Conversational cruelty

The United Kingdom attempts to enter the 19th century:

The Government recently indicated it is willing to amend the Criminal Justice Bill to abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.
And the Archbishop of Canterbury is comfortable enough defending his religion not oppose such a move:

Dr Rowan Williams… said the current blasphemy law was “unworkable” and he had no objection to its repeal.
Or is he? Dr Williams?
The legal provision should keep before our eyes the general risks of debasing public controversy by thoughtless and, even if unintentionally, cruel styles of speaking and acting.
Obviously cruel acts should be outlawed but ‘cruel styles of speaking’? What does that even mean? FM breakfast radio?

Why are so many religious people so insecure that they need the law to protect them from arguments against their belief systems?

You never hear atheists lobbying for laws to prevent criticism of, or cruelty towards, non-belief. Perhaps we have enough confidence in our position. It is the most logical after all.

(Via Butterflies and Wheels.)

Does the decline in religiosity lead to a decline in civic values?

The good news:

Nearly a third of Australian teenagers have no religious beliefs, new research has shown.
The bad news according to The Age: it’s because they are all narcissistic, tight-arse, loners or they soon will be due to their lack of religious faith:
God on the nose with the 'Me' generation.
The research on which said newspaper article is based was carried out by Dr. Michael Mason and Assoc. Prof. Ruth Webber (both from the Australian Catholic University), Dr. Andrew Singleton (from Monash University).

They argue, according to The Age, that:

those with serious spiritual and religious beliefs were likely to be more involved in their communities and donate money … and be more concerned about their society than their non-religious counterparts.
Webber claims that the apparent disparity between secular and religious teenagers is worrying:
If you are secular and there is no other way that you can get an entry into those values, then that's some kind of concern to society as a whole.
I quote the newspaper report because the conference paper and/or journal article is not yet available. I have emailed the authors requesting it.

What is available online, however, is the survey questionnaire (pdf) used in the research. The questions asked cast doubt on the validity of the findings as presented by The Age and the concerns of Webber.

The two questions on volunteer work specifically exclude gaining information on the “organisation or cause” to which teenagers donate their time. Similarly the three questions on donating money ask nothing of the charity, cause or organisation which is benefiting from the respondents’ generosity.

These two omissions are disappointing and somewhat surprising. It may be that much of the time and money religious teenagers are donating is going towards their own church. If this is the case there is little correlation between religious faith and generosity as such. Rather these donations can be better classed as a hobby.

If, in fact, as the researchers and the newspaper article seem to imply, religious faith is correlated to generous actions which benefit wider society then there is cause for concern. As religiosity declines, such a correlation would mean that donations of time and money will also decline.

Yet is religious faith really the important variable here? It’s much more likely that participation in church life gives teenagers more opportunities to donate time and money. It forces them, as such, into situations where collective action is more likely.

If this research proves trustworthy, and the inevitable decline in religiosity leads to a decrease in teenagers donating time and money, it may be up to the secular community (if there is such a thing), among others, to foster spaces in which young people can come together and become more involved in the wider community.

Rape victims require additional punishment

Should a rape victim who takes the morning-after pill be punished for murder?

In an illustrative and disturbing example of how religious belief can lead to immorality, some Christians say yes.

Craig S and Tony J believe that rape victims who conceive must be forced through 9 months of pregnancy and forced to give birth to their attacker's child.

The reasons for such an immoral position: Chris and Tony believe in the existence of souls.

According to most Christians, at the moment conception takes place, god inserts the zygote with a unique soul. And it is the soul that has the real value.

As a result, preventing the fertilised egg from implanting in the wall of uterus, which emergency contraception sometimes does, is the moral equivalent of killing a young child, or a human of any age for that matter.

Instead of basing our moral reasoning on the facts, for example the pain and suffering caused by forcing a rape victim to give birth, the completely unfounded belief in souls forces Christians to place great value on a zygote.

The "interests" of a couple of cells, impossible to see with the human eye, devoid of the ability to think, dream, suffer or experience happiness wins out over a rape victim.

And should said victim try to prevent the implantation? Chris:
I (and some of the other commentators) actually think a fetus is an actual person, and killing it is an actual murder... If 15+ years is what you would get for killing a 1 day old baby (I'm not sure it is), then yes - 15+ years would be appropriate for perpetrating an abortion.

