Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Pope Francis says he didn’t have the time because he already had a date eating with the homeless. In fact, he is not only going to be eating with them, but serving them. The meal will take place at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C.

Rather than try to write some great prose about this situation, we will simply quote Eric March from the website Upworthy, because he nailed it:

Unlike some of his predecessors, Francis has reminded journalists and world leaders time and time again that the church is for the poor, blasted the global financial system which causes so much poverty in the first place, and called on Catholics across the globe to take action and start lifting up the most vulnerable among them.

He’s also spoken out forcefully against economic inequality.

Including some of the worst, most exploitative labor practices in the world, which create conditions that allow hardship and desperation to thrive.

Blowing off John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi to serve the homeless is pretty much the kind of badassery we’ve come to expect from this pope when it comes to speaking up for the world’s most hard-up.

“Pope Francis is the ultimate Washington outsider. His priorities are not Washington’s priorities,” said John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

“We think we are the centre of the world. We are not the centre of Pope Francis’ world. He is frankly more comfortable in the slums of Argentina than in the corridors of power.”

Frank is also very comfortable trying to get the politicians of this world to understand that Climate change is real, and that it is caused by humanity, and that screwing the planet is not the sort of stewardship God intended us to follow.

We really like this guy. Really like him. He’s our type of Christian, and our type of leader.

We sincerely hope someone doesn’t shoot him, or that he doesn’t have a very convenient heart attack. And no, we’re not kidding.



Wandering around the worldwide interwebs can bring up a clutch of conspiracy theories, to be sure, but this link offers some of the more interesting UFO and “ghost” sitings recently captured on video.

Are these UFOs? Ghosts?

If you have five minutes spare, click the link, have a look and tell us what you think.

Have you ever seen what you consider to be a UFO? Or a ghost?

We happen to think, based on no evidence whatsoever, that sometimes universes in the “multiverse” bump into one another in a way we don’t understand, and we see shadows of what’s going on there.

We recently watched one of those brain-snapping TV speculative science shows that argued there was an infinite number of number of universes in which with every action – in every moment, for the whole of time – the universe continually splits. Turn left walking down the street, one universe is created. Turn right, a different one is. Both then exist side by side, interminably, constantly re-splitting.

Apparently the maths works. And no, we don’t pretend for one instant to understand it.

Are these UFOs? Ghosts?


We also think that in the future conquering time travel is inevitable, and in the universe as it stands right now, we can’t possibly be alone. So the idea of future beings or aliens checking us over doesn’t scare or surprise us at all.

Hey. Other recent research argues that aliens will look like us, pretty much. And if all the aliens look like Scarlett Johansson, frankly we say they can invade tomorrow.


Pope Francis. Photo: 14 June 2015

Pope Francis will call for swift action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, according to a leaked draft of the pontiff’s encyclical. Pope Francis puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities.

The document – published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine – says global warming is directly linked to human activities and the intensive use of fossil fuels.

The Vatican called the leaking of the draft a “heinous” act. It said the final version would be released on Thursday as planned. However it will once again confirm this Pope as one of the most reforming and progressive in the Church’s history, and given the Roman church’s attitude to the infallibility of the Pope’s utterances, swing hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics behind the movement to combat man-made climate change. The Pope’s rumoured attitude has already brought attacks from right-wing Protestant Republican politicians in America.

One, Rick Santorum, argued the Pope should leave science to scientists, somewhat idiotically ignoring the fact that the Pope is, in fact, a scientist. Back when Pope Francis was still going by the handle of Jorge Bergoglio, he earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

The pope’s career path isn’t all that unusual. His Jesuit order has a history of producing men with one foot in the spiritual world and another in the scientific realm. Czech astronomer and Jesuit Christian Meyer did pioneering work studying binary star systems in the 18th century. Bavarian-born Jesuit Franz Xaver Kugler did triple duty as a chemist, priest, and researcher of cuneiform tablets. And modern-day science writer and Jesuit Guy Consolmagno studies asteroids and meteorites at the Vatican Observatory.

“Doing science is like playing a game with God, playing a puzzle with God,” Consolmagno once told the Canadian Broadcasting Center. “God sets the puzzles, and after I can solve one, I can hear him cheering, ‘Great, that was wonderful, now here’s the next one.’ It’s the way I can interact with the Creator.”

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Significant Roman Catholic contributions to science aren’t limited to the Jesuit order, though. The Augustinian friar Gregor Johann Mendel bred pea plants in the garden of his monastery and discovered the principles of genetics.

In 1927, Belgian priest Georges Lemaitre discovered the “redshift” phenomenon that describes how the farther away a galaxy is from Earth, the more of its light is shifted toward the red end of the visible spectrum. This was two years before the more widely reported discoveries by Hubble.

‘Enormous consumption’

The 192-page draft of the new encyclical – which is the highest level of teaching document a pope can issue – is entitled “Laudato Si: On the care of the common home”.

In the paper, Pope Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation.

He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples.

The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest.

The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution.

The encyclical has been months in the writing, and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris, the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt says.

(BBC and others)

At least 5,000 women are subject to honour killings every year, although it may be many more.

At least 5,000 women are subject to honour killings every year, although it may be many more.

A Turkish mother, 36, shot dead her daughter, 17, after finding out that she was three months pregnant, media reports said on Saturday.

The mother, named as Emine A., found out that her daughter Meryem A. was pregnant during a visit to neighbours, the Hurriyet daily reported.

She then went back home to find a gun and returned to shoot her daughter — who worked as a cashier in a market — five times, it said.

Bystanders outside the apartment block in the Selcuk district of the southern city of Nigde rushed to help and took Meryem to hospital but she died on the way.

The mother was detained by police but then had a nervous collapse and was hospitalised. The investigation is continuing.

Turkish authorities acknowledge there is a grave problem of violence against women in the country, although the vast majority of cases involving attacks perpetrated by men.

According to the non-governmental Platform to Stop Violence Against Women, 286 women were murdered in Turkey in 2014 and 134 so far in 2015.

(From AFP)



The days must be drawing in, thank the Good Lord, on famed televangelist and former Republican Presidential candidate Pat Robertson, who recently told a grieving mum that God allowed her son to die because he may be the next Hitler.

A woman wrote into his show “700 Club” seeking comforting words for her friend who’s mourning the loss of her 3-year-old child. She admits she cannot believe in a God who could watch the child die.

“I told her that I don’t know why her child died, but God sees the whole picture, we see only in part. What can I say?”

Robertson could have answered anything – he could have said, for example, the standard Christian response to suffering for over 1800 years, to wit, “God didn’t design the world so that everyone lives for exactly 70 years and then drops dead, because that would make life pretty terrifying. That’s why some people live for three days, three years, thirty years, or a hundred and three years.”

What Robertson failed to explain, however, is why God didn't in that case "remove" the original baby Hitler. Or Stalin.

What Robertson failed to explain, however, is why God didn’t in that case “remove” the original baby Hitler. Or Stalin.

However, Mr Robertson bizarrely took the chance to say that God might have saved the world from the second coming of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

“As far as God’s concerned, He knows the end from the beginning and He sees a little baby and that little baby could grow up to be Adolf Hitler, he could grow up to be Joseph Stalin, he could grow up to be some serial killer, or he could grow up to die of a hideous disease,” he said. God sees all of that, and for that life to be terminated while he’s a baby, he’s going to be with God forever in Heaven so it isn’t a bad thing.”

That’s just the comfort the people involved needed. In news to hand, as he’s now 85, the Good Lord tells us that it can’t be all that long now till he gathers Pat Robertson to Himself so that he can enjoy his eternal reward. Or whatever God has in store for him. Thank you, God.

Other Robertson controversies you may care to contemplate. Please note, these are sourced from other media and Wikipedia and we have not cross-checked them (we do not have the capacity to do so, even though we are aware of some of them already). Accordingly, we would, of course, remove and apologise for anything that is demonstrated to us as not true. But we do not expect to have to do so.

Banning inter-racial dating should remove your tax exempt status

Mr Robertson also made headlines this year after stating that Christian schools who ban inter-racial dating (really?!) should remain tax exempt stating that it was “chilling” to see the Internal Revenue Service punish Bob Jones University for their ban.

America is run by “termites” and “anti-Christian destroyers”

In an August 1986 New York magazine article Robertson was quoted saying, “It is interesting, that termites don’t build things, and the great builders of our nation almost to a man have been Christians, because Christians have the desire to build something. He is motivated by love of man and God, so he builds. The people who have come into [our] institutions [today] are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have… The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation.”

Sex before marriage

During Robertson’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 1987, Robertson told a Wall Street Journal reporter that his wedding date was actually five months after the date he had always maintained. Reporters said that the actual wedding date meant that his first son was conceived out of wedlock and that Robertson had lied about the date of his marriage in an attempt to cover the truth up. While conceding the reports were accurate, Robertson said that conceiving his son out of wedlock occurred before Jesus Christ had entered his life. Robertson denounced the media choosing to report on the issue as “outrageous” and “reprehensible.” Or good journalism, depending on your point of view.

Other Protestants are the spirit of the AntiChrist


"Go on ... let's have women bishops. I dare you."

“Go on … let’s have women bishops. I dare you.”


On January 14, 1991, on The 700 Club, Pat Robertson attacked a number of Protestant denominations when he declared: “You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist.” You might not have realised you were praying to the Antichrist if you’re a member of those denominations.

Only Christians and Jews should hold Government roles

Robertson has frequently criticised other religions. In his book The New World Order, Robertson wrote: “When I said during my presidential bid that I would bring only Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. ‘What do you mean?’ the media challenged me. ‘You’re not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?’ My simple answer is, ‘Yes, they are.'” David Cantor, Senior Research Analyst of the Anti-Defamation League, points out that such “religious tests for office are unconstitutional. It’s not just a purely a religious statement. It’s a political statement.”

On Feminism

Unsurprisingly, Robertson is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

He has described feminism as a “socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Wow. You might not have realised wanting equal pay and life opportunity means that, but there we go.

That’s why we need Pat Robertson, we suppose.

Deceptive appeals

Mark Earley

Mark Earley

An investigation by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Office of Consumer Affairs determined that Robertson “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications” and called for a criminal prosecution against Robertson in 1999.

However, Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, a Republican whose largest campaign contributor two years earlier was Robertson himself, intervened, accepting that Robertson had made deceptive appeals but overruling the recommendation for his prosecution.

Support for Liberian dictator guilty of “aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history”

Robertson repeatedly supported former President of Liberia Charles Taylor in various episodes of his The 700 Club program during the United States’ involvement in the Second Liberian Civil War in June and July 2003. Robertson accused the U.S. State Department of giving President Bush bad advice in supporting Taylor’s ouster as president, and of trying “as hard as they can to destabilize Liberia.”

Robertson was criticised for failing to mention in his broadcasts his US$8,000,000 investment in a Liberian gold mine.


Charles Taylor


Taylor had been indicted by the United Nations for war crimes at the time of Robertson’s public support.

Prosecutors also said that Taylor had harboured members of Al Qaeda responsible for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. According to Robertson, the Liberian gold mine Freedom Gold was intended to help pay for humanitarian and evangelical efforts in Liberia, when in fact Wikipedia reports that the company was allowed to fail leaving many debts both in Liberia and in the international mining service sector. Regarding this controversy, Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy said, “I would say that Pat Robertson is way out on his own, in a leaking life raft, on this one.”

