Religious nuttery – alive and well (sort of)

I know that I keep banging on intermittently and vociferously about religious privilege that now goes under the banner of religious freedom. There seem to be more of us making the same point. This is good and to be applauded.

Several things have happened over the past little while:

 Firstly – the Catholic educational establishments in parts of America are falling foul of the National Labor Relations Board that made a ruling in favour of adjunct professors in a Catholic tertiary institution asking for their first pay rise in 5 years. The NLRB’s statement included the observation that ‘neither the university, nor its faculty, nor their courses were actually religious in any meaningful sense.’

Entry view to St Xavier’s, Chicago

Never the less St Xavier’s University in Chicago opposed the effort of the professors to unionise and lobby for a pay rise on the grounds that St Xavier’s was a religious institution and was allowed special powers that exempt them from laws of the land. The University will not win this one; the adjunct professors will. Good!

I note this bleating by the religious that their ‘freedom is in jeopardy’ is occurring with increased regularity and tedious repetition all over the post-industrial religious world. Of course, America is by far the most religious of all western democracies and the impact of its nutty religious views is becoming glaringly obvious.

While public (and private, privileged) education is being reinvented in the western world, America has a big problem. Educational standards are slipping in America; as the biggest slave to capitalism it is losing the race. Its paranoia that it is in danger of misplacing the American dream (as Carlin pointed out, you have to be asleep to believe in the American dream anyway) and that it is entitled to plunder the lion’s share of everything the planet has on tap is further diminishing the country. Its slowing innovative capacity is a problem; America is in danger of disappearing up its own fundament. It would seem that its citizens have little if any idea of what lies outside the shores of America which increases its predilection to greater isolation and self imposed dangerous insularity.

SecondlyGermany has made circumcision for religious reasons illegal. Well, great! It is about time. Desert dust, unsanitary conditions, control over sexuality and thousands of years of inappropriate rubbish promoted and adhered to by a barbaric group of uneducated people needs to be disbanded. Good. I am glad. However the religious organisations are up in arms screaming lack of religious freedom. If religious freedom means the legally sanctioned practice of cutting off the foreskin of young boys’ penises, then all I can say is that such barbarism needs to be banned and good on Germany. Other countries (all European, I bet) will follow. Good.

There is an argument that circumcision doesn’t hurt baby boys within the first day or so of life. If you have ever heard a baby scream while this ‘operation’ is carried out, you know that that is utter rot. Some baby boys have died from blood loss as well. The circumcision of boys at later stages of their early lives is horrendous. There are Jewish sects where the ‘holy man’ uses his teeth to rip the foreskin from the boy’s penis. Nice! The Muslims are protesting their religious freedom as well. Tough. Good on Germany.

Thirdly – Bavaria has issued a statement that Islam will not be able to run its parallel legal system called Sharia law in concert with the law of the land. Good. Unfortunately, the use of Sharia law is likely to be driven underground which is always a problem. Here in Britain, the devout Muslims use their self styled Imams to instruct them on behaviour that sometimes includes female genital mutilation, honour killings and forced marriages together with polygamy and divorce procedures. This is not good. Young pubescent girls still get sent to Pakistan by their families into arranged but not agreed to marriages. Some suicides result, some facial mutilation occurs, often by the throwing of acid, if the girls dissent and some honour killings are perpetrated if the girls refuse.

Please don’t try to tell me or any other person who has grown into this century that these things are right. They are not. Not under any circumstances.

Fourthly – The City of Edinburgh has cancelled prayers and made asking guidance from the sky daddy a private thing to be exercised outside the chamber. This is good. A number of other councils in both Scotland and the rest of Britain are doing the same. Ireland has suffered through the Catholic paedophilia scandals and the Irish are turning away from religion in droves. In hind sight (always a good, if biased way to turn one’s neck), Ireland may just save itself from the current religiosity earlier than the rest of us.

Finally! Good grief – now I have just read of a group of Sikhs in Wiltshire who occupied their community’s temple called a gurdwara in order to halt a marriage ceremony between a Sikh woman of their community and a Christian man – who just happens to be of West African background. What I noticed in the news reports is that these protesters are being referred to as ‘hardliners’ not religious fanatics or fundamentalists. Just racial bigots I guess.

“This new trend of interfaith marriages in Sikh places of worship directly breaks the Sikh code of conduct and tenants (sic)…”, they claimed, adding that they held a “peaceful protest” to stop the “beadbi ” (insult) of the gurdwara.”

This is the gurdwara in question

And apparently protesting is hungry work – the protesters are reported as having eaten the wedding feast that had been laid out in advance of the ceremony that was eventually solemnised in the Registry Office, sans wedding breakfast.

It is hard not to laugh and snigger at the idiocy that is religious belief and the adherence to some silly dogma or three. Like the Mormons and their magic underpants to protect their precious genetic material from radiation damage. Or the suicide bombers who wrap their family jewels in kitchen foil to ensure their intactness when they get to their 72 virgins in paradise. Never mind they will never find their eyes scattered all over the place so they can never feast them on the beauty of their allotted virgins. Let alone their fingers – so no touchy touchy either.

I mean really! Am I supposed to respect this crap and be smiley polite to people who actually believe this sort of rubbish? Like virgin births? Levitation? Angels? Fishes and loaves? Winged horses? Devils and magi? Resurrections?

What we do need now is the banning of religious indoctrination in any and all educational establishments anywhere in the world and we may have a hope of survival in this century. I can’t really see it myself. We have a deep flaw that has us scrabbling to outdo each other in the magic that we imagine and turn into our own hubris. And expect others to believe obvious nuttery.

Not this little duck, I am glad to say.

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Council Prayers & Political Abuse

I have to say I am very cross at the reaction of some British pollies and religites to a High Court decision that judged Council prayers to be not part of normal council business papers.

Well, of course they aren’t! What on earth have prayers to invisible gods got to do with the normal, practical and very mundane business of roads and fisheries, sewerage and housing estate planning, road maintenance and play parks?

Answer – nothing. When I look at overblown multiple-chinned politician fat-cats declaiming about religion in public life, I seriously go puce in colour.

It is all very well for Eric Pickles:

Eric Pickles - will end up in a pickle over this

to talk about tradition and its longevity in this country. It was Henry VIII who inaugurated the Church of England – that’s only about 500 years ago. Long before electricity and other trappings of modern life. I also watched Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter in which the Council of Bideford in Devon languishes talk about the Christian tradition that underpinned this country. What! Since Henry or long before – around Boadicea’s time.

The Bish of Exeter

What about Hypatia of Alexandria, about 1,500 years ago who was obviously much smarter than either Pickles or the Bishop of Exeter? She is quoted as saying:

Hypatia of Alexandria

No triple chin on this woman – she was brutally murdered by Christian fanatics in March 415. Yes, religious murders have been going on a long time. We seem not to have changed much in 10,000 years or so. There is a movie – Agora (2009). I haven’t seen it but it traces Hypatia’s life and death.

On Friday 10th February 2012, the British papers and the BBC TV news ran headlines because the High Court in Britain declared, in the person of The Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley, that there was no lawful place for prayer during formal proceedings of councils – that includes England and Wales. The rational amongst us were delighted as we belatedly ushered in the 21st Century. The churches, some pollies and the bishops spat chips. You would think that the world had come to an end. Talk about inappropriate reactions.

I was reminded of Cordelia Fine’s book – A Mind of its Own. This is a quote:

‘We can’t allow everyone with a common or garden belief to be defined into madness – there simply aren’t enough psychiatrists to cope.’

The word Ouseley used was ‘formal’ after all. That was all. It wasn’t as though councils were barred on pain of death from saying prayers. Those who wanted to commune with their invisible friend could easily go into a committee room and partake of their rites prior to the serious business of running the local area which is what they were elected to do.

But, no, the good Bishop and the Secretary plus others want the non-religious to be left out in the cold while they warmly look for non-existent guidance from above to help them know where to plant a new housing estate or where the sewerage should be routed.

So we have to deal with the religious so long as they don’t get too much out of hand. But I have to say that these guys are looking decidedly wonky at this stage of the proceedings. I will wait but will guess that Secretary Pickles will have his way.

One day we hope to usher the 21st Century in for good. Then maybe grown men and women will have eschewed fantasies and myths and embraced a potent and obvious reality that may allow our continued tenure on this earth. Religious beliefs certainly won’t.

Euthanasia, Assisted Dying is back on the Table

It is amazing how long supposedly progressive and developed societies take to change, amend or even tweak legislation that devolves any more power to Joe Public. Our societies are becoming more not less restrictive. The ancient Greeks would be horrified with our current do’s and don’ts enabled by our legislature and enforced by our police and judiciary. This is the Guardian article and yes!

