October 2018

Saudi Arabia has been named the worst country in the world to be an atheist in a new report monitoring the rights and treatment of the non-religious. On Monday the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) published the latest Freedom of Thought Report, which ranks the best and worst countries to be an atheist.

September 2018

The number of Britons who say they have no religion has hit a record high, new data has revealed. More than half of the British public (53 per cent) say they are not at all religious - a figure that has increased by five percentage points since 2015 and by 19 percentage points since 1983, when just three in 10 people deemed themselves non-religious. The news has prompted fresh calls for the Government to cut the amount of public money going to the church and reduce its influence in society.

Sharia Law

I wish to make an apology. I don't exactly know to whom, but there are a large number of people I've wronged and if you're one of them, I'm sorry.

Sharia Law I have always had a fairly tolerant attitude towards pretty much everything, part of being a liberal at heart, so I have generally felt that religion needed to be tolerated just as long as it didn't actually do anything inherently divisive. The example I always used was that of the Church of England. Anglicanism in the UK has always been the village-fête faith. The tombola faith. The bingo faith. The one that comes with bourbon creams and Typhoo tea. It's the religion of the elderly people seen wandering the aisles at Tesco on Saturday afternoon in the vain hunt for a new kind of food made entirely from prunes and spam. It's the religion for aunts and grandmothers. The one with doilies. It's harmless.

Not so Catholicism. The Roman Catholic church is the one with the globe-spanning secret empire that tries to stop people from using condoms even in countries where most of the young adults are HIV positive. Catholicism is the religion of Goodfellas and the Godfather, it's the religion of hanged bankers, Mussolini and the dark manoeuvrings of Opus Dei. Catholicism is sinister. Best-selling books describe planet-spanning conspiracy theories, which despite their laughable lack of research or evidence somehow feel right. It seems we're supposed to distrust the man from the Vatican. As you walk the streets of Rome you're surrounded by architecture and public art that showcases the power and wealth of an organization that includes a Propaganda Department in a lovely old building near the Spanish Steps.

Other faiths each have a natural feeling as well, a stereotypical way they appear to the outsider. Islam seems a faith of devotion beyond reason. Buddhism somehow ethereal and distant. Hinduism, colourful and vibrant. Judaism, sober and intellectual. All of these are undoubtedly stereotypes, bearing no relation to reality and we should try to step beyond them, hard though it is, because our minds are better than this, we owe it to ourselves to avoid cliché.

I recently had time to re-evaluate one of these stereotypes fully and it has helped me to step beyond my limitations. I have discovered that the Church of England is stunningly dangerous and I want to tell everyone about it so we won't ever again fall into the trap of thinking of it as the tombola faith.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that he would like to see Islamic Sharia law included in the legal system of the UK. In fact he said it was inevitable and we should just go with the flow. He then pointed out that he didn't mean we should allow the excesses of punishment such as beheadings and amputations but just a few simple bits and pieces of Sharia in a luxury assortment of legal frameworks would be the way to go.

I don't agree with him and I'll tell you why.

In the UK we abide by something called the rule of law. Essentially this means that everybody, however rich or powerful, has exactly the same responsibilities and liabilities under the law. Just because you happen to be King it doesn't mean you're above the law. Remember the Magna Carta? It's in there somewhere. It is an absolutely fundamental principle of a free society, as important as freedom of speech, but the Archbishop of Canterbury would discard it cheerfully; inevitably, to use his term.

OK, so what? Well this person is the Archbishop of Canterbury. If he was the Archbandicoot of Cauliflower it wouldn't matter because the Archbibbldeboop of Clodhopper isn't part of the functional institutions of this country. I never really opposed the position of a religious leader in a secular government because I thought that people of faith would like their particular hobby to be properly looked after, the way fans of trainspotting are provided for by the Department of Transport and fans of unemployment are provided for by the Department for Education and Skills. Now I see how wrong I was. This dangerous extremist must be stopped. If we allow people to have a court made up of any non-evidential institution to pass judgement upon them then I want to be judged by the prefects' council of Hogwarts school, please.

I simply had not seen the institutional position of the Anglican faith for the danger that it really represents. It is allowing extremist and bizarre ritual cults into positions of great authority in an otherwise free nation. Ask yourself whether you'd like the head of the Freemasons to be a cabinet minister, the head of the Scientologists to be Prime Minister, or some lunatic fascist to be leader of the opposition. OK, I'll give you that last one.

If I ever argued for permitting people into powerful positions simply because of their faith in your presence then I apologise unreservedly. I was clearly wrong. I will ask the prefects' council what my punishment should be immediately. I suspect they'll be lenient.

Probably let me off with a simple beheading for a first offence.

About UK Atheist's Founder

As an author, socialist and atheist, I've been debating fundamentalists and theists for nearly thirty years.
Growing up Catholic, I began to question the existence of "God" around the age of thirteen in parallel with an "addiction" to science fiction which taught me the basics of science. I graduated with an honours degree in Applied Biology moving into science and then science computing and it was there that I was exposed to creationism. It struck me that science had not only take its eye off the ball, creationists were a well-funded and organised body determined subvert science. Like many others, I took up the fight to defend science building communities and supporting websites with my greatest success being a government response to the "Science, Just Science" campaign assuring us that creationism could not be taught as science in any state-run UK science classroom. Modern social networking is not ideal for debate but it today's format and it is why I co-founded the Facebook group:

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Isaac Asimov Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome.