Archive for the ‘Secularism’ Category

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion


Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya, Nice… and these are just a handful of the places to have suffered grave and unimaginable losses due to terrorism so far in 2016.

And we can shout “Terrorism has no religion!” until our throats are dry, but it is a lie.

Because all those lives have been lost not just to terrorism, but to ISLAMIC terrorism. I reiterate again, that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

Most of those Muslims carrying out attacks in the West were born and brought up in the countries they appear to hate so very much, by parents who (I imagine) moved here for a better life. In order to try and stem the advance of this carnage, and the divisive social and political disintegration it causes, we need to stop coming out with both excuses and blanket condemnations, and start concentrating our efforts on finding out why these people hate with such vehemence.

We need to find out how they could become so radicalised against the relatively mild background of democratic Western Europe.

Is it disaffected youth, whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters?

Is it the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions?

Is it the ease with which religion feeds into the innate and divisive human trait of seeking a righteous “us” versus an immoral “them”?

We need to find out whether their families, friends and communities simply fail to notice this radicalisation process taking place, whether their sense of kinship is stronger than their compassion for the innocent men women and children of their host countries, or whether the numbers of the complicit are higher than we dare imagine.

Most importantly , we must ensure that within our message of democratic freedom, a very clear emphasis is put on a secular Freedom of Religion. Not the freedom to do whatever you please in the name of religion, but the freedom for everyone to believe whatever they please and to live as they please, providing it is not detrimental to others and whilst understanding that religion is a personal choice, not a political or a moral framework.

And for all those who feel that the only trigger for these attacks is clumsy Western intervention in the Middle East, what about those Muslims who kill other Muslims for being the wrong sort of Muslim? What about those Muslims who kill ex-Muslims simply because they no longer believe in Allah? What about those Muslims who kill other Muslims simply because they have dared questioned some of the tenets of Islam?

I have no solutions to the sickness currently affecting Islam, but pretending it is not there is the height of stupidity.

Nice wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya and Nice, cry for them and mourn with them, just don’t pray for them, for more religion is the last thing they need.

Status Viatoris

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives…

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The Trickiest Relationship of All


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Last Wednesday heralded the arrival of the other most important woman in Tigger’s life: my soon-to-be mother-in-law.

Having been lucky enough to avoid the six-hour round trip to collect her from the airport by dint of being a particularly feeble pregnant person, I was instead left at home to sweat it out in the kitchen trying to prepare a feast fit for the lady I am often reminded is THE BESTEST COOK IN ALL THE WORLD, EVER.

Pressure? Just a little.

But by some miracle I did manage to throw together a meal – in between lying on the sofa with my legs up in an attempt to still heaving stomach and racing heart – and was therefore able to greet her with a semblance of domestic goddess panache.

Panache that was slightly jostled when she immediately opened her suitcase and began unloading fast-defrosting cuts of meat, huge balls of cheese, endless sausages and even a few frozen chickens she had killed and plucked herself only days previously, into our fridge and freezer – Tigger’s assurances that food is not lacking in Italy having apparently fallen on disbelieving ears…

But after all that, and despite being able to faithfully report that she is short, round, very smiley and more than capable of providing enough foodstuffs to nourish a small village; I am at present unable to offer a more in-depth insight into what makes my mother-in-law tick because we are essentially unable to communicate in any meaningful way.

My Romanian has yet to get off the starting blocks (due in part to laziness, but primarily to the fact that Tigger and his family speak to each other in Hungarian dialect thus reducing my Romanian language exposure to almost zilch) and my mother-in-law only understands about seven words of Italian and speaks but one: cipolla.

A blessing in disguise? Maybe…

Because despite being tired from the journey, and undoubtedly a bit overwhelmed at being fed strange foreign gubbins by her strange foreign soon-to-be daughter-in-law, it only took our visitor about an hour and a half to dive into that hotly anticipated/dreaded question: so, where will you be baptising the baby?

“Our child will decide for itself if and where it wishes to be baptised when it is an adult.”

Said Tigger.

And I was, once again, reminded that I am a very, very lucky girl indeed…

That small and briefly frosty blip aside, my first future mother-in-law experience was not the torturous occasion I had feared it might be – although I confess to being more than a little relieved by the fact that for the duration of her visit she will be staying up the road with her (far more pregnant than me) daughter.

The very same daughter who has been putting me to shame over the last three and a half months by her utter bouncy nonchalance in the face of pregnancy. My in-laws inform me that it is nothing more than a question of national suitability – sturdy country girls from the Romanian hinterland are usually up trees picking fruit when their waters break.

“You mustn’t worry,” they assure me “we’re just more cut out for childbirth than you.”

And as I clutch my aching head, bend double over my churning stomach and try to avoid catching a glimpse of my grey and spotty visage in the mirror, I can’t help wondering if they might have a point…

This is Status Viatoris, fervently hoping that her bun’s sturdy Romanian genes are beating the feeble English ones into submission as she types, in Italy.

The Next Generation


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

With love from the heavenly heathen 😉

FAITH definition – “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.

ATHEISM definition – “a disbelief in a deity (god)”.

A Roman Catholic and an Atheist walk into a bar…

…and that’s it really. They order a couple of beers, share a kiss, then chat away about life and universe whilst leisurely sipping their drinks.

And as long as that’s all they do – well, that and going to the cinema, enjoying barbecues in the countryside, meals in, meals out, occasional DIY, evenings with friends or family and evenings spent curled companionably on the sofa watching television – then all is well and good.

But what would happen if they enjoyed each other’s company to such an extent that they decided to make things rather more official?

(Not my case yet, I can assure you – I’m still far too young to seriously consider taking such a step).

But let us suppose it were my case…

For whilst I can apparently marry in a Roman Catholic church (providing my hypothetical Catholic groom’s bishop gives the nod) because I was christened, I am certainly not a Christian.

And whilst I would be prepared to go through a Catholic marriage service out of love for my hypothetical Catholic groom, I would certainly not be prepared to lie about my beliefs should openly declaring them be a stipulation.

But let us suppose that my hypothetical Catholic groom and I somehow make it through the nuptial minefield to arrive safely on the other side; it does not then require a huge additional leap of imagination to envisage we may wish to add to our newly minted hypothetical family.

What then?

For whilst I agreed to marry the person I love under the conditions dictated by his chosen religion, I am a consenting adult who knew and understood what she was agreeing to.

There is no such thing as a consenting baby; a baby (even a hypothetical one) cannot possibly understand the criteria involved in stating a religious belief.  Which is why it is inconceivable to me that I would baptise my hypothetical child into a faith whose diktats he cannot possibly comprehend and whose veracity remains utterly devoid of any evidence.

A parent’s role should surely be to help a child learn and understand the facts of the world around him and to educate him in the rules of moral conduct that enable (and have always enabled) human beings to co-exist in relatively co-operative harmony.

A parent’s role should surely be, above all, to encourage a child to use that which sets him apart from so many other species – his mind. That wonderfully absorbent organ which will lead him to search, question, assess and eventually, opine.

The default position of each and every child is that of Atheism; teaching impressionable children religious ideas as facts can only be described as  indoctrination. Human beings can only truly consent to choose (or to disregard) the unproven hypothesis of religion when they reach adulthood and attain the necessary maturity to process the evidence independently.

With this in mind, your ideas, opinions and personal experiences would be invaluable in enabling me to deal with either of these hypothetical conundrums should they ever arise.

Comments on a postcard (or even just in the Comments box below)… 🙂

This is Status Viatoris, currently ravaged by a very un-hypothetical hunger, so off to make some lunch, in Italy.

Freedom for EVERYONE


status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

If certain sources are to be believed; in this world there are Atheists and then there are militant Atheists – militant apparently being the term to describe those who actually verbalise their opinions and their perfectly valid reasons for holding such opinions (and presumably also those who beat up homosexuals, blow up abortion clinics, set out on murderous crusades, deliberately incinerate other people’s holy books, murder abortion doctors, detonate bombs, instigate mass suicide… ).

Essentially, anyone who is remotely vocal about their lack of belief in a deity, is often described as ‘militant’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘overly defensive’. Most often we are portrayed as the bully-boys of the party; our primary goal to pop the balloons and stomp spitefully on the cake of the nicer children; but in some parts of the developed world we are considered to be irredeemably beyond the pale in the evilness stakes, worse still than those bellicose Muslims.

Even setting aside the millennia during which the ‘faithful’ of the principal denominations have been attempting by more foul means than fair to ram their particular set of beliefs down the gullets of all and sundry, it still seems a little unjust that we Atheists are so vilified for speaking our comparatively innocuous minds.

Especially when taking into consideration that both the history of humanity and the huge leaps in scientific understanding go a long way in giving credence to our suspicions that the existence of a deity is, at the very best, unlikely; and that there are entirely rational, demonstrable and demonstrated explanations for our continued existence that render the necessity of a divine being obsolete.

Of course there are non-believers who do not feel the need to speak out, and that is fine, but those of us who do are not so much involved in a dastardly plan to convert everyone to our way of thinking, but simply a desire to free the world from the shackles of religious interference: to ensure that religious belief is a matter of personal choice that does not impinge either on public life or on the lives of those whose beliefs differ, and that it does not hold back the advances in logic, reason and freethinking.

In order to accomplish this goal, however, it is necessary to pick apart many of the corner stones of religion: holding it up to a  light that shines brightly on its flaws and its inconsistencies – how else are we to explain why we wholeheartedly reject something that many people consider to be vital to their existence? How else can we create an understanding as to why the world would be a better place if religion were unwoven from the fabric of public life, and relegated to the privacy of people’s minds, their homes or their specific places of worship?

(And if there are those who, through our arguments, find the answers and clarity of ideas that they feel had previously been lacking, then that is their right.)

I doubt there are many here in the West who feel that many of the monotheistic Muslim cultures wouldn’t be improved by a spot of secularism – the quality of life (especially that of their women) and the improved stability of the world in general could well be guaranteed by such a move.

But what about us?

“This is a Christian country!” – it is also a country that once believed independent and non-conformist women should be tried as witches, that women were the chattels of their spouses and that blood-letting cured most illnesses; that doesn’t make it right.

“This country was founded on Christian values!” – the fact that the majority of human societies, Christian or otherwise, exist and have always existed within similar moral frameworks is a inarguable indication that those values are innate to the survival of the species and not divinely inspired.

“Christianity is the religion of love!” – certainly the New Testament runs along slightly more compassionate lines than the Old, but bearing in mind that it has been kicking about for nearly two thousand years now, the benevolent and loving side has taken an inordinately long time to take real precedence – delayed interpretation, or a modern need to conform to the more human expectations of the developed world?

“Faith is a virtue and deserves our respect!” – the blind belief in something for which there is absolutely no evidence is a personal choice, not a virtue. But it can be respected, always providing that blind belief does not have an impact on the lives of those who prefer to choose more tangible reasoning.

Of course for every religious fundamentalist who feels that theirs is the only truth there are hundreds of other more moderate believers who happily subscribe to a live and let live philosophy; but in this ongoing tussle against religious dominance of any sort, distinctions simply cannot be made – it doesn’t matter how ‘loving’ your religion is, it has absolutely no place in the public arena.

And as long as there are people who think that impressionable children should be schooled in religious beliefs as ‘truths’, that one religious belief should be given precedence over others, that political parties of  powerful countries should be allowed to govern through religious dogma, and that the opinions of a band of mere men – set above normal people only by  ‘virtue’ of their teachings of blind faith in an unprovable hypothesis – should hold sway; the gradual chipping away at the religious stranglehold must continue.

It is the path to freedom for EVERYBODY.

This is Status Viatoris, holding in particular contempt the local Catholic priest who, coming across her sitting in the square minding her own business, imperiously ordered her to stand up out of respect to one of the endless Catholic processions that happened to be passing. Respect needs to be earned, little man.

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