Saturday, 4 July 2009

religious opinions

Jane Shaw writes in the Guardian about feeding in church.

Roderick Strange writes in The Times about the virgin birth.

Giles Fraser asks in the Church Times Is secular France so fragile?

Over at Cif belief, Giles answers the question Is religion the opium of the people? in a column titled Radical faith.

Civitas published a report on sharia law. You can find the report itself as a PDF file, here. By far the most interesting column published in consequence of this report is Sharia law and me at Cif belief.

Madeleine Bunting reported on a seminar at Lambeth Palace, see Science, religion and our shared future.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 9:30am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Whatever else he might have been, the one thing Jesus was was human, and to be human (so far) you have two parents, and there are the brothers and sisters. From the other end, as Bishop John Robinson might have put it, and as he did put it, there cannot be the appearance of humanity without actual humanity, that would be the appearance of millions of years to some creationists when for them the earth is some 6000 years old. Appearing to be human is not being human. But I wouldn't bother with this argument. All I see is a Roman Catholic trying to assert a myth as some sort of biology in this case, and it looks pretty stupid to me.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 12:42pm BST

"Whatever else he might have been, the one thing Jesus was was human, and to be human (so far) you have two parents..."

I think that this is an example of the sort of circular argument called "question begging." The question is precisely whether "so far" it is indeed true that all humans have had two parents, or whether Jesus Christ was an exception; the only way that you can make the statement that "to be a human (so far) you have two parents" is by already having made up your mind as to the exception. The Virgin Birth may or may not be true (full disclosure: I think that it is) but this argument does disprove it.

At any rate, two parents is not a condition of being human. If it were scientifically verified that someone had been conceived by parthenogenesis, we wouldn't read her out of the human species, would we?

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 3:46pm BST

I have to take exception to Giles Fraser's essay, I think what the French are trying to do is to put a check on religious extremism; as it could be put forth that requiring a person to dress a certain way (outside of their religious ceremonies) against their will could be considered an affront to their individual liberties.

If a government can put forth laws that require religious institutions to not discriminate (as what seems to be going on in the U.K. at present), then certainly it can banish restrictive and humiliating treatment women. Both are measures in my mind, to rid countries of the de-humanizing practices of religions.

Someday we'll probably want the same in the U.S., have we forgotten the frightening images of the strange Morman-like sect in west Texas of a year ago?

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 5:24pm BST

PIMF: "does not disprove it."

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 5:35pm BST

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the secular French government make Dec 25th a holiday? If so, then they have a nerve telling non-Christians how to observe their faith because France is a 'secular' state. If the French treat Christian holy days like all other days, I take it back. Please inform me.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 5:55pm BST


Are you saying burka = restrictive humiliating treatment of women, no burka - equality and happiness?
Isn't that a little simplistic?
How humiliated and patronised does it make those women feel who actively want to wear the burka?
Can we really say that we have violence against women under control just because we don't wear the burka in the West?

There are places where it should be banned - wherever effective communication is important. So you couldn't have veiled doctors or teachers. But apart from that, it's ill treatment of people we should fight against, not their clothing.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 6:02pm BST

Cynthia, strictly speaking the answer to your question is No. But French holidays in fact include several related to the liturgical calendar, see

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 6:17pm BST

In the US, only Christmas Day is observed as a holiday - Easter and the rest pass unremarked, although some school districts key spring break to easter.

More questions - do the French also forbid yarmulkas? turbans? crosses? monks and nuns in robes?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 7:02pm BST


Please note that I've used the disclaimer of "against their will". And yes, it's simplistic, not to mention unenforceable, to make illegal something that would be worn in the household. But it's the attempt to call a spade a spade, religious extremism is a cancer that is ultimately of no use to anybody except to the fear-mongers. And of course there are other means of hidden violence, it's just that this is so evident. And I should think France has laws against ill treatment of anybody-

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 8:17pm BST

Here's a useful review of the French situation:

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 10:35pm BST

France's approach to secularism is not the same as that of the tolerant English (who did, according to Diarmaid MacCulloch, kill more Roman Catholics than any other country in Europe) -- it does not mean that either approach is right or wrong, but it is simply not on to criticize the French for not being English ("Storm Over Channel! Continent Isolated!").

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Saturday, 4 July 2009 at 11:06pm BST

Simon - thanks for more information about French law. I wonder what their practice is?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 5 July 2009 at 12:47pm BST

If I were in charge of legislation on dress, I'd leave religion out of it wherever possible: "faces must be uncovered when entering or inside public buildings, courts, banks, schools..." and that's about it. There are plenty of voices within Islam saying the very restrictive dress codes for women are a minority opinion, and of demonstrable social origin, in certain countries only. Perhaps only concerning ourselves with faces will gradually allow women to test out for themselves norms on hair covering, full length robes, and so on; and verify that it's still possible to express your cultural identity, and rape has nothing to do with bare ankles.

I'm baffled by the way commentators so frequently contrast extreme coverup with almost equally unusual dress: crop tops and hotpants, or in Giles Fraser's example six-inch heels and designer dresses at weddings. Most of us rarely to never wear either of those things. Sure, there is pressure on me to look a certain way, including the occasional insult in the street, but it's possible to ignore most of it.

"the tolerant English (who did, according to Diarmaid MacCulloch, kill more Roman Catholics than any other country in Europe)"
Basil Fawlty mode: "must not mention the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, must not..."

Posted by: Joan_of_Quark on Sunday, 5 July 2009 at 1:40pm BST

".... but it is simply not on to criticize the French for not being English."

Oh Prior, and I usually agree with you so much of the time.

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Sunday, 5 July 2009 at 3:01pm BST

Giles -- And I usually agree with you!
At least the French Republic (I've lost track of the numbers - sorry -- how is the Count of Paris doing these days?) hasn't expelled all the monks recently (the Carthusians didn't return until after WWII).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Sunday, 5 July 2009 at 4:37pm BST

How can one think of the French attitude about religion and the state without at least considering Talleyrand? Bishop of Autun - despite himself - defrocked by the Pope and leading the charge to confiscate Church property -- the primary celebrant for the first celebration on the Champ de Mars - "Ca Ira" and all that - finally reconciling with Rome so that he could be buried as a Bishop and delaying signing the crucial document until literally minutes before his death. And yet he did all that and remained French to the core.

Posted by: ettu on Sunday, 5 July 2009 at 5:29pm BST

"Whatever else he might have been, the one thing Jesus was was human, and to be human (so far) you have two parents, and there are the brothers and sisters."

But you see, for the believer, He was also God. Indeed, the entire Christ event constitutes God doing something that can only be understood in terms of faith. Of course taking the purely objective scientific approach, Jesus had to have a mother and a father. But if you take the purely scientific approach, what's the point of practicing religion? Religion is not science, it isn't objective. By its very nature, religion demands another approach. If you don't believe that Jesus was both God and a human being, fine. But you can't "disprove" any religion simply by debunking the nonscientific asusmptions that religion makes. By definition, religions presuppose the existence of God, well except for Buddhism and Doaism. But even then there is much that is nonscientific assumption. Approaching religion from a purely objective viewpoint will, I think necessarily, disprove that religion. If that therefor means you cannot believe, again, fine. But taking the objective view of religion is rather like trying to understand the Sun with a microscope: it's the wrong tool for the job. And I think your claim about a cleric trying to assert myth as biology is pretty much refuted by

"The point here, however, is not to determine the question of Mary’s perpetual virginity, far less to prove it."

Of course this stuff looks stupid to you, you are not a person of faith. I mean no disrespect in that statement, but you can't understand these issues from the point of view of concreteness and objectivity, any more than you can use these tools to understand poetry.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 6 July 2009 at 5:28pm BST
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