Saturday, December 31, 2011

Same-sex love in the Bible

Ruth and Naomi, Jonathan and David, have often been held up as examples of same-gender love. They may or may not have been having some sort of sexual interaction - but it really doesn't matter. The important thing about their relationships is that they loved each other; and this can be inspiring, both for close same-gender friendships and same-gender sexual relationships.

It would be incorrect to assume that just because two people of the same sex love each other then that automatically means they must be lesbian or gay. It would be just as bad as automatically assuming that they can't have been lovers because they were in the Bible, and that everyone in the Bible was heterosexual.

The current identity of LGBTs is a relatively recent phenomenon. People classified sexualities differently in the past, e.g. the ancient Greeks classified people as either penetrators (strong, active) or penetrated (weak, passive) - so it was OK to be the penetrator but not the penetrated (women, eromenoi). So it makes no sense to back-project contemporary LGBT identities on to same-sex relationships of the past and/or other cultures. That's why many writers on this subject are careful to refer to "women-loving women" and "men-loving men" when talking about the past or other cultures - becuase then it doesn't assume that the same set of practices and cultural assumptions was happening. Conversely, there's nothing wrong with LGBT people viewing same-gender relationships from the past as inspirational, in fact it's a good thing.

To say that Ruth and Naomi might have been having a sexual relationship is not to "reduce" their relationship to "only" being about sex. Lesbian relationships are not solely about sex - they are also about love, caring, mutual support, friendship, shared values, shared interests, going for walks together, and so on.

It is important not to airbrush out sexuality from texts like the Bible, and ancient mythologies in general. Sexuality is sacred and part of human experience, and it can be deeply spiritual.

It is very important to LGBT Christians to see Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan as exemplars of samae-sex love. And I think it quite likely that there was at least an erotic aspect to their relationships. Rev Fred Hammond, a UU minister, points out:
The Hebrew word for love in the text is Ahava. Ahava is used some 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is used to refer to the sexual as in the very poetic Song of Songs. It is used to refer to the love of a husband for a wife. It is used to refer to passion in illicit relationships. It is used to refer to the love of Jonathan and David, and Ruth and Naomi, and it is used in the great commandment to love one’s neighbor as one self[2]. And while we translate ahava as love, it literally means “I will give.”
The word Ahava is just as ambiguous (in the sense of whether it includes a sexual aspect) as our word, love. And this ambiguity leaves it open for a wide variety of ways to express love - and that can only be a good thing.

Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I wasn't going to make any New Year's Resolutions, but then I read Alain de Botton's piece about them. I wasn't going to make any because I always break them, but then that's not the point, according to the article.
And yet we need resolutions - even if we don’t actually manage to carry them through or rather, precisely because we rarely manage to do so. Trying to lead a moral and a good life must mean regularly daring ourselves to be good.
So I thought, Oh go on then...

Here goes.
  1. I will take care of my spiritual needs.
  2. I will do something creative.
  3. I will do something to help others. (I already have two things in mind here, but the details are a bit hazy at the moment.)
  4. I will lose weight.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

wait a minute...

Come on, atheists, you can't have it both ways...

According to this article about Blasphemy Rights Day on,
Not only are the militant stereotypes on the spectrum, I am glad they are there. One of the stupidest things about the liberal movement is that every couple of years they disavow and jettison 5% of their most extreme members. Kick the Communists out, then the Socialists look extreme. Kick the Socialists out, then the New Dealers look extreme. Soon, Nixon is viewed as moderate. These days, if you look at Reagan's policies, HE'S the new "center." When Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are considered the extreme left, and Joe Liebermann is the "moderate" you know some definitional changers are going on. And yet, the left keeps throwing out their 5% most-left, and wondering why our national discourse keeps shifting to the right. Asserting the government's right to torture suspects and wiretap non-suspects, suspending Congressional elections, limiting the right of the poor to vote - all of these ideas were considered too extreme for even serious consideration when I was a kid, but now, although they are far right, they not too out-there for debate. Because the left bi-annually disavows its "extreme" 5%. That wasn't a digression; that was a vision of the way Atheists will be treated if they disavow, discourage, silence, their angry extremists. Go back to that spectrum I described.
Now, I think that's a really good point - but aren't atheists (especially Richard Dawkins, on whose site this article is hosted) always complaining about how in religions, the extremists "hide behind" the moderates? I've always said that not's even true, because the extremists usually get far more media coverage than the moderates. But maybe it's true that if religions kicked out their extremists, the whole religious scene would move further to the right.

