Friday, September 30, 2005

God makes a monkey out of Green

If Stephen Green thinks evolution couldn’t make a man out of an ape, then one hopes that this morning he is contemplating how he managed to make a monkey out of himself – which he did with little effort on the BBC’s Question Time with David Dimbleby last night.

And, I’m sure he would consider that this was his god’s will with good grace.

While the BBC still ought to consider whether publishing the personal details of private individuals and threatening to prevent a cancer charity from being able to carry out its work should be rewarded with the “credibility” of being on Question Time, those who worried that Green might use this platform to good effect needn’t have worried.

The sum total of his on-screen talk time was scarcely six minutes and 2½ of those minutes were attempts to defend his disgraceful behaviour to an unconvinced panel and audience and the rest were squandered in aimless meandering around the topic trying to introduce Jesus into the discussion.

It kicked when he tried to suggest that the police new terror legislation might be abused by the police. Fair enough. But then he tried to suggest that he and Christian Voice were a victim of it. Dimbleby jumped in and pointed out that this was a bit rich coming from a man who was not averse to using “strong-arm tactics” themselves and who had “well ‘bullied’ I think is the right word” a cancer charity.

“We didn’t bully them..” he started

“Pah!” exclaimed Janet Street Porter

“You threatened to picket them” said Dimbleby

“Not picket – ‘witness’” whined Green

“Oh, we’ll have ‘secondary witnessing’ next; that’ll be the new slogan” smirked Patricia Hewitt.

The audience shuffled.

In fact, for the entire programme, he got little applause or support from the audience at all. This, despite his email appeal to his (alleged) 50 000 supporters who he tried to dragoon into service to pack the Brighton audience.

In fact, when he did try to play the populist card by making an oblique reference to “the rest of us” it got the biggest applause of the programme – but not for him, but for Janet Street-Porter turned on him. “What do you mean ‘the rest of us’” she demanded. “You mean the people who have signed up for your minority group!”

She went on to say that the god she believed in was more robust than to be phased by a stage show.

Simon Hughes joined in saying that as an evangelical Christian himself, he condemned the bullying and intimidation techniques used by Christian Voice.

Indeed, Dimbleby and the panel at times seemed visibly frustrated with his time-wasting, irrelevant and inane contributions – most of which were prefaced with scriptural non sequiturs. For example, when asked what he thought of privatisation within the NHS, he stammered:

“As the lord Jesus commands us to heal the sick, this is very much a Christian issue…”

He then meandered around the point aimlessly, obviously trying to find away to turn it into a platform for one of his hobbyhorses. Finally he managed this:

“I find it sad that Hospitals which should be a place of healing are being used to destroy human life. What should…”

He was cut off by a visibly exasperated Dimbleby who snapped:

“Are you for or against the private sector coming into the NHS?”

Trying to recover – and perhaps scrape a little populist furrow – he started rambling on about private sector contracts only going to those to donate to political parties or have relatives in the administration. Patricia Hewitt sneered, Simon Hughes and Ken Clarke looked puzzled, and Dimbleby looked as if his patience was at an end.

“This may not be true, but those are the stories that seem to come out” he hedged.

This comment might make a wonderful blurb on the back of this new abbreviated bible, but it is certainly not up to the standard of contribution expected on a high-profile topical discussion programme. Thankfully, from that point his contributions were limited.

I suppose out of politeness more than anything, Dimbleby returned to Green one last time – his final opportunity to salvage his appearance that he’d hoped would show his ragtag bunch of theological bullies would be “taken seriously by the establishment”. Well, it was a belly flop. The subject was climate change and the news that the polar icecaps were melting at a disturbing rate. The exchange was high-comedy:

Green: Well, the Earth is the Lord’s and I’m sure he’s in control…
Dimbleby: In control?
Green: I’m sure he’s in control.
Dimbleby: So, the melting icecaps are part of his plan?
Green: Don’t worry, don’t worry, it worries and challenges me!

Oh boy!

If you missed the fun, you can watch it again on the BBC’s website. But it only stays up for a week, so don’t delay.

Priest: No value in attack on gays

Because we campaign against the monolith that is organised religion, it may sometimes appear that we don’t acknowledge enough the acts of courage and integrity shown by individual members of the clergy.

A case in point is the statement by a Catholic priest in the United States who, together with his congregation, was asked to sign a petition to include the repeal of equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay people in Massachusetts.

According to a story in the Boston Globe, the Rev George Lange of St. Luke the Evangelist church in Westborough and his colleague Rev. Stephen Labaire said in response to the request:

"The priests of this parish do not feel that they can support this amendment. They do not see any value to it and they see it as an attack upon certain people in our parish, namely those who are gay."

We can only applaud such an honest, frank and unequivocal reply to such a bigoted measure.

Unfortunately for the Revs Lange and Labaire, their superiors in the Catholic Church saw things differently. They were pulled from the pulpit, and, according to parishioners, their “hands were slapped very publicly."

Apparently, though, no disciplinary action will be taken, but the Church’s policy on “gay marriage” was “explained”.

In another story, the Globe reports a fire-fight after another priest had allegedly endorsed a local gay pride march.

Of course, as we’ve reported recently the situation for gay priests is tenuous. Can the position of gay-friendly priests be secure for much longer?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Green doesn't have a prayer

So, as we reported yesterday, the BBC will be giving Stephen Green of Christian Voice a platform to pontificate on the day’s news and events tomorrow on Question Time.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned. If his insight into current events amounts to “it’s my gods will” then his big chance at credibility might be a damp squib. After all, he is one of the loony brigade that postulated that Hurricane Katrina was the result of his god’s wrath. In a particularly odious press release, the idiot preacher rants thus:

There will be more than a few who will have said in the past "If God does not deal with New Orleans, He will have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah."  The theme of judgment on New Orleans and warning to the USA has not been exclusive to Christians. 

The vile pig also suggests that gays “partied amid the dead” simply because some communities tried to keep their spirits up amid the chaos. Headlines like this would be deeply offensive if we weren’t already used to them from Green’s opposite number in America, Phred Felps.

But we queers had the last laugh. As my American friend, gay activist Brian Miller, said to me yesterday:

Perhaps they should explain why if God is punishing New Orleans, why he also stripped the Gulf Coast -- buckle of the bible belt -- completely? Something like 15% of bible colleges were destroyed.

Indeed! And of course Green’s loony theory also doesn’t explain why, if this god’s wrath was against the ‘sodomites’, why the French Quarter favoured by these ‘sodomites’ was the least affected area. Perhaps your god is furious about your disgusting treatment of lesbian and gay people, Mr Green! Ever thought of that? Why else would be smite your so-called bible-centre ‘universities’?

But as I said in the previous post, while their views and opinions don’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone, their potential to cause harm and destroy lives should not be underestimated.

For example, they use veiled threats and intimidation against people they disagree with. When a play they thought was “blasphemous” was due to be staged at regional theatres, they wrote to the theatre managers, saying:

We are at this moment preparing charges of the criminal offence of blasphemy for service upon those responsible for broadcasting the show on BBC2, and those responsible for staging it at the Cambridge Theatre. Should any regional theatre stage 'Jerry Springer the Opera' this autumn, we shall be looking to prosecute them as well. We shall be especially keen to prosecute since the BBC broadcast, because anyone staging the show will now be doing so as a deliberate act of provocation knowing full well that the show is highly blasphemous and extremely offensive to Almighty God and to Christian believers.

For those who wouldn’t fall for the (dubious) threat of legal action, they threatened to harass staff and theatre goers with mass disruptions of the performance:

Out of love and concern for where they live, our members outside London will be keen to stand up for their Lord outside any Theatre which puts on Jerry Springer the Opera, by holding prayer vigils probably at shows running before the event, and certainly during any run of 'Springer’ itself. I shall give them every encouragement.

