The consecration of the Grenfell Tower

When future historians look back on the collapse of Britain, they may devote an entire section to the Grenfell Tower. It started as a human disaster born of poor cladding, bad regulations, unaccountable management, and an obsession with green initiatives but quickly became a quasi-religious symbol erected atop a hill on which the ruling classes are prepared to die.

Most of the country thought it was a crying shame then moved on, but many believed it symbolised the utter corruption of British politicians who encouraged mass immigration, hosed foreigners with welfare payments, and ignored wholesale fraud. These feelings were reinforced when professional hustlers, many of whom appeared to be foreign, took up the disaster as a stick with which to beat the government, demanding yet more concessions. On top of that, the charred remains became the focus of possibly the most brazen acts of fraud in British history. For instance:

So as many saw the Grenfell Tower as a symbol of the government’s worst policies, the ruling classes realised their most cherished beliefs – mass immigration, generous welfare payments, and multiculturalism – were under attack. Their reaction was as predictable as the fraud: they attempted to shut down all dissent. The trouble is, while it’s possible to place people in protected classes and criminalise any criticism of their behaviour, it is rather more difficult to do so in the case of an incident like a fire. I can think of many cases of a person being off-limits for mockery and derision; I can think of several objects which must not be disrespected in various parts of the world; I can also think of several government policies and actions which may not be discussed, let alone criticised. But I cannot think of a single instance anywhere in the world when something like a domestic fire was elevated to the status of a holy relic, placed beyond criticism on pain of criminal prosecution. Yet this is what the British ruling classes have done:

In short, the day before thousands of Brits burn an effigy of a Catholic man in celebration of his trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament, someone made a cardboard replica of the Grenfell Tower complete with people hanging out of windows and chucked it on a fire. They then made a video which was passed around on social media. It’s in rather poor taste I admit, but hardly something to concern the police in a country populated by adults. And were this to have been something else, say an effigy of Jacob-Rees Mogg or a bus full of Brexiteers, they’d not have batted an eyelid. But the Grenfell Tower has become a holy relic, and blasphemy is a matter of national importance:

Theresa May tweeted: “To disrespect those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower, as well as their families and loved ones, is utterly unacceptable.”

Unacceptable to whom? The sensibilities of the ruling classes, who know their entire catalogue of cherished beliefs is represented by that cardboard model?

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said the group’s actions were “beneath contempt”.

Was there anyone who held them in esteem?

Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Met’s Grenfell Tower investigation team, said any offences committed would be “fully investigated”.

“I am frankly appalled by the callous nature of the video posted online. To mock that disaster in such a crude way is vile,” he said.

I suspect Commander Stuart Cundy cares as much about the Grenfell Tower victims as his comrades in Rotherham did about the underage girls who were systematically gang-raped with their full knowledge. All he’s doing here is signalling to his masters he’s on-message, and smoothing the waters for when he’s confronted by the mob at the next public meeting. Whatever the case, his personal opinions are irrelevant: if he wants to talk about his feelings, he is free to sign up to Instagram and befriend some teenagers.

Now I’ve written before about how Britain has adopted the Soviet approach of “show me the man and I’ll show you the crime”, and sure enough:

Five men have been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence in connection with a model of Grenfell Tower being burned on a bonfire.

The Metropolitan Police said the men – two aged 49 and the others aged 19, 46 and 55 – handed themselves in at a south London station on Monday night.

A public order offence?

The men have been arrested under section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986, which covers intentional “harassment, alarm or distress” caused via the use of “threatening, abusive or insulting” words or signs.

If this legislation can be used to prosecute those who circulate a video mocking an incident which happened over a year ago, it can be used to shut down speech of any kind. The only reason it’s being brought to bear now, as opposed to when everyone else is insulted, mocked, and derided in appallingly bad taste, is because the Grenfell Tower is a holy relic in the religion of the ruling class. And right on cue, here’s a high priest who’s come to preach to us about sin, blasphemy, and holy punishment:

Moyra Samuels, part of the Justice For Grenfell campaign group, told the BBC the video was “a disgusting attack on vulnerable people”.

She added: “We have no doubt that there are actually decent, generous people across Britain and this actual act doesn’t represent ordinary British people.