Certainly it has been argued by religious liberals before that if they left the big powerful churches, the evangelicals and fundamentalists would then occupy the seats of power. That's why Harry Emerson Fosdick never left the church he originally belonged to.

Another thing in the article is a list of types of atheists:
You've walked along the atheist spectrum, right? It ends at the "Angry-in-your-face" Atheist stereotype , goes through the "Don't be a dick" activist , past the "My religion (or lack thereof) is my own business" maverick, through the "I'm still in the closet" person, and starts at the "I'm faking it every Sunday for my family and friends" misery.
He missed out a category there - but then it's not really part of that spectrum: spiritual atheists who enjoy attending churches (because they like stories and inspirational poetry and meditation) where they are welcomed as atheists and are not expected to turn into theists.

Quaker Week

I think Quaker Week is a great idea - because whilst Quakers are more visible than other liberal denominations, the main reason most people have heard of them is probably because you have a breakfast cereal named after you, and that image is a little outdated. As a Unitarian and a Wiccan, I am very much in sympathy with Quaker views and values, and think it is a good idea to promote peace, social and environmental justice, equality and inclusion. Religion in general is getting a bit of a bashing from certain quarters at the moment, so any increase in the visibility of liberal religion is a good thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A hopeful sign

I was delighted to see that, in Scotland, the Unitarians, Quakers, Metropolitan Community Church, the Pagan Federation and Liberal Judaism are backing members of the the Scottish Youth Parliament in the campaign for same-sex marriage.

In England, the campaign for religious civil partnerships brought together the Unitarians, Quakers, Metropolitan Community Church, and Liberal Judaism - but sadly did not include the Pagan Federation. The issues surrounding marriage for Pagans in England (whether same-sex or opposite-sex) are slightly more complicated, in that Pagan celebrants are not licensed to perform opposite-sex marriages. Whereas in Scotland, where the marriage laws are different, Pagan celebrants have been licensed to perform weddings. But still, I hope that the Pagan Federation will also get included in the English campaign.

Anyway, it's great that liberal faith groups are getting together to campaign on this issue (which, as any regular reader of this blog will know, is one I consider to be important), and I hope it signals a move towards campaigning together on other areas of common ground. A liberal interfaith alliance for peace and social and environmental justice - just think what that could achieve. And I hope it will soon include other religious liberals too.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What is the source of morality?

Recently, when the US state of Georgia decided to execute Troy Davis, and the state of Texas decided to execute Lawrence Brewer, many bloggers wrote some heartfelt and moving articles arguing against the death penalty. I wrote one myself outlining what I think are the reasons for abolishing the death penalty.

Many of the Christian blog posts on the subject focussed on the commandments of God and/or Jesus as a basis for the ethical argument for abolishing the death penalty. The trouble is, there will be many Christians who think the opposite, and will probably find some Biblical text or other to justify their position.

I think you probably can make quite a good case that Jesus was against the death penalty, as in the story where he saves the woman taken in adultery from being stoned to death by saying "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone". On the other hand, he is also recorded as saying "I come not to bring peace, but a sword" and "if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off"; so in order to work out what Jesus' ethical stance was on anything in particular, we have to select the texts that support our argument. So wouldn't it be easier to work out whether something is right or wrong without reference to Jesus' views, or indeed God's commandments, which are similarly ambivalent ("Thou shalt not kill" as part of the Ten Commandments, but lots of injunctions to stone people to death for various infringements of the Law).

