Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Short Digression on Christian Charity; Or, Why Peter Mullen is Talking Nonsense

Peter Mullen believes that his faith holds the claim to being the origins of human charity. Let's stop and consider this.

In my post yesterday about religious attacks on secularism I briefly referenced Reverend Dr Peter Mullen’s quite astounding assertion that “the roots of charity lie in Christian doctrine”[1]. As that post was focusing on other matters I did not think it appropriate to dwell on this statement too much, but I would like to come back to it now and have a proper look at why this claim is clearly nonsense.
Now I’m going to precede this with the disclaimer that I cannot take the credit for several of these criticisms I’m about to make, as it was my friend Alan Grant who brought Mullen to my attention and who made several excellent points about his claims. You can find Alan’s blog, THE RUNDOWN, by following this link and I would highly recommend you check it out; he’s a smart guy who’s blog covers a lot of the same subjects mine does but with far more intelligence and wit than I could ever hope to muster.
But yes, let’s have a good look at what the good reverend is alleging. I’m going to quote directly from his blog post throughout to highlight the parts of Mullen’s statement that I object to.
Mullen is apparently writing in response to the allegations that “civil servants are allegedly denying the funding of Christian charitable groups on the grounds that these groups have doctrinal commitments and they might seek to proselytise those to whom they do good”. This is ‘aggressive secularism’, apparently. If you say so, Peter; I’d call it a sensible move on the part of our civil service. Christian aid groups do not deserve public funding, because as has been stated they have an ulterior motive to their ‘charity’. That motive is proselytising; they are seeking to spread their dogmas and beliefs through their aid work. Even groups that initially claim not to be doing so[2] are fooling themselves and others. Yes, I’ll grant you that maybe your Christian charity doesn’t show up with a truck-load of Bibles to give to disaster victims alongside food and medicine; it saddens me that some groups are so obvious with their motives in this manner. But you are still attempting to spread Christianity. Simply by showing up to these places you are spreading your dogma to an area, either by publicly speaking about your faith or through the crosses you carry and the uniforms you wear. Why should public money be given to you for this goal? Why should a Muslim taxpayer be forced to help spread your faith? Or an atheist taxpayer, for that matter?
The good reverend and I clearly disagree on this one, though. Not that this is surprising; Mullen is the man who called for homosexuals to be tattooed with health warnings back in 2008[3]. The sinister parallels between this and what went on in Nazi concentration camps should be noted. His next few statements really need to be read in their full idiotic glory; I don’t think I could paraphrase this much stupidity:
“Go back as far as you like: to the evangelical Clapham Sect and the High Church Clapton Group who did so much to help the poor in London in the early 19th century. It was in both cases their Christianity which impelled their charitable motivation. The same is true of the Salvation Army. Think of almost any of the great moral crusades of the last two centuries – the abolition of the slave trade, for example – and you will generally find that it was committed Christians who organised them.”
Hoo boy.
Let’s start with the part that, for a student of history, is the most striking falsity; this idea that it was Christianity that did away with the slave trade. Let me make this emphatically clear; Christians were not the route cause of the abolition of slavery. This is a gross overstatement and an insult to the many brave men and women of many faiths (and none) who at times risked their very lives in their crusade against the horror that was the slave trade. Mullen shits on the memories of these great people when he makes remarks such as this. He also totally ignores the fact that in many places it was the Christians who defended the slave trade. Look at the Southern States of America, for fuck’s sake; it was Christian pastors in their pulpits quoting from the Old Testament who argued that it was a white man’s God-given right to keep slaves.
As for the Salvation Army, those assholes are hardly a shining example of Christian morality. I mean, they’re openly against homosexuality[4]. Sure the phrasing is all sweet and nicey-nicey, but look behind the false front of Christian love and you can see homophobia rearing its ugly head.
But then I imagine Mullen would see this as a shining example of Christian morality, being a homophobe himself.
Anyway, let’s see how he wraps this whole debacle up.
“Besides, as a Church of England parson for forty years, I have had considerable experience of charitable organisations sponsored by churches. What I have noticed is that, so far from ramming religion down the throats of those to whom they would do good, they are mightily restrained in dogmatising, preferring the good works to speak for themselves of the God from whom all goodness flows.”
Ah, the good old Argument From Personal Experience. This is a favourite of the religious, despite being deeply flawed. Mullen is stating that, based entirely on his own personal experiences, Christian charities are awesome and anyone who doesn’t think so is false. So let’s consider what sort of a person Mullen is, shall we? I’ve already mentioned how he’s an outrageous homophobe, but did I also mention the fact that he was censured in 1989 for committing adultery with a member of his own parish[5]? I think it’s safe to say that we can question any ‘personal experience’ such an unpleasant person has. In this statement he’s also confirming that Christian charities don’t preach and push their faith openly but instead use far more insidious means to do so (“preferring the good works to speak for themselves of the God from whom all goodness flows”).
Finally, I come to the excellent point that Alan made about the good reverend’s article and its central point; this idea that charity comes from Christianity. That’s right. Peter Mullen wants you to believe that the origins of human charity come from a faith that has only been around for a couple of thousand years, that for the hundreds of thousands of years before this we were all selfish douchebags towards each other. Seriously? You think that it took a carpenter in the middle of a fucking desert to make us all be nice to each other? Charity is an aspect of human kindness; without this, how did the incredible empires of the Greeks and the Chinese come to be? Hell, how did we even survive long enough for Christianity to come into existence?
Christianity does not have the monopoly on charity. It has never had it, no matter what Peter Mullen believes.
I don’t buy his bullshit, and you really shouldn’t either.


