we at the spittoon seem spend a lot of time both criticising people who appear to be disingenuous, swivel-eyed fundamentalist weasels and their stooges, as well as calling for honest, open-hearted dialogue and support for a stronger, more liberal society in which both jews and muslims have a role to play, not just as citizens, but as jews and muslims. we believe both in the robust defence of liberty and the principles of democracy as well as aspiring to a better, more peaceful future in which people of differing religions, cultures and points of view will be able to live together – call it a messianic vision, if you like, or even “roddenberry-lite”, but we don’t see why people can’t “sit under their vine and fig-tree, with nobody to make them afraid“.
the 90 year-old rabbi ovadia yosef is a controversial political and religious figure, to say the least. as emeritus sephardi chief rabbi of israel, the leading sephardi voice in the haredi world and de facto leader of the ultra-religious “shas” party (the only officially zionist haredi party) which forms part of the current israeli coalition government, he is a figure of considerable influence around the world and a key political player in israeli politics, as well as being the perennial winner of the “snazziest traditional get-up, complete with turban and sunglasses” award.
following an unusually thoughtful broadcast last week by richard dawkins (he’s obviously trying to take on board how much his militancy turns people off by some of the pleas he made on behalf of sacred texts as fine language, cultural literacy and so on) i am grappling again with some of the issues raised by faith schools in the critical thinking debate. dawkins, as per usual, lumped all faith schools together as a) proponents of segregation (for which there is some justification) and b) closers, rather than openers of young minds – the segment in which he, somewhat exasperatedly, grappled with the islamic school science class with an apparent 100% rejection of evolution was a powerful statement. however, also as per usual, he implied (by saying that he “worried that”) this was inevitable in a situation where the parents’ wishes about what they wanted their children exposed to overruled the presumed human rights of children to make up their own mind about what they thought was interesting or worthwhile. this argument was given short shrift by a catholic educationalist from northern ireland, who told him he was simply imposing his own expectations over those of the parents concerned; i personally thought they struggled with the editing a little if they were seeking to show that the wishes of parents were unreasonable; this wasn’t the strongest argument i’ve ever seen against faith schools. in my opinion, they’d have done better to concentrate on the ethos of these schools as exclusivist and contrary to “community cohesion”, but then again, what do i know?
i’ve not posted for a while, mostly because of pressure of work, but there are a number of things which are currently causing me to more or less lose sleep.
recently, i gave up posting on pickled politics, partly because of the level of personal animosity i was facing, but mostly just in frustration at my apparent inability to get my point across. now, i suppose i have nobody very much to blame for that apart from myself, but i’ve never felt that was a problem before now. now, i think i’m starting to work out what it is that is bothering me; certainly, it’s not about the denizens of one blog, or even the blogosphere, or even the media. it’s not any one set of views, not any one person, but a set of trends, a collective movement i sense in wider society.
thanks to the delightful sonia from pickled politics, i ended up in a jolly discussion over at butterflies and wheels on feminism and religion. they seem to have closed the comments for some reason, but i still thought it was an interesting subject and thought i’d continue it here if anyone (like ophelia benson or amy clare) was interested. there are some unresolved questions. amy asks:
“Do Anglicans, even moderates, really think of G!D as a sexless being? I was under the impression that most moderate religious people still think of G!D as male. People could use the singular ‘they’ and refer to a ‘parent’ if they were really that bothered.”
a woman causing an earthquake yesterday by blatantly showing her elbows and knees
well, i expect most of us have probably heard by now that, according to the not-at-all-bonkers iranian regime, that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes. i expect the haitians are buying their chadors as we speak. in the interests of balance, i thought it might be instructive to see which other religious figures are saying and doing stupidly daft things this week:
as you have probably heard, the hierarchy of the catholic church is coping with plenty of more-than-usually-unpleasant scandal involving the usual suspects: priests, paedophiles, children, cover-ups, pay-offs, not-quite-apologies, denials, denouncings and defrockings which have, for the first time i can remember, started to take on a somewhat apocalyptic tone, that’s apocalyptic in terms of the catholic church if not the rest of us. even the commentariat at the times smell blood:
“A pope with no moral authority simply cannot function as a pope. Yes, he has ecclesiastical power. But ecclesiastical power without moral authority merely exposes the hollowness of an unaccountable, self-perpetuating clerisy. Does he think we don’t know? Does he understand that any parent of any child will be unable to imagine themselves in the same moral universe as this man?”
I will cite my imaginary Zoroastrian friend in order to assert my claim that both these geezers should just administer the sacraments, visit the sick, bury the dead, and shut their big yappers. If they and all the rest of that class that wears its collars backwards had been attending solely to those minor obligations of their trade all these years, we all would have had a great deal less misery.
ok, we know who the board of deputies are. we know what it’s for. we know how it’s funded. we know how you get to be on it. we know who it represents. now, we have this new organisation called the “jewish leadership council”. on it, you have various movers and shakers, you’ve got the vc/banking/property tycoons, you’ve got the charity/safety/israel activists, you’ve got synagogue movement machers, you’ve got access, you’ve got international connections, you’ve got lords, baronesses, knights and the chair of ujs – you’ve got two women and no rabbis, for some reason. you’ve got no haredim, for some other reason. you’ve got leaders from the most broad-based and influential organisations in the community – but what are they for? clearly, this is an influential bunch of people, but who chooses them? who decided that there should be a jewish leadership council in the first place? how are they accountable? what is their strategy? what is their relationship with the board? how is it funded? i for one would like to know.