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Are religious people more likely to be honest?

Eddie Mair | 17:56 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

I ask because of this story, about how a secularist group has lodged an official complaint against Cherie Booth QC after she spared a man from prison because he was religious.

Cherie Booth had heard the case of Shamso Miah who had broken a man's jaw following a row in a bank queue and said to him:

"I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before. You caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour."

We brought together the author and Thought for the Day contributor Anne Atkins, with the philosopher Professor AC Grayling.

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  • 1. At 4:36pm on 04 Feb 2010, Looternite wrote:

    You ask "Are religious people more likely to be honest?" No That's answered next question.

    They do appear to be more likely to be violent however.

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  • 2. At 4:42pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    The reasoning behind Cherie Blair's judgment is flawed and I agree entirely with Prof. Grayling.

    Perhaps she is hoping that the same judgment might be made for her husband, now a "devout Catholic" , over what he did to ensure the invasion of Iraq and on-going war in Afghanistan? "You are a religious man and you know (that was) not acceptable behaviour" but will it get him off the hook?

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  • 3. At 4:51pm on 04 Feb 2010, rochcarlie wrote:

    This reminds of some work done by university folk in America to answer your question.
    It involved leaving a wallet in a public place and then establishing the religion of those acting honestly or dishonestly.
    The most honest citizens were the Atheists.
    This was a few decades ago and I cannot now recall the ranking of all the different religions and denominations.

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  • 4. At 4:51pm on 04 Feb 2010, funnyJoedunn wrote:

    Eddie, I haven't listened to Anne Atkins and A.C. Grayling but I fail to see the fundamental premise of your question in the light of this case? But, being really honest, I have come to belive Anne Atkins just likes the sound of her own voice....

    Where is the link with religion and honesty in the case you cite? I just think Ms Blair was pointing out the fact that because the guy was religious, he probably had a grasp on a certain morality that could distinguish the difference between right and wrong as we might interpret it for the smooth running of a societal system. Where does being MORE honest ( if I am not mistaken meaning-more honest in the superficial sense of admitting that you had committed a wrong act)?
    You do not need to be religious to do this?

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  • 5. At 4:52pm on 04 Feb 2010, vainly_here wrote:

    Does this mean that the two persons mentioned in (1) & (2) became religious after their crimes? Natchall fact, if they committed their crimes while religious they may be doubly blameworthy.

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  • 6. At 4:54pm on 04 Feb 2010, vainly_here wrote:

    My attempt to spell fact as pronounced with [in actual] failed the profanity filter.

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  • 7. At 4:58pm on 04 Feb 2010, vainly_here wrote:

    Anyway, it would be better for Shamso Miah simply to pay compensation to the victim and pay all associated medical costs, court costs, police costs etc. (if there's enough money in Lloyds Bank), plus a fine of 20% as punishment.

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  • 8. At 5:03pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    I agree with Joe, the question should have been 'Are religious people more likely to act violently?

    I think we all know the answer, some religions are more violent than others.

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  • 9. At 5:16pm on 04 Feb 2010, LongFellow wrote:

    Q: Should people who believe in an afterlife be allowed to drive cars on the public highway, bearing in mind they might not have the same investment in staying alive that others?

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  • 10. At 5:32pm on 04 Feb 2010, Rev Mark Watkins wrote:

    The Secularist's argument here is weak on two counts -

    Firstly, in summing up the man in the case as being Religious, on the basis that his behaviour in this instance was an exception in a life usually motivated by his religious moral code, the Judge, (whoever that judge happens to be!), is making a factual statement in this particular case.

    Equally the Judge might comment on other good influences in the accused person's life that might reasonably be expected to indicate future good behaviour.

    The Judge is simply stating a partial justification for a particular sentence being applied. This man's usual source of Moral Code is his religion. People with such a moral code are usually guided by it can be usually expected to follow it. This is not exclusive to those of a religious persuasion, but it is a valid comment.

    Secondly, the Secularists suggest this is a form of discrimination - indeed, this is the crux of their argument. It can only be discriminatory if it can be shown that the same argument is being used in reverse to the detriment of someone does not hold a religious belief, on the basis of that lack of religious belief. I am not aware that this Judge has ever been accused of making a sentence more severe simply because someone was not a person of faith. That would of course be both wrong and discriminatory.

    In the light also of the alleged refusal by a Job Centre to place an advert for a job that specified only 'Reliable' persons should apply, on the basis that this was a discriminatory requirement, we are in danger of diluting the concept of Discrimination to the point where it becomes a useless concept! When we need to be able to use it it will be worthless!

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  • 11. At 5:35pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:


    Look at the number of religious types that work for organised religions and follow such beliefs that are later found out to be sexually attracted to minors.

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  • 12. At 5:38pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Those that associate with Islam are more likely to be suicide bombers?

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  • 13. At 5:40pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Breaking a man's jaw in the queue at the bank?

    Sounds like a distincy lack of tolerance to me.

    It's no different from those that use being in drink as some kind of excuse for their criminal behaviour?

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  • 14. At 5:40pm on 04 Feb 2010, newlach wrote:

    When I think about all the paedophile priests that we have and the allegations made against the Vatican Bank I see many dishonest religious people.

    Thugs who bust people's jaws should be put behind bars. Religion is an irrelevance, and an eminent QC like Cherie Booth knows exactly what she means when she speaks. Who is Ann Atkins to say that Judge Booth did not mean what she said? Judge Booth let a thug walk free because he was religious. This judgement makes a mockery of our justice system.

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  • 15. At 5:42pm on 04 Feb 2010, MikeHSurrey wrote:

    This story makes me positively seethe. It is utterly outrageous for any judge to imply that someone is of better character because he believes in some imaginary friend in the sky. OUTRAGEOUS.

    And, she made this implication - that he was in some sense a 'good chap' because he has religion - despite the fact that he was in court for acting like a complete thug and smashing someone's jaw over... a position in a bank queue. I am aghast.

    This woman should be struck off from her role on the bench forthwith. If judges can't manage to be objective, the law becomes a laughing stock.

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  • 16. At 5:42pm on 04 Feb 2010, SheffTim wrote:

    So, if Bin Laden was caught and tried for masterminding 9/11, his deeply felt religious beliefs would be grounds for a more lenient sentence?

    If someone like myself (professional background, no previous convictions or cautions etc, not even a single penalty point on my driving licence after 30 years driving) appeared before Judge Cherie Booth, would she consider me moral, even though I do not have any religious beliefs?

    We should all be equal in front of the law; past behaviour, character references, extenuating circumstances etc can all be taken into account, but preferential treatment towards one group of people – be it on the basis of religious belief or none – does not foster an impartial legal system where everyone is treated equally by the law.

    Is it possible to arrive at a non-religious moral code?
    I believe so; I have even taken the time to think mine through and write it down.

    I am sure many others with no religious beliefs are also equally moral people.
    As has been pointed out in a comment above, the many scandals concerning Catholic Priests and child-abuse would suggest that moral behaviour certainly does not automatically follow from having religious belief.

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  • 17. At 5:45pm on 04 Feb 2010, marion jay wrote:

    Recent revelations regarding the activities of Catholic priests. Need I say more?

