Take away the Religion

I was watching a clip on YouTube last night of Pat Robinson who, if you aren’t sure who he is, is a transphobic, homophobic and downright ridiculous man who spouts crazy bile in the name of Christianity.

Thoughts then turned to the people who had been killed by the gunman in Orlando and his crazed ideology that killing a group of LGBT people would be pleasing to his god.

As you know I am a humanist. I don’t believe in god, I used to be a church-goer but the belief and faith I had died a long time ago.

I thought if you take away the religion and look at how people act it proves a lot about who the person is in the beginning.  How is the person with their friends and family? What are they doing for the good of everyone?

Someone that causes harm and distress to others under the name of their religion should be ridiculed for what they are. If it’s some old irrelevant man who has no idea what true life is like and doesn’t realise the damage he causes isn’t a true follower of faith.

People assume that those who don’t have a religion to follow are bereft of morality and principles. This couldn’t be further from the case. Humanism is about treating everyone fairly as they are all beings that share the same planet.

Feminist views 

I have a problem with some feminist views. I have been struggling with them for some time and wondering why I have a problem with moral issues associated with feminist belief.

The term “Rape culture” was first used in the USA in the 1970s by feminists who believed a society which normalised rape as a part of the society and sees it as pervasive due to certain values it held about women’s sexual identity and gender.

So what feminists are saying that somehow society doesn’t see it as being a bad thing or even a punishable crime in a society. They believe that making excuses of what a woman was wearing beforehand is part of this “rape culture”. It is prevalent and symptomatic throughout attitudes in the society and endemic to it.

I had some discussion with a female friend and thinking about high profile cases where men had been convicted of rape or had been acquitted. I found it interesting that some on social media platforms held the view that the man was guilty even if he had not be convicted in a court of law. That the woman must be believed and the circumstances of the case were that the jury must have been made to believe that the woman was making the whole thing up something again feminists believe is part of ‘rape culture’ that society sees women as unreliable liars.

Feminists believe in ‘rape society’ is that society is teaching women not to get raped rather than teaching men not to rape. This to me is where I find the stumbling block. Not that any sort of attack on a woman is abhorrent but that despite the calls of feminists to teach people not to rape there are ways that women should protect themselves but again I reiterate that feminist would say is part of rape culture and I am contributing to it by making sure a woman is keeping herself from harm.

I had to look further into this and see how ‘rape culture’ is viewed under various classifications of morality. The feminist view is an example of moral absolutism. The idea there shouldn’t be any way in which someone who has said that they have even raped could have contributed to it. Rape is if someone hasn’t given their consent. To me there are cases where the victim isn’t able to give consent such as age but what do we decide if a woman is so drunk she has sex but afterward saying that she wouldn’t have consented at the time.

Feminists argue that there shouldn’t be grey areas and that it is clear that all sex that hasn’t been consensual is rape. Is it really this clear-cut? We don’t hear of ‘murder culture’ or ‘robbery culture’ we look at the evidence to see if a crime has been committed and that is how the law and the courts deal with each case individually. As much as feminism would like to see perpetrators of rape be punished as they should it isn’t as clear as that. Sex is still sex and if you consent to it then it isn’t a crime. But how do you prove a crime has taken place when the evidence before a jury is that it is the word against another. There are no physical signs of trauma or force but the woman states she did not give consent.

A murder takes place and usually in most cases there is a body. Some cases have been prosecuted when there has been nobody found but this is rare. We have physical evidence in front of a jury if an autopsy has taken place and cause of death can be established. It is up to the prosecution to build the case for murder or if the death was unintentional manslaughter or culpable homicide as it is known in the USA.

A crime has a victim, a perpetrator, and evidence. Some will go to lengths to cover their crime and destroy evidence. A report of the crime of non-consensual sex or rape needs to have more evidence than saying I did not consent. If life wasn’t as clear-cut as this and crimes didn’t have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt then things would be different. That isn’t how things work in the UK. There are some societies where rape has been normalised in countries that are in the middle of civil war and rape has been used as a weapon and as a form of terrorist barbarism.

