Saturday, 23 March 2013

Listen Up

Have you ever been in the presence of someone who seems to think that a conversation requires the input of only one person? From time to time this happens to me, and I've come to the conclusion that people just don't realise they are doing it. And these people can be superb, and the things they talk about really interesting. It's just, well, they don't leave room for anyone else to join in. A part of me wonders whether these self same folk aren't natural listeners, or whether they even have any interest in learning the perspective of others? If true then this is a shame, because when I take time to listen more often than not I learn. I might not agree with what's being said, but at least I understand the other person that bit more. So really, if you're the kind of person who, unwittingly or not, hogs the conversation and turns it into a monologue can I gently suggest a slight behavioural shift? Start small if you must. Ask a question or two, and then listen to the answer, and just hold back before you dive in with your perspective. Even if what you're about to say is correct, just give people time to breathe, time to be, time to share a little of themselves. There's room enough for two people in a conversation, and often many more. When I've allowed people this space I've rarely had cause for regret, and I come away just that bit more informed.
You might be the kind of person who has strong views. You might be passionate about sharing them. All good, I say, because I'm passionate about things, too. Just step back, take pause, and allow other people to make your world a little bigger, a little richer. You might enjoy where the journey takes you, and you can also bet that people will have much more time for you.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Suffer The Little Children?

Cardinal Napier, a South African Bishop involved in the recent papal conclave has announced that pedophilia is a medical condition and should not automatically result in prosecution. He shared this nugget on Radio 5 Live this evening, and I hope that news agencies around the world give it wide coverage. I listened to the interview, and I found it darkly disturbing, and proof positive that nothing warps morality like religion.
Consider what his words imply. Imagine you are a nine year old alter boy repeatedly raped over the course of six weeks by a predator priest. Would being told that your suffering does not merit a prison sentence for the offender seem to you like justice?
Is the Cardinal really saying that child rape is not a crime? Is he saying that the violation of innocents is something the law should turn a blind eye to? Apparently yes.
What more needs to be said? The sheer level of ignorance at the heart of the Catholic Church has been laid bare for all to see. And perhaps what troubled me above all was that the Cardinal at no point even mentioned the plight of the victims. He did not acknowledge them, or show even the slightest trace of empathy. Instead his compassion appeared weighted towards the offenders, and he spoke at length as to how they might be rehabilitated.
As I write this I am still listening to the show, and numerous victims and even some offenders have been calling in to share their stories. The Cardinal is enjoying universal condemnation for his cold abdication of morality, and one has to wonder what the future holds for him? Can he really be entrusted with responsibilities given his flagrant inhumanity? Can his diocese back in South Africa have any confidence that he would put the plight of the abused above the reputation of the church? I sincerely hope that the Vatican is quick to condemn Cardinal Napier, and perhaps remove him from his post. His ignorance, his callous disregard for victims renders him unfit for the role required of him. I suppose I could use this incident to further emphasise my contempt for religion, but in all honesty there is nothing I can add that would further sully it. Whenever I think it has hit bottom something occurs that provides additional proof that organised religion still has further depths to plumb.
Let's just hope that the destruction is of the internal variety. God forbid that further children should suffer in its wake.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Why I Say "No" To Islam

You may have seen a link on my Facebook site, where renowned scientist Laurence Krauss walks out of a debate with Muslims due to them seeking to impose segregation between genders. Just let that sentence sink in for a few seconds. 2013, at University College London, Islam seeks to impose its values upon those present. And when three young men tried to sit where they wished they were ejected from the venue for being a threat, which was when Krauss decided that enough was enough. Make no mistake people, if we tried to segregate people based on colour or political affiliation there would be an uproar, yet somehow Islam thinks it can get away with it with gender. One has to wonder where this is going to end? No Penis's nor Vaginas in the same room perhaps? Separate carriages on the tube?
And now a question for you. Are you prepared to tolerate this? Are you worried about upsetting another persons religious sensibilities? If yes then I want to challenge you to think a different way. What we capitulate to today will still be with us tomorrow. In Islam we have a set of backward beliefs and failed philosophy that would propel us back to the dark ages if we let it. How many cutting edge Muslim scientists can you think of? How many social reformers? Islam is based upon the same monotheistic nonsense we have already dispatched with Christianity and Judaism, albeit with a slightly more vindictive streak. And frankly if it hadn't worked so hard to quash opinion and stifle free thinking in the Arab peninsula then perhaps we might not have been faced with the threat that this nonsense presents. Like other religions, whilst it makes claims to being the sole owner of literal truth it appears to run terrified in the face of anything that seeks to challenge it. Like all religions it is man made and man sustained from beginning to end, and kept alive due to the folly and wish thinking of people too afraid to face reality as it is.
There is no God. There never was. There never will be. The world and all its considerable riches are all we have and all we need. We can love, learn, laugh, and lament, and I expect lots of other things which begin with "L". We need religion like men need a third testicle. It is, bluntly speaking, surplus to requirements. Now I accept with Islam that to stand against it is to accept a certain risk, but my argument is that if everybody does so then the risk is shared equally. If a million voices, ten million, twenty, chorus together and stand up for what is decent and right then we will get the message across. In the west we've become lazy, and we've assumed that nothing can change and that our values and freedoms are safe from all comers. They are not. And until you, and yes I mean you come to realise this then the threat that we face will persist. I'm not trying to see Islam banned, nor stifle its freedom to lie about reality. But I do advocate that people of reason stand up and be brave and say "No". No Islam, I have no interest in what you want to teach. No Islam, I will not live my life according to what you demand. And No Islam, I will never, and I mean never allow you to cripple the freedoms that our ancestors fought and died for. Islam, I do not believe you have anything to say that non religious thinkers haven't said better and more clearly and without threat of an eternal hell. Keep your hands off of my freedoms, my rights, and know that should you ever seek to distort the truth in my hearing, my voice will be the first you will here.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Religion & Cross Dressing

Have you ever noticed that whenever men dress up as women they more often than not look like they just stepped off the set of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert? They look daft, often ridiculous, and you cannot help feel that they should have kept the habit behind closed doors.
I'm going to suggest that we should have the same attitude towards religion.
I mean, in private it's just fine, and if you want to have people around to share these urges then I've no objection. It's just that when you bring it out in public, when you put it on parade it just looks daft.
Perhaps the comparison is not one you recognise? But why not? Is public religious profession any less ridiculous than middle aged Les the plumber going out in his frock, tights, and wig? Ok so the image of Les is more striking, but when you think it over is it any less absurd than when Bill the evangelist stands at your door telling you how you need saving from the imaginary crime of sin? I argue that it's not, and I'm yet to hear a convincing argument otherwise.
Les the transvestite is actually far less damaging if you really want to press the point. If you see him he might raise a giggle or an embarrassed shrug, but with Bill the evangelist he might leave certain people uneasy, unhappy, and unnecessarily ridden with guilt. I would therefore, like you to try the following. Next time someone preaches to you, think cross dresser. Imagine Les in all his ridiculous glory, tottering about with excessive lipstick smeared over his craggy face. When your religious friend starts talking about the gospel imagine the twelve apostles dolled up in fishnets and corsets doing the Can Can with Jesus doing a burlesque routine. Think ridiculous. Think absurd. And just hold onto the idea that the same principles apply with Religion as with cross dressing. All well and good behind closed doors. But when you bring it out in public it starts to look a little bit daft.