He reminded the venue management:

You will be aware that Christian Voice organised street vigils in protest against the screening of Jerry Springer the Opera on BBC2 on 8th January. These took place outside BBC premises in London (White City - where 400-500 people attended), Cardiff, Plymouth, Norwich, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. In all, some 1,500 Christians came out on a cold, and in some cases a wet, Saturday night to stand up for their Lord and Saviour, mindful that He endured agonies for them when He died on a cruel cross on Calvary's hill.

And why all the fuss? Well, Green and his loony-tunes staff at Christian Voice believe that if they don’t act to stop it, a ‘blasphemous’ play will bring down “the judgment of God of our land”.

Happily, not all theatres were intimidated by the threats of legal action and the thought of 1500 ululating Christians disrupting performances. One theatre director (who deserves a medal) wrote back and said:

"I will continue to programme as I see fit and appropriate for the organisation. Neither I, nor the Trustees, will change the programme or the programming policy as a result of threats, bullying or intimidation from any outside body."

A brave move considering a BBC executive, according to the Daily Mail, had to flee his home with his young family when he received death threats after his home address and telephone number were published by Christian Voice.

Though, if you thought it couldn’t get any nastier, it did. A small cancer charity was due to receive a ₤3000 donation after the cast of Jerry Springer: The Opera put on a special benefit performance. Green and his Christian Voice goons attacked the charity and forced them to turn down the donation. Faced with the alternative of having their work to support those affected by cancer disrupted and their volunteers harassed, the charity reluctantly turned down the money. In a statement they said:

Not only were we very concerned about the disruption to our centres and our services, but most importantly, the impact of this disruption on the people diagnosed with cancer who come into our centres on a daily basis.

How dare some nutty Christian group threaten a secular charity and force it to make decisions based on their psychotic fears of divine retribution? And is threatening the sick and grieving a fast-track onto a flagship BBC programme? Perhaps if you publish personal details of BBC staff on your website! Is that the sort of behaviour that does the trick?
If terrorising theatre managers, punters and cancer suffers doesn’t do it for you, these incredibly unpleasant people have more up their sleeves. How about hurling abuse at women seeking advice on how to control their own bodies? You see, a woman seeking a morning-after pill is akin to a Nazi War Criminal inflicting a ‘Genocide of the Unborn’! Or at least it would be if Stephen Green’s perverse thinking invaded your mind!

Like a shaking madman, Green told The Times “The taking of innocent blood brings judgment on our land and cries to Heaven for vengeance,” he bayed before adding that it “wouldn’t take much” to close down abortion clinics – just a few “prayer vigils” outside.

The Scotsman put their finger on the nub of the issue in a recent editorial:

I doubt if Christian Voice and its fellow pressure group, the anti-abortion UK Life League, are worth the publicity they have received, but they are part of a trend which we need to be aware of. In its campaign against the BBC, which screened a TV version of Jerry Springer, it circulated the home telephone numbers and addresses of senior BBC executives to its members. Now it is exerting similar pressure on regional theatres which are considering staging the show. It is campaigning against abortion by proclaiming that it is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and accusing those who practise it of being Nazis. And it uses its website to attack the police for recruiting homosexuals. This is the tip of a very worrying iceberg which, in America, has come to infiltrate politics and social life at the highest level. Right-wing evangelical groups, which insist that the Bible is literally true, and which use their enormous resources to pressurise teachers, doctors and politicians into accepting their views, are, under a Republican presidency, the most powerful lobby group in the country. The extent of their influence is remarkable.

Their kindred organisation – with whom they often jointly undertake actions - UK Life League have used similar tactics, publishing the names and addresses of pharmacists who stock morning after pills and Tesco supermarket managers who allow them to be sold in their stores.

Why are there no laws against this type of blackmail? It has been brought to the attention of our lawmakers. According to the Sunday Herald, Labour MP John Cryer told parliament that Christian Voice’s actions were the work of “fundamentalist thugs,” an act of theological blackmail so far beyond the pale that it beggared belief.

In the same article, media analyst Paul Edwards noted: “This was not democracy or reasoned debate – it was an act of tyranny, a breathtaking demonstration of the power of the mob and a harsh introduction to the unacceptable face of things to come.”

If Edwards is right and this is the future, all secularists, not just LGBT ones are in for a rough ride. As a society we have taken our rights for granted. We think that just because we have won a legal right that we will be allowed to exercise our rights in peace. We won’t. At the beginning of the year, hardly anyone had heard of Christian Voice.

Now, ironically, after they got publicity by bullying the BBC it is now the BBC helping to make them respectable and reach a mainstream audience, or so Green thinks. But perhaps the BBC knows what it is doing. Perhaps they know that the best way to fight Green in the long run is to let him open his mouth.

UPDATE: This just in from Brighton:

There is a peaceful demonstration against the appearance of Stephen Green appearing on such a high profile show on the BBC. It is being held outside the Corn Exchange Brighton, on Thursday 29th September at 6pm. Guest for the show arrive between 6pm and 6.30pm. (The show is recorded as live at 8.30pm and then broadcast later that evening). The Police have been informed that this demonstration is taking place.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

BBC gives Christian Voice credibility

Crackpot Stephen Green of the loony 'Christian Voice' organisation has been invited to participate as a panelist on the BBC's Question Time. He is circulating the email below. Lesbian and Gay humanists in Brighton should follow his advice and apply to be on the programme. Obviously ignore the part about only forwarding it to "Christian friends".

This is important becase, as you can se by the bits I've emphasised, Christian Voice see this as a major opportunity and as a sign that they have credibility.

Christian Voice produce vicious antigay propaganda like this, support so-called "ex-gay" ministeries and have been accused of harassing and intimidating women visiting abortion clinics.

I have been invited to be a panellist on BBC's prestigious Question Time next Thursday 29th September 2005. It is a sign that we are now being taken
seriously by the establishment
, but I really feel the need of prayer!

This is a huge opportunity, and I do not want to let my Saviour down. I want to bring out the word of God, not just my opinions. (John 17:14-26) Please pray for me and if you live near Brighton, the venue for this particular show, why not consider applying to be part of the audience?

The programme is transmitted on BBC1 at 10.35 pm but pre-recorded at 8.30pm as live. David Dimbleby asks the questions (which the panel do not know in advance). The other panellists are: Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt MP, Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, Simon Hughes MP and Janet Street-Porter. Questions could be about anything in the news next week.

To be in the audience, you have to be prepared to ask questions (they don't want passive folks) and you have to apply. Do that by going to and then click on 'Join the audience.' You will find a form asking for your details and your political views. Answer honestly, and expect a telephone call from one of the researchers. They assure me that the programme is squeaky-clean and that they really want a balance. Particularly as I am on the panel, they will want some Christians. What more can I say, except please forward this email to Christian friends only, apply for the audience if you wish, and please pray!

It is OK, by the way, to pray when it is being transmitted. God is way ahead of you and knows your prayer and will answer it before you pray it. Is He not mighty? 1 Cor 16:9

Stephen Green, National Director, Christian Voice

There is a spoof website which is worth a giggle and which is about as much as their views and opinions deserve to be taken seriously by anyone. However, their potential to cause harm and destroy lives should not be underestimated.

The production company that handles Question Time is Mentorn Baraclough Carey. Their telephone number is 0207 258 6800 and the editor is Nick Sarney.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

No faith in 'faith' schools

I had the good fortune to be invited onto Any Answers today to make the case for an end to religious schools (I won't give them the euphemism 'faith schools'). It was in relation to Trevor Phillips's assertion that we're sleepwalking into segregation. I said,
I want to make the case for an end to religious schools. Yes, it’s in families that your worldview begins, but it’s acutely consolidated in schools. Now schools I think should be a place where children learn that there’s more that binds them in their common humanity – whatever their skin colour – than separates them.

