Category Archives: Debate

The Christian Label

The label of Christian is of little value when seeking to understand what it means about the person taking on that label. It doesn’t tell us what that persons moral values or outlook are nor does it really tell us what they believe.

The label itself is an umbrella term or superset of a wide variety of beliefs. Take some examples to highlight this.

Fred Phelps, that hateful bigot of the Westbro Baptist Church who spends his days spewing his hatred of gay people and anyone else who can think of in the name of a tyrant god. This man represents everything that is twisted and cruel about modern Christianity. Is he a Christian? Of course.

John Shelby Spong is a liberal theologian, an academic who talks of compassion and reform. He seeks a move away from theism and an embrace of a shared system of values across all faiths and none. His religion is a hope rather than a certainty and, as far as I know, he doesn’t use his Christianity as the blunt tool to bludgeon others into supporting it. Is he a Christian? Of course.

Joseph Alois Ratzinger, Bishop of Rome and current Pope is another academic. While Spong is liberal and open, Ratzinger is conservative and insular. The recent child rape scandals that have rocked Catholicism have turned his policies into protection of the church. In my view he is a criminal responsible for the continued protection of child molesters from secular justice and he should be tried in a court of human rights. Is he a Christian? Of course.

Rowan Williams is Archbishop of Canterbury and is currently presiding over a near schism within the Church of England. He seems to be a decent enough fellow with liberal views regarding the ordination of women and with the open acceptance of gay clergy but he plays a game of internal politics against other bishops who want the opposite. He is undoubtedly intelligent and articulate and he believes in a literal God rather than Spong’s conceptual god. Is he a Christian? Of course.

When someone announces that they are a Christian which of these models do we most closely associate with them? Are they liberal or conservative? Are they pro-gay or anti-gay? Are they feminist or misogynist? Are they pro-life or pro-choice? Are they hateful bigots or compassionate advocates for equality? Who knows? All we can tell about them from the label is that they believe in some sort of god in a loosely Christians tradition. We don’t know anything more about them than that.

So when someone introduces themselves as a Christian it tells us very little about their views and so cannot, in all fairness, be judged on those views because we don’t know what they are.

The same applies for those who judge atheists based on nothing more than pre-conceived notions.

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Slut Shaming

I don’t usually post anything about feminism. I leave that to the people who are really good at it like Tenderhooligan but this week has been particularly irritating and I’m sick to my teeth of all the people I work with and their double standards that flop about like dying fish in the sun. Yeah, think about that metaphor for second. The people at “someone else’s lilypad” are OK most of the time. Some of them work hard. Some of them care about their families. Some of them make pretty good friends. On the other hand, some of them are lazy, irritating back stabbing bitches who shouldn’t be trusted with anything sharper than play school scissors.

One thing that has particularly annoyed me (and there has been a lot this week) are the few instances of slut shaming that I’ve picked up from the gossip round the kettle and water cooler. Someone is pregnant. Ooh, they must be a slut. Someone got drunk and went home with a bloke. Ooh, they must be a slut. Two people are going out. She’s obviously a slut.

FFS leave everyone else alone! What other people do is none of your business. It isn’t even interesting. We’ve all had sex. Some of us with more than one person. Some of us with more than one person at a time.* There isn’t anything particularly shocking about human sexuality once you’ve actually started having sex. Shock horror, people enjoy it. Women enjoy it. They’re allowed.

Get over it.

The ever so smashing ZOMGitsCriss has posted a wonderful video about Slut Shaming.

*By way of illustration you understand.

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The Great and Magnificent Predictions of Dominic Destiny 2010

Last year I wrote some predictions.  For the lols and for no other reason.  The previous year was 0 for 5.  Let’s see how I managed this year.

  1. Sticking to American politics I’m going to go for an assassination attempt against the President.  His first year in office and a new face always upsets a few loonies.  This may be too easy as there were whisperings of nutters coming out of the woodwork from the minute he put his hat in the election.  I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to suggest that the assassination fails miserably and improves the public perception of Barack Obama due to his level headed handling of the event.

