Some of the children were dancing, their bodies writhing and twisting, their arms flailing in the air, perspiration on their foreheads. Some had fallen to the ground, ‘slain in the spirit’, as the phrase has it, and were now crouching and kneeling in prayer, while the grown-ups moved among them laying on hands, some speaking in tongues.
Ruth, who is eight years old, was sobbing quietly. Earlier that day she had been one of those to come forward during the ‘prophetic dance’ session, when Pastor Becky Fischer asked if anybody had heard the word of God and had something to impart.
David Starkey argues that the Church must be disestablished to ensure that other religions can’t claim a right to faith schools and the other privileges it has. We need “a level playing field”.
I adore much about the Church of England, profound atheist though I am. I raise funds for its cathedrals and parish churches, which I regard as absolutely intrinsic to the fabric of England. But because of what is happening with Islam, the sweet, confused C of E has, alas, to be disestablished. Britain must become a secular state.
There is currently an online petition calling for the abolishment of faith schools. It reads:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abolish all faith schools and prohibit the teaching of creationism and other religious mythology in all UK schools.
Online petitions are often a waste of time, but 10 Downing Street is actually encouraging them.
The Church of England has challenged the Royal Mail’s move to issue festive stamps without a Christian theme. Santa, a snowman and a reindeer are among the festive images on the Royal Mail’s 40th set of Christmas stamps. The church “regretted” Royal Mail’s decision not to launch “Christian themed designs reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas”.
So let’s get this straight shall we? What is “the true meaning of Christmas”?
John Humphrys as you’ve never heard him before – talking with religious leaders about his unfulfilled desire to believe in God.
How is faith possible in a world of suffering, much of it arguably caused by religion or religious extremism and to which God seems to turn a blind eye? Is there a place for religion in an age dominated by science?
John Humphrys talking to rather than interviewing Archbishop Rowan Williams is worth listening to. In the piece Williams accepts that, “Religion and geo-politics always mix in a rather explosive way”.
Book Reading, ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins.
Institute of Education, London, 9 October 2006
Last week my partner Marion and I attended this reading organised by FoyleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury. The Logan Hall seats almost a thousand and the venue was sold out, with many disappointed non-ticket holders turned away.
The event followed a format that Dawkins has used before. He and Lalla Ward, his wife, take turns to read out sections of the book, and after three quarters of an hour or so Lalla leaves the podium and Professor Dawkins invites questions. They are a good Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdouble-actÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and the rhythm and juxtaposition of the selected text strongly reinforces the Dawkinian message.
We were both surprised when Mr Foyle, who introduced the evening, asked those sitting in the auditorium to declare their attitude to God. However, it was interesting to note that from this initial show of hands there were very few believers or agnostics in the audience. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d guess 90% voted Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdefinitely no GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ so this really was a case of preaching to the converted. If you feel such an evangelical phrase inappropriate here, Dawkins has said he wants his book to persuade wavering creationists to abandon Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe AlmightyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢!
The cabinet is in open warfare over new gay rights legislation after Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, who is a devout Catholic, blocked the plans following protests from religious organisations.
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was so angry with the move that he wrote a letter to Kelly three weeks ago, telling her that the new rights should not be watered down.
The new anti-discrimination legislation for gays and lesbians is infuriating homophobic religionists, who want exemptions on religious grounds. If further exemptions are allowed, they’ll be legitimising prejudice. Expect more rows before the issue is resolved.
Since the publication of my first book, The End of Faith, I have received thousands of letters and e-mails from religious believers insisting that I am wrong not to believe in God. Invariably, the most unpleasant of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally believe that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. Please accept this for what it is: the testimony of a man who is in a position to observe how people behave when their faith is challenged. Many who claim to have been transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism. While you may ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that the hatred these people feel comes directly from the Bible. How do I know this? Because the most deranged of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.
Secularisation is not on the retreat in western Europe. Yet it is true that new threats to individual liberties and to the religious neutrality of governments are coming from many (not all) organised religious denominations. National situations are somehow different from one another, but nowhere in Europe is the society going back to the time when a common set of religiously-based beliefs was the one and basic common ground for values and views shared by almost every member of the society itself.