The demon-haunted world of the Conservative Party

Via pseudomonas, I got the news that Conservative high-flyer Philippa Stroud founded a church that tried to ‘cure’ homosexuals by driving out their ‘demons’. The Observer quotes a couple of people who were on the receiving end.

If you engage with Christians about philosophical arguments, where, say, God is advanced as the best, most elegant explanation for creation or the order in the universe, it’s easy to forget that both evangelical and Catholic Christians are committed to belief in the existence of Satan and his minions. For some reason, these Christians tend to downplay this aspect of their belief when evangelising. I’ve previously mentioned the slippery slope that someone might go down, from intellectual arguments for deism, to the Christian Trinity, to a pantheon with angels and demons and bears, oh my.

Those Christians who do believe in the Adversary can be further distinguished by how readily they’ll invoke him as an explanation. My former church saw the Prince of this World as primarily a tempter, not as someone who might possess a person: it might be the Devil’s fault if you had, you know, urges, but I don’t recall anyone attributing illness or even homosexuality to the actions of the Beast (as opposed to the generally fallen state of the world).

It sounds like Stroud’s church is a charismatic church, where people expect to have spiritual encounters, both with God and with the Evil One, much more directly than at more conservative evangelical churches.

Christian blogger and author Adrian Warnock tells us he plans to vote Conservative, partly based on Stroud’s influence on the party. He’s not talking about demons, though, but about social justice: both in Warnock’s article and the Observer‘s, it’s obvious that, in Stroud’s church, the hair-raising stuff about demons is married to a genuine concern for the poor, which I think can only do the Conservative party some good.

Still, I can’t help but think there must be alternatives where the party both wants to help the poor and doesn’t have its social policy written by people who believe demons cause The Gay.

Edited: Iain Dale writes that Stroud has been smeared by the Observer, and quotes a statement from her in which she denies that she thinks homosexuality is an illness. I think questions remain, though: after all, the Observer article didn’t say she did think it was an illness, did it?

Edited again: Andrew Brown chimes in with a utilitarian argument for Stroud.

And again: odd that the media isn’t reporting this one, isn’t it? Pam’s House Blend talks about why, and also has this comment from one of the people the Observer interviewed.

Link blog: religion, lolxians, homosexuality, funny

YouTube – Charlie Brooker – How To Report The News

Every news report you've ever seen.
(tags: news video funny journalism parody bbc media charlie-brooker)

The Devil Rides Out | Features | Fortean Times

Dennis Wheatley: "virtually invented the popular image of Satanism in 20th-century Britain, and he made it seem strangely seductive. If the appeal of Black Magic in popular culture was ultimately erotic, then this was largely due to Wheatley’s writing, with its reliable prospect of virg­ins being ritually ravished on altar tops." Via Metafilter
(tags: satan satanism occult magic dennis-wheatley devil fortean-times)

Tales of a Wayward Classicist: Latin Tattoos

Latin tattoos gone wrong. Probably SFW, shows a lot of skin (obviously) but no rude bits. Via Stoat.
(tags: tattoo funny latin language)

Luke on reformed epistemology and moral realism : The Uncredible Hallq

Nice: "A better response to Plantinga is just to point out that belief in the Christian God isn’t very much at all like most of the common-sense beliefs commonly cited as threatened by Descartes & Hume-style skepticism (like belief in the reliability of our senses), but is an awful lot like beliefs most Christians wouldn’t accept without evidence–namely, the beliefs of other religions."
(tags: philosophy plantinga hume descartes alvin-plantinga epistemology religion reformed)

Signature in the Cell | The BioLogos Foundation

Darrel Falk, a Christian and a professor of biology, finds problems with the science in Stephen Mayer's "The Signature in the Cell". Via Jerry Coyne.
(tags: evolution intelligent-design science religion creationism dna rna stephen-meyer darrel-falk biology discovery-institute)

The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion – This Britain, UK – The Independent

Indy journalist goes undercover to Christian counsellors who try to cure him of Teh Gay. Apparently, gayness can be caused by Freemasonry: who knew?
(tags: psychology uk homosexuality quacks lolxians religion)

Harriet Harman defends equality legislation following Pope’s criticism – Home News, UK – The Independent

No pot pourri, as Ian Paisley would say.
(tags: pope catholicism catholic bigot homosexuality religion lolxians)

Link blog: religion, science, politics, christianity

How to Think About Science

Metafilter links to a bunch of podcasts from modern historians and philosophers of science. I've linked to Mefi rather than the podcasts as there are some interesting comments from valkyryn in the thread, on what Shapin and Schaffer were saying about the role of trust in the scientific community.
(tags: audio science metafilter history philosophy)

The late, mannerist years of identity politics

"I am X, and I am different from Y. Other people are ignorant of the difference between X and Y. They must be educated. People, you must call me X and respect my difference from yourself, and from Y. You must refer to me by the term I have chosen to refer to myself by, and stay tuned for any changes I choose to make in this label, and new terms you must use to describe me — those new terms which the stigma treadmill or reclamation of previously-taboo terms may, from time to time, make it necessary for me to substitute."
(tags: identity politics gender feminism transexualism)

A gay witch hunt in Uganda

Andrew Brown: "A bill currently before the Ugandan parliament (pdf) proposes seven year prison sentences for discussing homosexuality; life imprisonment for homosexual acts; and death for a second offence. Sober observers believe it will be passed. The Anglican church in Uganda appears to support it, and the Church of England in this country is absolutely silent."
(tags: homosexuality morality anglicanism religion christianity sex uganda john-sentamu sentamu)

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name

Christian commenter on Unreasonable Faith: "All ex-Christians are in league with Satan and are fully aware of it, don’t let yourselves be fooled into believing otherwise." Bugger, I've been rumbled. Time to buy a red cape…
(tags: atheism ex-christian de-conversion satan lolxians christianity religion)

Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World.

Peter Watts on the email leaks from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. "That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby."
(tags: global-warming climate science peter-watts politics environment email leak)

Richard Norman – Beyond belief

Richard Norman on the "New Believers": Terry Eagleton, Karen Armstrong and such like, the people who say religion is not remotely about believing stuff. "I cannot see how, in the end, a distinctive religious identity can be possible unless it is based on the acceptance of at least some non-metaphorical factual beliefs – beliefs about the existence of a personal deity and about how his intentions and purposes explain our world. Those beliefs do, inescapably, need to be rationally defended. And they can’t be. On that point, certainly, Dawkins is right."
(tags: richard-norman belief religion karen-armstrong terry-eagleton eagleton richard-dawkins)

‘The Evolution of Confusion’ by Dan Dennett, AAI 2009

Dennett on his project to interview clergy who no longer believe but are closeted (Dennett explicitly makes the analogy with gay people in the 1950s), on "deepities" in theology (interestingly, he rejects criticisms that other 3 horsemen don't know enough theology or philosophy), and on how we needn't suppose some people sat down and conspired to make up religions.
(tags: religion video dennett evolution daniel-dennett theology memes deepity)

The Daily Mash – CLIMATE CHANGE EMAILS STOP GLACIERS FROM MELTING

"This is the smoking iceberg that fires a polar bear of truth between the eyes of hysteria and communism."
(tags: funny climate environment satire global-warming science)

The Devil went down to Cambridge OR Attacking the Darkness

The ever-reliable Cambridge Evening News reveals that dark forces are gathering in Cambridge: “Magus Lynius Shadee, self-named King of All Witches, has announced he will open in the city centre by December 24” (I don’t know what it means for a magus to “open in the city centre”, but I’m not sure I want to stick around to find out). Local church leaders aren’t too pleased about this, and warn of bad juju.

This set me thinking about the time the vicar at my former church told us that educated Cambridge Christians hadn’t taken the stuff in the Bible about demons seriously enough. Basic theism is all very well at first, but inevitably you move on to the harder stuff. Initially, you’re all “everything that begins to exist has a cause” but before long you start thinking that the Resurrection is pretty good evidence for Christian theism (after all, as the Christian sort of God exists, it’s likely that he would raise Jesus from the dead, therefore the Resurrection is not terribly unlikely; therefore, given the New Testament evidence, the Resurrection happened; therefore the Christian sort of God exists).

Tragically, for some people even that’s not enough. Not satisfied with a Trinity, they crave other supernatural beings. From there, it’s a slippery slope to “I had doubts about the validity of that Resurrection argument / fancied that boy/girl/sheep / had a bit of a funny turn late at night: SATAN DUNNIT!”

When I was a lad, the school Christian Union leaders told us Dungeons and Dragons was a doorway to danger, a gateway into Satanism. I’d like to suggest that Christianity is a gateway to Dungeons and Dragons. This isn’t a completely new idea: arkannath suggested it in the comments of one of my old posts, which you might also enjoy.

Father David Paul’s (Cleric level 1, patron: Papem, god of guilt about sex) warning that “People who go to these things often end up with mental problems” is best read as a caution to people with poor Will Saves. Rev Ian Church is clearly some sort of adventuring cleric (level 3, patron: Jeebus, god of circular arguments) on a quest to put a stop to Shadee (Wizard level 5, necromancer). Our hero has tracked the villian to his underground lair, wherein “there were several ritual and seance rooms and what really struck us was the intense and extreme cold in the rooms”. Church (by the way, am I alone in thinking that naming your cleric “Church” is only one step up from calling your characters “Bob’s fighter 1”, “Bob’s figher 2”, and so on? Not sure what the DM was thinking with “Shadee”, either) neglects to mention how he turned several undead and avoided some tricky pit traps while he was down there, but we can assume he’s just being modest. There were plenty of XP given out that day, I can tell you. Still, it looks like Shadee escaped, and now the campaign is coming to the streets of Cambridge. The local peasants are pretty excited by the prospect.