Kim Knott: Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction

It did give me some basic information I hadn’t had; it did have a few surprises for me (for instance that Hinduism can be perceived as both polytheistic and monotheistic; that January is a harvest time in India; and that the Hare Krishna movement is in fact a Hindu one). Still, one of the weakest of those in the Very Short Introductions series I’ve read. Given that these are really very short books, primers as it were, there’s a lot of wasted space. One would prefer, for example, a little more detailed information about Bhagavad Gita to recurring questioning whether Hinduism can be called a religion, despite its not fitting a rather narrow definition of the term based on the Abrahamic ones.

 

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Scottish Episcopal Church votes to allow gay marriages

The results of the general election have only begun to trickle in, but another vote took place yesterday, one whose result was known while the polling stations were still open: the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to allow those of its priests who opt in to conduct gay marriages in its churches. Given that this approval “required the backing of at least two thirds of each house of Bishops, Clergy and Laity”, I’m pleasantly surprised it really did go through and Scotland’s Anglicans thus joined American ones.

 

Pink Dandelion: Quakers: A Very Short Introduction

Very good. A concise account of the Friends’ past and present: if I had this book a few years ago, when first becoming interested in the topic, it would have saved me a lot of time and effort spent on gleaning all the information therein contained from divers internet sources. Also, the author being British, Liberal Quakerism is given a bit more space than the Evangelical and Conservative traditions. (Incidentally his name is really Ben Pink Dandelion, poor soul.)

 

June ’16 news

Except for the EU referendum and its aftermath, which will probably remain not just the news of the month, but the news of the year, precious little happened, and none of it good. In Orlando, Florida, a religious maniac murdered 49 people in the Pulse gay bar; and a series of rail strikes began over disagreement between ScotRail and the RMT about more driver-only-operation trains. It seems obvious that at least one party is rather economical with the truth when describing the talks, but which one it is only the participants can know.

 

May ’16 news

Of course, the main news was the elections and the aftermath. Before that, Sir David Attenborough became the latest celebrity nonagerian, and the BBC White Paper was unveiled: mostly it seemed to be about money and encroaching on the broadcaster’s independence, with some specific proposals for Scotland agus moladh airson leantainn le craoladh sa Ghàidhlig.

After the elections, while in London the Queen’s Speech allegedly included fines for companies sending spam emails without first getting consent (could it still be called spam if they did?), the new Scottish government announced that for the next eight years the operation of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Network will remain with CalMac, rather than being handed over to Serco. Muirfield, however, lost its right to host another Open after a vote to remain a men-only club. (I’m not sure to which degree the following criticism is due to the unadmitted knowledge that if there was a women-only golf club, men simply wouldn’t give a damn about it.) Shortly after, the Kirk voted to allow ministers in civil gay marriages, although not gay weddings within the Kirk, and the Scottish Parliament obtained its first law-making powers under the 2016 Scotland Act.

Mostly good news, then. Not so across the Atlantic, where Donald Trump in the end won the Republican presidential primaries, and Alberta, Canada had to declare emergency in response to a wildfire which destroyed about a tenth of Fort McMurray and later threatened to come back to claim more. In retrospect this kind of puts the feminists’ (and my) obsession with the Muirfield vote into perspective.

 

EU migration crisis

I’ve already mentioned the Calais part of it. If anything, the affair became even more topical since. And more unnerving, for various reasons.

For instance, it’s unnerving to watch how the publication of a single photograph of a 3-year-old dead boy can initiate something bordering on mass hysteria. As if all the previous loss of the migrants’ lives was less tragic. The influence the media have over people is truly scary sometimes.

Or to see how the days of good old ‘charity begins at home’ are over. I’m not happy agreeing with a Tory, but David Simmonds said it well: “It is very striking […] this morning people saying, ‘I have a spare bedroom, I will happily take a Syrian refugee’. But were these people ready yesterday to take any of those on the housing waiting list in their local area who may have been here for quite some time?”

