Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter-Religious Studies, Assistant Principal for Religion and Society, New College on the Mound, University of Edinburgh  
Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 08:33 AM - Freedom of speech, Siddiqui
Rating 1 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

David Jones was going through Gatwick Airport when he noticed a woman with a bag over her head. He wondered out loud what would happen if he were to try and go through with a bag over his head. The airport's high security, multi-million pound, political correctness alarms sounded immediately. Highly trained political correctness police pounced on Mr. Jones, wrestled him to the ground and were able to pack him off to a secure area before anyone could be injured by any further politically incorrect remarks.

Unfortunately, one female Muslim security guard accidentally caught some shrapnel and was offended as a result. Paramedics were able to treat her at the scene. Luckily, the remark was not deeply offensive and she suffered only surface offense that will heal given time.

This causes me to wonder if we're not being just a little bit over sensitive on some of these issues. Women have suffered worse than having to endure comments about the bags over their heads, including having to wear bags over their heads. I think Islam is big enough to endure the occasional uncomplimentary comment. It's a religion that started out with everyone saying what a lot of drivel it was. Fortunately, it had a huge aggressive army that was able to eliminate people like that.

Part of the price we have to endure for living in a free society, is that some people are going to say what a load of drivel Islam is. On balance, I think that's a price worth paying.

26 comments ( 2016 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 297 )

Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion, Platitude of the Year Winner 2010  
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

David and Goliath is a story from the Old Tasty mint of how the little guy stands up to the giant and goes on to be hereditary, autocratic dictator. It's the perfect metaphor for people standing up to dictator's today in a long list of Arab countries, plus Russia and Congo.

The people who stand up to people like the hereditary, autocratic dictator David, are just like David before he became a hereditary, autocratic dictator. They are showing something that we Catholics call "courage", which is when you stand up to autocratic dictators.

Courage was invented by the Greeks, along with justice, temperance and their sister, Prudence. Together these are the four cardinal ways of being good. They were such good ideas that we Catholics decided to adopt them and keep them alive for the sake of humanity. Has anyone mentioned Saint Augustine or Saint Thomas Aquinas lately? Thought not. Well they thought the four ways of being good were good too, so they decided to pass them on.

Being good took a bit of a dive after the Renaissance and then disappeared completely due to that wretched, secular Enlightenment. But the world hasn't been a complete wreck since then. After the war, philosophers rediscovered being good again. They found out that Catholicism, along with all the great religions, had advocated being good. Even Confucianism advocated being good. Confucius invented being good at about the same time as the Greeks, but he was very far away. It was still mainly religious people who thought being good was a good idea though.

So as autocratic dictators are swept away by people like David before he became an autocratic dictator, being good is surely an idea whose time has come.

4 comments ( 858 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 323 )

Akhandadhi Das, a Vaishnav Hindu teacher and theologian 
Wednesday, 29 June, 2011, 07:35 AM - Freedom of speech, Gibberish, Akhandadhi Das
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

In this year's Reith Lecture, Aung San Suu Kyi talks about personal freedom. We are prepared to go to great lengths to achieve freedom, enduring suffering and even death in the process. But why do we want to be free? Why don't we all just want to sit around waiting for someone else to tell us what to do? Why do we want to do the things that we want to do?

Darwinian evolution, on which I am an acknowledged expert, has no explanation for this. Science predicts that we ought to want to do what we don't want to do. Nor is it just a function of society. Remarkably, it turns out that many non-white people want to be free to do the things that they want to do as well.

Some religions seem to restrict freedom, but not Hinduism. For Hindus, freedom is at the very heart of their religion. That's why we invented the caste system. Hindus, while investigating Invisible Magic Stuff, discovered the reason why we want to be free to do the things we want to do, rather than being free to do the things we don't want to do. Having discovered this reason, they wrote it down in one of our Big Books of Magic Stuff, of which we have many.

This is the reason why we want to be free to do the things we want to do, rather than being free to do the things we don't want to do. The reason is this. Truth is life and life is truth, which is consciousness. Just as freedom shines from the sun, so truth shines from light, which is absolute, and I include animals in this. This deep spiritual knowledge liberates us and makes us free. The Force is strong in all of us. Free and eternal it is, yes, primal it is. Think I, therefore not am I. Freedom this explains, yes.

