Remembrance Sunday and the C of E


My page FEFE: Free expression, fresh expressions has comments on the service held each year in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield to commemorate the crew members of the Flying Fortress aircraft 'Mi Amigo,' which crashed in the park in February, 1944, killing all crew members.

Commonwealth War Grave - Jewish
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Evelyn Simak - geograph.org.uk/p/5706944

Commonwealth war grave - Christian

'The Church' is specifically the Church of England, which has a special status in Remembrance Day commemorations. The Church of England's present role in the commemorations is indefensible, I argue. I begin with an objection based on a clear-cut principle and then give an objection of wider scope. See also the section on the Bishop of Sheffield on this page, which contains a brief summary of my reasons for criticizing the Church of England's role in Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

The work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is  beyond praise. The contribution of Fabian Ware, who founded the Commission in 1917, is beyond praise.  At the cemeteries of the Commission I've visited in  Belgium and France, I've experienced the immense dignity and calm of these places, the sobering and harrowing impact of these places. Each marked grave has a headstone, which has a national emblem or regimental badge, and the rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty, with a personal dedication chosen by relatives. The headstone includes a religious symbol, but not in the case of known atheists. In the vast majority of cases the symbol is the Christian cross, but  not for followers of other religions, such as the Jewish man whose headstone is shown above,  Of course, the fact that a headstone has the Christian cross is no evidence that the man who gave his life was a believing Christian. When asked 'What religion are you?' it was usual to answer 'C of E,' Church of England.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission didn't assume, then, that everyone who made this sacrifice was a Christian and has made an attempt to distinguish between Christian - at least nominal Christians - and believers in other religions, or nominal believers in other religions, as well as people who clearly had no religious beliefs.


The Lions of the Great War statue in Smethwick, Birmingham (which was vandalised just days after it was unveiled) is one of a number of similar monuments. The statue shows a Sikh soldier. Birmingham City Council: the statue 'honours the sacrifices made by South Asian service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.'

But in services throughout the country, on remembrance Sunday, not the least attempt is made to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians. When those present are expected to give the responses, what are people who disagree with Christian theology or who have no interest in it to do? What are followers of other religions to do? Stay silent? Mumble insincerely? Asking people or expecting people to show belief when they have no belief shouldn't possibly be expected. The Church of England may have its reasons for expecting people to take part in a Christian service even when they have no belief in Christianity, or to become silent witnesses in these parts of the commemorations, by far the larger part of the commemorations, in general. This is a marginal institution now, and so it may well try to maintain any influence it has, such as this influence over the people gathered to remember the fallen.

This is an Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday:


It contains this:

' ... through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer'

and this bit of Trinitarian theology:

And the blessing of God Almighty,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all

and remain with you always.'

What are the Unitarians, the Jews, the Moslems, the agnostics and the atheists who are present to make of this? Is this an event they can witness and take part in wholeheartedly?

Any Anglicans present who are Conservative Evangelicals will have a their own interpretation of the words, 'through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.' For them, anyone who rejects the risen Redeemer has no hope of salvation. In the past, Christianity was a hellfire religion, almost completely so. That influence has waned, but not nearly so much amongst Conservative Evangelicals. The Jews and the atheists who are buried in the graves of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are excluded from salvation. They didn't accept 'Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.' The status of the nominal Church of England members and the Roman Catholics is presumably much the same. I'm very familiar with the repulsive theology but even so, I'll be asking for clarification from Conservative Evangelicals and others.

If, as I argue, Services of Remembrance on Remembrance Sunday - the ones held in the open air, attended by members of the public with widely varying views on religion, not, of course, the services held in Churches - are indefensible in their present form, what can replace them? This involves difficulties, but they can be addressed. There can be continuity with the past. Very often, a band takes part in the event and I see no objection to the continuing playing of such resonant pieces as 'O God our help in ages past' and 'Abide with me,' but without the words. 'Nimrod,' from Elgar's Enigma Variations, is often played at Remembrance Sunday events and, of course, has no words, only its intense beauty.

Alternatively, a choir could be present to sing the words of a hymn- just so long as the public isn't expected to sing the words as well. The music is far more important than the words to all but committed Christians, and often, far more important to committed Christians as well.

In the Christmas season, I've listened to carols very, very often - the very popular carols and such carols as 'In dulci jubilo,' 'Es ist ein Ros ensprungen' and 'Adam lay y-bounden.' And, of course, Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Again, the music is far more important than the words to most people.


Remembrance Day commemorations without the involvement of the Church of England would be shorter than before, but the commemorations could be extended. Consideration could be given to commemorating the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces directly after the commemoration of those who fell in previous conflicts. At present, Armed Forces Day is held in late June. Moving these event from June to Remembrance Sunday would make sense. Very often, members of the armed forces attend Remembrance Sunday events and they would obviously take part in the events to commemorate the service of present day members. The general public would be free to attend the earlier part, the commemoration of the fallen or the later part, the commemoration of the present day Armed Forces, or both parts.


Christian believers would, of course, be free to attend a religious service later in the day. Every year, at Endcliffe Park in Sheffield, a wreath laying ceremony is held to commemorate the crew of the American bomber Mi Amigo which crashed in the park on February 22, 1944. The ceremony is held on the Sunday nearest to February 22. A little later, a service takes place at St Augustine's Church, which is not far from the crash site. I attend the ceremony, but not the Church service, as I'm not a Christian believer. This is the pattern which should be followed.


A replacement for the present Remembrance Sunday services (again, the ones attended by the general public, not the ones in Churches) is essential, overdue. On November 11, 2018, I attended a Remembrance Sunday service in a nearby park, a smaller event than the one I usually attend, in Sheffield city centre. As always, I found the religiosity dispiriting, but this year more than ever. In this year which marked the centenary of the ending of the First World War, there had been the chance to find out so much more about the soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in this war, but for most of the time, the stress was not upon human life but upon theology and ecclesiastical generalities. Not in evidence at all was any recognition of complexities, of harshness, the realities which historians have probed. The achievement of historians who have written about the First World War deserves to be much more widely recognized. Their achievement is on a very high level, so often - magnificent. A Remembrance Day event isn't a suitable venue for exploring these complexities, but a Remembrance Day event isn't the place for a clergyman to give his own partial interpretation of historical events, presenting it as obvious or indisputable fact.


This is what the clergyman did at the event I attended. In his address, he claimed that when the guns fell silent, peace had replaced war. This is perfectly true. Peace did replace war, for the time being. But he also claimed that hope had replaced 'futility.' This is surely the claim that the First World War had been a futile war. Many historians have contested this claim and have given arguments and evidence that the claim is mistaken.

In the booklet which gives the format of the service and the text which forms the main component of the service, the words of the Reverend Canon are often followed by the response expected of the public: in bold print.

Examples from the booklet:

After each prayer the following being [sic - insufficient care was given to proof-reading] will be used.

Officiant  Lord, in your mercy.
All          hear our prayer  

So, people at the commemoration who never pray are expected to make an exception now and to offer a prayer, with the expectation that God will hear the prayer? 


Officiant  Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
All          We will


The officiant, like most of those attending, or perhaps all of them, has no way of healing the wounds of war.

Officiant  Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
All  We will.


  Any idea that injustices in vile, corrupt states - or injustices in liberal, enlightened states can be ended, so that all humanity has a just future, is utopian, impossible, deluded. Any idea that people attending the service should be expected to give assent to the notion is ridiculous.

The service included five 'Regimental Collects,' not delivered by the officiant. This is the first of them, the prayer for the York and Lancaster Regiment (the mangled opening is another instance of poor proof-reading:


'Almighty God who cans't save by many or by few and dost bid us to endure to the end that we might be saved, strengthen we pray thee, The York and Lancaster Regiment, that, as our perseverance has not been found wanting in battle, so we may be blessed in enduring all temptations, and at length, receive the crown of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All  Amen.

This is a prayer which amongst other things asks God to strengthen The York and Lancaster Regiment. Our national defences are badly in need of strengthening. There are insufficient recruits, there's insufficient funding, the armed forces aren't given the resources to meet the very serious challenges they face. National defences are strengthened by well-known means, finding more recruits (recently, the decision has been taken to find recruits from other countries) by changes to the national finances, and the rest. Is it worth asking God to strengthen the national defences? Surely not, and it's no more worthwhile to ask God to strengthen the York and Lancaster Regiment.


The Collect makes clear reference to the Christian doctrine of salvation: ' ... that we might be saved.' This is an aspect of Christian doctrine which I've discussed in other places. Which people, according to the officiant, according to Justin Welby, to name just two people, are saved? What are the criteria? The evangelical answer is that very restrictive. The saved are far fewer in number than the damned.


I do, though, commend the last paragraph of the text in the booklet and specifically the last sentence:


'Lest we forget. The First World War came to an end at 11 am on 11th November 1918. The Second World War ended on 8th May (Europe) and 15th August 1945 (Far East.) Let us also remember all the members of the British Forces who are currently deployed in operations, world-wide.


As I've explained, a dual commemoration, of the present-day service of the British armed forces after a commemoration of those who have fallen in war, seems to me to be a promising development.


Not all the prayers used in the service are given in the booklet. There was, for example, a prayer for our political leaders, asking God to grant them 'wisdom.' Will our political system be strengthened in the least by asking God to grant wisdom to Theresa May (who is a Christian.) Would it help Jeremy Corbyn if prayers are offered to God to grant him wisdom as well? The complexities and realities of politics are far away in this mechanical, routine exercise of prayer and response. To expect the public to take part in the charade is nonsensical.


The Church of England may well expect, or hope, that some of the people who attend a Remembrance Day service and who aren't church goers will go on to become church goers. It would be unfair to claim that this would be the primary motivation of the Church. In individual cases, this may happen, but far more likely is this outcome: people who attend who have lost a relative in a war, people who have a more general interest in the enormity of the major conflicts, the enormity of the losses, the devastating effects of much smaller conflicts, will be dismayed and deterred by the nature of the service, led by the clergy, with public activity confined to the responses to the prayers of the clergy, the saying of the Lord's Prayer, and, of course, the singing of hymns. This is an utterly inadequate way to respond to the upsurge in public interest occasioned by this Centenary.

The Menin Gate Memorial at Ieper / Ypres recording the names of 54 389 officers and men from United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who died in the Ypres salient before 16 August 1917 and who have no known grave.


The Conservative Evangelical attitude to most of the names here is utterly repulsive, unless these Conservative Evangelicals happen to believe that there's no penalty at all attached to disbelief in Jesus Christ as Redeemer or lack of interest in Jesus Christ as Redeemer. Meanwhile, more liberal Anglicans can try explaining what possible disadvantages there can be to being a Jew or an agnostic or an atheist.

In all this, I must stress, I feel I've far more in common with Christians who share my view of the importance of remembrance  than with those non-Christians who claim that wearing a poppy is 'glorifying war.' Christians and non-Christians can share a common understanding. There are vast numbers of Christians whose war service has been outstanding. One of them is a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who won the Military Cross for his acts of courage. He was amongst the first British soldiers to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at its liberation by the British army.


Dan Snow, 'Remembrance Sunday should not be dominated by religion.'




'After the first world war the Cenotaph was designed by Edwin Lutyens  as a secular memorial because the war dead were from a dizzying array of peoples, nations and creeds. The prime minister, David Lloyd George, backed him up. He insisted on a secular monument and he rejected an alternative proposal for a huge cross at Admiralty Arch. The government also rejected Church of England proposals that it should have Christian inscriptions on it or a cross on top of it. At its dedication on 11 November 1919, the King simply unveiled it, after which were two minutes silence. Many in the church were appalled by the lack of ritual.

'The Cenotaph is a state monument. It is not a religious one. About 26,000 serving members of the armed forces today describe themselves as having no religion, which makes the non-religious the second-largest belief group (after Christianity). We cannot continue to exclude a representative of these serving men and women, not to mention the tens of thousands of people of no religion who served in the world wars – men such as my grandpa, and many of his comrades.

'Remembrance is one of our most important duties as citizens. The act itself must reflect changing times. The event at the Cenotaph every November must feel as relevant and profound today as it was when it was first conceived. It must reflect the society it serves.'


St Paul's Cathedral: thinking and faith


See also the image, 'A Cathedral dedicated to St Paul ... who accepted slavery' in the second main column of text, 'For God so loved the world ... '

Martin Firrell is an artist, or claims to be an artist, and is obviously regarded as an artist by the people at St Paul's Cathedral, which supported his work financially and gave him the use of their dome. Above,  A Martin Firrell Enhanced  General Purpose Category Slogan for a Caring Corporate Partner and Sponsor: the Church of England, St Paul's Branch.


This is Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.


Credit for  images above: Creative Commons  Link to licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode


Sarah Mullally's  interest in helping underprivileged and marginalized people is subject to {restriction}. She doesn't have a privileged background - she was a comprehensive school pupil and has worked as a nurse - but now she has certain advantages. Harriet Sherwood, the Religion correspondent of the Observer, claims that she is 'now the C of E's most powerful ever senior female cleric.'


As I see it, she now has a privileged position in an institution which enjoys unjustifiable privileges, the established Church, the Church of England. The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally DBE (Dame of the British Empire) has a seat in the House of Lords as one of the Lords Spiritual. There are 26 bishops who have this privileged position. The British Humanist Association has said it's 'unacceptable' that 'the UK is the only Western democracy to give religious representatives the automatic right to sit in the legislature.' I agree.


On this page, I discuss in detail another area of our national life where the Church of England has a privileged position, as I see it - the Church's participation in Remembrance Day services. I don't think that this can be defended, but if Dame Sarah Mullally cares to defend it, I'd be very interested to read what her defence amounts to - and, of course, the arguments of other bishops and other clergy in favour of the Church's participation.


There are many, many clergy and others in the Church of England who believe that during the Eucharist, the bread is changed into the body of Christ and the wine is converted into the blood of Christ. The Anglo-Catholics who believe this have a doctrine of the mass which is identical to the Roman Catholic one, or very similar to it.


The BBC documentary 'Christmas at St Paul's' explains, when the making of the Advent wreath is shown, that the red berries are a symbol of the blood of Christ. Most Anglicans believe that the wine of the Eucharist is a symbol of the blood of Christ, but Anglo-Catholic believers in transubstantiation believe that the wine actually becomes the blood of Christ.


St Paul's Cathedral is a place which Anglo-Catholics find congenial, one with the smell of incense. The documentary mentions 'Midnight Mass.' It's not referred to as 'Midnight Holy Communion.' It may well be that some or many of the clergy, and the people who attend services there, believe in these Anglo-Catholic doctrines, believe that the wafers, the thin discs of bread which were shown in the documentary, are transformed in this way.


The Dean of St Paul's, The Very Reverend Dr David Ison (his PhD is in early church history) is shown delivering this article of faith early in the documentary:

'In the name of God, who has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and made a place for us in the Kingdom of his beloved son ...'


Obvious questions could be asked about the universality of these benefits. For Christians who ignore traditional doctrine, these benefits are universal, for other Christians, anything but universal: loving parents, engineers, war heroes, everyone without Christian faith remain in the 'dominion of darkness' and have no place in 'the Kingdom of his beloved son.' What is David Ison's view, I wonder? Perhaps he could explain.


The best known Dean of St Paul's is the poet John Donne. The site contains an extended discussion of his poem 'A Valediction forbidding Mourning' on the page on metaphor.

The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel was Precentor of St Paul's Cathedral at the time the film was made. He's now the Vice-Dean and Precentor of Durham Cathedral. In the film, he sees the enormous front doors of the Cathedral as a sign of welcome. As so often, a different interpretation is possible. The enormous doors weren't designed to be welcoming. This was a vast building, to me a building which is grandiose, and small doors would have seemed ridiculously small, out of scale.


The cathedral welcomes not just 'people who are very committed to their faith and people who are not sure.' These are 'the hesitant people on the edges of faith.' He claims that these people are in 'the shadows.' Is this the same as the 'dominion of darkness,' or similar to it? He may or may not have an opinion on the people who remain on the edges of faith and never become committed to faith. Do these people remain in the 'dominion of darkness?'


The documentary gives a great deal of time to the sacrist James Milne. A sacrist has responsibility for ceremony, for liturgical events. This doesn't exclude responsibility for explaining his view of Christian faith, as he sees it.

James Milne really is an instructive example of a contemporary clergyman attuned to some contemporary norms - following these norms in such a devoted way. His devotion isn't quite the traditional Christian devotion. He's more interested in the cult of celebrity than in the cult of the Virgin Mary, let's say.


The commentary of the documentary mentions the 'carol concert with orchestra and celebrity readers ... the glitziest event in the cathedral calendar.'

James Milne is obviously an Anglo-Catholic. He's referred to as 'Father James Milne.'  'Fr James Milne has been tasked with recruiting the celebrity readers.' He has been 'stalking celebrities for the past 12 weeks and his efforts have begun to pay off.'


He says, 'We have, in alphabetical order, Sheila Hancock OBE, Emily Watson OBE.' These mentions of the Order of the British Empire are significant, surely, and the celebrities, and the honours they've received, are mentioned in the tones of a glutton talking about the food he's eaten.


A member of the Cathedral staff sitting by a computer points out that 'last year we had Benedict Cumbebatch - that's made me excited like for two decades. So I'm quite a happy bunny.' Drooling over celebrities seems to be not unknown amongst clergy and other staff, then.

Commentator: 'At the 11th hour, Fr James has a breakthrough with his 3rd celebrity reader.'
Fr James: 'I've just heard today that Michael Palin thinks he's free ... so hopefully all will be well.'

(Compare and contrast T S Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding:

'And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well')

Later: 'I've just heard today that Mr Palin is able to read,
which makes me very happy.'

After this triumphant end to his search, the commentator

tells us that he can now unwind. He unwinds by turning
to the model railway set he has available in the cathedral.

Fame and celebrity preoccupy him intensely, it's clear
(and perhaps at the expense of ordinary people). 'You
can't quite believe that you're speaking to this person
who's famous, who's a celebrity.'

I don't see any reason at all why St Paul's Cathedral
should support his infatuations and allow him to spend
so much time 'stalking' famous people. This is not just a failure on his part but a failure in the oversight of his work, perhaps.


Of course, there's much more to the film than what I've mentioned - everyday banter, everyday friendliness, such as the friendliness of Fr James, who seems to be an approachable man, and everyday jobs such as sewng and dusting and sweeping - although the everyday jobs are applied in a setting which isn't everyday. The women who sew may be sewing the very ornate, and, to me, very ridiculous Bishop of London's mitre, a kind of hat. It's shown in the photograph above of Sarah Mullalley, the Bishop of London. The things which are dusted and swept are the massive furnishings and floor of the Cathedral. Practical thinking is applied to problems which aren't of the usual kind at all. They have a 'practical' solution if they run out of wafers. A priest will be on hand to consecrate more. The stonemasons comments on pigeons, a pest to them as they are to me, are far more comprehensible. The information about damage to the Cathedral from German bombs during the Blitz was very interesting, and that and the information about repair work was, to me, a welcome relief from the Christianity. Despite the cheeriness and good humour, I was left in no doubt that the Cathedral existed to make known Christian claims, such as the claim that Jesus came to save us. Towards the end of the programme, there was this, spoken by the Dean:


'Let us pray for the people he came to save.' This shows an excessive belief in the power of prayer. Does he really believe that the act of praying for these people will make any difference?


From the Church of England Holy Communion service:

'Hear what Saint Paul says: This saying is true, and worthy of full acceptance,. that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' There's more about saving sinners in the section on this page on Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.


My interest in the English choral tradition, above all
Christmas music, is mentioned in the section on
this page on the King's College Chapel service.  It was a great pleasure to hear the singing
of the St Paul's cathedral choir.


I can't be as enthusiastic about the architecture of St Paul's as the architecture of King's College Chapel.  The interior

seems to me much less successful than the exterior.

Too much of the interior seems grandiose and ungainly, without sufficient expanse, despite its physical dimensions.



I explain my concept of expanse, scale and  detail in my page on Design principles (the page is mainly concerned with design in gardening but also discusses architectural design.


The detail in St Paul's cathedral is often very successful, of course. The wood carving of Grinling Gibbons is just one example.


This is an unenhanced slogan on the Martin Firrell Website, www.martinfirrell.com

Embrace lesbianism and overthrow the social order

The amazing thing is that Martin Firrell would like companies and other institutions of the existing social order to support him!  His  hypocritical Website has a begging section:


'Whilst we value the significant support of organisations like leading digital media companies Clear Channel and Primesight. Firmdale Hotels, Haysmacintyre, 20th Century Fox, Lloyd's of London and Virgin Atlantic, we still need to raise significant funds to make our public artworks possible.

'We always work collaboratively with corporate supporters, understanding business aims and Corporate Social Responsibility policies, to create sponsorship opportunities with lasting value and impact: Mutual benefit is vital to sustainable partnerships.'

Even more amazing, he has found some prestigious businesses and institutions willing to support him, amongst them the National Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral, The Guards Chapel Wellington Barracks, The National Theatre, St Paul's Cathedral, Clear Channel ('Leading digital media company'), Primesight ('Leading digital media company'), Firmdale Hotels, Haysmacintyre, 20th Century Fox and Lloyd's of London.

And this is the context for Martin Firrell's 'art work,' obviously 'a focus for reflection, meditation and contemplation.'

From the St Paul's Website,

'Cathedral Art

Throughout its history, art in St Paul's Cathedral has inspired and illuminated the Christian faith for those who visit, and provided a focus for reflection, meditation and contemplation.

The Question Mark Inside - Martin Firrell (2008)
What makes your life worth living? The artist Martin Firell posed that question as part of an art work to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the Cathedral.'

There are short profiles in this section of some men at St Paul's Cathedral - ones who appeared in the BBC film 'Christmas at St Paul's.' 





Credit for  images of King's College Chapel above: Creative Commons  Link to licence:


© Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In this section, I concentrate on the King's College Chapel carol service, its strengths, which are often mentioned, as well as its weaknesses, which  largely go unmentioned, but I comment in a few places on some other strengths and weaknesses of King's College, and of Cambridge University.

The English choral tradition, above all the singing of Christmas music, and English architecture are strong interests of mine. In its union of beauty in music and beauty of architecture, the King's College service has an appeal for me greater than any other. Here, I concentrate on the defects, as I see them, but with immense gratitude for the experience of excellence and beauty.

The faults of the King's College Chapel service and the faults of Cambridge University are the faults so common in organizations and events of some complexity or enormous complexity - and in not so very complex things. The carols which are sung at the Carol service aren't the union of excellent music, sung to an excellent standard, and excellent words. The words are often at a much lower level than the music - I discuss the issue below. The words are often doggerel. The words often give opinions which can only be held by very credulous people, as I show very soon. The readings from the Authorized Version of the Bible may be sonorous or impressive in other ways, but they raise very difficult issues. There isn't here the union of language of real grandeur and language which conveys beliefs which can be held by people who aren't credulous. Again, I show this very soon.

Opera performances too, as events of substantial, complexity, show an admixture of excellence and imperfection. A performance of the Bach Chaconne for solo violin can attain, or almost attain, perfection, although one performance can't possibly bring out other qualities to be found in the music. The music can be interpreted in various ways, but a single performance can only give one interpretation. The calmness of a section may be brought out in one interpretation, calmness with an abrasive edge in another.

A stage production of Mozart's 'Cosi fan Tutte' will make it clear that the music is at so much higher a level than the implausible, almost ridiculous plot and that the musical value is so much more important than the words. The libretto has no literary value at all. It's unlikely that the soloists will all sing at the same, very high level of excellence, that the orchestra will also play at a high level of excellence, and that the direction and the stage production will be at the same high level of excellence. This is to simplify, of course. The parts have to be broken down into sub-parts.

Supplementary information: I refer to this as implementation of the {theme} {resolution.} My page Introduction to {theme} theory is a general introduction and the page {resolution} explains this particular {theme}.

This is the order of service for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on 25 December 2018:

Hymn: Once in Royal David's City (desc. Cleobury)

'Once in Royal David's City' was written by Cecil Frances Alexander, who also wrote the trite and sentimental verbiage of All things bright and beautiful, discussed in the section to the right.

Bidding Prayer read by the Dean
Up! good Christen folk (Piae Cantiones)*
First lesson: Genesis 3 vv 8-19 read by a Chorister
Adam lay ybounden (Ord)
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (Poston)
Second lesson: Genesis 22 vv 15-18 read by a Choral Scholar
In dulci jubilo (arr. de Pearsall)*
I saw three ships (arr. Simon Preston)
Third lesson: Isaiah 9 vv 2, 6-7 read by a representative of Eton College
Nowell sing we now all and some (Medieval)
Unto us is born a Son (arr. Willcocks)*
Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11 vv 1-3a, 4a, 6-9 read by a Fellow
A spotless rose (Howells)
The Lamb (Tavener)
Fifth lesson: Luke 1 vv 26-38 read by the Master over the Choristers
Joys seven (arr. Cleobury)
Bogoróditse Dyévo (Arvo Pärt)
Sixth lesson: Luke 2 vv 1-7 read by the Mayor of Cambridge
What sweeter music? (John Rutter)
Stille Nacht (arr.Ledger)
Seventh lesson: Luke 2 vv 8-16 read by the Director of Music
In the bleak midwinter (Darke)
While shepherds watched (desc. Cleobury)*
Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv 1-12 read by the Vice-Provost
O mercy divine (Judith Weir) (King’s College Commission 2018)
Sir Christèmas (Mathias)
Ninth lesson: John 1 vv 1-14 read by the Provost
O come, all ye faithful (arr. Willcocks)*
Collect and Blessing
Hark! The herald angels sing (desc. Cleobury)*

My discussion is very brief, and I only comment on a very few of the carols and the readings. The music of 'Adam lay ybounden in Ord's arrangement is so wonderful that it deflects attention from the words. Closer attention to the words may well remind us that our ancestors were capable of believing in preposterous rubbish - and give rise to alarm that the doctrine conveyed by the words can still be taken seriously or semi-seriously at King's College. The reading from Genesis which precedes the carol gives a view of the origin of sin which is much the same as the one expressed by the carol. There was every reason to include the carol in the service, for the quality of the music and not the quality of the text, but no reason at all to include the reading from Genesis, except to preserve the pattern that a carol should illuminate a text, supposedly, and a text should illuminate a carol, supposedly. (It obviously seemed a good idea at the time.)

This is the text of the first lesson, Genesis 3: 8 - 19

8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13 And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

This is likely to have been included with a symbolic, not a literal, sense in mind, although there are many Christians who would regard it as a literal and true description of events. As a symbolic account of the coming of sin into the world, according to the Christian account, this is valueless. What can possibly be the contemporary benefit of hearing this?

The reading is followed by the carol 'Adam lay ybounden,' (Ord), an ignorant text set to music of such beauty. This is the Middle English text in largely modern spelling:


Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple

An apple that he took.
As clerkes finden written
In their book.
Ne had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Ne had Our Lady,
A-been heaven's queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was!

Therefore we may singen

Deo gratias!


From the section on this page Feeding the hungry and the Sermon on the Mount:


Art and architecture do nothing to demonstrate that a religious doctrine is trustworthy (there are wider implications.)


To confine attention to great artists, the art of a great artist can't demonstrate any of these:


That Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee
That Jesus was crucified as a matter of historical record, or that Jesus was crucified for our sins
That Jesus was born in a stable, or that Jesus was born anywhere else
That St Peter founded the Roman Catholic Church
That the Assumption of the Virgin Mary took place


To extend the list,


The musical quality of 'Adam lay ybounden' and the musical quality of a performance of 'Adam lay ybounden' in King's College Chapel do nothing to demonstrate the doctrine to be found in the carol, the significance claimed for the eating the apple and for 'Our Lady.'

The magnificence of the architecture of King's College Chapel does nothing to demonstrate the validity of the beliefs of worshippers in pre-Reformation times.

The magnificence of the architecture of King's College Chapel does nothing to demonstrate the validity of the beliefs of worshippers in post-Reformation times.

The architecture of King's College Chapel is irrelevant to the competing, contradictory claims of Protestants and Roman Catholics.


The painting by Rubens in King's College Chapel is irrelevant to the historical investigation of the reliability of the Nativity story.

The choral music performed in King's College Chapel is irrelevant to the competing, contradictory claims of Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Performances of works by the Roman Catholic Palestrina do nothing to validate Roman Catholicism.

Performances of works by the Lutheran Bach do nothing to validate his Lutheran beliefs.


Performances of Bach's B minor Mass do nothing to validate the theology of the mass.


John Eliot Gardiner's documentary film 'Bach: a passionate life' is impressive in many ways, but completely overlooks the difficulties in linking theology and music, or, as he puts it, the amalgam of theology and music. The film can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o1DZPqqx-M

At 59:20 the astounding and shattering opening music is interrupted by John Eliot Gardiner's words:


'Bach's purpose was to draw the listener in, to recreate in front of their ears and eyes the drama of Christ's crucifixion and his St John's Passion is an extraordinary amalgam of theology and music, religion and politics, drama and wonderful presentation of story telling. So we sense the tension already in St John's Gospel between Light and Darkness, between Sin and Good Works and Faith and Doubt.


This is clumsily worded, as in 'to recreate in front of their ears and eyes,' which, in its concentration on ocular and aural evidence ignores understanding - as well as misunderstanding. The elemental Light and Darkness, which have such great appeal to so many Christians, and many non-Christians, conceal rather than illuminate. The difficulties in this Gospel account are decisive. I discuss the difficulties of this verse from St John's Gospel in the section on this page Why the Christian God didn't love the world:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' John 3: 16 (World English Bible).


I discuss Christian views of sin and good works in the section Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield.


John Eliot Gardiner's book 'Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach' is, as would be expected, a much more detailed portrait, but one marked by the same misunderstandings. He finds in the music of Bach 'the voice of God' and declares 'God is still the only true creator.'


In contrast to John Eliot Gardiner, I'd claim that Bach's transcendental musical genius was accompanied by conventional, and mistaken, views on theology. If a Mormon composer of genius had emerged to write works of genius to celebrate the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, non-Mormons would be able to appreciate the music but not the non-musical content.


'For God so loved the world ...'

Above, a slave, Lousiana, mid 19th century: after a flogging




Some  famous/infamous verses (all translations from 'The Good News Bible:'

Ephesians 6:5 'Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling; and do it with a sincere heart, as though you were serving Christ.'


Colossians 3:22 'Slaves, obey your human masters in all things, not only when they are watching you because you want to gain their approval; but do it with a sincere heart because of your reverence for the Lord.'


Galatians 3:28 'So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.'

One obvious difference: that slaves were bought and sold in slave markets, that the mother, father and children of a slave family could be sold to different owners, so that the family was broken up. But St Paul's mind was on different matters, such as the eternal destiny of slaves, as he saw it.




Slave markets, where slaves were bought and sold,  must have been a familiar sight to Jesus as well as to Paul. The atrocious punishments which slaves endured, the floggings, the execution of slaves, must have been a familiar sight. to both of them. Paul mentioned slaves but Jesus failed to mention them. His mind was also on other things.

The central Biblical  text in this section is John 3:16. The implications of this text, one of the most widely quoted in the whole of the New Testament, are deeply disturbing, but have been overlooked. The images are relevant to the text. The images and text are wide-ranging. I don't mention an issue, discuss it and then move on. I return to themes, providing more evidence, more images and text. Slavery is a prominent theme here, but not the only prominent theme.


The section on this page in the column on the far right, Dr Jill Duff: documents and questions,  includes material on the King James who gave his name to the King James Bible, the Authorized Version to be found in a place of honour in Churches all over the country. Most Church goers know not nearly enough about him. This is an extract from the section which should disturb any innocent illusions:


King James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England, is better known for his association with the Authorized Version of the Bible, also known as the 'King James Bible,' than for his book 'Daemonology,' (1597).  'Daemonologie' endorses the practice of witch hunting in Christian society. The title page describes him as 'Defender of the Faith.'



He wrote in the book,


'The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or Enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (...) to resolve the doubting (...) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished.'


The King James Bible translation of Exodus 22:18 is 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' The King will have believed that he had divine authorisation for his persecution of witches. The 'Good News Translation (!) is 'Put to death any woman who practises magic.'


[King James oversaw the trials and torture of many women accused of witchcraft.]


'One of Scotland's most notable mass witch trials occurred under the reign and supervision of King James VI.  The trials took place in North Berwick  between the years of 1590 and 1592, and led to at least 70 accused witches being condemned to violent torture and in most cases, death. The trials took place after the King experienced terrible storms whilst journeying by ship to Denmark where he would marry Princess Anne. King James VI, having seen authorities in Denmark accuse women such as Anna Kolding of using witchcraft to create the storms during the Copenhagen witch trials turned to the "witches" in North Berwick to blame for this event. Most of the information we have on the North Berwick trials  was found in the King's book  as well as a pamphlet entitled Newes from Scotland   that was published in London.'

From the Wikipedia page, North Berwick Witch Trials,




'Very soon more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested, and many confessed under torture to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King's ship.

