The Spell of Faith and Politics

The Magical Spell of Faith

God’s SatNav for Britain

By Willem Sander van Boxtel

The first time I set eyes upon the glorious House of Lords chamber, in the  summer of 2013, I was an ignorant tourist in the UK. With blissful awe I gazed on the golden decorations, the wooden benches, the leather seats, the red armrests. The red armrests which only seemed to be added to one bench. But the question why did not race through my fifteen-year old mind. Only much, much later did I find out the Bishops were granted those seats. The Bishops? Yes, the Bishops.

To a Dutchman, the notion of an unelected body of Parliament was a strange one – although after moving here, I have grown used to it – but the right of senior clergymen to help decide laws that apply to everyone, including non-Anglicans, is one I still cannot get behind. And I know I’m not alone. This tradition is but one of the examples that show faith, not just the Church of England, but faith in general, is still paid extraordinary deference in twenty-first century Britain, and beyond.

Moreover, in a type of Americanisation – and a bad type at that – we seem to be stuck with leaders who claim to feel inspiration from God; although, if the recent past is anything to go by, it could be argued God’s sense of direction is about as bad as the average tourist’s in Birmingham. Especially to relative newcomers like myself the strange and worrying excess of respect paid to bringing one’s religion into public life is an inexplicable concept.

The House of Lords – God’s Meddling Finger

The twenty-six Lords Spiritual, as the aging Bishops given the privilege of attending Parliament are called, have been in the House of Lords since its early days. One of them opens the House with prayers every day – perhaps an interesting, objectionable notion for another piece of writing – and their role in the Lords is, thank God, non-partisan. Although, perhaps the party of God is more limiting than any political grouping we know.

Interestingly, the Church of England website states the bishops represent “all people of faith.” I’m positive most Muslims would disagree. As a matter of fact, when Henry VIII founded the Church of England and allowed Bishops to remain in Parliament, he inevitably set the precedent for an inherently divisive Parliament. Putting representatives of the cult that burned multiple people alive on unprovable claims in your legislative is in itself a rather extraordinary move, but there we are.

Moreover, the Bishops’ intelligence, and their ability to govern us, is questionable. I would not want to insult any fellow primate, but when the Archbishop of Carlisle claimed the 2007 floods were God’s punishment for the “moral decadence” of our country, I can’t but doubt his judgement. God’s aim must have been slightly off, though; why else would these floods have hit largely rural areas, and not major cities, the centres of “arrogance” and “greed”? I don’t think Worcestershire is a hot-bed of explicit homosexuality, after all. But the Archbishop can dream. As can anyone. But dreamers should not decide matters of national importance.

When Parliament came to represent not just the English and Welsh, but also the Scottish and Irish, the Anglican bishops were already stuck in the limbo of having to represent a multi-denominational country. With the influx of migrants with other beliefs in modern times, no one can seriously argue the Bishops are in Parliament to make the case for people of faith. Religion is divisive, as we have seen countless times again. In Northern Ireland, people killed each other and each other’s children for what kind of Christian they were for decades. Do you think any Irish Catholic would be happy to have an Anglican bishop speak on behalf of them? What about our fellow Muslim citizens? And, more to the point, what about the most important minority in British society today: those of us who do not believe? Are we even a minority anymore?

I think it is more than evident these Bishops, however well-intended they may be, do not deserve to have a special say in how our laws are made. Not a bigger say than the rest of us, anyway. The refusal of successive governments to reform this antiquated arm of our legislative is worrying, and is yet another example of how religion still very much has its own way in this country.

Remembrance Sunday – Who’s Sent to Hell?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/18/Her_Majesty_the_Queen_Lays_a_Wreath_at_the_Cenotaph_London_During_Remembrance_Sunday_Service_MOD_45152054.jpg/800px-Her_Majesty_the_Queen_Lays_a_Wreath_at_the_Cenotaph_London_During_Remembrance_Sunday_Service_MOD_45152054.jpg

The annual ceremony held at the Cenotaph in honour of military dead is, to any benevolent human being, a worthwhile cause and something we must continue to adhere value to. Unfortunately, this occasion, too, has been poisoned by God’s meddling finger. In remembrance ceremonies around the world, the dead are remembered and their names passed on to posterity in a secular way. But not here.