May the Force by with you.

6 comments ( 804 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 453 )

Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, just down from Fortnum and Mason  
Tuesday, 5 April, 2011, 07:09 AM - Freedom of speech, Winkett
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Nuala Kerr, the mother of the murdered Northern Ireland policeman, Ronan Kerr, has appealed for Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police force. "We don't want to go back into the dark days again of fear and terror." It was a brave thing to do in the midst of her grief and, doubtless, the last thing she expected to be doing on Mothering Sunday.

Her appeal for calm contrasts starkly with the hate filled bigotry of Pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp with their Koran burning media event and the even more religiously insane, murderous rioting Muslims in Afghanistan. (Although I'd rather not place too much emphasis on the religiously insane, murderous rioters - they're just a bit too murderous - I'd rather target the idiotic Christian pastors).

It matters what you say about religion. So all you folk out there who think it's just fine to say what you like about religion - you just watch it.

10 comments ( 1274 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 462 )

Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark  
Tuesday, 22 February, 2011, 08:48 AM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Butler
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

They all want freedom in the Middle Easht (hic!). They've toppled Moo-baa-rack. Gadflyfi's shtill hanging on in there. But what is (hic!) freedom?

Is it a shymbol, a great dream that they lay down their (hic!) lives for? What will they get inshtead of the autocrats? Theocrats? Military autocrats? Democrats? Aristocats? We've already sheen one revolving-cushion go horribly wrong, where an oppressive regime wash (hic!) removed, only to be replace (hic!) replaced by a bunsh of religish nuttersh.

Thish putsh me in mind of the Parable of the Grand Inquisitor from Dosh-toy-(hic!)-inshki's novel, The Brothers Kalashnikov. Jeshus comes to Sheville during the inqui-(hic!) inqui-shishon, where he is promptly arreshted (hic!) by a bunch of religish nuttersh.

"I didn't expect that," said Jesus.
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition," replied the Grand Inquisitor.

The moral is clear (hic!).

8 comments ( 1263 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 552 )

Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge 
Thursday, 3 February, 2011, 08:16 AM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Materialism, Morality, Tilby
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Egypt yet? Vast crowds of people are meeting in the streets, calling with one voice for jobs, fuel, hope, fairness, free speech.

Something similar happened to me recently. There was a power cut when I was shopping in Waitrose and everyone left the shop to meet in the streets. We met people who had left Marks & Spencer's for the same reason. We were all anxious and afraid, confronted by uncertainty. What was the meaning of this sudden break in the electricity supply? Fortunately the lights came back on an hour later. The crowds dispersed and I was able to finish my shopping list in Waitrose. This frightening, potentially life changing event, was over.

Not so for the demonstrators in Egypt. Their protests continue. As we see Egyptians demand democracy like we have, an impartial justice system like we have, freedom of speech like we have, healthcare for all like we have, we are reminded that there is more to life than the western obsession with comfort, safety and security. We, and by we I mean you, sleepwalk through life, with no ambition other than to enjoy yourselves. You have no conception of anything beyond your own selfish, pointless little lives, thinking about nothing other than your own material satisfaction.

The only thing you can aspire to, beyond the purely material, is to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Having an Invisible Magic Friend who is infinitely everything, allows you to put the finiteness of your own life into perspective. The Invisible Magic Friend lays down absolute rules about what is good, like stoning to death someone who collects firewood on the day reserved for worshipping him.

Without the Invisible Magic Friend you can't have any standards of goodness and you think about nothing other than your own appetites and egos. If you have any morals at all they're very loose morals.

That's why the demonstrators in Egypt are so inspirational. They're thinking beyond the mundane and fighting for spiritual abstractions like food, justice and democracy.

Would you get out onto the streets to demand all the things that you already have?

14 comments ( 1344 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 598 )

Scientology not stupid 
Tuesday, 20 July, 2010, 05:24 PM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Not TFTD
On a recent visit to London, Cardiff LibDem councillor, John Dixon, tweeted that Scientology was "stupid". As a result of a complaint, the Welsh public standards watchdog has investigated and has concluded that Dixon was likely to have breached the code of conduct for local authority members and will face a disciplinary hearing.

