Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Financial crisis – is Marx the answer?

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The front cover of our new issue features a rather fresh-looking Karl Marx, cigar in mouth, rising from his grave in Highgate Cemetery. The reason? The issue features Laurie Taylor's in-depth interview with David Harvey, the New York-based Marxist geographer who is suddenly being taken seriously by economists following of his book The Enigma of Capital, which offers a Marxist explanation for the current financial crisis.

Could the answer to our current woes lie in Marx? Read the interview with Harvey then have a good old-fashioned debate by commenting on this post.

BMA members vote against homeopathy on the NHS

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These are hard times for homeopaths. Back in February the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published a report recommending that the NHS should stop funding homeopathic remedies (it currently spends £4 million per year), and today the British Medical Association has done the same, with members voting 3 to 1 at the annual conference to recommend an end to NHS funding and the marketing of homeopathy as medicine in pharmacies.

The BBC's report on the decision contains some excellent quotes from doctors, including Peter Bamber of the BMA's consultants committee, who quipped "If you want to buy a bottle of water go to the supermarket", and Dr Tom Dolphin of the BMA's junior doctors committee, who said "We risk as a society slipping back into a state of magical thinking when made-up science passes for rational discourse."

The Department of Health is currently investigating the issue, and told the BBC it will be reporting on it soon.

Atheist world leader watch

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When Julia Gillard became Australia's first female prime minister last week, replacing Kevin Rudd, many were quick to point out that in addition to being (would you believe it?) a woman, Gillard is also openly and unashamedly atheist.

Now that, in itself, is not necessarily a shock, but as we in Britain are more than aware, politicians aren't usually happy to wear their non-belief on their sleeves, for fear of alienating religious voters (c.f. Deptuty PM Nick Clegg). And you have to suspect that some politicians keep their atheism quiet in order to avoid offence and remain in office. Just look at the US – California congressman Pete Stark is thought to be the only openly atheist national politician. Even if we only take "national politician" to mean members of Congress, that's still only 1 in 535. Are we really to seriously think that Stark is the only person out of all those to not believe in a deity?

However, talking about her atheism in an interview today, Gillard made it clear that she feels no embarrassment about her atheism:
"I am not going to pretend a faith I don't feel. I am what I am and people will judge that. For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine. I grew up in the Christian church, a Christian background. I won prizes for catechism, for being able to remember Bible verses. I am steeped in that tradition, but I've made decisions in my adult life about my own views. I'm worried about the national interest. About doing the right thing by Australians. And I'll allow people to form their own views about whatever is going to drive their views. What I can say to Australians broadly of course is I believe you can be a person of strong principle and values from a variety of perspectives."
What a refreshingly honest and unpatronising attitude.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Hitchens man of faith

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For our September issue we've got Anatol Lieven writing about the faultlines between leftist intellectuals opened up by 9/11 and the war on terror- the increasingly vitriolic division between liberal hawks and "appeasers" (with a cast of characters that includes Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, Martin Amis, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tim Garton Ash, Ian Buruma and Christopher Hitchens). By way of an appetizer here's Buruma's review of Hitchens' memoir Hitch-22, from the NYRB. Kind of sets the scene for Anatol's essay...

German psychic octopus predicts beating England on Sunday

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If any English sceptics out there aren't already fully behind the England football team as we approach Sunday's World Cup showdown with Germany, look at this. Those pesky Germans (or more accurately, some pesky Germans working at Oberhausen Sea Life Centre) are using a psychic octopus called Paul to predict the outcome of their national side's games. A psychic octupus! And he thinks we're going to lose.

Come on sceptics. Now is surely the time to nail your colours to the mast.

(One final thought on this - I wonder what Pharyngula blogger PZ Myers, famous both for his scepticism and his love of cephalopods, would make of a psychic octopus?)

Update: Well we know what PZ thinks – "I don't believe in precognition, but I do think octopuses are smart. It's more likely that Paul is sneaking out of his tank at night to read the sports magazines, and then makes informed decisions about likely results of the matches".

Poll: What do you think of the idea of secular free schools?

