The Straw and the Camel

I have been quietly simmering for the last few days, and other than a few comments on Twitter I have kept silent. But Polly Toynbee’s article in the Guardian here today has finally broken this camel’s back.

There are many, many attacks on various churches and faiths at the moment, and it seems that Christians among many other faiths are being reviled. That is, when we are not being ridiculed and dismissed as deluded fanatics in various stages of hysteria. Or angry, hellfire-spouting, self-righteous hypocrites. None of these are particularly flattering, now are they?

I would like to take a few moments to refute some of the assertions made in Toynbee’s article. You are free, as is your human right, to read no further, but please do. It may surprise you, and I will welcome arguments with open arms in the comments.

Women’s bodies are the common battleground, symbols of all religions’ authority and identity. Cover them up with veil or burka, keep them from the altar, shave their heads, give them ritual baths, church them, make them walk a step behind, subject them to men’s authority, keep priests celibately free of women, unclean and unworthy. Eve is the cause of all temptation in Abrahamic faiths. Only by suppressing women can priests and imams hold down the power of sex, the flesh and the devil. The Church of England is on the point of schism over gay priests, women bishops and African homophobia. The secular world looks on in utter perplexity.

Women have long been subjected, with or without religion. If anyone is interested in the Biblical point of view, a Godly marriage is a partnership where both man and woman have rights and responsibilities towards each other. Perhaps people quick to point out the subjection of women should ask themselves whether this repression is carried out with a religious basis or a human, power-hungry one? And Eve is NOT the cause of all temptation. The Devil is. Jesus never discriminated against women; one of the greatest Judges in the Bible is a woman, as is one of the most moving stories of leadership under Queen Esther.

About sex, by the way: WHAT is the obsession with sex in this article? It’s a common misconception that ‘religions’, and Catholics in particular, are grim joykillers who use sex purely for ‘procreating’ – rubbish! People of faith acknowledge sex as one of God’s great gifts, BUT when enjoyed in the context He designed – marriage. Otherwise, like another great gift such as food, people misuse it, glut on it and it loses its inherent beauty. Saying religions oppress sex is a cheap and easy shot without any real thought. There are those who look down on it – ‘prudes’ – but there are as many prudes without faith in God as with.

Sex is a big issue, yes. I personally believe that sex is for marriage, and I come from both sides of the matter here, having lived with my husband for several years before we got married. I would personally prefer ‘our’ version of being ‘obsessed with sex’, in that we stress the importance of keeping it special and reserved for marriage, to the secular version wherein billboards for strip clubs cover the sides of tall office blocks, newspapers have pictures of topless girls as an integral feature, and sex is a casual or even essential part of life among teenagers and even pre-teens. Maybe a higher regard for it would lead to a healthier society? Just a thought.

The Catholic church stance on contraception – yes, this is a more difficult issue, particularly in the light of HIV epidemics and poor families who struggle with many children, and I know this is the tip of the iceberg. But on the other side, is it worth considering the context of this ban on contraception? As in the ideal society wherein sex is reserved for marriage and therefore STDs are not an issue, and a mutual society which cares for its members and tries to prevent poverty so that the number of children you have is not an issue either? Yes, this is an idealistic vision which bears little resemblance to the world. But does that make it less valuable? Should we not picture our ideal society in case it never happens, and should we not try to make it happen? I don’t know on this one. Doubtless the Church should do more against HIV. But it is not a lack of contraceptive that spreads HIV, it is Man’s actions. I am painfully aware I am speaking from my armchair on this one, so I will say no more for now.

Trying to deny the primal life force has led to centuries of persecution, suffering, secrecy and breathtaking hypocrisy. Wherever male cultural leaders hold absolute and unscrutinised power, women and children will be abused. In western secular life this has at last been recognised: in schools, prisons, care homes and within families, wherever the powerless are unseen and unheard, horrors will happen without checks and transparency. Abusers gravitate towards closed organisations, and absolute power turns people into abusers. But the Vatican still talks of a few bad apples requiring internal discipline, the pope refusing to hand rapists over to secular law. Imams, gurus, priests, all hold sway over the vulnerable. As secretive madrasas and new religious “free” schools multiply while officials nervously respect their cultural independence, expect more abuse as bad as the Belgian Catholic cases now emerging.

