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BBC reports on pagans at Halloween

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Kevin Bakhurst Kevin Bakhurst | 15:30 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

How many of us really know what Halloween is about and why we're celebrating it? Yesterday on the News Channel and this website we covered a pagan festival and explained what paganism is, prompting some newspapers to accuse of us down-playing Christianity. A Telegraph blog post describes our religious affairs correspondent as "enchanted by paganism" and a Daily Mail headline reads "BBC accused of neglecting Christianity as it devotes time to pagan festival".

Robert Pigott

 

It was Halloween. A good chance, we thought, to explore the background to paganism. I would simply suggest that the decision to cover some aspects of paganism on one day indicates an interest in the fact there is in the UK a range of faiths - and among some a lack of faith. Our reporting should be seen in the context of BBC News's wider coverage of religion and religious events where stories, as ever, are based on topicality and editorial merit. And Christianity - being the country's main religion - still remains the faith with the most coverage.

The idea yesterday was to look at a range of beliefs - outside the majority faiths - which have been on the increase around the UK. Interestingly, as Robert Pigott reported, druidry has just been recognized by the Charities Commission.

Only a few weeks ago, there was debate about the BBC's coverage of the Pope's visit to Britain, with some arguing that we reported too much on the visit. This included much discussion on the role of the Catholic Church, Christianity and the values of modern Britain.

We will continue to explore and explain the background to the events that our audiences celebrate - no matter what their religion might be - and will do so without downplaying anyone's personal beliefs.

Kevin Bakhurst is the controller of the BBC News Channel and the BBC News at One and the deputy head of the BBC Newsroom.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The fact that Druidism has been given tax-exempt status as a religion is simply ludicrous.
    Why any religion should get this status is beyond me, and why we should be adding to the long list of "fairy stories" with all the trouble they cause is equally mystifying.

    Paganism, what a joke!

  • Comment number 2.

    Kevin, there's really no need to comment on anything the Daily Mail writes about. It is just stirring things up. Not worth losing sleep over.

  • Comment number 3.

    A piece about the sidelining of Christianity AND an attack on the BBC? Let me quickly go fetch my right wing press bingo card (were immigrants or house prices mentioned too?)

    In all seriousness, I wouldn't take these press whinges to heart. Their staple "What about Christianity" and "PC gone mad" moans are just cheap puff pieces: quick to churn out, and designed to hit the gut rather than the head. They're regularly debunked on sites like Tabloid Watch (see, for example, the latest on how the Royal Mail has apparently banned religion!)

    I hold no truck for druidism or any religion, but I think newspaper readers are getting more wise to both religion and to this sort of press mischief.

    Incidentally, I have to say what a real shame it is that the Telegraph - not so long ago a fine newspaper - is increasingly lowering itself to these tabloid techniques. The current owners appear determined to drag it down to the level of the Daily Mail.

  • Comment number 4.

    If BBC News is going to devote so much time to religion, why not add a religion category to the BBC News website? There have been plenty of religious news items in the news to justify the section, and every Sunday, religious items feature on BBC Radio 4 and BBC local radio.

  • Comment number 5.

    In the last UK Census the following results were published relating to peoples religions:

    43,000 people in the UK class themselves as Pagans.
    2.4 million Muslims
    1.5 million Hindus
    300,000 Jews
    340,000 Sikhs
    42 million Christians
    Jedi Kinghts 390,000


    So I suppose we can look forward to plenty of BBC time devoted to the Jedi's !!

  • Comment number 6.

    5. Rustigjongens wrote:
    "In the last UK Census the following results were published relating to peoples religions: "

    How many atheists? how many deists?

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi MariaTee,

    According to the same census there are 9 million atheists, as for deists as they believe in a supreme being it would be difficult to judge the amount of people who this encompasses as deism has been in decline for decades, however, it should be noted the amount of notable people who were classed as deists.

    Hope that helps, however, I am no religious expert and my initial post was aimed at people complaining that the BBC covered the pagans celebrations, apologies if that did not come across in my post.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Please tell me, Mr Bakhurst, why the big ceremony about it then?

  • Comment number 10.

    Good luck with that one Kevin. Ancient pagans wrote nothing down and their modern imitators are simply making grotesque fools of themselves with their pseudo ceremonies - which is a key reason why they should not be allowed to desecrate Stonehenge with their silly mummeries.

    As for the DM. I hadn't notice this pious journal had refrained from publishing on Sunday, or had refused advertising from Supermarkets that remain open on the Lord's day.

  • Comment number 11.

