Friday, 30 March 2012

We loved our little Down's baby so much we adopted another


This family were interviewed in the Mail on Sunday after they decided, after having one child born with Down's Syndrome, that they would adopt another.

'Freddie and Mimi bring us a richness, a fulfilment we wouldn't have known if they hadn't come into our lives,' says Amanda, proudly. 'When we go out and meet other people, they assume I've given birth to two children with Down's syndrome and feel sorry for me. But I always try to tell them that Mimi is adopted. I want them to know we actively chose her.' The pitying reaction is indicative, she says, of the negative attitudes and prejudices that prevail towards people with Down's syndrome. And this is the very reason that Amanda is giving this interview. She wants to reassure people that having a child with the condition, far from being a 'bad' thing, is simply, just 'different'. 
Amanda is a GP and sees first hand the issues connected with mothers and children with Down's Syndrome:

"The very fact that expectant mothers can be tested for it is suggestive of it being a bad thing; that if your test is positive, the "difficulty" can be "sorted" with a termination."

The interviews continues explaining that they know life will be difficult, but that things are much better now than they ever have been:

"Amanda believes that although there remains some stigma attached to Down's syndrome, in some ways attitudes have changed for the better. 'Education has improved and you do see people with Down's syndrome in jobs, and some of them marry and lead semi-independent lives. Medical advances mean that the life expectancy is much longer now, too. There was a time when it was 20 to 30. Now it's 60 to 70."
It was difficult for them to adopt, but now declare themselves incredibly happy and want to share their story to encourage others and continue to work against the attitudes that some people have about having a child born with Down's Syndrome or other disabilities.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2121784/Downs-syndrome-We-loved-little-Down-s-baby-adopted-another.html#ixzz1qa4qGR2C

Do you think it is okay for the couple to specifically choose a child to adopt with Down's Syndrome? Do you think they are telling a very positive story? Do you agree that the language used reinforces the fact that many people see a child with disabilities as a negative thing?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sawn Tyson: failing to realise the sanctity of life


Shawn Tyson has just been found guilty of the double murder two British young men, James Cooper, 25, from Warwickshire, and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton.

After the trial, just before he was take down to the cells, two of the mens' friends had an opportunity to speak: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17544660 

Do you think that these speeches capture something of the reality of the sanctity of life? Do you think two life sentences is sufficient punishment for Tyson? How do you think he felt during these speeches?

GCSE RE Catholic Christianity - Bible Quotes


These are documents full of information for EdExcel GCSE Catholic Christianity Units 3 and 10:

GCSE Compassion of Different Christian Views - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/69889330/GCSE%20Comparison%20of%20Protestant%20Views%20(updated%202011).doc

GCSE Quotes (Long Version) - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/69889330/GCSE%20Quotes%20(Updated%202011%20-%20Longer%20Version).doc

GCSE Quotes (Short Version) - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/69889330/GCSE%20Quotes%20(Updated%202011%20-%20Shorter%20Version).doc

Holy Week

Make sure you have a watch of this excellent video to prepare yourself and inform yourself about the most important time in the Christian calendar:

Monday, 26 March 2012

#Flame2012 Conference


Last Saturday, up to 8000 young people headed to Wembley Arena for one of the largest events for young Catholics they UK has ever seen; it promised "an event to ignite young hearts and souls afresh with the joy of the Gospel message."

On the evidence I saw, it certainly delivered.

Personal highlights for me included seeing Brentwood's very own Pascal Uche MCing the event, lots of familiar faces in the Glee mash-up, the testimonies of Stef Reid (see here- http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=20108) and Debbie Flood, seeing lots of old friends, spending time (and charging my phone!) with the CAFOD team, The Mizen family as well as Adoration and Benediction to end the day. A great job of putting it all together by (again) Brentwood's Fr Dominic Howath.

Those who didn't take up the invite to come really missed out! As CYMFed put up some videos, I'll put up a new blog to share some more of the event with you all.