The death penalty is not wrong because Jesus was against it, or because it's against God's commands as handed down in the Bible. It's wrong for far more basic reasons than that; because you can never know to what extent the person was responsible for what they were doing when they committed murder, or to what extent they might change. They may well be innocent, as evidence is not 100% reliable. Killing is wrong because it cuts short someone's life and does them extreme harm.

The Golden Rule (attested to by every religion) says that we should do unto others as we would have them to do unto us - and being killed is pretty high on the list of things we would not like to have done to us. (The fact that a version of this rule has been worked out by every major religion suggests that it transcends cultural context and is based on universal human experience). God's commands (and Jesus' ethical stance) can be interpreted one way by one group of people, and another by a different group of people; so the Bible is not a reliable guide to ethics. It's got some rattling good stories in it, which when pondered can produce some interesting insights, but I would not use it as a guide to ethics.

So what is the source of morality? According to Richard Holloway, author of the excellent book Godless morality, morality is based on weighing two conflicting good things. So, in deciding whether abortion is ethical, one weighs the good of the life of the foetus against the good of the mother who may or may not bring it to term. In the case of the death penalty, it cannot benefit the victim of the crime to have the perpetrator killed. Society should be protected from the possibility that the perpetrator might repeat their crime, but the life of the perpetrator outweighs the cost of maintaining them in prison as opposed to killing them. There is also the very valid point that carrying out the sentence places a burden of distress on the people who carry it out.

The source of moraliy is not some absolute command handed down from on high (the very absolutism of which can often cause more distress than it alleviates) but the pragmatic considerations of the context in which the ethical decisions must be made: who benefits? who suffers? and to what extent?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's not lose the momentum

The death penalty is wrong no matter whether the victim of judicial murder is innocent or guilty.

Here's some reasons why it's wrong:

  • The person being executed might be innocent. (Even if they're guilty, it's still wrong.)
  • They may not have been entirely compos mentis when the crime was committed.
  • People on Death Row frequently have learning difficulties or mental illness. If they weren't mentally ill to start with, the conditions on Death Row frequently send them over the edge.
  • Executing them means they will never have a chance to make good.
  • Killing is wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right.
  • The judicial murder weighs on the consciences of those who carry it out.
  • The process of killing the person is inhumane.
  • The endless waiting on death row (20 years in the case of Troy Davis) is extremely stressful for the person waiting to be executed, and for their family.
  • We don't have the right to decide to kill others.
  • Quite often it is the poor and disadvantaged who get executed, while those who can afford a good lawyer get acquitted, or get their sentence commuted.
  • How can any country that has the death penalty preach about human rights and democracy to the rest of the world?
  • As Lindsay Beyerstein points out: "the same logic that drives the death penalty is also behind a large percentage of murders. The idea is that some transgressions are so bad that they can only be settled by blood. Encouraging people to think that their pain isn't honored and avenged unless the perpetrator is killed probably makes our society more violent on the whole, not less."
What you can do about it:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Putting the riots in context

The first thing that occurred to me when I heard about the riots was that this has happened before. There were riots in the 1830s over the Corn Laws and the need for parliamentary reform. The flames of Bristol burning after the 1831 riot could be seen from Cardiff. Rioters tore down the jail, freed the prisoners and burnt a large number of houses.

Research by The Guardian has shown that there is a strong statistical link between government austerity measures and outbreaks of unrest (riots, revolutions, and so on). We must see these riots in the context of the widening gap between rich and poor (notwithstanding a few high-profile cases of rich people joining in with the looting), the scandalous facts that the bankers have got away with wrecking the economy and the parliamentary expenses scandal has resulted in very few MPs being imprisoned for fraudulently claiming for their extravagant lifestyles. Clearly the looters are simply emulating the bankers and MPs.

