Letter of the Week

Accurate judgments on the pope and religion

The Guardian, Wednesday 15 September 2010

We, the undersigned, share the view that Pope Ratzinger should not be given the honour of a state visit to this country. We believe that the pope, as a citizen of Europe and the leader of a religion with many adherents in the UK, is of course free to enter and tour our country. However, as well as a religious leader, the pope is a head of state, and the state and organisation of which he is head has been responsible for:

Opposing the distribution of condoms and so increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of Aids.

Promoting segregated education.

Denying abortion to even the most vulnerable women.

Opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Failing to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.

The state of which the pope is head has also resisted signing many major human rights treaties and has formed its own treaties (“concordats”) with many states which negatively affect the human rights of citizens of those states. In any case, we reject the masquerading of the Holy See as a state and the pope as a head of state as merely a convenient fiction to amplify the international influence of the Vatican.

Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins, Professor Susan Blackmore, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Ed Byrne, Baroness Blackstone, Ken Follett, Professor AC Grayling, Stewart Lee, Baroness Massey, Claire Rayner, Adele Anderson, John Austin MP, Lord Avebury, Sian Berry, Professor Simon Blackburn, Sir David Blatherwick, Sir Tom Blundell, Dr Helena Cronin, Dylan Evans, Hermione Eyre, Lord Foulkes, Professor Chris French, Natalie Haynes, Johann Hari, Jon Holmes, Lord Hughes, Robin Ince, Dr Michael Irwin, Professor Steve Jones, Sir Harold Kroto, Professor John Lee, Zoe Margolis, Jonathan Meades, Sir Jonathan Miller, Diane Munday, Maryam Namazie, David Nobbs, Professor Richard Norman, Lord O’Neill, Simon Price, Paul Rose, Martin Rowson, Michael Rubenstein, Joan Smith, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Professor Raymond Tallis, Lord Taverne, Peter Tatchell, Baroness Turner, Professor Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA, Ann Marie Waters, Professor Wolpert, Jane Wynne Willson.

More here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/sep/11/pope-vatican-abuse-geoffrey-robertson

Papal immunity from the law and the Vatican state.

and here: http://www.johannhari.com/2010/09/09/catholics-shun-the-pope-who-has-abused-you

Johann Hari appeal to UK Catholics.

About jacobbauthumley

Just another Ranter in the blogosphere, based in the East of England in the UK. Interests literature and poetry, poets, communism and communalism, socialism, the destiny of humankind, the Ranter folk in the English revolution (one of their writers was called Jacob Bauthumley: click on About and you'll find a piece on Ranter beliefs, with a quotation from Bauthumley himself), the Green Party, philosophy, ethics, science fiction, the novel, France, Norfolk, global warming, humour, music, and survival. "We must love one another or die": W H Auden, in the poem 1st September 1939.
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7 Responses to Letter of the Week

  1. Protest the Pope here: http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/ and here:
    http://www.secularism.org.uk/protest-the-pope.htm, and at HYDE PARK
    CORNER, Tomorrow September 18th at 1.30pm, a gathering of the People’s LGBT fancy dress Republic-for-an-afternoon of Anarchy, Irreligion and Fun, followed by a march on Downing Street…and speeches. My militantly atheist dad, born on September 18th in 1918, would have loved every minute!

    Vatican sex crimes here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOyb-pV61zk

    Gay activist and journalist Johann Hari speaking about the Pope’s cover-up for child rape and child abuse by Catholic priests (audio only):

    Johann Hari calls for the arrest of the Pope here and speaks about deregulation on Dateline London (03/04/10):

    Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uEUtc2scy0&feature=channel
    Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjF_hJ5ja4I&feature=channel
    Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssTO0oxzZNE&feature=channel

  2. More quotations and words of others! But actually the UK itself is in part a theocracy with its 26 unelected Bishops legislating laws in the House of Lords. No-one is perfect in this world, least of all what the Pope and what he represents, but it still seems like throwing the baby out with the bath-water to reject his message against the secular atheism of our age. See me after the class Master Bauthumley! Blog on !

  3. As a 17th century Pantheist I care naught for atheists. I find my God in the Norfolk woodlands, in the Oak and the Ash and the Elm, in the Salicornia Europaeus of the saltmarshes, the couch grass as well as the fox, the badger, the moorhen and the stoat.
    The Pope is but a potentate of the temporal power, as divorced from Spirit as the Gods of the Copybook Headings (Rudyard Kipling).

  4. So now we are a 17th c. Pantheist which must be v. difficult living in the 21st c.!
    If you find your god in nature why on earth are you living in a City?
    If you’d really felt strongly about the Pope’s visit you could have protested and posted on it days and weeks ago and not just knee-jerked in agreement instantly after the official ‘ luvvies’ made their statement in the Guardian.

