Category Archives: Hitchens

Hay Festival: Tom Holland Gives Christopher Hitchens Lecture

  

Bumping into Peter Hitchens after his General Election discussion, and Tom Holland delivers the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture on Deradicalising Mohammed.

It’s like a book camp holiday at Hay, as you look to see what talk you haven’t booked, rush to get a ticket, listen then queue to get your book signed. Collapsing drunk on words whirling through your mind, inside your tent, at the end of the day. An intelligentsia assembly line has been constructed on a welsh field. What motivates the workers here to unite is the inspiration of ideas and personality of the speakers. 

I bumped into Peter Hitchens having bought his “The Rage Against God” and mentioned our conversations on twitter. His bug bear is people not engaging with what is said, and the block button will follow if they do not. His analysis of British politics explains why I do not belong to a political party – it’s not about what citizens or activists think. Money and interests talk over us, and the Conservatives are playing New Labour so well Labour did not have much to say – while all turn a blind eye to mounting debt (national and private) that may lead to another financial crisis on the horizon.

One festival goer remarked feeling dejected by such talks. Yet the truth helps us see what may come, and at least puts things in the proper perspective. She had just come out of Tom Holland’s talk on deradicalising Mohammed. Forget the reformation Ayaan Hirsi Ali talks of – the salafists are that historical parallel and the internet has taken on the role of the printing press. If we wish to deny Jihadists the role model of a violent warrior prophet we have to acknowledge that the historical Mohammed hardly exists. Instead we rely on bibliography and sayings collected two hundred years after his death.

This is not without challenges – it questions a literal interpretation of Mohammed’s life. It suggests that accounts may be wrong, unreliable or deliberately bogus. Or as Tom put it: rather than treated symbolically they started in modern times to be taken literally. An academic understanding can reveal and centre Mohammed in his time – and if we can get over the “Great man” idea of historical figures with him – we might end Mohammed as the pin up for bloody jihadists to emulate.

Yet the real catalyst for peace and the transformation of ideas in the Middle East will have to be a despair of bloodshed. A point which might take way too many lives in the years to come. Tom mentioned the thirty years war. Where I differ, he does not think ground troops would help the situation against ISIS. In the thirty years war great powers got involved, but the bloodshed escalated rather than helped. Hearing Tom speak you can feel the emotion as he talks of the people being killed, and historical sites threatened. After the talk people spoke about his gentility. They warmed to him during the talk.

In the social media and blogosphere exchanges to do with Islam, I cannot help but feel that is the spirit we need more of, even if we disagree with each other.  

I spared a thought for Christopher Hitchens – this was the first memorial lecture in his name at Hay. Two completely different personalities are Holland and Hitch. Yet neither shying away from a controversy. 

It was a honour to have heard all three men above speak in person in my lifetime. For what gives me hope in these times are people facing the issues and using their intelligence and humanity to get through them. 

If you want to debate ideas, Hay is the place to come.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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The Betrayal Of Believers To Theocracy

Too often I hear that the vast majority of atheists have no issues with religion. Clearly they have enough of an issue not to be religious themselves. Worryingly, the use of anti-theism to denote hatred of religious people by atheists themselves, is up there with using islamophobia rather than anti-muslim hate.

It is as if theism was just another idea in the market place, just another product. One that desperately needs a health warning. It poisons everything. Including secular liberal principles.

Not least when an unholy alliance is being offered with theocrats by some atheists. I am dismayed by British Humanist Association (BHA) stance: 

In a debate with me a few years ago, the then Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips (now a BHA trustee) called Sharia courts “people’s right to religion”. Andrew Copson, its Chief Executive, has stated on Facebook on 8 December 2014 that he had visited a Beth Din and the Islamic Sharia Council with three of his fellow commissioners on the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life and was “left without a single secularist reason to say that they should not be allowed to operate as they do”. [Maryam Namazie]

It is fine for a woman to go to arbitration for a faith where men say prayers thanking God they were not born a woman or where a woman has less standing in civil matters than a man. The tradition of patriarchy and demeaning women given sanction as religious freedom.

