Posts Tagged ‘floods’

Ukip Shipping Forecast

21/01/2014

SilvesterFloods

Further to my recent post challenging some of the country’s “top” theologians to say a word in public to denounce Ukip’s David Silvester’s decidedly Old Testament take on the recent storms and floods that have been battering the country, you can listen to a very amusing spoof edition by Nicholas Pegg of the Shipping Forecast here.

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Ukip councillor David Silvester displays a disgraceful lack of ‘scholarship’ in the face of Britain’s recent floods. But will the ‘scholars’ actually correct him on it?

19/01/2014

SilvesterFloods

Ukip councillor David Silvester has recently drawn a link between meteorology and morality by publishing a letter saying that he warned prime minster David Cameron last year that Britain would face a spot of the old divine judgment for passing gay marriage laws that fly the face of the Bible’s teachings of a kind that The Right Reverend Graham Dow drew in response to the flooding in his North Yorkshire constituency in July 2007.  Silvester’s comments have been widely reported by the World’s media: BBC News, ITV News, Channel 4, The Daily Mail, Toronto Sun, London Evening Standard, The Huffington Post.

This from The Daily Telegraph’s report:

David Silvester, who defected from the Conservatives in protest at David Cameron’s support for same-sex unions, claimed he had warned the Prime Minister that the legislation would result in “disasters”.

The Henley-on-Thames councillor said that the country had been “beset by storms” since the passage of the new law on gay marriage because Mr Cameron had acted “arrogantly against the Gospel”.

In a letter to the Henley Standard he wrote: “The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.

“I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill.

“But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.”

Blaming the Prime Minister for the bad weather, he added: “It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.

“He has arrogantly acted against the Gospel that once made Britain ‘great’ and the lesson surely to be learned is that no man or men, however powerful, can mess with Almighty God with impunity and get away with it for everything a nation does is weighed on the scaled of divine approval or disapproval.”

In my recent post deriding theology as a proper academic discipline, I drew on my review of Christian apologist Peter S Williams’ response to the New Atheists, A Sceptic’s Guide To Atheism and criticised the theologians for being all theory and no practice:

Avoiding the real issues

Williams’ contribution is fatally flawed along with the other “flea” books by self-proclaimed “scholars”, because it only addresses barely a quarter of the arguments of the Four Horsemen, namely whether or not God exists, without saying a word in defence of the effects of organised religion on the world.

Unfortunately, religion is not just about the sophisticated ponderings of scholars in ivory towers debating the finer points of the Trinity.  It has an effect on every single one of us, whether we like it or not.

(…)

Like all theology and religious philosophising, Williams’ new book is all theory and precious little practice.  Accordingly, there is nothing about the foul rantings of Falwell and Robertson, the teaching of junk-science in schools classrooms, the destruction of the Twin Towers, the abuse of children by hell-fire preaching clergymen and the discouraging of condom use by the Catholic Church in sub-Saharan African where c. 3 million people die of HIV/AIDS each year.

The simple fact is that Williams’ subtle brand of nuanced religion has very little impact on the way that religion is actually practised.  Alistair McGrath got his feathers all ruffled in response to Dawkins and bleated on (at probably more speaking engagements than he was invited to in his career preceding publication of The God Delusion) about the importance of challenging those who take an overly literalist approach to the scriptures.

Yet when, in July 2007, the Bishop of Carlisle informed us all that the floods in Northern Yorkshire were divine retribution for laws permitting homosexual marriage did McGrath say a word in public to admonish the Right Reverend Graham Dow for his unsophisticated take on matters?  Like hell he did!

I believe that comments of the kind made by the Bishop of Carlisle and David Silvester would be perfect opportunities for “serious scholars” to confront head-on the “extremists” of their own faiths and show that they are prepared to police their religions rather than leaving it up to the godless heretics to do so in their “shrill” and “strident” fashion.

