Sunday, April 12, 2009

Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity

A week ago, there were Palm Sunday processions all over the world. Near my house in North London is a parish with two churches. About 70 or 80 of us gathered at one of these buildings to collect our palms. We were told by the priest: 'Where we are standing in Kentish Town does not look much like a Judaean hillside, and the other church to which we are walking does not look much like Jerusalem. But as we go, holding our palms, let us try to imagine the first Palm Sunday.'

And so we set off, singing All Glory, Laud And Honour! and holding up our palm crosses, to the faint bemusement of passersby, who looked out of their windows at us, tooted their horns as we blocked the traffic or smiled from sunny pavements. We were walking, as it were, in the footsteps of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey while crowds threw palms before him. Except our journey was along the pavements strewn with the usual North London discarded syringes, chewing gum and Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes.

When we had reached our destination, a small choir and two priests sang the whole of St Mark's account of the last week of Jesus's life - that part of the Gospel that is called The Passion. It is said the chant used for this recitation dates back to the music used in the Jewish Temple in Jesus's day.

We heard of his triumphal, palm-strewn procession into Jerusalem, his clash with the Temple authorities, his agonised prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, his arrest by the Roman guards, his torture, his trial before Pontius Pilate, his Crucifixion and his death.

So there we were, all believers, and a disparate group of people, of various ages, races and classes, re-enacting once more this extraordinary story. A story of a Jewish prophet falling foul of the authorities in an eastern province of the Roman Empire, and being punished, as were thousands of Jews during the governorship of Pontius Pilate, by the gruesome torture of crucifixion.

This Easter weekend we revisit the extraordinary ending of that story - the discovery by some women friends of Jesus that his tomb was empty. And we read of the reactions of the disciples - fearful, incredulous, but eventually believing that, as millions of Christians will proclaim tomorrow morning: 'The Lord is risen indeed!'

But how many in Britain today actually believe the story? Most recent polls have shown that considerably less than half of us do - yet that won't, of course, stop us tucking into Easter eggs (symbolising new life) and simnel cake (decorated with 11 marzipan balls representing the 11 true disciples, with Judas missing).

For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever. Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been 'conned' by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.

Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity? Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti. To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio. It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion. The vast majority of media pundits and intelligentsia in Britain are unbelievers, many of them quite fervent in their hatred of religion itself.

The Guardian's fanatical feminist-in-chief, Polly Toynbee, is one of the most dismissive of religion and Christianity in particular. She is president of the British Humanist Association, an associate of the National Secular Society and openly scornful of the millions of Britons who will quietly proclaim their faith in Church tomorrow.

'Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?' she asked in a puerile article decrying the wickedness of C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories, which have bewitched children for more than 50 years. Or, to take another of her utterances: 'When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains.'

The sneering Ms Toynbee, like Richard Dawkins, believes in rational explanations for our existence and behaviour. She is deeply committed to the Rationalist Association, but her approach to religion is too fanatical to be described as rational. Perhaps it goes back to her relationship with her nice old dad, Philip Toynbee, a Thirties public school Marxist who, before he died, made the hesitant journey from unbelief to a questing Christianity.

The Polly Toynbees of this world ignore all the benign aspects of religion and see it purely as a sinister agent of control, especially over women. One suspects this is how it is viewed in most liberal circles, in university common rooms, at the BBC and, perhaps above all, sadly, by the bishops of the Church of England, who despite their episcopal regalia, nourish few discernible beliefs that could be distinguished from the liberalism of the age.

For ten or 15 of my middle years, I, too, was one of the mockers. But, as time passed, I found myself going back to church, although at first only as a fellow traveller with the believers, not as one who shared the faith that Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Some time over the past five or six years - I could not tell you exactly when - I found that I had changed. When I took part in the procession last Sunday and heard the Gospel being chanted, I assented to it with complete simplicity.

My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age. Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.

But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known - not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die. The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people's lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.

Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love - whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends - and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.

Ah, say the rationalists. But no one can possibly rise again after death, for that is beyond the realm of scientific possibility. And it is true to say that no one can ever prove - nor, indeed, disprove - the existence of an after-life or God, or answer the conundrums of honest doubters (how does a loving God allow an earthquake in Italy?)

Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic. Nor is it irrational. On the contrary, it meets our reason and our hearts together, for it addresses the whole person.

In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it. Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman Empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.

Historians of Roman and Jewish law have argued at length about the details of Jesus's trial - and just how historical the Gospel accounts are. Anyone who believes in the truth must heed the fine points that such scholars unearth. But at this distance of time, there is never going to be historical evidence one way or the other that could dissolve or sustain faith. Of course, only hard evidence will satisfy the secularists, but over time and after repeated readings of the story, I've been convinced without it.

