Category Archives: Religion

Maajid Nawaz an “Anti-Muslim Extremist” according to Southern Poverty Law Center 


The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists Maajid Nawaz as an anti-Muslim extremist. Though if you read the extreme right they accuse Maajid Nawaz of being a jihadist, such as:

Despite his outward facade of secularism and liberalism, Nawaz is in fact a deeply devout Sunni Muslim supremacist, operating far behind enemy lines in the Dar al-Harb, the House of War

We expect that sort of nonsense from The Gates of Vienna Blog, as quoted above. What though of the Southern Poverty Law Center? Perhaps we should look at just a few of the points in what they say about Maajid Nawaz.

Secret list given to government accusing people and groups of sharing an ideology with terrorists 

As The Quilliam Foundation responded to the accusation in The Guardian:

This accusation repeated here by the Guardian is simply false. There was no ‘Terror List’. We produced a briefing document entitled ‘Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?’, that we sent to all government departments and not just the OSCT. This document set out reforms we felt were necessary to the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. The Government’s strategy was eventually reformed almost exactly as we had advised. The document was sent in private so as to not play out the debate about reforming the Government’s counter-extremism strategy in the press. However, the copy we sent to the OSCT was eventually leaked by a civil servant.


Maajid Nawaz wants to criminalise the veil/niqab in many public spaces

In a great piece of quote mining, they neglect to mention that Maajid Nawaz does not call for criminalising as they  claim. In the Daily Mail article they quote from, Nawaz mentions:

Here’s my test: where a balaclava, motorcycle helmet or face mask would be deemed inappropriate, so should a niqab. It’s simple really.

It is simple, unless you want to make someone out to be an extremist against Muslims. 

Long term readers of this blog may recall Mohammed Shafiq tried to accuse Maajid Nawaz of criminalising the veil. At the time I called this a dangerous game of accusing people, that may be more liberal than yourself, of things which fundamentalists are prepared to kill you for. 

“Nawaz tweeted out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad — despite the fact that many Muslims see it as blasphemous to draw Muhammad.”

Being “blasphemous” makes you an extremist it seems. The Southern Poverty Law Centre is devoid of context that Maajid Nawaz said he did not find a cartoon picture of Mohammed and Jesus saying hello together to be blasphemous or a challenge to his faith. Two students at a London School of Economics student freshers fayre were ejected for wearing them to advertise their Atheist Humanist Secular society, and this was discussed on a BBC show. Hence [the] Maajid Nawaz tweet. 

A reminder that this led to death threats for Maajid Nawaz. No mention of that by the SPLC. 

More on this can be read in my Huff Post article. 

Nawaz went to a strip club for his stag do

Let us recap. You are an extremist if you give evidence to government departments, if you share a cartoon of a prophet saying “How Ya doin'” and if you go to a strip club on your stag  do, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Is this meant to be a joke? Problem is this is no laughing  matter – where muslim activists challenge fundamentalism and extremism that tries to impose a religious Islamic orthodoxy, this is not just dangerous. It is reprehensible.

There is no fact checking, or counter view. This is a hatchet job. The sort to defame and have circulated by people who cannot be bothered to check the context for themselves.

Regarding the intro to Maajid Nawaz, yes the government gave seeding money to help the Quilliam Foundation get set up – an issue was how quickly that should end. Not everyone has $300 million in funds to keep their civic action going in the future as the SPLC has. It should also be noted Quilliam has not received ongoing taxpayer money for a number of years.

Maajid Nawaz began leaving Islamism during his incarceration in Egypt. He was not the finished liberal secular product when he came back to the UK. He has mentioned that, and how in a short time after being released he realised he had to make a clean break from his former politics and religious affiliations, in his book Radical.

There had been hopes Tommy Robinson might go on a similar journey when he left the English Defence League. That has not happened, but that is for Tommy Robinson to answer. He had the opportunity, he did not take it.

None of what the Southern Poverty Law Centre has said points to Maajid Nawaz being an extremist. Let alone anti-Muslim. The bar set by this report will make any liberal activism by Muslims as being against all Muslims. 

If you are the “wrong” sort of muslim you are to be branded an extremist. You will be declared a blasphemer. This is irresponsible, and dangerous. It also shows why The Quilliam Foundation and the work Maajid Nawaz does is necessary. 