Another star of Brentwood Diocese, Edwin Fawcett wrote this for the Conference. Check out his site: www.EdwinFawcett.com


Read about it here:

The Herald - http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2012/03/26/thousands-kneel-in-adoration-at-wembley/
The Tablet - http://www.thetablet.co.uk/latest-news/3969
Catholic News - http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/Home/News-Releases/Archbishop-tells-Youth-Listen-to-the-call-of-the-Lord
ICN - http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=20100
ICN #2 - http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=20107
ICN #3 - http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=20102
CAFOD Brentwood - http://cafodbrentwood.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/flame-congress-2012/
Salesian News - http://salesiannews.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/fanning-the-spirit-into-a-flame/
CYW - http://www.catholicyouthwork.com/index.php?page=833
CAFOD Blog - http://blog.cafod.org.uk/2012/03/26/great-generation-editor-of-the-month-the-flame-congress/
Links complied by Jack Regan at his excellent site CatholicYouthWork.com - see original article here: http://www.catholicyouthwork.com/index.php?topic=711.0

Revision: Natural Law Theory

A-Level student 'Komilla' has decided to revise by writing blog posts and making videos. Here she explains Natural Law Theory in 6 minutes:


There are lots of other articles that may be useful at the "AS with Komilla" blog: http://kdkchadha.blogspot.co.uk/

I think this is a really useful way of consolitdating learning, perhaps something for other AS/A2 students to think about...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Notes in the Margin: Monks

One of the important jobs that monks performed was making copies of manuscripts, often the Bible. A list has been complied of 'extra notes' that monks wrote in the margins as they were copying... as you can see they were mainly complaints!

Original article at: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/21/monk-complaints-manuscripts/

Friday, 23 March 2012

Joseph of Cupertino: The Flying Saint

St Joseph in flight 18th century painting by Ludovico Mazzanti



Saints are something that fascinate me. One time ordinary people who decide, in a variety of ways to dedicate their lives to their faith, and then become a person held up by the Church and that we ask to intercede our prayers.

There are, however, some quite peculiar saints. A good friend of mine is always finding such interesting characters for me, from his home in New York, trying to inspire 'different' kind of lessons. Unfortunately they don't often quite fit into the syllabus... but I thought the blog was a perfect place to write about a few of them.

Today, we begin with Joseph of Cupertino.

Saint Joseph was born on June 17th 1603 in Italy. He lived a holy life as a 'remarkebly unclever' Franciscan friar in Italy. He died, aged 60, on September 18th 1663. This is now his feast day and St Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of aviation, astronauts, mental handicaps, test taking, students. He may well be one to ask to intercede as the exam season approaches...

Why is he so remarkable though?

"On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joseph was assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realised what had happened, he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother's house and hid. This was the first of many flights, which soon earned him the nickname "The Flying Saint"."

There were many subsequent flights, and indeed upon hearing the names of Jesus, or Mary, singing hymns or praying at Mass, he would enter a dazed state and soar into the air! St Joseph remained there until a superior would command him to return to earth.

He even went flying when meeting Pope Urban VIII! He went down to kiss the Pope's feet but was then lifted into the air. He again, could only return when commanded by the Minister General of his Order.

It is reported he also healed a girl suffering from a severe case of measles with prayer and another caused rain for a community suffering from drought, again by prayer.

He life ended up not being easy. He was effectively a celebrity and people demanded his time, miracles and favours. He spent time locked up, being questioned and even exiled.

Preserved body of St. Joseph of Cupertino - at the Basillica of St. Joseph of Cupertino

What do we make of saints such as St Joseph of Cupertino today? Is it not hard to believe such tales of levitation? Could their be some kind of more rational explanation, and if so, is St Joseph worthy of his beatification? For Catholics, a community of faith, there is always the miraculous and unexplainable - does that make such tales acceptable?


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Is Free Will an Illusion?


Are you really in control, or is your every decision predetermined? Who's at the steering wheel: you, your genes, your upbringing, fate, karma, God?

This question has puzzled people, both religious and not for thousands of years. Recently, six academics from a range of backgrounds including neuroscience and philosophy tried to offer current up to date views on this topic. Eventually they voted 4-2 in favour of the position that free will is merely an illusion.

The scientists all argued that free will does not exist. They said that actions are governed by the brain, based on prior experience. They carried the 4 votes.

The philosophers claimed that neuroscience does not go against the theory of free will, and cast the 2 opposing votes.

"Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist, defined free will as the possibility that, after making a decision, you could have chosen otherwise. But a "decision," Coyne argues, is merely a series of electrical and chemical impulses between molecules in the brain — molecules whose configuration is predetermined by genes and environment. Though each decision is the outcome of an immensely complicated series of chemical reactions, those reactions are governed by the laws of physics and could not possibly turn out differently. "Like the output of a programmed computer, only one choice is ever physically possible: the one you made," Coyne wrote."