Divine misogyny

Some people, when speaking of god, will refer to him/her rather than just him. The idea seems to be that god doesn’t have a gender or that god may be a women or perhaps that god is both man and women.

Such wishful thinking will never take place on this blog. If god exists and has a gender he is most definitely a man. And he hates women:

If you claim to be a religious person, you are not a feminist, nor if you believe men and women are inherently equals can you claim to believe in the fundamental beliefs of any religion.
From the Quran:
4:34 Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other... So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.
From the Bible:
Leviticus 12:2 If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days... 12:5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks.
From the Laws of Manu (part of Hindu scripture):
Law 148, Chapter V In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; A woman must never be independent.
In Buddhism, the Tibetan kind, we are yet to see a female Dalai Lama.

Despite all this, 72% of women in Australia belong to an organsied religion while the same can be said for only 67% of Australian men.

What's with the lowercase g, g?

John Halton appears bemused (also mentioned here) by the lowercase beginning to the word “god” on this blog and among atheists generally:

Oh, and what is it with atheists these days saying "god" in lower-case all the time? It wasn't like that back in my day. I'm not a Buddhist, but I can still bring myself to use a capital "B" for the word "Buddha". Ditto "Allah", "Krishna" and "Flying Spaghetti Monster".
The distinction between Jesus (or Buddha, Krishna etc.) and god is useful. Jesus is a person, real or otherwise, while god is an idea, like liberalism or justice. When god is written with a capital g the writer is saying that the idea of god is more grounded in reality that it actually is.

Some will argue that god is not an idea but a name. When a Christian says I believe in god, she is referring to a specific entity. Yet, if you accept that god is a name, in the same way Kevin Rudd is a name, strictly speaking both “God” and “god” correct. You could call our Prime Minister a “father” or you could call him “Kevin”. In the same way you could call the Christian god “God”, his name, or a “god”, what he is.

Seeing as god is more of an idea that an actual entity, the lowercase “g” is more suitable.

"Our own religious lunatics are in a better position to understand that people really believe these things"

Sam Harris, in the above, often simplistic, interview, makes the argument that those on the political left are unable to properly comprehend religious fundamentalism:

They don’t know what it’s like to really believe in god… To be sure the book they keep by their bedside is the literal work of the creator of the universe and that death is a merely a passage to an eternity of happiness…
The inability to imagine or relate to such religious fervour, leads “liberals” to discount the motivational aspects of religious belief. When confronted with a Muslim suicide bomber, Harris argues, they are likely to discount the expressed motive and instead look for economic or political reasons to explain the act of violence.

Most of the people I know are religious moderates and secularists, to use Harris’s terms. As such, I do find it very difficult to comprehend a religious faith so strong that death is embraced.

But is Harris, because of his focus on religion, downplaying other causes?

Humans are complex and when a person takes the radical step of murdering strangers, while simultaneously killing themselves, multiple factors are likely at play.

His general point stands however. Those with little experience of religion, or religious fundamentalism, must be careful when dismissing the religious beliefs of violent extremists.

Pandemic that kills 2.9 million per year a blessing

The late psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross opined:

I’m sure that, 25 years from now, we’ll see AIDS as an incredible blessing because it forces you - it literally forces you - to take a stand and make a choice based on either love or fear.
How could a trained doctor, "who worked tirelessly with AIDS victims", characterise a such horrible disease in such positive terms?

Kubler-Ross was:

a firm believer in a god and the life hereafter
She held that there is:
no such thing as death
Her belief in heaven caused her to devalue life on earth - the only one we have - and allowed her to see a fatal disease as a blessing.

Bryan Patterson, Faithworks columnist for News Ltd, quotes Kubler-Ross approving, to prove what I'm not sure, even claiming the psychiatrist:

did much to prove the existence of an afterlife
Patterson doesn't bother with anymore detail but Kubler-Ross' proof appears to rest on anecdotes from patients who believe they saw:
a shining light and familiar faces, before being brought back from the brink. Many doctors believe these are hallucinations connected to the physical process of death and not afterlife previews.

