Archive for the ‘church’ Tag

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God… #2   Leave a comment

100_0070Ring, Ring.  Ring, Ring. Ring…

“Is that Father O’Hare?”

“It is about that wedding, I left a message.”

“Yes that’s right, Paul Miller.”

“No I am not a member of your Church, I am not a member of any church.”

“No, not a Catholic, I don’t believe in any of that shit.”

“Why in church?  Well it is traditional.  I wouldn’t have my future spouse’s lot there either if it was my decision but the whole family and church service seem to be the norm.”

“Well there are other churches but we really wanted to get married in yours…”

“Because it is perfect for the photos and very close the country house hotel we are using for the reception.”

“I don’t know about beliefs or faith, we only want to hire the building.  We don’t want any of the mumbo-jumbo!”

“Well you can come as long as you bring the fancy garb, there is usually a bloke in a dress to host it.”

“Look we only want it for an hour, a bit less if we lose those dirgeful songs.  We can bring our own Robbie Williams CDs.”

“Come-on we don’t even want a speech from you!  Just the ‘repeat after me’ and ‘You may now kiss…’”

“Look it is about the only way you will ever get a full house, someone has to pay your wages, those six people and a dog on Sundays don’t!”

“Just take the money and you can go back to “accepting penitence” from young choirboys…”

“Jesus Christ, how much?”

“That is almost as much as for the centre-pieces at the hotel!”

“In that case I’ll take-it!  August 6th it is then.”

“Thank you, Father.  Just one more thing, does that magic book of yours do ‘I now pronounce you husband and husband?’ ”

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The gays stopped my cream cakes…   4 comments

I don’t think gay couples should be married in church; then I think it is a bad idea for any Chesterfield-20120521-00035couple to get married in such a ridiculous institution!

It doesn’t matter one bit whether a couple is of the same gender when deciding if they can marry.  The Civil Partnership offers most of the equivalent benefits but anything short of full marriage is discrimination.   What makes people happy without hurting others is what counts.

I am pleased that a Conservative administration that just a few years ago passed the draconian legislation under the Local Government Act is now championing equality for gay relationships.  The infamous clause 28 of that 1988 Act stated that no local authority should “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”  Now Cameron seems to be fighting the bigots in his own party to force equality through.

It looked for a while that churches and religious institutions would not be considered in the forthcoming legislation.  However by not legislating specifically it might mean that superstitious groupings who do not want to allow all loving couples to avail themselves of the facilities might find themselves under pressure from Human Rights interventions.

Now if the those with big buildings who believe in sky fairies don’t want to include certain people in their silly games then I suggest that any sensible prospective brides and brides or grooms and grooms keep well clear.  As far as I know all that Yeshua/Jesus  thought on the subject was that a wedding needed wine and he wasn’t going to pay for it!

Some married theists think that allowing gays to marry somehow undermines their own relationships.  I am not sure how such a positive step should change what they get out of their own loving partnerships; they should just not stop others having the same opportunity.

I have even heard some suggest that allowing same-sex marriages in their churches has some effect on them as worshippers.  I have a suggestion- if you don’t like the idea of two men or two women marrying then don’t go to the wedding!  I am sure the happy couple will be even happier not to have you there.

The church my family is associated with have Weight Watchers there on a Monday night.  This has no real consequence for my family or any of the religious attendees.  It does not mean that by osmosis that they cannot eat cream cakes or gorge on bacon.

I hope that gay couples will soon be able to marry.  I don’t care whether this means they can wed in church as for most it is a nice setting rather than a commitment to any superstition.  I also hope they can still eat cream cakes!

Why I am a Spanish speaking Muslim who supports Brazil   Leave a comment

You might know I am a football fan.  The national team I support is England.  My football following siblings also support England as do almost all my friends.  I do have a colleague who looks firstly for the Scotland result and a bare handful of friends with allegiance to other nations.  For example I play football with two who support Italy.