The other scientists all agreed. They argued that everyone should be held account for their actions and that this is vital in considering all cases in law.

The counter argument came from Hilary Bok, a philosopher. She said:

"Scientists misunderstand the question of free will when they argue that decisions are governed by the activity of brain cells. Free will, in her opinion, is being capable of stepping back from one's existing motivations and habits and making a reasoned decision among various alternatives. "The claim that a person chose her action does not conflict with the claim that some neural processes or states caused it; it simply redescribes it," she wrote."

There seems to be no possible agreement here. The problem actually seems to lie in definitions of free will. To what extent does this effect our view of human actions, particularly linked to evil and suffering? Is there an agreement that our actions are still conscious and that we can be held accountable for them?



Beauty helps prove God's existence?

Some people would find this video very convincing evidence for God's existence.


Is The Aesthetic Principle sound? Is it logical to argue for God's existence from the beauty we experience in the world? Or can it only play a part in the Teleological Argument, further backing up its reasoning?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Church of Rock'n'Roll - Inspirational pop music...


Any kind of music fan knows what it's like to see one of their heroes play to a stadium full of fans. It's fun, but it can also be emotional.

Bruce Springsteen, one of my heroes, began his latest world tour this week on the back of an album that has gone internationally to number 1. On reading some reviews of the first few nights, I came across this blog post of a woman experiencing her first Springsteen show after many years as a fan:

"I experienced anything like the emotions of last night. I had this totally uncontrollable physiological reaction to seeing him, him, play. I wept. Literally. I cried in public. Over and over. I couldn’t stop crying. It was like I couldn’t understand how it was possible that I was in a room (however big) with him. It was the music that overpowered me, but as much it was his presence. His energy, his commitment, and above all–his devotion to the crowd. Gushing out of him and into us and I was crying.

It feels funny to type this now, and I know that some of you will laugh at me, but it didn’t feel funny last night. Because everyone around me, all these crazy awesome rabid fans, didn’t think it was weird at all to see a grown woman crying at a rock&roll song. They knew what it was. People told me their stories, wanted to share their first times with me, as though this shared ecstatic experience was a given. A sacrament.

You think that’s weird?

Fine.

But then I’m sorry for you.

I’m thinking about faith today, about religion. Not about God–that’s something else again. But the other stuff, the not-God stuff. The community of the faithful. The practice of worship. The rituals we create to surround the things that take us outside ourselves, and at the same time, make us more ourselves. The stuff we share, and what we do with it.

What fascinates me is that this isn’t about a shared object of faith–in this case I’m not even sure what that would be–music?

I’m talking about the feeling created when a charismatic leader somehow channels the energy in a room, draws all the people into a common experience. With powerful words or music or some other form of communication. Indicates to the crowd that there is something greater than the individual."

She concluded that the experience made her feel that the concert was able to:

"Inspire those people to be better versions of themselves, to be more happy, generous, creative, kind.."

Read the full blog post: http://laurelsnyder.com/?p=1609

Have you experience this power of music? What is this experience that many thousands of strangers experience together? Springsteen himself has referred to the 'Church of Rock'n'Roll'... he is a lapsed Catholic, but often speaks about his faith and his Christian belief. Surely inspiring people in this way can only be a positive thing? Who can inspire you to be a better version of yourself?


#PrayForMuamba - The world of praying football fans


The footballing world was shocked and stunned into silence seeing a seemingly fit young footballer collapse on the pitch last weekend. It brought back awful memories from when I was 17 and watching Southend versus Mansfield and referee Mike North collapsed and died from a heart attack on the pitch. After the initial jeer and "she fell over!", everyone realised quite quickly that actually there was something very serious going and a hushed silence fell over the ground, like it did at White Hart Lane. We left the ground knowing we had seen something really awful happen, and the news on the radio in the car on the way home confirmed that he had died.


Fabrice Muamba is a popular 23 year old, engaged and with a young child. To see him collapse and have a serious heart attack on the pitch, surrounded fans who had come to be entertained and cheer their team on to victory was sobering.

