18 Dec 2010

Claims of persecution ridiculous in societies where Christians have special privileges to indoctrinate children

Huffington Post - August 10, 2010

The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

by Johann Hari | Columnist, London Independent

And now congregation, put your hands together and give thanks, for I come bearing Good News. My country, Britain, is now the most irreligious country on earth. This island has shed superstition faster and more completely than anywhere else. Some 63 percent of us are non-believers, according to a 2006 Guardian/ICM poll, while 82 percent say religion is a cause of harmful division. Now, let us stand and sing our new national hymn: Jerusalem was dismantled here/ in England's green and pleasant land.

How did it happen? For centuries, religion was insulated from criticism in Britain. First its opponents were burned, then jailed, then shunned. But once there was a free marketplace of ideas, once people could finally hear both the religious arguments and the rationalist criticisms of them, the religious lost the British people. Their case was too weak, their opposition to divorce and abortion and gay people too cruel, their evidence for their claims non-existent. Once they had to rely on persuasion rather than intimidation, the story of British Christianity came to an end.

Now that only six percent of British people regularly attend a religious service, it's only natural that we should dismantle the massive amounts of tax money and state power that are automatically given to the religious to wield over the rest of us. It's a necessary process of building a secular state, where all citizens are free to make up their own minds. Yet the opposition to this sensible shift -- the separation of church and state Americans have known for centuries -- is becoming increasingly unhinged. The Church of England, bewildered by the British people choosing to leave their pews, has only one explanation: Christians are being "persecuted" and "bullied" by a movement motivated by "Christophobia." George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, says Christians are now "second class citizens" [see article below] and it is only "a small step" to "a religious bar on any employment by Christians".

Really? Let's list some of the ways in which Christians, and other religious groups, are given special privileges every day in Britain. Start with the educational system. Every school in Britain is required by law to make its pupils engage every day in "an act of collective worship of a wholly or mainly Christian nature". Yes: Britain is still a nation with enforced prayer. The religious are then handed total control of 36 percent of our state-funded schools, in which to indoctrinate children into their faith alone.

These religious schools, paid for by the taxpayer, are disfiguring Britain. I know one reason I grew up without the prejudices of some of my older relatives was because I went to school with kids from every conceivable ethnic and religious group, and I could see they were just like me. A five-year-old will make friends with anyone, and he'll be much less likely to believe smears against those friends for the rest of their lives. But in Britain today, that mixing is happening less and less. Increasingly, the children of Christians are sent to one side, Jews to another, Muslims to another still, and they never see each other except from the window of their parents' cars. After the race riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley in 2001, the official investigations found that faith schools were a major cause.

So why keep them? Their defenders say these schools perform better in exams -- and at first glance, it seems to be true. On average, they get higher grades. But look again. A number of studies, including by the conservative think thank Civitas, have blown a hole in this claim. They have proven that faith schools systematically screen out children who will be harder to teach: children from poor families, and less bright children. Once you look at how much a school improves the pupils it actually admits, the only real measure of a school's success, it turns out faith schools do less well than other schools - which isn't surprising given they waste so much time teaching them crazy nonsense like Virgin births and Noah's Ark. The British people instinctively know all this: 64 percent want every state school to be neutral when it comes to religion.

Special rights for the religious don't stop at the school gates. They automatically get 26 unelected bishops in the House of Lords. Public broadcasters are required by law to give them large amounts of money and time to screen religious propaganda. Jews and Muslims are allowed to ignore the laws on animal cruelty and engage in the barbaric practice of slitting the throats of live animals without numbing them in order to create kosher and halal meat.

And it seems that, in crucial cases, religious figures are virtually exempted from the law. There is now overwhelming evidence that Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope, was involved for over twenty years in an international criminal conspiracy to cover up the rape of children by priests in his Church. (Check out the superb edition of the BBC's Panorama, 'Sex Crimes and the Vatican', for the evidence.) But when he arrives in Britain in September, our politicians will fawn over him, rather than dialing 999.

Given all this unearned privilege, how can Christians claim they are in fact being "persecuted"? Here are the cases they offer as "proof". A nurse called Shirley Chaplin turned up to work wearing a crucifix around her neck. Her hospital told her that they were worried the elderly and confused patients she worked with could grab at it, so they said she could pin the crucifix to her uniform instead if she liked. That's it. That's their cause celebre. Oh, and a woman called Theresa Davies who worked in a registry office, but refused to perform civil partnerships for gay couples, so... she was moved to working on reception.

In response, Carey and the CofE demand Christians be allowed to break the law requiring them to treat gay people equally when providing a service to the general public -- and that any case where a Christian feels discriminated against should be judged by a special court of "sensitive" Christians. If we started allowing religious people to break basic anti-discrimination laws, where would we stop? Until 1975, the Mormon Church said black people didn't have souls. (They only changed their mind the day the Supreme Court ruled this was illegal, and God niftily appeared to their leader that morning and announced blacks were ensouled after all.) Would we let a Mormon registrar refuse to marry black people? Would it be "Mormonophobia" to object?