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  • 18. At 5:45pm on 04 Feb 2010, Steve_Worp wrote:

    I wonder if this would have been a discussion point at all if another judge - other than Cherie Blair - had said this - This smacks to me of the BBC continuing another Daily Mail agenda here!!

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  • 19. At 5:47pm on 04 Feb 2010, nikki noodle wrote:

    Q: 'mild' ?
    When is a broken jaw a 'mild' fracture?!!

    Oh my goodness.

    But next time I bust a man's jaw standing in a queue in a bank, I am definitely gonna claim religiosity.

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  • 20. At 5:47pm on 04 Feb 2010, Christopher Martin wrote:

    What would Cherie Booth have said to a paedophile priest?

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  • 21. At 5:48pm on 04 Feb 2010, AB wrote:

    I am shocked by Cheri Booth's comment and disappointed that you chose to get such a prejudiced individual as Anne Atkins to attempt to defend her. It is, of course, nonsense that one's religion determines one's morality - even if (as is not the case) it were true on average, one can't make a blanket judgement that all religious people are more moral than all non-religious people, which is what Booth's comment implies. If (as Anne Atkins stated) this was merely a way of saying that the convicted person was of previously good character, then THAT is what should have been said. Reference to his religious adherence is irrelevant and I am very sad that Cheri Booth has demonstrated such prejudice - even though I disagree profoundly with her religious stance, I had thought that on legal matters she was the model of a thoughtful and ethical approach. No more. Please, next time, find someone who is capable of greater analysis than Anne Atkins and who is able to understand the secular argument.

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  • 22. At 5:51pm on 04 Feb 2010, Linda Riseborough wrote:

    Wasn't Queen Mary 1st religious? Wasn't the Klu Klux Klan religious? Weren't the killers at the Twin Towers religious? Religion makes a lot of people into really really nasty creatures who think they can do just as they please as their god is on their side.

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  • 23. At 5:51pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 24. At 5:54pm on 04 Feb 2010, Stuart Smith wrote:

    I have been an atheist for over 40 years and in that time have never broken anybody's jaw nor have I been involved in anything violent.Prof. Grayling seems to be guilty of unsubstantiated preconceptions and bias

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  • 25. At 5:54pm on 04 Feb 2010, Harry Adams wrote:

    Well, to a reasonable person, it must seem clear that for many people their religious beliefs oblige them to behave in evil and fascistic ways, and yet these evi ways are defended by reference to ridiculous, nasty and outdated tomes such as the Bible and Koran. Look anywhere in the world and you will find ample evidence of this. It is time the hollow nonsense spouted by Mrs Blair is seen for what it is, simply complete and dangerous nonsense.

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  • 26. At 5:55pm on 04 Feb 2010, Glenn wrote:

    "You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour."
    Does that not suggest that the 'full weight' of the law should have been applied because the person ought to have known and acted better..?

    I recall reading the relious affiliations of prison populations. It's the same ratio/proportion as in the general population. Religious moralists might expect a lower percentage of religious people in prison along with a higher percentage of non-religious... Clearly this does not hold true.

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  • 27. At 5:55pm on 04 Feb 2010, AlbertTeddyBear wrote:

    What would Jesus say ?

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  • 28. At 5:56pm on 04 Feb 2010, U14292199 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 29. At 5:56pm on 04 Feb 2010, Felicity Stanford wrote:

    I know several "religious" people who attend church regularly but when it comes to dealing with other people, are less than honest in their behaviour and treatment.

    A son (whose partner was a Chapel goer and pillar of the local community) drove his crying mother to change her Will in favour of him and his partner over his two sisters, leaving them financially embarassed whilst making himself and partner a multi-millionaire.

    It seems that some people's religiosity begins and ends with opening and closing the service book at the church.

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  • 30. At 5:57pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Religion, like green fascism is a preserve of the middle classes?

    I wonder if the jaw breaking Muslim had ever had an overdraft or loan from Lloyds bank?

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  • 31. At 5:58pm on 04 Feb 2010, alice hudson wrote:

    So people who are religious are likely to be more honest? Obviously not less violent. I imagine the man who got his jaw broken is thankful his attacker is religious, otherwise he might have been knifed. I hope no suicide bombers are judged by Mrs. Blair .. you can't get anything more religious than doing something for god.

    What do you expect from Anne Atkins anyway.

    From my personal experience the so-called Christians who go on and on about Jesus are much more dishonest than the non-religious people I know who are scrupulously honest.

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  • 32. At 5:59pm on 04 Feb 2010, Dave Benson wrote:

    It seems that polls often turn up surprising answers on this kind of subject. Here is an example.

    Divorce rates in the USA (percent who have been divorced among various groups)

    Born again Christians: 27%
    Other Christians: 24%
    Atheists, Agnostics: 21%

    Source: Barna (conservative USA religious group) research report, Dec 1999.
    Barna seem to be trying to distance themselves from this report: they have removed all traces of it from their website. It's probably not the answer they wanted or expected.

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  • 33. At 6:01pm on 04 Feb 2010, derk wrote:

    I was attacked by a neighbour,fortunately escaping by jumping over a wall. He ,quick to take initiative, called the police;I was roused from bed at 23.30.by police.My abiding memory is the officers saying "you had better be careful what youdo,he is a "good christian" and his word counts for more than yours".
    subsequent harrassment by this person has only ever culminated in no action on my behalf,or m,ore threats from police.It seems thatMrs Blair went to the same law school

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  • 34. At 6:01pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Perhaps he'll learn to queue patiently before he goes on/to Haj?

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  • 35. At 6:01pm on 04 Feb 2010, MEW123 wrote:

    I could spend 10 years trying to improve on Professor Graylings comments. Ms Atkins is completely misguided. The maniacs who blew up the London underground perported to be religious.It seems to me every time Mrs Blair says or does something it is questionable even opening her front door!

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  • 36. At 6:02pm on 04 Feb 2010, Richard Porter wrote:

    Religions don't have a monopoly on morality.

    As for a tendency towards violence, you only have to look back to the troubles in Northern Ireland - Catholics and Protestants knocking hell out of each other - or Muslims and Hindus in the Punjab, or Jews and Muslims in Palestine, or Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

    Religion is a powerful tool, and those controlled by it are more likely to commit violence in the name of their religion.

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  • 37. At 6:03pm on 04 Feb 2010, Alan wrote:

    It is clear from Blair's comments that she is conferring an advantage in the eyes of the law for those with a religious persuasion.
    For a trained barrister this is an outrageous thing to say and worrying that this bias can be freely used in a court of law.

    Try substituting the word 'religious' for other words which show a preference or belief. How likely or ludicrous would these comments now appear?

    eg "non-religious" "pagan" "muslim" "communist" and so on...

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  • 38. At 6:03pm on 04 Feb 2010, curieux wrote:

    How good to hear a clear and reasoned argument at last. AC Grayling was lucid and contextual as usual. The idea that religiosity reduces the propensity for violence in human beings flies in the face of countless centuries of evidence to the contrary. I do tend to agree with the earlier comment that the judge in this case is unconsciously replacing a broken jaw with a broken country and thinking of another religious person somewhat closer to home.