It is of course very sad that people were killed in the riots, and the murderers must be brought to justice. But the disproportionate punishments meted out to some people involved in the riots seem ill-considered and likely to fan the flames of unrest. Right-wing social commentators have sought to blame poor parenting, single mothers, and the usual list of tired clichés.

There clearly has been some sort of breakdown in values, but it is not confined to the rioters and looters. The moral bankruptcy of the MPs and the banks is merely a middle-class version of the more blatant tactics of the looters. One looter, when asked what she thought she was doing, said that she was getting her taxes back. This implies that there has been a breakdown in the social contract - the consensus that we pay taxes and the government represents us and delivers services.

Many people remarked on the role of social media in spreading the unrest - but people managed to riot just as much without social media in previous centuries. The Luddites who smashed machinery in the 18th century did not have social media. In fact, it was heartening to see how social media (especially Twitter and blogs) was used to comment on and discuss the riots, and to gather people together to clean up after the riots.

What can we do as religious liberals in response to the riots? We must keep trying to build community and counteract the effects of social exclusion. The efforts of Bolton Street Angels (an initiative of which Bolton Unitarians are part), of Oldham Unitarians in helping asylum seekers, and of many other Unitarians up and down the country, are the sort of thing we need more of. The lack of cool places for youth to hang out in (since most youth clubs were closed) must be a contributory factor in the disaffection of youth. The prospect of unemployment and homelessness looms large for increasing numbers of the population as the gap between rich and poor grows wider. The increase in the activities of far-right groups such as the English Defence League is also disturbing, and we must join with other liberal groups to present an alternative view. We must also put pressure on the government to recognise that compassion and equality should be the central values of our society and its response to these riots and the the worsening economic situation, not retribution and increasing inequality.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Airbrushing the Bible

In a post entitled Reinterpreting Deuteronomy with Sophisticated Theology, Russell Blackford critiques some theologians' attempts to airbrush out the rather clear instruction to go and massacre the Hittites.

I think the problem here is actually the attempt (whether by Christians or atheists) to interpret the Bible as a unified text.

Actually the Bible is a collection of different books compiled over several centuries from books written by authors with very different political and social agendas. Some books have been shown to have been rewritten versions of earlier texts, as the accounts in them are clearly conflicting.

Karen Armstrong has pointed out in her book about the writing of the Bible that the author known as the Deuteronomist was very interested in smiting and genocide, whereas other authors (such as Amos) are much more liberal. In addition, some Tanakh authors anthropomorphise God, and some make him/her/it much more abstract.

Add to that the many layers of Jewish editing and rewriting, and the attempts by Christian theologians to create some sort of unified theology out of all this, and to retrospectively try to make Tanakh texts predict the coming of Christ, and you have a huge mess.

I think it's a complete waste of time trying to rehabilitate texts like this. It's a much better idea to disentangle the bits of the Bible from each other and view them as separate pieces of writing produced by people with very different ideas of God. Biblical criticism has been doing this very successfully using increasingly sophisticated methods of textual analysis since the late nineteenth century.

It's also a complete waste of time trying to deduce anything about God (who doesn't exist anyway) from these texts. Though you can deduce a lot about the author of Deuteronomy.

I do think that the allegorical method of interpretation favoured by many theologians has some uses though - not in the way that Russell Blackford is critiquing, but in order to prevent people from thinking that it's alright to massacre people you don't like.

However, the historical deconstruction of the text is probably more useful. Perhaps the two approaches can be used alongside each other.

I like the comments of MH on Russell Blackford's post; MH also advocates historical exegesis of the texts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

God Collar

I am currently reading God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke. It's brilliant, hilarious, witty and heartfelt. I laughed out loud at several bits, especially the one about the turgidity of school assemblies, and the bit about the desire to fart in church and mix up the shoes in the foyer of mosques. I also agreed wholeheartedly with his views on The God Delusion.

