Sunday, 2 November 2014

Film Review: Horns- Iconography over substance

Newsflash Jesus saves! Well crosses do anyway But from what exactly? Evil, yourself, mass hallucinations?

With an intriguing trailer, a slightly dystopian backdrop of a washed out logging town and the surreal character of known of Ignatious Parish, or Ig as he known to his friends, who awakes hungover one morning to find horns growing out of his head, this film did not turn out to be what I expected.

Somewhere beneath it all there was a moralistic tale, interwoven with not so subtle Christian ideology. It started great and ended flatly. Predicatble from the beginning and repetitive by the end. I'm sorry I really wanted to like this, and in parts I did, but the worn out whodunnit drama over took the fantasy and I began to see why they called it Horns as that was all that separated it's plot from that of a Lifetime movie.

The rundown:

The whole town suspects Ig of killing his childhood sweetheart Merrin, played by Juno Temple. She first caught Ig's eye in church, bouncing the light off her cross to send him messages in morse code.  Merrin is the ethereal and pure Eve like figure, her murder turns the town against Ig, and Ig, so desperate to prove his innocence somehow invokes a certain amount of helpful evil. His horns have the ability to make people confess there worse thoughts with a humorous honesty that Ig uses to try and get to the bottom of his true loves murder.

The outcome:

What I learnt from this film is people do bad things, good people do some bad things, theres a little devil in all of us, but crosses protect us from evil, even if that evil is ourselves?

I don't know. Go see it for yourselves, there is plenty of beautiful cinematography, great acting, some interesting biblical references and really funny moments. But do not expect to be enlightened… you literally finish the film where you began.

Verdict: 6/10

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Good or Bad: ' The church is on the brink of extinction' claims former Archbishop

Former Archbishop George Carey
 The former Archbishop George Carey has warned that the Church Of England is 'on the brink of extinction.' as he addressed an audience at the Shropshire Churches Conference. His concerns are that within a generation the Church could become obsolete  in the United Kingdom, as ministers and Church leaders have failed to introduce youth into its parishes and amount of people that consider themselves Christian has declined by 10% in as many years.  Not to mention Christianity has seen a loss of support from the courts, legislation and the government who can no longer support all Christian causes because of a wider mixed religious and secular society, including the introduction of same sex marriage.  Read full article.

Is this a good or bad thing?

This news is met with mixed response on the internet, many who see that the Church is dying because people no longer believe and that is a good thing, why try to uphold an institution that supports something people no longer believe in? The Church can no longer instil people with fear and thus retain its congregation like it may have done in the past. However some feel that this exposes that people have lost a sense of morality and spiritual fulfilment, and on the extreme end :that the country now worships the gods of money and possession. This argument has been had several times in several different formats, the arguments are that being religious does not make you good, being secular does not make you bad, therefore the Church is not necessary to instil morality.  However, I have said on several occasions, despite not being Christian, I feel the Church offers a genuine service that secular society has yet to replace. The church is valuable and whether you believe in god or not, the Church should be seen  as a positive aspect of our community.

Members meet up in All Saints Church,  Gosforth UK
Firstly, people believe that a dwindling church  means that religion will soon become extinct in the UK are not viewing the whole picture. Christianity, in particular,will remain in this country  for centuries to come. Numbers may dwindle but it will still be seen as the main religion of our country. The difference is however, that with the removal of Christianity from state schools and from our everyday life, Christianity becomes a genuine choice.  It can not offend those who don't believe because as the church becomes smaller so does it's power and the power of the Church is something people have always disliked.  In most cases the issue with Christianity is its indoctrination, but as I have outlined, despite recent reports on proselytizing in schools, evangelism in the UK is marginal. You have to opt in to evangelism, again, you make the choice.

I can understand a Christians frustration at viewing the country they live in as losing a sense of god or trying to reject it, but the way of life we have upheld for many years is garnered towards equality, tolerance, scientific progression and even when society secular or other wise doesn't necessarily deliver on our beliefs we still uphold them, it is still at our core. Religion has become of the face of the opposition to this innate desire and that is why I think so many will not be displeased to here that the Church is on the brink of extinction. In s
hort, people are moving forward and feel the church is not.

