Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Raising a child as Christian worse than sex abuse? Oh, do put a sock in it, you atheist Scrooge
By Melanie Phillips
You really would need to have a heart harder than the five-pence piece in the Christmas pud not to feel sorry at present for Professor Richard Dawkins.
Christmas must be such a terrible trial for the planet’s most celebrated — and angriest — atheist. All that cheerfulness and pleasure associated with Christianity’s main celebration seems to drive him simply nuts.
Indeed, just a few days ago he lunged into yet another wild denunciation of religious faith. This time, the Chief Inquisitor of Unbelief declared that raising a child as a Catholic was worse than subjecting it to sexual abuse.
His view of religion is as cheerless as it is unbalanced. As countless others prepare for an enjoyable and — dare one say it — even spiritually uplifting holiday, Professor Dawkins seems to become all the more miserable. If Charles Dickens were writing A Christmas Carol today, surely he would have replaced Ebenezer Scrooge with the figure of the joyless, rage-fuelled Dawkins spitting out ‘Bah, humbug!’ at families sitting down to the Christmas turkey.
After last week’s census details which showed that Christianity in Britain is in decline, Dawkins rejoiced that it was ‘on the way out in this country’.
Well, this is tantamount to rejoicing that Britain and western civilisation are on the way out. For Christianity underpins their most fundamental moral values — ones that both believers and non-believers hold dear, such as the difference between right and wrong, respect for other people and doing good things rather than bad.
It is also woven into Britain’s literature, art, music, history and national identity.
What’s more, despite the decline in believers, nearly two-thirds of the population still describe themselves as Christian. If Britain stops being a mainly Christian country, then it will stop being recognisably Britain.
It is not just Dawkins and his followers, however, who are dancing prematurely on Christianity’s grave.
In the eyes of just about the entire governing class, cultural milieu and intelligentsia, belief in Christianity is viewed at best as an embarrassment, and at worst as proof positive of imbecility.
Indeed, Christianity has long been the target of sneering comedians, blasphemous artists and the entire human rights industry — all determined to turn it into a despised activity to be pursued only by consenting adults in private.
As it happens, I myself am not a Christian; I am a Jew. And Jews have suffered terribly under Christianity in the past.
Yet I passionately believe that if Britain and the West are to continue to be civilised places, it is imperative that the decline in Christianity be reversed.
For it is the Judeo-Christian ethic which gave us belief in the innate equality of all human beings, the need to put others’ welfare before your own and the understanding of absolute truth. Without this particular religious underpinning, our society will lose the moral bonds that instil respect and care for other human beings. Without a belief in absolute truth, it will succumb to the dominance of lies.
And it will also lose the understanding, embodied in both Judaism and Christianity, that government should be distinct from religious rule — a belief which eventually helped pave the way for democracy.
Lose Christianity, and what remains will be a vacuum which will result in religious, secular and ethnic groups fighting each other — and with the most brutal and ruthless filling the void.
Of course, non-believers can be good people, and believers can behave atrociously.
But non-believers who subscribe to the basic moral tenets of western society are subscribing — whether they like it or not — to the values given to the world by Judaism and Christianity.
Such people may not believe in God, but they were not born with these moral values encoded in their DNA. They are inescapably shaped by the Judeo-Christian culture in which such unbelievers have grown up.
Without that culture, our society would be a savage and uncivilised place, governed by selfishness, self-centredness and narcissism.
Indeed, I would go even further. Rather than religion and reason being diametrically opposed to each other — as non-believers contend — it was, in fact, the Hebrew Bible which gave us reason in the first place, by introducing the then revolutionary idea that the world had been created by a rational intelligence in linear time.
It was this belief that gave us the idea that the universe was governed by natural laws, which in turn gave rise to science and modernity.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the alarming slide in Christian belief has gone hand in hand with both the relentless coarsening and brutalisation of our culture and the progressive flight from rationality — as demonstrated by the prevalence of conspiracy theories, resistance to factual evidence, and belief in the occult. In other words, people who stop believing in God start making religions of other things. For the religious instinct seems to be hard-wired in us. Some 70 per cent believe in a soul, and more than half in life after death, and these numbers are rising.