Proof of dangerous megalomaniac's divinity irrelevant

Bryan Patterson nails it:

There is no room in this story for regarding this Jesus as merely a good spiritual teacher. He was either a dangerous megalomaniac, a liar or what he said he was.
As Bertrand Russell points out, Jesus:
certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time… The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent.
He also believed he could cast devils into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:13) and spent 40 days hallucinating in a desert ‘talking’ to Satan (Luke 4:2).

On this small collection of evidence, "liar" or “dangerous megalomaniac” look more likely. But Patterson being a Christian, believes Jesus is who he said he was. On what basis?
Jesus is a living and loving being involved in the rebirth of those who want it. In that sense, there is no need for historical proof.
Just as well there is no need for evidence. None exists.

Columnist unable to accurately quote head of own church

Christopher Pearson is one of Australia’s worst journalists.

A week ago the Pope said:

What would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation? Anselm of Canterbury, in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk.
Pearson argues that Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ian Fisher “framed” these comments as the Pope voicing concern about global warming.

Pearson disagrees with this characterisation:

We already know what know we already know what Benedict thinks about global warming. He made a telling intervention during the Bali conference earlier this month… What matters is what the Pope himself says.
So what does Pearson think the pope said:
He warned that “any solution to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not dubious ideology ... Fears over man-made emissions melting the ice caps and causing a wave of unprecedented disaster are nothing more than scaremongering.”
Pretty conclusive wouldn’t you think. Except that the pope did say any of that. The first three sentences of Pearson’s pope quotation are actually the words of Daily Mail journalist Simon Caldwell.

Only the final two sentences of the quotation are from the pope. And those don’t really mention global warming:

Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions.
A fact Pearson could easily have discovered. The pope’s message is produced in full here.

Proof of god's existence, your stupidity

Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, preaching at St Andrew's Cathedral on Christmas day, acknowledges the critics:

People ask us where God is, why they can't see God, and if it is true, we should be able to know it is true.
But he has an answer:
The Christmas story tells us that it is true.

This man’s standard of evidence is not very high.

There was a point in history where God became flesh. Those who were with him saw him, talked to him, lived with him and in the end crucified him.
No. There as a point in history where an egomaniac’s claims that he was god were taken seriously. A few wrote about it, and now millions of people take these claims seriously.
The son of God, Jesus, showed us exactly what God is like.
A delusional hippie with a penchant for party tricks.
Our problem with God is not that he is invisible or that he does not exist. The real problem is that we wish that he did not exist.
The success of religion in modern times is a testament to the fact that people do wish that god exists.

Jensen’s real problem is because god is invisible, and doesn’t exist, his church is dying. And blaming people for being unable to believe in a sky fairy will do nothing to slow it.

The War on Christmas* comes to the Australian suburbs

On Christmas Eve I went to a Catholic mass. The priest began his homily by using Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a metaphor for how Catholics should treat the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. (Although obviously not homosexuals.)

Towards the end he stumbled in into controversial territory, bemoaning the fact that “some people in this country don’t want us to publicly celebrate Christmas”. No names were mentioned.

He went on to argue that such illiberalism was unacceptable as Australia was founded by Christians and that “this is our land”.

*Originating in the US, the ‘War on Christmas’ is a term used by some Christians to characterise what they see as secular attacks on the annual religious festival.

Canada’s stupidest columnist confronted by Canada’s stupidest university students

Mark Steyn is one of the worst journalists (and I use that term very loosely) in the English-speaking world today. As luck would have it he is also quite successful.

Steyn propagated the myth that Muslim American children had foreknowledge of the September 2001 World Trade Center attack. He has continually insisted, in the face of all the evidence, that Osama Bin Laden is certainly dead and he expected “no widespread resentment at or resistance of the western military presence” in Iraq. Steyn believes in creationism/intelligent design.

Despite all this, Steyn has found a numerous editors and publishers willing to print his work. One of his latest books is America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It.

Maclean's, a Canadian magazine, published an excerpt of the book in October 2006.

Late last month, four Muslim students, represented by a lawyer from the Canadian Islamic Congress, ‘filed complaints with the federal, Ontario and British Columbia human rights commissions’, arguing that ‘the article subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt.’

