Posts Tagged ‘‘Jo’’

Happy New Year Everyone!

January 1, 2019

This is to wish everyone reading and commenting on my blog a very Happy New Year. I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas holiday, and commiserations for those of you, who didn’t. Like Jo, who went the week without heating or hot water. May things pick up for you and I hope you enjoy a better year this year. Oh yes, and down with the Tories!

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British Man, Who Has Never Left UK, Threatened with Deportation to Uganda

May 21, 2018

This grim little video was sent to me by Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog. It’s a video from that nefarious Russian propaganda outlet, RT. And it’s about yet another immigration scandal.

It’s an interview with Kyle Herbert, a British fast food worker, who has never left the UK, who was told by the immigration authorities that he was here illegally and threatened with deportation. As a result, he was suspended without pay for two weeks while he sorted the problem out. He wanted to carry on working, but was told by his supervisor to go home, because if he didn’t, the firm would be fined £20,000 for employing him as an illegal alien.

This happened two years ago, and the video dates from the 3rd May, 2018. Herbert decided to come forward with his story now because of similar recent scandals over immigration. The immigration service states that they have corrected the mistake, and apologised.

This shows the dangerous mistakes that are occurring in the immigration service, quite apart from the very deliberate attempts to deny people benefits or citizenship. On Friday, Mike put up the story of Stevie Leishman, a Scots gent, who had returned to Blighty after spending seven weeks backpacking around the world. He then made a claim for Universal Credit, only to be turned down. The reason given was that they were unsure whether he would be an habitual resident of this country, as he made his claim too soon after he returned. The DWP then informed him that he must be treated as someone ‘who is not in the UK’.

Which is truly astonishing. Mike’s post includes comments from both Leishman’s and Mark Andrews’ Supporting Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell Facebook pages expressing their sheer incredulity at the DWP’s decision. And Mike himself comments

It is clearly part of the “hostile environment” policy, even though it isn’t being administrated by the Home Office.

Other examples quoted in the comment thread under Mr Andrews’s post include a homeless person who was excluded for spending four months abroad picking fruit – after 16 years in the British Army, and a woman who left her abusive husband in Dubai and fled to the UK.

It seems if anyone has been out of the UK for two consecutive weeks in two years, they may be defined as a foreigner and denied benefit.

If anything, this is worse than the Windrush scandal.

That travesty concerned people who were born abroad but had the right to stay in the UK.

This targets people who have always been UK citizens.

And Theresa May is at the heart of it. How many times do we have to hear these accounts before she – and her government – are removed?

This is clearly using individual’s travel abroad as an excuse to deny them benefits, just like benefit sanctions are imposed on the flimsiest pretexts and the work capability tests are also imposed to define seriously ill people as ‘fit for work’ so that they too can be thrown off benefits. It’s all part of the Tories’ schemes to deny benefits and real support to the poor, in order to create a cowed workforce, willing to accept starvation wages, zero hours contracts and absolutely no job security. Oh yes, and give massive tax breaks to the rich.

This whole network of depriving the poor, the unemployed and the disabled of needed benefit money has to end now. We desperately need to get May and her vile Tory government out, and a proper, Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn in.

Florence on the Sanctions System and its Architect, Yvette Cooper

May 4, 2018

A few days ago I posted up a piece about the death of Jody Whiting, another victim of the sanctions system. Whiting had been sanctioned because she missed a jobcentre interview. In fact, she was in hospital at the time, being treated for a cyst on the brain. In despair at having no money to support herself and her children, she went into a local wood and hanged herself. She joined hundreds of others, who have died of starvation or taken their own lives.

Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted these observations on how the system contravenes UN human rights legislation, and is scathing about its architect, the Blairite Labour MP Yvette Cooper.

Under the UN Treaty on Human Rights it is illegal to use starvation as a punishment, I understand. Yet this is exactly what the sanctions are designed to do – it is stated in the DWP Handbook which state that sanctions will produce physical and mental “discomfort”.

(And while Yvette Cooper is being lauded for her “Windrush” success by the RW journalists and PLP (ignoring Diane Abbot, David Lammy and the others who have done all the work – racist much?) she was the one who designed the DWP system much as it is today, persecuting the people who need the Social Security safety net. Yes, the Tories have made it worse, but she gifted them this system of assessments and sanctions. Yet even after the UN report on the abuse of human rights by the DWP, she made election promises to be “harder than” IDS on the ‘scroungers and frauds’. I hope that she is not proposed again as a contender for the Labour Leadership, she is unfit on that very simple, human test.)

The sanction system has gone far beyond physical and mental discomfort, and is responsible for real suffering and death. Medical doctors and psychiatrists have reported how it has pushed patients into depression and anxiety, and made those, who already suffer from it worse. Much worse.