    Interesting you choose to respond to this particular attack on the BBC from the papers, and not the scathing Editorial in the Sun the other day rightly taking the BBC to task over its impartiality in reporting the current cuts. Still, no need to tackle the tough ones I guess, the Sun (for once) got it spot on and the BBC seems to have no defence apart from platitudes such as 'Impartiality is in our genes'.

  • Comment number 12.

    No reliegon or private/reliegous school should be tax exempt. They do not benefit society they regress society and inhibit social change and technoloigcal advancement. And reliegous schools indoctrinate children which is, in my view, child abuse as they have no defence.

    I'd have a lot more respect for the BBC if they treated all reliegons for the odd delusions that they are.

  • Comment number 13.

    @bigsammyb, #12

    >> [Religions] do not benefit society

    I think you need to tread carefully with statements like this. Presumably what you meant to say is that religions don't appear to offer a net benefit to society? (Because, clearly, there are some ways that societies can be said to have benefitted from religions.)

  • Comment number 14.

    It seems that there are a significant number of carping Christians who will never be satisfied until the BBC is spouting Christianity 24 hours a day from every channel. There's far too much religion (of all stripes) in the media for my liking. I'm perfectly happy with people being religious, I just don't want to hear about it all the time.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well done BBC for representing minority faiths and educating us on ancient beliefs and traditions. Only proselytisers feel threatened by the mere mention of other faiths because it is their mission to wipe out all other beliefs and replace it with their own. We don't have to tolerate their intolerance, do we?

    I agree with RomeStu's tax point.

    And Rustigjongens, I look forward to the BBC's airing of all Star Wars movies in recognition of the 390,000 strong Jedi community in the UK :)

  • Comment number 16.

    Religious belief is like sex. I don't care what you do in private with other consenting adults, but it's boring and rude to talk about it in public. And if you try to involve children then I believe you are being abusive. This goes for christianity as well as paganism and all the others.
    I believe the BBC were perfectly OK to broadcast this piece (although I didn't see it) on the basis that until they stop broadcasting all fairy stories, they may as well give us an entertaining look round the less well known ones.
    Besides - anything that dispels the ludicrous notion that Halloween comes from the States is good. We've been celebrating it for centuries.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    "13. At 1:58pm on 02 Nov 2010, dotconnect wrote:
    @bigsammyb, #12

    >> [Religions] do not benefit society

    I think you need to tread carefully with statements like this. Presumably what you meant to say is that religions don't appear to offer a net benefit to society? (Because, clearly, there are some ways that societies can be said to have benefitted from religions.)"

    I think ancient soceties benefitted from religeon yes. In fact i would say the culmination of peoples with different philosohpies and cultures was a big part of human civilisation and evolution.

    However we have gone way past that tipping point. In the 21st centuary modern world they are a hinderance. As i said before they slow down technological and social change.

    But i guess it is a philosophical point, you see i think personally that delusion is bad regardles of how pleasant or good natured that delusion might be.

    For instance if you were going to die in 5 years and there was nothing you could do about it would it be better for you to know or not?

    If you didn't know then you could argue your remaining life would be better, you would live under a positive delusion. However you could equally argue that depsite the pain and torment you would suffer knowing such a thing you would none the less have a right to know and would do things differently because of it.

    As we rapidly approach an age where we truly can reach for the stars delusion is a bad thing. And it makes me angry because i could see us as a society having so many wonderful things TODAY if it were not for religeous delusion.

  • Comment number 19.

    5 rustig
    "So I suppose we can look forward to plenty of BBC time devoted to the Jedi's !!"


    They'll be showing all 6 star wars films over Xmas and New Year.
    May the Force be with you!

  • Comment number 20.

    10. Simon21 wrote:
    "Ancient pagans wrote nothing down and their modern imitators are simply making grotesque fools of themselves with their pseudo ceremonies"


    Pagan is word that was applied from 4th century onwards in the Roman Empire to mean anyone who still followed the "old religions" after Theodosius outlawed them and made Christianity the only religion of the Roman Empire.

    The latin root of pagan means rural or "of the countryside" because it was harder for the newly-christianised empire to stamp out the old religions in rural areas where they persisted for a while longer.

    Todays pagans are simply a bunch of la-la nutters in silly robes who should be treated with the contempt they deserve, and certainly not be given tax-exempt status.

  • Comment number 21.

    13 dotconnect
    "(Because, clearly, there are some ways that societies can be said to have benefitted from religions.)"


    but many more ways that religions have benefitted from societies!

  • Comment number 22.