Religion’s a potent force for taking young people down a particular path, and, as we know, with a few exceptions, most practising religionists are intolerant – both of other religions and cults, and of other people and what they do with their lives. Catholic children are taught that a woman’s right to make decisions about her fertility is wrong; Muslim children are taught likewise; both are also taught that being gay is an evil, because both mullahs and the Pope say it is, and to hell with the millions who, like myself, are gay and have to listen to this insulting nonsense.

Schools are where it starts. After all, kids are – well, kids.

I think there’s no place for religion to be taught per se. Taught about as a subject, yes, but let’s keep it right out of the classroom except as an academic subject. Worship of nonexistent sky fairies is for the home and the meeting house, and the school is for arts and sciences and preparing people for life in the real world, not the world of deities and angels.
Jonathan Dimbleby asked whether I'd like to see them taken right out of the system altogether, and wouldn't this be an issue for rights? Yes, I said, but some rights are always at risk when other rights conflict with them. I did not know what the mechanics would be, I said, because I'm not an administrator, but I'd like to see no school in the system with a religious label on it.

The odd thing is that I'd got on as a result of an email I sent last night, having heard Sir Ian Blair talk about religious schools on Any Questions, and ended my email doubting that the BBC would allow an antireligious view on the air. Good old Auntie proved me wrong.

Wicked wind blows up Vatican witch-hunt document

A US seminary has made the Vatican’s confidential Instrumentum laboris, (the guidelines for the team visiting US seminaries to root out homosexuals) available on the Internet to “provide necessary information to ordained graduates who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.”

The Aquinas Institute for Theology has confirmed in a press release that the investigation is “the result of a meeting in 2002 between U.S. bishops and Vatican officials who met to respond to the crisis created when a clergy sexual abuse case in Boston led to revelations of abuses by priests throughout the United States.”

However, the 13-page guideline – which can be downloaded – makes no mention of child abuse. Instead it included 6 compulsory questions relating to homosexuality, including the blatant:

“Is there evidence of homosexuality in the seminary? (This question must be answered.)

The Aquinas Institute’s press release also tells us how it will all happen:

The Apostolic Visitation of U.S. Seminaries and Houses of Formation has just begun nationwide. Teams of bishops and seminary personnel will conduct visits through Spring 2006 at an estimated 230 schools of theology, college-level seminaries, houses of formation and other schools that form priests. Members of the team visiting Aquinas Institute include a seminary professor, campus chaplain, parish pastor and director of religious studies, also at a seminary.

And, of course, why (well, sort of):

Visitors will examine the admissions process for candidates to the priesthood. They also will examine how seminaries and schools such as Aquinas Institute foster the intellectual and moral development of priesthood candidates and ensure the men are prepared to live chastely.

And, in the unlikely event you happen to be a freshly graduated priest reading this, don’t think you’re in the clear. The investigation will not only be looking at seminaries, but at those who have “graduated” in the last three years and each graduate will be subjected to a personal interview.

If you’re a gay priest, leave now with dignity.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Save Your Friends 96 Minutes

The 100-minute Bible, aimed at the "hurried and harried" generation, was launched at Canterbury Cathedral on 21st September 2005.

While the original takes about a week of solid reading to finish, the abbreviated version can be read from cover to cover in under two hours, but why waste valuable time on it when you can find out about the Humanist ethical tradition in four minutes?

Margaret Nelson's four minute talk originally given in 1999 can be read on this web site.

Get your friends to read it and save them 96 minutes! And it makes more sense.

Catholic paper says gay priests no-no is a no-no

I get a weekly email alert from The Tablet, and this is its preamble today:
As I [Catherine Pepinster, editor] write this, the national press in Britain is reporting that the Vatican is to ban homosexuals from becoming priests. For months now, there have been rumours of such a ruling emerging from Rome. However, look a little closely at the stories, and you will see that so far no such rule has been made, no document issued. What we do know, and The Tablet makes clear this week, is that a paper is being worked on by the Congregation for Catholic Education but that this is only at draft stage. What it will say when and if it is published is not completely clear yet.

But what is happening at the moment is an investigation of all 229 seminaries in the United States, and the ‘Apostolic Visitation’ will look for ‘evidence of homosexuality’ in the seminaries. This week we report on that investigation and the working paper which will govern the queries made.
So now we know. This next reference may also be of interest:
This latest edition also includes a powerfully written piece by a gay Catholic priest, Paul Michaels, who describes the atmosphere of fear and distrust among gay Catholic priests in America about the situation in which they find themselves. Paul Michaels is a pseudonym: he was ordered not to write about the topic by his ordinary,* and has since been ordered not to speak of it either. Father Michaels, however, felt that on this occasion his conscience decreed that he should do so.
(See also 'NGLT slams expected Vatican guidelines barring gay men from the priesthood' below.)
* ‘a member of the clergy, especially a bishop, whose position brings with it the power to act as a judge in some ecclesiastical matters’ (Encarta Dictionary)

More Nonsense from Giles Fraser

Giles Fraser is the vicar of Putney and a lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford. He has attacked Humanism in the past and this latest article in The Guardian about the novel is just a veiled attack on Salman Rushdie. It is typical of work by an Anglican wishing to brow-beat lesser mortals into accepting him as a superior.

He pretends to know what a novel is, but without having won any prizes for such work, as far as I know.

He does not define a novel in the same way as my dictionary. By implication he rubbishes all the great novels written by his fellow Christians, but I doubt that was his intention.

I wrote a comment about another Guardian article he wrote in 2002. He is given a regular god slot in that paper. He hasn't learned since then.

We must not let such people get away with their nonsense unopposed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Homophobia in Eastern Europe.

Alright, I own up - this is a plug.

GALHA Public Meeting-Friday 7th October 7.30. Conway Hall Library.

Bill Schiller, co-founder of the International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network, will be talking about gay rights in Eastern Europe based on his vast experience of being involved in gay rights campaign in the area. This meeting is part of the opening day of the Moonbow LGBT Cultural Festival in Exile for Belarus.

Ian Stewart, the Secretary General of ILGCN explaining the rationale for the festival stated "Homosexual citizens of Belarus dream of the day when they'll beable to host their own public celebrations of lesbian and gay culture without armed militia storming their meetings, participants from abroad being turned back at the border, and death threats to organisers".

Please support this event.


Great news on!

After weeks of relative quiet, the Anglican Communion is facing one of the biggest crises in the ongoing debate over sexual diversity, with the Nigerian Church formally splitting with the Church of England.The western African country will cut all ties with the centre of the Communion, deleting all references in its religious constitution and committing to bypassing Canterbury and the Archbishop Rowan Williams in all future plans.

Humanists have always wondered by the CofE liberals want to be in communion with bigots in the first place.

NGLT slams expected Vatican guidelines barring gay men from the priesthood

The US-based National Lesbian & Gay Taskforce put out this statement today in the wake of reports in the press that the Vatican will be rooting out gay priests as a means of scapegoating gays for their current paedophile crisis:

"This is part of the church hierarchy's calculated - and frankly, evil - campaign to scapegoat gay people for the decades of appalling sex abuse of children and young people that it alone created, nurtured and covered up.' - Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman

Pope Benedict XVI is set to approve an 'Instruction' that gay men should not be ordained as Roman Catholic priests. The document calls on bishops to bar even celibate gay men from seminaries and comes as the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is about to begin Vatican-ordered inspections of its 229 seminaries, looking for, among other issues, "evidence of homosexuality."