And in contrast to those ephemeral pundits of today, I have as my companions in belief such Christians as Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson and all the saints, known and unknown, throughout the ages. When that great saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England, was on trial for his life for daring to defy Henry VIII, one of his prosecutors asked him if it did not worry him that he was standing out against all the bishops of England. He replied: 'My lord, for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine.'

Now, I think of that exchange and of his bravery in proclaiming his faith. Our bishops and theologians, frightened as they have been by the pounding of secularist guns, need that kind of bravery more than ever. Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.

As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational. Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat.

The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story. J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it.

But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives - the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.


Pirates Test the ‘Rule of Law’

To be civilized, we must be strong.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

When Somali Muslim pirates raided the Alabama on Wednesday, the U.S.-flagged cargo ship was cruising the Indian Ocean en route to Mombassa. The 21 Americans in the crew were trying to deliver tons of food and other agricultural materials for the World Food Program, to be distributed among destitute Muslims in that Kenyan port city, and beyond.

“Hearts and minds” — that has been the theme music of the anti-anti-terrorism chorus for eight years. George W. Bush freed 50 million Muslims from tyranny and gave them a chance to make better lives even as the rigors of doing so devoured his presidency — all the while launching, for Africa, the most generously funded program for AIDS prevention and treatment in history. For his trouble, he was branded an unfeeling, unilateralist cowboy by Democrats and the international Left, the erstwhile champions of nation-building and universal health care.

His successor has been only too quick to cement the slander. When not bowing to the Saudi monarch (admittedly, only slightly more nauseating than Bush’s “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” jaunt with His Oil Highness), Pres. Barack Obama bleated across Europe that America has been “arrogant.” By his lights, our actions since 9/11 (which include writing constitutions for Iraq and Afghanistan that enshrined sharia, the Muslim legal code, as governing law) have suggested we are “at war with Islam.”

For Barack Obama, hearts and minds are about Barack Obama — things to be fondly turned to him at the expense of a country that does more for human rights, and more for Muslims, than any nation has ever done. Indeed, Obama’s signature (and thankfully failed) legislative proposal during his short warm-up act in the Senate was the “Global Poverty” bill, a trillion-dollar redistribution from the American taxpayer to the “international community.” Back then, Senator Obama chided his countrymen for not doing their part while the lavish American foreign-aid spigot — far and away the world’s most munificent — poured out the perennial $21 billion, not counting additional billions in emergency military expeditions to aid victims of earthquake, tsunami, and war.

But as the hearts-and-minds game goes on, the “international community” on the receiving end stands unimpressed as ever. Turns out it’s a jungle out there. What impresses, as all America’s enemies from the Barbary pirates through Osama bin Laden have always known, is the strong horse against the weak horse. What makes possible global trade, which turns into American wealth, which turns into unparalleled American largesse, is American might — American might and an American commitment to use that might as necessary to ensure a civilized global order.

“Civilized” is a much-misunderstood word, thanks to the “rule of law” crowd that is making our planet an increasingly dangerous place. Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.

There is nothing less civilized than rewarding evil and thus guaranteeing more of it. High-minded as it is commonly made to sound, it is not civilized to appease evil, to treat it with “dignity and respect,” to rationalize its root causes, to equivocate about whether evil really is evil, and, when all else fails, to ignore it — to purge the very mention of its name — in the vain hope that it will just go away. Evil doesn’t do nuance. It finds you, it tests you, and you either fight it or you’re part of the problem.

The men who founded our country and crafted our Constitution understood this. They understood that the “rule of law” was not a faux-civilized counterweight to the exhibition of might. Might, instead, is the firm underpinning of law and of our civilization. The Constitution explicitly recognized that the United States would have enemies; it provided Congress with the power to raise military forces that would fight them; it made the chief executive the commander-in-chief, concentrating in the presidency all the power the nation could muster to preserve itself by repelling evil. It did not regard evil as having a point of view, much less a right to counsel.

That’s not our position anymore. The scourge of piracy was virtually wiped out in 19th century because its practitioners were regarded as barbarians — enemies of the human race (hostis humani generis, as Bret Stephens recently reminded us in a brilliant Wall Street Journal essay). They derived no comfort from the rule of law, for it was not a mark of civilization to give them comfort. The same is true of unlawful enemy combatants, terrorists who scoffed at the customs of civilized warfare. To regard them as mere criminals, to assume the duty of trying to understand why they would brutalize innocents, to arm them with rights against civilized society, was not civilized.

We don’t see it that way anymore. Evil is now just another negotiation. Pirates and terrorists are better known for their human rights than for their inhuman wrongs. On Thursday, America’s commander-in-chief didn’t want to talk about the pirates — “Guys, we’re talking about housing right now,” he chided a reporter who dared to raise the topic as the Somalis held the American ship’s captain hostage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was dispatched to assure the public that the world would come together to deal with this “criminal activity” — a relief if you were wondering whether the naval destroyer on the scene was equipped with Miranda-warning cards.

This is the self-destructive straitjacket for which transnational progressives are fitting us. Indeed, the Law of the Sea Treaty — a compact Obama would commit us to — has hopelessly complicated the rules of engagement under which the pirates have thrived, just as Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (a treaty Ronald Reagan was prudent enough to reject) has become an offensive weapon for jihadists everywhere. Having harnessed ourselves, we are once again the weak horse.

Except for one thing: The Americans on the Alabama, like the Americans on Flight 93, didn’t wait for the international community to send the pirates a strong letter. They saw evil, they took it on, and as a result they took their ship and their lives back. The president may not think the United States is a particularly exceptional country, but you can bet Islamic radicals on land and sea noticed that dealing with a U.S. crew is an exceptional experience. There remains something in the American character that won’t slide so easily into the straitjacket.


Family of British father stabbed to death by three thugs is denied compensation... because he tried to fight back

Britain's horrible bureaucrats again

The family of a man who was stabbed to death by teenage thugs after he asked them to keep the noise down have been denied compensation - because he tried to fight off his killers. Kevin Johnson, 22, was brutally murdered by the gang who invited him to 'meet Mr Stanley' during a confrontation outside his home moments before plunging a blade into his chest, arm and back. The young father collapsed a few feet from his front door whilst the trio - aged 19, 16 and 17 - ran off in 'triumphant mood' before stabbing their second victim a short distance away.

But after applying for a maximum £11,000 in compensation Mr Johnson's family have been told that they do not meet the criteria as he tried to fight off the gang who took his life. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has twice rejected John Johnson’s case. They ruled that the demolition worker had 'significantly' contributed to his own death.

Mr Johnson, 57, will now make a last-ditch plea before an independent tribunal this month - almost two years after his son was murdered on his doorstep on the Pennywell estate in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. 'I'm livid. They’ve got no empathy or any regard for us,' he said yesterday. 'The £11,000 is all they value a person's life at. And then you have to fight for it. It’s absolutely disgusting. 'Obviously they just want to keep the costs down for the Government. The criminals get all sorts of help and that’s called human rights. Yet we don’t seem to have any human rights.'

According to the CICA the parents, child, husband, wife or partner of a person who died as a result of a violent crime can claim up to £11,000 for the loss of their life. Yet that figure is dwarfed by the amount paid to an RAF typist last year who injured her thumb at work and was awarded half a million pounds by the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Johnson, who works as a taxi driver, said his case simply highlighted how badly victims' families are treated by the Government. He said he and his wife, Kath, 59, their son's fiancee Adele Brett, 28, and their one year old son, Chaise, were condemned to a life sentence after his death in May 2007. The rejection for compensation had only added to their pain, he added.

Recent figures showed that inmates in British prisons were awarded £6.5million for injuries between 2005 and 2007, for claims including assaults, medical negligence, unlawful detention and sports injuries. Drug-addicted prisoners at some jails received compensation because their human rights were breached when they were denied drugs such as heroin and substitute substances.

Mr Johnson was stabbed to death after he and his fiancee returned home from a night out on May 19, 2007. Woken by raised voices outside he went down to ask the teenagers to keep the noise down. The gang beckoned the father over with their hands, enticing him to come forward. Then they surrounded him. One pulled out a Stanley knife and repeatedly stabbed him until he fell to the floor.

As he lay dying the gang ran off and celebrated by damaging parked cars before stabbing a second man in the chest. The killers - Dean Curtis, 19, Tony Hawkes, 17, and Jordan Towers, 16 - were later jailed for life.

Last night, the CICA said it could not comment on an individual case. However, a spokesman said: 'We consider all available evidence in reaching our decisions, including relevant witness statements. If this evidence shows that a victim’s behaviour contributed significantly to the incident they were involved in then we have to take that into account - but there are safeguards built into our process. 'If an applicant does not think their case was assessed fairly, they can apply to have it reviewed. If the applicant remains unhappy after the review they can have an appeal heard by an independent tribunal.'


Australia: Nutty feminist pays a high price for her hatred of men and modernity

Her addled beliefs cost her baby its life

By Andrew Bolt

I DO not want to make Janet Fraser's grief any worse. But some things must be said to warn other women and spare them such a loss.

