All entries for Monday 09 January 2006

January 09, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Afraid of whom?

Of American evangelicals, that's who.

Having just watched the first in a series of programmes by Professor Richard Dawkins about religion (called The Root of All Evil?), I've yet again been scared by the extreme views that some people hold. Dawkins' examined Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and was amazed at some people's completely blind faith in views which are thousands of years old and often completely at odds with modern society and scientific evidence.

Even scarier than the divide between Israel and Palestine, was the arrogance of an American evangelist, who claimed that evolution thought "miracles such as the eye and the ear…were just 'accidents'" (which is patently untrue). Amusingly, Dawkins said his sermon was something Goebbels would have been proud of. Worryingly, the reverend didn't seem to get Dawkins' full meaning.

Dawkins' programme was illuminating and altogether scary. Throughout, I found myself agreeing with his arguments. But I thought his approach was problematic. While criticising the fundamentalists of arrogance, Dawkins sometimes skipped a few steps of his methodology, meaning he defended science 'for science's sake'. This itself smacked of arrogance (albeit enlightened arrogance!), and some of the balls he threw were too easy to hit back.

The programme seemed to be addressing atheists rather than believers, which seems somewhat futile. Also, he failed to address some philosophical conclusions. For instance, he said the world could not continue with such completely-opposed religions, for it would fall apart. But he failed to show how this could be avoided. Maybe he will do this next week.

Next week, Dawkins will tackle the issue of children who are brought up with fundamental beliefs, an issue that is maybe even more worrying. Because if the 'myth' of religion is being perpetuated through breeding, then the cycle of endless conflicts between people with utterly opposed views will endure.

Tony Banks, 'man of the people'?

The obituaries of Tony Banks, or Lord Stratford as he's been more recently known, have described him as "forthright", "a firebrand" and "a man of the people". But I wouldn't use any of those words to describe him.

One of the few useful things about death is that the laws relating to libel and slander don't apply any more.So I can say pretty much what I like about him, and make accusations that he can't refute.

Not that he could refute certain allegations at the time. You see, back in 2002, myself and a few friends were at a conference in Paris, where Tony Banks was speaking alongside people such as Michael Howard and Simon Hughes (a very nice man, by the way, shame he won't be Lib Dem leader).

After the conference, we bumped into Tony and my friends began talking to him about fox-hunting (they're active hunters, I'm broadly anti). They challenged him about his views of fox-hunting, saying that he didn't understand rural issues.

His response:

You w*nkers! make me sick! F***ing b*stards!

Before storming off in a huff. I wouldn't say my friends took a particularly aggressive tone, so his response was something of a shock. And given it was at a conference of sixth-formers, it was pretty inappropriate.

By the way, he couldn't have refuted the allegations at the time, because we'd been filming him. Whoops.

As if that wasn't bizarre enough, my friends took the decision to leak the video to the Daily Mail. As you do. We were told later that they couldn't print the story (despite wanting to) because he had threatened to take out an injunction against them!

Telling the Daily Mail may have been one of the most ridiculous things I've ever been involved in, but Lord Banks' behaviour in Paris was pretty bad considering who he was talking to. However his later actions just made us think he was slightly self-important and downright weird. So I have to say that my personal experience of Tony Banks wasn't one of him having "a sharp and witty tongue" (David Mellor) but of having a foul and offensive mouth.

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