The Cenotaph ceremony is “enriched” by the presence of a squadron of patriarchs, priests, bishops, imams, rabbis, and other religious prelates who seem to convey a general aura of “look at us, we’re so co-operative.” Let’s not mention the fact that presumably each one of them believes servicemen belonging to any of the other representatives’ religions are now in their imaginary hells, but oh well. Moreover, the service is partially led by the Bishop of London, surprise surprise.

The main issue with this, of course, is one of inclusivity. Not only are not all religious denominations represented at the Cenotaph – I bet Scientologists would love to commemorate the dead – but far more importantly, there is no secular presence attending. When the Cenotaph was built in 1920, King George V intentionally refused to add religious symbols to the statue. It was designed to be an irreligious monument, commemorating servicemen and women of all faiths and, importantly, none. Why have our leaders forsaken the intended sentiment of this national monument?

Here, too, God’s breath seems to infect our national ceremonies without anyone – except the religious themselves – having any say in it. I would ask him to eat a mint or spray some mouth freshener and allow us to conduct our memorial services, and our state politics, taking everyone’s views into account. Not just those of a limited amount of religious people. War dead commemoration is too much of an important issue to be left to religious men.

Mrs May’s Divine Hotline

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A rare interview opportunity by the Sunday Times exposed Prime Minister Theresa May as a theist stateswoman. “I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, that lies behind what I do”, the woman in charge of Britain during one of its most turbulent times in recent history claimed. Whatever one might think of Brexit – the beauty of atheism is that it rises above politics as far as issues like this are concerned – I don’t think God is going to have a positive influence on the exit process.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister then went on to say about decisions she makes with help of her God Hotline: “I’ll think it through, have a gut instinct, look at the evidence, work through the arguments.” The evidence? I don’t want to claim Mrs May is unintelligent, but stressing the importance of evidence whilst being a practising Church of England member is one of the most self-imploding and self-refuting positions I have ever heard.

The idea of having a Church of England-inspired government is in itself a rather scary one. The church “founded on the family values of Henry VIII”, as Christopher Hitchens aptly put it, isn’t one I would base my morals off. God sending himself as his son down to earth to be hideously maimed doesn’t provide a decent example to our politicians. Nor, more to the point, does the man who was prepared to viciously murder his own child to show devotion to a deity (Genesis 22:2-13). Will the divine injunctions to murder entire peoples guide our negotiations with the EU? (Genesis 19:24-5; Exodus 14:28; Numbers 11:1-2-33; 16:35; 49; 1:7; 25:8-9; Joshua 10:10-11; I Samuel 6:19; I could go on, and on, and on…)

Many heads will roll before Article 50, it seems, if God’s example is anything to go by.


In short, the obviously fake guidance from God some politicians seem to enjoy, and the privileges they demand from it, should be met with strong opposition. Are there any reasons that prevent politicians from saying they’re not religious? From saying they derive their decision-making from factual evidence, from experience, from learned instinct? I cannot think of any. Religion, therefore, seems to still enjoy this special status in the minds of most people. Extraordinary deference is paid to those who claim to be inspired by blood myths and masochistic worship. By slaughter, murder, torture, and belief without evidence. This is the twenty-first century. It is high time to stop this medieval chain of thought and focus on the material world, which is the only world we have.

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Mike Pence and the Evangelical Vote

The Road to a Christian Iran

By Willem Sander van Boxtel

Mike Pence & Donald Trump

In the early hours of November 10th 2016, many of us atheists woke up to the dawn of at least another four years of religious rule in the world’s most major powerhouse. But for secular non-believers, Donald Trump is not the real danger. The real threat to the atheist democracy as intended by the American founding fathers, and as enshrined in the US Constitution, comes from the well-known evangelical heavyweight now known as Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Continue reading “Mike Pence and the Evangelical Vote”

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Obama, Oh Cameron, Oh dear, you just don’t get ISIL do you?

Or, if you do then you are wilfully misleading the people you lead and represent.