Abuse is wrong, full stop. It is the more tragic when it is carried out by people of authority, in positions of trust, and these are even more emotive when God enters the question. But it is important to remember that, actually, God is not entering the question. Nowhere does God say His priests can abuse anyone, let alone children. Children are infinitely precious to God. These abusers were taking advantage of their position, which could have been that of a priest, a teacher or a family member. And abuse is more common by a family member than anyone else – talk about a position of trust and authority. These situations were badly handled but demonising all priests and believers is not the way to go. And pre-empting abuse as in the passage above is just, frankly, silly and hysterical.

The other dominion the religions control is death. Were it not for the faiths with their grip on hospices and palliative care, the law on assisted dying would be reformed

Yikes! So is Toynbee advocating a free-for-all? Perhaps someone SHOULD have a grip on hospices? In fact, if we’re on the question of hospices, perhaps we should be grateful that faiths have such a care for the dying that they provide hospices at all? I do not see the government trying desperately to provide palliative care but prevented by the grip of those darned faiths.

In a week when, on the wilder fringes, a Florida pastor’s threat to burn200 copies of the Qur’an risked igniting holy war among equally extreme battalions of Islamist fundamentalists, while hate-filled Christians try to stop the building of a Muslim centre in a New York that is remembering the jihadist attack victims, nobody needs reminding of the incendiary dangers of religion. But just when democracies should determinedly separate religion from state, the British state appeases, most alarmingly in new segregated schools. Why invite the pope on a “state” visit costing millions in a time of cutbacks?

The threat to burn the Qu’ran did not risk igniting holy war. Muslims were, quite naturally, offended by some insensitive fool threatening to destroy their holy book. I would be rather offended if people said they were going to burn the Bible, although I expect to see it any day now. The stated warnings from the US and UK governments that the burning would endanger the troops in Afghanistan was ridiculous. The troops are an Invasion force occupying a foreign country with little justification, spending millions in the process. They are already under threat. The key to their safety lies in the hands of the governments keeping them there.

And, by the way, a ‘”state” visit’? The Pope is a Head of State, so like it or not, his visit is a State visit. What he does on his visit is another matter. Yes, he will celebrate Mass. Are you seriously proposing that the Pope does NOT celebrate Mass? Would you ask a Muslim leader to not carry out his daily prayers while on a visit somewhere? And should he not advocate his views and opinions? Where would his moral stance be then? He would be quite rightly criticised as a hypocrite for keeping quiet merely to avoid rocking the boat. Kind of a lose-lose situation there I think.

All atheists now tend to be called “militant”, yet we seek to silence none, to burn no books, to stop no masses or Friday prayers, impose no laws, asking only free choice over sex and death. Religion deserves its say, but only proportional to its numbers. No privileges, no special protection against feeling offended.

No, militant atheists are called militant. At the risk of generalising as badly as Toynbee does here, atheists may not seek to silence any by force, but I have too often lately seen ridicule, humiliation and laughing dismissal of faith to doubt that there is silencing by emotional means. We are often seen as deluded and retrogressive. God? Who believes in that old chestnut any more? Why believe in a Creator when we’ve nearly discovered the God Particle? Excuse me, but where did the God Particle come from? Am I missing something here? And one more question here – why shouldn’t there be any special protection against feeling offended? Surely everyone should be protected from feeling offended – no matter their beliefs. I have the greatest respect for atheists, provided they treat me with the same, and do not offer lazy, trite arguments without any knowledge of my faith which they are dismissing without any interest in hearing my side of things.

The director of pastoral affairs in the Westminster diocese, Edmund Adamus, says Britain has become a “selfish hedonistic wasteland” of sex and secularism. He echoes the supreme arrogance of all the religious who claim there is no morality without God. Nonsense, but unlike the religious the godless claim no moral superiority. Wise humanists know that good and bad are pretty evenly distributed. Humanity has an innate moral sense, without threats of divine wrath and reward. Good and bad works are done by both the secular and the religious. But wherever the institutions of religion wield real power, they prove a force for cruelty and hypocrisy.