We expect the fundamentalists and extremists to declare people blasphemous or to be traitors of the faith. For others to act as their willing mouthpiece brings shame to the Southern Poverty Law Centre. 

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Demons Do Not Help Explain Terrorism or Mental Illness 

Theo Hobson latest piece is “Secularism’s view on violence is less humane than Christianity’s.” How the separation of church and state, the liberty for us all to live by our conscience in matters of faith without being subject to any violence by anyone, has anything to do with this misses his purpose. That you need faith to be more humane, being a humanist cannot match it, is the claim.

The use of the word secularism here is to attack the secular minded society as less caring. Hobson does this without obvious irony by using what is one of the most cruelest ideas that exists in the New Testament. The idea that people are possessed by demons. “I think that the old-fashioned language is still largely fit for purpose.” We will come to how it is not in a bit, but he goes on to conclude about those killing for terrorism or because of mental illness:

We should see them as possessed by demonic forces. In fact, this New Testament view of the matter underlies the vague orthodoxy I have just described. And this model can also be applied to terrorists – they are possessed by a demonic idea. The French priest whose throat was slit knew this – he died saying ‘Get away from me, Satan’ – he understood the terrorists not as intrinsically evil but as agents of evil. The old religious view of these things is actually more humane than any newer one: it sees the human agents of these horrors as redeemable, but the acts as utterly evil. A secular view either denies the full scale of the evil or, in tabloid headline fashion, over-identifies it with the perpetrator, who is human like us.

If you remember the New Testament, the people possessed by demons were not inherently evil. They had the hallmarks of epilepsy, learning disabilities and mental illness. Jesus did not bring a secular understanding to these things. He cured a few people, sometimes casting the supposed demons into the nearest pigs, but the science or care these people needed (the modern “secular” approach if  we must) was not part of his plan when saving others. So for hundreds of years, exorcisms and treating them as possessed was very much a Christian perspective. 

I would have to call this evil – exorcism really was not the way forward in caring for one another. We might excuse a primitive people; the Son of God playing to that ignorance (or to be more accurate, the gospel writers) a little less so. 

There is no excusing Theo Hobson on this. In trying to defame humanists and secularists (who are not necessarily the same thing) he reminds us that ideas can be evil in the Good Book. Possession is one of them, an idea in the bible we need to move away from rather than a language to make use of to convey ideas today. If we are going to understand why people take the lives of priests and others while shouting “God Is Great” we are going to have to use an investigative approach.

That might suggest looking at the link between violence and religion as a starting point. We should not need violence to make us give the care and attention the most vunerable  in society need. The risk is more often from society, as the President of The Royal College of Psychiatry said in the wake of the Russell Square knife attack today in London:

 

No Amen is necessary to take that advice.  

The top photo comes from this blog post with more quotes on casting out demons.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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The Lord’s Prayer Meets Star Wars and I review Spectre

Our Darth Vadar which art in heaven, 

Anakin be thy name. 

Thy Emperor destroyed. 

The force be done on earth, as it is in a galaxy far far away. 

Give us this day our light sabre. 

And forgive us our impatience, as we forgive other Jedi. 

And lead us not into fear, which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, but deliver us from the dark side. 

In the name of the father, Luke Skywalker and the force, Amen

The Church of England wanted to run an advert before the new Star Wars Film: “The Force Awakens” which featured the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe as Dawkins says, you would need to be thin skinned finding that offensive. Though if you have been brought up in the apocalyptic Christian tradition you will know that “Thy Kingdom come” is not something to want lightly. Still, I can laugh about it now. 

At the time, I really thought 99% of us were going to die horribly, with all of us wishing we were not alive to see Armageddon. How the living will envy the dead – no wonder so many focus instead on other passages in the bible. I personally avoided using the Lord’s Prayer as a child, wanting as many spared as possible before Judgment Day.

Commercial decisions mean most cinemas will not show religious or political advertising here in the UK. The same rule applies to everybody. Still, some free publicity for the church and Richard Dawkins on your side is a result for the Church narrative that secularisation has run amok. Maybe they should watch more films at the cinema to realise that society is going to hell in a gore of CGI with no soul.

