Everything’s our fault, and other stuff from the web
I try to resist watching The Big Questions on BBC TV (Sunday mornings), as it only makes me cross. They never give anyone time to develop an argument and it often ends up as a shouting match. Last Sunday (you have until the weekend to watch on i-player), the last question was “Is atheism an intolerant belief?”, so you knew it was going to be silly. Belief? Atheism is a lack of belief. Intolerant? Compared with tolerant religion, presumably. Intolerant of what? Yes, I admit to being intolerant of bullshit, hypocrisy, false reasoning, etc.
Currently, atheists are being blamed for just about everything. We’re nasty meanies, who have the temerity to question religionists and suggest they get things their own way too often, and at public expense. And it’s our fault that people murder one another, apparently. Yet, as one of my Twitter friends says, “Every day I don’t commit murder, theft, rape or adultery, I surprise even myself.”
The reaction to an increasingly questioning attitude towards religion has been either hurt petulance (like the guy from Theos on The Big Questions, who looked like he wanted his mummy), or vitriolic sarcasm, or lies. Terry Sanderson wrote about ‘The atheist bogeyman: a useful tool for reviving religion‘ in last week’s Newsline.
One example of a home-grown scare story, the Daily Mail trying to make something out of nothing, was a report on Camp Quest, the religion-free summer camp for kids. The headline, ‘Camp faithless: Is Britain’s first atheist summer camp harmless fun or should we be worried?’, said it all. Read the comments; few people seem to be worried – most welcomed the idea.
If there’s one thing that’s worse than an atheist, it’s an atheist woman. Women have been blamed for just about everything, since the establishment of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We will insist on leading men on, with our seductive powers, and we defile anything we touch, especially if we’re menstruating or pregnant. They may not say that’s why some worshippers are refusing to accept communion from women clergy, but medieval prejudices persist, so they won’t have ‘tainted’ bread. Former US President Jimmy Carter is one of a group of ‘Elders’ who are challenging this sort of discrimination. In The Age on 15 July he wrote, ‘The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”‘
Another organisation that’s challenging old prejudices is The Quakers. The BBC reported last week, ‘One of the UK’s oldest Christian denominations – the Quakers – looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later.The society has already held religious blessings for same-sex couples who have had a civil partnership ceremony.’ Their decision could bring them into conflict with the government, but it wouldn’t be the first time that Quakers have taken a principled stand.
American Humanist D T Strain asks, ‘Does Humanism exclude non-humans?’ in his latest online article. The answer’s no, and you might care to explain this the next time someone suggests that Humanism means anthropocentrism.
Having more than one child is bad for the planet: ‘A study by statisticians at Oregon State University concluded that in the United States, the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives â€“ things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.’ I’d have thought that the same conclusions might be drawn about our densely-populated island, and elsewhere.
Nigerian Humanist Leo Igwe, who’d recently returned from Humanist events in London, was attacked by a Christian mob at a conference he’d organised about children’s rights and witchcraft last week. Evangelist Helen Ukpabio is behind a lot of the child witch horrors. You can sign an online petition calling for her and others like her to be prosecuted.