Statement by Matt Foreman

"This new 'Instruction' is disgusting and destructive, but hardly surprising given this pope's long-standing, unbridled hatred for gay people. While he's at it, he should order that the Sistine Chapel be painted over and that the Vatican get rid of all the sacred works of art created for it by so-called 'disordered' gay people over the centuries.

"This is part of the church hierarchy's calculated - and frankly, evil — campaign to scapegoat gay people for the decades of appalling sex abuse of children and young people that it alone created, nurtured and covered up. This smokescreen will never hide the reality that the abject, willful negligence of the hierarchy resulted not only in thousands of victims but in essentially squandering nearly $1 billion donated by parishioners to pay damages to those victims.

"Sadly, this affront to the basic tenets of the Gospel is nothing new. The church has many centuries of experience in violent witch-hunting - from pagans to Jews to Orthodox Christians to Muslims to Protestants. This new Inquisition - like those before it - will accomplish no good, but only cause more harm to the church and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics. We call on all people of faith and goodwill to denounce this latest affront to the human dignity of gay people from the Catholic Church."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

GALHA's views on the current pope

Here's something I found about Pope Benedict XVI under 'Fact Files' on This is a very good gay website which has frequently reported GALHA's views.

What do gay people think of him? Although some gay and lesbian advocates are hopeful that Pope Benedict XVI's leadership will mark a change, others have expressed their disappointment over his election.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association issued a statement which summed up many gay people's feelings about Ratzinger's appointment. It read:

"This is extremely bad news for the lesbian and gay community worldwide which has been under sustained and vicious attack from the Vatican throughout Pope John Paul II's pontificate. No self-respecting, rational-thinking gay person can be expected to mourn his passing or be at all optimistic that his successor will take a more sympathetic approach. The appointment of the rabid reactionary Ratzinger bears this out.

"Ratzinger, who is renowned for his zeal in enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy, will prove to be even more homophobic than his predecessor. The Vatican's defamatory statements about homosexuality and its endless agitation against the rights of gay people, including civil partnership legislation, will be renewed and toughened under this new Pope."

A warning to our American cousins

Sorry dahlings for not getting this out to you sooner but I've been busy busy busy. The good folks at the American Humanist Association sent me the following warning on 16 September. It ain't good news.

Church-State Separation at Risk:
Oppose Federally Funded Religious Discrimination in Head Start

Tell your representatives you oppose any attempt in the School Readiness Act (H.R. 2123) to permit federally funded religious discrimination. Urge them to vote "no" on the final passage of the bill if it includes such a provision.


H.R. 2123 is a bipartisan bill with provisions to protect, expand, and improve the Head Start program that benefits children across the nation. It currently maintains civil rights protections signed into Head Start legislation thirty-three years ago.

Representative John A. Boehner (R-OH) plans to introduce an amendment that would allow discrimination on the basis of religion in employment.

It would specifically allow taxpayer funded faith-based organizations to hire and fire teachers on the basis of religious beliefs. It could even be used to prevent people with different beliefs from volunteering and prevent underprivileged children from receiving a valuable education at an important age.

If passed, the provision would legally sanction discrimination by jeopardizing the rights of nonreligious and religious Americans alike.


We ask you to contact your representatives and urge them to oppose any attempts by Representative Boehner to the School Readiness Act (H.R. 2123) that would roll back critical civil rights protections. If such an amendment is added to the bill, urge your representative to oppose final passage of the bill.

You can reach your representative by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll-free at 877-762-8762 and ask to speak with her/his office. The House website also lists the direct office lines and e-mail addresses for every representative. It is important that Humanist voices be heard at this critical juncture.

The School Readiness Act (H.R. 2123) is expected to go to a full floor vote in the House next week.

Censorship of Cups

In Waco, Texas a dining contractor has removed coffee cups with a gay author's quote from a Starbucks at Baylor University, saying it was inappropriate for the Baptist school.

"I think they were trying to be sensitive," Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley said. "Obviously, Baylor is a Baptist-affiliated institution, and Baptists as a denomination have been pretty outspoken on the record about the denomination's views about the homosexual lifestyle."

The quote from novelist Armistead Maupin reads:

"My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short."

Cade Hammond, president of the board of directors for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Central Texas, said he thinks the cups' removal as unnecessarily restrictive.

No 'Open Minds' expected at that university, then. Are they fit and proper people to be involved with an educational establishment? A stronger response is needed in the US than from Cade Hammond, I think.

Vatican shields war criminal

One of the most wanted war criminals is being shielded by the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican hierarchy, according to Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the UN international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Del Ponte’s comments were reported in an article in The Telegraph yesterday.

Gen Ante Gotovina, charged in 2001 with crimes against humanity, is apparently hiding in a Franciscan monastery in his native Croatia. According to Del Ponte, the Vatican could probably pinpoint which of the more than 80 monasteries in the country he is hiding in, but requests for them to do so – including a direct appeal to the Pope – have been met with “a wall of silence”.

Gay campaigners, of course, are not surprised by this. The Vatican has chosen to persecute gays while protecting paedophile priests for decades, so it is not big surprise to us that they would protect a genocidal maniac.

But this is interesting:

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s so-called “foreign minister” refused to help, telling her the Vatican was not a state and thus had "no international obligations" to help the UN to hunt war criminals!

What ho? The Vatican is not a state? Well they can’t have their fishes and loaves and eat them too. They have rights and privileges at the UN based on their tenuous claim to statehood, but when they’re called to act responsibly based on that status, they declare that they have no international obligations to help the UN?

Kick the buggers out! Let’s use their own weasel-words to unseat their holy arses from the UN. Perhaps next time they won’t be in such a strong position to block our human rights.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Caring Christians

A Christian organisation with the unlikely acronym CARE has shown how bloody-minded and outright peevish it can be by sending letters to Scottish churches asking them to contact their local councils to urge said councils not to offer ceremonies to same-sex couples who register for civil partnerships.

This is in spite of the fact that any ceremony would not, anyway, necessarily have in it anything to do with religion. This is nothing short of absolute spite and the very antithesis of what Christians claim Christianity is about.

CARE stands for Christian Action Research and Education. ‘Education’? Give me a break! It used to be the National Festival of Light, and older campaigners will know what that lot were about (and still are under a more CARE-ing moniker).

This spiteful, malicious, vindictive, mean, nasty, vicious, malevolent bunch of fatuous, inane, irrational, pointless, pathetic, worthless, preposterous, absurd tossers say in their letter, ‘CARE believes that it is not appropriate for there to be ceremonies associated with civil partnership registration. To hold a ceremony would suggest that registering a civil partnership has the same status as a heterosexual wedding, which it doesn’t.’

Pardon me, but how exactly is it 'not appropriate'? What the hell has it got to do with any extraneous organisation if two people want to have a ceremony to mark their togetherness?

CARE urged all church leaders ‘as a matter of urgency’ to contact their local council to find out whether or not they will allow ceremonies for civil partnerships and also their local councillor to find out their position on the issue.

The new legislation doesn’t make provision for ceremonies, so such things are up to local authorities. Some, as we’ve seen in England, may decide not to offer facilities for ceremonies, or ceremonies themselves. Others, as we know, will do so.

CARE says, ‘Some registrars are unwilling to perform such ceremonies and there may be issues of freedom of conscience if registrars are compelled to perform these ceremonies.’

Well they should be fired, then, or put into a job that doesn’t come into conflict with their conscience.

Let's just hope the councils tell CARE where they can stick their insulting little missive.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem

The Church of England released its summation of the issue of terrorism today. But four British Bishops - according to The Times - have decided to repent for the war on Iraq, ostensively because it will help protect the UK from further terror-attacks.

In the Guardian's report, they say that the Christians "have a vital role to play in combating the threat and promoting Christian principles in a world characterised by power and violence."