Admittedly Anglicanism is fluffy cuddly compared to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Except when they act like them, like banning Harry Potter at one of their schools, or even deciding to have shares in Arm manufactures to help fight the good fight. Bless them, it’s all for a good cause fixing the church roof, and if the dividend does not cover the costs they can always try and get unsuspecting homeowners to settle the tab through arcane laws.

Who pays for a cinema ticket then chooses to sit through advertising as though a captive audience? Presumably those that think saying a prayer absolves them from actually doing something. Myself, I use the time instead at the bar, preparing for something thrilling but idiotic. Like Bond. 

Spectre

I loathed the new Bond film Spectre – all it needed was Daniel Craig to wink to camera at the end to make it the modern “Never Say Never Again” of Bond films. It looked good, but was as convincing as a secret organisation suddenly trying to kill a secret agent on a crowded buffet car, a woman being knocked out twice in the ensuing fight but rather than needing medical attention afterwards makes passionate love to someone who, ten minutes earlier, they said epitomised what they despised in life. 

That whole scene on a train is in the film. You might call it a spoiler, but this is a warning. There are more that could be said.

Bond nicks a prototype Aston Martin that has been allocated to 009. In a chase, rather annoyingly Q branch have not loaded any ammo, but they have loaded 009’s music library which Bond accidentally plays.  

They may as well have said, move over Grandad you are passed it. If you cannot figure out the controls to a modern car, and have not worked out that a woman knocked out twice in the last ten minutes who had made clear beforehand she did not fancy you in the slightest, probably cannot consent from a legal standpoint. The only bed you should be putting her in is a hospital one. 

As for the Bond villain – Wile E coyote had more depth. Wasted opportunity. The money was on screen, but no one seems to have bothered with making the dialogue, story and characterisation reach what Casino Royale and Skyfall managed. Even Quantum of Solace was interesting in its plot. Spectre promised so much, but strip it of the action leaves the most unintelligent and muddled of the Daniel Craig Bond films. It joins the dots like a children’s colouring in book, but that will not make a movie masterpiece to remember.

I have a bad feeling about the new Star Wars film but, for my sins, I am an optimist so will still go to see it. Hopefully it’s more Epsiode IV than Episode I. 

May the force be with you.

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Paris Means We Have To Get Real About Jihadism

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As jihadism goes, the Paris attack last week was a spectacular, and ISIS twitter accounts roared as if the explosions of suicide bombers were fireworks. While Parisians who were enjoying a Friday night out with a drink, music or sport ended up painting the town red in their own blood.

Cosmopolitan secular cultured Paris met the monolithic theocratic anti-culture of Jihadists. One of these must have a future while the other has to be consigned to history. Standing up for and living our secular liberal values are not enough. We cannot pretend that letting ISIS get on with raping Yazidi women and butchering Kurds is not our fight. Being human means nothing, if we are not prepared to come to the aid of others in need. Just as people in Paris did, queuing up to give blood, despite fears of further attacks.

When analysing the Islamic State’s multi pronged terrorist (MPT) attack on Paris, it is too easy to stand on the corpses of hundreds and use them as a pulpit. “Islam is the enemy of the west”, when neglecting the many more Muslims killed by Jihadist groups around the world. “Islam is a religion of peace”, neglecting the political ideology that causes someone to blow themselves up is done with confidence that martyrdom has been achieved as a first class ticket to eternal paradise, avoiding the hell fire waiting room most people have to go through first.

The Islamic State aims to become the political geographic caliphate for all Muslims. Part of achieving that is making ISIS a global brand for Jihadists around the world to buy into. The PR campaign has been impressive. As Sara Khan of Inspire mentioned at the Home Affairs Select Committee this week, civil society is behind the curve when it comes to the organisation of ISIS on social media and the internet. The irony: that we are to be brought to a backward looking age by the most modern of communication systems.

Where many islamists talk the talk, jihadists go on the rampage. We saw that in the MPT attack in Mumbai, 2008. As ISIS look to supplant Al Qaeda, it was always a danger they would go for this tactic as well. Paris makes sense as a target: former French colonies have active Jihadist groups, and France has not been shy in flexing its muscles against them. ISIS has shown: swear allegiance, and your enemies are ours too.

To blame foreign policy for ISIS is simplistic, given that their survival must appeal to Jihadist groups to survive and grow. If we do not recognise there is a global jihadist insurgency happening around the world, we miss that liberating Raqqa will not be the end of it. Yes ISIS want to lead it, but cutting off the head will be an epic milestone rather than a total victory.

