty.  A terrible, horrifying example of why we need to increase awareness, understanding and equality. Everywhere. Starting at home and hoping the good spreads.

I know some people are probably saying “But, Chris you can’t compare the two or measure them side by side, homosexuals in the UK didn’t have it that bad”. And you’d have a point, but human rights aren’t a sliding scale, it’s all or nothing. You can’t say, “I know it’s rough that you can’t marry, but at least we’re not arresting you anymore”, because the core tenet of human rights is that all rights are protected, for everyone, everywhere, as long as they’re not harming anyone else, they have the right to live their life how they want- to express their love, beliefs and individuality.

A man in Welby’s position has a chance to take a stand, to help the CoE move into the modern day.

To accept, with love, a group of God’s children that they have treated badly in the past. To provide comfort to their members who’s sexuality may be causing them problems or doubts. Welby could offer a hand or a shoulder to those homosexual Christians who must feel abandoned by both sides at times. The unaccepting Church and the gay community which sometimes criticizes and demonizes religion. Welby could make fences and help those people out, rebuild relationships and families.

And again, the dude probably knows more than me, but from what I remember of Sunday School, that sounds like what JC woulda done.

That acceptance, compassion and love is what Christianity is all about in it’s best moments- helping others, even when they are different from you. Look at those WWJD bracelets and you’ll know I’m right, Welby.

JC

So, I hope Welby’s stance changes, and that the example set here in England and Wales has positive effects elsewhere.

Oh, and a hearty congratulations to all the couples, straight and gay who have got married recently.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


That’s not kosher

I recently wrote about a Danish zoo getting in hot water for killing a giraffe, but now the Danish government are facing a backlash for not killing animals.

Or rather, not allowing them to be killed in certain ways. Denmark has passed a new law that came into effect on Monday that bans animals from being killed in the way that makes them suitable for Jews and Muslims to eat them.

Basically it breaks down like this- for meat to be allowed by their religious laws, the animal has to be killed in a traditional way, which means no stunning blow to the head, but the animal having it’s throat slut and hung upside down (or the other way round) for the blood to drain from the body.

One of the minister’s involved, Dan Jorgensen, commented that “animal rights come before religion”.

I gotta disagree with Mr Jorgensen, because that just doesn’t sit right with me.

I’m not religious, and I don’t fully understand why the rules of kosher and halal or so important, but the fact is they are. It is a core part of the beliefs of two religions, and Denmark’s new law is infringing on their right to practice their chosen religion and follow it’s rules.

People’s religious freedom is being infringed upon and that isn’t right. This is a rule that doesn’t harm anyone. Denmark’s law is basically a country that is predominantly Christian telling other religions that their beliefs don’t matter, and to me that’s just wrong. The West can’t condemn regimes in Africa or the East where religious beliefs govern their laws and penalize those who don’t adhere to them.

Law and religion should be separate, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, and there are different belief systems and religion. And that’s fine. We’ve got to live with each others, and our laws should respect all of their rights, as long as their beliefs don’t harm others. Denmark’s new law is basically them saying that Jews and Muslims don’t deserve the same rights and that a cow is more important.

That’s not just stupid, it’s dehumanizing. Putting people on the same level, or beneath, critters is standard policy when you want to abuse or marginalize them. See the way blacks were viewed during the slave trade, or Jews in the Nazi regime. I’m not saying the Danes are like Nazis, the internet’s traditional hyperbolic criticism of all and sundry, but dehumanizing a group of people has worrying precedents and is never right.

“Animal rights come before religion”, I think they meant “other people’s religion”, or else wouldn’t they have outlawed all meat, regardless of how the animals are whacked? Or maybe that’d damage their economy a bit too much, so clearly their view is:

Religion < Animal rights < Krone

So basically, shame on you Denmark, you’re acting like a bunch of dicks.

Read here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


The Divine Dunk

So, the other day I was coming back from lectures and wandered into my halls when this sign caught my attention:

doughnuts 001

Yes, the promise of free doughnuts drew me in like a greedy moth to the glow of the microwave.

I thought this was a pretty nice idea of the Christian Union, because if there’s one thing students like more than lie ins, it’s free food. That right there is solid marketing work.

It’s a rather sweet, low key idea and hopefully will set up a relaxed conversation between the SU and those after free doughnuts. I’m not religious, but I think encouraging a bit of discussion is a nice thing and while some may have had motives more grounded in the gastronomical than metaphysical, it might create that, and in a friendly, jokey way.

I can’t imagine that the folks who would make a poster like this would be your irritating, fire and brimstone judgey Christians and it might be helpful to some people, as religious or not, you have to admit that religion is often a great help and comfort to people through stressful times. Free doughnuts is the preserve of your kindly Reverend Geraldine type than your Westboro douches.

vicar

I just hope both sides approached it in a friendly, calm manner and that no idiots texted them giving abuse or stick. These guys are just reaching out, if you’re not interested, leave them to it and don’t be a dick about it.

Unfortunately, I forgot and missed the window of opportunity, but am looking forward to the Jewish society giving out free bagels, the Islamic society giving out Party Rings and the Buddhists handing out Polos.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.