Man has teenage daughters, with breasts and everything.

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

While looking for ‘Red Ed’ pieces on the Daily Mail, I noticed this gem:

Where have you been hiding girls? After years in the shadows, two more Windsor beauties step into the spotlight

Hey, guess what?  The Earl of St. Andrews has children!  Luscious, ripe peaches they are too, just ready for a good, hard…piece of royal reporting.

And guess who gets pictured?  The boy?  No!  The 18 year-old woman?  Nooo!  The 15 year-old girl?  Hell yes!

Run for you life girl, it's a Daily Mail report- oh wait, no, it's just pedobear

And yes I know, they lifted it all from Tatler, but that headline was really unnecessary and speaks volumes…

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If Ed counts as Red, then I want to be dead

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Really? Red Ed?  And he’s a damned atheist as well!

Mr Miliband and brother David are of Jewish descent, but religion did not play a large part in their upbringing by their Marxist father Ralph Miliband.

From what I heard, neither did his father’s Marxism, but we can’t say that, can we now?  Next thing you know, people will want wages to stop stagnating.

And he’s doing something dodgy with his house and isn’t marrying like a good Christian!

Gotta love this bit:

Tony Blair’s silence since the election of Ed Miliband appears to confirm claims by friends that the former Prime Minister regards it as a disaster for the Labour Party.
Right, right.  Who oversaw massive decline in party membership, reversed most of the policies they were elected on and joined Bush in Iraq, to the deaths and expense of British taxpayers?

I’m not overly for Milliband, but I’m not overly against him.  I really didn’t want his brother, who still carried so much of the worst Blairite baggage, to get in, but I could say that about Andy ‘We didn’t get the balance of civil liberties wrong’ Burnham.  And I didn’t have a vote in the issue anyway.

What bothers me is that we are seeing the press leap to the same slurs and non-scandals that were used against Clegg in the elections, despite the backlash there.  I don’t know if there will be a backlash, it’s just depressing to see them on their old game so quickly, having learned nothing and with no good reason.

Atheists know religion better than most of the religious

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

At least, in the US.  Pew Research has done a poll testing people’s knowledge of Christianity and world beliefs.

Here are the results for knowledge about religious knowledge in general.

As an atheist I’m not surprised that atheists come so high up the chart.  It’s not a smugness thing, I just find it unsurprising.  It’s certainly something that I found with believers, including one interesting conversation (which may or may not make me look like an tool) where I expressed surprise at a black lass who talked about having very strong faith.  (It turns out that black happy-clappy churches are really popular in London.  I did not know this until I moved down here).

You see, I asked her if the bible’s views on slavery (1) may have put her off, given that slavery did seem to be a dominating issue over black culture and history.

Her reaction totally took me by surprise though; she simply, flat-out didn’t believe that the bible said any such thing.  How could it, after all?  Isn’t it the Good Book?  I had expected something like, I dunno, ‘well, it not longer counts because the Golden Rule pretty much prohibits it’ or some smoothing out; not straight-up denial.

That an atheist would know more about the religion of their country (2) isn’t a surprise because an atheist has to search and question if they really accept what they’re being presented.  That’s it.  There’s no major revelation here, just the process of finding out about X and then asking ‘does this sound like bullshit?’  I do it every time I read the news, it’s no great adventure.

It’s a really interesting report and I do recommend reading it.

(1) The Old Testament was all for it so long as it didn’t happen to Jews; the New Testament didn’t really talk about it.

(2) Normally at this point some commentator would go on about how lefties won’t dare face Islam and always blame Christianity, but that’s rubbish.  I don’t know about Islam because only a couple of percent of the UK population are Muslims.  If Islam were the state religion I’d be talking about the Koran.

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What use Baroness Warsi?

September 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Baroness Warsi has an interview in the Guardian today – and it makes me wonder why she’s there.

She starts off by saying that labour flat-out committed electoral fraud in six locations.  She then refused to let us go off anything more than her word, refusing to cite any evidence, investigations or whatnot.

I mean, really.  It’s been about five months since the elections – and only now it’s getting brought up?  Secondly, electoral fraud does happen – and is traditionally committed by all parties.  As the paper itself points out, six  Tory activists were sent down for it last time. I’m pretty certain Labour went down for it a while back as well.

