Persecution of the religious Sunday, Jul 18 2010 

We’ve recently seen in France that the Islamic full-face covering (the Burqa) has been outlawed. Whilst my opinions on this specific issue are conflicted (I really don’t like the idea of them, and they are obviously impractical, I don’t feel that simply making them illegal is a good solution: although the hefty penalty imposed on men who force their wives or daughters to wear them is something I can approve of 100%), it naturally leads to a debate as to how far a secular country can tolerate religion, and whether enforced secularism is persecution of religion.

I imagine you can guess what side of the debate I will come down on: secularism is absolutely about religious neutrality, and is as important for those who are religious as those of us who are not. Though some would frame secularism as some kind of communist-style state-enforced atheism, the reality is that secularism when correctly applied is merely about removing any particular religion from a place of undue prominence or favour, and making sure no religion can break secular laws.

There are many religious commentators in countries which are or have been majority Christian – mainly the USA, but we have our fair share in Europe and elsewhere – who claim that secularism is eroding their rights. Something they unfailingly fail to grasp is that removing one group’s position as favourites is not taking away their basic rights – it is simply putting them on a level-playing field with everyone else. When the USA made it illegal for a white man to own a black man, it wasn’t taking away the rights of the white man: it was giving rights to the black man. When a government makes it illegal to proselytize in a public school, it isn’t taking away the rights of religious people to indoctrinate children, it is granting the children the right to have an education free of undue religious influence. For the pedantically minded (which includes myself), obviously rights are being taken away – but these are rights which should never have been granted in the first place.

Religion should never be an excuse to break the law of the land, assuming the law of the land is just.

Advertisements

Is the criticism of religion bigotry? Tuesday, Jun 1 2010 

If you are an active atheist – someone who debates with religious people to any extent – it’s more than likely you have been called a bigot for your trouble. To some, criticism of religion is bigotry, and I have heard this opinion even from atheists.

The problem is that religion tends to be a large part of peoples lives (especially those who conciously seek out conversation with those of opposing views), and thus to criticise their religion is to critice something that is percieved to be a core and unchangable part of their life.

There is a further problem, for me as a Brit at least: criticism of some religions is equated with criticism of those who tend to follow it, or to put it bluntly: racism. Here in the UK, we have a fairly large Muslim community, who tend to come from Pakistan, India (along with Hindus and Sikhs) , and Bangladesh. Quite frankly, as a wishy-washy liberal, I love it. I love the fact that curry is now a British staple dish, I love the fact that we have different and more numerous cultural influences, I love the fact that most of us can live together without a whole lot of problems. Some people don’t love that fact: the BNP are the far-right party in the UK, and their dream is of an ethnically pure Britian. Seriously. However, the vast majority of people aren’t quite that racist, so for the past few years, the BNP has been using criticism of Islam as a way of criticising immigrants.

Amongst those of a liberal persuation, this leads to a distrust of criticism of Islam: I even find myself doubting something criticing Islam from time to time because I have a knee-jerk reaction to equate criticism of Islam with a blanket criticism of those who follow it.

And herein lies the difference. Religion is something to be followed, it is not what you are. Maybe you are a religious fanatic who feels that they are nothing without their faith: but you must choose to follow through on it. If someone is Pakistani, Eritrean, Fijian, Flemish, Irish, if someone is male or female, if someone is gay or straight: they didn’t choose it and there is no creed or set of instructions to be followed. With religion, there is a creed, there are sets of instructions, and to criticise those who interpret them a certain way is not bigotry, it is simply comment on the free action of another human.

Atheism, atrocities and idiot priests Friday, Apr 2 2010 

Well, being Good Friday and all, the Catholic Church has decided to come out swinging. Here in Australia, they have launched incredibly ignorant and nonsensical attacks on atheism and secularism. One of the newly appointed Bishops here in Sydney came out and said several things:

”Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating,” he said.

”Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism.”

This is the first thing I’ll deal with here, and it is an absolutely preposterous and absurd thing to say. To first point to Nazism and the holocaust as an example of something that atheism or secularism is responsible for reflects ignorance of the highest degree of what actually happened.

The Catholic Church were responsible for 800 years of anti-Semitic filth that was propagated and spread throughout Europe before the Holocaust. Without this foundation, the Holocaust is completely unthinkable. Robert Runcie, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote:

“Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler’s passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed […] because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews, have in times past, cowered behind locked doors with fear of a Christian mob seeking ‘revenge’ for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the Holocaust is unthinkable.”

There are numerous documented incidents of Hitler making pacts and public relations campaigns with high ranking members of the Catholic Church all over Europe before WW2 and on almost all occasions he spouted the same kind of hatred and bigotry that would become the basis for the ideology of the Holocausts. Indeed the Catholic Church even signed a political Reichskonkordat with Hitler after he had stated just months earlier:

“I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognized. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church, and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”

This Reichskonkordat gave the Nazi government the political and moral support of the Catholic Church in return for the Nazi government’s introduction of compulsory Catholic teachings in schools in Germany and other such political gifts. Guenter Lewy, in his The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany says:

There is general agreement that the Concordat increased substantially the prestige of Hitler’s regime around the world. As Cardinal Faulhaber put it in a sermon delivered in 1937: “At a time when the heads of the major nations in the world faced the new Germany with cool reserve and considerable suspicion, the Catholic Church, the greatest moral power on earth, through the Concordat expressed its confidence in the new German government. This was a deed of immeasurable significance for the reputation of the new government

Furthermore, whilst 6 million people were being slaughtered for being Jewish, the Catholic Church pretended it wasn’t happening. In fact the Vatican was entirely aware of the slaughter of the Jews when they attempted to negotiate with the German ambassador from 1942-44. They were unconcerned with attempts to render justice to those responsible and even after the Holocaust continued further a dialogue of anti-semitism. As Dr. Michael Phayer, one of the foremost experts on Vatican foreign policy during WW2 says:

Questions about Pius XII’s moral leadership arose shortly after his death in 1958. These concerns [began]… with statements by German bishops at the time of the sensational Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and on the eve of the Second Vatican Council in 1960. Julius Doepfner, cardinal of Munich, spoke of regrettable decisions that had been made by church leaders during the Nazi era and German bishops collectively apologized for the ‘inhimane extermi- nation of the Jewish people.’

What is troubling about Pius’s preocuipation with diplomacy is that Jews would continue to be murdered as peace negotiations were underway. [Note: the author refers to peace negotiations undertaken by the German ambassador to the Vatican between 1942 and 1944]. Pius knew this, of course. A high-ranking official in the Papal Secretariat of State, Monsignor Domenica Tardini, told the German ambassador that the United States would probably object to Weizsaecker’s (latest) proposal for negotiations because of the ‘Jewish matter.’

The difficulty with Pius’s inadvertence to the Holocaust lies in the fact that Catholics in high and low stations kept reminding him of it. The most persistent of these was Konrad Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, who wrote to Pius thirteen times in fifteen months during the most active period of the Holocaust. When Pius finally responded to his friend from the Weimar era, it was not the fate of the Jews but the fate of Christendom and of the Church that preoccupied him.

While the Vatican showed keen interest in getting the perpetrators of the Holocaust freed, and, as we have seen, had to be restrained by its trusted envoy Bishop Muench, it showed little or no interest in the question of restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

As did most Italians, Pope Pius sought to save native Italian Jews during the Holocaust, but he did not allow the Jewish tragedy to upset his world vision which remained fixed on his church and the Marxist danger.

If the Holocaust was not sufficient cause for Pius to break with Germany during the war, it is not surprising that antisemitism, restitution, and strict justice for war criminals would not be his priorities during the Cold War.