    FAIL.  OK Obama has been the target of several assassination attempts but 2009 wasn’t the year for a spectacular shoot out in public that I’d imagined.  Good thing too.

  2. Banks will continue to be greedy, irresponsible buggers.  Now that they know that the government will bail them out when they make costly mistakes they will stop caring about risk and invest in all sorts of hare-brained schemes while throwing away confidential information or leaving it down the pub.  Something stupid like that.  The FSA will fail to make a difference.

    WIN.  I think it fair to say that banks are still thoroughly crap and nobody is going to be introducing any of them as their new best mate.  Here is a fun list of FSA fines against banks in 2009.  UBS AG were fined £8million for being crap.

  3. I have a particular dislike of the BNP as a bunch of racist loudmouthed twats.  I therefore predict see some serious legal ramifications for some hate mongering by the BNP.  Perhaps a senior policeman gets sacked or a court case challenges them in a publicly embarrassing way.  I don’t want to get too specific because that’s not how predictions work.  The words BNP, legal, and funny will certainly be involved though.

    WINLate breaking news that I’m going to count as a WIN.  That and all the fun of Question Time just makes me giggle inside that the racist arsehats are being mocked left, right and centre.

  4. Setting aside politics and steering clear of religion (for a change) I focus prediction number four directly on the mystical configurations of the cult of celebrity.  A footballer’s wife, perhaps one who sings a bit, will be exposed in the press as being a bit unfaithful.  The popular press will use such choice and sensitive phrases as “slapper” and “love cheat” and I fully expect Richard Littlejohn’s head to explode with glee.  As a private matter I will fail miserably to have an opinion but the constant chatter about two people who I’ve never heard of will annoy me and I’ll be forced to blog about it.

    FAIL.  Cheryl Cole, the convicted criminal, has dominated the whole of “footballer’s wife” news in 2009.  If there was a scandal then her cheeky Northern charm has eclipsed it completely.  The cow.

  5. No prediction would be complete with a little popular news, Zimbabwe in this case.  The country will continue to deteriorate and nobody will do anything about it.  Not a thing.  There will be plenty of talk though.

    FAIL.  While I’m sure that Zim hasn’t been transformed into a land of milk and honey it has failed to be prominent in the news.  I’m not disappointed.

A personal best of two out of five.  I’d like to remind anyone who actually bothers to read this anymore that I got the original idea from Greta Christina‘s blog entry “Are you smarter than a  celebrity psychic?”

Now for 2010 predictions.

  1. Start with an easy one.  The Tories win the election in the UK.  We have to have an election this year unless we’re attacked by aliens or something.  We have a five year duration of Parliament in the UK and our last general election was in 2005.  Brown’s Labour isn’t going to get any more popular although Cameron’s Conservatives could conceivably get less popular.  I’m not voting for either of them.  Crooks.
  2. China is in the news at the moment having executed that convicted drug smuggler with mental health problems.  I predict therefore that the news services keep an eye on China and uncover a string of social abuses perpetrated by the Chinese.  China, being answerable to no-one, will stick two fingers up and any criticism.  I mean what are we going to do?  Stop paying back all the money they’ve lent us to prop up our failing economies.
  3. On the techie side I want to predict something about the iPhone.  By all accounts it is a wonderful device with many fascinating apps and gadgets.  Sadly it  is shit as a phone.  People do buy phones to make phone calls after all and I think it is important that a phone is able to do that and do it well.  Therefore I predict that Apple will release a new iPhone that is shit hot at making phone calls but gets criticised for some other reason.  Probably an issue with compatibility between phone versions.  This is because other companies are jealous and don’t have all the best toys.
  4. Gotta have a celebrity prediction.  I really want to see Katie Holmes free from the clutches of cult spokesman, Tom Cruise.  She is held by forces that we may never understand but we can hope that she can break free and bring her daughter with her.
  5. Last prediction.  I think something easy to finish off.  As I’m currently snowed in I’ll go with a weather related prediction.  This summer we will have the highest recorded temperatures in England since records began.  Come on, you know it’ll happen.  hundreds will die, they’ll be plagues of locusts and fires all over the land, air conditioning will seem like heaven itself.  It will be hot, hot, hot.