So why then, after all that, do I still think the church is positive and important part of our community. Not only does church bring people together, it gives people a chance, those who have really hit rock bottom find comfort. Its no joke that people are born again, people that were a shell of them selves become saved and I don't mean that in a religious sense although I'm sure that happens as well, but people that would otherwise not be here are still with us because the church is a place of refuge. It's not just a story that saves people, it is the socialising, the events, and the belonging. The church offers an ongoing program of support in all aspects of peoples lives because belief fills people with the desire to help, not monetary incentive.  You don't have to sign up for a church you can just walk in and receive help, the program never ends and extends way passed just the aspect of your life you struggled with. I have known people who have tried to take their own lives or been caught up in drug addiction and the church has changed them.  Now, I know there are voluntary services that can provide people with help but where these may have worked for some and failed for others the church has succeeded and vice versa. So why celebrate the removal of this service?   Does it matter that religion is part of their recovery? I don't know. It's not for me to say, I am not them, I have only seen and heard the changes. So while I know its not the only place that changes lives, it is a place that does and should remain open.

Also even on the less extreme side of things, the church offers  companionship to people and a sense of community. Something that atheists are tapping into now with things like 'Athiest-mega churches' but currently these are far and few between and I suspect something of a novelty ( find more about secular meet ups here). However yes maybe it could grow, but for now I do feel sad that this support network that does a lot of good for people could be removed and hope that it isn't as long as religion remains a choice then I have no problem with that choice being available.

Read more:

Religion in modern Britian Ten recent conflicts

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

George Bush and the people trying to force the second coming.

Recently I signed up for a book called The Messianic Bible. In my ignorance, I just assumed that this was a sect of Jews that believed in Jesus is the messiah and thought nothing of it. Interested to read more I signed up for a copy and was informed it wasn't yet ready for print but when it was I would receive one. Then I began to get weekly emails that were very much to do with the people of Isreal. I realised this was perhaps a lot more politically and religiously inclined than I had first thought. Then I see an article called George W. Bush to Raise Money for Group That Converts Jews to Bring About Second Coming of Christ you can read that here.
George. W. Bush is due to attend the MJBI in Texas

The article talks about George Bush and his affiliation with a group that as the title suggests ' converts Jews to bring about the second coming' and that group would just so happen to be The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute. So whats all the fuss about? Well, ex president and war criminal Bush is due to speak at an event held by The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute with the end game to raise money for the foundation. But the MJBI as they'll be known from now on, is not viewed favorably by the Jewish community, who find the attempts at converting Jews as insensitive and a direct display of disrespect for the Jewish covenant.  The MBJI state their vision is ' to bring Jewish people into a personal relationship of faith with Yeshua the Messiah, knowing their acceptance will eventually mean life from the dead (Romans 11:15)' Source

Why is it such a problem?

Commentary Magazine warned that ' it must be understood that the visceral distaste that the overwhelming majority of Jews have for the Messianics is not to be taken lightly.'  Source
MJBI want Jews to accept Yeshua as Messiah
So it's no wonder George Bushes scheduled attendance at the conference in Texas.  The internet had a mixed response as the story spread across blogs and online news site a like, the consensus is not as black and white as you think given the above comment. There was a somewhat balanced debate, with some Jewish commentators saying they were not bothered by the MJBI but generally his planned attendance was met with disdain, including that off Anti-defamation league director  Abraham Foxman. He stated he knew Bush was a lover of Israel and it's people and wouldn't embrace the ideology of the MJBI but wished he wouldn't attend all the same.  The bulk of the problem is that the MJBI and messianic Jews in general believe they are saving Jews by trying to get them to acknowledge Jesus as messiah and Savior, even if it goes against Jewish scripture it is the MJBI that is trying its best to theologically back up the claim, hence the production of the Messianic Bible.  The problem arrises for most Jews is that by trying to get Jews to accept Christ they are no longer Jews, the major difference between Christians and Jews theologically is the belief in Jesus as Messiah and so by introducing this doctrine they are actually creating Christians and not as the MJBI believes, Jews that believe in Jesus for there can not be such thing. 