And then…

Warsi also launched an attack on the “anti-Islamic sentiment” of the British press, which she compared to the anti-semitism of the early 20th century.

[…]

Warsi referred to the conservative columnist Peter Oborne, who has said that anti-Islamic sentiment is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry in the UK, saying: “That’s absolutely true …. If you have a pop at the British Muslim community in the media, then first of all it will sell a few papers; second, it doesn’t really matter; and third, it’s fair game.” (Emphasis mine)

I suspect David Laws would disagree…

Now of course I’m not going to say that there isn’t something going on – the rash of stupid ‘news’ that claim to be about ‘Muslims getting their own way’ proves that.  And just for the record, this creeping Islamisation that some idiots talk about will take centuries to happen unless it picks up it’s pace – according to the census, 71.8 per cent of us said we were Christian, while 2.8 per cent said they were Muslim.

What I do take issue with is a the comparison with anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic feeling being the last form of acceptable bigotry.

First of all, the claim to equivalence.  Even I, a damned apostate (I was brought up C of E)  I have problems believing this,  because ‘Jew’ refers to a person’s ethnicity as much as their religion – the two are heavily intertwined.  Islam, on the other hand, is a religion. Yes, there’s correlation between someone’s place of birth and being Muslim.  Yes, papers use ‘Muslim’ because they can’t exactly come out and say ‘darkies’ any more, but Islam is still a religion and not an ethnicity in the same way as Judaism .

I would also point out that I don’t recall hearing of any anti-Muslim pogroms of late, such as …happened to Jews in the early 20th Century.

My second problem is that it’s clearly not the last line of bigotry – after all, the Baroness herself quite happily indulged in bigotry herself:

In 2005, when she unsuccessfully stood as the Tory candidate for Dewsbury, she issued leaflets which used homophobic language.

Her leaflets claimed children were being “propositioned” for gay relationships.

They said: “Labour has scrapped Section 28, which was introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old.

“Labour reduced the age of consent for homosexuality from 18 to 16, allowing schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships.”

In 2007 she then said “I look back at lots of my election leaflets and think, ‘God – why did I phrase it like that? What was I on?'”

Calling a set sexual orientation  an alternative sexual lifestyle?  equating gay with wanting ’em young (because that never happens in hetero situations)?  They’re all classic homophobic tropes, so I’d say she was on a homophobic binge, expected it to resonate with her local area.

I’ve already pointed out Laws and he’s not exactly an isolated case.  The media is getting better, but a part of society (and, I suspect, the party behind Section 28) really have not.

With people of her calibre in charge, I fear for the future.

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The Pope’s Tour Gaffes In Full

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

With the Pope’s trip to the UK nearly over, it seems like a good time to go through and look at the what made it special.

Bad Statistics. Theos, a religious think-tank, showed remarkable faith by using dire statistics in a weak attempt to convince people that everyone loves Il Papa.  I’ve already covered it here, but it’s worth remembering that only 18% thought that ‘the Pope generally responds wisely to problems in the world today’.

The UK’s Unfortunate Multiculturalism.  Even before they hit Heathrow’s landing gate the Pope’s party manages to screw up, with his Cardinal not only putting his foot in his mouth, but also chewing it down to the bone.“Yes, an aggressive new atheism has spread in England,” said the major official of a large, evangelical faith. “If, for example, you wear a cross on British Airways, you will be discriminated” he continued, pretending that BA hadn’t changed its rules some time ago to allow the display of religious icons by staff.

“There is a crisis of values and orientation in western society which has appeared again and again since the Enlightenment, and was given added impetus by the 1968 Movement. The churches, Catholic and Protestant, live in this society, and its faith is weakened.” he sad, railing against such crises as the fight for female equality, for child abuse, for gay rights for being a multi-faith country and prosecuting child molesters.

Oh yeah, and not promulgating bad science on AIDS.

And then, the big one. “When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country” he said, forgetting the big difference – that Catholicism does very well in Third-World countries.  Now, I too sometimes feel that that the country is becoming third-world, mostly due to the failure to invest in infrastructure and the disparity between wealthy and poor, where businesses are able to influence government far too easily.

Not because we let non-whites in.

Virgin Rail releases new designs for standard-class Pendolino. 'I think we could squeeze some more on the top' says spokesman.

The  Cardinal was retired from the trip due to ‘gout’.  Or, as I prefer to think of it, a good shin-kicking, although that’s unlikely.

