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Making the news headlines ...

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William Crawley | 06:48 UK time, Thursday, 9 June 2011

Here are some of the stories that got my attention this week. It's not a comprehensive list, just a taste of what's out there.

You can use the thread to suggest other news items and stories worth noting or debating.

Your idea might even make it onto this week's Sunday Sequence programme.

Religion and ethics in the news
Archbishop of Canterbury criticises coalition policies.
Apostolic visitation: first phase completed.
Gaddafi investigated over use of rape as weapon.
Christians take prejudice row to Strasbourg.
Protestant Alienation 2011.
Christian writer to walk 160 miles to repent.
Sex-selective abortion only aggravates misogyny: a moral debate.
Weinergate.
Facebook sorry over face tagging launch.
Mennonite college bans US national anthem because it's un-Christian.
Canon John Mann appointed new Dean of Belfast Cathedral.

Thinking allowed
New College for the Humanities: old debate?The art of lying.
In Search of the True Self.
Kissinger on China.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13706710

    On Radio 4's Today programme this morning James Naughtie commented that he had not heard such an outspoken attack by a religious leader on government policy since Robert Runcie referred to the Falkland's War in a sermon.

    I know that he has an axe to grind over the exclusion of Religious Education from the English Baccalaureate. Despite the proposed reduction in the number of Lords Spiritual sitting in the House of Lords, as a proportion of the total their influence will increase. Mischief-making.

  • Comment number 2.

    I found the accusation that the government is committing Britain to reforms "for which no-one voted" a bit rich coming from a man who epitomises an institution that is as undemocratic and wedded to dogmatic beliefs as it's possible to get.

    Tell me, Dr Williams, how many people voted for you? Are you going to give some of the immense fortune in property and gold that the CofE has to help out? Especially as for such a large and profitable organisation -you don't pay any tax!-

    No, didn't think so.

  • Comment number 3.

    Natman:

    I know where you’re coming from, and I sympathise with your point. He is indeed the head of an undemocratic institution wedded to outmoded dogma. And on matters of politics, he is a member of the (unelected) House of Lords.

    I think, though, he would say that he doesn’t have the power that the government has to implement change and in any case he is entitled to an opinion. He is contributing to a debate.

    It might be better to focus on the substance of what he says. He doesn’t dismiss government policies outright. On the big society, he refers to a ‘widespread suspicion’ that it is promoted for ‘opportunistic or money-saving reasons’. That is indeed the general feeling, but he says later that this is a wrong perception and he also criticises the Left for its lack of alternative versions of localism.

    He is also right about the proposed NHS reforms. They are ‘radical, long-term policies for which no one voted’. Vince Cable and others are wrong to berate him for saying so.

    Cable himself knows that, and the longer this government continues the more he will have betrayed everything he has ever stood for.

    Williams is also right that government policies generally are not subject to proper public argument (he connects this specifically to education reform). One of the reasons is that there is too much focus on personalities rather than the issues. I think that attacking him is indeed falling into that same trap.

    Much of his article is a matter of posing questions and making suggestions. It’s more nuanced than the media coverage so far suggests, but of course they tend to be interested only in controversial soundbites.

    Soundbites are no substitute for real argument.

  • Comment number 4.

    Re. sex-selective abortion.

    When feminists' "infatuation with 'choice'", to use Madeleine Teahan's telling phrase, leads them, bewideringly, to defend a

    "right...that enables women to destroy the offspring in their womb because its gender is deemed of less worth [ie female]",

    one might think it would be 'Christmas' for pro-life advocates. However, i'm reminded of Anglican curate Joanna Jepson's well-meaning campaign against abortion for seemingly trivial medical disorders, such as cleft palate. Until people accept that ALL unborn children, regardless of gender, ethnicity or medical condition, have as much right to live and breathe as anyone else, some "offspring" will continue to be "deemed of less worth" (for whatever reason), and "destroyed".

  • Comment number 5.

    #2 -

    "... wedded to dogmatic beliefs..."

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has every right to express his point of view in a secular society (which is not the same as an 'atheistic society'), and the last time I heard, no one is precluded from participating in the democratic process on the basis of his belief about reality or his membership of a particular institution.

    As for the workings of the Church of England, the fact that there have been serious, ongoing and, to be honest, acrimonious debates about various issues, proves that this institution does not operate on the basis of mindless conformity to 'dogma' (whatever that word is supposed to mean in the context of post #2).

    Of course, there is a certain belief that lies at the heart of the Church of England, namely, the belief in the reality of God (which is certainly not an unsubstantiated dogma - far from it). That is not optional (or rather, it ought not to be). And we see this same principle in operation in other institutions, for example: the Director-General of the BBC cannot opt out of believing in the validity of broadcasting, or the Prime Minister cannot opt out of believing in the existence and sovereignty of the state of which he is the executive leader. Are we to believe that they also are 'wedded' to these 'dogmas', and are thereby excluded from having a voice within our democracy?

  • Comment number 6.

    If the Archbishop is a member of the House of Lords (something wrong by itself, but nevermind) then the proper place for him to criticise the government is in there.

    As members of the House of Lords cannot vote, and he has some measure of political influence by being a member of that chamber, then he's not contributing to the debate, but using his position of power and influence in a way that others should instead.

    Just as the Queen is (supposed to be) apolitical, and we view political statements from the likes of corporate and union leaders as being heavily biased towards the interests of their organisations, so should members of the clergy avoid making such announcements. Gone are the days when the Church wielded state-changing powers (thank goodness) as you cannot be sure if clergy are stating what they think is best for the state, or for their religious opinions.

  • Comment number 7.

    Natman

    If you will not listen to LSV then please consider listening to Brian - #3.

    Few and far between have been the occasions when Brain and I have agreed, but his comments are always interesting, well informed and well written. I have respect for his depth of knowledge, and very often learn something from him...

    #3 was a breath of fresh air.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hmmmm, wasn't convinced by the Archbishops concerns either.

    We've got so used to living with a state that gives us everything for very little. In times of prosperity that works, as taxes keep it afloat, in times like this, cutbacks are needed.

    If I ever feel that the cutbacks are a little harsh, I pull up images of Rwanda or Columbia, or talk to a few American friends about their healthcare options and, all of a sudden, I feel much better.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm not much of a Rowan Williams fan; I don't agree with his politics or in very many respects his Christianity. But its good to see him speak plainly.

    His central point seems to be wrong. It is at least wrong taken as a whole. No doubt there are certain policies being pursued by this government the 'public' didn't vote for but that's nothing new. In my view the Coalition's economic policies are piddling.

    On the other issue concerning the propriety of the Archbishop speaking out on political matters, well we've already seen the tub thumping here; but the arguments offered against his intervention do not stack up.

    Political commentary is not just for people who comment on blog posts. Good thing, too.

  • Comment number 10.

    The language used here by Williams seems to me to come from the heart of the Christian message as preached on the Sermon on the Mount: sticking up for the disadvantaged in society. Fair enough.

    Then there's the problem of the church's great wealth and properties...

    It's far from a clear cut message, but it's probably better that he spoke out than remained silent.

  • Comment number 11.

    An interesting point was made on the news concerning the Archbishop's outburst by the President of the National Secular Society. He said that the Archbishop of Canterbury as the senior religious figure in the Church of England does not have the right to speak out in such an overtly political way and criticise government policy. What if the Queen (the "supreme governor" of the Church) had expressed similar views?

    It was further stated that as the Church of England is the officially established church of the nation remarks made the Archbishop should be directed at bringing the nation together and not upsetting particular sections of society (Conservative voters in this case).

  • Comment number 12.

    @Newlach

    That's a strange line for a secularist to take. Why would he be particularly interested in who the established church of the nation upsets? The very fact that the Archbish has a public platform to air his views by dint of his position within the officially established church is of more concern than what he actually says, which, incidentally, is nothing but the unvarnished truth, because I happen to agree with it :)

    @ Natman

    If I ever feel that the cutbacks are a little harsh, I pull up images of Rwanda or Columbia, or talk to a few American friends about their healthcare options and, all of a sudden, I feel much better.

    I've never understood this particular route out of cognitive dissonance. The position of, say, a disabled person struggling to cope because their DLA has been cut, stuck in a stinking house on some sink estate because there is no decent social housing and now no prospect of there being any in the foreseeable future is not affected one iota by worse suffering elsewhere in the world, so how can it make you feel any better?
  • Comment number 13.

    Are some of you not getting the right political indoctrination in your country?

