Doctor Who and The March for Science

“Sadly, vaccination, climate change and research budgets are political issues.” I have to agree with Robin Ince. Those that have a special interest to go against science are heavily political. They need push back. It will take scientific personalities that can engage the public; that kind of politics is in the public interest. Sometimes to advance science you need to get out of the labs, and in to the streets.

Robinince's Blog

It appears that there is a condition of “Doctor Who fanboy by proxy”. Arriving at the Science museum to take part in the London Science March, there was Peter Capaldi.
It was the beat that my heart skipped.
Not for me, for my son.
He was at home.
He had done his march for the year.
Halfway around on the Women’s March, he had been told to try to be less bored.
‘I am 9 years old, you’d have been bored on a march when you were 9,” he told my wife.
You couldn’t fault his logic.
My son didn’t spot any noticeable or notable Timelords on the Women’s March (though some were there I am told), just a Gandalf, and he hasn’t got into Middle Earth as yet.
I was embarrassed, but there was no choice.
I felt I had to get a photo and an autograph for my…

View original post 721 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

TEDxExeter 2017

The lunch interval may have been by default vegetarian, but we have had plenty of meat to get stuck into in the first half of the day at the TEDx 2017. Christina Lamb talking about the bomb attack targeting Bhutto’s motorcade when she returned to Pakistan, and what drives her to tell the stories of defiance and life in the darkest places. The chance to talk to speakers is a big part of TED, and watching the interest and excitement of schoolgirls ask her questions about journalism a reminder of the theme of this TEDx. 

Hope. 

If there is to be any, children having hope that they can write, report and be activists to bring about the promise of hope. To live their lives with hope. Andrew Solomon spoke about how travel had the social function to give you a window and a mirror as you engaged the world. That there was a need to challenge Theresa May’s assertion that there was no such thing as a citizen of the world. We have multiple identities, and they interconnect us with the rest of humanity. 

Nujeen Mustafa spoke about being more than a number as a refugee from Syria. If the name is unfamiliar to you, she is the girl in a wheel chair that left that bloody civil war. Her heartfelt plea for acceptance, an understanding of what makes her different was based on a hope that we all could understand one another. If only we were prepared to do so. 

Videos of the talks will be uploaded on the web – will try and update this blog post when they are. We are only halfway through the sessions for this one day event. 

My thanks to Claire Kennedy, the curator and licensee of TEDxExter, for inviting me to attend. It is one thing watching a TED talk. But being there, just makes it more human. 

Being more in touch with our humanity, is to have more hope. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses 

It is bad enough Jehovah’s Witnesses brand us apostates. The state branding us as criminals will not help either. 

As I feared would happen the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in Russia. A religion that would always put its God before the secular ruler, was anti-imperialism, anti-nationalism, and originated in US would fall foul of Putin’s agenda for a new Russia. That they wanted to have nothing to do with this world would not have been enough. With Putin you are either with him or against him. 

I have read some blog posts by those that though living in the west would welcome such a ban happening here. To be spared the heartache of an indoctrination that left them friendless, isolated and at the mercy of the machinations of elders and ministerial servants. That if no one else other than their abuser saw their abuse, it could be dismissed by those in charge of their spiritual welfare because it needed two witnesses to be valid according to scripture. That when they left the faith other family members never speaking to them again. Denied an education as the end of the world was coming. To spare any child going through that again, this is seen as a protection from religion as child abuse. 

On sexual abuse I would agree if Jehovah’s Witnesses are not prepared to report allegations to the appropriate authorities, nor do adequate background checks on those with access to children nor ensure those abused or raped do not meet with the abuser for a congregational inquiry, then sanctions which could ultimately lead to banning would be warranted. As it should be any organisation whether religious or secular. 

When dealing with cults it might be easy to say just ban. The problem, as I mentioned in a previous post, is it makes it that much harder for people inside the organisation to leave. Most of us kids do leave. According to Pew a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents is most likely to end up an atheist compared to other faith groups – even beating the odds of that for atheist parents. 

If you genuinely want to help, then ensure there is life long learning for those that for whatever reason miss out on a full education. Make sure there is a strong tolerant and pluralistic society that can embrace multiple ideas, discussing them freely and openly. An active civil society that welcomes everyone no matter what their background is. 

Such a thing is an anathema in Putin’s Russia. Where criticism of Putin makes you a marked man. Where being gay could lead to being tortured and killed

First they killed political opponets and journalists. And I said nothing. Then they came for the gays and I said nothing. Then they came for the JWs and I said nothing. 



Do not wait till that list gets any bigger before you do say something. Putin is not an ally against fundementalism whether Islamic or Christian. He is against the very freedoms that those of us that grew up in fundamentalist faiths yearn for. 

Rather than helping such kids you will force the faith underground. The dangers are even worse compared with ensuring that good practice and safeguards are in place to protect children’s welfare, education and health. 

Freedom of religion and freedom from religion – being against this ban is to stand up for both. The state has no business saying what you should believe. 

That is up to you. 

2 Comments

Filed under Jehovah's Witnesses

Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses Panel Discussion Monday 24 April, King’s College London


This coming Monday 24 April I will take part in a panel discussion at King’s College, on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tickets and more information available via this link

If you are less familiar with my childhood, when as a family we started to study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and as a teenager I was ready to be baptised before deciding to leave, you can read that story printed in The New Humanist here. Naturally there is plenty more on here to read. 

Thanks to all of you that have supported the blog by reading and sharing posts. That encouragement meant everything. 

Grateful to Faith to Faithless for creating the platform and space for those considered apostates to come together and share experiences. 

Also, I will be attending the TEDx conference in Exeter tomorrow. So if you see me feel free to say hi! 

Leave a comment

Filed under Jehovah's Witnesses

May Calls For An Early Election

Referendums do not resolve anything the way a General Election does. With the SNP clambering for a second independence referendum, and what sort of Brexit we are going to end up with being about as clear as mud from the government since UK voted to leave the EU, Prime Minister May is right to go to Parliament tomorrow and seek a two thirds majority vote for an early election. 

It does mean we might expect to have an actual detailed plan, not the sort of fuzzy “we want a red, white and blue Brexit.” It gives the lie to the PM claims we have been coming together – the exact opposite is why we need this election. The lack of certainty is due to a lack of vision and detail from the Conservative Government about Brexit, and May suggesting it is the fault of an opposition, that could not fight its way out of a paper bag much less an election, is laughable.  As I write this post Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democratshas welcomed the early election. Corbyn, like his leadership, was absent. 

Corbyn does not have the support of his own MPs, how can he be expected to run a government or demand the public give him that trust? For his style is opposition to his own MPs, as it was to his own party when in the political wilderness. The idea that a platform should be given to the fringes of politics finds its ultimate irony when Labour MPs that did not want him to win as leader nominated him to stand for a “discussion”. Give a platform, and be prepared to be swept away on a train of thought you never wanted to get on in the first place. If the country gets taken for a ride in the process, let that be on your conscience. 

If the Conservatives come back with a stronger majority than the 17 they currently have, the fault will be on a man that the Labour membership wanted but the British electorate rejected. Labour have not advanced any vision, in what has been a hostile media climate, to change opinion polls. 

I suspect Lib Dems hopes of winning back the  south west will be short lived. There is no love for the political idea of the EU, English immigration to Cornish lands and housing is a sore point, let alone European immigration. If the Conservatives can guarantee there will be no lack of funding in these regions when leaving the EU and constraints on free movement, it will remain blue. 

As I wrote last October, an early election would be the only way out of this whole mess of a government that did not want Brexit having to implement it. That there is a political opportunity for May to increase her majority and have an election before anyone sees what a dog’s dinner Brexit might turn out to be. The right play just happens to be the right democratic one too, to get a personal mandate from the people to govern. One she has not yet shown she deserves. 

My mood right now is one of playing the violin upon the Titanic. Fitting, given the foreign secretary once said we would make a Titanic success of Brexit. Just don’t ask me where the lifeboats are. 

Leave a comment

Filed under British Politics, British Society, politics

Banning Jehovah’s Witnesses In Russia

Refusing a blood transfusion to the point of death is, by any definition, an extreme response. In Russia they are using this to outlaw the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation

I had a piece of paper in my pocket, cut out from a booklet, saying I would rather die than have a blood transfusion administered because under any circumstance God’s command came first. Death did not terrify me. Being alive when the apocalypse came did. Seeing those I loved dying because, unlike me, they did not call on the name of Jehovah to be saved. 

Dying via obedience to God would be like picking up a monopoly card that read: go directly to Paradise Earth, collect eternal life. Persecution would be in a perverse sense a welcoming sign of the end of days and vindication your faith was true. The cost of which would be beyond anyone to endure, save for faith in Jehovah. 

This all made sense to me as a ten year old, with what would become an increasingly dog eared piece of paper in his pocket. It would make sense to any student of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publications, given the tales of those in the bible who put their obedience to God before their own lives, let alone any court or leader of the land. 

For me the proposed ban is more than the Russian legal system fed up with Jehovah’s Witnesses rejecting a doctor’s treatment. This is about proscribing an American organisation, whose theology is contrary to Russian Christian orthodoxy. Their evangelising is seen as propaganda undermining traditional Russian culture and values. 

This ban is a small part in helping Putin to create a nationalistic united Russia. The 175,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2,000 congregation cannot be tolerated. They are against his vision of what Paradise on earth looks like. The JWs are in the way of unity under one man. 

Whilst on this blog I do warn of the blighted  lives caused by the fundamentalism of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ban would make it even worse. It would make leaving the organisation that much harder – you were a criminal and you may have family and friends who still are in the eyes of the state. It would make ensuring people had the medical care they needed that much harder if they may need a blood transfusion. 

Human rights are universal or they are nothing. Do not ever think you can use the past experience of those of us that grew up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to justify denying basic human rights. It is bad enough being shunned by family, without thinking we would want them locked up for it. 

I would rather be woken up from a lie in at the weekend by them proselytising on my welcome mat, then a Jehovah’s Witness arrested in the dead of night as they slept for what they thought. Because they may have strange dreams, ones I still remember, but there are worse nightmares that we must never wake up to. 

Thank you Putin for reminding me that I had the freedom to believe and then not to believe, without the state passing any judgment. It is one all Russians should enjoy too.  

Update: follow up blog post to Supreme Court decision to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.  

2 Comments

Filed under Jehovah's Witnesses, World

A Counter to Prof A C Grayling on Brexit


This is a response to A C Grayling’s article: Referendums, Elections and Democracy. I am surprised it has not received a rebuttal or counter. For it suggests that members of parliament should only take heed of election results as to action rather than an advisory referendum. This view, played out, would undermine any sense of popular legitimacy parliament might claim when it deliberately ignores the freely expressed opinion of citizens. Who were promised by their elected government that whatever the result of the referendum, they would carry it out, in a leaflet sent to all households.

For those that stand for parliamentary sovereignty over the plebs, the best advice to be given is never agree to ask the people what they think if you do not trust them to come up with the right answer. If the decision is too complex, please shelter us simple folk from having to think. On any matter beyond the great unwashed, burn the constituency mail bag without opening. Appear to listen at meetings, nod and even tilt your head to one side sympathetatically. Just ensure you do not have a microphone on when you jump into your car and say what you really think.

Grayling and I would perhaps agree if you live in a parliamentary system, then let them make the decisions and be accountable to us at election time, having given some indication before they were voted into the Commons how they would act. Referendums bring up the notion that the public might actually have a say in the running of the country. The fools.

The EU countries that have had referendums on various treaties have shown that one way of responding to citizens whose answer you do not like, is to hold them again till they give the right answer. This might work for a professor telling a student to do their homework again. In a democracy of equal citizens the facade of equality is broken. The elite is created to serve the country. The guardians, with learning and advanced information, know what is  best for you. Your job as a citizen is to empower them at an election to get on with it.

Such a view is why the far right have taken advantage of the democratic deficit in Europe. Using popular sentiment on immigration they are beginning to take power in Eastern Europe. In mainland Europe, we hold our breath to see if this could happen there too.

The main irony for me is Grayling hopes parliamentary democracy can keep populism in its place. Yet where fascism has ever won at the ballot box it is because of the contempt of what ordinary people might think by their betters. Democracy ends when you no longer trust citizens to act as citizens. 

That is more dangerous than leaving the EU. But to misquote John Cleese in “The Life of Brian” the British public may have told us to fuck off – but how do we fuck off out of the EU? There, parliament has a moral duty to be involved. 

Please, no more referenda. But an election over whether to accept the deal government as hammered out or an opposition manifesto to stay in EU would be parliamentary democracy at its best. I suspect A C Grayling and myself would be shoulder to shoulder then on the streets.  

1 Comment

Filed under British Politics