Hypocrites? Of course not, they're our spiritual leaders!

Images - The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams. I'm sure you can work out which is which.

The poor old woolly Anglican Church has put its foot in it again. After blasting short-sellers as 'bank robbers' and 'asset strippers' and calling for much tighter regulation of the financial markets, it appears that - surprise surprise - part of the Church's not inconsiderable wealth has been built up recently by betting on the value of Sterling falling - in other words, short-selling.

Of course we can't realistically expect the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most reverend Dr Rowan Williams, and his conservative token-sidekick, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, to have any deep understanding of the financial manoeuvres of their own organisation; most mere mortals do not understand the shady dealings of the economic world, but one would expect their ignorance to preclude them from making any kind of comment on the issue.

Ah, no, how naive of me. Of course their chief role in life, the reason why they get all that publicity, those colourful robes, a comfy palace with all the tea and sherry they can drink - not to mention a large stipend - is so that they can proselytise to the rest of us about how to live our lives.

So lets take a little look at what they said recently, with a translation in italics.

In a dinner speech to bankers in the City of London, Dr Sentamu said "The love of money is the root of all evil. We have all gone to this temple called money. We have all worshipped at it. No-one is guiltless... We have all become enslaved." (I wonder if he had the Pope in his sights?) Now donate some of it to the Church you greedy bastards, or at least teach our financiers how to make as much money as you do.

"The market takes its rules from Alice in Wonderland." I actually mean this as a compliment, the Church's rules are nothing like as close to the real world.

Dr Williams said "Marx saw how unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology. He was right about that" I'm dead jealous, I've never once said anything so memorable or profound.

The full text of his comment is worth reading -

"Fundamentalism is a religious word, not inappropriate to the nature of the problem. Marx long ago observed the way in which unbridled capitalism became a kind of mythology, ascribing reality, power and agency to things that had no life in themselves; he was right about that, if about little else. And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry."

I don't need to put my translation in, the comment is humorous enough in itself; financiers are therefore fundamentalists, money becomes an idol to be worshipped.

The rampant hypocrisy here is almost too much to bear - full credit to the bearded-one for saying all this with a straight face.

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Religion > Justice?

Images from top to bottom: 1, Mr Zaidi leaving court 2, a zanjeer 3, the zanjeer in action in Kandahar.

I am sickened by the way in which the criminal justice system is forced to tiptoe around the barbaric practices of certain religious groups.

In what appears at first glance to be a minor triumph for justice, 44 year old Syed Mustafa Zaidi was sentenced on Wednesday to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, for encouraging two boys, one aged 13 and one aged 15, to beat themselves with a zanjeer - a wooden handled whip with five chains, each of which ends with a sharp blade.

The boys were taking part in the traditonal Shia festival of Ashura at Levenshulme mosque, Manchester. The Ashura festival commemorates the slaughter of Mohamed's grandson Hussein and his followers in the 7th century; participants flail themselves with these vicious weapons and encourage others to do likewise, in order that they recreate in some small way the suffering of the 'martyrs'.

If fully grown men want to attack themselves with particularly vicious bondage equipment then, fine, go for it. If you're deluded enough to think that a deeply held religious belief justifies causing serious damage to your skin, then no sensible person is likely to try and persuade you otherwise - at least not until you put the chained and bladed cat o' five tails safely out of reach.

Encouraging children to do it is nothing short of child abuse - religion is no excuse - making childen mutilate themselves is child abuse pure and simple.

So as I said it appears, prima facie , that British justice was able to stand up to this nonsense and let everyone know that child abuse is simply wrong.

But wait, whats this I read? Mr Zaidi was not brought to book for encouraging the children to beat themselves, but for encouraging them to use the adult version of a zanjeer, rather than one specifically designed for youngsters!. Read that again folks - if you are a devout Shia muslim, you can lawfully force young children to beat themselves up, so long as they use a kiddies whip! I was unable to find a picture of the kiddies zanjeer, so I don't know if its made of rubber or what, or whether there's a special under-fives version with extra grips for those sweaty little hands to hold on to. I have this hideous image of poor impressionable young kids watching their fathers and uncles enthusiastically mutilating themselves in the name of ancient bollocks, looking on in awe and thinking 'I can't wait 'til I'm old enough to do this with Meccano instead of Lego'.

More worryingly, I can't help wondering how many of these 'devout' men have raging hard-ons while they're whipping themselves.

Any way, I digress... The creeping capitulation of justice in the face of unsubstantiated ancient stories is much in evidence in this case. Not just in the paucity of the sentence (he'll only go down if he does it again in the next 12 months) but in the way the prosecution had to bend over backwards to make it clear that this was not a judgement against religious practices. The judge also made this quite clear. Mr Justice Atherton said, in summing up the case, that

"It should be clearly understood by everyone that the jury's verdict was not a comment upon the ceremony and no-one should misinterpret it as being such. The law recognises that children and young persons may wish to take part in some activities which it considers they should not. It is sometimes expressed as protecting themselves from themselves."

Yes, and no doubt some minors do want to have sex with their teacher, for example. This however would not stop a teacher from being widely condemned and imprisoned for considerably longer than 26 weeks, suspended. Religion, of course, trumps everything.

Sadly, the boys themselves said that they wanted to take part in the ceremony, but not 'under duress' and not using blades. I have little doubt that as soon as they're old enough, they'll be turning their backs into offal too, all in the name of a load of old tripe.

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Settling in

At last, I'm able to write a post in the privacy and comfort of my own flat. I've missed my pc this last week, but now I'm back with at least a little vengeance.

I felt rather uncomfortable writing that very short post last week in the library. I know its odd, seeing as how the whole point of writing a blog is for other people to read it, but I don't like people peering over my shoulder at work in progress.

For this reason I decided not to go to the internet cafe, but wait until I could use my own pc again. Unfortunately, it means I missed a trick - that very funny story I wanted to mention last week has now been covered by many bloggers, so I'll be surprised if anyone finds the following, well, surprising...

As you all know, the most incredible (and expensive) series of experiments yet devised by our considerable intelligence are just beginning at CERN. The most complex and powerful machine ever built (at least on this planet) was tested last week, and will start to produce results in the next few weeks.

Some of the scientists behind this latest display of human ingenuity have received death threats from people concerned about the possibility of the Earth being destroyed by a black hole - a genuine concern no doubt if your brain is made of pig-swill. Notably absent have been complaints from most creationists; One can only assume that the 'end of days' loons are rubbing their hands with glee at the possibility that, finally, after nigh-on 2000 years of saying the end is nigh, it might actually be.

Sorry to disappoint you folks, but the end is not quite nigh yet.

Professor Brian Cox, one of the leading scientists on the team searching for the Higgs' Boson (or 'God particle' - a name that slightly troubles me, but knowing just how much more it annoys the religious gives me the ability to write it with a feeling akin to malicious pleasure) and previously keyboard player with D:ream, was quoted as saying what is possibly the best refutation of nay-sayers ever uttered by a physicist - "Anyone who says the LHC will destroy the Earth is a twat." Brilliant. I think we could use that one in biology too. I had a wonderful vision of prof. Dawkins coming out and saying (as I'm sure he must do in private) that anyone who says evolution is just a theory is a twat. Try it Richard, make my day!

What also made me laugh is the evident intelligence and analytical ability of the people making these threats. As if we needed any more proof of their infantile simplicity, here is a typical threat, as reported in a free London newspaper.

"If you cause the end of the world, I'll kill you."

Can you spot the logical flaw here? Thought so.

Quite simply, a bunch of twats. Good on you Brian.

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