    POTUS, Sarkorzy, Cameron, etc tell the protestors in Africa’s Maghreb and the Middle East to embark on freedom of speech; as its ok and do not be afraid.
    Yet this same ‘some of you’ makes qualification-judgement on who can say what, when and how. I am beginning to think that the defunct Ben Ali, Mubarak, Saleh, etc combined is the new guiding light to this ‘some of you’.
    No wonder I looked to Jesus as a teacher, human educational system is just too fickle.

  • Comment number 14.

    sizzlestick,

    You're missing the point. The Archbishop is the spokesperson for a fairly influencial and very rich religious faction within the UK. He has certain rights and duties because of this, not least a seat in the House of Lords.

    When he speaks in a political manner it is as if he's stated the position of the C of E which is supposed to remain apolitical. Whilst it's accceptable for it to comment generally on governmental policy, to come out and be highly critical of polices specifically is pushing the influence of the church too much. There's a place for the Archbishop to speak of such matters - the House of Lords. That he's not done so, and used another medium for this communication, isn't right.

    Being lectured on the undemocratic nature of some of the changes the government is having to do to reduce a massive debt is a bit rich coming from an unaccountable, unelected head of an organisation that is exceedingly wealthy yet pays no tax.

  • Comment number 15.

    Natman

    Like I said: when one makes such a judgement-call, one is the Ben Ali-Mubarack-Saleh combined persona.
    Me, I don’t mind everyone being a blabber-mouth, including myself. This, in spite of my living in a society where Government Ministers sue opposition politicians for defamation resulting in the latter’s bankruptcy.
    I have already made up mind: in matters political; a person can say what he/she wants, no matter what, how, when plus where.
    My favourite example was Paul; he brushed aside the local courts and insisted on his Roman citizenship rights. I think: it’s always too early to be a martyr; one must ride alive the publicity trail as long as possible… silence is for the dead.

  • Comment number 16.

    sizzlestick,

    It's not a judgement call, it's how our society functions. If you hold a position of power and influence, there are methods in which you express your opinions and must always be tempered with the realisation that if you represent a faction (be it religious, corporate, union or whatever) your words are likely to be seen as representative of that faction as a whole.

    You're entitled to say what you want, that's your opinion and your right to express it. The Archbishop's words, are they his, or that of the CofE? How can we tell one from the other? Why didn't he use his position in the House of Lords to express discontent instead of an article in the printed media?

    It's not about stifling free speech, as you continually claim (erronously), but rather the responsibly of those in power to accurately reflect the opinion of what they represent.

  • Comment number 17.

    RE: "Christians take prejudice row to Strasbourg".

    As a Christian, I would just like to put it on record that I thoroughly disassociate myself from the idea that "it is a requirement of the Christian faith" to wear a cross, whether round the neck, as a lapel badge, brooch, earring or whatever.

    In fact, it could be argued that such a legalistic requirement is actually anti-Christian, since it denies the fundamental meaning of the cross, namely, the liberating grace of God, which has set us free from these kinds of legalistic religious impositions. (Of course, there is nothing wrong with wearing a cross as an option, but that is not the point, since that would put it in the same category as casual clothing, which any sensible person accepts you have to exchange for proper work clothing, when required to do so.)

    And furthermore - and this is the huge irony - even the 'outward sign' of the Jewish faith (which the New Testament explains is not a requirement for 'New Covenant' believers) is something, which - ahem - you cannot really manifest in your workplace. I am, of course, talking about circumcision - an outward sign that was actually very private!

    This whole issue really shows that Christianity is not simply another 'religion', in terms of outward rituals and forms. I know there are those who love to lump all beliefs contrary to the philosophy of naturalism into one homogeneous category called 'religion' (as in the words 'imagine no religion' superimposed over the photo of a plane heading for the World Trade Centre, as if all Christians were partly responsible for 9/11! Good one, Dawkins. Great logic there.)

    I think Christians should rise above all this "we're just another religion" nonsense (a capitulation to the false categorisation mentioned above), and stop comparing ourselves with how Muslims are treated.

    Serious genuine persecution is one thing. Seeing the boogeyman behind every bush is quite another.

  • Comment number 18.

    LSV,

    Your first 3 paragraphs I would agree with, there is no requirement to wear a cross (or for others to have their circumcision on show) these would be personal decisions for a person who wishes to display their allegiance to a particular religion. This is probably why this part of the case will fail (I think the other parts will fail for different reasons based on equality).

    As a person of no faith (and some reasons to object to teachings and interference of some faiths) I actually have no problem with someone wearing a small cross or other non intimidating indication of their faith. I am not intimidated and never have been by crosses. The problem comes in the workplace, where we have no choice but to be, and one religious group becomes dominant and it not just wearing a cross but other manifestations and cliquiness start to cause discomfort, isolation and even intimidation. It is why we banned political imagery and self identification in the workplace in Northern Ireland in order to keep it neutral.

    We need to create a balance - 1 person wearing a cross is not an issue but 9 out of 10 evangelicals wearing crosses, having a bible meeting and calling homosexuals abominations every lunchtime in the office while the 10th (me) sits in the corner eating his lunch is an issue (and this is not made up). Unfortunately like all balances it is very difficult to define in law as one group or another will always feel discriminated against.

    BTW it is not that I disagree with the rest of your post, I just don't see it as any of my business - I view all religions the same but understand why they all feel they are special after all they all believe that they are right and all the others are wrong.

  • Comment number 19.

    Natman, you are too picky.
    Even PM David Cameron said Dr Rowan Williams was "free to express political views" but he “profoundly disagrees” with them, as reported in the BBC.

    It’s only a ‘UK politics’ subject matter, common enough conversational topic from the Parliament to pubs. As they often say in BBC’s WHYS: “Let’s have a conversation… ”. Applicable also for the A of C, the spiritual leader of the C of E, on anything, in anyway, at anytime and anywhere.

  • Comment number 20.

    sizzlestick,

    It doesn't answer the question of why, if the Archbishop truely had concerns over the government's policies, he neglected to raise it in the House of Lords and instead put out a lengthy article in a magazine. By choosing to not do the former, he made it a bigger issue than it is and removed the right of the government to answer it in session (as it should be done).

    One might almost think it was done as an exercise in publicity, and not the political discontent it's supposed to be.

    There is a way of expressing your disquiet at the actions of the government. And for the Archbishop to use a magazine article is not it.

  • Comment number 21.

    File this one under 'weird' (the url appropriately already has the word in it):

    Man applies for patent to prove he's God

    https://www.metro.co.uk/weird/865863-man-applies-for-patent-to-prove-hes-god

    Unsurprisingly, the guy is after money.

  • Comment number 22.

    Maybe it is simply grandstanding and an attempt to ally himself with what is seen as a social cause - without risking another schism in his church. He needs to look authoritative and decisive as he has totally failed to do it on any theological issue as he wanders from one crisis to another.

    This is safe ground, another group - the government - who can't really go on the attack against his cult and an issue which is already shown to have a lot of support.

    Opportunistic or what, all that good publicity and the bank balance intact - win win.

  • Comment number 23.

    Natman:

    Look, the Archbishop of Canterbury has as much right to say what he thinks as you or me. Okay, he has a bigger platform than either of us on this blog, and I am sure he is aware of it.

    NI is the classic case of a society pulled down by the kind of inhibition you want to place on 'public figures', who are forever looking over their shoulder in case they offend or annoy their 'constutuents', 'flock', supporters, hangers-on, or whoever - a secret society where whatever you say, say nothing.

    A leader should 'lead', not follow. We suffer from a surfeit of leaders who are nothing but followers.

    Burke said it all a couple a hundred years ago. A leader owes the people who chose him his own conscience.

    Good on Rowan Williams, and if his church doesn't like what he says, they can get rid of him.

  • Comment number 24.

    brianmcclinton;

    "NI is the classic case of a society pulled down by the kind of inhibition you want to place on 'public figures', who are forever looking over their shoulder in case they offend or annoy their 'constutuents', 'flock', supporters, hangers-on, or whoever - a secret society where whatever you say, say nothing."

    This may be true to some extent, though i think the real 'rot' besetting public discourse is not a lack of words, but a profusion of words carefully ordered to please the "'constutuents', 'flock', supporters, hangers-on, or whoever" you refer to. Also, i can think of at least one "leader" who is extremely careful in all her public pronouncements, and whose authority, and the affection which she inspires in her subjects, is all the greater for it - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

  • Comment number 25.

    Brian,

    I disagree entirely, NI is a good example of public figures saying exactly what they think, usually of those different to their own, and for their followers and acolytes taking those words and running with them.