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  • 39. At 6:04pm on 04 Feb 2010, AlbertTeddyBear wrote:

    A yob in Liverpool was religiously breaking all of his ASBOS and then stabbed a young lad to death. He got prison. Why wasn't he already in custody ?
    A man with no previous convictions looses his temper and punches another person in their queue. We've all felt like punching someone's lights out haven't we ?
    Any judge would have imposed a similar sentence. What we have is a poor choice of words from Judge Booth. (Twice) Celebrity sentencing issues are grist to the mill of our modern media. If the judge had not been Judge Booth, the story would have been a small item at the bottom of page 8 of most newspapers.
    Remember that Atkins and Grayling have not read all of the evidence or Reports prepared for the Judge. ( Neither have we )
    This will be tomorrow evening's fish and chip paper.

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  • 40. At 6:05pm on 04 Feb 2010, Henry Gordon wrote:

    As someone who is involved in the judicial system one would expect Cherie Blair to know that Roman Catholics, to take one example,are grossly over-represented in the prison population. They make up about 5% of the general population but 20% of the prison population, and this in spite (or maybe because of) their intensive religious indoctrination. She is in the same bracket as Lord Logford "Myra Hindley cannot be evil. She is a 'good' Roman Catholic." I had always wondered when Ms Blair's bias would break the surface. Is she fit to be a judge? The Mafia think of themselves as being 'good' Catholics as well. I presume the jaw-breaker is a 'good' Muslim. Say no more.

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  • 41. At 6:08pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Rev MW@10: "I am not aware that this Judge has ever been accused of making a sentence more severe simply because someone was not a person of faith. That would of course be both wrong and discriminatory." As Grayling points out, she does this by way of inference.

    newlach@14: absolutely! Hear, hear!

    SheffTim@16: absolutely! Hear, hear!

    Stuart@24: er, did you actually listen to the report?

    As Bertie Russell said, "Religion has done a very little good and a great deal of harm."

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  • 42. At 6:10pm on 04 Feb 2010, chai jones wrote:

    Am I being simplistic to point out that Mrs. Blair's Christian husband lied to parliament and then illegally invaded Iraq to defend us against a jihad. However we must be careful not to throw all religious people or atheists into the same barrel. Your religion or secularism has nothing to do with your honesty. The horror of this is that she is a judge. Now what was it the bible said about judging.."judge not lest...'?

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  • 43. At 6:12pm on 04 Feb 2010, 3Dots wrote:

    Unfortunately, Anne Atkins couldn't get it into her head that no mention or inclusion of religion should be made in the assessment. She time and again basically said it should be taken into account and couldn't process the fact that someone who doesn't believe in gods certainly would not have the fact that 'they do not believe in gods and this mean you should know what you did was wrong.'

    No, once again, it seems that someone Mrs Blair as made the mistake in thinking 'being religious' equals an automatic assumption that it also means being moral or knowing right from wrong.

    I hope many people Mrs Blair has sentenced and was openly secular in court will ask for their sentence to be reviewed since it would not been assessed in the same way as a religious person.

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  • 44. At 6:13pm on 04 Feb 2010, ybborb wrote:

    The main factor in this case is that Ms Blair gave two reasons for suspending the sentence. Had only one of them been true (?) would she have done so? If the defendant were of good christian practice but had a criminal record involving violence would she have suspended? I suspect not. It follows therefore that BOTH conditions had to apply. If therefore he was an aetheist but had a clean record then only one condition would have applied and he would have gone down. This is the really insulting aspect of this case and the one that infuriates those with a non religeous outlook on life.


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  • 45. At 6:13pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Political correctness means making it up as you go along, just make sure nobody has their feelings hurt?

    Nevermind the broken jaws and bombs on buses?

    What does all this political correctness mumbo jumbo have to do with British values and fair play?

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  • 46. At 6:14pm on 04 Feb 2010, Herb Robert wrote:

    Are religious people more likely to be honest (than non-religious people)?

    No. What's the problem? In the Christian tradition at least, it is precisely the sinners who need the religion, so they may in fact be less likely to be honest.

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  • 47. At 6:14pm on 04 Feb 2010, DrDH wrote:

    This perpetuates the myth that people, who claim to be religious, have higher moral values and better standards of behaviour than those who don't.

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  • 48. At 6:18pm on 04 Feb 2010, JennaLang wrote:

    A Catholic priest once condemned my grand-mother as 'an abomination in the sight of the Lord' when she asked him if she could attend her daughter's second marriage. My father was raped and brutalised by a Jesuit priest for several years at his Boarding School. This guise of religious faith enabled the priest to continue his criminal behaviour.

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  • 49. At 6:19pm on 04 Feb 2010, Alan wrote:

    # 45 Lepus_Madidus

    Presumably you think the defenition of 'political correctness' is the expression of views which are not those you hold.

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  • 50. At 6:20pm on 04 Feb 2010, Elaine Ansell wrote:

    Congratulations to Prof Grayling; he gets it right every time. I am just amazed that Ann Atkins thinks that religious people may be more honest/better behaved than those who do not have a religion; I find this somewhat arrogant. After all we only have to look at the behavoiur of catholic priests who have abused children over the years. We may have to tolerate religious beliefs but we do not have to respect those beliefs. I would rather live my life without religious superstition which has much to answer for over many centuries.
    Thank you

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  • 51. At 6:20pm on 04 Feb 2010, RosDodd1 wrote:

    Having been brought up in a 'religious' environment and witnessed all its shenanigans ( faith schools at both primary and secondary level and Sunday Mass until the age of 21), religious people, by my estimation, are very likely to be some of the most duplicitous, dishonest people on the planet.
    The big betrayal for me and my contemporaries is that we grew up at close quarters with too many sexually predatory individuals who posed not only as do gooders but actually had us all thinking we were in some way perverted.
    The final straw was finding out last year that a close neighbour of ours, who was forever getting the young boys on our estate into trouble for such silly stuff as calling each other daft names (this is over 40 years ago) had beome a priest and had been abusing boys for decades.
    I also know some genuinely, spiritual people. but they are easy to spot - they don't hide behind their beliefs, use doctrine as a weapon or attempt to invoke guilt in others.

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  • 52. At 6:21pm on 04 Feb 2010, Dr Jorge Zimbron wrote:

    I didn't quite follow Anne Atkins' extrapolation of religious people being more likely to be 'honest and decent' because Christians are less likely to be depressed (implying, of course, that being depressed is associated with criminality). I can think of quite a few people who would find that slightly offensive.

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  • 53. At 6:22pm on 04 Feb 2010, Ross Johnson wrote:

    Objectively, anyone whose moral code is based on a fairy story is far less likely to be honest than someone whose foundation is honesty and reality. If we go on like this, we could end up (perish the thought!) with the sanctimonious husband of a second-rate judge dragging us all into a disastrous, expensive and illegal war. Even the brainless Anne Atkins might see the wrong in that!

