Saturday, 21 November 2009

Leading article: Heavy hand of Rome

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has travelled to Rome to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Dutch Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, a campaigner for the unification of Christianity. But when Dr Williams holds a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI today, the mood is likely to be one of animosity, rather than ecumenicism.

Last month saw one of the most divisive acts by the Catholic Church in decades. The Pope unveiled an "apostolic constitution" which would allow practising Anglicans to join the Catholic Church. Under the new arrangement, Rome would even admit married Church of England clergy and allow entire congregations to continue using their traditional liturgy and prayer book. The Archbishop has been quietly criticising the Catholic move in recent days. But behind closed doors he ought to be more direct.

The Vatican claims that the invitation was entirely a response to requests from disgruntled Anglicans to be allowed to join the Catholic communion. But this affair looks more like an attempt by Vatican conservatives to exploit tensions within the Anglican Church over women bishops and gay priests for their own gain.

Tellingly, the Vatican's Council for Christian Unity played no part in devising the new arrangements. And Dr Williams was not informed of Rome's intentions until virtually the last minute. This whole business has served to undermine the Archbishop's authority in the midst of a bitter struggle for the very future of Anglicanism. Dr Williams should tell the Pontiff that there is nothing ecumenical about trying to poach congregations. And he should make clear that talks on a closer union of Anglicanism and Catholicism cannot continue while Rome engages in such unilateral power grabs. Read more
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Friday, 20 November 2009

Public faces of Richard Dawkins' atheism campaign were ... devout Christian children

(Ed: Reminds me of the 'Polish spitfire' chosen for the BNP publicity campaign.)

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.

With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.

Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.

Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.

Mr Mason has been supplementing his income for years by giving photographs to agencies who sell them on to newspapers and advertising campaigns.

“It is quite funny because obviously they were searching for images of children that looked happy and free. They happened to choose children who are Christian. It is ironic. The humanists obviously did not know the background of these children.” Read more
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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Atheist author Philip Pullman writes alternative ending for Jesus in Bible

Ed: May we now look forward to a Christian publishing "His Dark Materials" with an alternative plot? Thought not.

The writer has penned an alternative Bible passage imagining a different fate for Christ, who was executed by the Romans.

"He has written what would have happened if Jesus had had a fair trial," a friend told The Daily Telegraph's Mandrake column. Read more

"He knows it will be controversial, but he has some serious points to make."
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Churches head for a showdown in Rome

The Archbishop of Westminster has blamed Church of England bishops for keeping their leader in the dark about the Pope’s attempts to entice Anglicans to Rome.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that it had been the “duty” of the Anglicans involved in the talks to keep their primate informed about the Pope’s plans to admit thousands of opponents of women priests.

The Archbishop was defending the Pope against accusations of discourtesy after he failed to alert the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, of the proposals for an Apostolic Constitution, or decree to set up a new Anglican ordinariate. The announcement was sprung on a distressed Dr Williams last month with barely two weeks’ notice.

He was speaking before Dr Williams’s first visit to Rome to see Benedict XVI since the norms for the new ordinariate were published. Read more
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Churchwarden resigns over BNP membership

A BNP member has resigned as a churchwarden after his political views were deemed to be "incompatible" with Christianity.

David North said he was forced to quit his post at St Thomas of Canterbury Church, in Frisby on the Wreake, near Melton, because of his openly-held support for the BNP. The Diocese of Leicester said it simply "pointed out" his views were incompatible with those of the church.

Mr North, of Frisby, said: "After 60 years service to my church at Frisby, I feel very let down to be asked to resign as churchwarden of some 15 years in two stints, having done nothing illegal whatsoever, only to be asked to resign because I'm a member of the BNP. As far as I can tell, I have done nothing wrong. To be asked to resign reasonably forcefully after 60 years' service – it hurts."

Mr North, who has spent the past 15 years serving as a warden, stepped down three weeks ago.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Leicester said: "It was pointed out to Mr North that membership of the BNP is incompatible with being a practising Christian. This is the Bishop's complete stance on it. We received a letter from Mr North telling us he had resigned. We did not ask him to but he had been under a lot of pressure. The pastor is not able to kick out a churchwarden, but it can be pointed out that he must make a choice between the BNP and the Church. Members of the congregation can be a member of the BNP but he held an office in the church and was representing us both legally and professionally." Read more
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Monday, 16 November 2009

Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again

[...] As children and teenagers, the ex-jihadis felt Britain was a valueless vacuum, where they were floating free of any identity.

Ed Husain, a former leader of HT, says: "On a basic level, we didn't know who we were. People need a sense of feeling part of a group – but who was our group?" They were lost in liberalism, beached between two unreachable identities – their parents', and their country's. They knew nothing of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or the other places they were constantly told to "go home" to by racists.

Yet they felt equally shut out of British or democratic identity. From the right, there was the brutal nativist cry of "Go back where you came from!" But from the left, there was its mirror-image: a gooey multicultural sense that immigrants didn't want liberal democratic values and should be exempted from them. Again and again, they described how at school they were treated as "the funny foreign child", and told to "explain their customs" to the class. It patronised them into alienation.