It’s unnerving to see The Guardian talk about a “refugee crisis”, as if all the migrants were fleeing from war. It’s unnerving to watch the media and politicians overlook that many of these migrants try and begin their so-called integration by showing they don’t care about the rules as long as these hinder their goals. For a gay it’s likewise unnerving to see how hardly anybody mentions that it would be a curious statistical anomaly if the majority of these people weren’t staunch homophobes.

(It’s not unnerving to read somebody claim that the true Christian approach would be to welcome everybody in, mentioning the Book of Exodus but not the way those exiled Jews then treated the peoples of the area they came to. We’re used to people citing the Bible to support anything.)

And last but not least, it’s unnerving to watch all this and more on top of news that overall net migration to the UK in the 12 months to March 2015 rose to a record annual level of 330,000.

Ah well. Ours won’t be the first, neither the last civilisation to be overwhelmed by another. Islam may prevail over our strange European mixture of Christianity and secularity. Ultimately, China will prevail even over Islam. Anyway, most of this will presumably happen when I’m already safely dead.

Sometimes I find myself envying my younger friends that presumably they have more time left on this planet. Sometimes I don’t . . .

 

Blasphemy legalised in Iceland

Following a proposal by Píratar, the Icelandic Pirate Party, the blasphemy provision of the Criminal Code was on the 2 July abolished by Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament.
BBC: Iceland makes blasphemy legal
Siðmennt: Blasphemy Law Abolished in Iceland!
Good for Icelanders, although it is a bit surprising that they still had such a law to begin with. On the other hand, it is not so long ago that in Ireland such a law came into force, its existence being actually demanded by the republic’s constitution (article 40.6.1.i): “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

 

George Orwell: Animal Farm

Nineteen Eighty-Four may have given the English language the words doublethink, newspeak and oldspeak; Animal Farm has the unforgettable wisecrack “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”, which characterises communism in practice as consummately as few things do.

In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to describe the novel as the ultimate allegory of the history of the rise of the Soviet Union. It should be compulsory reading for all the wannabe revolutionaries believing in the utopia of a human society without a hierarchy of power.

 

Materialism

This post was triggered by a John Gray article. He posits (correctly) that materialism as a philosophy is just another creed, and despite being seemingly based on scientific findings, it only allows those findings which are not in contradiction to the basic dogma.

This is nothing I did not know for a long time, but it was refreshing to read it as this is an argument that rarely appears unaccompanied by a promotion of some other creed. Still, this is not my greatest objection to the materialist philosophy.

My greatest objection is that the materialist claim that everything follows physical, chemical etc. laws, brought to its logical conclusion, means that not only there are no god, soul or afterlife. It means there is no free will either, with the obvious implication that nothing is ethical or unethical, because we humans are no more responsible for our acts than robots – or a pair of scissors, for that matter.

In fact, it means there is even no randomness. So that if materialism is true (and I don’t say it may not be, I just hope it isn’t), even before the appearance of first life on this planet it was inevitable that at this particular moment in time I would be typing this small rant. The same of course applies to thing which are yet to come.

It is the old Tralfamadorian perception of life as recorded by Kurt Vonnegut, and as far as I am concerned, it is as scary as his other invention, ice-nine.

 

Quote: Pavan Dhaliwal (BHA)

A largely fallacious narrative has been constructed around the notion that Christian and religious groups are under threat and being persecuted. […] This is a country in which the state allows for exemptions for religious groups in equality laws; funds ‘faith’ schools and allows discriminatory practice within those settings; and reserves places for Bishops in the House of Lords.

 

Cardinal liar Keith O’Brien

A few years ago it was the US. These days, fierce arguments about gay marriage (or whatever you prefer to call it) are rampant in the UK as well.

I’ve already mentioned my opinion that the state should set the primary form for any official partnership, straight or gay, whether you call it a civil partnership or civil marriage, with churches having to prove theirs could be counted in as substitutes. (UKIP spokesman David Coburn has the opposite view that “[marriage] is clearly in the domain of the church and other faiths – and it is none of government’s business to meddle with it.” Fine, but if that was the case, why should the government give a fuck about whether you’re married or not except once every decade during the census?)

