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Disestablish now – it’s long overdue

Yesterday’s rejection of women bishops by the Church of England led to deep disappointment and embarrassment in the liberalising wing of the church. Those outside the church will be asking some important questions.

  • How can the Church of England continue to claim its privileged position in British civil society and its exemption from equality law?
  • How can anyone justify allowing 26 male bishops to sit in the House of Lords?
  • How soon can we disestablish the Church?

I was on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning at about 9.30am, commenting in Mark Murphy’s Big Conversation slot. Another guest was the Bishop of St Edmundsbury, the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, who mentioned that it was good to hear a humanist sympathise with women clergy. I am sympathetic, as I’ve worked with some and liked them, but I don’t understand why any women would want to be part of such a patriarchal institution. To hear the programme on iPlayer, go to the BBC Radio Suffolk website.

A women from the C of E’s laity opposed to women bishops was interviewed on TV news yesterday, saying that they must show “obedience” to the scriptures. Obedience is for dogs. Here’s what the Bible says about a woman’s place in the church:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (Corinthians 14:34-36)

When people start quoting the Bible as an authority for this sort of nonsense, I think of that great scene in the US TV series, the West Wing, where fictional president Bartlett puts a Christian fundamentalist in her place.

Need the loo?

Imagine not having a loo. Imagine having to find somewhere safe to squat out of doors because you don’t have access to a clean toilet. Hardly bears thinking about, does it?

Today is World Toilet Day, when Water Aid and other aid organisations focus attention on the fact that many people, including one in three women worldwide, do not have access to a toilet. Please watch this video and then sign the petition asking the UK Government to keep its promise to help those who need proper sanitation.

Click here to go to the Water Aid campaign website.

21st Anniversary Tea Party

TeaThe Suffolk Humanist group was founded in December 1991 by a very small group that met in a member’s home near Hadleigh. We had a party in Ipswich to celebrate our 10th anniversary, attended by the Mayor and Mayoress. We missed our 20th anniversary as we were distracted by other matters, so we’re celebrating our 21st instead with a tea party in the seminar room on the first floor of Hadleigh Library, on Hadleigh High Street. We’ll be there from 2-5pm on Sunday 16th.

This is an invitation-only event, for members, former members and friends of the group, who should hear from us soon. If you think you’d like to be there but don’t get an invitation, get in touch.

Celebration of Human Rights – UN Article 19

Freedom of seech

The local UN Association organises an annual Celebration of Human Rights, based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, with a different local group acting as host and choosing a theme based on one of the articles.

This year we are hosting the event and we chose Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Free speech is especially topical this year, in view of the attempts by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to introduce an international blasphemy law, and individuals being arrested in the UK for expressing their opinions on social media sites like Facebook. As most of the contributors to the UN Celebration will be representatives of local religious organisations who are affiliated (as we are) to Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource, it will be interesting to hear what they make of the theme. Each group, and other organisations who’ve been invited, will make a short contribution to the celebration.

Local politicians and media people have been invited, including the Mayor of Ipswich. The venue is the Atrium on the ground floor of the West Building at University Campus, Suffolk, where we’ve been meeting for the past year. We’ll be there on December 11th from 8pm. Please come and hear a variety of opinions on this very important subject.

Everyone is very welcome and refreshments will be provided, but if you let us know you’re coming it would be helpful. Click here to RSVP.

Click here for a map and directions (pdf).

Space is big

Frame from 100,000 StarsAs Douglas Adams wrote, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Well now you can explore some of it through the wonders of internetery and the enthusiasm of some star-gazers at Google, who’ve created 100,000 Stars, a virtual tour through just a little bit of the universe, where there are far more than 100,000 stars; nobody knows how many, but it’s a mind-bogglingly huge number. Anyhow, go explore, while listening to a soundtrack from videogame score composer Sam Hulick. 

Don your space suit, then click here for your space odyssey. You can zoom in and out, so you’re in partial control of where you go, but be warned: “Scientific accuracy is not guaranteed. Please do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation.” Click on the question mark in the bottom right hand corner for instructions, which begin,

100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created for the Google Chrome web browser. It shows the location of 119,617 nearby stars derived from multiple sources, including the 1989 Hipparcos mission. Zooming in reveals 87 individually identified stars and our solar system. The galaxy view is an artist’s rendition based on NGC 1232, a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.

Muslim mob mentality

As news spreads of the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stevens, by an angry mob reacting to a film about Islam, there’s also news that Channel 4 has cancelled its screening of Tom Holland’s film, Islam: the untold story, in response to threats from Muslim extremists.

The film that prompted the Benghazi assault on the US Embassy, as well as demonstrations in Egypt, was made by an Israeli filmmaker, Sam Bacile (who’s gone into hiding), and was promoted by Morris Sadek, an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner who lives in California. It’s a rubbish film, whatever you think of Islam, with wooden acting, comedy beards, and an inflammatory depiction of Islam. Click here to watch it

Tom Holland’s film, shown on Channel 4 recently, is not a rubbish film; it’s a documentary that records the research Holland has done into the origins of Islam. Click here to watch it on 4oD. The Telegraph reports, “The investigation into the origins of the religion claimed that there is little written contemporary evidence about the prophet Mohammed”. This reminded me that Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou said more or less the same things about King David in the Old Testament and Jesus and the origins of Christianity in her BBC TV series last year, yet there were no Jewish or Christian mobs baying for her blood – though some American fundamentalists probably would have been rather rude about her, if they’d seen it. Uneducated Muslims in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Libya live in social groups where the men and women are segregated, independence is frowned upon, and a mob mentality is easily developed. It’s taken centuries to get this way; simply being rude about them isn’t going to change anything.

The main Abrahamic monotheistic religions‘ stories have been changed as they’ve been passed down through the generations, like Chinese whispers, so now there’s very little truth in any of them. In spite of this, anyone who dares to say so is likely to be threatened by those who prefer to remain in ignorance than to question the nonsense they’ve been conditioned to believe. One of the biggest problems with all of them is their fundamental sexism, but atheists can be just as guilty of that.

Instead of picking fights with theocracies, it would be better if some of the money currently being spent on military hardware was used to provide education. In the long term, it’s the only thing that can make a difference. Most of the men in the Muslim mobs were taught by imams in madrassas, the only form of schooling they ever had.

“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.” – H G Wells

September newsletter

SH&S NewsOur September newsletter is ready for you to download.

There are book reviews, a report about the popular new Ipswich Café Scientifique, a complaint to the BBC, and a piece about the imaginary ban on crucifixes at work that some Christians are complaining about.

Print a copy for yourself and pass it on to your friends.

Click here to download a copy (pdf).