“But there is a worrying rise of racism in this country at the moment. And that is concerning, because it’s now starting to impact on us directly, which means that we actually need to be thinking what we do about this, and how we respond to this as a whole.”

Were we asked to sign up to this new religion, or were we simply born into it like with Islam? ‘Cos I’d rather not have to listen to this imbecile lecture me on racism every time someone does something her priestly caste doesn’t like.

Under the Public Order Act, racially or religiously aggravated offences carry a prison sentence of up to two years, a fine or both.

Religiously aggravated, eh? See what I mean?

I think future historians will find this interesting not only because it signifies abject desperation on the part of the ruling classes, but also their departure from reality. I get the impression a lot of people are rather incensed that the entire country is supposed to be in perpetual mourning because, apparently, something was upsetting for Londoners. But just as nobody outside Liverpool cares much about Hillsborough, few outside Aberdeen or who aren’t in the oil industry are still traumatised by Piper Alpha, and hardly anyone remembers the Bradford stadium fire, Grenfell Tower isn’t something which non-Londoners care about that much. They certainly don’t expect the incident to occupy the national government to the point they’re reinstating blasphemy laws. Was this video even made in London? Had the fire happened in a tower block in Newcastle, you can be sure the police wouldn’t be running around arresting people over videos and the Prime Minister blubbering on Twitter.

As they lose their grip on power, the ruling classes cannot see beyond the capital, and attempt to appease only the noisiest mob outside the palace gates. They’re not alone in this, either in historical or contemporary terms, but it won’t end well. The trouble with those who start new religions is they often end up burned at the stake, usually when they’ve overestimated their numbers and begun to annoy everyone else.

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Modern Britain

There’s a lot going on in this story:

A community iftar meal traditionally held during Ramadan has this year been opened to members of the public.

Usually the only non-Muslims who flock to these events are politicians looking for a photo op. I’m curious as to who will show up to this one.

The free event has been organised by Qamar Abbas, president of UK Islamic Mission Solihull, and his team. He will also speak at the event, along with Idrees Sharif, vice president of UK Islamic Mission Midlands.

Taste Ramadan is an invitation to “share food and share friendship” and will take place at St Edburgha’s Church Hall in Church Road, Yardley, on Saturday, June 2.

Heh. This is either some serious high-level trolling, or Britain is being subject to a shit-test it’s failing miserably.

Confirmed attendees are councillors Babar Baz and Neil Eustace, West Midlands Police and representatives of several local churches including Stechford Baptist Church, All Saints Stechford and Corpus Christi RC Church.

I suppose this makes sense. Church attendances in Britain have been collapsing as proper Christians die off and the population switches to other forms of worship. Those running the Church of England and now even the Catholics seem little interested in taking religion seriously, so why not hand over the infrastructure to people who do? And how comforting to see Plod involved; we wouldn’t want them to miss out on free iftar food and not be on hand should anyone tweet something Islamophobic.

Mohammed Yasin, chairman of Stechford Mosque, some of whose congregation helped put together the event, said: “We have people from all religions and communities coming together to share an iftar meal and more.

“This is the first community iftar we have held in a church rather than a mosque and the first one we have opened up to the public. We hope to see people there from all walks of life.”

This all sounds rather positive. What’s not to like? Oh, wait:

He added: “This is a male-only event and the church has a capacity of 100 people.”

Over to you, feminists!

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Secular Muslims

This amused:

Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

Well, nobody could accuse the Turks of having a consistent understanding of the term “genocide”, so it’s unsurprising their president continues to struggle with it.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US. The announcement came as the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, inflaming protests on the Israeli border in Gaza.

This is also to be expected. As support for the Palestinians has waned in the Arab world, particularly among those countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Erdogan has stepped in to fill the void. In parallel, he seems keen to turn the once-secular Turkey into an authoritarian, low-level Islamist state along the lines of contemporary Iran. He may not go as far as the Mullahs but his reforms have seen Islam being shoved to forefront in areas such as education where it was previously absent, and I suspect it is a matter of time before women are unable to walk the streets in some areas without a headscarf. I note that Erdogan is in London at the moment on an official visit; strangely absent are protests over his jailing of journalists, persecution of political opponents, gutting of the judiciary, assault on civil liberties, and erosion of women’s rights. Let’s bear this in mind when Trump comes to visit. Personally, I’m disappointed that nobody from the British government has brought any of this up with Erdogan and the press don’t seem interested in doing so either, but between the current government and media it’s a toss-up between which is the more useless.