Of course, among the staunchest opponents of gay marriages is the top brass in the Catholic Church. We’re already well used to their strange logic, which makes them claim that allowing Quakers and Unitarians to conduct gay weddings means curbing religious freedom. Just as we’re used to their strange similes, comparing homosexuality with rain forest destruction or gay marriages with slavery. (Happily turning a blind eye to all those women in history for whom the “traditional model of family” meant little more than slaving to their husbands.)

After all, to quote a (straight) character from Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains:

Forget the law. It isn’t going to help. They’ll cite it where it suits them, ignore it where it doesn’t. They’re clerics, Archeth. They spend their whole fucking lives selectively interpreting textual authority to advantage.

However, Cardinal O’Brien can go one further and misinterpret textual authority to advantage, stating that “We’re taking standards which are not just our own but standards from the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations where marriage is defined as a relationship between man and woman and turning that on its head.”

Wary of trusting anything a prominent Catholic says, I looked the Declaration up on the United Nations website. What it really says (in article 16) is “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.”

Of course, it may be that O’Brien is too thick to be able to see the semantic difference between “marriage is a relationship between man and woman” and “men and women have the right to marry”. But I think it miles more probable that this is just another barefaced lie, told in the hope that most people would never care to check.

Which, sadly, I suppose they wouldn’t.

 

Na Cuaigearan

Air 2 an Lùnastal ’09, sgrìobh mi an teacsa seo. Mas math mo chuimhne, leugh mi an aiste ann an Uicipeid, ach cha do leugh mi rud sam bith eile mun deidhinn ach a-mhàin naidheachdan ùra an-dràsta ‘s a-rithist co-cheangailte ri bainnsean gèidh.

Chan eil cuimhne agam tuilleadh ciamar a thàinig am beachd-inntinn gum faighinn a-mach a bheil Cuaigearan sam bith ann an Glaschu dha m’ eanchainn; co-dhiù, lorg mi gu bheil. On a bha mi gun obair, le àm gu leòr agus a’ faireachdainn nam aonar, thòisich mi ri meòrachadh air tachairt riutha.

Taigh-coinneimh nan Cuaigeran ann an Glaschu

Chuir mi seachad mòran uairean a’ leughadh caochladh làraichean-lìn nan Cuaigearan; san fharsaingeachd, bu thoil leam na leugh mi. Agus Didòmhnaich, 22 am Faoilleach, rinn mi a’ chùis air a’ phòbia shòisealta orm agus ghabh mi pàirt anns a’ “choinneamh adhraidh” aca.

Cha robh e dona idir. ‘S e “adhradh neo-phrògramaichte” mar a chanas iad a tha aca: tha seo a’ ciallachadh gun robh sinn a’ chuid as motha dhen àm dìreach nar suidhe gu balbh. A dh’aindheoin sin, cha robh e ràsanach; chaidh an uair seachad gu socair ach gu luath. Thachair feadhainn “ministrealachdan” rè na tìde cuideachd, ach ged a bha fuaim car “textbookish” aca, chan ann eudmhorach no ro-fhaicsinneach a bha iad.

Bha e math a bhith a’ beachd-smaoineachadh ann. Dh’fhalbh mi ann an glè dheagh shunnd, a’ smaointinn gun tèid mi a-rithist an ath Dhidòmhnaich, agus gun fuirich mi fiù ‘s airson “àm cupa a’ chofaidh” as dèidh an adhraidh. Ge-tà, fad na seachdaine as dèidh sin, bha mi a’ cnuasachadh: am bu chòir dhomh a dhol ann (ma dh’fhaoidte eadhon iompaich gu Cuaigearachd san àm ri teachd)? Aig a’ cheann thall, cho-dhùin mi nach tèid mi.

Tha fhios agaibh, bu mhath leam tighinn gu bhith ball na coimhearsnachd sin – ach ‘s e sin a’ cheart thrioblaid. Thuig mi gun robh ùidh na bu mhotha agam anns an raon shòisealta na anns an raon spioradail/fheallsanachail.

A dh’aindheoin a h-uile rud, ‘s e creideamh a tha ann an Cuaigearachd; tha cuideam ro mhòr air Dia innte air mo shonsa. Cuideachd, ged a tha mi a’ creidsinn ann an onair, chan eil mi a’ creidsinn gur ann an còmhnaidh a tha fìrinn nas fheàrr na breug. Agus ged as lugha orm fòirneart neo-fheumail, chan eil mi air a bhith riamh nam shìochantair.

Seadh, dh’fhaodainn leigeil orm gun robh mi a’ sireadh mo fheallsanachd fhathast. Ach cha bhiodh sin onarach – agus cha bhiodh sin cothromach dhaibhsan a bharrachd.

 

Naidheachdan na Samhna ’11

Ged nach urrainn dhomh àm cho fada ’s a b’ àbhaist dhomh a chur seachad air an Eadar-lìon, bidh mi a’ tadhal air na h-àiteachan naidheachd fàbharach agam gach latha airson greis. Mar sin, mhothaich mi:

– gun deach an duais “Dalm-bheachdaiche na bliadhna” aig Stonewall UK gu Melanie Phillips (chì sibh, ma leughas sibh an “leisgeul” airson na h-aiste aice, nach tuig i dè tha “double standards” a’ ciallachadh. ’S dòcha ge-tà gum bu chòir an duais a dhol ri Alan “Gaystapo” Craig, duine eile a tha ag ràdh gum bu chòir dha Crìostaidhean a bhith os cionn laghannan airson nan saoranaich eile)

– gun tug an Àrd-Chùirt breith gu bheil buinteanas eadar an Eaglais Caitligeach agus a sagartan coltach ris an fhear eadar fastaiche is cosnaiche (tha gun teagamh – nach eil an Eaglais gam pàigheadh airson na h-òrduighean aice a choileanadh?)

– gun canar do dh’oileanaich ghèidh ann an Sheffield Hallam University gum bu chòir dhaibh aodaich atharrachadh ro leasanan foghlam corporra ann an àiteachan eadar-dhealaichte ri oileanaich dhìreach (carson nach canar? fhad ‘s nach eil aca sin a dhèanamh còmhla ri ban-oileanaich…)

– gun robh am Pàpa anabarrach feargach nuair a dh’fhoillseachadh Benetton sanas-reic le dealbh air a tha esan agus imam air choireigin a’ pògadh a chèile (chan e iongnadh a tha ann – nach eil pòg samhla gràidh agus an duine sin samhla gràine?)

– deagh aiste le Michael Lucas mu dheidhinn buaidh rèabhlaidean Arabach agus an “Earraich Arabaich” am bliadhna air gèidhean (a rèir coltais, tha an aon eagal airsan a tha agamsa; gu neònach, tha daoine ann dha nach urrainn faicinn gun robh saighdearan an Iar a’ sabaid ann an Libya a’ cuideachadh an aon feallsanachd an aghaidh a bha iad a’ sabaid ann an Afghanistan)

– aiste a rèir coltais fàbharach dha òigrigh. A rèir coltais, oir dhìochuimhnich an t-ùghdar gum biodh toradh air cuid dhe na tha e a’ tairgsinn bàrrachd dhaoine nas sine na còigead bliadhna gun obair. Rud a thig leis a’ ghaoith, falbhaidh e leis an uisge – no bheil, aig aois ceathrad ‘s a trì, claon-bhreith agam?

– gun do cheannaich Comhairle Shruighlea fichead crann-sneachda airson tuathanaich gus cuideachadh le glanadh rathaidean a gheamhradh (eisimpleir glè mhath cho-obrachaidh eadar ùghdarras ionadail agus daoine an àite nam bheachd-sa)

– gu bheil companaidhean ann a bhios a’ pàigheadh dhaoine airson tòrr luaidhean math a dhèanamh mun deidhinn aig fòraman an Eadar-lìn (agus “a’ bleith earbsa an Lìn” – uill, chan eil mi cinnteach, ‘s ann cho follaiseach gur e spama a tha anns na h-eisimpleirean a thog an aiste…)

– gun do bhuannaich am Pàrtaidh Nàiseanta Shealainn Nuadh taghadh a-rithist (“gu ìre oir bhuannaich na h-All Blacks Cuach na Cruinne Rugbaidh” – cò a tha craicte, taghadairean Shealainn Nuadh no ùghdar na h-aiste?)

