Poison

A few years back I had some friends I won’t name them as that doesn’t make much difference to the content of this post. I thought they were friends. At the time they seemed to be good people and what you think is a good friendship somehow sours. Things are said and then the relationship you had with the people have gone.

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It was in the  aftermath I realised that certain other people (who again I won’t name) didn’t treat or even speak to me and still don’t. I realised that the people involved had spoken those people and poisoned them against me. I know that over a length of time they would have made snide remarks like “He is no good for you …” “He is a negative person … Who has done nothing but caused us grief” Instead of looking at the big picture and realising that some people do make mistakes in life.

I will be the first one to admit that I am not a perfect person and I have made decisions that have been wrong and some that have cause others to be upset. But I have people who are still in my life who I consider my best friends who also have been a pain in the ass. They haven’t been perfect either but what what you do is stick by those people you love.

Over time the people who I don’t speak kept putting into the minds of others again and again of the bad things and making up facts which weren’t true at all. They might have been closer to the one who is doing the poisoning and will take these at face value.

This is how brain-washing really works. Drip drip of information which could be slightly exaggerated or distorted and then your view of other people and the world changes. You see things in shadows and believe some conspiracy theories. You think you have really found the truth out about life and now you are convinced yourself that you are in the correct path; a knowledgable path.

None more so has religion done this. If we were to take a step back and look at the actions for people who have done some heinous things in the name of religion and look at them with rational eyes we would astound ourselves.

My mother once had to nurse a patient who was dying. This person could have lived had they been given the correct blood transfusion at the time. But because they were from a Jehovah’s Witness family that they had refused the transfer of one humans blood to another as they had picked a particular verse in the bible where it says that mixing of the bloods was deemed to be sinful.

If you knew that one of your relatives could have been saved by the act of addition blood we wouldn’t hesitate to do it as it would be the right and humane thing to do. You wouldn’t sacrifice the life or certainly put in jeopardy the health of another human from a sentence of a books that was written thousands of years ago.

The people who carried out the Paris attacks on 14th November have not a rational view of the world. They have not got the same view of the billions of muslims around the world who would utterly condemn the acts of violence show to other human beings. Their minds have been poisoned by those who are believe that an actual physical jihad is needed. This is a distorted view of the world.

So as we remember those people who have been killed and those who mourn we must also remember that we are dealing with people who aren’t thinking rationally. They are looking for infamy and martyrdom to a God that in my mind does not exist. No rational or caring god or human being would order the slaughter of so many people.

Women

The more and more I thought about Jeremy Corbyn’s idea (contender for the leader of the Labour Party) of “women only carriages” on trains and probably other transport the more it made me mad.

Have we really gone back in time where men cannot behaved themselves on public transport that there needs to be some sort of segregation between the sexes?

Who the hell do people thing they are if they think they have a right to haress another human being without provocation?   Particularly if they are only their own and its late a night?

Are these the groups that demand that we should have straight prides matches or complain that it’s a national women’s day? This very subject is the reason why we recognise the struggles that woman have gone through to be recognised and treated with the dignity that they deserve.

Constantly I hear people thinking that it’s fine and acceptable to use the word “birds” or “chick” or even worse when you switch on TV on hear the revolting mysognistic use of women music videos by rappers who thing called them bitch or whore is just part of their culture.

Just look at how they have hundreds of women beside them in their music just try and prop up their pathetic masculinity.

The first rule in life for a guy is the woman should be respected. She IS equal to the man although she is different. She does do difference things had has a different way of working things out. But that doesn’t mean is a less of a human being or stupid.

Reinforced stereotypes of women and the classification of their sex in some religion’s haven’t done thing to help or redress this. That doesn’t mean anyone can dress the way they want but it also doesn’t mean just because someone dresses in that way a women is automatically “up for it”.

If the fathers spent more time encouraging their sons to respect women and not reward them for scoring or getting to second base maybe just maybe we might be able to change things.

Women aren’t objects and they are allow to choose to what happens to their body. The heterosexual male firstly should learn.

Exams 


Exams aren’t the be all and end all. What ever that means. It’s a means to an end. But that should never define what you are.