They may well think so. But what is more worrying to secularists is that they think they have authority to speak for the nation as if it were still 1096 CE.

Confirming that this might be the case, the BBC story has the Church suggesting that: "It might be possible for there to be a public which Christian leaders meet with religious leaders of other, mainly Muslim, traditions, on the basis of truth and reconciliation..."

It is already hugely problematic that the government confuses religious leaders with community leaders when it wants to talk to non-Christian faith groups. So when Bishops start making broad statements on behalf of the nation, Norman Geras asks on his blog just who do they think they represent?

Read 'Repenting bishops' here.

UPDATE: On behalf of "Muslims", Dr Qaradawi accepts the apology. So now it's "our" priests talking to "their" priests. Fine while they're talking peace and reconciliation, but gawd help us if the mood changes to war and recrimination!

Mission: Implausible

Apparently Christian Missionaries are heading for secular France. According to a report in today’s Telegraph:

"There has been a crisis of confidence in Christianity across Europe," said Martin Thompson of the Church Mission Society. "We are beginning to see Europe as a strategic priority."

No longer is the Church sending missionaries to Africa. Indeed, it is quite the reverse. Amid the Anglican Church’s squabble of over homosexuality last year, two African missionaries came to the UK because they felt the word of God needed a boost on these shores.

Of course, after France’s defence of revolutionary secularism - the banning of ostentatious religious symbols in state buildings, including schools – the French are now seen as the most godless in Europe. And more power to them!


Saturday, September 17, 2005

At last I'm here.

I'm delighted that despite my computer illiteracy, that I have made it to this blog-though I'm not confident I'll ever get back again. I hope this blog will reflect positive aspects of free thought and secularism and draw on our history and traditions. I will certainly try and play my part.


Guardian Face to Faith

The Guardian Face to Faith column written by Tim Radford on Saturday 17th September 2005 reported an Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time. It posed the question "Can God know the future?".

Chris Isham, the director of the Blackett laboratory at Imperial College no less, but who can also be a church cantor, was amazed that, "anyone could ... purport to talk about God". He just sleeps through church business presumably.

Sir John Pulkinghorne went even better, and says he believes in a personal God, but "that even God doesn't know the future". How God can know what is best for Sir John if he doesn't know the future any more than Sir John himself, or you and I do? It makes his faith bunk. He still gets away with it of course!

And Universities like Oxford can claim to be short of cash but waste money on such conferences. Funny old world!

Seeing 'God' in everything

It’s not often I’d defend a fast-food chain, those purveyors of unwholesome greasy by-products of factory-farmed carnage, but this story takes the proverbial cake.

In fact, when I heard this story last night I was convinced it was a joke, a mischief-making urban legend, something the News of the World had made up to further fuel resentment of the Muslim community. But no, it appears to be an own-goal.

If this report in The Scotsman is true, then this is a really sad indictment of the lengths society has to go to in order not to incense the insensible with religious sensibilities.

Burger King has had to withdraw its ice-cream cone because the graphic of the twirling cone looks – if you tilt it sideways and squint at it – a bit like the Arabic writing of ‘Allah’.

According to The Scotsman, the “sacrilegious” desert was spotted by business development manager Rashad Akhtar, 27, of High Wycombe. Mr Akhtar though, is not content that Burger King has agreed – one imagines at great expense and waste of resources – to withdraw the product, he wants a boycott of the company.

“This is my jihad” he says.

Instead of telling Mr Akhtar to stop being an idiot, the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement saying: “We commend the sensitive and prompt action that Burger King has taken."

MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala told the Eastern Eye: "It is true that seen from a certain angle, the design on the BK ice cream lid could be read as closely resembling the word Allah in Arabic.”

So what? People see Mother Theresa in potatoes and Elvis in bathroom mould all the time.

Still, I predict that within hours, various apologists for this idiocy will be spouting conspiracy theories about the power of subliminal advertising and suggesting that Arabic script for ‘Allah’ has some cosmic power to attract consumers, blah, blah, blah, and that Mr Akhtar was acting entirely rationally.

Of course, I myself have supported boycotts of Burger King, but for good reasons. Though, I still boycott them since, being a vegetarian, it offends me that some of the things in their burger products bear an uncanny resemblance to parts of dead animals.

Friday, September 16, 2005

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

But they really ought to, especially since the former head of the Inquisition (or to give it its modern public relations-friendly name, the “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”), one Mr Ratzinger, is now calling the shots at HQ,

According to the New York Times, Papa Joe has dispatched his minions to the USA to sniff out “evidence of homosexuality” and “dissent from church teaching” in the country’s 229 Roman Catholic seminaries.

The purge will include all homosexuals, whether celibate or not, including anyone who’s ever had gay sex or appears to have “strong homosexual inclinations”.

The American gay news magazine, The Advocate notes that the Church is scapegoating gays because of its failure to act against paedophiles:

The Vatican ordered the seminary review three years ago in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis to look for anything that contributed to the scandal, which has led to more than 11,000 abuse claims in the last five decades.

Last year, direct action group OutRage! confronted Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor during the annual Palm Sunday Procession and laid out the charge:

“Your church protects paedophile priests, while persecuting gay people in loving relationships.”

Of course, the Church isn’t listening.

When I lived in South Africa, I remember chatting to a Catholic Bishop in Cape Town called Reg Cawcutt. It was an open secret that he was gay and a nicer fellow you couldn’t which to speak to. He did a great deal of good work caring for people suffering from Aids – which is rampant in that part of the world. Yet, when it was discovered that he participated in an internet discussion forum for gay clergy, he was purged.

I found this very personal entry in a blog from someone who had been in the Navy with him. A life destroyed and Ratzinger’s clerical sniffer dogs still have the scent of blood.

The New York Times said that speculation on the number for gay priests varied widely between 10% and a staggering 60%.

One anonymous gay priest, who, according to the paper, had been told by his order not to speak out, said the seminary review would demoralize gay priests.

So perhaps it’s unintentionally a positive move after all. As George Broadhead of this parish told the National Secular Society Newsline:

“The pope would be doing these people a favour if he booted them out. It might help them get some self-respect.”

Morality is Secular

On Wednesday 14th September 2005, Channel 5 television gave Cristina Odone, the former editor of the Roman Catholic journal The Tablet, a whole programme at peak time to rant about the decline in church attendance and the effects of the declining influence of Christianity.

There were few facts given in the programme and no balance of opinions. The worst aspect was that morality was equated with religion. If you have no religion you have no morals!

Ms. Odone must know better, but there was no hint of anything but that her contention was true.

It is not an isolated case in the media today. When such statements are made we need to protest, and point out that moral philosophy is not the same as religion, it is secular.

Roy Saich

A devil of a job

I must confess I thought it was all ancient history and that the plot device used in films like The Exorcist were as much derived from ancient Catholic lore as historical fantasies like the excellent The Name of the Rose.

How wrong – no, how naïve - I was. According to a story in The Telegraph today:

Applications are invited for exorcism training at the Vatican's Rome university, the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum. The 10-week course includes sessions in exorcism rites, how to talk to the Devil, the tricks he uses to fight back and signs of the occult hidden in rock music and video games.

The Catholic Church is still exorcising people???

Yes, so it seems – and not just some little sect in a far-flung monastery. Pope Benedict XVI himself (a.k.a. Mr Joe Ratzinger) met with 180 of the respondents who had gathered at “a secret location” somewhere outside Rome.

The BBC reported a similar story back in February when the ‘exorcism academy’ launched. They interviewed a Father Giulio Savoldi who, apparently, has been Milan's official exorcist for more than 20 years.

"Because each case of possession is different, each person possessed is different. Those studying to become exorcists should also study psychology and know how to distinguish between a mental illness and a possession.”

