Sunday, October 29, 2006


While Scotland On Sunday tells us that:

THE leaders of the Catholic Church in Scotland have descended into an extraordinary public spat over claims by a "rogue bishop" that they do not speak out enough against homosexuality.

In an unprecedented move, the Church's two most senior clerics, Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Archbishop Mario Conti, have moved publicly to rebuff a third bishop, Joseph Devine of Motherwell, after he claimed the Church was embarking on "a policy of appeasement".
We learn from The Observer that:
Secularism is suddenly hip, at least in the publishing world. A glut of popular science books making a trenchant case against religion have soared up the bestseller lists both here and in America. The phenomenon represents a backlash against a perceived rise in religious fundamentalism and recent crazes for 'spirituality' by way of books such as The Da Vinci Code. Secularists are now eager to show that the empiricism of science can debunk the claims of believers.
I wonder whether those two stories are in some way related.

However, the absolute must-read comes from Muriel Grey in the Sunday Herald:
GIVEN the uniformly alarmist nature of the news, leaving the country for the half-term holiday felt good this year. Choking in the wake of our carbon emissions was a nutcase Britain utterly obsessed with religion. People were threatening Jack Straw with violence; some woman (we think – for all we know it could have been Paul Gascoigne under that niquab) was claiming her right to mumble lessons at children while wearing a bag over her head, and the pope had made the hilariously Monty-Python esque declaration that he was “considering” abolishing limbo for unbaptised babies, no doubt making intelligent Catholics squirm with embarrassment at the screaming silliness of heavenly admission by human whim.

But on our return, sadly, there is no let up. Some senior Australian cleric declares that women without hijabs are uncovered meat inviting rape, and now we have arguments over faith school quotas and whether or not 25% of pupils admitted should come from other faiths, including no faith. If I tell you that I am sick, sick, sick, way beyond the back teeth, of all this dark ages, loony tunes, divisive religious garbage then I am making an understatement. The worst thing is that although for the most part all the nonsense can be ignored, when it gets political it simply cannot, and there is nothing more political than how we educate the next generation of British citizens.

Let’s start with vocabulary. Let’s stop describing these tax-funded establishments as faith schools. They are superstition schools, for that is what they teach. Alongside hard facts, innocent children are hoodwinked into accepting as real the mythology of virgin births, gods who regard women with bare heads as wicked harlots, that Noah’s Ark was real and that Darwin was wrong. It’s clear that, given the rising tide of superstition sweeping our country, no politician will help end this state-funded child abuse, and so it is time to try and fight back. The difficulty with people who think as I do is that we are always described in the negative as atheists. The word, although it simply means not believing in a deity, is mostly used in the pejorative to imply a lack of belief in anything, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are not a group who are seen as a “community”, who are organised in our desires, or who can bring political pressure to bear on our government in the way herds of men in frocks seem to do with the sweep of a cassock or twitch of a beard.

So let’s get organised. Someone tried a group called “The Brights”, but the name is so smug and pretentious that it’s not surprising it was a damp squib. Why not take instead The Enlightenment as the inspiration? Enlightenmentists is a bit of a mouthful, so let’s try Enlightenists.
Here’s what I believe as an Enlightenist. Atheism is not a driving concern, since belief in God is of little consequence. After all, if there is an interventionist God then there would be continuing demonstrable evidence of such, which there most certainly is not, and if there is a creator God who is non-interventionist then he neither requires nor merits worship, and if there is no God at all then so be it. Therefore you could happily suspect that there might be a non-interventionist God of sorts that could eventually be discovered scientifically and still be an Enlightenist. Since no action needs to be taken until such an unlikely discovery, it doesn’t matter. Now let’s move on.

Enlightenists believe in the awe-inspiring, wonder, beauty and complexity of the universe, and aspire to unpick its mysteries by reason, constant questioning, observation, experiment, and analysis of evidence. The bedrock of our morality is empathy, from which logically springs love, forgiveness, tolerance and a profound desire to make a just, egalitarian society and reduce suffering. The more knowledge a person has, the more they question and understand the real world, and the more they are required to analyse what is true then the greater the increase in empathy. Enlightenists care and wish to do good not because a vengeful God tells them to, but because intelligence suggests it is the only and the right thing to do.
It's hard to cull quotes from this piece - it deserves to be read in full.

Muriel Grey alone makes a subscription to the Sunday Herald worthwhile.

Links shamelessly culled from the ever-excellent Butterflies and Wheels

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