ISIS needs fighters, and as many fronts in this war as it can have. It needs to sow confusion and traumatise those that would oppose them. The last thing to do is see the man who has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria, Assad, as an ally. He gave the conditions and space for ISIS to form, regroup and conquer. He is the problem, and not the solution, when it comes to the Jihad insurgency.

We can talk about civic values, and standing for human rights in a pluralistic society. We also require a military response, and drone attacks like the one that killed Jihadi John. We need to infiltrate the communication, training and finance of global jihad networks. We need to show the people in regions affected by jihadism that they are not alone in this fight. In doing so, we must not let down those that died demanding freedoms from autocrats in the Arab Spring.

Solidarity for all victims requires nothing less, if our common humanity has any meaning. Otherwise ISIS have already won the culture war. We might want to imagine peace, but that is not the reality being offered by Jihadists.

Above photo by Amber McDonald, at a New York memorial to the Paris attack. Used under creative commons license – please do likewise if reproduced.

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My interview: Adam Deen Joins Quilliam Foundation

  


Adam Deen has joined the Quilliam Foundation. I sat down with him at the Quilliam offices to discuss why he had joined and what he was hoping to achieve.

The narrative of changing your mind is not one with a single eureka style moment he tells me. About ten years ago Adam was a member of an Islamist extremist group Al-Muhajirou, a now illegal group that once had the infamous Anjem Choudhary heading it. Such a mindset takes time to shake off, even when you leave an extremist group. If there was an idea which never sat comfortably for Deen, even during his extremism years ago, it was death for apostasy. One reason he set up the Deen Institute was to have the debate and inquiry into what Islam is. As he mentions in his reasons for joining Quilliam:

“For me, the last few years in particular have brought to light a ‘religious’ minority of Muslims whose interpretation of Islam is anti-rationalistic and at odds with basic ethical principles. These protagonists have a disproportionate stronghold on the religious community and merely provide lip service to a rational Islam.”

He goes on to mention “a forgotten rationalist heritage of the Islamic tradition” and mentioned to me how he hopes to push this issue in debates with Islamists, but also in reaching out about Islam. To pin down where Islamism is going against the Koranic teaching, thus exposing the extremism which is often “hiding behind a dogma of unity” then trying to prevent discussion and critical inquiry by holding on to a victimhood mentality. One that seeks to pass the total blame on western foreign policy rather than an irrational view of Islamic theology.

The decision to join Quilliam followed months of discussions with Haras Rafiq, who is the Managing Director of the foundation. It seems atheists like myself tweeting Deen over the years really did not help in this move from extremism to a human rights model calling for “Islam’s own enlightenment” in countering extremism. I asked how his critics might have helped at the time. He replied asking him to examine, within Islam, counter-views to his own positions would have.

In making now the counter-extremist argument, Deen emphasised universities rather than Mosques as key. With Islamic Societies on campus, often having new staff members at least every three years, the main speakers on the circuit to invite are those that promote an Islamist view. Students lacking a theological understanding of Islam makes countering it from such seasoned speakers that much more challenging. They need the tools to do so.

There needs to be Muslims not just questioning such things as apostasy killings, but pinning down other Muslims who use a “rational double-talk” in debates to obfuscate what they would admit privately as their position. Rather than this being seen as “isalmophobic” or being a “house Muslim” this is about tackling the toxic theocratic ideology that underpins extremism.

Not everyone welcomes that. But Deen feels that is what Islam needs right now, and in countering extremism joining the Quilliam Foundation for him is part of that vital work.

Talking this all over with Deen, I could sense here was a man hungry to stop the extremist manipulation of a faith he cares passionately for. Someone who wants to bring heat and light to the discussion. I look forward to seeing him in action.

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Religion Is Dying To Have The Last Word – reply to Giles Fraser

Reading Giles Fraser “At a Christian funeral all are equal before God – even Cilla Black” reminds me why I want no priests doing my service. I want an exclusion zone round my service just to make sure they cannot slip a few words in.

Mentioning Cilla Black’s service:

But few mentioned the dramatic core of the service she chose – the sharing of bread and wine and the anticipation of that eternal feast to which all are called. And it was here, in this, the religious part of the service, that Cilla was not a celebrity standing before an audience, but a human being standing naked before God. There is a basic democracy in this aspect of religion that is often absent from the secular funeral.