The two most significant accused persons were Agnes Sampson,   a respected and elderly woman from Humbie,  and Dr John Fian, a schoolmaster and scholar in Prestonpans.  Both refused to confess and were put to severe torture. Sampson was brought before King James and a council of nobles. She denied all the charges, but after being tortured horrifically, she finally confessed. By special commandment, her head and body hair was shaven; she was fastened to the wall of her cell by a witch's bridle,  an iron instrument with 4 sharp prongs forced into the mouth, so that two prongs pressed against the tongue, and the two others against the cheeks. She was kept without sleep and thrown with a rope around her head, and only after these ordeals did she confess to the fifty-three indictments against her. She was finally strangled and burned as a witch. According to Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life of Dr. Fian, a Notable Sorcerer, a pamphlet published in 1591, Sampson confessed to attending a Sabbat  with 200 witches, Duncan among them.


'Dr. Fian also suffered severe torture. He endured having his fingernails forcibly extracted, then having iron pins thrust therein, the pilliwinks,  and the boot. He was finally taken to the Castlehill in Edinburgh and burned at the stake  on 16 December.

'According to Christopher Smout,  between 3,000 and 4,000 accused witches may have been killed in Scotland in the years 1560–1707.


Explanation of some torture instruments mentioned:


Pilliwinks: thumbscrew
Boot: instrument of torture which caused crushing injury to the leg and / or foot.



Jesus lived in a slave society. Slave markets, where men, women and children were bought and sold, would have been completely familiar to him, and all the cruelties of slavery. What does he have to say about the subject in his teaching? Nothing. Did he denounce the practice of slavery? No. For century after century, the Christian churches were just as indifferent.


Were there two kinds of slave-owners? The slave-owners  who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savour, the ones whose sins were forgiven, such as the sin of flogging slaves, who did not perish but have eternal life - and the slave owners whose sins were unforgiven, like the slaves who for one reason or another never made the all-important decision - to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour.

Of the three people shown here  a slave owner and her two slaves, which of them, if any, went on to 'everlasting life?' (ζωὴν αἰώνιον in the New Testament Greek of the text.) Which, if any, went on to 'everlasting punishment' (κόλασιν αἰώνιον)?

To suppose that it was obviously the two slaves, not the slave owner, is to ignore the 'teaching' of the Bible and the 'teaching' of the Church - although the interpretation of the Bible and the guidance of the Church are the subject of discussion, dispute and action - the 'action' includes, of course, in the past, burning at the stake - but there's the inconvenient insistence that Christ came to save sinners, including, of course, the woman slave owner here. 'On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." ' (The Gospel of St Mark, 2:17.) The Church is supposedly 'a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.' 



John 3:16 is amongst other things about the people who supposedly qualify for salvation and the ones who do not. Any Christian who follows this teaching must surely believe that there  two classes of slave, the ones who have everlasting life and the ones who do not - or have everlasting life, but not one of bliss. The destiny of the slave who had been flogged depends, according to this orthodox Christian view, on the slave's beliefs, the slave's commitment to Christ or lack of it.


There are a vast number of other possible examples - the two classes of NHS workers, the two classes of engineeers, the two classes of climate activists, not the deranged and the reasonable (I regard Extinction Rebellion as an example of the deranged) but  the ones who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and the ones who have not, with very different destinies, the two classes of loving mothers and fathers - only the ones who love Jesus, or commit themselves to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour are saved, according to this atrocious, despicable view.


There are even two classes of people who served as guards and executioners at concentration camps and extermination camps, the ones who came to Christ during the war or after the war and achieved salvation, and the people they killed, tortured, worked to death. The Jews who made up so many of their victims their victims, didn't qualify for salvation, unless they converted. I give enough evidence below to show that this isn't a travesty of the orthodox belief of vast numbers of Christians, such as evangelicals. These are deranged beliefs.







For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' (Gospel according to St John, 3:16, King James Bible.')


I read Greek and I'm not dependent on translations.

The text in the original:


Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν Υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.


Paul (I prefer not to call the author of the New Testament Epistles 'Saint' Paul) and others developed a theology of redemption according to which the world was redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The cross can't possibly be described as a 'symbol of hope.' In this thelogy, only those who believe in Christ as their Lord and Saviour do not perish, are saved, have everlasting life.

Were there two kinds of slaves who were flogged in the American slave-owning states before the abolition of slavery (one of them is shown above, after a flogging), the ones who had  accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the ones whose sins were forgiven, the ones who did not perish but  have  everlasting  life? And the slaves who were flogged - they may well include the slave shown here - who never gave much thought to Jesus or any thought to Jesus and for these or other reasons didn't believe in him. They were too preoccupied with other matters - enduring back-breaking work, enduring another flogging, the prospect of being parted from husband or wife or children, as could easily happen if members of the same family were sold and became the 'property' of different 'owners.' 

An image above shows some of those who died of starvation at  Bergen-Belsen camp, after liberation of the camp by British and Canadian forces. Also shown in the image is one of the camp 'doctors,' Fritz Klein, executed in 1945. Another image shows a Christian cross which was erected on the site of the camp.

Were there two kinds of victim of Nazi brutality at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp,  the ones who had  accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the ones whose sins were forgiven, the ones who did not perish but  have  everlasting  life? And the ones who had not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the ones, for example, who retained their Jewish faith until they died of starvation or disease? Was their eternal destiny no different from that of Fritz Klein. Believers in the Christian doctrine of redemption, do you really believe in this inhuman doctrine, in this inhuman, monstrous God?

The British and Canadian forces who liberated Bergen-Belsen - were there two kinds, the saved and the damned?

In an affidavit made at Nuremberg on 5 April 1946, it was revealed that Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau

'commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead. This figure represents about 70% or 80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries. Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of Prisoner of War cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmacht officers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens (mostly Jewish) from The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.'

Shown above, an image of Rudolf Höss just before his execution. By this time, Höss had returned to the Catholic Church. On 10 April 1947, he received the sacrament of penance  from Fr. Wladyslaw Lohn S.J., of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus. The next day, he took Holy Communion. In a farewell letter to his wife, Höss wrote 'I have again found my faith in my God.'

Did he gain 'eternal life,' then, as a result of his very late repentance, if it's assumed that this repentance was genuine, unlike the vast majority of those who died at Auschwitz, who were mainly Jewish, people who hadn't accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. Many Nazis were killed before the end of the war, in battle, by allied bombing, in a variety of ways, before they had the chance to follow the example of this man. What if Rudolf Höss had been killed too, before he was welcomed back into the Roman Catholic Church?

Do Roman Catholics (and other Christian believers in an orthodox doctrine of redemption - or an orthodox theory of redemption) really believe that when '2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000 dead,' only a minority of these, a very small minority, were saved and that all the others were unsaved? Do they really believe that Rudolf Höss was saved but that the vast majority of his victims were unsaved?

Below, Jewish women and children from Hungary walking toward the gas chamber, Auschwitz II, May/June 1944.



A  Youtube video which gives an  unwitting exposure of the deeply disturbing implications of orthodox theories of redemption, and their blatant stupidity:




The causuistry, the examination of the case of Rudolf Höss, the case for the salvation of Rudolf Höss, come from 'Sensus Fidelium,' a Roman Catholic source.


A study in the late 1980s by the Polish historian  Franciszek Piper published by Yad Vashem  in 1991, used timetables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate that, of the 1.3 million sent to the camp, 1,082,000 had died there, a figure (rounded up to 1.1 million), a figure that has come to be widely accepted. Robert Jan van Pelt: 'This figure [1.1 million] has been endorsed by all serious, professional historians who have studied the complex history of Auschwitz in some detail, by the Holocaust research institute at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In 2006, the Church of England voted to apologise to the descendants of victims of the slave trade.

An amendment "recognising the damage done" to those enslaved was backed overwhelmingly by the General Synod.

During the debate, Rev Simon Blessant said, in connection with the Church of England and the slave trade, 'We were at the heart of it.' He gave information about the involvement in the slave trade of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which owned the Codrington Plantations.


These were two sugarcane growing estates on the island of Barbados. In 1710, they came into the possession of the Church of England 'Society for the Propagation of the Christian Religion in Foreign Parts.' The plantations were run by managers, nominally supervised by a Board of trustees of the Society headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a committee of Church of England bishops.


The plantations depended upon a regular supply of new slaves from West Africa. For almost a decade after the 'Society for the Propagation of the Christian Religion in Foreign Parts' inherited the plantations, slaves were branded on the chest with the word 'Society.'


During the debate, the fact was mentioned that when the emancipation of slaves took place in 1833, compensation was paid not to the slaves but to their owners. The information was given that the Bishop of Exeter and three colleagues were paid nearly £13,000  compensation for 665 slaves. This compensation was well over  £ 1,000,000  in current values. The Bishop of Exeter, William Philpotts, had opposed the Abolition of Slavery Act.




Above, William Philpotts, Bishop of Exeter


It can safely be assumed that the Bishop of Exeter had a belief in the Son of God but that some - perhaps many - of the slaves had no belief in the Son.


Of course, throughout all the slave-owning period in this country - and throughout all the heretic-burning and witch-burning period in this country - at such places as St Paul's Cathedral and King's College Cambridge, as well as quiet and lovely village churches, sermons were preached, prayers were said, for the most varied reasons, including condemnation of heretics and witches, holy communion was taken, evensong sung. 


The Gospel according to St John, 3:18, 'He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.' (King James Bible.)


One of the modern translations for the whole verse- like others, it updates the language but not the theology:


'Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.' (English Standard Version.)


The Gospel according to St John, 3:36 in the King James Bible:


'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him.


It seems clear that slaves without belief in the Son of God are condemned and subject to the wrath of God, whilst slave owners with belief in the Son, such as the Bishop of Exeter, aren't condemned but have everlasting life.


The Church of England's acceptance of slavery, with exceptions, wasn't in the least in conflict with Biblical ethics. After all, Jesus Christ preached the gospel in a slave-owning society, one in which slaves were flogged, worked to death and crucified, and never at any time, according to the Biblical record, declared that slavery was an evil and had to be ended. Jesus Christ was supposedly without sin but the Church has never claimed that the knowledge of Jesus Christ was without limitations. He had no knowledge of the measures necessary for adequate public health, for example - the provision of safe drinking water - or the measures necessary to end the Malthusian nightmare of pregnancies far in excess of the replacement rate and very high levels of infant mortality, or the agricultural measures needed to avoid the cycle of famine. Jesus Christ shared the limited knowledge of the people of his time and also shared many of their views,  including an indifference to the horrors of slavery. If Jesus wasn't indifferent to the horrors of slavery, why is there no record at all in the Biblical account that he opposed slavery?


St Paul showed such energy in promoting the doctrines of redemption and complete indifference to slave ownership. His epistle to the Galations, 3:28, in the 'Good News' translation.

'So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.'

 St Paul was interested only in the fact - or the fact in his theology - that slaves who accepted Christ as their saviour and free people (including slave-owners) who accepted Christ as their saviour were in this respect, this all-important respect, according to him, the same - their sins were forgiven. The sins of the two groups would be very different, of course, but not in every way. The sins of the slaves might include, in this despicable theology, swearing, the sins of the slave owners might also include swearing. There's no record of St Paul, or Jesus Christ, claiming that flogging a slave or breaking up a family of slaves - selling the parents to one new owner and the children to a different new owner - was a grave sin.


From the section on this page on the King James Bible:

'In his epistle to the Galatians (5:19-21) St Paul condemns various sins, 'works of the flesh' in the King James translation, including, in this translation, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, drunkenness, revellings - and, also, witchcraft and heresies. St Paul doesn't condemn slave-owning or any of the abuses which accompanied slave-owning, such as flogging of slaves.


What of the people who campaigned to end the evils of slavery? They couldn't, of course, claim Biblical Backing for their campaigning, any more than the people who opposed the persecution of alleged witches. The Bible is silent about so many very important matters, including the ending of slavery, and gives hideous rulings on others, including the persecution of witches.  The King James Bible, completed in 1611, saw the scriptures rewritten to further the King’s agenda. Exodus 22:18 in the King James version: “Thou must not suffer a witch to live.” The Good News Translation is 'Put to death any woman who practices magic.'


Were there two kinds of anti-slavery campaigner, the campaigners whose sins were forgiven, and the campaigners whose sins were unforgiven? Were there two kinds of people opposed to slavery? See the section on Michael Dormany, the evangelical chaplain of Christ's College, Cambridge, which includes information about Charles Darwin's opposition to slavery and about his abandonment of belief in Christianity.


Quakers played a very important part in ending the evils of slavery, but Quakers are without the all-important belief in Jesus Christ.  Evangelicals and many other Christians would be confident that the Quaker reformers didn't qualify for eternal life. William Wilberforce, in contrast, was an evangelical Christian and did qualify.


 William Wilberforce's contribution to the ending of slavery was very, very important, although believers in the Bible doctrine of salvation will obviously regard his contribution as far less important than the fact that he accepted Christ as his Lord and Saviour.


Wilberforce had some serious faults - although believers in the Bible doctrine of salvation will regard them as unimportant.


The radical writer William Cobbett pointed out that Wilberforce campaigned for slaves but not for workers in Britain. He wrote, ' Never have you done one single act, in favour of the labourers of this country. Wilberforce opposed the granting of the right to workers to organise and join unions. In 1799, he spoke in favour of the Combination Act, which suppressed union activities. He called unions 'a general disease in our society.'


Very much concerned by what he thought of as the degeneracy of British society, Wilberforce campaigned against 'the torrent of profaneness that every day makes more rapid advances. He considered this issue as important as the abolition of the slave trade. At his prompting, and the prompting of a Bishop, King George III was requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury to issue in 1787 the Proclamation for the Discouragement of Vice, which urged  the prosecution of those guilty of 'excessive drinking, blasphemy, profane swearing and cursing, lewdness, profanation of the Lord's Day, and other dissolute, immoral or disorderly practices.' To this end, he founded the 'Society for the Suppression of Vice.'


A contemporary example of an evangelical Christian's obsessions and his neglect of horrific abuse and cruelties.

Stephen Holland isn't a member of the Church of England. He's an evangelical minister who has many Youtube videos to his credit - or many Youtube videos where his mediocrity and stupidity are obvious. One of them has the title,

'Objection to the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, and some good books.'




He's protested at services where women are consecrated. This is from the site 'Christian Today.' It includes some of his comments.


'It is not my intention to prevent these ungodly practices, but rather to voice a public objection to them.'


He makes his objection during the part of the consecration service where the question is asked of the congregation: "Is it now your will that they should be ordained?"

He answers: 'No, in the name of Almighty God I protest. There are no women bishops in the Bible.'


All the books visible in the Youtube fiasco are Biblical commentaries.


The case of John Smyth: an evangelical Christian's obsessions - ones much worse than the obsessions of Stephen Holland - and his infliction of horrific abuse and cruelty. He was a leader in the evangelical Iwerne Trust which was active in promoting evangelical holiday camps. He subjected boys to lashings with a garden cane, thousands of strokes each.


A report on the incidents was made by the Trust in 1982 but not made public until 2016. It was not until 2013 that the claims were reported to police. After the horrific abuse came into the public domain, the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson,  released a statement accusing Smyth of giving him a 'violent, excruciating and shocking beating' as a young man on a single occasion.


There's abundance evidence that John Smyth was sadistic and abundant evidence that he believed in the Son of God. Since the Church is 'a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints,' in the opinion of many, and since he seems to have satisfied the criteria for redemption laid down in St John's Gospel and so many other sources, it seems that, unlike so many, he qualified for eternal life.


Outwardly, he had a successful conventional career and led a conventional evangelical life. His Alma Mater was Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was called to the Bar at Inner Temple and had a senior legal post, as a Recorder.


In July 1977, Smyth acted for Mary Whitehouse, the Christian morality campaigner, in her successful private prosecution for blasphemy at the Old Baily against Gay News, which had published James Kirkup's poem'The Love that dares to speak its name.' In 2005, he opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage in South Africa. He claimed that to introduce same-sex marriage, would result in 'violence to the mind and spirit' of the religiously devout and that it would discriminate against them. On this occasion he was unsuccessful.


Church Society, a Conservative Evangelical group in the Church of England:


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)


 'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51)


'The biblical way of salvation has often been attacked over the centuries, however it is stated clearly in the 39 Articles of the Church of England:

Article 6: Of the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation.

Article 1: Faith in the Holy Trinity

Article 9: Of Original or Birth-sin

Article 2: The Word, or Son of God, who became truly man

Article 4: The resurrection of Christ

Article 11: Of the Justification of Man

'Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under his condemnation ...' Good works are no defence. Article XII 'Of Good Works' states

'Good Works ... cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's Judgement.' Whether the good works include bringing safe drinking water to people ravaged by water-borne diseases such as cholera by means of massive engineering works, or rescuing Jews from the Nazis, or opposing the Nazis by heroic action in battle, or everyday goodness and self-sacrifice, if there's no belief in Jesus Christ, the good works are ignored, in this loathsome scheme, and there's no salvation.

On this page, there's a profile of the
Bishop of Sheffield. He describes himself as an evangelical, with conservative tendencies. A public statement of his faith would be useful -- the aspects which concern salvation and redemption and who qualifies for salvation...


Justification by faith and justification by works are too very different positions in Christian theology. In that chaotic work 'The Bible' there's support for 'justification by works' in  the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats: good deeds are the way to salvation, not so much belief in the saviour. Given the hideous complexities of reality, even an omnipotent God would surely be unable to direct people to the grossly simplified alternative of 'sheep' or 'goat.' The Bishop of Sheffield has made it clear that the Bible is very important for him - perhaps he could make clear some of the chaotic contradictions of the Bible?


When God takes into account the competing claims of Bible-reading, praying to Himself, attendance at Church services, eliminating the agents of Satan, eliminating witches, engineering work to provide safe drinking water, bacteriological advances to identify and reduce the risk of pathological bacteria, advancing pure mathematics, furthering enlightened administration, overcoming or failing to overcome a hideous childhood, how does he decide to award the coveted status: 'Worthy of eternal life?'

Until the abolition of child labour, for so many, childhood, and youth, was the time for back-breaking work in almost complete darkness, youth was the season for hauling almost impossible loads, for inhaling coal dust, for risking crushing, drowning in the underground waters, and for being torn limb from limb.


Were there two categories of child labourers in the coal mines - the ones who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and the ones who may have heard about Jesus at Sunday School, if they ever attended Sunday School, but who gave no further thought to  the salvation of their souls, being too preoccupied with the horrors of life underground?

Christianity makes human sin (a form of human error) responsible for a vast amount of human misery. In the past, human sin was often supposed to be responsible for earthquakes, but present-day Christians are far less likely to believe in that, more likely to believe in the scientific explanations for earthquakes, in this case, seismology. Traditional Christianity gave explanations for the occurrence of coal seams and copper ore - 'In the beginning, God created Heaven and earth.'  Science gives explanations for the occurrence of coal seams and copper ore too. The traditional Christian explanation leaves us wondering why the coal seams and the copper ore should have been placed in such a way as to require back-breaking, dangerous work to make use of them.


Are there two categories of builders and other skilled trades - including the builders and others who have built churches  - plasterers, roofers, scaffolders - and two categories of architect, structural engineer and mechanical engineer - without whose work people would be living in the open or in crude shelters - the believers in God's 'one and only son' and the rest, the majority, deprived of 'eternal life?'


Are there two categories of loving mothers and loving fathers, the ones who  never qualified for eternal life, and the ones who did meet the Christian criteria?



Above, Selwyn College


Ian McFarland is a Fellow of Selwyn College and the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University. He's the author of 'In Adam’s Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin.' There's a remarkably revealing interview with him which was published in the 'Church Times.'




Some statements he came up with:


I was the oldest of three, in a comfortable childhood in a standard US nuclear family.

During term, pretty much all my time is devoted to teaching and administration.

 One reason Cambridge was attractive to me is that terms are short and vacations relatively generous, and, during vacations, I can devote myself pretty much full-time to research.

Original sin teaches that all human beings are equal in their captivity to sin.

On original sin I’m pretty Augustinian.

The confession that Jesus is the saviour of us all means we all need saving — we’re all caught up in the dynamics of sin.

For me, the experience of God comes when I hear the Word preached and receive the sacrament. That’s God addressing me — if I have the wit to listen.


Professor McFarland has many advantages, it seems: a comfortable, sheltered life, now including very generous vacations (not 'relatively' generous vacations, surely), and also, the assurance of salvation. The people I mention in various places on this page and on other pages on this site, the slaves, the child labourers, the miners, and others, led lives which were different in every way, dominated by dangerous, back-breaking work and without the assurance of salvation, except for a few. Unbaptized babies and infants too young to work went to hell as a consequence of original sin, according to St Augustine. An extended study of the theology of St Augustine would make it clear that his statement, 'On original sin I'm pretty Augustinian' has very, very disturbing implications.


Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations' (which begins with an extended quotation from Augustine, 'Confessions,' I.8, to introduce the discussion of issues in the philosophy of language) contains this claim,

'[philosophy] leaves everything as it is.'


All the advances and nuances of Professor McFarland in his quest to understand sin, including original sin, leave so much of  deadly doctrinal content intact.


'Original sin teaches that all human beings are equal in their captivity to sin.' Professor McFarland, do you really believe that the people who rescued Jews at immense personal risk, the people who fought to liberate the death camps, the people who fought to end the Nazi nightmare, are 'equal in their captivity to sin' with Himmler and other architects of the Final Solution, with Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz and other implementers of the Final Solution?


'We all need saving — we’re all caught up in the dynamics of sin.'


Has Professor McFarland considered some of the implications of this claim?

'We all need saving,' according to Professor McFarland, but only some will be saved. Above, I discuss the salvation of slaves, the salvation of mine workers, including child mine workers, and other groups. Cambridge undergraduates, graduates, academic staff and other staff are obviously in need of salvation too, according to Professor McFarland.


The perspective which views people in this way is hideously distorted. Does he really believe that applicants to Selwyn College should be viewed first and foremost as candidates for salvation (or damnation)? Selwyn's reputation for intellectual integrity - and reputation for intellectual common sense - is compromised by allowing these hopelessly bad views on sin, original sin, salvation and damnation to go unchallenged.


The fellows of Selwyn College pursue research interests in fields as varied as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, palaeobiology, computational fluid dynamics, digital fabrication, compressible gas flow and topology, whilst one fellow, Professor McFarland, pursues a research interest in original sin. He's the author of the book 'In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin,' and not from a skeptical perspective, one which finds the doctrine unable to explain the imperfections of our world. 

 This could be called incongruous, grotesque, deeply depressing and many other things. Given the hideous implications of the doctrine - which include the ignoring of a person's contributions to magnificent areas of human achievement in science, engineering, music, historical study, literary study and many more, since salvation and damnation have nothing to do with such things, since the sin of the sinful contributor to science, engineering and the rest is far more important -  I think a much harsher word is called for.


Why anyone should be expected to waste years studying theology at Cambridge University under the guidance of such people as the Regius Professor of Casuistry is a mystery. Why Selwyn College appointed Professor McFarland as a Fellow of the College is a mystery.


The unfortunate fact is that some of his Augustinian views are reflected in mainstream Christianity, including the verse which opens this section


For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' John 3: 16 (World English Bible).


Supplementary material:


This is one of the 'unsaved sinners.' From my page on the death penalty:


'Chronically psychotic and brain damaged, Johnny Garrett had a long history of mental illness and was severely physically and sexually abused as a child, which the jury never knew. He was described by a psychiatrist as "one of the most psychiatrically impaired inmates" she had ever examined, and by a psychologist as having "one of the most virulent histories of abuse and neglect... encountered in over 28 years of practice". Garrett was frequently beaten by his father and stepfathers. On one occasion, when he would not stop crying, he was put on the burner of a hot stove, and retained the burn scars until his death. He was raped by a stepfather who then hired him to another man for sex. It was also reported that from the age of 14 he was forced to perform bizarre sexual acts and participate in pornographic films. Introduced to alcohol by his family when he was 10, he subsequently indulged in serious substance abuse involving brain-damaging substances such as paint, thinner and amphetamines. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a state court finding that his belief that his dead aunt would protect him from the chemicals used in the lethal injection did not render him incompetent to be executed (for a murder committed when he was aged 17.')


Did God decide that Johnny Garrett deserved to be included with the sheep or the goats? Were his good works sufficient for him to be included with the sheep?  According to the alternative criterion, did God decide that Johnny Garrett should not perish but have everlasting life, since he'd accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour?Very, very unlikely.


What of his executioner, the one who pressed the button to end his life? Was this a good act or a bad act, was the executioner a sheep or a goat? Or, alternatively, according to a contradictory aspect of Christian theology, was the executioner someone who believed in Christ or not?


Eternal damnation isn't stressed nearly as much in Christian circles now, but every Christmas, Christians - the ordained in fancy dress at the King's College Christmas service and the less lucky ones in vandalized city churches - insist that being a Christian gives certain advantages. What advantages, exactly? Are there long-term consequences (eternal hellfire or lesser disadvantages) for non-believers, the ones too busy to believe or to investigate the advantages of belief, the ones too chronically abused to believe or to investigate the advantages of belief, all the others who fail the test?


From my page Poems, a poem on the sufferings of children working in the mines. The poem is discussed in the section strata poetry of my page on Concrete Poetry.



The Bible authors neglected almost entirely the issue of cruelty to animals. Soon after the slaves in the British empire were freed, bull-baiting and bear-baiting were made illegal. The frenzied attacks of the dogs on tethered bulls and bears in cities, towns and villages which had never bothered the vast majority of the population, including the vast majority of Roman Catholic clery and Church of England clergy, was at an end.


Credit: Jules and Jenny

Bear-baiting, depicted in this misericord in St Mary's Church, Beverley.

From Schopenhauer's 'Parerga and Paralipomena,' the chapter on 'Religion:'

'I heard from a reliable source that, when asked by a society for the protection of animals to preach a sermon against cruelty to them, a Protestant clergyman replied that, with the best will in the world, he could not do so because in this matter religion gave him no support.'

Sermons from St Marks, Sheffield, and St Johns, Sheffield: revealing glimpses into the life, thought and prayers of the Church of England


This is followed by a section, Comments on an extract from a very contentious sermon preached at St Marks


Above, the maps of Africa and Afghanistan are reminders of hideous realities, although Africa is far from being a continent of unrelieved despair.  I'll need to return to Africa and Afghanistan quite often in the material below.



Above, St Marks Church


Above, St John's Church



'The average attendance at Sunday services across the church fell from 740,000 in 2016 to 690,000 in 2019.

'More than £240 million invested by the Church of England to arrest the decline in worshippers has “not so far” succeeded in turning the situation around, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Figures presented to General Synod this year show that £248 million was given out between 2017 and 2020 as part of the church’s “renewal and reform” programme ...'


This section has only just been begun. Material available at the moment is limited. I don't intend to give the names of any people at St Marks Church or St John's Church in this section or anywhere else on the site - no staff or anyone in the congregation are named.  I've already discussed Lu Skerratt-Love in some detail and I take the view that, realistically, I can't avoid mentioning her in this section. She's the only exception to my self-imposed rule.


This isn't a section made up of paragraphs developing an argument, with evidence, but a section more in the form of scrapbook, which includes fragments as well as longer parts. Sermons are at the fringes of cultural and intellectual comment, although far more important to Christians, of course. In this section, I don't treat sermons as peripheral but my viewpoint is obviously vastly different from the Christian perspective. Sermons delivered during a Church Service aren't subject to heckling or questioning or criticism. Sermons collected in a book or published on a Website are usually immune from critical comment but this is about to change, at least here.


This section is only about sermons delivered at St Marks, Sheffield  and St Johns, Sheffield. I begin with two sermons delivered by Lu Skerratt-Love at these two churches. After that, I move on, although I'll need to return to the sermons for more comment. I've no intention of allowing Lu Skerratt-Love to have too prominent a role. When she found that I had comments to make about her work with Forest Church in Sheffield, very quickly she made her twitter page unavailable to the public, apart from selected people. I'd been able to make copies of some of her tweets before that, including one which makes it clear that she's either a supporter of Extinction Rebellion or a sympathizer. The sermons she delivered at St Marks and St Johns will be staying on the Websites of these Churches, I'm sure, but even so, I've taken copies of them as well as other sermons, delivered by other people. I'll be commenting on some of them soon or eventually.


The two sermons delivered by Lu Skerratt-Love can be found at








I'll only need to comment on a few things.


In the St Marks sermon, Lu Skerratt-Love gives a very revealing list:


'The possibilities of life together, of a revolutionary intimacy, feel almost ridiculous to even attempt to conceive right now. The simple idea of having a life together that is strong enough to reorder our common humanity against the strong winds of the pandemic, the dangers of nationalism, the horror of social segregation, the sin of sexism, and the pain of class and immigration discrimination feels so out of reach it doesn’t even feel worth considering.'


It's very likely that in compiling the list, she was thinking primarily of issues as they arise in this country. The horrors of social segregation, as she puts it, are issues which arise in a liberal democracy, the sin of sexism, as she puts it, are issues as they arise in a liberal democracy, with legal safeguards - and a place where sexism is opposed and denounced openly and very, very frequently. I'm a working class Sheffielder, born into a working class family. I spent my childhood in a terraced house with no bathroom and no inside toilet. My first job was as a builder's labourer. I don't feel that class discrimination merits inclusion in this list at all. As for immigration discrimination, immigration without any controls or a much more limited degree of control would have very severe consequences. The housing stock of this country, the existing congestion of this country would make unchecked immigration completely unrealistic. There are many other reasons.


Lu Skerratt-Love's list is a list which leaves out problems which really do amount to horrors, shocking, hideous problems. I can only mention a few at this point, beginning with the plight of Christians in Afghanistan, the plight of women in Afghanistan (but not the women who welcome the Taliban), the plight of everyone in Aghanistan, but not the people who welcome the Taliban.


The site



recognizes the scale of the problem but the solution it offers is not just insufficient but of no use at all. Often, problems are mentioned which are real, to a greater or lesser extent, but not major problems. Again and again, major problems are cited but solutions are offered which are completely inadequate for the purpose of solving them.

An extract from the site,

'It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed.   

'If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honour’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them. Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity.  


Open Doors raises prayer support for persecuted believers in Afghanistan. 


'Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost. ['Open Doors' will have been praying for a long time. Have their prayers or the prayers of other people made an 'enormous difference' to believers in Afghanistan?]  

'Please pray. Dear Lord, please protect the small number of Christians among the millions of people who live in Afghanistan, particularly as they face even more extreme persecution under the Taliban takeover. [Why the need to remind God of this, why the need to ask God to take action? This is ludicrous.] Thank You that, despite their small number, they have discovered the greatest love in the world. Please keep showing them Your wisdom, mercy and comfort, and give opportunities for believers to meet together, despite the opposition.Provide for all citizens under the extremist Taliban regime.  [Again, the polite request to God is completely unnecessary.] Amen.'

Lu Skerratt-Love is a Christian, a feminist and in a same-sex partnership. Why did she choose those domestic problems, as she sees it, ones which are so much less severe than other examples she could have chosen just as easily?

Attention in the national media has focussed attention mainly on the extreme plight of women in Afghanistan. The plight of homosexuals in Afghanistan is also extreme. They now face death at the hands of the Taliban.

For the two decades before the Taliban's recent success in taking control of the country, life in Afghanistan was far from easy for Christians, women and homosexuals, but immeasuraby better than it will be from now on. And what was the reason? Lu Skerratt-Love and so many other Christians would be slow to acknowledge it or find it impossible to acknowledge, but the reason was American military dominance in Afghanistan and the aid of other Western forces, together with the Afghan army forces trained and financially supported by Western countries.

American air power was a primary means of ensuring that the Taliban and Isis and other terrorist groups were prevented from gaining control or committing frequent terrorist acts. Christians, feminists, the women of Afghanistan, homosexuals in Afghanistan, benefitted immeasurably from this use of armed force. I think that to deny that is to deny realities.


The weaponry of terrorists in a different country. To suppose that armed terrorists and radical insurgents can be overcome by prayer is ridiculous. There's no guarantee of success for the  armed forces of democracies - it would have been possible for Britain to have been defeated in the Second World War - but it is no more possible for a liberal democracy to flourish - survive - in the face of all the threats to liberal democracies without the availability of armed force than to flourish - survive - without a police force, which even in this country must sometimes be armed. Liberal democracies like the Republic of Ireland which spend very little on their armed forces depend upon countries which are willing to spend a much greater proportion.


China's vast ambitions, a threat to so many countries, to the world as a whole, are supported by vast military expenditure. If some people had their way (they include pacifist Christians) this country would give up its armed forces and 'set a good example,'  which would be followed by China, Iran, North Korea. This 'good example' would lead not to a saner world but to a world far more insane, with multiple invasions of the peaceful, unprotected countries.


Members of the British armed forces, like the Afghan armed forces and forces of other countries, paid a high price.


Below, some of the men who lost their lives during the protection of Afghanistan.



St Johns Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield.


 The Website of the Church includes a brief section, 'Our Mission.'


'Our Mission

‘Belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is at the heart of our faith. Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus reveals to us that God is our Father, and that God is available to us through the Holy Spirit.'


Believers in the Trinity would do well to remember that for long periods of time, disbelief in the Trinity carried severe penalties.

Edward Wightman was the last person in this country to be burned alive for heresy. He had denied the Trinity and questioned the status of the Church of England. The C of E still remembers and celebrates John Calvin, who denounced Michael Servetus (also burned alive after denying the Trinity). The Bishop of Sheffield's doctoral thesis was on the subject of John Calvin! The C of E  remembers and celebrates to this day St Augustine, who actually taught that unbaptized babies are in hell. A Church in Sheffield commemorates, honours, celebrates St Augustine - St Augustine's Church in Endcliffe. I won't be commenting further on St Augustine's Church.


