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Readers’ Digest, or stuff I read on the Internet

Here’s some stuff I read on the Internet, to save you the bother of looking for it – just click on the links for more. If you’ve read anything you’d like to share, you could tweet us. You don’t tweet? Well, there’s Facebook (see link right), or just contact us via this website.

In the latest edition of Humanist News, Alom Shaha writes about his book, and how some publishers rejected it because it was about a rejection of Islam. He asks,

So what is this terrible tome I have written? At this point, if you haven’t read my book, you might be forgiven for thinking that, to have struck such fear into the heart of Britain’s literary elite, I must have written a pornographically blasphemous account of the life of Muhammad. But I have done no such thing. My book, The Young Atheist’s Handbook, simply tells the story of my personal journey to becoming an atheist.

FSMYou’ve heard of the ten commandments. Hasn’t everyone? Awfully prescriptive, aren’t they? However, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is much less demanding. I came across a site that reminded me of its eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”. They begin:

I’d really rather you didn’t act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou ass when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don’t believe in me, that’s okay. Really, I’m not that vain. Besides, this isn’t about them so don’t change the subject.

You’ve never heard of his great noodly goodness? Where have you been? Click here to find out about Pastafarianism.

BBC poll gives misleading results

I was invited by BBC Radio Essex to comment on an opinion poll commissioned by the BBC on “the Monarchy’s role in faith today” (pdf), that appears to show that the Queen should retain “a faith role”. The other contributor to this item was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell.

The BBC’s press release says,

Almost three quarters of people in England think that the Queen and future monarchs should keep the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and ‘Defender of the Faith’.

Additionally four-fifths (79%) of those who took part in a survey by ComRes for BBC local radio agree the Queen still has an important faith role.

73 per cent also think she should still be Defender of the Faith – a title which was originally given to Henry VIII – and remain as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Only a quarter (25%) agree that the Queen and future monarchs should not have any faith role or title at all.

The survey also found opinion divided on the suggestion by Prince Charles that he might change the religious role of the monarchy.

He has called for greater understanding between people of different faiths and says he would personally rather see his role as ‘Defender of Faith’ not ‘The Faith’.

Half of those surveyed (50%) say that they agree that if Prince Charles becomes king his title should be changed to Defender of Faith compared with 35 per cent who said they disagree with the proposed change to the title.

The survey found some regional variations in attitudes to the faith role of the monarch.

 A third of Londoners (32%) agree that the Queen and future monarchs should have no faith role or title at all compared with 19% in the South West.

The item was brief, so there was only time to point out that the poll focussed people’s attention on the current monarch, who is very popular, but what if one of her heirs is not religious? And what about disestablishment?

I think that the poll results are misleading because most people won’t know what “defender of the faith” means, and will not have considered the possibilities for the future of the monarchy.

BHA co-signs anti-Steiner letter to the Observer

The British Humanist Association‘s Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal, signed a letter to the Observer on behalf of the association opposing Maharishi and Steiner free schools. The letter was also signed by Melanie Byng, campaigner against Steiner free schools, who wrote a post about them on this website.

The letter begins:

Since the formation of the coalition, a lot of public concern has been expressed over the potential establishment of creationist Free Schools. This concern resulted in the Government changing the rules for Free Schools to prevent them from teaching pseudoscience (Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists, 15 January 2012).

However, not enough attention has been paid to what we believe to be two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools. Maharishi schools follow the educational methods of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of the Transcendental Meditation movement, while Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called Anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation, 29 April 2012).

A humanist on BBC Radio Essex

A discussion on BBC Radio Essex about the monarchy and religion. Contributors are Margaret Nelson from Suffolk Humanists & Secularists and the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell. If you’re not in Essex or South Suffolk, you can listen via the BBC Essex website or listen again on iPlayer.

Ipswich Science in the Pub

John Benton says, “If anyone is unclear about the interactive nature… basically we’ll be drinking beer, talking about science, and browsing the web :)”

“All men can be husbands”

The Coalition for Equal Marriage‘s petition to support the introduction of same-sex civil marriage has passed 50,000 signatures. This video in support of equal marriage has been made with the support of the BHA, among others. Should mention that not all gay people want marriage. Some are perfectly happy with a civil partnership.

Children of the Rainbow

The Guardian reports:

Up to 40,000 Norwegians have staged an emotionally charged singalong in Oslo near the court building where Anders Behring Breivik is on trial for the murder of 77 people in a protest organisers said showed he had not broken their tolerant society.