    If the political leaders in NI had, 40 years ago, decided not to be derogatory about those of another religious persuasion and instead opened up, the conflict might've been over much sooner.

    And, to prove the point, if members of the CofE disagree with the Archbishop, they can't just "get rid of him", as he's unaccountable to anyone but the god he claims to believe in.

  • Comment number 26.

    Brian,

    Rowan Williams is not reflecting the views of the people of the CofE, they have no say in policy. The only source of policy is his chosen holy book.

    So whilst I agree that anyone is free to say what they like I think that Rowan Williams platform is exaggerated because some think he speaks for a large number of people - which he does not he speaks for a book.

    If the majority of CofE members decide that the position on marriage equality should be reversed would it simply be a matter of them voting for it within the church and RW adopting that stance or would his interpretation of his holy book win out?

  • Comment number 27.

    My feeling is the Archbishop was right to speak out. He should be encouraged to speak out more. I get the impression he's a liberal and a humanitarian as well as a Christian and he has to set an example to other Anglicans. Anglicanism isn't being steered by a conservative orthodoxy- although many of those actively involved in the Church lower down are motivated in that direction. Maybe with a new found confidence he can engage with issues such as homophobia within the Church and its effects in places like Uganda

  • Comment number 28.

    Natman:

    You are quite wrong. The reason that they have not refrained from attacking the other tribe is precisely their fear of their own tribe. Take O’Neill. He dared to visit a Catholic school and to visit the Irish PM and was hounded for it. Take David Armstrong who dared to attend a Catholic mass and was hounded for it. Take Gerry Fitt, who dared to attack the tribalisms of his own side and was hounded for it.

    These people stand out over the 40 year period because they are so few and far between. If more ‘leaders’ had been like them, then we wouldn’t have had the Troubles.

    Take Robinson now. Why has he suddenly come out in favour of an end to segregated education? Only because all the surveys indicate that the vast majority favour integration. What a pity he and his party hadn’t done this earlier and LED the people to a better future instead of following them.

    As a secularist, you OUGHT to welcome people who speak out courageously and criticise the powerful. That is what secularists have been doing for centuries (and often been burned at the stake or tortured for it).

    Freedom of expression is meaningless if you only want it for atheists and secularists. I cannot understand the attitude where people demand their right to freedom of speech yet want to deny it to those who disagree with them. I might say, even some Humanists are guilty of this hypocrisy. It seems to be a general human failing.

  • Comment number 29.

    Natman, I think you'll want to take note of Brians post #28. I think he makes some valid points.

  • Comment number 30.

    Peter,

    I recognise the latter half as being full of good points, but the beginning matches what I said (or intended to).

    In NI, the polticians and faction leaders were very outspoken in their criticism of those different to themselves, and this was taken by their followers to be endorsement of all kinds of terrible actions.

    If they'd shut up and got on with their jobs without being so outspoken, perhaps there would've been less animosity (unlikely I know).

    Besides, the Archbishop is hardly a powerless personage. He used his position to take a few cheap shots at the politicians whilst ignoring the proper procedure someone like him should take.

  • Comment number 31.

    Brian

    If you were on here more often, I would be here more often. Excellent stuff!

    The most poignant part for me is that I belong to a Church which likes to champion values/rights like free speech.

    Our Bishops are intimidated into, not just silence, but actively coercing in awful decisions by Rome. Have a look at the Bishops of Ireland. Diarmud Martin has been isolated by them. One good man....

    We have a lot of good priests. Rome and the hierarchy have done everything possible to defend paedophile priests - yet attack these good guys because they happen to disagree in conscience with aspects of the Church, and have the honesty to say so. Get them out, Anglican clergy, in.

    Nuns being investigated - not the ones that used knuckle-dusters on children - the ones that run soup kitchens and work in hospices.

    Look up any Catholic blog site where serious issues are discussed - the most common moniker: "Anonymous." Catholics are now frightened of...... other Catholics. If you sign your actual name to any opinion which criticizes the Church or disputes a church teaching, you will be reported. If you happen to be an employee of a Catholic run institution - P45!

    This is the atmosphere within the Catholic Church, especially in the West, at the moment.

    It makes me smile when I hear people laugh at the Church and say, "They'd be burning people at the stake these days if they could get away with it." They are destroying people and they ARE getting away with it. (Archbishop of Detroit will sack any priest who attends the ACC conference in Detroit this weekend.)

  • Comment number 32.

    In the news...

    Here's a recent interesting article concerning a leading scientist's attitude towards the mystery of what happened before the Big Bang.

    The article explains...

    Mr Heuer said he was keen to work with all kinds of religious leaders and philosophers to try and imagine what came before the origins of the universe.

    “Time and space for physics is defined by the Big Bang. Whatever was before is beyond our knowledge and is more about belief,” he said.


    The only disappointment is the comments section, which is overrun by the usual virus of intellectual vacuity from a certain embittered constituency of people, but that seems to be par for the course whenever the subject of 'religion' is brought up.

  • Comment number 33.


    Natman:

    There is nothing very brave about pandering to the prejudices of your own tribe. Quite the opposite – it’s gutless.

    Irish culture, both nationalist and unionist, is very militaristic. Go into any library and look at the shelves full of books about the brave Irish fighting man (whether he fought for king or Ireland). It’s a culture of physical bravery. In Ireland’s history, you are a man if you can fight for your cause (whether with fists, guns or bombs).

    This, alas, is a very primitive concept of bravery. What the culture has singularly lacked is moral courage, the courage to speak out and say what you think, even if it annoys, angers or infuriates your own tribe.

    We need to learn to stand up for what is right and what we think even if we stand alone. If we do it, then we may find that we’re not as alone as we thought we were.

    I applaud Rowan Williams. He could have a quiet life cowtowing to the government or to the ‘Anglican majority’. But he doesn’t. Don’t knock him. He is a troublesome priest in the best sense.

  • Comment number 34.

    brianmcclinton;

    "What the culture has singularly lacked is moral courage, the courage to speak out and say what you think,.."

    From a Catholic/Christian point of view, if this is true of the Irish, i really don't know where that leaves the English.

  • Comment number 35.

    RJB;

    "Nuns being investigated - not the ones that used knuckle-dusters on children - the ones that run soup kitchens and work in hospices."

    Suggest you guard against self-parody there RJB...

  • Comment number 36.

    Here's the current banner headline on the BBC's UK News page

    "Drinks Firm Funds Pregnancy Move

    Drinks retailer Diageo is to fund a health campaign aiming to educate women in England and Wales on the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy."

    What "dangers"? The dangers to an 'entity' which only qualifies as a child if the mother says it is a child. Stuff science - it's only the mother's opinion that matters.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sorry, Theo, meant to reply earlier but I was out washing the car and buying carpets.

  • Comment number 38.

    RJB 31,

    Look up any Catholic blog site where serious issues are discussed - the most common moniker: "Anonymous." Catholics are now frightened of...... other Catholics. If you sign your actual name to any opinion which criticizes the Church or disputes a church teaching, you will be reported


    I can understand how people employed by the Church need to be careful, but lay catholics? The Church can only have power if people give it to them. Outspoken Priests such as Father Pfleger, Bishops like Diarmud Martin, R.C women Priests like Marie Evans Bouclin need the co-operation of the laity: as interlocutor. If the Vatican want to prevent the physical attendance of Priests at the ACC conference they can't prevent their spiritual attendance. The Vatican should be circumvented. A new Catholic Church should be set up in co-operation with the laity and government. Perhaps the Irish government, for example, would prefer a Catholicism that reflects its values on humans rights & equality. There are many countries in the West who would feel the need for a fresh start and may be co-operative/open to the idea of bypassing the Vatican, requisitioning their property and handing it to a new Catholic Church

  • Comment number 39.

    Theophane,

    You misunderstand the Diageo campaign, it is only aimed at mothers who are not going to have an abortion, it would be silly otherwise. What possible effect could alcohol have on an aborted foetus.

    Oh sorry you were just trying to segue into your bandwagon.

  • Comment number 40.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ryan

    Lay Catholics, like teachers in Catholic schools for example, are very much under the 'power' of the Church. They have to remain anonymous and cannot express themselves freely.

    Your vision of a new Church is actually happening and I think inevitable. The power of one man - Ratzinger - throughout his tenure as head of the CDF, and now Pope, has been disastrous at many levels. Change will happen and Vatican II will be implemented.

    The one positive about all the retrograde steps Ratzinger is implementing is that it has actually motivated huge sections of the Church to fight for what they believe in. They will prevail in the end, I'm sure.

  • Comment number 42.