    @bigsammyb (18)

    It's not that I disagree with much of what you write. It's just that I feel any honest discussion on religion needs to not be afraid to acknowledge the benefits and positives religion provides in addition to the negatives. It doesn't necessarily turn you into a religious apologist to recognise the sense of community, steadfastness, motivation, comfort, charity, etc that some people continue to get from religion, even today, and which together help contribute to a certain stability* in society. And religious-based charities aren't all about banning condoms and trying to convert heathens.

    *I'm acutely aware of how ironic talk of religion offering community and stability might sound - but it's important to remember that religion's downsides are in addition to the upsides, not in place of them. It doesn't of course mean that I think religion is, on balance, a good thing for our future. After all, alongside the sense of community and group cooperation is hostility between groups. And being 'strong-willed' and 'steadfast' can easily slip us into a world of moral certainties and absolutes, the roots of zealoutry. I accept all that. I also share the desire to see greater separation between church and state (though there's always the risk we might end up going down the American route and unwittingly make religion stronger in the process!)

    // "...i think personally that delusion is bad regardles of how pleasant or good
    // natured that delusion might be."


    This for me is an important point. I really want to see a world in which people share more empirical truths and believe fewer falsehoods, with anything else relegated to the more honest "we don't know" category. Simple as that. More questioning, less dogma. And while there are indeed other sources of dogma (communism is always wheeled out as the example), religion remains the undisputed king of it. That's the fundamental problem I have with religion: DOGMA is where most of its problems arise, and dogma is absolutely central to religion.

    Here's hoping for a new enlightenment. I've little doubt that one day our successors will look back on Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc in the same way that we ourselves look back on belief in the Egyptian/Roman/ancient Greek gods, or indeed in the way that many people today look at paganism.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I find it hard to believe that in the 21st century anyone is taking religion seriously.

    Yes, religion provides a sense of community and comfort to many. But the cost of giving up rational understanding, and of failing to distinguish fact from fiction, is too high. I gain far more comfort from knowing there is no hell, than I will from any afterlife.

    I spent many years in a state of confusion. When I realised there was no Santa Claus, I took a rational view of the world. If there's no Santa, then the tooth fairy doesn't make sense. Or fairies, or magic.

    Or gods.

    I still can't understand why anyone who doesn't believe in Santa will believe in a god.

    Show me the proof, ladies and gentlemen. And proof means something that I will interpret the same way you do.

    Until then, religion is no different to belief in Santa, the tooth fairy, or the magic world of Harry Potter. Apart from the fact that no-one who belives in Santa, or the tooth fairy, or Harry Potter, will kill someone who disagrees with them.

  • Comment number 25.

    24 andyc
    "Apart from the fact that no-one who belives in Santa, or the tooth fairy, or Harry Potter, will kill someone who disagrees with them."


    I don't know, those reindeer can be vicious ..... and the elves, well don't get me started.

  • Comment number 26.

    I trust RomeStu will be happy to enlighten us as to the 'trouble' he feels modern paganism has caused.

    As for AndyC, with his lectures about 'rationality', it's nothing that religious people of all stripes haven't heard countless times before, and it's not worth rehashing the arguments here. The simple fact is that if you don't believe you won't see the sense in belief. It's then up to you whether you feel it's 'rational' to condemn as mindless idiots everyone who's ever held a belief you don't share.

    To the BBC, though, I offer my congratulations. Not so much for their coverage of the pagan ceremony in the first place - that, while no doubt well-intentioned, has done paganism a little more harm than good, I think - but for their response here to the squawking criticisms of those who are angry and frightened at being suddenly confronted with something unfamiliar. This response from the BBC shows the independence I expect from the Corporation, and it's this independence for which I'm happy to pay my licence fee.

  • Comment number 27.

    Well, if the BBC had provided wall to wall coverage of the Papal visit then maybe the Christian populous wouldn't have grounds to...

    Oh wait...

    Maybe if they had a TV show for worship of the Christian faith on a Sunday...

    Oh wait...

    Maybe if the religious had an exclusive slot called perhaps "Thought for the Day" where they had 5 minutes of exclusively theist preaching where atheists were not allowed to give their opinion too...

    Oh wait...

    Wind your neck in Christian types. You've already stolen Christmas from the Pagans, let them celebrate and let the BBC cover, that holiday that you haven't appropriated.

  • Comment number 28.

    “No religion or private/religious school should be tax exempt. They do not benefit society they regress society and inhibit social change and technological advancement. And religious schools indoctrinate children which is, in my view, child abuse as they have no defence.”
    Questioned by
    “I think you need to tread carefully with statements like this. Presumably what you meant to say is that religions don't appear to offer a net benefit to society? (Because, clearly, there are some ways that societies can be said to have benefitted from religions.)”