Lord Falconer headed the Commission

The Commission on Assisted Dying was set up in September 2010 and Demos has made available a 400 odd page report on its findings and recommendations here. Its terms of reference were:

· to investigate the circumstances under which it should be possible for people to be assisted to die

· to recommend what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be  assisted to die

· to identify who should be entitled to be assisted to die

· to determine what safeguards should be put in place to ensure that vulnerable  people are neither      abused nor pressured to choose an assisted death

· to recommend what changes in the law, if any, should be introduced

Now I think they are very carefully worded aims and the Commission has been very circumspect in its recommendations and to my mind did not go far enough. After all, surveys of the public and of medical practitioners show a very substantial majority in favour of euthanasia being legalised. The Commission was far too accommodating to the religite mores that seem to abound on this island.

This is from the wiki article

 Even though polling in Great Britain reveals that “80% of British citizens and 64% of Britain’s general practitioners” are in favour of euthanasia being legalised, Parliament has refused to pass any laws of (sic) the issue.[4] In 1997, the British Parliament voted 234-89 to defeat the seventh attempt to legalize the act. The Church of England view is that “physician assisted suicide is incompatible with the Christian faith and should not be permitted by civil law.”

Seven attempts!! Good grief. When will these parliamentary representatives learn? Those of us who are part of that public majority are rightly annoyed that our parliamentary representatives are not voting to reflect our wishes. The toothless CofE still seems to have its sticky fingers into our legislative decision making. I suppose the 26 appointed bishops see themselves as arbiters of moral virtue in this island regardless of the increase in atheism in this island.

So far as I am concerned, the Commission’s recommendations are not comprehensive enough. Not that it will matter to me personally. I will exit this life when I am good and ready thank you very much.

It is a shame that Pratchett is not seen as qualifying because he has more than 12 months to live with his dementia, nor is Tony Nicklinson who suffers from locked-in syndrome and will live for more than 12 months. So, from my perspective, the recommendations actually don’t progress this issue very far at all. The unconscionable cruelty and neglect for people’s wishes still exists.

This is from the BBC’s article regarding the Commission’s recommendations:

The commission has been quite clear that a person first of all would have to be terminally ill to be considered for assisted suicide under its proposals.

 The group has defined that as a patient who has less than 12 months to live.

 It said that they should also be acting under their own steam and not be mentally impaired in any way.

 In practice this means that dementia patients would not be eligible, including the author Sir Terry Pratchett, who helped to fund the commission, as those in the final year of the condition would not be considered mentally fit enough.

 Nor would a person who has a significant physical impairment, such as locked-in syndrome, as they would have longer than 12 months to live under normal circumstances.

 But a cancer patient with a prognosis of nine months would be eligible, if he or she met the other criteria.

This is tame stuff indeed. However, the religites have come out in force denouncing anything to do with suicide, assisted or not, as immoral and insupportable under their god’s supposed laws. These laws come, of course, in an ancient book, cobbled together with salient parts omitted by various rulers, by a group of illiterates in ancient lands purporting to be transcribing the word of their god. The rest of us call this fantasy visual and auditory schizophrenia, while the religites call it touched by god. Touched is right!.

I don’t have a problem with organisations like Care Not Killing, emotive though their choice of name is. Neither should they have a problem with

Terry Pratchett good solid citizen

Terry Pratchett’s Dignity in Dying or

Philip Nitschke’s Exit International or a myriad of other Voluntary Euthanasia societies worldwide. People who want to die need the assurance that those assisting them will not be treated as criminals. So yes, the law does need changing. It needs more than the Commission has recommended though. Poor Andrew Colgan

Andrew Colgan by himself

(and how many others) had to travel to Switzerland to Dignitas to end the life he did not want to continue with. And this is the wonderful Terry Pratchett.

It is not that long ago that suicide was a crime in itself. If you failed in your attempt to kill yourself you were charged with a crime and incarcerated. It wasn’t that long ago that having an abortion was a criminal offence. Slowly, very slowly, we are getting rid of religite influence in secular affairs but it is not quick enough for me. Religion’s perceived privileged role, now aided and abetted by the Tories in the sphere of education, is galling to a growing number of us. As well it should.

There is the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society that keep trying to increase public awareness in this country; I wish they had more members and I wish more people spoke out publicly.

Come on you guys, either agree or add a comment. There are so many opinions, surely you have one.