As regards Charles Taylor, in 2006, the newly elected President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf formally requested his extradition, after which he was detained by UN authorities in Sierra Leone and then at the Penitentiary Institution Haaglandenin in The Hague, awaiting trial. He was found guilty in April 2012 of all eleven charges levied by the Special Court, including terror, murder and rape. In May of 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Reading the sentencing statement, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick said: “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

Politicians’ stroke and assignation “judgement by God”

The lead story on the January 5, 2006, edition of The 700 Club was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s hospitalization for a severe stroke. After the story, Robertson said that Sharon’s illness was possibly retribution from God for his recent drive to give more land to the Palestinians. He also claimed former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 assassination may have occurred for the same reason.

Anyway, we could go on – there is much, much more – but we feel that adequately demonstrates just who exactly this thoroughly disreputable man is.

CBNThe 700 Club is part of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

On its website, CBN describes itself as “a global ministry committed to preparing the nations of the world for the coming of Jesus Christ through mass media. Using television and the Internet, CBN is proclaiming the Good News in 147 countries and territories, with programs and content in 62 languages.” The CBN website also proudly announces:

The 700 Club can be seen in 96 percent of the homes in the U.S. and is carried on ABC Family cable network, FamilyNet, Trinity Broadcasting Network, plus numerous local U.S. television stations, and is seen daily by approximately one million viewers. CBN International maintains 15 television production centers around the world that create indigenous versions ofThe 700 Club and other Christian programs in 39 languages.  CBN International programs are broadcast in 138 countries to an estimated yearly viewing audience of 360 million people.



all is well

This is how I want it to be when I go. Beautiful, and apposite.

I posted it on Facebook this morning, and later on got a message from one of my oldest friends saying he was about to fly home to his mother’s funeral. His distress was somewhat alleviated; he now felt all is well.

God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.

I was so taken with the words that undertook to find out who wrote them. The writings are actually a poem written by Victorian churchman and academic Henry Scott Holland.

Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. The Scott Holland Memorial Lectures are held in his memory.

He was born at Ledbury, Herefordshire, the son of George Henry Holland (1818–1891) of Dumbleton Hall, Evesham, and of the Hon. Charlotte Dorothy Gifford, the daughter of Lord Gifford, and educated at Eton where he was a pupil of the influential Master William Johnson Cory, and at the Balliol College where he took a first class degree in Greats. During his Oxford time he was greatly influenced by the philosopher and political radical T.H. Green.

In 1884, he left Oxford for St Paul’s Cathedral where he was appointed canon.

He was keenly interested in social justice and formed PESEK (Politics, Economics, Socialism, Ethics and Christianity) which blamed capitalist exploitation for contemporary urban poverty. In 1889, he formed the Christian Social Union.

In 1910, he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity, a post he held until his death in 1918. He is buried in the churchyard of All Saints church, Cuddesdon near Oxford. Because of his surname, the writer, secretary and political activist Mary Gladstone (daughter of Prime Minister Gladstone) referred to him affectionately as “Flying Dutchman” and “Fliegende Hollander”.

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled Death the King of Terrors, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing, Death is nothing at all, is drawn: the frequent use of this passage has provoked some criticism that it fails to accurately reflect either Holland’s theology as a whole, or the focus of the sermon in particular. What has not provoked as much criticism is the affinity of Holland’s passage to St. Augustine’s thoughts in his 4th Century letter 263 to Sapida, in which he writes that Sapida’s brother and their love, although he has died, still are there, like gold that still is yours even if you save it in some locker.

Which is another sweet thought to end on.

Panorama of Dushanbe

Dushanbe – next stop for IS?

This article by Deidrie Tynan from the impeccably credentialled makes sobering reading. In the West we have been focused on the IS threat to Syria and Iraq and some other concerns about the ideological cover they give other extremists in North Africa, Nigeria and the Arabian peninsula. But were the eschatological lunacies of the jihadists – obsessed with their “end of days” interpretation of Islam – to also take root throughout central Asia then the cataclysmic effect on their weak civic societies could be catastrophic. And then they will also be cheek by jowl with China, too.

This fearful tide is digging its roots deep into the disposessed and desperate minds of the young in many areas. It will only be rolled back by a whole of world effort. The world’s superpowers must immediately co-operate to crush the group and return the areas it now controls to normality. And then, crucially, economic aid must flow in to rebuild the countries and provide legitimacy for the removal of IS.

Tajikistan commander Gulmurod Khalimov, chief of Tajikistan's paramilitary police unit (OMON) appeared on an ISIS propaganda video released on 27 May 2015.

Tajikistan commander Gulmurod Khalimov, chief of Tajikistan’s paramilitary police unit (OMON), appeared on an ISIS propaganda video released on 27 May 2015.

The appearance of Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov in an Islamic State (IS) propaganda video on 27 May has sent a chill across Central Asia. The head of Tajikistan’s Special Assignment Police Unit (OMON), a key element in President Emomali Rahmon’s security apparatus, had disappeared shortly before. In the video he promised to return to Tajikistan to wage violent jihad.

A trained-in-Russia-and-America veteran of brutal Tajik government operations, Khalimov has the qualifications. And Tajikistan, a desperately poor country ruled by a venal elite, is a vulnerable target. As I drove to its capital, Dushanbe, last summer through the ancient city of Khujand and the rickety, fume-filled, Iranian-built Shariston tunnel, I saw poverty and isolation that eclipses the worst pockets of deprivation in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Khalimov has been an intimate of that elite, but at 40 years old he is relatively young and forceful, unlike the elderly, usually corrupt figures who have previously promoted themselves as Islamist guerrilla leaders in Tajikistan. His defection is a blow to Rahmon’s regime on many levels. He speaks to the parts of the elite not yet bought off and to the alienation of a substantial segment of society.

His message may be draped in Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric, but it is based on some of the potent, more worldly aspects of IS appeal. “Going out to work every morning, look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Are you ready to die for this state or not”, he said directly to the underpaid, overstretched Tajik security forces. “I am ready to die for the Caliphate – are you?”

More than one million Tajik migrants work low-paid jobs in Russia. The remittances they send back make up more than 40 per cent of its GDP. But the value of the remittances is plummeting as Russia veers toward economic crisis. Nearly 200,000 of the migrants went home to bleak prospects in the second half of 2014 alone.

To Tajiks still in Russia, the police commander’s message was “you have become the slaves of non-believers. Why do you humiliate yourself working for non-believers while they must work for you? Join us, brothers … there are no nationalities or states in the Islamic State and our nationality is Islam”.

The eight million people of Tajikistan have known much violence already in their quarter-century of independence since the Soviet Union’s collapse. Rahmon, the only president the country has had, consolidated his power in a civil war against Islamists that ended in 1997. By side-lining the relatively moderate Islamic Renaissance Party earlier this year, he further alienated the devout and gave plausibility to those who argue that with other options closed, extremism is only the politics of last resort.

IS and other foreign fighters, probably the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, are already operating on Tajikistan’s southern border, but that is not the only fault line. Gorno-Badakhshan, high in the Pamirs – a twelve- to fifteen-hour drive when roads are passable – is inhabited by ethnically distinct Pamiris, who were with the rebels in the civil war and barely accept central power today.

Badakhshan has a long, open border with Afghanistan to the south, Kyrgyzstan to the north and China to the east. The Taliban are already active on the immediate Afghan side of that border. It may only be a matter of time before IS is there too.

The Tajik-Afghan border already attracts Russian attention. Even two years ago, an official of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) of a half-dozen ex-Soviet republics told me it was uncontrollable and deadly. This year a Russian diplomat said privately that if the Tajik government requested it, Russia would return troops to it.

The apprehension does not stop there. Neighbouring Uzbekistan – Central Asia’s most populated and most authoritarian state – and chaotic, coup-prone Kyrgyzstan, would be deeply troubled by serious unrest in Tajikistan.

International Crisis Group has been in Central Asia for fifteen years, arguing that the West, particularly the U.S., is building a dangerous debit sheet here. To gain logistical help for war in Afghanistan, it has partnered with dictators like Rahmon and Uzbekistan’s Karimov, accepting excesses excused as counter-terrorism, including repression of peaceful Islamic manifestations.

If other security figures follow Khalimov’s lead, the bill to pay could be steep, and there will not be credit left to pay it with.

Surrounded by blackness on all sides, in utter impenetrable silence, and for a very, very, very long time, it did nothing.

There was nothing to see, so it did not see. Nothing to hear, so it did not hear. Nothing to feel, so it did not feel.

There were simply vast, unconscionable amounts of entirely nothing.

So – most importantly for our story – it thought nothing, either. With no external stimuli to provoke it, it simply did not concern itself with anything; it merely peacefully existed.

And incredible as it might seem in light of what happened later, for some handfuls of millions of years it did not even notice itself.

Then, during one instant which it would remember – well, forever, actually – a small, shiny proton appeared momentarily.

Over there. In what it would later come to know as “left”. And also “down a bit”.

Later – much, much later – it would come to understand that the lonely proton had flared into being for a few hundredths of a second as the result of a random and unpredictable thermo-dynamic fluctuation in the void in which it itself floated.

Like the last dying ripple of a stone cast into a pond uncountably many leagues away, space and time had broken upon the shores of its awareness in the form of one of the smallest building blocks of the Universe. And then it had immediately ceased, for with nothing around it to cling to the proton instantly had broken down into its components and they had dissipated into the nothingness almost too quickly to be observed.

Except the brief, evanescent burst of the proton was seen by the being – which, without even realizing it was doing it, had been peacefully observing nothing, and everything, with absolute and immediate accuracy.  And that was why, despite its apparent slumber, it could not miss the arrival, and near-simultaneous departure, of the pretty little particle.

The glittering sub-atomic appearance, brief and unthreatening though it was, nevertheless troubled it greatly.

Contradictions and nervousness rippled through it. It shook with excitement. Seething with speculation, for untold millennia it considered one critical and shocking question.

Not, as one might have imagined, wondering “What Was That?” No, no. What first occupied its attention was a much more pressing problem than the transitory proton.

What nagged away at it insistently was the question: “What am I?”

“What am I?” it wondered. “What am I?”

With no previous consciousness, and with no terms of reference whatsoever, it marveled at itself, and at this new sensation of existence, without, in truth, the slightest understanding of what was going on.

Casting frantically this way and that to work out what it was, it looked about itself, systematically, but in utter confusion.

Up and Down. Side to Side. In and Out. Backwards and Forwards. Along every plane and from every angle. Indeed, from many different perspectives simultaneously.

(If it did but know it, it actually looked for all the world like a large mahogany gentleman’s desk inlaid with a rather dinky line of shell marquetry around its edges and its drawers. Lots of drawers, in fact, with little pressed-metal knobs, that held promise of all sorts of treasures hidden away inside, and a couple of attractive glass paperweights adorned its leather-inlaid heart. But it wouldn’t understand all this until much later.)

Time passed. Lots of it. Loads and loads and loads of time.

Soon enough, and in a neat twist of reasoning that we can ascribe to what it actually was – which for want of a better term we could describe as “a really, really, really clever thing” – it soon realized that its own sudden and shocking existence was perhaps most easily understood by reference to what it was not. And in a miraculously short time after that, (for its powers of perception were, indeed, remarkably unconstrained), it had consequently separated the Universe into two orderly halves.