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  • 54. At 6:25pm on 04 Feb 2010, tim bates wrote:

    I think the point is that Booth let him off because of the man's activities as a religous man not the fact that he was a religious man #booth #pmblog #acgrayling

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  • 55. At 6:26pm on 04 Feb 2010, Isobel MacCuish wrote:

    Those who follow the true religion of the Bible should be more honest than others, born again Christians have a new principle put within them which creates a desire to do that which the law of Gods demands, though they know and feel how short they come in this as their conscience has been purged from "dead works to serve the living God." Those who follow false man-made religions show that they know nothing of this and that their god is not THE TRUE AND LIVING GOD who is our creator and the creator of all things.
    Isobel MacCuish

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  • 56. At 6:26pm on 04 Feb 2010, Judith McSwaine wrote:

    I am so pleased to see such a lot of comments. There is so much to respond to in this piece of "news". 1) Mrs Blair is highly educated, highly paid. The profession she practices is all to do with words: understanding and choosing the right ones. Bringing the defendant's religion into her judgement cannot have been accidental or shorthand. What's more the past controversies caused by judges commenting on how a woman's behaviour/dress, for instance, contributed to the crimes against them might have alerted her to the dangers of bringing her personal beliefs and prejudices into the court room. 2)as so many others have pointed out she may also have questioned her own views by now that being religious protects from bad actions - anyone who reads the newspapers knows that cannot be true. 3) The guy's religion didn't prevent him do a bad thing this time - why should it in the future? 4) Let's try subsituting "religion" with another characteristic: "wealth"/"poverty" for instance. Or imagining the comments were "... you are not religious so I cannot give you a suspended sentence as your lack of religion means I don't know if you know you have done wrong ...". Sounds very odd to me and shows the weakness in her position.

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  • 57. At 6:27pm on 04 Feb 2010, idaho11 wrote:

    Cherie Blair QC's comment is in line with all Church School's admissions policies and alleged reasons for their dominance of school league tables. That is, that religious people have a monopoly on good behaviour. Why are tax payers supporting these judicial and educational bastions of privilege?

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  • 58. At 6:27pm on 04 Feb 2010, tim bates wrote:

    Booth let him off because of the man's activities as a religous man not the fact that he was a religious man # #pmblog #acgrayling

    ps i'm on twitter and twighill- cheers!

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  • 59. At 6:37pm on 04 Feb 2010, darwinschurch wrote:

    I believe the opposite is true, if you have the opportunity to repent for your sins and ask for gods forgiveness then you can do whatever you want. I believe that statisticaly there is a very low amount of athiests in prison.

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  • 60. At 6:44pm on 04 Feb 2010, Peter Parslow wrote:

    Consider an alternative to this judgement:

    "I normally give suspended sentences for a first offence of this kind, but because you are a religious person, I won't."

    Hopefully, we can agree that a person's religion should have no effect on his sentencing. I believe suspended sentences are quite common for first offences, so all we have here is an irrelevant comment by a judge, that some people want to make a fuss about.

    Class it with calling a woman 'fragrant'...

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  • 61. At 6:45pm on 04 Feb 2010, Richard Butterworth wrote:

    Cherie Booth's husband once made a pointed remark about resisting the forces of Conservatism (I paraphrase - I remember the sentiment but not the precise wording). Yet on his watch we were dragged to a catastrophic, illegal and toxic war for the simple reason that Blair wanted to make nice with the neocons in Washington, among them a president who wore his born-again Christianity on his sleeve. Whose Conservatism, then? And in the context of Booth's disgraceful judgement, whose religion?
    As someone's already suggested (no19) this sets a worrying precedent. How many dodgy lawyers will now advise their clients, hot off a football terrace battlefield of a Saturday afternoon or any British high street at 11.30 on a Friday night, that they can mitigate their violent tendencies by claiming belief in a higher power?
    Even though "we don't do God" (A. Campbell) no-one should be in any doubt that, in the case of an all-powerful establishment, this ain't the case. Wherever we look religious fascism is once more in the ascendant, be it in the shape of a judge who'll let a violent offender off the hook because he professes to believe in similar fairy stories to her, or an inquisitor pope who's willing to use his malign and disproportional influence over millions to resist civilised tolerance and long fought-for liberal legislation.
    So welcome to the new dark age of dogma, kids; it's like the Enlightenment never happened.

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  • 62. At 6:45pm on 04 Feb 2010, anonaj wrote:

    Anne Atkins seems to have missed the point. We have laws in this country and if you break them you are punished. We don't punish people because we think they MAY break the law.

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  • 63. At 6:45pm on 04 Feb 2010, hopeforhappiness wrote:

    Regarding your item today - does religion make worse people? (or words to that effect)
    Well honestly This is SO offensive. The 20th century was the atheist century, when in the absence of moral absolutes and in the pursuit of utopia or absolute power, unspeakable and mass horrors were performed.
    No editor posited then a shallow proposition like "Does Atheism make worse people?" and then follow with an equally shallow affirming sound-bite.
    But of course the BBC has never been interested in following up religion in depth, preferring a sentimentalised version, like "The Vicar of Dibley". But Islam won't accept this nor will it accept the privatisation of the faith. This is what upsets atheists but they dare not confront this movement directly.

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  • 64. At 6:51pm on 04 Feb 2010, Gavinexcop wrote:

    I'm 51, an ex law enforcement officer and a long term listener to pm.
    I consider myself easy going, tolerant and non confrontational.
    When the news article broke this morning, regarding Cherie Boothe's judgement it made me incredibly angry. Tonight’s feature, in particular, your guest Anne Atkins's assertions have incensed me. I have never lifted a pen to complain about anything or hit the keys as I am now.
    I am an Atheist (not the soap box variety), not out of apathy or laziness, but over a long and, I feel, well considered opinion, although how I arrived at this position is or should be of no consequence.
    To imagine being in Ms Boothe’s court, and an inference being laid that I am in any respect a less honest, or more liable to be violent I find an absolute affront. I was a police officer for 25 years, during which time I prided in my honesty, fairness, compassion and restraint in the face of often extreme provocation.
    To be told by a senior member of the judiciary that I should be more likely to receive a substantive sentence, or by inference less likely to be believed simply because I reject religious dogma, is probably the worst insult I have ever received!
    It may be worth mentioning that I have no political axe to grind with Ms Boothe, indeed I escorted her on one of her trips to Northern Ireland and found her to be charming.

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  • 65. At 6:52pm on 04 Feb 2010, Fred Forest wrote:

    Let's be clear about what Cherie Booth/Blair said:

    “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before, you caused a mild fracture to the jaw of a member of the public standing in a queue at Lloyds Bank. You are a religious man and you know this is not acceptable behaviour.”

    So she let him off because he was a religious man and not because of his activities as a religious man. This was wrong in all aspects and I hope that the sentence will be appealed.

    And at the end of the day what one religion thinks is acceptable behaviour is perhaps not what society thinks of as acceptable behaviour. Voodoo and sacrificing chickens springs to mind.

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  • 66. At 6:53pm on 04 Feb 2010, Ray Barsby wrote:

    Are religious people likely to be more honest?

    The answer is obviously 'no'. Being human, religious people are subject to the same temptations as the rest of us, and they do not seem any more successful in overcoming them.

    This is just one reason I am not religious. It makes little difference to actual human behaviour.

