Islam, far right nationalists and the vicious God of Abraham

It really shouldn’t be necessary to write this post. But unfortunately it is. That’s the problem with fanatical extremists. They think only in black and white terms and so anyone who, for example doesn’t hate Muslims must be a Muslim themselves. As an atheist I thought that a particularly stupid assertion from an EDL supporter recently (see the comments).

So I’ve decided to be clear, once and for all…

Islam

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I am not a Muslim. I am not a believer in any deity. I consider all religions to be both silly and harmful. As the late, great Christopher Hitchins put it, religions belong to the ignorant “infancy of our species”. During those dark days of prehistory even the most learned people had no idea what the natural world was about. This led to an assumption that whatever people didn’t understand must have been the work of a magical supreme being. The notion of Gods was born.

So I think all religions are silly but…. and this is the important bit…. I am adamant that:

1 People have a right to disagree with me;
2 I may be wrong;
3 So long as people don’t try to impose their lifestyle upon me I am more than happy to return the compliment;
4 What consenting adults do amongst themselves is no business of mine.

And that last part really is an issue for me. But not just with Islam – with all religious groups from Islam to Judaeism, from Catholicism to Cargo cults. I believe that to inflict religious indoctrination of any kind on to children is abuse.

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● If an adult Christian wants to live his life in shame and assumptions about his own pathetic ‘unworthiness’ so be it;
● If a grown Muslim woman wants her ‘evil’ clitoris and labia removed (often causing infection and death), fair enough;
● If a mature Jewish man wishes to contract herpes by having a Rabbi remove his foreskin with his teeth that’s fine by me;
● And if a young Jehovah’s Witness mother chooses to bleed to death after giving birth rather than to accept a blood transfusion that’s fair enough too.

I think that all these things would be tragic but in every case it’d be their choice. It would have nothing to do with me.

So my only real beef with Islam is the same one I have with ALL religions. I wish they’d stop inflicting it upon helpless children. Other than that – it’s OK to be different. So long as you leave the rest of us alone.

Sharia courts

Which, of course, brings us to the notion of Sharia law and the vicious God of Abraham….

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I would oppose any attempt to impose Sharia law on myself or upon my society. Indeed, if I truly believed that there was any chance of that barbaric, Mosaic system being imposed I’d be the first to man the barricades. It’s a legal system based upon a moral compass that points straight back to the iron age.

But it’s no worse than the fundamentalist Christian ‘courts’ that also exist, equally informally in this country. In both cases people choose to submit to the ‘judgements’ of religious ‘courts’ but the law of the land still applies. Wife beating is still illegal in UK even though the ‘law of Moses’ says that it’s OK. Women subjected to such abuse can still prosecute their abusers regardless of religion.

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So you see Sharia is no more a threat to Western civilisation than Christianity and Judeaism (barbaric though all 3 undoubtedly are). No religious convention can be used to excuse rape, ethnic cleansing, slavery, murder, child abuse or arbitrary discrimination (whatever Christian ‘law’ says about these ‘duties’). European law is not religious law.

So far as I’m aware the only exception allowing abuse on religious grounds is the genital mutilation of infant boys whose parents are either Jewish or Muslim. I stress ‘whose parents are either Jewish or Muslim’ because let’s face it these babies are far too young to choose any religion (or to understand the mutilation imposed upon them). Along with many other atheists and humanists I’d love to see that made illegal in the same way that the genital mutilation of infant girls has been.

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I would oppose the imposition of Sharia, Levitical or Talmudic law in a heartbeat. They are all based upon the exact same, vicious God of the Israelites who seemed far more interested in ethnic cleansing, sexual slavery and blood sacrifice than anything modern civilisation might recognise as ‘justice’. Not that there’s anything unique about the God of Abraham in that respect – especially concerning women:
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But I don’t oppose individual Muslims any more than I oppose individual Jews, Christians, Hindus or, indeed anybody else. Except, of course for ….

The English Defence League (EDL)

Recently I’ve been criticised on my blog for opposing far right nationalists such as the EDL and BNP much more than other extremist groups such as Muslims Against Crusades (MAC). In truth I object to extremist, terrorist groups of all kinds but the only ones that claim to speak for me are the EDL and BNP. I’m a white, working class British man and as such I consider it a duty to oppose those fascist, racist groups who claim to represent my own culture and heritage.

To quote Edmund Burke (allegedly)…..

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.”

I made this point more fully in a series of three posts which can be found here, here and here.

This doesn’t make me a Muslim (the very idea of me being religious in any way at all is both ridiculous and insulting to me). Nor does it make me a “traitor to my race” as another commenter recently described me. I’m a human being and that’s as sectarian as I’m ever going to be. All people are as valid and worthy of rights and respect as anyone else.

I’m not a fan of street violence from any quarter (be the perpetrators linked to EDL, BNP, Combat 18, MAC, UAF or IED). You’re all as bad as each other in my view.

In summary

My position is simple:

● I loathe sectarianism;
● I loathe ALL religion;
● I loathe child abuse and indoctrination;
● I loathe nationalism;
● I accept the right of all people to disagree with me;
● I would oppose ANY imposition of Mosaic law upon my society (be that Islamic, Christian or Jewish);

I believe that these views are echoed by many (although not all, alas) of my fellow working class Britons (of all colours and backgrounds).

The English Defence League does not speak for us!

My dear Archbishop 5: Deceitful priests

However we may choose to spin it, deceitful priests, unlike their sincere but gullible counterparts really are just manipulative liars. They understand the value of social hierarchy and they use it to full effect. After all the church is a pretty good platform from which to influence others. The trouble is, that influence tends not to be used terribly well. I suspect that these unbelieving, deceitful priests are much more interested in conserving social, hierarchical norms with themselves at the top than effecting real, social change. Perhaps they, more than any others, are the reason that the Anglican church has come to be derided as little more than ‘conservatives at prayer’.

Realistically though – lots of people seek authority, there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course achieving authority through dishonesty isn’t exactly ideal but that’s how it is, at least so far as some priests are concerned. The issue for society is what they do with that authority once they’ve got it.

That’s what this ‘open letter’ blog series is really about. But first we really do need to be clear that nobody is special, no value system is infallible and no priest (whether gullible, deceitful or both) has a hotline to absolute morality.

In neither case do these people deserve any respect or special status simply because of their religion. It makes no sense for anyone to put their faith in the judgement of another whose main professional characteristic is either deceitfulness or gullibility. They have no special morality – just their own values which are led by society and not by God. That’s why, as we have seen, in matters of morality, society leads the church far more often than the church leads society.

My dear Archbishop 2: Archbishop Justin Welby

Last month Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) took up his position as the leader of the worldwide Anglican church. There seems to be a genuine commitment for Anglicans to rediscover the unity that has been absent for so long within their ranks. Issues such as the ordination of women bishops (or even of women at all), the ordination of gay priests and equal marriage have caused division for years among the Anglican community. However, looking from the outside in at least, it seems to me that there is a chance for these divisions to heal under the stewardship of Archbishop Welby.

That’s all well and good but it remains an essentially self-serving process. The Anglican church is working hard to heal the Anglican church. For those of us who aren’t members of the Anglican church though it’s about as relevant as the local camera club resolving its disagreements over the relative merits of digital media and 35mm film. It will have precisely no impact upon the rest of the world, however important such a healing process may be to the church community itself.

Carey 5And yet the task for Christians in today’s world is (and arguably always has been) to have a positive impact upon society at large. Even George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury once wrote in his book ‘The church in the marketplace’ of the church’s unique position as an organisation that exists solely for the benefit of those who are not its members. He wrote that when he was still Bishop of Durham before rising to the lofty position of ABC some years later. It is unfortunate that he seems to have forgotten the high ideals of public-service upon arriving at Canterbury and his regular outbursts against LGBT citizens seems even further removed from his benevolent, inclusive position of the past. In many ways Carey and his ilk illustrate perfectly the problem with the modern Anglican church – and perhaps with the historical church too although that’s not my subject here.

So far as I can gather Archbishop Welby really does want to redirect the Anglican mission back toward the principles of the Biblical Jesus, at least so far as Jesus is understood (interpreted) in mainstream modern Christianity. Admittedly there seem to be some mixed messages and he may well be just as big a dinosaur regarding equal marriage as Carey but there’s hope, none the less. In short the new Archbishop seems to be a nice bloke who wants his church to emulate and imitate another nice bloke called Jesus, who Christians believe was the Son of their God. And he values people, even if that understanding does leave him with the occasional doctrinal ‘challenge’.

Believe it or not I see great potential in the Anglican Church. That’s not because I believe in God (I don’t) or because I think that the Church of England is a particularly moral institution (I absolutely don’t) but because it has a platform. If the Anglican church would only start behaving in ways that match its professed belief in the value of humanity and showed a little courage and compassion from time to time then it could be a force for major social change. Let’s face it – major social change would be the closest thing we can get to a miracle in the real, non-magical, natural world.

That’s why this atheist (and I suspect many others like me) would be more than happy to rally behind and support a Church of England that actually practiced what it preaches. Unfortunately, as we shall see, that’s not the case at present but if it were…. Oh if only it were …. I’d never claim to believe in your Sky god but I’d fund your causes, I’d spread your social message and I’d advocate for your renewed status as a genuine moral force. If only you practiced what you preach.

I’m afraid I won’t be pulling any punches here. But please see this as a positive thing. If churches really are interested in boosting their congregations there will be much here that will be of value. Even dyed in the wool atheists like myself may sing your praises – so long as we don’t have to pretend to believe. Let’s be honest here though – there are many professed Christians, regular churchgoers at that, who clearly don’t believe a word of it. They attend for other, more social reasons. I suspect that given a worthy social cause many more of us would join them. We just won’t lie about our beliefs to justify our presence.

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