Heaven knows they’re miserable now

The latest issue of a bi-monthly atheist magazine I write for arrived today; yet again my piece didn’t appear in it. True, the last time it was because a deadline was changed at the last minute and I missed it, but other omissions are a bit of a mystery. The copy was early, absolutely the right length, positive, and not contentious. In general then, no different to a system that has worked well for over a decade, and through two major overhauls of the magazine’s format.

I begin to see a pattern here. A few months ago I contacted both of the UK’s atheist associations to ask if they knew anything about an odd evangelical initiative posing as a “life skills” course that had just appeared in Manx high schools.

For three months nobody replied. Then, just as the issue had been aired and almost buried here, one contacted me for local input on a press release they planned to all UK media. I helped, they quoted me vaguely but didn’t use the relevant information I gave them, and tagged the whole Manx element onto a general whinge about another evangelical group and another “educational” Trojan horse.

Undeterred, I tried the full story on the editor of two international atheist publications who have used my reports on a number of Manx issues. Again, such reports have been a mixture of humour and positivity, chronicling times we’ve seen powerful religious figures do something unacceptable, raised it in public and with government, and won.

It’s all part of a continuing story about how, over a decade or so, a tiny atheist group has tackled such issues in our tiny country and, with some persistence, brought about social change. This happened not so much by screaming, shouting and name-calling but by hard fact and negotiation with people who are our neighbours and workmates, not anonymous bogeymen. Again, though I tried twice to make sure it had been received, the story was never used.

The cynic in me wonders if it’s because Manx atheists succeed, while our blowhard colleagues elsewhere do not. Far from the growing force that they’d like to think they are, to me atheists all around the British isles resemble the Labour Party, condemned forever to be in opposition and never in power. The Celtic ones in particular just cannot shake off that romantic loser self-image and plan for power or social change. Part of me wonders if they simply cannot handle success or responsibility.

Oh well, their loss. On the Isle of Man we have a brand of atheism that is responsible, socially engaged …. and works. If atheists elsewhere would rather act like a Morrissey fan club than hear about it why should I worry?


Not a prayer

One of the island’s most imbecilic evangelical outfits started a “Forty Days of Prayer” campaign on 29th January. It makes amusing reading, and I’m not just talking about the spelling mistakes or the garbled corporate speak drawn from some dire, downmarket self-help manual.

For example, on 27th February, punters are asked to “Pray for the work of HEAR (Humanity and Equality in Abortion Reform). Ask for the wisdom, strength and grace of Jesus for those who lead this important campaign. Ask God to guide us as a church in our corporate and personal responses to the forthcoming abortion bill.”

And on 2nd March, they should “Pray for the support groups which meet regularly in our premises – Stauros, Supper Club, 3S, Life pregnancy support. Ask that people will find God’s healing love through the people who minister to them.”

For those not in the know, Stauros started as a “get-out-of-jail-free” drug rehabilitation scam for Loyalist prisoners run by evangelicals and has spread to parts of the British isles where they were resettled. Think AA, run by even more manipulative figures with absolutely no training or relevant knowledge.

Life pregnancy support is a pro-life organisation, so badly run that it all but vanished in the UK and until a year or so ago was also almost extinct here. Their chief tactic is psychological abuse of any unfortunate woman who falls for their vaguely worded newspaper advert promising “support”.

I’m also intrigued that on 21st February they’re praying for “Aliens”. Having dismissed the idea that they want to save ET’s soul, I idly wondered if this might be some well meant intent to worry about the plight of refugees.

Sadly not. It appears that “Aliens” is their in-house term for kids from families who aren’t already cult members who might get drawn in via their unofficial youth club. The official one, I should explain, closed when educational department funding was withdrawn on police advice, after investigations revealed some pretty salubrious activity.

Given how often the cult in question uses emotive and fact-free appeals to panhandle public money, it is almost a relief to see them begging their Imaginary Invisible Friend for help instead. But even if I thought he did exist, if he really was omnipotent and all-seeing I cannot imagine why he would answer their prayers.

Manx education – a contradiction in terms

A couple of days ago, when two teachers took seriously my daughter’s concerns about a mouthy homophobe in her class, had a quiet word with the lad and caused him to apologise, I was almost ready to rethink my long-term opinion of the Manx education system. And as a parent, there are days when you worry about it. And then there are days, like today, when you more than worry. On those, you just go ballistic at the sheer cretinism of those running it.

Because today my daughter came home from school with the news that the town’s most notorious sexist, homophobic throwback is going to be giving sex education lessons. Apparently this will be OK because not only is he a clergyman, but also a prison chaplain. Though if we want to be quite accurate, he is neither of those things either.

