No moral compass, quite a bit of prejudice

From a very early age I recall wanting to know facts so I could make my mind up about things. I’ve never been one to take what is said to me as anything but one side of a story and possibly it’s utterly wrong and even prejudiced nonsense.

I’ve mentioned before that antisemitism was sadly an issue within my family with both my Dad and his mother being prone to make anti-Jewish statements/remarks. I’m not sure when on hearing these remarks I became curious about them but I was probably subject to them all my childhood. Did we know any Jewish people? Had they done my family some wrong? What was it all about? Not content with being antisemitic my grandmother was also anti-Catholic too and would not go into a Catholic church.

It was only later in life that it dawned on me that there were no credible reasons for some of my family being antisemitic and anti-catholic – they were simply prejudices handed down from one generation to another but not spoken of in polite company in case others thought them prejudiced!

It makes you wonder what on earth those of my grandparents and parents generations, who held such appalling views, thought they were doing fighting against Hitler when they seemed to hold some views of a similar nature!

I had been discussing such matters with my independently thinking feminist daughter who seemed a little surprised that I’d been asking some people I know if antisemitism had been an issue in their families and that I was interested in getting people to tell me what their prejudices are, why they hold them and who handed the prejudices on to them. Her point was that most people never think about their prejudices they just hold them and repeat them when they think the occasion requires.

I think antisemitism and anti-Catholic were the two big prejudices that I picked up on in my Dad’s family who were working class Tories. I think you could also include supporting the Tories and indeed the Church of England as family prejudices as they seemed to be handed down generation to generation too. They all stopped with me though.

I first realised that I was an atheist by not being able to get my head around why on earth I was being sent to Sunday School and Church as a child and young teenager. Of course I was being sent because of my Dad’s religious prejudices – he was a C of E protestant so he thought I should be too. I thought otherwise and having looked at religion decided it was not for me at all. However, at the same time I realised it was for some people and that they held many differing religious views which they were quite entitled to hold. I don’t hold prejudices against religions.

And what about politics? Well having realised that I wanted to get involved in it which party should I join or more precisely what do I believe in? Together with an old friend, who has since died, we found it interesting that he came from a Labour working class background and I came from a Tory working class background but we were both looking to form our own political views. What we did was to get hold of the party political manifestos of Labour, Liberals and Conservatives from the 1979 General Election and we read them. When we’d done that we both had decided that we were in fact Liberals and we’d come to that decision separately. We both joined the old Liberal Party in 1980 and via it, the SDP/Liberal Alliance and then the Lib Dems we perused socially progressive radical liberalism. My friend died in 1999 but I’m still a Liberal. I hope that does not mean I’m prejudiced in favour of the Lib Dems as I try not to be too loyal to them as they are simply a vehicle for delivering Liberalism. If a better vehicle comes along who knows……

To me religion, like politics is something we should all be confident about choosing for ourselves. I don’t think either are for passing down through the generations. You won’t be surprised therefore that I oppose state support/funding for religions and religious schools/education. For our Head of State to be the leader of one particular religion is frankly ridiculous to me in our multi-cultural society.

And what about that phrase ‘moral compass’ which is normally used when talking about politicians/political parties when there is a question about their ethics? There’s probably always been questionable ethics when it comes to political parties because they are tribal and some politicians will stop at nothing to either gain or retain power. The phrase moral compass is used quite often these days as our politics goes through a particularly rough patch. The lies and misrepresentations over Brexit are a clear example where many politicians have been accused of losing their moral compass. And here’s the rub, politicians with no moral compass will delight in playing to voters prejudices. In other words when voters have fixed, you might say ill-informed views, over a hugely complex issue like the EU that will be exploited by politicians who will feed them messages that they will want to hear. The complex issues don’t really get an airing at all as it suits both the some voters and politicians to stick to talking about and building on the prejudices.

Prejudices are learned; we are not born with them. Young children are not bothered by other children with different coloured skin. However, as they get older and if they come from families who hold racial prejudices then the racist behaviour of their family can and often will be picked up by their children who will think it normal to hold such appalling views.

Let’s face it I could have grown up to be antisemitic based on my family prejudices. Makes you think does it not………

Religion – Young folk are turning their back on it

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Evan I, as an atheist, was surprised by these stats. Our world is changing very fast indeed but of course it also begs the question as to what religion and its more acceptable values are being replaced with. You see whilst being an atheist I do appreciate that many religious folk do a lot of good particularly in terms charitable works.

Our society needs values to aspire to yet I fear it is becoming more selfish and insular whilst losing its religion. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Farron, religion and Liberalism

That a thoroughly decent man has been forced from public office is a given and I say that as an atheist.

Yes I was very uncomfortable watching Tim contort himself into knots when asked about his religious views and yes the media were out to do him harm over his religion. Just think about it, how many other leading politicians have strong religious views and how many of them have been hounded out of office for holding them? Blair got some stick because he was Roman Catholic but I struggle to think of many others in recent times.

Did Tim bring trouble upon himself? Well yes to some extent because of this contorted answers that had us all scratching our heads. And you know despite his odd answers he actually did a lot to back minority rights and the LGBT community have acknowledged that apart from what I will call their more militant fringe.

Can you be a Liberal hold religious views? Well you must be able to as there seem to be many people out there who do. Anyway one of the significant strands of liberalism comes from ‘Chapel Liberals’ and Methodism. I am sure my dear old Mum was a Chapel Liberal and I personally know many Lib Dem’s who hold strong religious views and I count them as my friends.