The Mission Statement of St Johns Ranmoor continues with this very contentious claim, or false claim in my view:
'The Christian faith is not a human invention. There are signs of God’s existence and handiwork in creation for anyone to read (Acts 14.15–17).'


The view that the world providence evidence of God's existence and handiwork has been challenged for a very long time. Why did an allegedly good God, a perfect God, create such a flawed world? The physical and biological attributes of the world can be explained - the explanations have been spectacularly successful - in terms of the physical and biological sciences. Is the geology of the world the creation and handiwork of God? If so, how are earthquakes to be reconciled with the alleged goodness of God? The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 which killed tens of thousands of people, stimulated the development of seismology and the first attempts at earthquake engineering. Theologians responded to the earthquake by claiming that it was evidence of divine judgement, even though the earthquake took place on a religious holiday and destroyed almost every church in Lisbon. Voltaire's response in Candide was different. He came to the conclusion that the catastrophe could not be reconciled with a benevolent deity.



Did God create bacteria and viruses, including the causative organisms of leprosy, tubercusosis, smallpox, the black death, malaria and the rest? Their existence is no problem for the Darwinian Theory of Evolution. Their existence is a problem for Christian theology.


The C of E, a broad, divided church: a time to leave


The Labour Party, like the Church of England, has often been described as a 'broad church.'

The Labour Party has members who want to 'smash capitalism' and members who are happy to maintain an economy with a mixture of private sector and public sector components. The Labour Party has members who are outright anti-semites and people who belong to the organization 'Labour Friends of Israel,' people who were Brexiteers and people who are remainers, supporters of Corbyn and loathers of Corbyn.  Many differences can easily be tolerated in this broad church, but many others are far too deep for that. Of course, some Labour Party MP's have left, deciding that they couldn't stand any longer the posturing and platitudes and hideously deluded plans of the extreme left wing of the Labour Party, and for other reasons.


The divisions in the Church of England are no less marked. There are evangelicals who believe in hellfire and people whose faith is very vague. There are anglo-catholics who believe that the bread and wine of a Church of England Holy Communion service are changed to the body and blood of Christ - not symbolically, but actually, the 'real presence.' There are people with a lapsed faith, people who are no longer believers but who choose to remain in the church for reasons, perhaps, to do with a view of the Church as a reminder of immemorial tradition, overlooking the evidence that it's largely irrelevant.


Anyone appointed Bishop can't possibly guide, inspire, serve very much useful purpose to Anglicans whose views are very different from the views of a Bishop. The Bishop of Lancaster and the Bishop of Sheffield are conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics and Liberals can't possibly have complete confidence in the guidance of the Bishop. Conservative evangelicals won't necessarily have complete confidence in the guidance of the Bishop. A Bishop's guidance may be routine, uninspired, even to people who share the Bishop's beliefs.


A parish church, intended to foster Christian belief in the area, will have the same limitations.  A parishioner who is a fervent Anglo-Catholic but finds that the parish church is run on conservative evangelical lines is in a dilemma, completely unable to accept the sermons, form of worship at the Church but not willing to travel to attend services at an Anglo-Catholic Church.


The Church of England is in deep trouble. The broad church is grotesque, a liability.  The time has surely  come to leave. Evangelicals can get out, liberals can leave, Anglo-catholics can flee to Rome, or form a new Church of their own. It's not as if Christendom has never known division. The Reformation, the Protestant-Catholic split, is the prime example. Now is the time for the different factions of the Church of England to go their separate ways.


'A time to leave ...' in the heading of this section. A was thinking of this, from the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes. This is from the New Revised Standard Version, 3:1-8:


For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

An article on 'Ecclesiastes' from Wikipedia, an impressive article, like so many other articles in Wikipedia.




The presence of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is something of a puzzle, as the common themes of the Hebrew canon—a God who reveals and redeems, who elects and cares for a chosen people—are absent from it, which suggests that Kohelet had lost his faith in his old age. Understanding the book was a topic of the earliest recorded discussions (the hypothetical Council of Jamnia in the 1st century CE). One argument advanced at that time was that the name of Solomon carried enough authority to ensure its inclusion; however, other works which appeared with Solomon's name were excluded despite being more orthodox than Ecclesiastes. Another was that the words of the epilogue, in which the reader is told to fear God and keep his commands, made it orthodox; but all later attempts to find anything in the rest of the book that would reflect this orthodoxy have failed. A modern suggestion treats the book as a dialogue in which different statements belong to different voices, with Kohelet himself answering and refuting unorthodox opinions, but there are no explicit markers for this in the book, as there are (for example) in the Book of Job.

Yet another suggestion is that Ecclesiastes is simply the most extreme example of a tradition of skepticism, but none of the proposed examples match Ecclesiastes for a sustained denial of faith and doubt in the goodness of God. Martin A. Shields, in his 2006 book The End of Wisdom: A Reappraisal of the Historical and Canonical Function of Ecclesiastes, summarized that "In short, we do not know why or how this book found its way into such esteemed company".[3

Influence on Western Literature

Ecclesiastes has had a deep influence on Western literature. It contains several phrases that have resonated in British and American culture ...


Comments on an extract from a very contentious sermon preached at St Marks


The section on Adrian Dorber of Lichfield Cathedral has been part of this page for a long time. It includes this material, on Stephen Sizer, which has also been part of this page for a long time. The time has come to give it greater prominence and to extend it. The original material:


'A sermon preached at St Marks Church, Sheffield in 2014 included this:

‘ 'The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, who has researched and published broadly in this area, concludes ‘that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.’ ‘

'What? The intractable problems of the Middle East, the atrocities in the Middle East, largely caused by Christian Zionists? The Revd Stephen Sizer is yet another naive and blundering Anglican, but a particularly dangerous one. He gave a link to an article which claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9 / 11 attack on the World Trade Center!

'The Bishop of Guildford acted decisively: he made it clear that Stephen Sizer was in danger of losing his job, as reported in 'The Church Times' and other places.'

A page of my Website provides an extensive discussion of Israel and Palestinians.

The sermon was preached many years ago but I'd stress the fact that sermons, like other communications, aren't exempt from informed criticism. I haven't been able to find a copy of the whole sermon on the St Marks Website. Recent sermons are included, and I've found the experience of reading some of them very instructive. I intend to comment on more of them on this page

The extract from the sermon quoted here is terrifyingly ignorant, I'd claim, for reasons I set out in detail in my page on Israel.

I'd be grateful if St Marks could supply me with a copy of the complete sermon which includes this extract, but that would probably entail inconvenience for the Church, if the sermon is only to be found in print form. I'd be very willing to call at St Marks to consult their records and make a written copy. If that isn't possible, I'd like to be informed at least of the name of the preacher. This is a reasonable request, I think.

This article published by the 'Church Times'


includes material which makes the case against Stephen Sizer. I share the views of the writer of the article but not the claim that Stephen Sizer is 'just stupid.' He's more than simply stupid, according to the evidence available to me. Extracts from the 'Church Times' article:

A VICAR in Surrey, the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, who linked to an online article suggesting that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, has been forbidden from speaking or writing about the Middle East again, or risk losing his job.

Dr Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, last month posted a link on his Facebook page to an article entitled "9/11: Israel did it" (News, 6 February), thus breaking an undertaking he had made last year to have his online activism moderated. On Monday, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, announced that he had given Dr Sizer an ultimatum: stop your activism over the Israel-Palestine conflict or lose your parish.

In a statement, he said: "I do not believe that [Dr Sizer's] motives are anti-Semitic; but I have concluded that, at the very least, he has demonstrated appallingly poor judgement. By associating with, or promoting, subject matter which is either ambiguous in its motivation, or (worse still) openly racist, he has crossed a serious line. I regard these actions as indefensible."

Bishop Watson said that Dr Sizer had now retracted the suggestion that Israel was involved in 9/11. "It is my view that Stephen's strong but increasingly undisciplined commitment to an anti-Zionist agenda has become a liability to his own ministry and that of the wider Church," he said.

Dr Sizer has promised Bishop Watson in writing that he would not speak or write about anything connected to the conflict in the Middle East, nor would he attend or promote conferences about the issue. If he breaches this agreement, he has agreed to tender his resignation to Bishop Watson. He has also agreed to stop using all social media for the next six months.

In a letter to Bishop Watson, Dr Sizer apologised for the "distress" he had caused to the Jewish community and the Church. "As a minister of the gospel it is not my role to create controversy but to seek to maintain unity between the faith communities," he wrote. He declined to comment further when contacted on Monday. 

Interviewed on Monday, Bishop Watson said the diocese had considered proceeding against Dr Sizer under the Clergy Discipline Measure. They chose an informal agreement because of the need for a quick solution.

Bishop Watson said it was preferable, "particularly with anti-Semitic attacks on the rise in the UK", to find a resolution which would satisfy the "natural outcry from the Jewish community" without having to begin legal proceedings, which would have been long, given that Dr Sizer has the freehold of his benefice.

The agreement has real "teeth" in it, Bishop Watson said, and the publicity surrounding it would ensure that Dr Sizer kept his word.


Dr Sizer has been in trouble in the past. In 2013, the Board of Deputies of British Jews made a formal complaint against him, accusing him of linking to anti-Semitic websites (News, 25 October 2013). The complaint was resolved through conciliation, part of which involved Dr Sizer committing to having three people monitor his online activity and any websites he links to.

The previous year he was investigated by Surrey Police after posting allegedly anti-Semitic content online. However, the Crown Prosecution Service decided he had not committed any criminal offence (News, 4 May 2012).

Bishop Watson also said in his statement that he was "hugely sorry" for the hurt caused to the Jewish community by Dr Sizer's actions. 'This is a time when I would urge all Christian people to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters in countering the alarming rise of anti-Semitic incidents being reported,' he said.

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) said in a statement that it welcomed Bishop Watson's decision as Dr Sizer's activities had been a "source of grave concern.


It would be very helpful if I could consult the sermon which contained grossly misleading and incomplete material on Stephen Sizer (as I see it), so that I can have a better appreciation of the context. It wouldn't be too late for St Marks Church to make amends and to set the record straight. In fact, I would say that this would be an honest form of action.  Grossly mistaken views of Israel are still published. The situation is no better now than it was at the time the sermon was delivered at St Marks. My page on Israel gives a much fuller account.









The C of E in Sheffield: discarded rubbish, followed by the section 'Voltaire updated: Tim Ling, Church Army Tactician, explores the campaigning tactics of banning and blocking and evasive action'

Below, discarded rubbish in a site chosen for outdoor Christian worship by the Forest Church, Sheffield, which promotes environmentalism as well as Christianity.


This place, with its 14 metre long, hazardous, hideous heap of discarded rubbish is a grotesque place to hold Forest Church services. The garbage will contain all kinds of traps for small animals. A small animal can crawl into a container and not be able to get out. A small animal can be injured by sharp objects.  From the page


'Much is made of plastic’s impact on our marine environments ...  But what of the plastic waste that never reaches the ocean and is instead confined to land? Are plastics a danger to terrestrial animals too?


'The answer is a resounding “yes!” Plastic waste that never makes its way to the ocean still ends up being very dangerous to both wild animals and domesticated ones. And the impacts felt by these animals closely mirror their marine brethren. They can suffer from various forms of entanglements as well as accidental consumption which may be deadly.'

There are paint containers and containers with all kinds of solvent residues, tile adhesive and many more. The heap includes Council wheelie bins, full to the top with rubbish. There are long strands of thin wire, a rusting, disintegrating metal watering can with sharp edges, some metal spikes sticking up, long plastic tubes and many other things which could trap an animal. There are plastic containers for plant food - organic seaweed extract -  as well as the plastic wrapping of peat free compost, both of them obviously used by the organic gardeners of Lower Walkley Community Group, which runs this 'Community Garden and gave the Forest Church permission to meet here.

The Forest Church and the Lower Walkley Community Group have overlooked some difficulties. One of them is the legal duty of care. If someone attending a Forest Church event in this 'sacred space' has an accident, there's the problem of  liability. The financial consequences could be very severe. 

There are issues to do with security. The site is left open all the time. Anyone can go there, including people who may well use it for activities which are far from harmless, and people who pose a risk, even if the chance of a major incident is minor. The site is quite far from the road and summoning help quickly if the need arose would be difficult. The places is shielded from view, with neglected privet hedges which are 10 metres high, I'd estimate. This is a gloomy, heavily shaded place, a place where most food crops can't be grown successfully, although growing food crops was a main aim of the organic group.  

I'm informed that youths have gathered there for solvent abuse. I can't verify this but if they ever do in the future, this introduces a real even if unlikely source of danger. Many years ago, there was a murder on rented land near here. Three youths were sniffing glue and two of them turned on the third and stabbed him with a garden tool.

Has Lu Skerrat-Love actually visited the place? Lu Skerratt-Love is a founder member of the Sheffield forest church and has taken part in events to promote the Sheffield forest Church in association with St Marks Church, Broomhill, Sheffield and in association with St Johns Church, Ranmoor. Sheffield.

On her Twitter page, she describes herself as an 'ecofeminist.' On her Twitter page she retweeted this, from Holly-Anna Petersen:

'Today the CofE is lending money to fossil fuel companies - investing in their destruction of God's creation Christians protesting this yesterday were arrested.'


This is a reference to an Extinction Rebellion protest. More on Extinction Rebellion and  linkages between Christian activism and some forms of environmental activism in my page on green ideologies.



A few days after I took a copy of this retweet, Lu Skerrat-Love's twitter page became unavailable, except to people who have her permission to consult it. I'm not one of them, of course. The timing can easily be explained. By then, I'd begun to contact various people, mainly in the Church of England, to inform them about my concerns in connection with the Forest Garden. The information was relevant to them: forest gardens are one of those forms of worship and evangelism which have become more and more popular in the Church of England. The next section, on the Church Army, gives more detail.


Voltaire updated: Tim Ling, Church Army tactician, explores the campaigning tactics of banning and blocking and evasive action


Above, the Church Army Wilson Carlile Centre


Voltaire: 'I wholly disapprove of what you say - and will defend to the death your right to say it.'


Tim Ling: I wholly disapprove of what you say - and that's why I've blocked your emails to the Church Army.


Below, I provide background information and other evidence about the extraordinary action Tim Ling has taken and background information and other evidence to show that his action can't possibly be justified.

The background to the celebrated quote from Voltaire on free speech is well documented on the page



Tim Ling provides 'strategic oversight for the work of the Research Unit' in the Church Army.  I refer only to a blunder in a matter affecting me - his decision to block emails from me. It has been made clear to me that for any future communications with the research department of the Church Army I can't make use of emails. I must use a biro and paper or a printer and paper, buy a postage stamp and go to a letter box.  I make every effort to avoid exaggeration and hyperbole but his action amounts, not to suppression of free expression as such but completely unwarranted interference with the channels of free expression by using the convenient method of emailing.


In this section, I give answers to some possible questions concerning  the blocking of my emails by Tim Ling and my work opposing the use of allotments by the Forest Church in Sheffield.


I was successful in that the venue was changed. The event took place at the Scout Field of a Sheffield Church. I discuss his blocking blunder. The first section in this column, 'The C of E and discarded rubbish' gives my comments on the plan to establish a Forest Church on allotments in Sheffield, very near to my own allotments. The allotments are rented by Lower Walkley Community Group (LWCG). Lu Skerratt-Love is a founder member of the Forest Church in Sheffield and a prominent advocate, and a  researcher employed by the Church Army. According to the Church Army Website, The Church Army's 'research and consultancy services' include such things as these: Customised survey design ... Strategic missional reviews ... facilitation and project accompaniment.' Lu Skerrat-Love's speciality is apparently 'qualitative research.'


What was the content of the emails I sent to Lu Skerratt-Love, Tim Ling and others? What was their tone?


Extracts from the first email:


' have two allotments on the Morley Street site in Sheffield. I was dismayed to find that the Forest Church is planning to hold this event at Morley Street this Saturday.

' ... These are some objections:

'The place where it is planned to hold the event is rented land. These are Sheffield Council allotments and as such, are subject to allotment law.  The allotments are rented by Lower Walkley Community Group (LWCG). The group's decision to give permission for the Forest Church to hold the event was very misguided but I have evidence to show that throughout, the use of the land by LWCG has been incompetent.

'Lu Skerrat-Love is seemingly unaware of the legislation applicable to allotments which is intended to protect the safety of the public and the issue of legal liability. Allotments do have hazards, and in the event of injury to a member of the public attending the event at the 'Forest Garden,' there could easily be severe legal consequences.


'According to information I've received, a fundamental disagreement concerning access to the Community Garden precipitated dissension within the group, leading to members going their separate ways and the neglect of the garden, which lasted for many years until this year, when some work has been done, although hardly any of it to do with the growing of food plants. There was a short period when access to the garden was restricted, by a locked gate, but for most of the time, anyone who wanted to enter the garden was able to.

'A very striking , and very off-putting feature of the garden is the very large heap of rubbish, very long as well as high - discarded plastic, rubbish of many, many kinds, with further rubbish in some Council Wheelie bins. If it's assumed that this was all left by fly tippers, it can't be the only explanation. Amongst the discarded plastic containers are ones which once held organic seaweed fertilizer.  I think these must have been left by the Group itself. Amongst the obvious objections to the pile is the threat to wildlife: small creatures may well find their way into something in the pile and not find a way out, or perhaps injured by sharp objects in the pile.

'Lu Skerrit-Love describes herself as an 'ecofeminist.' She should not be giving implicit support to an organization which seems to show such a casual disregard for plastic waste and the welfare of wildlife. LWCG should have done something about the problem a long time ago. I'd say that leaving the plot open was asking for trouble. It's an obvious disadvantage if a  'community garden' is locked for most of the time but leaving this particular garden open has had severe disadvantages.

I've been informed that youths have sometimes gathered in the LWCG garden and been involved in solvent abuse. I can't verify this but an open garden obviously carries security risks. The  LWCG garden is some distance from the road, down the long and gloomy heavily path by the side of the Walkley Bank Allotment Association hut. The garden itself is shielded from view. It may not be likely that the church members would meet trouble but if they ever did, this isn't the kind of place where it would be easy to get help quickly.

I don't think this is being too alarmist. About thirty years ago, there was a murder on an allotment site in the Rivelin Valley. Three youths were sniffing glue in the allotment. Two of them turned on the third and stabbed him with a garden tool. In the time I've had my allotments, there have been some troubling incidents affecting allotment holders, including threatening behaviour directed at them. The Forest Church has ignored the serious problems to do with security.

'A Christian event at an allotment site would set a very troublesome precedent. Allotments are primarily places for growing food but they have other uses. From the introduction to 'Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book:'

'In my most optimistic moments, I see every town ringed again with small gardens, nurseries, allotments, greenhouses, orchards, as it was in the past, an assertion of delight and human scale.'

'Allotments  should not be places for Christian evangelism or Christian worship. Christians have many other venues available for that. There is no need to use allotments at all. Allotments are not the place for the singing of hymns, for preaching or for public prayer. Public prayer is a more likely activity than singing or preaching, I would think. 

'I hope that this conveys some of my reasons for disagreement.  I'll be sending a copy of this email to various Churches, Christian individuals and Christian organizations in Sheffield.

' ... Any Christian who cares to email me can be assured that I have a strict policy on emails sent to me. They are treated as private and won't be released into the public domain without the permission of the sender. I'm completely willing to have my views challenged in the private or the public domain, with, of course, the right to respond.

'Lu Skerratt-Love has prominence in this email but I wouldn't wish to give undue prominence to her on my page on Christian religion.'

I wrote, 'Allotments should not be places of Christian evangelism or Christian worship. Christians have many other venues available for that.'

Sharon Collins has other ideas:

'I'm an urban evangelist, which means I've come to live on an estate and with a specific aim to reach out to making Jesus known to people with no church connection or no interest in having a church connection ...

' ... We began prayer walking in earnest around the estate, laying hands on and claiming places for Jesus and just crying out, when we got given the use of a disused allotment in the community, which means we could once again meet to worship and we became a very public and visible church. 

"It's a very strategic position that God has thrown the doors out for us. So it is wonderful to be there. There's some fencing that surrounds the allotment and we use that as well for mission. So we often put posters up with Bible verses on them or with words of encouragement on them.'


Jirll Duff, the Bishop of Lancaster, put in an appearance at this 'disused allotment' and used the allotment as a place to baptize a few babies. Jull Duff is an outspoken opponent of same-sex relationships and has orthodox evangelical views - heaven for people who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, hell for the rest - which would include almost all the people in the country who cultivate allotments, almost all NHS workers, almost everyone. She isn't outspoken when it comes to defending her views - at least she didn't attempt to defend them when I contacted her.


There are cranks of varying degrees of delusion who share the views of Sharon Collins and cranks with very different views. These are images of a property in Sheffield which promotes Roman Catholic views. The predominant view amongst conservative evangelicals - and not just conservative evangelicals - is that Roman Catholics are destined for hell, just like outright atheists.


The poster in this Roman Catholic shrine which mentions 'evangelization in our community' should be a warning. Evangelization at an allotment in the Sheffield community sets a precedent, an example which could well be followed by people intent on evangelization and 'mission' with a wide range of views. Far better to keep allotments as places of quiet gardening work, not work with the intention of manipulating opinion.

A third email was sent only to Lu Skerratt but not received by her. Extracts:

'If you take issue with some things, find some things unfair to you, or have other reasons for feeling aggrieved, do contact me by email and it may be possible to make changes or remove material if I think that your arguments are valid - but I think it's very unlikely you will contact me. Most likely, you'll assume that I'm simply wrong about Christian belief and wrong about environmental action. (In fact, in my own practice I'm an 'environmental purist').'

'In my first email to Tim Ling and Lu Skerratt-Love and a very small number of other recipients - at St Marks Church Broomhill and St Johns Church Ranmoor - I simply presented argument supported by evidence, in a matter of fact tone, explaining my view that to hold a Forest Church event in the venue planned would be problematic and in some ways very risky, with legal and security issues.'


I've already provided extracts from the earlier email.


'This is the whole of the text of the second email sent to the same recipients, with the image of some of the heap of discarded rubbish omitted:

'I've now added a new section to my page




You'll find that it includes material concerned with the Church Army. This is one of the 'graphic images' which introduce the section, explained and discussed in the text, of course:

[Image omitted]

'The new section will be revised and extended. I'll mention a different matter: I had to transfer the contents of a hard disk from a faulty computer to a new computer.  I used a specialist transfer program but many pages of the site were left with formatting errors, including this page.  It will take time to resolve the problem but in the meantime, formatting flaws don't affect the readability of the page.'


An incredible development: I've now been informed (by the police)  that Lu Skerratt-Love has contacted the police about the matter! Lu Skerratt-Love's view of police priorities, of the distinction betwen legitimate and frivolous reasons for contacting the police, is obviously very different from mine. I regard her decision to contact the police as a simple waste of police time. I don't claim, I couldn't possibly claim, of course, that her action falls within the legal definitions of 'waste of police time.'


From the page





Wasting police time

Under s 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 (CLA 1967), it is an offence to cause a wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false report – either orally or in writing – to the police or anyone else that:

  • an offence has been committed;
  • there is a real threat to the safety of any persons or property; or
  • they have relevant information concerning some police enquiry.

Proceedings for this offence can be brought only by (or with the consent of) the Director of Public Prosecutions.   It is a summary only offence and proceedings must be started within the six-month summary time limit. This is from the date on which the complaint was made, not from when the falseness of the allegation was suspected or uncovered.



If you are caught wasting police time you could be jailed for up to six months and/or fined. Instead of taking you to court, the police might issue you with a fixed penalty notice under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA 2001). This means you will have to pay a £90 fine but you won’t get a criminal conviction (the details will still go on the police computer though).


In all this, I find Tim Ling more culpable than Lu Skerratt-Love. Tim Ling has a senior position in the Church Army, Lu Skerratt-Love a more junior position as a researcher. Lu Skerratt-Love is a young person who may well feel that all her actions in this matter are completely justifiable (who may well feel that her actions were undertaken under God's direction) but who may come to feel in the future that her actions have had disadvantages.


 Someone who occupies a much more senior role in an organisation has a duty to care for the welfare of subordinates, to give good advice to subordinates, to be as helpful as possible, to withdraw support only when justified by realities. I've no way of knowing what kind of support and advice Tim Ling has provided for Lu Skerratt-Love and I've no way of knowing what were the feelings she had when she took the action. The harmful effects of her action were compounded, with far more harmful effects, when Tim Ling took the decision to block my emails. He could have advised here to obtain another email address for communications to her not directly related to her Church Army work. He hasn't helped her at all by this action of his. If she asked him to block emails, he was under no compulsion to carry out the action. He ought to have realized the disadvantages, some possible consequences of his action.


In all this, I've no knowledge of the circumstances and I'm not in the least likely to find out about them. There's the possibility that Lu Skerratt-Love was vociferous and pressurized Tim Ling to an extent, so that he gave way against his better judgment and decided to carry out the general blocking order. In an organization, there may be megalomaniac subordinates (but one megalomaniac subordinate is better than many) whilst the people in superior roles are understanding, and their understanding includes a recognition of the reasonable limits of power. I don't in the least claim that Lu Skerratt-Love has megalomaniac tendencies. Again, I stress the fact that I know very little about her, or about Tim Ling, except that their Christian beliefs make it possible to predict their likely attitudes on a whole range of issues.


Whatever happened, I think the effects of the action are these: giving to the public - members of the public who get to hear about any of this - the impression that the Church of England, or this section of the Church Army, is timid and ineffectual, fearing not just mild controversy in the public sphere, controversy which follows published work, but even the content of a few emails, received in private.


But again, there may well be complications. I wouldn't accuse any members of the Church of England of general timidity, to name just one flaw, unless I had a great deal of evidence. I'm in no danger at all of failing to recognize and acknowledge gifted Christians, Christians with remarkable strengths, Christians with remarkable strengths and serious flaws, Christians whose remarkable strengths outweigh their flaws, Christians who seem essentially simple, simple Christians who are impressive and Christians who are simple and seem very poor specimens, Christians who are contradictory, baffling people.


Christianity as a doctrine, a system of belief, an intensely felt system of belief, not just a dry catalogue of beliefs, is a very different matter, I think - the contradictions of Christian belief are impossible to ignore, the arguments and evidence against Christian belief are an insuperable obstacle, it's impossible to take the beliefs seriously.

Was Tim Ling justified in blocking my emails not just to Lu Skerratt-Love but to himself and all members of the 'research staff?'


I'm unsure if Tim Ling proposes a lifetime ban on communications from me to Church Army staff. A look at the Home page of my site will show that I have many, many interests, that I write about many, many topics and am involved in many, many forms of practical work. I had not the least intention of communicating often or at all with Church Army staff or members, once I had brought my small campaign to do with the Forest Church to a successful conclusion.

It's essential that free expression of opinion should be allowed and not censored, except where it can be shown that the disadvantages of allowing the opinion to be published or otherwise expressed far outweigh any advantages, as in the case of extremist Neo-Nazi calls to commit violent crime.

Tim Ling may disapprove of  what I write and other recipients of emails disapprove of what I write but their disapproval has absolutely no force. I exercise due care in what I write, without the need for policing and monitoring. I carry out research myself before I write about a topic and my research is thorough, meticulous, in fact. I have been courteous but I see no reason to follow a form of prim etiquette.

As for etiquette, Lu Skerratt-Love or the members of the Forest Church in Sheffield who took the decision to change the venue from the Morley Street allotments to the Scout Field of St Timothy's didn't have the courtesy to inform me of the change. The issues I raised, the evidence I gave, must have had an effect, since the Forest Church event didn't go ahead in the place where it was intended to take place. I certainly would never have expected thanks for informing them about such matters as allotment law and the risks of holding the event in the allotments, but a message about the change of venue would have been appreciated.


Lu Skerratt-Love is a supporter of Extinction Rebellion or at least a sympathizer with Extinction Rebellion, which deliberately breaks the law, of course. That may not have anything to do with her work with Church Army but it's relevant to my work. Tim Long and other armchair critics forget that I'm not seeing things from the point of view of a member of the Church of England or a member of Church Army but from a very different point of view.


Tim Long's decision to impose blocking of my emails isn't a trivial matter. I'm not a sender of spam, I'm not an ignorant user of slogans, I have a well established Website with very high Google rankings for a wide range of search terms.


I tried to find an email address for Lu Skerratt-Love and the only one I could find was her Church Army email address. Throughout, I've felt strongly that it was and is very mistaken of her not to have a second email address at which she can be contacted. If you put the search term "Lu Skerratt-Love" email contact into Google, the only address to be found is the Church Army email address. Interestingly, the page of my Website, 'The Church of England: religion, remembrance, redemption' also appears on the same page of Google results.


Throughout this period of writing on the Forest Church, I've found that the channels of communication have been blocked or difficult. Many Christian groups use Facebook or Twitter. I won't join either, so I'm not able to send messages by using these social media platforms. Both have great disadvantages. The Wikipedia page on Facebook criticisms, gives a very comprehensive account of objections.

What are my views on the doctrines of Church Army, which underlie so much of their work?

To me, there's an obvious omission in the work of the Church Army. From what I can see, there is no attempt to address objections to Christian belief. The Church Army policy is to assume that Christian belief is what the Church Army claims it is, evading discussion of difficulties.

I'm glad that the Church Army is willing to modify some established doctrines of orthodox Christian belief, such as prohibition of homosexuality, but I point out the fact on this page that this would seem in conflict with various Biblical texts.


I give an extended discussion in the second main column of text and images of this page, the one with the heading 'For God so loved the world ... ' it includes comments on John 3:16 and comments on the doctrines supported by 'Church Society:' the Conservative Evangelical group in the Church of England, which claims that

' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)

 'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51)

'The biblical way of salvation has often been attacked over the centuries, however it is stated clearly in the 39 Articles of the Church of England.'

I need to know what doctrines of salvation are held by members of the Church Army. This is a more cohesive group than the Church of England as a whole, which contains many different views on salvation.

I need to know if members of the Church Army believe, in accordance with John 3:16 that not all will have eternal life, or eternal life with God rather than in separation from God. I need to know if obtaining eternal life depends upon faith only and not works, according to the Church Army.  If so, members of the Church Army believe that of those who have died of coronavirus, not all will have the privileges of eternal life. Some - or many - or most will have an eternity of separation from God. Similarly for those who died whilst fighting against Nazi Germany. The discussion in some other sections of the page is much more detailed than here, with many more examples.

Whilst the research department of the Church Army labours on a wide range of issues, such matters as these, so important for the reputation of the Church of England, the reputation of the Church Army, are neglected.

I hope to find out more about Church Army doctrines in this area - soteriology - from whatever sources I find. Or perhaps Tim Ling would give me the benefit of his knowledge? He can rest assured that I will never block any emails from him, or anyone else for that matter.

One more thing - the name 'Church Army' is obviously very well established and won't be changed, but to me, the inclusion of 'army' in the name is unjustifiable. The activities of the Church Army have nothing in common with the the experiences of soldiers in the Battle of the Somme or Passchendaele or campaigns in Afghanistan. The soldiers of the armed forces who face conditions of acute danger, acute hardships, are completely unlike the staff and members of the Church Army. Staff and members of the Church Army may face very great difficulties and great dangers in their ordinary life but if the recipients of my emails think my emails as a huge challenge, a massive difficulty, then I would say it is only because they find the arguments I present, with the accompanying evidence, very difficult to address.


Do the concerns I raise have relevance to the Church Army?

Amongst the documents I've consulted is 'The Day of Small Things: An analysis of fresh expressions of Church [fxC] in 21 dioceses of the Church of England' published by the Church Army in November 2016. The author is George Lings.


I can find no mention of Forest Churches in the text but since the publication of the document, forest churches have become more prominent. It can be taken that forest churches amount to one of those 'fresh expressions.' People who are not Christians and not members of the Church of England have a perfect right to comment on evangelism in the Church of England, not just 'fresh expressions' of evangelism but traditional, long established methods. Tim Ling has declared an interest in non-traditional forms of worship but seems rather to take the view that these are internal matters and outsiders should not raise questions about them. I find evidence that non-traditional forms of worship tend to promote Christian beliefs. The pitfalls and difficulties of these beliefs are ignored, neglected.

The Environmental Engagement Officer in the Gloucester Diocese, Cate Williams, has written a document with the title, 'Could now be the moment for 'Forest' churches to grow?' (18/03/2021)


From an article published in the 'Church Times,'


'A significant moment in the formation of Forest Church was the conference "Reaching Out in Mind, Body and Spirit", run by the Church Army's researcher in evangelism to post-Christian culture, the Revd Steve Hollinghurst.'


Forest Churches, like other approaches to evangelism, fresh or otherwise,are not just a matter for the Church of England. Non-believers may be affected by them. My view is that Allotments are not the place for proselytizing or for 'multiple baptisms and confirmations.' The page which reports an event at one allotment site




includes the comment, 'We hope that this time next year the numbers coming forward for baptism will have significantly increased.' 


The Bishop of Lancaster, Jill Duff, had put in an appearance and carried out confirmations and baptisms. Jill Duff has a section to herself later in this column.

