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Posts Tagged ‘secularism’

I am so done with being in the middle of moving house.

We’re probably like 90% of the way through the overall, incredibly tediously and drawn-out process, if you count from the very start of the “hey let’s sell our house, oh and hey that other house looks nice let’s go and live there instead” impulse. But we’re currently stuck in an awkward interim bit where we’re moved out and into the in-laws’ guest wing, most of our stuff is boxed up, and we’re still waiting for the last bits of interminable legal wankery to be settled before we get to actually be living in our own home with our own stuff again.

I’ve got a bunch of half-started blog posts which I’ll get back to once I have a computer in a place where I can actually sit and work on things regularly again. Right now it’s sitting in an otherwise almost empty room, everything else having been packed up. The clacking of my keyboard has started echoing weirdly in here. I guess the curtains used to muffle that? I dunno.

Anyway. Christian Voice recently reminded me why I still read their blog. In an article about a suggestion to abandon the obligation for Christian assemblies in state schools, something which seems utterly bizarre that it wasn’t done years ago, they provide several unremarkable paragraphs of fairly straightforward, unemotional reporting on the objective course of events, and then completely out of nowhere they hit you with a sentence like:

However, it isn’t at all clear what ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural’ values would qualify as ‘inclusive’ nor whom or what they could be founded on if not on the God who brought this nation victorious through two world wars.

Wonderful.

And then a week later, they actually end up being largely in the right (though perhaps by accident) on another recent matter – the right to turn down a commission without having to justify yourself seems a fairly clear one in this case – and come up with an interesting point I don’t recall seeing in any other analysis. Could the bakery have claimed they were afraid of breaching copyright?

Also the continued insistence with which some people put the quotes around gay “marriage” is just funny.

I’ll be better at this again soon. Until then I’m getting a new kitten tomorrow so I don’t give a fuck about any of you anyway. Seeya, losers!

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There’s an assumption that Christians doing Jesusy things is never any kind of obstruction to anyone. That you should just get out of their way if they want to Jesus it up at any point. That explicit Jesusification should be expected as the standard, even in official state affairs, and it’s up to you to either move aside or keep quiet if you’re going to stray from this default setting.

So I’m generally inclined to support cases like this, where Christianity is being actively promoted by schools in even some subtle and minor way. It might not be the biggest, wrongest wrong out there, but it’s still wrong, and religious privilege is never going to go away unless things like this are addressed.

But I can understand those who think it’s not worth the fight. Reasonable people can believe that secularist battles like this one are a little petty and unhelpful. I was moderately indifferent to Jessica Ahlquist and her plight, in fact, until the true, despicable face of religious fervour made itself known against her.

That is where the really important fight is. You might not think it’s worth launching a lawsuit against the religious language hanging on a wall in a school hall, or a student-led prayer at a graduation ceremony. But you can probably agree that taking a stand against people who’ll threaten you with death and torture for daring to question their privilege is a more noble fight.

In the above case of the graduation prayer, I haven’t seen anything like the kinds of threats Jessica received (though I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re out there somewhere). But I have seen Newt Gingrich.

When one district judge supported the plaintiff’s case, Newt said:

…judges appointed for life cannot be dictators and they cannot threaten our children with jail for saying the word ‘prayer.’

Which is just the kind of dramatic, hissy-fit overstatement you’ll be familiar with from religious folk if you follow much atheist activism. Nobody’s threatened anybody with any such thing, as I suspect Newt damn well knows but is hoping his core conservative Christian base will go along with it.

So, when an amended complaint was brought against the school again recently, it was nice to see that same district judge setting the record straight on one or two things in the official court opinion (PDF):

What This Case Has Not Been About

The right to pray.

Any American can pray, silently or verbally, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, in private as Jesus taught or in large public events as Mohammed instructed.

Nice.

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This is something that has a good chance of becoming a semi-regular feature. I followed the recent discussion around Baroness Warsi’s attempts to make a massive dangling cock of herself with her bizarre rantings about “militant secularism”. I made a few brief comments on Twitter, and saved a bunch of links to refer to when I wrote about it in more depth for this blog.

