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Christianity has its own demons.

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On 6 January 2009, a woman accused of witchcraft and of passing on AIDS to several men with whom she had extramarital affairs was stripped naked, blindfolded, gagged, tied to a pole and burned alive on a pyre built of petrol-soaked truck tyres.

A man and his son were burned alive after neighbours accused the father of casting spells on a local leader to bring about his death.

Wilson Okore, 29, was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment after hacking to death a forest warden whom he accused of casting spells a give a woman headaches.

Shocking, isn’t it, the insanity which fundamentalist religion can create?  And no doubt the reader will automatically think that these atrocities were committed by radical Islamists.  Except they were not.  The people who carried out the above murders were all deeply devout Christians in Papua New Guinea, itself a Christian country which does little to nothing to deter such acts.

Admittedly, Papua New Guinea suffers from a strange mixture of (predominantly Roman Catholic) Christianity, Animism and ancient tribal beliefs (similar to that which gave rise to Voodoo in Haiti) and Christian missionaries have been known at time to step in and try to rescue those accused of witchcraft.  However the country’s Witchcraft Act of 1971, which makes the practice of “Black Witchcraft” illegal, along with superstitious fears from a largely ignorant populace make such atrocities all too common.  It is not helped either by the said people actually being indoctrinated by a faith which tells them Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Genesis 22:18, KJV)

One does not doubt for one moment the dangers of fundamentalist Islam and the radicalisation it all too often produces.  But even today, in 2013, Christianity has its own catalogue of horrendous acts, sometimes in countries which either sanctions these acts, or otherwise cannot or will not prevent them, and which are all too often played down by the mainstream media.

Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country which however has a sizeable and very vocal Christian minority.  The president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994 is Islamic but always quick to curry favour with the Christians in the form of gifts to their communities.  Like Papua New Guinea, Gambia has an obsession with witchcraft which is shared by both the Muslim and Christian communities.  Christian sects in Gambia produce fantastical tracts in comic strip form with bizarre stories of what happens to witches.  One of these, the “true life story” of Alhaji Diiejo, a cocoa famer, depicts him praying to a “magic god”, cimbing into a pot and turning into a snake with a human head, by which means he poisoned the crops of neighbouring farmers.  A hunter however steals his pot, making it impossible for him to turn back into a man, and he is forced to confess all his sins before being driven off to a secret location by his son.

This is only one of many such tracts printed and distributed in Gambia telling outright and utterly fantastical nonsense as “true”.  It is not the first time I have encountered Christians who are all too willing to blaspheme their own faith by openly lying.  It would seem that the belief is that the ends justify the means.  And readers may baulk at such fantastical nonsense.  However the Christian natives of Gambia are all too willing to believe them.  It is hardly surprising then that when one of President Jammeh’s aunts died suddenly in 2009 and he blamed it upon witchcraft, that in scenes with disturbing echoes of the Salem, all too many were ready to co-operate with the paramilitary police in a witch hunt which became so serious that hundreds of Gambians fled across the border into Senegal.

Witchcraft apart, President Jammeh also has a strong religious aversion to homosexuality, which is equally supported by Gambia’s Christians.  Homosexuality is illegal in Gambia and can bring a jail sentence of up to seven years.  Jammeh has often threatened to legislate beheading for gays and has ordered military chiefs to root out and dismiss gay service personnel.  Were this persecution not bad enough for Gambians, it has even stretched to visitors from other countries who have been prosecuted.  Of the many cases perhaps the worst example is that of Frank Boers, a 79-year-old man from the Netherlands, who was arrested at Banjul’s international airport after photographs of him naked with two Gambian men were found on his person.  Mr Boers was fined 100,000 Gambian Dalasis (GB £1,800 / US $2,777), which he could not pay and was imprisoned for two years.  At no time did anyone from Gambian’s Christian communities speak out, just as they do not speak out against the random beatings of people suspected of homosexual activity, in a country which has no LGBT organisations.  In fact, if anything Gambian Christians are all too ready to support – and take part in – these atrocities.

If Gambia is bad enough, Uganda is a completely different kettle of fish.  And there is no excuse of it being a Muslim country.  Uganda is 85% Christian, under the leadership of Yoweri Museveni, himself a deeply devout Christian.  Freedom of religion is the official line in Uganda.  However, all religions have to register with the state and some minority beliefs, condemned as sects, are strictly proscribed.

The treatment of the LGBT community in Uganda is not only shameful, it is frightening.  Gays and lesbians are routinely rounded up, dragged out of their homes and meeting places by police, savagely beaten, murdered and “disappeared” by the authorities.  The only difference between this treatment and the atrocities in the dark days of Idi Amin’s dictatorship is that when it comes to gays, the vast majority of the Ugandan public support this state terrorism.  Moreover, Ugandans at times attack gays with savage beatings and burn down their houses, which the authorities not only do nothing to deter but are wholly in support of.

Homosexuality in Uganda is a crime, currently punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.  In 2009 however, Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati tabled the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty for same-sex acts and relationships.  Bahati based his Bill upon his deeply-held Christian beliefs, claiming “we do not hate homosexuals but the sin that it is in them.”  Despite these words, Bahati’s supporters make their feelings about homosexuality (primarily among gay men) more than clear.  One of these, Pastor Moses Solomon Male (the irony is not lost on me either) tours the country on his mission, Understanding the Challenges of Homosexuality (Sodomy), in which he tells young children among others “Those homosexuals … They call it anal sex. It ruins the anus. And they say they enjoy it,”. He even goes as far as to claim that gay men groom children for sex, openly accusing them of being child abusers.  It is only my opinion but it seems to me that if anyone is abusing kids, it is someone giving Sunday School youngsters graphic descriptions of anal intercourse.  Although it has since been vehemently denied, there have been claims linking the American evangelist preacher Scott Lively to support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  On 12 December 2012 Pope Benedict XVI received Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who also supports the Bill, and bestowed his blessing upon her.

The Bill has been struggling through the Ugandan parliament since it’s introduction in 2009, with many revisions being written into it, due in no small effort to international pressure being put upon Uganda, not least from other countries within the British Commonwealth.  It has the support of both the parliament and the people however and may yet become law.  Even if it does not, the treatment of the LGBT community in Uganda, largely caused by fundamentalist Christian belief, remains shameful.

In 2012 there was a failed attempt to highlight the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Liberation Army.  Kony has been indicted several times on war crimes and crimes against humanity, not least for abducting over 600,000 children to turn into child soldiers, great many of whom had to kill their own parents.  It is not known just how many deaths Joseph Kony and the LRA are responsible for but it may well be in excess of 1 million.  Kony is a self-proclaimed “spokesman for God” who has operated in several countries including  Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo, but at one time sought to turn Uganda into a Christian theocracy.  Uganda has had a truce with the LRA since 2008 but as far as the treatment of the LGBT community goes, their aims remain the same.  The plan in 2012 was to turn Joseph Kony into a “celebrity”; to plaster his name and image around the world in an effort to make the world aware of him and the crimes of him and the LRA.  It failed completely to gain momentum.  One can only help but wonder if the same would have happened had Kony and his murderous band of terrorists been Muslim?  The western media certainly bears a responsiblity for continually posting sensationalist (and at times false) stories about Muslims when they should have been highlighting the LRA.

Anyone reading this will have noticed that so far I have concentrated upon Papua New Guinea and countries in Africa and may be forgiven for thinking that the atrocities mentioned happen due to religious propaganda feeding the fears of ill-educated people in developing countries. The same however cannot be said for modern, industrialised, developed countries, and one in particular; the Republic of Ireland.

Roman Catholicism has had a firm grip upon Ireland for hundreds of years.  Even centuries of British rule did nothing to lessen the power of the Church of Rome upon the Irish people.  Thankfully, things do appear to be changing.  However there are places where it still remains extremely strong, not least in the matter of abortion.  Abortion is completely illegal in Eire and attempting to procure an abortion can carry a sentence of life imprisonment.  Even if the woman is pregnant from the result of rape, including incestuous rape, procurement of an abortion would still be deemed illegal within the laws of the Irish republic.

The official line of the law in Eire is that abortion is is illegal unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother.  Where actual cases may stand de jure (in law) however can often be very different to the de facto (in reality) circumstances.  A landmark case occurred in 1992 in which a 14 year old girl, known only as “X” was pregnant following rape and became suicidal.  The girl’s family planned to travel to England for her to have an abortion but before leaving her mother asked the Garda (the Irish police) if DNA evidence would be admissible as the rapist was denying responsibility.  The Attorney General, Harry Wheelan, when informed sought an injunction to prevent her travelling.  During the case of Attorney General vs X however, this was overturned and it was established that a risk to the mother’s life did indeed include if she were suicidal.  In the event X miscarried before the procedure could be carried out.  The law was still however that women in Ireland may travel to procure an abortion, even if suicidal.  A great many women do indeed travel, mostly to England.  None attempt to cross the border into Northern Ireland for the simple matter that the ruling Protestants in British NI are as equally anti-abortion as their Roman Catholic neighbours in the Irish Republic.

It is not always clear either what constitutes putting the woman’s rights at risks and balancing those against the rights of the unborn child.  Matters concerning this came to a head in October 2012 with the death of Savita Halappanavar.  A 31 year old Hindu woman from India, Savita was 17 weeks pregnant when she began to miscarry.  She was taken to University Hospital, Galway, where she begged for an abortion as she feared for her life.  This however was refused as the heart of the foetus was found to still be beating, even though it was non-viable as a child.  Her husband has since claimed that when Savita asked for an abortion, she was continually and arrogantly told “This is a Catholic country.”  If true, the bigoted and dare I say racist connotations of that are clear for all to see.  Three days after admission, with no heartbeat present, the foetal remains were removed.  The damage however was already done.  Savita suffered septicemia and organ failure, from which she died four days later.  The case of Savita Halapannavar is still being investigated as I write this.  It has however created outrage not only in Ireland but on a worldwide scale and have increased calls for Irish women to have greater right to abortion.

Cases of child abuse by clergy are of course by no means limited to Ireland but due to the Roman Catholicism being all but the state religion there, it has had more than it’s fair share of scandals, for which the Irish parliament, the Dail, never seems to be done apologising for.  Why they do so is beyond me.  It is not they who should be apologising for these acts but rather the Roman Catholic Church who should be doing so.  Not only is the Vatican unwilling to do so however, in many such cases they have been known to protect the offender and often very reluctant to part with compensation to victims.  In 1994 serial child abuser Father Brendan Smyth, was protected so much while on the run in Ireland that his case ultimately led to the collapse of the government.

The church in Ireland ran a great many institutions, schools, homes and the infamous “Magdalene Laundries” which, under the guise of being charitable institutions, destroyed the lives of thousands who were physically, sexually and psychologically abused, sometimes a mixture of all three.  There are people suffering to this day due to the abuse they received in these institutions, abuse which the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, and right to the heart of Rome, all too often are in denial about, are covering up, or worst of all, blame the victims for.  Sadder still is the reaction from some of the populace who would like it all to just disappear.  It must be hard for them; nobody likes to think that something that has been an integral part of their life from birth is rotten to the very core.  During one case brought against the church in Ireland I was so saddened to hear one man in Dublin tell TV cameras “They should let it drop. It was thirty years ago.”

The cases of child abuse by Roman Catholic clergy are of course way too numerous to list in this article.  I will say however that it is a problem which seems to be endemic within the church and which they do little to nothing to redress.  Perhaps the most astounding statement came on 10 June 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech concerning the “Year of the Priest”, stated, “We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.”  Did you notice that?  “and from the persons involved”.  Far from recompensing people for abuse by clergy, the Pope was actually asking victims to forgive their abusers.  As for ensuring that abuse would never happen again, it continues unabated, often by clergy who try to claim their victims “enjoyed” their abuse or were “asking for it”, or anything else but admit that they or the Roman Catholic Church could ever be at fault.  In 2002, Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney claimed that “abortion is worse than priest abuse… …because abortion always destroys a human life.” A little advice to Cardinal Pell; a good life includes quality of life, and through stealing that quality from victims, the number of lives which abusive clergy have destroyed is countless, but it must run into millions.

And I would stress here that while the Roman Catholic Church is the largest perpetrator of these crimes, they are not the only ones.  I doubt that there is any Christian denomination, anywhere in the world, which has not had an abusive member of clergy.  Certainly in my home country, there have been a number of abuse cases come to light in former Church of Scotland homes, and I have read of quite a sizeable amount of such cases in Protestant churches in the USA and elsewhere.