One half of everything it perceived to be it fittingly called “Me”.

The other half, it called “Not Me”.

The Me was pleased and much relieved by this development. Its jarringly unexpected coming-into-being seemed much less troublesome now that everything was neatly broken down into itself and … something else.

Thus reassured, it settled down to make a full and patient examination of itself.

Driven by insatiable curiosity, it first tried to work out why it had suddenly become conscious of its inherent Me-ness in the first place.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. – Dylan Thomas

By dint of absence of any other observable data at all, it almost immediately decided that the sheer,ineffable thrill of the proton’s appearance had awoken its knowledge of itself. It could remember nothing before that, and so it seemed perfectly practical to place this sudden awareness of itself and its surroundings to that startlingly incandescent moment.

Next it spent a few million years pondering the proton. Was the Me somehow related to it? Connected to it in some way? Should it search for it? Was it coming back? Was it important? Indeed, as the only thing it had ever experienced, were the Me and the proton all there was to consider?

For what seemed like a very long time indeed, but in the scheme of things was merely a blink of the Me’s eye, the Me looked around and wondered why no other protons had appeared to disturb it, before or since.

But after an æon or two of this, it happened on a thought that occupied it even more deeply.

Surely, it reasoned to itself, what the proton was could not be nearly as important as another question that bothered it constantly – like the buzzer on a motel clock radio after too many drinks the night before – and that question, of course, was why, for goodness sake, had the Me not been aware of anything before the proton?

Beyond the awful, inky nothing that surrounded the Me, (which was, in fact, only three billionths of an inch thick, but being so thoroughly enmeshed in its musings it hadn’t actually noticed that yet), the Not Me pressed inwards. It edged silently towards the Me, as if holding its breath for the answer to this one. Not Me quaked and tightened around the Me, just by a fraction, and whispered silently to itself, listening, wondering, waiting.

And then – perhaps somehow alerted by the new-found excitement in the Not Me – the Me saw to its wonderment that far from being empty as it had assumed, the Not Me that was near it was actually jam-packed with innumerable billions and billions of particles crowding nearby, just beyond the layer of darkness, vibrating slowly – so slowly, in fact, and in such tiny increments of space – that the Me hadn’t even realised that the Not Me was moving at all!

Gazing in amused wonderment, the now insatiably inquisitive Me was straight way tempted to investigate further the gentle quadrille of the miniscule particles that swirled around it.

But without an answer to the nub of its problem, to wit: why it had not perceived its ownself at some point before what it had recently decided to call “Now” – or indeed, why it had not noticed the crowded, quivering Not Me earlier, which after all was only just over there outside the Me, so close at hand – the Me was frankly too troubled to do so.

So after trying and failing to find any concrete answers by simply looking about a bit, and drawing on hitherto unsuspected intellectual resources that spontaneously delighted it, the Me resolved – for it was nothing if not a very practical being, as we shall see – that it would simply have to run with what would eventually become known in another place as an assumption.

In short: the Me decided that in the absence of observable empiric data, it made good sense to “make up something that fits, until you can prove it’s wrong”.

(And thus it brought into being that delightful hobby for people with staring eyes and strange haircuts who listen to Laurie Anderson CDs on repeat known as Theoretical Physics, but of course it didn’t know that then.)

In this wise, the Me plumped for the conclusion that – before what it now called “the Me moment” – it had simply not been necessary for it to be self-aware.

For want of a better explanation, it assumed that although it had existed, it had not needed to know of its existence – and so, post hoc ergo propter hoc, as it were, it did not know.

The Me patiently examined this conclusion from all possible angles, and could not fault it.

(You might imagine that it would also have paused to wonder how it could so instinctively express its cogitation in obscure Latin phrases, a language that had not been used anywhere in existence yet, but that was just one of innumerable trifling considerations that would have to wait until more important questions had been answered.)

Ploughing remorselessly on now, the Me then painstakingly worried away at another thought that had occurred to it, from amongst the untold trillions of thoughts that it had every second. And this one was a real biggie.

That not just “it” but “Everything” must have some purpose, if only to take its natural place in the scheme of things.

This first and most painful bout of existential angst was very intense, but quickly resolved. Yes, yes! It must surely be true! Even if the purpose of a thing was merely to lie passively next to some other Me-ness, like a compliant jigsaw piece fitting neatly into another, purpose there had to be. Pointlessness was surely pointless.

And just as it now observed that the endless particles around it in the Not Me were somehow interlaced seamlessly with one another, and that to remove even one from its place would cause a cataclysmic rent and collapse, so therefore it, too, the Me, must be where (and when) it was for a reason. For if the Me held no inherent purpose, no relationship with something, even if it did not yet know what that something was, then why would it exist? But it did exist, so therefore it must have some role to play. “I exist, therefore I should exist” it trilled.

The next thought arrived a nano-second later. “So what am I for?” it demanded of itself. “What am I for?”

Breathlessly rushing on for a few million years, the Me rifled through the arguments available to it like an over-excited burglar happening on a fortuitously open bank vault.

It reasoned that it must have begun at a particular point, and at some stage it had become needed by … well, something, or because of something … and so – of course! – before that moment self-knowledge would have served no purpose, because – and the Me raced effortlessly forward to its conclusion! – to be aware, but purposeless, would indisputably have no point at all, as mere awareness, it was sure, affected nothing else, either positively or negatively. And, indeed, might be intolerably boring.

(Thrilled with this reasoning, it made itself a mental note: ““Quod erat demonstrandum: we all do what we can.” It was not sure why this thought was important, but felt convinced it was, and promised itself that it would return to nut it out, one day.)

So. Conclusion: the Me fitted in somehow as well. Because it must!

It rippled and rang with the sheer orgiastic delight of its logic. Very well, it mused, it didn’t yet know what the reason for its own existence was, but it felt distinctly less alarmed now it had deduced that a reason must exist, and soon enough, if it continued to concentrate, it was confident it would work out what it was.

Having now been on the job for what seemed to it, suddenly, as an awfully long time, the Me paused for a well-earned rest. Happy with where it had got to so far, it rather liked the sensation of not doing much thinking for a while.

It added another note to its rapidly growing list of things to remember. “Take a break from thinking now and then. Maybe about 14.2857 recurring percent of the time,” it advised itself portentously, along the way inventing Sunday, the decimal system and a few other useful concepts without even noticing. Meanwhile, the Not Me crept ever closer, and waited anxiously for the whole complex tangle to be sorted out on the Me’s mental blackboard.

Lolling around in the dark, approvingly noticing the inlay around the edges of its drawers for the first time, the Me now began to dimly recognise the awesome deductive capacity it could marshal with such little effort.

It was as if it already knew anything it needed to know; all it had to do was turn its attention to a problem and the resolution would eventually become clear, like mist clearing on a beautiful, still lake of knowledge. And with this awareness, the tensions within it settled somewhat. There was a reason why. Because there had to be. So now, the Big One. What could that reason possibly be?

Here, the being’s deductive process – which was rigorous and invariably accurate, if for no other reason than it had an innate ability to consider all probabilities simultaneously and ascribe correct values to them – nevertheless slowed down just a little, because the number of possible reasons why it existed were so vast as to tax even its own seemingly inexhaustible computational capacity.

It spent some time, for example, wondering whether it was supposed to be a forty-seven inch flat-screen hi-definition television, an item with whose innate angular beauty it was instantly infatuated, and which was tremendously thrilling and desirable and perfect for viewing something it decided to call “sports”, and it would have been really quite content to be a television forever were it not, obviously, for the complete absence of anything to be watched on itself, at least until about a trillion years from then.

It thus followed, the Me reasoned carefully, that whilst it might become just such an item at some stage in the future, it was highly unlikely that it was supposed to be a flat-screen TV just yet. It similarly rejected being a “V8 Supercar”, “Designer Fragrance”, or “Hollywood Red Carpet Interviewer” for the same reason.


For a long time it was quite taken with the idea of being a conveniently-sized ball of dung, stationed outside the home of every industrious little dung beetle, so that their existence would not be so miserably dominated by scouring the desert for poo of all shapes and sizes and then spending hours in the hot sun uncomplainingly prodding it into an easily-maneuverable shape and size.

The Me felt very compassionate towards the tireless little beetle. He reasoned that even as he extended compassion to the Least so he extended it, by proxy to the All. The idea amused the Me, and it made a point to remember it.

Not entirely au fait, as yet, with the niceties of mass marketing, the Me even nevertheless drafted a quick advertising jingle to promote the idea that went something like this.

“Poo, poo, just made for you,

 yes, do do do, choose ezy-poo

 delivered to you, you’ll be glad too

 with A-may-zing easy-roll Poo-poopy-doo!”

Being a ball of poo would, it felt sure, would be a selfless and meaningful reason to exist.

But sadly, once again, the fact that no dung beetles would be around for quite some time stymied that line of enquiry, too. Then in quick succession, it considered and rejected, for various reasons, the proposition that it was a field of daffodils enlivening the surface of a small rocky planet in the Lamda Quadrant, a very obvious cure for Malaria merely waiting to be discovered, or whether it was a rather nasty virus that caused the four-winged, Greater Blue Flerterbee to fall out of the sky unexpectedly and in alarming numbers on a rather nice globe circling two twin suns in a galaxy with a rather curious Coke-bottle shape, thus leading to the extinction of all life-forms on that planet within a couple of generations.

None fitted.

Last, but by no means least, and with an aesthetic sense that it found delightfully unexpected and artistic, it wondered whether or not it was merely supposed to fill the space around it with floating three-dimensional pyramids made of delicately scented orange seaweed and sparkling Tarl Tree blossoms.

(And that one nearly won, actually. Which would have been interesting.)

Yes, able, now, to roam its growing understanding in all directions at one and the same time, the Me patiently examined of all these intriguing options, and more.

It considered alternative reasons for its own existence to the value of 10 x 10²°. Which really was an awful lot of reasons. And sooner or later, as a direct result of its nascent omniscience, and with a rather annoyed snort of surprise – in light of its previous lack of wakefulness – it was very soon after additionally confronted by a growing certainty that it had always existed. Putting it at its most simple, the Me realised it had always been there.

Always, and forever.

This was an unexpectedly Big Thought. In fact, to be frank, it was a Big Thought And A Half.

Wandering up and down the timeline now, watching itself, it very quickly also correctly surmised that it always would exist, too. Right up until, well … forever, really. And once it had occurred, this new Thought seemed entirely appropriate and natural and comfortable.

Until, that was: until it observed – with some further distress – that all around it other things were coming into being and then moving into non-being with astonishing regularity.

Indeed, it rapidly deduced that moving into non-existence was much more common than moving peacefully through existence with no apparent end, and, indeed, after a few more millennia, it observed that it could find no other beings that shared its own notable, distinguishing, essential never-endingness.

This latest discovery intrigued it mightily. In fact, so mightily was the Me intrigued that it stopped worrying about what it was for a moment, and started looking around with more interest.

It was simply fascinated by the sheer … dyingness … of all it saw around it.

The Me wasn’t sure where it had got that word from, and there was something about it that it didn’t like all that much, but it didn’t have time to worry about trivia. Not when it observed that unlike itself, everything around it seemed to be in the process of discharging tiny amounts of energy, and in doing so, declining to entirely predictable, unavoidable nothingness.