    Religion can sometimes make behaviour worse, in the sense that any crusading mentality tends to ignore actual people's needs and desires. The cause is paramount. This goes for everything from Islam to the health-nazi's anti smoking campaign.

    Being an atheist, I would naturally align myself with A.C. Grayling. His opinions were right on the button.

    However, in this case, I think too much is being made of Cherie Blairs comments. I suspect she was simply gathering the evidence for the offender's previous good character; religious involvement can be one. Unless he has a previous history of acting like a thug, he should not be sent to prison. He should have a strict community sentence and make apologies and recompense to his victim.

    A broken jaw is not a 'slight fracture'.


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  • 67. At 6:55pm on 04 Feb 2010, hopeforhappiness wrote:

    The other thing that needs to be emphasised is that society and many Christians I am afraid have just misunderstood the faith.
    There are two basic givens - one, God is holy and expects perfection.
    Two, man is sinful and will be violent, dishonest and selfish (in thought if not in action)
    Being a Christian is NOT primarily about being better than anyone else. That's why the gospel is for those who are probably worse than the rest but are at least cogniscent of the fact.
    If they make progress in good behaviour then that is an important but secondary issue to accepting God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
    Maybe Cherie Blair was wanting to say that at least that offender was part of a moral framework or system that could support him and it was better for society that he should be looked after and chastened by his religious community.

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  • 68. At 7:06pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    chai@42: I did that already at 2. It's a valuable point and I'm surprised no-one else has picked up on it.

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  • 69. At 7:17pm on 04 Feb 2010, Alan wrote:

    #63 hopeforhappiness

    re your comment:

    "But Islam won't accept this nor will it accept the privatisation of the faith. This is what upsets atheists but they dare not confront this movement directly."

    I am an atheist. I dare confront. I don't know any who will not.
    How about for starters...

    I oppose the introduction of islamic faith schools.
    I oppose the introduction of hindu faith schools
    I oppose the continuation of church of England schools and catholic schools.

    I don't believe your faith has any more moral imperative than any other.

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  • 70. At 7:25pm on 04 Feb 2010, Alan wrote:

    Why is it that those who wish to defend or apologise for Blair's comments seek to interpret them, almost as if they are akin to a parable?

    Her comments are clear and the meaning is clear; there is no need to interpret what she may or may not be thinking or what her general philosophy, religiousity or political thinking is.

    "I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before."

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  • 71. At 7:28pm on 04 Feb 2010, Rowland Nelken wrote:

    Christianity as an antidote to depression? Where did Anne Atkins discover that strange notion? Obviously Cherie Blair was wrong. 'Religious' per se has no 'previous good character' implications whatever. I doubt that it will be a mitigating factor when the pants bomber comes to trial. It certainly did not when the '21/7' gang faced justice.

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  • 72. At 7:30pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    Get that nice chap from More or Less, the excellent R4 Statistics programme to cross correlate the number of MPs that have religion with the MPs that fiddled their expenses?

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  • 73. At 7:31pm on 04 Feb 2010, David P wrote:

    What Blair and Atkins choose to overlook is that prior to being in the bank he was at his sky fairy clubhouse getting a top up of his mumbo jumbo. Surely a fresh dose should have made him less inclined to be violent? Or perhaps A C Grayling has a point and the reverse is true.

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  • 74. At 7:43pm on 04 Feb 2010, Half-full wrote:

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  • 75. At 7:49pm on 04 Feb 2010, Half-full wrote:

    A person's morality is likely to be greater if it is arrived at through personal insight and discipline rather than by the adoption of a religion. Unfortunately, Cherie Blair doesn’t understand this, perhaps because she is religious herself. She is, however, an important figure of the establishment, let’s hope this doesn’t mark the beginning of the country’s slide back into awfulness of religious authority, the past informs us that terror will result. I don’t question Mrs Blair’s sincerity, it just makes it worse.

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  • 76. At 7:49pm on 04 Feb 2010, Bob wrote:

    I cannot seriously fathom how this is even being discussed. Religious people are more honest than non-believers? What century are we living in? My parents taught me to be decent, hard-working, honest, kind and polite. I'm an atheist after decades of religious indoctrination by people who chose not to every question their own being. Yet I have never in my life assaulted anyone, unlike the violent attacker in the story which prompted all of this. I'm frankly insulted by the narrow-mindedness of religious folk. How many millions have died or been persecuted over the centuries int he name of some or other god? What a facrical world we live in!

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  • 77. At 7:50pm on 04 Feb 2010, daddyploppy wrote:

    I can't quite get my head around the idea that the supposed unlikelihood of a religious person committing such an offence is being used to justify the leniency shown towards a religious person who has already proven that this very premise is false. Am I missing something?

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  • 78. At 7:50pm on 04 Feb 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Is she Booth or Blair? I thought she didn't change her name.

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  • 79. At 7:55pm on 04 Feb 2010, Rowland Nelken wrote:

    Rev. Mark Watkins wordy appraisal is meaningless. He says that Cherie Blair could only be accused of bias in favour of the religious were there evidence that she had imposed a severer sentence on an atheist. The good Rev's point would only exonerate Ms. Blair were there evidence that she had reduced a sentence for an atheist with the same reasoning, viz: 'As you are an atheist I am going to suspend this sentence'. If Rev. Watkins has a record of Ms. Blair reducing a sentence on account of atheism, then I would be interested to read it.

    As for Anne Atkins, she makes up her Christianity as she goes along. SHe is fortunate in having the Bible as a principal guide. It allows for all manner of interpretation. I have heard her belittle the beliefs of creationist and other Biblical literalists. She should be aware that, for most of Christendom's existence, the 6000 year chronology of man's story was universally accepted. Only in the 18th century did 'Deists' and others begin to question it. Atkins continues to believe her own favourite fantasies like the Virgin birth, resurrection and Ascension.

    Atkins' appraisal of Blair's judgement is likewise arbitrary and ridiculous.

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  • 80. At 8:14pm on 04 Feb 2010, Galahad wrote:

    Cherie Booth's comment that a religious person will have a moral code (which, by implication, is lacking in the atheist) is commonly reflected in statements by religious people - contibutors to Thought For The Day are often guilty of this assumption.

    I would argue that my moral code is more highly advanced than that of many religious people, in that I try to act morally because, on reflection, I feel that it is the right thing to do, not because Daddy is watching me.

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  • 81. At 8:25pm on 04 Feb 2010, Rosalinda wrote:

    I have never contributed to a blog before but am so infuriated by Anne Atkins' comments I feel forced to contribute. My main point is please ban Anne Atkins from the airwaves, she NEVER fails to infuriate. You know an arguement has no substance when the individual resorts to "get a life". I'm sure she thinks this type of comment is very 'cool' but if I had been a specialist asked to comment on a story I would feel embarrased if I had to resort to that level.

    Ann Atkins quite cleary thinks she has the ability to mind read as she herself has read so much into Blair's comments. Atkins needs to realise that Blair's comments are a public record of her judgement and her resons behind that judgement. If she has made a mistake in the wording of her statement is she really in a job role appropriate to her abilities?

    Clearly a person's religious background should have no bearing on their sentence, be it a positive or negative influence. I would be interested in Atkins' response to her own question about if a judge sentenced more severely because of their religion...I'm sure she'd have something to say about that.

    I have never listened to AC Grayling before but really enjoyed his level and articulate approach to the debate. I shall be listening out for in the future!

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  • 82. At 8:32pm on 04 Feb 2010, SheffTim wrote:

    "But Islam won't accept this nor will it accept the privatisation of the faith. This is what upsets atheists but they dare not confront this movement directly." Hopeforhappiness. #63

    You seem unaware of the 'The One Law for All, No Sharia' campaign, supported by the National Secular Society and British Humanist Association.

    There's a link to a video of the last major demonstration by One Law for All, below:

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  • 83. At 8:37pm on 04 Feb 2010, Rowland Nelken wrote:

    'Hopeforhappiness' suggests that Cherie Blair might have thought that the religious thug would receive a chastening from his religious authority. Ms. Blair's job was to interpret the law and sentence according to the laws of England. Was she really implying that the jaw breaker should face, instead, a Sharia court, as English law was not appropriate? Please consider the awful implications, 'Hopefor happiness' of your ludicrous and dangerous post.

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  • 84. At 8:41pm on 04 Feb 2010, Steve Longley wrote:

    I do feel that people's religion is a subject which cannot be questioned or criticised. This is wrong. Each religion is based on things that cannot be proven and have so many conflicting views within them that they cannot possibly reconcile their own ideas within themselves.

    Atheists base their morals on how they want to live in the world. How they want to treat people and more importantly how they wish to be treated. Atheists don't behave badly because of the threat of Hell, but because they have come to their own moral code. Often this is more advanced that that of the religious. Just look at the reaction of the Church to the prospect of having to hire gay people.

    When people tell me they are religious, they may as well tell me they believe in fairies. I'm afraid I see little difference.

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  • 85. At 8:58pm on 04 Feb 2010, Chris Bradley wrote:

    So, if I go to church regularly, can I get a discount on any speeding tickets that come my way?

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  • 86. At 8:59pm on 04 Feb 2010, Cossackgirl wrote:

    1. ( 9.) Long Fellow - Oh, well done, sir!
    2. Human nature being what it is, one person can be very good, one person can be very bad - not infrequently it's the very same person at various times of life. Religion has nothing to do with it.
    Last year the national press were reporting a scandal local to the area where I live. An Anglican vicar is doing time, as I type, for amassing over fifty thousand photos of child abuse, some of which, the police said publicly at the time, "much much worse than rape". His wife shared his interest and they both found the photos quite stimulating. This is all officially recorded stuff, dear Mods.
    There are dozens of good Christian middle-aged and elderly local ladies (that's the kind who are mostly church-going here) who are quietly devastated, after 15 years of having tea and religious talk with the dear vicar and his wife in their own homes and at the Vicarage, stuffed to the rafters with boxes containing the pre-computer material, before the couple moved with the times and went online for their jollies.
    Good or bad behaviour is surely a matter of personal choice, a decision we all make every minute of every day. It may be based on your personal morality, even your personal faith, but what has organised religion got to do with it?

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  • 87. At 9:21pm on 04 Feb 2010, GeeDeeSea wrote:

    Aren't there degrees of both religiousness and honesty?

    How do we determine how religious someone is?

    How do we determine how honest someone is?

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  • 88. At 9:25pm on 04 Feb 2010, david wrote:

    well, all i know is that religion, seems to have been the foundation and cause of all, human suffering ! anyone who belieives that religion has done any good for society, or the human kind, is seriously miss guided. they are using it as an excuse to justify there existence, get real, religion has nothing to do with a sense of morality, that comes from the heart.I am sick to death of the bickering, i hate football, but feel, that a religion premiership would be more appropiate ! coz thats exactly what its about.tribal bullshit. not interested !why is it we have to feel were not anyone unless were a part of some group. lack of self confidence is what i call it and not knowing any self worth. i am a HUMAN, thats the only group i wish to be associated with.Colour, creed, size, able , disabled,etc, it matters not, they are what i am. love thy neighbour etc etc bloody hipocrits !

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  • 89. At 9:32pm on 04 Feb 2010, rizblie wrote:

    Religious more honest? Like all the Christians who have pre-marital sex and pretend it isn't happening? They aren't even honest with themselves!

    Religious less likely to be depressed? I can recall a Christian friend recounting to me how all her friends seemed to suffer from depression. She sometimes wondered if they followed their religion precisely because they were depressed, and religion gave them hope.

    So Anne Atkins has a hunch (with no evidence to back it up) that religious people are more likely be decent and honest because of what they believe. Are we supposed to infer that non-religious people do not have beliefs?

    Well I have a hunch that atheists are more likely to be honest and decent people because they actually have thought things through properly for themselves and are therefore likely to have stronger beliefs.

    So Ms Atkins please tell me why your hunch is any more valid than mine?

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  • 90. At 9:42pm on 04 Feb 2010, The Intermittent Horse wrote:

    I couldn't be bothered reading all the posts that preface this. I didn't hear the programme but even the mention of Anne Atkins (and her invisible friend) upsets me. God save us from people who believe in God.

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  • 91. At 9:53pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    41. Lady Sue - another of Bertie's was 'To die for one's religion is to put a high price on conjecture'.

    I sat next to Berties once, in the road in Whitehall, one of my fondest memories.

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  • 92. At 9:53pm on 04 Feb 2010, Doc PM wrote:

    It seems to me that a judge's first responsibility and duty is surely to fit the punishment to the crime; of course, it is right to consider mitigating circumstances and previous good character. But I cannot help wondering whether, for example, a Muslim terrorist might get off more lightly than, say, a Somali pirate, unless the pirate is perhaps a Roman Catholic.

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  • 93. At 9:55pm on 04 Feb 2010, Mandeville wrote:

    Try substituting 'religious man' with some other term that also might imply an honourable belief system. How about 'DIY enthusiast' or 'keen gardener' or 'practising nudist'. In this increasingly Kafkaesque world, any one of us might just find ourselves in front of a judge with a particular prejudicial axe to grind - so best hope for one who shares one's own passions...I'm hoping for a golfing art-lover.

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  • 94. At 9:56pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    It occurs to me that a religious believer is acts morally from selfish reasons; personal salvation. Whereas an atheist is moral for altruistic reasons, gaining no personal advantage other than knowing they have done the right thing [self esteem]. A moral code does not depend on a psychopath in the sky.

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  • 95. At 10:04pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    81. They have Atkins on to drive new people to the PM blog! Welcome, don't go away, unless you think climate change is a worldwide conspiracy, we've got enough of them.

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  • 96. At 10:05pm on 04 Feb 2010, John Mahany wrote:

    If you are ever up before Ms Blair you had better take the Oath and not Affirm ...

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  • 97. At 10:09pm on 04 Feb 2010, connelsey wrote:

    If this were true then you would expect to see less crime and more civic cohesion inside those nations whose populous counted themselves as religious followers, than those who are more secular. Compare any NW European country with the US. Answer, religious people are not more honest they just think they are!!

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  • 98. At 10:15pm on 04 Feb 2010, connelsey wrote:

    Cherie Blair's track record on spotting potential criminal elements leaves an awful lot to be desired!?

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  • 99. At 10:16pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    63. hopeforhappiness

    Well honestly I find you SO offensive. The 20th century was not the atheist century, go study history, there were more wars fought on religion than ever and that includes all the bloodbaths when your christians were killing, drawing and quartering each other, burning on fires... shall I go on? Moral absolutes? LOL. 'Unspeakable and mass horrors', like the Inquisition? Like the conquest of the Americas and Australasia? Those sorts of horrors?

    Perhaps the BBC has never been interested in following up religion in depth because it has no depth, but is the deranged imaginings of some not very bright people with ideas they are special.

    'But Islam won't accept this nor will it accept the privatisation of the faith'. That's Islam's problem as is becoming increasingly clear to those who can see.

    Atheists are confronting Islamofascism daily. Christians are too busy turning the other cheek to notice.

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  • 100. At 10:28pm on 04 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    There's a campaign to get 1 million atheists to sign up before a million christians here http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-bet-Atheists-can-reach-1-million-before-Christians-can/209732704388#!/pages/I-bet-Atheists-can-reach-1-million-before-Christians-can/209732704388?ref=mf

    Pass it on

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  • 101. At 11:14pm on 04 Feb 2010, gossipmistress wrote:

    I'd like to know what Cherie considers to be 'mild' about a fractured jaw. The mandible is pretty solid and takes a fair bit of force to break.

    As to whether or not religious people are more honest, I'd say generally not, in my experience. And Rev Mark Watkins you are assuming that someone claiming to be 'religious' is actually living in accordance with their beliefs, and even then, is not distorting that belief or taking it to any great extreme.

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  • 102. At 11:14pm on 04 Feb 2010, newlach wrote:

    96 John Mahany

    You make a good point. Would Judge Booth show leniency towards jaw-breakers who wear big chunky crucifixes?

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  • 103. At 11:16pm on 04 Feb 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    Re: all above. Blimey! Maybe the question should be "are the non-religious less prone to peremptory and dogmatic moral judgments?"

    How about "is a football enthusiast likely to be better at football?" Most likely that one would get a more nuanced and thoughtful response.

    Ah well - be thankful for the few slight glimmerings in among the bile and spleen, I suppose. But if I thought the question important, I think I'd ask the lady what she meant and why she said it.....

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  • 104. At 11:52pm on 04 Feb 2010, Half-full wrote:

    103 redheylin - see 70 Alan, especially regarding your last point, perfectly put.

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  • 105. At 07:08am on 05 Feb 2010, survivalist wrote:

    The person on your Programme made the statement that, "All people are capable of doing evil, but it takes Religion to make a good person do evil", or words to that effect.

    Surely, this statement in itself is Religious Descrimination, and the person who made it, who was complaining about Mrs Blair making a Discriminatory Remark in her Judgement, should be forced to make a Public Apology to all Religious People!

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  • 106. At 07:11am on 05 Feb 2010, survivalist wrote:

    The question you are asking would seem to be a 'No Brainer'!

    Surely, anyone who actually follows their belief, would be less likely to commit a Crime.

    Committing Crimes is not part of any Religious Following that I am aware of.

    Get a life, Eddie!

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  • 107. At 08:08am on 05 Feb 2010, JohnnyAorta wrote:

    Does Anne Atkins have any idea how offensive her comments are? To suggest that religious people have a stronger moral framework is an insult to me (as an atheist) and to my parents who raised me with what I believe to be an extremely strong moral code.
    In my experience, religious people frequently use self-righteousness to justify what I would consider severe moral lapses.

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  • 108. At 08:13am on 05 Feb 2010, Lepus_Madidus wrote:

    How many church goers are/were teenage shoplifters?

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  • 109. At 08:15am on 05 Feb 2010, Rowland Nelken wrote:

    DO you ever listen to the news, 'Survivalist'? Have you ever read the Koran or the Bible? Engagement in violent Jihad is considered a virtue. Followers of the Torah would execute homosexuals and stone adulterers to death. All the above are against English law. Your awareness is pathetically, nay, dangerously, lacking.

    Get an education.

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  • 110. At 11:05am on 05 Feb 2010, Liz Evans wrote:

    Why didn't Cherie Blair say "You're a religious person so you should know better" - and dished out a harsher punishment on those grounds? Just a thought.

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  • 111. At 11:37am on 05 Feb 2010, Crataegus Monogyna wrote:


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  • 112. At 11:39am on 05 Feb 2010, BradyGray wrote:

    I gotta admit the truth is I don't care what the guy did or if religious people are or aren't more honest...the whole argument is ridiculous anyway...it's r i d i c u l o u s...along with most other sane humans I just can't stand Cherie Blurgh... or Tony Blurgh...I think they are awful people with crazy beliefs...they are driven to succeed all over us...ok I need a shower...

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  • 113. At 11:45am on 05 Feb 2010, LongFellow wrote:

    #8 - "...some religions are more violent than others" :

    Anglicans in Africa hanging homosexuals.

    Buddhists in WW2 Japanese concentration camps

    Christians in US/UK supporting death penalty

    Jewish/Israeli treatment of Palestinians in West Bank

    have I forgotten anyone?

    #10 - "... is making a factual statement..."
    Please point out the fact in this statement, I've looked but can't find it.

    "This man's usual source of Moral Code is his religion. People with such a moral code are usually guided by it can be usually expected to follow it." - see above.

    "...alleged refusal by a Job Centre to place an advert for a job that specified only 'Reliable' persons should apply..."

    Reliability is a personal trait relevant to the job. Religious is a badge anyone can wear with or without justification. (I was half heartedly raised a Catholic in Northern Ireland).

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  • 114. At 2:45pm on 05 Feb 2010, Michael Leek wrote:

    Anne Atkins should be retired forthwith from Thought for the Day, and any other involvement with what is supposed to be an impartial broadcasting service. Yet again she demonstrates a pomposity and arrogance akin to many extreme fundamentalists, whatever their colour or creed.

    In the context of this case, Professor Grayling is correct in both his interpretation and his concern. The man who carried out the assualt should be treated as any other guilty citizen - and in this particular case such an aggressive assault in a bank queue DOES bring into questioon whether the man really does understand that what he did was wrong. It says somewhere in a book or too about turning the other cheek...

    HOWEVER, THE MAIN ISSUE LIES WITH THE JUDGE, CHERI BOOTH QC. Bringing religion into her judgement goes completely against a fair, impartial and objective judicial system, which is supposed to free of any external influences. She has breached that implied trust in the position she holds. She should therefore resign.

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  • 115. At 2:45pm on 05 Feb 2010, Alan_N wrote:

    What worries me is how on earth she got on the bench in the first place. The fact that she takes improper issues (an individual's religion) into account during sentencing should not be a surprise to anyone. Neither should the apparent contradiction that the individual was not so 'good' as to avoid breaking someone's jaw over an argument in a bank. I'm sure she's a great HR advocate but that's where she should have stayed.

    Oh, and while I'm here, beware placing too great a weight on the texts of religious works. The bible also allows me to stone my children to death if they are unruly and while that may have represented the cutting edge of sociological thought three thousand years ago, I think we'd struggle to find too many adherents these days. However, there was a profound silence when I pointed this out to mine!