I was watching France 24 this morning and it showed a protest march through the streets of Istanbul in opposition to the opening of the new US embassy. They interviewed a woman decked out in a headscarf and carrying a plastic model of a mosque, who I suspect was Syrian rather than Turkish (a lot of refugees have crossed the border). She screamed that “Jerusalem was Muslim”, and if she had anything to say in addition, France 24 neglected to share it with us. However, before that they interviewed a man in his 50s who began with:

“As a Muslim, I…”

Us westerners are – correctly- encouraged not to lump all Muslims together as one homogeneous group, but these efforts are somewhat hampered by Muslims themselves.

A year or so back I met a Turkish lady here in Paris who was as westernised as it’s possible to get in terms of education, lifestyle, social relations, and political outlook. She ate pork, drank alcohol, and claimed she was totally secular. Having got to know her quite well, I believed her. And then Trump signed Executive Order 13769 prohibiting entry to the US for people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. My friend bought wholesale into the notion that this was a “Muslim ban” and she was incensed, because she believed it a result of blatant Islamaphobia on the part of Trump and, sooner or later, these policies were going to effect her. I had several lengthy, heated arguments with her during which I pointed out the seven countries were not selected because they have Muslim majorities but because the civil infrastructure has collapsed in each to the point they cannot verify who is coming and going from their end (Iran being the exception). She was having none of it, and believed she had a right to be concerned and angry at what she saw as a blatantly Islamaphobic policy.

I went away and thought about this. What has someone from Turkey got in common with someone from Libya, Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia? Absolutely nothing whatsoever, and the Turks would be first to insist upon it, but with one exception: Islam. The one and only reason a Turk would oppose US visa restrictions on someone from Sudan is out of Muslim solidarity; there is absolutely no other reason which could apply. So my next thought was why somebody claiming to be secular would be loudly championing the rights of people from collapsed nations in a state of civil war on the grounds of Muslim solidarity?

When I tell people I’m secular, I don’t follow that up by denouncing Trump’s border wall on the grounds that Mexicans are Christian. Nor do I back the Philippines in their territorial disputes with China out of religious solidarity. When I say I’m secular, it means my nominal Christianity does not influence my political or social opinions in any way. But to my friend it seemed to mean something else, so I confronted her. Her first reaction was one of utter shock; she didn’t seem to have realised there was any contradiction in claiming to be secular one minute and raving about Trump’s “Muslim ban” the next. When it dawned on her, she got quite upset.

I realised then what I’d probably known since I lived in the Middle East all those years ago: a secular Muslim is quite different from a secular anything else, and often not very secular at all. I’d noticed back then how often I’d meet a very modern, westernised Lebanese, Egyptian, or Arab who would for all outward appearances be very secular. Then without warning they’d start raving about the Jews, or swearing the Koran represents the word of God. And I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of western or Russian women getting involved with modern, secular Muslim men only to find they’re nothing of the sort.

But the experience with my Turkish friend was perhaps the most interesting. Here was the most secular Muslim you could ever hope to meet, and one would have thought she would have recognised the elected US government’s right to set visa policy and understood their security concerns. Yet when push came to shove, her being Muslim mattered and that came before anything else. It’s worth bearing this in mind over the coming years as Ataturk’s secular republic slowly gets replaced with something else. It’s also worth remembering when we’re told not to treat Muslims as a homogeneous bloc.

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Prodnose Priests

Last October I said:

A couple of years back I realised that middle-class snobbery is what drives so much social and political campaigning these days. Probably the best example is the campaign to reduce sugar in people’s diets – for their own good, of course. It is always fizzy drinks and sugary snacks that get cited, never fancy desserts.

Who is trending on Twitter this week, leading the charge in campaigning for the government to introduce new laws aimed at restricting certain foodstuffs in the name of tackling obesity?

I’m sure the lower classes, who are forever blamed for putting a burden on the NHS with their delinquent lifestyles, are delighted to have former Etonian and Oxford graduate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall telling them how to live. Naturally, multi-millionaire Jamie Oliver is four-square behind him:

Albeit looking rather porky himself. Maybe he should do a little less meddling in other people’s lives and hit the gym? And speaking of Jamie Oliver:

Mr Oliver told BBC Breakfast that he does not ban junk food in his home, but that it is only eaten by his children as a “treat”.