The main premise of God Collar is that the author experiences a "God-shaped hole" but can't manage to actually believe in God (especially not the smitey "Old Testament" God), which is quite understandable - I can't manage to believe in a supernatural creator deity, especially not the smitey variety. I can manage a sort of mystical energy (but not a person) or maybe it's just an experience, like love - in which case, should we even call it God?

I was quite surprised at the degree to which the book focusses on the vengeful deity depicted in the early books of the "Old Testament", especially as the author acknowledges Karen Armstrong in the introduction, and Karen Armstrong has done much to bring biblical criticism to the non-specialist, and to point out how you get a different picture of God from different authors of the Bible.

The author wishes that there was a religion where his atheism would be respected, and that the religion was just about being nice to people. He quite likes Jesus but cannot see why Jesus' death is supposed to save anyone. He would like to have a religion that is compatible with reason and science, where the wonder of the universe as discovered by science is appreciated. He would also like a religion that does not consider all the other religions to be doing it wrong. And he would like a religion that doesn't persecute women and gays.

Well several such religions exist. There's Unitarianism (welcoming towards atheists and humanists since at least the 1920s, ordaining women since 1904, respecting other religions since it began in the 16th century, and welcoming LGBT people since 1970).

Alternatively, if you don't like Christian symbolism served with your religious smörgåsbord, try Paganism (LGBT-friendly, has priestesses and goddesses; respects other religions; though Pagans are less inclusive towards atheism).

And if you don't like singing, try the Quakers.

Or if you like meditation, try Buddhism (most Buddhists are non-theist).

None of these religions mind if you're an atheist, and they won't try to change your mind about it. They also acknowledge the validity of other religions, are welcoming towards women and gay people, politically left-leaning and environmentally friendly.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I have just been watching the film Creation on BBC iPlayer, and found the portrayal of Emma Darwin a bit too orthodox, considering that she was a Unitarian (though of course Unitarianism was different then to what it's like now), so I decided to Google for background information. Although the family attended the local Anglican church, Emma made them turn around when the Nicene Creed was recited, because it is Trinitarian. She also enjoyed discussing evolution with her husband, although she believed in creation.

It seems really bizarre now that millions of ordinary people actually literally believed in God creating the Earth in 7 days and all that.

The film also seems to me to have made Darwin's inner struggles a bit too anguished and laudanum-fuelled. It's true that he feared the impact that publication of the theory of evolution would have on the world, but it did not abolish trust, hope, love and altruism, as he is portrayed in the film as fearing.

And why wasn't the film called Evolution? (I suppose because less Americans would have gone to see it...)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A trailer for a 1984 documentary about Harvey Milk. 

Hat tip to the Camp Crusader.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Biblical phrases in common usage

The Phrase Finder has a list of 122 phrases and sayings that have their origins in the Bible. I knew some of them came from the Bible, but many of them I had no idea about, like a "broken heart" or "set your teeth on edge". Fascinating.

William Tyndale

There was an excellent article by Cliff Reed in the latest Inquirer about the King James Bible, and the earlier translations by William Tyndale and others. He points out that Tyndale's translations were much truer to the original texts than subsequent translations, which were manipulated politically.

William Tyndale is not forgotten in Bristol, as there is a statue of him in Millennium Square (sadly it was vandalised in 2008, and I do not know if it has been restored). There is also the Tyndale Monument on the Cotswold scarp, and the small Gloucestershire church of St Adeline's in Little Sodbury, near where Tyndale was chaplain to a local family of Protestant aristocracy has a folder of detailed information about him. (Sadly the family's chapel does not survive, though the church was built from its remains.)

I was also pleased to see both Tyndale and John Wyclif (a fourteenth-century Lollard translator upon whose work later translations were based) receive due honour in Melvyn Bragg's fascinating book, The Adventure of English: the biography of a language which demonstrates that Wyclif was responsible for the rhythmic language of the English translation of the Beatitudes.