    My comments are:
    Like all forms of opium, religion keeps some of the people quiet some of the time - if you think that’s good then it seems we (others) benefit. But I believe that all forms of delusion are intrinsically bad.
    The aspect that religious indoctrination of the young, is child abuse, is not just a point of view. If it was done by a paedophile then it would be called grooming. They are taking children down a road and saying this is good, this is right; the only reason it works is because the victim is a child. Faith (including atheism) schools should be banned not supported.
    Generally, I am quite sure society does not benefit from religion, especially organised religion. Society sometimes benefits from some religious people. That is where the confusion comes from. Why can society not benefit from these good people without the trappings of ‘fairy tales’? (As they have been called in this thread).
    Finally, I agree with Ekat161 – the BBC is doing it right. Please keep going in this direction. I am happy.

  • Comment number 29.

    @peejkerton (27)

    // "[Christians have] already stolen Christmas from the Pagans"

    And Ēostre, for that matter ;)

  • Comment number 30.

    @ChrisP (28)

    Interesting post and good points. All I would say in possibe disagreement is that "child abuse" is a highly charged term, and while religious indoctrination of children is reprehensible in my eyes (and at its extreme, may well be comparable to child abuse), there is scale of severity to be acknowledged here, and a point at which indoctrination merges into misinforming. Still problematic, but less severe and certainly not deserving of a phrase as highly charged as "child abuse".

    For instance, I would feel most uncomfortable labelling a parent teaching their child some of the more humane lessons from the Bible as a child abuser. Or a parent who unthinkingly ticks a box next to their child's name saying Church of England. Dawkins was absolutely right in identifying the bankruptcy of labelling children in this way - but I feel it was inaccurate and unwise of him to lump it all under the category of 'child abuse'. It would have been better (and less counterproductive) if he'd have been a bit more specific about the kind/level of religious indoctrination he meant.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am a Christian. There that is a not a popular statement these days, and I have no problem with the BBC showing what people get up to in their spare time. As for what they are calling a Religion, well I can only say I do not believe what they are practicing is a religion, and lumping it together with Christianity is, in my opinion wrong, for numerous reasons, not least being the weight of historical evidence to the existence of Jesus Christ, and complete lack of historical evidence to do with anything solid or central to paganism. (please do not say Stonehenge, as we have no real idea what this monument meant to the early inhabitants of the area)
    As for proof of God, well the billions of people through out the millenia who have and do believe in God, even to the extent that they where willing to be persecuted unto death for those beliefs, would definitely suggest a great weight of evidence.
    As for people agreeing with Mr Dawkins and his irrational and inflammatory remarks regarding Christian parents teaching their Children the Christian faith, are child abusers! Well I am surprised that gets past the house rules for one, and appalled that such hate speak is allowed against a faith that if you knew anything about, preaches love and understanding. It is indeed unfortunate that as imperfect beings we have royally made a right pigs ear of the message in numerous fashions, but that is not the fault of the Religious ideal and the God, Christianity (in all its many denominations)represents, but of the humans who represent Christianity. Perfect we are not, striving we are.
    There are so many other topics raised here, I could probably write for hours, but will end by merely stating that "Jesus cam and died upon a cross so that we all my live, your salvation is there, you just have to have the strength and courage to accept it."
    It is your choice free will was guaranteed to you, by God!

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    wineguy1971 (31)

    // "I am a Christian. There that is a not a popular statement these days"

    Indeed. Christianity is becoming less popular. For that reason, it's understandable that as the official established religion of the UK, Christianity's privilege is now being questioned.

  • Comment number 34.

    wineguy1971 (31)

    // "the weight of historical evidence to the existence of Jesus Christ"

    You omitted the bit about Jesus being the Son of God. Where is the weight of historical evidence for that?

  • Comment number 35.

    wineguy1971 (31)

    // "As for proof of God, well the billions of people through out the millenia who have and do believe in God"

    Easily demolished in several ways (and this applies to all religions, not just Christianity):

    (a) A false proposition is no less false just because many people believe it. (Argumentum ad populum.) It doesn't matter how many millions or billions of people believe in a particular god. Billions of people can be dead wrong. To give you an example, if we were to employ your fallacious reasoning, then Christianity could be dismissed as a load of old cobblers due to the fact that the majority of the world's people (approximately four billion of us) are not Christian. (Oops.)