As a teacher I experienced having to set examiners for form classes. These were to determine what the likely results were of a student GCSEs. The exams where undertaken five years before they were due to sit their final exams. It was utterly ridiculous. Bracketing students into certain categories of a likely achievement was utterly wrong.

I was told when I was 14 that I wasn’t bright enough to sit ‘O’ level maths. It made me angry and more determined to do so. How dare someone tell you that you won’t be able to achieve.

I have always said that you are the person to choose your education. You are in charge of it. Not some idiot mathematics teacher.

So if you didn’t get what you wanted in your exams don’t worry the path might have changed but you can still achieve.

I didn’t do well in my GCSEs but I did pass my maths! I went to college and studied for a diploma in Theology. Then I did my BA Hons degree in Religion and Sociology. Finally ending up at Westminster College Oxford completing a PGCE in secondary RE.

I am not saying it’s easy. It’s hard work. But it’s up to you.

Charleston Shooting

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I am shocked and appalled at this mass killing in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a peaceful place of worship where people had congregated for a Bible study during the week. They had accepted the killer to sit in with them as part of this. They didn’t turn him away because he was a stranger or because he was the only white person there they accepted him in.

From 1988-1991 I spent three years at a residential black led Theological college. At the time I was a religious person. I was accept in as part of the community even though I was the only white person in my class. Not once did anyone ask me why I was here or mention my race. It was one part of my life I cherish with great affection as it was a time of growing up and experiencing new things.

It has been implied that the shooting wasn’t racially motivated even though he was a white supremacist. It’s even been implied by the christian right that it is an attack on them and their right to bare arms. They are saying that this proves that they need more guns in america. Surprisingly the question has been asked why did any of the church people have guns on them to protect themselves. Any rational and normal person who isn’t crazy would realise that they were in a church praying and didn’t think that bringing a gun to worship god was part of that.

The commentary from christians should be all violence on anyone is wrong. It isn’t biblical at all to think that you should be carrying a gun around with you just in case someone might want to shoot you. The christian community should be unanimous in condemning such violence and particularly if it as racially motivated crime.

Equality

Some people are racist. We know this from looking at the world and society today. As much as I find these totally abhorrent we live in a society where people can have these views. The same goes for any religious or even non-religious belief. I can choose to follow a particular faith or religious value but your belief doesn’t mean that you can choose to actively treat another person as a 2nd class citizen based on their gender, race or sexual orientation.

We have witnessed legal cases brought against people who have tried to deny services to people who are gay. The have based their actions on “deeply held religious beliefs”. While as a society we respect these beliefs that cannot and must not be allowed to treat others with disrespect.

As a country we have come along way since the 1970s where openly on TV we saw racist terms being used and people being ridiculed.

If Ashers bakery had won their case it would leave open to all religions saying that they could deny something or someone because of their religious beliefs. There are laws protecting religions in equality laws just as much as sexuality and gender.

But the bakery isn’t a religious organisation. It isn’t a church or a religious establishment. It’s a business which is run by Christians. The law states that you cannot discriminate against people of their race, gender or sexual orientation.

Ashers bakery claimed that they had no knowledge of the persons sexual orientation. This is bullshit. They discuss within the family that they felt they couldn’t provide a service to someone who is gay. This is against the law.

The cake was never to be seen apart for the four walls of a party at the time who were campaigning for marriage equality in Northern Ireland. It’s not as if the cake was supposed to be seen by millions as a political statement. Because of the legal action obviously it has now been seen around the world.

What some people don’t understand is that just because you don’t believe gay people should have the same rights and privileges of straight people doesn’t make you right by placing your religion card. It doesn’t work that way that’s why we have laws to protect people.

Feel free to move to somewhere like Russia that doesn’t afford equality to those who have a different sexual orientation.

Equality laws are here to say. Get used to it.

Easter weekend 

I sit here on Maundy Thursday thinking about this holiday weekend, or holy weekend. To Christians it is the most important time in their religious calendar. A time when they remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

A much talked about event on social media has been the leaders debate. A time where political leaders have their say on the matters that concern them and field questions from the public. All these running up to the general election in just over a months time.