Well, it’s easy actually. A person with a mental illness might be found working here, while a person with possessions might be found leaving here.

In July, The Telegraph ran a story about “one of scores of exorcists, mystics and psychics offering their services to London's large African community.”

In one case that ended up with prosecutions, it transpired that the perpetrators had inflicted terrible injuries on a child in an attempt to drive out the devils they imagined possessed it. The child was cut with a knife, beaten with a belt and shoe, and had chilli rubbed in her eyes in an ordeal that lasted several weeks, according to the paper.

One wonders what the Catholics exorcists are getting up to with a much bigger budget and the veneer of respectability they know protects them while their African counterparts attract the attention of the police.

As the case above proves, we can laugh at the idiocy of these people but we shouldn’t think for a second that they are doing nothing more than playing out their Buffy The Vampire Slayer fantasises. There are real victims here. What have they done to make these lunatics imagine demon possession? Are some mentally ill and are others merely rebellious children?

Whatever the case, I think there is reason for a police investigation. Urgent inquiries should be made to establish whether the Catholic Church allows these “exorcists” to operate in the UK. And while we’re at it, we should find out whether the C of E is complicit in this madness too!


Rational Radio

A new radio programme which should be of particular interest to GALHA blog readers launched this month. The programme, Little Atoms, which airs every fortnight on Fridays from 16:30 to 17:30 on Resonance 104.4 FM began on 2nd September 2005. The programme’s presenters, Neil Denny & Richard Sanderson, describe the agenda for the show as:

Rationalist, Pro-science, Atheist, Humanist and for the progressive Left. Each week will feature one guest from the worlds of science, politics and journalism talking about subjects as diverse as conspiracy theories, cosmology, religion, the "New Age", human rights and the state of the Left.

Today’s programme: 16th September 2005 - "Harry" of Harry's Place

"Harry" is the anonymous (for employment, rather than sinister reasons) proprietor of "Harry's Place" one of the UK's most popular political blogs. It has over the years become the focal point for a growing dissatisfaction with some of the more simplistic solutions offered by the left, and a place for discussion, critique and suggestions for ways forward. Recently described by Nick Cohen as "The meeting place for the anti-fascist left" .

In a world of Left-wing activism which most commonly adheres to the Chomsky/Pilger/"Respect Coalition" school, the views of Harry and his comrades are under-represented in the mainstream press, and are undoubtedly controversial, but deserve to be heard.

For readers not acquainted with Harry’s Place, the website is fast becoming the online meeting-place-of-choice for the sensible Left – “muscular liberals” who refuse to betray defending the rights of women, lesbians and gays, secularists, socialists and other political dissidents in favour of alliances with reactionary religionists.

The Little Atoms show took its name – and its rationale - from a quote by Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal:

“Even the simplest-seeming things - single atoms, for instance - are hard to understand.”

The Little Atoms website features a schedule for up-and-coming shows, which will feature guests like Jon Ronson, Polly Toynbee and Melanie Phillips, and an audio archive of past shows – so those who missed the first show dealing with science, anti-science, bad science and pseudo-science will be able to download it soon. The site also includes a growing list of links to interesting websites and of course to the websites of their guests. IF you’d like to comment on the programme or pose questions for future guests, the contact information is also on the Little Atoms website.

So, tune in today and hear what “Harry” has to say, and keep an eye on the schedule. That’s Little Atoms, every fortnight on Fridays from 16:30 to 17:30 on Resonance 104.4 FM from 2nd September 2005. If you can’t tune in on the old wireless, you can also listen online.

GALHA members first to register civil partnership

Two GALHA members, Bryce Morrison and Lyndon Scarffe, who took part in the Chester weekend gathering earlier this month, were featured in both The Daily Telegraph and The Times yesterday (15 September) concerning their intention to register their partnership under the Civil Partnerships Act which come into force on 5 December this year.The couple attended the Government's launch of a campaign to promote awareness of the new legislation.

The Daily Telegraph report referred to gay rights activists' criticism of the Government for refusing to describe the partnerships as marriages.

GALHA welcomed the legislation as a step in the right direction, but it joined the Coalition for Marriage Equality which campaigned for complete parity with heterosexual marriage as has already been introduced in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and Spain.

The GALHA submission to the Government on the issue can be found at

Thursday, September 15, 2005

GALHA letter to The Daily Telegraph

And this letter was sent to The Telegraph...

Dear Letters Editor,

I find Ken Livingstone's continued defence of the Muslim cleric, Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, as a moderate Muslim (Telegraph 14 September 2005) in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, quite extraordinary, and to say that Al-Quaradawi is not responsible for his own words on the website (IslamOnline), which he oversees, is ludicrous.

Mr Livingstone, who still claims to be a staunch defender of gay rights, has said that he doesn't go along with Al-Qaradawi's position on homosexuality. Then in his document Why the Mayor of London will maintain dialogues with all of London's faiths and communities, he claims that Al-Qaradawi "has explicitly opposed repression of homosexuals".

How on earth does this square with the cleric's Qur'an-based website statements which describe "the sexual deviation known as homosexuality" as "a corruption of man's sexuality", and defend the dire punishments for it exacted in Muslim countries as maintaining "the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements."?

Yours faithfully,

George Broadhead

ADDED BY Brett Lock: I've done an analysis of yesterday and today's Telegraph pieces on my own Lock&Load blog.

GALHA letter to the press

GALHA letter sent to the Independent in response to a report about the Alpha Course.

Dear Sir,

I wonder if the cinema ads for the Alpha Course will tell potential subscribers the whole story of what they will be letting themselves in for if the sign up? I wonder if they’ll include the homophobia that the course promotes, or the fact that this is a very fundamentalist take on Christianity? Will it tell cinema-goers about the speaking in tongues bit and the possession by the holy spirit weekend that occasionally has people rolling on the floor and barking like dogs? We’ll be looking out for these ads at our local Odeon with a view to a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority unless they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yours faithfully,

George Broadhead

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Muscular Liberal Pride

I wrote the piece below for my personal blog - Lock&Load, but I thought I'd share my handywork with GALHA readers as well, since, one gets the distict feeling that when Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting - their former religious correspondent - lectures that society should be taking pointers from religion and denounces "muscular liberals" she addressing herself to secular humanists like us. We're being inflexible on human rights issues? Guilty! I say we should wear that label with pride. To that end, a T-shirt was born.


If standing firm on issues like women's rights and gay rights makes me a "muscular liberal" then I am proud to be one. While gangly, perished and withered liberals like Madeleine Bunting - who flounder is a quagmire of equivocation and uncertainty about the universality of human rights - need a moral lifejacket, the rest of us have more sartorial options.

The Lock&Load team have come up with some options for Guardian-reading, yet "muscular" liberals to assert their identity. I give you the L&L Autumn Collection:

The range includes four choices of above-the-waste clothing bearing the slogan muscularliberal in a typeface designed to be comfortable to the eye of average Guardian readers like ourselves.

TESCOA - The "Value" T-shirt

For a mere $10 you can get the basic muscularliberal T-shirt. Okay, we have no idea where it's made and whether the fibres are organic from replaceable resources, but hey, it's cheap and we can't worry about everything all the time. It's a bargain. Buy it here.

ORGANIA - The "Organic" T-shirt

Same thing really, only it's made out of organic fibres. So you can wear it with added moral superiority to go with the moral superiority you already have as a muscular liberal. Believe it or not - some people think moral superiority is a bad thing! This one's slightly pricier at $18. Did I say it was made in the USA? Is that a problem? Hope not. Buy it here.