I have therefore sent the link to this post to four of the “fleas” who railed against the New Atheists for their supposed failure to engage with the best of Christian “scholarship” in their books: Alister McGrath (author of The Dawkins Delusion?), David Robertson (author of The Dawkins Letters), John Cornwell (author of Darwin’s Angel) and Peter S Williams (author of A Sceptic’s Guide To Atheism), inviting them to issue a public denunciation of Silvester of the kind they singularly failed to do in the face of the then Bishop of Carlisle’s shockingly unsubtle, Old Testament take on the situation.

I have also forwarded the post to the host Premier Christian Radio’s sceptical debate show, Unbelievable?, Justin Brierley and former opponents, Andy Bannister and Peter Harris.

My covering emails are in the comments section and I will publish any response I receive.

“Scholars”: Please prove me wrong so I can find another pastime.

Religion’s love affair with bad weather and seismic disasters is still very much alive and well

17/01/2010

manicstreetpreacher rolls his eyes at the latest verdict of divine retribution.

Crackpot US televangelist demagogue and all round nasty piece of work, the “reverend” Pat Robertson last week dubbed the recent earthquake in Haiti as “a blessing in disguise” and was God’s punishment for the Haitian slaves’ revolt against their French colonial masters in 1791 which only succeeded because they entered into “a pact with the devil”.  Robertson made his comments on his ghastly outlet of religious bigotry The 700 Club on 13 January 2010:

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it…  They were under the heel of the French.  You know, Napoleon III, or whatever.  And they got together and swore a pact to the devil.  They said, we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.  True story.  And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal.  And they kicked the French out, you know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.  But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.  That island of Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle.  On the one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican Republic.  Dominican Republic is, is, prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.  Haiti is in desperate poverty.  Same island, uh, they need to have, and we need to pray for them, a great turning to God.  Out of this tragedy, I’m optimistic something good may come, but right now we’re helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable.

This is not the first time the “good reverend” has made a link between seismology and morality.  In 2005, the Dover District school board who forced Intelligent Design into school textbooks and were sued by several students’ parents in the Kitzmiller –v- Dover District P A “Intelligent Design trial” were voted out of office by the schools’ parents before the judgment was handed down by the court.  Robertson told the town of Dover not to expect the protection of God if something bad happened in their neighbour because they had forced God out of their lives:

I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city.  And don’t wonder why he hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin.  I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city.  And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because He might not be there.

In a written statement, Robertson later “clarified” his comments:

God is tolerant and loving, but we can’t keep sticking our finger in His eye forever.  If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin.  Maybe he can help them.

This is just the latest episode in religion’s love affair with natural disaster.  Many fundamentalist Christians saw Hurricane Katrina as a punishment from God for our sin and rebellion from God.  Odd that the historic red-light district was left relatively unscathed, just as the fact that the largest and most devastating earthquake in San Francisco was in 1906: decades before it ceased being a heterosexual city.

Of course Robertson himself was credited (if that’s the right word) with saying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on New Orleans since it is the hometown of lesbian actress Ellen DeGeneres who was hosting the upcoming Emmy Awards ceremony that year.  Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion speculates whether this story could be true given Robertson’s track record.  However, it is most likely an invention of the website Dateline: Hollywood that has passed into urban myth.

Let’s not forget that former Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend Graham Dow pronounced the summer 2007 North Yorkshire floods as:

[A] strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way.  We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.

We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate.

In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as “the beast”, which sets itself up to control people and their morals.  Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want.

The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness.  We are in a situation where we are liable for God’s judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.

[The problem with] environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate.

As the Hitch rightly pointed out in his debate against Christian theologian Alistair McGrath at Georgetown, Washington, shortly after the Bishop’s comments:

If there was a connection between metrology and morality, and religion has very often argued that there is, I don’t see why the floods hit northern Yorkshire.  I can think of some parts of London where they would have done a lot more good.

Writing in The Independent, Thomas Sutcliffe compared the Bishop of Carlisle to the attempted suicide bomber who drove a truckload of explosives into the side of Glasgow Airport at the same time as the floods:

That wannabe martyr – his 72 expectant virgins currently tapping their fingers impatiently in Paradise – had a head wreathed in fire and a Molotov cocktail in his hand.  The Bishop of Carlisle is a diocesan bishop in the Church of England, not a sect commonly associated with acts of terror, while the as-yet-unnamed jihadi is, one guesses, an adherent of Wahabi Islam, a sect which very much is. And yet, on a spiritual level, it seems that they do share one thing.  They both believe in a vindictive God…

The logic of this seems to suggest that God is prepared to kill innocent people in order to get his message across.  And if the Bishop is right, it isn’t just us that God is disappointed with.  He’s furious with the people of Pakistan, where serious flooding has left 900,000 homeless, and Afghanistan, where 80 have died in recent storms, and Kansas and Texas, too, where floods have devastated communities and left people homeless.  Then again, with a killer this “indiscriminate” about collateral damage, only a bishop could be sure what the message is.

Of course, there are important differences between the bishop and the Glasgow attacker.  The bishop restricts himself to condoning the actions of a terrorist God, while the human fireball appointed himself as a direct tool of divine wrath.  It’s hardly a distinction to be sneezed at in these dangerous times.  But it’s not quite enough to quell the sense that the bishop finds himself in a distant intellectual kinship with the suicide bomber – both worshippers of a God who communicates through the deaths of innocents.

One of the objections I constantly come up against in debates is the argument from “that’s not my God or my religion you’re attacking” from believers who accuse atheists of taking scripture too much at face value.  Religious moderates may not take stories such as Noah’s Ark and Sodom and Gomorrah literally, but there are plenty of hardcore religious believers who do!  They are the people who clearly believe in Richard Dawkins’ assessment of the God of the Old Testament: “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

And they are the people I would rather be kept out of my newspapers or on my television set.

Afterthought

While proofing this piece, I came across Miranda Celeste Hale’s superb response to Rex Murphy’s piece on the National Post website.  Murphy had condemned Robertson for providing Dawkins and Hitchens with more ammunition:

He, Robertson, fulfils every agitated secularist’s caricature of a “dedicated” Christian.  If Pat Robertson didn’t exist, Richard Dawkins (with a little midwifery from Christopher Hitchens) would have to give birth to him.

Hale’s rejoinder to Murphy beautifully captures the “Oh, atheists just pick on the worst case example” card from religious moderates I eluded to above:

Robertson is no caricature.  Quite the opposite, in fact: he embodies and espouses the contents of the Bible on a daily basis.  Self-proclaimed “enlightened” Christians can try to deny this all they like.  They can claim to be the “real Christians,” the ones who understand that the Bible, when interpreted “correctly,” teaches that God is actually a loving and benevolent deity.  In a self-serving manner, these Murphy-ites choose to ignore the violent, sadistic, and cruel nature of the God of the Old Testament, arguing that Robertson and his ilk just don’t get it and that they provide a convenient and easy target for those writers and commentators who are brave enough to question and criticize the automatic and undeserved privilege, respect, and power that is granted to Christianity in public and political discourse.  This claim allows Murphy to casually dismiss with a wave of his smug hand the multitude of completely valid criticisms that these writers (and many others) have made…

How, exactly, does Murphy know who is a “real” Christian and who is not?  If Murphy is going to play the “real Christian” game, then I’ll play, too: if anyone’s a “real” Christian, it’s Pat Robertson, the living, breathing embodiment of the Bible.  The Murphy-ites can deny it until they are blue in the face, but the simple fact is that Robertson perfectly personifies and unashamedly displays the contemptible attitudes and the nasty characteristics of their shared imaginary friend.

Try as they might, those who claim to be “enlightened”, “real” Christians cannot, in the end, distance themselves from the vile and vicious God of their “Good Book” without practicing a galling level of intellectual dishonesty.  In that sense, Robertson is the honest one here.  He’s an utterly contemptible and awful person to be sure, but it cannot be said that he does not practice exactly what he preaches.

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