Brown, Bishops, Bigots, Justice, Laws

After the last case of nature imitating art, Gordon Brown’s gaffe reminded me of that moment on Yes, Prime Minister when Sir Humphrey learns an important lesson: the microphone is always live, just as the gun is always loaded.

I don’t know whether Mrs Duffy is a bigot. As Bernard Woolley might say, that’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I engage in open discussion on immigration; you are a bigot; he’s being charged under Section 19 of the Public Order Act. Andrew Rilstone says she’s read too much of the Nasty Press, and that Brown is himself too used to pandering to them, in public at least, both sentiments which seem fair enough, to me.

Justice and Laws

There’s a lot of blogging going on about the failure of yet another legal case where a Christian claimed they’d been discriminated against when they were sacked for discriminating against gays. Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor, was sacked by Relate for refusing to give therapy to homosexual couples. Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, intervened in the case. He submitted a witness statement in which he called for special, religiously sensitive, courts to hear cases like McFarlane’s; said that Christians were being equated with bigots (that word again); and warned of “civil unrest” if things carried on (for an example of civil unrest organised by the Church of England, see Eddie Izzard’s Cake or death sketch).

It’s worth reading the full text of the judgement by the excellently named Lord Justice Laws. After giving his legal opinion, the judge addresses Lord Carey’s statement. He rejects Carey’s claim that the law says Christians are bigots, distinguishing discriminatory outcomes from malevolent intentions. He goes on:

The general law may of course protect a particular social or moral position which is espoused by Christianity, not because of its religious imprimatur, but on the footing that in reason its merits commend themselves. So it is with core provisions of the criminal law: the prohibition of violence and dishonesty. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, stretching over many centuries, has no doubt exerted a profound influence upon the judgment of lawmakers as to the objective merits of this or that social policy. And the liturgy and practice of the established Church are to some extent prescribed by law. But the conferment of any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled. It imposes compulsory law, not to advance the general good on objective grounds, but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion. This must be so, since in the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims.

This debate is usually framed as Christians vs atheists and secularists. Indeed, Carey is still fulminating, fellow bishop Cranmer rumbles about establishment, and the Christian Legal Centre appears to think it’s a good idea for the courts to take a position on the veracity of the Bible (let me know how that one works out for you, guys). But not all Christians are with Carey and the CLC: some Christians call out Carey for bringing Christianity into disrepute, and some recognise that claiming persecution has become a cottage industry for Christians in the UK. See also How to spot a fundamentalist Christian lobby group in your news, where you’re encouraged to spot a pattern developing.

The Evangelical Alliance would like these cases to stay out of the courts. A common response to this sort of case is to ask whether some accommodation could be made to the discriminatory Christians: perhaps those who objected to dealing with gay couples could be excused such duties? That seems reasonable to an extent, but Lord Justice Laws makes it clear that there is no legal obligation on employers here. It would be churlish to object to employers freely choosing to make such arrangements, so long as they do not inconvenience co-workers who do not discriminate in this way, but it seems hard to argue that employers have a moral obligation to do so, either: co-workers would probably feel a bit like the elder brother in Prodigal Son parable, and might ask why should someone behaving badly get equal pay and more flexibility about their work then someone willing to do the entire job. More generally, if society has decided that such discrimination is wrong, why should those doing wrong get special treatment? What do you think, readers?

Edited to add: some more discussion of the McFarlane case is happening over on andrewducker‘s post about it.

Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Link blog: politics, philosophy, pope, jesus

LibCon – Media » Guess the newspaper editor most annoyed with Libdem surge?

The Heil hates the Lib Dems: Clegg must be doing something right.
(tags: politics uk daily-mail newspaper tabloid liberal-democrats libdems election)

Evangelicals and the death of Antony Flew

"Unfortunately, it’s impossible to think about Flew without thinking about the protracted fiasco of the last decade of his life, when certain Evangelical Christians tried to turn him into a tool of religious propaganda, and his death has brought with it reminders that some haven’t given up."
(tags: antony-flew flew atheism philosophy dementia aging religion evangelicalism roy-varghese deism)

‘tarians

springheel_jack on what's wrong with libertarianism, and what "freedom" entails.
(tags: freedom libertarianism politics philosophy isaiah-berlin)

YouTube – Axis of Awesome – What Would Jesus Do?