Writing for the Jewish Journal, Rob Eshman states:

For Jews, there is no Father and Son; there is no Trinity: there is only Unity. One. That is a mindset with vast implications for how Jews see the world and behave in it. God is ineffable, certainly not a man, and God’s power lies precisely in that mystery. We accept that the biggest piece of the puzzle is left unsolved — that missing piece is the engine of our spiritual journey. It makes us, as individuals and as a People, inquisitive, skeptical of authority, relatively tolerant, empathetic — for if God is One, we’re all in this together — and eternally dissatisfied. That’s why when we start believing in Jesus as God, we stop being Jewish — not just in name, but deep down, in our souls

Why would it bring about the second coming?

Artist depiction of the 'second coming.'
The MJBI make it clear there aims are to fulfil the requirement for the return of Jesus Christ.
According to the New Testament there are a number of events that need to happen before the return of Jesus Christ including wars, false prophets, hatred for Christianity. However a lot of it centers around the Jews, their displacement and return to Israel and also their accepting of Jesus as lord. 

Many Bible verses seem to support the claim or are often used to do so.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.... Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Mathew 23 :37-39)

"Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved."  (Romans 11: 25-26)

You can read more about that here:

While I agree with the nature of the argument from Jews against the Messianic Jewish movement I do struggle to see how it differs to that of other religious proselytizing. Is it any different form Christian and Islamic missionary work, or preachers on street corners? We are always free to reject their ideas as they are always free to have them. So while I understand the issue I feel it runs deeper than theology and irks at the structure of Jewish customs and culture which is strong and has a long history, but it shouldn't seek to silence those that threaten it, it should merely ignore it.  

Religious news World & UK

Caught on Camera: Christians persecuted in Syria and Egypt

Officials at the United Nations say they have video footage of "horrific violence" towards Christians in both Syria and Egypt and that the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is going largely unreported in the world media.


 The Pope expresses a sentiment of by gone era.

Catholicism garnered some positive press this week after Pope Fransis was pictured kissing a heavily disfigured man, who suffers from a condition called nerofibrelga. The picture was seen as a return to the old ways of the Church and reinforcing the Christ like values of helping the sick and needy.
Pope Francis kisses and preys with man- St Peters Square (Photo Credit: Claudio Peri)

The Guardian wrote:  Francis has renovated a damaged brand not in years, but months. He has turned the image of the papacy and by extension the Catholic church upside down in less than a year. His papacy already seems destined to be remembered as special – and yet this communicational triumph has not been achieved through carefully constructed PR techniques. It is not spin. Its methods are medieval and its magic is simple.  Source


Homophobic Muslim Cleric University tour cancelled.

Zimbabwean cleric Mufti Ismail Menk had been invited to attend six univeristies  (Oxford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow) however, officials soon got wind of his homophobic beliefs including that of  "gays being worse than animals" and it was cancelled. The tour was being organised by Tayyibun  Institute for a series of talks to Muslim student societies at the universities.

Ismail Menk had been due to give talks at several Universities including Oxford

Ruth Hunt of the gay rights charity Stonewall said: “Universities should always remain mindful that they have a duty to protect all of their students and to ensure balance in university discourse.” 


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Can desire and reason live side by side?

I've been asked over the past few weeks why I don't just call myself an atheist or 'give up the dream' or pick a side relating to there being a god or creator. Each time it's been light hearted banter, it is after all, not that an important of an issue even though I spend a lot of time reading and writing about it. 

The reason I won't choose, I've always said,was because there's no way of knowing for certain. How did something come from nothing? Why/ how is there consciousness? How can we explain certain paranormal occurrences? These are the questions that keep me wondering and keep me from 'giving up the dream.' In fact it was that very term that triggered something in me, yes it was a dream in the sense that I wanted there to be more, it was a longing for a majestical awakening- a sign of something extra after we die, a place where consciousness is separate from the physical body. So although as i've outlined I won't commit to disbelief because of those unanswered questions I also don't want there to be nothing either.