    I am beginning to believe Stephen Fry to be a pompous ass who imagines he has a witty and profound view on everything under the sun which must be broadcast to everyone!

    Be brave and original, declare your intellectual beliefs before and without looking over your shoulder for ‘official’ approval!

    • Yes, the pantheism of Bauthumley and William Wordsworth makes perfect sense to me. And I have the countryside on my doorstep, a 5 minute walk and I’m on the marshes…

      Personally I can’t stand Dawkins. I suppose I shall have to read the God Delusion, but I am temperamentally opposed to it in advance.

      You are probably right about Stephen Fry. I was in a pub once in Burnham Market, and I overheard him holding forth to a circle of friends at the very next table. Loves the sound of his own voice.

      Relinquishing belief altogether in a spirit animating the material world is entirely inappropriate for an ex-homeopath. By the way I have slayed the sceptics’ arguments in my post homeopathy-is-nonsense, and I have not even used my biggest gun yet, which the statistical evidence of homeopathy brilliant life saving performance in the biggest fatal epidemic of the 20th century, the influenza of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide: US statistics: homeopathic mortality, over 26,000 cases of Spanish influenza, 1.05%, conventional medical mortality, over 24,000 cases of Spanish influenza, 30%, natural mortality of that epidemic in the US, in untreated cases, 15%.

  5. Reality Check says:

    What exactly do you have against Dawkins?

  6. Oh hello Reality Check, another momentary emigrant from Robert Lindsay’s amazing blog?

    Not much contra Dawkins, yet. An excellent writer on evolution. He must be a breath of fresh air to you yanks, with your hundred million plus Creationists. I can’t comment on The God Delusion as I haven’t yet read it. He sounds, from the reviews I’ve read (in particular Terry Eagleton’s) like a scientific positivist, with a bland faith in Progress, a rather shallow viewpoint from McKibben’s perspective, and an anthropocentric arrogance. No doubt Dawkins imagines that the current shift into a global climate that is basically hostile to the continuance of the human species can be sorted out with a spot of atmospheric geoengineering – a highly risky undertaking. My favourite atheist argument at present is In Defence of Atheism (now Retitled The Atheist Manifesto I believe) by Michel Onfray. I wonder if Dawkins has anything more to add.

    I quote from some thoughts I put in an email to a friend, amd incl;ude the review of my current Apocalypse Now reading, by Bill McKibben:

    The stories we tell ourselves in our religions that we have an eternal, non-material part of ourselves the survives the death of our biological being are solace indeed: that is partly why religion is still so popular; but they are also likely to be untrue; else all mammals have an eternal soul, also unlikely.

    And what is the point of an eternal soul after the physical extinction of the human species?

    Have been reading Eaarth, by Bill McKibben, an American ecologist and naturalist. A highly recommended and beautifully written, but upbeat (as it must be, because it’s of American provenance) account of the state of the earth in 2009 and how it is now no longer the old planet we used to inhabit. Not projections, like Lynas’ Six Degrees, but the reality now, review here (not the type of review you’ll find in the mainstream, press):

    I suggest that you and I– start growing food: Peak oil has already happened (in 2005 to 2008) and food prices have started their exponential rise. They will never come down again. Grow some of your food! I have a mere 125 square yards of land that I rent from the City Council for £20.00 a year, but I grow a lot of vegetables. I am going to apply for my full allocation, which is 250 square yards.

    Link to Javier Sethness:

    Book Review: Bill McKibben’s Eaarth
    August 18, 2010
    Earth has died … but Eaarth offers few solutions

    Bill McKibben. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Times Books, 2010. 272 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8050-9056-7
    reviewed by Javier Sethness

    According to North American environmental activist Bill McKibben, planet Earth has died.

    Its replacement does not, however, constitute dialectical progress toward a higher or better state: the new-born planet, named Eaarth by McKibben in his book of the same name, follows instead from the brutality and thoughtlessness engaged in by much of humanity since its historical emergence.

    In McKibben’s estimation, the Holocene geological epoch — characterized by a narrow range of fluctuation in average global temperatures that has allowed for humanity’s rise and development on Earth over the past 12,000 years — can no longer be said to exist, as a result of human interference with planetary climate systems and human-induced environmental destruction generally conceived. Eaarth, referred to elsewhere as the Anthropocene, jeopardizes the survival of much of humanity and the continuation of a great deal of life itself.