Pope blames everything on Nazis, forgets who he used to work for.  Yes it’s a cheap shot and no I don’t hold his history against him personally – Nazi Germany was a place where you couldn’t really get away without signing up.  But, knowing that, you think he’d be a bit more careful in Godwinning others.  The problem with pulling a Godwin is that it shows one has no interest in debate or reason at all – one just wants to tar someone with the nastiest slur one can think of, so should he be shocked that atheists don’t care what he thinks?Here’s what he said:

“Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny“.

It’s a variant on the old canard of ‘there is no morality without god, so atheists cannot be moral’ and it’s still utter balls.  I appreciate that he’d be out of a job if he went round saying atheism is OK and I understand why he’d prefer someone who at least believes, even if in another god, rather than someone who rejects the entire idea.

But it’s also completely out of touch with the world and tries to claim a moral high ground that, even if it existed, wouldn’t be scalable by someone who is basically the head of a child abuse ring at this point.  (Johann Hari has a good piece on how even Catholics should be unhappy with the Pope right now)It also conveniently forgets that people have tussled with ethics for as long as their have been people, without requiring dogma.  Confucious and Marcus Aurelius, for example.  Religion has no monopoly on morality; to pretend as much as a lie and as hypocritical as defending and sheltering child abusers.

His take on Hitler’s beliefs is also inaccurate.  The Telegraph actually has a good piece on this.  Or is the Pope using the ‘no True Scotsman’ fallacy in pretending that any bad person can’t be Christian because all Christians are axiomatically good?

Wikipedia also gives a decently nuanced view of Hitler’s beliefs as well, all of which point out that the pope is talking out of his arse.

Winterval. What’s the problem with this statement? “There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none”.

Answer: it’s balls.  Christmas is not going anywhere, despite media claims to Winterval.  Winterval is one of those made up stories to point out ‘political correctness’ that doesn’t exist.  I have to admit that I don’t care about Christmas.  I kind of wish they’d return to the original name of ‘Saturnalia’, but I don’t see Christmas going anywhere.  If you really want to read more, Tabloid Watch has a good post summing it up.

Lastly, ‘Atheist Extremism’. I really can’t let this one go.  Let me state clearly that I have no problem with people having beliefs.  I don’t care for them (to me, ‘belief’ is ‘acceptance without proof’), and will mock silly ones, just as I mock most daftness in this world, but the universe is large and we sometimes have to make go with things to feel comfortable about our place in it.  By and large, I try only care when people foist their beliefs on others or need an explanation.

That said, the gloves are off.

Every time I hear the phrase ‘extremist atheist’ or ‘secularist’, I also hear the words ‘uppity niggers’.  It’s all over the Pope’s speech (and that of others), every time they don’t get special dispensation to retain their moralities, and demand what have become unworkable sexual and social mores.

We as a society agree that social change is not automatically a bad thing.  For example, slavery is wrong and that women are independent beings, not their father or husband’s property.  We accept this because it is true and a social good, even though religious texts expect these attitudes.

‘Secularist’ is used as a swear word because it invokes a loss of privilege.  The church isn’t whining because it’s being attacked, it’s whining because it lost its dominance.  As Channel 4’s Fact Check blog points out, belief in Christianity has dwindling, but spirituality is not.
Most people still feel that special something, but they don’t channel it into specific claims because they no longer see it as relevant.In the same way, secularism doesn’t mean cleansing all elements of religion from society, merely that religions cannot be dominant over the body politic and those who do not share those beliefs.  ‘What my faith says’ shouldn’t be treated as special because policy is, by and large, evidence-based and has to take into account the many different groups in our society.  For example, the Abrahamic religions condemn homosexuality, but gay people are not damaging to the fabric of society.  As such, the theistic condemnation is in itself immoral because it is oppressive.

For a secular manifesto, see here at the Guardian.

I dislike the concept of a ‘marketplace of ideas’ because I think it’s broadly wrong -it’s a market ideology applied where it’s not applicable.  Truth does not automatically will out, it is often drowned out by small-minded distorters of facts, or simple corporate propaganda.   But open access to information is the least worst alternative.  Which can be a problem when all religions claim access to universal truths yet demand that you follow their path exclusively (for example, the catholic line of ‘Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus‘).
It is right that people have access to information on all religions and can see their behaviour up close, because that’s the only way they can make a free decision on whether to embrace that faith or not.  

