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 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9074643/Religion-in-modern-Britain-ten-recent-conflicts.html

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: http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/rschoeman_seccoming_jan06.asp

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

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Should we be offended by a god that judges?

I recently purchased Timothy Kellner's book The Reasons for God- Belief in An Age of Skepticism and although he outlines a lot of unbiased attitudes in his opening chapters, it is the chapter 'How can a loving God send people to hell?' that I am going to be talking about in the next few posts, mostly because it falls flat of any sort of answer at all and rather exposes some strange ad hominem arguments.

I will say firstly though that I am enjoying Timothy Kellner's book and find most of it interesting and it has some great points and will probably do a full review of it at some point. But this post addresses something I read in his book and was taken a back by the short sightedness of his explanation.

A judging god offends me...

The most shocking argument the Kellner unleashes in this chapter is in response to a woman who stated that a god who judges people offends her. To which Kellner replies "I respectfully urge you to consider your cultural location when you find the Christian teaching about hell offensive.'  He then goes on to tell her that the aspects of Christianity that Westerners like, i.e. forgiving your enemies other societies find 'repulsive'. 'Traditional societies the teaching about turning the other cheek makes absolutely no sense. It offends peoples instincts about what is right' He then leaps from this argument to a subtle attack on the questioner, claiming that because she favours the god of love and is offended by a god of judgement this must mean she holds her world view over that of other cultures in short finding a Western world view to be superior to that of non-Western ones. He states 'Why, I concluded, should Western cultural sensibilities be the final court in which to judge wether Christianity is valid? I asked the woman gently whether she thought her culture superior to non-Western ones. She immediately answered 'no'. 'Well then,' I asked, 'why should you cultures objections to Christianity trump theirs?'

I find his argument flawed in several ways

1) Westerners do not conclusively uphold and endorse the ideas about forgiving their enemies. Take America as an example, one of the largest Christian countries, also one of the few Western countries to still practise the death penalty, arguably not an act that forgives your enemies. Also a country that attacks invades and bombs countries regularly is also not an act that could be classed as forgiveness quite clearly an act of judgement. The idea that the West loves forgiveness and traditional cultures don't is an idea he implies himself and not the questioner. Where are these countries that are so repulsed by forgiveness?

2) Every time you disagree with someones way of thinking it does not transpose into finding a whole culture inferior to yours. This is an ad-hominem attack that is making the woman feel as though she is feeling superior to another cultures.

3) Isn't forgiveness and love a way that we are all trying to live? Didn't the West once live in a way of judgement, looking back several centuries in England there were witch trials, public executions, torture, lack of religious or political freedom. Aren't we all in agreement that forgiveness is the better way to live. That judging others for the colour of the skin, sexuality or gender is counterintuitive to living harmoniously?  That is whether you like it or not , the way the world is evolving, and countries that do not practice this are viewed in a negative light by Christians and none Christians, by the secular world as well as religious.  It is not by feeling superior that we feel things ought to change but by seeing how badly practising this form of judgement impacts on peoples lives and freedoms that means we fight for human rights and for equality. These are the characteristics by which the world changes for the better, so it is completely acceptable to feel that Christianity and by proxy the god of Christianity would have these characteristics as well.

He then goes on to say that we should imagine 'Christianity is not the product of anyone culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgement.'

Yes human cultures are ever changing but most are evolving into more tolerant countries which aim to improve the lives of those in it, that give equality and freedom to its people that don't judge others that act upon leniency. Will it not be soon that a god of judgement will not only contradict some human thought but all human thought. I also don't see why 'If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place.' Surely if Christianity were the truth, which we are always reminded is absolute, there would be no room for throwing out its passages and accepting others which is what anyone would have to do to make Christianity seem reasonable to the modern world.

Yes you can be offended by a judging god because it is always contradictory to love, forgiveness and understanding which we deem to be high qualities in people all around the world. So it is no stretch to be offended by a god that doesn't embellish these qualities that we find so perfect in humans that god should easily see how futile judgement is.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Free religious, atheist and agnostic books. UPDATE

Here is a list of FREE books, eBooks and PDF's for all religious books, scripture, atheist and agnostic books. It's a work in progress but these are links that I've had time to check or have used in the past. Either send for or download. Some of these links may become useless in time so I'll try to keep it as functional as possible. Also if you have any free book links you want to add just drop it in the comments and I'll add it to the list.