GYMNASIA - The "Sporty" T-shirt

This is a T-shirt is designed to mimic the slightly off-white paper colour of the new Guardian -semi-Tabloid (sorry, Berliner) format. For this conceit, it is a slightly more pricy $16, but it is still cheaper than the Organia - and it looks 'sporty'. This enhances the fact that we muscular liberals aren't confined to armchairs. Buy it here.

CHAVIA - The "Hoodie" Top

Designed to help the muscular liberal who may also be concerned with CCTV in shopping malls (thankfully, L&L is only sold online), or for that 'dangerous' look. You may not be allowed into Bluewater, but on the bright side it'll scare the hell out of Madeleine Bunting when we loiter outside her office waiting to engage her in dialectic. A steal at $26. Buy it here.

At time of writing, the exchange rate was roughly 54p to $1. So in British terms, its a bargain, um, innit?


* Look, even if you don't buy the damn shirt, please do make sure that women's rights, gay rights, the rights of secularists, trade-unionists, political disidents, writers and academics remain a real concern, and not, as Ms Bunting suggests, "an elite squabble". Keep it real!

Praise the Lord - and pass the dosh

It can be lucrative being a fundie. Wasn't L Ron Hubbard supposed to have made a bet with someone that he could get rich by forming a religion? The result was Scientology (assuming that anecdote to be true, and, even if it isn't, Scientology is still there).

Now the Christian Institute - not a religion, but an ever-more vocal part of one - has announced that building work is due to begin next month on a new (no doubt luxury) building, into which the staff will move in July 2006. So, if you can't invent a religion, take one off the shelf and form a kind of paramiltary arm of it.

'We continue to thank God for all our supporters who have given so generously to our building appeal,' says Humphrey Dobson, deputy director (policy and staffing) of the Christian Institute, drippng sincerity. I bet they do.

If they've got a 'deputy director (policy and staffing)', one wonders how many more deputy directors they have with parentheses after their designations. Nice work if you can get it. Anyway, I digress. Humph goes on (in one of the CI's email bulletins, which I'm on their list to receive):

The Trustees estimate a total cost of £1.2 million. A large proportion of this has already been given. There is a shortfall of £400,000 which can be covered by a mortgage, which has been agreed in principle.

However, we intend to renew our building appeal in the next month and are praying that the full total can be raised without recourse to the mortgage.

Thank you for all your support. Please continue to pray against the Religious Hatred Bill.

And they keep getting the name of that Bill wrong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Faith, hope, and charity

I fired off this letter in response to Roy Hattersley's column in yesterday's Guardian.

Dear Letters Editor,

Roy Hattersley's fatuous 'Faith does breed charity' Comment (Guardian 12 September) gives atheists a bad name and as an atheistic humanist, I feel grossly insulted by it.

I have done house-to-house collections on behalf of a number of charities, including Help the Aged, Asthma UK, MacMillan Cancer Relief and Amnesty International, and I regularly give saleable items to my local charity shops. One certainly doesn't have be a God-botherer to show care and compassion towards one's fellow human beings.

As for the Salvation Army, it exists mainly, as its name implies, to save souls and as Hattersley is aware, like other evangelical Christian institutions, it is rabidly homophobic. How could it be otherwise when it bases its moral values on what it calls "Holy Scripture"?

George Broadhead

Obituary: Sir Hermann Bondi

Sir Hermann Bondi (1 November 1919–10 September 2005)

One of GALHA’s vice-presidents, Sir Hermann Bondi, world-class scientist, mathematician and humanist, has died. He was 85.

Vienna-born Bondi was a wartime alien internee. Through his genius in the fields of mathematics and astronomy, he eventually progressed to become a master of a college at Cambridge University, holding top scientific posts in two government departments. During this time he worked with such luminaries as Fred Hoyle Thomas Gold on radar, and Bondi, Gold and Hoyle formulated the steady-state theory in 1948.

Sir Hermann was director general of the European Space Research Organisation (1967–71), chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence (1971–7) and the Department of Energy (1977–80), chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council (1980–4), and master of Churchill College, Cambridge (1983–90). He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1959 and a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1973. He received the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2001. He was also a vice-president and a former president of the British Humanist Association.

Last autumn Sir Hermann wrote this tribute to GALHA on the occasion of its Silver Jubilee, and it was published in that quarter’s issue of Gay & Lesbian Humanist:

I want to give my personal congratulations to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association for attaining its Silver Jubilee. Secondly, I want to congratulate all those whose courage, persistence and determination has led to the great achievement of changing our society as fundamentally in its attitude to the gamut of sexual orientation. The size of the wholly beneficial change is perhaps particularly apparent to those, like myself, who saw its success during the last half-century while we were adults. This gives me an appreciation of the size of what has been accomplished, but also of the force of those who want to reverse the great gains. The extension of human rights to all, of whatever sexual orientation, is a great achievement. The favours given to religious foundations with their entrenched views, both by the UK government and by the EU, are very worrying. It will need great vigilance to prevent backsliding and to fight for further extension of the gains made. In all this activity GALHA will be as much involved in its second quarter-century as in its first.

In 1995, Bondi spoke to the Humanist Congress in Madrid, saying he had no quarrel with humans’ awestricken wonderment at the cosmos. He would also not wish to contest those who say there could be a designer, or even those who have an ill-defined idea that this designer might have some regard for us.

However, he added, ‘Where I think the dividing line comes is with the fourth view, that there exists some special “revelation”, a particular form of firm and certain knowledge. ... Such a revelation is the basis of virtually every religion. In the name of such a superhuman (I would like to call it antihuman), certainly the most horrendous and repulsive deeds have been performed which stain human history. Therefore I am above all an anti-revelationist.’

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A conflict between the future and the past

Occasionally one stumbles upon words which just seem to put everything into perspective, that are so powerful and so true that one is sure that one will wake up tomorrow with just an little more clarity than yesterday.

These words by feminist, writer and human rights campaigner, Taslima Nasreen, do just that:

'Humankind is facing an uncertain future. The probability of new kinds of rivalry and conflict looms large. In particular, the conflict is between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism. I don't agree with those who think the conflict is between two religions, namely Christianity and Islam, or Judaism and Islam. After all there are fundamentalists in every religious community. I don't agree with those people who think that the crusades of the Middle Ages are going to be repeated soon. Nor do I think that this is a conflict between the East and the West. To me, this conflict is basically between modern, rational, logical thinking and irrational, blind faith. To me, this is a conflict between modernity and anti-modernism. While some strive to go forward, others strive to go backward. It is a conflict between the future and the past, between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.'

Taslima Nasreen comes from a conservative Muslim community in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and her outspoken views on women’s rights have made her the target of Islamic fundamentalist death threats and many assaults.

For more information about this courageous humanist, visit her official website.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Alpha in cinemas

There’s been a lot of movie news on the GALHA Blog this week, and here’s more. The so-called ‘Alpha Course’ that fools introduction to Christianity 101, with a budget of zillions, which advertises on billboards, buses and tube stations has now gone a step further. Using “celebrity” endorsements, they’ll be advertising in cinemas, reports the BBC.

It’ll now be impossible to escape from their evangelising, even in that temple of escapism, the local multiplex.

Of course, the Alpha Course’s strident evangelical style is not without its detractors, even within the loonier extremes of the faith. For example, a website called Deception in the Church rages against the false doctrines in an article The Dangers Of The Alpha Course. Another Christian group asks The Alpha Course - Final Answer or Fatal Attraction?

Of course, it’s always entertaining to watch these groups squabble among themselves, but Alpha’s brand of urban, yuppie religion is also a serious threat to lesbian and gay people. It’s message is extremely homophobic.

GALHA member, John Rose, took an in-depth look of the Alpha Course in an essay ‘A critique of the Alpha course's attitude towards homosexuality’ published on our website.