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Judging from the reaction to my previous blog post on the news that Richard Dawkins expressed enthusiasm for the idea of setting up atheist (or rather, secular) free schools, it seems that, unsurprisingly, it is an issue many of you feel strongly about. It seems to divide opinion too – just judging by what people have been saying to me on Twitter, there appears to be roughly a 50-50 split between those who think it would be a great idea and those who think it would merely represent an endorsement of the existing system. This view was well expressed by a humanist mother and teacher, who sent me the link to her thoughtful blogpost on the mattter.

So, this seems like the ideal topic for a poll. I've tried to include a range of possible answers that reflects the range of opinions I've heard, but if you feel I haven't managed to capture what you think, don't hesitate to let me know by commenting on this post.




[Image credit: Martin Rowson, illustrating one of Laurie Taylor's to give up the cigarettes back in 2003. It seemed appropriate for this post]

Christmas comes early - Nine Lessons & Carols for Godless People now on sale

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It may be 26 degrees outside, but it's time to start thinking about winter as tickets for our third annual heathen Christmas extravaganza, Robin Ince's Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, are now on sale.

This year's shows will take place at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London from 16-18 December, with confirmed performers so far including Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Chris Addison, Jo Neary, Ben Goldacre, Josie Long and Marcus Chown. Many more will be added in the coming weeks (names last year included Stewart Lee, Dara O Briain and Al Murray), but don't wait to hear those before you book.

In the last two years tickets have sold out very quickly, so we recommend booking your seats now to avoid disappointment. You can do that over at the Bloomsbury Theatre website or by calling the box office on 020 7388 8822.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Dawkins likes the idea of an "atheist" free school

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As the British Humanist Association have been pointing out, a worrying aspect of the coalition government's proposal to extend the role of academies in the schools system is that it is likely that many of the new schools will be faith schools, with greater freedom to set their own curricula than existing, non-academy faith schools.

That's the downside, but new academies don't necessarily have to be faith schools – the idea is that any ambitious and well-meaning group of people can start a school and shape its ethos. So how about a humanist school? Taking part in an online chat about faith schools on the Mumsnet website yesterday, Richard Dawkins responded enthusiastically when a participant suggested he should set up a secular, or atheist, school. Now it's worth pointing out, given how Dawkins's comments tend to be twisted in the news (remember how him saying he thinks the Pope should face legal action of child abuse cover-ups became him saying he wanted to personally arrest Benedict XVI?), that he isn't at present planning to set up a school, and it's also worth noting that he stressed he wouldn't want it to be an "atheist" school so much as a "freethinking" school. Here's what he had to say:
“Thank you for suggesting that I should start an atheist free school. I like the idea very much, although I would prefer to call it a free-thinking free school. I would never want to indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion. Instead, children should be taught to ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded. If children understand that beliefs should be substantiated with evidence, as opposed to tradition, authority, revelation or faith, they will automatically work out for themselves that they are atheists.I would also teach comparative religion, and teach it properly without any bias towards particular religions, and including historically important but dead religions, such as those of ancient Greece and the Norse gods, if only because these, like the Abrahamic scriptures, are important for understanding English literature and European history.”
So, what do we think? Are secular schools, founded as a direct antidote to religious schools, the way to go? (In some respects it'd represent an "if you can't beat them..." approach.) Or would it represent an inadvertent endorsement of the system, and with it faith school? Should humanists and secularists simply continue to campaign against the very idea of schools that operate under the banner of a particular religion or philosophy?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Work ethics

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In our May/June issue, we published a piece by moral philosopher Richard Rowson, author of Working Ethics: How to be Fair in a Culturally Complex World (Jessica Kingsley, 2006). Richard has devised an ethical framework which he believes can help solve employment disputes where religious and ethical beliefs come into conflict with professional duties – think of all the infamous cases involving nurses wearing crosses, registrars refusing to conduct civil partnerships and so on.

Richard's framework has been used in the public sector to resolve such disputes – read his piece from the May issue and let us know what you think.

Humanist Week

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From one "week" to another – last week was Homoeopathy Awareness Week and, in pleasant contrast, this week is Humanist Week (we must be working our way through the 'H's'), the British Humanist Association's annual celebration of all things humanist. This year the theme is "Humanist Heritage" which, say the BHA, involves "celebrating humanist contributions to British society, across the centuries".