    (b) Talking about "proof of God" is meaningless unless you define what you actually mean by the word "God". As a Christian you will presumably have a certain set of characteristics in mind that the Bible attributes to your God. Some or many of those characteristics are in all likelihood quite different to the characteristics of the God or gods believed by the Hindus, the Ancient Egyptians or even the early Christians. Various religions make claims that are vastly different from each other and, in truth, irreconcilable. It's disingenuous of you to try to unite all of them under the banner of religion and declare that collectively they somehow prove God is real. If anything, all they do is cancel each other out and show how prone humans are to believing in unproven gods.

    (c) It's worth reminding ourselves of an inescapable fact: that virtually every believer today believes in the same God or gods that his/her parents believed in and/or the god that is/was most popular in their culture. The high number of believers in the present is only an indication that a high number of believers in the past taught religious belief to their children. It's not an indication of each person having made a concerted effort to study all religions before settling on the one they held to be the most accurate or reasonable. Otherwise looking at the geographical distribution of religions, it would be the most remarkable coincidence, don't you think?

  • Comment number 36.

    Crikey bigsammyb, I'm sorry for whatever it is that has made you so bitter. To my mind if someone chooses to have faith - and the very definition of faith, at least in a religious sense is that there is no proof of God which is what makes faith stronger - then I don't see the problem so long as it doesn't impact negatively on others. Most Christians carry this off, leading perfectly normal lives. And they may choose to offer their children the choice of religion and most of them will accept - if may perhaps reluctantly - that those same children will grow and decide after being given that choice that it isn't for them.

    Relifion is just another aspect of society, the same as atheism, following football, etc. And like all aspects of society it has its bad eggs I'm afraid. Should all those who live a civilised life and yet go to church be tarred with the same brush as those who are child-abusers, war-mongerers, etc but just happen to be religious or even use and abuse religion to get their way? Just as the same as whether all football fans should be branded hooligans because of the actions of others who cause trouble at football matches?

    Of course not. Why can't you just be tolerant of other people's views?

  • Comment number 37.

    "36. At 3:44pm on 03 Nov 2010, BlahBoy wrote:
    Crikey bigsammyb, I'm sorry for whatever it is that has made you so bitter. To my mind if someone chooses to have faith - and the very definition of faith, at least in a religious sense is that there is no proof of God which is what makes faith stronger - then I don't see the problem so long as it doesn't impact negatively on others. Most Christians carry this off, leading perfectly normal lives. And they may choose to offer their children the choice of religion and most of them will accept - if may perhaps reluctantly - that those same children will grow and decide after being given that choice that it isn't for them.

    Relifion is just another aspect of society, the same as atheism, following football, etc. And like all aspects of society it has its bad eggs I'm afraid. Should all those who live a civilised life and yet go to church be tarred with the same brush as those who are child-abusers, war-mongerers, etc but just happen to be religious or even use and abuse religion to get their way? Just as the same as whether all football fans should be branded hooligans because of the actions of others who cause trouble at football matches?

    Of course not. Why can't you just be tolerant of other people's views?"

    I respect every persons right to believe whatever they like individually, i do not support their right to force that belief upon their children.

    And the survival of christianity in the western world despite overwhelming evidence it is not accurate proves that the MAJORITY of christians do force their reliegon upon their children.

    The vast majority of christians baptise their children, the vast majority of christians try and get their child in to a christian school and the vast majority will vote in elections fighting for principles that support christianity.

    So i have every right to be bitter and to question these people as they have a direct impact on the society that i live in.

    For instance did you know that it is a legal requirement in the UK for ALL schools to have a christian based assembly?

    Most secondary schools ignore this but most primary schools do not. Sure if your a child that does not want to participate you can choose not to attend.

    But why should children be excluded based upon faith or lack of it? And why should they state be able to label a defenceles child a christian based upon their ethnticity?

    Worst of all look at the prevelance of faiths schools in this country? In many areas of the UK you can not get your child in to a good school unless you decide to lie to your child and yourself and the school about a faith you do not have.

    That is state sanctioned child abuse and it is sickening, it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that those who do not want to be involved are forced to be for fear of their child getting a poor education or none at all.

    When looking at faith schools and seeing the prevelance of christian schools and lack of jewish or muslim schools the answer is not to build lots of jewish and muslim schools.

    The answer is to not have religeous schools at all. I mean what on earth is the matter with people? Not content abusing their own children they demand the state sanction the abuse of other peoples.

    Thats the beef i have.

  • Comment number 38.


    bigsammyb (37)

    // "The vast majority of christians baptise their children"
    // "The vast majority of christians try and get their child in to a christian school"

    I find it hard to believe these two statements, though I suppose it depends how you're defining "Christian". Do you have any evidence to back it up?


    // "it is a legal requirement in the UK for ALL schools to have
    // a christian based assembly?"

