Category Archives: Secularists

Who is Mohammed? (and who can answer?)

” Who is Mohammed?”

This was the rather arresting headline on the front page of Brother Ivo’s free local newspaper. With such an attention grabbing front page it thereby avoided being cast aside unread, and partial answers were seen to be offered in the words of George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Carlisle and others, all offering respectful opinions telling us how unique, compassionate and utterly admirable he was.

How much these alleged character witnesses knew of the man is not entirely clear, yet their high opinion of the Muslim prophet was plainly advanced to whet our appetites.

If the present tense of the headline had not alerted him, the offer at the foot of the page gave the game away, with a website offering to take the reader to the Qu’ran online and a telephone number to call to obtain a free copy.

This was paid advertising.

It was all very enterprising.

Who this man Mohammed was, is indeed an interesting and important question in the modern world, so putting the question into the public domain is superficially to be welcomed, and yet, it brings with it, a necessary corresponding question. Can any alternative view be safely advanced examined and published?

Can it be said in a local newspaper that , for example , Mohammed was a trader whose travels around the Arabian peninsular brought him into contact with the Gnostic Christian heresies which fled and established themselves there after being rejected by orthodox Christianity at the Council of Nicea?

Could one advertise, or respond through the letters page that his reporting of Christian historic belief and doctrine was/is demonstratively false and misleading – something which God is not likely have got wrong had the Qu’ranic revelation truly been a Godly revelation?

Might anyone say that Mohammed became a warlord capable of generosity and mercy, yet also according to Islamic sources, responsible for the murder of prisoners, a whole tribe of Jews,  the poisoning of critics and the sexual abuse of his 9 year old child bride?

Will anyone explore the circularity of his truth claims?  Mohammed is God’s final prophet, so says the Qu’aran, brought to you exclusively by Mohammed who is to be believed because he is God’s prophet etc..etc

Would the paid advertisers allow others to engage with the question by pointing out that if Mohammed lived today, the principle question raised by the modern secularists would be whether he should appear first before the Central Criminal Court, the International Court at The Hague for modern day war crimes, , or the Child Protection Court?

It may be unduly sceptical, but Brother Ivo will not be looking at the letters pages over the next few weeks in expectation of vigorous theological jousting, neither will he encourage others to offer paid advertising of a contrary opinion to those encouraging us to embrace Mohammed and his reported revelations.

It is much to be welcomed that Muslims have taken the trouble and paid the costs of putting the question “out there”. The problem is that a full engagement will not occur because the newspaper will censor serious critical engagement with the chosen question, not least, lest some of Brother Ivo’s identified issues be raised.

None of them are new, yet all are legitimate questions.

Nobody is similarly inhibited over questioning Christianity.

If Brother Ivo declared” Jesus is Lord”another can, and doubtless will riposte “Oh no he isn’t”, and Brother Ivo accepts that as a price worth paying for the freedom to speak the truth as he sees it. That is the Faustian bargain that believers and non believers have struck in order to create the largely tolerant free flow of ideas within our society and this is precisely what differentiates it from the intolerant regimes that many have fled, together with the violence and strife that follows soon after.

It is not that we have avoided intolerance; rather we have learnt to live with challenges to our values as the least worst option.

Even if the newspaper were to be willing to put its editor and staff at risk, many in the community will have taken note of what has happened in Paris and Copenhagen to those bold enough to apply criticism to the object of Islamist veneration. Many will avoid engaging with the question posed – and that too is a betrayal  of our most valued contribution to peaceful society – the honest and peaceful acceptance of difference of opinion.

When historian Tom Holland wrote and presented a critically acute historical examination of a Islam for Channel 4, ” Islam The Untold Story”, it did not make it to a public screening: such were the sensitivities of Mohammed’s admirers which the broadcasters were at excessive pains to protect. Most people know this and act accordingly, censoring criticism rather than risk controversy. That is how religious freedom dies, not with a bang but a whimper.

All this presents a Brother Ivo with another of his many paradoxes.

He wants to welcome the decision of some Muslims to ask their question, but can only do so provisionally. Engaging in public religious discourse in a pluralistic society carries responsibilities as well as rights. If one asks open questions about one’s faith, all involved have to expect and accept an uncensored and potentially offensive subsequent debate.

So do we have it – or do we walk away?

A Freudian parable

The people cam forward to ask, “How shall we treat our brothers and sisters who, by reason of mental impairment are disproportionately numbered amongst the unemployed?”

After a moments pause, this parable was told.

“There were once two sisters Mary and Martha.

Mary owned a small “Vintage Cafe ” which did not make her much profit but was a great boon to her village. People visited it after Church services, she catered for small parties, for those who could not afford lavish family occasions, and the local book club would sit and discuss matters all afternoon over two pots of tea. She welcomed them.

One day her only assistant decided to leave. She could get three times the money and a pension, working for the BBC in their canteen. Mary was distraught, as it had been hard enough to find and afford help originally and she could not afford to pay much.

Martha had two sons Luke and John.

Martha had not been able to work for years because Luke suffered Down’s syndrome and John suffered from Torrettes syndrome and was prone to rather unsocial language which many who did not know him found alarming. She would have liked to get away from her caring responsibilities from time to time and thought she could manage a bit of flexible working as a cleaner. Her problem was looking after her sons.

One day Mary came up with a solution.

The boys could come and help her in the cafe whilst Martha started her cleaning business. Luke was an amiable fellow who would enjoy waiting and clearing the tables and John could help in the kitchen where his more extravagant language was something his aunt could tolerate.

The only problem was that Mary could not employ both boys, even at the national minimum wage. The cafe was simply not viable with three wages. Martha and her boys were all happy for Luke and John to work for half the previous worker’s wage, it was an affordable form of supervised care and the boys would enjoy the chance to show a little independence.

When Mary and Martha’s jealous brother Owen heard of this he was angry. He had never offered any employment for his sister or his nephews but denounced the proposal calling it ‘ exploitative, nasty, and vile’. His friends agreed and loved to cast the first stone.

Which of the family members fulfilled the law of promoting life in all its fullness?”

The people looked at each other amazed that the question was even put.

“Why, the sister who enriched her nephews lives, gave them purpose, independence, and stimulation” , they relied, “Not to mention the preservation of a community resource, and rendering modestly to Caesar” they replied.

“Go and and do thou likewise” came the reply. “But be prepared for abuse and rejection from those who rejected me before they built their  own morality”.

The Ecology of Political Institutions

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David Cameron’s attempts to build bridges with those parts of Christian community opposed to the re-definition of marriage by praising the faith has opened up another wound for him, as the monstrous regiment of the priggishly offended, duly lined up behind the writers of the oppositional letter to the Daily Telegraph, shrieking like maiden aunts at a Chipperfields Review.

Actually, Brother Ivo takes that back; some of the broadest minded, most tolerant people he has known have been somewhat severe looking ladies whose observations on the follies of the rest of us were acute incisive and instructive.

What is intriguing is that those who are complaining  about  the PM’s. assertion that Britain is a Christian country, would almost certainly be equally assertive that they are “friends of the earth” ( capitalised or uncapitalised). How strange it is that they do not apply their thinking logically and broadly across the disciplines. Only connect.

Let Brother Ivo explain through a seemingly divergent illustration.

Researchers in the United States were recently tasked with improving the flood risk in a part of the country which was suffering rather like our own West Country. After much study they reached the conclusion that things had started to go wrong when the wolf had been removed from the local ecology.

The wolf had predate on deer. In its absence the deer population had expanded. The growing population was no longer wary of grazing the riverbanks, and both ate and trampled young riverbank saplings. The absence of saplings had resulted in decline in the beaver population which no longer dammed the rivers and created flood plains.

In short, taking out the top predator had disastrous consequences downstream. The presence of a wolf population had its downsides not only for deer, but farmer’s livestock, and yet the costs of their absence to the ecology both near and far was devastating.

Those who signed the letter calling for the removal of Christianity from public life, decrying its historic naughtiness, would of course, be equally united in decrying the removal of wolf from its role as top predator in the ecological pyramid. Ask them to explain and protect the complex web of relationships in the natural world and they will have both energy and understanding,  protesting to maintain the smallest variant of of an obscure weed rather than give way to a road by-pass.

So why the blind spot?

Why the seemingly total incapacity to understand that the Constitution of Britain, and indeed all the Constitutions and Institutions of the Anglosphere and the other political environments which evolved from the Protestant Reformation,. are themselves illustrative of the much approved principle ” survival of the fittest”.