Note: Some free books may require you to sign up to a mailing list or ask for a donation. I have tried to limit the use of these in this list however they are included.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Joseph Atwill's Covert Messiah - Unlikely to reveal anything new

 There's a bit of a flutter in the religious debate world at the moment as Joseph Atwill's Covert Messiah seminar is due to take place on the 19th of October in London. There he will announce the case for his 'ancient confession' and theory that Jesus is 'a fabricated cover story for an Imperial psychological warfare operation born out of the First Jewish-Roman War in the first century.' But do such claims hold any weight or is this just another theory drawn together by wishful thinking and a loose grasp on history and theology? Is Covert Messiah simply a money making scheme created for controversy and a tidy £35.00 entrance fee?

Joseph Atwill reassures us that although the idea may sound far-fetched the quality of the evidence may surprise us. That remains to be seen but until the  unveiling, the internet is left to speculate about the premis of his argument based on the contents of his previous work which the seminar will likely reinforce.

 Mr Atwill calls himself an American Biblical Scholar (a title that is debatable).
In 2006 he wrote and published the book "Caesar's Messiah" that garnered relative success and influenced a documentary of the same name in 2011. However others feel his credentials are lacking in areas needed to substantiate a Josephus conspiracy theory. Before he has even announced the details of the ancient confession, which sounds dramatically Dan Brown-ish, experts in the field don't seem to think he has done the research and have found several holes in his thesis. (Read Tom Verenna's implausibility breakdown here.)

While he may be bundled up with other Christian mythicists like Ralph Ellis, whose Jesus as the son of King of Edessa  theory received much more than a skeptical eye, the documentary based on his works did gather quite a bit of a following. This doesn't mean much in the way of reliability- I learnt that about The God Who Wasn't There and still feel a bit stung about the debunk.

 The theory that Jesus was developed by the Roman government and then employed historian Flavius Josephus  to write the gospels is not an entirely new theory in fact it closely replicates a theory that has been reworked several times in the past century, and has many similarities to the Piso Family Conspiracy which is generally thought to be unfounded. In Atwill's reworking he believes Josephus has left clues in his own writing which correspond with the New Testament that when pieced together point at a conspiracy for psychological warfare around 70 AD as a way to pacify the Jewish people.

I'm not going to lie, the cleverly marketed symposium did draw me in, I like the touch of hosting it in Holborn's Conway Hall, more so because I used to work in Holborn and know the area is littered with masonic goings on, only adding to the cloak and dagger feel. Atwill has his own sentimental reasons for choosing to hold it Conway Hall and it is a fitting venue; it's founder was an advocate of free thought. However, I suspect the unveiling will not fulfill anyone's need for definitive answers and will fuel the blogosphere for many months to come.

Covert Messiah  is being held on the 19th of October 2013 in Conway Hall, Holdborn, London. You can get more info and tickets here.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Snowy Peak syndrome of Atheism and Apologetics

When I studied politics (briefly) in college we were introduced to the term "Snowy Peak Syndrome" which refers to the top of organisations / fields/ professions being dominated by white middle class men. It was a term coined by Trevor Phillips, this was his original statement:

'Across the private sector we have what I call the ‘snowy peaks syndrome’ - a mountain represents an organisation’s workforce. At the base you find large numbers of women and ethnic minority workers whereas at the summit you find a small amount of white, middle class men.' Source
It's not just the workplace or industry that suffers from Snowy Peak Syndrome it appears it is also the sphere of religious debate.When doing a quick search for "most well known atheists" I stumbled upon this page The 25 Most Influential Atheists. Here's a sample of them put together in this poorly made graphic:

At the top -  the forefront of atheism is lacking in diversity

If you looked yes you will notice a distinct lack of women  and racial diversity. Why is this? Is religion still a part culturally of black and asian communities that accounts for the lack of representation in these areas?  For example Black female atheist Jamilla Bey suggests that being religious is seen as part of black identity, she said "It's a problem that amongst African Americans there's this narrative that says in order to be authentically black, one must be God-fearing, or one must be a good godly woman or a good godly man."