    The requirement is for a daily act of worship of a 'broadly Christian' nature, and as you say, parents can withdraw their children from the assembly at any point. Schools can also apply to local boards to drop the 'Christian' element if they wish. That said, the idea of promoting ANY kind of act of worship to impressionable children sits extremely uneasily with me. (Just the phrase "act of worship" makes me shudder.)

  • Comment number 39.

    In my local supermarket, there were Mince Pies piled high in mid August. Yes a Christmas speciality in mid August. Likewise, the tyranny of the British Legion Poppy adorning every BBC studio arrived a week ago, almost THREE WEEKS before Remembrance Sunday. Much earlier than I ever remember.

    It may not be religious but it is part of the same BBC ethos. You see perhaps one in a hundred ordinary citizens wearing a poppy, but 100% among presenters on the BBC. We have to accept this will never end: but why extend the period, making the BBC look ridiculous? How is this date decided?

  • Comment number 40.

    what saddens me about this string of comments is as a card carrying member of those 40 plus thousand people who signed last census as a pagan i've never recieved such negative responds about paganism and religion in general as i see here from ATHETISTS! why is everyone so against any form of religion? we can't prove gods exist but by the same token you can't prove they don't! and as the famous scientific saying goes an absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. if you feel so strongly about one of the THREE pagan stories i've seen on national BBC news in the last year (as balanced by innumeral stories about other faiths) then why don't you all start lobbying for the BBC's charter to be changed to one of a secular organisation instead of including a requirement for balance but largely christian faith-based broadcasting?

    in addition i find it highly insulting that someone show describe pagans as "la-la nutters" and get away with it! would the same be true of insults to the archbishop of cantebury or an islamic immam? you speak of allowing everyone their freedom to believe and do what they wish and meaning not a word of it! freedom to believe so long as you don't have to see or hear of it! such hypochrisy!

  • Comment number 41.


    ericcds (40)

    I'm an atheist and I've no more problem with Paganism than I do with any other religion. In some respects, less so. Please don't judge all atheists as foaming-at-the-mouth extremists!

    // "we can't prove gods exist but by the same token you can't prove they don't!"

    That's true. But what you must remember is that nor can we "prove" for certain that hobgoblins and pixies "don't exist". That's not meaning to be facetious. Just that if we get into the habit of thinking we have to prove what we claim doesn't exist, we would be at it until the end of time, given the billions of things the imagination could dream up. It's for that reason that the burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim, not on the person claiming the lack of evidence for its existence. An absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but nor is it reason to believe.


    // "i find it highly insulting that someone show describe pagans as
    // "la-la nutters" and get away with it!"

    I agree with you here. A similar remark about Christians or Muslims would almost certainly be removed. Allow it or don't allow it, but there should at least be consistency. (Personally I think it's generally more civil to keep any attacks to the beliefs themselves rather than the people holding them. E.g. We should be free to attack and criticize Islam, but not Muslims.)

  • Comment number 42.

    Thank God I'm an atheist!

  • Comment number 43.

    Each to their own.

  • Comment number 44.

    Most of BBC's christian religious coverage appears to be anti-Christ.
    As far as census' are concerned people don't really confess what is in written in their heart.

  • Comment number 45.

    Pretty wild and inaccurate claims bigsammyboy. As dotconnect says I guess it depends what you count as Christian. Most Christians as far as I'm aware have no interest in forcing their children into their religion, let alone into faith schools. They merely give them the choice. And if they do end up being Christian's forced or otherwise, what is wrong with that? Will it scar them? Will it hinder them? In the vast majority of cases no.

    As for the point someone made about proof being needed and the debate going on for billions of years, I reiterate that that is the basis of faith. We may have it utterly wrong, but frankly when it comes to the point where I find out and there's nothing than I shan't be in a position to care.

    I have no interest in proving God's existence nor forcing others to believe in Him, which is the position of most normal Christians.

  • Comment number 46.

    so many thoughtful posts, great debate.

    there are a couple of points I'd like to add in reponse.


    dotconnect #30.

    "For instance, I would feel most uncomfortable labelling a parent teaching their child some of the more humane lessons from the Bible as a child abuser."

    I can see why you'd be uncomfortable, parents, on the whole, want the best for their kids. but that does not take into account that very many of those who believe in the Abrahamic god mutilate their (male) children's genitals (though they call it circumcision). IMO that is not just abuse, more like causing bodily harm with intent.


    BlahBoy #36.