Fraser is perhaps Australia's most ferocious advocate of home births. In fact, as national convenor of Joyous Birth, she demands not just births free of hospitals, but births free of drugs and evil doctors, too. Her spiel mixes militant feminism and a green age's worship of Earth Mother: "In a woman-hating society obsessed with the control and regulation of women's bodies, choosing to birth at home makes a crucial statement of withdrawal from patriarchy." Medical intervention to help the baby or spare the mother is "birthrape", and obstetricians are warned: "When you rupture those membranes . . . even when the woman screams no, that's rape." Joyous Birth's 1000 members are even urged by its website to scrawl on hospital walls "Episiotomy is genital mutilation" and "Did your rapist wear a mask and gown?"

But three weeks ago, an Age reporter rang Fraser at her Sydney home to interview her for a story that appeared in the paper on March 22 and started: Janet Fraser is in labour. Her plan is to drop the baby on the lounge room floor, or wherever feels good at the time. Has she called the hospital to let them know what's happening? "When you go on a skiing trip, do you call the hospital to say, 'I'm coming down the mountain, can you set aside a spot for me in the emergency room?' I don't think so," says Fraser, whose breathing sounds strained.

Fraser told the journalist she'd not once in her pregnancy seen a doctor, even though her eldest child was delivered by emergency caesarean. Her breathing may have been hard, but she boasted: "I could do this for days." Deeper in the article was this ominous line: "At the time of publication, Ms Fraser's labour was continuing to progress slowly."

In fact, for some five days after that story appeared Fraser struggled at home to give birth. By her side were, reportedly, just her partner and a friend. And if she'd taken her website's advice, her only drugs were "Emergency Essence and other flower essences or homeopathics as desired".

On March 27 an ambulance was called at last. But too late for her baby.

You may well dismiss this ghastly tragedy as a one-off, typical of nothing. While Sydney's Westmead Hospital says four other babies have died in home births in western Sydney alone in just eight months, you may argue that babies die in hospitals, too. Right? You might even argue that the one or two extra deaths for every 1000 home births are a small price to pay for the joy of delivering a baby in a plastic swimming pool slopping in your lounge. And since only .25 per cent of Australian babies are born at home, most times with a trained midwife on hand, who'd whisk mother and child to hospital if needed, why this fuss?

Yet this case is indeed symbolic - of a demonisation of Western medicine (the flower of Western civilisation), and of a growing tide of irrationality. Fraser's "free birth" movement is just the most extreme manifestation of a cult of "natural" birth that forces so many women to endure unnecessary birth agonies for no good reason.

British home-birth guru Sheila Kitzinger is its priestess, touring here to scare pregnant women into believing only a "natural" birth is a good birth, and the best birth is at home. Say no to drugs. Say no to caesareans. Wave away that epidural. Experience pain as bliss, because only then will you truly connect to birth and baby.

Somehow drowned in this "omm-ing" (popular in new mothers' groups where organic soy-milk coffee is served) is the fact that the whole point of giving birth is to produce a healthy baby and mum. Modern medicine has actually improved those odds dramatically since the days when one woman in 10 would die in labour. That's why all those machines and drugs, ladies. As for the pain relief, why not insist on a "natural" tooth extraction as well? What is so sacred about pain?

But this unreason has spread far beyond the maternity ward. We've had a Sydney coroner investigate why a girl dying of infection was treated by her parents with homeopathy rather than Western drugs that would have saved her. In Melbourne, a coroner investigated the death of a toddler whose epilepsy was likewise treated with homeopathy, and then of a Melbourne man who sweated to death in a "North American Indian" purification ritual.

Again you'll object: every society has a few irrational people, so what's new? Yet what is new is that we institutionalise unreason now, pandering to what we must resist. Take the homeopathy favoured by Fraser. The Lancet medical journal says not one study has proved the worth of a "therapy" based on a theory that a little of what kills you makes you stronger. Despite that, taxpayer-funded TAFE colleges teach homeopathy as science. Victoria University until recently offered bachelor degrees in naturopathy and homeopathy, covering "vibrational medicine" and "the metaphysical".

EVEN crazier, VicHealth gave women in Ouyen $7000 to hold a naked rain dance. And home birth activists, even interviewed mid-way through a tragic labour, still get a good press. Just pray now that the Rudd Government's maternal services review will at least refuse demands that home births be covered by Medicare.

But when unreason is so on the hoof that millions of us believe man is heating the world to hell, despite no rise in temperatures since at least 2002, what hope that reason will triumph? What hope, when even children now die of our superstitions?



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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