As any rational person can see, to blame the Holocaust on Atheism is absolutely absurd and an affront to anyone with a brain that is not totally ignorant of what took place. Without the discourse of anti-Semitism that the Catholic Church ensured stayed at the heart of European society for hundreds of years prior to the Holocaust, the foundations never would have been there for Hitler to extrapolate upon. Hitler himself was a practicing Roman Catholic and not only did the Catholic Church have no qualms or will to criticize his anti-Semitic propaganda. Mein Kampf was written and published in 1925 yet the Catholic Church signed a political agreement giving him their backing in 1933, after he spent 8 years extrapolating on his plans and ideology present in Mein Kampf.

It was only until he started systematically killing Jews, which apparently surprised the Catholic Church after all of their dealings with him,  that organised criticism seems to emerge, and even at that point the Catholic Church was far more interested in protecting its own image and public perception than any organised resistance on their part, and they even proceeded to enter into diplomatic negotiations with Hitler’s Germany, fully aware of the situation of the ongoing Holocaust.

To palm this off onto atheism or secularism when it was committed upon foundations set by the Catholic Church by a Roman Catholic whose legitimacy was confirmed by the Catholic Church, the moral guide of Europe, even after he had spread such propaganda and genocidal filth for years prior is absolutely disgusting.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Joshua 10:40 Day! Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

I noticed on facebook that a lot of people were joining an event called “John 3:16 Day”, talking about the love of Christianity and being proud to be of God and such and such and such, and on this day they would all change their statuses to this one verse, John 3:16.

Anyone who looks objectively can see that all they are doing is cherry-picking the nice verses whilst ignoring the rest of the barbaric, disgusting verses that remain. Thus was born the event Joshua 10:40 Day. Joshua 10:40 reads:

“So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.”

This verse is just one of hundreds of examples of rape, murder, genocide and ethnic cleansing committed by God or on his direct orders in the Old Testament.

It is the same day as John 3:16 day, March 18th, and I just figured that I would make people aware of this idea, for anyone that is interested in taking a stand against the hypocrisy of Christianity and religion in general.

Secularism, religion and homosexuality Friday, Feb 26 2010 

At the core of their teachings, the most influential organised religions on this earth are violent, bigoted, homophobic, divisive and scientifically unsubstantiated by any sort of factual evidence. I then hold that it is a rational supposition that such beliefs should not hold any sway over the legislative organisations that decide the fate of a much broader cross-section of society than those who wish to close their minds to the realities of the observable universe.

However they do, and that is a serious problem with the world today. The reality is that homosexuals, for instance, are denied equality and subject to an enforced morality because of the influence that religion has over the legislative mechanisms of many Western states, and when you turn your eye to America and some Islamic states, the situation becomes far worse.

To narrow my focus onto the case of homosexuality in Western countries, it is an overwhelmingly religious discourse that has held back the progress of equality in this regard. I reject this as irrational in two ways.

  1. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the claims to immorality and societal harm made by religious people in response to calls for homosexual equality are in any way substantiated in a factual sense. Essentially, then, by enforcing that religious discourse of morality that is not in touch with the scientific, social or psychological reality on people that do not subscribe to such a religion, we are breaking down the very idea of secularism at its heart and foisting religious morality on people who do not believe in that religion on the part of people who are not even affected by such laws (i.e. why exactly is it the Church’s business what is legalized and not, and why should their bigoted, bronze-age beliefs stand in the way of equality in a secular society).
  2. Jesus does not deal with homosexuality in the New Testament, but does state on several occasions that he has come not to override or abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill it, and that, indeed, “It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17).

    Why is it, then, that Christians cling to the disgusting, bigoted verses of the Old Testament regarding God’s hatred of homosexuals as though it is going out of fashion, but somehow forget the disgusting, bigoted verses in the Old Testament about God slaughtering children, or condoning genocide, or slaughtering Moses’ political opponents, or slaughtering whoever he really feels like when he wakes up that morning? If their God kills children, women and condones war crimes, genocide and rape, who exactly is he to tell us what is moral and immoral about sexuality? As a corollary to that, why do they focus on verses that support their condemnation of homosexuality, but yet attempt to paint a picture of a loving and tolerant God?

Just some thoughts. If anyone actually reads this, feel free to comment.