Although many no longer go regularly to church, some 85 per cent go at least once a year — perhaps to the Christmas carol service. Despite its regrettable over-commercialisation, Christmas may be the one time when some people are exposed to the Christian message.
Many would like that message to be stronger; and not just at Christmas. But for religion to thrive, there has to be strong leadership. And both in the political and religious spheres, that has been sorely lacking.
Christmas is quintessentially the time when people get together with their families. And families are at the very heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
But for years, political leaders have done everything in their power to undermine the family by promoting nihilistic sexual licence. Even David Cameron’s supposedly ‘family-friendly’, but in fact socially liberal policies hardly correspond to Judeo-Christian principles.
Of course, we don’t expect our politicians to be religious leaders. But if society is to adhere to basic moral principles, politicians have to uphold them. Yet so much of the political class is now governed by the desire for power for its own sake, rather than to make a better world.
The leadership of the Church itself has hardly been any better.
But there are high hopes of the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who appears to have a more robust and muscular understanding of Christianity than did his predecessor.
The challenge he faces, however, is much more profound than the divisions over women or gays in the clergy. These are but symptoms of the real malaise afflicting the Church of England — which is nothing less than a loss of belief in its own Scriptural doctrines.
This deep demoralisation can be traced all the way back to the birth of modernity itself, in the 18th century.
In contemporary times, it is why the Church has grovelled on the one hand to godless liberalism, and on the other to Islam. Desperately trying to appease both to stave off its own demise, the Church has succeeded instead in creating a vacuum which has only hastened it.
The single most urgent task for Bishop Welby is surely to find a language with which the Church can reach out to all those millions who are searching for something outside themselves in which to believe but who no longer find it in Christianity.
This is not just about saving the Church of England. It is about saving the culture, identity and civilisation of Britain and the West.
Senior Roman Catholic Bishop links push for gay marriage to Nazi attack on religion in controversial Christmas sermon
A senior Roman Catholic will today use his Christmas sermon to liken plans for the legalisation of gay marriage to the way the Nazis and Communists tried to undermine religion.
The Bishop of Shrewsbury will launch a vociferous attack on the Coalition’s decision to fast track a vote on same-sex marriage in the New Year.
The Right Reverend Mark Davies will use his midnight Mass to say marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
And he will accuse the Prime Minister of attempting to redefine the institution of marriage for ‘generations to come’ without any mandate from the electorate.
Most controversially, he will equate the support for same-sex marriage with the way totalitarian regimes acted in the twentieth century.
The bishop will say that both Hitler and Stalin challenged Christianity with the notion that what they were doing was ‘progress’.
He will argue that, in a similar fashion, the supporters of same-sex marriage also use the idea of ‘progress’ to support the ‘redefinition’ of marriage.
The bishop will conclude: ‘The British people have reason to ask on this night where is such progress leading?’
And he will tell the faithful that a moment has arrived for them to ‘stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman... the foundation of family.’
In his sermon, Bishop Davies will say: ‘Past generations have gathered in this cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them.
We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity.
‘These inhuman ideologies would each challenge in the name of progress the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family. Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, a man without clear, religious belief, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilisation.
‘Few of our political leaders today appear to glimpse the deeper issues when the sanctity of human life and the very identity of marriage, the foundation of the family, are threatened.’
He will add: ‘This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government that was pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage.
‘The Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consideration, to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come.
‘This is again done in the name of progress. The British people have reason to ask on this night where is such progress leading?’ In another part of his sermon, the bishop calls this country’s treatment of the elderly and sky-high abortion rates ‘the darkest shadows of our time’.
He will say: ‘The widespread neglect and ill-treatment of the frailest, elderly people in our society: concerns highlighted in the Care Quality Commission’s recent report. The growing concerns about end-of-life care and what is happening to the most vulnerable in our hospitals.
‘This dark side to our society is surely connected to the discarding of human life from the beginning in legalised abortion on an industrial scale, in reproductive technologies, in embryo experimentation which our laws have sanctioned.’