Khurrum Awan, one of the students, said:

To say that we share the same basic goals as terrorists … if you look at the theme of the article in the context, it is putting that label on all of us and I felt personally victimized.
If you want to censor political speech, you do share one of the basic goals of Islamic fundementalists.

Don’t get me wrong, Steyn is remarkably thick. But his ignorance is rivalled by this attempt at censorship.

Firstly, free speech on political matters is absolute. It is not the responsibility of governments to decide what thoughts are and are not acceptable.

But secondly, by trying to punish Steyn for his article, it gives the appearance that his opinions have some basis in fact. They don’t. His thesis is littered with errors, poor reasoning and racism.

Johann Hari, in an excellent critique, outlines some of Steyn's stupidity:

To fulfil his headline predictions, Steyn needs to turn 20 million European Muslims into more than 200 million European Muslims - in just 13 years. Only Fallacci's rats could reproduce so rapidly.

…So after saying it is "grotesque" to count out "white" babies, he does just that. "White" is not a culture; it is a skin colour, and there Steyn is, relieved that more babies have his pigmentation than the brown and black varieties.

…he seems to actively agree with the Islamist critique of women's sexual freedom, claiming in passing that Islam provides women with "a refuge from the slatternly image of post-feminist Western womanhood.”

…Steyn's wider response to Islamism is to make democratic societies more like the one the Islamists want to build.

In order to oppose Steyn it is not necessary to censor him. He doesn’t have truth on his side so all you have to do is present the facts.

Stifling political freedom of speech is never warranted.

Sohail Raza, a representative of the Muslim Canadian Congress, agrees:
This is Canada, not Sudan, Egypt or Pakistan, where the press is stifled. There is absolute freedom of expression and people have an opportunity to voice their opinion.

But it requires four adult witnesses

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, arguing that Islam supports of the corporal punishment of a Saudi rape victim, quotes the Koran:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)

Jill at Feministe disputes Ali use of the verse to attack Islamic ‘moderates’, pointing out that most Muslims do not take this verse literally:

Selecting one section from a centuries-old religious text and then drawing the conclusion that most followers of that religion follow that text to the word is ridiculous.

But she is summarily contradicted by commenter Nora:

Most Muslims agree that the punishment for pre-marital sex is flogging; the punishment for marital infidelity is death by stoning. Pretty atrocious when you hear it put that way, right?

Yes. You’re a psychic.

But I do look forward to your rationalisation of this barbaric practice:

How different would you feel if I bring in the part a lot of fundamentalists love to ignore: in order for any individual to be flogged/killed, FOUR adults must have witnessed the actual act of sexual intercourse.

Not very. You’ll make everyone feel better though, if you stop defending corporal punishment for pre-marital sex and capital punishment for infidelity. It doesn’t matter how many witnesses the Koran requires or whether you put the number in CAPS.

But ultimately, such reasoning exposes again, the futility of arguing from your opponent’s religious principles. It doesn’t matter whether the Koran punishes pre-marital sex with floggings or not. It doesn’t matter whether the passage is read literally or contextually.

We can safely skip the theological argument just as we do in cases of genital mutilation and blasphemy. Whether your religion supports it or not, corporal punishment or the death penalty for consensual sex is always wrong.

Committee Sikhs steel dagger, GSOH, religious rationale a must

As reported in the Australian, the Education and Training Committee of the Victorian Parliament has recommended that:

schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan
What exactly the Kirpan, a ‘small, curved ornamental steel dagger’ according to the Committee, is has been the subject, among other things, of fierce debate at Larvatus Prodeo.

Some argue it is little more than a trinket, others that is it a sharp dangerous knife.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development seems to suggest (p.58) it is the later:

In a recent media interview, a spokesperson from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development suggested that the kirpan could be replaced with a small replica or pendant.
This was rejected by Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria:

To suggest the using of a replica or any form of material is to belittle the religion. A replica or pendant is not acceptable. The kirpan cannot be of any material other than steel.
Experience in Canada indicates the kirpan is dangerous. Justice Campbell in Ontario Human Rights Commission and Harbhajan Singh Pandori v. Peel Board of Education:

There have been, in the Metropolitan Toronto area, three reported incidents of violent kirpan use. One involved a plea of guilty to attempted murder after a stabbing with a kirpan. In one street fight, a man was stabbed in the back with a kirpan. In one case, a kirpan was drawn for defensive purposes.
While the evidence seems to indicate the kirpan is dangerous, it is useful to consider both scenarios: 1. the kirpan is a dangerous dagger or 2. the kirpan is a harmless ornament, similar to a Christian cross neckless.