We know are those men who go out on a weekend with the intention of having sex with women. It happens. Men do that and so do women. On the gay scene, it’s no different. Men and women do go out on the pretence of a hookup.

I don’t believe a woman or a man should ever have to modify their clothes to justify not being attacked but both sexes do dress to feel and look good. We have all go out in the best clothes but it’s never so we feel good we do it so we get others to notice this is what makeup is for.

If you were on a desert island you don’t get dressed up just for yourself intention is their attraction is a part of life and the natural process of humans and animals. There are ways in which everyone should protect themselves that’s why doors have locks and cars have immobilisers. We don’t live in a society of absolute morals.

Leave it

There ‘s a cool breeze blowing throughout my house as I sit at my computer near to the front window. Something I know that would be very welcome to a lot of people who are stuck in offices with windows that open less than a cm due to health and safety rules. The irony is that it’s not okay to fall out of the window but practically a given that you should slowly cook confined in the space behind them.

What we desire, want and permissible are not usually things that we think about when we are content in life. To some it is money. To others, it could be the happiness in seeing your children and grandchildren grow up safely in a world of worry and hazards that are all too familiar once you look at the news each day.

I have had a privileged life in the fact that I have been able to get a decent education and afford to live in my own home. Now that both my parents have gone I feel I should be sensible and grown up in making life choices. After some thought and careful consideration, it is time to move on.

This decision I made was twenty years ago and not today or yesterday. I made it through hindsight and experiences I had in the years before. I gave up religion for good. I wasn’t a backslider anymore. Someone that may go back to church after a few weeks of absenteeism. I hadn’t had the spiritual flu or suffered a minor problem with my faith. It wasn’t there at all.

Each day I am reminded that the decision was the right one. Reading the updates about how a bakery in Northern Ireland has appealed a decision handed down by the courts in the fact that they discriminated against someone on the basis of their sexuality makes me realise I am better away from such organisations. I want nothing of them anymore. I have met my closest friends through church youth groups and I have some fantastic friends who would call themselves Christians. But your religion ends where my non-belief begins.

I have no problem with teaching religion. I did it for years in crappy school. But I taught it knowing that I would be talking about someone else’s religion someone else’s belief. If only there was more teaching of decent religious education would we have a more tolerant society? Less gullible in believing that if a handful of crazed idiots were to represent an entire religion then it would seem that everyone in that religion held the same views. I know and have met many Muslims who don’t think that ISIS is right just in the same way that the Christians in Northern Ireland don’t hold the same views as my Christian friends. I can distinguish between the two.

The faith that once I held has died. This means it cannot be revived by any means. I believe that once something is dead it’s dead. No amount of prayer, drugs or electronic stimulation will it allow it to live again. The story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to me is a story. Others might choose to believe it as a literal story. Others will see it as work of fiction.

I respect others and their faith. I have no problem in the talking about Islam or Taoism. I don’t see any problem in talking about it. I wouldn’t mind writing about or making a living discussing them it doesn’t break any rules. Even when I did have a faith I know that talking about others beliefs didn’t make a bad person.

Thank goodness I have left it behind. The petty arguments the church is having over two people of the same sex getting married is ridiculous. I do like talking and discussing religious and non-religious belief I have always been fascinated with belief systems. But to me they are stories. We will see more and more of these cases that I am sure. Where once the Church of England was a great moral bastion above reproach we will see more fundamentalist groups appear fighting their cause. The Church of England will become nothing more than a meeting group for the lonely. Something to wheel people into once a week and then wheel out again.

RE and Humanism

As I qualified secondary RE teacher I find it appalling that the government have taken out the teaching of those with no belief in Religious Education. It’s almost like people without any faith shouldn’t have an opinion about moral values and life choices. I see it as a backwards step in highlighting the importance of the vital role that Religious Education has in our schools in a modern world.