Stealth Evangelism and the “White Man's Burden”: A KONY 2012 Obitury

Behind the façade of naivity in the Invisible Children movement lies the dark heart of hidden religious evangelism.

Large scepticism leads to large understanding. Small scepticism leads to small understanding. No scepticism leads to no understanding.”
- Xi Zhi

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need”
- Rudyard Kipling, ‘The White Man’s Burden’

If there is one good thing to come out of the KONY 2012 debacle, it’s the reaffirmation to people that they cannot trust everything they see and hear.

Launched on 5th March 2012 on YouTube, ‘KONY 2012’ is a video by the Invisible Children charity rallying people to unite in an attempt to bring the religious nutter and all-round douchebag Joseph Kony, leader of the child soldier-using Lord’s Resistance Army, to justice. As of today (at 3am in the morning) the video has garnered 85,021,580 views[1]; in short, more people have watched this video than there are people living in the United Kingdom at the moment. It’s a clear testament to the power social media has in rallying people to a cause; the video quickly went viral upon launch and garnered massive attention, turning creator Jason Russell into an overnight celebrity.

Yet ‘KONY 2012’ also shows the dark side of social media, as well as humanity’s herd instinct.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here; KONY 2012 is a terrible movement, and it should not be supported. There, that’s me nailing my colours to the fucking wall. This is a dangerous cause, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s doing more harm than good to the people of Uganda. That I think it is necessary to write this blog genuinely saddens me because I thought that people, by now, were aware of the faults in what Invisible Children does. Yet apparently this isn’t the case. This cause still attracts support, despite it being extremely dangerous. Why so, you might ask?

Let me give you the brief rundown.

Invisible Children openly fund the Ugandan Army, justifying this by arguing that this armed force is the only one willing to pursue Kony[2]. This is despite the fact that direct military intervention puts the child soldiers their supposed to be saving at considerable risk. This is despite the fact that the Ugandan Army has been accused of raping and stealing from the people they are supposed to protect, despite the fact that they have been accused of using child soldiers themselves in this war and others[3], despite the fact that direct military intervention has been shown to be both prone to failure and result in heavy repercussions on the people of Uganda[4].

These are not smart people. Sometimes doing something is worse than doing nothing; Invisible Children is a visible testament to this.

Let’s look at another very uncomfortable fact for the supporters of KONY 2012; Kony is old news. Yes, I just said that. He is irrelevant. He’s not been in Uganda since 2006. The best reports available say he’s currently starving to death somewhere in the Congo[5]. Hell, some unsubstantiated reports say the bastard’s already dead. He has not caused problems for Uganda in over half a decade; in as turbulent a continent as Africa, Invisible Children might as well be advocating a witch-hunt against ghosts. And make no mistake, this is a witch hunt. This ‘charity’ is targeting a solitary terrorist figure and not to beat around the bush, bringing Kony to justice is going to change pretty much fuck all. The bigger war criminal in Uganda is currently sitting in the president’s office, and I don’t see them organising an international manhunt against him.

But then, Invisible Children are pretty flawed themselves.

Looking at their financial records for 2011, you will see that only 31% of the funds people give them actually goes towards the cause they are apparently putting forward; the rest goes to ‘admin’ and their completely outrageous travel expenses[6]. By their own admission, these guys are foolish idealists who had no idea of the problems that Uganda faced up until 2003; they originally travelled to Africa to film a documentary on Sudan[7]. They have shown time and time again to have no grasp of the complicated and convoluted situation they are trying to solve. And to hammer the final nail into the coffin, they are liars. They misconstrue facts in order to make the situation seem worse. As has already been shown, the LRA has not been active in Uganda since 2006. In the KONY 2012 propaganda video they are showing you videos from 2003 and passing them off as current events.

You cannot trust these people.

Their motives seem pure, if overly naïve. But behind this façade of a secular movement designed to bring down an international war criminal lies the dark heart of what has been called ‘stealth evangelism’. And here is where my interest in this story comes to the forefront. You see, in 2009 Invisible Children accepted donations of around $135,000 from a group called the National Christian Foundation, an organisation that works in conjunction with a group known as ‘The Family’. These guys actively campaign in Uganda to bring about a bill that will make homosexuality punishable by death or life in prison[8].

That’s right, the guys behind KONY 2012 have ties to anti-gay religious hate groups. And this disgusting religious slant does not stop there.

Invisible Children’s ‘Director of Ideology’ Jedidiah Jenkins made it clear in a personal blog post that he considers homosexuality a sin, comparable to sexual addiction and masturbation[9]. I don’t even need to tell you why this is crazy, but let’s go back to this man’s job description; ‘Director of Ideology’? Fuck me, this shit is sounding more and more like a cult with every article I read on them. And that’s not even the last of it; Invisible Children again demonstrate their Christian Evangelist slant by the fact that Jason Russell, the co-founder of the charity who featured heavily throughout the KONY 2012 video, gave a lecture at the sinister Liberty University of Virginia and gave tips and tricks to young evangelists alongside such upstanding and lovely people as Rick Perry and revisionist ‘historian’ David Barton[10].

But then, Jason Russell himself is basically the epitome of everything that is wrong with his charity.

I mean, for one thing he recently got arrested for public masturbation[11].

And he’s given himself the nickname ‘Radical Russell’, also describing himself as the spunk-baby of Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono[12].

This guy is a class A douche-nozzle.

Jason Russell is in the process of carrying out what some have coined the “White Man’s Burden”. Here’s some idealistic American filmmaker who’s taken it upon himself to save Africa for the Africans, totally ignoring the fact that maybe Africans can deal with this shit by themselves without some foreign fuckwit with no understanding of the complexities of the situation barging in and causing more problems, all in the name of saving the day.

Invisible Children is dangerous. They do not deserve your money or support.

So before you splash out on one of their ‘Action Packs’, consider giving your money to a much more worthwhile charity. One that understands the complexities of Africa. One that doesn’t give your money to rapists and looters when it’s not paying it’s own bills. One that doesn’t accept money from groups that are actively seeking to slaughter homosexuals in Africa, that doesn’t have ties to maniacal evangelists.

Social media is an amazing thing. The Arab Spring is a testament to this. It can be used to rally people to causes that cross entire continents, connect people from all across the world.

But as one YouTube commenter puts it:

I think the whole kony2012 is nothing more than an experiment to see how dumb the modern youth is and how quickly they can become manipulated by propaganda.”

Please use your fucking brains and consider things with at least a bit of scepticism before you pledge your undying support to it. Or else your enthusiasm is open to being exploited by people such as Invisible Children.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

When Did ‘Secularism’ Become a Dirty Word?

Cardinal Keith O'Brien is an outspoken critic of what he calls 'aggressive secularism'. But why is this?
So to put it very mildly, secularism has been taking quite a few hits since the start of this year.
Baroness Warsi, Minister without Portfolio kicked things off on February 14th during her visit to the Vatican, stating that “we have got to the stage where aggressive secularism is being imposed by stealth... denying people the right to a religious identity and failing to understand the relationship between religious loyalty and loyalty to the state”[1]. Since then several religious officials have jumped on the bandwagon as well; Reverend Dr Peter Mullen had a wee pop at the concept as well on March 21st, writing on his blog with The Telegraph that “aggressive secularism will be the death of us”[2] before going on to state that all charity comes from Christianity (we can discuss the ridiculousness of this statement another time). More Church of England schools are being opened all across the country, apparently in an attempt to combat “aggressive secularism”[3]. These attacks are not even limited to this year; Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leading figure of Catholicism in Scotland, took the time in his Easter Address for 2011 to attack… can you guess? You got it; “aggressive secularism”[4].
This really does beg two questions, I would say; what the hell is ‘aggressive secularism’, and why the hell do these religious and government figures hate it so? I mean, the way these supposedly educated men and women attack it must be something pretty awful, right?
If we first look at the term ‘secularism’, we can easily find it’s definition; coined first by the British writer George Holyoake (slightly ironic surname, that), secularism at its most basic level is the separation of Church from State and the view that all people of different religions are equal before the law. There is certainly still a lot more to it than that; as with all concepts and ideologies there is always going to be variations and differences between adherents. But as a basic concept, secularism really doesn’t sound that bad, does it? It is about equality, keeping things fair for people of all faiths and none. As the National Secular Society of the UK puts it, “secularism is not about curtailing religious freedoms; it is about ensuring that the freedoms of thought and conscience apply equally to all believers and non-believers alike”[5].
Secularism is not something that only atheists and non-believers can adhere to. Yes, a lot of atheists and agnostics are also secularists. Yet there are plenty of religious secularists as well. After all, it is a solid ideal to support; religious freedom and equality for all, the state not having any favourites and the prevention of one particular religious group interfering with the lives of a multi-cultural nation. I’ll quote from those lovely folks at the NSS again; “secularism is simply a framework for ensuring equality throughout society - in politics, education, the law and elsewhere, for believers and non-believers alike”[6].
So what then is this ‘aggressive secularism’ Baroness Warsi, Peter Mullen and Keith O’Brien all want to save Britain from?
To understand this, we must first understand the motivations these three individuals have for wanting to stir up an attack on ‘aggressive secularism’. In the UK we do not have a separation of Church from State, as the Queen is both our Head of State and the Head of the Anglican Church (one of the two state-recognised religions in Britain, the other being the Presbyterian Church of Scotland). For centuries Christianity has reaped the benefits of this system, enjoying the privilege of being at the top of the heap that is the multitude of religions in this country. Don’t believe me? Just look at the attention some of these head-cases get when they throw the rattle out the cradle, as Keith O’Brien did on March 3rd in an article for the Sunday Telegraph.
Seriously, take a bloody look. Homophobic priest rattles off argument against gay marriage than has more holes in it than Sonny Corleone did at the end of The Godfather. Suddenly everyone from fellow religious figures to government officials are issuing statements back at him. Just look at all the attention he garners, look at how his hateful views are legitimised simply because he prances about in a dress and wears a stupid hat. His writings are being published in a national newspaper, for fuck’s sake. This man should be ignored like all the other Bible-bashing nutters, yet because of the position that Christians enjoy in this country this man somehow is given authority on these issues.
Secularism is an attack on this authority. It says that the Church and the State should be separate and that no one religion should enjoy such blatant favouritism.
And suddenly something clicks.
Now you can see why Keith O’Brien and Peter Mullen are so concerned with secularism. It’s a challenge to the position that their two Churches have unfairly enjoyed in this country for so long. It’s why they bandy about phrases such as ‘aggressive secularism’. Because let us cut to the case here; ‘aggressive secularism’ doesn’t mean anything. It’s a buzz-phrase. A slander. A spin. An ‘aggressive secularist’, by the definition that O’Brien, Mullen and other critics give, basically just means anyone willing to stand up and advocate secularism on a public platform. Thus the phrase ‘aggressive secularism’ is nothing more than an ad hominem attack on secularists, to be dismissed like any other logical fallacy. I mean, of course these people are going to see it as ‘aggressive’; they like their seat near the top of the tower and they really do not want to give it up.
So I think it would be great if our dearly beloved religious officials could stop banging on about ‘aggressive secularism’ and screaming what is essentially “HELP! HELP! I’M BEING REPRESSED!” whilst enjoying an unfair position of authority in the UK. And it would be great if politicians such as Baroness Warsi could stop fanning the flames and adding legitimacy to what is, overall, a ridiculous debate.

[6] As above


And so I guess this is me eating my own words for having said "I'll never start a blog".

Hello there, internet person. My name is Dave, and I'm a student in Scotland studying History. I keep myself occupied with things like video games, writing, paintball and more video games, I'm currently panicking about the onset of dissertations and other scary University things, and I'm desperately trying to stave off having to stop being a freeloading student and join society like everyone else.

Oh, and I don't believe in god.

Any gods, for that matter. Zeus, Poseidon, Odin, Loki, Yahweh, you name it. I'm one of those nasty, dirty baby-eating Atheist types some people like to get up in arms about.

I hope to use this blog as a place to share my observations, rants, complaints and hopes about religion and its place in modern society, maybe with some other stuff thrown in here and there as well to spice things up a bit. Hopefully what I have to say is interesting enough for you to keep reading.