There was an alarmingly vast amount of this decline going on. All around it, apparently spontaneous changes were going on all the time to smooth out differences in temperature, pressure, density, and chemical potential. In fact, the more it went on, the more it went on. Yes! There was no denying it. The process was accelerating.

Still somewhat uncomfortable with “dyingness”, the Me hastily coined the term “entropy” to describe this apparently calamitous force that it observed in the Not Me all around him.

The Me took a step back, and thought for a while.

It took a step back, and carefully considering all the observable phenomena, it came up with something rather like this to define what it was seeing:

Quantitatively, entropy is defined by the differential quantity dS = δQ / T, where δQ is the amount of heat absorbed in an isothermal and reversible process in which the system goes from one state to another, and T is the absolute temperature at which the process is occurring.

Encouraged by this understanding, the Me now also understood that more precisely:

In any process where the system gives up energy ΔE, and its entropy falls by ΔS, a quantity at least TR ΔS of that energy must be given up to the system’s surroundings as unusable heat (TR being the temperature of the system’s external surroundings). Otherwise the process it was observing would not go forward.

And in a rollicking fever of enthusiasm, it also realized that:

The entropy is defined as the number of microscopic configurations that result in the observed macroscopic description of the thermodynamic system, or:

where kB is something that would become known as Boltzmann’s constant 1.38066×10−23 J K−1 and   is the number of microstates corresponding to the observed thermodynamic macrostate calculated using the multiplicity function.

And that was how, after all this feverish figuring, that the Me finally came to know what its reason was.

There was no doubt. The terrible, incontrovertible fact was that – all around it, wherever it looked – the Not Me was dying.

Inexorably, undeniably, because of its own nature which it could not escape, the Not Me was destined, finally, to become perfectly smooth and calm, in a state of utter non-ness, untroubled by thermo-dynamic fluctuations, and unutterably silent and quiet. It was a fate from which there was no return, for once reached, there was nothing to rekindle the energies expended.

The Not Me would simply cease to exist.

And then, the Me mused, what would become of Me?

Would I exist alone? With nothing left to observe, perhaps, but nonetheless awake?

And in a fraction of a millisecond, it knew that this outcome was too awful to contemplate. Utter knowledge, surrounded by utter nothingness, would be unbearable to it now.

Driven back to the fundamentals by its own ruthless logic, the Me considered again the beginning of its own awareness. It saw clearly now – “How could it not have known?” it berated itself angrily – that the tiny, scintillating proton had been a desperate cry for help from the Not Me. It was so obvious! Aware of its own inherent, inexorable non-ness, it had turned to the all-knowing Me to find a solution. And perhaps, even, the Not Me had known – somehow – that the Me needed the Non-Me too. That once awoken, it would have to act, for not to act would leave it, ultimately, alone and perfectly brilliant, transfixed in horrified eternally silent and motionless despair.

And as it divined its purpose, the Me also saw that it was capable of decisive action. In an instant of perception, it was transformed. It became action personified.

Surging forward through the darkness that surrounded it, the Me spoke with a voice that resonated through the umpteen layers of reality.  For the first time in history, it spoke effortlessly and in chorus to the largest perfect number of particles of all kinds that it could see … crying out to the 232,582,656 × (232,582,657 − 1) tiny building blocks that it somehow instantly knew made up the Not Me.

“I Am!” it thundered, for the whole Not Me to hear.

The words echoed through all of existence like nothing had every done before. (Which was literally true, as it had just invented sound.) And the ever more confident Me really liked the phrase. It felt appropriate and proper, somehow. So it repeated it.

“I Am … The I Am!”

It rolled the phrase round and round, enjoying its profundity and orderliness. How it was so perfectly Beginning and End-ish. The Me made a jotting in the margin of History to use the phrase again when it felt the need to explain itself to someone.

It stretched, and stretched, pushing its boundaries outwards, tearing away at the darkness that clung stubbornly to it like wet serge shorts on a schoolboy’s leg. Yes, it knew its reason for existence now, and faced with such a cause, its course of action was as clear to it now as a shining new dawn.

It must act at once to end the dreaded entropy: for it was the Me’s job to banish this awful dyingness and save the Not Me, before it became quiet and flat and silent and the Me was left to stare at where it had been, alone and mad.

And now it also knew with perfect understanding that this task would become something of a recurring leitmotif for its own existence. A struggle – just beginning – which it could now see with terrible clarity would last until the end of Time.

“Listen! Everything!” it cried, in a voice that brooked no opposition. “Listen to me!”

The Not Me took a firm grip on itself and held on tight. It waited, hushed and expectant, for what it knew had to come, and what had come before, and what would come again, impossibly far into the future.

With a giant, convulsive gasp, the Me cried out in a great and terrible voice.

“Let … there … be … Light!”

And lo, there was Light. And man, it was good.


Screenshot of Mutlu from YouTube


Last weekend the world thrilled to the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest. But now the shooting of a 19-year-old woman following an appearance singing on TV is bringing violence against women in Turkey to light. Mutlu Kaya was shot in the head southeastern Turkey’s Diyarbakir, in what is the most recent in a string of high-profile attacks on women in the country. Her crime? Singing. That’s it.

Such cases have brought attention to a rising tide of violence against women in Turkey. According to Bianet, a Turkey-based NGO and news source, there was a 31 percent increase in murders of women by men between 2013 and 2014. Researchers place the number of women murdered in 2014 at nearly 300.

According to local media, Kaya began receiving death threats from her extended family after being selected to appear on national TV in Sesi Cok Guzel, a talent competition in the vein ofAmerica’s Got Talent. Kaya was shot in the head while at home early Monday morning. She was rushed to a local hospital before being moved to a larger hospital in Diyarbakir, where she remains in intensive care.

 Although it has yet to be confirmed, it is reported that Kaya was threatened by her extended family for going to Istanbul to participate in the contest — there is speculation that the attack was motivated by Kaya’s choice to step outside of traditional gender roles.
Degir Deniz

Degir Deniz

Kaya’s shooting comes on the heels of two other high-profile murders. On May 5th, the body of a popular 39-year old singer-songwriter, Deger Deniz, was found strangled in her Istanbul home.

And on February 11th, Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year old psychology student in Mersin, was brutally assaulted and murdered after resisting a rape.

Her burned and mutilated body was later found in a creek outside of town.

Aslan’s murder sparked an outcry against violence against women in Turkey. Protesters – including men wearing miniskirts to show solidarity – took to the streets.

Ozgecan Aslan

Ozgecan Aslan

Hundreds of thousands women tweeted their experiences with sexism, gender-based violence and harassment under the hashtag #sendeanlat, which translates to “you tell your story too.”

In the aftermath of Ozgecan’s murder, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that violence against women is Turkey’s “bleeding wound.” However, the AKP has repeatedly placed a paternalistic emphasis on women only within their context as mothers and daughters. Erdogan went on to call on men to protect women, based on their relationship to men: “I call on gentlemen occupying most of the important decision-making positions: This could have happened to our daughters as well.”

Erdogan’s conservative Justice and Development party (AKP) has been widely criticised for its stance on women’s issues. The party renamed the Ministry for Women and Family as the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, positioning their focus not on women’s rights but on women as just one of many at-risk social groups. And in 2014, one of the party’s most senior members, Bulent Arinc, said that women should “be humble and protect their chasteness. They should not laugh out loud in public,” prompting an avalanche of tweets of women doing just that.

At a women’s conference in Istanbul in 2014, Erdogan said that to put women as equal to men is “against nature” because they are “delicate.”

Speaking on a BBC podcast, The Inquiry: Is Life Getting Worse For Women In Erdogan’s Turkey? in March, Professor Deniz Kandiyoti, who specializes in gender relations in Turkey at the University of London, said of the AKP’s rhetoric: “what trickles down of course is that some women are worthy of protection. Other women: it’s open season.”

To see this happening in what was always touted as the most Westernised and secular Muslim state in the world is especially distressing. To be sure, familial violence against women is a cultural issue not a primarily religious one – it occurs in Christian and Hindu communities too – but it would be hoped that the fitfully modernising trend of a country like Turkey would reduce its prevalence and set an example of tolerance to the rest of the region.

Sadly, apparently not.

(From Think Progress and others)

Girls at Islamic school banned from running over virginity fears: report

Vic Islamic college allegedly bans girls from running over virginity concerns.

The principal of an Islamic school in Melbourne’s west has allegedly banned girls from running in sporting events out of concerns it may cause them to lose their virginity, causing a huge community blowback at the worst possible time for local Muslims.

Female students at Al-Taqwa College, in Truganina, were also barred from playing soccer as a sports injury could make them infertile, Fairfax has reported.

School’s regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, is reportedly investigating the claims levelled at principal Omar Hallak, who earlier this year courted controversy when he suggested Islamic State was supported by western countries.

In a letter sent to education ministers and published by The Age, a former teacher at the college said:

“The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may lose their virginity.

“The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile.”

The teacher claimed Mr Hallak stopped the female cross country team from participating in a 2013 and 2014 district event, Fairfax reports.

The girls had been training hard for the competition when Mr Hallak realised they were set to compete and cancelled it.

The girls were reportedly distraught by Mr Hallak’s intervention and penned hand written letters of complaint in which they expressed their disappointment.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student wrote.

The teacher claimed she had worked at another school where both boys and girls had equally been encouraged to take part in sporting activities.

“I look back on my time at Al-Taqwa with frustration and anger, which is how I felt most of the time while I was working there,” she said in the letter.

“I did my best to stay committed to the students however in the end, I was unable to provide the same opportunities to students that I was given when I was at a primary school, more than 20 years ago.

“It was really shocking to find out it had been cancelled because the excuse girls can’t run,” one student said in her complaint to the principal.

Education minister James Merlino has told 3AW the reports are concerning and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is investigating.

“If true these are very concerning reports and I have asked the VRQA to investigate and report back to me,” Mr Merlino has told 3AW on Thursday.

Mr Hallak courted controversy earlier this year when he reportedly told some students IS was backed by western countries as part of a plot to control Middle Eastern oil supplies.

Merlino labelled those comments ‘reckless and dangerous’.

“They’re reckless. They’re dangerous and it leads to confusion in young people … the best way to tackle radicalisation is through education of young people. The worst thing you can do is put reckless and dangerous ideas into their heads,” he told reporters at the time.

Wellthisiswhatithink doesn’t feel the need to comment further: frankly, we are speechless. In pursuit of fairness, we will provide a response from Mr Hallak if one is forthcoming and we are made aware of it.

(Yahoo and 7 News)

As we approach Easter – for most people just a long weekend when they can regroup and rest – for some people the spiritual highlight of the year – we can often forget, when contemplating his deeper spiritual messages and the agony of his personal journey, that the historical Jesus Christ was a dangerous man who subverted the ruling status quo in his country, and that, above all, is why he was put to death.

This Facebook meme reminded me.




As we approach Easter, we should dwell on the fact that Jesus fought against the institutionalisation of religion, fought against its co-option as a business enterprise, and talked of how the Kingdom of Heaven resided in all of us, and not in buildings, if we could but find the key.

He also detested the brutalisation of society by economic forces, and the obsession with accumulating personal wealth and how it diverts us from what really matters.