Ah, so he’s free to feed his own fucking brats whatever shit they demand, but the choices of other parents ought to be reigned in by the government.

I’ve said this before, these dickheads would be a lot better off going to church. There they can do all the moral posturing they like, and receive assurances of their virtue from someone who is paid to deliver them. People are fond of saying that religion has declined in Britain, but I disagree: all it’s done is take other forms. The prodnosery, meddling, hand-wringing, and moral sneering at those considered less virtuous is alive and well, it’s just the clothes worn by the high priests are different.

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Rape Culture, Religion & the Bible. But just the Bible.

Via reader Rob Harries, an article claiming Jesus was sexually abused:

The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a “supreme punishment” and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment.

Right, but where was the sexual abuse? I mean, if the Romans had set out to sexually abuse the Son of God, they would have done something which everyone would recognise as such, and not nail him to a cross and rely on some dingbat academics to interpret it two millenia later. It’s not like the Romans lacked imagination when it came to cruel and unusual punishments, is it?

The convention in Christian art of covering Christ’s nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.

Very different? Will this be the plot of the next Dan Brown thriller?

“Renkowned undergarment expert Robert Langdon uncovers a terrible truth the Vatican have kept secret for centuries when he stumbles upon a skid-marked loincloth buried in the basement of the Louvre that he can prove was torn from Jesus moments before he was crucified.”

I’m getting good at this blurb writing, aren’t I?

This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.

Ah. This is all about bashing Christians who aren’t woke enough. But just Christians, though. Yeah, because they’re the ones who keep turning up in courtrooms charged with rape and sexual assault.

Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified.

Perhaps, but I’m confident not even the most miserable medieval peasant was ever tortured as much as this argument.

The scene highlights the vulnerability of the naked prisoner who is stripped and exposed in front of the assembled ranks of hostile Roman soldiers.

Those Romans who were famous for their communal baths and shithouses?

The scene also hints at the possibility of even greater sexualised violence which might be in store.

The authors’ argument for overturning centuries of Christian thought is based on what is hinted at in an episode of a TV series.

Analysis of the gendering of nakedness by Margaret R. Miles demonstrates that we view male and female nakedness differently.

As Patricia Arquette allegedly said: “Things you’ll never hear a woman say: ‘My, what an attractive scrotum!’”

Some present day Christians are still reluctant to accept that Jesus was a victim of sexual violence and seem to consider sexual abuse as an exclusively female experience.

The sexual abuse of Jesus is a missing part of Passion and Easter story retellings.

Rather than trying to convince people that Jesus was sexually abused in the absence of any biblical or historical evidence, these academics might want to look at what the Bible has to say about hubris and conceit.

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False Idols

In July I wrote about faith in secular societies.:

I mentioned climate change because this seems to be the aspect of modern politics in supposedly secular countries which most closely resembles a religion. Once again, we have the sacred texts, the high priests, the apostates, punishment of unbelievers, calls for sacrifices, and indoctrination all wrapped up in a great moral crusade stretching beyond our lifetimes that secures the blind faith of the followers. It makes me laugh when I hear atheists refer to “Science!” when talking about climate change: these people are no more able to challenge the pronouncements of the scientists, whose words have been filtered through the media and politicians, than a medieval peasant was able to challenge the high priests’ interpretations of sacred texts. They are as much wedded to faith as their devout ancestors, but they don’t realise it.

Below is a tweet from fake Indian Elizabeth Warren:

Elizabeth Warren is no more able to verify a climate scientist is accurately interpreting data than an illiterate farmer could tell if a bishop was faithfully reading the words of the bible. As for the message, a climate scientist is equally likely to spout self-serving guff as any high priest that’s walked this Earth, safe in the knowledge the average worshiper has no way of challenging them and in any case wouldn’t dare.

At least yer average medieval peasant had some useful survival skills at his disposal. What’s Warren got that’s useful, other than high cheekbones and more neck than a giraffe?

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Natural Limits

To kick this post off, here’s a photo of the world’s largest dump truck, the BelAz 75710 made in Belarus.