I have always voted in every election I am eligible it a privilege that a democratic process is followed allowing the people to have their say in who runs our country. The laws in this land have been made by our parliament for centuries and this way should continue.

I look at the situation in Indiana. It has brought in a law where businesses have been allowed to turn away anyone who they think is part of the LGBT community. This being under the guise of “religious freedom”. The similar case to the bakery in Northern Ireland where they have refused to make a product which supports gay marriage. They have claimed they cannot do so because of their relgious conscience.

I think of Jesus’ life and trying to come up with situations where he “turned people away” or decided certain people should be excluded from society. Quite the opposite is what the bible tells us. If we are to believe the gospel accounts then he welcomed those who had been “cast aside” and those who were seen as inferior.

What will be the message of the church and its people over this weekend? We don’t mind you coming and being part of our community as long you renounce your “sinful lifestyle”.

This is why I cannot be a part of a group of people who treats anyone as inferior or doesn’t understand what it’s like to grow up in a world where people say you are inheritantly broken or evil. I didn’t choose to be gay just as much as you chose to be straight. Maybe just maybe the church and its followers might think the damage they cause on the holy weekend.

Paris

This week has seen the side of humanity that is psychopathic and insane. Listening to reports of how gunmen brutally murdered innocent journalists and descriptions of their barbarity towards those who exercise their right to free speech and democracy.

When something like this takes place closer to our shores it makes us take a fresh look at our lives and beliefs. Most would condemn such violence knowing it’s beyond their comprehension. How on earth could you ever live with knowing you had murdered so many people in such a cold and calculating way?

In these times of grief and pain though we see a side of humanity. The true side. The one that cares and loves. Those who have shown solidarity with the loved ones left behind by a tragedy.

Living a godless life and maintaining a humanist standpoint I don’t look to a god to blame but those who have radicalised and brainwashed those men who carried out the attacks. Those who have taken a religion a perverted it for their own means.

My thoughts are with the victims families and friends.

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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.

Church and women

“What an absolute and unequivocal disgrace. The Church of England has become nothing more than the play-thing of government – championing government policies rather than the Gospel it claims to profess.” Writes “StartingTheParty” in today’s Times.

What an odd person this is who is commenting on the ordination of women to the episcopate. Look at the congregations they are made up of mostly woman. Look at the people who run the every day things such an cleaning, cooking, volunteering, church preparation and pastoral support. Women.

The Bible was written by men in and totally different era, culture and country. These people who do not feel they can be governed by the authority of a women contribute to the very misogyny and mistreatment of woman every day across the world. Women are equal as human beings to men. This is a simple but fundemental premise of a civilised and developed nation. The moment when you sub-categorised human beings you devalue them.

Life is sacred and humans are the pinnacle of living creatures. Only those who try to put themselves first will eventually become last.

Good Friday

I have had an interesting day. I decided that I would have a look down at the service in the market place. This is a christian service of witness which takes place each year on good friday. It is begins with a  walk through the main shopping street and ends in the market place. I used to take part in this which I was a church goer a number of years ago. My abiding memory is getting told off by someone for talking while we set off on the walk.

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The service end but I had something else planned for the afternoon. Most people know that my education is in religion and I have followed an organisation for a number of years called Hope not Hate. This was set up to counter the extremist groups such as the BNP and others and to educate those about their BNP racist agenda.

During my year in Oxford training to be a teacher I visited various places of worship including two of the main mosques in Birmingham. I have always be interested in religion and thought it was about time I spoke to some muslims about their views of various racist groups and their outlook on the continuing attacks on Islam.

I set up a meeting with someone from the Islamic Diversity Centre in Newcastle and spent time discuss my concerns and getting their perspective on life. It was certainly an interesting discussion. It was good to hear that their work is to break down the various misconceptions about Islam. They regularly speak to various groups in the north east and part of their outreach is to provide services for the homeless and elderly; something even I wasn’t familiar with.

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I was given a small gift which contained various literature about Islam. I hope that I will be able to learn more and get to know a few of the muslim population here in the north east. I attend to visit a mosque and hopefully gain more understanding of this religion.

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Still grumpy

Gari Wellingham

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