    Such-world historical regression is “pretty outrageous,” as a climatologist McKibben quotes in the work has it; for McKibben, indeed, it represents “the deepest of human failures.” In light of such challenges, though, McKibben suggests that “we must keep fighting, in the hope that we can limit [the] damage” visited by constituted power on humanity and the planet. Like Noam Chomsky, he sees no legitimate alternative to struggle.
    As an academic concerned with environmental studies, McKibben is cognizant of the dire nature of the present state of affairs. On the new Eaarth, he mentions that billion-person famines could be regular events by the middle of the present century, that the flow of the Euphrates and Nile rivers could decline significantly in the near future, and that glacier retreat in the Himalayas and Andes could cause the water supplies of billions to dwindle within decades.
    In light of the various horrors climate catastrophe could visit upon us, McKibben suggests that humanity recognize limits to what Max Horkheimer terms its seemingly “boundless imperialism” — as Meadows et al. have emphasized since the publication of Limits to Growth in 1972— and jettison “the consumer lifestyle” altogether, instead adopting a “Plan B” characterized by the sharing of resources between Northern and Southern societies within the context of a joint effort to thoroughly re-arrange global society on rational-ecological grounds.
    McKibben here re-affirms the goal of attaining an atmospheric carbon-concentration of 350 parts per million (ppm), noting that carbon-concentrations higher than 350 ppm jeopardize the capabilities of human society to function. Toward this end he endorses what he calls a “clean-tech Apollo mission” and an “ecological New Deal,” arguing that such thoroughgoing changes be accompanied by a return to small-scale organic agriculture on the part of humanity generally conceived. This final recommendation, it should be said, is not terribly different from those made by Via Campesina.
    Despite the critical and important perspectives made by McKibben in Eaarth, in the end much of his argument offers little more than platitudes that reinforce existing power-arrangements.
    McKibben blames the regression to Eaarth and for future catastrophes on “modernity,” which he defines as “the sudden availability” of “cheap fossil fuel” in the eighteenth century CE. There is no recognition at any point in the work, of the processes which resulted in the onset of the capitalist mode of production during this period of human history, and there is no critique of the highly destructive nature of capitalism in general.
    It should not be surprising, then, that his present recommendations do not include a call for the abolition of capitalist social relations.
    Furthermore, he rather bizarrely seems, against all evidence, to view the current U.S. president as some sort of messianic figure worthy of devotion, claiming Obama to be “a president using centralized power to good ends” who is working “aggressively” toward the creation of a global climate-change accord.
    Such highly irrational views, of course, are typical of liberal environmentalists. By presenting the accession of Ronald Reagan to the U.S. presidency in 1981 as the onset of a markedly irresponsible socio-environmental regime — one he would have us believe as being dramatically different from that overseen by his predecessor, Jimmy Carter— McKibben once again betrays his ties to hegemonic politics.
    Unsurprisingly, he also endorses the imperial scheme presently being considered to erect vast solar plants in North Africa for use by European consumers and seems to support the maintenance of existing dams and the building of new ones for the development of “clean” hydropower.
    McKibben presents these reactionary perspectives while attributing responsibility for the current socio-environmental predicament to an amorphous ‘we’-as though the impoverished, the young, and other excluded groups have had any sort of choice on climate policy, let alone the course of history.
    This contrasts significantly with views advanced by Chomsky, who in June 2009 suggested a thought-experiment by which North-Americans 50 years ago were to have been given the choice of directing resources either toward the development of “iPods and the internet” or instead the creation of “a livable and sustainable socioeconomic order”— a false choice, as Chomsky points out, for no such offer has ever been made.
    Indeed, McKibben’s assertion of a vague collective responsibility has more in common with comments made in March 2010 by world-renown Earth scientist James Lovelock, who then alarmingly claimed humanity not yet to have “evolved” to the point at which it is “clever enough” to deal with climate change. That McKibben claims at one point in Eaarth that “[w]e don’t pay much attention to poor people” should need little comment.
    In words, McKibben recognizes the catastrophes we face, but his solutions — a return to small-scale agriculture coupled with a “green Manhattan project” — fall far short of the challenge. And even then, Eaarth includes little reflection on the terrifyingly repressive actions that capitalists and their defenders may well take to attempt to maintain their privileges in a climate-destabilized world, as Gwynne Dyer does in Climate Wars (2008).
    McKibben fails even to systematically examine the alarming impacts climate change could have on future agricultural production-considerations that may well prove important for the viability of his ‘back to the land’ project!
    Though Bill McKibben is no Walter Benjamin, we can perhaps hope that parts of Eaarth can help move humanity towards Benjamin’s concept of revolution— the “attempt by the passengers” on a metaphorical train “to activate the emergency brake” before it plunges into the abyss.
    Javier Sethness is a libertarian socialist and rights-advocate. He maintains the blog Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism.
    – Show quoted text –

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