Category Archives: Christian

The Institute of Ideas think-tank has accused fellow secularists of engaging in a “New Atheist witch-hunt” over the Pope’s upcoming British visit

The Institute of Ideas think-tank has accused fellow secularists of engaging in a “New Atheist witch-hunt” over the Pope’s upcoming British visit. They say that the tenor of the criticism of the pontiff and the Catholic Church “is in stark contrast to their own professed views on tolerance.”

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13091

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Holocaust Memorial Day – The exploitation of religion

Armaments Minster Albert Speer describes how Hitler considered the church as something “that could be useful to him” and “indispensable to political life”. (Speer 1970: p148 ) It appears he did not want the church replaced by any “party religion” and he was opposed to the alternative mysticism (that was popular amongst some Nazis) that might take its place. However the Christianity that Hitler wanted to preserve, was one that leant to adapt to the political goals of National Socialism” (p149).

Instead the Church tried to oppose his plans and the Nazi party and SS instructed his followers to leave the Church. But even then Hitler appeared to want to maintain some ties by ordering Goering and Goebels to remain, as he did himself until his death. Continue reading

Holocaust Memorial Day – the religious context

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, the Jewish population of Europe stood over nine million. The Nazi campaign to exclude and persecute Jews, and others, as “life unworthy of life” began. By war’s end, close to two out of every three Jews in Europe had been murdered in the Holocaust.

Although Jews were the primary victims of Nazi racism, others targeted for death included tens of thousands of Roma (Gypsies) and at least 200,000 mentally or physically disabled people (source:www.ushmm.org). As Nazi tyranny spread across Europe, millions of people were persecuted and murdered. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, disease or maltreatment. The Nazis killed tens of thousands of Polish intellectual and religious leaders; deported millions of Polish and persecuted and incarcerated homosexuals.

It is also important to acknowledge the experience of atheism and atheists under the Nazis, although we should be careful not to let this become our primary motive for remembering the Holocaust –  the terrible events were a travesty for humanity in its entirety. Continue reading

Obama, religion and civil society

Madeline Bunting discusses Obama’s religious faith in today’s Guardian in particular his understanding of religiously-motivated civic activism:

Obama’s faith cannot be explained away as political opportunism to meet the conventions of American politics. The conversion was well before a political career seemed possible; besides, his faith has dragged him into plenty of controversy during his campaign. Recently, liberal secular allies have been shocked by his decision not to dismantle, but to take over and expand, Bush’s controversial flagship policy of funding faith-based organisations to provide social services. Even worse, he has chosen the evangelical preacher Rick Warren (opposes gay marriage, anti-abortion but passionate on social justice and climate change) to deliver the prayer at the inauguration. The point is that Obama has not wavered in his passionate faith in the progressive potential of religious belief since he first encountered it in south Chicago in community organising. He was in his 20s, and for three years he was trained in a politics based on a set of principles developed by a Jewish criminologist and an ex-Jesuit with borrowings from German Protestant theologians.

Obama described these three years of community organising as the “best education I ever had”. Michelle says of her husband that “he is not first and foremost a politician. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.” Continue reading

Appointment of equalities commissioner criticised

The appointment of Joel Edwards – general director of the Evangelical Alliance- to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has attracted criticism because of his public anti-gay views, highlighting the tensions between the religion and belief and sexual orientation ‘equality strands’.

Atheist and gay rights groups have questioned his committment to the EHRC’s aims to “work to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.” Continue reading

Raising children in a religion – abuse or stability?

Next up to take on Richard Dawkins is the Guardian’s Anne Karpf. She begins:

If Richard Dawkins had his way, a fair number of you and, as it happens, me, would be had up for child abuse. According to him, that’s what religious indoctrination of children by their parents is. And if you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical abuse, he argues, why shouldn’t you sue for the damage caused by mental child abuse?

If you accept Dawkins’s characterisation of religion, you’d probably agree. Religious parents, to him, are Mr Dogma and Mrs Bigot: they terrify their kids with tales of eternal hell, fire and damnation, when – that is – they’re not carrying out female circumcision or coercing them into forced marriages. Flat-earthers the lot, they’re brainwashers, fanatically opposed to science and rationality.

Isn’t it curious that we tolerate the stereotyping of religion in a way we’d never abide with race, religion [sic] or gender? I certainly don’t recognise myself in this caricature.

Hmmm in fact Karpf is the one doing the misprepresenation here. Continue reading

So what is secularism then?

A subject close to the O Project’s heart– can religious and non-religious people work together on the secularist project? Giles Fraser accuses the National Secular Society (NSS) in the Church Times of “trickery…with respect to the word ‘secular'”:

I contend that the core meaning of secularism is the belief in the separation of Church and state. Religion, the secularist contends, ought not to have a place in shaping the laws or political realities by which we live.

…The NSS often employs this meaning of secular, especially when it is trying to look grown-up in making representations to government. Thus it says it wants “a society in which all are free to practise their faith, change it or not have one, according to their conscience”. It goes on about the importance of public space being open to all, irrespective of faith.

Yet, not far below the surface, another meaning of secular breaks out. Continue reading