‘Nonsense’? In the very sentence after declaiming the ‘supreme arrogance’ of religion? Ha! But seriously, the ‘religious’ do not see themselves as morally superior. We are aware of our failings and faults, acutely aware, but we have the joy and hope of salvation. Unlike the non-religious, those of ‘faith’ do not claim that our worth comes from us ourselves, our own merits. Any merits we have we know to be the gift of God and an echo of Him in ourselves. Our soul is our part of God that we carry with us, and any good in me is entirely down to how much I let God work through me. I have often, lately, been given the great compliment of being a good listener and a caring person. I would say to those people, that this is entirely due to my blossoming confidence in my own worth as a woman of God. That there is One who loves me no matter what, so I want, need, to extend this unconditional love to those I care about. And in case you are thinking, “Yes, but those will be other Christians”, no, actually, they’re not. The ones I am particularly thinking of as I type are staunchly atheist. But then again, you cannot trust what I say, because I am a “hate-filled Christian” (from the article quoted here). Huh.

Can I really let the last sentence of this section pass without comment? That the institutions of religion prove a force for cruelty and hypocrisy? That no other institutions do the same? Can I really not point out that bodies such as the Quakers fought the hardest against slavery? That Jesuits provided education that would only have been the purlieu of the rich? The problem is not that God is in the equation, but that His name is, and is being used as a cover. Humankind in any institution or force has again and again proven a force for cruelty and hypocrisy.

Atheists are good haters, they claim, but feeble compared with the religious sects. Atheists have dried-up souls, without spiritual or visionary transcendentalism. To which we say: the human imagination is all we need to hold in awe. Live in optimism without fear of judgment and death. There is enough purpose and meaning in life, love and leaving a good legacy. Oppose the danger of religious zealotry with the liberating belief that life on earth is precious because this here and now is all there is, and our destiny is in our own hands.

Do atheists have souls? I mean, by their own arguments? This is a genuine question. If so, why, if this is all there is? Life on earth is no less precious because of a hope in the hereafter- it is more so. I mentioned before that we have the hope of salvation – if this is deluded, then I am glad to be deluded because I do have hope, I have a reason for my existence greater than being a mere chance, I have knowledge of myself as a child of God and a wondrous creation, not just a random assortment of molecules. I have witnessed a love greater than I can describe, and while articles that denigrate that love rile me, I know that God can transcend that, without my pitiful blog post in His defence.

My belief does not oppress me – it liberates me far more than I could ever have imagined.

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16 Comments on "The Straw and the Camel"

  1. Nettie Thomson
    14/09/2010 at 3:51 pm Permalink

    There are loads of arguments here and even as an atheist I find myself agreeing with most of the points you make. certainly all those that don’t presuppose a belief in God: both religious and non-religious societies and organisations have been responsible for the abuse of vulnerable people.

    I am of the opinion that people who have power abuse it, whether that is a man historically having financial power over a woman, a father having power over his children or a priest over his flock. Most will not abuse this authority, but some will. People are flawed and, for the want of a better term, often ‘evil’. I am always suspicious of those who seek more power as their motivation is often for their own betterment or satisfaction and rarely that of the people they are supposed to protect. but maybe I am just cynical.

    I am not a religious person, but I believe strongly in the right of others to practise their religion so long as it doesn’t hurt others. I don’t judge others for their religious beliefs and in return I expect not to be judged for my lack of them. I have never felt judged by you, Becca and as I have said to you before, I would fight by your side for your right to follow your faith.

    Religion does not cause wars – you said this before I know – but many wars have been started in the name of religion by deeply flawed, selfish individuals. THAT is what gives Christianity, Islam, etc. a bad name.

    There is an old Scot’s saying: “We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns” meaning, basically, that we are more alike than unalike and it’s about time we all just remembered our humanity and looked out for each other, regardless of what God we worship.

    Nettie xx

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Hi Nettie
    Thanks for reading and for your comment which as always means a lot to me. I agree with your opinion about people with power – it reminds me actually of the end of Prince Caspian, when Aslan says that Caspian is ready to be King. Caspian responds that he doesn’t think he is, which Aslan says is the sign that he is ready. Those who want power, shouldn’t have it.

    It is so sad how religion and faith get misused for the sake of violence and power struggles – I always think of the troubles in Northern Ireland in particular, which are so strongly linked to divisions between faiths but are actually much more about ancient politics. But religion is so emotive, you can manipulate far too easily for your own ends.

    [Reply]

  2. Rebecca
    14/09/2010 at 3:54 pm Permalink

    Hi Becca

    I admire you for putting all of your thoughts into a blog post. I also admire your unfailing faith. I often wish sometimes that I had that sort of deep sense of belief and trust. It think it must be of great comfort when facing death of a friend or family member, and when questioning things that go wrong in life / the world.

    x x x

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Hi Rebecca
    Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t say my faith is unfailing – there are many times it falters and I always feel worse when it does. It does, however, give a lot of comfort at times of trouble. In prayer I can seek answers and even if I don’t get any definite answers I do find peace and reassurance.