As for the media ignoring the attacks on the Windrush deportations by Diane Abbott, David Lammy and others to concentrate on Yvette Cooper, this does show racial bias. The right-wing media hate Diane Abbott and do everything they can to attack and humiliate her, because she is left-wing and passionately anti-racist. David Lammy, I believe, was one of those responsible for Operation Black Vote in the 1990s. This was to encourage more Black people to vote in elections, so their issues would be taken more seriously by politicians and there would be more BAME people elected to parliament. Which is certainly enough to bring down the rage of the Sun and the Mail. And I can remember how racist the right-wing press were in the 1980s, and their attacks on the Black MPs then elected to parliament, like Diane Abbott.

The media has also been constantly promoting and supporting the Blairites against Corbyn and the real Labour moderates. It’s because the Blairites are all Thatcherites, and share their hatred of nationalisation, workers’ rights and the welfare state. A little while ago when the Blairites looked like they were facing the threat of deselection, the Torygraphy/Mail journo, Simon Heffer wrote a piece claiming that they were ‘thoroughly decent people’ being bullied and undermined by the evil Fascist Trotskyite Marxists of Momentum. I’ve no doubt they’d like to promote her as the British version of Hillary Clinton, just as they were supporting all the female candidates against Corbyn in the Labour leadership elections. If one of them was elected head of the party, it would be a success for women. Despite the policies they stand for – more austerity, low pay, privatisation, including that of the NHS, and outsourcing harming women the most.

Cooper’s statement that a Labour government would be even harder than the Tories on the unemployed showed just how out of touch she was with the realities of life on the breadline. It also showed that whatever they were, the Blairites aren’t ‘thoroughly decent people’. They did everything they could to smear and undermine Corbyn and his supporters. Heffer and the right were claiming that Momentum is some kind of far left entryist group, and compared them to Militant when that group was intriguing against the right-wing members of the Labour party when Kinnock was leader. But Momentum represents traditional Labour politics and voters. The real intriguers, who have constantly been trying to rig everything in their favour, are the Blairites.

Cooper isn’t solely responsible for the sanctions system. As Jo, another of the great commenters on this blog said, the Tories didn’t need to pick it up. But they did, and massively expanded it. So there is now something like a quarter of million people, who can only get their food from food banks because of the deliberate poverty the Tories have inflicted through the system.

Cooper and the Blairites are a disgrace. They should either back the real Labour activists and supporters standing behind Corbyn, or else they should resign and go to a right-wing party, that better reflects their political beliefs.

Book on the Problem of Evil and Suffering

March 22, 2018

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil (HarperCollins 1992)

Back at the weekend I put up a piece about some of the books I’d read about God and religion, which might be useful to anyone wishing to explore these issues for themselves. This was in response to a request from Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog, who asked me a couple of questions about them. This is another book, which I think might help people with one of the most difficult problems in theology: the problem of evil. To put it simply, this is the question how a God, such as the one Jews, Christians and Muslims worship, who is wholly good and omnipotent, can allow evil and suffering. The counterargument frequently made is that as evil exists, God is either not all-powerful, or not good.

Peter Vardy is the lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, and the book is written from a Christian perspective. It has the following chapters

Part 1 – The Problem of Evil

1. The Problem Stated
2 A God’s Eye View
3 the Free Will Defence
(i) The Free Will Defence Outlined
(ii) The nature of freedom
(iii) The utopia thesis
(iv) The FWD defended
4 Natural Evil
(I) The Devil and natural evil
(ii) Its this the best of all possible worlds?
(iii) Matter as evil
5 Is it all worth it?
6 Conclusion to the Problem of Evil

Part II – The Mystery of Evil
7 Introduction
8 The Euthyphro Problem
9 Albrecht Ritschl – Absolute Value Judgements
10 God Almighty
11 Can God Act in the World?
12 Animal Suffering and Physical Evil
13 Moral Evil – Job and Ivan
14 The Devil and All His Works
15 The Challenge of Freedom
16 Conclusion.

Vardy goes through and analyses and critiques arguments and attempted solutions to the problem of evil from Irenaeus, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to modern theologians and philosophers. He finds many of them inadequate, but in his conclusion fully asserts the Christian response to suffering. This is that meaning and purpose for human beings can only be found in the love and fellowship of God, that God does indeed act in the world and answer people’s prayers, but that such actions are rare and sparingly used, and that a world with less suffering could not have been created. This last is qualified with the statement that this is a matter of belief, and cannot be justified. He also states that there are forces of evil deep in the human psyche, and may be a real, independent force of evil outside of us. Which sounds very much like the Devil to me. However, that force cannot do more than persuade. It cannot take away human’s freedom. He also states ‘I am convinced that the power of evil is very real and that it needs to be fought both within us and in the world around us.’ On human free will, he states

Human beings are free to take responsibility for themselves as individuals, no matter what their circumstances, and to respond to God or not. I accept that the price for doing this will be high and that the road may be one that few will be willing to follow.

This last statement of what he considers should be the Christian attitude to evil concludes with

I accept that I could be wrong about all the above statements but am ready to stake my life on the “if” that I am right. I cannot do more. (pp. 203-4)

He also makes it very clear that Christians have a moral duty to fight evil. He writes

Augustine’s position, “I believe in order that I may understand”, rests on an opening judgement which cannot be proved, but once this is accepted then many things make sense which would not otherwise do so. The faith position is an altogether more positive and optimistic one than the assertion of meaninglessness. It maintains that although evil is a terrible reality 9it can be overcome and one of our main tasks as human individuals is to fight against it. Indeed the problem of evil is not at heart an intellectual one so much as an existential one – the presence of evil should call us to engage with it and to fight against it. As soon as we are overawed by evil’s power and allow it to have mastery we will cower beneath it in fear and trembling. We may have many excuses for doing this, we may hold that it is none of our business, or consider ourselves too weak or think that as we are not too badly affected it does not matter. Evil, however, spreads and unless it is combated its power will grow. We cannot stand idle and watch it increase – we have to face it now no matter how great the personal cost may be. Some may consider us foolish and certainly fighting evil wherever we find it (particularly in ourselves) can be a lonely and heartbreaking business. However the choice is simple: submit and be overcome or stand and fight and find freedom. This is a choice that needs to be lived out and so this book is, at the end of the day, a call to action. (Pp. 202-3)

Warning: in some places, this is not an easy book to read, as Vardy illustrates how pressing the problem is, and the terrible power of evil, with examples from ordinary life, such as the accidental death of children, to the sadistic acts of vile regimes. This includes the guards in the Nazi death camps throwing Jewish children alive into the quicklime that was used to destroy the bodies after death. He doesn’t dwell on these examples, but uses them to show that this is far more than an academic exercise.

On the other hand, he also uses the works of Tolstoy, and in particular The Brothers Karamazov, to explore the problem of evil, as well as the Book of Job in the Bible. Regarding the chapters on ‘natural’ and ‘moral’ evil, this is a distinction theologians and philosophers make between humans and the natural world. ‘Natural evil’ are disasters like earthquakes, plagues and so on, which bring terrible suffering, but the forces themselves don’t actually have free will. ‘Moral evil’ refers to humans, who do have free will, and are free to choose whether they pursue a particular course of action, or commit a crime or an atrocity, or not.

I’m very much aware that not all the readers of this blog are Christians by any means. I hope, however, that this might help those wishing to explore the problem of evil from the Christian tradition, and am aware that other religions have their own.

But I also hope that whatever our personal religious or philosophical views, we can all agree that, as human being, we do have freedom and a moral duty to fight evil and suffering.

Books on God and Religion

March 17, 2018

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.

Bibliography

Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

Introduction
What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Prayer
Conversion
Mysticism
Charismatic experiences
Revelation
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response
Conclusion

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Eternal
Omnipotent
Omniscient
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Saints?
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience
Conclusion

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Dualism
materialism
Idealism
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Freedom?
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles
Causes
Providence
Miracles
Summary

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism
Summary

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
Utilitarianism
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices
Conclusion

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One
Methodology

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three
Creationism

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five
Naturalism

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

A Up Let’s Talk Shows Theresa May Can Say Nothing Except ‘Strong and Stable’

June 4, 2017

My thanks to Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, for sending this in.

This is another video from A Up Let’s Talk, in which the Northern vloggers shows that Theresa May has absolutely nothing to say except to repeat ‘strong and stable’ about herself endlessly, like a mantra.

The video begins with a clip from the Republican presidential debates, where one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination rips into Marco Rubio for having nothing to say except a 30 second prepared speech.

Then comes the main section of the video, where Theresa May shows how ill-equipped she is for government and for political debate, as she shows that, like Rubio, she has nothing to say except a prepared script.

And as the minutes tick on, she repeats ‘strong and stable’. A Up Let’s Talk has a counter running in the top right corner of the screen keeping score of how many times she uses it. He also puts a little ‘WTF’ up, whenever May says something bizarre and nonsensical.

To be fair, she doesn’t always say ‘strong and stable’. A couple of times she also says ‘coalition of chaos’ and throws something about Brexit into the mix. But the result is that by after only a couple of minutes, she’s said ‘strong and stable’ somewhere around 13 times.

I’ve joked before about how she’s like a robot, programmed with a limited number of phrases that she just has to repeat endlessly, and that you could play Bingo with a scorecard of her clichés and stock phrases. This proves it.

She has nothing to say except clichés. Just as all she’s done in power in follow the well-worn Thatcherite policies of privatisation, running down the NHS, destroying the welfare state, and reducing millions to poverty and near starvation.

Don’t let her back in.
Vote Labour on 8th June for articulate, reasoned, sensible government.