1. The Kirpan is a dangerous weapon

Schools have ‘no weapons’ policies for a reason: to reduce the risk of students harming other students and teachers. There is no reason to increase the risk by allowing religiously significant weapons into schools.

2. The Kirpan is harmless

If the Kirpan a harmless ornament there is no reason to prevent children attending public school with one. We don’t prevent children from wearing Christian crosses or Jewish yarmulkes.

The second scenario seems unlikely. If the Kirpan is harmless then why is an exemption from public schools’ “no weapons” policy needed?

Country fights blasphemy law overseas, reaffirms blasphemy law at home

Blasphemy laws are not just confined to countries ruled by genocidal, Islamic dictators.

In the United Kingdom, blasphemy has been outlawed for centuries.

In the same way that criticising Judaism in Sudan is unlikely to be met with a change of blasphemy, the UK law only applies to ‘offensive’ speech about the Church of England.

Under the blasphemy law, the BBC was taken to court by Christian Voice for screening 'Jerry Springer - The Opera', in which Christ is depicted wearing a nappy and swearing.

Yesterday the BBC was cleared of any wrong doing as the 1968 Theatres Act and 1990 Broadcasting Act prevent any prosecution for blasphemy in relation to public performances of plays or broadcasts.

[The court] added that it was reasonable to conclude that Jerry Springer - The Opera could not be considered as blasphemous as it was not aimed at Christianity but was a parody of the chat show genre.

So while the ruling may appear a victory for freedom of speech, the court reaffirmed the validity of the blasphemy law. Parody aimed at the Church of England is still illegal.

Now, to oppose the British law must one appeal to the Bible in keeping with the 'cultural milieu' of the United Kingdom, or will arguing from universal human rights suffice?

Racism in the LDS, sexism in the Catholic Church

Christopher Hitchens, being interviewed on MSNBC, calls on US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to discuss his Mormonism.

Most importantly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ position until 1978 that black men could not become priests or participate in certain ceremonies.

Hitchens is right. Romney, who was 31 in 1978, should explain why he was a member of an explictly racist organisation for 13 years of his adult life.

But shouldn’t this principle be extended to politicians or candidates who are part of explicitly sexist religious institutions? The Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain female priests is surely just as illogical, unjust, bigoted and discriminatory as the LDS Church’s pre-1978 position regarding black men.

Just as Romney should explicitly distance himself from the LDS Church’s previous racism, we should expect all Catholic politicians to denounce the sexism of their Church.


How best to oppose blasphemy laws and female genital mutilation?

There is actually a third way to oppose the jailing of Gillian Gibbons for insulting Islam.

Taj Hargey, Chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, writing on the letters page of the Guardian defends the free speech of Holocaust deniers:

The Qur'an makes it incontrovertible that all people have the right to choose their own path and perspectives in life (2:256; 10:99; 18:29; 109:6;etc). It is therefore a fallacy that Islam denies the vital principle of freedom of speech.
So, to recap, we can argue that:

1.Gibbons did nothing insult Islam but if she did she deserves prison time,

2.Blasphemy laws are ridiculous and illogical and should not be supported in any circumstances, or

3.Islam’s holy book supports free speech which therefore means blasphemy should not be outlawed.

The first is obviously unpalatable but the third certainly holds some attraction. It brings to mind the blogosphere debate earlier this year over female genital mutilation (FGM).

There, a part of the discussion appeared to be over whether the most useful tactic was to fight FGM in its “cultural milieu” by emphasising that Islam doesn’t support the practice, or oppose it on the grounds of universal secular human rights.

Kim and Mark at Larvatus Prodeo took the former view. Ayaan Hirsi Ali takes that later as does Julie Szego. (Tim Blair, while being on the right side of an argument for once, used the opportunity to payout on “feminists”.)

In both cases, blasphemy and FGM, it would appear that arguing from a system of belief – in this case Islam – already accepted by those you are trying to convince would be beneficial. The Muslims of Sudan and Egypt can keep their faith while blasphemy laws and female genital mutilation can be consigned to the dustbin of history.