The bishop’s comments come despite the fact that polls repeatedly show the public is largely in favour of allowing gay marriage.
Ruth Hunt, of gay rights group Stonewall, said: ‘Gay people are all too aware of the horrific results of Nazi ideology due to the countless casualties of the Holocaust.
‘Bishop Davies’s comments are both deeply offensive to gay people and their families.’
The Coalition has tried to defuse Church of England opposition to its plans by specifically saying it would be illegal for any Anglican vicar to marry a gay couple.
British PM's Christmas bid to calm Christian anger at gay marriage: David Cameron quotes Gospel of St John in annual message
David Cameron offered an olive branch to Christians last night, issuing the most overtly religious Christmas message by a prime minister in recent times.
He quoted from the Gospel of St John in an apparent attempt to parade his religious credentials while controversy rages about his government’s plans to introduce gay marriage.
Ministers have come under fire from churchmen and MPs over the plans, on which the Commons will vote in the New Year.
Mr Cameron has regularly ignored advice that politicians in the modern age should not ‘do God’. But the Prime Minister went further than ever last night when he quoted from the Bible, referring to Jesus as ‘the light of all mankind’ and the ‘Prince of Peace’.
He spoke about the ‘extraordinary year’ featuring the ‘spectacular’ Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, when ‘we cheered our Queen to the rafters and praised the efforts of the Armed Forces’.
But the most striking passage of his message came when he turned to the meaning of Christmas.
‘Christmas gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story – the story about the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings to the countless millions who follow him,’ he said. ‘The Gospel of John tells us that in this man was life, and that his life was the light of all mankind, and that he came with grace, truth and love. Indeed, God’s word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace.’
He concluded: ‘So however you celebrate this time of year, it is my hope and prayer that you have a happy and peaceful Christmas.’
Mr Cameron’s message appeared designed to defuse anger at his decision to push forward plans for gay marriage despite heavy criticism.
The Bishop of Leicester has accused him of being out of touch with the ‘vast majority of practising religious people’ despite assurances that no churches will be forced to carry out such ceremonies.
In a speech last year Mr Cameron said the values of the Bible ‘go to the heart’ of what it means to be British, although he admitted he was no more than a ‘vaguely practising’ Christian ‘full of doubts’ about theological issues.
He also used his Christmas message, to be published today, ‘to pay particular tribute to our brave servicemen and women who are overseas helping bring safety and security to all of us at home; their families who cannot be with them over the holidays; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency services who are working hard to support those in need’.
He added: ‘When we are celebrating with family and friends, they and many others are all working on our behalf and deserve our thoughts and appreciation.’
First Christmas with his girls for father wrongly jailed for child cruelty
Evil British social workers again
With their two smiling daughters cuddled up on his knee and his loving partner by his side, Ben Butler looks every inch the contented father.
But such scenes of simple domestic bliss are a new experience for all of them - after the family was ripped apart when he was wrongly jailed for child cruelty.
It took three years to clear his name and two more for he and the girls' mother Jennie Gray to win back Ellie and Isabella after a series of legal battles.
The four had never all lived together - and the two beautiful little girls had not even met each other until a few weeks ago after each being put into separate foster care as babies.
Now the sisters are joined at the hip, excitedly rushing up to 'daddy' and 'mummy' to ask if they can have another chocolate from their advent calendars or to show them their festive drawings of angels, stars and candles.
As the happily reunited family look forward to their first Christmas together - just one of the many milestones they were previously denied by their unjust ordeal - Mr Butler and Miss Gray, both 33, say it is 'like suddenly having grown-up twins'.
And the doting parents are delighted Ellie, five, and three-year-old Isabella are settling in so well after their return to the family home.
Mr Butler said: 'I worked out I've spent more than six months of my life in criminal and family courts over this. All we ever wanted was to be a family, but it was all so draining, there were times I thought it would never happen.
'But we knew we had to keep fighting, fighting and at last here we are back together - just like it should have been all along. We are trying to catch up on the lost years but are Ellie and Izzy are a joy.'