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Disowning terrorists is a paradoxical loophole that helps nothing

Atrocity after atrocity is occurring world wide and it's a distinct blend of religious extremism and politically infused guerrilla  warfare.

Kenya, Nigeria, Israel, Pakistan and the UK are just some of the countries that have been on the receiving end of radical Islam this year alone. The problem is two fold, a blur between cries for the removal of armed forces in mostly Islamic countries/the retribution for war in Islamic countries and the instigation of Sharia Law. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The representation of religious extremism in contemporary film: Does it have its uses?

 For my dissertation  I researched religious extremism in the films RedState and Four Lions. I would like to share with you my introduction and conclusion, it was a very laborious few months but I really enjoyed the research and in the end found the films useful and thought provoking anyway here is what I found:

In July 2012 a fourteen minute video entitled Innocence of Muslims (Nakoula:2012) was uploaded to YouTube. The relatively low-budget film was poorly dubbed in Arabic with what were regarded as anti-Islamic slurs, causing a global controversy resulting in the death of 75 people. It also prompted a wide variety of responses from different governments; Pakistani minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour offered a reward for the death of the film’s producer and the American Government requested YouTube assess whether the video could be removed from their site. Critics noted that the video was constructed to be inflammatory that it emphasised that films are ‘still associated with an idea- the idea of America’s global power and prestige’ (Guardian, 2010). Ironically, across the Atlantic the Westboro Baptist church continued to use the funerals (and subsequent news coverage) of soldiers that died fighting in wars against a religiously motivated force in the Middle East as a platform to promote homophobia and their fundamentalist beliefs. What I found interesting was it appeared that an ideological war was being waged using the media and it had a lot to do with religion.

Boredom binge drinkers: How alcohol has replaced recreation (and maybe religion) in young adults. Part 1

I've been wanting to do this post for sometime, and it comes from a what seems like a very mechanical trait of mine. Firstly, I want to cover the place I live and the culture that we have here that is alcohol focused, drugs I will come to later. Alcohol has a lot to answer for in British towns and cities, and I believe it correlates in someway with the decline of religion but is also an amalgamation of multiple changes in society. 

Quite a wordy title, admittedly. Yet being one of those working class young adults for whom alcohol has replaced all other sort of recreation, I could find no other way of putting it. I’m 24 years young, just finished a degree in media and currently facing a problem I have faced multiple times; I’m bored to death with the cycle of binge drinking- hang over’s- regret and then binge drinking. The obvious answer would be to just stop and this is something I and everyone else thinks after a hard night drinking and an even harder morning after. But for many it never happens, the hang over wears off, the enticement into alcohols escapist lair gets stronger. It’s Friday and you’re there again back at the watering hole for another ever more costly dose of poison induced fun, fun that is bought at a ridiculous price, both financially and physically.

First look at the facts, the average young adult which categorically speaking addresses 18-24 year olds is on an average wage of  around £7 per hour. The average UK working statistic is 32.3 hours making an average wage at most of £226 per week before tax and around £180.00 after. Admittedly not the most accurate statistics, but from firsthand accounts this is an optimistic review of a young person’s weekly income. I currently earn only around £100 pounds per week  (working part time) and this doesn't even begin to cover the plethora of unemployed who’s job seekers allowance is around £50 per week.  However employment is not the sole contributing factor to a persons finances, spending is obviously a huge part of it and lets be honest with ourselves, drinking is no longer a luxury or a rarity it is seen as a given and necessary part of our society customs and enjoyment. It has become a weekly expense, recent research at UCL shows that young adults are the highest consumers of alcohol consuming on average 15 units on what they call 'the heaviest drinking day'.

The offer of alcohol at very low prices sustains a culture of dangerous drinking. In particular, heavy drinkers who want to contain their costs in the face of rising prices but do not want to cut back their consumption have the opportunity to buy cheaper products from cheaper outlets. Similarly, young people with limited cash can still drink a lot of alcohol by turning to cheap,high-strength products. Cheap alcohol has been shown to be particularly attractive to harmful and dependent drinkers, binge drinkers and young drinkers. - The Stirling University
From personal experience, a heavy night drinking in the pub will cost you around £20-£30 on alcohol, not including money involved with going out such as entrance fee's and taxis. It might be a cheap-ish recreation due to cheap-ish beer but overall the pub takes a huge chunk of someones wages not to mention that being drunk fuels our decadent behavior and encourages more spending. 