With this approach Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s atheism becomes a liability. Nick Cohen describes Garton Ash’s argument that:

there was no point in liberals treating her [Ali] as a heroine because her abandonment of Islam and embrace of atheism meant her arguments carried no weight with Muslims.
This also seemed to be Kim’s argument.

By couching anti-FGM and pro free speech arguments in the language of Islam traction may be gained on these issues. But should we really be relying on religious arguments to oppose FGM and blasphemy? And what if the Koran does advocate an abhorrent practice? Are we then forced to accept it because we have agreed to discuss morality on the terrain of Islam rather than liberal secularism?

After all, as Ophelia Benson notes, it:

still leaves you with the problem of having to argue over what's in a 1400-year-old book - it still leaves you with the problem of worrying about what “scripture” says instead of about what is best for human beings in the light of current knowledge and accumulated understanding and moral insight.
Cohen describes Ali’s two responses to this ceding of ground to religion:
If liberal secularists didn't have pride and confidence in their principles, why should they expect anyone else to take them seriously? And if… they turned away from democrats and insisted on treating European Muslims as children who can only be spoken to in the baby language of gobbledegook [religion], what right did they have to be surprised if European Muslims reacted with childish petulance rather than the broad-mindedness of full adult citizens?
Is there a risk that using religious arguments to combat FGM and blasphemy laws may actually be detrimental to the struggle for universal secular human rights?

Islam not cuddly

As has been well reported, Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher in Sudan, has been jailed for 15 days for insulting Islam.

There are two different ways to oppose such a ruling.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, ran with the first. Disagree with the facts of the case:

Bunglawala… said it appeared to have been a "quite horrible misunderstanding" and Ms Gibbons should never have been arrested. There was no apparent intention to offend Islamic sensibilities or defame the honour and name of the Prophet Muhammad, he said.

While supporting the general principle behind the blasphemy law:

Muslim majority countries have their own laws and customs. If you set out to deliberately insult the Prophet Muhammad in a country where such behaviour is regarded as unacceptable and against the law then I would have little sympathy for you.

The second approach is to oppose blasphemy laws.

Regardless of the country or culture in which they are instigated prohibitions against discussing, verbally attacking or mocking religion are detrimental to human society. There is no reason to protect religion, which is just another set of ideas like liberalism or Confucianism, from criticism. As Bertrand Russell, writing in 1930, commented on England’s blasphemy laws:

If you abuse Lenin to a Communist until he gets so angry that he hits you on the nose, the Communist is sent to prison. If the Communist abuses Christ to you until you get angry so that you hit him on the nose, it is again the Communist that is sent to prison. There is apparently no member of the present Government who is able to perceive that this is an injustice.


Update 3/12: Gibbons has been pardoned.

Politician's popularity unaided by his popular faith

Harry Clarke joins Andrew Bolt in bemoaning the anti-Christian menace.

This time it's Catholics, followers of the most popular sect (5 million) of the most popular religion (12.7 million) in Australia, who are being discriminated against:

Sadly, I cannot help thinking that prejudiced views on Tony Abbott's Catholicism have hindered his prospects. We live in a secular society where people like Abbott who seek to live by a decent moral code are regarded suspiciously.
Abbott is not disliked because he lives by "decent moral code". He is unpopular because he tries to enforce, through legislation, an illogical, harmful "moral code" based on belief in a sky fairy.

There is nothing decent about restricting access to emergency contraception. Or fighting embryonic stem cell research, an area of great potential which one day could allow for the development of "replacement nerves and organs to overcome a range of devastating illnesses."

Parliamentary Liberal Party members recognise how secular and socially liberal Australia is. As such, Abbott will never be their leader.

The Sunday Age Faith column II

Ever wondered why some people are rich and others poor.

Rachel Woodlock, in last week's Faith column (no link available), gives us an Islamic view:

...the amount of wealth a person might acquire over their lifetime was already written by the hand of god before birth.
So if you are a citizen of Zimbabwe, fighting hunger and 14,841% inflation, take comfort in the fact there is nothing you can do about it and that Robert Mugabe was sent by Allah to keep you poor.