    [Reply]

  3. Jacky Fowler
    14/09/2010 at 4:42 pm Permalink

    Hi Rebecca

    As you said you would “welcome arguments with open arms”, there are a few points that I’d like to make. And please don’t think I’m supporting Polly Toynbee’s inflammatory stance – I’m not.

    First of all I suppose I’d best declare myself as an agnostic with atheistic leanings. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t have a soul – this is simply the immaterial (or spiritual, if you like) part of a person, which doesn’t have to be defined by belief in God.

    From what I know of you, you are a kind and lovely person. Only you can know if this is because of your religion, or simply because that is the person you are. If you feel that your religion helped you to develop into the person you are then that’s a very good argument for your religion. However, that is ‘your’ experience of religion. You sometimes say ‘we’ in this blog, when I think what you’re expressing is a very personal religious view (quite possibly shared by many others, but then so are many humanist views widely shared).

    Unfortunately, so much religious dogma – created by man, not God – is used as an excuse to put and keep the strong in power and the weak subjugated.
    There have been changes in attitudes towards women within religious thinking over the centuries, but there are still many who subscribe to the attitudes of the early (and not so early) Church fathers, eg

    “Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil’s gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die.” St. Tertullian c200AD

    or

    “…God, by creating Adam first (Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8) and also by creating woman for man (Gen. 2:18,20,22; 1 Cor. 11:9), has set the gender-based role and responsibility of males in the most basic unit of society (the family) to be that of leader, provider and self-sacrificial protector (also cf. Eph. 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7), and likewise has set the gender-based role and responsibility of females to be that of help and nurture (Gen. 2:18) and life-giving (Gen. 3:20) under male leadership and protection (cf. 1 Peter 3:7)…” The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood c2004

    It is also possible to ‘misuse’ sex within marriage, and not everyone who enjoys sex outwith marriage ‘misuses’ it. I too would like to see it held in higher regard by many, although not on religious grounds, as I find the early sexualisation of our children, and the consequences of this, appalling.

    Abuse is absolutely wrong, agreed. However, my reading of PT’s paragraph was that the Catholic church (in particular) is still dragging its heels in rooting out its bad apples and that care needs to be taken to protect children in its care in future (although the language she uses is ‘rabble-rousing’- she is a journalist, after all!).

    Nowhere that I can see, does PT advocate a free-for-all with regard to assisted dying. Hospices, with and without any religious affiliation, provide amazing care.

    I think the point was that the situation of troops in Afghanistan would be exacerbated rather than that it created the threat. Unfortunately, the proposed burning of 200 copies of the Qu’ran did lead to deaths in Afghanistan – those of protestors against the burning.

    I agree, it is a state visit, but is it a necessary one on which the government will spend many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money? I can think of a long list of other things on which I’d prefer my contribution to be spent. The three huge ceremonies planned aren’t quite the Pope simply practicing his religion, but he is the leader of the Catholic church and, of course, he should celebrate mass for those for whom it is significant (and who can get there). He is also entitled to voice his views and opinions – we have free speech – and I don’t think it was suggested that he should keep silent.

    Personally, I am against schools that are segregated on the basis of whatever religion – the word ‘segregated’ says it all.

    All movements have their extremists – why would atheism be any different? And I do remember being offended by a huge hoarding outside a church in Dewsbury displaying Nazi graphics and stating that ‘where God is denied, there lies the Holocaust’ – so I’m a Nazi and commit genocide if I don’t believe in God? No one has a monopoly on insults it seems.

    The problem is man’s rather than God’s inhumanity to man, but religious institutions do use His name in justification of continued intolerance and cruelty. Would there be no intolerance and cruelty without religious institutions? Unfortunately, I think that highly unlikely. And , as you point out, to be weighed in the balance is the good that religious institutions do.

    I hope and believe that my soul can grow and develop in a good way without religion to mould it and just because I’m unsure whether or not it will exist without my physical body doesn’t make it any less precious to me (and probably not to God, if he does exist).