    Dave, #39;

    You noticed the way i've "seagued"* into the abortion issue in the past then? But of course on this thread it isn't necessary, because we have the story of the 'sisters' who think it's a good idea to let daughters be singled out for "destruction" - sort of "gender cleansing". Is this what Greer and co. had in mind, one wonders?

  • Comment number 43.

    *to segue - to effect a smooth transition from one topic to the next (and yes, i did have to look it up).

  • Comment number 44.

    Theophane,

    If I have expanded your knowledge by introducing you to the word segue then I am glad, maybe if you read a bit more from people like myself you might actually expand your knowledge further - no bad thing.

    As for "gender cleansing" I no more support it than I support an outright ban on abortion - like most things in life the best course of action is more nuanced than the extremes of an argument.

    I have no idea what Greer and Co had in mind, you might wonder but I would not rely on the outcome of your wondering - you might be better to ask them rather than try to ally them with your emotive words with out any basis. It almost looks like you are trying to put words in their mouths in order to discredit them tut tut!!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Hey RJB,
    In the link: "Baptism, not bishops or pope, unites the church" these excerpts really stood out for me-

    ...the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful as to the church's beliefs and practices, often preceded the recognition by church authorities that change was needed

    Along similar lines...
    ..quoting Newman, that truth "is the daughter of time," Padovano said, "The sensus fidelium may receive a doctrine in one era and reject it in another, not because the faithful are frivolous but because they sense the emergence of new circumstances, often before church administrators do."

    The Spirit led the community to accept what church administrators once denounced.

    If church authorities were more in tune with the sense of the faithful over the past 50 years, Padovano argued, church teaching would now be different on birth control, married priesthood, ordination of women, same-sex relationships, ecumenical unity, the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and "on fiscal accountability and on hierarchical mismanagement."

    Calling for greater hierarchical recognition that the faith of the church "is not entrusted to a few but to all God's people," Padovano said, "Once we lose sight of Luke's words that Pentecost was for 'all,' we create not a Pentecost church, but a church without Pentecost … [that] has a place for the hierarchy but not for God's people."

    "Why would we want such a church?" he asked. "Clearly Christ did not. Nor do we."
  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Ryan

    On the same site there is also a report on Hans Kung's address to the gathering. Pretty powerful stuff too.

  • Comment number 47.

    From Madeleine Teahan's article;

    "Sarah Ditum tells us:

    "The way to prevent sex-selective abortion isn't to legislate against it or attack the women who seek it – it's to create cultural changes that transform the place of women … To get there, though, we must first accept that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, on their own terms. Because if no one gives them autonomy in their own skin, why should they believe that their potential daughters deserve it either?""

    The trouble with Teahan's article however is that she prefixes this by saying that it reads;

    "little better than [a] frenzied press statement churned out by the party for patriarchy's media machine on a Friday afternoon",

    ...and the headline is;

    "Sex selective abortion only aggravates misogyny".

    (to be continued...)

  • Comment number 48.

    This issue has precisely NOTHING to do with what anyone understands to be the meaning of the word "misogyny"; any more than the desire to destroy baby boys would relate to a question of mere "misandry". "Patriarchy" of course is a dirty word among Guardian-munching muesli-readers, but again, it is grossly misleading to associate it with a desire to commit what Teahan calls "gendercide" (or 'gender cleansing'). Who else are the principal objects of the Chatterati's brickbats than the "Patriarchs" of the Roman Catholic Church - the very people who most vociferously defend the right of all the tiny, voiceless, defenceless children, both girls AND boys, to be born?

  • Comment number 49.

    The "Chatterati"? What are you on about, Theo?

    Your use of language exposes which newspapers influence that very limited morality you operate on.

    Catholic anti-abortion groups have done more to switch people off the issue than anything or anybody I know. They claim to be pro-life but expose themselves as being anti-life in practically every other issue.

    Take your own good self on here. In the last week you have supported Pastor P's obnoxious views on people who contract HIV/Aids and, in the same thread, justified the massacre of young men and boys at Srebrenica.

    The lack of coherence, logic and consistency in your views, is breathtaking.

    And your inability or unwillingness to see anything wrong in the present Catholic "Patriarchy" - a group of men who utterly ignored the sexual, physical and psychological abuse of "tiny, voiceless, defenceless children" for decades, - is simply another indication of how nonsensical your arguments are.

  • Comment number 50.

    Theophane,

    Eh ????

    It's a bit rich for you to big up the RC church as a defender of rights (even though the right to be born, as you describe it, is not a recognised right) when it freely abuses other recognised rights. Maybe when you start being less selective about the universal human rights you stand up for I might take your posturings more seriously. After all we have a right to live free from abuse and free from discrimination based on sex or sexuality - rights the RC church do very poorly at.

    You have invented this "right to be born" and then attempted to claim it as universal for all on their behalf when if they had a voice they may wish to exercise a right not to be born into certain circumstances but you don't care about that - why should other peoples suffering get in the way of your wants.

  • Comment number 51.

    RJB;

    What was i on about? The word "Chatterati" is derived from "the chattering classes"; basically it describes (usually) public or private school educated lefties who read the Guardian (or Tablet) devoutly. They can be seen in posh organic supermarkets in such "devastatingly" fashionable districts of North London as Islington and Hampstead.

    Look, anyway, you can take or leave my thoughts about Mladic and the Serbs - though your claim that i "justified the massacre of young men and boys at Srebrenica" is a wilful distortion. The main thing is that there is no "facile parallel" between Serbia and nazi Germany, and indeed this is a particularly offensive idea, given that Serbs, famously, resisted the fascist yoke in a way which cannot be said of Croats, Slovenes, or Bosniak Muslims.

    In a previous exchange RJB you actually said that there should be more, not less, divorce. That is a point of view, but i'm afraid it has absolutely nothing to do with the Catholic Church.

  • Comment number 52.

    I think there were two main thrusts to my post # 49, Theo.

    1. That you lack consistency in your argument i.e. justifying a massacre of young men and children as an act of war - as you did, then arguing so vehemently against abortion.

    2. That you, while complaining endlessly about the rights of the unborn, not only wont criticize the Bishops, Cardinals and Pope who are guilty of many sins/crimes against children, you actually praise them to the highest.

    Your response was unsurprisingly devoid of any comment regarding these two main points. I was also unsurprised that you instead opted to pluck a ludicrous statement out of the air, and use it to show how unCatholic I am.

    Move along, RJB, nothing new here....

  • Comment number 53.

    Your problem Theophane is that most things in the world are nothing to do with (as in none of it's business) the current version of the catholic church, the problems of poverty, HIV infection rates in 3rd world countries, homophobia, misogyny ... are problems in the world exasperated by the intervention of the current people in charge of your brain.

    I still believe that catholics in general are good people (most would have nothing to do with your views) but the current fat controller is wreaking havoc. I as someone from a protestant background think we have even more widespread problems than your church as we still have not seen the people who will stand up and make your bigotry and control freakery obsolete.

  • Comment number 54.

    If the Catholic Church is such a great defender of children's rights why was it stated in Amnesty International's 2011 Annual Report that:

    "The Holy See did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children"?

    This failure of the Vatican to honour its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child will do nothing to prevent innocent children from being raped and abused by priests.


  • Comment number 55.


    Brian - some excellent comments!

    I cannot understand Natman's insistence on procedure especially when he appears less than solidly grounded on matters of detail.

    There is no constitutional imperative for either the Church of England or the Archbishop to be apolitical. The Archbishop is not a minister of the crown in the parliamentary sense - there is neither requirement nor convention which would suggest he should make important announcements first in the House of Lords. The thinking, nonetheless, which underpins much of the article had long since been aired in the Chamber by Dr Williams (inter alia in the June 2010 Social Policy debate where his contribution is an exceptionally insightful summary of what both citizenship and community mean).

    The Church of England does pay tax - for example, I note that its employer's National Insurance contributions for 2010 were in the region of eleven million pounds - it is exempt from tax on its income and gains only to the extent that such profits are applied to charitable purposes. It is simply false then to suggest that it has no liability to tax.

    It says nothing relevant about Archbishop Rowan but a lot about Natman that he can see in such a considered and intelligent article only "cheap shots".




  • Comment number 56.

    #53

    Seconded, Dave. I think most Catholics are like RJB - the finest contributor on this blog. The tragedy is that the Vatican is stuffed to the gunnels with clones of Theophane.

  • Comment number 57.

    Anyone who was in any doubt as to Benedict's agenda should read the following article. Bishop William Morris of Australia has been sacked for merely suggesting that, if the church changed its law on the ordination of women, he would be open to ordaining them. Benedict, personally, sacked him and reminded him that he had no recourse to Canon Law since, unlike the priesthood, he appoints Bishops and has the power to remove them. What a horrible thing to do to anyone.

    To this date, no Bishop has been sacked for involvement in the child abuse scandal and Cardinal Law still enjoys Benedict's protection in the Vatican.

    https://ncronline.org/news/women/pope-removes-bishop-who-expressed-openness-ordaining-women

    However, it would appear that this Theo-Fascism is at long last beginning to turn in on itself. The following article describes how the 'Vatican Visitation' of nuns in America has had an undesired effect. The good nuns have found themselves empowered, able to defend themselves, articulate their mission, challenge the culture of clericalism and demand accountability, amongst other things.

    https://ncronline.org/news/women-religious/unity-has-sprung-visitation-says-congregation-leader

    It is also worth scrolling down to the post by Chris Smith at the bottom of the page - an excellent post. It would seem that the present purge by Benedict is not only helping ordinary Catholics embrace Vatican II Council - it is helping them to visualise and fight for a Church which goes way beyond even what Vatican II envisioned. (I also liked his comments regarding how vicious the Catholic right wing can be. A viciousness which ranges from callous comments on a blog site, to sacking a good man for expressing an opinion.)

  • Comment number 58.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13803106

    This story made me smile, especially the quote from the school that said "[the school] is run on the belief that everyone at the school is equal and made in the image of God."

    I take it that didn't include corn-rows then?

    But the side panel made me shiver with this paragraph:

    "Schools want their pupils to regard each other as equals, rather than as distinct groups, living parallel - but separate - lives."

    Separate but equal? Sounds like another time and another place, not somewhere we ever want to go back to.

  • Comment number 59.

    RJB;

    We sing from (almost) the same hymn sheet when it comes to the invasion of Iraq, so i'm surprised you take NATO's account of Srebrenica as 'Gospel'. We are treated to a surprising amount of propaganda in this country (not least relating to the humanity of unborn children), as well as generous doses of armchair expertise, but i think you'll agree this description does not apply either to either of these people, cited in Wikipedia;

    Phillip Corwin, former UN Civilian Affairs Coordinator in Bosnia, who stated that "What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three year period.

    Lewis MacKenzie, former commander of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia, [who] was continuing to challenge the description "genocide" in 2009 on grounds firstly that the number of men and boys killed had been exaggerated by a factor of 4 and secondly that transfer of the women and children by bus contradicted the notion of genocide – the women would have been killed first if there had been an intent to destroy the group."

    Re. divorce, on St. Valentine's Day, no less, you said;

    "I can give you plenty of examples of marriages which should rightly have broken up (especially years ago) and where the couples stayed together out of duty to the [C]hurch and did untold damage to the children."

  • Comment number 60.

    grokesx;

    Thank God, at least the Vatican isn't stuffed with the sort of feminists or their lackeys who don't even have the backbone to state that unborn baby girls are entitled to legal protection.

  • Comment number 61.

    And newlach, please don't get me started on "Amnazi International"...

  • Comment number 62.

    Natman (@ 58) -

    Phew. I am relieved, Natman, that you are speaking out against discrimination.

    I take it, therefore, that you are also willing to speak out against the NSS's discrimination against faith schools, and that organisation's obvious prejudice against the idea of parents wanting to exercise choice regarding their children's education?

    I wouldn't want to think that there are any double standards at work among our 'secular' brethren, now, would I?

  • Comment number 63.

    LSV,

    Depends, are faith schools going to allow any child of any parentage to join and let them be free to exercise their own beliefs and opinions?

    Are they going to teach without bias towards their own worldview?

    If not, then they're as discriminatory as a white-only school. If they are, then why call it a faith school? May as well call it a 'normal school funded by a faith'.

  • Comment number 64.

    Theo

    Thanks for correcting the slur on me in your post # 51 re divorce, by actually providing the quote in your post # 59.

    And speaking of propaganda, I could name you at least two people who have been so brainwashed by the Institution to which they belong, that they no longer think for themselves, they follow evil and call it 'good', and they think that obedience to the Institution trumps following the teachings of the man the Institution is supposed to be following.

    MCC is one. Have a wild stab in the dark at who the other is?

  • Comment number 65.

    Natman (@ 63) -

    I hope you are not confusing the words 'bias' and 'ethos', are you?

    Also, I assume you are not suggesting that there is a "worldview-free" method of teaching, or that there is an intellectually neutral 'default' worldview that underpins the teaching at so-called 'normal' schools, are you?

    In fact, what do you mean by 'normal'?? (You wouldn't be engaging in a little bit of subtle prejudice there, would you, Natman? Perish the thought!)

  • Comment number 66.

    LSV,

    "I assume you are not suggesting that there is a "worldview-free" method of teaching, or that there is an intellectually neutral 'default' worldview that underpins the teaching at so-called 'normal' schools, are you?"

    I am, it's called the 'null hypothesis', it's a commonality found in all aspects of reality and is one without religion at all. Some call it secular, you would probably hiss, spit and attempt to all it atheist but, believe it or not, it's possible not to mention god at all and it still not be atheist.

  • Comment number 67.

    romejellybeen, #64;

    The quote i provided in #59 showed that there wasn't a "slur" in #51, didn't it?

    And on the subject of "slurs"...

    "...speaking of propaganda, I could name you at least two people who have been so brainwashed by the Institution to which they belong, that they no longer think for themselves, they follow evil and call it 'good', and they think that obedience to the Institution trumps following the teachings of the man the Institution is supposed to be following.

    MCC is one. Have a wild stab in the dark at who the other is?"

    MCC is NOT one. So i'm not confident of guessing the other.

  • Comment number 68.

    Dave, #53;

    "...the problems of poverty, HIV infection rates in 3rd world countries," apparently, are "nothing to do with (as in none of it's business) the current version of the [C]atholic [C]hurch."

    Dave, you really mustn't believe everything you read in the Tablet.

  • Comment number 69.

    Natman (@ 66) -

    My original comment: "I assume you are not suggesting that there is a "worldview-free" method of teaching, or that there is an intellectually neutral 'default' worldview that underpins the teaching at so-called 'normal' schools, are you?"

    Your response: I am, it's called the 'null hypothesis', it's a commonality found in all aspects of reality and is one without religion at all.


    Right, let's get all sciency then, and put this 'null hypothesis' to the test, because we know - as we have been reminded umpteen times on this blog - that all hypotheses have to be tested empirically.

    Of course, unfortunately on this blog it's not possible to set up an actual experiment, but we can do a little 'virtual' experiment, that is true to life nonetheless.

    Let us imagine a 'normal' school, that is run faithfully according to the 'null hypothesis', in other words, according to a 'worldview-free' philosophy (i.e. a 'philosophy-free' philosophy) - so no ideas allowed at all (because that involves nasty bias and brainwashing).

    It's a mid-morning break and the children are out in the playground.

    The headmaster (whose job it is to run the school according to the 'null hypothesis') hears some screaming, shouting and crying in the playground and goes to investigate. He then catches a large boy kicking and punching another child, who is clearly weaker and smaller.

    Now, according to the principles of the 'null hypothesis' how is the headmaster supposed to respond?

    You see we have a problem, because there are a number of philosophical ideas that the headmaster has to weigh up in his mind, and since he has a responsibility to be 'worldview-free', he is paralysed by indecision. These are the two main ideas that are exercising his mind:

    1. Survival of the fittest. This means that the headmaster should let nature takes its course and let the strong defeat the weak, thereby eliminating those who pollute the gene pool. So let the bully carry on.

    2. Compassion and justice. This means that it is right to protect the weak and punish the oppressor. This involves accepting objectively valid moral ideas.

    So according to the 'null hypothesis' what does he do? Remember... the decision has to be "worldview-free".

    Failure to answer this question will prove that your 'null hypothesis' is a load of bunk.
  • Comment number 70.

    LSV,

    First, claiming "failure to answer this question will prove that your 'null hypothesis' is a load of bunk" is a disingenuous statement that attempts to claim victory based upon a condition of your choosing, irrelevant to the actual points involved, and is the hallmark of a poor debator who is aware their stance is weak.

    Moving on....

    Yes, that ol' 'survival of the fittest' thing. If you knew anything, you'd know it is actually 'survival of those most capable of adaptation to a changing environment'.