– gu bheil an Riaghaltas ag iarraidh gum biodh an A9 dùbailte eadar Inbhir Nis is Peart ro 2025 (ged a tha M8 nas chudromaiche dhomhsa an-diugh, bha A9 a’ chiad rathad na h-Alba a b’ urrainn dhomh ainmeachadh)

Ach cha b’ fheum agam air naidheachdan airson mothachadh gun robh tuiltean ann aig deireadh a’ mhìosa – chaidh am bus dhan obair agam ceithir uairean na b’ anmoiche Dimàirt. Seo a’ chiad àm a b’ urrainn dhomh a’ cheist aig a’ BhBC “Have you been affected by …?” fhreagairt le “Tha gu dearbh”…

 

Possible Kirk split over gay clergy

After its General Assembly’s vote to accept gay clergy ordained before 2009 and allow possible future selection of gay and lesbian ministers, a Highland minister and an Aberdeen church are expected to be the first to leave the Kirk in reaction.
BBC: Church of Scotland votes on gay ministers / PinkNews: Church of Scotland ends moratorium on gay ministers
BBC: Glenelg and Kintail minister to quit over gay issue / PinkNews: Scottish minister resigns over gay clergy
BBC: Aberdeen church could ‘break away’ over gay ministers / PinkNews: Scottish church may break away over gay ministers
Of course, as the final decision on the issue of gay ordination will not be reached before 2013, these acts should be seen as preparatory warnings, like the 20% Kirk members claiming to leave if it was agreed that gay ministers can be ordained and the 10% stating they would leave if the Kirk ruled they could not. We will not know what happens until that final decision is actually taken.

 
ETA, 6/7/11: Up till now we know that the Stornoway High Church took a vote in which 74% supported parting from the Kirk, but as the Session had set a minimum of 80% to be decisive for leaving, this particular congregation stays in, with its moderator claiming that they don’t intend to look into the matter again.
BBC: Chan fhàg Àrd Eaglais Steòrnabhaigh Eaglais na h-Alba

 

Angry young man and the Bible

With the upbringing I had received I began to read the Bible somewhere in my late twenties quite unprepared for what I would find. That was good. Not having it pre-interpreted by either a follower or an adversary of Christianity, I was reading what it really said.

(This is not exactly true. As I realized much later, I did have it pre-interpreted – by James VI’s translators. Consequently, what follows here is about the King James Version, although it might apply to others, maybe even to the original texts.)

I used to summarize each book after having finished it in a few words or sentences for future reference, eg listing Jacob’s sons etc. The other day I came across those notes and wondered whether over the years my mind had exaggerated the feeling of disgust I had often felt during the reading. Surprisingly, I had obviously been fiercer in my condemnation then than I am today (when I’m content with simply stating it’s the most immoral book I’ve ever read).

So if you’re inclined that way, you may get amused or abhorred (as the case may be) by some of the comments I put down back then. (And by my then level of English. Each time you meet a seeming typo imagine a [sic] behind it.)

NUMBERS: [….] God lusts for blood, Israelites for ground. [I think I meant ‘land’.]
JOSHUA: [….] Not all the land conquested, not all inhabitants murdered, and Joshua dies. God is sadistic.
JUDGES: [….] In the end Benjaminites fuck a woman to death. This is avenged. [….]
ESTHER: [….] Not a single mention of God in this book!
JOB: A talkative crap, the lesson of which is this: Because the God has the power, a man should be faithful that he (God) has the truth as well, always, ought not to doubt [….] Sickening. ‘The Party, in its inscrutable wisdom…’ (Gellen)
PSALMS: Somehow like this I always imagined [quasi-folk songs]* celebrating Stalin during his realm. Servile, orthodox.