Obama has just said in his speech last Tuesday night, “Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic.” (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)

Obama's policy message in full
Obama’s policy message in full

On the face of it, that shows his profound ignorance of the Qur’an and Hadith (supplementary Muslim instructions written after their manual was last updated in 1910). However, he is probably doing what all western politicians are doing, and that is, appeasing Muslim voters.

I am pretty sure that the majority of Muslims are just as peaceful as the majority of other faiths together with we poor old rabid atheists, but until the evil message of 143 suras (verses) of the Qur’an is denied by those moderate Muslims we keep hearing about, but not from, the myth of Islam being a religion of peace will persist. The simple truth is repeated endlessly in Qur’an; the duty of all Muslims is to make the whole world into an Islamic Caliphate, however long it takes.

That is why the popular Saudi cleric Mohammad Al-Areefi sounds like the ISIS army chaplain. The man has 9.5 million followers on Twitter (twice as many as Pope Francis has).

More British Muslims have joined the ranks of ISIS than have volunteered to serve in the British armed forces. In fact, this group has managed to attract thousands of recruits from free societies throughout the world to help build a paradise of repression and sectarian slaughter in Syria and Iraq. This is an astonishing phenomenon, and it reveals some very uncomfortable truths about the failures of multiculturalism, the inherent vulnerability of open societies, and the terrifying power of bad ideas.

Are apostates “innocent”? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Atheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is “no.”

So then “How to fight ISIL”? I can give you the long term answer but a short term response is all that we can expect from the politicians (god help us all!  😉 .

With the rational philosophy of peace based on the European Enlightenment, that’s how! That involves the creation of a secular message being preached from political pulpits and all our school assemblies, in Europe and the USA. It will take 50 years but it is the only answer.

That is what built the American constitution back in 1788 where it separated religion from the politics of government.

I’ll leave you with the words of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian revolution back in 1979:-

When anyone studies a little or pays a little attention to the rules of Islamic government, Islamic politics, Islamic society and Islamic economy he will realize that Islam is a very political religion. Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics.”

Well, he did warn us! A pity our damn stupid politicians dare not listen.

We’re not afraid of sanctions. We’re not afraid of military invasion. What frightens us is the invasion of western immorality.”

By which he meant, he was fearful of democracy, short skirts, equality for women and therefore the end of male domination over women ratified by the, not so, Holy Qur’an.

Acknowledgements:

Morten Morland: Times cartoonist, for his 2013 cartoon

Sam Harris: author, happy spiritual atheist and his recent blog entitled “Sleepwalking towards Armageddon”

More on Philosophy, Politics, Education, Stupid politicians @ http://www.ruskinweb.co.uk/blog

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Secularism and The Religious Right Conference

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britian are hosting a two day International Conference on Secularism and the Religious Right, which may be of interest to members.

Please click the link for details however speakers include:

  • AC Grayling is a Philosopher, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and author and commentator.
  • Amal Farah is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All. She is Somali-born and was raised in a conservative and literalist Muslim household.
  • Amel Grami is Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba; she was on the frontlines of Manouba’s successful struggle to defy a Salafist siege last year and is a leading expert on Religion and Women’s Studies.
  • Amina Sboui is a Tunisian activist threatened and imprisoned after posting topless photos of herself on Facebook carrying the slogan: “My Body is not the Source of Anyone’s Honour”.
  • Bahram Soroush is Public Relations Officer of the Free Them Now! Campaign to Free Jailed Workers in Iran and a co-host of Bread and Roses TV Programme.
  • Ben Baz Aziz is a Presenter at Arab Atheist broadcasting and a blogger focusing on LGBT and atheist rights in the Middle East who was imprisoned in Kuwait for blasphemy.
  • Caroline Fourest is a French writer, editor of the magazine ProChoix, and author of Frère Tariq, a critical look at the works of Tariq Ramadan and books on topics such as the conservative right, the pro-life movement and the fundamentalist trends in the Abrahamic religions.
  • Chetan Bhatt is the director of the Centre for the Study of Human rights at LSE. His current projects include work on the emergence of virtue in modern political ideologies, new forms of the regional state in South Asia and the sociology of religious paramilitia groups.
  • Chris Moos is a secular student activist who has led a successful campaign for the right to wear ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts after being harassed and threatened with removal at his university. He was a nominee for the NSS’ Secularist of the Year 2014 award.
  • Elham Manea is a Yemeni associate professor specialized in the Middle East, a writer, and a human rights activist. Her concept of humanistic Islam was first published in a series of articles in Arabic.
  • Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar is an Iraqi born writer and a social activist living in the United States. He is the founder of the Global Secular Humanist Movement and Secular Post.
  • Fariborz Pooya is the founder of the Iranian Secular Society, was one of the founding members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and is a co-host of Bread and Roses TV.
  • Fatou Sow is a Senegalese Sociologist, and a member of a number of African and international associations as well as the International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
  • Gita Sahgal is an Indian-born writer, journalist, film-maker and rights activist, Director of Centre for Secular Space who was suspended by Amnesty International as head of its Gender Unit in 2010 for criticising the organisation’s relations with an Islamist group.
  • Hamid Taqvaee is the Secretary of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran’s Central Committee and a leading Marxist opposition figure to the Islamic regime of Iran.
  • Houzan Mahmoud is a Kurdish women’s rights campaigner and the Spokesperson of the Organisations of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She has written and campaigned extensively on women’s rights issues.
  • Horia Mosadiq has been Director of the Afghanistan Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium and an advisor to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, as well as a journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Imad Iddine Habib is a Moroccan atheist threatened for his atheism, founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco, the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion.
  • Inna Shevchenko is leader of FEMEN topless activists who was kidnapped and threatened by the Belarus KGB in 2011 for her activism. She was granted political asylum in France.
  • Julie Bindel is an English writer, feminist and co-founder of the group Justice for Women. She was listed in the Independent’s “Pink List” as one of the top 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in the UK.
  • Kacem El Ghazzali is a Moroccan secularist writer, blogger, activist and atheist. He was the head of the Moroccan Center for Human Rights’ Youth Chapter and is a member of the Executive Board of the Moroccan Bloggers Association.
  • Karima Bennoune is a law professor at the University of California Davis School of Law, and author of “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism”.
  • Kate Smurthwaite is a stand-up comedian and political activist. She has appeared on more than 500 TV and radio shows including This Morning, The Big Questions, Woman’s Hour and The Moral Maze.
  • Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, a presenter of BBC Radio 4′s Analysis and a panellist on The Moral Maze. His book From Fatwa to Jihad was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize.
  • Kiran Opal is a Pakistani-born human rights activist, writer, and editor living in Canada. She is co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America and Editor of ExMuslimBlogs.
  • LCP is a multimedia and multiethnic dance company which emphasises human rights issues mainly human trafficking.
  • Lila Ghobady is an Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker. Her first independent release, Forbidden Sun Dance, was banned by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Lino Veljak is professor of philosophy at the University of Zagreb and Co-founder of the movement Protagora (protecting the values of secularism and human rights of non-religious persons).
  • Maha Kamal is an ex-Muslim who was disowned by her parents for leaving Islam, President of the Colorado Prison Law Project, and Commissioner at the Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Commission on Inclusiveness.
  • Magdulien Abaida is a Libyan Activist and president of Hakki (My Right) Organization for Women Rights. She was kidnapped by Islamists in Benghazi in August 2012 and fled after her release three days later.
  • Marieme Helie Lucas is an Algerian sociologist, founder and former International Coordinator of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws. She is also the founder of Secularism Is A Women’s Issue.
  • Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson for Fitnah, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; editor of Fitnah’s Unveiled; and producer and co-host of Bread and Roses.
  • Nadia El Fani is a Tunisian filmmaker who risks arrest and up to five years in prison if she returns to Tunisia after Islamists filed a complaint against her film “Neither Allah nor Master”.
  • Nahla Mahmoud is an environmentalist and human right activist originally from Sudan. She leads the Sudanese Humanists Group and is Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
  • Nina Sankari is President of the European Feminist Initiative in Poland, and Vice-President of the Polish Rationalist Association.
  • Pervez Hoodbhoy is a Pakistani nuclear physicist and recipient of a number of awards. He is also a prominent environmentalist and social activist.
  • Peter Tatchell has been campaigning for rights and global justice since 1967. New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of “Heroes of our time”. He was Campaigner of the Year in The Observer Ethical Awards.
  • Pragna Patel is a founding member of the Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. She was listed in The Guardian’s Top 100 women: activists and campaigners.
  • Randa Kassis is President and founder of the Movement for a Pluralistic Society. She was a member of the Syrian National Council until she was excluded for her warnings against Muslim fundamentalists in 2012.
  • Rumy Hassan is Senior Lecturer at University of Sussex and author of “Dangerous Liaisons: The Clash between Islamism and Zionism” and “Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths”.
  • Sanal Edamaruku is an author and founder-president of Rationalist International and the Indian Rationalist Association. In 2012, he was charged with hurting religious sentiments for his role in examining a claimed miracle at a local Catholic Church.
  • Shelley Segal is a Melbourne based singer-songwriter involved in secular activism. ‘An Atheist Album’ is a passionate response to dogmatic belief, inequality, religious oppression and the idea that only the devout can be grateful and good.
  • Siba Shakib is an Iranian/German film-maker, writer and political activist. She was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. Her international best-seller Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep has been translated into 27 languages and won a P.E.N. prize.
  • Stasa Zajovic is co-founder and coordinator of Women in Black, Belgrade and initiated several networks like Women’s Peace Network, Network of Conscientious Objectors and Anti militarism in Serbia, and The Coalition for a Secular State.
  • Sue Cox is the co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe, an international organisation that has at its heart the support and empowerment of catholic clergy abuse survivors of which she is one.
  • Taj Hargey is South African Muslim scholar. He was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa and founder of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford and the Imam of the Summertown Islamic congregation.
  • Tarek Fatah is a Pakistani born Canadian writer, broadcaster and a secular activist. He is the author of “Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State” and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
  • Taslima Nasrin is a Bangladeshi-born award-winning writer, physician, and activist, known for her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death.
  • Terry Sanderson is a writer and journalist and current President of the National Secular Society, which campaigns for the separation of church and state.
  • Waleed Husseini is a Palestinian blogger arrested in 2010 by the Palestinian Authority for blaspheming against Islam on Facebook and in his blog. He founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of France in 2013.