    Further more, the situation your hypothetical headmaster is facing has nothing to do with teaching, nor has it anything to do with the faith status of the school. You're neglecting to mention any of the factors involved in the situation; perhaps the 'weaker' child had instigated the fight in an attempt to gain some seniority, perhaps the 'weaker' child had stolen, insulted or even was a continual emotional tormentor of the 'stronger' and the fight was a perceived act of justified retalition.

    In fact, your situation is a classic example of altruism. In the social grouping known as a 'school', the weaker is in fact the 'stronger' child, as the 'weaker' child has the back-up and resources of the establishment which has realised that for all children to thrive, the school must be there to act as a balance on the side of the weaker.

    So, aside from the fact it's a total strawman, that was a good way to show how altruism can be an advantageous trait in social groups.

  • Comment number 71.

    Natman (@ 70) -

    First, claiming "failure to answer this question will prove that your 'null hypothesis' is a load of bunk" is a disingenuous statement that attempts to claim victory based upon a condition of your choosing, irrelevant to the actual points involved, and is the hallmark of a poor debator who is aware their stance is weak.


    Whatever, Natman. If you say so.

    I must admit that I found this little preamble quite amusing, as it is an attempt (ultimately futile) to soften up the reader to accept your ingenious (and admirably imaginative) act of avoiding answering the question.

    So shall I repeat myself?

    In what way can a school be run on the basis of the 'null hypothesis', in other words, a 'worldview-free' method of teaching? This is a direct and relevant test of your claim that there is such a thing as a 'worlview-free' philosophy. It is only a 'straw man' in your desperate imagination.

    All you have done is given me a long, convoluted and highly speculative explanation as to why the bully may not be a bully at all.

    But I asked you to tell me what the headmaster would do in the situation, and you have failed to answer. I have provided an example to test out your claim and your hypothesis has failed. Therefore, on the basis that truth claims have to be tested - something that you apparently believe in - your claims are bunk. Now are you prepared to do the decent and honest thing and submit to this outcome, or not?

    And if you think that the social aspects of school life have nothing to do with 'teaching' then that goes to show how out of touch with reality you really are. (I certainly wouldn't like you to be any kind of influential educationalist!)
  • Comment number 72.

    LSV,

    It's a strawman, attempting to discredit the concept of a null hypothesis by describing a situation that would be resolved in exactly the same way by any educational (or indeed any) establishment.

    You're expecting me (or perhaps wanting me) to put forwards an answer that you'll then use to show how there's no such thing as a null hypothesis, but I'm not jumping through your hoops just to give you the personal satisfaction of having your own opinions validated in your own head.

    Because the headmaster would react in the same situation in any case (splitting up the fight and reprimanding those at fault) that in itself is the null hypothesis. -Why- the headmaster split it up, and -how- the punishment was vindicated would depend on the status of the school, not the action of stopping the fight. A more secular establishment would probably seek to prevent such a situation from happening again by establishing why the fight started and altering the original circumstances, a religiously inspired school would probably (and this is from proven examples) beat the one at fault and demand he ask forgiveness from their god.

  • Comment number 73.

    Natman (@ 72) -

    It's a strawman, attempting to discredit the concept of a null hypothesis by describing a situation that would be resolved in exactly the same way by any educational (or indeed any) establishment.


    No, it's not a straw man at all, because I wasn't asking about how "any educational establishment" happens to resolve a particular problem. In fact, you have twisted what I am saying. I am looking at the reasons that motivate any establishment to respond to this kind of incident. In other words, no one can escape having to draw on a worldview to inform their actions, irrespective of whether that person is part of a 'secular' or 'religious' institution.

    It is clear that even a 'secular' establishment has to resolve this incident by drawing on moral ideas. Of course, these ideas are generally 'second nature' to most of us, but that is precisely because none of us can escape having a worldview.

    These moral ideas - whether held consciously or unconsciously - have to have objective validity in order to be applicable. It is perfectly possible to hold other ideas - such as Herbert Spencer's horrific philosophy of Social Darwinism, and allow the weak to go to the wall.

    So 'secular' schools display tacit acknowledgment of the fact that we live in a moral universe. Now 'faith' schools simply articulate and consciously uphold the logical implications of the idea of a 'moral universe' by affirming the role of an eternal moral agent. (BTW - when I refer to 'faith schools' I am speaking in general terms. I am well aware that there are particular individual 'faith schools' which pose a problem. So I am pre-empting a possible criticism that cynically tries to associate all faith schools with the problems of the few - a common debating tactic that atheists use, I'm afraid. So don't bother trying that one on.)

    Perhaps you could please explain to me how the act of following through on the logical implications of ideas that even secular schools acknowledge, constitutes 'bias' (and, to use the words of the NSS, 'an abomination' and 'brainwashing')?

    Are we now not even allowed to think (i.e. pursue logical implications) in this 'brave new world'?

    So the 'null hypothesis' is precisely that: null - and of no value and applicability whatsoever.
  • Comment number 74.

    Theo

    When two people in a marriage just cant get on and the children are being damaged because of it, I think they should separate.

    What you choose to turn that into, or how you choose to lable me because of that, is up to you. What I said and what you turned it into, were two different things. But I am happy to allow other bloggers on here to judge for themselves.

    Spouting Catholic doctrine with regard to divorce, or indeed with regard to issues like teenage pregnancies, gay sons or daughters etc.. seems to be a favourite pastime of certain people within Churches. Until of course one of these issues knocks on their own door.......

    Then, almost miraculously, such people suddenly change their tune... I just think that it would be nice if such people would treat others as they would like to be treated themselves.

  • Comment number 75.

    Natman (@ 72) -

    My comment from my last post: ...when I refer to 'faith schools' I am speaking in general terms. I am well aware that there are particular individual 'faith schools' which pose a problem. So I am pre-empting a possible criticism that cynically tries to associate all faith schools with the problems of the few - a common debating tactic that atheists use, I'm afraid. So don't bother trying that one on.


    How remiss of me! I seem to have overlooked the fact that you have already tried this one on, in your comment from post #72:

    ...a religiously inspired school would probably (and this is from proven examples) beat the one at fault and demand he ask forgiveness from their god.


    I have personally experienced both 'secular' state schools and a 'church-based' boarding school. Guess which one was the more violent, when it came to discipline?

    Do you really want to know?

    I'll say no more, otherwise I'll embarrass you more than I have already...
  • Comment number 76.

    LSV,

    One example does not a rule make. An argument from personal experience of a singular event is not applicable. The plural of anecdote is not data.

    Morals do not have to stem from religous principles. Social darwinism is a completely different kettle of fish to biological evolution (as I suspect you know, but the temptation to tar biology with ideology is too much for you) and is akin to the attempts of that abomination of internet sites, Conservapedia, to equate moral relativity with Einstein's theories.

    So, given it's entirely possible for morals to stem from non-religious sources, and that altruism is advantageous from an evolutionary viewpoint, why can't the headmaster of a secular school discipline an aggressor without relying on the presumption that morals are somehow hard-wired into the universe?

  • Comment number 77.

    romejellybeen;

    Pastorphilip, we are led to believe in your post #49, has "obnoxious views on people who contract HIV/Aids". In what, precisely, do these obnoxious views consist?

    "It seems we are to be encouraged to sympathize with those who have the virus, but we must never be permitted to encourage the kind of sexual behaviour - ie keeping sex within monogamous heterosexual marriage - most likely to prevent its spread! How illogical is that!

    It is surely long past time that we faced up to the moral dimension at the heart of the AIDS issue. At present, it can't even be discussed on the air!

    The words of Jesus still have powerful relevance: "Neither do I condemn you - go and sin no more." (John 8v11)"

    There's an AIDS timeline at the top of the thread which includes this;

    1984

    • San Francisco bathhouses are ordered shut, with similar efforts in other major metropolitan areas.

    They were ordered shut, because those places were bad, mad and dangerous. Do you really think it is helpful to pretend that there is no "moral dimension at the heart of the AIDS issue"?

  • Comment number 78.

    Natman (@ 76) -

    One example does not a rule make. An argument from personal experience of a singular event is not applicable. The plural of anecdote is not data.


    Exactly, Natman. So what, may I ask, was the point of your comment in post #72? Shall I remind you? Here it is (I have highlighted the key phrase):

    ...a religiously inspired school would probably (and this is from proven examples) beat the one at fault and demand he ask forgiveness from their god.


    Or did you just write that for no particular reason, i.e. to exercise your fingers?

    Or is this yet another case of "one rule for the wonderful secularists and another rule for those nasty religious people"?

    to be continued...
  • Comment number 79.

    ...continued from post #78...