The crunch issue as I see it is this. As a Liberal your guiding light is the rights of others and your being willing to stand up for those rights even when you personally do not subscribe to them. That’s what Tim Farron tried to do, that’s why he stood up for LGBT rights even though his religion was seemingly telling him otherwise. His problem was being unable to publicly reconcile his liberalism and religion when the contradictions were put to him by the media. And once he had shown weakness the first time he was asked about the matter it was always going to be where the media homed in.

Were the media involved in bullying and intimidation? Yes of course they were, indeed they were acting as though they were from the 1950’s and steeped in intolerance with more than a hint of the Spanish Inquisition thrown in for good (or is that bad) measure. It’s as though Farron were being treated as a criminal for holding religious and political views, it’s a sad reflection on our reactionary media and the intolerant times we live in.

Yes of course opposition politicians also exploited Tim’s inability to answer straight forward questions on the potential conflict between his religion and his liberalism. I picked up what I viewed to be political trolling comments on this very matter.

Brexit has split us very deeply because it has brought back into focus views that people used to be ashamed of talking about – racism, intolerance, homophobia, etc. Farron in my view became a victim of that new intolerant culture and it shames our society greatly.

One last thing, the schism on the left of British politics is not actually so much about policy but about libertarian versus authoritarian approaches. In general terms socialism is more authoritarian and liberalism is obviously libertarian. Tell you what is good for you as opposed to giving you the facts to make your own mind up you could say. Quite obviously our society is by its nature these days far more authoritarian and less libertarian. I hope it goes without saying that Conservatism is also authoritarian.

Authoritarian societies don’t tolerate differences from the norm and the norm is usually set by the ruling classes. Farron is, like many Liberals before him and those who will follow him, too libertarian to be tolerated by a media and a political establishment that see most things very black and white, right and wrong.

Don’t look upon Farron as someone you liked or disliked in party political terms, look upon him as someone our society showed the door to because he was not conforming to the norms as interpreted by the media and the establishmnet. Then look at other minorities and think about them too, who will be next?

Oh yes and Farron stood in 2017 General Election on a policy of tolerance!

Sefton Church – A Dickensian Christmas Fayre and a blast from my past.

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Sheila and I went along to the Dickensian Fayre held in the church last Saturday and despite the cold (the church heating had broken down so it was only warm in the Vestry) we had a good time.

Sefton Church's Dickensian Fayre. You can see the candelabra I lit as a young chap for church services.

Sefton Church’s Dickensian Fayre. You can see the candelabra I lit as a young chap for church services.

This 800+ year old church is fascinating and I have to confess that I was a choir boy there from around 1969 to 1972. Electricity was only installed in the main church building during my time there. Prior to that I went early to services with old Bert Sutcliffe of Rossyln Avenue Maghull to light the candelabra and oil lamps.

Here I am sat in the choir stalls:-

I recall sitting in this very seat - if memory serves all of course!

I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves well of course!

I met a lady there called Beryl from Lunt (sorry Beryl I did not catch your second name) who was attending the church at the same time I was and we reminisced about folk we had known back then – Gerry Brown the organist who sadly died quite young, Nan and Bert Sutcliffe, Mrs Payne, Owen Yandall the Rector etc.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the church:-

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Helen’s_Church,_Sefton

We had a lovely cup of hot soup and a bread roll in the warm Vestry and then went outside to have a look at the church from there (I am sure it was warmer outside!). Have a look at this photo, you can clearly see where the wall and window have been rebuilt as a part of the original stone window frame has been left behind.

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A bit of ‘All Our Yesterdays’ for me and a chance to meet so many lovely people from the local area. I was even invited to rejoin the choir by this fine looking Dickensian chap:-

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I don’t think I could repeat that Once in Royal David’s City solo again in the church no matter how hard I tried! And anyway I’m an atheist these days.

The first photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Religion in Schools – Time for a fundamental change

I can’t be doing with religious teaching in schools of whatever kind.

Surely we are grown up enough in 2016 to leave youngsters to decide for themselves, when they are old enough, if they want to be religious and if so what religion they want to follow.

Schools are for teaching children life and employability skills not for indoctrinating them to believe whatever religious beliefs their parents may hold.

By all means, as part of broadening the minds of young people, teach them what the major religions of the world believe in and why, but also teach them about Humanism and Atheism too. That way they can go out into the world with clear and open minds adopting or not adopting a religion as they see fit.

Today is World Humanist Day

Today is World Humanist Day, a day of celebration set up in the 1990s. Humanism is not a religion. It is a world view based on secular values, common to any person regardless of nationality, race, culture, sexuality, gender or background. Its ethos is captured in the phrase – nothing to die for, everything to live for.

Humanism is growing across the world and often people lead a humanist life without realising it. The Guardian reported last month that, for the first time, in England and Wales those who identify as non-religious now outnumber Christians.

Sadly, many people still suffer stigma and discrimination for rejecting religion. In some countries atheism is illegal with secularists abused and killed for their lack of belief. Even in more moderate nations like the UK it can still be very difficult for atheists to ‘come out’ for fear of rejection by religious family members or colleagues.

Humanism looks to build a more humane society based on ethical values in a spirit of equality, enquiry and human achievement. Answers are found through science and human rendezvous not the supernatural. At its heart is the recognition that we get one life and everyone should be able to live it in peace.

So all of us atheists are humanists I presume whether we realise it or not. I have been an atheist for 40 years now and should you want to find out more about how one man lost his religion try reading Ludovic Kennedy’s book All in the Mind: A farewell to God.