The equality of humanity is served by being stripped naked before an all powerful believe-in-me-and-you-won’t-suffer-in-hell supreme being that is beyond questioning by us mortals why we are essentially unequal in natural abilities, health and circumstance. As Paul wrote, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”

Democracy is not present in us all being stripped naked before the one that rules us all in death. This is the apologia for the celestial dictatorship which judges against us that would dare to question their divine authority, one given to priests to lecture secularists about their memorials for the dead. The fear of death, of the undiscovered country, is the last sanctum of religion. The last roll of the dice for Pascal’s Wager, of what if there is a maker to be met?

 …The secular memorial service began as something for important statesmen and was then adopted by the increasingly Godless bourgeoisie as a way of celebrating their personal achievements. But it’s often poorly designed for those of us who are not a part of the great and the good.

Or did not want the church, which offered fees to say prayers to reduce the suffering of loved ones in purgatory or to prey on widows by suggesting how helpful for the deceased if they were to give a donation, or persecuted fellow free thinkers through the ages anywhere near their corpse. Such was the fleecing of the poor, unable to make their way in this life, to at least get a better start in the next by passing copper and silver to the clergy. Thus was “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate/he made them high and lowly and ordered their estate” in All Things Bright And Beautiful. Your place as celebrity or otherwise was so ordained “as a part of some cosmically wider story” that Fraser does not point out in his piece. But then again maybe God does nothing, like almost not being there at all.

Fraser mentions what if the deceased was a total shit. You cannot say anything bad about them apparently at a memorial service whilst religion is ready to say how wretched, worthless and devoid of meaning we all are without God’s forgiveness – thus celebrities are equal with their audience in the cosmic story. We are all shits really, but through Grace, Christianity offers to make of us manure that our souls will bloom out of.

When you die religion is desperate to have the last word. It is more important we have the last laugh at its pretensions, and celebrate life which is so fragile, so delicate and so short. Make it beautiful, make it count.

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Is Tim Farron A Secularist or a Fundamentalist Christian?

The new Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron refused to say whether homosexual sex was a sin according to his theological views, in an interview. Whilst his statements regarding secularism were welcome, it felt more like a smokescreen to obfuscate his own views on homosexuality. There are past statements of his, which I consider after looking at the interview, which strongly suggest he holds fundamentalist views regarding the Christian faith, from the efficacy of Christian faith healing to Christianity being the complete and only truth with no middle ground. It adds up to someone whose appeal was being outside the coalition government, but was not the right person to lead a liberal political party in modern Britain if he still holds these views.

Tim Farron should be used to questions regarding his views on homosexuality. He even chatted to me on twitter regarding them.

https://twitter.com/JPSargeant78/status/602035315075850240

Cathy Newman Once, Twice, Three Times

Since then he has been duly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats on the 16 July 2015 – by one third of eligible voters. He went off message the next day, deciding to talk vaguely about what faith meant to him and accusing the media of fixating on him in a way other leaders had not been. Rather than hitting the floor running, he hit the deck on the evening Channel 4 News programme.

The question was whether homosexual sex was a sin. The wording is important; because some will stress being a homosexual is of itself not a sin (neglecting to say the sex is). He started well enough – religious views are one thing, but secularism and freedom mean they should not be imposed on others via law. As a political leader, his public liberal values matter more than his personal religious views – that is liberalism. A much stronger argument would have been sin is never a reason to legislate or how you should vote in parliament. It is the welfare and freedom of the people that should matter when voting. Not imposing your personal religious conviction via the law on others.

Cathy Newman pushes him a second time to answer the question personally as a Christian: is homosexual sex a sin? Warning lights should have been flashing in his brain – any answer he gives will still be seen as the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Isabel Hardman had already sounded the alarm that very morning, blogging on Farron’s Radio 4 Today interview with John Humphrys, regarding prayer:

“A sensible approach might be to assume, even if it seems unkind, that every worldview is worthy of suspicion and scrutiny, and that it’s not just some chap in the Lib Dems talking to someone who may or may not exist in the sky who should be grilled about his fundamental assumptions, but everyone who expresses an interest in making big decisions on voters’ behalf. Yes, we should be suspicious of Tim Farron’s Christian worldview – but only in so far as we suspect everyone’s funny jumble of beliefs and assumptions.”