    I do hope you don’t feel that my comments denigrate your religious views in any way, that is not my intention. However, I do find the beliefs held by some religious people repugnant (as I’m sure do you) where they lead to the harm of others. The same goes for the views of irreligious people where they lead to the harm of others.

    As you say, God doesn’t need defending – some religious views sometimes do.

    Jacky
    xxxxx

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Hi Jacky
    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond in such depth. I will try to answer just as thoughtfully. First of all, maybe more for future reference, I only delete comments that are spam or actually vicious – a thoughtful and honest comment will never be deleted.
    My views are my own and not representative of the church I attend, but in turn I have been influenced and taught a great deal by the two churches I have attended. The first was a Catholic church, and all of my school life was spent in Catholic schools, so I do feel a strong personal link with Catholicism and I believe that it is greatly misunderstood and misrepresented by the world in general. It is true that it does not help itself by oldfashioned attitudes to, for example, women, and the scandals of abuse are truly shameful and have not been dealt with appropriately. But on the other hand there is also far more grace in the Catholic church than is widely recognised – sadly its traditions and firm stance on contentious issues make it an easy target for those who want to attack faith.
    The other church which has formed me more recently is the more modern and evangelistic one i attend at the minute, which holds just as strong views. I have had my problems with people here, which I have had to consciously distance from the church as a whole and my experience of God, but I have also found so much love and acceptance and encouragement here, which has helped me to develop those things myself.

    Your references to St Tertullian and the 2004 Council were interesting. The first was a typical mediaeval reading of the story of original sin, and sadly has formed so much of the repression of women in and out of religion. The second however is actually not as repressive as it can seem taken out of context. It is a fairly straight lift of the Biblical view of marriage, but the potential for oppression and dominion is balanced out by the responsibilities. “Self-sacrificial protector” is the bit I mean. Physically men are stronger in general – that’s not a denigration of women, it’s just how it is, and the role of someone stronger is to protect when necessary. Also note the ‘self-sacricificial’ – that’s not just a literal sacrificing one’s life. I think I can safely say that Andrew would give his life for me if called to, as would any loving partner. But this is also referring to in everyday life, the man has to put himself last. That does not sound like dominion to me! But these qualifiers are often overlooked in favour of the more contentious ‘leader’. It doesn’t mean women do not have views and opinions, or that these should be denied, but that they should be done in partnership, and the marriages in the Bible that work, do so on this basis. On the same line, your very strong point that sex is misused within marriage and not always ‘misused’ outside of marriage is perhaps down to me not clarifying my point enough. Sex is sadly ‘misused’ within marriage, again in the position of the strong bullying the weaker, but this is certainly not God’s plan and does not correspond at all to the role outlined above of ‘leader, provider and self-sacrificial protector’. This is not a marriage as God intended but a travesty of it. Outside of marriage, casual sex leads generally to heartbreak and emotional suffering, and often physical suffering -this is definitely a misuse. Sex with a committed partner is better, but if you feel so strongly about someone, why not get married? I’m not being funny, I just genuinely don’t understand why people say they’re committed to each other yet don’t want to marry. My husband and I were engaged for many years and lived together for many years, always with the intention of getting married. We put it off and off so much because we couldn’t afford a big wedding – so THAT argument I do sympathise with: feeling unable to get married as opposed to unwilling. In the end we started coming to church and got married finally with very little outlay – a smart outfit for me which my parents helped with, and a meal at a restaurant afterwards with very close friends and family. I can confidently say I do not regret in the slightest not waiting for the big wedding. It was a day filled with joy and unmarred happiness and felt truly blessed.
    I do have to say I’m with you completely on the awful sexualisation of children. A world where it is normal, even desirable, for a shop to sell padded bras to 8 year olds, along with skimpy bikinis and outfits that wouldn’t be out of place in Newcastle on a wild Friday night, is frightening. I hope I am able to resist these fashions when Emily gets to school, but I worry about the teasing and bullying she may get if I do.
    With regard to the assisted dying, PT is advocating removing restrictions, which is in my opinion a slippery slope. She seemed to have the opinion that faith-based care would deny pain relief to someone near death – I can only feel pity for her if she is speaking from personal experience. But if it is up to doctors and care staff who are under increasing pressure from bureaucratic Trusts and boards to process people more efficiently, I do worry that removing restrictions on care for the dying may lead to pressure on families to consider euthanasia, perhaps against their relative’s wishes. It is an incredibly delicate situation, and restrictions need to be in place for everybody’s protection. It makes me think of abortion – while I would not remove a woman’s right to choose and I could never condemn someone who had an abortion, it is so increasingly easy to get an abortion now that the life of the unborn baby is less and less sacrosanct. This is a whole other debate, so I’ll stop here! But if life is less precious at one end of the scale, it can become so at the other, and the reduced health and social care for the elderly does not bode well.
    The Pope’s state visit is probably not necessary, but then is the visit of any leader necessary? All costing millions? I do get a little irritated, not at you btw, by people citing the use of taxpayers’ money when so much of the taxpayers’ money is extorted and used in bribes, weapons, subisidies of greedy corporations. There are many things I would cut before state visits by anyone.
    The segregation of schools is another tricky one – faith schools exist to give children an education with their own family faith at its core. It seems a bit like a lose-lose situation, as obviously secular schools cannot provide the same faith education that parents may want for their child – for example when I took my first communion at primary school and the doctrine behind it was built into the curriculum as standard, but parents could opt out of it if they wanted to. But faith schools are not actually exclusively for children of faith – they are given preference, which seems fair enough to me as they are the families asking for the faith-based basis to the curriculum. At both my schools there were children from different or no faith background at all. But then I have heard parents object that their child was taught such and such or given a Bible to take home. It seems that if you want your child to go to X school, that is your choice, but you must then abide by the values of the school. And there is no justifiable complaint if you want a faith school and children of families who actually practice that faith are given priority. Perhaps the onus should be more on non-faith schools to find out what it is that parents want so much and believe they will find in a faith school, and provide it.
    As far as that church you mention goes, that is an awful advert and does not reflect Christianity as far as I know it. From a Christian point of view, where God is denied there lies any sin, but this means nothing if you do not believe and using something as emotive and extreme as the Holocaust is, in my opinion, trying to be controversial for the sake of it.
    The question about souls was a genuine one – I don’t know how people who don’t believe in God view their souls, if at all. I believe everyone has a soul, and I know that each one is precious to God. Even an atheist’s ;)
    I have very much appreciated your comments, and don’t believe they denigrated my religion at all.
    Thanks again.

    [Reply]

  4. tanya marshall
    14/09/2010 at 4:58 pm Permalink

    I am not a religious person, to be honest I don’t really know what to believe, I wouldn’t call myself an atheist, because I can’t comprehend a life without some sort of higher order, but I try to live my life as a “christian”. I use the word christian, in a loose term, meaning more that I try to follow the way of life than that I “believe”. I like to use the story of the good samaritian to lead me through life, that hopefully I can be a better person by helping others and by not judging people by appearance (or any other way). But as a person who knows very little about organised religion (except the propaganda in the media) no doubt there is a corresponding story in most other religions that i could use as my moral guide.

    I totally agree with you, it isn’t religion that causes wars/bigotry etc, it’s the mixed up individuals who seem to read the message wrong! God would not incite murder, or abuse of the weak and vunerable. ‘survival of the fittest’ is a scientific theory, nothing to do with religion in any form.

    [Reply]

  5. Christopher Bell
    14/09/2010 at 4:59 pm Permalink

    “As secretive madrasas and new religious “free” schools multiply while officials nervously respect their cultural independence, expect more abuse as bad as the Belgian Catholic cases now emerging.”

    As an educator I take massive exception to this passage suggesting that schools opened on religious grounds are likely to have more abuses. It has nothing to do with a religious connection. And religious schools shouldn’t be feared. SCHOOLS WERE STARTED BY THE CHURCHES on a national level. Not by the government. There should be oversight on what is taught in ALL schools. With wiggle room for schools to act dynamically and inspirational. These should not be feared just because of a religious tag – Kings Academy where I work had all kinds of horrible gossip and media driven controversy when it opened as part of the Emmanuel Schools Foundation. But as a scientifically minded agnostic (if you follow my meshing of meanings there..) I would send my kids there happily in a heart beat.. because its very good and uses its religious background as a means to build responsible people, not religious fanatics. Get on a bus anywhere and watch all of the idiots causing mayhem everywhere they go – the aims of these schools is quite honourable in building a better generation.

    I highly doubt that the chances of child abuse in a religious school are any higher than in a state run school.

    Becca- a worthwhile commentary on the article with much logic that doesn’t even have to be influenced by religion (i.e. sex before marriage, athiests not having souls etc). Far more coherent than any of my rants could be.