 

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Empowering Women Through Secularism Conference

Atheist Ireland in accociation with the Atheist Alliance Internation present the Empowering Women Through Secularism Conference. To be held at the O’Callahagn Alexander Hotel on 28th-30th June 2013.

The Atheist Alliance International will also be holding its AGM during the course of the conference and all members are welcome to attend.

Speakers include:

For full details and booking information please go to the Conference Website.

 

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Atheists Have Better Sex Lives

I can’t believe that this has been published in the Daily Mail, however the long awaited report on Sex and Secularism by distinguished supporter of AtheismUK has now been published, with a lot of expected confirmations of what may of us in the atheist and secualrist community thought.

Please enjoy (and note the comment on the article, well it made me laugh)!

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Criticism at Easter? What a Shocker!

The head of the catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, will use his Easter sermon to criticize “aggresive secularism” according to the BBC. Full story here.

Let’s examine:

Firstly, the Pope said a similar thing last year. OK so these complaints are showing that those of us who don’t believe and reject their barbaric and unsupported doctrines are actually having an effect. This citicism is an indication that they are starting to get desparate and they are being shown to have less and less relevance to people!

Secondly it doesn’t change the fact we are probably right!

Thirdly, I love it when he states that enemies of Christianity want to “take God from the public sphere”. Firstly we are enemies of irrationaliy and unreason of which Christianity is just one (very large) example, and how can you take something out of the public sphere when it doesn’t actually exist in reality in the first place?

Next he criticizes equality legislation claiming it is discriminating againt the religious. I have to keep saying this. Stopping you from practicising bigotry and discrimination is NOT itself discrimination. You have had the freedom to be bigots for too long and the world is beginning to wake up. To use an anolgy, if you hare beating someone you don’t like with a stick we will take the stick off you and you then cannot turn around and claim that the act of taking the stick off you is oppressing you!

Oh well, this is Easter, or the rising of the purpotedly magical zombie day! For those that partake enjoy the chocolate!

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