Those who seek to preserve the natural world in aspic are frequent the same people perversely cavalier in tearing down the finely tuned political ecosphere which is responsible for the happy free and once tolerant society in which they have lived.

In Britain, our Established Church is an amazingly successful coalition of Catholic, Liberal, Evangelical and Charismatic views. We frequently contend seriously and passionately on deeply held issues. We do not share, still less enforce, much doctrinal orthodoxy and yet a bloody history of contention has taught us much an this has passed by osmosis into the body politic.

The tolerance we learned to accord each other, based upon good Queen Elizabeth I ‘s disinclination to “open a window on men’s souls” influenced the political sphere so that we are greatly blessed that traditionally, our political leaders have been opponents not enemies.

That is currently under threat from the doctrinaire ” progressives” and other heirs to the more European forms of the “Enlightenment” – the wonderful folks that brought you the French Revolution, Marxism and Fascism, whilst dear old fashioned Britain stuck with a Constitutional settlement that bemuses the narrowly logical in the same way that an ant cannot appreciate what goes on beyond its programmed allegiance to its narrowly understood community.

It is should be a historical joy that somehow we have benefitted from this guided evolution. At many decision points, there has been intelligent design -and those intelligent values have been predominantly Christian.

Instead of scrapping the past and building afresh on atheist logic -the North Korean and Albanian model –  we have traditionally and pragmatically built upon our Reformation and Restoration past,

In this distinctly British political ecology, the Lion has learnt to live with the Unicorn, and the lambs have been happy to prosper in that same environment. It is why Ed Milliband’s father was able to find refuge here, though he did tend to ungraciously bite the hand that fed him.

Why did so many faiths find a home here if not because they could prosper under the penumbra of our Christian Establishment?

Once, there was strict legislation against Catholics, Jews, and Non-Conformists but isn’t the point that our Established Church and associated Institutions have demonstrated the capacity to both evolve and nurture that which is not itself?

What the Telegraph signatories do not seem to take into account ( or more worryingly not even to know) is that in an environment it matters who the top predator is.

Mouthing words about “diversity” whilst sawing the trunk of the tree under which you -and it -have flourished is simply crass.

Many of course are the same folk using their free speech to promote Government regulation of the press.

Diversity, of itself does not develop tolerance or peaceful co-existence. Syria is diverse, so is Lebanon. It is secular “liberal” France that has banned the veil, and secular America that hounds Christianity from the public space through litigation.

If you want to see what happens when you remove institutions in diversity rich countries you may go to any number of failed states which struggle to bring together suspicious factions.

Those willing to break the institutional eggs to make a diversity omelette actually have no idea how they will put Humpty together again.

Building a tolerant free country is a long slow process. Our country went through that difficult and costly centuries ago and whilst the architecture of its happy outcome is hardly characterised by its clean logical lines, it still manages to hold us together.

Those who believe that there is a functional alternative might usefully put their talents to the test by building some prototype institutions which demonstrate similar resilience and strength to that of Christian Britain. Good luck bringing the gay, the Islamic, the vegan and the tribal into your Ark.

In contrast, we already have within our Established Church, huge diversity. In our Christian Monarch we have a wise Queen welcomed as Head of State or Commonwealth across the largest network of family and political ties in the world. Our Parliament holds multi party, multi faith views: none of this was designed, but came about by the very natural selection that the National Secular Society is anxious to teach in our schools.

How strange therefore, that they and the Metro-liberals who distain the Established order never pause to reflect that this country remains amongst the best to live in precisely because the Christian faith, analogous to a ” top predator”,  has shaped the environment for the benefit of all, whether they know it or not.

To those who signed the Telegraph letter, Brother Ivo remembers and adapts the old First World War Bruce Bairnfather cartoon of the soldier Old Bill.

” If you know a better political ecology -go to it”!

Brother Ivo picks apart a dishonest secularist campaign

 

 

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in case anyone were tempted to think humanism is a low key “live and let live” philosophy, and that secularism is the result of a simple absence of sustained faith, Brother Ivo thought he should share an image which is being sent around the internet by a militant group called the Global Secular Humanist Movement.

They invite approval for their campaigning tool which demonstrates breathtaking shallowness; if it were simply insulting to people of faith it would be regrettable. What is sadder still, is that there will be many “liking”, approving, and republishing it, with little analysis of the content, thereby demonstrating their own lack of capacity for critical thought in this area.