    "Relifion is just another aspect of society, the same as atheism, following football, etc."

    not quite. first, sit back and consider what effects an organisation which exists for 2,000+ years (and which monopolised literacy for much of that time) will have on the society around it, especially with view of the fact that proselytising is an activity.

    then ask yourself, do footballers and atheists get tax excemptions and dedicated schooling for their children? why not?

    and then there's the power that comes with being wealthy; the Roman Catholic Church is one of the (if not the) largest landowner in the world, here in the UK the Church of England isn't small-fry either:

    "One of the more fascinating parts of the report, however, concerned the Anglican church's property portfolio, which comprises 120,000 acres in rural areas alone."

  • Comment number 47.

    @Terry Murray

    // "As far as census' are concerned people don't really confess what is in written in their heart."

    True, though that may not work in the direction that you'd hope!

    I should think the last census results will have, if anything, artificially inflated the number of Christians/religious people. For one thing, it worded the question as "What is your religion?" rather than in a more neutral way such as "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion (and if so, which?)" It also positioned that question among other questions on ethnicity, thus encouraging people to answer from the point of view of cultural identity/family background rather than a more considered view about actual religious belief. Many more recent studies suggest we're less religious than suggested by the 2001 census.

    And that doesn't surprise me. There are probably an awful lot people in the country who don't really believe in the Christian God and don't attend Church, but celebrate Christian holidays and attend Christian services for weddings and funerals out of conformity, habit, or just having 'never really thought about it'. Also on the basis that we're constantly told we're a Christian country, I think many people are inclined to put themselves down as a Christian on the census form, regardless of their lack of real religious belief. I know I used to. I know others who did at the last census.

    By contrast, the census figure for Paganism - suffering much less from these factors - will almost certainly have been a more accurate reflection of the number of Pagans in the UK (or even an underestimate, given the social stigma of admitting to being a Pagan.) The Daily Mail won't like it, but perhaps we should be seeing a bit more of Paganism on the BBC?

  • Comment number 48.

    jr4412 you're quite right, the institution of religious organisations do get aspects that others don't, but then churches don't gwet the gate receipts that football gets.

    However, the way it is funded and exists as an organisation does need looking into, though there are many people within the CofE that do good work - without forcing their beliefs on people at the same time - out in the community that it would be a shame to lose if they didn't have the financial backing to do so. The same goes for any charitable organisation however.

    I was merely saying that it is an aspect in the respect that some people choose to go to church just as some choose to go to football and others choose to go to swinging parties (and sometimes all three!) but so long as what they personally do doesn't impact negatively on others they don't deserve to be tarred with those who do impact negatively on others but who just happen to also go to church/are religious or go to football or to swinging parties.

  • Comment number 49.

    BlahBoy #49.

    "..but then churches don't gwet the gate receipts that football gets."

    it used to be tithes (ie 10% of all your income), and even today some income is 'automatic' (for instance, in Germany every Catholic pays the church via their income tax -- no kidding -- unless they opt out in writing).

    on the whole though I agree with your comment, I thought Paul Coyne's #16 put it nicely. ;-)

  • Comment number 50.

    Promoting or showing an interest in one kind of belief does not automatically mean one is against another. How can Christians feel threatened by Paganism any more than Islam or Buddist thought. What about including Pagans in their inter-religious dialogues. The more we can understand others ways of belief, the more tolerant we will become, the less threatened we will feel, the more we will be able to enjoy and celebrate difference rater than fear it. If Christians felt threatened by this item, I would ask them one question....where is their faith in God?

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    We must respect all views without discriminating against established religions in a bid to embrace newer ones.
    Most Druids seem to be very peace loving and should be respected for their wishes to simply connect with the planet. Live and let live.

  • Comment number 53.

    I would agree that most Druids seem to be very peace loving and their religion not remotely as problematic/intrusive as those of the three big Abrahamic faiths.

    The only thing I disagree with is that we must respect all views. There are prominent religious beliefs that are abhorrent to me, including within established religions such as Christianity and Islam. All we really need to respect is the right of people to hold those views (and, depending on how libertarian we are, express them verbally). Anything else can and should be decided on a case-by-case basis, preferably independent of religion.

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.


    Much coverage of the decision of a number of Bishops to leave the Anglican Church for the Roman Catholic Church today - on the BBC News Channel and the One O'Clock News

  • Comment number 56.

    Live and let live as long as their views are peaceful and respectful.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    52. theweathervanestory wrote:
    "Most Druids seem to be very peace loving and should be respected for their wishes to simply connect with the planet. Live and let live."

    ______________________________

    The issue is not whether they are peace-loving or not. It is whether they deserve tax exemption as an organisation for their beliefs.... and I believe they do not (and nor does any other religion).
    I am also peace-loving, but do not claim tax exemption (much as I would wish to).