Over at the BHA's Humanist Life site you can read articles by some of their distinguished supporters and members, in which they nominate their "Humanist Heroes" – current contributions include Arthur C Clarke, Bertolt Brecht and Tim Minchin. And you can get involved yourself at the Humanist Heritage website, "a new resource that allows people to upload information about their local area and how it relates to Humanism and celebrate great artistic, scientific and social contributions based on a humanist perspective".

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Just what we need?

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The big news in the world of unbelief this morning appears to be that Channel 4 are set to launch a a "television version of Thought for the Day", beginning on 5 July. Called 4Thought, it will fill the 5-minute slot after Channel 4 News in the evenings. The channel's head of specialist factual programming, Ralph Lee, told Media Guardian the "films will give voice to a plethora of beliefs and opinions", which seems to imply that, unlike on Radio 4's Thought for the Day, atheists will be able to participate.

Is this cause for humanists to rejoice, or a cue to issue a collective sigh at the appearance of yet more religious programming? Thought for the Day is, of course, a perennial topic of debate within humanism and secularism – for many it's a major thorn in the side, and you can divide that group into those who would simply like to see non-religious voices included and those who would just like to see it removed from the airwaves altogether. Then there are those who simply sidestep the issue by either turning down the volume between 7:45 and 7:48am or, would you believe, not listening to Radio 4.

So, how will 4Thought go down with non-believers? If non-religious voices are indeed included, then that will satisfy one of the major problems people have with Thought for the Day, so if short chunks of ethical pondering are your cup of tea, 4Thought could prove to be your brew of choice. But, are many people really interested in watching this kind of thing? I'd be interested to know what you think - let us know in the comments, and place your vote in this poll.


Friday, 11 June 2010

The BHA on the government's academy legislation

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It's funny how things work out. When I put together my humanist guide to the election back in March, the Liberal Democrats certainly emerged as the most promising choice with regards to education, opposed as they were to faith schools and the academy system. Yet now, three months on, we have the following situation, as described by the British Humanist Association's chief executive, Andrew Copson, writing on Comment is Free:
"On Monday the academies bill, a cornerstone of the Conservative manifesto (the one that people didn't vote for), was introduced directly into the House of Lords by a minister from the Liberal Democrats (a party that isn't in favour of academies)."
The academy reforms are bad news for secularism, as they will lead to yet more involvement of organised religion in the schools system. With existing faith schools required to become "state-funded independent schools with a religious character" if they choose to become academies, and the possibility of non-faith schools acquiring religious sponsors and becoming religious academies, iInclusive community schools, free of religious discrimination, privilege or management, which should be the norm, could easily become the exception," says Copson.

And this is before we even turn to the fact that academies will not be required to follow the national curriculum. Copson is clear on the dangers that holds:
"Nothing in the new, deregulated system proposed by this bill would prohibit abstinence-based relationships education, or the teaching of creationism as a valid alternative to evolution, or the literal truth of a personal god."
There's sure to be a lively comments thread under Copson's Comment is Free piece, so head over there, have a read, and get involved.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Daily Rowson #7: Out and proud

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For today's Martin Rowson cartoon, here's the most controversial cover image we've run to date, which led to accusations of homophobia, as well as a great many cries of "how dare you" with regards to mocking Richard Dawkins (and I think lots of people just objected to the Hitch's belly too). As Martin pointed out at the auction on Tuesday when this piece was sold, it's a reminder that not only the religious take offence when the images and names of their figureheads are taken in vain.

Remember, our exhibition of Martin's work is open at the Menier Gallery in Southwark every day from 10am-6pm, until Saturday when it closes at 4pm. There's the opportunity to buy any as-yet unsold works too.

An in-depth look at the Templeton Foundation

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Just a quick one to share this exemplary piece from The Nation, in which Nathan Schneider takes an in-depth look at the controversial Templeton Foundation, the organisation which, in its own words, "serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality" but which, in the eyes of its many high-profile critics, such as Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling, seeks to insert religion into scientific study using grants from its vast financial reserves.

Schneider looks at the history of the foundation, the views of both its defenders and critics, and considers the direction it may be taking in the wake of the death of its founder, John Templeton, in 2008. With his son, John Templeton Jr (known as Jack) – an evangelical Christian – now in charge, there are suggestions that the foundation may be taking a more conservative turn. Indeed, another of Jack Templeton's organisations, Let Freedom Ring, has links to the so-called Tea Party movement of grassroots US conservatives, and in the past has had ties to neoconservatism. Could the foundation's future lie down those paths?

