Archive for March, 2012

Hugo Rifkind makes a strong case in The Spectator:

I hail from a religion which rarely seeks to convert, and which looks in, rather than out, and is generally happy leaving everybody else alone. Doctrine aside, I struggle to grasp the justification for any religion behaving in any other way. Last month, Sayeeda Warsi wrote of her fears that religion was being ‘sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere’. It sounds bad, that, but only until you think about what religion is. It does not saturate most lives. It does not occupy most waking thoughts, as most go to work, work, and come home again. It simply doesn’t. When the Archbishop of Canterbury complains that the government treats those with faith as ‘oddities, foreigners and minorities’ he’s ignoring the great truth that stares him in the face — which is that this is exactly what people with faith are.

He’s hitting on a great truth here. The majority of people in this country do not consider themselves as practising theists. About half of us self-identify as ‘Christian’, but it’s only a tiny minority of even them who bother to go to church. Right now religions in this country are doing their utmost to stop gay people from marrying, inflated by a huge sense of self-importance (after all they have Bishops in the House of Lords, with the Head of State leading at least the Anglicans), when most people simply don’t get why two consenting adults who love each other. Most people don’t understand why it’s important to pray during a local government council session. Most people find it absurd that members of an established church say they’re persecuted when there’s not a single case of persecution having been brought to courts and tribunals. Religion doesn’t belong in the political sphere at all, and why would it, after all? Faith and delusion share the identical characteristics – belief without (and most importantly) against evidence and reason. The time is long gone when that mentality had any place in mainstream civil society.

In the last week David Camoron has talked about privatising Britain’s roads and successfully got his NHS breakup bill through Parliament. How can anyone vote for this scum with any conscience?

From the inimitable Cristina Odone in the Telegraph:

Same-Sex Marriage Rally

Same-Sex Marriage Rally (Photo credit: City of West Hollywood)

Marriage may be a force for the good, but for some gay people, it has become a fortress they must storm. They argue that, in its present state, marriage discriminates and excludes. The ancient and much-loved edifice must be broken into – or simply broken.

I’m sorry, theists and bigots, but this is batshit crazy. It’s just plan bonkers. ‘Broken into’? ‘Broken’? There isn’t a single way in which marriage equality damages a single aspect of society – not a single one. My relationship with my male partner is in every way the equal of your marriage, and if equating mine with yours under the law causes antiquated laws you bought into to evolve to cope with it then I’m utterly fine with that. In its present state the institution does discriminate and exclude, and the only reasons I’ve been informed about to justify such run as follows:

  • Gay people have never been able to marry therefore gay people can’t get married now. This unfortunately line essentially victimises the victim of homophobia yet further, and for no reason. Being openly gay has been legal (and indeed socially acceptable) only for the blink of an eye – of course the question of same-sex marriage hasn’t been on the table before – it couldn’t have been!
  • The definition of marriage simply is male/female. This line too ignores the reality that all social constructs evolve alongside social norms – marriage has always done this and indeed always will. The Biblical line of marriage is adhered to only by a very small minority in the West, and indeed it would be a strange thing to compare a Saudi marriage with an average British one. Homophobia is now not a mainstream social norm in the West, and most (by no means all) people don’t comprehend how any two consenting adults who love each other can’t get married.
  • Changing the definition of marriage carries with it all sorts of dangers: what to say to the kids about gay relationships, relationship roles in official documents needing to become gender neutral, the possibility of national leaders and Heads of State being out and gay. As far as I’m concerned these are non-issues, the latter in particular not causing any problems at all in Iceland and Belgium.

Odone however keeps adding ‘reasons’:

The Government claims that its plans to legalise gay marriage will not affect religious institutions, only civil ones. But given that the gay marriage lobby seeks equality in this area, how long would it accept the ban on gays marrying in church or synagogue? It is bound to argue that exclusion from a religious ceremony amounts to discrimination, and will almost certainly campaign to force priests and vicars to celebrate gay marriages even if that goes against their heartfelt beliefs. Freedom of conscience will be sacrificed at the altar of a “right” that the Civil Partnership Act was supposed to have conferred years ago.