Hitch: The Unrelenting Atheist

Not that I can add anything particularly erudite to the many thousands of obituaries, blog posts and news reports. However I can acknowledge, like so many others, how much the educated world has now lost with    Hitchens death.

I know that I have enjoyed Hitchens’ books and articles, his debates and discussions and have not wanted to face this day.

A lot of people have not wanted this day to arrive.  But now that it is here, I will spend it in contemplative mood and spice my evening sipping red wine. I bought my copy of Arguably a few weeks ago and it sits on my bed side table.  A consolation of sorts.

On reading so many of the on line comments about Hitchens’ death, I note how many acknowledge that the Hitch was instrumental in changing the way they thought; in helping them towards a sloughing off of religious belief.

He has many friends who, over the next few weeks and each anniversary of his birth will write, talk, broadcast and eulogise. And we will get through this sad day.

I didn’t agree with his politics but I found his scathing contempt for religion’s attempt to console human beings by imbuing them with fear and awe absolutely wonderful.

Finger of Hitch

We have all watched him deliver witty and devastating arguments for which his opponents on the stage, pulpit and lecture hall had no comeback. Some resorted to shouting in capital letters but I doubt I ever saw the Hitch fazed at all.

Not a lyrical person but one who wielded words with hammer and punch, he has left us with a plethora of quotable quotes.

He has ensured his immortality with his writings. The Telegraph has started the ball rolling with its initial list of quotes. There will be many more to come. And Hitchens will survive a lot longer than many of the rest of us.

So, to you Hitch, I will raise my glass, remember some of the things you said that made me smile and keep reading your essays. I applaud that you did not go gently into that goodnight!

Worth Quoting

3rd June 2013

“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.”

Issac Asimov and bloody well said!

The religi board at the front of my old house. It was great fun. Sometimes my posts were rubbed out! Haha. The religites didn’t really approve.

Religion DOES poison everything

The Hitch in better days

Christopher Hitchens is right – religion does poison everything that can bring Homo sapiens together.

I created a segment on my Google News front page to report on religious matters and some remarkable news items are caught within my set parameters.

I couldn’t help being made aware that Cherie Booth’s dippy sister has swapped one set of religious dogma and delusions for another. I couldn’t bring myself to read any of news items but did find some photographs.

Fancy changing your religion just so you can wear a flowery head scarf ALL the time instead of only on windy days.

Lauren’s photo shoot

Or pirouette in a blue and white tent? Sheesh. How shallow can you paddle?

Lauren pirouetting for all of us

There is, however,  a serious report of some 52 Christians and their minders (security guards) being killed in Baghdad over last weekend. It could be construed that Christians are once again being persecuted in the middle-east and half a million have fled Iraq so far.* Mind you the middle-east is bigger than Iraq so where are they fleeing to? It must be easy to get caught up in yet another border net, while fleeing, and be unable to move any further.

Riverbend was aware of this. She hasn’t written since this time 3 years ago. Are she and her family alive? Who knows. She wrote a blow by blow polemic blog during the beginning of the Iraqi occupation from the middle of Baghdad. She won awards for her blog and still we don’t know who she is. One brave girl.

The ‘War on Terror’ is and always has been misnamed. I think Bush coined the term and it was picked up gleefully all over the world. Its currency sickens me and always has. It is actually and always was, the war on any country in the middle east that wouldn’t allow the West free access (well, just a bit of dosh then) to the oil fields and to build pipelines to carry that oil through to the Gulf or through Pakistan for sea transport to the Western nations that need their oil hit in far greater quantities than they ever needed a drug hit.

The pipeline from Azerbaijan through Afghanistan to Pakistan or India presents compelling evidence for this.  See Unocal here. Looking at the middle-east conflict through oily eyes makes a lot more sense than spruiking FREEDOM for the proletariat/indigenes/traditional owners and the religiously marginalised. Excuse my heavy pen.

I have said elsewhere, and together with a lot of people with large profiles and journalistic status that I have ceased being politically correct about religion. All these monotheistic religions and especially Islam seem to actually think that they are religions of peace. I have difficulty understanding the amazing intellectual disconnect, cognitive dissonance and downright bare-faced lies the adherents of any/all these fanciful fairy stories can exhibit. Without shame and without intellectual honesty.

And there appears to be only one understandable excuse for it. Once you boil down the slippery arguments to an opaque nugget of some unrecognisable material you are left with ‘it makes me feel less alone; it makes me feel loved by some being who doesn’t tell me off or shout at me for being a dork’. Well, of course. What else could you expect from a non-being.