Thus do we betray feminism and the equality of citizens by bending over backwards to say we are not anti-religion by putting theocracy before these values. Religion having a role in civil law is a base camp for extremists to exploit. The radicals do not need the legislature when they can rule on family life in the community.

So we help to oppress the very people we claim have a choice. That is how people wash their hands of it.

In the Law Society debacle where the Society had endorsed discriminatory practices by issuing Sharia-compliant guidance on wills, the current BHA Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal, wrote: “The issue has been totally blown out of proportion… It’s just advice so that solicitors can provide a service to (Sunni) Muslim clients who want a will that fits with their beliefs. It does not claim to do any more than that.” 

Many women’s rights groups, including Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, Nari Diganta, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation and One Law for All disagreed and campaigned against the guidance, which was eventually withdrawn. The Law Society made a very public apology for endorsing discrimination. [Ibid]

It misses how religion impacts on society – how as Hitchens mentions religion poisons everything. In a race to say it is not religion, but people who are at fault, we forget religion is a creation of the human mind. As such it is subject to fault, to being a product of its time and the machinations of a believer or cleric. Where even good people can do terrible things because they think the unimaginable.

Religious freedom is about protecting people in their opinion on religion and in their practise. That cannot come from diminishing the equality of citizens before the law. That is the argument against religious councils ruling on civil matters. Why legal advice that promoted discrimination based on extreme interpretation of religious doctrine was inexcusable.

In the name of avoiding appearing anti-religious, I cannot betray the secularist principles that uphold the equality of citizens. We must not help religious hardliners in their community obtain power. The supposed tyranny of equality nazis is about ending discrimination in society and the use of the law to do so. For some reason, many want to abandon it where it does not directly affect them as non believers. Handing some keys over in the hope that it will prevent radicalization penetrating deeper. Neglecting that theocracy in the modern age only needs the run of civil matters, rather than the legislature, to influence the everyday life of citizens. The attitude of some atheists seems to be: the fringes are the front line let us appear to on the moral high ground.

When you see that wall of separation between church and state laid siege too, then once more unto the breach dear friends. Let us seal it with our arguments, for too many have done so with their bodies in the world. Under theocratic law and fundamentalist hands they died. Under one law for all we stand.

In this, to rally when many a leader has already called the retreat as they flee to the supposed high ground to keep themselves safe, do watch the video above which is a few minutes long. It is a highlight of Christopher Hitchens debate with Tony Blair. It is the reason why theism needs countering. Why secularism is important.

Watch, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and by argument shall we not let the wall fall. For we shall make it bigger.

Freedom needs to be defended. Both against fundamentalists and those cultural relativists that will willingly betray the human rights of others as long as they are ok.

I am against theism because I value humanity too much to see its freedoms and lives sacrificed to false gods. Universal human rights are for everyone – which is why theocracy must be opposed.

Update 25 March 2015

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association has written a full reply to Maryam Namazie’s article, from which I quote three paragraphs above.

It is republished with Andrew’s permission:

The BHA, on grounds of equality and human rights, opposes any legal recognition of norms which contradict these principles. We do not consider sharia to be ‘law’ and we do not consider the bodies advising on it to be ‘courts’. The secular civil and criminal law binds everyone and there should be no exemptions from it for any alternative jurisdictions within the UK. We have promoted this view to successive governments and to a wide variety of other public bodies over the years and today.

I have responded to some of the points in the blog you quote below. (The quotes from the blog are the bits in italics.)

In a debate with me a few years ago, the then Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips (now a BHA trustee) called Sharia courts “people’s right to religion”.

What Naomi said was that, in situations where parties were free from coercion and no laws were being broken, access to religion-based dispute resolution was a right for religious people in a liberal society that respects freedom of association. She also said that there should never be any implication that this sort of arbitration was law. Speaking shortly afterwards she said, ‘‘Many religious “laws” are inherently gender unequal, and as such are antithetical to the principles of democracy and the rule of law which we uphold in a liberal democracy. We welcome any clarification that religious laws, judges and tribunals should have no de facto or legal recognition in English law and have no standing in our domestic courts, as this new Bill may seek to do. Just as important is that government and others should undertake serious and wide-ranging work to ensure that women and men from every part of society, right from school age, understand their civil rights as citizens.’ You can see this statement at https://humanism.org.uk/2011/06/09/news-822/

Andrew Copson, its Chief Executive, has stated on Facebook on 8 December 2014 that he had visited a Beth Din and the Islamic Sharia Council with three of his fellow commissioners on the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life and was “left without a single secularist reason to say that they should not be allowed to operate as they do”.

This is a misleading and selective quote as it gives the impression that I support sharia “courts” and that the BHA does. Both impressions would be untrue but in fact, this is a quote from a post on my personal Facebook wall made in a private capacity. As such, I consider it to be firmly in the realm of my private life. However, since it has been selectively quoted in this way and made public, I am willing to reproduce it in full for you, although with strong reservations about this conflation between my private life and my employment:

Visited the London Beth Din of the Chief Rabbi of the United (Orthodox) Synagogues and the Islamic Shari’a Council today as part of a fact-finding trip with three of my fellow commissioners on the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life.

Having heard how they operate, examined their cases, and spoken to the men and women who run them, I’m left without a single secularist reason to say that they should not be allowed to operate as they do. In civil matters, the Beth Din make arbitrations just as any other private organisation may do under law if the parties consent. The Shari’a Council was founded in 1982 to give religious divorces to women who were unable to get them and now makes judgments on religious matters alone which are quite outside of the law. They both seem to me to operate entirely within the private sphere and – where their activities intersect with anything that falls under English law – they do not act unlawfully.

I’m still left with a lot of humanist reasons why I wish people didn’t want to use them though. It’s a shame that religious people – like those I spoke to today – feel that they should comply with scriptural injunctions which treat men and women unequally and impose what I think of as unreasonable, unfair, and irrelevant restrictions on behaviour. And that they do this even though they agree that these principles are unfair – as some today did – amazes me!

If you want to do something about that, though, it has to be through culture rather than the law, right? Or *are* there ways in which public agencies should intervene to influence people not to use these voluntary services?

And here’s another question. One of the women who runs the Shari’a Council said how worried she was about growing literalism and conservatism (an imam I was speaking to last week said the same) of some Muslims and panels set up to make judgments under shari’a in the UK. What is a good response by wider society to that? Would encouraging the liberal shari’a councils, which interpret scriptural injunctions in light of moral contexts and social reality, risk legitimising them? And might it have the opposite effect anyway? Would giving approval to them risk undermining the liberal councils in the eyes of disaffected and defensive Muslims who would feel that those councils were (because sanctioned) less authentic than the more conservative and literal-minded councils to which they might then flock?

Lots to think about on this Commission!

I’m sure you will agree this is not an endorsement of sharia based decision making.

 

In the Law Society debacle where the Society had endorsed discriminatory practices by issuing Sharia-compliant guidance on wills, the current BHA Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal, wrote: “The issue has been totally blown out of proportion… It’s just advice so that solicitors can provide a service to (Sunni) Muslim clients who want a will that fits with their beliefs. It does not claim to do any more than that.”

Many women’s rights groups, including Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, Nari Diganta, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation and One Law for All disagreed and campaigned against the guidance, which was eventually withdrawn. The Law Society made a very public apology for endorsing discrimination.

This quote is taken from an email sent by Pavan to a private email group run by ‘End Violence Against Women’ in which she was arguing that the issue of the practice note had been blown out of proportion in the media and elsewhere. I think she was right – there was widespread public misapprehension that the law had somehow been changed, which was untrue.

Nonetheless, you can believe that something has been blown out of proportion but still not think it is good, and the BHA was against the practice note and not in favour of it as is wrongly claimed here. We met with the Chief Executive of the Law Society and other Law Society staff to voice our opposition to it. (As far as I know, none of the other groups listed here did so.) And we welcomed its withdrawal when it came (at which point we received the same letter from the Law Society that all other groups that had voiced their opposition received. You can see the story at https://humanism.org.uk/2014/11/24/bha-statement-withdrawal-law-society-practice-note-sharia-wills/)

Those who defend Sharia courts or Sharia-compliant wills as people’s “right to religion” don’t see or don’t want to see that Sharia law is one of the pillars of Islamist rule as is terrorism. It is in fact a form of terrorism against the population at large. This point of view will rightly condemn the hacking to death of Avijit Roy or Raif Badawi’s flogging but will tell those wearing Jesus and Mo cartoons or loudly proclaiming their apostasy that they are “out to offend”, implying that it is the way we criticise or mock Islam that brings on the threats. They also often conflate a criticism with Islam with an attack on Muslims, thereby implying that our the manner of our criticism feeds into racism and “Islamophobia”.

In relation to Jesus and Mo cartoons, we have never done anything other than actively championed the right of our student affiliates to free expression and worked hard to support them both with legal support and media assistance (e.g. https://humanism.org.uk/2013/10/04/lsesu-atheist-secularist-humanist-society-incident-freshers-fair/ and https://humanism.org.uk/2012/10/05/news-1124/ and many more) . We haven’t said any of the other things here either – in fact, we’ve frequently said the opposite.

Alom Shaha, a trustee of the BHA, said in a debate on Islam at the 2014 World Humanist Congress: “You can express whatever views you like but as people have pointed out the expression of your views has consequences, and if one of the consequences of your views, the expression of your views, is that there is hatred and intolerance of other human beings, I’m just simply suggesting that you consider how you express your views. I think the term Islamophobia is indeed problematic; perhaps I should have used the term anti-Muslim bigotry…”

At this event (at which we also invited Maryam to speak), Alom was of course not speaking on behalf of the BHA but as a prominent ex-Muslim and writer and thinker on these issues. Nonetheless, I can’t see anything wrong with what he is saying; he seems to me to be making a reasonable point.

Whilst groups like the BHA rightly condemn the Sharia court sentence of stoning to death for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran, they cannot find “a single secularist reason to say that they should not be allowed to operate as they do” when it comes to Britain.

As stated above, this is not the position of the BHA.

I do not know why these claims have been made on this blog but I hope the responses above address your concerns.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Anti-theism: Why Atheism Is Not Enough – A Reply To Reza Aslan

The Atheist Alliance International Conference (AAI) 2007: Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens. If you read Rezan Aslan’s latest article, this gathering had the potential for these speakers to lead a pogrom, taking all steps to eradicate the most dangerous virus imaginable: religion. To think the unthinkable on those that could not be cured from the God delusion.

Five of us young things at the conference were group interviewed by a journalist. She asked us if we would wish religion away, so everyone would be atheists like us. Her face dropped when we all replied no. People had to think for themselves and not have anyone forcing their beliefs on them. It seems the need for atheists to say why rejecting religion with vitriol is not the same as a slippery slope to extermination of people is needed no matter how educated a person like Aslan keeps reminding us. Our contention is religion has given too much cover for such harm, that it needs repudiating not replicating.

Aslan would probably argue us five interviewed at AAI fell into the 85% atheist category,  with the other 15% being “anti-theists” who would use the magic wand Sam Harris mentioned to eradicate religion. Thing is we do not believe in magic wands. In his piece he gives sound bite quote minded material, claiming “militant atheism” is a product of the enlightenment. That then gave birth to anti-theism which then underpinned Soviet society.

Except nowhere does Aslan mention Marxism or Communism as a factor. Which rather denies the bloody revolutionary legacy of Marx. You would think it was all from hating religion – rather than a sociological political power play that was anti-pluralistic in its desire for domination of thought and action of citizens in society in the name of the proletariat. A trait in common with religious fundamentalists wanting a theocratic state.

Just as Andrew Brown did in a previous piece, the aim by Aslan is to bypass communism, so as to lay the massacre of the religious as part of modern atheism hating religion. For anyone that knows the history of Russia, it’s not that simple.

For a scholar, as the article reminds us Aslan is, this will not do. If you actually examine the anti-theism that Hitchens mentions in “Letters to A Young Contrarian”, it is about rejecting the state or society laying any claim on the thoughts, speech and expression of it’s citizens via religion. There is no room for tyranny by atheists or theists here. People are the be all and end all – not chattel for priests or the state to use for their envisioned Utopia. The book is dedicated to the rejection by word thought and deed of communism in Europe, as you would expect by a writer that rejects authoritarianism in all its forms throughout human history. The contrarian should risk living their life as if you are already free.

Religion is never able to lay off how people should live their lives. Insisting no less on penalties that go beyond the grave. Never mind on the living by preventing them from being truly alive. Whether love, laughter, beauty or art religion attempts to lay claim not just to the sublime version (if it allows). They claim authority to regulate human perception to make what should be the broad joy of living into a narrow road. With the brief journey of existence fixed on obtaining the eternal afterlife.

The Old Testament commands genocide against the inhabitants of various cities as the Israelites go for the Promised Land. The concept of child sacrifice plays out in the old and new – Isaac to Jesus with daughters of generals sacrificed in between – as a virtue to redeem humankind. Let alone killing your family members if they think such a faith is not for them in Deuteronomy. While Jesus talks of setting families apart and against each other for he has brought the sword, not peace to humankind. Seriously, you want to claim religion is about peace?

Rape does not make it in the Ten Commandments. Coveting your neighbours property – which includes his wife like his oxen – really does not cover that. The violations of ones humanity should not be dependent on further diminishing them as property. Slavish devotion to it’s words should be enough to put you off such a book, which allows slavery, being the way society should be run.

Even the “golden rule” of love your neighbour as yourself cannot destroy slavery for the early Christians. Rather they are exalted to be slaves for Christ. Clearly we need to move beyond this text as a basis not only for human discourse but living our lives in harmony and peace. Cherry picking is the least that can be done. For I hold humanity is capable to live more morally and ethically now than these holy texts would have us do. The problem is those that do not wish to – the Boko Haram, ISIS, Lord Resistance Army and theocrats of this world  – have plenty of stuff to choose from in the suppression and subjugation of others in these books.

The bible is clearly written not by the hand of God. It is the work of men, with the story telling and ideas of it’s times. That people believe in divine authorship enough to suggest their interpretation should create a theocratic state, is what needs to be challenged. God is not great because he is the product of an osmosis of human emotion and needs. To be feared, loved, sated and praised. Hitchens did not suggest liberating humanity from an imaginary monster by declaring war on religious people.

Hitch stated quite clearly his view of religion – leave me out of it. Let my children grow up without this nonsense pushed down their throat. Do not fund churches and their activities out of my taxes to perpetuate it. To suggest as an anti-theist he, or any new atheist, would promote us towards violence to eradicate religion is a disgrace by Aslan.

In the end, Aslan is repeating the blood libel that atheists will massacre the religious just like Stalin and Mao. Despite mentioning polls that show atheists to be moved by principles of ethics, he cannot help but claim that using language to raise consciousness about the harm of religion literally means behaving like a militant fundamentalist awaiting the call to massacre. It is precisely because of the harm religion advocates, it’s intolerance to difference, the desire to harm non believers in this life or the next, that not only are we against religion but we do not wish to mimic its barbarity.

Atheism as a word just did not explain the danger and harm religion has inflicted on people. Positive or negative atheism as terms do not bring out the total rejection that religion should have anything to do with how society should be governed or considered a civic role to be involved in such a duty. That was why Hitchens used the term anti-theist.

He was for the liberty of people, not for the Gods or texts to control people via arrogant human animals who claim to exercise divine authority. You may believe voluntarily as you choose. The cry of the anti-theist is not to behead the believer, to make atheism the state belief, to prevent religious freedom, build chambers of death, or send out armies to kill religious people.

The battle cry is to leave me out of it, for the sake of a free and equal citizenship to build up that wall between church and state. That universal human rights are not to be denied because religion is claimed to reject it.

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Did Christopher Hitchens Say That On Islamophobia Or Someone On Twitter?

 

Sam Harris recently interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali. He attributes this line by Christopher Hitchens on islamophobia (my emphasis):

A few weeks ago, Ayaan and I had a long conversation about her critics and about the increasingly pernicious meme of “Islamophobia”—which our inimitable friend Christopher Hitchens once dubbed “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”

It is a great line. The question is though, when did Christopher Hitchens say that? Because the earliest mention in an article of the quote I can find via google is the Sam Harris interview this month. Now everyone is saying it, including Bill Maher.

Thing is, one of my followers on twitter says that in 2013 they originated the phrase, while sharing an article with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, that accused them and Hitchens of Islamophobia.

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As far as online is concerned, their tweet is the earliest mention written down I came across. So whose recollection is correct? Sam Harris or Andrew Cummins?

It certainly never featured in “the Quotable Hitchens” book under the  Islamophobia entry:

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While fresh in people’s minds would be great to properly attribute – and accurately cite where – the quote comes from.

This sort of thing happens to us all. For example, I fell for a misquote attributed to Marcus Aurelius:

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Yet when brought to my attention, my digging up revealed he never would have said this:

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It is still a memorable phrase, but should not be wrongly attributed to him.

Hopefully we can nail this islamophobia quote, helping Andrew start off his own memorable quotation collection.

Religious freedom should concern us all, and that allows for us to be critical of religion. See my post on Ayaan Hirsi Ali for more on critiquing Islam.

Update 12/5/2013

Sam Harris has updated the article to reflect that Andrew Cummins, not Hitchens, said this. Below is how the updated article now reads. Very impressed how quickly Sam resolved

A few weeks ago, Ayaan and I had a long conversation about her critics and about the increasingly pernicious meme of “Islamophobia”—which our inimitable friend Christopher Hitchens once dubbed “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.” [NOTE 5/11/14: This wonderful sentence seems to have been wrongly attributed to Hitch (who was imitable after all). I’m told these words first appeared in a tweet from Andrew Cummins. Well done, Andrew!]

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Circumcision of Infants

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Reading an article in The Spectator The latest anti-Semitic cry: ban circumcision by Brendan O’Neil, this part defending circumcision as exerting parental rights over non existent child rights stood out:

the European warriors against circumcision are driven by some very backward thinking. They, too, elevate the so-called rights of the child above adults’ freedom of religion, in the process denting age-old liberties and giving further succour to that most poisonous and fatalistic idea of our therapeutic era: that what happens to us in childhood determines our future character, personality and fortunes. And they also promote some pretty anti-Semitic thinking. New atheist types have rebranded circumcision ‘genital mutilation’ and even ‘sexual assault’

The article itself makes clear the anti-Semitic nature of the cartooned blond blue eyed superhero Foreskin Man – not coming to a child’s lunch box anytime soon. Maybe O’Neil thinks this Rabbi is being anti-Semetic:

“I cannot support circumcision with any conviction, just because it has always been held in high regard. It remains a barbaric, bloody act, which fills the father with anxiety and subjects the mother to morbid stress. The idea of sacrifice, which once consecrated the procedure, has certainly vanished among us, as it should. It is a brutal act that does not deserve continuation. No matter how much religious sentiment may have clung to it in the past, today it is perpetuated only by custom and fear, to which surely we do not want to erect temples.” – Rabbi Abraham Geiger, an influential Rabbi in the early Reform movement of Judaism. [Source]

Yet attempts to prevent circumcision as “backward thinking” as Brendan O’Neil states deserves also a hitchslap retort from Christopher Hitchens as in God Is Not Great:

In more recent times, some pseudosecular arguments have been adduced for male circumcision. It has been argued that the process is more hygienic for the male and thus more healthy for females in helping them avoid, for example, cervical cancer. Medicine has exploded these claims or else revealed them as problems which can just as easily be solved by a “loosening” of the foreskin. Full excision, originally ordered by god as the blood price for the promised future massacre of the Canaanites, is now exposed for what it is — a mutilation of a powerless infant with the aim of ruining its future sex life. The connection between religious barbarism and sexual repression could not be plainer than when it is “marked in the flesh.” Who can count the number of lives that have been made miserable in this way, especially since Christian doctors began to adopt ancient Jewish folklore in their hospitals? And who can bear to read the medical textbooks and histories which calmly record the number of boy babies who died from infection after their eighth day, or who suffered gross and unbearable dysfunction and disfigurement? The record of syphilitic and other infection, from rotting rabbinical teeth or other rabbinical indiscretions, or of clumsy slitting of the urethra and sometimes a vein, is simply dreadful. And it is permitted in New York in 2006! If religion and its arrogance were not involved, no healthy society would permit this primitive amputation, or allow any surgery to be practiced on the genitalia without the full and informed consent of the person concerned.

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The video below talks about the foreskin (there is some enthusiastic swearing in praise of it) and circumcision, by sex educator Laci Green

The issue is an irreversible surgical procedure which is about religious identity of parents being forced for all time on a child’s body. An eight day old boy has no religious opinions let alone ability to consent or practise but neurologically feels pain – do not be mistaken no such thing as a child’s right exists unless you will equally argue parents may commit infanticide as well as mutilation for a similar reason. Child sacrifice as reported in The Daily Mail in India.

Are we going to claim circumcision is important because of ancient holy scripture such as mentioned in The New Statesman Circumcision is not a barrier to an individual’s religious freedom by Nelson Jones:

In one incident recounted in Exodus, God threatens to kill Moses, apparently because the prophet’s (non-Jewish) wife has not had their son circumcised. He is only saved when Zipporah takes the knife to her son’s foreskin herself. The message is clear: so much does God care about circumcision that’s he’s prepared to kill the man without whom there would be no Judaism (nor any Christianity or Islam) at all rather than see one Israelite child in possession of a foreskin. It’s that serious.

It is backward thinking to take this seriously. Yet the argument Jones makes is that Judaism would cease to exist with a ban, whilst Islam has no prescribed date for circumcision to happen. The article neglects the change that is already happening within Judaism.

Reform and Humanistic Judaism are being honest about circumcision, and covenant ceremonies are done without it. The medical evidence is use condoms not hack part of the penis off. I would rather that within Judaism this custom is recognised for what it is today and it becomes more honoured in the breach and than in the observance with secularised covenant ceremonies.

Previous article on Female Genital Mutilation here.

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Audio: Hitchens Lecture On Thomas Paine

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If you have some time this Sunday, have a listen to Christopher Hitchens hour lecture on Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine was a citizen of a free world. He was true to his convictions whether pamphlets decrying British rule over the American colonies and writing Common Sense for independence or The Rights of Man about the issue with religion and the enlightenment values of freedom.

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.

Hitchens brief introduction to the Rights of Man is, together with Letters to a Young Contarian, the two books I would say read if you only know Hitchens from youtube.

Brief edited extract from Hitchens take on The Rights of Man book here.

Hat tip to @futiledemocracy for sharing video on twitter – a blogger to follow, a Paine in the making and at present available for work in media with dreams of being state side.

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Richard Dawkins supports the British Monarchy

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We truly are a mixed lot of cats as atheists. Even Prince Philip said “A Republic is a perfectly acceptable alternative.” Posh and Becks? Really, Professor.

Read my previous article on how monarchy takes away freedoms in a gilded cage of a Prince at birth.

I am reminded that even Christopher Hitchens abandoned a Thomas Paine view of monarchy to a gradual incremental change in time, fearing as I do that a Presidential system can ape a monarchy:

The last-ditchers are right in one way: it would scarcely be progress if we scrapped the Windsors and then prostrated ourselves at the feet of an imperial presidency. But if the argument is rightly conducted then the attitudes required to see us through to a democratic republic – or federation of democratic republics – would be their own insurance. We even begin to think as democratic republicans, and culti vate and reward democratic republican virtues.

Those who really wanted to would not be prevented from idolising Prince William or from gurgling at the Queen Mum. There will be room for royalists and restorationists in a democratic republic, and there will no doubt be tabloids and glossies to gratify them. But the large and growing number of republicans and democrats will not have to witness this spectacle as if we were all a part of it, and it was all a part of us. [Source]

This Fabian like call for the republican state will be too slow for most, who like me can be found using #bornEqual on twitter. For the likes of Donovan (@MrOzAtheist) and myself this cannot happen fast enough though I imagine he will have an elected head of state before me down under whilst I imagine Prince William will be reining on the throne whilst I am six feet under.

Still if you wanted proof that atheism is not a political consensus creating paradigm – voila.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, British Politics, British Society, Dawkins, Hitchens, Philosophy, politics, secular