January 2005

ladysisyphus writes about why she is a Christian even though she cannot say unequivocally that Jesus Christ is her Lord and Saviour, which, as we all know, is the litmus of such things. People who thought that the Jerry Springer entry was intended to imply that I believed all American Christians were nutters, take note: there is at least one who is not. andrewducker says what I’d have said about truth and facts, in a conversation which reminds me of those I’ve had with cathedral_life.

People who read Hebrew might want to have a look at the huge thread on Creationism that developed under my post here, since some of it relies on what I suspect are standard Creationist assertions about the Hebrew used in Genesis. Or you might not: after I while, I learned to avoid the Creationism threads on uk.r.c, only popping out occasionally to ambush people with physics.

There are more photos of the musicals party, to add to bluap’s. My camera’s rubbish in low light, alas.

Random Flash linkage: To Kill A Mockingbird, Numa Numa. Been doing the rounds, but I mention it in case you’ve not seen it.

Update: I got a comment from someone recommending the CICCU mission talks this year (which have now been and gone). This has started a debate on whether God is just. Read all about it in the comments inside.

I had an email from a producer for Radio 4 the other day. She’d seen the famous web page and wanted to talk to me as part of some research for a programme the BBC are doing on people who’ve lost their religion. The programme is intended to show talking heads (er, except it’ll be radio, obviously) rather than debate, so it’ll be a sort of montage of people recounting their experiences.

I spoke to her on Monday lunchtime, having gone out into the car park to avoid being overheard (it’s not a secret from my work colleagues, at least two of whom must have googled me before hiring me, but I didn’t think I’d feel comfortable talking about it in an open-plan office). She asked me some questions about the experience, such as whether I’d found it frightening (no: dislocating and odd yes, but not frightening) and whether I was glad I’d done it (ultimately, yes, although has been a hard 3 years in some ways). She seemed particularly struck with the image, described in the essay, of me stuck above a prayer meeting manning the overhead projector, looking down on it all and wondering what I was doing there.

I’m not sure whether they intend to ask me to be in it. Radio 4 woman said she’d let me know within a few months if they did, and before the programme airs (probably about September) if not. I don’t mind either way, but it’d be interesting to be on the radio. I’ll let you know what happens.

The BBC screened Jerry Springer – The Opera last night. It was musically brilliant and very funny. Although I thought the ending was weak, I can see how problems of theodicy aren’t going to be answered in a comedy opera. So, leaving that aside, a good time was had by all.

However, the broadcast attracted protests from Christians for scenes in the second half of the opera, in which Jesus and Satan swear at each other, Jesus is played by the same actor who played a nappy fetishist earlier (and wears a very similar costume) and Jesus is described as “a little bit gay”. Stephen Green, the leader of the hitherto unknown evangelical pressure group Christian Voice, has been extensively quoted in the press: you can read his arguments on the group’s website (along with his charming views on gay people), but in brief he objects to the BBC’s decision to broadcast something mocking his religion, and also points out that they would not dare do something similar to, say, Islam.

The BBC is a public service broadcaster funded by the TV licence fee, a tax on television owners (Americans always find this astonishing 🙂 The responses from the public on the BBC News site include many objections from Christians to being forced to pay for the screening of something so offensive to them. Of course, they’re not forced to pay at all: owning a television was not required by the Bible last time I looked, so their situation is similar to the National Innumerates Tax payers who object to how Lottery money is spent. That aside, like many other taxes, some of the money is bound to be spent on things we don’t agree with. We submit to taxation because the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides. Despite putting out an awful lot of tat about home decoration and cookery, the BBC still makes some of the best TV and radio in the world. I might object to paying for Songs of Praise (actually, I don’t, as I like old hymns), but I like Radio 2, Radio 4 (except The Archers, obviously, which is blasphemous and should be banned) and Strictly Come Dancing.

Christians don’t and should not have the right to prevent the screening of programmes to which they object: this isn’t America. An attempt to use Britain’s old blasphemy laws to prosecute the BBC (as some of the Christian groups have been threatening) will be the end of the blasphemy laws, not of the BBC’s ability to screen things Christians don’t like.

Green’s second point is more telling though. The BBC wouldn’t screen something which was offensive to Muslims (or Sikhs, obviously), for fear of violent repercussions. What Green has missed is that this is to the credit of British Christianity: compared to these other religions, it has fewer followers who are prepared to use violence to further their religious ends. As I’ve said elsewhere, I find Islam and American conservative Christianity worrying because of the violence they incite in some of their followers, and hypocritical in their whining about persecution and expectation of tolerance towards them when they do not practice tolerance. Let’s be clear: I am an atheist and believe all theisms to be wrong, but some are more wrong than others.

If Green wants some advice from an atheist, it is this: by all means protest, but not in the expectation that the BBC is morally obliged do as you say. Rather, protest to get across your message about what you think Jesus is like, and where the opera has it wrong. Play up the fact that your protests are non-violent. Get across your larger concern for this country. That’s how to be part of the tradition of free speech in this country, which is both your right and the BBC’s.

It appears SixApart bought LiveJournal. OMG! sixapart awaits your obeisances. bradfitz wonders what to do with all that money (link courtesy of marnanel). It’s fun to watch the drama, but I can’t say I care much.

BoingBoing linked to Edge’s question to (and responses from) various scientists, luminaries and latte-drinking iMac users: What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it ? So, how about the rest of you?