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The World Today

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, I’m up; I might as well round up some of the more interesting new stories.

Bad news for the government; not only do YouGov’s voting intentions poll show that Labour is catching up:

But it shows how things have changed since May (from the BBC election results page):

Given that Lib Dem popularity has halved, I have a feeling we’re not going to get three-party politics any time soon.  I’m thinking (as I did at the time) that they should have stayed away from alliances, instead working with the Big Two on a bill-by-bill basis.  Locking in with the Tories has really tied them into being part of the Tories cuts – which the Orange Bookers may support, but clearly isn’t what the public wanted.

Not only that, but the public seems to be rejecting the Tories’ claimed need to cut and cut hard. (Quotes are from the report, quoted on the Fabian Society blog Next Left; I don’t have a Times subscription and haven’t spotted anyone else quoting it at this time).

Populus asked the public to identify which of three deficit reduction plans they agree with most, without identifying which party or group was advocating each position. Over a third of voters, 37 per cent, say they prefer Labour’s position to halve the deficit by the next election and deal with it over ten years.

The same number [37 per cent] say that protecting the vulnerable and keeping unemployment as low as possible should be bigger priorities than reducing the budget deficit.

Only one in five voters, 22 per cent, agree with the coalition plan to deal with the deficit by the next general election, in five years’ time.

There’s more; according to the blog, 31% of Tory voters prefer their party’s deficit-cutting plans (51% of Tories prefer Labour’s plans!), while only 23% of Lib Dems support the coalition’s plans.  It’s also interesting to see that the policy of blaming Labour at every opportunity isn’t taking hold (as it shouldn’t):

In a second blow, the coalition is yet to win the argument that the spending cuts are the result of “Labour’s deficit legacy”.  Asked who is responsible for Britain’s debt problems, voters name UK and US banks, the global recession and the Bank of England as more to blame for the current economic situation than the previous government.

EDIT: The Tory Diary has a little more, although I have to question the idea that “the numbers below show an overall high level of satisfaction with Coalition performance, so far”, when almost every poll shown has approval on specific issues falling by between 2% to 10%.

The Irish Minister for Science is releasing a book aiming to scotch the ‘myth’ of evolution (I’m not linking to the site, it plays an irritatingly smug tune). I’m sure the self-proclaimed ‘philosopher’, equal to Abraham Lincoln (I know little of Lincoln’s achievements, but this guy is clearly no Lincoln) and ex-PR company owner will manage to overturn over a hundred years of research by people smarter than him.  Or not.

The phone tapping saga continues (well, in the Guardian, anyway.  There’s none so blind, eh?)

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‘That atheist does not speak for this atheist’

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Although the book-burning by some nutter didn’t go off in the end, a koran and a bible were burnt on the 11st September.

Alex Stewart, an Australian lawyer tore pages out of the books, uses the paper for rollies and smoked them.

Apparently the Koran tasted awful.

He has since been put on leave and has unsurprisingly upset the people who disagreed with his assertion that ‘with respect to books like the Bible and the Koran, whatever, just get over it’.

That didn’t really move me.  I don’t really care that he smoked pages from a religious book because if that stuff is real then what’s on the paper doesn’t matter – it’s what’s carried in the mind and in that person’s actions.

What did shock me was the response I saw on a forum, saying ‘that atheist does not represent this atheist’.

Of course he bloody doesn’t represent that person.  He doesn’t represent me either; he may be an atheist, I may be an atheist, but beyond that we have nothing much in common. Why is this so hard to understand?  This bloke was male. I am male.  Would one  assume that I automatically accept whatever he says because we’re both male?

That someone feels the need to make this statement weirds me out, because it shows that the fee a need to distance themselves in the face of what is very understood by society at large.   I do not share an ‘identity’ with other atheists; I have no sense of community with them, I don’t sit around making jokes about how gods don’t exist.  If I make a reference about some ethical debate I do not expect other atheists to agree with me simply because we’re atheists; beyond our common lack of belief, which may not even have been reached in the same way), we may not have a single thing in common.

So if you’re wondering, atheism is not a dogma, it has no assertions; it’s a negative, not a positive, a disbelief with no claims to make. As such, I have nothing to apologise for.

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