23 May 2015

These are grim days for liberalism.

In much of our world religious zealots seek to enchain believer and nonbeliever alike, to smash the creations of the past, and to kill fellow believers and murder dissenters. In Bangladesh recently Muslim extremists have brutally killed on the street several atheist writers and bloggers.

In Britain we are largely protected from the violence that seeks to silence by an alert intelligence service.

Alas, increasingly on our university campuses there are peaceful calls for an end to both the free exchange of ideas and the exploration of challenging thoughts, what universities are for. There are peaceful attempts, some successful, to silence the debating of ideas which might discomfort some students.

A few of the people who spoke out against the Charlie Hebdo murders actually said, I’m appalled but…and with that but in effect, I think, blamed the cartoonists.

Today into this illiberal gloom Ireland dances.

The people of Ireland have voted in favour of same-sex marriage. Over recent years Ireland has abandoned the grip of reaction and legalised homosexuality, divorce, and contraception, all outlawed by the Catholic church.

In Britain the Tory Libdem government made same sex marriage legal, a remarkably civilised and brave move by David Cameron.

Today love has won, equality has won. Liberalism and civilisation have won.

Ireland referendum result: Yes to same-sex marriage 1 201 607 votes (62.1 percent of the votes), No 734 300 votes (37.9 percent of the votes)

Bangladesh murders: 2013 Rajib Haider murdered, February 2015 Avijit Roy hacked to death in Dhaka, April 2015 Washiqur Rahman hacked to death, May 2015 Ananta Bijoy Das murdered on the way to work

2013 Raif Badawi, free speech blogger, jailed in Saudi Arabia,later flogged

Suppose you had half a million pounds to spend in Cornwall: how would you use it?

More doctors, more nurses, more teachers? Equipment for a hospital or school or disability centre? Big donations to the air ambulance and lifeboats and hospices?

Perhaps help for the many foodbanks in the county? Money towards a sports stadium?

More speed cameras? Subsidised loos and parking at weekends?

Or repairing the roofs of seven churches?

What would be your priority?

Dream no more. £492 700 is to be spent on repairing seven churches in Cornwall under the government’s taxpayer-funded Listed places of worship roof repair scheme. The list is here.

Basically I think the people who own and use the churches should pay for them but I am encouraged that there are apparently now so few religionists that they cannot sustain their places.

See the post Truro cathedral for my comment on a grant to that building.

It is pleasing that the unloved EU Commission has refused to advance a reactionary petition. This basically called for legislation to ban EU funding for embryonic stem cell research and for organisations that as part of their assistance to women in developing countries facilitate abortions. The EU Commission response is here.

The petition gathered about 1.7 million signatures (nearly half from Italy and Poland) and would have imposed conservative Christian beliefs on EU funding in these spheres of work. It arose from a provision that if a million people from seven EU countries sign a petition the Commission must consider it; a little like the petition provisions for the UK parliament and Cornwall Council. I think all petitions probably carry problems: the difficulty some people have in distinguishing between being listened to and being agreed with and the reasonable expectations that formal petitioners that reach a quota have. Yes, I’m pleased the Commission in effect rejected the petition but I think the EU has got itself into a democratic spot with its citizens’ initiative petitioning and can understand the frustration of the petitioners.

The debate (video) in the EU parliament threw up the familiar irreconcilable differences on the questions. At what point can we talk of a human being: at conception or later? At what point should we take the rights of the unborn into account along with those of the woman: from conception, later, never as the woman’s rights should always prevail? There’s a further question too. Should subsequent practical laws based on the answers to these questions be imposed on other people – a ban on abortions or embryonic stem cell research for example – or should we let everyone come to their own answer and action, the state setting reasonable rules for practices? I’m on the liberal side in these arguments.

Apparently Labour’s about to announce it wants to scrap the house of lords and have a wholly elected second house. Yes, I know it looks like death-bed radicalism but I believe in the Lydgate principle: keep your eye on the main prize and take the niggles in your stride.

Anyway, the point of this post is to draw your attention to an email campaign by power2010, a campaign to empower ordinary voters, to ask the twenty six bishops in the Lords to sign their own death warrants and support an elected second house. They’re Church of England, of course they’ll do the decent thing.

It’s a very simple process. Just click on the link here, then click on the Participate bar and you’re away. So far each bishop has had more than 52 000 emails. Was democracy ever made easier?


George ELIOT Middlemarch chapter 17: Tertius Lydgate endorsing a view of Voltaire on achieving a desideratum, “I look for the man who will bring the arsenic and don’t mind about his incantations.”



24 January 2009

Truro cathedral has been given £250 000 from taxpayer-funded English Heritage and from the Wolfson Foundation to help repair the spire and tower. The total bill for this restoration is likely to be about £2 million. Some while ago now the cathedral displayed outside a large banner saying Make poverty history, a campaign against poverty in the third world and here.

Only connect…

“Only connect”: EM Forster Howards End, chapter 22


30 December 2007

I haven’t posted about religion for a while.

Here is a story of Christians scuffling in Bethlehem. Religion, eh.

And here is an article by Jeremy Clarkson in today’s Sunday Times which I enjoyed.


9 October 2007

Here are two articles, by Libby Purves and Andrew O’Hagan, which ooze civilised sense about the nature of religious and philosophic tolerance and the importance of live-and-let-live and not imposing your beliefs upon others. I wholly agree with their sentiments.

The news from Christians has been dispiriting of late. The Anglican church has, as far as I can see, gone along with those who think homosexual acts are evil and damned in their Bible and that homosexual committed partnerships cannot be recognised in their churches and homosexuals cannot be Anglican mahoffs. Francisco Chimoio, Catholic archbishop in Mozambique, has said condoms from two unnamed countries of Europe are deliberately infected with HIV, unbelievable views which leave me speechless. And here’s an item from Nicaragua on the effects of a Catholic prohibition on abortion.

Mehr Licht, said the dying Goethe. I think liberals should also take to heart his other words, Ohne hast aber ohne Rast.


20 September 2007

Last week the Labour government and several religions in Britain put out a document, Faith in the system. This supports more tax-funded faith schools. See the document here and the launch here.

Some children are sent to different schools at age five because of their parents’ genuine or claimed religious beliefs. We are told that this segregation fosters community cohesion. This view is drivelling nonsense.

Religiously segregating people doesn’t promote social cohesion. It is divisive. You do not increase mutual understanding through segregation; you do not unite people by separating them; you do not get cohesion and integration in society by religious apartheid. Indeed, is not segregation more likely to lead to failures of understanding and to social disunity?

Cohesion and a sense of common belonging are better fostered in education by having children learn and play alongside one another every day and experience their differences and, more importantly, the many things that they share in common. That mutatis mutandis applies to the adult world too.

This week the Commission for Racial Equality, about to be subsumed in a new all-embracing commission, published a final report, A lot done, a lot to do. In that they say that “our society is fracturing” and “segregation – residentially, socially, and in the workplace – is growing.” They do not examine whether religiously segregated education places a part in that fracturing. The new commission should.

Incidentally, a recent report by Rebecca Allen and Anne West shows that faith schools in London select a disproportion of pupils from better-off homes.