He has no training in theology (no surprise as he can barely read or write), and only inherited the job of pastor at the town’s batshit-crazy Pentecostal outfit when his predecessor was finally put away for sex with underage girls.

Officially, he isn’t a prison chaplain either. His denomination is not one of the three with a right in law to appoint one, and has made no case to the prison service to do so. Instead, he slipped in on the back of another evangelical outfit’s “prison rehabilitation” scheme as an unofficial prison visitor. I say unofficial because there is a government scheme whereby about half a dozen prison visitors are appointed by a committee, and they haven’t interviewed or approved him either.

But it gets worse.

Firstly, this freak was one of the church elders who helped in the cover-up of his predecessor’s behaviour. Their actions included going round to the families of victims to tell them that if they ever testified in court not only would they be thrown out of the church, but unable to work on the island or live without harassment in any island community.

Secondly, when one of his star pupils got a girl pregnant and she wouldn’t marry him, the pastor went into her workplace (a local chip shop) to denounce her in front of the Friday night queue, and had to be thrown off the premises. Imagine that – a man of the cloth who has to be barred from a chip shop for anti-social behaviour.

Thirdly, when the Manx government held a public consultation on the advisability of allowing same sex marriage a couple of years back, his was one of the most virulent, repulsive responses – even amongst the collection of knuckle-dragging neanderthals who run a variety of breakaway cults attracting no more than two men and a dog , having been deemed too weird for any of the major denominations.

He is, in short, someone too dangerous and stupid ever to be allowed into the same room as children or vulnerable adults. Yet, because both the prison service and education department are riddled with incompetence and ignorance, not only is he allowed to do both, but getting paid from public funds.

If I thought the Education Minister could read and write I’d complain. But I can’t remember a literate one in almost three decades. So what would be the point?

Looking on the bright side, at least this piece of human effluent will serve one useful function. As they do whenever an evangelical is sent to the school, my daughter and her friends are going to have enough material to keep them in hysterics for weeks.

Though I still wish the head teacher – or whoever chooses such chumps – had enough common sense to find at least one rational adult who might actually be capable of educating, informing or inspiring young people for a change.

Perfect Day

Yesterday was Tynwald day, our national day, and I spent it (rather oddly) at the heart of all that’s worst about the nation doing something productive and enjoyable. On a field immediately behind the outdoor ceremony itself, to be precise, along with the greens, the evangelicals and the evangelical greens. It was like some bizarre Channel 4 documentary about a WI outing to Glastonbury, with slightly less mud.

As I do every Tynwald Day, I was on the stall for the local Amnesty group raising awareness of something awful, and trying to do something about it. This year was slightly different, in that we’re working on campaigns to do with sexual and reproductive rights for young girls and women and – as the island’s lack of legal facilities for abortion leaves a lot to be desired – helping women to campaign over that too.

All this was happening in what’s known as the Global Village, which started as an area for overseas aid charities and others running similar projects and in five years has developed into something pleasant. The first year, despite the odd collection of groups, was all very friendly with world music and food being shared, people popping over to and helping out with each other’s stalls, and so on. Each year since has had a slightly different collection of groups and events, as the most blatant moneygrubbers head for the main field instead but new groups discover us and come to join in.

It all ended on a positive note, with a sort of conga headed by Bulgarian dancers winding around the performing stage, picking up folk ranging from Africans to Manx folk dancers, old, young, and everything in between – the nearest thing yet to a rainbow coalition of what this place could be with a little more effort and good feeling.

BUT…..as the global village has developed, an increasing number of evangelical parasites have joined in, and I have to say lower the tone of the whole event. The danger is that they give the false impression that Christian charity is at the heart of the whole idea, when nothing could be further from the truth.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, I try to offer the hand of friendship as they fester and conspire in corners, arrayed in their drab Saturday casuals, prominent pictorial displays of their fake philanthropy surrounded by collecting buckets, glowering out at anything different in the world like so many relatives from hell at a wedding.

BUT… this year one crossed the line. I noticed the Baptists at the next stall muttering with their pro-life friends in the morning, before anything really got going. As requested by the organisers, we’d toned down the abortion reform material to discreet leaflets, so there seemed nothing to worry or complain about.

Then a workmate passing by laughingly remarked that, while punting for his spare change, they’d urged his family to boycott us. I thought he was winding me up, and I laughed back.

Then, a while later, one passer by made a point of walking away from their stall and prominently dropping notes into our collecting tin. Again, I thought nothing of it.

Then later, they hailed an Amnesty-supporting clergyman, and as he walked over to greet them, I distinctly heard one tell him he should be working for them, not us. Again, I passed it off as the sort of banter women on adjoining stalls might trade at a church fundraiser, and still thought nothing of it.

But then, on the way home, my wife – who knows some of them from a church where she helps with a (badly run) soup kitchen – mentioned that they’d said the same thing to her – and that they meant it absolutely seriously.

What a bunch of sad sacks. And what an advertisement for all that the best on this island are trying to get away from.

But the funniest thing is that the global village also now has a rigidly enforced class (or is it caste) system. This year some local premier league “pressure groups” deigned to join us plebs for the first time. For some reason this was regarded as a coup – or even a step forward – though it’s hard to see why.

Some of them annoy the general public more than all us little projects put together. Perhaps because, with their close links to government and numerous members with enough time and obsessive zeal to churn out pages of free waffle for the papers, the public cannot help but know they exist.

It was noticeable too that they had their own chi-chi avenue, closer to the main field, from which real people were excluded. But the bigger problem would have been that any innocent passer-by wandering down to avoid the diesel fumes, mass folk dancing and military kitsch would take one look at this row of wibble merchants, turn straight around and rush off home instead of exploring further.

Or maybe it worked in reverse. The public may have been in such a rush to get past without being nagged into a coma that they found themselves, unexpectedly, in new and interesting territory instead.

Because we did attract a slightly better crowd than usual, though this was due to a combination of good weather and duller than usual mainstream attractions on the “proper” fair field. This year I was kept so busy that I didn’t leave the stall in seven hours – not even long enough to peek at other stalls in our little sink estate.

I’m not complaining though. I had a productive and useful day, engaged with a lot of people, and maybe even caused some to consider a new topic. I also came home with at least a week’s supply of heavily rum-laced chocolate cake from one Jamaican food vendor and fruit pies from a more traditional Manx stall, both donated by well-wishers.

All in all then, a great day, in spite of the efforts of the professionals.

Return to sender

I’m sick of Brexit and need to move on to happier things, so this will be my last comment on it. Honestly.

I spotted this (see http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2016/06/britain-after-referendum ) on the Economist website. The picture of the UK return to 1970’s mayhem was uncannily similar to my own recent thoughts on the subject – in my case more reflections on a number of BBC 3 films about the background to punk than any “serious” political analysis.

I should also add that events in the Isle of Man, and the local reaction to Brexit, are linked. The thing is, from the late 1980’s onward we attracted UK white flighters thanks to an odd – and from government papers I saw in 1990 I believe deliberate – government policy which “coincidentally” put off people of colour (even skilled, financially solvent ones) while encouraging any paler face, however undesirable.

In addition, I also know that a number of undesirables were “resettled” here, mostly as the pay-off in secretive “supergrass” arrangements with the police or security services, but sometimes with help from extreme evangelical groups, who saw criminals recruited in prisons and put through nominal bible college courses as a cheap source of clergy for the movement they hoped to plant here in order to supplement dwindling state subsidy in Northern Ireland.

In both cases, they took advantage of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which allows the perpetrators of all but a few crimes not to declare criminal convictions older than a decade on job applications.

Before all that, this was a sleepy place. While not too used to dealing with the obviously different, with the odd exception it managed it with the good manners and common decency you come to expect in quiet rural places where people just have to get by and get on.

Since then, it has got worse, to the extent that, while a resident of over 30 years myself, after Brexit my family feels less safe because of racism stirred up by recent UK “come-overs”. Their ignorance adds nothing to the island mix. They should be the ones considering moving away, not us.

There’s a larger island just across the Irish Sea which seems determined to revive the worst aspects of the early 1970’s. Maybe they would feel more at home there, claiming benefits or sitting around in the lobbies of crumbling, under-resourced NHS facilities waiting for an appointment.

We have suffered them far too long. Time that they, and not our productive immigrants, were encouraged to be a burden on the country that dumped them on us. Considering the UK government is fast retreating to the ugly, anti-democratic attitudes of those times, surely such bigots would feel right at home.

Just chuck it

I found this (see http://www.isleofman.com/News/details/79185/charity-s-praise-for-community-service-scheme ) worrying, rather than praiseworthy.

An evangelical charity uses slave labour to pick up rubbish, and this is something to celebrate, er…why exactly?

Is there any demonstrable link between the junk left on beaches and those involuntarily being made to pick it up? No, thought not. So it’s straightforward slave labour then. No public benefit, no attempt to tackle the root problem of people making areas of natural beauty grotty by throwing stuff away.