Mind you, I didn’t just carry on presuming every next book would be as bad. I noted about Proverbs that ‘at last it seems that the writer of this part of the book could be discussed with, which can’t be said about those who preceded him’, or about Ecclesiastes ‘Eventually something I could agree with in that it’s no use in planning as though the future was eternal, but that one should make the best of the present, although I disagree with his claim that this can’t be done by having a good time but only by diligent work’ or, surprisingly, about the Song of Solomon ‘not a bad love-song’. But after that the prophets came on the scene…

ISAIAH: A heap of crap by a fascist hateful preacher of doom and destruction, boring to death.
JEREMIAH: Ditto, by probably a later stupid. Seems God is interested in nothing but obedience. Seems also God is angry with the Jews, so he himself makes other nations destroy them (virtually), for which not He but the nations will be later punished. It’s very dialectic [….]
EZEKIEL: Unlike Isaiah & Jeremiah, this one has a little talent for artistic speech, though indeed a little one, but otherwise [….] the same crap as most of what preceds it.
DANIEL: A fairy-tale at the motive of “how hloupý Honza came to luck and half-the-kingdom” (a whole one in here) in the talkative Old Testament style, hallucinations of the hero of course not omitted.
HOSEA: Another Sodom-and-Gomorrah prophet.
AMOS: Another madman with extremely narrow mind.
JONAH: A fairy-tale with a moral. Not bad for five-year-olds.
MICAH, NAHUM, HABAKKUK, ZEPHANIAH: More representatives of the literary school founded by Isaiah.
HAGGAI: [….] There’s no hate or sadism in this one, which makes it look better than that it actually is.
MALACHI: Yet another blah-blah-blah we heard so many times before; luckily, by this one the Old Testament ends.

I was then recovering from the experience for a few years before commencing to read the second part. If I had any initial hopes it would be better, they were futile. In the end, although I read it through, I stopped making notes after Philemon.

MATTHEW: [….] Not as bad as the Old Testament, but nothing special as well. Jesus morally not (worse or) better than the ordinary man, though posing sae.
JOHN: [….] The Gospels as a whole: not exactly compatible, now and then various gospels claim various (sometimes even opposite) things. [….] Jesus looks much preferable to Jehovah, bot his character is by no means unblemished by fanaticisms, intolerance an other vices.
THE ACTS: [….] First harbingers o fight for power an influence using this particular religion – both internal and external.
ROMANS: The brain-washing idea that faith is what matters stressed again; on the other hand, hints tae the theory of predestination, of “the elect”. The beginning openly homophobic.
II. CORINTHIANS: Mair ado anent how “we are the champions”.
GALATIANS: [….] Liberty (ie blind-obediance tae Paul’s ideas) is better than obediance tae the law (o someone else’s makin).
PHILIPPIANS: [….] Theoretically, the Bible disapproves of [the end justifying the means], but in everyday reality Paul diz approve o’t. (Gin it helps himself).
I. THESSALONIANS, II. THESSALONIANS: Anither twa letters fae a guru tae his disciples [….]

Did it make you wince too often? Well I’ve warned you my English wasn’t too good back then (to say nothing about Scots). Let me atone by a quotation from a master of pen, Joseph Heller, who in Good Knows has king David say something I believe about myself just as well:

I have my faults, God knows, and I may even be among the first to admit them, but to this very day I know in my bones that I’m a much better person than He is.

 

* actually I wrote ‘častušky’ but I find I misunderstood that word

 

76% against paying for Pope’s visit

According to a poll by the think tank Theos, 76% of UK population think the taxpayer shouldn’t contribute towards the cost of the September visit, currently estimated at £10-12m (rather than the previous £8m) apart from more millions* for policing the event.
BBC: Taxpayers should not fund Pope’s visit, says survey
PinkNews: Britons apathetic to Pope visit but disagree with state funding
Which is hardly surprising. There’s no reason why His Bigotry shouldn’t visit, but why should it be paid for by non-Catholics? The Queen invited him? So let the Queen foot the bill from her own long purse if the Catholic Church is oh so poor.
The 12 statements of his given to the respondents to consider are fishy too. ‘Some 79% agreed with the Pope’s statement “the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure”.’ So what? Surely Cameron would agree with this – would it make you a Tory supporter if you agreed too? ‘There was no statement on sexual orientation, but 63 per cent agreed with the view “it is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure”.’ I agree with that one, but then viewing sexuality merely as a source of pleasure is what he is doing, innit?
 

