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Nov 142015
 

One of the worst examples of muddle-headed thinking you can come across on the interwebs in the wake of the latest terrorist attrocities is the notion that somehow Islam is a religion of terrorism. Now don't get me wrong; I'm no friend of any religion, and Islam has some particularly loathsome aspects (it's treatment of women amongst them). 

But to claim that Islam is all about terrorism is to ignore the mathematics of the situation; there are 1.5 billion muslims in the world yet only a miniscule minority are terrorists. If Islam really is a religion of terrorism, then there are an immense number of poor muslims out there.

The critcis of Islam will point out that the Qu'ran has phrases like :-

…slay the pagans wherever ye find them

And that is true, but it also has phrases like :-

whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.

Most "holy" books are like this – you can pull out pretty much pull out a justification for anything you want. Any that applies to christians, hindus, sikhs, and just about anybody else. There are good and bad relgious people; bad religious people will support terrorism and good religious people will condemn it.

Yes there are some muslim terrorists and it would be helpful if moderate muslims would declare that the terrorists who commit acts in the name of Islam to be apostates. No other words are likely to have as large an effect as their co-religionists to formally kick them out of the mosque.

There are those who also claim that all terrorists are muslims which is just laughable; there have been many groups that have resorted to terrorism over the centuries. In fact if you analyse terrorist attacks in Europe up until the year 2010, the overwhelming majority were for causes other that Islam :-

Nov 122015
 

Starbucks (apparently a well-known brand of coffee shop for those of us who prefer to make their own coffee rather than pay over the odds for a infusion of caffeine) have introduced a plain red cup for the holiday season, christmas, Xmas, Mythmas, or the Winter Solstice (depending on what you want to call it). In previous years, Starbucks had decorated cups for the holiday season – decorated with snowflakes, etc. In other words generic seasonal symbols.

This year they have gone for a plain cup to encourage their customers to doodle.

For some reason the religious nutjobs (given their behaviour you can't really call them anything else) have taken umbrage at this – claiming that Starbucks are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. Which demonstrates the emotional maturity of a toddler crying because she can't catch her shadow, as the Starbucks' seasonal cups have never included overtly religious symbols.

There is even one of the less rational Republican candidates for president (which equates to a gibbering megalomaniac) who thinks that we ought to boycott Starbucks over the issue.

When you come down to it, Starbucks has given these religious fruitcakes the opportunity to put Christ into the holiday season by giving them an empty space on their Starbucks cups to doodle their designs.

Mar 032015
 

(Click on the banner for a link to the source story). Turns out this advertising banner was too "offensive" to be put up in Nashville. In the same country that allowed this :-

The acid test for freedom of speech is to allow speech that you do not agree with; looks like America fails.

Feb 092015
 

After a public release of a certain video of animal cruelty found within a halal slaughterhouse, there has been a certain amount of "noise" regarding animal cruelty :-

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For the benefit of those too sensible to hit "play", some of the most striking things about the video :-

  1. The workers have no compunction about treating the animals with a great deal of cruelty including taunting them.
  2. Supervision seems to be non-existent. 
  3. The "quick cut with a sharp knife" seems to be a slow sawing with a blunt penknife.

I should say from the beginning that I'm a vegetarian so I'm unlikely to be sympathetic to the problems encountered by slaughterhouses (shut 'em all!). I'm also an atheist so I'm unlikely to have sympathy for religious beliefs insisting on medieval slaughterhouse techniques (if you can find a sheep that requests Halal or Kosher execution, then by all means go ahead).

But the reaction to the videos has seemed to concentrate on point 3 above, Or more specifically the need to kill by a quick cut of a knife.

Whilst I'm not keen in the quick cut method, it does seem to me that the cruelty of that method is outweighed by far, by the attitude of the slaughterhouse staff and the design of the slaughterhouse. In other words, I can easily imagine seeing a video portraying pretty much the same level of cruelty when the slaughterhouse staff are wielding a stunbolt gun. 

It seems to me that to reduce the level of cruelty, we need to have robust supervision by people who are not going to put up with any kind of abuse. People with the power to hit the big red button, and send everyone home for the day. 

Yes, there's an argument about whether the requirements for Halal and Kosher count as animal cruelty, but this video shows far more generalised animal cruelty that can be found at any badly run slaughterhouse. The question is: Just how many slaughterhouses are badly run?

Feb 062015
 

I happened to discover today that there is a chaplain within the House of Commons in the UK; fair enough. I don't really have a problem with someone being there to offer some sort of support to the HoC staff. Not even letting them incant some mumbo-jumbo at the start of the day.

But who pays his or her salary? Is it the Church of Englang? Or is it the government … and indirectly, the taxpayer? Which includes me.

I also don't have a problem with a single salary for a member of the clergy – one salary doesn't add up to much compared with the entirity of the public sector. But how many others are employed by the taxpayer?

  • The NHS employs chaplains.
  • The prison service employs chaplains.
  • Universities employ chaplains.
  • The military employ chaplains.

And probably other murkier corners of the public sector. Now when I say "employs", there are some areas of doubt – some are volunteers, and some may be paid for by the Church of England. But there are obviously many who are paid by the taxpayer.

Now I don't want hospital patients, prisoners, University students and staff, nor anyone in the military being derived of chaplains. If some people think they provide a useful service, then I have no objections to them using such services.

But why is my money being used to pay for their services? I would much rather my money was used to pay for properly trained counsellors which would provide appropriate services to all members of the public without being ever so slightly creepy (by talking about the mythical sky-daddy … or indeed the "wrong" mythical sky-daddy). If someone wants to speak to a religious consultant, then a counsellor can find a volunteer to meet that request.

Jan 172015
 

In the wake of the murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists there is a continuation of the debate over free speech (and expression). Amongst those making a contribution are those who say things like “I believe in free speech, but …”.

As soon as someone sticks a “but” into a sentence like that, you begin to wonder if they are really in favour or not. Usually it turns out they are not.

And one of the points raised after the stereotypical “but” is the issue of offence. Which is a tricky area because who likes being offended? Or to be more precise, who likes their personal sacred cows to be offended? And perhaps that is the tipping point – if your intention is to offend someone or a group of people, perhaps you should re-consider.

But if you are intending to criticise someone’s beliefs – religious or otherwise – it is perfectly justifiable. And yes using humour to make fun of someone’s beliefs is just as much criticism as a long, tedious, and boring blog posting. Any offence caused is a byproduct of the criticism, so perhaps this blog posting should be “The right to criticise includes the right to offend.”.

And in most cases the criticism comes in response to offence caused – if you create a religion that requires human sacrifice, you can expect a Charlie Hebdo cartoon mocking your religion.

And all religions include ridiculous and offensive aspects. After all the depiction of a mythical sky-daddy and impugning the godless nature of the universe causes offence to atheists.

So if you want free expression like the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo banned because they are offensive, I’ll be asking for all those religious tomes like the bible and the koran to be banned because they are offensive – to me. Your rights as a believer in fairies, angels, and other imaginary and infectious friends do not trump my rights as an atheist. Just as my rights as a godless and amoral unbeliever do not trump your rights as a believer.

 

Jan 102015
 

(Stolen from a Facebook posting)

Sounds daft doesn’t it? Because the killers themselves would have claimed they were doing it for islam. And of course there are plenty of feeble-minded bigots who are now attacking muslims and islamic places of worship.

Now don’t get me wrong: I have no patience with organised religion and think anyone who believes in an imaginary infectious friend in the sky needs their head examining. But they have a right to believe anything they want.

They just don’t have the right to inflict it on the rest of us.

Within any community (religious or otherwise), there are two sorts of people, and yes I’m being overly simplistic here. There are the majority who go along with the community and obey the dictates if they are not too inconvenient. And there are the zealots who take it to the extremes. And amongst the zealots there is a deranged minority who want to inflict the standards of their community on everyone. Some of them use violence to do so.

Now there was some idiot on the news today who claimed that despite Charlie Hebdo publishing a cartoon insulting to christians, that it wasn’t christians shooting journalists. True enough, but it there are christians murdering abortion doctors and harassing those entering abortion clinics, so it is not as if there are no christian terrorists.

Now comes a bit of a leap of faith: These terrorists whatever their faith, have more in common with each other than their co-religionists. They all espouse an extreme form of their faith, are compelled to inflict it on everyone, and resort to violence to pursue their goals.

Their most significant attribute is terrorism and not their religion. Their crimes overwhelm their faith and make their religion irrelevant.

An alternative way of looking at it is a quantitative approach. There were 3 killers involved in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. The number of muslims in France is not known precisely, but a figure of about 3 million seems a reasonable approximation for this sort of calculation, which if you work it out makes the number of killers in this incident just 0.0001% of the muslim population of France.

So why were there only three killers? Because muslims as a whole are not terrorists.

Besides which, there is nothing we could do to annoy the killers more than to deny their islamic nature.

Aug 202014
 

The average Islamic extremist when he has time to think about anything other that licking his favourite pig, is under the mistaken belief that the western world is fundamentally weak. Weakened by our dissipated and irreligious lives; weakened by our usual sympathy for the underdog.

This is perfectly understandable for the moronic medieval minds that most Islamic extremists carry around with them. Because in some ways the west does look weak.

But the west is not weak as it has shown again and again since the start of WWII. However it is reluctant to start anything without taking care that it is doing the right thing. Time and again, whenever the west has gotten involved with something without thinking enough in advance (Vietnam, Iraq, etc.) it has gotten bogged down in something it realises that it shouldn’t have started.

But the west will get involved if it is provoked enough and it believes that it is on the right side.

The beheading of James Foley by the pig-licking thugs sometimes known as ISIS, ISIL, IS or just Daesh would appear on the surface to be an attempt to discourage the US and the west from getting involved. It would seem that the US air strikes and the push by the Kurdish and Iraqi military have started making things difficult for IS, and they would like to stop the US air strikes.

What they have accomplished is to encourage the US and the rest of the west to stay involved and take more measures.

They may regard themselves as some sort of ultra-religious freedom fighters, but anybody who uses extortion, flogging, amputations, rape, and indiscriminate killings are nothing more mindless pig-licking thugs.

 

 

 

Jun 162014
 

There is a fair bit of news around at present with respect to the current sectarian conflict in Iraq, including the news of mass killings by ISIS. And of course we have a number of talking heads appearing on TV talking about the causes of the sectarian conflict. And often blaming the US intervention in Iraq.

Which is of course a complete red herring.

The previous regime in Iraq kept the lid on sectarian conflicts between Shias and Sunnis with extreme repression. Even a very superficial look at the history of the conflict shows that sectarian conflict was almost inevitable after the removal of Saddam Hussain.

And the blame for that conflict lies with the extremists within both Shia and Sunni communities – not with the Americans or British who fought to remove Saddam Hussain. Whilst the western forces may well be guilty of many things – including human rights abuses – this sectarian conflict is not something they brought about.

Ultimately sectarian conflicts in Iraq can only be solved by the Iraqis themselves.

 

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