Now once I admitted that to myself, I'm left with the unsavoury feeling that I am no longer completely unbiased by emotion. Maybe I have over looked certain aspects so that my unanswered questions remain that way, maybe I put more weight in circular arguments than I should have, would have, before I became someone who wants there to be something rather than someone who is completely indifferent. 

That being said I hope my desires would never cause me to be ignorant of the facts, because although it would be a wonderful idea for there to be a spiritual, magical realm, it does none of us any good to believe it baselessly. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Evangelising in British Schools - Unbelievable? Debate

This is mainly a post in response to the latest Unbelievable? debate from Premier Radio, which I advise anyone who is interested in religious debate to subscribe to, it is available as a podcast on iTunes.  In the latest debate Terry Sanderson from The National Secular Society went head to head with Reverend David Robertson about the latest  report released by the NSS regarding Evangelism in State Schools . Ther is a concern that certain Christian groups attending British State schools and evangelising to pupils rather than only informing pupils about religion.

The report is a collection of complaints that parents had made regarding Christian groups attending Religious Eduction classes, a class that looks at a wide variety of religions from an objective view point R.E as it is shortened to is supposed to be informative and fact based and has no spiritual or theological purpose. This is a fact that unfortunately David Robertson failed to understand during his argument, which he came at very aggressively from the beginning.  The complaints ranged from the fact that parents had not been informed that Christian groups would come into school, to children being given Bibles and being told this was the most important book they would ever read. Other instances highlighted by Terry Sanderson were young children being told by visitors to the school that miracle healing works.

Robertson believed the report was scare mongering, anti-chritistian and anecdotal as there were no statistical evidence to back up the frequency of occurrences and complaints. While he may have been right regarding the methodology of the report his answer to some of Sanderson's complaints showed he hadn't fully grasped the idea of objective teaching.

For example Sanderson wants religious education to remain objective, and has no problem with Christians coming into schools to inform children about the traditions, history and story of Christianity, however the evidence that groups had been crossing the objective line and began evangelising in schools was met with indifference by Robertson.  Instead of admitting evangelism isn't objective he went off on a tangent about The NSS wanting to influence the national curriculum, he then began insisting that Sanderson say wether he believed it should be taught that abortion is right in schools, again Sanderson said the facts and opinions of abortion should be taught and the decision left up to the child as to wether they find it wrong or right.  Robertson again unaware of the reality of being objective only read that Sanderson was advocating that abortion is right should be taught in schools.

It was a frustrating tit for tat as the Christian representative got weighed down by his own anger and intolerance for the NSS. He exposed his personal belief that children should not be allowed to make up their own mind on the ideas of abortion and euthanasia. He overlooked the points made my Sanderson about children not being taught in an educational environment that miracle healing works to which Robertson angrily replied "how do you know it doesn't work?" Again missing the idea that what Sanderson wants is a fact based education in the school, and I for one agree with him.

Religion in school should stay within the realm of informing as it was for me when I was at school.
In primary school there was a marginal amount of Christian ideology taught in our lessons, we preyed in morning assembly and sang hymns, but by the time secondary school came around all trace of that was gone - and rightly so. Religious Education classes focused on looking at the different beliefs people held, the moral arguments around euthanasia, abortion and gay marriage. But these were done as an open debate with the teacher acting as moderator only and our opinions were left for us to form.

Robertson he made a valid point that the production of the report was to condemn the actions it depicted,  Sanderson tried to state it was only a report and neither condemned or supported it was only to demonstrate findings. However, it is quite obvious the report is constructed to counter these arguments but someone has to. Yes in a country of 50 million+ a few complaints seems marginal, however it is something that should be monitored and the NSS report gives a voice to concerned parents who must, state school or other wise, be aware of the nature of their children's education.

You can read The National Secular Societys Report here 

And listen to the Unbelievable debate by visiting Premier Radio's page here