That’s it.  What are yours?

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Mere Christianity – Chapter 1

I’m reading C S Lewis’ Mere Christianity at the moment and found myself ranting (in my head) before I’d even finished the first chapter.  Most distracting, I had to kept shutting me up and going back to read what I’d missed.  With that in mind I’d like to examine the points raised in each chapter to see if there is any merit to what he’s written. Fortunately he writes very well with some excellent examples so there are few distinct points in each chapter to confuse thing.

In chapter one Lewis argues that there are things he calls Laws of Nature that are universal for all people. This is essentially a default moral standard enjoyed by all of humanity that included compunctions against killing, stealing, rape, deceit, etc. He argues that these are not learned traits but inherent in the human condition.

There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Creeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to–whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put Yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

I disagree. Although he does follow up with some neat examples that I do agree with I think he is too sweeping in his assumptions.

There are many different characteristics that human beings could be said to have. I can indeed think of a country where aggression in war is frowned upon and pacifism is considered a positive trait or even where cowardice is excused. I think that we live in societies where exploiting those weaker than us is permissible and even encouraged. Selfishness and self dependence are certainly considered to be traits of value although we do not think of self promotion in such terms.

Are there really universal human characteristics or is Lewis just making a huge assumption? Even if he’s right what does this prove?

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Bible knowledge in decline

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/07/12/2623435.htm

Knowledge of the Bible is in decline in Britain, with fewer than one in 20 people able to name all Ten Commandments and youngsters viewing the Christian holy book as “old-fashioned”, a survey said.

Atheists, however, were not unduly worried about the decline in the Bible’s popularity.

“It shows really that religion is becoming less important to people,” said Pepper Harow, campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association.

I got the article link from the BBC’s Big Question forum. Here was my own response at the time.

Whether you are a believer or not the Bible and the Church of England is part of our national culture and heritage. How can you hope to understand and appreciate the Reformation, The English Civil War or The Enlightenment without some idea of what the bible meant to people. Our language is resplendent with biblical references, our laws are often derived from biblical sources and overturned because we have no secular reason for keeping them.

We should have an awareness of the bible even if we believe that it is myth because people took it very seriously for a very long time. How can you argue against something if you don’t know where the idea came from. If you support stem cell research then you must know about the objections that are derived from Christian dogma as well as those that come from ethical considerations. If you support a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy then you need to understand how others object to it. If you support free education then you need to understand the basis for it and how Christianity was instrumental in creating the public school system.

Some responses lament the decline of knowledge in the general populace.  “We are becoming dumber” they say.  I disagree though that knowledge is in decline.  In the 21st century we have unprecedented access to knowledge on almost any subject you can imagine. I can read Ulysses online, go to a library, order it from Amazon or even borrow a copy. I can discuss the references in a forum with people all over the world if I wish and can even search for one if I don’t know where to find one. I can join a correspondence course, arrange to meet up with Joyce or Tennyson enthusiasts or just write a blog about it. None of this was possible even 10 years ago on the scale we have today.

I think what is in decline is interest. We are becoming the Eloi and the Morlocks, neither is a fate I find particularly appealing.  Do you disagree?  Should we lament the loss of our history or allow that which has served it’s purpose to pass unremarked and unmourned?  Is the decline of biblical knowledge, as I believe, a symptom of a society that has grown bored and indolent, that seeks only survival and entertainment.  If we are losing the roots of our history then is this a step to replacing these old myths with something better for everyone?

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News crumbs

A round up of interesting news stories.  What ho!

Britain’s libel laws threaten Free Speech.  The article begins with some interesting background on chiropractors and how my nation’s laws are being used to silence science writers who criticise crackpot pseudoscience. Oh the shame.

Research reveals how super-sleeper frogs survive Oh I sometimes wish I could sleep for so long.

Outsourcing Faith Apparently the faithful want to be able to talk about faith rather than do their jobs.  Fine, but it should be unpaid work right?  Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who always come round when I’m in the middle of a strenuous workout (ahem) on a Sunday morning.  They don’t get paid.

Thanks.

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The Great and Magnificent Predictions of Dominic Destiny 2009

Ages ago I wrote some predictions for 2008.

Here are my five predictions:

  1. Well known celebrity couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (Bradgelina) will announce a split and will go their separate ways.
    FAIL. It appears that the celebrity couple are still together.
  2. Hillary Clinton will be the first female president of the United States of America.  I’m only saying this because the democrats will probably win and I’m certain that Americans will vote for a woman before they will vote for a black man.
    FAIL. Clinton lost out to Barack Obama early on so that didn’t happen..
  3. England will experience freak weather conditions on an unprecedented scale.  I include heat waves, snow storms and\or tornadoes.  None of these will stop me from getting to work though…unfortunately.
    FAIL. We had the usual weather this year as far as i could tell.  At least there was nothing so strange as to be newsworthy.
  4. There will be a large food scare in England akin to the salmonella, BSE, or bird flu farces of recent years.  I don’t know, maybe it’ll be the turn of vegetables to receive some bad press.
    FAIL. Again there were some little scares and some silly rumours mainly involving Scottish salmon and grain but no big scares.
  5. The west will go to war against a major nation in the middle east… again.
    FAIL. I was expecting a big war in Iran by that nutter Bush but it never happened.  We may well be picking fights with our middle eastern cousins but there is no major assault.

That’s terrible.  Zero out of five.  Dom did much better with four out of five.  Clearly my psychic powers were on the fritz last year.  Perhaps I should try to be a bit more outrageous in my claims.

The Brain of DestinyWith that in mind these are my 2009 Psychic Predictions from the Brain of Destiny.

  1. Sticking to American politics I’m going to go for an assassination attempt against the President.  His first year in office and a new face always upsets a few loonies.  This may be too easy as there were whisperings of nutters coming out of the woodwork from the minute he put his hat in the election.  I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to suggest that the assassination fails miserably and improves the public perception of Barack Obama due to his level headed handling of the event.
  2. Banks will continue to be greedy, irresponsible buggers.  Now that they know that the government will bail them out when they make costly mistakes they will stop caring about risk and invest in all sorts of hare-brained schemes while throwing away confidential information or leaving it down the pub.  Something stupid like that.  The FSA will fail to make a difference.
  3. I have a particular dislike of the BNP as a bunch of racist loudmouthed twats.  I therefore predict see some serious legal ramifications for some hate mongering by the BNP.  Perhaps a senior policeman gets sacked or a court case challenges them in a publicly embarrassing way.  I don’t want to get too specific because that’s not how predictions work.  The words BNP, legal, and funny will certainly be involved though.
  4. Setting aside politics and steering clear of religion (for a change) I focus prediction number four directly on the mystical configurations of the cult of celebrity.  A footballer’s wife, perhaps one who sings a bit, will be exposed in the press as being a bit unfaithful.  The popular press will use such choice and sensitive phrases as “slapper” and “love cheat” and I fully expect Richard Littlejohn’s head to explode with glee.  As a private matter I will fail miserably to have an opinion but the constant chatter about two people who I’ve never heard of will annoy me and I’ll be forced to blog about it.
  5. No prediction would be complete with a little popular news, Zimbabwe in this case.  The country will continue to deteriorate and nobody will do anything about it.  Not a thing.  There will be plenty of talk though.

That’s it.  What are yours?

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