The terrible atrocities that happen each day in our world cause us to pause and ask the question why? It is no longer the case that our children and adults should be left with the answer that some people do bad things. This is a poor excuse for educating people about religious belief.

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I was watching a programme the other night where they were discussing the issue of child exploitation that happens on a regular basis in the UK and thought myself that certain established religions have a lot to blame when it comes to talking about and educating young people about the dangers of online grooming and sexual relationships for someone who us under the legal limit of consent.

The programme highlighted the numerous times that girls were coerced into performed sex acts on their boyfriends and the blatant manipulation coupled with emotional blackmail that they felt under these circumstances. It is no longer a choice to bury your head in the sand and say that my child wouldn’t do these things and they know better.

Education is fundamental. Talking about violence does not make someone violent. In the same way, educating people about the dangers of sex doesn’t allow young people to think they are entitled to go out and experiment on the basis of the facts they have been told.

Think back to the days of your RE and would you really want the next generation to look at the world without the rich knowledge that RE does bring? Or do you want it to be begrudgingly tagged on the lesson at the end of the week on Friday afternoon?

Ostara

I had the misfortune of reading an article in The Sun ‘newspaper’ the other day that claimed that Easter eggs had been banned. They hadn’t. It was just another atrocious attempt by the right wing gutter press to get a reaction from the idiots that actually believe what is written in this so-called newspaper.

Christians have been bouncing up and down like demented Easter bunny’s today. At every moment I have looked on social media they are ready to implore that a preacher that lived two thousand years ago defied all laws of biology and science and came back to life after being brutality killed in an act of crucifixion. A version of a  Frankenstein’s monster is somehow seen as a way of getting rid of the worlds problems by delivering us from own thoughts and actions.

In my ‘christian’ days I would have been proclaiming this. I would have stood proudly in the middle of my town acting out some play or singing some songs thinking that I would be able to change the world and imploring others to join me. It was all a futile process.

I believe that looking at the changes of the world around us we should be thankful that plants are begging to waken from their winter sleep and animals will produce young at a time when in the northern hemisphere marks Vernal Equinox.

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Ostara or Eostra is an Anglo-Saxon goddess who represents dawn. It is a new awakening. She oversees the fertility of the earth and watches over births. The egg is the perfect symbol of fertility and Christians and non-so believers will incorporate this into Easter celebrations without really realising it’s pagan origins.

I love the beginning of spring as you can see blossom on the trees and daffodils rising up from the cold ground to give us hope of the forthcoming of time when new life appears all around us.

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Church and LGBTI

The Dean of Newcastle has signed a letter asking the Church of England to repent for discrimination against gay and lesbian Christians.

The letter that that has been written by the two leading archbishops in the Church of England. It asked for repentance and acknowledgement that the church has for too long seen those in the LGBTI community as second-class sinners.

Having been a member of the Church of England for over a decade I didn’t feel right at all that I could be open with the people who surrounded me. It was bad enough growing up in the eighties with the stigma of HIV and AIDS that still exists to this day. I cannot remember in the early days the subject of human sexuality being discussed at all in the church I attended. It wasn’t something that they were ready to discuss.

It is right for both Archbishops to acknowledge where the church has failed people but it is also up to the church to recognise that there are still within it’s walls those people who outrightly condemn same-sex relationships. The Rev’d David Holloway is a good example of someone still preaching that the scriptures specify that homosexuality is a grave sin. He works with the diocese of Newcastle and I am sure would have something to say about the Dean’s signature on such letter.

It is only when such people acknowledge and apologise for the continuing harm he is directly causing the LGBTI community. Parts of the church of England stretch across many continents and especially those in developing countries that have appalling human rights issues regarding the gay communities that are supposed minister too.