Twitter was full of tributes and well wishes from all other the world, and the has tag #PrayForMuamba trended for a large part of the weekend. Fans, clubs, fellow players and the public at large were overcome by the upsetting scenes and wanted to add their thoughts and prayers to the cause.

Muamba, unlike Mike North, did survive. His heart didn't beat on its own for several hours, and perhaps he was saved by the rule change that Jose Mourinho and Chelsea instigated after serious injuries to their players that an ambulance had to be at the ground?

However the fascinating aspect of the story, as Muamba starts the long road to recovery, is the prominence of prayer in the healing process.

A BBC blog wrote:

Have you prayed for Fabrice Muamba today? His family are exhorting the country to believe in the power of prayer, and I suspect many millions of Britons, whether they have faith or not, will have felt moved to offer a silent appeal to an invisible power asking that the young footballer pull through.

The front page of today's Sun newspaper is devoted to the headline "God is in Control" below the subheading "Praying for Muamba". "In God's Hands" says the Daily Star. Chelsea defender Gary Cahill pulled off his shirt after scoring yesterday to reveal a vest encouraging supporters to "Pray 4 Muamba", his former team-mate.

Whatever you might think about its links to a supernatural being, intercessory prayer is a straightforward way for an individual to focus the mind on their capacity to think nice thoughts. Anyone can close their eyes and make a wish that bad things do not happen. Right now, Britain is praying that Fabrice Muamba makes a speedy and full recovery.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17429779

Andrew Brown from the Guardian, suggests that prayer is actually something that comes very naturally to many footballers, but that it is seemingly counter-cultural:

This isn't marginalised religion. In fact it is such a public demonstration of faith and prayer that it's hard to reconcile it with our normal worldview. So what's going on? Is it as simple as there are no atheists in intensive care?

"They pray from instinct, like the rest of us, unless we think we know better," said the Rev Owen Beamont, the chaplain to Millwall football club, when I asked him.

One of the craziest bishops I ever knew once said to me, with relish: "There are no atheists in cancer wards." But that has not been my experience. I rang a couple of priest friends to ask if this kind of outburst of reverence was normal. None seemed to think it was inevitable. One of them said that she had, of course, come across cases of the opposite, in which deeply religious people seemed to lose their interest in God as death approached. "I have to see one woman who is so busy dying she doesn't have any time for anything else." This wasn't a loss of faith, she said. It was just a loss of interest. Perhaps the question of God becomes entirely theoretical when you know what the outcome will be. The time for prayer is before, or after the fact: in either case, when everything is uncertain, as it is now with Muamba.

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2012/mar/19/fabrice-muamba-football-prayer-natural?newsfeed=true

So what can we make from this reaction to Muamba's heart-attack? Footballers are more like us than we imagine? That when things get tough, people still return to God? Is prayer a great healer, as Muamba's family are suggesting?

Get well soon Muamba.




Friday, 16 March 2012

Red Bull Jesus Advert: Banned


This advert has been banned and taken off television in South Africa after lots of complaints from both Christians and Muslims.

Read more:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/red-bull-jesus-advertisement_n_1345200.html

Do you think people were right to complain? Do you think that this is offensive, or simply a bit of fun? Do you think it matters to the advertisers that is has been banned?



The Myth of Consequence Free Sex


Blogger Matthew Archbold begins:

  • I know a guy who married the wrong woman because for the first time in his life he was having sex. And he was fooled into thinking he was in love—for a while.
  • I know a girl who was smarter than seven colleges. She dropped out of high school when she got pregnant.
  • I know a guy who’s haunted by the abortion of a casual hook up.
  • I know a young woman who’s confused and angry because she never had a father.
  • I know a man who has a venereal disease and after a few dates with women he has to explain it to them and watch them recoil.
  • I knew a man who died of AIDS.

He is a Catholic writing on a Catholic website about the dangers of what he calls 'free sex'. He points out that society tells us that the media and society at large promote the notion that there are few, if any consequences, to having sex with others.

Archbold goes on to point out that we've actually gone beyond this, demanding a 'right' to free sex which has lead to a 'right' to abortion and a 'right' to contraception. All of these going against institutional religion, in particular the Catholic Church.

He concludes:

"Here’s the thing—having sex is a choice. And so obsessed with maintaining their choice, many people are content to remove the choice from others in order to serve their choice.... We know there’s no such thing as free sex. It’s just a matter of who pays."
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold/the-myth-of-consequence-free-sex#ixzz1pGWpWdVx

Do you think religious institutions are out of date in their teaching on sex before marriage? Do you think the blogger is correct in his view that there is no such thing as consequence free sex??