But in cleansing the temple, Jesus did not argue against public worship. Quite the opposite. He wanted the Temple reserved for its rightful use.

And worship definitely serves many valuable purposes, not least sharing information and insights on complicated spiritual matters, building community, showing spiritual respect, and bringing peace and joy to people.

But he did argue against hypocrisy. When religion is reduced to mere pomp and circumstance, or when it mindlessly supports the bastions of conformity, he was on the other side of the metaphorical barricade.

He told us to become like little children in our understand of the world and our role in it, and in relation to what we perceive as God. Simplicity, innocence and trust. And a trenchant opposition to anything which reduces the world to a mere monetary exchange.

Jesus the Revolutionary. Coming soon to a Church near you. We hope.

Happy Easter.


It is a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions.

Raif Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes in January

His family now say that Raif Badawi, already sentenced to a vicious public flogging and appalling ten years in prison, could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death penalty.

The case attracted worldwide condemnation when he was publicly flogged in January.

Now his family say they have been told he is to be tried for apostasy.

“Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading,” they said in a message posted on Facebook.

“We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.This judge is biased against Raif.”

Background to the case:

In July 2013 human rights activist Raif Badawi was sentenced in Saudi Arabia to seven years in jail, and 600 lashes, for insulting Islam. His sentence has now been increased to ten years and 1,000 lashes.

Raif and his children in happier times: one can hardly imagine how his family are suffering.

Raif and his children in happier times: one can hardly imagine how his family are suffering.

Badawi, founder of the Saudi Liberal Network, was convicted of “creating a website insulting Islam” and criticising the role of the notorious religious police. Before his arrest, Badawi’s network announced a “Day of Liberalism” and called for an end to the influence of religion on public life in Saudi Arabia. He has been languishing in jail since June 2012.

According to this report, the lawsuit against him was instigated by Saudi  by clerics. An appeals court overturned the original sentence and sent the case back for the case back for retrial, which culminated in the even harsher sentence.

A further court upheld the 10-year jail sentence and 1,000 lashes – also ordered him to pay a fine of one million riyals ($266,666).

The rights group’s co-founder, Souad Al Shamari said:

The only hope now is an amnesty from the king or a swift move by the justice minister to form a fair judicial committee. Even the worst terrorists have not received such a harsh sentence.

Mr Badawi, 31, received the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes in January. The rest of his punishment has been postponed because of injuries he sustained.

The flogging was surreptitiously filmed on a mobile phone, with footage uploaded to the internet.

It was conducted with a flexible stick, in front of a large crowd in the public square by the al-Jafali mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. Mr Badawi was allowed to keep his shirt on, as is normal in Saudi Arabia, lessening the effects somewhat, but he can still be seen to flinch.

“Raif told me he is in a lot of pain,” Mrs Haidar said in an earlier statement released by Amnesty International, which has campaigned on his behalf. “He said that when he was being flogged he took the pain silently and rose above it, so that history will know that he did not react to their punishment.

Badawi was also given a jail sentence and a fine of £175,000 after being convicted of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum he created.

His family said he could not originally be charged with apostasy – abandoning his faith – because the criminal court could not deal with crimes that carry the death penalty. That changed with a new regulation passed last year.

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband in January (Reuters)

Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, takes part in a news conference calling for the release of her husband in January (Reuters)

They asked that Mr Badawi be pardoned and allowed to travel to Canada, where his wife and three children are now living.

“We call on the world citizens and governments not to leave Raif dragged by such bigots to death,” they added.

The death penalty is the standard penalty for apostasy in the Muslim world, though it is rarely carried out, even in Saudi Arabia which still carries out regular executions.

The Prince of Wales is believed to have raised the case during meetings with King Salman during a visit to Saudi Arabia in February.

How long will this courageous man be permitted to suffer?

How long will this courageous man be permitted to suffer?

We can only hope that the gale of protest around the world at the treatment of this entirely innocent man can cause the new Saudi regime to release him. These are our ALLIES, after all, with whom we have a huge trade relationship. That should count for something in asking them to listen to our concerns.

If you wish to do something, why not tweet your call for Badawi to be immediately released, using the hashtag ‪#‎Raifbadawi‬ ?

Alternatively, or as well, sign the petition? Click below, and thank you:

Or perhaps you could simple share this blog on your blog, or on your Facebook page?

Whatever you can do to help, thank you.

In a story that really will cause all fair-minded people to pause and wonder, a photograph has captured what is believed to be the ghost of a little girl who drowned at a popular swimming hole in Queensland 100-years-ago.

The image shows three children and two adults playing in the water at Murphy’s Hole near Helidon in 2014. But a strange fourth child’s face appears to be in the picture, too.



The bizarre image was posted to the Toowoomba Ghost Chasers Facebook Page. The eerie white figure can be seen in the water between two women swimming with their children.

It is thought by some to be the face of 13-year-old Doreen O’Sullivan, who drowned in that exact spot in 1915.

Jessie Lu, who is one of the subjects in the photo, said the image had been examined by experts.

“At the time of taking this photo there was nothing between us,” she said.

“There was only three children there on that day. Two adults in the water and two adults on the bank.”

Oddly, Ms Lu added: “The older girl had trouble in the water on two occasions that day.”

Doreen’s death was reported in a local newspaper in 1915 and a grave belonging to a 13-year-old girl by the same name has been found.

Was Doreen returning to the scene to warn the children of the dangers of the spot? Is it a trick of the light? What’s your opinion, Dear Reader?

And do you have any real life ghost stories of your own to share?

The White Rose

Sophie Scholl and members of White Rose

One of the most disturbing, heart-rending and thought-provoking films we have ever seen was “Sophie Scholl – The Final Days”.

The movie covers the efforts of a resistance group fighting the Nazis called “White Rose” Although the White Rose is well known in Germany, it is not well known overseas.

Der Weissen Rose was a group of mostly students at the University of Munich in Bavaria. Some were studying philosophy. Most, but not all, were religious in some way. Some of the boys had done military service but were allowed to do stints at university between stints on the Eastern Front. This experience provided them with more knowledge of what was actually going on than the average person living in Germany at the time, and it appalled them, but in their courageous resistance they still come across as young and somewhat naïve. It is this naivety that has made the White Rose so appealing. The operated from “pure” theological and philosophical intellectual opposition to National Socialism, to fascism, to dictatorship, to the war, and to the slaughter of Europe’s Jews.

To believe that there was very little resistance to Hitler inside Germany is a serious misunderstanding. Resistance to the Nazis began, of course, before they even came to power, and continued during the thirties and throughout the war.

Serving members of White Rose

Serving members of White Rose

Resistance came from political groups of the left, centre and even conservatives, from unions, from churches and religious people, from within the government and branches of the military. Several attempts were made to assassinate Hitler both by groups and individuals. Although it did not succeed in overthrowing Hitler or ending the Nazi tyranny, the resistance did have an impact on the war and the ultimate defeat of the fascist regime.

Why does it seem otherwise? Well, the Nazi regime set out systematically and ruthlessly to destroy all opposition. Thousands of the people who would have been part of an even more effective resistance movement fled into exile soon after Hitler came to power. Many more were perfectly understandably frightened by the danger and sank into silence and inaction.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl's father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Sophie Scholl was guillotined, as was her brother, another brother was lost on the Eastern front. In a final meeting, Scholl’s father told her he was proud of her and not to regret her sacrifice. She replied that she would see them again in Heaven.

Yet many did not and paid the price. At least 5,000 were executed and many more spent time in prison. Some were simply murdered.

There was a feeling within Germany that people really shouldn’t undermine the government during wartime

Many ordinary Germans saw members of the resistance as traitors because that was what almost every source of information available to them told them they were.

Unlike in the countries Germany tried to conquer, the resistance had to assume that much of the population actually supported the government and would report their activities from a sense of duty or from totally justified fear, thus making their actions even braver. Nevertheless, their writings struck a chord with many in the community.

The nations fighting Germany during World War II also decided not to publicise the German resistance to Hitler during or after the war. The insistence on unconditional surrender and the strategic bombing raids which caused so many civilian casualties made it necessary to see Germany as guilty as a nation rather than as itself a victim of Nazi tyranny. The allied armies knew about the resistance and benefited from it but did not want to praise it, at least initially.

MovieSophieSchollSo the story of Sophie Scholl and her family and friends remained almost un-talked about until about the 1970s, when the German community started to discuss the war years more openly, and then again in 2005 when the remarkable film about the events was released.

You can watch the entire film, in its original German, with subtitles, below.

If you haven’t seen it, we cannot recommend it highly enough, but we warn you that it is gut wrenching.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it, find a couple of hours, pour yourself a strong drink, and watch it. Those that died deserve to be remembered.

When people discuss the White Rose it has been suggested they were a brave but ineffective resistance movement. That is, in fact, not true. When they were active they caused the regime considerable annoyance. Although many who received the leaflets in the mail handed them in to police, many did not, and the regime had to deal with the fact that those who handed them in may have read them.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl - devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl – devoutly Catholic, she fell in love with one of her fellow conspirators, she loved the countryside, she adored her parents. She was very ordinary, just very, very brave.

They managed to establish branches in Berlin and particularly Hamburg where sadly many of Hamburg White Rose met the same fate.

The White Rose also had a role in a student uprising in Munich— which was quickly suppressed.

After their execution graffiti appeared on walls in Munich: “Ihr Geist lebt wieter” “Their Spirit Lives On”.

Others carried on the fight. Copies of the leaflets were smuggled out to the Allies and later dropped in their tens of thousands by bombers over German cities.

An example of the leaflets (there were a total of five) is produced below. The courage of young people who could make these arguments against the might of the Nazi Reich simply beggars belief. Especially as they operated in the sure and certain knowledge that one day they must be caught, with their horrifying deaths as the inevitable result.

Many brave people died during the Second World War. These young Germans were amongst the bravest.


Salus publica suprema lex (Public safety is the supreme law)

All ideal forms of government are Utopias. A state cannot be constructed on a purely theoretical basis; instead, it must grow and develop in the same way an individual human being matures. But we must not forget that at the beginning of every civilization the state already existed in a rudimentary form. The family is as old as man himself, and out of this initial bond man, endowed with reason, created for himself a state founded on justice, whose highest law was the common good. The state should reflect the divine order, and the highest of all utopias, the Civitas dei, is the model it should ultimately resemble. We will not compare the many possible states here—democracy, constitutional monarchy, monarchy, and so on, but one issue needs to be made clear and unambiguous; every human being has the right to a just state, a state that safeguards the freedom of the individual as well as the good of the whole. For according to God’s will, man should be free and independent, while fulfilling his natural duty of living and working together with his fellow citizens, and strive to achieve earthly happiness through self-reliance and self-motivation.

But the present “state” is the dictatorship of evil. “Oh, we’ve known that for a long time,” I hear you object, “and it isn’t necessary to bring that to our attention again.” But, as I ask you, if you know that, why do you not rouse yourselves, why do you allow these men in power to rob you step by step, both openly and in secret, of one of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunkards? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right—or rather, your moral duty—to eradicate this system? But if a man can no longer summon the strength to demand his right, then he will definitely perish. We would deservedly be scattered over the earth like dust in the wind if we do not marshal our powers at this late hour and finally find the courage we have lacked up to now. Do not hide your cowardice behind a cloak of expedience, for with every new day that you hesitate, failing to oppose this offspringof Hell, your guilt, like a parabolic curve, grows higher and higher.