We live in a society governed by civil, not religious law. I see no reason why there should be a ban on gay people marrying in churches, synagogues or mosques. Why should a single institution in the country be exempt from equalities legislation? Why shouldn’t gay Muslims be able to marry, gay Jews, gay Christians, in the temples of their choosing? She ends by arguing that theists should have unrestricted ‘freedom of conscience’, but since when did that involve being able to discriminate against gay people for any reason, in a society with laws to protect from such? I don’t believe a majority of Britons feel that equality is culturally dangerous – in presenting such an absurd argument Odone edits out everyone whose views, lives and needs don’t chime with her own, and at the end of the day me marrying my partner would have no impact on anyone else’s life (or marriage, the most ludicrous ‘anti’ reason I’ve yet come across). The Christian (and most recently Muslim) zealot brigade need to reflect on what ‘values’ are fuelling their opposition.

Hadley Freeman asks in the Guardian:

, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

Which of the following homophobic actions and statements do you find more despicable and more deserving of the most severe punishment possible: an 18-year-old in his first term at university spying with a webcam on his gay roommate and sending out tweets such as: “I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.”

Or: a 53-year-old man on a high-profile political stage saying that gay marriage will cause America to “fail”; that homosexuals do not perform activities “that are healthy for society” and therefore do not deserve certain “rights” such as raising children; that gay “sexual activity” is not “equal” to heterosexual “activity”that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is “playing social experimentation with our military … And that’s tragic”that gay marriage is analogous to polygamy and, most infamously, bestiality.

Both of these examples are utterly horrible and it is a decidedly depressing state of affairs that they happened at all. So to compare them is not to say that one is, relatively speaking, forgivable. Yet when one results in a now 20-year-old man facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment and possible deportation, and the other leads to this particular politician doing unexpectedly well in the Republican presidential primaries, one does have to question, shall we say, the consistency of national attitude, and what, really, is condemned and condoned.

Under any reasonable standard, the man is inciting homophobic hatred. Whilst it’s true, as she says, that he can’t be tied to any individual act of bullying or violence (at least right now), she’s right again to say that the tone he’s setting is abhorrent. A candidate for the US presidency is indulging in unashamed outright bigotry in order to fuel up the people he believes are his base – how is this not causing as massive social outcry as Dharun Ravi’s behaviour which led to Tyler Clementi’s suicide? I grant that these are nominally two different situations – one is a question of privacy, the other of the First Amendment, but it’s a complete mystery why Santorum’s inflammatory rhetoric isn’t continuously pummelled by the same sections of the media and civil society who are being so vocal about Ravi’s actions.

It's all connected

And we’re constantly told this isn’t ideological. Fuck the Tories.

In a serious case of head-in-the-sand level of ignorance and/or stupidity, footballer John Fashanu has not only claimed that his late gay brother wasn’t gay, but that there aren’t any gay footballers at all:

upright

Image via Wikipedia

“It’s a macho man’s game and I think there are reasons why we haven’t had any gay footballers come out.

“I don’t believe there will be. I’m not saying there aren’t some there, but I can tell you in twenty years of playing all my matches I have never come across a gay footballer.

“I’m not someone who says, ‘I’ve got black friends, they’re all good people.’ I’m not going to say ‘I’ve got gay friends, who are all good people.’

The interview makes an awful claim about his brother Justin, who killed himself after years of homophobic abuse, but what’s most notable for me is his incredible denial about gay footballers. Surely it’s ignorance like his which contributes to the climate making it impossible for gay footballers to come out?

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Colby Hess nails it in one:

The ongoing circus act that is the Republican primaries are an excellent case study in personification, for the ringmaster of the moment is the very embodiment of all that atheists despise about religion. Rick Santorum is so ignorant, so bigoted and hypocritical, so authoritarian, theocratic, shortsighted, and so out of touch with facts and with reality in general, that if he did not happen to exist already, it would almost be necessary to invent him in order to serve as the poster child for everything that’s wrong with religion – especially when it gets mixed up with politics.

Rick Santorum hates nearly every societal advance that has been achieved since the Dark Ages – in short, everything that we refer to as “progress.” He hates the growing secularization of society and the implementing of laws based on things like equality, fairness, justice, and reason instead of blind deference to imaginary authority. He hates the empowerment of women and their having control over their own bodies instead of being merely meek and obedient baby-making machines. He even hates the Earth itself, which he looks at as some kind of vassal state to be plundered at will.

It’s such an awesome article I can’t recommend it highly enough. Santorum legitimises religious fundamentalism, with all of the abuses inherent in that, and must be decisively confronted. Having clearly watched history, he picks the usual religious/nationalist talking points which engage those most affected by economic crashes, and in galvanising huge swathes of the south, is proving how little people change. Fortunately however in running on a blatantly bigoted platform, he is also proving the fundamental dangers inherent in religion through example. Day by day, ever more atheists…

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