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  • 116. At 2:53pm on 05 Feb 2010, Michael Leek wrote:

    Sorry, forgot to answer the question that leads this thread:

    Are religious people more likely to be honest?

    Emphatically not! It's the nature of the relgious to be hypocritical, devious, dishonest and insincere - how else can they defend the indefensible?

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  • 117. At 5:05pm on 05 Feb 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    "Have you ever read the Koran..... Engagement in violent Jihad is considered a virtue..."

    Chapter and verse, please?

    Yours without much hope of a response,


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  • 118. At 5:17pm on 05 Feb 2010, varifocals wrote:

    Some thoughts.

    The BBC2 program What the World Thinks of God (2004) had some statistics. One question was along the lines of: Does believing in God make people behave better? 47% of atheists answered Yes. This is a surprisingly high figure. From the tone of the responses here I would have expected a much lower number.

    Regarding believers exhibiting a lower incidence of depression. The Handbook of Religion and Health, Koenig et al analyzed 1200 research studies and 400 reviews. The greater majority showed a lower risk of developing depressive disorder among practicing Christians. Furthermore, many other health advantages were show present for the believer,including greater marital stability which goes against some figures quoted above.

    Regarding the greater number of prison inmates being religious. This is to be expected as the last census showed 72% of people profess affiliation to the Christian faith so there is a greater number to draw from. This figure is at times challenged as people simply giving a nominal affiliation and is therefore not the real figure. If this is the case then the statements above about a greater number of believing inmates is suspect.

    Atheist regimes have done some bad things.

    I've seen comments by atheists elsewhere saying that believers only do good things because they are afraid of judgement by God. And that atheists don't need this to be good. This infers an acknowledgement that belief in God can influence good behaviour. How does this square with all the above comments saying the opposite?

    Re child abuse: As a Catholic I am ashamed of this. But in all my life as a practicing RC I have never come across this nor do I know of anyone who has. Either I am lucky or this abuse is infrequent.


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  • 119. At 5:23pm on 05 Feb 2010, Kila_Millidine wrote:

    This is the first time I’ve ever been tempted to blog about anything, but I am incensed & very alarmed that any judge should express such an opinion. To the best of my knowledge Ms Blair’s view that religious people are more likely to be good citizens has no basis in fact. Indeed there are numerous studies that suggest that she is wrong, as do many examples already cited above of religious people behaving in ways that are genocidal, violent, dishonest, criminal, immoral, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, hypocritical or self-serving. I don’t want to suggest that all religious people behave badly but, by the same token, I am personally offended whenever religious people express the opinion that the non-religious behave less well. For a member of the judiciary to imply such a thing is shocking and does not inspire confidence in our legal system.

    I want to officially complain about Ms Blair’s conduct. Can individuals do so if they are not personally involved in the case? If so, how? I’d be really grateful if anyone can tell me please.

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  • 120. At 5:33pm on 05 Feb 2010, varifocals wrote:

    Dear Moderator,

    My last post is not listed as awaiting moderation. Does this mean it has been rejected? It was carefully worded and I took pains to be polite.

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  • 121. At 5:42pm on 05 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    117. redheylin - christians do all kinds ofthings that aren't mentioned in the bible. Why do you demand the Qu'ran has to mention jihad? It probably doesn't mention burkas either. Considering that muslims have been waging jihad for centuries, you must have a hidden agenda for denial.

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  • 122. At 5:45pm on 05 Feb 2010, DoctorDolots wrote:

    105. survivalist - prat

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  • 123. At 5:49pm on 05 Feb 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    121 Why do you demand the Qu'ran has to mention jihad?

    Simply because of the question;

    "Have you ever read the Koran..... Engagement in violent Jihad is considered a virtue.."

    Based on the fact you're an atheist, I am relying on you to uphold the strictest accuracy.

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  • 124. At 5:51pm on 05 Feb 2010, Redheylin wrote:

    "It probably doesn't mention burkas either."

    You're right. Just "be modest and do not flaunt your attractiveness" - both sexes.

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  • 125. At 6:06pm on 05 Feb 2010, Alan_N wrote:

    124 - I'm OK then as I have no attractiveness to flaunt.

    118 - How do you do, varifocals. My name's Alan.

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  • 126. At 8:03pm on 05 Feb 2010, Peter_J wrote:

    I'm no fan of Cherie Booth but in fairness we have to put her words into context and as a hermeneutical principle look at her intended audience. She was appealing to a mulism ON HIS TERMS as any good communicator should. I doubt if many people would have been sent to prison these days for such an offence - effectively she was saying 'be a good boy now, don't do it again'. She might easily have said to a Humanist 'I see you are a member of the Humanist Association I see you have principles I'm trusting you to live more to your principles after this brush with the law'. Such is the richness and contexual nature of human communication!

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  • 127. At 8:48pm on 05 Feb 2010, MrTonyman wrote:

    Cheria law? No thanks

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  • 128. At 8:50pm on 05 Feb 2010, Michael Leek wrote:

    126. Peter_J: If, as you say, Cherie Booth meant to say something else and that, as you imply, the rest of us have taken her words out of context, then why didn't say say what she meant? I don't believe her comments - choice of words - have anything whatsoever to do with 'the richness and contextual nature of human communication'.

    She said what she said intentionally to make a pseudo and qasi religious/political point, and as a judge she be reprimanded for so doing; i.e. sacked.

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  • 129. At 9:47pm on 05 Feb 2010, Peter_J wrote:

    I really, really doubt she was making a religious or political comment. This was just a obscure, routine case; she must be amazed it's been reported at all.

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  • 130. At 12:22pm on 08 Feb 2010, David wrote:

    The complaint in my view is so self-evidently justified; I wonder why she is not just summarily removed from the Bench.

    Now, whether he deserved a prison sentence or not is not, in my view, the point. What is relevant however, is the fact that this ridiculous woman has power over people’s freedom!

    Of course, Cherie Booth is entitled to her opinion as to whether religion is a good thing or not, but what she is not entitled to do is indulge her own prejudices in our Courts.

    I am an Atheist. I consider she has discriminated against me and people like me.

    We, who have managed to come to a decision that punching someone in the face for queue jumping is not a particularly good thing to do, without God, Jesus, Mohammed, The Pope, The Archbishop of Canterbury or Cherie Booth telling us so.

    Presumably, by inference, by not being “religious” I cannot be trusted not to punch people in the face and therefore should have been banged up in the pokey had I carried out a similar attack.

    I was immediately reminded of a couple of quotes:

    “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” – Pascal

    She should not be sitting in judgement on other people as she clearly has none!

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  • 131. At 3:20pm on 08 Feb 2010, TerryS wrote:

    All individuals should be equal before the law - religious belief, or lack of belief, should be irrelevant and not mentioned in court. Religious belief is most certainly NOT a sign of 'good character' nor of 'honesty'. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth.

    The comments by Cherie Booth/Blair QC were outrageous - they reveal that she is incapable of acting with objectivity and impartiality. Consequently, she is clearly unfit to be a judge - she should be sacked and stripped of her QC status.

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