I once read that a rubber tyre with a diameter larger than about 18 feet (5.4m) quickly becomes impractical. Similarly, even though an Airbus A380 is considerably larger than the Wright brothers’ flyer, nobody has built an aeroplane a mile long capable of carrying several thousand passengers. We’re probably approaching the limit on ship size, and although skyscrapers are getting ever-taller they’ll top-out eventually. My point is that there is a limit to things, and in these examples they are governed by the laws of physics and the physical properties of materials, air, and water.

Some things don’t scale, and even when they do, it’s not necessarily in a linear manner. I first went to Singapore when I was 23 and couldn’t believe how well-run the place was. My first thought was that everywhere should be run as well as Singapore, using the same methods. Now I’m a bit older I realise that running a city state of 5.6m people condensed into an island of 278 square miles isn’t the same as running a country of 70m people spread across 93,600 square miles. As societies grow from families to tribes to towns to cities to nation states, different methods of maintaining cohesion and control are needed at each step. In short, human societies don’t scale.

In my previous post I wrote about the behaviour of Pope Francis. Now if the Pope can’t be bothered defending the Catholic church and prefers to pander to people who will, once they have the numbers, kill his followers and burn his palace to the ground, it’s a sign that things have gone badly wrong somewhere. I cite this because it exemplifies what is going on in the western world today: every single major institution I can think of seems to be in the final throes of self-destruction, abject surrender to its enemies, or suicide. Many of these institutions have for centuries formed the foundation of western societies and have contributed substantially to their success, yet they are being destroyed by the very people who have been charged with their guardianship.

I’ve spent a while thinking about this and I reckon it has something to do with what I described earlier. Just as mechanical systems run into physical limitations beyond which they don’t work, there is probably a point beyond which human societies simply fail to hold themselves together and self-destruct. Human’s are odd creatures, and thrive when faced with hardship. The capacity of humans to overcome the most appalling conditions and adapt in order to survive is incredible, matched only by our ability to constantly seek to improve our lives. There is an optimum level of stress for humans: too much and we can’t function beyond the basics to stay alive, but too little and we become equally useless.

Insofar as western, Christian societies have gone most societal and technological advances appear to have come about as a result of people wanting to ensure Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are not only met, but permanently assured – particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid. These societies have become so wealthy that Maslow’s needs are now met by default for tens of millions of people. Furthermore, this has been going on so long that anyone born in western society who ever worried about these things is well over seventy. Anyone younger than that, generally speaking, has had the easiest ride in the entire history of mankind.

It is probably no coincidence that it’s these younger people who now seem so determined to destroy the foundations of the society they’ve been raised in. I found when I lived in under-developed countries that people there are completely unconcerned about the minutiae of politics; they are only interested in the important matters that directly affect them and their families. As an example, the only people in the entire world interested in transgender rights are white, western liberals. For everyone else, it is simply a non-issue. Russians were mainly interested in their salaries, their mothers’ pensions, and the price of a decent car. Nigerians were chiefly concerned about their salaries, job security, and the levels of violence and corruption in their country. People who come from places where the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are not assured tend to focus on important issues and ignore the rest.

So I have a theory. Just as a you can’t use a rubber tyre beyond 18 feet in diameter due to natural limitations, there is a limit to which human societies can grow in terms of wealth and comfort. Beyond a certain point, the bonds which hold the society together, which have been painstakingly constructed over centuries, get cut because people no longer realise what they’re for and the whole thing collapses. It might be that this societal limit is relative – either in terms of other societies around it, or perhaps the rate of change from earlier generations – but I am reasonably sure that such a limit nonetheless exists.

One thing I notice in the language of progressives is a hubristic certainty that their version of society, once shaped, will last forever because there is nothing left to discuss, as if their vision is inevitable. Personally, I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of advancement from this point on; I don’t think we’re going to be looking at a future of interstellar travel and permanent luxury, but a world where everyone now needs to remember how much hard work, cooperation, and violence is required to get the bottom of that pyramid of needs met. Perhaps in time humankind will recover from the setback and rebuild, just as Europeans eventually managed to meet and then surpass the levels of sophistication the Romans achieved, but it may take centuries if not longer.