I think it is an amazing coincidence that all of my family and practically all of my friends follow the same team as me.  It must be a statistically anomaly.

Now I wouldn’t claim England are the best team in the world.  They are consistently in the top ten nations and usually make the knock-out stages of the global competitions.  However if I were to make a logical choice I perhaps currently ought to support Spain whose results are better and who certainly play a much more attractive style of play.  If I was looking throughout my lifetime then Brazil with three World Cup wins would be my best choice to follow.

Why then do I support England?  Basically it is an accident of birth, the same reason as everyone I know.  I was born and brought up bang in the middle of England; this means I support England in every sport.  Had I been born in Spain I would support the current World Cup holders.  If my place of birth had been Rio de Janeiro then I would be following the most successful international team.   My friends who follow different teams were either born in those countries or have a family heritage linked to them.

Of course had I been born in Spain my first language would be Spanish and in Brazil, Portuguese.  This would have been another factor determined by my birthplace and culture.  It would have no basis in logic.  I am probably best sticking to English as the international language of commerce and of the internet.  However a case might be made for Spanish or Mandarin as useful additions

All of my family and most of my friends were brought up Christian.  All of those I know that came from that tradition that worship do so in the Christian Church.  I don’t think I know any practising Jews but all those I know who are Muslim or follow the South Asian religions are first or second generation immigrants to the United Kingdom.  They are rather like my “Italian” friends in that respect..

With a true statistical spread a quarter of my family would follow Islam; none of my family is a Muslim.  However had my birth been in Pakistan or parts of the Middle-East there is every chance that every one of my family would be Muslim.  There is no logic to it at all,  While a small number of the religious start to follow a faith other than the one they were born into it is rare.  Almost every religious person follows the faith of the culture they wre born into.  No god selects them as special people, their faith is as much an accident of birth as their language or national football team!

So logically we should all support Spain.  We should speak and write in English with a smattering of Spanish and Mandarin.  And of course if we are being totally rational we should worship no gods at all.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God…   1 comment

Ring, Ring.  Ring, Ring. Ring…

“Is that Father O’Hare?”

“It is about that wedding, I left a message.”

“Yes that’s right.”

“No I am not a member of your Church, I am not a member of any church.”

“No, not a Catholic, I don’t believe in any of that shit.”

“Why in church?  Well it is traditional.  I wouldn’t have her mother there either if it was my decision but Mother of the Bride, church service seem to be the norm.”

“Well there are other churches but we really wanted to get married in yours…”

“Because it is perfect for the photos and very close the country house hotel we are using for the reception.”

“I don’t know about beliefs or faith, we only want to hire the building.  We don’t want any of the mumbo-jumbo!”

“Well you can come as long as you bring the fancy garb, there is usually a bloke in a dress to host it.”

“Look we only want it for an hour, a bit less if we lose those dirgeful songs.  We can bring our own Robbie Williams CDs.”

“Come-on we don’t even want a speech from you!  Just the ‘repeat after me’ and ‘you may now kiss the Bride.’”

“Look it is about the only way you will ever get a full house, someone has to pay your wages, those six people and a dog on Sundays don’t!”

“Just take the money and you can go back to “accepting penitence” from young choirboys…”

“Jesus Christ, how much?”

“That is almost as much as for the centre-pieces at the hotel!”

“Take-it!  August 6th then.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Posted November 11, 2012 by dalekpete in atheism, Scepticism

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Half-hearted and meaningless- religion in schools   4 comments

At school Physical Education was compulsory.  I forged notes from my parents, feigned injury and forgot my games kit to avoid it.  As soon as there was a relaxation, as I reached sixth form (High School senior years) I opted for table-tennis which was unsupervised and so was actually cover for a card school.

Outside of the official games periods I played football (soccer) in the playgrounds and cricket and football away from school.  I still play league cricket as I reach my fiftieth year and social football games twice a week.  I am also a walk leader as part of a community project.

At school I tried to avoid sports because they were official, the PE teachers that led classes as a supplement to their other academic duties also did so without any conviction and so allowed a little latitude.

My view of religion at school was very similar to that of games; the statutory nature destroyed any merit for the subject.  In the main, I feel most schoolmasters felt a similar lack of enthusiasm.  The difference for me was that I didn’t run off and engage in religion away from school.

This is why I find the battles in the American education system and the extent of religious indoctrination so alien.  Religious tradition is so much a part of the English education system but has a marginal effect; over the pond it seems that the malignancy is very deep.

Unlike the US, the church in the United Kingdom is not separated from the state but integral to it.  Our Head of State is the Head of the Church of England.  Our second legislative chamber has protestant church leaders in it as of right.  Our state (public) schools have daily collective worship that “shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”.  For all this religion is weak in our collective society.

Like in my day I get the impression that religion is essentially ignored in the state school system.  Even some voluntary aided faith schools insist on as few as ten per cent of admissions being regular participants in the established faith.  My local Roman Catholic secondary (High) school gives preference to Catholics who attend church, then any Catholics, then active Christians, then any active participants in any World Faith.  There is a move away from parents pretending to go to church just to guarantee a better school place for their heathen children.

I clearly remember at primary school that the school dinners were preceded by a Christian grace.  All my assemblies included prayer and most were akin to a church service.  For all that there was a feeling that this religious input just diluted the faith message.  All of the religion seemed closer to tradition than any real theism.

There was Religious Education at school but I have no real recollection of the subject I always got the impression that any masters or mistresses involved were a figure of fun.  I don’t remember any other faiths other than the very basic biblical Christianity.  The official government line on the school subject  now is “Religious education provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human. It develops pupils’ knowledge and understanding of Christianity, other principal religions, other religious traditions, and other world views that offer answers to these challenging questions”  What I found odd over my kids’ school life was that every exploration of “alternative” religions involved Diwali; it was an easy call to go for a festival with lots of lights before Christmas.

As an atheist for my last five years at school I never had an issue with any religious elements.  My later secondary school had been founded in 1594 so had traditions linked to religion going back centuries.  I never remember anyone asking my religion.  Perhaps it was that as multi-culturalism had not really reached middle England then and so we were all “Christians”   However I do not remember any Catholic teachings.  This was in a town where there were a significant number of Roman Catholics although that town claimed a place in Protestant history.  I did note that the “visiting” priest at my daughters’ school was Catholic.

A generation on and at that establishment, another 400 year-old school, my children found their religious studies to be very similar.  Lay teachers going through the motions and specialists who were figures of fun.  Because I took more of an interest I knew who the religious teachers were.  One of the most devout was also one the best teachers I have come across.

The early secondary stages were all about comparative religions with a drift thereafter into general morality.  I got the impression that those who kept the study up into external exam levels were either the properly religious or those looking for easy grades.  My youngest daughter sought exemption from the collective worship as soon as she was of an age to decide and no one made an issue.

I have to say that for me and my children a lack of faith was no issue whatsoever even from those teachers who were devout.  It certainly didn’t stop my eldest representing her school and many events and winning a whole host of prizes.

For as much as religion is enshrined in the compulsory curriculum and levered into daily assemblies by law it seemed meaningless in reality and regarded with the same apathy as compulsory sports.  Like with those sports if you were really interested you got on with it outside of the education system.

Alternative medicine- a piss take   1 comment

I despair when people chose alternative treatments over conventional ones.  As Tim Minchin rightly pointed out  alternative medicine that’s been proved to work is called “medicine”.

My wife was diagnosed cancer a few years ago.  This was after a life threatening but unrelated episode that left her in a high dependency unit for a couple of weeks.  She was referred to the Professor who was world renowned for his speciality in what was a rare field of oncology.  He over saw the surgery and follow up treatment that has effectively “cured” her of what was a not particularly aggressive form of cancer.

Despite going through a particularly nasty illness and then two years of treatment for cancer my wife was lucky!  Firstly her cancer was spotted at a stage where it was treatable; ironically as a result of the tests on her original illness. Secondly she was able to call on a high level of expertise and support within the National Health Service.  Thirdly, and this wasn’t really luck, she put her trust in that expertise and didn’t rely on alternatives suggested by those outside of the conventional fields of medicine.

I will say my parents’ church regularly prayed for my wife.  My wife hoped this made them feel better as it had no effect  on her or her condition.  Despite some evidence that suggests that those  who know they are being prayed for fare slightly worse than a control group I feel that the theists might be the least of any problems.  It is the well-meaning but vacuous individuals who see magic potions and incantations as a real alternative to centuries of science that are a threat.  These can be backed by dishonest people who see wealth or fame from championing snake-oil.

There is significant evidence that Steve Jobs delayed recognised treatment for his cancer to undergo alternative medicine; some suggest this prevented a possible cure and shortened his life.  That case far away from the religious who abuse children by relying on prayer over medical interventions with close to 100% success rates but in my mind both are part of the same fraud.

Of course there are cases that no modern medicine can expect to cure, where all that matters is the quality of life and of death.  Any condition has an outside chance of remission just because we don’t know everything about diseases and have to recognise that the human body is sometimes a mysterious thing.  There were at one time tens of thousands of people in the UK receiving a benefit for six-month terminal illness where payments had gone on for more than five years!

Most reprehensible are those who seek out those with little or no chance of any effective treatment and use false hope to sell quackery at a huge price.  My wife’s consultant has a whole host of papers to his name and works and lectures in teaching hospitals throughout the world.  I have no doubt he makes a reasonable living through his medical and academic work but that is based on years of expertise and peer-reviewed works.  Through the NHS our access to him and the two surgeons who operated is free.

I understand there are charlatans who have the odd, poor paper to their name who chase patients with their bogus potions while taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from those who are suffering.  Real doctors have proof of their abilities and actually help scientific understanding to move forward.  Those demanding money to take the piss and inject it back into swindled patients are not part of science and should be regarded as frauds.

Cancer treatment is not usually nice.  It often involves cutting up sufferers, burning them with radiation and filling them full of poison.  As bad as this is there is a long established and recognised method to the unpleasant but hopefully effective treatment.  We all hope there is a miracle cure out there for at least some cancers but it will come from teaching hospitals not Texan snake-oil salesmen!

Kids, eh?   Leave a comment

My parents encouraged me to be a free thinker despite my mother being active in the church.  I was an atheist from my teenage years.

I never deliberately influenced my daughters I feel but I too encouraged free thinking.  They didn’t take to football, or my politics but did become sceptics.  They did gain an understanding of science-fiction however.  I am not sure that their lack of religion ever affected them at school although my youngest did make a stand against attending the collective worship.  Both finished with very good results and continuing support from the school.

A few months ago my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.  They chose to do this with a blessing in the church where my mother is a Worship Leader followed by a Barn dance in the church hall.  Of course I had to help arrange the function and was most concerned about the Methodist restriction on alcohol on their premises!

As part of the service that preceded the dry festivities my parents wanted all their grand-children to take part.  As my kids were grown up teenagers a full reading was expected.  I had mixed emotions when my daughters refused!

Neither daughter wanted to go the church and they certainly didn’t seem to want to read any religious passage particularly one from the bible.  Of course I was happy with their anti-theist stand but thought respect for their grand-parents might override those feelings.

This left me in the strange position of negotiating with my offspring to convince them to take part in a religious service.  They agreed to read Corinthians 13 as they thought it was akin to poetry and didn’t mention god.

Unfortunately when the Order of Service was issued it contained a more modern version of the biblical passage- one littered with deifications.  My children went equipped with the KJV of the text and read this generating tears appropriate for the occasion.

The rest of the day also went well and although I am proud of my parents and the support and upbringing they afforded me my kids do all right too.

Posted February 25, 2012 by dalekpete in atheism

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