Many, perhaps most, of the readers of these leaflets cannot see clearly how they can mount an effective opposition. They cannot see any avenues open to them. We want to try to show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of this system. Solitary withdrawal, like embittered hermits, cannot prepare the ground for the overthrow of this “government” or bring about the revolution at the earliest possible moment. No, it can only be done through the cooperation of many convinced energetic people—people who agree on the means they must use to attain their goal. We have few choices as to these means. The only one available is passive resistance. The meaning and the goal of passive resistance is to bring down National Socialism, and in this struggle we can’t shrink from any means, any act, wherever it is open to attack. We must bring this monster of a state to an end soon. A victory for fascist Germany in this war would have inconceivable and terrible consequences. The first concern of every German is not the military victory of Bolshevism, but the defeat of National Socialism. This must be the first order of business; its greater imperative will be discussed in one of our forthcoming leaflets.

And now every resolute opponent of National Socialism must ask himself how he can most effectively fight against the present “state”, how he can inflict the most damaging blows. Through passive resistance, without a doubt. We can provide each man with a blueprint for his acts; we can only make general suggestions, and he alone will find the best way to achieve them.

Sabotage armament industries, sabotage every assembly, rally, ceremony, and organisation sponsored by the National Socialist Party. Obstruct the smooth functioning of the war machine (a machine designed for war that is then used solely to shore up and perpetuate the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship.) Sabotage in every scientific and intellectual field involved in continuing this war—whether it be universities, technical colleges, laboratories, research stations, or technical agencies. Sabotage all cultural institutions that could enhance the “prestige” of the fascists among he people. Sabotage all branches of the arts that have even the slightest dependence on National Socialism or serve it in any way. Sabotage all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the “government” and that defend its ideology and help disseminate the brown lie. Do not give a penny to public fund-raising drives (even when they are conducted under the guise of charity), for this is only a cover. In reality the proceeds help neither the Red Cross nor the needy. The government does not need this money; it is not financially interested in these fund-raising drives. After all, the presses run nonstop, printing as much paper currency as is needed. But the people must never be allowed to slacken! Do not contribute to the collection of metal, textiles and the like. Try to convince all your acquaintances, including those in the lower social classes, of the senselessness of continuing, of the hopelessness of this war; of our spiritual and economic enslavement at the hands of the National Socialists, of the destruction of all moral and religious values; and urge them to adopt passive resistance.

Aristotle, Politics: “Further….[a tyrant] should also endeavor to know what each of his subjects says, or does, and should employ spies everywhere…and further, to create disunity and division in the population: to set friend against friend, the common people against the notables, and the wealthy among themselves. Also he should impoverish his subjects; the maintenance of guards and soldiers is thus paid for by the people, who are forced to work hard and have neither the time nor the opportunity to conspire against him…Another practice of tyrants is to increase taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that his subjects paid all their wealth into the treasury within five years. The tyrant is also inclined to engage in constant warfare in order to occupy and distract his subjects.

Please make as many copies of this leaflet as possible and pass them on!

An activist group which secretly documents life inside the Islamic State-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa has reported that militants publicly executed 13 teenage boys for watching the Asian Cup football match between Iraq and Jordan.

Syria Being Slaughtered Silently, quoting Jordanian news agency Petra and other unspecified Iraqi media, reported that the teenagers were rounded up and shot by firing squad in the IS-stronghold of Mosul, in northern Iraq.

According to the report, the boys were caught watching the match and were being accused of breaking Islamic principles.

In a response to IBTimes UK, the group has confirmed the executions have taken place after corroborating the information with local Iraqi activists.

“The bodies remained lying in the open and their parents were unable to withdraw them for fear of murder by terrorist organisation,” the group also wrote on their website.

Before the victims were executed, their ‘crimes’ were announced on the streets of Mosul on a loud-speaker, the activists said.

The report has not been confirmed by international news agencies or Iraqi authorities and IBTimes UK cannot independently verify it.

The activist group secretly documents the executions carried out by the Sunni Islamist group in various places controlled by them.

The latest chilling execution emerges alongside the threat made by an IS militant, suspected to be “Jihadi John”, to behead two Japanese hostages if their ransom demands are not met.

The masked man – who is believed to be the same militant who appeared in earlier videos executing western hostages James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Alan Henning – has asked for $200m (£132m) within the next 72 hours to free the Japanese captives.

Populists, extreme right wing commentators and neo-conservatives continually seek to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon.

Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: their point is often simply that Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist.

But the facts simply don’t bear that out.

Far-right white male and extreme “Christians” are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice, not to mention the hundreds of millions of Muslims who would never consider committing a terrorist act, all over the world.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, media hacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organised terrorist movements.

Lone wolf terrorists, radicalised by contact with extreme points of view, often on the internet, and attendance at training camps in remote locations – or in other words, just like the “Islamist” terrorists in France last week, in other words. Many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Here are ten examples from America’s recent past:

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012.

Virulent Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs.

Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire.

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

But to a moronic racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America.

On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semi-automatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page – Page took his life by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate.

Attorney General Eric Holder – America’s “top cop” – described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.”

Again, it is likely Page was simply too stupid to know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, not that such a distinction matters.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009.

Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day, blaming everyone in sight from the President downwards.

A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims.

Scott Roeder - jailed for life.

Scott Roeder – jailed for life with a minimum of 50 years.

Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists.

In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack.

Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer.” When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was considered lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for God author Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.”

Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.”

Wiley Drake, vice-presidential candidate for the America’s Independent Party ticket in 2008 and the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006–2007, asked on his radio show, “Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war? … I would have said, ‘Amen! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I’m glad he’s dead.’ This man, George Tiller, was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler, so I am happy; I am glad that he is dead.”

The right wing double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neo-con talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets excuses made for it.

3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008.

Jim David Adkisson - sentenced to life in jail without parole.

Jim David Adkisson – sentenced to life in jail without parole.

On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random.

Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson  entered the church and opened fire on the audience pulling a sawn off 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing. At first, people thought that the loud bangs of the gunshots were part of the play. One person was killed at the scene: Greg McKendry (60), a longtime church member and usher who deliberately stood in front of the gunman to protect others. Later that night, a 61-year-old woman, Linda Kraeger, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.

Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. As he couldn’t reach his nation’s leaders he decided to murder those he saw as putting them in power.

Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn’t get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994.

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

To hear some on the Christianist extreme Right tell it, there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. Tell that to the victims of the Army of God, a loose network of radical Christianists with a long history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers.

One Christian Right terrorist with ties to the Army of God was Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 3, 2003 for the murders of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. Hill shot both of them in cold blood and expressed no remorse whatsoever; he insisted he was doing’s God’s work and has been exalted as a martyr by the Army of God.

5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996.

Paul Jennings Hill is hardly the only Christian terrorist who has been praised by the Army of God; they have also praised Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity.

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Rudolph is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed innocent spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.

But Hawthorne wasn’t the only person Rudolph murdered: his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Rudolph’s other acts of Christianist terrorism include bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997, and an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb in 1997.

Rudolph was no “lone wolf”: he was part of a terrorist movement that encouraged his violence. The extreme religious right in America continues to exalt Rudolph as a brave Christian who is doing God’s work.

6. The murder of Barnett Slepian by James Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998.

Kopp - 25 years to life.

Kopp – 25 years to life.

Like Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph and Scott Roeder, Roman Catholic James Charles Kopp is a radical Christian terrorist who has been exalted as a hero by some.

On Oct. 23, 1998 Kopp fired a single shot into the Amherst, NY home of Barnett Slepian (a doctor who performed abortions), mortally wounding him. Slepian died an hour later.

Kopp later claimed he only meant to wound Slepian, not kill him. But Judge Michael D’Amico of Erin County, NY said that the killing was clearly premeditated and sentenced Kopp to 25 years to life.

Kopp is a suspect in other anti-abortion terrorist attacks, including the non-fatal shootings of three doctors in Canada, though it appears unlikely that Kopp will be extradited to Canada to face any charges.

7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994.


John C Salvi – killed himself in prison.

Seldom has the term “Christian terrorist” been used in connection with John C. Salvi on AM talk radio or at Fox News, but it’s a term that easily applies to him.

In 1994, the radical anti-abortionist and Army of God member attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others.

Salvi was found dead in his prison cell two years later in 1996, and his death was ruled a suicide. Salvi has been exalted by some as a Christian martyr and described Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as infidels who got what they deserved.

8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010.

The Echelon complex after the attack

The Echelon complex after the attack

When Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex (where an IRS office was located), Fox News’ coverage of the incident was calm and matter-of-fact.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa even seemed to find the attack amusing and joked that it could have been avoided if the federal government had followed his advice and abolished the IRS.

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Nonetheless, there were two fatalities: Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter.

Stack left behind a rambling suicide note outlining his reasons for the attack, which included a disdain for the IRS as well as total disgust with health insurance companies and bank bailouts.

Some of the most insightful coverage of the incident came from philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, who said that while Stack had some legitimate grievances — millions of Americans shared his outrage over bank bailouts and the practices of health insurance companies — the way he expressed them was absolutely wrong.

9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Liberal Denver-based talk show host Alan Berg was a critic of white supremacists who was killed with an automatic weapon on June 18, 1984.

The killing was linked to members of the Order, a white supremacist group that had marked Berg for death. Order members David Lane (a former Ku Klux Klan member who had also been active in the neo-nazi Aryan Nations) and Bruce Pierce were both convicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and violating Berg’s civil rights and given what amounted to life sentences. Bruce Pierce, who was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Union County, Pennsylvania, died of natural causes at age 56 on August 16, 2010. Lane, incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, died of an epileptic seizure aged 68 on May 28, 2007.

Robert Matthews, who founded the Order, got that name from a fictional group in white supremacist William Luther Pierce’s anti-Semitic 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries — a book Timothy McVeigh enjoyed. Believed, although never proven to be, a lookout in the Alan Berg shooting, Matthews was burned to death during a standoff with federal authorities on December 8, 1984, at his home in Coupeville, Washington.

The novel’s fictional account of the destruction of a government building has been described as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. (See below.)

10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.

Extreme right wingers and their fellow travellers grow angry and uncomfortable whenever Timothy McVeigh is cited as an example of a non-Islamic terrorist. Pointing out that a non-Muslim white male carried out an attack as vicious and deadly as the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t fit into their narrative that only Muslims and people of colour are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks.

The face of terror. White. Christian.

The face of terror. In this case, white. And Christian.

The often claim that bringing up McVeigh’s name during a discussion of terrorism is a “red herring” that distracts us from fighting radical Islamists, but that, of course, downplays the cruel, destructive nature of the attack.

Prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing McVeigh orchestrated was the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history: 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured, including nineteen children killed in the day care centre on the second floor.

When McVeigh drove a truck filled with explosives into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, his goal was quite simply to kill as many people as possible.

Clearly, McVeigh was not motivated by radical Islam; rather, he was motivated by an extreme hatred for the U.S. government and saw the attack as revenge for the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 and the Waco Siege in 1993. He had white supremacist leanings as well (when he was in the U.S. Army, McVeigh was reprimanded for wearing a “white power” T-shirt he had bought at a KKK demonstration). He was also bang in line with the “low taxes, small government” movement:  indeed, McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. […] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.