Thursday, 15 March 2012

One rule for Jesus, another for Muhammad?

The Guardian have posted a blog on their website looking at the issue of equality of discrimination. It begins by quoting part of an interview with BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, when he was questioned on whether or not the BBC show would broadcast programmes offensive to Muslims. This, after showing the Jerry Singer Musical where Jesus is depicted as a petulant overgrown baby in a nappy - sparking outrage from many Christians.  The question was put to him that the BBC wouldn't dream of broadcasting something comparably satirical about the Prophet Muhammad. He replied: "I think essentially the answer to that question is yes."

Watch the full interview here:


One suggestion made was this was down to some Muslims' potential threats of violence, rather than just angry letters. Thompson replied: "Well clearly it's a very notable move in the game … 'I complain in the strongest possible terms', is different from 'I complain in the strongest possible terms and I'm loading my AK47 as I write'."

However, there was greater depth to Thompson's response too. He said that, "Christianity is the 'broad-shouldered', established religion of the majority in Britain, Islam is that of vulnerable ethnic minorities, 'who may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against, and where they may well regard an attack on their religion as racism by other means'. This perhaps gives a better suggestion as to why the BBC does treat Christians differently to Muslims. He then goes on to point out that also, people need to understand the emotional force of "what blasphemy feels like to someone who is a realist in their religious belief". It is clear that religious beliefs cannot simply be compared with rational, propositional statements.

The blogger poses two questions:

Is it true that Muslims still constitute a vulnerable, disadvantaged minority in the UK?
And if so, is this the right way in which to display special sensitivity?

His conclusion is this:

Difficult though it is, we must never abandon the quest for equal liberty under law. Everyone is entitled to what the philosopher Ronald Dworkin calls "equal respect and concern". That does not mean treating everyone exactly the same in every circumstance. But whenever you hear anyone (including me or you) arguing for unequal treatment of any kind, shine the searchlight and take a closer look. The same evangelical Christian who complains of unequal treatment from the BBC will vociferously oppose gay marriage. The same European liberal who argues passionately that newspapers should be free to publish cartoons of Muhammad will defend laws criminalising genocide denial. Double standards are the warning signals of a free society.

Read full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/14/one-rule-jesus-another-muhammad

How do you think we should display religious equality in our community? Is the BBC right to allow satirical shows about Christianity but not Islam? Why do you think this is the case?

Homeless Hotspots: New Charity Idea


A new charity initiative in America has drawn much criticism from the world's press. The basic idea is that in the digital age, people are not buying publications (such as the Big Issue) from homeless people. This means the small income they gained from this, has been lost.

An organisation came up with what they thought was a good idea... attach a wireless hotspot to a homeless person and get people to donate, by text, to that individual to use the internet connection.

The BBC reported people's reactions:

Comments posted to the BBH's site accused the project of being "unseemly" and "wrong".

Members of Twitter asked "what has this world come to?" and accused the project of being a "gimmick".

However, others praised the idea as being "inspirational" and a chance to create a "positive interaction between the public" and homeless people.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17345926

The advertising agency and the organisation have defended their idea and it is being used at the SXSW music festival currently taking place in Austin, Texas.

Read more: http://homelesshotspots.org/

What do you think? Is this a good idea or not? Is 'being' a wifi hotspot the same as selling a magazine in 2012?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Same-Sex Marraige: The Reaction (Part 2)



Since my last post on gay marriage (5th March - http://talkingdonkeyre.blogspot.com/2012/03/catholics-called-to-oppose-gay-marraige.html), the Catholic Church and discussion around this topic have been constantly in the news.

The full pastoral letter read out in Catholic churches across England and Wales can be read here: http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/content/download/28460/194403/file/abps-letter-marriage-march-2012.pdf

 A petition website has also been started here: http://c4m.org.uk/

 Many Catholics and non-Catholics alike have struggled with this campaign and are unclear why it is such an issue for the Church and why they should be involved.

 The Church is very clear on its teaching on homosexuality, that it is not a sin to be homosexual, but that such feelings should not be acted upon and the celibate life must be followed. It's also very clear on its teaching on marriage that it is a sacramental act that brings together in union, man and woman, in a relationship that is open to procreation.