Another problem with Christianity, as with any religion, is the mania it can and does create, sometimes with terrible consequences, including death.  When one reads of people being killed in a stampede to get “special anointing oil”, you may think it happened in Islamabad, or perhaps Amritsar?  Except that is exactly what happened on 5 May 2013 at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ghana when the said oil was being handed out by the controversial Prophet TB Joshua.  And again, we need not look to Africa for such fanaticism.  Let us not forget that Jim Jones and his followers at Jonestown, who all committed suicide, as well as the Branch Davidians in Waco, were mostly American or British.  Even without looking too far in history, in 2011 American Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the “rapture”, when God’s “elect” would be called up to Heaven would take place on 21 May that year.  He gathered a great many believers, some of whom gave up their jobs and/or sold their homes and gave the money raised to Camping’s Family Radio channel.  When the date came, there was at least one serious incident when one mother attempted to slit the throats of her two children. Thankfully both survived.

Leaving aside obvious cases of psychosis where offenders have claimed “God told me to do it / the Devil made me do it”, Christianity can end in serious consequences.  In one case in London a few years ago a woman and her partner hacked her younger brother to death believing him to be “possessed by demons”.  Several such cases have also occurred all around the world.  Christianity can even raise the ugly head of religious bigotry, where others are killed purely for not being Christians.  Whilst most of those involved in religious strife in both Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent Scotland could not seriously be described as Christians (many don’t see the inside of a church from the day they are wed until the day they are buried), some indeed do and believe that they are “killing for Christ”.  Likewise we have the odious matter of a tiny minority, and I emphasise that it is a minority, of US military personnel who honestly believe that they are on a modern day crusade against Islam.  Should anyone doubt this, I can assure them that I have indeed encountered one such individual who maintains that Muslims have been killing for over 1000 years and that “there has to be a reckoning”.

And let us not forget attacks upon abortion clinics, abuse hurled at women attending them – without knowing the facts – and attacks, and/or enticing violent attacks upon the LGBT community, all because it is “Biblical”.  And I’m not talking in Uganda either.  Such attacks happen in the UK and the USA on a daily basis.  I have even recently heard one TV evangelist preach to fathers to “punch the gay out” of their sons.

I would be the last to deny anyone their faith.  I recognise that the Christian church, whatever my views of it may be, is and remains an important part of life for millions of people.  I equally recognise that Christianity can indeed be an enormous force for good in the world, whether speaking out collectively against all sorts of wrongs or individually as good members of clergy who are ever there to support those in some of their darkest hours.  But if anyone claims that Christians can do no wrong, I would suggest that they take in the above, which is but the tip of the iceberg of abuses and atrocities carried out by Christians in the modern age, and think long and hard upon them.

And should there be any who would play the “no true Scotsman” fallacy of claiming “These aren’t true Christians as a Christian would not do that.” then you must admit equally that whenever any Muslim carries out an atrocity not supported by the Qur’an, they must, by equal measure not be a “true” Muslim.  You cannot have it both ways.

Fundamentalism is dangerous – even in non-believers.

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I spent most of my life in a search for God and spiritual enlightenment, until in my 47th year it suddenly struck me that the very reason I was searching is because I saw no evidence for the existence of God(s) at all. I am an atheist and at the most basic level have always been so, without even realising it. During that search, I encountered a great many religions and belief systems. To quote John Lennon’s song I Found Out, “I’ve seen religion from Jesus to Baal”. In that time I have encountered and read about some of the worst excesses of over-zealous religious belief, and can clearly see the dangers of such beliefs. I would argue however, that religious fundamentalism is only part of the story, and that there is today a growing fundamentalist among atheists which has the potential to be every bit as dangerous.

As I have stated from the above, I am indeed an atheist. And what is atheism? The Oxford English Dictionary gives this definition; “atheism: noun; disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” That is it, there is nothing more to it. Yet to listen to some of the more strident atheists today, one would get the impression that, like religions, atheism somehow has its own set dogma and rules.

Undoubtedly one of the main catalysts to this “new atheism”, if not the main one, was the publication in 2006 of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion, along with speeches and quotes from the journalist and author, the late Christopher Hitchens appear to have made up some sort of “atheist bible”, which too many atheists today seem to think they need to adhere to. All too often one hears and reads Dawkins and Hitchens (among others) being quoted by atheists as if these are the only views which count. Worse still, should any atheist disagree with such views, they often lay themselves open to vitriolic attacks and accusations of being “the wrong kind of atheist” or “not an atheist at all”.

The greater danger however comes that from formulating strident views many atheists, sometimes unwittingly, become antitheists, often with views which are openly hostile to religion, seek to attack believers when there is absolutely no reason to do so and actually espouse views which are openly bigoted towards all or one particular religion. Such people are all too prone to see religion as nothing but a force for ill in the world which can only ever hold mankind back, while also claiming that atheism and the removal of all spiritual belief is some great panacea which they seem to believe would cure all the world’s problems.

I have heard and read atheists openly state that if we got rid of all religion, then there would be no more wars or atrocities. Even as a pacifist myself, I find such views to be naive in the extreme. If one looks at warfare and violent atrocities throughout history, it is true that religion has often been the root cause. Indeed, religious fervour was indeed responsible for a great many slaughters and clearly illustrate the dangers of fundamentalist belief, yet in many other cases, had those behind the killing not had religion to fall back upon, they would just as quickly have found another “cause” to justify their actions. It is the religion which is dangerous, not the faith. There are many Christians who understand this and who openly state that they love their faith but hate religion.

Online discourses between atheists and theists have a tendency to enter into “Godwin’s Law”; “that as an online argument grows longer and more heated, it becomes increasingly likely that somebody will bring up Adolf Hitler or the Nazis”. In these exchanges, the theists claim that Hitler, giving quotes of his damning religion, whilst the atheists counter, quoting from Mein Kampf and speeches, to illustrate that Adolf Hilter was a Christian. Having looked at the matter in great detail, I would assert that Hitler was never a serious Christian but rather payed lip-service to his Roman Catholic background to court publicity (probably with coaching from his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels). By equal measure however, Adolf Hitler was by no stretch of the imagination an atheist. He did indeed believe in some sort of God, and held some very outlandish occult beliefs. In more modern times, we saw exactly the same behaviour from the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose Ba’ath regime was officially secular, who lived in opulence, drank alcohol, gambled, and yet was quick to be seen as a devout Sunni Muslim to gain the support of his people. The point being, had neither Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein had religion to fall back upon, that would not for one moment have stopped the worst of their excesses. And the same goes for atheistic regimes. Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot, to use but two examples, did not kill millions on the basis of atheism but rather through their own insanity and megalomania. Even had they been extremely devout believers in God, the chances are the end result would have been no different.