Farron’s answer to Cathy was that as a Christian, whether you think someone is committing a sin is irrelevant given we all are sinners.  Matthew 7:3-5 is referenced:

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

His answer also suggested that homosexual sex is a sin no more than other sins. Cathy Newman asks a third time her question, referencing Leviticus 18:22 how serious a sin it is:

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is [an] abomination.“

This is the same bible book that also calls eating prawns and “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.”

They are literally abominable commandments, but you might be left thinking it is simply do not do – if you have not read it. The real kicker which Cathy Newman could have referenced in full is Leviticus 20:13:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Farron tries to distance himself from answering any particular verse in the bible, saying his Christianity is based on him believing what Jesus claimed to be. This leaves more questions regarding who Jesus is for Tim. Was Jesus the one to judge us, as he said, and how will homosexual sex be judged, even within the context of same sex marriage?  Or the one that said he did not come to break the law but to fulfil them, ones like in Leviticus?

When Newman counters, pushing for a third time the question, that Leviticus is not exactly Liberal values (it helps to mention why: because it says you must kill people for gay sex), Farron argues that a previous leader, the late Charles Kennedy who was a Roman Catholic, did not go through the sort of questions he is regarding his faith. I will mention in the next section he has himself to blame because he has made plenty of faith claims regarding public policy to make such questioning legitimate.

Regarding Charles Kennedy, he was absent for the repeal of Section 28 (which forbade the intentional promoting of homosexuality by local authorities, and forbade promoting the acceptability of homosexuality in schools) in March 2003. In 2008, he voted against a bill which would have boosted access to IVF treatment for lesbians.  He did though vote in favour of same sex marriage and equalising the age of consent. Both he and Tim Farron are considered to have voted moderately for equal gay rights, according to “They Work For You” website. Just as Norman Lamb, the other contender for the leadership this month, scored. Due to being absent from certain stages of the bill on Same Sex Marriage (Lamb away working in a Ministerial capacity, Tim Farron choosing to abstain having voted previously for Same Sex Marriage as wanted trans issues considered), their rating ended up being scored as moderate.

Farron ends his interview with Newman calling for religious tolerance, and that promoting liberal values is compatible with being a Christian. Thing is, as Hardman wrote earlier, we need to be suspicious about any underlying assumptions and beliefs politicians have. No one gets a free pass; maybe Charles Kennedy should have been asked about missing the Section 28 repeal vote (even Pink News misses mentioning that in their obituary of him).

Pink News have noticed what The Times claimed about “illiberal” Tim Farron: “An evangelical Christian since his teenage years, he believes that every word written in the Bible is literal truth, that God has a precise plan for all of us and that heaven and hell are physical entities to which all of us are consigned after death. … Mr Farron’s consistent failure to embrace the quintessentially liberal idea that every person has equal moral worth should trouble his party.”

Which is why presumably he did not want to focus on Leviticus – for every word is literally true. Why did Cathy Newman not mention those having gay sex “shall surely be put to death,” and asking was this sanctioned by the God Farron prays to? For what matters to me is not that the bible considers it a sin, or even an everlasting reason to be in hell.  It sanctions you being killed because of it right now.

We live in a world where Gay people are still killed, tortured, and imprisoned. This was a chance for Tim Farron to shout from the rooftops that no holy text can ever justify throwing gay people off them to their deaths. He failed miserably to do so, having said in his acceptance speech the day before about standing up for minorities.

I am not for one second suggesting Farron thinks gays should be killed – he has campaigned against Uganda’s treatment of homosexuals for example, and I think he has changed his political views on gay marriage possibly because of his liberalism (just in time for the leadership). This line of questioning all matters because of past statements by Tim Farron that suggest he holds Christian Fundamentalist views.

When Religious Views Impacts Politics

Abortion is wrong. Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong it is wrong at any time.”

“Christianity, I am convinced, is not ‘a bit’ true. It is either not true, or it is so compellingly utterly true, that almost nothing else matters … There is no middle way.”

You can read more statements like those above by Farron, that last one in 2013, in Catherine Bennett’s article  “When politicians do God, no wonder we have doubts” where she made the observation “Are liberals soon to be represented by a man who can make the average Anglican bishop sound like late-period Christopher Hitchens?”