It's an excellent piece of journalism, and I urge you to read it over at The Nation.

Anti-abortion propaganda or just clever marketing?

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There's a spot of controversy regarding this forthcoming Christian advertisement, which is intended to attract more people to church in the run-up to Christmas, which I believe falls on the 25 December this year. So before I go into more detail, ask yourself this: when you look at this ad, what do you see? Because in this controversy, perception is everything – defenders see a novel take on the birth of the Son of God, while critics see an unsubtle attempt at subliminal anti-abortion propaganda.

Dubbed "Ultrasound Jesus", it's designed by the ChurchAds charity and, say the Guardian, "is backed by a number of Christian organisations including the Church of England, the Baptist Union, the United Reformed Church, the Anglican and the Methodist churches". For their part, ChurchAds make no mention of the abortion debate as they proudly announce their forthcoming advertising campaign on their website:
"Research has revealed that 85 per cent of people agree with the statement that 'Christmas should be called Christmas because we are still a Christian country'. But it also shows that only 12 per cent of adults know the facts of the Christmas story in any detail.

So if we Christians really want to keep Christmas focused on Christ, we must constantly re-tell the story of his birth in ways which engage positively with the public's interest.

In the 21st century, proud parents-to-be proudly announce the coming birth by showing friends and family the scan of the baby. Our new Baby-Scan Jesus poster uses this convention to place the birth of Christ in an ultra-contemporary context.

It is highly impactful. It has a sense of immediacy. It creates anticipation. And theologically it speaks of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ."
So far, so straightforward. But is there something more to their use of an ultrasound scan? Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, quoted in the Guardian, wonders if there might be:
"It is an incredible piece of naivety on their part. If they are hoping to stop the secular drift away from Christmas as a Christian festival, they risk doing the opposite. It gives the impression that it was politically motivated, that they are trying to put across some sort of subliminal message. The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context. They should go back to angels and cribs."
So it comes down to how we perceive ultrasound images. Do they, as ChurchAds imply, merely connote the joy and anticipation of a forthcoming birth or, as Terry Sanderson suggests, are they too wrapped up in the abortion debate, particularly when used by Christian organisations? After all, showing pictures of ultrasounds is a common technique used by anti-abortionists to make their argument that a foetus represents an inviolable human life. And anti-abortion campaigners, naturally, have embraced the campaign with open arms. John Smeaton of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child told the Guardian:
"The advert is saying that Jesus was alive as a person before he was born. They have a halo round his head and you don't have a halo around the head of a blob of jelly or a cluster of cells. This is not a cluster of cells but a human person and it just happens to be the God man Jesus. It is about the humanity of the unborn. That is a very, very powerful statement that will strike a chord with the general population."
I'm not sure what to think with this one. It'd be nice to think that abortion didn't even cross the designers' minds when they came up with the ad. The Church of England is, after all, involved in the campaign, and they tend to steer well clear of the abortion debate. Personally I would be more likely to associate ultrasound scans with expectant parents showing off their forthcoming arrival, which is what the designers say they intended. In which case, I'd say it's a smart piece of marketing. But perhaps ultrasound images are too closely associated with abortion for their use to be uncontroversial in this context. And that's without the addition of the halo, which you could easily see as intended to connote the sanctity of human life, as viewed by anti-abortionists.

So, I'm putting this to a poll, which you can vote in below. Plus, let me know what you think in the comments, particularly if the poll is lacking a suitable choice for what you think.


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Daily Rowson #6: You're f****** nicked

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For today's Martin Rowson cartoon, I thought I'd reveal one we never actually published. It was the first option for our 2004 cover story on David Blunkett's incitement to religious hatred legislation (I posted the actual cover the other day), but was deemed too bloody by the then-editors to adorn the cover of a magazine. Self-censorship, or just a wise decision given the magazine had to be sold in branches of Borders? Either way, we think it's a very funny swipe at religious sensitivities. Also, I think this is the first time we've actually published it anywhere, so you could argue I'm making history as I type.