And now it’s kinda no longer topical, and I’m not really inclined to pull together a post on it myself, and I don’t think I have all that much interesting to say. So I’m delegating my views to some people who’ve already talked about this at quite ample length.

Here are some sensible people, in no particular order, who have written worthwhile things about Baroness Warsi in the past week or so:

The British Humanist Association
Nelson Jones
The New Journalist
Mark Steel
Crispian Jago
Newsthump
Crispian Jago again

I encourage you to read them in full, and I generally endorse the sentiments contained therein.

There. Done. It’s a piece of piss, this blogging lark.

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– Here’s another way the state milks prisoners for their own benefit. This is transparently doing the opposite of helping people.

– I see rich people… They don’t know they’re rich. John Scalzi on characteristically fine form.

– Nick Cohen’s worth reading on militant secularists.

– Many attitudes to disabled and poor people are shocking, and being exacerbated by a lot of media coverage and government policies.

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…K-I-S- …Wait. Um. What letter rhymes with “Vatican”?

Okay, never mind. This is about The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, part of the Vatican, which sent some sort of open letter to all Muslims not long ago.

It’s possibly a bit weird.

The end of the month of Ramadan offers the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue a welcome occasion for sending you our most cordial wishes, hoping that the efforts you have so generously made during this month will bring all the desired spiritual fruits.

Impressively flowery language aside, I actually went so far as to look up Wikipedia’s page on Ramadan to see if I’d missed something here. Yes, this issue has actually driven me to research. Horrors. Anyway, my largely ignorant assumption was basically right: Ramadan is about fasting and abstinence, and maybe more praying than usual. Quite where generosity comes into it I’m not sure.

But still, it seems an odd thing for the head of the Catholic Church to be wishing for followers of Islam: that their efforts “will bring all the desired spiritual fruits”. So, you hope that their devotion to a false god who doesn’t exist, and their denial of the true Lord Jesus, is bringing them spiritual fulfilment? Huh. I thought those were generally advised against by Christian teachings, so I’ve only done the second one. Do I get a positive wish for spiritual fulfilment from the Vatican as well?

No, evidently not. Because one thing Christians and Muslims have in common is the way they are…

faced… with the challenges of materialism and secularisation.

Oh, right. That’ll be me, then.

Of course, it is possible to be a religious secularist. One can hold religious views, but consider them a personal matter which should not influence state policy or be involved in any official legislation. But it seems clear that what the Vatican’s objecting to is the irreverence against faith often exhibited by those without it.

We cannot but denounce all forms of fanaticism and intimidation, the prejudices and the polemics, as well as the discrimination of which, at times, believers are the object both in the social and political life as well as in the mass media.

Yep. Prejudices and discrimination in social and political life. I’m sure the spiritual leader of over a billion Christians knows just as much about that as the Muslims his office is addressing.

There surely can’t be much that they have in common. What do Christians and Muslims both share, which doesn’t also include atheists (or “secularists”)? It’s not the nature of God, or Jesus, or really any of the big important spiritual questions which they both claim to have answers to. Atheists, though, have at least one thing in common with every religion: they’re the only ones who agree that all the other religions are false.

The right to practice their own beliefs in a way that doesn’t inhibit the freedom of others? The right not to have an opposing faith view forced on you? Secularists are right with you on those.

The only significant unifying factor which atheists aren’t on board with seems to be the idea that believing in some all-powerful divine overlord is good in itself, even if it’s the wrong one – even, in fact, if that belief is completely untrue. Christians, by nature of their religion, believe all Muslims to be wrong in finding the prophet Mohammed’s writings to be divinely inspired – but the fact that they believe untrue things about a fictional god is still somehow seen as a virtue.

What they share is belief in belief.

Which in fact they probably do also share with a good many non-religious, who miss the comfort provided by a religion they no longer believe in. They use “church-going” as a synonym for “morally upstanding”, and so on.

It’s a flimsy connection for two opposing faiths to find with each other, and still fails to exclude the godless in the way they really want to.

(h/t Atheist Revolution)

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