Without a doubt therefore, religion, like any other ideology, in the wrong hands can be extremely dangerous. Atrocities such as 9/11 and the Oslo bombings and shootings by devout Christian Anders Beiring Breivik illustrate that all too well. And there are atheists who all too readily fall into the trap of using such stories, particularly when it is actions carried out by Muslims, off pointing the finger to back up their arguments. In doing so, few actually realise that they are supporting the rampant Islamophobia of the right wing, often Christian backed, bigoted media. I well recall a Christian friend emailing me an anti-Muslim video by one particular atheist. I responeded by sending her an anti-Christian video by the same atheist. I had to make the point that the person in question, in the opinion of myself and a great many others, is a nasty, small-minded, odious bigot, who whilst he is against all religion, appears to be on his own personal crusade against Islam, and who as a result has attracted quite a lot of very unsavoury followers from the neo-nazi extreme-right (which he has done little or nothing to redress). Indeed, if one were to seek and example of a dangerous fundamentalist atheist, this particular person would to my mind be a prime example. Yet other atheists commit no less shameful actions. I have often seen posts by Muslims online which, instead of atheists retorting with intelligent and reasoned debate, make references to bacon and accusations of the Prophet Mohammed being a paedophile. I find such behaviour not only childish, but also disrespectful and actually very ignorant of the Islamic faith.

Some atheists would have you believe that religion serves no useful purpose whatsoever. And whilst on face value, this would appear to be true, I think there is a huge danger of missing the bigger picture. Charitable actions carried out by the faithful, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, indeed have their place, and there are many people around the world and in your own home town whose lives would be a lot harder without them. Consider the Salvation Army alone, without whose hard work, a great many homeless would suffer all around the world. Other charities hand out food, furniture, and other resources to the needy. And these are not all Christian charities. It may surprise many readers to learn that there are Muslims who are just as deeply involved, as giving charity is a fundamental cornerstone of the Islamic faith. In developing countries, contrary to what some would have you believe, missions do not just preach their faith and hand out holy books but are actively involved in the distribution of food, medicines and other resources, establishing schools, helping and teaching with farming and many other actions which daily campaign to help some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, and which see them achieve their own successes. Doctor David Livingstone (1813-1873), a Congregationalist medical missionary, had such an enormous effect in his works that in Malawi today he is revered to the point that the Malawian capital is named Blantyre, after his hometown in Scotland, and his legacy is that to this day Scotland maintains strong charitable ties with Malawi.

And it is not just abroad that the faiths help people. Contrary to the claims of some not all clergy, particularly those of the Roman Catholic Church, are merely perverts out to prey upon little children. The vast majority are integral and central figures of support to and champion for their local communities, whom they work hard for in return for very little in the way of reward. They are trusted and respected people whom anyone can turn to at any time, always ready with words of advice, guidance, support, or even just a shoulder to cry on, which they bear readily with a patience and dignity many would do well to learn. And even if they are purveying a message of faith which we atheists may find absurd or even distasteful, if it gives comfort to those in need who share that faith, as long as it is not hurting us, what right do we have to ever question that? And let me answer that question for you; none at all.

And among all this, where are the atheists? Where are the atheist charities, soup kitchens, homeless hostels, clothing and furniture distributors and various other resources? How many atheists are in developing countries helping the poorest of the poor? I see a Red Cross and a Red Crescent, where is the Red A? Where are the atheists people can turn to and give support and comfort in times of need and their darkest hours? Certainly some atheist versions of the above do exist, but compared to those from a religious background, they are but a drop in the ocean. It seems to me therefore that until the vast majority of atheists are prepared to get off their bums and get their hands dirty, they should put up or shut up.

As has so often been said, and I count myself in this, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. And those who have allowed themselves to become fundamentalist atheists and antitheists would do well to consider that and much else of the above before deliberately going fighting online with theists in their warm homes, in their comfortable, little first world lives.

Whether we atheists like it or not, faith in God(s) is with us and does not show any sign of going away any time soon. The 2012 discovery of the Bosonic Field, far from destroying the faith of millions, has done nothing to lessen it. As long as this is true, there shall always be disagreements between theists and atheists. And make no mistake, if someone tries to push their faith down my throat, or impose what I consider to be mythology as fact onto children or vulnerable adults, I shall always fight that, as all atheists should. But if people wish to believe in a particular faith without bothering others, then that should be of no consequence to any atheist. It has always been my experience that one need not go looking for trouble; it will find you soon enough.

Religion shall always be with us and that is not always a bad thing. Whether we agree with it or not, faith in God(s) remains a huge positive in the lives of billions of people. Far from conflict therefore, it seems to me that both atheists and theists need to find a middle ground and reach some degree of accommodation with each other. Only the most fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, or any other theist would disagree with that, as I am sure so would only the most fundamentalist atheist.

In the final instance, as each and every atheist is a freethinker, it is impossible to tie any one of us down to any particular set dogma which states “this is what atheism is” – because it is many things, and nothing at the same time. If I do not bow before the altar of the God of Abraham, of Allah, Vishnu, or any other deity, then do not for one moment expect me to bow before those of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or any other “celebrity” atheist. If anyone does, then I for one do not see how they can call themselves a freethinker at all.

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The question often comes up between Christians and atheists of subjective and objective morality, The standpoint of Christians is that morality is objective; that it is that morality is based upon absolute, “God-given” rules. Under this interpretation many Christians and other theists believe that atheists are inherently devoid of any moral compass.  The standpoint of the atheist that morality is subjective; based upon cultural traditional mores and constraints, and by that measure, morality changes with the times and differing cultures.  In this essay, I shall attempt to illustrate that Christian morality is not merely immoral, it is amoral; that is, devoid of any moral compass.

I once watched a video by YouTube user LordWhorfin in which he put forward the following hypothesis:

In a plane that is going to crash, there is an atheist, a Christian, a child and one parachute. LordWhorfin openly stated that the atheist must use the parachute himself because he is driven only by self-preservation and selfish motives. Earlier in his video however, he had stated that the Christian believes in the afterlife, reward or punishment, whereas the atheist believes there is nothing. He goes on in the video to state that for him giving the child the parachute is twofold; that firstly “you have done the ultimate good deed in the eyes of God – you have lain down your life for another”, and secondly “you can face eternal judgement knowing that by your own will, allowed the child to live.”

Immediately we see here that LordWhorfin’s interpretation of morality is based wholly upon an awards system. It is of course a very poor hypothesis to work upon. The outcome of anyone in that scenario would depend very much upon the individual and what they would do in that situation. I would like to think I would willingly give the child the parachute, for the simple fact it is the right thing to do, not to earn brownie points with some imaginary deity. When a morality system is based upon rewards, it immediately ceases to be moral. It is by its own definition amoral.

The very basis of theistic morality is based upon three premises;

1, that if God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2, that objective moral values and duties do exist.

3, therefore God must exist.

This of course is the same sort of nonsensical circular reasoning we find in “How do I know God wrote the Bible? Because the Bible tells me so.” and is equally full of holes.

If two people perform the same act, one believing it to be “evil” and the other having no conception of what is or isn’t “evil”, then we cannot condemn the person with no conception. We may condemn the act and try to prevent or restrain the person, but that does not mean we believe them to be inherently “evil”. Our very perception of “evil” is relevant only to the observers perception, and from that we can clearly see that morality can only ever be subjective.

Some Christians would counter that such thinking makes us no better than animals. Yet our own sapient ability tells us that we are different from, not better than, animals but we do not judge animals and humans by the same standards. Christians accuse atheists here of being specisist, yet by their very definition of good and evil, they are the ones using the same standards for animals and humans, and that would make the ultimate speciesist the very God they worship.

The claim that morality is objective falls down at another level. When white Europeans started travelling around the world, they began to encounter cultures who had never before encountered anyone of the Judeo/Christian tradition. Yet these peoples had their own moral codes the basis of which was not dissimilar to that of Judeo/Christian belief. Among these were the understanding that murder is wrong. Violence towards those less able to defend themselves, particularly towards women and children, is wrong. Cheating on a partner is wrong. Lying and or bearing false witness against someone is wrong. Right away we see in these basic rules of what we would refer to as a moral compass, echoes of the Biblical ten commandments. And strangely enough, these peoples also had at the head of their own rules to worship no other God than their own. Yet, with no input from Judeo/Christian culture, allegedly given to mankind by Yahweh, were morality objective, then there would have been no possible way they could have developed this moral code.

And yet they did, for the simple reason that their morality, like so many other things in life, came from experiences and trial and error. To explain, if you light a match and let it burn down, it will burn your fingers and that hurts. So we know not to do it a second time. Yet that is not learning through punishment, it is learning through experience. They are two different things. Human beings are empathic creatures, so by equal measure if we hurt someone, we know all too well that that affects not only the individual but all those whom their life touches and ultimately reflects upon the person doing the hurting and they are a poorer human being as a result. Similarly, those of us who have been hurt, be it physically or psychologically, know what it is like and are therefore less likely to impose that upon another human being. Suffering is very important to human development and maturity, and absolutely vital to the development of a moral code. It is a cornerstone, if not the cornerstone of morality that if we do not wish others to hurt us, then we have a moral obligation not to hurt others, and this obligation arises out of experience and biologically influenced preferences.

We protect those weaker than us for the very reason they are weaker than us. Not through any God-given guidance, but because it is in our instinct to do so. This is where the speciesist argument does become important. Most creatures on the face of this planet, particularly the females, will do anything in their power, including putting their own lives at risk, to protect their young. If this part of “morality” is objective, where then does that leave the Judeo/Christian belief that mankind is set apart from animals due to our souls? Elephants are another good example here. In elephant society there is no such thing as an orphan. For even if a cub’s mother dies, the other cows in the herd will take care of that cub as one of their own. Where then do they get that instinct if mankind alone has a soul and a moral compass? Of merely take the many examples of dogs who have given their own lives to protect their human masters. Given those examples, the argument of the Christian giving up the parachute to save the child suddenly falls apart.

In the Judeo/Christian tradition even their own God does not always adhere to his own moral code. Where was the morality in the flood? Where was the morality in killing all the first born children of Egypt? Sodom and Gomorrah? Slavery? Ordering the killing of all “enemies of God”, right down to the first born? The Bible is replete with instances where “Almighty God” carries out atrocities that horror writers would be jealous of. This of course completely flies in the face of the Christian claim that for a moral code there has to be a moral lawgiver. Yet the Old Testament certainly does not show the Judeo/Christian God as being anything other than a great moralist but rather depicts him of having all the morals of anything from a petulant child scattering the board because he cannot win the game, to those of an extremely dangerous psychopath. This is of course because lawgivers are still subjective beings and their presence does not guarantee objectivity.

Christian apologists will glibly tell you that when Jesus came, he brought the “New Covenant” between God and Man. This is disingenious, especially when you consider that many of the selfsame Christians will happily cherry pick bits out of the Old Testament to suit their own particular prejudices. Indeed, were Christians serious about the New Covenant, then not only would they not quote from the Old Testament, it would not be included in the Bible at all. Further than that however, consider that Jesus was allegedly God incarnate, the same God of the Old Testament and he supposedly stated that far from bringing a new law for mankind, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17, KJV). We therefore see that the New Covenant argument simply does not hold water. Indeed consider that Hell is not mentioned in the Old Testament (Jews do not believe in Hell) and that the entire Christian message of salvation is to escape eternal torment through worshipping Jesus Christ. If there is a morality in torturing and burning someone for all eternity, it certainly seems to be escaping me. But then to my mind anyone who tells someone “You had better love me or I’ll torture you mercilessly.” has all the morality of a psychopathic obsessive stalker.

Yet the Christians would maintain that morality comes only from God and that without God atheists are the ones who have no moral compass. Many will go further and state that when someone who at first appears devout later is exposed committing some terrible act, that they are “not a true Christian, because a true Christian would not do that.” This is the “no true Scotsman” fallacy; which takes it’s name from the claim, among other examples, that “No true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.” Aye, weel, I am a true Scotsman and I tak nothin’ but saut oan ma parritch, but that is where any correlation ends.

History is pock-marked with “Good Christians” who have carried out acts, some of which were highly questionable, others which were downright detestable, or could even have been considered “evil”. The vast majority of presbyterian Christians read and study from the King James Version of the Bible. This edition was translated by a group of men hand picked by King James I of Great Britain, and these men, the Christians would have you believe, were divinely inspired, hence their Bible must be the unquestionable word of God. One wonders how many actually know a little of the history of King James. James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was born in Edinburgh Castle, right here in my home town, in 1566. Not long after he turned one year old his Roman Catholic mother was forced to abdicate and give up her son to be brought up by the Protestant Lords of Convention, who ruled in his stead until he reached maturity. As James grew, surrounded by the bigotry and superstition of the time, he became increasingly paranoid about witches. To this end hundreds, possibly over a thousand people, mostly women and girls, were tortured throughout Scotland. James’ youngest victim of being accused of being a witch was a four year old toddler in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. More than 500 women and girls were burnt at the stake on the Castlehill in Edinburgh alone (contrary to what Hammer/Hollywood would have you believe, burning at the stake was peculiar to Scotland as the usual punishment for witchcraft). Yet this was a good, moral, Christian man who apparently gave us the definitive version of the Holy Bible.

There are some Christians who make the point that Christopher Columbus was not only a tradesman, he was an extremely devout man, whom when he discovered the Americas, attempted to bring Christianity to the Native Americans. Indeed he, and the other Christians who followed him, did – at the point of the sword, whilst cheating, stealing and plundering from the Native Americans, as well as killing many. That is not an opinion, it is a solid historical fact.

And in the modern era, we have had the last Pope, Benedict XVI, who as pontiff was supposedly the authority on Christian morality for 1.2 billion people, and his 2009 statement upon the distribution of condoms in Africa, “(a tragedy which) cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problem”. In other words Pope Benedict XVI openly stated that condoms, which we know, which he knows prevent HIV infection, that they actually exacerbate infection. That was an outright lie. What a fine paragon of moral virtue he was. But then, given the fact that Pope Benedict XVI carried on the protection of paedophile priests, as the Papacy has always done, and no doubt Pope Francis will continue, and that the Papacy has always amassed wealth in a world worse than half hungry, that they vilify women and the LGBT community, they have no right to preach morality to anyone. And yet we are talking about good Christian gentlemen.

Of course there are those Christians who will continue to blindly state the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, that these are not “true Christians”, which makes me wonder just who is a true Christian? And there is another danger here, and that is those who think that if they are a true Christian, they are “elect of God”. Yet every Christian who has committed a terrible act has always thought themselves “elect of God”.

In 1824 the Scots author and poet James Hogg anonymously published The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, the plot of which surrounded a person so very devout he believed himself so “elect of God” that he could do no wrong. This ultimately led to the destruction of those around him and himself by his own hands. The scary thing is that there are people who have acted exactly like that, and continue to do so to this day. Doubt that? How many “Good Christians” stand up against abortion, yet openly support wars in which children are killed daily? How many support children being killed by Israeli forces, because that is part of their God’s “divine plan”? Indeed, how many oppose abortion on the grounds that life is sacred, yet also hypocritically support the death penalty? How many greedily guard their money, are against paying taxes and strongly oppose social healthcare, despite the man they claim to worship telling them to help the poor, pay their taxes and tend to the sick?

Some Christians may argue that they are against abortion because of the innocence of the unborn child. Yet if they do, then they contradict their own faith. For due to the Fall of Man, from Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden, all of us are damned for all time. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, KJV). Not even foetuses. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5, KJV). It is because of this verse that to this day we have people in many sects of the Christian faith having babies Christened or Baptised, so they will not go to Hell if they die. Which begs the questions, what sort of morality is there in casting babies into eternal torment, and what then becomes of miscarried children?

What of the “Good Christians” who hide behind their faith to promote bigotry? On 24 March 2013 protestors against gay marriage and gay adoption marched through Paris and tried to breach police barriers. When police responded with one round of tear gas, the protestors regrouped and, responding to calls of “Put to the children to the front.” some used their own children as human shields. Where is the morality in that? Where indeed is the morality of those who promote violence against other the LGBT community and other minorities? Where is the morality of those “Good Christians” who celebrate the death of those whom they are opposed to and gloat over them “burning in Hell”. If you doubt that happens, go and see the sickening statements of some good Christians said about the death of the atheist Christopher Hitchens.

And yet the same people will tell you that because they have accepted salvation through Jesus Christ, that makes them true Christians and due to that they are the only ones who are moral. Because as long as they drop a few coins in the collection plate every Sunday to salve their consciences, they are doing their bit and will be rewarded for that in Heaven, and for that, they must be better than the evil atheists.

So we come full circle to a morality which is based upon rewards and punishment, upon checks and balances by people who are very quick to judge others (which their own faith tells them not to do incidentally) but very slow to examine their own lives. That is not a morality at all. It is hypocrisy, it is cowardice and it is not just immoral, it is amoral – it actually has no basis in any moral compass.

bible-american-flag1

O wad some power, the giftie gie us,
tae see oorseels, as ithers see us.
(Robert Burns, To a Louse)

As an atheist living in Scotland, I am often amazed at the United States of America; a nation so full of potential for good and progress. Yet one which is being held back by religious belief.

There is a great irony between our two countries. Scotland has in the past been a presbytarian theocracy and we live with the residues of that to this day. Both this and us being part of the United Kingdom, means that we are officially a Christian country, yet one which is becoming increasingly secular. The USA on the other hand has not only never been a theocracy, it has the First Amendment assuring freedom of religion and a wall between church and state, yet the vast majority of US citizens are Christian and a great many of them would happily see it become a theocracy.

The events of recent years have made it painfully clear that the USA, while de jure a secular country, is de facto a Christian country. Just look at how many people believe and have falsely claimed in recent years that President Barack Obama is in fact a Muslim. Nonsense of course, for if President Obama is a Muslim, then for someone who works hard on a Friday and attends church on a Sunday, he is the strangest Muslim I have ever encountered. But the more important fact here is that even if Obama were a Muslim, in a country where freedom of religion is assured in the constitution, it should not matter one iota. The sad fact is that it should be perfectly possible for a Muslim to attain high office in the USA but it may never happen. Indeed, there is only one scenario where I could see that happening, and that is if a Muslim candidate were to stand against an atheist candidate. The USA is so fanatical about religion that I have no doubt they would sooner have a Muslim president than an atheist one, on the basis that any god is better than no god at all.

I have been told in the past that US politics are none of my business and I should keep out of them. Well, I’m not going to say sorry, because I am not, but I am afraid that, due to US foreign policy and America’s fascination with Christianity, as a citizen of the world, I cannot afford to ignore the USA.

One of the more worrying aspects of Christianity invading politics in the USA is the actual beliefs of those who form the politics or presidential hopefuls, and those in power. A great many of American Christians are firm “end times” believers. They take the Bible as a literal book of prophecy and believe that historical events, such as the founding of Israel in 1948, point to the end times and the return of Jesus coming. The Book of Revelation tells of Satan rising on this Earth culminating in a great battle between good and evil at Armageddon, which has been identified as Megiddo in Israel. So it is that some American politicians are all too ready to pander to these beliefs. One need only look to Mitt Romney’s 2012 election campaign, in which he openly stated his wish to spend vast amounts on arms and threw his support behind Israel to see the truth of that. Consider also that since 1948 there have been 45 United Nations resolutions against Israel due to continual invasion of Palestinian lands, warring with neighbouring states and appalling human rights abuses and the USA has, without exception, vetoed every one of those resolutions.

And should anyone consider this to be a wholly Republican malaise, consider that as recently as 29 November 2012, when the United Nations recognised Palestine as a non-member observer state, thereby giving them debating and voting rights, it was the Democrat Hilary Clinton who condemned the move, describing it as “unfortunate and counterproductive”. Meanwhile as I write this, Democrat President Barack Obama has just completed a visit to Israel, where he further avowed US support. Meanwhile the human rights abuses continue against Palestinian civilians, all too often with US-built military hardware.

It is insane to consider that ten years ago the USA led an invasion of Iraq, based upon the claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, terrorist training camps and for humanitarian reasons after the killing of 200,000 Kurds. Whilst I admit the Ba’ath regime’s terrible human rights record, there were of course never were any WMD nor terrorist training camps. Israel however is known to have nuclear weapons, they used phosphorus bombs upon Palestine, their secret service, Mossad, have carried out covert action around the world which is nothing more than state-sponsored terrorism and continual military strikes have resulted in 1.5 million Palestinian civilian deaths. Yet the USA not only refuses to condemn Israel, they openly support them.

And why? Because there are so many American Christians believe that conflict in the middle east is all leading up to “the big one”, as predicted in the Bible, and some even seem to be anxious for it to happen. The real danger of course is that with Israel and the Islamic state of Pakistan already having nuclear weapons, and many middle eastern countries having Russia and China as allies, that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would only need one conflict to get out of hand to lead to a global, possibly nuclear conflict. And that is why neither I nor any other person on the face of the planet should ignore US politics or the extent to which religion affects US foreign policy.

It is not only the threat of war where the infestation of US politics with religion threatens us however, there is also the environment to consider. The USA is the second largest polluter in the world, accounting for 18.27% of global carbon emissions and coming second only to China (23.5%). Yet there are many Christians in the USA who completely deny the fact of global warming and mankind’s impact upon climate change. The view of some of them is that if God had not meant us to burn coal and oil he would have told us not to use them in the first place (which makes one wonder just why the creator would have buried them so far underground?) but instead apparently gave mankind enough to last thousands of years. Others, when seeing some of the already evident signs of climate change, such as widespread flooding and droughts, instead point to the Bible to tell us these are signs of, yes, you’ve guessed it, the end times. And of course, just as well as hoping for the ultimate battle between good and evil at Armageddon, the Christians are more than happy to carry on as normal, so long as it is anything which helps to hasten the rapture, including destroying the Earth, the only home which our and other species have.

There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there is creationism. It astounds me that an enormous 60% of US citizens reject the Darwinian Theory of Evolution but instead either believe in creationism or intelligent design. This means that the vast majority of Americans are refuting confirmed, testable, scientific fact, and opting instead for a bunch of baseless and impossible mumbo jumbo.

Of course I fully realise that the school system in the USA has independent schools, many of which are Christian schools, which teach creationism, and there are parents who maintain their right to send their children to these schools. Certainly, that is their right and far be it from me to even suggest that right be taken away from them. What I do object to however, is filling the minds of children with nonsense in the name of science. These children are being brought up as ignoramuses and just as the rest of the developed world laughs at their parents, so they shall at their children. I make no bones about this, I consider teaching creationism and other Biblical myths to children to be a form of child abuse.

Yet as well as creationism being taught in private Christian schools in the USA, I find it disturbing to see it creep it’s way into state schools. Louisiana is one state which has signed up to the Accredited Christian Education (ACE) Programme, which will see Christian-based eduction taught in state schools. I have particular distaste for the ACE Programme due to one of their more outlandish claims of “proof” for creationism; the Loch Ness Monster.

The first recorded sighting of an aquatic monster anywhere near Loch Ness appears in the seventh century Life of Columba by the Celtic Monk Adomnan, who wrote the biography of Saint Columba, an Irish prince who founded a monastery on the tiny island of Iona and brought Christianity to the Picts and Scots. In his work Adomnan recounts a monster attacking a monk in the River Ness and St Columba chasing it off by invoking the help of Jesus and the saints. It is worth noting that Adomnan was writing some 100 years after Columba’s death and many more outlandish claims about him which, if believed, Jesus may well have been jealous of. It is also worth noting that Life of Columba clearly states “River Ness”, and not the loch itself.

After this initial early sighting, Nessie appears to have become somewhat circumspect and does not put in another appearance in Scottish history, folklore or legend, right up the first modern sighting in 1933, which coincidentally was around the same time motor touring of the Scottish highlands was becoming popular. From then on the story of “something queer in the loch” grew into a legend, which attracted people with the hope of seeing the Loch Ness Monster, leading even to expeditions to find the elusive creature. And in 1972 one researcher, Robert Rines, claimed to have captured a photograph of one of Nessie’s fins. A large, green, diamond shape in the peaty water, the image was subsequently claimed, not least by Rines himself, to be the fin of a plesiosaur; a creature which lived 199.6–65 million years ago.

The Rines photograph is the sole evidence upon which the ACE Programme base their entire proof of creationism, stating that it shows man and dinosaurs did – and do – live together. The photo however was taken to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, where it was computer enhanced, and that computer-enhanced image was further artistically retouched by the Academy of Applied Science team, thereby producing the final flipper photo. The original photograph shows nothing more exciting that what appears to be bubbles and sediment in the water.

Of course, living in Scotland, far be it from me to complain about Americans believing in the Loch Ness Monster. For as long as they keep believing it, they will keep coming here and keep pumping their tourist dollars into the Scots economy, which I am more than happy to allow to continue for a great many years to come. What I do have a problem with however is the fact that what the ACE Programme are doing is basing one myth, creationism, upon another, the Loch Ness Monster. And that they are now being allowed to teach something which does not even pass as pseudoscience in public schools, on taxpayers money, bringing kids up to be a laughing stock, I personally find scandalous, just as every right-thinking US citizen should.

The idea of creationism in a state school is completely alien to me. It must be a cultural difference as it could never happen here in Scotland. Here we have two types of state schools, non-denominational and Roman Catholic. In both types evolution is taught as it should be; an accepted scientific fact. Here in Edinburgh we have a major tourist attraction named Our Dynamic Earth. The purpose of this attraction is to inform and educate about the origins of the earth, evolution and earth sciences. School pupils are taken on compulsory visits to Our Dynamic Earth as part of their curriculum, thereby underlining just how seriously we take the matter. Even the path leading up to the entrance of Our Dynamic Earth has large rocks from various times in Earth’s development.

I actually have a humorous story involving Our Dynamic Earth. I used to work as a tour guide on open-top buses in Edinburgh and one customer we had one day was a woman from South Carolina. Having once known a Baptist pastor from SC, I had an idea of what I could expect. She was little pleased as I pointed out that Princes Street Gardens lie in a valley carved out by a glacier 10,000 years ago. She was less pleased still when we came up close to Edinburgh Castle Rock, which I pointed out that it is solid basalt, millions of years old. She was visibly irritated in the Lawnmarket, the oldest part of the city, when I pointed out that it was first settled 8000 years ago. She became angrier, when I pointed out Arthur’s Seat, the 823 foot high volcanic cone at the heart of Edinburgh, and told passengers it last erupted 350 million years ago. She was positively fuming when we came round by Salisbury Crags, next to Arthur’s Seat, which I informed were pushed up by volcanic pressure in the same eruption and then polished by ice 100,000 to 10,000 years ago. She was close to exploding as I told passengers about James Hutton, the Edinburgh-born father of geology, who went walking up Arthur’s Seat one day and came to the conclusion the Earth could not be 6000 years ago but must be extremely ancient, and she was visibly apoplectic as we pulled into Our Dynamic Earth and I told passengers of how it tells of Earth’s origins, 460 billion years ago, up to the present day, and pointed out the rocks from different stages of Earth’s development. For some strange reason, she didn’t tip me at the end of the tour.

Which brings me onto another aspect of religion, and I don’t mince my words here, Christianity in the USA and the fact it is a nuisance, and sometimes a dangerous one at that. The arrogance of many American Christians disgusts me, their overtly defensive attitude bemuses me and the lengths some of them are willing to go in the name of their faith horrifies me. I am a former Christian myself and I would never have stooped to the level of many American Christians, nor would anyone in the Independent Baptist church I was a member of.

I have crossed swords online with American Christians many times and I have been vilified, called a liar, had all sorts of insults and accusations thrown at me and even occasionally threatened with physical violence, generally by people who know they have lost the debate and with no other arguments to fall back upon, instead resort to personal attacks. The arrogance of many of these people is as equally astounding as their ignorance, including their ignorance of the Bible, Jesus and the faith they claim to follow. I have also encountered more outright lies and twisting of Biblical scripture from American Christians than I have from any other source. They are actually the worst advert for Christianity anyone could ever find.

In the documentary Religulous, comedian Bill Maher visited a church to ask the pastor and members of their beliefs. One man stated that he didn’t like where the documentary was going and said that if Maher was going to run down his God, he wanted nothing to do with it, and walked out. I actually have more respect for that man than the vast majority of American Christians. Not only did he do the civil thing in walking away, he was actually following his own faith to the letter; “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Matthew 5:37, KJV). Christians are not supposed to argue with non-believers, they are meant to walk away. Which immediately makes me wonder that when they do become defensive and argumentative, just who are they trying to convince; the non-believer, or themselves?

Worse still are the actions which some Christians will go to in order to “defend their faith”. I have seen and read of American Christians ostracising and shunning atheists and people of other faiths in their communities, threats and even violence against atheists, people of other faiths and members of the LGBT. What particularly disgusts me about this is that these tend to be the same people who point the finger and condemn the hateful Westboro Baptist Church for their picketing of dead soldier’s funeral. As far as I can see the only difference between the WBC and some other American Christians is one of presentation. There was one instance of this recently, which while it does not involve violence, certainly shows up the hypocrisy of some American Christians. I covered a story on a Scottish social networking site about Arkansas voting to allow guns to be carried in churches. This horrifies me. On the odd occasion I do enter a church, I remove my hat out of respect. I would never take a gun into any place of worship on the grounds that it is simply just not done. Of Americans responding, some in the gun lobby said they would – simply because it is their right to do so. I pointed out that the WBC cowardly hide behind the selfsame arrogant claim; that it is their right within law to picket soldiers’ funerals. I used this to make the point that just because you can do something does not necessarily mean you should do it. Needless to say, the gun nuts were not to pleased with this comparison (and being of limited intelligence, thought I was likening them to the WBC).

As I am a former Baptist Christian myself, I am somewhat bemused at American conservative Christianity. The type which is so beloved of the Republican Party and other right wing elements. I have heard Christians use and twist the scriptures to back up their views on capitalism, immigration, abortion, and even social healthcare. I have news for them; a black guy helping the poor and sick? That’s not Obama you’re thinking of – it’s Jesus. Try actually reading the Bible sometime instead of cherry picking the bits which suit your own bigotry. But then, I have always been firmly of the opinion that the vast majority of American Christians would not know Jesus if he bit them on the ass. And if he did come back, I have no doubt the first thing he would do to any American conservative Christian would be bitchslap them and shout in their face “WRONG!”

The United States of a America is an extremely young country, not even yet 250 years old, and yet it has grown to become the most powerful country in the world. Too much too soon at times methinks. I am by no means anti-American but in fact believe that the USA can be and has the potential to be a great force for good in the world. I become so very frustrated at the way religion stifles and holds the USA back in so many ways, and has even been a contributory factor in the sad fact that the US is now a major threat to world peace and the entire survival of the planet.

I come from a country and a people with over 1000 years history and experience behind us. We are by no means perfect and to this day live with the sectarian bigotry which had it’s roots in the Reformation and the hard presbyterian rule which Scotland had thereafter. We have learned the hard way however, evolved because of our experiences, and I like to think are now a better people for that. We have been a theocracy; you honestly do not wish to become one. And if you do, how much different then would you be from the intolerant fundamentalist Islamic states you so easily condemn?