This image was one of those sold yesterday as our exhibition opened at the Menier Gallery in Southwark. We had a very successful auction last night, with more than 20 items sold, but with more than 150 items in the exhibition, you still have the chance to get your hands on an original piece of blasphemous Martin Rowson artwork. The exhibition is open every day from 10am-6pm until Saturday 12 June, when it closes at 4pm. Admission is free, so why not pop in and see this fascinating collection of New Humanist covers, cartoons, and illustrations. And if you think any of the exhibits deserve pride of place on your godless wall, you can enquire about buying at the gallery. There are also signed posters and books on sale there.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Daily Rowson #5: What's a brain?

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"Creations in Bad Faith", our exhibition of Martin Rowson's work for New Humanist, has opened at the Menier Gallery in Southwark this morning, so if you're in the area why not pop in and have a look? It's open every day from 10am-6pm until Saturday, when it closes at 4pm. Also, you're invited to our charity auction this evening (PDF invitation), where you could have the chance to buy your very own Martin Rowson artwork. The private view and auction starts at 6.30pm - it'd be great to see you there.

And to continue our daily dip into our Rowson archive, here's his 2005 take on the news that some pharmacists were refusing customers the contraceptive pill on account of their religious objections. Sadly this one isn't actually in the exhibition, but it's one of my favourites so I thought I'd show it here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Daily Rowson #4: Grayling the football fan

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From 2005, here's how Martin illustrated this piece by AC Grayling arguing against the idea of humanist services and rituals. Funnily enough, having just re-read the piece, I notice that Grayling doesn't actually suggest he finds football provides a source of secular community but still, it's an amusing idea nonetheless!

Don't forget, our exhibition of all Martin Rowson's work for New Humanist, featuring more than 150 cartoons, opens at the Menier Gallery in Southwark tomorrow, until Saturday 12 June. It's open every day from 10am-6pm, except for Saturday, when it closes at 4pm. And if you fancy getting your hands on your very own piece of Martin's artwork, why not come along to our private view and auction tomorrow evening. Here's a PDF invitation, if you're interested.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Daily Rowson #3: Doorstep abstinence

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Here's today's pick from the Martin Rowson exhibition, which opens at London's Menier Gallery on Tuesday. In this cartoon, from November 2003, Martin satirises the rise of the Christian abstinence movement in the US.

The exhibition is at the Menier Gallery in Southwark from 8-12 June, with a charity auction on the evening of 8 June (PDF invitation). All cartoons are for sale during the exhibition, so this is your chance to own your very own piece of Martin Rowson heresy.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Daily Rowson #2: You're nicked

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As promised, here's another cartoon from our Martin Rowson exhibition, which is at the Menier Gallery in London from Tuesday. This was Martin's response to incitement to religious hatred legislation proposed by the government in 2004, which looked like a dangerous step towards closing down debate around religion.

Do come to the exhibition if you can make it. It's at the Menier Gallery in Southwark from 8-12 June, with a charity auction on the evening of 8 June (PDF invitation).

Friday, 4 June 2010

Varying takes on the Papal visit

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Thought I'd just share a couple of interesting, and very different, items regarding the forthcoming Papal visit. Firstly, former Catholic Herald editor Damian Thompson has the cover story in the current issue of the Spectator, in which he argues that the visit has "been hijacked by a Blairite cadre". Citing errors made by those responsible for organising the various events scheduled to take place while the Pope is in the UK, and the fact that some of the key players have close links to the Blair family (including someone who, would you believe, once worked for "a stridently PC women’s charity that supports the provision of abortion and contraception services in the developing world"), Thompson suggests that "Benedict XVI is unwittingly being caught up in a Blairite publicity stunt bearing the fingerprints of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation".

My second piece of news is only loosley related to the first, although I imagine Thompson will have something to say about it on his blog in due course. Gay rights campaigner and prominent humanist Peter Tatchell has this morning announced that he will be fronting a Channel 4 documentary on the Pope, to be broadcast shortly before his visit. Here's what Tatchell has to say about it:
"My aim is to make a robustly factual programme that explores the Pope's personal, religious and political journey since the 1930s, as well as the motives and effects of his controversial policies.