I have no doubt that readers of this blog will share my outrage and indignation, that one of the world's great faiths, promoted by such luminaries as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, should be shown such disrespect by an elected councillor. Thankfully, the story has now been mentioned on the PM Programme, where millions of listeners will now have had the opportunity to be equally outraged and indignant.

As a Rev Dr, you will know that I always do my utmost to respect the deeply held beliefs of people of all faiths. I would never, ever, call any religion stupid.

I would never call Scientology stupid.
I would never call Catholicism stupid.
I would never call Islam stupid and I would certainly never show one of those evil cartoons, like this one:

I would never call Anglicanism stupid.
I would never call Judaism stupid.
I would never call Zoroastrianism stupid.
I would never call Sikhism stupid.
I would never call Hinduism stupid.
I would never call Wicca stupid.
I would never call Presbyterianism stupid.
I would never call astrology stupid.
I would never call crystal healing stupid.

In fact, there is not one single system of beliefs that I would ever mock or ridicule by calling it stupid. Thank goodness the Welsh public standards watchdog is there to crack down on this shocking abuse of free speech.
8 comments ( 622 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 316 )

Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations 
Wednesday, 26 May, 2010, 07:37 AM - Freedom of speech, Singh
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Limited freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Recently, Britain's libel laws have been tested in two prominent cases. Dr Simon Singh (no relation, even though he's also a Dr. Singh, just like me) was eventually cleared of libelling the British Chiropractic Association. His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj (also called Singh, but this one's not a Dr. like I am - still no relation) attempted to sue Hardeep Singh (not a Dr. like I am - no relation).

The libel laws are there to limit freedom of speech by protecting individuals and institutions from factually inaccurate defamation, but these cases illustrate that they're too strong. Limited freedom of speech will have to be a bit less limited from now on. As Voltaire said (even though no one can actually find where he said it) "You may be a blithering idiot sir but I will defend to the death your right to limited freedom of speech."

One of the Sikh Gurus actually did defend to the death the right of Hindus to limited freedom of speech. That's right, he actually defended limited freedom of speech for people from a completely different religion (which just goes to show what a wonderful religion Sikhism is).

Many brave people have fought and died to give us the limited freedom of speech we enjoy today. So what should you not do with your limited freedom of speech? Well you certainly shouldn't defame the weak and the helpless. And you shouldn't set out to hurt other people by, oh I don't know - as a random example - mocking their religion by saying it's all either silly or obvious. We need stronger libel laws to prevent that sort of thing.

While you must certainly never yield your limited freedom of speech to those who would try to intimidate you into silence (and I have no particular religion in mind here), you shouldn't go around irresponsibly criticising silly things.

I'm so glad I live in a country with limited freedom of speech.

8 comments ( 733 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 279 )

Oliver McTernan, director of the NGO Forward Thinking 
Wednesday, 24 March, 2010, 08:09 AM - Freedom of speech, McTernan
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

Oliver McTernan here, from the NGO Forward Thinking, a proactive, demand-driven, facilitative organisation that works to promote in the UK greater understanding and confidence between the diverse grassroots Muslim communities and the wider society including the Media and the British establishment, to promote a more inclusive peace process in the Middle East, and to facilitate a global dialogue between the religious and secular worlds. Hi.

Proving that we British can still beat the world, England has become the top destination for Libel Tourism. The rich and powerful from all across the globe flock to England in private jets to stamp on the vile journalists, bloggers and commentators who have offended them.

Freedom of expression and the free exchange of views and ideas is of course terribly important. Terribly important indeed. No one would argue otherwise. I'm a big fan of freedom of expression. Everyone should be free to air their views on any topic. Open criticism of scientific, political and ideological positions is exactly what we need in an open, democratic society.


There are some things you shouldn't say, some ideas you shouldn't criticise. You really might upset someone. I don't have any particular group in mind here, it's just a general point about people in general who might be offended if you say they are wrong. They might start crying because you've called somebody, not anyone in particular just a general somebody, something that they don't like. You may even upset them so much that you drive them to violence and murder, you wicked bloggers you.

If you'd all just shut up about certain things, not that I have anything specific in mind, and just do things the way they tell you to, then everything would be so much calmer an generally nicer. A guy from the 1st century who believed in the Invisible Magic Friend said so too, so I must be right.

9 comments ( 1470 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 353 )

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