How giving a beating has replaced discussion online

The internet has always been a rough place.  People feel anonymous, and feel able to behave in ways that they would not dream of doing offline.  Because it’s “only words”, people used to think that it didn’t matter.  Accidental rudeness is easy online, where there is no body language.  But as long as the internet has existed, the practice of “trolling” has left behind some very upset and hurt people. 

There has always been malice online; but more commonly those online were generally from the same background, generally with a certain degree of civilised upbringing.  The really nasty, cold, deliberate, calculated attacks, designed and intended to cause pain to the victim, were a rarity.  

In recent years this has changed.  Group lynchings online have become far more common, as access to the web has extended enormously, and the age of some of those contributing has dropped.  Those desperately sad cases of teenagers driven to suicide online in Facebook should tell us that something horrible is happening.  It happens when the pleasure of online interaction is deliberately twisted, like a knife, so that logging on becomes a worry, not a pleasure.  I have seen this kind of murderous attack in Wikipedia myself, and it doubtless goes on far more than I know about.

I have seen, over the last year or two, increasing evidence that this technique is being deployed intentionally.  I have started to think of it under a specific name: giving someone an internet beating. 

We need to wake up, and realise that we’re not in Kansas any more.  The technique is used because it works.  The object is to give so much pain to the victim that he or she stops using the web, leaves the forum, dares never speak about the subject again.  It’s organised, premeditated, and not different in intent, nor in any important respect from getting a gang of people together with sticks for the same purpose.  The main difference is that the victim can’t call the police.

Today I read on the eChurch blog of an internet beating is being handed out to Stacy, a young Catholic mother, who complained that she couldn’t even go to the park with her toddlers without being confronted by a pair of gays who had decided that a public park in front of the children was the place to fondle each other.   As she rightly observed, such conduct was a public statement, and a provocative, spiteful one.  It was made in the knowledge that a lot of people there would object, and was designed to insult, to swagger, to say “we can do this and you can’t do a thing about it”.   She naturally did not want such displays in a public park — paid for by us all — in front of her toddlers.  And who would?

What happened next was sickening.   She was handed a cyber-beating.  The comments on the post promptly filled up with vitriolic hate and abuse, intermixed with the usual poisonous types who aid and comfort these cyber-thugs by blaming the victim for “provoking” the assault, expressed in fake-polite terms but with exactly the same agenda.  Any attempt at rational discussion was drowned.  Apparently she even received death threats.  When this was reported, the beaters promptly blamed her for this too.  Bullying always blames the victim, so this was classic.

eChurch blog adds:

I knew nothing of this post until I noted comments arriving on one of Stacy’s posts that I’d linked to, entitled: Self-Injury and the Sacraments.

I was truly bewildered as to the ferocity, quantity and nature of the comments on the self-injury post, until one commenter pointed me to Stacy’s original post, in which she’d closed comments.

Well, talk about quantity and ferocity of comments, I’d seen nothing until Stacy posted her recent blog, a few hours ago, entitled: You duped me, O LORD.

There are currently a whopping 328 comments!

It transpires that news has spread onto a prominent atheist forum and the hoards had simply hopped across to vent their spleen.

Lisa Graas has now jumped into the fray and blogged in defense of Stacy.

Good for Lisa.  If you saw someone being given a beating, and you had the power to come to their aid, wouldn’t you do so?  It could be you being beaten and stabbed.  It has been me, recently, and nothing depressed me more than the refusal of others to help. 

Stacy had a perfect right to object to public homosexual behaviour — I share her sentiments completely, as does most of the population of this world.  If gays object to being hated, don’t be hateful, don’t parade your vice in front of people you know might well object.   Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  It’s really that simple.

Is it accidental that it is atheists and gays doing this?  I fear it is not.  Since these creeps apparently want to stifle criticism, let us tell it like it is.

It is entirely in keeping with my experience of atheists online that they should be active in this vile pursuit.  A rational person would ask just why disbelief in God involved endorsement of a hideous vice.  Logically there is no connection, of course.  Except that, in reality, their atheism is merely hatred of Christians, and the atheist will endorse whatever the Christians are opposed to; indeed will try to force, by violence, the Christian to endure.  There have been and are decent atheists.  There are a great number who are murderous vermin.

Nor is it a marvel that this is a “gay rights” issue.  From this pressure group I have come to expect no less than the most atrocious bigotry.  This, if you remember, is a practice that was detestable to almost everyone, that was legalised under the pretence that “what two people do in private is their own business”.    The determination by this lobby to silence any criticism, any discussion other than warmest approval, has brought to Britain the first arrests of clergy on religious grounds since the corrupt and brutal persecutions of the Restoration period. 

