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About MegC

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    Reading, mainly classics and history.
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  1. I had been a member of the Labour Party for 50 years before Blair took us into Iraq and I voted in the Leadership contest (though not for him). His religious views were not widely known within the Party and I have spoken to many other members who were shocked when the depth of his religious views became known, especially when it became known that it affected his judgement over the War in Iraq (that and maybe his close ties with President Bush, another 'fundamental' Christian). There is nothing illegal about having a catholic Prime Minister since the Test Acts were repealed but it has been custom and practice to have a Protestant one because the Queen is Defender of the Protestant Faith and it has generally been thought better that the Leader of her government should therefore be a Protestant too. Prince Charles has spoken of becoming 'Defender of the Faiths' and maybe this would be a good thing. It is best I think that the monarch defends the faiths and that the Prime Minister governs in a secular manner. BTW I don't know any atheists (and I know many) who object to Christmas festivities, or to any other religious festivities. I personally love the brightness which they bring to the winter months - Divali and Hannukah included. The suggestions that changes be made have been from areas where council officials have thought that a significant number of Council Tax payers may not be Christians, although Birmingham Council, for instance, has several times put out disclaimers about Christmas being 'banned' because of Muslim objections - of which there were none. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this particular subject, perhaps by those wishing to discredit other religions.
  2. I can assure you that I am not a tabloid reader and that I have read a great deal of comparative religion. Nor am I being zenophobic - I do not object to immigration, I am just worried about the increase of certain religious beliefs and the effect they might have on the politics and general tolerance of this country. When there are two major religions, such as Islam and Catholicism, hostile to homosexuality, divorce, abortion etc I think there is cause for worry. Also, anti-semitism is prevalent in Eastern Europe and in Islam and this is another cause for worry. Religious tolerance has been a strength of the UK a long while (except in Northern Ireland ) and these religions are not known for their tolerance. I also know from personal experience that whenever legislation to do with divorce, abortion or gay rights comes before Parliament, MPs are deluged with thousands (yes thousands) of letters drafted by priests and mullahs for their congregations about the way they should vote. Such intense lobbying from what is in fact a religious minority has a significant impact upon our parliamentary representatives. I find it worrying that a minority of the population can have such an impact - look at the influence a small Victorian organisation like the Lords Day Observance Society can have upon Sunday opening hours, for instance.
  3. Apart from the attempted 'brainwashing' of children in our schools, which is becoming more frequent as 'faith' schools come online or as more evangelical teachers join school staffs, I am worried about the increasing number of catholic immigrants from Eastern Europe affecting the religious balance of UK society. I have no objection to them as immigrants per se but fear that their strong religious beliefs may exert a strong influence on British life and politics on such issues as the acceptance/tolerance of divorce, abortion and homosexuality or even atheism. It seems to me that we could undergo a Reformation in reverse and I find that very worrying because I think it could lead not only to the sort of religious conflict we have seen in Northern Ireland but to an increasing lack of tolerance in general. Coupled with an increase in the belief in Islam, I think this increase in the religious makeup of Britain is a recipe for disaster . One of the things Richard Dawkins suggests in The God Delusion is that atheists and agnostics should be more vocal about their views so as to prevent religious people gaining control over our society as in the past and I think this is becoming more necessary. Do others agree? PS: It was reported today that for the first time in 500 years there are now more Catholics attending church than Protestants, which underlines my fear . Also it was announced that our former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has converted to catholicism. IMO he would never have been elected as Leader of the Labour Party if members had known he was so religious and would not have been acceptable as Prime Minister if he had become a catholic whilst in office. He effectively became Leader and Prime Minister under false pretences. I do not say this because I am anti-catholic but because the history of the UK has been fraught with problems emanating from strongly held Catholic v. Protestant beliefs and I believe it is a sensible habit of Brits to avoid religion in politics - as Alistair Campbell said to Tony Blair 'we don't do religion'. However, this is likely to change if a larger number of catholics begin to influence political life. Already there are complaints from catholics that Tony Blair has converted to catholicism despite having supported abortion and gay rights.
  4. I only wish that I could withdraw my taxes from religious education ggl06 and yes, I am intolerant about the teaching of any religion in state schools, unless it is taught as history. What is taught in catholic, CofE, jewish and muslim schools does not concern me but I would like to see all state subsidies to them removed. Like Dawkins, I see religious education as brainwashing, just as it would be if the state allowed schools to teach our children to be little Socialists or little Conservatives. I realise that it is mandatory to teach the Christian religion but far too much discretion is left to head-teachers as to how much is taught and whether the teaching of other faiths is included, as my illustration from the West Country shows. In my experience, your school's broad approach is the exception rather than the rule. This discretion also enables head teachers to make arbitary decisions about Christmas celebrations (mentioned in another post). There is little evidence that other religious groups object to these and many of the stories about the banning of Santas etc in town centres and elsewhere are apocryphal and whipped up by the tabloid press. http://www.guardian.co.uk/christmas2006/story/0,,1967367,00.html
  5. I woke up at around 2am this morning and switched on Radio 4's World Service to hear these wonderful, hilarious 'playlets' written by 11 year old children in the UK:- http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/programmes/world_drama.shtml If this is the standard of writing by 11 year olds, we have a lot of good literature to look forward to!
  6. For a brief left-wing history of the aftermath of both World Wars try Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Extremes : The Short Twenthieth Century 1914-1991. He has a very readable style and his views are a good contrast to the more common right wing stuff. After you have read something about WWII you might like to try Professor Peter Hennessy's Never Again which is an account of British life from 1945-1951. Hennessy is a lucid and amusing writer and as Ian Aitken wrote 'the antithesis of the dry-as-dust academic historian [who] laughs a great deal and punctuates his writing with cheery and illuminating anecdotes'. Hennessy followed this with Having it So Good which covers the Fifties, about which Philip Ziegler wrote 'If the Gods gossip, this is how it would sound'.
  7. One of the points that Dawkins makes in The God Delusion is that children at school are in danger of being brainwashed by religious teaching in a way that would be completely unacceptable if it were political brainwashing. My grandchildren, at an ordinary primary school in a West Country village, have recently been subjected to daily religious teaching daily by Evangelical teachers recruited by an Evangelical headteacher. Each class begins with prayers and a story from the Bible etc. No attempt is made to teach the children about other faiths or non-faith. Apparently this is possible within the loose guidelines laid down by the Department of Education for the teaching of religion. My daughter has withdrawn both her children from this school and enrolled them in a school where the headmaster is an atheist and whose sole contribution to religious teaching is to get the children to say grace at their lunchtime meal. More and more schools are teaching religion in an aggressive evangelical way and without taking into account the beliefs of other people in our society and I think that parents, especially those who are agnostic or atheists, need to be on the alert for this kind of brainwashing. There is also a need to lobby the Department of Education about teaching comparative religion in all our schools, if religion is to be taught at all. Personally I would prefer that religion was not taught in state schools, except as history, and that parents who think such teaching is necessary should pay to send their children to religious schools, not force the rest of us to subsidise their beliefs. This situation is bound to get worse as US type evangelism is spreading and there are also a large number of practising Christians from Eastern Europe coming to work in the UK, adding to the already large numbers of Muslims. I feel that this is a recipe for a future Northern Ireland type conflict if we do not stop the teaching of religion in schools and academies. Ethics and morality are not the preserve of religionists and should taught as part of other subjects, like citizenship and/or human relations. Sorry for the rant . This is a subject I feel strongly about, not just because I am an atheist but because I think it could have a drastic effect on the religious tolerance our country has been famed for.
  8. Thanks David - sorry about that.
  9. Adultery or sex out of wedlock wasn't palatable to the Victorians in any form, whether you were rich or poor. It was against the teachings of the Church and broke one of the Ten Commandments. There are many Victorian novels which dwell upon the fate of adulterers or unmarried women and they usually come to a bad end. In George Eliot's Middlemarch, for instance, the mere inference that adultery might have been committed blights the life of Dorothea and Ladislaw, although Eliot contrives a respectable ending. And Tess of the D'Urbevilles, Hardy's unmarried Mum, There were also different rules about adultery for men because they could divorce their wives for infidelity or suspicion of it but women could not divorce their husbands. In Austen's Mansfield Park Mr Rushworth gets his divorce for adultery at the end of the novel and in James' What Daisie Knew the effect of divorce upon children is shown in what is the first novel to deal with child custody.
  10. I think what we see as the unsatisfactory ending of Jane Eyre was due to the conventions of the time. Readers would have been expected her to settle down to being a 'good' wife to Rochester because conventional, romantic endings sold books and showed the 'proper' thing to do. We see it as an unsatisfactory ending because women of today can defy convention and live independently but for the Jane Eyres of Victorian times to do so would have been shocking. This is why so many novels about seemingly 'feisty' Victorian women end in marriage. For them to have 'lived in sin' or to have pursued a profession, or even a serious hobby, would have outraged Victorian society and the book might have been boycotted. The Bronte sisters hoped to earn a living from their books so there was only so far they could go in 'bucking the trend'.
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