McVeigh’s biographers, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, quote McVeigh, with whom they spoke for 75 hours, on his attitude to the victims. His lack of remorse was chilling and sociopathic:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I’m sorry but it happens every day. You’re not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I’m not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

McVeigh exhibited exactly the same warped desire for martyrdom that is seen in suicide bombers the world over. Of his impending execution he said:

I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it’s in your face.

Having failed to set off a popular revolution, McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. We believe he should have served life without parole instead, as a living reminder of the type of viciousness of which the white, organised “Christian” extreme right is capable. Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also convicted as conspirators in the plot. Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

It should be noted that McVeigh was of above average intelligence with an IQ of 126, and psychiatrist John Smith concluded that McVeigh was “a decent person who had allowed rage to build up inside him to the point that he had lashed out in one terrible, violent act.”

Many other examples are available, even of extremists linked to “Christian” organisations who attack people who they think are Jewish and end up murdering other Christians. They are not limited to America, they occur everywhere.

This is the point. No self-respecting Christian would tolerate being tarred with the same brush as these lunatics, and nor should they. 

Similarly no self-respecting Muslim should be expected to apologise over and over again for the madness of so-called Islamic terrorism, which also, we should remember, is far more likely to be targeted at other Muslims than it is at Christians or the West. Whatever the loathsome ageing owner of Fox News thinks.

Marginalised, ignorant, warped and sociopathic individuals of all religions and none are capable of horrific violence.

As we write this article new emerges of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-lead regional force dressed in religious clothing.

As we write news has emerged of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-led regional force dressed in fundamentalist religious clothing. It’s resort to extreme violence has snowballed and continues unabated.

The war against terror is not against Christianity, or Islam, or any other religion for that matter.

It is against those who teach that violence is the solution to political and economic problems, whether that violence is turned inward on a community, or externally, against other communities.

VIOLENCE is the enemy.

Get that clear, and say it again and again.

Just like three million people in Paris did today.

#jesuischarlie #wearenotafraid

(With thanks to Raw Story and others)

je suis


No further blogs will be posted today as an act of respect for those murdered in Paris.

The Warren Cup, from the British Museum. Roman man anally penetrating a youth, possibly a slave. Circa 1st century AD.

Many ordinary Christians are deeply conflicted by their desire to embrace homosexual brethren in the fellowship of the church, when some of their leaders are telling them that these people are sinners.

Numbers of people feel very discomfited by the current debate.

So what is the “Biblical” teaching on gays?

Opponents of homosexuality almost always treat scripture as being “literally true” in a historical sense. Certainly, that is the case currently.

It follows, therefore, that any rebuttal of their claims should also adhere to this assumption, if it is to convince them that they are wrong.

I personally believe the early stories in the Bible are no more “literally” true than ancient Norse myths. But I am prepared to put that aside for one moment, and consider this issue under the rules that the “literalists” would apply, because many argue that the oft-trotted-out “Biblical” case against homosexuality simply doesn’t appear to “stack up”.

Genesis 19: 1-28

The ancient story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been used throughout the centuries as a condemnation of homosexuality, to the point where anal sex is referred to as “Sodomy”.

And that’s the problem. It’s become a cliché. We assume it’s true, because it’s been around so long.

The verses in this story most commonly referred to as proof that the Sodomites were homosexual are verses 4 and 5: “Before they could lie down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house,from boy to old man, all the people in one mob. And they kept calling out to Lot and saying to him: ‘Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have intercourse with them.”

Examining this scripture, the first thing we see is that all the people, in one mob, demanded that Lot bring out the visitors to them. If we are to believe that the account of Sodom & Gomorrah is a condemnation of homosexuality, then we must also accept the conclusion that the entire city consisted of homosexuals.

But if we look in the previous chapter, Genesis 18: 16-33, we see an account of Abraham negotiating with God to spare the people of Sodom, with the final outcome of God promising “I shall not bring it to ruin on account of the ten” (verse 33).

God promised Abraham that Sodom would not be destroyed if only ten “righteous men” could be found I the city.

If we are to accept the previous logic, this would mean that the “righteous men” referred to were, per se, heterosexuals.

Now it is a matter of Biblical “fact” that God (or rather, his angels) didn’t find anyone at all worth saving. But at this point, we then need to ask ourselves: what would be the odds of less than ten people in the entire region of Sodom & Gomorrah being heterosexual?

The obvious answer is “impossible”, of course.

If for no other reason than to ask, “where did all the population come from?” They were all gay immigrants, presumably, begat by parents left behind in other places that were heteroesexual? I think not.

So if homosexuality was not being referred to in this passage, then what was? Looking at the scriptures in Hebrew, we find an interesting usage of a couple of different words.

When the mob cries out “Where are the men who came in to you tonight?”, the Hebrew word that is customarily translated men is actually ‘enowsh which, literally translated, means “mortal” or “human”.

This indicates that the mob knew that Lot had visitors, but were unsure of what sex they were.

We can divine this because the Hebrew word for “man” (utilized in this same passage in Genesis 19:8) is entirely different. And one really has to ask: why would homosexuals want to have sex with two strangers if they were unsure of what sex they were?

The passage translated as “Bring them out so that we may have intercourse with them” needs further examination as well.

Other Bible translations read “so that we may know them”. The Hebrew word that is commonly translated as “have intercourse”, or “know” is yada.

But this word, yada, appears in the Hebrew Scriptures a total of 943 times. And in all but ten of these usages, the word is used in the context of getting acquainted with someone.

Had the writer intended for his reading audience to believe that the mob wanted to have sexual intercourse with the strangers, he could simply have used the Hebrew word shakab, which vividly denotes sexual activity.

Many people argue, therefore, that the correct translation should be rendered something to the effect of: “Where are the people who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may get acquainted with them.”

So then, if the story of Sodom & Gomorrah was not a condemnation of homosexuality, what was it trying to convey?

Two verses in Exekiel sum up the story this way: “Look! This is what proved to be the error of Sodom your sister: Pride, sufficiency of bread and the carefreeness of keeping undisturbed were what happened to belong to her and her dependent towns, and the hand of the afflicted one and the poor one she did not strengthen. And they continued to be haughty and to carry on a detestable thing before me, and I finally removed them, just as I saw [fit]”. (Ezekiel 16: 49, 50.)

It is commonly assumed, because we’re referring to Sodom, that the “detestable thing” referred to in this passage is homosexuality.

But in fact, the Hebrew word utilized here is tow’ebah, which translated literally means “to commit idol worship”.

This can be seen in the original Genesis passage, chapter 19, verse 8: “Please, here I have two daughters who have never had intercourse with a man. Please let me bring them out to you. Then do to them as is good in your eyes.”

One has to ask: If Lot’s house was surrounded by homosexuals, which presumably he’d know as everyone in the entire region was gay apart from him and his family, why would he offer the mob women?

Note also that these women were virgins. And that the Sodomites were pagans.

Virgin sacrifices to idols were a common practice in this era. Therefore, it can easily be concluded that Lot was offering his daughters as a virgin sacrifice to appease the mob in an effort to protect the visitors.

In the Greek scriptures, the story of Sodom is summed up this way: “and by reducing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come”.

This corroborates Ezekiel’s summation, once again showing that these were “ungodly persons”; in other words, idolaters, not worshippers of the true God.

If we have difficulty with the logic of 100% of any population being gay, can we rather believe in 100% of a population being adherents of a particular pagan cult? Yes, we certainly can. If for no other reason that there was no tolerance of those who didn’t share pagan beliefs in many early societies. Not to agree was to invite exclusion or execution. You were in, or you were out. The Jews themselves exercise this attitude continually throughout the Old Testament.

So the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, therefore, is almost certainly intended as a condemnation of idol worshippers, and of a greedy and inhospitable society that sought to treat visitors in a threatening manner – which was also a sin, to the early Jews, by the way.

Many people argue, therefore, that it is perfectly reasonable to propose that this key text on the judgement of this region had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality!

Leviticus 18:22 & Leviticus 20:13

The message was clear to the ancient Israelites: semen was to be used for one purpose alone – procreation.

Spilled semen, whether by masturbation, anal penetration, or homosexuality, was not to be tolerated.

We have to place these edicts in some sort of historical context in order to understand them, if not to agree or disagree with them.

Life in those days was a “numbers game”. One of the Bible’s earliest edicts, a theme repeated through the Old Testament, was to “be fruitful and multiply”. If your tribe was numerically stronger than those around it, then good things would flow from that dominance.

(The same argument is currently used by the British National Party to argue for white Anglo-Saxon women having more children, but that’s another story.)

It’s an undeniable fact that many strict regulations were imposed on the ancient Israelites. The “chosen ones of God” understood each of these regulations to be equally important.

In the Greek scriptures, James points this fact out by stating: “For whoever observes all the law but makes a false step in one point, he has become an offender against them all.”

Fundamentalist Christians, however, selectively cite the two scriptures in Leviticus as a condemnation of homosexuality, overlooking James’ words which state, in essence, that if you’ve broken just one of the laws, you’ve broken them all.

So why do we focus so frequently on homosexuality?

Leviticus 19:27, for example, condemns haircuts and shaving. How many long-haired, bearded males attend your local Church? Or to put it another way, do we have agonised debates about Ministers who might have short hair?

Leviticus 19:19 also condemns wearing clothing made of more than one type of thread. Anybody reading this wear clothing made of 50% cotton and 50% polyester?

Taking the Bible literally, such individuals are equally guilty as homosexuals.

This leaves aside, of course, any concerns about whether or not it is still OK for us to grab our neighbours and use them as slaves, or to go around killing anyone who works on the Sabbath.

When questioned by the Pharisees regarding these ancient laws, Jesus’ reply was “I came, not to destroy, but to fulfill”. In other words, Christianity and love of God and fellow man was a replacement for the strict ancient codes, many of which were no longer practical or relevant.

But let us forget, for a moment, putting things in an historical context, or the fundamentalists will simply argue that we’re “messing with the truth”.

Let us look at the arguments of those who believe these two passages don’t really condemn homosexuality at all.

Looking at the scriptures in Hebrew, one sees a different condemnation. Leviticus 20:13 states, in part, “When a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman”.

Had the writer intended to convey homosexuality being condemned here, he would have probably used the Hebrew word ‘iysh, which means “man”, or “male person”.

Instead, the author utilizes a much more complicated Hebrew word, zakar, which literally translated means “a person worthy of recognition”.

Zakar was used to refer to high priests of the surrounding idolatrous religions.

In ancient societies, surrounding the early Jews, it was believed that by granting sexual favours to the high priest (a fertility rite), one would be guaranteed an abundance of children and crops.

Taking Leviticus 18: 22 into proper context, then, one should also look at the preceding verse 21: “And you must not allow the devoting of any of your offspring to Molech”.

So what we almost certainly see here are warnings to the Israelites not to engage in the fertility rituals of the worshippers of Molech, which often required the granting of sexual favours to the priest.

Many believe that if this been a mere condemnation of homosexuals, the writer would undoubtedly have used clearer language.

Romans 1: 26-27, 1 Cor. 6: 9-11, 1 Tim. 1: 9-11

Greek, like Hebrew, is a much more descriptive language than English. As an example, while we have the word “love”, Greek has agape, storge, philia, and eros – each describing a different form of love.

Further, just as with English, the meanings of words can change over generations.