A valid theological point.
(tags: funny songs youtube video axis-of-awesome jesus wwjd)

The Foreign Office’s sick attack on the Pope: what did you expect? – Telegraph Blogs

The FO's "brainstorming" session on the ideal Papal visit ("Launch of Benedict condoms") got leaked to the Torygraph. Damain Thompson's always good for a laugh, and he doesn't disappoint here. "the Catholic hierarchy is furious, accusing the FO of “disrespecting” the Pope" The Pope gonna bust a cap in yo' ass, a spokesbishop said today. "NOW do you finally understand what sort of snide, cheap and ignorant prejudice has flourished under this Government and its civil servants – wall-to-wall secularists for whom the Roman Catholic Church is at best an antiquated irrelevance and at worst a sick joke?" I think there's unwarranted assumption here, no?
(tags: catholic catholicism religion pope ratzinger lolxians telegraph damian-thompson)
Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Link blog: election, politics, uk, liberal

Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM

They're too busy playing computer games. Wasn't that the explanation in Charles Stross's "Accelerando", too?
(tags: evolution aliens alien fermi science psychology space future)

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: If I could lead the cat herd

"I were leading the cat herd, I'd like to stress that the problem isn't so much religion in itself, or even the Abrahamic tradition in itself. It is, first, the many deplorable elements – the apocalypticism, totalitarianism, sexist, puritanism, intolerance, etc. – that are so prevalent in the Abrahamic holy books and traditions. But it is not every single element of those traditions."
(tags: religion karen-armstrong russell-blackford sam-harris)

HOSTAGES RESCUED BY COURAGEOUS RACIST The First-Person Observer:

“He threw one grenade but dropped, like, twenty N-Bombs". Via Metafilter.
(tags: humour games first-person fps counterstrike racism)

We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!

A long shot, but you never know, I suppose…
(tags: politics election liberal liberal-democrats uk funny)

Facebook | I Blame Monotheism For The Earthquakes, Volcanoes And Global Climate Change

The old gods are not amused!
(tags: religion earthquake volcano climate cthulhu quetzalcoatl)

Commons library research note on hung parliaments

or "How Hung Parliaments Work". Via Ben Goldacre.
(tags: government law politics research uk election parliament system:filetype:pdf system:media:document)
Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

iPhone, Nexus 1 or HTC Desire? Discuss

Dear Lazyweb,

I’m thinking of getting one those shiny smartphone things. Looking at the iPhone, Google Nexus 1 and HTC Desire.

I like the idea of the dual microphone noise cancellation and the voice activation on the N1. The Desire has some sort of funky social networking stuff and a prettier UI that the N1, although there was some muttering on various web forums about HTC being slow at releasing updates (and you don’t get the noise cancellation or voice activation).

scribb1e has an iPhone and likes it. I’ve got a Mac, so everything will probably Just Work. That said, I’m loath to pay them money as they’re so tight-fisted about application development, but I’m probably kidding myself when I imagine that I might write something for an Android phone anyway.

Discuss…

Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Link blog: funny, pope, politics, richard-dawkins

‘Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI’ by Marc Horne – TimesOnline – RichardDawkins.net

Dawkins Our Leader: "Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself. What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain."
(tags: richard-dawkins pope catholic abuse children ratzinger law uk politics dawkins)

Christian faith and modern British politics, a layman’s view

Mattghg has a post on the role of faith in politics. He mentions an illiberal attitude taken by Labour (they wanted to reverse an amendment which said that discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred). Robhu and I are having an interesting chat in the comments, concerning whether Britain is a Christian country, among other things.
(tags: robhu religion discrimination homosexuality politics christianity uk britain)

Arresting comedy « Open Parachute

Graham Lineham (Father Ted, Black Books) on what would happen if Dawkins and Hitchens actually arrested the Pope.
(tags: pope dawkins hitchens funny arrest graham-lineham richard-dawkins christopher-hitchens)

Evangelical scholar forced out after endorsing evolution – USATODAY.com

"Forced out"? Don't you mean "expelled"?
(tags: evolution theology bible expelled bruce-waltke lolxians seminary biologos)

Special Investigation – Atheist Alert

The horrifying truth about atheists.
(tags: funny video parody religion atheism youtube nonstampcollector darwin stalin)

Hyperbole and a Half: The Alot is Better Than You at Everything

The Alot is a mythical beast. Lots of people on the web write about them.
(tags: funny grammar spelling english language internet)
Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Link blog: pope, jesus, rowan-williams, books

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman | Books | The Guardian

Rowan Williams review Philip Pullman's latest. Via andrewducker.
(tags: christ jesus books christianity guardian literature religion review theology rowan-williams pullman philip-pullman)

They Work For The BPI

Who voted for the Digital Economy Bill, coloured by party affiliation. A sea of red. Oh well, they'll be gone soon, with any luck (though of course, most of the Tories didn't even turn up).
(tags: politics bpi debill digitalbritain election)

The Third Strike by Andrew Sullivan

"The AP's story on Joseph Ratzinger's direct involvement in delaying for six years the defrocking of a priest who had confessed to tying up and raping minors ends any doubt that the future Pope is as implicated in the sex abuse crisis as much as any other official in the church."
(tags: catholic pope abuse church corruption rape ratzinger religion paedophilia)
Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Is the Creator good?

… since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. — St Paul, Epistle to the Romans

Suppose the existence and fine-tuning of the universe are best explained by a creator. Well, OK, but what sort of creator? Looking for the best explanation for things is clearly a reliable way to proceed: once we’ve settled the question of design by this method, we had better follow where it leads.

For if the Law was not ordained by the perfect God himself, as we have already taught you, nor by the devil, a statement one cannot possibly make, the legislator must be some one other than these two. In fact, he is the demiurge and maker of this universe and everything in it; and because he is essentially different from these two and is between them, he is rightly given the name, intermediate. — Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora

What goes for the Law goes for the world too: it’s a mixed up sort of place, containing both good things and bad things. While other explanations are possible (just as, say, it is possible, though of course unlikely, that the universe somehow arose without a creator), Ptolemy‘s explanation seems the best one: the creator is not perfect. Not evil either, though, just… middle of the road. Doing the best they can, perhaps.

Is it impossible for someone to create universes if they aren’t perfectly good? Could even a very technically skilled person be a bit of a dick? It seems odd, then, to suppose that the creator has the traditional attributes of omnipotence, perfect goodness, and so on.

… as this goodness is not antecedently established, but must be inferred from the phenomena, there can be no grounds for such an inference, while there are so many ills in the universe, and while these ills might so easily have been remedied, as far as human understanding can be allowed to judge on such a subject. I am Sceptic enough to allow, that the bad appearances, notwithstanding all my reasonings, may be compatible with such attributes as you suppose; but surely they can never prove these attributes. — Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume

There’s an argument, which you may occasionally hear made by William Lane Craig, that we’re not a position to know that the creator doesn’t have sufficiently good reasons for allowing bad stuff to happen: he (according to Craig, the creator is a “he”) is said to move in mysterious ways, after all. Unfortunately, as John D relates, this makes it hard to see why we should intervene if we see someone suffering: who are we to say what good may come of it? Moreover, if our understanding of bad and good outcomes is so suspect, how are we then in a position to know that the creator is good?

He may be fully convinced of the narrow limits of his understanding; but this will not help him in forming an inference concerning the goodness of superior powers, since he must form that inference from what he knows, not from what he is ignorant of. The more you exaggerate his weakness and ignorance, the more diffident you render him, and give him the greater suspicion that such subjects are beyond the reach of his faculties. — Dialogues, again

Perhaps someone could appeal to a sacred book to show that the creator is good. Still, these things seem open to interpretation: we’d best leave Craig and Ptolemy to argue about the details of their shared scriptures. In any case, we’d need convincing that the book was a reliable source on the subject.

Perhaps, in the absence of external evidence, someone could come to a strong inner conviction that the creator is perfectly good. But it seems this sort of confidence can cut both ways. As Chris Hallquist writes, “If there is any actual case where we are confident that divine inaction is incompatible with perfection, then we must conclude that God does not exist.” (It seems that “God does not exist” might be a little hasty here, but we’d best leave Hallquist to argue with Ptolemy on that score).

Given all this, it seems odd to me that so many people confidently assert that the creator is good. We rightly prefer to believe that our instruments are broken than that we have disproved the Law of Gravitation, but it’s interesting to test our limits: if you are such a person, is there any such case you can imagine which would convince you to change your position? If not, why do you trouble yourself with evidence about the creator’s moral character either way? It would seem better to just accept that some people have one conviction about the creator, and some another. On the other hand, if we do look to the evidence, it seems that what we observe is best explained by a creator who is imperfect, and possibly indifferent.

Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr

Link blog: sex, funny, christianity, atheism

The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality :: Desiring God

Well known complementarian John Piper explains how God sent a tornado to break the spire of a Lutheran church as a "a gentle but firm" reminder that gay sex is bad. Via a more sensible Christian on Unreasonable Faith.
(tags: church homosexuality sin bible christianity reformed sex gay piper lutheran lolxians)

Boring men?

In response to a Metafilter posting linking to an article about how all men are boring, Mefi user Pastabagel shares their idea of what it would be like if men responded to women asking what was on their minds.
(tags: funny metafilter relationships sex women boring)

Apophatic atheology: an April apologetic

"A great deal of needless offence and rancour, it seems to me, is caused by the unfortunate tendency of certain believers to take the speeches and books of atheism literally."
(tags: religion atheism apophatic funny parody ken-macleod)

Biblical Evidence for Catholicism: Was Skeptical Philosopher David Hume an Atheist?

Some interesting quotes from Hume scholars. Comes from a blog evangelising for Catholicism, so may be strongly filtered evidence, but worth a read, in any case.
(tags: philosophy hume atheism david-hume agnosticism deism religion scepticism)

Nothing New Under The Sun – The biggest problem imo with organized religion

is that it validates the very human impulse to think that we can "make up" for things – rewrite the past, undo what we have done, magic away the reality with something else – that we can fix our misdeeds and harms done by harming ourselves in some way.
(tags: religion atonement psychology morality)

Ireland Archbishop stunned by Dr Rowan Williams’ criticism of Catholic Church -Times Online

"The Archbishop of Dublin today said he was "stunned" to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury declare that the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility because of the child abuse scandal." Rowan's peeved at the poaching Pope (and sensibly looking to put some distance between the two churches, by the looks of it).
(tags: catholicism catholic rowan-williams anglican anglicanism religion christianity ireland children abuse)
Share via:Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on Tumblr