The point is that the “punishment” prisoners have is to be deprived of their liberty. They are not sentenced to hard labour. They should not be required to do voluntary or unpaid work for corporations who, themselves, border on the criminal. In addition, it is a national disgrace that simply in order to get out of prison at the time their sentences end – rather than later – Manx prisoners are now required to “volunteer” for inane activities, far too often run by evangelical buffoons with double digit IQs.

Similarly, community service schemes for offenders who have little choice but to agree in order to avoid a prison sentence have proved another growth industry for Manx devotees of the Zombie Carpenter. Justice, education or rehabilitation they are not. And how could they be when offenders are at the beck and call of some deluded herbert who talks to walls on Sundays?

OK, the only reason this non-story appeared at all is that someone from Beach Buddies wrote it. But the only real story for a genuine journalist is that offenders are being used as slave labour, and that is not explored.

The bad news is, more of the same is planned, and the evangelicals will have their hands in the public till right up to their elbows. Quelle surprise.

Though I have a far funnier story, for anyone who might be interested.

About 25 years ago a particularly dull Manx businessman asked a young employee if he could get him any of these magic mushrooms he’d been hearing about, as he wanted to try some and find out what all the fuss was about. Which he did.

Up until that point, the businessman was your usual small town Rotarian – sexist pig who ritually humiliated and exploited any half attractive woman in his employ, liked a round of golf and a few drinks after, mixed in with the usual attempts to steer a juicy public sector contract his way with a brown envelope.

After the mushrooms he “found God”, and joined a notorious local evangelical church. He still had an “unreconstructed” view of women, and was still eager to mop up public funds with a word in the right ear. But he stopped drinking alcohol and devoted a lot of “spare time” to church groups and less to the golf club in order to groom those with access to public money.

Oh, and he and his cronies also found that one way in which Jesus could save while his followers dipped into the public purse was through quasi-charitable “community work”.

For once, that really does suggest that messing with psychedelic substances can have unfortunate long term consequences.

Eco-wittering is the new rock and roll (or “Toxic sludge is good for you”)

I see there is a biodiversity column in today’s local paper. The first article is devoted to beekeeping.

Oh joy. More eco-wittering: different excuse. Why do they bother? In fact, why do most of them even continue breathing?

I blame Felicity Kendal. It was The Good Life in the 1970’s that really kicked off self-sufficiency in the UK, not FOE – and definitely not ex-public schoolies living somewhere remote in Wales in a bender to break a smack habit. I should know, because…. (hangs head in shame)… I was a teenage FOE group member in 1975.

None of us got beyond earnest discussions in a college classroom presided over by a kindly lecturer. We never did turn up to the local canning factory and demand they took the cans back, as we kept threatening. In fact most of us were too weedy to step outdoors without getting a cold.

No, what really happened was that until then gardening was pipe-smoking bank managers in cardigans and their worn-out suit trousers tending roses. Not an image to attract the babes in those hedonistic days. But Felicity Kendal gave shy blokes false hope that if you took up this nonsense posh totty with Rank Starlet accents, who worried about butterflies and stuff, would fall at your feet.

As it happens, there were a few hippyish teenage Felicity Kendals studying floristry at the FE college where I was (nominally) on a music foundation course. So as well as the FOE group I duly affected an interest in flora and fauna, but to no avail. In fact, even for all my cool (motorcycle, writing about music, hanging out with name musicians of the day) they were out of reach for more than any London gig where I could blag them in as a “plus one”. Because, below the hippy veneer, in those days all any attractive woman was really after was the boss’s son in his MGB and a Tudorbethan house in the suburbs. Twas ever thus, well before Thatcherism, yuppies and unashamed materialism, and ever will be.

Though ever since the eighties there has been a steady stream of burnt-out financial high-fliers with substance dependencies to recover from. Where would any green group be without them, and where would evangelical churches find new clergy? Praise the Lord. Bless their livers and coke-scorched nasal septums, every one of them.

It’s no coincidence that when finance sector management pass their sell-by date former clients are euphemistically informed that they are on “gardening leave”, not sacked. For in their large gardens, along with other chemically damaged vegetables, is where you will inevitably find them.

Though, as it happens, there are bee-keepers on the staff of our company in various low tax locations around the world. Just another of those weird hobbies middle class nonentities take up to justify continuing to waste oxygen, I suppose. Well, beats climbing Everest, scuba-diving, marathon-running and all the other pathetic stunts other middle managers pull in their hols to get one up on each other and sound interesting.

Which they are so not, by the way. I must have slept through entire weeks of “inspirational” lectures from these buffoons in the last few years. Not one word they have uttered has made the slightest difference to my opinion of them or the company, which has always been that they are cretins, but being here pays the bills.

Anyway, I shall carry on saving the earth in my own idle way. By doing as little as possible, and not preaching to anyone about anything.