In the paper, Rose notes:

The Alpha course takes a misinformed view of homosexuality. The argument is presented in a way that seems to distance itself from fundamentalism, yet it is no more or less than this. In his Alpha course sessions, Gumbel, spiritual leader of the Alpha course, compares homosexuality to paedophilia. In a much-referred-to newspaper article reporting on course meetings, an agnostic asked Gumbel what was so sinful about a homosexual friend who since he was a child had found himself attracted to other boys. Gumbel replies:

If a paedophile said, "Ever since I was a child I found myself attracted to children", we wouldn't say that was normal, would we? ... Now, I am not for a moment comparing homosexuals with paedophiles ...

However, he quite blatantly is; and furthermore it places the comparison into people's minds, with the pretence that it is a reasonable argument.

Another major newspaper article toexpose Alpha’s agenda appeared in The Times in February. Times correspondent Christine Odone noted in her article ‘Church war on gays’:

At the gathering of the primates of the Anglican Communion, all eyes are trained on the conservative African bishops. With a little help from their evangelical American brethren, their implacable opposition to gay priests has caused so much of the Church’s recent troubles. But the renewed impetus for a war on gays within the Church of England comes from a homegrown movement — Alpha. Here, at the very heart of the Mother Church, thrives an influential group that has made homophobia respectable.

Alpha is a “back to basics” course in Christianity. Its teachings about homosexuality are clear: gays are not only sinners, they are also sick. The Rev Nicky Gumbel, Alpha’s leading light, is on record calling for their healing, and for gays to lead a life of abstinence. Enrol in the Alpha course, and you will take part in fifteen sessions over ten weeks that drag you into a world full of no-nos: no sex before marriage, no feminism, no abortion and no gay sex.

Nicky Gumbel has also produced a booklet in which he pontificates on how sick and evil we gays are. Extracted from his book “Searching Issues”, the booklet is called “What is the Christian attitude to homosexuality?”.

The blurb for the book points towards familiar territory in the Christian ordinance survey of ecclesiastical bigotry:

“In this Booklet Nicky Gumbel looks at the complex questions of : Is homsexual practice an option for a Christian? Is AIDS the judgement of God on homosexual practice? Can sexual orientation be changed?”

Another BBC story really gets to the crux of the matter. They note in “Alpha 'feeds modern spiritual hunger'”:

Some say Alpha is more a rich social club than a Christian coming-together. Others are uncomfortable with what they call its prescriptive teaching and attitudes towards homosexuality and other faiths.

It appears that what Alpha really does is feed on the current post-modern ennui and angst and tries to exploit a generation of young people at their most vulnerable in order to fill, not the gap in these people’s lives, but the empty pews in their declining church.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Da Vinci Code - "a work of fiction"

Gay knight Serena McKellen has started work on the big-screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s controversial book, The Da Vinci Code, which is due in theatres in May 2006.

The film will also star Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, and will be directed by Ron Howard.

Of course, the Vatican has denounced the book, saying it was filled with "shameful and unfounded lies", which, translated from church-speak usually means “the truth”.

Another Catholic Cardinal said "It astonishes and worries me that so many people believe these lies."

No, it wasn’t a rare case of introspection nor was it the Cardinal thinking aloud about his congregants during an unguarded moment – he was also talking about the book, the Da Vinci Code – not The Bible, that is – are we clear. It can be very confusing.

So confusing, in fact, that the Catholic society Opus Dei agreed to participate in a mock-trial to evaluate the evidence presented in the book that Jesus had a kid with Mary Magdalene.

Sir Ian, of course, is openly atheist., a website listing of celebrity atheists, quotes him as saying:

“I was brought up a Christian, low church, and I like the community of churchgoing. That's rather been replaced for me by the community of people I work with. I like a sense of family, of people working together. But I'm an atheist. So God, if She exists, isn't really a part of my life."

In answer to a question about the “promotion of witchcraft” through movies like The Lord of The Rings (which he starred in) and the Harry Potter series, put to him via his official website, McKellen answered by noting a remark by “an atheist friend of mine” who said how refreshing it was “to see a film about good and evil which doesn't link morality to religion.”

See also this interesting article: "Lord of the Rings" Stirs Religious Arguments

But of course, The Da Vinci Code is different. For one, it challenges not just American bible-belters, but the Mother Church (I almost said Mother Ship) – The Vatican, which is a potent global political force, and secondly, it appears to attack some fundamental orthodoxies. It is not merely showing same-sex love or affirming science, or the other quibbles Christian fundies have with secular movies. This, they fear, strikes right at the heart. Indeed, people might start confusing new myth with old myth. A mythtery play, as it were… and then where would the be? Here perhaps.

But if you need further convincing that the faithful have trouble sorting fact from fiction, take a look at this website apparently debunking the Da Vinci Code (which most sensible people realise is fiction and never thought otherwise).

Take this prise piece of bunkum for instance:

“Many people might not realize this, but there is a great deal of historical evidence that shows that pagans tried to eradicate Christianity and that pagans copied Christian symbols and ceremonies in the hopes of surviving the rapid spread of Christianity, especially during the first three centuries after the time of Jesus.”

[Please feel free to post any other examples of stupidity and historical revisionism in our comments section.]

Not content with internet loons doing the “debunking” job for them, The Vatican appointed its own official Da Vinci Code debunker.

McKellen, in any event, lashed out at the Catholic Church, calling their opposition to the book “pathetic”.

He added: "People are always interested in mystery, but when it's a mystery that suggests that a major influence on all our lives - the Catholic Church - has perhaps been misleading us all this time, then it becomes spectacularly sensational.”

Of course, Sir Ian is an old hand at (unintentionally) upsetting the religious loonies. Most of his other films have been attacked by the fundies. His X-men movies were criticised because they gave credence to evolution! Yes, folks, that what the reviewer at Christian Spotlight on the Movies said, labelling the movie “very offensive” to Christians. Gods & Monsters was labelled “extremely offensive” and predictably Apt Pupil was also “very offensive”.

Anyhow… Opus Dei finally issued this warning about The Da Vinci Code to, well, presumably all people with library cards:

“We would like to remind them it is a work of fiction and not a reliable source of information.”

But that goes for their book as well!

Christian love

The Christian Institute are, it is well known, among those who don't want the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill to become law, because it will stop the buggers from hating each other. Readers might be interested in this, which comes in an email alert/bulletin that drops into one's email box from time to time. (I've often wondered how long it'll be before they catch me out.) Anyway, here it is, dated yesterday:

Our recent meetings on the Incitement to Religious Hatred proposals were extremely well attended. Some 2,400 Christians came along across the four venues in London, Cardiff, Gateshead and Liverpool.

A recording of the Liverpool meeting is now available on The Christian Institute website (

Listen to Daniel Scot and hear how he was caught under a 'religious vilification' law in Australia. Hear also from others, including legal expert Neil Addison, about the UK Government's plan for an Incitement to Religious Hatred offence.

In the coming weeks we will be putting more material on our website to help churches organise their own meetings on this topic.

Yours in Christ,

Colin Hart

I'd be interested to know whether anyone's bothered to listen.


UPDATE: Hardly an update as such, because this refers to something that happened in June this year, but one Andrew Copson has pointed out on the GALHA discussion list that the Christian Institute put out a statement then that said,

If an incitement to religious hatred law goes through, gay rights groups will say it should be a crime to criticise homosexuality. Government ministers are already sympathetic to the idea. Given the grip the gay rights agenda now has on the powers that be in the UK this would be even more serious than an incitement to religious hatred offence.

He helpfully puts the URL (, but note that it's a PDF and, if you're still on dialup, as I am, it will take a while to download. After giving us the URL, Andrew adds, 'If you can stomach it.' Quite!