Ironically, “gay” is a classic example.

Some say that it is easy to understand why words in ancient Greek could be misinterpreted, as are the terms “men who lie with men”, “abusers of mankind”, “homosexual”, and “pervert” in the above referenced scriptures.

The two words in Greek used in the above scriptures that are commonly mistranslated as such are arsenokoites and malakoi.

Bible scholars now believe arsenokoites to mean “male temple prostitute”, as mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures at Deut. 23: 17-18.

The actual meaning of this word, however, has been lost in history, as it was a slang term which, literally translated, means “lift bed”.

The Greek malakoi, literally translated, means “spineless” (some linguistics scholars translate it as “limp”, or “coward”).

What is important to note here is that both of these words are nouns. In ancient Greek, there is no known noun to define homosexuality. It was always expressed as a verb.

So just as in the Hebrew scriptures examined earlier, it appears that the Greek scriptures actually make reference to those who engaged in idolatrous practices, much of which, as we know, centred around sex in return for favours.

Neither the homosexual nor the direct idea of homosexuality appears anywhere in these passages. Had the writer intended to make a clear point about condemnation of gays, surely the Greek verb for homosexual behaviour would have been utilised rather than these nouns which are directly related to cowardice and idolatry?

But last – and by no means least – what of Paul’s apparently incontrovertible statement at Romans 1 where “females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust towards one another”?

This would appear to be a simple, trenchant condemnation of homosexuality.

But perhaps, yet again. the truth is more subtle than that.

A clue lies in Paul’s words in the earlier verses 22 & 23: “Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things.”

So obviously, again, Paul’s reference here is to worshippers drawn into the ever-present danger of idolatry, one danger of which is unbridled sexual licentiousness of the kind that a conservative Jew like Paul would have found abhorrent. Especially when seen against his mission to the Roman Empire, with its endless parade of cults and religions, and very lax sexual behaviour generally.

As mentioned above in examining the Hebrew scriptures, many pagan idol-worshipping religions of Paul’s day also taught that by granting sexual favours to priests, the one giving the favour would be rewarded with fertility of crops and offspring.

Many such cults were, in reality, little more than brothels with quasi-religious overtones.

Unfortunately, of course, we have to read Paul’s words without the benefit of knowing all the background to his letters, but it certainly seems reasonable to suppose that his attack here is on a complex set of behaviours to do with people who reject the message of Christianity and continue to adhere to older religions. It seems clear that Paul’s reference was not a dedicated attack on loving same-sex relationships, but his condemnation focused on people who were normally heterosexuals who had been prevailed upon to rebel against their own sexual nature, in the granting of sexual favours to the leaders of pagan religions, in expectation of reward by the pagan gods.

So whilst his apparent rejection of homosexual behaviour seems unambiguous, the context of the comments is much more complex.

In conclusion, nowhere in the Bible, according to many Biblical scholars, is any unambiguously negative reference made to stable, loving same-sex relationships. And after all, it is now widely agreed that anything up to 5-10% of the population identify themselves as predominantly “gay” as regards their sexual preferences. Are 5-10% of those sections of the Bible discussing relationships dedicated to condemning their choice? Undoubtedly not.

In fact, many gays argue that two positive references appear in the Hebrew scriptures of love between two people of the same sex:

2 Samuel 1:26 states: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.”

Ruth 1: 16, 17 states: “And Ruth proceeded to say: ‘Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from accompanying you; for where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I shall die, and there is where I shall be buried. May Jehovah do so to me and add to it if anything but death should make a separation between me and you’.”

And while it must immediately be conceded that no mention is made of actual sexual activity between these people, it must also be pointed out that these couples had therefore made covenants with each other. And to the ancient Israelites, a covenant was viewed as a holy bond; a powerful uniting of two people.

We all have to wrestle with the truth of this matter in our hearts. Personally, I find it much more helpful to see what the Bible is arguing for, rather than what it is arguing against. Those who are currently affected by some Christians’ negative stance towards gays and lesbians should perhaps also seek comfort in the much greater preponderance in the Bible of messages of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

And the injunction, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

Post Scriptum

A correspondent kindly reminded me of this hilarious spearing of the literal truth of the Old Testament, from 2002. The introductory quotation is from that era:

The power of logic and quiet humour – “Dr Laura’s” anti-gay viewpoints – for which she later apologised – sparked a worldwide internet phenomenon which did more to mock anti-gay beliefs based on the OT than anyone could have imagined.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show.

Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.

When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,


One of the more difficult things for anyone with a brain to work out is “Why?”

Why do the most terrible things happen?

Why do a bunch of suicidal terrorists slaughter dozens of wonderful, bright, inquisitive, compassionate children and their teachers in pursuit of their goals, for example?

Why does a crazed gunman shoot people in a Sydney cafe?

Why do suicidal fanatics and car bombs regular reap their bloody toll of death in countries the world over, and in the Middle East especially?

Why does a father kill his two tiny daughters to “punish” his ex wife?

Why? Why? Why? What possible purpose do all these events hold?

Is it all part of some cosmic plan? Or is it an entirely random, meaningless moment in time? Disgusting in its mundanity.

Does it represent some titanic battle between supernatural forces of good and evil? Or is it merely a dull and deadening further example of the oft-demonstrated human capacity to divorce ourselves from the consequences of our actions?

Or does all this have no inherent meaning at all? Is life merely a lonely and ultimately meaningless road, ending inevitably in death, in which the only passingly relevant question is “How did you do?” “Were you lucky?” “Were you noble?” “Were you unlucky?” “Were you base?”

Or perhaps, as some have argued, “Did you have fun?”

What do you tell the parents of a child recently dead from cancer? The wife whose husband and father of her children is killed in a work accident? The three children of the woman killed in the Sydney siege, all under ten? What do we tell them?

We are confused. We do not know if the earth is spinning off its spiritual axis, or whether there even is any axis at all.

We are torn between the siren calls of both God and Man – we can simultaneously believe the immediate and compelling emotional evidence of the supernatural in our lives – especially by contemplating coincidences so unlikely as to be highly unlikely to be random – at the same time as we recognise the rationality of the agnostic or the atheist. On balance, we believe in God, but the balance is fragile and tilts both ways. Doubt is our constant companion.


If there is a God, how could he allow us to make such a total, violently messed up miasma of a world?

How could he allow us to run riot, seemingly incapable of managing our existence, seemingly unable to place compassion for our fellow beings – and the planet as a whole – at the head of our “To Do” list?

Why did he curse us with so-called free will – if free will is merely an excuse for wanton brutality and ineffectual governance of our planet? Yes, freedom to pollute with run off from our factories is balanced by the freedom to clean up our waterways, but why give us the choice? Did we ever ask for such a terrible series of choices, that we seem so incapable of handling?

Where is God, whatever we call him, while IS behead 22 Syrian soldiers on video – video taken over some hours, from multiple camera angles? Or when they slaughter thousands of civilians and shovel them into pits? Where is God when a US drone blasts into sanguinary non-existence an innocent Afghan wedding?

Where is God when a random act of weather or an accident on a road destroys people notable for their innocence and good naturedness?

In short, where is God – where is meaning – when the innocently good die young?

No, we do not pretend to know. There is no perfectly satisfying answer to this question which has occupied – bedevilled – humankind since we learned to think.

We are drawn, though, to one piece of irrefutable logic, from psychiatrist Viktor Frankel, who so movingly, intensely and validly sought meaning in his experience of the death camps of the Nazis.

Frankel – a man who could so easily have despaired – summed up the wisdom of thousands of years of sages in all cultures when he said:

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”


Suffering is the one constant in life. We all have experiences that threaten to crush us – our dreams get shattered, our bodies fail us, we are submerged in our own incapacities and weaknesses – and most terribly, we all lose people we love to illness, accident, to seemingly blind fate.

And most terrifying of all, death is our constant companion. As we wake up every morning we never know if we will see another.

So what really matters, it seems to us, whether one has a comprehensively worked out religious perspective or none, is how we deal with suffering.

Do we allow it to destroy us, or do we resolutely continue to strive to live lives that answer our personal and communal driving moral imperatives, whether we source those imperatives from a religious book or from within our own rational view of how the world should be constructed?

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Cat’s Cradle:

 “In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.

And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.”

And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man.

Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke.

“What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.

“Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.

“Certainly,” said man.

“Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.

And He went away.”

God or no God, it is up to us to work out the purpose. And how to survive it.


The world can sometimes seem overwhelmingly awful and dark. So this Christmas – this Hanukkah – this Milad un nabi … this … December? January? … the one thing of which we are convinced is that we should all spend some time reconnecting with those we love, taking joy in little things, making those course corrections that we need in our lives, and above all showing compassion for those touched by suffering.

Because this we do know. As we are all bound by it, so we all can learn to endure it, endure it even when it tears like a maddened beast at the very vitals inside each and every one of us, and we can endure it together, yoked together by the burdens of our common suffering.


Suffering is the one thing none of us escape. That is the one lesson of history that is observable, undeniable, and in its own way, comforting. The lesson – the example – of our shared humanity, and our frailty.

The realisation that we all suffer. And – whether through the grace of God or the courage of the human mind operating alone – the almost simultaneously certain realisation that we can, and do, survive.

Indeed, that surviving itself is the meaning we all search for. Until, one by one, we lay down the imperishable, insistent, ever-present burden of thought, and go to sleep ourselves.

As surely the whole world knows, yesterday and overnight a mentally-disturbed man with a long legal history bailed up 17 or so people in the Lindt cafe in Sydney, demanding to speak to Australia’s Prime Minister, and seeking wide publicity for his points of view.

We do not wish to talk about him.

We do wish to note the outpouring of grief and support from the Australian people for the families of those killed, and the victims themselves, for those terrified and injured, and for ourselves – for the whole nation – which has been deeply shocked by the scenes of the last 24 hours.

The flowers are gathering at the site of the seige. All day, Aussies have quietly turned up, written in books of remembrance, laid down flowers, and stood in silence. Many in tears, all in shock.

They have been joined by politicians and notables, police officers and emergency workers, but mainly it has been the ordinary Australians who have trekked to Martin Place to be part of the mourning.

And uniquely, and so typically Australian, a single woman’s gesture – “I’ll ride with you”- spoken quietly to a Muslim woman who was removing her hijab for fear of being abused, spat on or assaulted – all things that have happened recently – has “gone viral” and been repeated by millions of people worldwide, who wish the wider Muslim community to know that they are not blamed for the actions of lunatics or fanatics.

Muslims arriving to place flowers at the site have been especially welcomed with quiet smiles, a touch of approval on a shoulder, a gentle look.

Today is a very sad day to be an Australian. It is also a great day to be an Australian. As so often in this remarkable nation, it is the ordinary people who show the true mettle of the country, who reveal in the simplest of human ways the unique communal nature of this wide brown land.

muslim flowers


There will be other horrors. There will also, sadly, be some extremist idiots who inevitably break the seal of national tolerance.

But the true Australian spirit – the spirit of its people, not its luminaries – stood up and was counted today, under the most painful of circumstaces. I am so proud of my fellow citizens, and have never regretted for an instant asking to belong to this tolerant, good natured, welcoming and egalitarian nation, the very essence of which is “everybody comes from somewhere else.”

Our deepest sympathies go out to all caught up in this madness.

#illridewithyou, Australia.