I might be wrong, but there is one thing I am absolutely sure of. Historians will look back on this era and prevailing opinions regarding matters such as immigration, religion, political violence, war, economics, taxation, redistribution, procreation, welfare, race, law and order, and politics and marvel at how we blindly assumed western civilisation would survive. I’d also make a tidy bet they too will talk about how the collapse was inevitable once we’d reached a certain level of wealth and comfort. I concede they might not use a dump truck to illustrate the point, though.

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Is the Pope Catholic?

I found this article illuminating:

Pope Francis has urged Roman Catholics not to ignore the plight of millions of migrants “driven from their land”, during Christmas Eve Mass.

The pontiff compared them to Mary and Joseph, recounting the Biblical story of how they travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem but found no place to stay.

He has made defence of migrants around the world a major theme of his papacy.

If the Pope is shoehorning the story of Mary and Joseph – a couple who found themselves short of a bed for one night when travelling in their own country to attend a census – into a sermon praising open borders, then it’s a good sign he doesn’t take Christianity very seriously and has little interest in maintaining the Catholic church. This is especially the case since a good portion of the migrants he wishes to welcome are not Christians and likely view him, his words, and his organisation with utter contempt.

Pope Francis, the leader of roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, is himself the grandson of Italian migrants. He said many of today’s refugees were fleeing from leaders who “see no problem in shedding innocent blood”.

If only the masses differed from their leaders, eh? Only every time the leadership changes, often replaced by someone drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, the result is much the same. It’s almost as if the culture, itself an aggregate of the people, is the problem, isn’t it? Which is why so many of these supposed refugees themselves “see no problem in shedding innocent blood”.

There are more than 22 million refugees worldwide. The latest cross-border influx involves the Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar.

Oh yes, we mustn’t forget the Rohingya. Whoever’s doing their PR is lavishing the BBC hacks with lunches somewhere.

The Pope visited Myanmar last month and later met members of the Muslim minority who had sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

So the Pope saw fit to pander to Muslims but remained utterly silent on the plight of Christians, such as Egypt’s Copts, in Muslim lands. Which religion is he representing, again?

The Pope stressed that faith demanded that foreigners be welcomed everywhere.

The Pope is implying this is some ancient religious tenet, whereas it’s nothing more than a shallow political viewpoint which only came into existence in my lifetime. Those walls around the Vatican and the Swiss guards protecting the entrances are there for a reason, and they’re a lot older than Pope Francis.

At Midnight Mass in Bethlehem, local Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa condemned President Trump’s decision and said Jerusalem could not be a city of peace if people were excluded.

Moving an embassy excludes people, does it? One would have thought an Archbishop of Bethlehem would be clued-up enough on Jerusalem’s history to know which parties in the region have excluded people from it, but this is where we are.

Is it any wonder that Christianity has collapsed across Europe and other advanced nations when the heads of Christian organisations seem to have no confidence in their religion and sound like they’d rather belong to another?

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Britain’s Secular Youth

A common lament among old religious folk is that youngsters don’t subscribe to the faith with the same level of enthusiasm as previous generations. For instance:

Up to one in five patients are regularly missing GP appointments in Scotland, with younger people the worst offenders, new research has found.

A study of more than 500,000 people in the country, published in the journal The Lancet Public Health, shows young males are most likely to not attend.

Younger, male patients aged 16 to 30 were found to be the worst offenders.

Here’s what a local priest has to say:

Stockport GP Ranjit Gill believes there has been a shift in how the health service is seen by a younger “I want it now” generation.

“The NHS is now, for our younger population, seen as a consumer service, a bit like John Lewis and so perhaps valued differently to the way our older population see the NHS.

“I can’t think of the last time one of my older patients ever missed an appointment.”

Time for some fire and brimstone:

GP practices across the country are already implementing some successful schemes to reduce missed appointments, from text messaging reminders to better patient education and awareness posters detailing the unintended consequences of a patient not attending.

And appeals to the faithful to fill the coffers once again:

But ultimately, we need NHS England’s GP Forward View – promising £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs – to be delivered in full and as a matter of urgency.

“And we need equivalent promises made and delivered in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that we can deliver the care our patients need, whatever their circumstances, and wherever in the country they live.

The answer to this ought to be simple: charge people a nominal fee when they book a doctor’s appointment. However, we might have better luck asking the Catholic Church to promote abortions.