Poor old Tim Marshall in his blog plays the religious apologist without really understanding that that is what he is doing.

I think Richard Dawkins (and others) said it well when he said that the moderates of any religion enable the radical extremists by giving them legitimacy and a floor to stand on.

Poor old Tim Marshall hasn’t got to the point where he actually understands that Islam is a religion whose adherents are commanded to proselytise their beliefs by overrunning other ethnic groups and religions and countries until they have made the whole world according to Islam. The methodology to achieve this didn’t and still doesn’t preclude the sword and ethnic cleansing.

Has anyone looked at Ahmadinejad’s eyes lately or listened to his polemics?

Ahmadinejad the Engineer

He is one frighteningly committed dictator and a worthy successor to Khomeini. He makes histrionic type statements and demands which can be played down and/or brushed off. He sparked a walk-out at the UN in September. But he sees himself as a true believer. That makes him dangerous as well as a kook. Christians are similar to their brothers of The Book, although less violently oriented these days – a sort of older and more washed out version of their Islamic brethren. But make no mistake, there are the radical sects of Christianity that flex their muscles (well, tendons) in an attempt to counter the growing sweep of Islam and, it appears to take up the slack and lazy pretend members of holy christendom.

The Crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th century were the finest proselytising and war defining hours for the Christians. Resting on your laurels is just not on for proselytisers now is it? Got to keep trucking. Christians are now playing catch-up to Muslims. As tag teams they’re not that bad, just a few centuries here or there. To me at this point, it seems the Muslims are winning at tag.

Jumping to the present, though the past always sits on the shoulder, the Roman Catholic Church, in the interests of proselytising and finding safe houses for its paedophile priests, has made such incredible inroads into Africa that the rest of us sigh and wonder if we can combat superstition and irrationality with reason and critical thinking and, above all, secular education. Sob, it appears not!

It is a monumentally difficult task. And AIDS is on the rise partly because of the Pope’s stupid, repeatedly broken record edict that every sperm is sacred and all women need a dose or preferably several. Sorry, with Catholics, make that ‘many’.

The other part is, of course, that so many paedophile priests were incarcerated in Africa through Vatican intervention. Intervention not on what the priests were doing but where they were doing what they were doing.

  • Oh dear, there are more deaths
Is it only me or do others feel a disturbance in the society? Do let me know.

Religion as a backward boomerang

Religious Icons - main ones anyway

I guess all this stuff about burqas and my searching out some history on the wearing of them has led me again to think about religion per se. I have difficulty with religious superstition and the necessary dogma(s) that belief in religion entails. It leaves me cold to my bones; at the same time I can get quite incensed about it.

Religion is the weirdest concept to have become over-developed in our species. I don’t have a problem seeing an original animism, tribal cohesion and the recognition of environmental danger in the genesis of these types of superstition. I can understand that offspring look to their elders for guidance and rules of engagement with the strange, large world about them and their relative vulnerability.

That makes enough sense to me to nod my head at Richard Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists and philosophers and other thoughtful thinkers who postulate this behaviour and agree that it is evolutionarily sound in primitive man.

Ahem – this is the 21st century. We now know all that rustling in the bushes is not a supernatural manifestation sent to test us by some god or another – of which there are thousands anyway – gods that is, not bush rustles.

We have identified our sun as a star and our planet as one of many that revolve around it. We know that our planet is not the centre of the universe. Right?

The universe is a BIG place. Right?

Geocentricity has lost favour to greater, evidenced knowledge and cosmological understanding. Right?

This is us as Voyager saw us. Tiny!!

Then why do we behave as though we are the most important beings in the universe and believe there’s a god up in the sky (now don’t pick on this primitive description of a god)  who watches every move you make and holds you to account on some far off (but apparently getting closer) judgement day?

I don’t understand the obviously puny nature of this (these) god(s) that can only relate to our wee planet and us. I was going to say, forgive the sarcasm, but I won’t.

I have lost count (even if I ever knew) how many times religite ‘leaders’ have predicted dates for the end of the world as we know it – and they mean the universe, folks, not just earth. The latest craze is for death, destruction and other mayhems at the end of 2012 with the supposed cessation of the Mayan calendar presaging the demise of everything. Whew!!