Everyone opposed to such violence — call it what it is — should support Stacy.  We must not let her fight our battle unaided.  And we should support her without resorting to weasel words like “I don’t agree with what she says but she should have the right to say it.”  To say this is to compromise with the intimidators, to tell them you’re afraid that they will attack you too.  Let’s not.  Let’s give these thugs the finger, and endorse heartily someone who had the courage to stand up for what they believe in.

I shall, of course, be moderating comments on this post.  

UPDATE: The first four hate comments duly arrived overnight!


Problems in the broadcast media

We’ve all seen the story about the explosion and shootings in Norway yesterday.  I’ve noticed something worrying in the reporting of the story by the BBC and SkyNews on their teletext service, yesterday and today.

Yesterday, the word “Moslem” was not used.  On page 6 of 7 of the SkyNews report a mention was made of the possibility that the attacks were by “al Qaeda”, but quickly qualified by a claim that perhaps it was by “far right” groups.

Today we learn that the attacker was a single man, a Norwegian, supposed to be linked to the “far right”.  The news reports also describe him as a “Christian fundamentalist”.  We’re also told that nothing like this “right wing violence” has ever happened before, which makes it curious that they referred to it as a possibility yesterday.

This is not good reporting. 

Firstly, it’s clear that those writing these reports fully expected Moslem terrorists to be responsible, and were trying not to say so.   That’s a bit dodgy, but we might allow them this, to refrain from speculation, and not stirring up hate against a group which has yet to be found guilty of this specific atrocity, on the basis that to do so is strictly and narrowly reporting the news.  But today, one day on, they don’t feel any hesitation in attributing exactly that to the Christians.  So objectivity there was none.  In short, they were deliberately not reporting the guilt of one party for political reasons. 

That means that we can’t trust their reporting of anything to do with Islam or Moslems.  It means — can it mean anything else? — that there is probably a lot more Moslem violence than we are allowed to hear about.   And we have to ask … what else are we not allowed to hear about?  What other things, other than Islam, are on the list of “may not be mentioned critically”? 

Once a political censorship is in place, and we can show that it is, then we must remind ourselves that we don’t know what is being said.  Our conception of what is normal tends to be formed or influenced by the news media, whether we like it or not.  It is what is NOT said that is important, sometimes.

Now this may seem like an over-reaction, and, in some ways, I hope that it is.  I doubt that every journalist is corrupt!  I don’t suppose that every newspaper has a censor at their office.  But censorship can be imposed in many ways other than a man in a uniform — societal intimidation is one — and anyway … how can we tell?  We can tell that we’re being misled.  The evidence has appeared.

Secondly, I read today that in the 1990’s, with “far right” activity at a high, and voters supporting them, all the Swedish newspapers on the same day published photographs on their front pages of all the members of the relevant political party.  It sounds quite Orwellian — no concerns about “diversity of control of the press” there! — but that is what the BBC reports today. 

But that raises more questions.  With that kind of Goebbels-like orchestrated intimidation directed at a small group by the political establishment, I found myself wondering whether the supposed bomber was really just a fall guy.  Is it possible that this really was an Islamic attack?    If it was, and if this happened … how would we know?  These are the questions you start to ask, once you know that you can’t trust the media.

Let’s not get lost in the political aspects of this.  The issue for me is one of freedom of information, and political censorship.   Whatever our political views, we don’t need this kind of interference with information, whoever does it.  We need more diversity and less censorship.  At the moment the pressure is all the other way.

It is, after all, Christians who have been fingered as responsible for this atrocity.  That means me, you know.  And I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t do it.

UPDATE: I’ve removed material which, interesting as it is, is extraneous to this post.


More on “human rights” for Christians in Britain

Following the announcement by the Orwellian-sounding “Equalities and Human Rights Commission that it regrets some of the harassment of Christians in the UK which it funded, on which I posted earlier, “eChurch blog has helpfully listed the resources and online responses

They make interesting reading indeed.  Four victims have brought test cases to the European court, and this is causing flutters of concern among the guilty men.

What I had not realised, however, is that the trigger for this is that the EHRC have applied to intervene in four test cases now before the European court.  They profess:

‘Our intervention in these cases would encourage judges to interpret the law more broadly and more clearly to the benefit of people who are religious and those who are not’.

Long experience in corporate politics leads me to look below the surface.  This is an organisation that has funded harassment of Christians.  Why would they change tack, suddenly?  The leopard does not change his spots, and there is no change of personnel.  On the contrary, the man responsible is John Wadham, a lawyer who has spent his life in gaming the legal system to promote left-wing causes.  This is, therefore, a considered tactic.

Once we sidestep the fluffy language, it becomes obvious that the EHRC hope to get something from this. 

If the EHRC were not involved, then the case will come before the court as one of persecution, and, given the large numbers of Catholics in the EU, it is possible — even probable — that the Euro-court would limit their activities considerably. 

But by being “part of the process”, they can play themselves back into the game.  They might even be able to obtain a judicial position over the Christians.  If they lie and spin hard enough, then they might be able to convince the Euro-judges to appoint the EHRC themselves as “protectors of religion”. 

Fanciful?  Well, if we go back to the sinister Trevor Phillips article of less than a month ago, we see that this is precisely what he was talking about.

The EHRC, therefore, should not be allowed to intervene.

The EHRC takes it upon themselves to define what is “religion”.  Furthermore, as Phillips made plain, they propose to game this, so that those who refuse to conform will be stripped of their charitable status and forced to pay crushing and discriminatory taxes.

Sadly, therefore, this is not “good news”. 


BBC: Those Christians are out rioting again

A curious report here from the BBC.  Apparently a Coptic business man has reposted a cartoon of Mickey and Minne Mouse in Moslem dress.  I found the Minnie mouse one online, which I attach; I couldn’t locate the other.  Apparently a Moslem cartoonist has — rightly — retaliated with a cartoon of said businessman, which again I have not seen.  And extremist Moslem leaders are calling for his head for being disrespectful.  Nothing special there.

But much more important is how the BBC reports the situation in Egypt.

The outcry comes at a time of tension between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims. …

But many have questioned his wisdom in sharing the cartoons at a time of tensions between Coptic Christians and conservative Muslims.

Scores of people have been wounded and several killed in clashes between the two communities in recent months, and there are fears this row will increase the chances of more sectarian clashes in the run up to post-revolution elections in September.

In each case the BBC puts “Christians” first.  It refers to “tensions” — weasel wording — “between Coptic Christians and conservative Moslems”.  

What is actually happening is an onslaught on the Coptic community by Moslem groups, now that Mubarak is out of power, as can be seen in many online news reports.  But the phrasing plays that down, and carefully creates a false equivalence.

The BBC also uses the term “conservative” — the major British right-of-centre party — to describe the extremists.   I’m sure the news team laughed as they did that.

It’s like reading TASS or Pravda in the old Soviet days.

Whatever I want from the BBC, for which my taxes pay, it is not this.

UPDATE: The Islamic Mickey Mouse seems very hard to find.  Here’s a low-quality version:

What I’d like now, to complete the set, is the cartoon of the businessman!  Anyone know where it is?


UK: Harassment of Christians to resume

Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph published an interview with Trevor Phillips, the black Ghanaian-born former newsreader placed in charge of the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission.  There was also a headline article on p.1 and 2 ‘Moslems are integrating better than Christians’, which summarised the interview.

A web version of the article is here, but is significantly different from the paper version.   The interview itself, entitled “I’ll defend faith, says equality chief” is here, although the picture, which showed Phillips laughing his head off, has been replaced with a more sober image. 

The articles contained a number of interesting statements made by Phillips.

  • “churches and faith groups have to fall into line with the views of wider society to keep their charitable status”
  • “Churches, mosques, temples, religious organisations of all kinds now have to some extent protection under the law but they also have to obey the law including anti-discrimination law because they are charities, because they offer a public service
  • Catholic care was a clearer and simpler case. You’re offering a public service and you’re a charity and there are rules about how charities behave. You have to play by the rules. We can’t have a set of rules that apply to one group of people simply because they happen to think it’s right.

The rules to which Phillips refers were drawn up a few years ago, when the regulation of charities was changed to facilitate an attack on the privately run public schools.  They differ in many respects from those previously in force.  Charitable status exempts bodies from the crushing UK taxation.

Phillips is not part of the Charities Commission, but this seems to be a clear statement of the intentions of the establishment.   They state that, unless Christians endorse unnatural vice — which is the point at issue — their charities will be deregistered, and Christians will not be permitted to provide any kind of public service, except by paying a tax that charities endorsing sodomy will not be subject to.  No school, no soup kitchen, no adoption agency, no hospice — none of these aims, all charitable, will be permitted to have charitable status, and all will be taxed as if undertaken for profit. 

None of this rules out further action on “equality” grounds by Mr Phillips’ organisation, of course.  Phillips and his team have already prosecuted commercial businesses and private individuals who are not charities.  This is a further stage, intended to target further Christian groups such as the Salvation Army.

Phillips makes clear that mosques need not fear: “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they’re doing their best…” 

There is a great deal in the article about respect for faith-based beliefs, which at first sight is at odds with the draconian stratements above.  But if read carefully, it explains itself.

  • “there is certainly a feeling amongst some people of belief that they are under siege”
  • Our business is defending the believer. The law we’re here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It’s an essential element of being a fulfilled human being.
  • I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege.
  • There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution…
  • There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight

All the mentions of Christians are negative.  “People of faith” means Moslems.

The article also signals that the establishment intends to attack the black churches.  These have hitherto been protected to some degree by the unwillingness of the establishment to be seen to attack black institutions.  There has, all the same, been some sniping at them as primitive and backward.  However:

  • I come from that kind of community. We like our faith strong and pretty undiluted. If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.

In the mouth of a state official, in charge of a body often seen as inquisitorial, this language has a sinister sound.

There is also an attack on the Christian groups that fund the defence of those attacked by his (tax-funded) organisation. 

  • There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they’re constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn’t agree wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan.   “I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think that whole argument isn’t about the rights of Christians. It’s about politics. It’s about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence and they’ve chosen that particular ground.

The Christian B&B owners who were denounced by gay activist informers were dragged into court by Phillips, and the prosecution funded by the state.  Clearly the Christian Legal Centre and the Christian Institute are doing the right thing; the accusation is projection, I think.

At one point the article is not clear.  This is when Philips addresses atheism.  

The establishment has encouraged the rise of atheism, in order to attack the Christians.  It is an old trick to deprive some group of their rights by creating a counter-movement and then claiming to be “mediating” between them.  The group you are attacking must therefore either abandon some of what it has always had, or else be seen to be refusing to compromise. 

But it sounds as if the establishment is not entirely satisfied with the performance of its puppets.  There are more comments from Philips in the other article, supposedly summarising the first:

  • [Philips] warned it had become “fashionable” to attack and mock religion, singling out atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins for his views

This suggests to me that they have recognised that Dawkins’ hysterical accusations have become counter-productive.  Dawkins himself has received quite a bit less publicity in the last couple of years, and is perhaps something of an embarassment.

But this may merely be an excuse for his own organisation to “protect” “believers” — a power play.

Finally some words that Philips must have sniggered silently while uttering:

  • “It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque. At the moment the law says it [appointing openly gay bishops] is a matter for the Church of England. It’s probably right. “

The game was given away, immediately above the article on p.2, in another article, which explained all: “Church clears the way for gay bishops”.  The same day the BBC was giving the same story:

Legal advice is due to be published as early as Monday saying homosexual clergy in civil partnerships can become bishops.

The move is in response to the Equality Act, which protects from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

(My italics).  The appointments in the Church of England have always been controlled by the establishment.  Evidently Phillips knew that other establishment stooges would be responsible for dealing with that.

It’s all strikingly reminiscent of the religious policies of the old Soviet Union.  On the one hand Christian charitable bodies were forbidden; on the other priests were appointed by the KGB, and those who refused to conform to church policies set by the state were demonised.  I was rereading a book by Michael Bordeaux of Keston College this evening, describing the appalling persecution of Russian Baptists in the 1960’s. 

The choice before Christians is clear.  The state has made endorsement of sodomy a shibboleth, deliberately, knowing that it is offensive to most people and condemned by the bible.  Endorse it, they say, or face the consequences. 

In times past similar demands were made, of sacrificing to the genius of Caesar, or bowing the knee to Baal.  Neither, perhaps, seemed very shocking to contemporaries.  “Why can’t they just conform and not cause trouble?” people asked.   The rest of the time they jeered at Christians as “breaking the law”.  The Christians replied that they must obey God, rather than man.

It seems those times are here again.  Some will conform, and will thereby apostasise.  Others will suffer loss.  Many will try to keep their heads down, while informers roam around seeking whom they may denounce.

The situation is not nearly so bad here as it was in Russia, and let us hope that it does not become so.  Rather it resembles the harassment arranged by Julian the Apostate — what Gregory Nazianzen called a “soft persecution”, designed to destroy the churches by harassment.  But the intent is clear.

Let us pray for those who are determined to persecute the church here.  And let us pray for the confessors, those who suffer harassment and persecution because they will not betray Christ.


Did Eusebius attack science?

Browsing a usenet forum today, I came across a vitriolic post attacking the Christians by quoting all the ancient Christian authors who did not happen to hold the same views of science as those living nearly a score of centuries later.  For some reason the poster did not include the ancient non-Christian authors in his survey.  Nor, of course, did he provide references for any of his “quotations”. Instead he was repeating an usenet post from sci.physics from May 10, 1993, by a certain Gregory Aharonian, who wrote as follows:

Recently Will Brandt at Caltech posted a very excellent timetable of significant historical events in the field of science.  Given that science is a much a search for the new as a fight against the old (or at least that’s my opinion), I thought I would post a list of historical events where religion did something against science or unscientific.  There is no particular significance to the events I have included, other than I came across them while researching various things.  Incidents touch on physics, mathematics, engineering, medicine and computers.

After a quantity of stuff, arranged by date, there is this:

#Noted Catholic Bishops declare science to be of no interest to Christians
The attitude of most of the Church Fathers towards science, however, was one of indifference or hostility. Bishop Eusebius, the noted historian of the early Christian Church, says of scientists: “It is not through ignorance of the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless labor, that we think little of these matters, turning our souls to better things“.  Basil of Caesarea declares it “a matter of no interest to us whether the earth is a sphere or a cylinder or a disk, or concave like a fan”. Lactantius calls the study of astronomy “bad and senseless”. Like many other churchmen, he combats the pagan Greek notion that the earth is round and argues on scriptual grounds that it must be flat.

It is always a good idea to verify such things.  First, for the Eusebius quotation, I did a google search for “the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless”.  This indicated that the text was widely used on a certain kind of website, such as this one

But far more usefully, it led me to an article in Popular Science, Vol. 8, No. 25, Feb. 1876.  Pp.385-409 (and “to be continued”!) contain an article entitled The Warfare of Science, and written by a certain Andrew D. White, stated to be “President of Cornell University”.  On page 387 appears something very like our material. 

But we must start on page 386 to see the context:

Among the legacies the thought left by the ancient world to the modern, were certain ideas of the rotundity of the earth.  These ideas were vague; they were mixed with absurdities, but they were germ ideas, and, after the barbarian storm which ushered in the modern world had begun to clear away, these germ ideas began to bud and bloom in the minds of a few thinking men, and these men hazarded the suggestion that the earth is round — is a globe. [1]

The greatest and most earnest men of the time took fright at once.  To them, the idea of the earth’s rotundity seemed fraught with dangers to Scripture: by which, of course, they meant their interpretation of Scripture.

Among the first who took up arms against the new thinkers was Eusebius.  He endeavored to turn off these ideas by bringing  science into contempt.  He endeavored to make  the innovators understand that he and the fathers of the Church despised all such inquiries. Speaking of the innovations in physical science, he said: “It is not through ignorance of the things admired by them, but through contempt of their useless labor, that we think little of these matters, turning our souls to better things.”[1]

The first footnote refers to Plato and the Timaeus; and also to Cicero’s works.  The second footnote may be given in full.

1.  See Eusebius, “Praep. Ev.,” xv., 61.

There is a certain confusion in Dr White’s eloquent paragraphs, for he seems to suppose that Eusebius lived, not in ancient times, but in the Middle Ages; and in days when society was entirely Christian, rather than in the days of the persecution of Diocletian.  But doubtless this is merely an accident.

But what does Eusebius say? 

Well, in the days when I was scanning large quantities of literature, one of the items I scanned was the only English translation of the Praeparatio Evangelica.  This is a large and scholarly work, stuffed to the gills with word-for-word extracts of Greek philosophy.  Book 15 may be found here.

The book consists of listing the opinions of a whole range of Greek philosophers on a wide range of subjects, and thereby showing that they cannot be used as an authority, since they disagree violently among themselves on all of them.  The quotations run to some 50 chapters, and are too long to reproduce here.  Let us merely give the last section, from chapters 59-61 (I have abbreviated the chapter titles, which may not be authorial anyway):

So much, then, concerning the Sea.

But as to those who professed to give physiological explanations about the whole world, and things celestial and ethereal, and the conception of the universe, how little they knew even of their own nature, you may learn from their discordant utterances on these points also, as follows.


PYTHAGORAS, Plato: in the first analysis the Soul has two parts; for it has one part rational and another irrational. But in close and exact consideration, its parts are three: for they distinguish the irrational into the irascible and the appetitive.

‘The Stoics: it is composed of eight parts; five senses, sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch; and a sixth, speech; a seventh, generation; and an eighth, the actual ruling principle, from which proceeds the extension of all these through their proper organs, in a similar manner to the tentacles of the polypus.

‘Democritus, Epicurus: the Soul consists of two parts, its rational faculty being settled in the breast, and the irrational diffused over the whole complexity of the body.

‘But Democritus thought that all things, even dead bodies, naturally partake of a certain kind of soul, because in an obscure way they have some warmth and sensation, though the greater part is dissipated.’

LXI.  ‘PLATO, Democritus: it is in the head as a whole.

‘Straton: between the eyebrows.

‘Erasistratus: about the membrane of the brain, which he calls the epicranis.

‘Herophilus: in the cavity of the brain, which is also its base.

‘Parmenides: in the breast as a whole.

‘Epicurus, and all the Stoics: in the heart as a whole.

‘Diogenes: in the arterial cavity of the heart, which is full of breath.

‘Empedocles in the composition of the blood.

‘Others in the membrane of the pericardium: and others in the diaphragm. Some of the more recent philosophers say that it reaches through from the head to the diaphragm.

‘Pythagoras: the vital power is around the heart; but the rational , and intelligent faculty in the region of the head.’

So far, then, as to their opinions on these matters.

Eusebius then draws the natural conclusion.  For if these men are authorities, what use is their authority to anyone?

Do you not think therefore that with judgement and reason we have justly kept aloof from the unprofitable and erroneous and vain labour of them all, and do not busy ourselves at all about the said subjects (for we do not see the utility of them, nor any tendency to benefit and gain good for mankind), but cling solely to piety towards God the creator of all things, and by a life of temperance, and all godly behaviour according to virtue, strive to live in a manner pleasing to Him who is God over all?

But if even you from malice and envy hesitate to admit our true testimony, you shall be again anticipated by Socrates, the wisest of all Greeks, who has truthfully declared his votes in our favour. Those meteorological babblers, for instance, he used to expose in their folly, and say that they were no better than madmen, expressly convicting them not merely of striving after things unattainable, but also of wasting time about things useless and unprofitable to man’s life. And this shall be testified to you by our former witness Xenophon, one of the best-known of the companions of Socrates, who writes as follows in his Memorabilia:

LXII.  [XENOPHON] ‘No one ever yet saw Socrates do or heard him say anything impious or unholy. For he did not discourse about the nature of the universe or the other subjects, like most of them, speculating upon the condition of the cosmos, as the Sophists call it, and by what forces of necessity the celestial phenomena severally are produced: rather he used to expose the foolishness of those who troubled themselves about such things.

‘Such, then, was the nature of his remarks about those who busied themselves with these matters: but he himself was always discoursing of human interests, inquiring what was, pious, what impious; what noble, what base; what just, what unjust; what sanity, what madness.’

These, then, were the opinions of Socrates. And next after him Aristippus of Cyrene, and then later Ariston of Chios, undertook to maintain that morals were the only proper subject of philosophy; for these inquiries were practicable and useful, but the discussions about nature were quite the contrary, neither being comprehensible, nor having any use, even if they were clearly understood.

For it would be no advantage to us, not even if soaring higher in the air than Perseus,

‘O’er ocean’s wave, and o’er the Pleiades,’

we could with our very eyes survey the whole world, and the nature of all ‘beings,’ of whatever kind that is.

For we certainly shall not be on that account wiser, or more just or brave or temperate, nay, not even strong, or beautiful, or rich, without which advantages happiness is impossible.

Such are the remarks of Eusebius.

Is this an attack, in desperate fear of novelty, on the idea that the world is round?  It is not.  The subject is remote from the author’s mind.  He is concerned with one thing, and one only; to prepare men to hear the gospel, to point out that the teachings of the Jews are of no value, and those of the Greeks also except insofar as they point men to the need for moral improvement.

It is meaningless to complain that Eusebius attacks “science”.  In his day nothing of the kind existed.  Our own modern systems were unknown to him, and equally unknown to those he attacked.  He attacked, rather, the Greek philosophers, or rather Sophists, the peddlers of ideas to those willing to pay to be entertained thereby.

We remember Pythagoras for his theorems.  But in the ancient world he was just another teacher, with a set of invented ideas and rituals, such as not eating beans.

But to return to Dr. White: are his words found here?  There are not.  Rather they are found in chapter 1 of book 15:

As we have been deferring up to the present time our final discourse hereon, which is the fifteenth Book of the treatise in hand, we will now make up what is lacking to the discussions which we have travelled through, by still further dragging into light the solemn doctrines of the fine philosophy of the Greeks, and laying bare before the eyes of all the useless learning therein. And before all things we shall show that not from ignorance of the things which they admire, but from contempt of the unprofitable study therein we have cared very little for them, and devoted our own souls to the practice of things far better.

I suspect that Eusebius would have been amused by A. D. White.  For after all, Eusebius has already answered White’s objection by quoting Socrates.  It is not an attack on the value of science to point out the futility of empty speculation.  It is not an attack on learning and reason to follow the path of moral self-improvement advocated by all the best philosophers of antiquity, and the moralists of every age and country.  Only a man of White’s limited sympathies could suppose it.

As for the modern poster with whom we started, we may feel confident that he had never read a line of Eusebius, nor verified whether what he said was true.  Eusebius was not discussing “scientists”, nor science.


The demands of the world on the church

Two quotations.  The first, from the Christian Post via Curious Presbyterian, relates to an atheist academic.  Dr A. became a Christian and was then denied tenure at the university.  A court has ruled this was unlawful discrimination.  From the plaintiff:

Adams and his attorney … assert that both Levy, an outspoken feminist, and Cook, an atheist, denied the full professorship in retaliation to his faith.

By Alliance Defense Fund accounts, Cook described that her ideal candidate for the teaching position would be “a lesbian with spiked hair and a dog collar.”

The other is by W.H.Auden, reviewing the Lord of the Rings:

Secondly, the kind of Evil which Sauron embodies, the lust for domination, will always be irrationally cruel since it is not satisfied if another does what it wants; he must be made to do it against his will.

When the world seeks to dominate the church, it does so by making demands which it knows violate the teaching of Christ. 

Foolish Christians try to dress up their compliance in the language of Zion; but their reward is the mockery of the world, as it gives them a contemptuous approval for their deference.


New attacks on Christians in Britain

At Oxford the university has always had a number of colleges associated with it which train people for the Christian ministry.  This is a legacy of the days not so long ago when every college fellow was in orders.  The colleges degrees are issued by the university.

Well, apparently that’s now illegal in Britain.  At least, there are some tax-funded academics in Wales who think so, and have demanded that the Inquisition investigate this genial practice, with a view to banning it.  Christian colleges cannot be affiliated with state-funded universities.

Wales Online has the story:

Academics complain to equality commission about University of Wales

THE University of Wales could face an inquiry into an allegation it is breaching a new equality law by validating degrees at Christian fundamentalist colleges run by groups that believe homosexuality and sex outside marriage is sinful.

Note the pejorative “fundamentalist” — they mean people like me, of course.

A report written by a professor at a Welsh university, who wishes to remain anonymous …

I’ll bet he does.  Who in the world thought that tax money was funding a self-selected inquisitor?

… who wishes to remain anonymous for professional reasons, examines the University of Wales’ association with eight colleges that subscribe to a Christian fundamentalist viewpoint …

Professor Debbie Epstein, of Cardiff University, a leading expert on issues of sexual identity and one of the academics backing the formal complaint, said: “In my view, there are three reasons why it is wholly inappropriate for the University of Wales to be validating degrees offered by these colleges.

“First of all, there is the issue of having to accept the inherency of the Bible as the word of God.

“For these people, there is no debate – and that is incompatible with the fundamental basis on which universities operate. Secondly, it is not acceptable for universities to operate a policy of only accepting staff or students who subscribe to certain belief systems.

“Thirdly, and particularly after the general duty to equality becomes a legal requirement next week, it would, in my view, be unlawful for a university to condone, through its degree validating procedures, colleges that do not uphold equality.

Straightforward bigotry there: anyone I disagree with must be forced out.

The author of the report has already approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission and intends to make a formal complaint next Tuesday, when the public sector equality duty takes effect.

The commission said it would begin an inquiry, should it receive a formal complaint.

Someone who doesn’t want to be named, denouncing the Christians to an inquisitorial body, for Thinking Wrong Things… yuk!

Thanks to eChurch blog for this one.

UPDATE: The attacks are coming in thick and fast today.  There’s a story in the Daily Mail here, which is courageously cataloguing these things, how two schools have banned the Gideons from coming in and distributing bibles, as they have done for decades.  The pretext is not to upset “other faith groups”.  I wonder when the established religion became “another faith group”?


Further attack on Christians in Britain

Well that didn’t take long. 

Yesterday I posted on how the Prime Minister endorsed the court judgement that forcing Christians to promise to endorse homosexuality was legal.  Several of us said this was a green light for further attacks on Christians.

Today I learn that the two gays who sued the elderly owners of a Christian B&B for not giving them a double bed (and were awarded “damages”) are dragging them again into court to demand more money still.   The “Equalities commission” — i.e. the state — is funding the prosecution.

Expect a rash of such attacks and attempts to plunder and loot, now the PM has supported the courts, and the courts have made clear they will cooperate.

UPDATE: The case has been withdrawn!  The Daily Mail reports: that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said:

Legal director John Wadham said: ‘This morning we withdrew our cross appeal in this case.

‘It was filed initially because of an error of judgment on the part of our legal team.

‘They submitted the cross appeal in an attempt to clarify the law around how damages are calculated in cases such as this.

‘This resulted in it appearing that Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall were seeking to increase the amount of damages they receive because Mr and Mrs Bull’s Christian beliefs had led them to break the law.

This was not our intention and it was certainly not the intention of Steve and Martyn.

‘I would like to confirm that public money will not be spent funding a claim for increased damages in this case.’

I think the last sentence tells us what has happened, for we must never forget that we don’t know who is talking to who, in the corridors of power, and what is really being done here, any more than one would in a corporate power struggle.  But I infer from this that someone in the government got nervous.

The government is currently slashing spending, which is very unpopular.  It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a populist politician could ask why government money, at such a time, is being spent to enrich a pair of campaigners.  Someone has decided not to take that political risk.


How not to do atheism

Quite by chance I found myself looking at something that made me first rub my eyes and then burst out laughing.  I thought I would share it with you before it vanishes from the web.  From here:

The Bible was wrong. For evidence look to, well, the Bible.

Such is the conclusion of this stunning, provocative infographic, which maps contradictions in the Bible, from whether thou shalt not commit adultery down to the color of Jesus’s robes. Career skeptic Sam Harris commissioned the chart for his nonprofit foundation Project Reason, with graphic design by Madrid-based Andy Marlow. Whatever your religious views, it’s an incredible testament to the power of data visualization. It’s managed to make an ancient text — over which men have fought wars and women have sacrificed babies — look downright silly.

The organization here is pretty simple. You’ve got bars at the bottom representing the 1,189 verses of the King James Bible. White’s for the Old Testament, gray’s for the New Testament. Then a red arc links all the verses that contradict each other…. For the full key, download the chart as a PDF.

So to anyone who thinks the Bible’s the last word on anything, remember this: It isn’t even the last word on itself.

You’ve probably never heard of this Sam Harris, and I have never troubled to read anything he produces.  Those of his disciples that I have met have been very stupid people.

But back to the image, and let’s think about it critically.  What can it mean?  Someone draws a picture and that says, erm … what?  That a couple of atheists can compile a list of “bible difficulties” and represent it in graphical form?  Or that there are “bible difficulties”, as the Victorians used to quaintly call them?  There’s quite a bit of hubris in suggesting that what someone thinks is a problem, with something  he doesn’t want to believe, must really be one.

Mind you we should not be unfair.  Those exulting over this curious production seem to understand quite well that it is designed for emotional impact rather than intellectual impact.  But let’s have some fun!  Let’s see if we can actually get a sensible meaning out of this?

The lesser kind of atheist writers have been trying for some centuries to compile lists of “bible difficulties”. They would like us to believe that, if they can find or invent anything which looks like a contradiction, by whatever combination of ingenuity or wilful stupidity, in a library of books written over a period of several centuries and copied by hand — especially a numerical difference, and we all know how reliable is the copying of numerals in ancient texts –, then that proves … well, what?  They get quite hazy about what it proves, specifically, other than that “the bible is not true”. 

But the logic is never quite laid out for us to inspect.  Is it some sort of unspecified theological point, about how divine inspiration ‘must’ work?  If so, do these sort of atheists believe they can make valid theological statements about a God in whom they do not believe?  Or perhaps is it that this text cannot be the work of an omnipotent God, working through human hands to give a message and accepting that those humans may make mistakes in copying or reading, because… erm… sorry why was that?  It’s as if the argument falls apart, just as soon as you recast it into your own words and omit the slogans.  

To those who think of the crisp incisive prose of J.S.Mill when they think of atheism, this sort of argumentation will be a sad disappointment.

Intellectually — and we do “intellectual” on this blog, I think — the whole exercise of piling up “problems”, as a way to refute something, is rubbish.   It’s not going to tell you anything, and it will do injury to the person doing it, because it is unbalanced.  It is the favourite method of the hate-writer, and the process corrupts those who do it, as the “faults” of those they dislike grow larger and larger under the distorting lens of the microscope.  No sensible person looks for accurate information about wombles from

Consider the idea of a heap of “problems”, as applied to any ancient text or collection of texts.  Won’t any text of any length have “problems” of this kind?  Not because it’s, erm, whatever point they are trying make here, but because of how the world is.  People see things differently.  Typos creep in.  Cultural differences get misunderstood  by modern readers.  And so on and so on.  To make these  facts about the world into an argument against one kind of belief, while silently ignoring the same problem with every belief and everything we know, is rather silly.

It is not an argument against Christianity that the world is a flawed place.  It is an argument FOR Christianity, surely?  It is not an argument that the bible is unreliable that people make mistakes copying it  — that’s the same argument again. 

The argument also misses the point.  No-one comes to be a Christian because they discover the bible is inerrant.  They come to believe the bible is inerrant because they became Christians.  The argument thus becomes a form of jeering, rather than a discussion of the validity or otherwise of Christianity.

I need to get back to proof correcting the Eusebius volume.  I’m pretty sure Eusebius, author of Gospel Problems and Solutions, had heard that there were things that some people thought were diaphonia