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Baroness Warsi: Still Pointless

Yesterday, the newspapers were full of Baroness Warsi’s apparent plans to claim that anti-Muslim ‘Islamophobia’ is the last great bigotry of our time.

Of course, that’s not true;  the Baroness used homophobia in her election leaflets. The ones saying that the reduction of the homosexual age of consent to 16 was:

“allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.”

Not to mention the Daily Mail’s hideous cartoon about the gay couple and the Christian B&B.  So there’s at least one other form of bigotry it’s OK to indulge in…

Oh, and she also said that three MPs owed their seats to electoral fraud (but has, to date, refused to back up her claims).

I’ve asked before what use she is and I still don’t have an answer.

EDIT: This was about Warsi, but the more I think about it that’s a bad thing.  She’s just the messenger for a bigger problem, as described below:

The Baroness used speech yesterday to yet again push the government’s religious agenda; a more important item than the one focused on the papers chose to talk about and what this post now focuses on. Of course, it’s a load of crap.  So let’s unpick it, shall we?

I want to make the case against the rising tide of anti-religious bigotry.

(Which, according to the online dictionary means:)


bigotry pronunciation

/ˈbɪgətri/ Show Spelled[big-uh-tree] Show IPA

–noun, plural -ries.

1.stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

It’s an interesting word, really; I mean, it’s pretty absolute and lacking in nuance.  In India, widows used to be burned alive on pyres.  If I say ‘this is a disgusting practice and the people who do it are monsters’ am I being bigoted?

Or am I rightly pointing out a terrible abuse against the person carried out in the name of tradition?

Faith and Reason go hand in hand.  This is a point the Pope has made consistently over the last few years.

You know, I don’t really think that appealing to pope as a moral authority is really going to work.  Got someone who hasn’t systematically covered up child abuse?

Also, faith and reason don’t go hand in hand.  That’s the point. One says ‘I believe’, while the other says ‘prove it’.

And I’m all up for things being proven.  Seriously, if all this were proven tomorrow – the world being made in seven days, everything designed by one creator, Heaven and Hell, all that jazz – I would change my views.  Or, as Tim Minchin put it,

“I will take a compass and carve ‘fancy that’ on the side of my cock!”

And we’re just getting started…

Controversial stories are inflated by the media…detracting from serious faith-based debate…and leaving us with a situation where instead of philosophy, we’re fed anti-faith phobias.

Well, at least she’s almost half-right about something – the media does come up with bullshit ‘news’ items that work on ‘scary muslim furriners’.  How do we know?  Well, look up blogs like The Media Blog, Angry Mob and Enemies of Reason.  These, and more, do a lot to pick apart stories based on deliberate misunderstanding to blow up a story.

And, as gets pointed out repeatedly, the point isn’t about religion (probably good, given that these papers tend to push their own Christian sensibilities – they’d be swapping one Middle Eastern import for another Middle Eastern import).

The point is that ‘Muslims’ has become a code phrase for ‘darkies’, The Other – they who are visibly different, who Aren’t Like You And Me, We’re All Right Eh?

There’s a reason why the Daily Mail is popular on Stormfront and it’s not for the financial section.  Anyhow…

A phobia is an irrational fear.

This is important, because it’s actually a good point for a change (don’t worry, it goes back downhill from there).  Phobias are irrational and that’s why I get angry when my thoughts on the Abrahamic faiths (seeing as they’re the big ones in our society) are passed off as irrational and wrong.

Beyond the central conceit (that books with people so primitive they thought periods were spiritual uncleanness and not a necessary part of fertility, can somehow hold secret truths of the universe)  I can point to all kinds things simply unacceptable in the modern world.  Slavery  (Exodus, Leviticus, etc), misogyny, the domination of man over woman (Genesis 3:16 – and the rest), homophobia (Leviticus, et al), child abuse and all kinds of immoral stuff.

I can also point to similar unacceptable views within the Koran, but I think you’re getting the point -and as an Abrahamic faith, it covers much of the same ground.  And, for the really quite freaky views of Haredi/Charedi Jews, try this podcast.

The Skeptics’ (sic) Annotated Bible is quite good if you have spare time as it provides the quotes in context.

And if that’s not recent enough for you, consider the Catholic child abuse scandal.  Not ‘dodgy priests in Ireland’ as she downplays it, but the fact that a huge global church co-ordinated priestly protection after raping many children – up to three figure numbers for individual priests.  Not to mention hiding assets so that they don’t lose anything when sued and playing the waiting game (sadly an effective one, given the high death rate amongst victims of abuse).  If this was a state institution it would be torn down, its staff sent to prison and the papers screaming blue murder – none of which we see happening to this religion.

I’m not saying that religious people can’t be moral or have progressive views or whatever, but for every faitheist who lives a quiet life and is good to their neighbour, there’s another who demands special rights to act…well, like a bigot…based on what they can’t prove to be a superior truth.

Both claim to work from their faith, which does make me scratch my head.  How can the ‘Good Book’ be so terrible and encourage such terrible behaviour?  When I do something right or wrong, I don’t have an excuse to hide behind; when I’ve formulated a course of action, all I have is my own reason.

And this is why I can’t understand the government’s rush to ‘do’ religion.  As Channel 4’s Factcheck pointed out when the Pope came over, about half of the country described themselves as having ‘no religion’.  That leaves about half of the country split between the Big Three, Sikhism, Buddhism and the rest.

She then goes on to use a scene from The West Wing, where the president silences a critic by bringing up all kinds of Old Testament nuttery.  To the Baroness, this means:

These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief, and indeed have been manipulated in the past.

But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith.

It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed.

To be an adherent, one must also be a historian.

To me, it simply proves that the moral superiority claimed by religion is so much rubbish.  Things change, and social mores change with them.  Many philosophers and influential figures of our time have had feet of clay; we can work around them and their dodgier elements.  The difference is that the people who act cultishly around them *coughcoughrandianscoughcough* are worshipping people who can be taken down because they were simply people.

When the source is proclaimed to be some moral force beyond human comprehension (kind of Cthulhu with feathered wings) it puts them beyond proper scrutiny.

The thing is, government is secular; it has to be in order to function, to be all things to all people, as is required, not favouring any one group of them.

Until then, there’s always going to be a divide, and the coalition’s willingness to have secular government to ‘do’ religion is just another example of them rushing out yet another ill-thought plan that will, once again, screw things up .

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