Then there’s the Armageddon of that lunatic John writing his mushroom-soaked scribbling in a cave on Patmos. For that to come about, there are so many preconditions to be filled involving Jews, gold, oil and land with re-builds of temples etc. I don’t claim to have misused my time researching these things ad nauseum but others have and get quite excited by the prospect of our annihilation. Bizarre.

No prediction has ever made any sense let alone even uttered a cosmic cough but the excuses are always forthcoming as to why predictive errors were made. So why do people still predict and think that their predictions have any credibility? Why are their followers so credulous as to believe, fervently, that man’s invented gods have any more presence than individual neurological twitterings?

As a species, it is long past the time for us to put away childish things. This phrase is quoted far and wide but how many of us know that it is biblically founded?

The childish things Paul of Tarsus referred to were the base emotions to which we fall prey, not toy trains. Paul further begs the Corinthians to develop an adult understanding and eschew malice.

Paul of Tarsus maybe!

At least, that is sort of what his letters to the Corinthians appear to say. After all, these writings have been translated, re-translated, interpreted and re-interpreted until it is not surprising the religites have to come out and publish yet another version. But the story is basically the same, depending on which religious tract, holy book and etc you read. No one takes any notice of course. We still exhibit the basest of human behaviour and make the lamest of excuses for our piss poor behaviour to each other and other species in general.

Anyway, Paul of Tarsus was a little mad (these days he’s fingered as an epileptic) and claimed his visions as the supernatural made manifest. He’s the one who had a conversion on the road to Damascus and claimed god spoke to him. Well ….

Well, so did my great-aunt Mary. She saw visions of Jesus standing at the end of her bed or so we (as kids) were told. She was harmless enough to my knowledge (probably schizophrenic) and she wrote screed after screed to my father exhorting him to turn to religion so he could be ‘saved’. He didn’t.

I still have some of the pleading letters she sent him. She was part of that whacky cult The Plymouth Brethren. The cult started in Ireland and spread to Plymouth in England, surprise!! Anyway the cult were religious separatists so it was not surprising when there was a schism, some split and left for the New World having to sojourn in The Netherlands for some four years before they arrived in New York.

I guess that goes quite a long way to explain America, really. No wonder the initial drafters laboured to keep religious dogma of any one type out of their newly minted Constitution. Hasn’t helped all that much has it? The Americans still encourage religious adherence, at least it seems that way.

The most recent Gallup poll I could find was conducted in 2004. The discussion I read was published here and it appears that since 1997:

… belief in heaven has ranged between 72% and 83%. According to Gallup’s most recent May 2004 Values and Beliefs poll*, 81% of Americans currently say they believe in heaven, 10% are unsure, and 8% do not believe. As expected, regular churchgoers are more likely than others to say they believe: Virtually all (98%) of those who attend church weekly do so versus 89% who attend “nearly weekly” and 64% of those who say they attend church seldom or never.

Probably the most worrying trends in the poll are the increases in belief in angels up from 54% in 1978 to 78% in 2004 and belief in the devil up from 55% in 1990 to 70% in 2004.

What is disturbing in all this, and the poll discussion is worth reading, is that despite the overall secularisation of the western world the population of the largest and (at least on paper) wealthiest post-industrial nation increasingly believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden!

It appears that the American Christian extremists are a burgeoning minority. And the majority of Americans seem unable to self-identify without aligning themselves to some religious cult.

It is getting worse, just quietly. We now have the Muslims hell-bent on out-extreming the Christian extremists in rhetoric. The only thing they have in spades over the Christian camp is a predilection for violence and self immolation while taking as many others with them as possible. Nice!!

The problem for the rest of us is that we have hitherto stood by while these groups and their members became increasingly more certifiable. Then, when a number of us come to the notice of the media, write books and undertake lecture tours to try and point out the folly of all this superstitious way of thinking and behaving, we are called militant, divisive and strident.

I (and many others, I’ll warrant) wonder what can be more militant, divisive and strident than Pastor Phelps and his little banner waving picket who seem able to insult everyone.

A Phelps' daughter smiling!!

Even though I am well aware that there is no profitable discussion to be had between those who choose belief with faith and those who prefer their knowledge well tempered with evidence, the battle rages on.

Intellectual dissonance is not really something that should be encouraged in this (maybe our last) century. We can see where religious fervour could about-turn us to the ignorance and backwardness of centuries past. This is not a value judgement; I am stating a fact that must be obvious to anyone who cares to view our history dispassionately.

As always, I welcome and appreciate comments and discussion and look forward to hearing from you.