Let us look at it in detail.

It purports to ascribe a uniform view of children to “religion”.

There are some many hundreds of religions in the world. There is often little uniformity of doctrine within individual faiths let alone across the board. Brother Ivo has an interest in faith yet even he would struggle to describe what Buddism or Shintoism might say upon the doctrine of “original sin” which he assumes the secular humanists are attempting to allude to.

Speaking from a Christian standpoint, the image purports to describe the little girl in a manner which Brother Ivo has never heard uttered in a Christian context.

He has frequently heard children described as being made “in the image of God”.

Jeremiah remindes us that God knew this little girl when she was in her mother’s womb, and this “knowing”  was also a loving which led to his decision to redeem her from all that harms her by sending his son.

That son taught that unless we become like this little child, we cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. He also taught that it would be better for anyone harming such a child to have a millstone tied round his/ her neck and being cast into the sea.

It is hard to read this as anything other than a total unconditional love and commitment to such children.

Christians do however hold that somewhere in life, Humankind has a tendency to go awry; one does not have to contemplate history for long,  or read everyday news stories without sensing that people who behave badly grow from children who were once seemingly blameless of wrongdoing.

Today’s headline story of the serial killer Joanna Dennehy, is illustrated by an early photograph of a pretty “innocent” child. The difficulty of reconciling such a child to the brutal actions of the adult was apparent from the earliest times and it is perfectly rational for a narrative which ascribes meaning to life to grapple with this paradox of life.

Brother Ivo invites the Global Secular Humanist Group to re-run its propaganda under the childhood photograph of Ms Dennehy, to see if it plays so well in their cause. To save them time he reproduces it here.

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The text seems nowhere near as convincing with this illustration now, does it?

Perhaps there was once a time when she was full of wonder, smart, a great learner, beautiful and with a potential for greatness, but worldly lifestyle choices, not least in relation to drugs and alcohol, plainly took their toll.

Alternatively he offers them an even earlier picture for their propaganda.

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This too is of a smart child, a good learner with a particular fascination for science: his name was Josef Mengele. He was the Auschwitz camp doctor responsible for appalling experiments upon children in the name of “science”; he was intelligent refined and popular in his town – a real poster boy for our anti- religion friends.

Brother Ivo’s challenge goes further.

The advocates of science based moral values appear to overlook that before Mengele and his fellow Nazis took their doctrine to its ultimate logic, breaking human beings into their constituent parts- hair, fat, ashes, skin etc- the scientific approach of the eugenics movement  dividing people by logic into higher and lower orders,  and thereafter taught that black people, Jews and those with disability were of lower value than those of their own station in life. It was to them only ” rational”. They rejected the sentimentality of the believer who taught that all God’s children were of equal value in His sight.

The much despised Victorian Church summed it up in an “irrational” little song containing the lines now omitted by the politically correct ” Red and Yellow Black and White, all are precious in His sight, Jesus died for all the children f the world”.

It was the racist Margaret Sanger who founded the American abortion provider Planned Parenthood, fueled by a desire to stop African Americans from reproducing.

It was, of course, a movement which put great store in the scientific doctrine of “survival of the fittest”, a doctrine which our humanist propagandist appear to have forgotten in their keenness to suggest that ” science” propels all children to “potential greatness”. They similarly neglect to remind us that “scientific” IQ testing does not support the notion of universal merit, potential or success either.

All this however ignores the greatest argument against their cause based upon their chosen measure -damage to the child – for if our smiling little girl were to have suffered from Downs Syndrome or to have  had parents who wanted a male child, “science” has absolutely no compunction whatsoever in washing her down the abortionist’s sluice.

It doesn’t look so sunny from that perspective either does it?

It appears that our secular propagandists are not only significantly under-informed about religion but also seem to be especially naive when it comes to the history of those who have sought to construct a moral order solely upon a “scientific”basis.

We need to be clear: science plainly has its place in unravelling the mechanics of life and the created order,  but it is less than impressive when it strays beyond that remit, especially when secularists try to construct ethical systems with specious claims of “scientific” moral superiority.

If you should encounter friends approving or re-publishing this highly unscientific propaganda, which neglects evidence on both sides, do give them Brother Ivo’s complements and send them a link with an invitation to think a little deeper.