The ordeal began in February 2007 when Mr Butler, a removals man, saved then seven-weeks-old Ellie's life when she stopped breathing while he was looking after her - only to be accused of harming her. He cleared her airway after she collapsed and rushed her to hospital. But doctors found head injuries similar to those caused when a baby is deliberately hurt by being shaken.
Mr Butler, of Sutton, South West London, insisted he had not harmed Ellie. Miss Gray, who was not living with him then, supported him.
But the couple were arrested and he was charged with grievous bodily harm and cruelty. Ellie, despite going on to make a full recovery, was taken in to foster care.
While awaiting trial the Family Court ruled Mr Butler could see Ellie twice a year for four hours. Miss Gray, a graphic designer, was allowed contact with her baby six times a year for two hours at a time.
Miss Gray said: 'I was told at one point that if I went against Ben it would be to my advantage and I'd have more chance of getting my daughter back. It's outrageous.'
At his Croydon Crown Court trial in March 2009 Mr Butler was convicted. Given an 18-month sentence, he was forced to share a prison cell with a convicted child abuser.
He said: 'I was put with sex offenders. I never spoke to the guy I shared a cell with - it's like being put in a mental hospital when you're not mental. It was just a horrible, dirty feeling where everyone is on a different wavelength.' After three and a half months behind bars, Mr Butler was released pending appeal.
Brought together by the nightmare engulfing their lives, he and Miss Gray started seeing each other again.
She became pregnant with Isabella and, by now 'terrified' of the social workers, tried to keep her birth secret. But Isabella too was also taken into foster care aged six months - and social workers wanted her to be adopted.
Mr Butler's conviction was quashed in 2010 after fresh medical evidence showed Ellie's injuries were caused by a traumatic birth and it was also highlighted how if they had been caused by shaking her full recovery 'would not have been expected'.
It further turned out that Ellie had a cyst in her throat which Mr Butler had pushed out of the way when he cleared her airway after she collapsed. The cyst is clearly visible on a scan taken in hospital, but it was not shown to the original jury.
It then took another two years of battling in the Family Court for the parents to persuade judges and social workers that Ellie, who had been allowed to live with her grandparents, Miss Gray's parents, and Isabella, should be returned to them.
Finally, in October this year, High Court judge Mrs Justice Hogg praised the couple as she ruled the two girls should be allowed to go home. She said: 'The last five and a half years must have been an extraordinarily difficult time for the parents ... [They] have weathered the storm. They have each been resilient and determined, and shown tenacity and courage... I wish the parents well: they too deserve joy and happiness.'
The couple had at last achieved their dream, but were understandably anxious how their daughters would cope. Isabella came home first, then Ellie a short while later on November 11, to their new matching pink bedrooms.
Ellie is so attached to her grandparents and had been away so long they were worried if she would settle - or be jealous of the little sister she had never met.
Miss Gray said: 'We started building them up about each other and put a picture of each other next to their beds. Their first meeting came when we took them bowling, one of Ellie's favourite things.
'We thought it would be difficult and they wouldn't be able to connect quickly. But they gave each other a kiss and they were very good with each other. 'The bond has grown between them. They play so well together and do everything together. It's so cute. Ellie helps put Izzy's shoes on and tries to do her hair for her.
'We're learning so much so fast about them, things like what their favourite colours and toys are - Ellie loves Minnie Mouse and Izzy Tinker Bell - that it's like suddenly having grown up twins.'
Mr Butler said: 'I hadn't seen Izzy for two and a half years but she was calling me 'daddy' from the first time we met again. Now you wouldn't know she'd been away. Her foster carers are lovely people and we thank them for all they did.
'But what happened to us was all so wrong. My trial came down to medical opinion only and the medical evidence just didn't add up.
'We've not had a normal life for nearly six years and the pressure has been immense. We've missed out on so many things, like seeing our daughters' first steps and some birthdays.
'Now we're just looking forward to seeing them grow up with us, taking them places and enjoying normal, everyday things. That's all we ever wanted - to be a proper family.'
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.