    Another issue is the creation of new religions ... surely we have enough (too many?) already. We could end up like the USA where every Tom,Dick or Harry with a downloaded "pastor" certificate can found a church and get tax exemption and expect to be taken seriously.

    However if this is to be the way of the world then I'd love to see the Jedi get their recognition .... just for a laugh.







  • Comment number 59.

    31 wineguy
    "....the weight of historical evidence to the existence of Jesus Christ...."

    _____________________________

    I hope you are not equating the bible with historical evidence. The gospels were written between 50 ans 150 years after Jesus' death and then politically selected and editted in 325AD by the bishops under Constantine at the Council of Nicaea, and at later Councils.

    My understanding is that the earliest reference to Jesus comes from the Jewish chronicler Josephus in around 37AD .... that is 4 years after his death.
    Given that the Romans were great recorders of all aspects of life, and accepted that we have not a complete record, it is still interesting that no mention of Jesus is made in any extant contemporaneous documents.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    >>At 4:17pm on 01 Nov 2010, RomeStu wrote:
    Why any religion should get this status is beyond me, and why we should be adding to the long list of "fairy stories" with all the trouble they cause is equally mystifying.

    Here here!

  • Comment number 63.

    Pagan means 'Godless' or 'has no Dad' and is something they were called by others, not something they called themselves. They were the same religion as everybody else. So if Halloween (Hallow evening or All souls or all saints evening or Holy evening can somehow be used to tell us something about these people who, to cut a long story short, were sent to live YORKSHIRE, ha ha, they didn't like it much but eventually accepted it, - - - then please do tell!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Pagans were first demonised and persecuted by the Catholic church. Simply because the were getting more powerful than them
    When it comes to organised religion my opinion is only the Quakers have "got it right".

  • Comment number 65.

    Kevin;

    Are you aware that the 'christ' who is awaited by all major world religions through their own various perceptions does exist in teh guise of an ordinary man, living in London since the late 70's and has been known to Former BBC Controller who actually filmed (but never broadcast)a programme onm him during teh late 80's. He was invited by BBC management at that time to the BBC offices where he demonstrated nis abilities. Shocked by what was revealed, this information was then passed to Queen Elizabeth and the establishment of the Church of England - it was decided to not promote thsi information & these revelations. The 'Christ' continues to wait on an invitation by the BBC & other Major Global News & Media Networks to appear - at which time he will demonstrate to the world his true identity to a mass audience inspiring billions to recreate the world we live in to reflect the love & sharing of his & our eternal being. Former BBC Controllers do know about the Christ and were to afraid to publicise his existence thoughthey never doubted teh truth of who he is for one moment - are you aware or even the slightes bit curious about this?

  • Comment number 66.

    dotconnect is so literate, and makes such good sense, that there is really nothing else to say (although I would add that I did use to believe in the Christian god, but now I am a convinced atheist - so let nobody accuse me of criticising something of which I have no knowledge). The Annual General Meeting of the National Secular Society takes place this coming Saturday: I do hope dotconnect is a member of the NSS and will benefit its AGM by being present.

  • Comment number 67.

    10. Simon21 wrote:
    "Ancient pagans wrote nothing down and their modern imitators are simply making grotesque fools of themselves with their pseudo ceremonies"

    20. At 8:21pm on 02 Nov 2010, RomeStu wrote:
    "Todays pagans are simply a bunch of la-la nutters in silly robes who should be treated with the contempt they deserve..."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Interesting viewpoints – and while hardly deserving of a reply, I feel compelled…

    I am ‘pagan’ and I think it is Christians who make bigger fools of themselves by celebrating holidays that are so blatantly pagan in origin, such as Easter (Eostre) and All Hallow’s Eve (Samhain).

    We modern pagans freely admit that we don’t know what ancient ceremonies looked like. I don’t think there are many religions left in the world whose modern ceremonies are identical to their ancient counterparts, so that’s really sort of a moot point.

    Secondly, I hope nobody minds if I take offense at being cast as a “la-la nutter in silly robes” who is deserving of contempt. If I referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury as being a “la-la nutter in silly robes” (which I’d never do – pagans generally respect other people’s beliefs), my post would very likely have been removed. Why the double standard?

    Lastly, I am most certainly sane. I also have a good job, a happy and healthy-living family, a considerate attitude towards others, and for the most part keep my religious beliefs to myself (unless provoked by the ignorant and intolerant segment of our society). So how exactly does that make me deserving of such utter contempt? I dare say I contribute more to this society through being productive and pleasant than some others who appear to enjoy trashing what they don’t understand.

 

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