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No religion, no conscience?

A couple of days ago it was reported that Moors murderer Ian Brady had given a sealed envelope to his mental health advocate that may or may not give details of where he’d left the body of his victim Keith Bennett, who was twelve. Today it was announced that Keith’s mother, Mrs Winnie Johnson, had died. Interviewing Mrs Johnson’s solicitor, John Ainley, on BBC News 24, weekend presenter Maxine Mawhinney asked if Brady was religious. Ainley said he wasn’t. Mawhinney said that this meant that Brady wouldn’t have a conscience about his crime or about withholding information about where Keith’s body might be found.

Should we be angry about this sort of thing? It’s the sort of casually judgemental comment that we hear all the time from religious people, but newsreaders ought to know better. A complaint is one its way.

Join the NSS today

Terry SandersonIf you receive the National Secular Society‘s weekly email, Newsline, you’ll already have read this message:

Why we need you to commit to your principles

A message from Terry Sanderson, NSS President

We know there are millions of people in this country who would prefer religion not to interfere in their life and to stay where it belongs – in places of worship and in the homes of worshippers.

There is a definite feeling of discomfort abroad about the way that churches, mosques, temples and other places of worship are putting out tentacles that reach into all our lives – whether it is into our children’s education (another huge increase in the number of ‘faith schools’ is on the way), our taxes (why do churches get special tax privileges, like reduced VAT, when the rest of us are shown no mercy?), our hospitals (why is the NHS paying the salaries of clergy when hospitals are going into administration?), our legislature (why are Church of England bishops involved in making laws that we all have to live by?), and our media (why is religion given such special consideration by the BBC – especially when religious programmes have so few listeners or viewers?).

Leading Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham visits Ipswich

DinosaursLeading Australian Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham is visiting Ipswich for an Answers in Genesis conference on 8 August. Ham says that “maths is fundamentally Christian” (not sure what he means by that), that there were dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark but their average size was about the same as a sheep (explaining how there was room), that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago and that Noah’s flood occurred about 4,500 years ago in the year 2348 BC. This is despite gaining a bachelor’s degree in Applied Science, with emphasis in Environmental Biology, through the Queensland Institute of Technology and, in order to begin teaching science in Australian public schools, a diploma in Education from the University of Queensland.

Ham is President of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, a project that cost $27million. It was featured in Bill Mahers’ comedy documentary film, Religulous.

It all goes to show that you can give a young man a science education, but it doesn’t make him rational.

If anyone fancies going to the St John the Baptist Church in Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, on 8 August and asking Mr Ham some questions, please let us know.

Illustration: 19th century engraving of dinosaurs, minus ark.


From the BHA: Oppose Government-backed plans for a creationist-run Free School

The BHA reports:

A group of creationists has gained approval from the Government to open a fully state-funded Free School in 2013. The group are behind the plans for ‘Exemplar – Newark Business Academy’, a revised bid from the same people who proposed ‘Everyday Champion’s Academy’ last year. Everyday Champion’s Academy, which was formally backed by Everyday Champions Church, was explicitly rejected due to concerns surrounding the teaching of creationism.


From the TES; a Christian qualification based on nonsense and Nessie is approved

The Times Educational Supplement reports that ICCE qualification based on creationism have been approved:

Loch Ness "monster"They confidently claim that the Loch Ness monster disproves Darwinism and that there is clear proof of creationism. But that has not stopped a set of controversial Christian qualifications – used by dozens of British private schools – being described as comparable to international O and A levels.

The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) has been rubber-stamped by a government agency, even though it is based on a curriculum that says the Bible is the “final authority” on scientific matters. It has prompted outrage from secular campaigners, while schools following the curriculum have come to its defence, saying that it is “academically very sound”.

For more on Christian Education Europe, which is responsible for this nonsense, click here to see their website.

Australian Girl Guides no longer have to pledge allegiance to God and the Queen

As you’ll see from yesterday’s comments on our blog post from last year about the Scout Association’s promise to “love God”, the issue is still topical here in the UK. Today there’s news from Australia that the Girl Guides there will no longer have to promise allegiance to God and the Queen, though Australian Scouts have yet to catch up.

The BBC reports:

Girl Guides in Australia will no longer have to pledge allegiance to the Queen and God and will instead promise to serve the community and Australia.

They will also pledge “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs”.

Leaders said the move, which follows a two-year survey of members, was designed to make Guiding more modern and relevant and boost membership.

So, if the Australians can do it, how about the British associations?


Sanal Edamaruku still facing arrest over debunking Catholic miracle

We recently reported on how Sanal Edamaruku, President of The Indian Rationalist Association, is facing arrest for offending Catholics by proving that the source of “holy water” from a crucifix was, in fact, a leaky pipe. They had been drinking the filthy stuff.

New Humanist magazine reports that, yesterday, Delhi police officers went to Sanal’s house to arrest him, but he wasn’t there. When he returns, he’s likely to be arrested. If you haven’t already signed the petition calling on the Catholics to drop the complaints, please click on the above link to sign it.

Julian Baggini asks if living without religion means living without hope

Julian BagginiIn the latest New Humanist magazine, philosopher Julian Baggini says that one of religion’s attractions to the religious is that it offers hope, and asks if living without religion means living without it.

Most atheists accept that “Hope is essential to life,” as AC Grayling put it to me, “a beautiful, central thing in all our lives.” Philosopher Nigel Warburton, recalling the inscription “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” at the entrance of Dante’s Hell, told me, “Hell is not having hope.” But both reject the claim that hope requires religion. “It’s not that atheists don’t have hopes,” says Warburton, “they just have different hopes.” Among these Grayling lists hopes “for the improvement of mankind, for greater justice in society, for more people to love more other people”.

Maybe one of the problems with religion is that it offers hope based on totally unrealistic expectations?