The Bible was an important spiritual resource for centuries, and still is for some people, and I think people should be able to read it in their own language (as long as they don't go taking it literally).  I have recently bought the Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh), which is the Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Kethuvim (Writings) translated by and for Jews. If you're going to read a translation, it makes sense to me to read a translation by people who are really immersed in the language and culture of the original work, and who can explain all the symbolism and cultural references. Also, I don't hold with Christian attempts to manipulate the Tanakh to make it look as if it is prophesying the coming of Jesus. The Tanakh is a Jewish work and should primarily be seen as such. And of course Jewish translations are blessedly free of such attempts.

Nevertheless the Wycliffe and Tyndale translations are classic works that have deeply influenced the subsequent development of English language and culture, and given us many proverbs and sayings, and so, as Isaiah puts it, "Look to the rock whence ye are hewn, and the pit whence ye are digged."

UPDATE: The William Tyndale statue is back - I was in millennium square it was there.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ex-gay "therapy" exposed

Truth Wins Out went undercover to find out whether Marcus Bachmann, husband of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, conducts ex-gay "therapy" at his "clinic". They found incontrovertible evidence that this is what happens (and filmed it covertly).

Truth Wins Out Undercover Operation Finds That Marcus Bachmann’s Clinic Works to ‘Cure’ Gay People
July 8th, 2011

I Received ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy at Marcus Bachmann’s Clinic
July 8th, 2011

The articles above expose ex-gay "therapy" as a pathetic travesty of real therapy - with the "therapist" making suggestions and conclusions that were not justified by what the client said, and all sorts of other unethical practices (including not offering an informed consent form with details of other possible therapies, such as gay-affirmative therapy). The "therapist" also said that the client's gay friends would not get to heaven unless they stopped being gay.

The ex-gay movement is sick and twisted and should be stopped - and it should certainly not be funded by government money.

I wonder if this sort of thing goes on in the UK, and whether LGBT organisations here are actively combating it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

What is tolerance?

I have been complained at more than once for being sharply critical of aspects of other religions that I consider to be abusive, and people have said that this is intolerant of me.

For example, if a tradition has a doctrine that women are less valuable than men, or that LGBT people are less moral than straight people, why shouldn't I (or anyone else) criticise it? And if that tradition has a doctrine that its leaders can do or say no wrong, then that doctrine is clearly going to lead to abuses of power, because there are no protections in the structure of that tradition for the laity. Or if the tradition has a cult of personality around one person, that can also lead to abuses of power. (I am thinking of more than one tradition here.)

It is supposedly the role of religion to speak truth to power, so if one's own tradition or another tradition is abusing its power, then there is nothing wrong with saying so - provided one couches one's criticism in constructive terms, and backs it up with facts. I dislike the intolerant view of some atheists that all religions are completely barking mad, because they can't be bothered to sort out the facts, or distinguish between traditions; or the view of some Pagans that all Christians are intolerant fundamentalists; or the view of some Christians that all Pagans are bad (and so on).

Being tolerant does not preclude criticising other traditions, provided it is done in a constructive and nuanced way (and I would be the first to admit that I do not always live up to the ideal of being constructive and nuanced in my utterances, although I hope my underlying views are constructive and nuanced). I would not want to give offence to anyone, because apart from the desire not to hurt people's feelings, giving offence just puts people on the defensive, and then they cease to hear what was actually being said.

Tolerance does not mean turning a blind eye to abusive practices, or ignoring the doctrines and power structures that give rise to those abusive practices. It does not mean sweeping things under the carpet and pretending they don't exist. It does mean engaging in constructive dialogue between groups, and acknowledging their right to exist and form associations with like-minded others. It also means acknowledging and celebrating the good aspects of different traditions, and not always picking on the bad stuff. It does not mean passive acceptance of things one disagrees with.

Also, tolerance goes hand-in-hand with freedom and reason. The freedom to reach different conclusions about things by using one's reason; to debate them in a courteous manner; and to engage in constructive dialogue rather than just projecting stereotypes on others.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Stonewall: It Gets Better... Today

I am very glad to see that Stonewall have started a UK version of the It Gets Better Project.