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Thanks for that compliment Chris!

    I do agree with your view on faith schools not having a religious connection to abuse – you might be interested in the comment from my mum, below, which does point out that abusers gravitate to positions of trust and what can be seen as ‘closed’ institutions, but I take exception to the pre-emptive supposition from PT that more faith schools = more abuse. It is a silly, cheap shot which was written to appeal to rabble-rousers. Teachers need more respect and appreciation, and this does not help.

    [Reply]

  6. Bri
    14/09/2010 at 5:59 pm Permalink

    Good read from start to finish… very enjoyable.

    The only point is that you made and that religion itself always seems to throw up is ‘sex’.

    You say:
    “People of faith acknowledge sex as one of God’s great gifts, BUT when enjoyed in the context He designed”

    My point on this would be that this is ‘a christians’ context but not everyones.

    We all eat food to survive, but i do also go out for a meal on the hope of enjoying it on more than just on a survival level.

    I see sex exactly the same way, yes it is a wonderful thing for a married couple to have but it can also be for many people much more than that… who is the church to say it cant be for want of a better word be… ‘fun’,

    Also you say ‘newspapers have pictures of topless girls as an integral feature’, as far as I am aware breasts are not a sex organ so causes me no harm whatsoever. Yes these newspapers use them to tantalise men, but, just like my previous comment regarding sex, i see this as harmless fun and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

    Like I said, great read and life would be very dull without different opinions on things eh!

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Hey Brian, thanks for commenting! Long time no see :)
    I think you may have misunderstood me a little, which is my fault for not writing more clearly. I do not for one moment think God made sex just for survival – quite the opposite! I believe He made it to be enjoyed, and to have fun. But it cannot be denied that it is better in a monogamous relationship, and that the fewer partners you have the less risk you have of physical problems such as STDs as well as emotional problems such as lower self-esteem and higher, even unrealistic expectations.
    With regard to the newspapers, my objection is that it IS soft porn, and the fact that it is seen as ‘harmless’ is the very problem – casual sex and porn are insidiously creeping into all aspects of society, including, as Jacky pointed out in her comment above, the premature sexualisation of children. I would also point out that not only is it soft porn and harmful on that level to men, it is also showing scant respect to the girls doing it, who will on some level value their bodies less, and to girls who are less attractive or well-built who feel they are being set a standard to which they will fall short. I have too great a respect for you to suppose that you do not get pleasure and fun from many more sources than a page 3 picture!

    But thanks very much for commenting and saying that you enjoyed the post, and as you say, having debates and different opinions really does make life more interesting!

    [Reply]

  7. BeccaBrown
    14/09/2010 at 7:00 pm Permalink

    Hello all, and thanks for your comments. They were all really considered and thoughtful and much-appreciated. I want to reply to each individually with equal consideration so a reply may not appear straightaway but bear with me.

    [Reply]

  8. Maura Radford
    14/09/2010 at 8:38 pm Permalink

    Becca, darling,
    It is self-evident that people who seek to control and manipulate others will always gravitate to those institutions which offer opportunities to achieve roles of authority and trust and access to potential victims; witness the examples we have found in secular institutions such as police forces, teaching, medicine and nursing as well as religions. Few secular institutions offer quite the opportunity to prey on the innocent trust of people as readily as churches, temples, mosques, synagogues et al. Who can you trust if not someone who has formally dedicated himself/herself to serve your God and His people?
    This being so, it is inevitable that abusers will gravitate to such institutions. It is incumbent on all to be determined to recognise abuse, whether it is made manifest as paedophilia, racism, sexism or fiscal impropriety, not to deny abuse nor to harbour or excuse those abuses or abusers when they are recognised.
    I understand the righteous indignation of decent religious people when they hear their faith being denigrated as it is clear to them that neither they nor their Faith is at fault but rather the perverted deviation from that Faith. Surely, however, denunciation is the only morally pure response for someone who is genuinely certain that religion is brain-washing, control-freakery of the most pernicious kind? After all, in their eyes, everything that is said and done in a God’s name is a manipulative abuse of gullible people.Were I an atheist I hope that I would have the courage to constantly cry out against abuse when I see it. Of course, I also hope that I would have reached my conclusions and my convictions after years of rigorous examination of evidence and profound soul-searching; in which case I rather think I might well be pretty p****d off to find my righteous atheistic indignation being usurped by a trite hack who uses shallow, ill-considered, facile arguments to promote her own belief-system.
    Finally, however, (just when you thought I was on your side) I am compelled to point out to you that actually loads of religious believers DO see themselves as morally superior to those who “stumble around in the darkness”. Smug is the kindest word I can use and frankly, I am surprised that you haven’t noticed – I fear that your upbringing must have been at fault! I am reasonably sure (or maybe I’m just being smug) that you are honest enough to acknowledge that a lack of belief in God cannot be equated with a lack of goodness. Witness those countless people you meet who warn you that they “REALLY, REALLY do not believe in God” and proceed to pour nothing but grace into your life, enhancing everything they touch.
    Maybe the best thing is to admit that all honest people are stumbling around in the darkness and all of us seek the truth and the light.