My faith died decades ago. It is replaced by rational thought. This means that I treat all human beings with equality. Regardless of their gender, race, and sexuality. The horrible and trite phrase that is often used that the sinner is somehow separated from the sin and therefore we condemn only the action but not the person themselves is utter crap. I am proud of who I am and I am not going curtail this for anyone. It is an intrinsic part of who I am and I believe made me a better person for realising how easy it is to be judgemental on things of which we may not understand.

There are people who have remained within the CofE whilst still in LGBTI relationships. Many in the clergy are gay and lesbian but in fear of being truthful and losing one’s position within the community.

I have good friends who have no issue with my sexuality and regularly attend church. They have been good examples of what the archbishops have called upon to do and is love those who are in any community whether it be gay or straight.

I acknowledge that some do not hold the same caring attitude but until those people have changed/repented (which also means moving away from their sin to which they are repenting) the church will continue to decline and be replaced by a smaller community of believers.

Holy Week reflection 

Despite being a humanist now I still take time to reflect on things during Holy Week. Habits that formed during my time as a member of the Church of England seem to die hard. It is something I have done for on and off for around 30 years.

What am I doing with my life? Are there anything things that need changing. These are questions I do ask myself but it always seems easier to criticise and point out other failings rather than my own.

It’s easy to look at others an judge. I don’t like the way you talk or what you are saying. I don’t like your lifestyle or the priorities you have in life and not worthy of any time.

Do the things that others do have any consequences that could affect your life? If someone steals or murders then it could. This could end in the person being convicted and having to spend time at our majesty’s pleasure and that costs money in an indirect way.

Are we giving to others that would make their life better? Do we give our time and money to help those who are less fortunate that ourselves? If you are making an excuse while you reading this you probably need to.

Reflecting in rather than on Holy Week is a good thing. It makes me think of spring time and new possibilities and chances that we have been given.

What will I try to do more off to better others lives and less of that makes me more of a selfish person. Surely that has to be a good thing.

Christmas Message

I was thinking about what message or post to write for Christmas. I came across this post from the British Humanist Association of which I am a member. I think it puts it very succinctly of what I wanted to say this year.

Happy Christmas!

Sin

Christians believe that sin was brought into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden. Man is now separated from God and therefore cannot have a relationship with him. The ultimate punishment is eternity without God. God gave his son so as a sacrifice for the bad things that people have done. A pardon or someone to take the blame.

I struggle with the concept of sin. Not that I don’t understand it but the fact that some Christian’s seem to regard some sins worse than others. As a humanist do believe that actions do have a consequence. Those actions that Christians believe are the most sinful seem to be to have the least consequence. The fact that two men or two women living together will have some sort of consequence on society. To fundamental / evangelical christians they believe that society will break down and the traditional view of marriage is destroyed.

In the UK we have had Civil Partnerships for nearly a decade. It was at the early part of 2014 that marriage equality was given legal assent. But some parts the church still continue to focus their energies on fighting gay rights. I think now it has become an unhealthy obsession to some.

Some of the most damaging of “sins” seem to be over-looked; Domestic abuse, theft, drug trafficking, fraud and sexual crimes. These all have long-lasting consequences for the victim of these acts. Yet the perception is that church isn’t interested in talking about an condemning these in the way that it condemns those people who cannot help who they fall in love with.

“Currently, regular church attendance in the United Kingdom stands at 6% of the population with the average age of the attendee being 51. This shows a decline in church attendance since 1980, when regular attendance stood at 11% with an average age of 37. It is predicted that by 2020, attendance will be around 4% with an average age of 56. This decline in church attendance has forced many churches to close down across the United Kingdom, with the Church of England alone being forced to close 1,500 churches between 1969 and 2002. Their fates include dereliction, demolition and residential conversion.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_Kingdom)

We are a post-christian nation. More people recognising that they have no religion. The concept of sin is an outdated one soon to become a historical notion or philosophical stance.

the barefoot tree

Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

UK-based musical theatre geek previously living with a brain tumour!