    (Natman @ 76) -

    So, given it's entirely possible for morals to stem from non-religious sources, and that altruism is advantageous from an evolutionary viewpoint, why can't the headmaster of a secular school discipline an aggressor without relying on the presumption that morals are somehow hard-wired into the universe?


    Although I disagree with your reasoning, let's suppose this is possible (for the sake of argument).

    So the headmaster holds to a philosophy that states that morals are not 'hard-wired into the universe' (not a phrase I used, as it is ambiguous, but I will let that pass for now.) He subscribes (whether consciously or not) to a naturalistic worldview, and applies moral principles for entirely pragmatic reasons, on the basis that morality is subjective (as it has to be within his worldview in which all ideas are merely human constructs).

    The point is that he is still applying moral principles on the basis of a particular philosophy, whether he articulates that philosophy or not. Now why should his naturalistic philosophy be accepted as 'the default position' and therefore be considered 'unbiased', whereas the theistic philosophy is dismissed as 'biased' and a means of 'brainwashing' children?

    Why should the naturalistic worldview be considered the 'null hypothesis'?

    I am not altogether sure that you are using the phrase 'null hypothesis' correctly in this context, as it is an assumption used as a starting point for experimentation - a hypothesis, which can never be proven true but can only be falsified. It seems a very strange idea to use to undergird the entire education system of a nation.

    The naturalistic worldview is actually unfalsifiable anyway, if the tool of falsification is empiricism. An exclusively empirical approach will always assume naturalism, since empiricism, by definition, deals with nature. A 'null hypothesis' should be capable of being falsified. Therefore, logically, the philosophy of naturalism cannot possibly ever be a 'null hypothesis'.

    Now you may say the same about the theistic worldview. Fair enough. But all this proves is that there is no 'null hypothesis' which we can use to undergird the education system.

    So again, you are wrong.
  • Comment number 80.

    Re post 77,

    In Africa, in the first half of 20th century, western doctors treated patients for endemic infectious diseases, including frequently fatal sleeping sickness and malaria: their good intentions, coupled to a lack of knowledge about blood-borne viruses led to serious, though unintended, global health consequences.

    I'll repost this link

    Treating Endemic Infectious Diseases Jump-Started AIDS Pandemic


    It could also be seen in another light, that abolution of slavery just meant abuse took another form- with the use of "The colony as laboratory" as in German East Africa & Togo in the first decades of the 20th century.

    This isn't a moral issue- it's a health and knowledge issue : barrier methods prevent blood-borne viruses. In the same way there are barrier methods for high blood pressure and diabetes

  • Comment number 81.

    Theo@59

    What General Lewis Mackenzie, writing in the Canadian Globe and Mail, actually said was

    “What happened next (In Srebrenica) is only debatable in scale. The Bosnian Muslim men and older boys were singled out and the elderly, women and children were moved out or pushed in the direction of Tuzla and safety. It's a distasteful point, but it has to be said that, if you're committing genocide, you don't let the women go since they are key to perpetuating the very group you are trying to eliminate. Many of the men and boys were executed and buried in mass graves.”

    Distasteful is not the word I would use.

  • Comment number 82.

    LSV,

    "So again, you are wrong."

    Again, just because you say something is so, does not make it true. Just because you fail to understand a concept, does not make it false.

    "The naturalistic worldview is actually unfalsifiable anyway..."

    Ah, is that the methodology, or the philosophy? Because you can have the first without subscription to the latter. A point that has been shown to you (and you've conceded) many times now. Moral relativity is a subset of the first, the vast array of morals visible in the human condition shows that they're entirely relative, show me one moral that you insist is hardwired in, and I will show you a culture that doesn't subscribe to it.

    And since when under the great blue sky did the word probably (from "a religiously inspired school would -probably-) signify a rule? You were attempting to suggest that your experiences in a single secular school show that they're worse than religious ones. I was merely pointing out that there are far more good, legally proven, cased of religous schools being much more hardline than secular.

    The plural of anecdote is not data, but my examples were not anecdotal, yours was.

  • Comment number 83.

    Theo

    Paul James exposes your selective use of quotes. End of story there.

    Your Gospel quote is actually quite poignant. (Its the biblical equivalent of people referring to Hitler on a blog site. You guys just cant resist it "Neither do I condemn you - go and sin no more.")

    The person who last used that quote on here, very interestingly added "!!" at the end of the quote. I pointed out that I couldn't find exclamation marks at the end of that sentence in any Bible I could find.

    But it showed me the mindset. His emphasis was on "Go and sin no more !!" I had always heard, "Neither do I condemn you." But then I'm anti or at least un-Catholic.

    The Church is actually split down the middle between the "Go and sin no more!!" department, and those who would see Jesus as un-condemning of sinners, especially those sinners whose transgressions are deemed 'sexual sins.' He was, after all a sexual human being and knew his own sexual drive. (Either that or the Incarnation is utter nonsense.)

    Unfortunately the, "Go and sin no more!!" department are presently in charge.

    But that whole Gospel passage - if you read it all - is a very powerful attack on these heartless Pharisees who would brutally murder this poor woman - a far great sin/crime than anything this woman has done - and walk away convincing themselves of their own sanctity.

    You reduce it to one sentence to justify your own condemnatory and very selective, outlook. You should be shaking in your shoes reading that Gospel, not using it to justify being judgemental.

    God, I love the Gospel. 2000 years later it still continues to hide things from the learned and the clever and reveal them to the mere thick.

  • Comment number 84.

    paul james, #81;

    Re. General Lewis MacKenzie's article in the Canadian Globe and Mail.

    Did you read the whole thing? I only ask because, if you wanted to be an apologist for NATO's ongoing propaganda machine, surely you would have been reluctant to show it to someone who recognises that the Serbs have been unjustly vilified?

    "In the vast majority of recent media reports [this goes for virtually all western reporting to date], the background and responsibilities for the disaster in Srebrenica were absent. Preferred was the simple explanation: a black and white event in which the Serbs were solely to blame.

    [...]

    In early 1993 [...] I was asked to appear before a number of U.S. congressional committees dealing with Bosnia. A few months earlier, my successor in the UN Protection Force, General Philippe Morillon, had --against the advice of his UN masters -- bullied his way into Srebrenica accompanied by a tiny contingent of Canadian soldiers and told its citizens they were now under the protection of the UN. The folks at the UN in New York were furious with Gen. Morillon but, with the media on his side, they were forced to introduce the "safe haven" concept for six areas of Bosnia, including Srebrenica.

    It didn't take long for the Bosnian Muslims to realize that the UN was in no position to live up to its promise to "protect" Srebrenica. With some help from outsiders, they began to infiltrate thousands of fighters and weapons into the safe haven. As the Bosnian Muslim fighters became better equipped and trained, they started to venture outside Srebrenica, burning Serb villages and killing their occupants before quickly withdrawing to the security provided by the UN's safe haven. These attacks reached a crescendo in 1994 and carried on into early 1995...

    [to be continued]

  • Comment number 85.

    As the snow cleared in the spring of 1995, it became obvious to Nasar Oric, the man who led the Bosnian Muslim fighters, that the Bosnian Serb army was going to attack Srebrenica to stop him from attacking Serb villages. So he and a large number of his fighters slipped out of town. Srebrenica was left undefended with the strategic thought that, if the Serbs attacked an undefended town, surely that would cause NATO and the UN to agree that NATO air strikes against the Serbs were justified. And so the Bosnian Serb army strolled into Srebrenica without opposition.

    [...]

    Evidence given at The Hague war crimes tribunal casts serious doubt on the figure of "up to" 8,000 Bosnian Muslims massacred. That figure includes "up to" 5,000 who have been classified as missing. More than 2,000 bodies have been recovered in and around Srebrenica, and they include victims of the three years of intense fighting in the area. The math just doesn't support the scale of 8,000 killed.

    Nasar Oric, the Bosnian Muslim military leader in Srebrenica, is currently on trial in The Hague for war crimes committed during his "defence" of the town. Evidence to date suggests that he was responsible for killing as many Serb civilians outside Srebrenica as the Bosnian Serb army was for massacring Bosnian Muslims inside the town.

    Two wrongs never made a right, but those moments in history that shame us all because of our indifference should not be viewed in isolation without the context that created them."

    Can you think of a single civil war in history which did not feature utterly brutal and appalling carnage, including the killing of civilians? I believe Mladic should stand trial, but the atmosphere of general anti-Serb feeling can only heighten suspicions that the Hague Tribunal is being used as a political instrument.

  • Comment number 86.

    Natman (@ 82) -

    ...my examples were not anecdotal, yours was


    ???