 The government's proposal is one of law change, to define legally that same-sex couples can enjoy the same title of marriage as a heterosexual couple. It is not saying that these marriages would have to happen in Catholic Churches, nor challenging the Church's teaching on the issue.

 Therefore for many, it seems that the Catholic Church is involving itself in a secular issue and trying to impose its definition of marriage on to society. Many of those who get married in a registry office are already challenging the Church's view on marriage, as are Catholic couples who are married but using contraception. Many would argue that 'marriage' was redefined a long time ago.

 The news reporting has enabled opposition to the Catholic Church to label them further out of date and out of touch. However organisations such as Catholic Voices (http://www.catholicvoices.org.uk) have been very outspoken in their defence of the Church's position. Their website includes links to several media appearances including this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2iOxPW6N3M

This open letter has been written by a friend of mine (and old Campion boy) Simon Darvill (@simondarvill) and published yesterday. Already it has been widely circulated via Facebook and Twitter: http://simondarvill.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/an-open-letter-to-rev-vincent-nichols-archbishop-of-westminster/

 The conclusion is particularly strong:

"As stated, I am proud to be a young Catholic and proud that my Church stands up to governments when it disagrees. I may not always agree with the Church’s’ leadership on some issues but I am still, and always will be a loyal follower of the Catholic Church and respectful of its leadership.

 At a time when the poor are at risk I am asking you to stand up against the Governments attacks on the poor and vulnerable in our society and support a more equal society, including supporting a change in the legal definition of marriage to support same-sex partners."

 Another friend of mine, Alex Higgins, has written a blog post explaining how actually it was Catholics who first suggested same-sex marriage in the 1980's: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/03/12/a-catholic-writes-gay-marriage-was-our-idea-bishops-should-embrace-it/

 Andrew Sullivan a conservative, Catholic writer said that gay marriage would ensure:

“lower rates of promiscuity among gay men, more stable homes for the children of gay parents, less trauma in families with gay offspring, lower rates of disease transmission, [and] more independent and self-reliant members of society”.

 A gay Buddhist friend of mine concluded his views on this issue by saying: "How many gays does God have to keep making before people realise He wants them around...?"

 What do you feel? Were you in support of the letter read out last Sunday? Was it something you have struggled with? What would Jesus of Nazareth do?

NB - any opinions expressed here, or in links, are personal ones.

Take an Atheist to Church?

So suggests Karl Giberson:

He argues that many atheists simply don't understand what they are arguing against and miss many of the good things which go on inside the church.

He invites atheists to, "spend a year doing research into what real life religious people are like -- the people who are not in the headlines" instead of the abortion clinic bombings and anti-gay rhetoric which is sometimes the only things published (in parts of the US).

He concludes by saying, "I don't think a year in our church will transform your atheism into belief in God. You may leave even more convinced that Christians believe odd things. But I think your experience would help you see that our faith -- like our affection for our beloved Red Sox or our love for our glorious fall foliage -- is not an epidemic or a plague. The beliefs we pass on to our children are not harmful and abusive."

However, perhaps slightly controversially ends, "And the world is a better place because we are here."

Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karl-giberson-phd/take-an-atheist-to-church_b_1327250.html

Do you agree with this idea? Do atheists really argue their case without full investigation into what exactly does go on in churches? Some atheists seem very well read (for example Dawkins), do others simply follow blindly?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

KONY 2012 - Good idea or not?

This film does contain some disturbing scenes. Watch with caution.


*UPDATE*: Statement from CAFOD Brentwood:

"This film has done a great deal to raise awareness of the suffering that has been inflicted across East Africa and beyond as a result of the activities of the LRA. CAFOD and its partners been dealing with the reality of those activities and the tragic human consequences for decades now. However, we do not share the views of the organisation behind the film that the answer to this issue is more military intervention within the region, which can only serve to continue the cycle of violence, with children caught in the middle. CAFOD is working with partners in Uganda seeking to bring lasting peace and security to the region, and a life free from fear and violence to its children. To find out more about this work and how you can support please visit the CAFOD website: http://www.cafod.org.uk/uganda "


Many of you will by now have heard of, or seen KONY 2012. The 30 minute video has taken social media by storm highlighting one particular case of child soldiers in Uganda. However, as quickly as it spread, so did criticism of the organisation Invisible Children.