It is a fair comment, when you consider that Tim Farron said that the Advertising Standards Agency should not rule on the efficacy of faith healers claims to heal the sick.

With two other MPs in 2012 he demanded: “the Advertising Standards Authority to produce ‘indisputable scientific evidence’ to say that prayer does not work – otherwise they will raise the issue in Parliament.” Read Martin Robbins for a thorough roasting of the MPs letter

The saving grace perhaps for Tim Farron is that he is not tainted by association with the coalition government of 2010-15. He called himself an outsider – to rebuild the party I still feel this gives him an advantage over Norman Lamb with the electorate. That is why I think he won despite all these things being mentioned during the leadership campaign. The problem is his past views place him on the outside of rationality. That calls into question his leadership on policy issues where his fundamentalist views may be at odds with those of a liberal party leader.

My twitter feed suggested a few secularists that had voted for Farron had been unaware of his past views. I must confess, it was news to me too, and I had not seen people discussing it on twitter till after the post election interview with Cathy Newman. Maybe Lamb would have benefitted from a longer campaign, but he was unable to bring it up himself without countering Farron’s charge that this was intolerance of religious people in public life.

During the 2015 leadership, the question of Tim Farron’s Christian views came up on LGBT issues. Andrew Page asked:

“In January 2007 Tim Farron told the Salvation Army newspaper, “The War Cry” that “the Bible is clear about sexuality of all sorts” and “the standards that define my personal morality as a Christian are not the standards of public morality”. This seems to suggest that he thinks homosexuality is a sin, but that his personal view shouldn’t stand in the way of pro-equality legislation.”

Tim Farron:” I would say – for all minorities in the UK – equalities legislation passed in the last 10 to 20 years has been a huge step forwards. Whilst I am and will remain a committed Christian, I take the same approach as Charles Kennedy did – I hold my faith firmly but impose it on no one. I am running to be leader of the Liberal Democrats, not to be Archbishop of Canterbury (which is lucky given that I believe in disestablishment of the Church of England!).”

Norman Lamb: “…As liberals, we should always be consistent in arguing for the separation of Church and State – both structurally, and in the way we make our laws. As a political party, and as individuals, we must consistently champion liberal values – values which enshrine our freedom to worship as christians, as muslims, or indeed to believe in no god at all.”

In a tolerant and open society, individuals should always be free to talk about their faith (or lack of one) as long as they make very clear the distinction between their personal view, and the approach they take as a Liberal Democrat political figure. But in doing so, we should never imply that Christianity is somehow illiberal, or that Christians are not welcome in our party.”

A Born Again Secularist?

Norman Lamb raised treating distinctively a Liberal Democrat political figure from their personal Christian view, the wearing of two distinct hats at different times. The fear is wearing would be made easier by being two faced (Copyright Yes Prime Minister). How can you lead wholehearted on liberal issues when you personally are against them. I want someone that believes in liberalism, not someone that has to compartmentalise them before they can lead their party on liberal issues. It is legitimate to ask what someone in public life believes, for belief can shape the political agenda they will advocate and how they will react to one set by the government.

When I mentioned his past voting record on gay marriage and the need to prove himself, he replied to me “so I have since then to show through deeds too.” As the new leader of the Liberal Democrats he is now best placed to visibly show by deeds. He will need to do a lot better than that Channel 4 interview. The honeymoon period on his election is already over before the consummation of the marriage ever took place. Yet he still feels he has been screwed by a fixated media.

In “Liberal Democrats Do God” he stated “The kind of things we do to reject God’s rule over our lives differs from person to person, but the desire to push God out of our lives is the same for everyone.”  Will the same Tim Farron put his view of God to one side when pursuing a liberal agenda or does he still think faith healers can say they have the power by God to heal those gullible enough to believe in such charlatan claims?

The Liberal Democrats need a leader with a clear vision of promoting liberal values against a majority Conservative Government. They do not need a prophet, though they may well be hoping for a miracle come 2020.

Metaphorically Tim Farron will have to move heaven and earth, and show that he can resolve the two during his leadership.

The photo above comes from this Daily Mail article on Tim Farron in March. Tim informs us that God knows every hair on our head, as the bible tells us.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under British Politics, politics, Religion, Secularism