When Lord Chief Justice Laws, who is a Christian himself, ruled the exemptions demanded by Carey would be "irrational, divisive, and arbitrary", he threw an extraordinary tantrum and said Christians might begin to engage in "civil unrest". When I saw Carey make these threats on television, red-faced and rageful, it made me think of a nasty child in the playground who had been beating up the gay kids and spitting at the girls for years and is finally told to stop - only to start bawling that he's the one who is being picked on.

As their dusty Churches crumble because nobody wants to go there, the few remaining Christians in Britain will only become more angry and uncomprehending. Let them. We can't stop this hysterical toy-tossing stop us from turning our country into a secular democracy where everyone has the same rights, and nobody is granted special rights just because they claim their ideas come from an invisible supernatural being. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Holy Lamb of God to carve into kebabs - it's our new national dish. Amen, and hallelujah.

This article was found at :



The Guardian - U.K. March 4, 2010

Who's bullying who?

Lord Carey thinks Christians are being bullied by the political establishment. In reality, they enjoy many privileges

by Riazat Butt | Opinion

Lord Carey's recent accusations – of politicians bullying Christianity – brought to mind Andrew Brown's rather delicious observation regarding the former archbishop of Canterbury. "The trouble with Rowan Williams is that he can never remember that he is Archbishop; the trouble with George Carey was that he could never forget." Carey, who enjoyed a good innings at Lambeth Palace, still has an enviable public profile, able to command full page op-eds in national newspapers and champion the cause of the marginalised. But he makes a mistake by counting British Christians among the persecuted.

In the UK Christians still form the dominant religious group, their churches are part of the physical landscape in towns and cities everywhere, their schools educate thousands of children every year and they have their interests represented by bishops in the House of Lords. The prelates have been especially busy of late, lobbying successfully against changes to the equality bill and the provision of sex education in faith schools. Their earlier outcry, about proposed changes to registering civil partnerships in places of worship, persuaded some peers to include a proviso that there was no obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnerships if they did not wish to do so. In the last few months politicians have begun talking about the importance of the religious vote. To the untrained eye, then, it would appear that it is not the government doing the bullying. In any case, the one time that a politician explicitly stated that Britain was indeed a Christian country it prompted a fit of outrage from Carey (it was Nick Griffin on Question Time).

What forms the basis of his complaints are a series of high-profile cases involving Christian workers whose beliefs conflicted with their duties in the workplace. Olave Snelling, chair of the Christian Broadcasting Council, has said: "Pressure is building against Christians in what was once a Christian land." Is it? As far as I can tell, the government is giving more concessions to religous organisations and these groups are becoming more adept at campaigning for their demands to be met. This political activity creates divisions and reinforces the idea that there is one set of rules for the religious and another for everybody else. Nobody wants to be portrayed as a victim, yet this is exactly what happens when Lords Carey et al plead for protection. Rather than emphasise the commonalities between Christians and non-Christians – everyday concerns: street lighting, refuse collection or unemployment – they emphasise difference and paint their congregations as consisting of hyper-sensitive individuals who only view social and economic issues through a religious filter.

Not all Christians would identify themselves first and foremost as Christian, in the same way that not all Muslims would choose their religious identity as their formative one. Christians – especially those in the Anglican tradition – have a privilege and a place in society that other religions do not and the responsibility of this privilege should weigh on their leaders. Senior figures from most, if not all faith groups, have increasingly sought to press for change on terms that suit their members alone. The net effect of this approach is the marginalisation of religious groups. If they are to avoid feeling ridiculed and put upon then they should abandon what amounts to a policy of isolationism.

This article was found at:



Pastor and lawyer claim religious persecution of parents charged for allowing 2 year old to die from pneumonia without medical care

New Richard Dawkins documentary argues for the abolition of faith schools as a menace to children and society

British humanist campaign challenges state-funded religious schools

British government amends education bill to allow faith schools to adapt law according to dogma

U.K. school inspectors report that Christian theology and non-religious beliefs not being adequately taught in compulsory religious education classes

Faith schools that indoctrinate children commit child abuse

Strong Secularism: "Religious education can be a form of mental abuse."

Intellectual abuse and suppression of simple childhood pleasures by Islamic fundamentalists common in U.K.

Faith schools ‘will hinder fight against terrorism’

Majority of people in the UK say faith schools divisive

Religious sect takes over school

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

Irish children subjected to religious dogma in order to get an education in school system dominated by Catholic church

German teen expelled from government funded Catholic school after exercising her human right to religious freedom

Does religion have any proper role in education?

Religious indoctrination thrives in B.C. private schools because education ministry does not vet textbooks or courses



  1. Candida Moss debunks the ‘myth’ of Christian persecution

    by Lauren Markoe Religion News Service May 14, 2013

    Growing up Catholic in England, Candida Moss felt secure in life, yet was told in church that Christians have been persecuted since the dawn of Christianity. Now, as an adult and a theologian, she wants to set the record straight.

    Too many modern Christians invoke, to lamentable effect, an ancient history of persecution that didn’t exist, Moss argues in her newly published book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom.”

    Although anti-Christian prejudice was fairly widespread in the church’s first 300 years, she writes, “the prosecution of Christians was rare, and the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.”

    We asked Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, to talk about the travails of early Christians, and how they are misappropriated in the public sphere today. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Q: You argue that modern myths of Christian persecution are rooted in an ancient myth, and you focus on Pliny, a first- and second-century Roman who governed what is now Turkey. Why should we know about him?

    A: He’s the first Roman official to actually talk about Christians. He writes to the Emperor Trajan and says, “What am I supposed to do about them? They’re not doing anything wrong, but when they’re in the courtroom they’re very stubborn.” Those charges could get you killed in the Roman world. And Pliny has other concerns: Christians were not purchasing the meat associated with the Roman temples. And he thinks of Christians not as a religious group, but prone to superstition, which the Romans considered a kind of madness that could spread like a disease.

    Pliny and Trajan agree that there will be no seeking out of Christians, but if they do end up in courtrooms and are stubborn, he will give them three chances to curse Christ and make a sacrifice in the Roman temple. If they don’t, they will be killed. I’m not saying what Pliny did was right, but it’s very far from the story I grew up with, about Christians being hunted down.

    Q: Isn’t that persecution though? They’re not being sought out, but if they do wind up in court, there’s a decent chance they’re going to die.

    A: Is it persecution? I’d say it comes fairly close to the line. I’m not saying it’s just. But it was illegal to be part of a secret club at the time. It was illegal to be stubborn toward a Roman judge. So it’s not that they’re being persecuted for having a Trinity. They are being executed for breaking the law.

    I want to understand what, from the ancient Roman perspective, was the problem with Christians. The Romans tolerated lots of religious groups. They only really acted in situations where they thought the group was dangerous, and Christians talk about their new emperor Christ. They talk about how they cannot respect the Roman government. A lot of them say they won’t join the military. They’re very subversive. But this is a world where religious freedom isn’t a right; it just doesn’t exist as a concept yet.

    Q: Critics of your book — even if they agree that there was no concerted, sustained campaign to root out and kill the early Christians — argue that this was nonetheless a dark and dangerous period for them. Doesn’t that count for something?

    A: The situation was terrible and we should be attentive to that, but distinctions need to be made. The Emperor Decius (who in the third century required everyone in the empire to make a sacrifice to his divine spirit) didn’t really know what his edict would mean for Christians and he wasn’t trying to attack them. He was basically trying to bolster the Roman Empire.

    continued in next comment...

  2. In a contemporary discussion, Catholics feel very strongly about the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate. President Obama is not trying to harm Catholics or Christians generally; he is trying to provide health care. Catholics can disagree with him very strongly, but unless he’s trying to attack Catholics, as long as we believe he is interested in health care, we can continue to have a discussion with him.

    There’s been a lot of back and forth between the Catholic bishops and the Obama administration. That’s a different situation than if we were in a country where legislation was passed that said “Christians can’t own Bibles” or “you can’t go to church.”

    Q: Who is capitalizing on the myth of Christian persecution?

    A: When people talk about being persecuted in modern America, I think it’s dangerous. I’m talking about everyone from Rick Santorum to Mitt Romney to Catholic bishops, and Bill O’Reilly talking about a war on Easter. The problem with this is that it destroys dialogue. Persecutors don’t have legitimate complaints so you can’t really have productive discussions.

    But you can disagree with someone sharply on the basis of your religious beliefs without accusing them of persecution. When you say they’re persecuting you, you’re basically accusing them of acting with Satan.

    Q: So how are you going to convince someone like Bill O’Reilly to quit claiming that American Christians are persecuted?

    A: What I try to do in the book is to not talk about the issues but to talk about the rhetoric. So I give examples of people from the religious left who are doing it. I’m critical of them, too.

    We’ve all got to take a look at our own causes and say, “I’m not going to use this language. I’m going to see that other people have good intentions.” That’s how you really have productive discussions with people.

    Q: But you believe there is real persecution of Christians in the world today?

    A: Yes, there is. It’s a “boy who cried wolf” situation. One of the reasons we are not hearing about them is because of all of the cries of persecution here — and local cries about persecution overshadow the global ones. We do need to hear those stories about Christians in other parts of the world, but we need to make sure that instead of talking about the global war on Christianity — which a lot of Christian and Catholic reporters have done — that we tell the story in a way that doesn’t do violence to other persecuted groups.

    Christians live in a very difficult situation in China, for example. But it’s not so much part of a global war on Christianity as it is the Chinese government’s treatment of the religious in general. If we make it just about the war on Christianity then we betray people like the Falun Gong, who are very persecuted in China.

    Q: People use inflammatory rhetoric to score points all the time. Is there something worse about religiously inflammatory rhetoric than inflammatory rhetoric in general?

    A: The problem with religious rhetoric, if we’re talking about a battle between God and Satan, is that the stakes are so much higher. If we’re talking about “God is demanding you to do this,” you can’t really have a conversation after that. Because religion is such a lightning rod, it means that whenever we use religious texts or religious language, we have to be especially sensitive to the power of those ideas.