"Nobody ever said – you're equal to us, you're one of us, and we'll hold you to the same standards," says Husain. "Nobody had the courage to stand up for liberal democracy without qualms. When people like us at [Newham] College were holding events against women and against gay people, where were our college principals and teachers, challenging us?"

Without an identity, they created their own. It was fierce and pure and violent, and it admitted no doubt. Read more
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Latest press release from Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate

The Revision Committee met for its third scheduled meeting yesterday (13 November) since 8 October (see earlier statement: It concluded a substantial exploration of ways in which the draft legislation could be amended to enable certain functions to be vested by statute in bishops who would provide oversight for those unable to receive the episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.

After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated.

The effect of the Committee’s decision is therefore that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will need to be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting.

There remain important issues for the Committee to determine at its forthcoming meetings over the shape of the proposed legislation in the light of this decision, in particular whether to retain a statutory code of practice or adopt the simplest possible legislation. Read more
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Sunday, 15 November 2009

'Sinister link' between Darwin and high-school killings by nihilistic teenagers

Kind of fits in with the hagiolatry of Darwin by the media that I mentioned here.

[...] In America, where Darwin’s writings on morality and race have come under particularly intense critical scrutiny because of the enduring creationist debate, he has been accused of fostering moral nihilism and scientific racism, and even of promoting an ethic that found its ultimate expression in the Holocaust. Most startling of all, a connection has now been drawn between Darwin’s theories and a rash of school shootings. In April, 1,000 people gathered at sunset in Littleton, Colorado, to commemorate the victims of the Columbine high school massacre, 10 years on. Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first of the 13 children to be murdered, and whose son Craig narrowly escaped being shot, cannot understand why so little attention has been paid to the motivation of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their interest in Charles Darwin’s ideas. “Harris wore a ‘Natural Selection’ T-shirt on the day of the killings. They made remarks on video about helping out the process of natural selection by eliminating the weak. They also professed that they had evolved to a higher level than their classmates. I was amazed at the frequent references to evolution, and that the press completely ignored that aspect of the tapes.”

Much of the evidence remains sealed under a court order issued to minimise the risk of copycat killings, but from those documents that are in the public domain, it is clear that Eric Harris fantasised about putting everyone into a violent computer game that only the fittest could survive. And, like Darwin himself, he noted how vaccination might be interfering with nature’s weeding process. In his rantings Harris said he wished there were no vaccines, or even warning labels on dangerous goods, “and let natural selection take its course. All the fat, ugly, retarded, crippled dumbass, stupid f***heads in the world would die… Maybe then the human race can actually be proud of itself”.

As the attorney for the families of six of the students killed at Columbine, the Denver lawyer Barry Arrington has come across more in a similar vein. “I read through every single page of Eric Harris’s journals; I listened to all of the audio tapes and watched the videotapes… It became evident to me that Harris consciously saw his actions as logically arising from what he had learnt about evolution. Darwinism served as his personal intellectual rationale for what he did. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Harris was a worshipper of Darwin and saw himself as acting on Darwinian principles.”

In 2007, detectives following up a tip-off about a planned school shooting in Pennsylvania discovered that their suspect often logged on to a social networking site called Natural Selection’s Army and a number of related chatrooms that were later tagged by the media as the “cyber school for killers”. These sites were quickly shut down by their service providers, but today “Natural Selection” is the name of a popular computer game in which competing teams attempt to annihilate one another — a sign that Darwin’s term is still associated by many teenagers with sudden and extreme violence. Read more
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How to tell kids there's no heaven - you just rot

Ed: Brave words from an atheist mum, but when you read to the end, you realize she fudges it.

They've asked me what happens when you die before, of course - just like they've asked where babies come from, and which is, ultimately, best: Madonna, or Lady GaGa?

But the thing with those Big, Difficult Conversations that you dread, is that you never have them just the one time. If I've told them about what happens when a mummy and a daddy love each other very much once, I've told them a hundred times. They just keep forgetting. And so, to be fair, do I. Last time we went through "How do babies get in the tummy?" I did all the blah bah blah "Daddy's seed" bit.

"And how does Daddy's seed get in your tummy?" Eavie ask.

"Through Daddy's willy," Dora replied, briskly. "It gets big."

"Oh." I said, momentarily nonplussed. "Oh. And who told you that?"

"You did, Mummy," Dora said. "Last time."

"Oh," I said. "I must have been feeling very chatty that day. Oh."

So yes. We've talked about death before - not that they or I remember it, obviously, but I'm pretty sure I ladled on the "going to heaven" thing quite strongly. I think I've always done the "heaven" thing - albeit, given my otherwise-strident aethism, a mealy-mouthed caveat of "Some people believe ...." at the start. I JUST DIDN'T WANT TO TELL THEM THEY ROT, OK? They always ask just before bedtime, and it's enough faff as it is, what with teeth-cleaning, and finding Eavie's "Chicken" doll (it's a duck - don't ask), and Dora often just lobbing in a querelous, "I feel like I might be scared, later, and not able to sleep," just at the point I've started to really visualise putting on America's Next Top Model, and eating an orange. You don't want to chuck in rotting then. That's delaying bedtime by at least an hour. No, no - just waffle about heaven a bit, and then get back down to the telly. Read more
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