* Update: estimate as of 9 Sep is between £1-1.5m.

ETA, 8 Feb 11: Apparently, £1.85m used for the cost of the visit came from DFID (Department for International Development, concerned with overseas aid).

 

Religious gay civil partnerships pass the Lords

An amendment to the Equality Bill allowing those religions which decide to hold civil partnership ceremonies to do so was approved by the House of Lords, despite attempts at misinterpreting it by some Church of England bishops.
PinkNews: Lords back religious civil partnerships for gay couples
Lord Waheed Alli, who proposed the bill, naturally didn’t wait with a retort to set the record straight. There’s another aspect to this, though. In effect, what the bishops said amounts to “we are afraid that there may be a limit set upon our religious freedom, and to prevent this we are willing to make sure that there is a limit set upon religious freedom of others“.
However, Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, might remove the amendment on the grounds that it could raise problems in the marriage system.

 

UK to pay for the pope’s visit

To the disgust of the many who abhor his several late infamous statements on GLBT, birth control, HIV and other topics, the Pope will draw on UK taxpayers’ money by visiting the country (including Scotland) later this year.
BBC: Pope Benedict confirms first papal UK visit since 1982
So that while in Holyrood the Lib Dems made the SNP announce a £20 million boost to cope with demand for college places, in London the Labour decided the time is right to pay £20 million for somebody whose ethics differ even from their own legal proposals. No wonder the NSS started a petition – not against the visit, but against its being paid by the UK taxpayer, rather than the Catholic Church. The last time I had a look it had 17,024 signatures.

 

Blasphemy in Ireland

On 1 January a law making blasphemy a crime (punishable by up to €25,000) has come into force and Atheist Ireland started a counter-campaign by publishing 25 supposedly blashphemous quotations online.
BBC: Irish atheists challenge blasphemy law
In addition to the law being quite revolting from the moral point of view, a pertinent question was brought up by one commentator:
“How does it work? When a catholic priest claims that Jesus is the son of god, can the priest be accused of blasphemy by a rabbi? And when a Hindu prays to several gods is this not blasphemy from the Islamic viewpoint?”
The quotations (which include some by Jesus Christ, Muhammad and the incumbent pope) are on this page.

 

The greatest New Testament abomination

If you’re a Christian, brace yourself for the worst. I’m not after what the book might consider the greatest abomination; I’m after what I consider the most abominable part of the book’s teachings.

It might be expected that, being gay, I’ll have the most quarrel with Romans 1:26-27 (“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”) or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”)

Not so. By the time I got to Paul I no longer cared too much about what Jesus’ followers advocated. Jesus lost his cause with me by his own words. (If, of course, they were his words. If, come to think of it, we know anything he actually said, rather than what his followers said he said.)

It’s been many years though since I read the Bible and I was growing more and more unsure. Is it really written the way I remember it or is my memory betraying me again? I wasn’t even sure any longer it’s really in either Mark or Luke and not, say, Matthew or Acts. So I tried to Google it up – and was amazed to find out that I’d probably got it the other way round. In Mark 9:40 it says: “For he that is not against us is on our part.”

This was food for thought indeed. Despite much mental and logic gymnastics, in the end I had to admit that while that statement is certainly one fit more for a politician than a sage, I can’t with clear conscience exactly call it revolting.

But I still couldn’t stop turning it over in my mind. Could a nitpicker like me, even over all those years, turn the meaning to such an extent? Moreover, I still recollected what my surprise when reading it for the first time was based on: I used to ascribe the slogan to some Communist leader, because with the plural pronoun “us” it was often used by the commie regime. (I was yet to learn how many Christian technologies of controlling people Communists adopted.) So a few days later I tried again, this time through Wikipedia, and unexpectedly quickly I found what I was looking for. It’s in Luke all right – and for that matter, in Matthew as well:

Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”
Matthew 12:30 “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

That was that back then, and that’s that still. I can’t accept somebody stating this abhorrent principle as a moral authority any more than, say, somebody teaching the principles of “My country, right or wrong” or “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”.