"I intend to ensure that we hear the voices of the Pope's defenders, as well as his critics. I would be like to interview the Pope himself. It would be ideal for Pope Benedict to be able to explain himself in his own words. But I doubt that I will be granted an audience."
Tatchell is, of course, a fierce critic of organised religion and the damage it can cause, but he's also respectful of people's religious beliefs, and has campaigned widely over the years against the opression of religious minorities around the world. So I expect that, while his documentary will pull no punches, he will also deliver on his promise to provide a balanced view.

In any case, the documentary is sure to provide some relief for the atheists who feel the media is hopelessly biased in favour of religion, while stoking the anger of those religious commentators (as represented in this Telegraph article) who feel that the media is hopelessly biased against religion.

Do you ever find yourself thinking that the reality could lie somewhere in the middle?

Daily Rowson #1: Smug pig

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This past week, I've spent much of my time compiling a catalogue of all Martin Rowson's illustrations for New Humanist, from 2002 right up to the current issue. That's over 150 cartoons, many of which I'd never seen before so, as cataloguing tasks go, it's certainly been one of the more entertaining (although I've never worked for Argos, so I can't say for sure).

I suspect most of you, like me, will never have seen the majority of these cartoons, especially those from several years ago. Thankfully, you'll have the opportunity to see them all next week, when our exhibition opens at the Menier Gallery in London (8-12 June), with the opportunity to buy one at our charity auction Tuesday 8 June (download a PDF invitation here).

But for those of you who can't make it to the exhibition, or as a sneak peek for those that can, I thought I'd put up a daily cartoon from the archive over the course of the next week, based on those that made me laugh the most while I was putting the catalogue together. First up, here's Martin's 2004 take on the dietary restrictions contained in certain holy texts.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Blood on the carpet at CFI

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Last year we published a piece by R Joseph Hoffman about the internal disputes over at the American Center for Inquiry. In the article Hoffman was very frank about his relationship with CFI founder Paul Kurtz, including being critical of aspects of Kurtz's leadership style, which led some people to criticise us for publishing an 'ad hominem' attack. I always thought we were justified in publishing because the piece was a well-written insider's account of the travails of running a humanist organisation (something close to my heart), especially revealing about what happens when objective commitments to other humans clash with ego.

Now news reaches us via Joe Hoffman, passing on the words of Paul Kurtz (which suggests that theirs was not an irrevocable falling out), of sackings and recriminations at CFI headquarters. We have received a public email from CFI explaining that they have a funding crisis, so perhaps these sackings were inevitable, but the manner in which they have been done certainly seems to warrant further investigation. I don't know the players personally (I met Joe and Paul Kurtz once) but I did admire Norm Allen's anthology of African American humanism, an especially important contribution to a movement which is often rather too white.

If anyone knows more about this let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Skeletons in the Vatican's cupboard

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On the cover of our current issue, we have Martin Rowson's cheerful depiction of a policeman arresting the Pope on his arrival in the UK later this year. It relates to a couple of items inside the magazine. Firstly, there's the result of our April poll, which asked if the Pope does have a case to answer over the child abuse cover-ups. 10,745 people voted, and the results were as follows.
Do you think the Pope should face legal action over the Catholic child abuse cover-ups?

51% - Yes. This cover-up appears to go to the very top and its perpetrators must face justice.

22% - Yes. While it's unlikely the Pope will end up in the dock, suggestion of a legal challenge during his UK visit will draw attention to the extent of the cover-up.

13% - No. This is about many individual, horrific cases of abuse spread over decades. It is a distraction to try and attribute responsibility to one man.

1% - No. This looks like atheist posturing. We need to join with Catholics in calling on the Vatican to come clean on this issue, and talk of arresting the Pope will just alienate them
The second piece of content the arrested Benedict related to was a column by Richard Wilson, author of Don't Get Fooled Again: A Sceptic's Handbook, which I've just put online now. Richard says that the Catholic Church's disregard for secular legal authorities in relation to child abuse cover-ups is replicated in relation to many other serious legal matters around the world. Focussing on the Church's record in Africa, he points out that the Vatican has a very serious case to answer regarding the actions of some of its representatives in helping to protect war criminals.

It's a fascinating and disturbing take on the Catholic Church and what Richard calls its "murky relationship with the rule of law", and shows that child abuse isn't the only issue on which we should be holding the Church to account.