    [Reply]

    BeccaBrown Reply:

    Hiya Mum!
    Thank you for reading and commenting.

    I have no problem with people who do believe that religion is brainwashing, but rather against people who have formed that belief and shout about it vociferously without taking the trouble to see if their opinions are at all justified, and who are completely closed to any discussion on the matter. Or those who shout loudly trite phrases and prejudices which they haven’t even formed themselves but have been handed by media or their own society – I have seen plenty of those lately. Not, I hasten to add, by the very good friends you refer to later (they know who they are) or similar people.
    I do see your point about the opportunities granted by someone being sworn to protect you in the name of God, but on the other hand, there is no greater opportunity to abuse than that of being a parent or caregiver. Sadly those cases are rarely even mentioned by the media because they are just so common but no-one would even dream of tarring all parents with that brush.
    And yes, you’re right there are lots of people who do see themselves are morally superior and use faith as their justification for this, but it goes both ways – there are many people who laughingly dismiss God and claim that their moral superiority is even greater because it is on their own strength and owes nothing to any accountability to God. There are people on both sides of the fence who are smug and arrogant. And no, you know I don’t equate lack of belief in God with lack of goodness!
    Maybe the best thing is to admit that all honest people are stumbling around in the darkness and all of us seek the truth and the light – I do believe all honest people are seeking truth and light, but I have to say that not everybody is honest.

    Thank you though :)

    [Reply]

  9. Bri
    15/09/2010 at 4:54 pm Permalink

    Me again!

    You say ‘ But it cannot be denied that it is better in a monogamous relationship’, this is the issue i have with any religion… ‘I’ can deny that, I honestly see no connection with sex and marriage at all, i am not saying it is not different in a monogamous relationship but it in my opinion is not better or worse.

    Sex is something that is genetically built into man and woman to desire, surely if you believe in God then he put that there? It is not up to the individual alone to decide how they wish to use the desire? Not for a religion to ‘tell’ us what to do with it?

    As for page three in some way causing the premature sexualisation of children, i fail to understand how this could be? A childs first sight is probably the breasts of his/her mother is it not and has been for generations before us. I would dare say make up, fashion, TV shows and other such things lead to the premature sexualisation of children far more than a page 3 girl who in my eyes are just doing a job.

    Having been brought up catholic and a churchgoer week in week out for year after year I can honestly say that i was made to feel sex was a ‘naughty’ thing, something that shouldn’t be spoken about and almost is taboo. I find that kind of sad that i was made to think that way.

    Take Holland, it has far less teenage pregnancy than in the UK! Is this because there children are not subjected to sex? No, they are far more open about it. Is this because they are not subjected to ‘page 3’? No, they have a legal sex trade… so why is this? It is simply through good education, not from just never letting anybody see some breasts unless they are married!

    Funnily enough, today I actually witnessed some men in a workplace discussing page 3, i actually had a little giggle to myself after only reading your post the night before!! lol

    [Reply]

  10. Bri
    15/09/2010 at 4:59 pm Permalink

    Me again! lol

    You said to your mum:
    ‘Maybe the best thing is to admit that all honest people are stumbling around in the darkness and all of us seek the truth and the light – I do believe all honest people are seeking truth and light, but I have to say that not everybody is honest..’

    I can categorically say i am not seeking truth and light, I simply exist then will die. The last line does not scare me in the slightest, it is to me just a fact of life.

    Why does everybody need the truth? The truth is what is in front you, i don’t feel i need to dig any deeper than that. What I see is kinda cool and I’m happy with that.

    [Reply]

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