Their donation site actually crashed for part of yesterday as people flooded to make donations and buy wristbands in sympathy to the cause.

This blog, although a little snobby to the cause on both sides, highlights some of the issues covered elsewhere on the internet: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/should-i-donate-money-to-kony-2012-or-not

The writers conclusion:

"The film Kony 2012 began because the filmmakers went to Uganda and met a young boy so traumatised by his experiences that he was contemplating suicide. Confronted with the grotesque reality of the atrocities, the Western filmmakers did what I hope I'd do, and resolved to help. No matter what. With that in mind, does it matter if they get paid well? Does it matter if they massage the facts? Does it matter that their charity isn't completely accountable? Does is matter that they're naive prats who think it's the white man's job to save Africa? Or is that all just pompous hypothesising by Westerners with enough freedom, information and education to look down on a simple, kind act?

Isn't it better to just stop criticising and start helping children in need? Or is that the kind of blind interventionist attitude that throws countries like Afghanistan into very, very long wars?"

There are others too: http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/post/18890947431/we-got-trouble and http://www.thewrap.com/media/article/kony-2012-viral-youtube-video-draws-celebs-%E2%80%93-and-criticism-36051

Certainly this social media 'storm' has proved the power of such networks (if needed proof after the Arab Spring), can they continue to be used for good? Surely retweeting and sharing this video couldn't possibly do any harm?

My only concern is that the reputation of charities who are genuinely doing a very good job helping child soldiers could be damaged if the claims of financial secrecy and misappropriation of funds become founded. People will be sceptical of giving and donating.

For me, I'd rather give my money to CAFOD who I have seen first hand making sure every penny is accounted for. Dermot O'Leary visited a child soldiers project with CAFOD in 2004:

video

Monday, 5 March 2012

Catholics called to oppose gay marraige plans


The Roman Catholic Church is planning to enlist the support of more than a million regular worshippers in opposition to Government plans for same-sex marriage.

Senior bishops are preparing to draw up a letter to be read at Masses across England and Wales when the Government consultation on plans to redefine marriage gets under way later this month, it is understood.

It would be only the second time in recent history that a joint pastoral letter on behalf of all Catholic bishops in England and Wales has been issued on an issue of political importance.

The move is being proposed as the debate over extending marriage to homosexual couples gathers momentum. At the weekend Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the most senior Catholic cleric in Britain, accused the Coalition of trying to “redefine reality” and branded the proposals a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.

Although the proposals would not extend to Scotland, he argued that they would nevertheless “shame the UK in the eyes of the world”.

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9122677/Catholics-will-be-called-to-oppose-gay-marriage.html

The more controversial first reporting of this came from a letter written to the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9121424/We-cannot-afford-to-indulge-this-madness.html

Do you think Catholics Bishops are right to get politically involved in this issue? Do you think the term 'marraige' should be used by homosexual couples? What difficulties can you see arising? WHy do you think Cardinal O'Brien came in for such fierce criticism? Do you think some Catholics will find this difficult to agree with?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Margaret Mizen & The Jimmy Mizen Foundation


On 2nd March 2012, students at Sacred Heart of Mary were very fortunate and privilaged to hear Margaret Mizen speak openly and honestly about her life experiences, including the death of her 16 year old son Jimmy.

Margaret spoke about the legacy of peace that her family have been building, founded on her Catholic faith. She suggested some ways in which we can all be involved in the Mizen's aim for a legacy of peace. Please take some time to read more about their story and the projects they are involved in.

Margaret would also like some feedback. If there are any students who would like to write their reflections on the talk to share with Margaret, please email them to: alewis@mary.havering.sch.uk

Students are arranging collections for the work of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation over the coming weeks.

-----
The Jimmy Mizen Foundation: www.jimmymizen.org

100 Days of Peace: More Than Gold: 100 Days of Peace Facebook Group BBC News

Flame Conference 2012: Guest Speakers- Barry and Margaret Mizen

Margaret and Barry Mizen working with CAFOD: Pass It On

Further Press Articles: The Independent: Faith in the Family The Sun: This Anger Must Stop The Mirror: Margaret Mizen's Moving Open Letter To Her Dead Son Jimmy The Forgiveness Project Inspire

Wikipedia: Jimmy Mizen