Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cameron's Christianity Codswallop

David Cameron's pronouncements yesterday on Christianity are confused and send out mixed messages. He trumpets that we are a Christian country, when for many practical purposes we are not (see here) - Cameron himself said he was only a vaguely practicing Christian and over half the country said they were non-religious in the latest social attitudes survey! He calls for the revival of traditional Christian values but says he is full of doubts on major theological issues (see here). He's hardly setting a Christian standard is he, so what is he playing at?

His stated idea is that the return of Christian values would help us fight our 'moral collapse'. He's wrong to think that Christianity and the Bible or any other religion and its texts are the basis of our morality. Human beings developed a sense of what is right and wrong long before any formal relgions existed and very likely for evolutionary reasons.

Instead of pronouncing on Christianity his focus should be on effective, practical action to tackle the poor moral standards so evident in politics, policing, banking and financial services, in the media, and in the Christian Church itself. I'm fed up with expenses scandals, police corruption, greedy bankers and business-people, 'mafia-like' newspaper organisations, sexism, homophobia, child abuse scandals...and the advocacy of materialism we've long had from all political colours.

He should be looking at the privileged, influential position of Christianity in the UK and planning to make us a better secular society. He should think through whether the Bible is actually a consistent guide to anything at all. Richard Dawkins says in his book The God Delusion that '...the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unkown to each other, spanning nine centuries...unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living.'

David Cameron should recognise that actually his doubt is a good thing. Doubt means you are thinking. It means you are asking questions, not accepting the status quo - seeking change for the better. Doubt helps us break away from unjustifiable traditions. With no evidence for the existence of God - quite the contrary in fact - and no convincing arguments either, why believe? If there is a God why is there so much undeserved suffering in the world eg those homeless, cold, hungry, thirsty, lonely, subject to war, terrorism and crime, in hospital...? As Woody Allen said God 'is an underachiever' !

The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible that prompted David Cameron's comments has its significance of course. This book is a major, if not the major work of English literature. Atheist Richard Dawkins sums this up nicely in The God Delusion, '...the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture. The same applies to the legends of the Greek and Roman gods and we learn about them without being asked to believe in them.'.

Council Consultation Codswallop

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Excellent letter from Anne Lemon Secretary of the Bristol & District Anti-Cuts Alliance here. Reproduced below,

BRISTOL City Council's process of scrutiny and consultation on the budget cuts proposed for 2012/13 is a sham. Discussions are taking place based on the absolute minimum of information that the Lib Dems think they can get away with publishing.

Unless there is a major fightback the budget, which includes the expected savings from closing and privatising care homes and day centres, will be agreed on February 28. But the details of the closures/privatisation and the impact on users and the community won't be announced until mid-March. You can already hear Barbara Janke and Jon Rogers telling us "It was agreed in the budget" if anyone suggests the facilities should stay open. Similarly over £1 million is to be saved by privatising Youth Services, yet no detailed proposals are available.

Either the detailed proposals on these important services must be published now, or the closure/privatisation policies should be removed from the budget. Any attempt by the council to approve the policies as part of the budget without being prepared to discuss the details in public is nothing less than underhand.