 It's not hard to see how we have ended up here. Just think about how milestones are measured out by way of drinking, the reason 18 is such an important birthday, becoming a legal adult is over shadowed by the fact you can now buy alcohol.  The reality is most are drinking well before their 18th more likely before 16th and it is celebrated as the normal thing to be indoctrinated into the weekly cycle of living for the weekend and getting drunk.  Another aspect is that we are a society that is living for the moment and desires to be someone or something. We use booze to fill our lust for life and to bolster our ego.
For me, I had always been a big drinker admittedly a binge drinker. Yet, I had a slow realisation when I attended university that  the drinking life I had come to be used to wasn't the done thing around the people I met there. University's have the reputation for a drinking culture, but I would argue this is central to the 'dorm' lifestyle and not the University itself. So being outside of a dormitory clique the people I associated with were international students and students who lived at home in Birmingham. What I would never imagine is that about 10 miles from the place I grew up is where I would learn the most about the world and the people in it. More so I didn't expect, while attending uni in the gritty second city to be taught a new way of living- and it was drink free. 
I met born again Christians, Hindus and Muslims and around them my drinking culture was not just out of place it began to feel a bit pathetic. These weren't just international students they were British and they didn't drink and would you believe it they were really interesting people who enjoyed life without the bottle hanging over them as a social lubricant. They had that other thing though, that thing I was missing. They had religion. 
This got me to thinking about how we spend our weekends, even now our week nights. We spend it going out, entering into a world of fuzz waking up Saturday or Sunday morning, destroyed from the night before. We turn a relatively normal thing into an imagined fun because drink allows us to escape, to become someone confident, fun, carefree. Doesn't it? Isn't that the perk of intoxication, we become temporarily a better version of ourselves? 
It certainly doesn't feel that way the day after when we hear the stories of what we did and we feel embarrassed we might say, "I can't believe I did that!" But isn't that what we wanted? A change in the routine, a shut down of constant thought, of stress, we want to talk to people and not be concerned they wont like us, we want to approach people, to talk rubbish with people, lose all inhibitions and just dance.  
Well I went to a place once, where no alcohol was being consumed, and there were people that were expressing themselves, that were looking happy, that were socialising with people they didn't know and approaching strangers and newcomers and it was a church. And while I sat there, slowly sipping from a bottle of water trying to fend of a hang over induced panic attack, I envied those people so much. I was a mess,  I couldn't talk to anyone I could just sit and wait for it to be over so I could have my panic attack in the comfort of my own self inflicted misery. 
I had ended up in church because I have a friend who is Christian and this is where a hole forms in my theory, but don't worry it's easily stitched back up. She is my best friend, she is from an Asian background and has always been a Christian, but even though I love her, her life as a Christian I would argue is not a very dedicated one. It is one bore out of tradition and loyalty to her family. She might attend Church sometimes, but more times than not she too is hung over. Now unlike those people I met in University, she is not as passionate about her religion. She will say "I don't really know but I do believe." Which is fine, I am not here to say true Christians do this and you should be doing this. No my point is there seems to be a strong correlation between strong dedication to your faith, interaction with a religious community and a distinct lack of drinking. 