Stonewall's version is called It Gets Better... Today. It gets better today because you can get support by calling Stonewall's helpline number: 08000 50 20 20

Two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have experienced homophobic bullying. However, where schools have said homophobic bullying is wrong gay pupils are sixty per cent less likely to have been bullied.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The complexity of marriage law

The subject of marriage and what is legal and what is not is getting increasingly more confusing, especially since a Liberal Jewish synagogue was in the news recently for performing a same-sex marriage (which is recognised by Liberal Judaism but not by the state). Apparently Scotland is just about to begin a process of consultation about same-sex marriage. So here's a list of what is and is not currently legal:

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state):
  • Opposite-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Same-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Opposite-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
The law allows, but there's no mechanism for implementing:
  • Religious civil partnerships (civil partnership ceremonies in a religious building)
Not forbidden by law, but not recognised by the state
  • same-sex blessings in a church / synagogue
  • same-sex marriages in a church / synagogue where the marriage is recognised by the church / synagogue  but not by the state
  • Pagan handfastings (weddings) in England & Wales - both same and opposite sex
  • Pagan same-sex handfastings in Scotland
  • Blessings of polyamorous relationships
Illegal (not permitted by law):
  • Same-sex church weddings (couple legally married and registered)
  • Opposite-sex civil partnerships in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Same-sex marriages in a register office / registered premises for weddings
  • Marrying more than one person
Another difficulty is that if a transsexual married to a person of the opposite sex to their original sex wants to change their birth certificate to reflect their new sex, they would have to divorce their partner (whereas if same sex marriage were legal, they could stay married).

Legal (permitted by law and recognised by the state) in Scotland only:
Have I missed anything?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Big Society or Bigoted Society?

In giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the "Big Society", Derek McAuley, the Chief Officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, has pointed out that giving public service contracts to faith-based charities may result in discrimination against LGBT staff (particularly those who are transferred across under TUPE to the charities from local government) and clients.

Third Sector Online: Faith charities delivering public services 'could increase discrimination'

From the Unitarian Chief Officer: Faith charities delivering public services could increase discrimination

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Faith leaders for the freedom to marry

Religious leaders from various traditions explain why they want same-sex couples to be able to marry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Third Annual Pagan Values Blogging Month

Pax of the Pagan Values Blogject has just announced the third annual Pagan Values Blogging Month.

You can sign up for it on Facebook.

Pax writes:
We must not be afraid to discuss the values and virtues and ethics we have discovered in our contemporary Pagan faiths. There are enough books on rituals and spells and prayers to last us a few generations… let's start writing works on confronting poverty and hunger from Pagan perspectives. Let us set aside the fear of prejudice, and the once glamorous but now tattered and worn mantle of the outsider and the rebel, and take pride in ourselves and our faiths, in our works and lives and worship and in our Pagan communities and our larger communities.

Learn more about the event.

When you get your contribution written/recorded and posted in June put a link to it in the comments stream on the Facebook page. Tags such as "PVE2011" and "Pagan Values" are also encouraged.

Pagan Values Blogging Month 2010 and 2009 produced some excellent reflections on Pagan values and virtues - it was popular theology in the making.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Zeno of Citium

According to Mark Vernon's Philosophy Quiz, my ancient Greek guru is Zeno of Citium, founder of Stoicism.
Your recommended philosophy-guru is ZENO OF CITIUM.

Key fact: He taught in a stoa, the Athenian supermarket, and hence founded the school of philosophy called Stoicism.

Must have: An interest in everyday life, for it is there that you learn life's big lessons.

Key promise: An ability to face anything, no matter how disastrous.

Key peril: To be "stoical" is to turn your back on passion.

Most likely to say: "If you have integrity, no-one can harm you."

Least likely to say: "Forget prudence! It won't help you anyway."

That fits, as I am attracted by Stoicism and Epicureanism.

Find out who your ancient Greek guru is.