Tag Archives: LSE

We Need Richard Dawkins And You


Despite having written “The God Delusion” which inspired me and others to be involved in the secular movement an argument goes that Richard Dawkins has had his day, a bit like a star footballer approaching retirement. His style of play is seen as ineffective and embarrassing as we are urged to move to civil engagement and reconciliation with believers. Turning keyboards into ploughshares will apparently herald a new age of reasonable reason.

Dawkins for me is the star defender of the team – he tackles hard. You do not want angels playing in that position; there will be times when the other side will shout for a booking let alone a sending off. But the game would be lost without that talent and determination regularly being employed on the pitch.

Watching Dawkins debate Deepak Chopra reminded me why I traveled thousands of miles to support the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Dawkins’ passion for not just calling out pseudo science but explaining what the science actually is, expressing real poetry in how things are without needing to imagine what we cannot know. Quite simply it is enthralling to hear complex subjects so beautifully explained by Dawkins.

I remember listening to a radio interview when a recovering drug addict phoned to say his new found Christian faith helped him and who was Dawkins to knock that? Richard replied that he had no desire to do so and wished him well. So much for the uncaring atheist bashing professor “The Guardian” article tried to paint to besmirch him recently.

Twitter does not do full justice to Dawkins, but his intellectual capacity to aid public understanding of science together with the resources he makes available to secular and atheist organisations makes a huge difference. Accusations of aloofness at someone who engages with the public on a social media platform, is the least of his worries in the hullabaloo.

For me this goes further than a culture war, or enjoying the argument on social media. People are suffering and dying because of attitudes which are defended as religious – or claimed simultaneously to be cultural yet still to be respected. For Dawkins this is no intellectual exercise but a moral imperative to speak out. How someone feels about a t-shirt really is not in the same league.

Though that did not stop Yvonne Ridley suggesting to me I must find the Jesus and Mo t-shirt as funny as the anti-semitic quenelle salute – because she said there is the empathy with how she feels about an image of the prophet. Religious cartoon satire worn at a student fair is the same as an inverse nazi salute on the railway tracks that led to a concentration camp where thousands were killed.


A t-shirt that says hi yet the image used (which do not forget means the cartoonist hides his identity for fear of reprisal) is somehow comparable emotionally with a disgusting gesture of fascism that killed millions. Sensibility is not sense when it comes to this view.

Religion needs challenging by one and all against apologists who misrepresent what religious freedom means as a way to reduce human rights. Sensibilities might be hurt, but bruised pride is the least of our worries in the grand scheme of things.

Debating tactics and strategy is all very well, and yes there will be times when free kicks might be awarded against Dawkins. It misses the nature of the game being played and the stakes involved. It’s not about winning player of the match, but calling out the harm done by religion and preventing it. Human rights, freedom of speech, contraception, to learn proper science at school and even men and women sitting or doing group work together. Even non religious institutions like University UK colluding with gender inequality unless challenged.

Dawkins with “The God Delusion” started a new wave of atheists. Not just to publicly declare there probably is no God, but to challenge the supernatural claims by which public policy is manipulated.

Secular activism needs you – it’s time to get off the bench. With a revamped OUT Campaign promised now is a good time to warm up. Join a secular society and get involved.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Dawkins, Religion, Richard Dawkins, secular

LSE Apologise For Censoring Students Wearing Jesus and Mo T Shirts

LSE statement on events at LSE SU Freshers’ Fair

The London School of Economics and Political Science has today apologised to two students from the LSE Students’ Union Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) who wore t-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus at the SU Freshers’ Fair on 3 October 2013 and who were asked to cover their t-shirts or face removal from the Fair. The Director of the School, Professor Craig Calhoun, has written to the students acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies.

[Full statement can be read here]


This apology needs to heard throughout all campuses in the UK. Free speech allows debate – the t-shirts that they wore were never hate or harassment.

Background to story and what the T-Shirts looked like can be seen here. Their treatment was heavy handed, disproportionate and unacceptable.

Congratulations to Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis, plus those that supported their appeal and campaign.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under British Politics, British Society, Culture, Humour, politics, secular

Jesus and Mo Creator Interviewed by Council of Ex Muslims Forum


Background to the London School of Economics banning the wearing of Jesus and Mo t-shirts worn by atheist student society members can be read here

My good friends at the Council for ex Muslims of Britain Forum have interviewed the artist behind Jesus and Mo.

    Could you tell us a little about your influences as a cartoonist and stylist, and in a wider sense, who influenced you in terms of your sense of playfulness towards the conceits of religion, and your satirical sensibility?

    I’m still a bit reluctant to call myself a ‘cartoonist’ even after 8 years of making Jesus & Mo. I think cartoonists need to be able to draw, and that is not a skill I would claim for myself.

    That said, as a child I read a lot of Peanuts – had a load of Charlie Brown paperbacks which I’d read and reread. I still do. I love the gentle tone of Peanuts, the mixture of innocence and worldliness, the lightly worn wisdom. Schulz was a great artist – much too good for me to declare him an “influence” in any way other than the fact that he instilled in me a love of the 4-panel form.

Read the full post here.

Article reblogged by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Council of Ex Muslims of Britain, Humour, Religion

Interfaith Dialogue and Community with Humanists


A conversation on twitter yesterday about interfaith dialogue and the importance of inclusivity (which LSE Student Union misunderstand) reminded me of a previous post of mine on the subject in 2008.

This brings me to the question of whether it is worth having such inter faith dialogues, and in particular when humanists become involved. I have attended Christian atheist ones – I have to say that for some of the Christians that attended it was the first time not only that they had really examined what they personally believed, but had their faith scrutinized.

The issue for me is what the purpose of the meeting is meant to be. If it is just a public relations exercise then it seems pointless. If on the other hand real concerns are being debated, for example where religious hatred is manifesting itself in society and people are stirring up violence, such dialogue may help people to appreciate what is happening in their community.

The thing is in a pluralistic democracy, such meetings of civic groups can be a good thing. Citizens talking about differences, common accord and areas where they can work together for the benefit of society is one that can be endorsed.

Commenting on the Catholic/Muslim summit that the Pope had just announced then:

Perhaps they could proclaim that those who use violence and intimidation, rather than try to win hearts and minds by rational argument, are the enemies of reason. Perhaps they could even condemn those that use faith as a means to condone such activity that brings rent-a-mob to the streets. Instead of indulgences for fragile sensibilities to excuse such behaviour.

You can read the full post where I mention the importance of interbelief dialogue and humanists being involved here.


This is relevant to the London School of Economics decision to expel students of the Union’s atheist and humanist society for wearing a Jesus and Mo t-shirt because it is clear the Student Union and University need to understand and work with the atheist society. Not just cave in because of hurt sensibilities raised.

Inclusivity should include satire, and the provocation to be feared is those that will use violence or even offence to suppress freedom of expression for others. Heaven forbid that Jesus and Mohammed are depicted as an image or attention is drawn to how art and satire are suppressed!

Dialogue only works if people take into account what others say. At a public meeting in a mosque when running as a councillor, talking to worshippers gave me a sense of concerns in the community I was looking to represent. Speaking to the imam what was important was a passion to serve the community – theological disagreements was a judgment for an individual to make not to pass judgment on others.

Yet no women had been invited to the meeting; it was a reminder of how good words can be at odds with culture and religious observance. It broke my heart while canvassing talking to a wife on the other side of her closed door she said she would discuss what I said with her husband so he could decide how they would vote.

So yes let us have interfaith dialogue but also include humanists and atheists – not only to work together as a community but to take each other out of our comfort zone. Inclusivity does not mean giving each other a free ride to how we feel and preventing dialogue altogether.

Things need to be said and freely expressed – even if on a t-shirt.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, Religion, secular

Jesus and Mo Banned from LSE Student Freshers Fair


Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis of the atheist society at the LSE freshers fair were asked to remove/cover their T-Shirts which had the cartoon pictures from Jesus and Mo comic strip. When they refused they were marched off the premises by ten security guards. The following day they returned with the same t-shirt with tape censoring parts of the cartoon. When again asked to remove/cover they inquired which parts were deemed offensive so they could tape them too. Again they were asked to leave and escorted off the premises.

The images the guys chose were the best of satire in making a serious point:



[You can read Abhishek Phadnis post here]

The farce at the London School of Economics Student Union Freshers Fair would be worthy of a George Bernard Shaw play. When Shaw sat down with the Webbs and Wallace at breakfast time to discuss establishing the LSE the idea that satirical imagery – especially of religion – would be banned may well have had him chocking on his vegetarian breakfast.

“the youthful atheism with which every able modern mind begins, an atheism that clears the soul of superstitions and terrors and servilities and base compliances and hypocrisies, and lets in the light of heaven.” ~ George Bernard Shaw


The official response:

Statement on events at LSE SU Fresher’s Fair

Joint statement from LSE and LSE SU

At the LSE Students’ Union Fresher’s Fair on Thursday 3 October two students from the LSE SU Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) wore t-shirts that were clearly designed to depict Mohammed and Jesus in a provocative manner.

The Students’ Union, which runs the event, received a number of complaints from other students.

The SU asked the students to cover the t-shirts in the interests of good campus relations. The society remained free to share their literature and views.

One member of the society declined to do this. The student was attended by a cameraman and it was feared that his behaviour would disrupt the event.

The SU referred the matter to the School. Representatives of the School in attendance agreed that the matter was a cause for concern and that the presence of the t-shirts was in danger of eroding good campus relations and disrupting efforts to run a Fresher’s Fair designed to welcome all new students.

LSE is committed to promoting freedom of expression and is known for its public events and wide range of speakers. In this instance, it was judged that the actions of the students were undermining what should have been a welcoming and inclusive event.

Jay Stoll
LSE SU General Secretary

Students at the fair wearing a t-shirt depicting Jesus and Mohamed “would disrupt the event.” No taking into account no one had caused a disruption, or that there was no imminent disruption about to be caused by an altercation.

Inclusivity should include satire, and the provocation to be feared is those that will use violence or even offence to suppress freedom of expression for others. Heaven forbid that Jesus and Mohammed are depicted as an image or attention is drawn to how art and satire are suppressed!

I decided to use twitter to find the LSE Student Union, and sure enough they are on there with this tweet:


I linked to this tweet here and encouraged followers to tweet a response to the actions of the Student union. The National Secular Society and Richard Dawkins among others passed the link on.

The National Secular Society has promised legal advice and support to the atheist society and other humanist organisations are condemning the Student Union action as well.

You can see the superb Jesus and Mo cartoons here – this is his latest on the LSE Student Union:


Please support Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis and the atheist societies on all campuses which have a right to freedom of expression even at the risk of ruffled feathers.

Update links:
Petition to sign here.

Your own image to print on a t-shirt!

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under atheism, British Society, Culture, Dawkins, Humour, Richard Dawkins, secular, Uncategorized