(Note also that the article begins with the problem of patients missing appointments in Scotland, and ends with English GPs demanding the immediate delivery of an additional £2.4bn per year.)

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Faith in Secular Societies

For someone who is secular, agnostic if pushed, I don’t go in for the wholesale bashing of religion. I don’t much like religions’ political manifestations, as we see with Islam these days, and I also don’t like many religious organisations and the compulsions they impose. But the overall concept I don’t have a problem with, especially if practiced at the personal level.

For whatever reason, every society in existence has worshipped something or other, and this has been the case for millennia. There is something about the human condition which makes belief in higher beings very attractive, and it’s probably better just to accept this rather than argue logic with a few billion people who disagree. In my opinion, challenging somebody on their religious beliefs is like challenging them on their music tastes: it is purely subjective, and people differ. I have no idea why people like jazz – to me it sounds like a truck loaded with saucepans having a bad accident outside a pet shop which is on fire – but it’s extremely popular and it would be stupid to ignore that. Likewise, religion is undoubtedly popular even if I don’t really get it.

My guess is religions’ primary appeal is in dealing with mortality and providing an explanation for things beyond human control, particularly those they didn’t understand (or still don’t). At various points religions evolved into a method of organising society and controlling people, but that appealed more to the would-be leaders than the followers. On that basis, I understand why people are religious. I wrote here about the spirituality of farmers, which is perfectly understandable when your entire livelihood is in the hands of the Gods, so to speak.

Although there are plenty of individuals who don’t believe, I’m not sure there are any genuinely secular societies. One of the things I have observed over the years is that some of the most fundamentalist believers claim to be atheist, and societies that call themselves secular sign up to faith-based worship with as much enthusiasm as anyone. It is true that they might not adhere to the tenants of an organised religion as we know it, but it is nonetheless faith-based worship.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the rise of liberal politics, particularly those related to climate change, happened at the same time traditional religions were in decline in the countries concerned and the Soviet Union was no longer around. The Soviets used to claim they were secular, but their entire system was as much a religion as any, complete with sacred texts, sermons, symbols of worship, saints, martyrs, high priests, apostates, indoctrination, compulsion, punishment of non-believers, and ideas of morality, with the whole lot held together by the blind faith and belief of the masses that this was how they should live. For many people who turned their backs on traditional religion, Socialism provided a ready alternative. And then it all came to a crashing halt.

Only people need to believe. If tomorrow somebody demonstrated that the entire basis of Christianity or Islam was false, we wouldn’t suddenly find ourselves inundated with atheists: they’d simply find something else to worship, a task that would be complete by this time next week. Religion is astonishingly resilient and ubiquitous precisely because so many people want and need it.

So with Soviet-style socialism discredited, non-religious people had to find something else to believe in, and that was liberal politics. Have you noticed how the religious right tend to see politics as part of life, and not life in its entirety? Whereas much of the left see politics as the start, middle, and end of absolutely everything. Most of the right wingers I know can rub along well enough with those who think differently, because ultimately it doesn’t matter that much to them: family, friends, and work comes first. But even supposedly moderate lefties tend to impose political purity tests on anyone they come into contact with, restricting friends, colleagues, and even family members to those who agree with them, and shunning those who don’t. Take a look at the Corbynistas, or the anti-Trump brigades in the US: no dissent or disagreement of any kind is tolerated, and results in excommunication and abuse. It might not be religion as such, but it is a very good approximation of one.

I mentioned climate change because this seems to be the aspect of modern politics in supposedly secular countries which most closely resembles a religion. Once again, we have the sacred texts, the high priests, the apostates, punishment of unbelievers, calls for sacrifices, and indoctrination all wrapped up in a great moral crusade stretching beyond our lifetimes that secures the blind faith of the followers. It makes me laugh when I hear atheists refer to “Science!” when talking about climate change: these people are no more able to challenge the pronouncements of the scientists, whose words have been filtered through the media and politicians, than a medieval peasant was able to challenge the high priests’ interpretations of sacred texts. They are as much wedded to faith as their devout ancestors, but they don’t realise it.

I find modern politics, particularly in the west where Christianity is in decline, is a lot easier to understand if you consider it simply as an alternative to traditional religion. All the elements are there, and the behaviours are wholly expected. None of this ought to be surprising, and I am sure I’m not the first to notice it.

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