    (Hey, ref, I wanna score a goal. Could you please move the goalposts to make sure my shots always go in, but make sure you move the other goalposts to make sure the other team can never score? Thanks.)

    to be continued...
  • Comment number 87.

    ...continued from post #86...

    (Natman @ 82) -

    Ah, is that the methodology, or the philosophy? Because you can have the first without subscription to the latter. A point that has been shown to you (and you've conceded) many times now.


    And your point is?

    I don't even know what you are trying to say, because it is possible to be a Christian and subscribe to methodological naturalism. Therefore faith schools can do the same.

    So it follows that 'methodological naturalism' cannot be your 'null hypothesis', and if it is, then you have no reason to criticise faith schools.

    'Philosophical' naturalism cannot be 'the null hypothesis' either, because IF (note the word!) you are insisting that the only way to acquire knowledge is through empirical testing, then you will always assume this philosophy, since it is the only one that can be believed IF (note the word!) the empirical method is the only way to truth. Therefore, on that basis (note the phrase!), philosophical naturalism becomes unfalsifiable, and therefore cannot be a proper 'null hypothesis'.

    But the point is - as I have stressed (it seems like a million times while banging my head against a brick wall), science is not the only way to acquire truth. The moment you concede that science is limited in scope, you have to accept that the philosophy of naturalism cannot be assumed - and therefore cannot be a 'default philosophy'.

    But anyway you are just running away from my original challenge to you. It is not possible to make decisions based on any kind of 'default philosophy', because there is no such thing as a 'default philosophy'. Therefore you have no grounds for dismissing the theistic worldview as 'bias', which, by the way, is a deeply prejudicial, and, dare I say, bigoted thing to say.

    So you can wriggle as much as you like. It doesn't alter the fact that you have no argument and that you are unjustified in your narrow-minded and ill-informed view of faith schools.
  • Comment number 88.

    LSV,

    The null hypothesis will always be - 'There is no outside influence upon the material universe'.

    To say anything otherwise is ignorance of what a null hypothesis actually is.

    Your statement 'science is not the only way to acquire truth' is lacking. There is no definition of what you term science and no definition of what you consider truth, or any way of establishing what that truth is once its acquired. Clearing that up would be marvellous.

    (more)

  • Comment number 89.

    Actually, there is no more. We're running in circles.

    You will insist that science cannot prove everything. Someone will point out that science doesn't have to, it just shows that gods aren't needed. You will insist that x, y and z must require a god as you don't understand them. Someone will show you how science has explained x, y and z don't need a god. You insist science cannot prove everything. (return to start).

  • Comment number 90.

    Theo
    Unjustly vilified?
    Read again what the General (your source) said,
    “What happened next (In Srebrenica) is only debatable in scale. The Bosnian Muslim men and older boys were singled out and the elderly, women and children were moved out or pushed in the direction of Tuzla and safety. It's a distasteful point, but it has to be said that, if you're committing genocide, you don't let the women go since they are key to perpetuating the very group you are trying to eliminate. Many of the men and boys were executed and buried in mass graves.”
    Let me spell it out for you.....
    "Many of the men and boys were executed and buried in mass graves.”
    If you think that such behaviour is justifiable in a civil or any other sort of war I leave with your conscience.

  • Comment number 91.

    What conscience?

  • Comment number 92.

    paul james;

    What i'm saying, broadly, is that various people on all sides of the conflict have terrible things on their conciences. This is true in the aftermath of any civil war.

  • Comment number 93.

    rome j b, #83;

    I don't think your'e thick, and nor do i think you think you're thick. But you didn't answer my question(!!).

    Do you really think it is helpful to pretend that there is no "moral dimension at the heart of the AIDS issue"?

  • Comment number 94.

    Theo

    The question has been answered by various bloggers on here. I even asked you to translate one post into Latin, if you wished, and to let it sink in. You obviously didnt.

    Our Church, in its hypocrisy and moral immaturity, has done more to help spread the disease than alleviate the problem.

    I hope Paul James comes back at you for your change of tune in post # 92. If he doesnt, I will.



  • Comment number 95.

    Theophane,

    Why bang on about HIV/AIDS? I don't see the Catholic church having the same obsession about herpes or chlamydia.

    I don't hear you talking about the 'moral dimension' at the heart of the hepatitis issue.

    Stop pretending you want to talk about HIV/AIDS and admit that you just really want an excuse to push a homophobic agenda.

  • Comment number 96.

    RJB, I had a go at 80 answering his 77 :s, but I'll try again.

    This is firmly in the arena of health & knowledge- maybe it's possible for this understanding to filter down to religion. Using barrier methods protects people. As Dave said in another thread, celibacy is an option, but not a very healthy one emotionally. The next best barrier method is a condom which allows balance between physical wellbeing & emotional wellbeing.

    When it comes to looking after blood- diabetes, high blood pressure & Hiv are similar. If someone is at risk of devoloping these conditions they can protect themselves, but they need to have the tools & confidence to do this- the best way is through education & acceptance- communicating knowledge in a mature manner.

    An aspect to HIV/AIDs is also trust. When someone makes an emotional & physical connection with another, there's a bond of trust. With such intimacy there's an expectation they won't harm you. Unfortunately the reality is, whether that trust is reciprocated or not, it's always best to be on the safe side as people may not know they have a condition to pass on. This comes back to the issue of shame, guilt and fear- that people sometimes don't address the physical health aspects of their body because sectors of society make the issue taboo- acting as a barrier to knowledge. The majority of single people, gay or straight, aspire to a monagamous relationship. Perhaps by some sectors of society treating others as second class citizens, through homophobia or racism etc, makes some more vulnerable emotionally. It's also be shown to suppress immune systems. Religion often seems to nurture an unappeasable pack mentality

    Prejudice/gossip's main purpose is to spread misery. It's certainly not to build people up or minister to them in the name of Christ : "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and gossip separates close friends" (Prov. 16:28)

  • Comment number 97.

    Theophane,

    I see you are repeating the prejudices of PastorPhilip again.

    This banging on about your religion (erroneously) demanding that the only moral way to have sex is within a monogamous heterosexual marriage is one of the pillars of your prejudice. The fact that your church is instrumental in denying homosexual people the right to have a marriage is the physical outworking of your prejudice. Claiming something is immoral and then trying to ensure that there is no way a specific group of people can ever engage in it "morally" is a particularly nasty piece of social engineering and a source of the homophobia in society which you and your church are responsible for.

    Thankfully a growing number of countries are finding out that you lot just do not like gay people and are deciding to go with the notion that everyone is created equal and should be treated as such (and that separate is not equal).

    All that aside, marriage has nothing to do with HIV transmission and neither has morality (in a religious/sexual ethics sense). HIV transmission is a purely physical thing which can be blocked successfully and other types of sex or intimacy are available too. That is what people need to be educated about so they can make their own decisions and take responsibility for themselves in a confident, free and mature way. Only a fool (or those denied the education) leaves it up to someone else to make such decisions for them and only a warped sense of control would want to make those decisions for them.

    Ryan, I agree with your last post and it is well made, Theo needs to get out of other peoples beds and spend a bit more time actually understanding what is important - btw I don't think it will happen.

  • Comment number 98.

    Re:"Sex-selective abortion only aggravates misogyny: a moral debate."
    I thought in most locales one no longer legally needed a grave reason, or for that matter,any reason to abort a child?
    I understand that women are pressured & coerced into abortions but that can be for many other social/economic reasons as well.It's an odd moral debate if it's not one that involves the civil rights of the child-whichever gender.

  • Comment number 99.

    Re:"Mennonite college bans US national anthem because it's un-Christian."
    The Mennonites are a pacifist Anabaptist denomination & the old order Mennonites do not typically vote nor attend college.We knew one preacher from a conservative Mennonite group who would not attend a Mennonite college because it was too liberal & chose to attend a secular college instead.
    I don't think conservative Mennonites would skip a national anthem so much for the battle-related lyrics as much as just choosing to separate themselves from nationalism.(Just as they separate themselves from many other secular activities.)Our friends who are Mennonite very much appreciate living in America & pray for their country & its leaders.They just have a different philosophy & it can cause misunderstanding.

  • Comment number 100.

    mscracker;

    Thanks for your post #98. Increasingly, it seems that "moral debate" in this secular age applies only to issues which lie outside, or "skirt" the pernicious forces ranged against traditional family life. It's not politically correct to say what these are, but i mean homosexuality, divorce, contraception and abortion. The annihilation of the family continues apace, and above all it is children who must suffer the consequences.

 

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