A report in the 'Lancashire Post' on an event at Burnley:


 quotes Licensed Lay Minister Sharon Collins: 'The church is very well placed on the allotment because it is near a path that is very well used by residents and every week.

'When we are worshipping, people can see us and hear the singing. We use the fence along the path for mission and place passages from the Bible there for people to see.'


From a report in 'The Guardian,'


'The Church of England is facing a generational catastrophe with only 2% of young adults identifying with it, while seven out of 10 under-24s say they have no religion, research reveals.

'C of E affiliation is at a record low among all age groups, and has halved since 2002, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. Far fewer actually attend church services on a regular basis.


The demographic breakdown in the new data is particularly unwelcome news for the church. Younger people are significantly less likely to identify with the C of E than older age groups, and evidence suggests that people rarely join organised religion in later life. The trend indicates that affiliation with the C of E could become negligible with successive generations.'

Members of Church Society, the Conservative Evangelical Group, would look at the figures and conclude that increasing numbers of people in this country are destined for eternal separation from God. What do members of Church Army believe? Could they explain themselves, explain the doctrines they believe?

 By what right do the evangelists in the allotment at Burnley impose their views on users of allotments? Would they welcome the use of allotments by Roman Catholics and members of other religious groups? What if the fence were to be used to display pictures of the Pope, the Virgin Mary and Roman Catholic martyrs for people to see, near the path which is very well used by residents. What of the potential problems of legal liability if anyone has an accident during an event there?


Was God really calling people to worship at the allotment site in Morley Street? It's likely that prayers were said for the success of the project but the project was defeated by simple realities. The rush of enthusiasm, the burning conviction that this was God's will, the urge, it may be, to defeat a non-believer, someone 'living in darkness,' myself, undone by simple realities, such as the reality of allotment law and legal liability.

I can see no evidence that the Church Army recognizes the scale of the challenges they face. I brought matters to his attention which he may choose to ignore or to evade but his decision to block emails  which raise some of these issues is damaging to his reputation and damaging to the Church Army.

From the Diocese of Leicester Website (The Diocese of Leicester: 'Shaped by God,' the Website claims).

'The God At Work report shares learning about fresh expressions of Church (fxC) and similar initiatives within the Diocese of Leicester ... It marks the end of a five-year project to develop its work in this area thanks to a £809,000 Strategic Development Fund award from the national Church of England in June 2014 which built on work to further develop pioneering in the diocese which started in 2011.

'The report contains a distillation of results from more than eight years of work by the Diocese of Leicester and specially-commissioned research undertaken this year in partnership with Church Army’s Research Unit (CARU), as well as from significant areas of wider diocesan learning about pioneering.'

Money well on the way to a million pounds has been spent, then, with claim after claim, the usual things, the usual language, no doubt the usual results, nothing very dramatic, the Church of England still regarded with indifference, still viewed as an irrelevance, by most people, although I tend not to be impressed by the big numbers which are so often automatically regarded as validating something. The dire state of the Church of England isn't shown by the fact that only a minority bother with it.

The C of E in Sheffield and the Environment

Now I turn to a Sheffield Diocese document 'The Church and the Environment,'


where the Diocese gives a view of the environment and the reasons for the environmental crisis which I find grotesque:

'God made the earth and what he saw was very good (Genesis 1:26).' But there's a problem:  'Our disconnection from God has led to disconnection from our neighbour and from our earth.'

The Old Testament points us to a different and respectful relationship with the earth (eg Leviticus 25:1-4).

Surely the earth, as made by God, according to the document, wasn't very good at all. The earth was and is and always will be subject to earthquakes, which have led to horrific loss of life. Earthquakes can't be blamed on humanity. There's the implication that the environmental crisis, involving 'disconnection ... from our earth' is the result of disconnection from God. So a solution to the environmental crisis depends upon doing something about disconnection from God. Which God do they have in mind? Well, the Christian God, the three persons of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But supports of other religions would disagree.

But the low point of the argument is the ridiculous-hideous claim that 'The Old Testament points us to a different and respectful relationship with the earth. The document doesn't give the text of Leviticus 25:1-4 but I supply the deficiency. This is it - wait for it:

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses in Mount Sinai, saying
2.Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them, When we come unto the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
3. Six years thou shalt sow the field, and six years thou shalt prune the vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof:
4.But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.'

Here endeth this extract. This is no more than a simple bit of advice for cultivating the land, no use whatsoever to a farmer, no use whatsoever for care of the environment.

Here beginneth another verse from Leviticus, or part of a verse, in the Good News Translation:

'Any man or woman who consults the spirits of the dead shall be stoned to death ...'

Exodus 22:18 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' (Authorized Version)
'Put to death any woman who practises magic.' (Good News Translation)

Well, thinkers and  researchers of the Diocese of Sheffield, what do you make of that? My view is this:  It's time that the theological absurdities of Christian belief, the discarded waste of the past, were cleared up, just as it's time that the discarded waste in the Forest Garden were cleared up.

The diocese is top heavy with well paid advisers. Are there no advisers who could have advised the diocese not to publish their recommendation to consult the Old Testament Book of Leviticus to illustrate their thesis about the causes of the environmental crisis?

Lee Skerrat-Love describes herself as queer. I use here the word 'homosexual,' even though Lee Skerrat-Love would probably object to it. Does she object to the Old Testament and New Testament 'teaching' on homosexuality? Leviticus makes claims about homosexuality as well as agriculture.

Leviticus 20:13  'If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.'

The Wikipedia entries 'The Bible and Homosexuality'


and 'Homosexuality in the New Testament


are detailed guides to the subject, including, of course, the now notorious views of Paul on homosexuality.

The view, held by fundamentalists but not just fundamentalists, that the Bible offers clear guides to what a Christian should believe and how a Christian should behave, is naive and false. Christian doctrines are based on texts that are so often interpretative minefields. Single words, for example  ἀρσενοκοῖται (used in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) have been interpreted in contradictory ways.

If a Christian has feelings of rapture, joy, awe, ardent appreciation, the feelings aren't an infallible validation of religious beliefs, they aren't an infallible validation of  the content of the Bible. A Roman Catholic has these feelings when praying to the Virgin Mary or a Saint. An atheist - and a protestant, or most protestants - will be sceptical.  These images are propagandist, not inspirational, and the first image here, of a man sailing on a Bible-boat, is ludicrous:

This image is intended to give the believer the  idea that chains can be easily broken - by faith. Metal chains need a bolt cutter or another tool to cut them and can't be snapped just like that. Metaphorical chains may be impossible to break or very difficult to break.

Did God cause the flood which wiped out humanity and all the animals of the world, apart from the lucky few saved in Noah's Ark? Is the Biblical account to be trusted? Are the Biblical events of so many events to be trusted? Does God still cause floods, such as the devastating floods which have occurred in so many parts of the world. If does, is it to punish sin? Or are floods to be explained in terms of atmospheric physics and other branches of science.



These images may appeal to people in the grip of illusion but they amount to gross falsification, surely:

It has to be realized that the Bishop of Sheffield,Pete Wilcox, will have a distinctive view of climate activists and environmental campaigners climate scientists and farmers - a distinctive view of mothers and fathers, a distinctive view of concentration camp survivors and Nazi war criminals, in fact, a distinctive view of the whole of humanity - distinctive but atrocious, hideous.

The profile of the Bishop which follows this section gives the reasons. The Bishop describes himself as a Conservative Evangelical. Those people who choose to accept Jesus as their 'Lord and Saviour' are saved. Those people who fail to Jesus as the Lord and Saviour aren't saved.

According to Church Society, a Conservative Evangelical organization in the Church of England,

' ... all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them. Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15).

According to this loathsome view, loving mothers and fathers are under the condemnation of God and will be separated from God in Hell forever - if they fail to become born-again Christians.

Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster: documents and questions


My page on Cambridge University (and other universities) has a section on Cambridge University theologians and chaplains. I've added a brief entry on Jill Duff to the page. Jill Duff studied natural sciences at Christ's and wen on to gain a doctorate at Oxford. The entry, and the material on this page, will be revised and extended.


The material here is to do with Jill Duff's views on scripture, in particular the reliability of scripture, scripture as evidence for her conservative evangelical views; Jill Duff's views on salvation - for example, of the people in her diocese, what evidence does the Bible give for their future state, in union with God or separation from God; Jill Duff's views on sexual relations and specifically homosexuality, with documents on the Church's record - only some aspects of the record, of course; Jill Duff's view of a notorious verse which validates the killing of 'witches; Jill Duff's view of a Nazi New Testament scholar, again with the emphasis upon her view of salvation in this case. I can't be certain what Jill Duff's views are in any of these cases, although her conservative evangelical beliefs offer clues.


A useful, concise summary of some of Jill Duff's views can be found on the page




She writes,

'My networks would suggest there is a large – but silent – conservative majority in the Church of England.

'An ongoing challenge for progressives is there is not a clear “position” they are agreed on. There are multiple different landing points: same-sex blessing; same-sex marriage; sex outside marriage. We have an advantage of unity, the status quo, and the international Christian community, and two millennia of history. Let’s find ways to make the testimony of scripture compellingly attractive.'

With this, she has entered a kind of doctrinal minefield with blithe, simple-minded unconcern. Just about everything here is contentious.


  After the introductory material here, the section begins with historical material on the famous trial and execution of the Pendle 'witches' and related material.  The material has more than historical value. It has relevance to Jill Duff's view of scriptural reliability and scriptural 'proof' and to the views on the history of the Church which inform her thinking. The two millennia which she seems to think of as a largely or almost completely the story of a Church witnessing to Christ, worshipping God and bringing light to the world, are anything but. She hasn't evaded the horrific episodes, I think, but is simply unaware of them, or hasn't allowed them to register in her mind. A notorious text from the Bible which I quote later seems to validate the killing of 'witches.' Does Jill Duff believe that the text came from God? If so, she faces massive difficulties.


I include this and other  questions for Jill Duff in various places, even though they are very unlikely to be answered, I would think. I think she would find them very difficult to answer, or unanswerable.


She writes in the same article,

'Ask the Spirit for words, he is not the Spirit of fear (Romans 8:15): “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”. (Matthew 10:19-20).'


Her confidence is misplaced. I can be sure of that. Faced with the real difficulties for Conservative Evangelicals I think I uncover, she will be tongue-tied.

Historical background and comments on historical background are in italics. Quotations from the Bishop of Lancaster, comments on the Bishop and questions to the bishop - the questions are linked with the other material - are in non-italic print.


Material on a very different issue, an allotment church in Burnley is in the first section of this column. Jill Duff performed baptisms at this event.


The Pendle Witches







Images above: two views of Pendle Hill, a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the ten women hanged after being found guilty of witchcraft, Lancaster Castle, the site of the trial, title page of King James's 'Daemonology,'  women accused of witchcraft appearing before King James, First Folio of the King James Bible, 1612


King James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England, is better known for his association with the Authorized Version of the Bible, also known as the 'King James Bible,' than for his book 'Daemonology,' (1597).  'Daemonologie' endorses the practice of witch hunting in Chrisian society. He wrote in the book,

'The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or Enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (...) to resolve the doubting (...) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished.'


The King James Bible translation of Exodus 22:18 is 'Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' The King will have believed that he had divine authorisation for his persecution of witches. The 'Good News Translation (!) is 'Put to death any woman who practises magic.'


What is the view of Jill Duff, or, since Jull Duff is very unlikely to answer this or any other question, what is the view of any Conservative Christian? Not all Conservative Christians will believe in the infallibility of the Biblical text, of course.  Did God 'dictate' the text? Or is the text a primitive, barbaric view which somehow got into the Bible? The pomp of a Roman Catholic ceremony can divert attention from aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine. The attractions of so many Anglican Churches can conceal the flaws of Anglican doctrine - and the surprising, unbelievable things to be found in the Bible -  from believers and even many unbelievers.




From the Wikipedia entry on 'Witchcraft in Early Modern Britain, the section 'Witchcraft in Scotland:'

'Between the years of 1500 and 1700 somewhere between 4000 and 6000 people were tried for witchcraft in Scotland, a much higher number than any of the other British countries attained. This was likely due to the reign of King James VI who was known for his interest in sorcery and magic. He was even documented as having overseen trials and torture of multiple women accused of witchcraft ...

'One of Scotland's most notable mass witch trials occurred under the reign and supervision of King James VI.  The trials took place in North Berwick  between the years of 1590 and 1592, and led to at least 70 accused witches being condemned to violent torture and in most cases, death. The trials took place after the King experienced terrible storms whilst journeying by ship to Denmark where he would marry Princess Anne. King James VI, having seen authorities in Denmark accuse women such as Anna Kolding of using witchcraft to create the storms during the Copenhagen witch trials turned to the "witches" in North Berwick to blame for this event. Most of the information we have on the North Berwick trials  was found in the King's book  as well as a pamphlet entitled Newes from Scotland   that was published in London.'

From the Wikipedia page, North Berwick Witch Trials,


'Very soon more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested, and many confessed under torture to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King's ship.

The two most significant accused persons were Agnes Sampson,   a respected and elderly woman from Humbie,  and Dr John Fian, a schoolmaster and scholar in Prestonpans.  Both refused to confess and were put to severe torture. Sampson was brought before King James and a council of nobles. She denied all the charges, but after being tortured horrifically, she finally confessed. By special commandment, her head and body hair was shaven; she was fastened to the wall of her cell by a witch's bridle, an iron instrument with 4 sharp prongs forced into the mouth, so that two prongs pressed against the tongue, and the two others against the cheeks. She was kept without sleep and thrown with a rope around her head, and only after these ordeals did she confess to the fifty-three indictments against her. She was finally strangled and burned as a witch. According to Newes from Scotland, Declaring the Damnable Life of Dr. Fian, a Notable Sorcerer, a pamphlet published in 1591, Sampson confessed to attending a Sabbat  with 200 witches, Duncan among them.

'Dr. Fian also suffered severe torture. He endured having his fingernails forcibly extracted, then having iron pins thrust therein, the pilliwinks,  and the boot. He was finally taken to the Castlehill in Edinburgh and burned at the stake   on 16 December.

'According to Christopher Smout,  between 3,000 and 4,000 accused witches may have been killed in Scotland in the years 1560–1707.


Explanation of some torture instruments mentioned:

Pilliwinks: thumbscrew
Boot: instrument of torture which caused crushing injury to the leg and / or foot.


Extracts from documents on same-sex sexual relations.



Buggery Act of 1533, passed by Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII, is the first time in law that male homosexuality was targeted for persecution in the UK. Completely outlawing sodomy in Britain – and by extension what would become the entire British Empire – convictions were punishable by death. 

It was not until 1861 with the passing of the Offences Against the Person Act, that the death penalty was abolished for acts of sodomy – instead being made punishable by a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.


The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 however, went a step further once again, making any male homosexual act illegal – whether or not a witness was present – meaning that even acts committed in private could be prosecuted. Often a letter expressing terms of affection between two men was all that was required to bring a prosecution. The legislation was so ambiguously worded that it became known as the ‘Blackmailer's Charter’, and in 1895, Oscar Wilde fell victim.


Meanwhile, a significant rise in arrests and prosecutions of homosexual men were made after World War II. Many were from high rank and held positions within government and national institutions, such as Alan Turing,   the cryptographer whose work played a decisive role in the breaking of the Enigma code. This increase in prosecutions called into question the legal system in place for dealing with homosexual acts.


The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, better known as the Wolfenden Report, was published in 1957, three years after the committee first met in September 1954. It was commissioned in response to evidence that homosexuality could not legitimately be regarded as a disease and aimed to bring about change in the current law by making recommendations to the Government. Central to the report findings was that the state should focus on protecting the public, rather than scrutinising people’s private lives.


It took 10 years for the Government to implement the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations in the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Backed by the Church of England and the House of Lords, the Sexual Offences Act partially legalised same-sex acts in the UK between men over the age of 21 conducted in private.  Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit over a decade later, in 1980 and 1981 respectively.




The submissions of the Church of England Moral Welfare Council (CEMWC) – a body created for the specific purpose of coordinating and extending the Church’s efforts in educational and social work relating to issues of sex, marriage, and the family – anticipated and encouraged the Wolfenden recommendations, arguing  “it is not the function of the State and the law to constitute themselves the guardians of private morality… to deal with sin as such belongs to the province of the Church.”


The Church of England Moral Welfare Council appeared to believe that the Church of England was a fit body to act as a guardian of private morality - the State and the law should leave the sphere of private morality to the 'experts,' the Church of England. A deluded belief, surely.


A case, one of many where the law was pitiless and the Church of England was completely unmoved. A Church of England cleric was present when sentence of death was passed by the court and when a prisoner was publicly hanged. The Church was playing a public role which confirmed its importance in the state. It wasn't the conscience of the country. It could be a force for good, it sometimes was a force for good, but much of the time, it was anything but that.


Extracts from

At the Lancaster assizes in August 1806 five men were convicted of buggery [homosexual acts; Samuel Stockton, Thomas Rix, John Powell, and Joseph Holland had regularly assembled at the home of Isaac Hitchen, where they engaged in sex and called one another "Brother", and kept assignations at the shop of Holland, a well-off pawnbroker. Most of the men had relations with John Knight, one of the most affluent men in Warrington, and with the confectioner Thomas Taylor, who both turned King's Evidence to save themselves. Hitchen and Rix were sentenced to death but respite, but Stockton, Powell and Holland were hanged on the new drop erected at the back of the castle in Lancaster.

JOSEPH HOLLAND was indicted for that he not having the fear of God before his eyes, nor regarding the order of nature, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 9th day of July, in the forty-second year of the reign of his present Majesty, at Warrington, in the county of Lancaster, in and upon one Thomas Taylor, of Warrington aforesaid, did make an assault, and that he then and there feloniously, wickedly, diabolically and against the order of nature, carnally knew him the said Thomas Taylor, and then did commit that horrid, detestable, and abominable crime called b——y [buggery].

To this Indictment the Prisoner pleaded — NOT GUILTY.

Some questions and answers from the Court record of the trial:

Q   How long ago is it since you suffered any person to commit this infamous crime upon you? — A   About eight or nine years since.

Q   How old are you now? — A   About forty-five.

Q   Then when you first submitted yourself to be contaminated with this abominable crime, you were about thirty years old?

Court Nay that would be fifteen years ago.

Counsel — True, is it not more than eight or nine? — A   It was ten or eleven.

Q   So then at that time you were thirty-five? — A   Yes.

Q   Did you ever make any resistance or complaints when this crime was attempted to be committed upon you? — A   I have resisted.

Q   Did you ever make any complaints to any person on these occasions? — A   I never did except to the person that had committed it.

Q   When you have complained to the persons [p.34] themselves was it before or after? — A   Both before and after.

Q   Did you ever receive money from these persons at any time? — A   Never.

Q   Did you ever threaten to disclose if they did not give you money? — A   No.

Q   Did you receive any money from the prisoner? — A   I never did.

Q   So then, on these occasions you suffered these persons voluntarily to perpetrate this horrid crime upon you, or in short to do as they would. — A   I have resisted.

Q   Had you know the prisoner any time, or had you had any particular acquaintance with him when he asked you to go with him to his house? — A   I had not.

Q   Where had you seenm the prsoner before this time? — A   I had seen him at Isaac Hitchin's, about three weeks before.

Q   Had you ever seen him act contrary to decency or good morals, before the night when you say you went home with him? — A   I never did.



Joseph Holland, Thomas Rix, John Powell, along with Isaac Hitchen and Samuel Stockton who had also been convicted by John Knight were brought into court to receive sentence, and after having been asked what they had to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them according to law – the court proceeded to pass sentence of death on Holland, in nearly the following terms:


John Holland, you stand convicted by a jury of your country of a crime which, according to the very energetic terms of the law, is a crime not to be named amongst Christians. I will not, therefore, offend the ears of any of those who may be before me, on this solemn occasion, by making any observations on the enormity of the offence of which you have been found guilty: — it is a crime of that nature and magnitude, that it is the duty the legislature owe to that society over which it presides, to mark it with the severest and most inevitable punishment.

I warn you, therefore, not to indulge any expectation that pardon will be extended toward you, but rather to make the best use of that short time which you will be allowed, in order to prepare yourself for that state into which you must shortly enter. — It now only remains with me to fulfil the painful task of pronouncing the awful sentence of the law, which is:


"That you Joseph Holland be taken from hence to the place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul!!" [p.67]

Mr. Holland appeared in the highest degree alive to his awful situation, and exclaimed, after the sentence was pronounced, upon his knees, "Amen, the Lord have mercy!"

The same sentence was passed on the rest.


Does Jill Duff think that the sentences of death for homosexual acts were justifiable? Does Jill Duff think that God dictated this verse? Leviticus 20:13  'If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.'


A Nazi New-testament scholar


John Connelly writes that 'German universities embraced National Socialism more warmly than any other segment of society ... Within the theological faculties, the percentage of the professoriate who became party members ha nto been determined on a national level. At the University of Berlin, however, 71.4% of the tenured theological professoriate became party members, compared with 28% of those in medicine and 60% of those in law.


Gerhard Kittel compiled the Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament, available in 10 volumes in English translation, which has been described by many scholars as the best New Testament Dictionary ever compiled.

A Professor of Evangelical Theology and New Testament at the University of Tubingen, he published studies depicting the Jewish people as the historical enemy of Germany, Christianity and European culture   in general. In a lecture of June 1933 Die Judenfrage (The Jewish Question), that soon appeared in print, he spoke for the stripping of citizenship from German Jews, their removal from medicine, law, teaching, and journalism, and to forbid marriage or sexual relations with non-Jews—thus anticipating by two years the Nazi government, which introduced its Nuremberg Racial Laws and took away Jewish rights of German citizenship in 1935. A close friend of Walter Frank, Kittel joined Frank's Reichsinstitut fur Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands,  a highly politicised organisation that claimed to be involved in scholarship, upon its foundation in 1935. Within this institute he was attached to the highly antisemitic Forschungsabteilung judenfrage.

William F. Albright wrote that, 'In view of the terrible viciousness of his attacks on Judaism and the Jews, which continues at least until 1943, Gerhard Kittel must bear the guilt of having contributed more, perhaps, than any other Christian theologian to the mass murder of Jews by Nazis.'


The second main column of text on this page contains a discussion of John 3:16:


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' (Gospel according to St John, 3:16, King James Bible.')


I read Greek and I'm not dependent on translations.

The text in the original:


Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν Υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.


Gerhard Kittel seems to have believed in the 'only begotten Son of God.' According to Jill Duff, did he go on to everlasting life in union with God, rather than to everlasting separation from God.


The same question can be put to her in connection with many other people and groups of people. I've made the same point with the same or similar questions in other parts of the page, so this need not be an extensive list - does Jill Duff believe that of the people who succumbed to coronavirus, only the people who believed in Christ as their personal lord and saviour went on to everlasting life in union with God?


Of the staff of the Chemistry Departments at Cambridge University and Lancaster University, will only believers in the Son of God have everlasting life in union with God?


Darwin, slavery and a College Chaplain


This is an extract from my page on Cambridge University and other universities, which contains many profiles of Christians with a Cambridge University connection. It's a profile of Michael Dormandy, who has a connection with Christ's College, Cambridge - he was a Chaplain there. The extract is included here because it continues the theme of the previous section, also found in other places on the page. Darwin attended Christ's College, as did the Jill Duff, the Bishop of Lancaster. The quotations from Darwin make clear his loathing for slavery and his loss of Christian faith.



Michael Dormandy, the former Chaplain of Christ's College studied at Wycliffe Hall, an evangelical theological college and has published on the site of the Church Society, the conservative evangelical Church of England organization.   It's very, very likely that he's in full agreement with this :


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15).'


It's very, very likely that Michael Dormandy regards the achievements of the master of Christ's College and the achievements of the fellows of Christ's College as far less important than the 'realities' of God's 'just' judgement against them - or, in a small number of cases, in their favour. It's very, very likely that his view of Christ College undergraduates and applicants to the College and the porters and other staff of the College will show the same narrow, inhuman focus.


Christ's College has a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence. This is one of the smaller Cambridge colleges but it has produced more Nobel prize winners than many of the countries of the world. But for evangelicals, unless the academically successful accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, they are lost. This is a nihilistic view of academic achievement, as of other human gifts and talents and other strengths: ultimately, the academic achievement does count for nothing in God's eyes.


It's very, very likely that the scientific achievement of Charles Darwin, who was a member of Christ's College, and, of course, one of the greatest of scientists, will mean far less to the chaplain than the 'all-important' fact that Darwin lost his Christian faith - God penalizes the honest search for truth if the search ends in loss of faith, not faith in Christ the 'redeemer.'


From Darwin's autobiography:


'Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox,  & I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality.  I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, rainbow as a sign,  etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos ...


And this:


'By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible, do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, – that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitness; – by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.'


 It's very, very likely that Charles Darwin's condemnation of slavery will mean next to nothing to Michael Dormandy - after all, this is an issue unrelated to redemption by belief in Christ.  See also the section on slavery, For God so loved the world ... in my page on the 'Church of England.'


In the  'The Voyage of the Beagle,' 'Mauritius to England,' Darwin describes the effect of witnessing some of the horrors of slavery. The account was written at a time when he still had belief in God:


'On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country ... Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master's eye.




'picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children ... being torn from you and sold like beasts to the highest bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth!'

Christ's College claims to be a 'vibrant community.' Its not so vibrant Chaplain, the industrious Michael Dormandy, has published a secondary school Latin textbook and a critical edition, with translation and commentary, of a letter, the Epistola Fundamentalis  by the seventeenth century Roman Catholic priest, Bartholomaeus Holzhauser.


Bartholomaeus Holzhauser is, of course, the celebrated interpreter of the Book of the Apocolypse. According to his interpretation, the 7 stars and the 7 candlesticks which were 'seen' by St John signify 7 periods in Church history. To these periods correspond the 7 churches of Asia Minor, the 7 days of creation, according to Genesis, the 7 ages before Christ and the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.


Michael Dormandy has also been working on 'scribal habits in the Greek majuscule pandects.'


He's a member of the Faculty of Divinity. The Faculty's site gives further information about the achievements of this figure, including his  'Text-critical analysis of the book of Revelation in the Codex Alexandrinus.'




The site gives the information that Dr Dirk Jongkind of St Edmund's College is a collaborator of Michael Dormandy. I've no information as to whether Dr Jongkind has conservative evangelical views, of the kind which has an interest, an overwhelmingly important interest, in the destination of the Master, Fellows, students and staff of St Edmund's - the path to redemption or damnation. Perhaps he would be able to make clear his view of things.


The case of Michael Dormandy is an instructive one, although there are many more like him. He shows the stupidity of supposing that a College Chaplain can minister to the 'spiritual needs' of even the academic and non-academic staff of a college, the undergraduate and graduate members of a college, who have an affiliation with the Church of England, let alone the methodists, baptists, and members of other Christian denominations, or the 'spiritual' needs which agnostics and atheists are also alleged to have, or the alleged 'spiritual' needs of people who are completely indifferent to the Church of England, to all religion, and to thinking about any of the issues.


If it reflects to any extent the deep divisions of the Church of England, the numerically small group of Church of England people in a college is likely to contain people who would think of themselves as evangelicals, conservative to a greater or lesser extent, Anglo-Catholics, Anglican 'free-thinkers,' people who have no belief in some or most of the doctrines which evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics would regard as essential, and 'mainstream' Anglicans, who may well evade the difficult issues raised by the presence in this 'broad church' of people with views they view with distaste.


Michael Dormandy can't possibly see to the 'spiritual' needs of the non-evangelical Anglicans. He can only see to the 'spiritual' needs of a minority within a minority. He has his futile scholarship to keep him busy, to his own satisfaction, not so chaplains without this solace.












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From my FEFE page on Church abuse:


In the Roman Empire, torture of slaves and abuse of slaves - slave children, slave adults, sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse - was freely permitted. Jesus will have known about this abuse and torture and will have witnessed it. 'St' Paul will have known about and witnessed many more instances in his travels in the Roman Empire. What did Jesus and St Paul have to say about it? Nothing.


What does Psalm 137 have to say about abuse?


Babylon, you will be destroyed.
Happy are those who pay you back
for what you have done to us -
who take your babies
and smash them against a rock.


Translation: the 'Good News [!] Bible


Antioch Community Church, like a large number of other Churches in Sheffield, including the Sheffield Diocese, is a member of 'Arise!' There's a 'List of  Members of 'Arise!' and other Churches in the column to the left. Antioch Community Church has a 'Statement of Belief'




which includes this 'Unbelievers ... will be eternally separated from God and in torment.'

More from 'The 'Statement of Belief:



We believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, living, eternally-reliable Word of God. We believe it is without error in its original manuscript, absolutely infallible and our source of supreme revelation from God, superior to conscience and reason, though not contrary to reason. It is therefore our infallible rule of faith and practice and necessary to our daily lives. [II Timothy 3:16-17; I Peter 1:23-25; Hebrews 4:12]


(How does Antioch Community Church interpret this passage from Psalm 137?)

and this:


We believe that in the final judgment, which will accompany the return of Christ, every person will give an account to God of every aspect of this earthly life. The Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema Seat) is the judgment of believers in reference to rewards or lack thereof. The Great White Throne Judgment [?] is the judgment of unbelievers who will be eternally separated from God and in torment. [I Corinthians 3:10-15; II Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15]


Antioch isn't the exception amongst the Churches and Church organizations in Sheffield and beyond. These beliefs are common, very common, general. It matters if a Safeguarding Officer has the same or similar beliefs. It matters very much if a Safeguarding Officer believes that an abused person who is an unbeliever will be eternally separated from God and in torment but an abuser who is a believer will be in union with God.

For the sake of honesty, these Churches and Church organizations should be ready to make clear their view of things. If they believe that the people who live nearby and are unbelievers are 'unsaved' then they should be willing to proclaim their beliefs - or to admit their beliefs. If they believe that almost all the Jews exterminated by the Nazis will be eternally separated from God and in torment, then they should be willing to proclaim their beliefs, or admit their beliefs. There are many, many more examples which would show the gross inhumanity of these Christian convictions. I give some of them on this page and the other pages concerned with Christian belief.

--> -->

Should people donate to Churches and Church organizations which adhere to the doctrine of the eternal damnation of shopkeepers, hospital workers, Jews who died in the extermination camps, loving parents - and their children - composers, the people who carry out hard, backbreaking work - the whole of humanity, in fact - if these people haven't accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour? Shouldn't people donate to better causes? Donors should be aware that the damnation of non-believers is orthodox Christian teaching, doctrines supported by most Christian churches. Should people give their time to these churches?

The Church is supposedly 'a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.' Is this so? Vast numbers of churches are named after 'saints,' such as 'St' Paul and 'St' Augustine (who taught that unbaptized babies go to hell).

If the Church is a 'hospital for sinners,' in cases of abuse it resembles the kind of hospital common centuries ago, which did nothing or next to nothing to check disease, where conditions encouraged the spread of disease, rather than a modern hospital where treatment is based on scientific evidence and vastly more effective.


Sections of this page:

 'For God so loved the world ... '
Remembrance Sunday and the C of E
The C of E in Sheffield:  discarded rubbish
      (In column at far right of page)
Tim Ling, Church Army Strategist: Voltaire updated
Sermons from St Marks and St Johns, Sheffield
Comments on a very contentious St Marks Sermon

Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield
     (In column at far right of page)
Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster: documents and questions
Darwin, slavery and a College Chaplain
 The C of E, a broad, divided church: a time to leave

Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.'
Noah's Ark 1: Who would Adam and Eve it?
Noah's Ark 2: Human values
Reformed Christian Gentleman and Bufo buffoon, a venomous toad 

 Conservative Woman and Christian-inanity

Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner
Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral
George Pitcher, Anglican priest
Geoffrey Hill, Christian poet

St Paul's Cathedral: thinking and faith
King's College Chapel, Cambridge
All things bright and beautiful
The King James Bible
Feeding the hungry and the Sermon on the Mount

Non-religious stupidity   
Aphorisms: religion and ideology
 What is an ideology?

See also the pages            

Ethics: theory and practice

Nietzsche: against

Nietzsche is an opponent of pity as well as Christianity. In my page on Nietzsche I defend humanitarian values and criticize some of the delusions, distortions and falsifications of Nietzsche - from a non-Christian perspective.


Cambridge University

which includes a section 'Cambridge Christianity' and profiles of some Cambridge Christians.


Above, believers in transubstantiation, in this case Roman Catholics - during the Mass, the bread and wine are converted to the actual body and blood of Christ. Many Anglicans believe in transubstantiation too. As I make clear in other places, the Church of England is hopelessly divided, with a chaotic mixture of incompatible views.

Credit: Creative Commons  Link to licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

Threats to the mind aren't important to many people. If beliefs are deluded but the people holding them are 'harmless' (not terrorists, not advocates of indiscriminate violence which threaten the body), then this is of no account. I regard threats to the mind as well as to the body as important, as far from harmless, as threats to be resisted. 'Threats to mind and body:' the phrase is a concise way of expressing the conviction that harmful forces may threaten not just the body, by killing and injuring, but the mind, by threatening free thought and free expression,  artistic expression as well as intellectual expression.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who regard Christianity as the most harmful  force in the world today. In the twentieth century, fascism and Stalinism and other forms of communism completely eclipsed Christianity as a threat to body and mind.

In the past, Christianity has often threatened mind and body. In the section on Pete Wilcox, the Bishop of Sheffield, I discuss some of the people burned at the stake - by the Church of England and by Calvin at Geneva - for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity and other failures of belief.

Hume, writing in the 'Treatise concerning Human Understanding: 'Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.'

A partial updating of Hume's view: the errors in religion may be  dangerous but the most dangerous errors come from non-religious ideologies. In the past, the most dangerous errors have been Nazism and Communism, and of communist ideologies,  particularly Stalinist communism.  The other-worldly aspects of religion, the stress upon ritual or correct thinking or a holy book, and all the other varied characteristics of religions, have lessened their capacity for causing harm. The cruelties of Christianity, such as the Inquisition and the cruelties sometimes carried out by Islamists, such as amputation of limbs and stoning to death, have never been on the same scale as the savagery of Nazism and Stalinism, or the atrocities committed by such regimes as those of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who overlook the many, many impressive Christians and followers of other religions. Their assumption that non-religious people must always be superior to religious people could be called childish, but I use the word 'unformed.'

In the twenty-first century, Christianity is negligible as a threat to mind and body whilst the dangers of  Islamism have become obvious, to anyone with any sense, and  {adjustment} is needed to recognize these changing realities. But it isn't enough to recognize the chief threats, there has to be quantification of the threats. Even radical, terror-supporting Islamism is obviously far less of a threat to body than Nazism in the past. Its outrages are horrific but generally localized. No Islamic state or terrorist organization has perpetrated a fraction of the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany, again, despite the horrific atrocities they have inflicted, in  part because  radical Islamism generally seems to be incompatible with highly developed economies, social organizations and scientific and technological expertise.  When an Islamic state is an exception to this - Iran is the prime example now  - then the potential threat to the body is very great. If ISIS did have the power and the resources, then its atrocities would equal those of Nazi Germany.

On this page, I criticize not just the religious but some of their opponents, such as some humanists (supporters of groups such as the British Humanist Association.) To see through some illusions and forms of stupidity is no guarantee that someone will not be subject to other  illusions and forms of stupidity.  Illusion and stupidity aren't evaded too easily. A humanist who can see through the arguments intended to show that the gospel records are largely reliable, that Jesus rose again, that prayer works and is worthwhile (although not, nowadays, that praying for good weather works and is worthwhile), may well be in the grip of delusions more harmful  than any of these.

In various places in this site, I argue against pacifism. A Christian who believes that Jesus rose again may well recognize the harsh realities that make pacifism unworkable and disastrous in some circumstances, may have delusions about prayer but recognize that to defeat Nazi Germany or the Taliban requires practical action. The humanist who airily dismisses the need for action by force of arms in some circumstances is suffering from a more severe form of delusion. The believer's common sense and good sense may be left unaffected by theological illusion.

I criticize the Anglican priest George Pitcher on this page. This is someone whose superficiality should be obvious. He shares the illusions of so many secularists in such practicalities as defence, Islamism, migration and other issues but he has religious illusions as well. They include his incredible belief that the Church of England can still be taken seriously - provided, of course, its Public Relations are conducted in a more sophisticated way, by making full use of social media, for instance. He would like other things to happen as well, things which are unlikely to happen.

The strengths of this age co-exist with stupidities. The stupidities of previous ages were different but often as bad or worse. When Protestant persecuted Catholic and Catholic persecuted Protestant and both Catholic and Protestant persecuted non-believers and believers in other forms of Christianity, tolerance was an overwhelmingly important necessity. Today, tolerance can be stupid and dangerous, as is increasingly recognized. Giving sanctuary to the persecuted is noble but giving sanctuary to the persecuted who would be only too glad to persecute, given the chance, is usually very mistaken. To distinguish between people worthy of a safe haven in a liberal democracy and people who aren't in the least an asset to a liberal democracy, who are a threat to a liberal democracy, may be very difficult, but the attempt has to be made.


But this isn't in general a tolerant age. Political correctness has replaced Christianity as a threat to the mind.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that only religious beliefs which are aggressive or grossly intolerant are dangerous, that religious beliefs which are placid and tolerant can never be  dangerous, or that philosophical beliefs can never be dangerous - with {restriction} of  attention here to physical dangers, the dangers to body. Only a little thought and reflection are needed to realize that Buddhism and Quaker beliefs  (which are peripherally religious) can be  potentially dangerous and actually dangerous. This is for the reason that any set of beliefs, religious or otherwise, which fails to recognize and to act against dangers by giving  support to inaction is itself dangerous. If ruthless militarism is a great danger, so is pacifism in the face of ruthless militarism.


David Hume, the 18th century philosopher, the greatest and most influential of English-speaking philosophers and a very versatile  writer,  was born in Edinburgh, studied at Edinburgh University, was a librarian at Edinburgh University and lived for much of his life in Edinburgh - but he didn't  secure a chair at the university.  Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to give the chair to him on account of his atheistic views.


This is from Richard Wollheim's introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which contains the classic 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other texts, including 'Of Miracles' (Section x, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding.)

'Looking back upon eighteenth-century Edinburgh, we tend so readily to think of it as bathed in that soft 'Athenian' light, in that glow of radiant liberalism, which distinguished its middle and later years, that we quite forget at how narrow a remove it stood, both in time and place, from fanaticism and intellectual barbarism.'


This was David Hume's attitude to illusion and ignorance and people in the grip of illusion and ignorance:


' ... it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, a propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [the belief that during the Catholic mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ, without any alteration of appearances] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed ... '


Many, many Catholics and other Christians have been and are not just people of good sense but outstanding, to give just one example, the Christian people who sheltered Jews facing extermination, at enormous risk to themselves. A belief in transubstantiation can co-exist with clear-sighted views - and humane views, as well as great abilities in the sphere of practical action. Many, many secularists, who can see the absurdity of transubstantiation  have views which are ridiculous and stupid.


This isn't in the least a scholarly page, but I can claim knowledge of theological scholarship, including study of the New Testament in Greek, as well as extensive study of wider theological debate and discussion.

Aphorisms: religion, ideology and honesty

See also my page Aphorisms.

This world is inexhaustible and unfathomable. We need speculate about no other.


Mystics who are 'deep' are out of their depth.



Humanity can be explained only partly in natural terms but not at all in supernatural terms.


The horrific imperfections of the world foster courage and ingenuity. Why not skepticism?


The understandable fear of becoming lost, of leaving behind roads and paths, helps to explain the refusal to follow an argument wherever it leads, the reassurance of religions and ideologies.


The Christian revelation has taken away from life the mystery which for non-Christians remains. For skeptics more than for Christians, this is a mysterious and magical world.


The Christian God has become softer and gentler, a God who's 'only human,' although no more so than the old vengeful God.


My atheism is far from being the most important thing about me, otherwise there would be a strong linkage between me and the atheist Stalin.


To know that someone is a Christian or an atheist tells me almost nothing about the person.


Self-evident untruths and half-truths will always be popular.


Honest people may well reinterpret their lives at intervals as drastically as totalitarian regimes reinterpret their own history.


I detest your ideology and the ideologies you detest.


Oppose mindless tolerance as well as mindless intolerance.


Oppose secular tyrannies as well as religious tyrannies.


'The later can be better than the earlier.' There's more consolation in this than in all the religions of the world. It may even console us for the existence of those religions.


If the world were imperfect in the way that Christians or communists suppose, Christianity or communism might be true, but it's imperfect in a way that refutes them. And so for other theisms and ideologies.


The great achievements of religious architecture, painting, sculpture and literature are no evidence for religion but evidence that people with artistic gifts may not have the same talent for critical thinking.


The world can look better seen in a distorting mirror.



Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.' With comments on 'key workers' in 'sacred spaces.'



Above, la Scala Santa in Rome. This section is addressed to  Roman Catholic commenters who are more sophisticated than the simple believers who ascend the Scala Santa on their knees - sophisticated, liberal Catholics who even so believe in doctrines which are surely just as difficult to defend - ridiculous, in fact. No Catholic has to believe that the steps making up the Scala Santa were flown - or trasported in some other way - from Jerusalem to Rome, but belief in transubstantiation is a very different matter. This is a central belief - the belief that in the Mass, the bread becomes bread no longer, but the actual body of Jesus Christ, the wine becomes wine no longer, but the actual blood of Jesus Christ - not symbolically the body and blood of Christ but the actual body and blood of Christ. Or the belief in the indissolubility of marriage, the belief which overlooks the plain fact that two people may marry at a time when their judgment was unformed, when they were teenagers or adults with poor judgment, the belief which maintains that once married, they should stay married. In secular society, divorce allows people to start again after making a mistake. In Roman Catholic societies, divorce takes place despite the 'teaching' of the Church, but only as a result of secular thinking and common sense. The teaching of the Church has contempt for common sense in so many ways - but more in the past than the presen


After examining briefly the doctrine 'Extra ecclesiam nulla salus,' I examine some claims of  a 'liberal' Roman Catholic, not named here. In an article published in 'The Daily Telegraph,' (19 October, 2020) with the heading 'Churches have always been key workers,' she calls for state support for Churches - a disastrously misguided call. In France, the secularism of the state is emphasized. In Great Britain, there's a need to emphasize the secularism of the state too - including separation of church and state The state has no business subsidizing  Churches. If it subsidizes Churches, should it subsidize mosques, synagogues and temples too?

The writer emphasizes the practical work of Christian Churches. Roman Catholic Churches, like other Churches, contribute to famine relief and relief concerned with medical emergencies but are part of a Church which has disregarded, which continues to disregard, the obvious fact that human populations are subject to the  Malthusian pressures which are general in the animal kingdom - many are born but few survive, a situation transformed by the development of artificial contraception, opposed by the Roman Catholic Church but transforming women's lives, and men's lives too. They are part of a Church which prefers to celebrate 'martyrs' rather than the scientists, engineers, medical staff, labourers and others whose work has transformed the world in other ways, by, for example, freeing humanity, or a large section of humanity, from periodic famines, from periodic plagues. There's a great deal of background material on these matters on this page and other pages of the site - to give a complete set of links to the material would be difficult. I quote in various places this, from Peter Mathias' 'The First Industrial Nation:'


'The fate of the overwhelming mass of the population in any pre-industrial society is to pass their lives on the margins of subsistence. It was only in the eighteenth century that society in north-west Europe, particularly in England, began the break with all former traditions of economic life.'

Material in the site tends to be highly dispersed. A single section may contain material with strong contrasts. So, for example, the next section documents the abusive language of one particular Christian, a 'heretic hunter' with, fortunately, no way of enforcing his views, now that Protestants can no longer torture or kill Catholics and Catholics can no longer torture or kill Protestants, but contains very different material such as this:


'I'm disappointed, very disappointed, that 'Conservative Woman,' a site with so many strengths, whose stance is very similar to my own in many ways - I'll mention just one of them, the emphasis on defence and deterring aggression, upholding the importance of our armed forces - should support this deeply misguided religious ideology.

On the subject of 'martyrs,' which is the subject of a book by the commenter whose article in 'The Daily Telegraph' criticized here:


A placard from one of the many commemorations which have taken place in France since the beheading of Samuel Paty:

'Samuel is not a martyr (let's leave that word to the fanatics!) Samuel is a hero of the Republic.'

'Samuel n' est pas un martyr (laissons ce vocable aux fanatiques!) Samuel est un Hero de la République.'

'The Christian attitude to historical events is often but not always faulty and misguided, The Christian attitude to the natural world more consistently so, I think. The Coronavirus, protein and nucleic acid, is part of God's creation, to some Christians, like lambs and kittens, sharks and the plague bacillus. There are Christians who would view the coronavirus pandemic as God's punishment for sinners - a strange act of God, considering that it has led to the cancellation of Church services.


'The Lisbon earthquake led to widespread doubt about God's power in the world. The more fundamental question concerns God's existence, of course. It was hard to explain an event which caused so much death and damage and which couldn't be blamed on human imperfection (or 'sin,' which isn't a synonym for imperfection.)'


There have been, and still are, many, many Roman Catholics who believe that the steps shown in the image above are the very steps which Jesus Christ walked up in Jerusalem, before talking with Pontius Pilate - and that the steps were transported from Jerusalem to Rome by Saint Helena in the fourth century. For many centuries, the steps have attracted Christian pilgrims. To this day, pilgrims ascend the steps on their knees.


From the Wikipedia entry:


'Climbing the Holy Stairs on one's knees is a devotion much in favour with pilgrims and the faithful. Several popes have performed the devotion, and the Roman Catholic Church has granted indulgences for it. Pope Pius VII on 2 September 1817 granted those who ascend the Stairs in the prescribed manner an indulgence of nine years for every step. Pope Pius X, on 26 February 1908, conceded a plenary indulgence as often as the Stairs are devoutly ascended after Confession and Holy Communion. On 11 August 2015, the Apostolic Penitentiary granted a plenary indulgence to all who "inspired by love" climbed the Stairs on their knees while meditating on Christ's passion, and also went to Confession, received Holy Communion, and recited certain other Catholic prayers, including a prayer for the Pope's intentions.''


The section 'Skeptical Visitors includes this:

'Charles Dickens, after visiting the Scala Sancta in 1845, wrote: "I never, in my life, saw anything at once so ridiculous and so unpleasant as this sight." He described the scene of pilgrims ascending the staircase on their knees as a "dangerous reliance on outward observances" '




One of the most misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church is this one:


Outside the Church there is no salvation” (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus).


'Those trying to grasp the meaning of this teaching often struggle with its formulations by various Church Fathers and Church Councils down through history. Of course, to understand an isolated formulation of any Church teaching, one must study the historical context within which it was written: why it was written, what was going on in the Church at the time, who the intended audience was, and so on. One must discover how the magisterium (teaching office) of the Church understands its own teaching. If someone fails to do this and chooses, rather, to simply treat a particular formulation as a stand-alone teaching, he runs the risk of seriously misunderstanding it.'

'In recent times, the Church has recognized that its teaching about the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation has been widely misunderstood, so it has “re-formulated” this teaching in a positive way. Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins to address this topic: “How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Reformulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).

'In keeping with the Church’s current spirit of ecumenism, this positive reformulation comes across less harshly than previous negative formulations. Even so, it remains quite controversial. So, let’s see how this new formulation squares with Scripture.'

' ... consider these three verses:


This 'Biblical proof' uses two quotations from Synoptic Gospels followed by a quote from the Gospel according to John. The Greek historian Thucydides, a towering figure in historiography, scrupulous in his use of evidence, acknowledges that in the speeches which are so prominent in his History of the Peloponnesian War, the wording is his own. Modern ideas of exact quotation were foreign to the writers of the Gospels. The assumption that the Synoptic Gospels contain exact quotations of Jesus' own words is false. Readers of the Gospel according to John - apart from orthodox Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic - will find that Jesus speaks in this Gospel in a very different way from the way he speaks in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The wording is the wording of John. The historical Jesus can't be reached by these means.


Many, many troubling questions arise from just these verses. I don't need to deal with them in any detail here. Material on this page is highly dispersed and material on the site tends to be highly dispersed. I deal with the issues in other places. I'll simply give reminders here.

The Catholic commentary continues:


'Notice that in these three verses Jesus associated salvation with baptism, confession, and the Eucharist, respectively. Catholics recognize that these sacraments are administered through the Church. In fact, in the case of the latter two, a validly ordained priest is necessary for their administration, so the sacrament of ordination must also be associated with salvation. A primary role of the Catholic Church in conjunction with salvation is becoming quite clear.

'This brings us to the second part of the Catechism’s formulation of the doctrine being considered: “. . . through the Church which is his Body.”


Since the sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the grace necessary for salvation, and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the ordinary minister of those sacraments, it is appropriate to state that salvation comes through the Church.


'Since the sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the grace necessary for salvation, and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the ordinary minister of those sacraments, it is appropriate to state that salvation comes through the Church.


'This is not unlike the situation that existed prior to the establishment of the Catholic Church. Even before it was fully revealed that he was the Messiah, Jesus himself taught that “salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22). He pointed the woman of Samaria to the body of believers existing at that time, through which salvation would be offered to all mankind: the Jews.


'In a similar fashion, now that the Messiah has established his Church, Jesus might say, “salvation is from the Catholics”!


'Recognizing this, we can see why the Church, especially during times of mass exodus (such as has happened in times when heresies have run rampant), has been even more forceful in the way it has taught this doctrine. Instead of simply pointing out how God offers salvation from Christ, through the Church, the Church has warned that there is no salvation apart from Christ, outside his Church.

'Since Jesus established the Catholic Church as necessary for salvation, those who knowingly and willingly reject him or his Church cannot be saved. We see this in Jesus’ teaching: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mt 12:30). Also: “[I]f he [a sinning brother] refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). Paul warned similarly: “As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Ti 3:10-11).

'Having said all this, we must recognize that this doctrine is not as far reaching as some imagine it to be. People will sometimes ask, “Does this means non-Catholics are going to hell?” Not necessarily.'

There follows a discussion of 'invincible ignorance,' including this bleak comment:

'Paul did not say that those who are innocently ignorant of the truth will be saved; he simply keeps open the possibility of it.'

One obvious consequence is this, to give just one example from many possible examples. If, in the past, a tribe living somewhere in the Amazon, far from Catholic civilization, had never been reached by Catholic missionaries, then they would have the excuse that they hadn't rejected Catholic teaching - they had never even heard of it. If they had been visited by Catholic missionaries and been exposed to Catholic teaching and some of their number had rejected it, then it seems they would have been damned.

Followed immediately by this further 'Biblical proof:'

Similarly, he wrote: “[I]s God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith” (Rom 3:29-30).

Anyone who disagrees with my view of the doctrine of 'outside-the-church-no-salvation' will find contrary views in many places, of course, including this blog devoted to the issue (and devoted to th doctrine):




Noah's Ark 1: Who would Adam and Eve it?


The two sections on Noah's Ark on this page also appear on my page on Cambridge University.





Above, animals (two of all the animals in the world) waiting to board Noah's Ark, which will save them from drowning when God, angry at human wickedness, floods the entire world - according to the Biblical Creation Trust and many other organizations. The people who had built the  Cathedrals and those lovely English Parish Churches - as well as the unlovely and quite ugly English Parish Churches - had a similar view of God, in general.


Below, a representation in stained glass of Noah's Ark, from Lincoln Cathedral (one of the cathedrals, and churches, I've visited in the course of architectural study visits.) The fact that a building is an architectural achievement is no guarantee that the activities within the building, the beliefs of the builders and the users of the building, are at a high level: credulity and superstition aren't excluded from buildings of note.



'Adam and Eve it:' Cockney Rhyming Slang, of course, meaning 'Who would believe it.' The accents and dialects of the British Isles are an interest of mine. My own accent is Yorkshire, specifically South Yorkshire, Sheffield, but I also use Sheffield dialect - a particular grammar and vocabulary as well as a particular pronunciation.


From the page




'Steve Lloyd MA, PhD works part-time as a Researcher and Lecturer for BCT [Biblical Creation Trust] and is also pastor of Hope Church, Gravesend. He studied Materials Science at the University of Cambridge and became a Royal Society University Research Fellow. Steve also has a Diploma in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge.'


It's obvious that this Royal Society University Research Fellow has more than maintained the high standards of Cambridge science. If we look at some of his beliefs, it's obvious to me that he's also maintained the abysmal standards of Cambridge theology.


These are some of the beliefs promoted by the Biblical Creation Trust. From the page




Belief 'that the Bible provides reliable historical information.'

The Bible's 'God-spoken testimony to events such as Noah’s flood means that a worldwide global flood in human history (for example) must be included in any scientific model that is true to the earth’s past.'


Amongst the doctrines 'central to Biblical Creation and established from numerous passages of the Bible,

'Adam was a historical individual from whom the whole human race is descended.



'Noah’s flood extended over the whole globe, bringing destruction to all air-breathing land animals outside the ark.'


I don't make any attempt to give the arguments and evidence against these doctrines, except to state that a flood extending over the whole globe is impossible - to mention just one objection, floodwaters could never reach to the tops of high mountains, or to the tops of high hills, and 'air-breathing land animals' in these places would survive. Noah is supposed to have brought two animals of every kind into his ark. The impossibility here should be obvious - Noah's Ark would have to be bigger, much bigger, vastly bigger than the biggest aircraft carrier to contain two of every animal. Whales are air-breathing animals. This particular Cambridge scientist (not in the least representative of Cambridge science, at least contemporary Cambridge science) believes. presumably, that there were two Blue Whales and two of all the other species of whale (all of them air-breathing animals, of course) on board Noah's Ark. The Biblical Creation Trust does acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs, generally large or very large animals.

Other luminaries listed on the Biblical Creation Trust Website:


'Paul Garner MSc, FGS is a full-time Researcher and Lecturer for BCT. He has an MSc in Geoscience from University College London, where he specialised in palaeobiology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and a member of several other scientific societies.'


'Matthew Pickhaver BSc, PGCE is an Associate Lecturer with BCT and our Communications Manager. Matthew was awarded a BSc in Zoology by University College London.'


'William Worraker is an Associate Researcher with BCT. He has a BSc (Hons) in Physics and a PhD in Engineering Mathematics, both from University of Bristol, UK. Employed in scientific software development until recently ... His current BCT research seeks a scientific solution to the ‘Flood Heat Problem’: where did all the heat go that was released during the Genesis Flood?'


Their excellence (in scientific attainment) and the stupidity of their theological views should be obvious - it's obvious to me - but stupidity doesn't do justice to their views. They also overlook, are unaware of, the contradiction between their views and human values. They overlook or are unaware of the human cost.


Noah's Ark 2: Human values


From my page




Relevant, I think, to some comments below, on the death of children.


© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

' 'Lydia Dwight Dead,' from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which gives this information:  'Lydia Dwight was six years old when she died on 3 March 1674' and 'One of the earliest experiments in European ceramic sculpture, this object was commissioned by the father of the dead child in order to capture her likeness and perpetuate her memory. It was a personal and private sculpture, reflecting the grief of the little girl's family ... ' The sculpture was lent to the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield by the Victoria and Albert Museum and it was there that I saw this  heartbreaking response to the death of a young child, which  has a counterpart in the heartbreaking set of poems by the Polish poet Jan Kochanowski: the 19 elegies or 'laments' of 1580, written to commemorate his daughter Urszula, who died at the age of two. Seamus Heaney's translation of these 'Treny,' undertaken with Stanislaw Baranczak, is an important contribution to this devastating literature, an important contribution to the poetry of deep feeling.


'I discuss the translation of only four lines of Jan Kochanowski's 'Treny III' and mainly a single aspect: the translation of repeated words or phrases. My knowledge of Polish is much more restricted than my knowledge of the other languages here. I studied Polish before visiting Poland, a country, and a people, of great importance and significance for me, and spoke Polish whilst I was there, but only for simple, everyday purposes. The Polish of 'Treny' is Renaissance Polish.


'Stanislaw Baranczak's introduction to his translation with Seamus Heaney includes this:


' 'Jan Kochanowski (1530 - 84), the greatest poet of not just Poland but the entire Slavic world up to the beginning of the nineteeenth century ... '


'His cast of mind was formed by a philosophy of the golden mean and moderation, and this in turn produced a quiet acceptance of whatever life might bring, a tendency to handle the vicissitudes of earthly existence in a rational and orderly way, one always seasoned with a dose of healthy scepticism as regards both gain and loss, success and failure, happiness and misery.


' 'The stable - or stable-seeming - foundation of such an outlook was provided by both ancient thought and Christian theology. For a sixteenth-century Humanist - in this case, moreover, a poet whose earlier work included not only a Classical tragedy with a plot borrowed from Homer but also a poetic translation of the Psalms - elements of stoicism or epicureanism could merge conflictlessly with the belief in Providential protection bestowed on the just as a reward for their virtuous lives ...


' 'Yet it is precisely this kind of stable and secure philosophical foundation that may well be the first thing to crack 'when the Parcae cease to spin / Their thread, when sorrows enter in / When Death knocks at the door'. And this is what happened to Kochanowski in middle age when Death snatched away his youngest child, a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter called Ursula, devastating the poet's hitherto unshakeable equanimity ... All of a sudden, pain reaches a degree of intensity that cannot be explained away. No rationalization makes sense to us any more when its very philosophical basis is pulled out like a rug from under our feet - when we can no longer subscribe to the belief that each of us is to a large extent a master of his or her own fate, and that we therefore have the right at least to hope that our actions, if purposeful, timely and determined enough, may bring the desired results ... '


The devastation caused by the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864, following the collapse of the Great Dale Dike.

From the page




'Six hundred and fifty million gallons of water roared down the Loxley valley and into Sheffield, wreaking death and destruction on a horrific scale.

'Individual experiences were infinitely tragic, pathetic, and sometimes bizarre. The first to drown was a two-day-old baby boy, the oldest a woman of eighty-seven. Whole families were wiped out; one desperate man, trapped upstairs in a terrace house, battered his way through five party walls to safety collecting thirty-four other people as he went; a would be suicide, locked in a cell, decided, as the flood poured in, that he no longer wished to die; one poor old man drowned alongside his sleeping companion - a donkey; a husband put his wife and five children on a bed on which they floated until the water went down.'


'After about thirty minutes the flood gradually subsided leaving a trail of destruction more than eight miles long: it was later described as 'looking like a battlefield.'

In this flood, at least 240 people were killed. The victims included babies - a few days old, a few weeks old, a few months old. The loss of life in The Great Global Flood caused by God (according to the Biblical Creation Trust) was immeasurably greater - for people, for all 'air-breathing animals.' Why exactly did the all-wise Creator wipe out the entire human race, babies, children and adults, young and old  (as well as  'air-breathing' animals), allegedly - apart from the favoured few inside the Ark? What does this catastrophe tell us about the nature of God the Father and the nature of the beliefs of the Biblical Creation Trust?

The attempt to present the Global Flood  as a historical event with a theological basis - an action of God - is made by many, many fundamentalist Christians and Christian groups, not just the Biblical Creation Trust, of course. This is one of them, from




Anyone who thinks this is plausible and reasonable needs to think again, and the thinking - the complete response - should be about much more than concepts. It needs to take account of human values - but fundamentalist Christians are likely to dismiss some human values as incompatible with Christian doctrine.


Extracts from




'Like people today, almost certainly the people of Noah’s day were busy enjoying the pleasures of life and did not believe or care that judgment was coming.

'During the decades of mankind’s last days, Noah was working on the Ark. As it grew, it must have been a potent symbol to those living nearby. One can imagine that Noah was often asked about his construction project. Indeed, it is likely that he was mocked for such an enterprise.'

'Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” '


The Willing Savior

Noah’s Flood teaches us two things about the attitude of God towards us.

He is angry with sin and will punish it one day.

He loves us and sends us a way of salvation, if we will only repent and turn to Him.


Jesus is our Ark of Salvation today. Just as Noah was saved by grace through faith from the destruction of the Flood, we can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus, when we repent and turn to Him.


There are vast numbers of Christians who have no belief in an actual flood sent by God and an actual Ark who do believe that if a person fails to accept Jesus as 'personal Lord and Saviour' they are alienated from God, eternally.


Reformed Christian Gentleman and Bufo buffoon, a venomous toad



Above, photographer's impression of Reformed Gentleman, Bufo buffoon, a venomous toad. At the end of this section, material on this toad.


Collins English Dictionary, entry for 'toad,' meaning 3:  'a loathsome person.'

And once again the resident moron responds as predicted.'
'You're talking to yourself, cretin.'
'You're too stupid for words.'
'Good grief, it's an imbecile. Your ignorance is an embarrassment.'
'You're so wilfully stupid it's funny.'
'You're hopelessly dense.'
'You're swinging it, you deranged moron.'

Above, and below, some grotesque comments from Reformed Gentleman and the commenters he addresses. I only give extracts, not the comments in full - I observe copyright restrictions.

Most of Reformed Gentleman's Disqus 'comments' have been posted on the site 'Conservative Woman'


To view all Reformed Gentleman's Disqus comments:


The collected Disqus Comments show that he uses the same insults, similar insults and variants of these insults again and again and again.

His comments make it clear that he's a Christian and a protestant Christian. His attitude to Roman Catholics is very similar to his attitude to non-Christians. He's also a Creationist, as this comment of his shows: '

'You're a fraud ... You're not even pretending to deal with the scientific literature and the arguments. You're completely out of your depth and lost. The creationist sites provide both arguments and scientific literature. Your refusal/inability to interact with these mean you tacitly concede the debate.'

Wikipedia: The term creationism most often refers to belief in special creation; the claim that the universe and lifeforms were created as they exist today by divine action, and that the only true explanations are those which are compatible with a Christian fundamentalist literal interpretation of the creation myths found in the Bible's Genesis creation narrative.' (Wikipedia) Reformed Gentleman may or may not believe in this particular version of Creationism.

There seems every reason to suppose that if orthodox Christian belief is true, Reformed Gentleman's salvation is assured: the orthodox Protestant Christian view of redemption, which denies salvation to war heroes, humanitarians, the mass of devoted parents, scientists, engineers and an incalculable number of others, unless they belong to the small minority of people who have accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour, is very, very disturbing.

A selection of Reformed Gentleman's comments to a variety of commenters at Conservative Woman on a variety of pages:

'And once again the resident moron responds as predicted.'
'You're talking to yourself, cretin.'
'You're too stupid for words.'
'Good grief, it's an imbecile. Your ignorance is an embarrassment.'
'You're so wilfully stupid it's funny.'
'You're hopelessly dense.'
'You're swinging it, you deranged moron.'
'You're a liar.'
'You're a phoney, little boy.'
'You've been refuted left and right, little boy.'
'You're beyond moronic.'
'Good grief, you're dense.'
'You're talking to a mirror again, weirdo.'
'Confused little meat sack.'
'You're a dunce and you're bone idle.'
'You ran then and you're running now, bottle job.'
'You're all talk. You're a fraud.'
'You're a mess.'
'Other than being an utter bore, what is the point of you?'
'Good grief, you're a bore. You can barely string a sentence together. Stop wasting my time, cretin.'

More of his comments are quoted below as a Supplement. The selection above gives the general idea. The additional comments in the Supplement are likely to confirm the impression, drive it still further into the mind.

A selection of Reformed Gentleman's comments on one single page of the site to a single commenter, not me but a Roman Catholic (from the page https://conservativewoman.co.uk/the-great-ventilators-myth/ which also contains comments on me and my comments to Reformed Gentleman):

' ... you're still unhinged. I've no time for RC garbage ...'
'Are you deranged? You want to talk 'biblical' yet you cite your heretical garbage?'
'Yeah, you're still rambling, heretic. Do you ever ask yourself why you cannot derive your weird little beliefs from the Bible?'
'Subjectivist bullpoop, Catholicism personified.'
' ... there's the RC subjectivist bullpoop. Thank you, heretic.'
'You're an utter cretin. Your position is anti-objectivity and therefore champions my own view over yours ... Yikes!'
'You're a joke. Abandon the dramatics.'
'Look to your own anti-Gospel grabage (sic), heretic.'
'Wow, look at the deceitful Romanist. Bless you, heretic.'
'Tell me, Romanist heretic, where in the Bible can you find your latest wokist rant?'
'Utter drivel. What a waste of bandwidth.'
'Yes, heretic, your rambling garbage aside, we reformed know where we got the canon ...'
'Oh my. The emition (sic) is palpable. Where's your Bible, heretic?'
'Pathetic. You cowardly heretic.'

When I included this selection in one of my comments on the page' this was how he responded:

'You're a coward and a snide. You can't deal with the arguments so you try to stir the pot. You're intellectually and philosophically inept, utterly out of your depth, so you go trawling through one's comment history, picking out 'insults' with no regard for context or arguments surrounding the 'insults'. You're a dishonest hack and completely unhinged. You're a weirdo. And that's a valid ad hominem criticism, you utter cretin ... Have you any idea how unhinged you look?'

Some context - points made by this Catholic and the replies of RG, 'Reformed Gentleman.' Context in much more detail - clicking on the link already provided https://conservativewoman.co.uk/the-great-ventilators-myth/ gives access to all the comments which follow the article: the comments of this Catholic, Reformed Gentleman, myself and all the other contributors of comments. Clicking on the name 'Reformed Gentleman' at the beginning of any of his comments gives access to all the Disqus comments he's contributed to 'Conservative Woman.'

Catholic: You're simply determined to smear me and are honing in on the first thing you can find. But the suggestion that what I've said is in any way to deny the vitalness of the Gospel is just unfair.
RG: You're a joke. Abandon the dramatics.
Catholic: You keep telling me I don't believe the Gospel. I keep telling you I do. You keep refusing to explain why I don't.
RG: Look to your own anti-Gospel grabage (sic), heretic.
Catholic: You don't seem to understand that abuse isn't a proof of anything. I don't think the Catholic faith is anti-Gospel. Just asserting that it is proves nothing.
RG: Wow. Look at the deceitful Romanist. Bless you, heretic. Tell me, Romanist heretic, where in the Bible can you find your latest wokeist rant.
Catholic: Nowhere. I do not endorse what I think you mean by wokeism.
RG: Yeah you do. It certainly is not derived from objective teaching.

Another Roman Catholic to Reformed Gentleman, from  the Comments section of the page https://conservativewoman.co.uk/emotion-not-empathy-rules-the-world-of-woke/ (The page gives the context): 

You are trying to manipulate a "discussion" to be engaged in purely on your own terms ... I have no interest in having any kind of discussion about me personally ; even though I find it ridiculous that you seem to want to deny the validity of my own choices as a Christian on some basis of Protestantism that demands exactly that Christians are to make their own choices. And google the Luther quotes yourself, unless you wish to admit to the very laziness that you implicitly accuse me of.

I have no interest in the type of Reformist discussion that you want to insist on, as I believe it to be inherently flawed in its principles.


Last post here, feel free to type whatever final word that I shall decline to read.

Reformist Gentleman to this Roman Catholic, from  the Comments section of the page


https://conservativewoman.co.uk/emotion-not-empathy-rules-the-world-of-woke/ (The page gives the context):  :


Oh I know. You don't have the stomach for this. The moment you walked past the arguments and exegesis you conceded the debate. This is just mopping up.


 You're a shirker. Whining about 'delusions' while not even attempting to demonstrate such is the height of folly.

'If you think that describing your points as "cod's wallop" is "conceding them", then perhaps you shouldn't be trying to lecture others about exegesis.'


That's incoherent drivel. One of us is sticking to the subject and the other is throwing a tantrum. The fact you are refusing to address the arguments means you tacitly concede the points. That's a valid inference. You wilfully entered the discussion and 'challenged' me to prove my assertion. I did just that, providing argument and exegesis. In return you have failed to shoulder your burden of responsibility.


'You are trying to manipulate a "discussion" to be engaged in purely on your own terms.'

Oh good grief. Stop the dishonesty and whining. I'm very much focused on the arguments and have been from the start. Your whining is embarrassing. It's your comfort blanket, covering for the fact you're ducking the actual debate.

Are you upset that I'm attacking Romanism? Well, you're attacking Protestantism. Am I whining? Get a grip.

'But I have no interest in having any kind of discussion about me personally...'

Neither do I. You're making things up.

'...even though I find it ridiculous that you seem to want to deny the validity of my own choices as a Christian on some basis of a Protestantism that demands exactly that Christians are to make their own choices.'

What the hell are you talking about? This is pathetic. I'm being no more forthright about Romanism than you are about Protestantism. You're a mess.

'I have no interest in the type of Reformist discussion that you want to insist on, as I believe it to be inherently flawed in its principles.'

Oh, you meanie! Should I whine now because the nasty Romanist said my Protestant faith is inherently flawed?

In all sincerity, I've seen you produce arguments in other contexts and I respect the fact that you seem capable philosophically. You're not stupid by any stretch. But you have let yourself down here. There was no need to play the victim. That was utterly disingenuous.

Since you have no desire to continue this discussion, I'll leave it there and go and have a large whiskey.

Reformed Gentleman to me, from  the Comments section of the page https://conservativewoman.co.uk/emotion-not-empathy-rules-the-world-of-woke/ (The page gives the context, including comments I contributed):

The trouble with the meat sack (he doesn't like this term but it is appropriate given atheistic assumptions) is he cannot distinguish wanton insults from valid and relevant/necessary ad hominem criticism. It is one of his many confusions.

[So all his comments on me in the list below are 'valid/necessary ad hominem criticism' and none of his comments are 'wanton insults.']

You're a dishonest hack and an intellectual pygmy.
You're incapable of engaging in rational argumentation, so instead you engage in deflection. You're an embarrassment. Again, your inability to think is astounding.
Bloody hell. You are truly unhinged. It's no longer funny.
Once again you have demonstrated your utter inability to understand nuance and employ rational thought.
... his whole post represents the emotional rant of an insignificant meat sack. His very presence here demonstrates the absurdity of atheism.

Supplement: other comments of Reformed Gentleman, beneficiary of Christian salvation to other people he's displeased with for one reason or another, people who in many or most cases won't deserve Christian salvation, according to this damnationist believer. This repetitious content can be omitted if necessary.

Says the bone idle, cretinous loser who's been winging it through this discussion.
You're a dunce and you're bone idle.
Your inferiority complex is obvious.
Go away, you odious cretin. You do not know how to think rationally ... You're insincere and a sad actor.
Your 'message' (swivel-eyed rant) is incoherent and inaccurate, you utter cretin.
You're one of the most irrational, odious specimens one has every encountered.
You really are an unpleasant, quite loathsome individual. [!]
You're talking to a mirror. You can't handle the philophical arguments.
You really are a drip ... You utter bore.
You've been refuted, two-penny shrill.
You're still ranting ... You're oversensitive.
I'm offering valid and relevant criticism ... Are you dense?
You're talking to a mirror ... you're a despicable cretin, an actor. I'm done engaging you.
You're a fallacy machine, Gumbo. You're also one of the dumbest people I've ever encountered.
You're a fantasists. A Walter Mitty.
... this is [sic] simply your own arbitrary criteria and you're too dense and bone idle to recognize it.
You've been refuted left and right, little boy. You're in my pocket.
You've conceded the debate, little boy, and yet you cling on like a helpless child, desperately trying to get in a shot. You fail every time. Game, Set & Match. Soli Deo Gratia. [Translation: to God alone the thanks.]
You're a liar. You constantly refuse to examine evidence and argument.
You're still in a babygro.
You're talking to yourself, cretin, and not addressing my argument.
You're so dumb. You're winging it, you deranged moron.
This is fun. You're fun, Sparky. You're so wilfully stupid it's funny.
Please repeat that using coherent English, little guy.
The very fact that you are here arguing against others' beliefs refutes atheism.
Stop acting like an adolescent whinebag and act like a grown adult.
Again, your inability to think is astounding.
Bloody hell. You are truly unhinged. It's no longer funny.

Some of my comments at Conservative Woman:

The great ventilators myth

What am I supposed to do now? Beg for mercy, from you and the three-in-one God? Acknowledge that the insights of Reformed Gentleman are vastly superior to my own, since Reformed Gentleman is a Christian and I'm only an atheist? Accept Christ as my Lord and Saviour, so that I can join the ranks of those destined for eternal bliss, eg Reformed Gentleman? Begin to read earnestly the word of God, the Bible, although reading the Bible seems to have done nothing to give Reformed Gentleman even a whiff of civility and courtesy, to say nothing of the higher virtues which demand emotional depth, or the strength to give simple answers to simple questions. The Church is supposedly a 'hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.' How would the Church-Hospital go about treating Reformed Gentleman? Does the Church-Hospital have a psychiatric section? Is stupidity a form of sin?

You'll want to have the last word, perhaps - you may feel that if you have the last word and I don't reply, you've won the argument. If you feel that way, go ahead, post a further comment. Whatever it is, whether your comment is good, bad or indifferent, I won't reply to it. (It's not likely to be good or indifferent.) After this detour, I'm resuming 'normal service.'

Argumentum ad hominem.

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.

Nemo me impune lacessit.

You describe my questions as 'preadolescent.' One of the questions concerned the killing of the Jews during the Second World War. Let me extend the issue by mentioning a heroic figure who saved the lives of many, many Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, Raoul Wallenberg. John Bierman's book 'Righteous Gentile' on Raoul Wallenberg is one of the books on my bookshelves.

The book begins with an account of Yad Vashem, established by the State of Israel to commemorate the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. It includes 'a stark piazza which commemorates the heroism and martyrdom of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.' One of Yad Vashem's primary objectives is to commemorate gentiles who saved the lives of Jews, the 'Righteous Gentiles.' 'Although the authorities of Yad Vashem establish no order of precedence they will readily concede that, without question, he is first among the righteous ... Here is a man who had the chance of remaining in secure, neutral Sweden when Nazism was ruling Europe. Instead, he left this haven and went to what was then one of the most perilous places in Europe, Hungary. And for what? To save Jews.' When Budapest was liberated and the Jews were out of danger, Raoul Wallenberg was arrested by the Russians and disappeared into the Gulag. He was never seen again as a free man and his fate is unknown.

This is just one of the people whose ultimate fate is treated so casually by Christians who believe in damnation for those who believe that acceptance of Christ as Lord and Saviour is necessary for salvation. Many, many people have led lives which gave them little or no opportunity to consider the matter, leading lives of unremitting hardship, working in the midst of acute danger, as in the case of Raoul Wallenberg, or for so many other understandable reasons - understandable to anyone with just a little insight, but not understandable to the fanatics who believe in this 'theory' of salvation. I recognize that many of these fanatics are partial fanatics, fanatics in this sense but not in all ways, very often very reasonable, very competent, very efficient, with a whole range of other qualities. I'd include Will Jones in their number. I know very little about 'Reformed Gentleman,' just as he knows very little about me. It may be that he has a whole range of good qualities. All I have available is the evidence of his comments on this site. On this limited evidence, he seems to me a contemptible person.

The separation into sheep and goats, according to Christian orthodoxy, ignores an enormous range of qualities, virtues, strengths. I've read a large number of the comments on epidemiology and other aspects of the coronavirus on this site. the fact that there are people out there - people associated with Conservative Woman - who see nothing wrong in consigning the epidemiologists, virologists, nursing and medical staff, and the patients and their carers, to hellfire - apart, that is, from the tiny minority who have done the right thing and accepted Christ - the tiny minority of the saved includes 'Reformed Gentleman,' it would seem - seems to me astonishing, and not in any good sense. It gives rise to very gloomy thoughts.

I'm disappointed, very disappointed, that 'Conservative Woman,' a site with so many strengths, whose stance is very similar to my own in many ways - I'll mention just one of them, the emphasis on defence and deterring aggression, upholding the importance of our armed forces - should support this deeply misguided religious ideology.


Reformed Gentleman, just one more time - the questions I originally posed could be answered very quickly. The answers would reveal, I'm sure, some extreme difficulties in the Christian view of salvation and damnation, or a mainstream Christian view of salvation and damnation. I still haven't received an answer from you or any other Christian.

The Christian attitude to historical events is often but not always faulty and misguided, The Christian attitude to the natural world more consistently so, I think. The Coronavirus, protein and nucleic acid, is part of God's creation, to some Christians, like lambs and kittens, sharks and the plague bacillus. There are Christians who would view the coronavirus pandemic as God's punishment for sinners - a strange act of God, considering that it has led to the cancellation of Church services.

The Lisbon earthquake led to widespread doubt about God's power in the world. The more fundamental question concerns God's existence, of course. It was hard to explain an event which caused so much death and damage and which couldn't be blamed on human imperfection (or 'sin,' which isn't a synonym for imperfection.) Again, there were Christians who did view the event as God's punishment for sin. But the earthquake, like this pandemic, didn't provide any completely new evidence casting doubt on Christian belief. There are and have been many, many others.

Paul Hurt to Reformed Gentleman

I'm 6' 2" tall and a vegetarian. See if you can think up a more appropriate insult than 'confused little meat sack.' You obviously have a liking for this phrase 'meat sack.' You called another commenter a meat sack in a comment you made 6 days ago. In your comment about Fred Uttlescay you used the same phrases in connection with him that you went on to use against me:

'The meat sack is back! Is this one of those double long goodbyes, Gumbo?
'1. No, according to the rules of debate, cretin. You've been taken back to school, and you know it.
'2. On atheism, what is a 'religious nut'? Is it 'nutty,' or 'wrong' that my neurons produce thoughts that produce beliefs which differ from yours? Are your neurons more authoritative than mine?

'Given that you'll soon be long gone and the universe will not give you a second thought, why waste your meaningless existence on a meaningless exercise? [You used exactly the same wording in your reply to me.]

'You're in a bit of a pickle, Gumbo. Your very existence here on this thread presupposes God.' [You used exactly the same wording in your preply to me, except that 'existence' was replaced by 'presence.'

What a stale mind you have, RG!

I can't help noticing that you still aren't prepared to give an answer to the questions I put on the salvation/damnation of different groups.

A curate's egg is something partly bad, partly good, although originally it referred to something completely bad which was described as having good features out of politeness. I now propose a new expression, which may or may not become accepted usage in English: The Reformed Gentleman's Egg which is unambigiously bad and can't be described as having any good features out of politeness. Provisionally, I'd only apply it to your contributions to the discussion of Christianity - that is, if you can call your hideous and ridiculous contributions a form of discussion.

You seem to have a fixation with 'bandwith' and word count, or a naive belief that the length of a piece of writing is a guide to the worth of the arguments and evidence: a mechanical, mindless method which at least saves you the bother of trying to give adequate answers. If you can give an answer to the questions I originally put concerning the salvation/damnation of different groups of people, then I hope you'll have the courage of your convictions and do it. As I've pointed out, the questions only need a Yes/No answer and a single Yes/No answer to all of them will probably be enough. You could go further and explain your answer, but your concern for bandwidth/word count may well deter you. All the same, your replies to 'Dorset Catholic' amount to quite a lot of bandwidth, quite a lot of words (or 'verbiage') even if they don't amount to a contribution with any worth at all.

In the words of the well known piece of Christian doggerel (there are many worse examples):

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known!

So, I hope you'll dare to make your opinions known on these issues of salvation/damnation. After all, unlike 'Dorset Catholic,' you've given practially no information about your theological views except for the fact that you're a Protestant not a Catholic.

And with this reply to 'Dorset Catholic,' 'Reformed Gentleman,' a Protestant, launches his assault on Roman Catholic heresy and before long, 'Dorset Catholic' is citing heresy too. 'Reformed Gentleman' needs to change his name as a matter of urgency. The existing name, with its associations of courtesy, is contradicted by his obsessive insults, of course. He's undermined any reputation he may have on this site, surely - better to start again under a new name, carefully chosen. 'Heretic hunter' would do justice to his obsessions, but he'd be mad to choose it.

I think that 'Dorset Catholic' and 'Reformed Gentleman' overlook - have no knowledge of, have not the least interest in - the difficulties in their positions. The difficulties are vast and varied. All I can do here is mention one or two, very briefly.


Their simple faith in the accuracy of the Biblical record rests on precarious foundations. The Bible they use is a translation, after all, with all the pitfalls of translation. The well-known Italian phrase conveys the difficulties: 'Traduttore, traditore:' 'Translator, traitor.'

The historical Jesus will have spoken Aramaic. None of the words attributed to him have survived in the original Aramaic. All we have are the New Testament records in New Testament Greek. In my main comment, I gave the Authorized Version translation of Matthew 25:41. 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' Church Society, the Conservative Evangelical group I named, accepts the use of 'everlasting' and claims that the damned will be in Hell 'forever.'

But the meaning of the Greek original is far from clear. In the original, 'eternal punishment' is one translation of κόλασιν αἰώνιον. One possible translation of the original became hard dogma. A contrary view: in 'Word Studies of the New Testament, Marvin Vincent comments:


In the New Testament the history of the world is conceived as developed through a succession of aeons. A series of such aeons precedes the introduction of a new series inaugurated by the  Christian dispensation, and the end of the world and the second coming of Christ are to mark the beginning of another series. … The adjective aionios [in the accusative case in the original, αἰώνιονin like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective in themselves carries the sense of endless or everlasting. They may acquire that sense by connotation. … Aionios means enduring through or pertaining to a period of time. Both the nouns and the adjective are applied to limited periods.'

If they had any sense, 'Dorset Catholic' and 'Reformed Gentleman' would avoid any reference to 'heresy,' 'heretic' and 'heretical.' The words bring to mind the long period of time when Protestants tortured and executed Catholics and Catholics tortured and executed Protestants and Christians with opposing views tortured and executed non-believers - even if sometimes, they carried out executions without the torture. Edward Wightman, an English radical Anabaptist, was the last person to be burnt at the stake in England for heresy, in 1612. (The last execution by hanging for for heresy in England was much later.)


The ignorant supposition that 'Christian civilization' has been an unqualified force for good is contradicted by the harsh realities. To give another example, The Thirty Years War, fought between 1618 and 1648, was a religious war. It began with the conflict between Protestant and Catholic states and was one of the most terrible and destructive wars in human history, leading to something like 8,000,000 deaths.


Notes on the toad


 Reformed Gentleman is a new discovery, a venomous toad,  which has been provisionally attributed to the genus Buffo, which contains the common toad, Bufo buffo. The name of the newly discovered toad in binomial nomenclature is Bufo buffoon.


Many moths have fanciful names, such as Cypress pug, Brighton wainscot, Common footman, Mother Shipton, Chimney sweeper and Hebrew character. This is one of the toads with a fanciful name as well as a scientific name: Reformed Gentleman. 'Reformed' is ambiguous. It could refer to the reformed protestant faith or to, for example, a reformed alcoholic, who used to drink a bottle of whisky a day but now drinks only half a bottle, or none at all. Some information about this  repulsive (according to some authorities very repulsive) but harmless toad.

Habitat: mainly found in bog-blogs.

Conservation status: Listed buffoon Grade 1. Very uncommon. Only one specimen is known, probably male, but there's little evidence for the sex. The name 'Reformed Gentleman' isn't an infallible guide.

The venom of the Reformed Gentleman. There are different views on this venomous toad. The consensus is that he (or she) is very unpleasant, but the unpleasant effects aren't  long-lasting in the least. This venomous toad is harmless.

Appearance and identifying features: This toad has never been seen in his (or her) natural habitat. The photographer's impression above is pure conjecture. Stories about the toad puffing himself up to look bigger are anecdotal. The evidence for his existence is very strong, however. He makes his presence known with a peculiar, very characteristic, very repetitive croaking, with  attempts at loud booming which never amount to anything.


This toad should not be confused, of course, with the human writer (of unknown gender) who adds comments to Conservative Woman and other sites. A selection of his comments is given above.

The 'Guide to the Buffoons and Grotesques of the British Isles' makes use of a culinary term to describe Reformed Gentleman: Mérite un détour The Michelin Guide uses the term to describe restaurants it is worth going out of your way to see. The author of the 'Guide to the Buffoons and Grotesques of the British Isles' uses the term in the opposite sense: you should make a wide détour to avoid encountering him.


Conservative Woman and Christian-inanity


A selection of my comments at 'Conservative Woman' on the subject of Christianity (or 'Christain-inanity.') https://conservativewoman.co.uk


This comment contains information - striking and unexpected information, I think - about George Floyd, the apparent fact that he had Christian beliefs and about the relevance of Christian beliefs to the Black Lives Matter protestors.


Earlier in the week, on July 9, Conservative Woman published a disastrously misguided piece by Campbell Campbell-Jack, 'The C of E's second-in-command who does not understand Christianity.' Campbell Campbell-Jack is a Christian, like Kevin Donnelly, the author of this article on the world of woke, but with theological differences - Dr Campbell-Jack is a Presbyterian whilst Dr Donnelly is a Roman Catholic.


By examining some of the views of these two and making comparisons we can gain some valuable, very surprising perspective on some important issues I think - including the serious weaknesses of Conservative Woman as an effective participant in the struggle to oppose political correctness. I oppose political correctness wherever it may be found - to give just a few examples, in the BBC, the Guardian, the Universities, in the ridiculous pronouncements of people like 'Professor' Priyamvada Gopal of Cambridge University and the ridiculous pronouncements of the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, criticized by Dr Campbell-Jack.

What kind of person would the Church of England have appointed if it had chosen not the naive 'progressive' Stephen Cottress but someone far more to the liking of Dr Campbell-Jack - someone from the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church?


Here is a statement of belief on some Christian doctrines which Dr Campbell-Jack would support, I'm sure, like evangelicals in the Church of England, despite its very disturbing implications. (I mention some implications for the fate of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.)



'Man was created to exist forever. Sin caused separation and death. As a result, man will either exist eternally separated from God by sin or in union with God through forgiveness and salvation which was made possible through Jesus Christ. To be eternally separated from God is hell. To be eternally in union with God is eternal life. Heaven and hell are places of eternal existence.

John 3:16; 1 John 2:25; 1 John 5:11-13; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15; Matthew 25:31-46


Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never pay for his sin by self-improvement or good works – only by trusting in Jesus Christ can man be saved from the penalty of sin. Eternal life begins the moment man receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.

Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; John 14:6, 1:12; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26; Romans 5:1


God gives man eternal life through Jesus Christ. Man is secure in salvation for eternity because salvation is the free gift of God. Eternal security is therefore maintained by the power of the Holy Spirit, not self-effort or good works.

It  comes from the Website of the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston Texas, the Church which held a funeral service for George Floyd. The address is




One of your commenters on this page writes, 'PLEASE stop calling the violent, multiple felon, fraudster, drug-abuser and multiply absent father. George Floyd's death as a killing.' To which I'd reply, 'Criticism of George Floyd's criminality is completely justified but stop calling the act of the police officer justifiable - it was completely unjustifiable, completely unnecessary, wrong, barbaric. If the leading lights at Conservative Woman don't distance themselves from the troglodyte views of some of their readers, Conservative Woman deserves to sink without trace. But my comments here are to do with a different matter, reasons why the people at Conservative Woman should distance themselves from some Christian believers, including ones with doctorates.


It's been claimed by many people that George Floyd was a Christian. The folk at the Fountain of Praise Church seem sure of that. If the Church of England had appointed a Bible-based person to the diocese of York, I think he (or she) would have agreed that it was perfectly possible for someone like George Floyd to be secure in salvation for eternity. It isn't good works which make the difference but faith in Christ as personal Lord and Saviour and it seems that George Floyd had this faith. 'The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.'


Since good works make no difference at all, according to this view, no amount of outstanding personal qualities or achievements, no desperately difficult circumstances will spare a person - without faith in Christ, the person is lost, eternally. Some examples which will show the extreme difficulties of this view - there are many, many more.

As a first example, what about 'Black Lives Matter' protestors? I don't think the people at the Fountain of Praise Church can possibly have thought things through. They haven't realized the implications of their views, including this: all the 'Black Lives Matter' protestors, past, present and future are destined for an eternity in hell, except for the minority who accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Taking part may be a 'good work,' according to supporters of the movement, but good works don't count.


The barbarities of the slave trade. The eternal destiny of all the slaves who were flogged, bought and sold like cattle and worked to death was eternal separation from God, eternal hell, except for the minority who accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour. Similarly for slave owners. The eternal destiny of slave owners who did accept Christ is different, eternal union with God in heaven.


There's an additional refinement to this deranged doctrine of eternal damnation: the doctrine of predestination. According to the Protestant 'Reformer' Calvin, God has decided who is to be saved and who is to be damned. If someone chooses not to accept Christ as saviour and is damned, God knew what the person would decide even before the decision was made. Calvin is the reformer who wrote in support of the death penalty for Michael Servetus: 'I hope that sentence of death will at least be passed on him; but I desired that the severity of the punishment be mitigated.' That is, he wanted Michael Servetus to be beheaded, not burned alive. (Michael Servetus was burned alive.) For what offences? For denying the doctrine of the Trinity, God as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and for opposing the baptism of infants.


Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack declares on his blog that he's a Calvinist. The doctor may bemoan the fact that we liven in a godless society but this godless or post-Christian society has advantages, such as the abolition of beheading and burning at the stake. As for freedom of expression, the restrictions are cause for extreme concern and have to be opposed. But for a long period of time, Oxford and Cambridge University excluded people who wouldn't assent to the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, excluding Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Quakers and many other religious groups, as well as non-believers. The tendency to idealize the past is one of many, many problems facing Conservative Woman problems, although there are worse - problems which make it impossible to treat the site seriously, despite residual strengths.


And more groups who are destined for eternal damnation, according to Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack and his kind, or have already been damned - apart from the minority of people who accepted or will accept Christ as Lord and Saviour:


All members of the House of Commons, all Jews who died in the extermination camps, all members of the allied forces who fought against the Nazis, including the men who fought in the Battle of Britain, who faced the enormous risks of the Antarctic Convoys and the Antarctic convoys, devoted parents, poets (including the atheist Percy Bysse Shelley), composers (including Mozart, who seems to have shown more interest in composing and his periods of poverty than in the destiny of his immortal soul), workers during the industrial revolution, including the miners, who were too preoccupied with their harsh working conditions to give much thought to the destiny of their immortal souls.


Kevin Donnelly is free to criticize 'Woke' views and I'd agree with many of his criticisms - but I think that he has many, many outlandish views of his own, not obviously superior in sense to the views of 'Woke' people, unless he's a very unusual (and 'heretical') Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church has taught that infants who died without being baptized can't go to heaven. I wonder what he thinks about this doctrine. There are many, many Roman Catholic views which are kept hidden or have been given less emphasis which have blighted many, many lives in the past and still do, such as the ban on artificial contraception, the insistence on the indissolubility of marriage. A much longer list is called for, but I can't give endless space to this stupid nonsense.


His article is a routine, perfunctory piece, relying for too much on generalization. Dr Donnelly writes, 'As to why so many act with misplaced emotion and lack of insight, look no further than the West’s education system where neo-Marxist critical theory dominates and a liberal view of education has long since been abandoned.' The Roman Catholic view of education has more often than not been anything but liberal. He's probably unaware of the evidence which would falsify his over-simplified view, for example this. The movement called 'radical orthodoxy' has strong support in the theology departments of universities, for example at Cambridge. The works of Thomas Aquinas have far more influence in the theology departments of most universities than the works of Marx. Dr Donnelly can rest assured that academic articles you would think unreadable are actually read in universities - to give one example of the genre, this one: 'We know in part: how the positive apophaticism of Thomas Aquinas transforms the negative theology of Pseudo-Dionysius.'


The Conservative Woman site is a liability. Far too often, the views promoted on the site are ridiculous. Far too often, this is an outlet for the ridiculous right rather than the 'extreme right.' Far too often, the views promoted on the site are hideous, contemptible. Even in the case of your strengths, such as support for defence against external aggression, support for Israel, opposition to the mindless excesses of political correctness, the failings of the BBC, there are much better sites. As I've discussed salvation earlier, I'd put it this way: Conservative Woman is beyond redemption.



Behold, I stand at the door . . .


The arguments and recommendations of John Musgrave's article are disastrously misguided.

'What do you do if the building is closed and bolted? Thump upon the wood and quote Our Lord: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock.’ If any Christians were stupid enough to take John Musgrave's advice on Easter Sunday, their ridiculous behaviour would be recorded, publicized throughout the country and throughout the world and any reputation the church may have for good sense would sink even lower. The public would regard the behaviour of these Christians as reckless in the extreme. Christian exceptionalism, the demand for exemption from the sensible rules designed to minimize risk, would be almost universally condemned, rightly so.

Conservatives should emphasize the need for realism, including the need for harshness or apparent harshness where avoidance of harshness would have disastrous consequences. In this epidemic, liberals, socialists, left-wing ideologists have had to recognize the need to exercise drastic control over migration. Conservatives recognized the need to control migration long before the epidemic.

The Roman Catholic Church has an almost unrivalled history of defying the dictates of good sense, of ignoring harsh realities. The Coronavirus epidemic is being fought by a range of techniques, ones which entail interfering with nature. If a vaccine against the Coronavirus becomes available, as everybody hopes, then it will be an 'artificial' chemical control. The gloves which medical staff wear to protect themselves and which even the author wears to protect himself amount to 'artificial' methods of protection. To confine the fight against the Coronavirus to purely natural methods would guarantee a much, much higher fatality rate.

Perhaps the author could explain, then, why the Roman Catholic Church has found the use of condoms not permissible for Catholics, in fact 'evil.' Does the Roman Catholic Church prefer limitation of human populations not by condoms and other methods of artificial birth control but by the natural methods which used to limit population, famine and disease, the methods of the Malthusian nightmare?

The Catholic position on contraception was expressed and explained by Pope Paul VI's 'Humanae Vitae.' Artificial contraception is considered intrinsically evil, but methods of 'natural family planning' are permissible.

Pope Paul VI made use of the Report of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, which stated 'One can find no period of history, no document of the church, no theological school, scarcely one Catholic theologian, who ever denied
that contraception was always seriously evil. The teaching of the Church in this matter is absolutely constant.'

I can't possibly do justice to the stupidities of Roman Catholic doctrine here. I'll just mention one further example - the view that, since baptism erases natural sin, allegedly, unbaptized babies can't enter heaven (although the traditional dogma isn't universally accepted.) Casuistry is prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church now, as in past centuries - hence the earnest discussions of 'emergency baptism,' methods of baptism which may or may not count as effective in erasing natural sin, the discussions of beer, sweat and other fluids as a substitute for water.

The author takes an eirenic, ecumenical position, giving the impression that evangelicals, for example, can make common cause with Roman Catholics. He has to realize that many, many evangelicals loathe the beliefs of Roman Catholics and many, many Roman Catholics believe that the beliefs of evangelicals and other Protestants are very much in error.

Anyone who cares to read graphic evidence of this can turn to some of the comments that follow the article by Will Jones (an evangelical), 'What are the virus figures telling us?' published by 'Conservative Woman' on March 29. In this case, the protestant commenter, 'Reformed Gentleman' attacks me and my atheistic views as well as a Roman Catholic commenter, who is unfailingly polite. Again and again, he mentions my 'heresy' and the 'heresy' of the Roman Catholic.

In my own comments, I made a request for a comment from 'Reformed Gentleman' (and any other Christian readers of 'Conservative Woman' ) on the subject of salvation and damnation. I didn't get an answer, despite persistence, so I repeat the question now, in a different form, taking note of what the author has to say in this article. Is the message of Easter Sunday a message of unalloyed hope and joy? What of the people who don't accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour? Are they damned? Are the people who die from Coronavirus damned, unless they belong to the minority of people who accept the risen Christ as Saviour? Are doctors and nurses damned if they don't belong the minority of people who accept the risen Christ as saviour? That was mainstream dogma during the many centuries of faith. It's a view which would be accepted by many of the readers of 'Conservative Woman.' So much the worse for these people. Christians who believe that altruistic actions, heroic actions, prudent and sensible actions, actions to combat the Coronavirus informed by scientific evidence, are far less important in this pandemic than the eternal destiny of the soul should have the courage to say so and to defend their belief - if they can. Conservative Woman's decision to publish this article 'Behold I stand at the door ... ' was very unwise, very misguided.


The great ventilators myth

Some of the points Will makes are valid ones, I think, but others aren't. He's obviously fully justified in presenting his arguments and evidence here and I respect very much his abilities as a mathematician. Here, I want to challenge other views of his, ones I reject completely.


Obviously, like everyone, he would like to save lives, but if the economy is wrecked and the effects are long-lasting, then a wide range of activities will be seriously affected, including a whole range of life-saving and life-enhancing activities.


Will Jones, as an evangelical Christian, has a concern not just to save lives but to save souls. An evangelical may well regard the saving of life in this epidemic as less important than the saving of souls: whether a life is shorter or longer is less important than the eternal destiny of the soul. The arguments and evidence to do with the provision of ventilators are very different from the saving of souls: rational and empirical evidence and argument versus Biblical arguments and evidence, for instance.


According to Church Society, a Conservative Evangelical group in the Church of England:


' ... all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them. Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)


'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51).


Some direct questions. If Will is too busy to answer them or disinclined to answer them, perhaps out of embarrassment, it may be that one or more of the orthodox Christians with similar beliefs can give an answer. People with atheistic, anti-Christian views like mine are outnumbered here - there must be someone not afraid to witness to their orthodox Christian faith.


[Update - so far, no Christian has provided an answer to the questions. A conservative evangelical, and many other Christians, would be likely to answer 'Yes' to all the questions. It would only take a few moments to reply 'Yes to all questions,' but nobody with those beliefs seems to have the courage of his or her Christian convictions. All the same, these people are free agents and obviously in no compulsion to answer in the least.]


Do you believe that Conservative Woman readers, contributors and commenters who don't accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels?


Do you believe that those who die from the Coronavirus who haven't accepted Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour will be separated forever from God in Hell?


Do you believe that doctors and nurses and other health service workers who don't accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour are under God's condemnation and will be cast into hell?


Do you believe that of the people we commemorate on Remembrance Sunday, only the ones who accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour have eternal life?


Do you believe that the Jews who were killed in the Second World Warar were cast into hell, apart from the converts?

Do you believe that very few politicians will be saved - again, only the ones who accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour?


In that chaotic and contradictory work The Bible, Jesus speaks of separating the sheep from the goats 'when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.' (Matthew 25:31) He mentions a whole range of good works, such as visiting the sick (25:36.) Those who fulfil the good works, the sheep, 'inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' (25:34).

The others, the goats, will be told, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' (25:41.)


Two points. This can be taken as 'justification by works,' not 'justification by faith.' The evangelical view, following St Paul, is of justification by faith - faith in Christ or lack of faith in Christ determines a person's eternal destiny. As for visiting the sick, a Christian would be well advised not to visit the sick during the Coronavirus epidemic, except in certain circumstances, such as when wearing protective clothing. I know of a Christian who visited woman in her nineties very recently, going against all the accepted, sensible advice - I think she saw it as her Christian duty, as a self-sacrificing Christian, even though she had no need whatsoever to go there.


I've had to write very quickly. I started to write this comment but abandoned it when I found that Will's article had been removed. I've only just found that it's been restored and I'm not able to revise or extend it now, or not for quite some time.


The virus has brought the liberal chickens home to roost

Paul Hurt to Mozzy

You'll notice that I mention the massacre of Jews at York in 1190. In the same year, people at Lynn killed Jews and set fire to their houses. More Jews were killed at Stamford Fair and then at Bury St Edmunds. The Jews at Lincoln would very likely have been killed too, but they were able to take refuge in the castle. Attacks on Jews also took place at Colchester, Thetford, and Ospringe. During the Middle Ages, there are occasions when Jews were killed, before their expulsion from this country - but obviously not after that.


'The church, the previus de facto state, used to be the provider of medical help, we should not let the state take its place.'


Chris Cleary and people who share his opinion - what's stopping you? If you want, you can dispense with the NHS and let the Church cure you, if it can. The Church includes in its therapeutic armoury powers not offered by the NHS, such as 'the power of prayer.' On the other hand, the NHS does offer the benefits of scientific medicine.


The Anglican Church still includes prayers intended to persuade God to modify the weather. This is one of them, a prayer for fair weather from the page




'O Almighty Lord God, who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again: We humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives, and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.'


When this country has been ravaged by floods in recent years, the country has trusted in flood defences and improving the existing flood defences rather than to prayer.

Prayer to God to end plagues and infectious disease has been tried and hasn't worked.


I see that at the time of writing, 11 people have given your idiotic comment the seal of approval - I think they call such things 'upticks.' If cranks and their idiotic views are given a number of upticks, then of course it doesn't validate their views in the least. 'Conservative Woman' would be better off without this laughable system of conferring approval. Another site I turn to regularly, 'isthebbcbiased' manages very well without it - it's all the better for not having it.


This system of upticks may in some cases encourage adolescent rather than adult ways of looking at the world and commenting on the world. It may encourage the writer to write in a more evasive or even dishonest way, in the hope of experiencing that little onrush of pleasure at seeing an uptick, or more than one. Similarly with the ratings that follow the articles. I don't claim in the least that people who use the system on this site have adolescent rather than adult minds, only that it may encourage stupidity in some cases, or a few cases. For an example of the stupidity, I quote again ''The church, the previus de facto state, used to be the provider of medical help, we should not let the state take its place.


'Conservative Woman' has its reputation to think of - articles and comments which, it can be argued, are very flawed, but which are given the seal of approval by assorted uptickers may come to conclusions about the readership of 'Conservative Woman,' rightly or wrongly. At the very least, I think that upticks are a distraction. Coming to a considered view of an article or a comment is, or should be, a more complex matter than the simple judgment needed to press a key on a computer keyboard.


I find so much of 'Conservative Woman,' the comments as well as the articles, interesting, informative, entertaining, but for me, the little signs that signify approval (the ones for disapproval are hardly used) add nothing.

Paul Hurt

Andrew's article would have benefitted from some historical perspective, although it wouldn't have been realistic to expect much history, given the space available to him. A large number of contemporary liberals may be feeble, misguided, deluded in one way or another and they should be criticized - ridiculed - but historical  perspective is a necessary corrective. Reactions to the current pandemic are far preferable to reactions to the pandemic of the Black Death - which was obviously a far, far worse calamity. The response of 'Christian civilization' to the calamity of the Black Death would benefit from closer examination. From the Wikipedia page 'Jewish persecutions during the Black Death:''


'As the plague swept across Europe in the mid-14th century, annihilating nearly half the population, people had little scientific understanding of the disease and were looking for an explanation.


'Jews were often taken as scapegoats and accusations spread that Jews had caused the disease by deliberately poisoning wells.] This is likely because they were affected less than other people,] since many Jews chose not to use the common wells of towns and cities.] Jews were also sometimes coerced through torture to confess to poisoning wells.


'The first massacres directly related to the plague took place in April 1348 in Toulon, Provence where the Jewish quarter was sacked, and forty Jews were murdered in their homes; the next occurred in Barcelona. In 1349, massacres and persecution spread across Europe, including the Erfurt massacre, the Basel massacre, massacres in Aragon, and Flanders. 2,000 Jews were burnt alive on 14 February 1349 in the 'Valentine's Day' Strasbourg massacre, where the plague had not yet affected the city. While the ashes smouldered, Christian residents of Strasbourg sifted through and collected the valuable possessions of Jews not burnt by the fires. Many hundreds of Jewish communities were destroyed in this period. Within the 510 Jewish communities destroyed in this period, some members killed themselves to avoid the persecutions. In the spring of 1349 the Jewish community in Frankfurt am Main was annihilated. This was followed by the destruction of Jewish communities in Mainz and Cologne. The 3,000 strong Jewish population of Mainz initially defended themselves and managed to hold off the Christian attackers. But the Christians managed to overwhelm the Jewish ghetto in the end and killed all of its Jews.


'At Speyer, Jewish corpses were disposed in wine casks and cast into the Rhine. By the close of 1349 the worst of the pogroms had ended in Rhineland. But around this time the massacres of Jews started rising near the Hansa townships of the Baltic Coast and in Eastern Europe. By 1351 there had been 350 incidents of anti-Jewish pogroms and 60 major and 150 minor Jewish communities had been exterminated. All of this caused the eastward movement of Northern Europe's Jewry to Poland and Lithuania, where they remained for the next six centuries. King Casimir III of Poland enthusiastically gave refuge and protection to the Jews. This is consistent with his previous edicts vis-a-vis Jews. On 9 October 1334, Casimir confirmed the privileges granted to Jews in 1264 by Bolesław V the Chaste. Under penalty of death, he prohibited the kidnapping of Jewish children for the purpose of enforced Christian baptism, and he inflicted heavy punishment for the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. The king had therefore been previously well-disposed to Jews. He was also interested in tapping the economic potential of the Jews.'


Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner


I'm a non-believer. Dr Billings isn't a non-believer. He describes himself as a retired Church of England priest. In 'Keeping Safe,' very unwisely, he includes, on Page 2, in very large, very prominent letters, this quotation from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah:


'Seek the well-being of this place ... for in its well-being you will find your own.' Jeremiah 29:7.


His Foreword ends with this:


The overriding message for the coming year (2019-20) is that we must get better at working together for the common good. The prophet put it this way: 'Seek the well-being of the place where you are set ... for in its well-being you will find your own'. (Jeremiah 29:7.)


Jeremiah's words had a specific reference. Dr Billings ignores this and ignores the context. The complete text of Jeremiah 29.7, in the translation of the King James Bible:

'And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.'


The New International Version translation:


'Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'


There was, of course, absolutely no need for Dr Billings to include this quotation from an Old Testament prophet. He should have realized that he was writing for a community made up of many different groups - not just Church of England believers and other Christian believers but non-believers, people with no belief in God or the Bible, either the Bible as the inspired word of God or the Bible as a good guide to contemporary problems, a community which includes people with a wide range of religious but non-Christian views.


On 28 January 2019, a letter of mine was published in the Sheffield newspaper 'The Star,' with the heading 'Can public C of E services be defended?'


An extract:


'According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, affiliation with the Church of England (C of E) has never been lower in all age groups: it amounts to only 2 per cent of young adults.


'What can justify the C of E’s dominant role in Remembrance Sunday commemorations, then? I attend the event in the city centre or at Weston Park. Like ones throughout the country, it takes the form of a C of E service.

'There are many, many prayers and after each one, this is the expected response (as given in the Order of Service booklet):


'All Hear our prayer


'What is a non-believer or a believer in another religion to do? Mumble insincerely? Stay silent? Should non-believers pretend to believe in the power of prayer, or in the Trinity – the doctrine that there’s God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (also in the booklet)? We attend to remember the fallen, to show gratitude for their sacrifice, to show gratitude and appreciation for present members of the armed forces, not to witness a C of E service. '


Dr Billings made a comment on the Website of the newspaper but declined to address the problem. His view seems to entail a view of the Church of England as having a privileged position in the civic life and wider activities of this country. In addition to receiving his view of South Yorkshire Police's conduct in my case, whether he chooses to defend the force or to criticize it, I'd be interested in receiving his view of the Church's role in Remembrance Sunday events - does he support the continuance of the status quo or not? Perhaps he thinks that the views of non-believers like myself can safely be disregarded.


Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral

See also my page   Israel, Islamism, Palestinian ideology
All the instances of bias I document on the page, some of it deluded, psychotic bias, come from non-Christians. The Church of England's record in relation to the state of Israel isn't in the least bad. The case discussed here isn't typical in the least. It's a rare exception.

The very critical letter I quote in my profile of
the Bishop of Sheffield on this page does include this, 'There are and have been many, many exceptional C of E members ...' Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield, is certainly one of these exceptional people - but I'm thinking primarily of his mathematical abilities and not at all of his theological and ecclesiastical work.

Adrian Dorber has been heavily criticized for his role in a blatantly biased conference which was suppposed to shed light “on the Israel/Palestine Conflict and the prospect of peace” but which obviously did nothing of the kind. From the graphic account written by David Collier of the conference 'Holding Palestine in the Light,' held at Lichfield Cathedral.   The full account is at




An extract:


... sitting next to me with her hand raised is Mandy Blumenthal. Zionist to the core, Mandy had asked a question of Yossi Meckleberg earlier in the day.  She had wanted to know why Yossi had seemed to imply settlements, rather than Arab rejectionism and violence was a (the?) major stumbling block. This time, with the knowledge that Mandy was a Zionist, the Chair was visibly ignoring Mandy’s raised hand.

The Chair was desperately seeking questions from elsewhere in the audience. The questions had dried up. It was a stand-off. Mandy became vocal:

‘why won’t you let me speak?’

‘Because you spoke earlier’ came the reply.

As an answer it did not suffice. Several people had asked more than one question. The situation was absurd. There were no more questions. Only Mandy’s hand remained aloft. There were still 10 minutes left till the end of this session.

Several people became visibly agitated. A member of the audience asked why the chair was ignoring Mandy’s question. Mandy spoke up again:

“Isn’t this a conference, why is only one side allowed to be heard?”

Open confrontation. This was not what the Dean had wanted, he stepped in to soothe the situation and offered Mandy Blumenthal the microphone. Yet as he did this and as Mandy stepped up, the Chair led Kamel Hawwash off the stage. The ‘Jew’ question need not be answered. An awful, vile slur. In the end, Hawwash did return but only to claim that Blumenthal had lied.

It was break time again. There were several cries of “shame on you”, but I am not sure to who it was directed.  Someone came straight up to Mandy to apologise. ‘This is my town and I am Christian but that was unacceptable’. ‘I do not know why it happened’. Others started to get involved, some suggested they had not expected this conference to be so one sided. This time as I mingled I was approached by a young activist. He identified himself quite quickly as a ‘BDS supporter.'

My comment, published below David Collier's  article:

The Church of England is often regarded as naive, blundering, ineffectual – but some naive, blundering, ineffectual people in the Church can cause real damage. Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, is one of these.

The Bishop of Lichfield claims that he couldn’t have stopped the Conference, but it was naive of him – more than that, a serious blunder – not to have realized that a Conference on this topic would be controversial. He ought to have intervened and made sure that the Conference would be fair-minded and balanced but failed to do that. Justin Welby says that ‘He has no direct authority over the Dean,’ but he’s admitting, in effect, that he, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is sometimes unable or unwilling to do anything about the anti-Israel propaganda which is allowed to go unchallenged far too often in the Church of England.

A sermon preached at St Marks Church, Sheffield in 2014 included this:

‘The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, who has researched and published broadly in this area, concludes ‘that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.’ ‘

What? The intractable problems of the Middle East, the atrocities in the Middle East, largely caused by Christian Zionists? The Revd Stephen Sizer is yet another naive and blundering Anglican, but a particularly dangerous one. He gave a link to an article which claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9 / 11 attack on the World Trade Center!

The Bishop of Guildford acted decisively: he made it clear that Stephen Siver was in danger of losing his job, as reported in 'The Church Times' and other places,

The Bishop of Lichfield failed to act at a time when he should have acted. If he'd acted, he could have prevented this embarrassing and ridiculous but very harmful series of events.

Bishops, like so many other people, have their specialities. Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield, has a great interest in the relations between Christians and other religious groups. You'd think, then, that he'd take a very close interest in this conference, where the relations between Christians, Jews and Moslems play an important role.  He was appointed Diocesan Chaplain for relations with people of other faiths in 1992. Later, he became Inter-faith Relations Advisor to the Archbishops' Council and Secretary of the Anglican Church's Commission on Inter-faith Relations. In the 2011 New Year Honours List, he was appointed an OBE 'for services to inter-faith relations in London.' And, he's the author of a book on inter-faith dialogue and has contributed to other publications on inter-faith matters. He was Bishop of Woolwich before he became Bishop of Lichfield.

Despite all this experience, general and specific, he failed comprehensively in this instance. He failed to do what was within his power, he failed to ensure that there was some degree of fairness in this disastrous conference.

President Harry S. Truman had a sign 'The buck stops here' on his desk. Recommended: that the Bishop of Lichfield has the same sign on his desk to remind himself of his responsibility.

My view of human imperfection is very different from the Christian one. I don't accept the Christian view of sin but I do accept the reality of human imperfection. (My view is very, very different from most others. (See my page {restriction}). I think that the Christian view takes far more account of realities than some non-Christian, atheistic views - and not just the ones which are utopian. The Christian view that a person can  put aside faults, including very serious faults, can go beyond them, can evolve, in moral terms, deserves to be treated very seriously. We must often criticize and condemn, but compassion is one of the most important of all virtues - and not, of course, a purely Christian one.

Professor Kamel Hawwash didn't like David Collier's account one bit.

Compare and contrast the cool, supposedly 'objective' tone of this

'Reflections of a diaspora Palestinian   Professor Kamel Hawwash'

and this, the Professor's mini profile

'Professor Kamel Hawwash: a British/Palestinian and a long standing campaigner for justice for Palestinians'

both to be found on Lichfield Cathedral's Website page on the recent conference on Israeli-Palestinian issues


- and the article written by Kamel Hawwash which has this headline, 'Lichfield Cathedral stands strong in the face of bullying by the pro-Israel lobby' and which refuses to consider any possibility of reasoned dissent, dissent based on arguments and evidence, and was published in that well-known purveyor of  ideological claptrap the 'Middle East Monitor'




and also published on the evasive Website of Professor Kamel Hawwash




who has every reason to be taken seriously as an academic civil engineer but has no reason to be taken seriously as a commenter on such issues as the politics and military conflicts of this particular area of the Middle East and the ethical issues which arise from them.


Lichfield Cathedral too has abandoned the basic principles of fair-mindedness and has become a purveyor of ideological claptrap, at least in this hideous fall from grace.

But the organization's distortions and evasions and selective use of evidence and misuse of evidence are often much more serious than this simple incompetence.  For example, 'Labour Friends of Palestine' claims that Israel has sentenced prisoners 'without a proper trial, which includes the right to present evidence, call witnesses and be represented by a lawyer who can visit them freely' but the safeguards of the Israeli legal system are vastly greater and more effective than those in Gaza. On 22 August 2014, 18
suspected collaborators were executed by Palestinian firing squad in different parts of the Gaza strip, without representation by a lawyer, without a proper trial or any trial at all. In the legal system of Gaza, homosexuality is a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment for up to
ten years. A mother may be imprisoned for having a baby when unmarried.

George Pitcher, Anglican priest
The Wikipedia entry for George Pitcher can be strongly recommended. It makes clear that this is someone with a record of substantial, sustained achievement, including achievement in an unexpected but very important field, industrial reporting. If my own account draws attention to some shortcomings, I recognize his achievements. The shortcomings don't cancel his achievements or diminish his achievements. He's not in the least one of those ineffectual clerics with no interest in practical matters.


George Pitcher is a very unusual, unconventional priest of the Church of England - but a priest with some of the usual, conventional faults and failings, I think.

A very brief, very revealing  introduction to some of his 'thinking' is published in the 'Church Times.'


So, 'ten media tips,' not ten commandments. In his 'top tips' article in the top Anglo-Catholic megaphone (not that it can transform negligible thoughts, of next to no interest, into resounding, convincing demonstrations of Truth), he accuses critics of Islamism and left-wing thinking of cowardice:

'Islamophobic, blogging rightards had gone strangely quiet.' (Here, 'blogging' seems to be yet another insult, like 'Islamophobic' and 'rightards.')

His claim is ridiculous. Nothing like that had happened. Is he quite sure that all or most - or any - opponents of Islamism and left-wing views had 'gone quiet?' Could he name a few? Could he name a large number? Can he be sure that if a few had 'gone quiet' there wasn't an alternative explanation?

I'm a critic of Islamism and left-wing thinking too, and a critic of George Pitcher. I don't think it's likely in the least that he'll give serious answers to the criticisms I make of Islamism, left-wing thinking and George Pitcher. Most of the criticism (but not the criticism of George Pitcher) is on other pages, not this one. If he can spare the time, he could read some of it . -

Let's make a direct challenge to George Pitcher and find out if he can answer the objections or if he'll go 'strangely quiet.'

His top-tip number 2:

'Stop being a victim: get on the front foot, and stop whingeing about how badly you are treated. This is not Pakistan or Palestine, and you are not being persecuted.'

When he refers to Palestine, he's not referring, of course, to any oppression by Hamas or to oppression of homosexuals in Gaza (homosexuality is illegal there, and women who have children whilst unmarried can be imprisoned and are imprisoned.) Of course, he's referring to the Israelis.

My page I
srael, Islamism and Palestinian ideology gives a comprehensive discussion of some of the faults of Palestinian society.

In the same 'top tip,' he writes,

' ... use your freedom. Head-butt the bullies, by which I mean give as good as you get: journalists respect, albeit grudgingly, those who fight back.'

I'm not a journalist but I'll respect George Pitcher all the more if he decides to fight back, to oppose me and my views - if he can, that is.

I don't regard myself as a bully, and I think that the advice to head-butt is disastrously misguided. He leaves unexplored the glaring contradiction between this advice and Christ's commandment to 'turn the other cheek.' The people he calls 'bullies' include people of very different kinds. Most of them, I'm sure, are anything but bullies. They're often people who, unlike the head-butter, give arguments and evidence, but arguments and evidence he doesn't like at all.

In general, the profiles on the more developed pages are very critical, but I try and find out a great deal about the people I criticize. I've removed profiles and decided not to write profiles when I've found out that the profiles concern people who suffer from a very serious health condition, or have a relative with a very serious health condition. It's essential, I think, that polemics, like the waging of war, shouldn't be unrestricted. Human values should inform polemics. George Pitcher's bright and breezy, unformed and superficial advice to 'head-butt' the bully - the alleged bully - is wrong.

His 'top tip' number 8 is this: 'Rapid rebuttal: don't whine that you have been misrepresented. Hit the phone and tell the journalist in monosyllables. It not only does good, but feels good.'

Geoffrey Hill, Christian poet

From my page The poetry of Seamus Heaney: flawed success

Geoffrey Hill has been phenomenally industrious in creating the essays which make up his large volume, 'Collected Critical Writings' but it has been peculiar, obscure, murky, subterranean, mole-like work, largely unrelated to our very different world above-ground.

Peter McDonald, writing in 'The Times Literary Supplement,' claimed critical greatness for the Writings: 'The publication last year of Hill’s Collected Critical Writings (reviewed in the TLS, July 18, 2008) made it clear that he is a thinker about poetry (and of course about more than poetry alone) who can stand beside the very greatest – beside Dryden, Johnson, Coleridge, Arnold, Empson and Eliot – regardless of his status as a poet.' Peter McDonald was making a mountain out of a mole Hill.

The 'Collected Critical Writings' are a challenge to almost any reader, but the above-ground world challenges us in ways that the Collected Critical Writings largely evade (and Dostoevsky's 'Notes from Underground' don't evade.) He's made a labyrinth of tunnels, tunnels that connect with other tunnels and tunnels that lead nowhere. One  tunnel led him to 'Mombert, in the 1884 Preface to his edition of Tyndale's Pentateuch ...' ('Of Diligence and Jeopardy') but there are not enough tunnels that lead to the surface, either directly or indirectly.

As we read, we're being lulled, tranquillized. We are all like Tennyson's lotos-eaters now and again, and welcome the chance to be lulled, particularly if we can be lulled without any feeling of guilt. The difficulties of the book assuage any guilt or misgivings. How can we be lulled and tranquillized if we're reading a book which demands such concentration? But we are.

One of its main deficiencies is  the lack of organizing principles, organizing concepts. The ones he uses are  unsuitable and inadequate. Non-scientific subject matter can't dispense with organizing principles and organizing concepts to make sense of the accumulation of experiences and thoughts, even if it doesn't have available the body of scientific theory which makes sense of scientific data. (Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations' are a case in point, not a counter-example.)

In 'A Pharisee to Pharisees,' a discussion of the poetry of Henry Vaughan, he makes a comment which shows that his grasp can be very insecure: 'It would perhaps be generally agreed that a 'poetic' use of language involves a release and control of the magnetic attraction and repulsion which words reciprocally exert. One is impelled, or drawn, to enquire whether that metaphysical rapport felt to exist between certain English rhyme-pairings is the effect of commonplace rumination or the cause of it.' And, later, 'In Vaughan's poetry a rhyme which occurs with striking frequency is 'light : night', or 'night : light'. Here, too, basic mechanics assume ontological dimensions.'

Magnetic forces don't in the least constitute an adequate explanation for the linkages and contrasts between words. This is a poor and misguided 'organizing principle.' It involves ignorance of or the ignoring of the vastly more suitable explanations of linguistics. Metaphysics and ontology have a technical meaning and use in philosophy, and again, the use of these concepts clarifies nothing: 'metaphysical rapport' and 'ontological dimensions' contribute nothing but a superficially impressive sound to the discussion.

He turns to theology far more often than to any other study to make spurious sense of the world and his theology is backward-looking - a forward-looking theology would be no more impressive. He even turns to original sin in his exploration of defects in the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (in the essay 'Common Weal, Common Woe' in the 'Collected Critical Writings.') This is the ending of the essay:

'Most of what one wants to know, including much that it hurts to know, about the English language is held within these twenty volumes. [The 'most' here is completely unwarranted. The most comprehensive treatment of any subject of any size is sure to leave out so much that it can't possibly include 'most of what one wants to know.' The treatment is subject to extreme {restriction}.] To brood over them and in them is to be finally persuaded that sematology is a theological dimension: the use of language is inseparable from that 'terrible aboriginal calamity' in which, according to Newman, the human race is implicated. [quoting one 'authority' or to be more accurate one Roman Catholic writer who made very contentious claims about original sin and linked matters, such as venial and mortal sin, shows nothing] Murray, in 1884, missed that use of 'aboriginal'; it would have added a distinctly separate signification ['distinctly' is pleonastic, of course] to the recorded examples. In 1989 it remains unacknowledged.

'In what sense or senses is the computer acquainted with original sin?'

A  substantial reference work such as the Oxford Dictionary can never attain complete accuracy, comprehensiveness and up-to-date information. It's subject to inevitable {restriction}. The concept of sin is irrelevant here. My own concept of {restriction} is vastly more useful in conveying human imperfection, including the imperfection of evil, human error, the human failure which is willed and the human failure which is beyond human control, and the inconveniences and difficulties, including the extreme difficulties, which are inherent in the natural world and beyond human control, such as agricultural difficulties and the difficulties of mining, but its scope is very much wider than that - which can be expressed by quantification of {restriction}:- (scope). My page on {restriction} gives a selection of illustrative instances. Flaws in the poetry of Seamus Heaney are instances of {restriction}:- (poetic success) and flaws in Geoffrey Hill's 'Collected Critical Writings' are again instances of {restriction}.

The King James Bible


'The Translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy, and Peace, through JESUS CHRIST our Lord.

'GREAT and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of [England], when first he sent Your Majesty's Royal Person to rule and reign over us. '

This is from the introduction to the King James translation of the Bible, also known as the 'Authorized Version.' Here, I don't discuss grandeur of language or the importance of the Authorized version in the history of language but some of the vile context: including the failure of the Church of England to oppose persecution at the time and its active involvement in persecution. The birth of this literary masterwork (a literary masterwork to some extent) was accompanied by hideous torture and burning at the stake.

From the Website of the British Library




'In 1597, King James VI of Scotland published a compendium on witchcraft lore called Daemonologie. It was also published in England in 1603 when James acceded to the English throne.

'The book asserts James’s full belief in magic and witchcraft, and aims to both prove the existence of such forces and to lay down what sort of trial and punishment these practices merit – in James’s view, death.'


From the site



'James personally oversaw the trials by torture for around seventy individuals implicated in the North Berwick Witch Trials, the biggest Scotland had known ... The trial resulted in possibly dozens of people burned at the stake, although the precise number is unknown.

'In 1597, James published Daemonologie, his rebuttal of Reginald Scot’s skeptical work, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, which questioned the very existence of witches. Daemonologie was an alarmist book, presenting the idea of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation.

'In 1604, only one year after James ascended to the English throne, he passed his new Witchcraft Act, which made raising spirits a crime punishable by execution.


'In 1612, the King’s paranoid fantasy of satanic conspiracy, planted in the minds of local magistrates eager to win his favor, culminated in one of the key manifestations of the Jacobean witch-craze—the trials of the Lancashire Witches, accused of plotting to blow up Lancaster Castle with gunpowder. Eight women and two men were executed.

James’s legacy extends even into our age. The King James Bible, completed in 1611, saw the scriptures rewritten to further the King’s agenda. Exodus 22:18, originally translated as, “Thou must not suffer a poisoner to live,” became “Thou must not suffer a witch to live.” '


The reference to 'poisoner' here is mistaken. The Hebrew word does not mean 'poisoner.' The translation is subject to some dispute but all plausible translations give an instruction which will be condemned, rightly so. The Good News Translation is

'Put to death any woman who practices magic.


In his epistle to the Galations (5:19-21) St Paul condemns various sins, 'works of the flesh' in the King James translation, including, in this translation, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, drunkenness, revellings - and, also, witchcraft and heresies. At the time of the translation,  witches were burned alive and heretics were burned alive.

Whether the translation of the Bible has grandeur or is plain and contemporary, Biblical Christianity is a hideous thing.

Below, the Apotheosis of King James I by Rubens, at the Banqueting House, Whitehall


Below, Edward Wightman being burned alive. He was the last person to be burned alive for heresy in this country, in 1612. Only three weeks before, Bartholomew Legate had been burned alive for heresy. Both had denied the doctrine of the Trinity. Edward Wightman had also questioned the status of the Church of England. The charges against him included these:


That there is no Trinity;

That Jesus Christ is not God, perfect God and of the same substance, eternity and majesty with the Father in respect of his God-head;

That Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but only in part.

Below, a diagram which is supposed to explain the mysteries and paradoxes of the Trinity: why Michael Servetus, Edward Wightman and Bartholomew Legate and all the other disbelievers were mistaken, according to Trinitarians.

Feeding the hungry and the Sermon on the Mount


Above, a page from The Gospel according to Matthew,  from Papyrus 1,  c. 250 AD


Above, a combine harvester

© Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.



Above, tractor working the land in Norfolk


This is a very brief survey of some of the issues, but none the worse for that, I'd hope. In my page on Nietzsche, I quote this, from his book 'Twilight of the Idols:'


' ... my ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book - what everyone else does not say in a book...'


I'd claim that the arguments I give here are ones which are missing from much longer discussions of the issues. In my page on Nietsche, my loathing for him will be obvious. I criticize his criticism of pity. I criticize him for his neglect of the material conditions of life, which is the focus of attention here:


'He criticizes the Christian tendency to overlook the needs of the body but largely ignores the material conditions of life. It was impossible to satisfy the fundamental needs of the body until the industrial revolution transformed the material conditions of life.'


The Sermon on the Mount isn't concerned with the material conditions of life. These are addressed in the margins of the New Testament. The feeding of the hungry is a practical problem which is addressed only in two 'miracles' of Jesus reported in the Gospels.


The first 'miracle,' the 'Feeding of the 5, 000' is reported by all four gospels: Matthew 14: 13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:1-14.)

The second 'miracle,' the 'Feeding of the 4,000', with seven loaves of bread and fish, is reported by Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9.

 The accounts in Matthew of the feeding of the 5, 000, the feeding of the 4, 000 and the Sermon on the Mount all refer to 'multitude' or 'multitudes,' in the original Greek ὄχλον and τοὺς ὄχλους. The word can be translated in ways which are very different: crowd, populace, throng, mob, the masses.

These 'miracles' are irrelevant to the practical problems of feeding the hungry. Doctrines of salvation can easily be constructed from the New Testament record, but not practical advice to do with the prevention of famine or the prevention of plague or the healing of disease or the death of women in childbirth. Christians have taken it for granted that people subject to such terrible burdens as these can overlook their burdens and are free to consider the welfare of the soul, the merits of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. So, Jesus came to earth and gave advice about all kinds of spiritual matters, but gave no advice about such problems as feeding the people, releasing people from the Multhusian nightmare of too many births and insufficient resources. Release from the consequences of sin is adequately covered - at least to the satisfaction of people convinced that the doctrine of salvation they believe is the true one -  not so release from the scourges of infectious disease. 


Here, I concentrate on release from the scourge of famine. From the page where I criticize Green ideology:

'On the back cover of Peter Mathias's 'The First Industrial Nation': 'The fate of the overwhelming mass of the population in any pre-industrial society is to pass their lives on the margins of subsistence. It was only in the eighteenth century that society in north-west Europe, particularly in England, began the break with all former traditions of economic life.'


'In the 'Prologue,' this is elaborated: 'The elemental truth must be stressed that the characteristic of any country before its industrial revolution and modernization is poverty. Life on the margin of subsistence is an inevitable condition for the masses of any nation. Doubtless there will be a ruling class, based on the economic surplus produced from the land or trade and office, often living in extreme luxury. There may well be magnificent cultural monuments and very wealthy religious institutions. [There are many images on this page which show 'magnificent cultural monuments' and 'very wealthy religious institutions,' the images which show King's College Chapel and St Paul's Cathedral] But with low productivity, low output per head, in traditional agriculture, any economy which has agriculture as the main constituent of its national income and its working force does not produce much of a surplus above the immediate requirements of consumption from its economic system as a whole ... The population as a whole, whether of medieval or seventeenth-century England, or nineteenth-century India, lives close to the tyranny of nature under the threat of harvest failure or disease ... The graphs which show high real wages and good purchasing power of wages in some periods tend to reflect conditions in the aftermath of plague and endemic disease.'


'Larry Zuckerman, 'The Potato:' 'Famine struck France thirteen times in the sixteenth century, eleven in the seventeenth, and sixteen in the eighteenth. And this tally is an estimate, perhaps incomplete, and includes general outbreaks only. It doesn't count local famines that ravaged one area or another almost yearly. Grain's enemy was less cold weather (though that took its toll) or storms, which damaged crops in localities, than wet summers, which prevented the grain from ripening and caused it to rot.'

Desperate poverty in pre-industrial societies and the early period of industrialisation required that 'every member of a family who could work did so, down to young children.' ('The Potato'). And child labour, 'though among the industrial revolution's evils, wasn't restricted to factory or home workshop. Farm workers' six- and seven-year-old children toiled long days too.'


'What ended grinding poverty (the poverty of being clothed in filthy rags as well as the poverty of not having very many clothes), what eventually freed these children from work in mines, factories, workshops, the fields, what gave men, women and children increasing relief from back-breaking work, was greater productivity.' 


The problem of thirst - material thirst - was addressed in a magnificent way, by the construction of reservoirs, which has involved large scale civil engineering. At last, clean drinking water was available in large quantity. The most significant cause of human disease is lack of clean drinking water and lack of adequate sewage disposal - problems which Jesus neglected.


The Sermon on the Mount doesn't mention material hunger, or material thirst. Instead, we have this (Matthew 5:6):

'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.'


This has the advantage of resonance, to an extent. It sounds good, to an extent. In the modern Church, as previously, sounding good and looking good have the advantage over approaches which are ethically good or realistically good. The translation here is the King James Bible, examined and criticized on this page. I point out that King James was a persecutor of women he considered witches.


Our dilemmas and difficulties aren't solved and aren't treated realistically by producing a Biblical quote, such as some superficial words of Jesus - overlooking, of course, the difficulties of deciding if the words were used by Jesus at all. The 'teaching' of Jesus recorded in the gospel according to St John which doesn't appear in the synoptic gospels - this is a reminder of the difficulties. Any idea that the synoptic gospels are a reliable source of information is ridiculous. The simple faith of ordinary people requires a recourse to complex matters to do with advanced textual scholarship.   Before any claim that 'Jesus said ...' or 'Jesus taught, the word 'allegedly' should be inserted. An additional source of difficulty and confusion is to do with translation. One translation may convey one impression, a different translation a different one. The King James bible gives 'blessed' as a translation of the New Testament Greek word
Μακάριοι the plural of μακάριος. The word can also be translated as 'happy.'


Familiarity with the original languages hasn't protected Christian commentators from misrepresentation and outright stupidity. Christian commentators have often claimed, for example, that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is supported by the fact that the word for 'God' in Hebrew is a plural word, אֱלֹהִ֑ים  The word appears in the first verse of Genesis, 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,'


Of course, 'heaven' and 'earth' here belong to a simple, superseded cosmology and to accept that God created these is to ignore all the scientific evidence. If it's claimed that this is a literal approach and that anyone who takes it is ignoring the depth of the original, perhaps claimed to be symbolic rather than literal, I'd say that it's not profound, and that to take this approach is ruinous for clear-sighted thinking. Honest thinking and honest feeling are both distinct from manipulated and superstitious thinking and from the feeling which flourishes when unchecked.


The connotations of 'happy' are very different from those of 'blessed.' Happiness, unlike blessedness, has rarely been prominent in Christian belief before contemporary times. Happiness began to count in the Age of the Enlightenment. Louis de Saint-just, prominent during the French Revolution, claimed that 'le bonheur est une idée neuve en europe' ('happiness is a new idea in Europe.') 


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus allegedly said, according to Matthew (5:4), 'Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.'


In times of war as in times of peace, those who mourn for loved ones they have lost have no reason to be comforted, if the loved ones they have lost never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal lord and saviour. The confused and contradictory theology of the Bible is clear enough about this. The belief of St Paul and countless other followers of Christ is that these loved ones are lost.


The words of the Bible never give an adequate treatment of any issue of any complexity. The alleged saying of Jesus, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's' (Matthew 22:21) is useless as a guide to the many, many problems to do with the relationship between Christian duty - or 'duty' - and practice and the demands of a secular state. The alleged words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount 'Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God' are useless in guiding those who try to end a war. Ending the First World War and ending the Second World War entailed issues of vast complexity, to do with military realities, economic and financial realities, the competing claims of humanitarianism and harshness, the realities of displaced people, and so much else.


The combine harvester - one of them is shown at the beginning of this section - is a very versatile machine, capable of harvesting a wide variety of grain crops, including wheat, oats, barly, maize soya beans, flax and sunflowers. It's one of the most important labour-saving inventions (and human suffering-saving inventions, freeing humanity from the suffering which arises from hunger and famine, the suffering which arises from limited agricultural prodictivity.


The straw which is left can be chopped up and spread on the field, or converted into straw bales. I've a great interest in straw bales, which I use in my allotments for construction and other purposes. To me, they have aesthetic as well as practical importance. This is an image from my page Gardening, construction: introduction, with photographs.


The combine harvester and the tractor shown in the photographs at the beginning of this section are working in good weather conditions. If bad weather is forecast, the Church of England has helpful advice for Anglican combine harvester and tractor drivers. It makes use of the prayer-phone to God.



'Prayer in Times of Agricultural Crisis

'Two forms of prayer are provided. The first is a prayer that can be used as a basis for corporate response to a time of crisis. The second is for seasonable weather, and may be used in times when heavy rain or flooding or indeed lack of rain prejudices the crops, or when severe or extreme weather endangers the harvest and the welfare of animals.'

The book 'Atmosphere, weather and climate' (Sixth Edition) by Roger G Barry and Richard J Chorley includes this:


 'The most notorious type of cyclone is the tropical hurricane (or typhoon). Some 80 or so cyclones each year are responsible, on average, for 20, 000 fatalities, as well as causing immense damage to property and a serious shipping hazard, due to the combined effects of high winds, high seas, flooding from the heavy rainfall and coastal storm surges.' The book outlines the science which underlies cyclones, including such branches of science as atmospheric physics. An example:


'Enhancement of a storm system by cumulus convection is termed Conditional Instability of the Second Kind ... the thermally direct circulation converts the heat increment into potential energy and a small fraction of this - about 3 per cent - is transformed into kinetic energy ...

'In the eye, or innermost region of the storm, adiabatic warming of descending air accentuates the high temperatures ... '


The physical processes which underlie the world's weather are of vast complexity. Scientific advances have made possible control in innumerable cases, but not so in the case of weather systems. Scientific advances have made it possible to forecast adverse weather in many cases, and the advance warning often enables lives to be saved and property to be safeguarded by taking preventive action.

Praying that God will change the weather to benefit the people praying is futile, ridiculous and stupid, and by mentioning this on the Church of England Website, the Church is making itself look futile, ridiculous and stupid. What are the mechanisms by which God changes the weather when prayer reaches him? Does God alter adiabatic warming, or the fraction of potential energy transformed into kinetic energy?


Calming the storm is one of the miracles of Jesus, reported in all the Synoptic gospel accounts - this is reporting which bears no resemblance to the reporting which can be found in good or moderately trustworthy newspapers.


This is the account in Matthew, 8: 23 - 27 in the King James Bible:


23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!


This is a contemporary translation, to be found in The Good News Bible. As will be obvious, a translation into contemporary English doesn't translate a superstitious world view of natural processes into a contemporary world view.

3Jesus got into a boat, and his disciples went with him. 24Suddenly a fierce storm hit the lake, and the boat was in danger of sinking. But Jesus was asleep. 25The disciples went to him and woke him up. “Save us, Lord!” they said. “We are about to die!”


26“Why are you so frightened?” Jesus answered. “How little faith you have!” Then he got up and ordered the winds and the waves to stop, and there was a great calm.

27Everyone was amazed. “What kind of man is this?” they said. “Even the winds and the waves obey him!”


Compare and contrast the miracles of Jesus which amount to faith healing and scientific medicine. It's sometimes claimed that historical progress is an illusion. Although there are vast numbers of credulous people now, including vast numbers of credulous Christians, the credulous Christians of past centuries were more credulous, far more dangerous in their credulity, than the Christians of today.


This is the storm as depicted by Rembrandt in one of his lesser great works:



Art and architecture do nothing to demonstrate that a religious doctrine is trustworthy (there are wider implications.)


To confine attention to great artists, the art of a great artist can't demonstrate any of these:


That Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee
That Jesus was crucified as a matter of historical record, or that Jesus was crucified for our sins
That Jesus was born in a stable, or that Jesus was born anywhere else
That St Peter founded the Roman Catholic Church
That the Assumption of the Virgin Mary took place.


See also my discussion of art works of music as well as pictorial art) and architecture in King's College Chapel. The architecture of  King's College Chapel doesn't validate Christian belief, either pre-Reformation belief or post-Reformation belief. The quality of the choral singing in King's College Chapel doesn't validate Christian belief, in any of its contradictory manifestations.

These are instances of the {theme} {separation}.

My pages on literature should leave no doubt that there are ways of looking and ways of thinking which are separate from economic and technological (and humanitarian) perspectives. In the case of grain, this is one of them, a well-known example. From Thomas Traherne's 'Centuries of Meditations:'

'The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting.'

Non-religious stupidity

'For Christianity and all existing creeds Hume had, and always displayed, the greatest contempt: and he used the attribution of orthodoxy as a standard form of abuse. Writing for instance, to his old friend, the Moderate minister, Hugh Blair, Hume referred to the English as 'relapsing fast into the deepest stupidity, Christianity and ignorance.' (From Richard Wollheim's  introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which includes 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other essays by David Hume.)

When Hume wrote these words, and for many centuries before, stupidity took the form of Christianity more often than not in this country and the rest of Europe.  In a largely post-Christian age, stupidity more often takes other, secular, forms. Many of the English, and other nations, have relapsed fast into the deepest stupidity and ignorance which are completely unreligious. Even so, the prevalence of Christian stupidity in the United States can't be ignored.

One of the post-Christian stupidities - there are many more - is extreme hedonistic stupidity. A sticker seen on a car near here: 'If it's not fun, don't do it.' (The temptation was strong to go home, print out a large poster  and stick it on one of the car doors, the poster containing just these words:  'If removing this poster isn't fun, don't remove it.)

'The  sentiment of the sticker is ridiculous, infantile in its view of the world, hopelessly unformed and  mindless. The defence that it's nothing but a little fun in itself won't work. There are many, many people who believe it, believe in it, or something ridiculous and infantile  but less stupidly ridiculous and infantile. If very many people followed it - but that  would be impossible - then societies of any worth would be impossible. These societies would certainly be incapable of defending themselves.

Religious people have included many, many mawkish sentimentalists, but they have often  had a view of the world which is strenuous, which recognizes duties, such as caring for the sick even when the duties involved no gain for the carer, let alone 'fun.' The objections to 'If it's not fun, don't do it' are obvious and include the objection that when people who believe this fall sick, they will be looked after by people with very different views. Secular views, like religious views, may be clueless, secularists, like religious people, may be clueless.

Richard Wollheim, on Hume's attitude to the ignorant: 'He was convinced that the ignorant ... would always have their superstitions: it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, à propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [to people unfamiliar with the Catholic doctrine, the notion that during the Mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ - not symbolically but in actual fact the body and blood of Christ] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed, to which they will give a most implicit and most religious assent.'

Since Hume wrote, the creeds have usually been of an informal kind. Stupidity has often been too vague-minded for inclusion in a creed. Hume seems not to have anticipated the dangers and stupidity of some non-Christian and post-Christian beliefs, which now dominate our world.

Aphorisms: religion and ideology


I share, to an extent, Nietzsche's view of the possibilities and the importance of the aphorism form, but I don't share his high opinion of himself. The section which contains this (section 51 in his book 'Twilight of the Idols.')

'the aphorism ... in which I am the first master among Germans ... my ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book - what everyone else does not say in a book ...'

also contains this ludicrous claim:


'I have given mankind the profoundest book it possesses, my Zarathustra.' (R J Hollingdale's translation.)


From my page Aphorisms which gives most of the aphorisms I've written.


The great achievements of religious architecture, painting, sculpture and literature are no evidence for religion but evidence that people with artistic gifts may have far less talent for critical thinking.

This world is inexhaustible and unfathomable. We need speculate about no other.

Mystics who are 'deep' are out of their depth.

Humanity can be explained only partly in natural terms but not at all in supernatural terms.

The horrific imperfections of the world foster courage and ingenuity. Why not skepticism?


The understandable fear of becoming lost, of leaving behind roads and paths, helps to explain the refusal to follow an argument wherever it leads, the reassurance of religions and ideologies.

The Christian revelation has taken away from life the mystery which for non-Christians remains. For skeptics more than for Christians, this is a mysterious world and sometimes a magical one.

The Christian God has become softer and gentler, a God who's 'only human,' although no more so than the old vengeful God.

My atheism is far from being the most important thing about me, otherwise there would be a strong linkage between me and the atheist Stalin.

To know that someone is a Christian or an atheist tells me almost nothing about the person.

Self-evident untruths and half-truths will always be popular.

Honest people may well reinterpret their lives at intervals as drastically as totalitarian regimes reinterpret their own history.

I detest your ideology and the ideologies you detest.

Oppose mindless tolerance as well as mindless intolerance.

If the world were imperfect in the way that Christians or communists suppose, Christianity or communism might be true, but it's imperfect in a way that refutes them. And so for other theisms and ideologies.

The world, like some faces, can look better seen in a distorting mirror.

What is an ideology?

 I explain my conception of ideology here. In this section, I make use of {themes} in a few places. These are introduced  in my page Introduction to {theme} theory.


'Ideology' derives from the Greek λόγος and ἰδέα.  Liddell and Scott give three basic meanings for ἰδέα in the Greek Lexicon, (1) form (2) semblance, opposed to reality (3) notion, idea. The third is taken to be the meaning applicable in 'ideology,' but an ideology makes use of the second meaning. Liddell and Scott include an interesting illustration for this second meaning, from Theognis: γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι 'Outward appearances cheat the mind.'


Of course, etymology isn't a reliable guide to meaning, or the range of meanings in the case of a complex term.

A number of disparate conceptions of ideology have been employed since the term 'idéologie' was coined by Destutt de Tracy in 1796. He envisaged ideology as a general science of ideas, their components and relations - or {linkages}, as I would term it.


The word ideology is predominantly given a normative meaning now. An important stage in the transition to a normative meaning occurred in the 1840's. Marx and Engels in 'The German Ideology,' ('Die deutsche Ideologie'), criticized the Young Hegelians. Their view, it was claimed,  regarded ideas as 'autonomous and efficacious' and failed to grasp 'the real conditions and characteristics of socio-historical life.'

Karl Popper regarded Marxism, and the views of Freud and Adler, as pseudo-scientific.  His account in Chapter 1 of  'Conjectures and Refutations' has great importance in the study of ideology. The book's index reference to this material  is 'total ideology.' I don't endorse in its entirety his view of Freud and Adler. I regard his criticism of Marxism as valid. I don't provide amplification here.

From Introduction to {theme} theory:

Expansion brackets are useful for the process I call 'amplification.' A writer who is pursuing a main argument will sometimes make claims or comments or provide evidence which amount to a brief mention, without any attempt to substantiate the claim or comment or to explain such matters as the degree of reliability of the evidence. Very often, it would be impractical to do so. It is not always possible to present every aspect of an argument thoroughly. 

Popper writes,

'I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once you eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analysed' and crying out for treatment.'

All of the criticism here is applicable to the feminist views I criticize, although the 'unbelievers,' of course, are the non-feminists who refuse to see 'the manifest truth' because it was against their gender interest, as males, or because of some deep-seated psychological conditions. Feminist 'consciousness-raising,' when successful, is held to open the eyes of the woman (or man), who now sees confirming instances everywhere of the deadly effects of patriarchy and the truth of feminism. The world is full of verifications of feminist theory. Women who act in non-feminist and anti-feminist ways, for example, are held not to falsify the theory. Their behaviour is due to the malign influence of patriarchy.

Popper adds, 'A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history.' The corresponding feminist will find confirming evidence for an interpretation which finds 'sexism,' not perhaps everywhere, but permeating so many areas of reality, including personal, social, historical and economic reality.


In Chapter 9 of  'Unended Quest,' he explains the development of his thought during an early period of his life: 'I developed further my ideas about the demarcation between scientific theories (like Einstein's) and pseudoscientific theories (like Marx's, Freud's, and Adlers). It became clear to me that what made a theory, or a statement, scientific was its power to rule out, or exclude, the occurrence of some possible events ...' This is the concept of falsification which he elaborated in 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery' ('Die Logic der Forschung.')

Falsification is a concept which has very great importance in the study of philosophy of science but its applicability to the study of ideology, including the ideology - as I see it - of feminism hasn't been adequately explored. I introduce two technical terms which I think are useful in discussions of falsification and attempts to falsify: 'falsificans,' the falsifying arguments and evidence, and 'falsificandum,' the application-sphere of the falsificans. The falsificandum is more general than scientific subject-matter. An ideological falsificandum is, however, falsified less conclusively than a scientific falsificandum.

The two terms, like the word 'falsify,' come from late Latin 'falsificare,' from 'falsus' and facere. They have a linkage with the established terms 'explanans' and 'explanandum,' from 'explanare.' Carl Gustav Hempel and Paul Oppenheim proposed a deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation (not given expansion here):

' ... the event under discussion is explained by subsuming it under general laws, i.e., by showing that it occurred in accordance with those laws, by virtue of the realization of certain specified antecedent conditions' and 'By the explanandum, we understand the sentence describing the phenomenon to be explained (not that phenomenon itself); by the explanans, the class of those sentences which are adduced to account for the phenomenon.' ('Studies in the Logic of Explanation,' 'Philosophy of Science,' XV, p. 152.)

 Popper's concept has been criticized by a number of philosophers. One of them is the Australian philosopher David Stove, who was strongly anti-feminist. Some limitations of David Stove's approach have been very well explored by Patrícia Lança in her article.


David Stove against Darwin and Popper: The Perils of Showmanship. (Originally published in 'The Salisbury Review,' Summer 2001.) I don't include her discussion of David Stove's criticisms of Darwin and Darwinism, but I do include her brief, critical, mention of feminism and her criticism of relativism. Many feminists include science in their relativistic views. What she has to say about the manner of criticism is very important for critics of feminism, although I favour a mixture of styles, including ridiculing the ridiculous.  She writes:

'THERE IS ALWAYS something immediately enjoyable about watching, listening to or reading apparently outrageous attacks on received opinion. Reductio ad absurdum is, after all, a time-honoured trick of rhetoric. The attempted dictatorship of 'political correctness' nowadays makes the trick even more liable to work. According to those who listened to the lectures of the Australian philosopher David Stove, he was a virtuoso in the genre. Professor Michael Levin says: 'Reading Stove is like watching Fred Astaire dance. You don't wish you were Fred Astaire, you are just glad to have been around to see him in action'.

'There is, however, a problem with ridicule, especially if we ourselves have our own reasons for not liking its victims. It is liable to obscure solid grounds for criticism and play into the camp of the adversary by providing facile, spurious or distorted arguments. This would seem to be the case with some of Stove's writing as exemplified in the two books under review. Not that he isn't worth reading. His provocative style is such as to make many readers stop, think and re-examine their own preconceptions. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with the subject matter, especially among the younger generation, are likely to be seriously misled about some of his targets and to mistake rhetoric for serious argument.. Stove, who died in 1994, was a conservative, an anti-communist and desperately at odds with the fashionable Left-wing views prevalent in the academy ...

[On his criticism of Popper]

'It is not easy here to produce a rebuttal of the required brevity or to embark on a boringly technical argument for and against Popper's epistemology, but justice does require some attempt to be made. It must first be stated quite unequivocally that certain of Popper's epistemological positions, once widely accepted, have in recent years come under forceful criticism from many quarters ... Nevertheless it is one thing to criticize and quite another to misrepresent.


'It is indeed ironic that the anti-communist Stove should find Popper so objectionable when there is probably no academic figure in the last half century who has done as much to combat their common enemy. In fact on many matters Stove and Popper were on the same side. Against irrationalism and relativism, against Freud, against philosophical idealism, against scepticism, critical of some aspects of Darwinism, and, much else.

'So, Popper concluded, scientific laws are not immutable but are always hypotheses. All you can have are better or worse theories and the scientist's work is to produce ever-better theories. The only logically and practically acceptable way to do this is to try to falsify your theory by appropriate testing: the method of trial and error. This, Popper says, is what scientists actually do in real life. Scientific method is basically one of testing, making public and criticizing. Failed theories are abandoned and the search begins again, either by trimming or adapting the old theory or formulating a new one. So a good scientific theory should be framed in such a way that it is testable, in other words falsifiable. If this is not the case then the theory is neither a good theory nor even a scientific theory.

'Demarcating science

Popper was interested in finding a criterion for demarcating science from non-science and he concluded that such theories as Marxism, Freudianism or astrology do not meet the criteria required of a genuinely scientific theory. They are couched in such broad terms that they are invulnerable to falsification. Whatever happens their proponents regard them as either corroborated or unfalsified. They are theories against which no arguments or criticisms can count.

'Whatever the justice of his views on induction, Popper's conception of falsifiability proved a rich field and he mined it for theories in the realm of his other passion: politics and social questions.. Having thrown out positive corroboration as crucial in favour of its negative, namely falsifiability, and having made criticism the essential method for this, he proposed a similar approach in the political and social spheres. The aim of government, of the State, should never be the positive one of trying to make people happy, a quite impossible aim. Happiness is a private matter and conceived of differently by each individual. On the contrary the only feasible objective of government is the negative one of reducing misery. Suffering, starvation, disease and the rest are objective, public and measurable and it is the State's job to try to minimize them because the only justification for the existence of government is the protection of the citizen. To this end freedom to criticize, to discuss and debate solutions is essential. So for Popper democracy means freedom of criticism and institutional arrangements that provide for the removal of unsatisfactory rulers without bloodshed. He deduced from this position the enormous importance of institutions and an institutional tradition, of gradual reform as against revolution, and wrote and lectured widely on these subjects, declaring untiringly that the political systems of Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the best models so far known.

'Popper’s philosophy of science
Now none of this can be unacceptable to a reasonable person, least of all to a conservative. What has stuck in the throat of many people is that Popper makes his anti-inductivism bear too much weight. To deny the possibility of inductive knowledge is to fly in the face of everybody's everyday experience, including that of our dogs, cats and most other sentient beings. If we did not start by assuming regularities and their more or less indefinite replication none of us would survive for a moment. Indeed, we would be unable to learn anything at all. It would seem, in fact, that all of us, including animals, have an innate predisposition to use induction. Popper did not accept this: he thought that what is innate is the predisposition towards using methods of trial and error. However, to object to induction on the grounds that it does not use the rules of entailment of deductive logic, is to extend the criteria of formal systems and mathematics beyond what is appropriate. Deductive logic is one thing, inductive logic is another and their modes of justification are distinct. In science both logics would appear to have their place. Indeed in the areas of logic and epistemology we can find an ever-growing literature in which even deductive logic is questioned and alternative logics proposed.

'Popper's great contribution to the philosophy of science was to highlight the importance for good theorizing of the need for clear articulation so that it is immediately, or as immediately as possible, apparent what would be the conditions for falsification. Such procedure is both practically and intellectually economical and nurtures the critical approach and in no way encourages relativism.

'Stove will have none of this. In a dizzying dithyramb he inveighs against Popper, not only ignoring his closely woven arguments, but accusing him of such crimes as denying the accumulation of scientific knowledge, of irrationalism and of self-contradiction. The aim of science in Popper's view, Stove alleges, is not to seek truth but to find untruth. Popper's insistence on the provisional nature of scientific theories, on what he calls 'conjectural knowledge' is regarded by Stove as irrational in the extreme. Popper, in effect, denies the accumulation of scientific knowledge because, if it is all provisional, then it cannot be knowledge. Knowledge, for Stove, always means knowledge of the truth, and truth cannot bear the adjective 'conjectural' (as though truth were absolute). He implies that to talk about 'conjectural truth' is rather like talking about somebody being 'a little bit pregnant'. So the concept of 'conjectural knowledge' is a nonsense, a contradiction in terms and meaningless, and leads to the denial of objective truth found in the relativists. Stove makes much of this with his usual darting wit. But his objections are unconvincing. Without entering into the sorely disputed question (among philosophers) of what constitutes truth it seems no more unreasonable to talk of 'conjectural knowledge' than to talk of 'partial knowledge', which everybody does without batting an eyelid. All Popper means by 'conjectural knowledge', is 'the knowledge we have so far on the basis of our unfalsified theories', that is, those theories which when tested are found to have verisimilitude with empirical facts. This is something we hear every day when we are told about 'the present state of knowledge'. So the proposition that absolute truth is unattainable does not entail relativism and, indeed, seems undeniable to most people.

'That Popper believed fiercely in objective truth (in its non-absolute sense) is evidenced from his constant stress that the job of the scientist is the quest for truth. He also thought that this was an unending quest, for our ignorance is infinite before the infinity of what is to be known and the finite nature of our knowledge. This is not the place to examine Popper's somewhat bizarre theory of 'epistemology without a knowing subject', what he called World Three, that mysterious sphere in which are stored books and all man's artefacts, but any serious study of this shows just how much Popper believed in the objectivity of knowledge.

'So, because of his misreading, Stove sees Popper as the ultimate progenitor of the real irrationalists including the unspeakable Feyerabend whose relativism led him quite openly to declare that schoolchildren should be taught astrology and myth as equally valid explanations of the world along with science. Popper's frequent and extended criticism of these attitudes is regarded by Stove as mere quarrelling between inmates of the same stable. He totally ignores the historical fact that the actual forerunners of relativism in philosophy of science were the sociologists of knowledge going back to Mannheim, examined and combatted by Popper himself in many writings. Today, of course, relativism in science studies, rather than coming mainly from Stove's three musketeers has sadly been given a new boost by philosophers of cognitive science in conjunction with artificial intelligence theory such as Stitch, the Churchlands and their disciples.

'Those who wish to have a more informed and balanced view of Popper's ideas would do well to read Anthony O'Hear or Susan Haack. The latter should be of especial interest also to adversaries of all forms of relativism, gender feminism and the corruption of the academy.

'For anyone acquainted with what Popper actually wrote, Stove's wholesale condemnation, can only be regarded as dogmatic and unjust. This is serious because in the present academic atmosphere of relativism, irrationalism and sub-marxism, there could be no better antidote for today's students than to read what Popper has to say about these matters.

'Reading Stove's opinions about him will do little to encourage them in this direction. The trouble is, as indicated at the beginning of these comments, that Stove's style is frequently so engaging and humorous that many readers will be taken in.'

Popper's account of  'pseudo-scientific' theories is a suitable starting point in explaining my own view of ideology. I regard the concept of falsification as important in demarcation, although not the demarcation which Popper employs. The demarcation here is demarcation between two non-scientific interpretations, ideological and non-ideological. I replace 'demarcation' with the {thematic} operation of {separation}, symbol '//' which has material as well as non-material application-spheres. As my concern on this page is feminism rather than Marxism, I give no account of my reasons for thinking that Marxism is ideological, or the views of Freud and Adler.

Outside science, falsifiability has a legitimate use in deciding which views to do with  human nature, human achievement, and other aspects of humanity - I'll refer to 'human studies' -  are securely grounded or the product of ideological distortion. If the distinctive conclusiveness of scientific falsification is lacking, the claim that an argument has been falsified may have great cogency, the argument that an argument has withstood the process of testing far less cogency. 'People are benign' is a statement which can't be tested, or falsified, by the methods of science, but it can be tested, and falsified, to a high degree of probability, by non-scientific methods. 'Women are benign' is a statement which can be tested and falsified too.

Facts are used differently in ideological and non-ideological theories and views. Facts in non-ideological theories and views may often be problematic but they are assessed by using independent methods and techniques, such as comparison of source materials, avoidance of demonstrably unreliable witnesses.

Facts in ideological theories and views avoid the use of methods and techniques external to the ideology. Ideological theories and views are based on the distinction between appearance and reality. Facts belong to the world of appearance, which is regarded as illusory. Facts which are demonstrably true, passing the most thorough and comprehensive tests, belong only to this world of appearance if they conflict with facts which support the ideology. If not in conflict, they are admitted to the world of reality.


It's essential to distinguish between facts and the explanation for those facts, the context of those facts. The sphere of facts, although far from straightforward, is much simpler than the sphere of explanations and context. I don't accept that facts are themselves interpretations, that there aren't many, many well-grounded facts in human studies.

A feminist could claim that the generalization 'all women lack serious vices' (without {restriction} to sexual vice, of course) should be considered in context, which supplies a cause. The many women who could be cited as counter-examples, the women who obviously have serious vices, are so on account of the manipulation and control exercised by men. A wide variety of other claims about women which seem to challenge feminist views could be countered in a similar way. The feminist would then have to explain, or explain away, the unflattering view of many women which is required here - women as weak and malleable.

If X is the subject matter - class in society, women in history or whatever may be treated in an ideological or non-ideological way - then the crucial difference is that the ideological and the non-ideological way are different in the reasons for {modification} and the use of counter arguments and contrary evidence. {modification} has /{revision}, an example of a 'specific' {theme}, with {restriction}:- general applicability, and the capacity for /{revision} is the term in non-thematic form 'revisability.' Revisability is common to scientific theory and a non-scientific theory, as well as, more loosely, a 'view,'   which is non-ideological.  {modification}:- [ideological theory or view] has as agents not counter arguments and contrary evidence but, as examples, the forces which change an ideology and give it different forms, perhaps as a result of the very different social contexts in which the ideology is found. Similarly, the language in which an ideology is expressed may develop different 'dialects,' for similar reasons.


An ideology may exhibit drastic and abrupt {modification}, as in the case of the communist supporters who abandoned criticism of Nazi Germany, but this was not as a result of counter arguments and contrary evidence but the fact that Soviet Russia entered into a pact with Nazi Germany at Stalin's instigation.

If counter arguments and contrary evidence lead in all cases to no, or practically no, /{revision} of a theory or view, then the theory or view is likely to be ideological.

/{revision} of a non-ideological theory or view, like /{revision} of a scientific theory, allows of quantitative differences. The most drastic form is abandonment. Of course, there may be abandonment of an ideological theory or view, as in the case of communists who became non-communists. Counter arguments and contrary evidence of value may be rejected for a time but eventually have an effect.

'The God That Failed,' published in 1949 book, contains  six essays by prominent writers and journalists who decame disillusioned with communism and abandoned it. The six were Louis Fischer, André  Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender and Richard Wright.

A critique of a possible feminist defence is only given in outline here. On this page, as in so much of the site, evidence and argument is often given in a dispersed form. I examine feminist arguments in many places on this page and there are many places in other pages of the site where material can be found which has relevance to this page.

I see the need not to confine attention to the arguments and evidence but to the factors which may prevent the arguments and evidence from being understood or appreciated. This is particularly necessary when considering the totalitarian ideologies, above all Stalinism and Nazism, the subject of Hannah Arendt's 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' in three parts. Evidence may require insight and sometimes empathy to appreciate. Hannah Arendt could obviously enter the world of totalitarian ideology. She possessed a a far deeper degree of distinctively personal insight, over a far wider range, than, say, Karl Popper. Intellectuality of very great distinction, such as he possessed, can probe some things far more effectively than others.


In the last chapter of the third volume of 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' significantly entitled 'Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government,' she gives, too late in the book, it has to be said, a formulation of ideology. The formulation isn't a good one: 'Ideologies - isms which to the satisfaction of their adherents can explain everything and every occurrence by deducing it from a single premise - are a very recent phenomenon and, for many decades, played a negligible role in political life.' No ideology explains everything or every occurrence. This is much too wide a claim. Ideologists don't claim to explain, for instance, most natural phenomena. The use of the logical term 'premise' isn't appropriate, and ideological explanations and directives may be derived from a small number of basic beliefs, not necessarily a single one.

Hannah Arendt elicits very different responses. Two very different responses, those of David Satter and Bernard Wasserstein, are given in an excellent  Symposium: Is Hannah Arendt still relevant? I very much believe that she is.

In general, ideologists see no need to defend a thesis against the arguments and evidence which comprise a legitimate anti-thesis. The reference to 'ideology' can be removed, since the claim that the thesis is ideological is often part of the claim of the anti-thesis. I think that these terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' are useful in examining the reaction of feminists to criticisms, and their lack of reaction.

The evidence and arguments put forward by opponents of feminism amount to a substantial case to answer, surely, and I claim to have added to the evidence and arguments. I think that the thesis is substantial but that the anti-thesis is far from substantial.

Argument and the presentation of evidence and the giving of counter-argument and counter-evidence are of fundamental importance and my terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' express these necessities of debate concisely. If the views often summarized as 'political correctness' seem to avoid debate on these terms, it's cause for particular alarm that this is so often the case in universities and colleges.

Thesis can become anti-thesis and anti-thesis can become thesis. If a feminist criticizes the arguments I use and denies that the evidence I put forward is convincing, then this anti-thesis becomes the thesis which it is for me to answer as an anti-thesis.

It's possible that a synthesis will emerge from the contending thesis and anti-thesis, but often this is not the case.


When a very powerful thesis - one with very strong arguments and accompanied by very strong evidence - is challenged by an anti-thesis which has neither, a synthesis is very unlikely. In this case, I use the simple symbolism (thesis) >> (anti-thesis). If the anti-thesis is better supported, then (thesis) > (anti-thesis).

This simple scheme, using this simple pair of terms, has to be supplemented and extended when there are more than two opposing viewpoints, but it can often be used if single aspects are the focus of attention: this is to practise {resolution}.  Often, a practical decision is the issue. A measure may become law or not and there may be support for the change in law or opposition to the change.

 Supporters of the status quo and opponents of the status quo may have various reasons and may supply different arguments and evidence but the decision may well be a clear-cut one. Support for the status quo is the thesis and opposition to the status quo is the anti-thesis. All that is needed is to distinguish the diverging views which make up the composite thesis and anti-thesis.



All things bright and beautiful ...

Which of the animals below were 'made by God?'

This is some supplementary information which is relevant, I think.

Information about the living things shown in the images, with the emphasis on the ones which raise great difficulties for the claim that God Almighty 'made all things well.'

Images identified by line number followed by image number in the line.

1:1  red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
1:2  African elephant (Loxodonta africana)
1:3 Oriental rat flea  (Xenopsylla cheopis), here shown engorged with blood. This is the primary vector responsible  for the transmission of  Yersinia pestis.
2:1 Yersinia pestis, the organism responsible for bubonic plague in most plague epidemics. The best known outbreak is 'The Black Death,' which killed, it's estimated, between 75 and 200 million people in Europe and Asia, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. It killed 30 - 60% of Europe's population.
2:2 White shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
2:3 Malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae). This transmits the most dangerous malaria parasite species (to humans), Plasmodium falciparum. According to the World Malaria Report of the World Health Organization, World Health Organization, there were 219 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2017, resulting  in an estimated 435,000 deaths. Children under five years of age are most affected
3:1 European robin (Erithacus rubecula) If God 'made' the robin he surely made the male robin's instincts. Male robins exhibit very aggressive territorial behaviour. They are likely to attack other males and competitors which enter their territories, sometimes with fatal results. They can also attack other small birds. 
3:2 Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) Not one of the deadly poisonous fungi but capable of killing. It has hallucinogenic properties. God's purpose in including these properties in this particular part of his creation is unknown.
3:3 Wild flower meadow.

Cecil Frances Alexander wrote the words of the ridiculous Anglican hymn 'All Things Bright and Beautiful.' The carol 'Once in Royal David's City,' a fixture of the Christmas service at King's College Chapel, was also written by her. She also wrote 'There is a Green Hill Far Away.' 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' is loosely based upon the 'Apostles' Creed' of the Church of England.'

It consists of a series of stanzas that elaborate upon sections of the Apostles' Creed. 

The complete text  is never sung now with all these verses. Her claim in the third verse that God made the rich and the poor and placed them far apart in the social system is too much for most modern Christians.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God  made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

All things bright ...

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.

All things bright ...

The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;−

All things bright ...

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,−
He made them every one:

All things bright ...

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;−

All things bright ...

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.












 {} The Church of England and other Churches:  religion, remembrance, redemption