This brings me to my next point, the Christian I met at university filled her social hours with church activities, performances,charity work, prayer meetings, youth groups. She had things to do with her spare time and she enjoyed them most of all she didn't drink. Again my Muslim friend who doesn't drink through custom, when we went out we went to places I didn't go with my other friends because we had a one track mind and that is 'find the booze'. With her we watched films, played pool tried new restaurants and all done with a glass of coke or water instead of a bottle of wine. I didn't miss drinking, but once back in my normal circle I began to drink again and sit in the same pub spending my money and waking up poor and sick.
And that's the problem, we have become so focused on indulging and escaping that we don't even consider the alternatives. I must say here that I understand that aside from religion there are a lot of reasons people don't drink and fill their time with healthier non drinking activities but I am addressing the average- the majority- the people of my town who I see week after week and we are all doing the same thing, the same Facebook statuses about getting reading and then feeling terrible.It's so repetitive yet acceptable it has taken over any other sort of activity. When a friend and I decided to stop drinking she actually Googled "what to do that doesn't involve drinking" she'd forgotten and its not really a surprise I think there is a whole generation of us that has forgotten how to spend our time without drink. And I think it's a problem.
I haven't drank for three weeks, it doesn't seem much but that translates as three weekends where I have had to fight off temptation and persuasion and occupy my time in a different way. In part two (because I'm waffling on) I am going to look at the realistic alternatives and solutions to our boredom binge drinking and explain a little more about what I've been experience while I've been off the booze. 

Also to read more on this subject: 

General Update

I had to take a break from the Agnostic Fence for a while due to writing my dissertation, which was religiously focused and I shall share with you on here if you're interested. I did my dissertation on the representation of religious extremism in film looking at the films RedState and Four Lions,it got quite a bit of positive feedback which was exciting.  However once I'd completed that mammoth task, even though I enjoyed it, I thought I would step away from religion for a while and think about something new... that didn't last long.

Anyway I have quite a few posts to get round too, just thought I'd post an update in the mean time. The dissertation post will follow at some point.


Agnostic Fence

Monday, 14 January 2013

Is it child abuse to teach a child religion?

Richard Dawkins thinks so. He states there should be no such thing as a Muslim child or a Christian child etc because they are not old enough to understand the concepts of religion, assess other options and quite frankly decide for themselves.

I agree that children shouldn't be forced to follow religion, I would never force my child to believe as I believe but to do so is it really abuse? And to what extent do we push our beliefs on to others?

I accept that it may be seen as abuse in the way that it;

A) suppresses learned truths about the world.

B) Restricts free will and free thought.

C) Contain harmful views that create negative thought processes (for example, men are worth more than women, homosexual relationships are wrong)

Let's take these one by one and see how harmful each may be.

A) Some might argue that all of the scientific discoveries made about the earth, creation, evolution and the universe can be explained in their holy books. Personally I would argue that a lot of what science has discovered contradicts scripture and only through tiresome and wordy apologetics do people try to present otherwise.

Is it right to tell a child the world was created in six days by a creator rather than encourage them to look at science and the evidence for big bang?Or at least present them with both theories. Is it any different to telling children that Santa exists or the tooth fairy?

Yes, views about how we got here and here came from are important to our world view. They surpass childhood story's. Children may not have the ability or desire to contemplate that much but they question and learn and take things they learn at a young age up until they are adults even if they change their mind. I think it is wrong but I am not sure if it's abuse.

B) Free thought and free will. I think abuse begins when a child would be condemned for not accepting a parents world view. Say a Christian child expresses disbelief in god, in my eyes it would be wrong to tell them that was 'naughty' and that they would ' go to hell' for blasphemous thoughts. This goes against the free will we all have to question and learn. Children live by their parents law, on a grander scale it's comparable to the government telling us that to believe in god was stupid and wrong. Or that punishment was imminent for not doing so.

We should encourage children to think for themselves and to remember that others have the right to that freedom as well.

C) Is it right to tell a child that homosexual relationships are wrong despite it being accepted in wider society? Or that men are the head of the family and the head of a women despite being told we are all equal? Are these conflicting attitudes too much for a child to understand and harmful? I would say yes. Secular society is at odds with some aspects of religious ideology, namely homosexual relationships, abortion, women's rights. How can a child process these conflicting ideas?

Ultimately however from a religious view they believe that is the way of the world and to not tell a child about god and about hell could lead them to ruin. It may be easy to point the finger at religion but a secular world presents as many confusing contradictions for a child, such as its wrong to kill yet the country they live in goes to war. What about our appraisal of money yet our disgust for those who have too much? Our desires to be successful yet our attitude that it's ok just to try.

I was going to do a separate post on Dawkins latest documentary 'Faith School Menace' but I think I've covered most of my opinions here. So here's the link. Definitely worth a watch if not just to see kids asking Richard Dawkins about the extinction of dinosaurs.

Watch Faith School Menace here: