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Home country: UK
Member since: Thu Aug 17, 2006, 05:50 AM
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Journal Archives

The unknown ex-pastor

Humans of New York is a Photoblog by Brandon Stanton. In it he photographs ordinary people and, where he can talks to them. The following quote is from his conversation with an un-named ex-pastor.
"I’ve been a deep believer my whole life. 18 years as a Southern Baptist. More than 40 years as a mainline Protestant. I’m an ordained pastor. But it’s just stopped making sense to me. You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion, and you think: ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’ And it just doesn’t make sense anymore. It doesn’t make sense to believe in a God that dabbles in people’s lives. If a plane crashes, and one person survives, everyone thanks God. They say: ‘God had a purpose for that person. God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose in killing everyone else on that plane? And a purpose in starving millions of children? A purpose in slavery and genocide? For every time you say that there’s a purpose behind one person’s success, you invalidate billions of people. You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel."

Pretty much says it all.

I have just come across an incredibly painful ex-Muslim blog post

I Cheated Present-Day Me by Kheirr
When I was in my teens, my family and I shred our photos. All of them. My baby photos, my graduation photos, that time we went on a road trip through the US. We threw them in the garbage. Everything. We purified ourselves. Our home. We rid ourselves of the devil. You see, angels can’t enter the house if pictures (or dogs) reside in your home. At first, we kept them in the washroom, because angels don’t follow you in there anyways! Smart move, eh?! We cheated the system! We thought we were safe. Then, we started to question it. When I was around 15, I read a book that said (and this is a rough translation), “The photographer and the one photographed are immoral and hell-bound.” We realized we had, in fact, not really cheated the system, but had cheated ourselves. And we feared hell. We decided, as a family, to rid ourselves of this evil.

For a long time, I agreed with my family’s conclusions. I took part in the decisions. I pushed them towards fundamental Islam. I practically shoved it down their throats. I showed the book I’d read to my mother, and when she ignored it, I pushed. I pushed until she gave in. I thought I was freeing my family from their hellish shackles, but in reality, I was just tightening them. The devil was not chaining them, I was; I chained my family to Islam. To Wahhabism. To Salafiyyah. At age 12, we threw aside our cultural music. At 14, I convinced her to wear dresses instead of pants. At age 15, we shunned our cultural artwork. At age 17, we destroyed our family photos. The chains grew tighter and tighter. The same chains that forced my grandmother to undergo female genital mutilation. The same chains that made my aunts wear the niqab, and made my uncles grow beards. The same chains that separated my family from me. I locked them in those chains, and I threw away the key.


I wish they can feel again like I can. They have become numb to everything. They lost part of their humanity. And it’s my fault. I took away their humanity and sacrificed it to God. To Allah. They only feel through Him. Now, they see the world through a darkened lens. They can’t enjoy the freedom of their bodies swaying to the beat. To my family, the elephant means nothing. They can’t feel the beauty of life in this photo because they can’t understand it. It is against Islam. God forbid it, so it must be wrong. My mother used to dance to Elvis Presley in our family restaurant, her long hair swaying to and fro. Now, she is confined. She is chained. And I fucking wish I could find that key.

I wish him well and I hope that if he finds a key his family gets the courage to use it

She was not a feminist but she was part of the history of feminism


In 1888 at a small farm called the Rossa or Rossa Bach in North Wales a girl was born and was given the name Lillian. She was the last of 15 children and said she lived a fairly easy life as there were plenty of older children to help out round the farm. She never said very much about her life on that farm and her child and grandchildren got the distinct feeling she was slightly ashamed of her background. One story she did tell was that at about the age of 4 she ran to tell he mother about the wonderful strange cat in a kitchen cupboard, one of her brothers was called and threw 2 farm terriers into the place and, after a great deal of noise 2 live dogs and the carcass of a massive rat was removed. Another tale was that for 75 years her maternal grandfather cut a hazel stave from a coppiced stump outside the door and walked into the hills only coming back for his evening meal; he did this every day until he was 90 when he arrived home saying he felt very tired and would sit down, which he did and died peacefully in that armchair by the fire.

Despite the poverty you would expect from a large family living on a hill farm the family did receive a certain amount of assistance from the local lord because, as rumour had it, Lillian's father, was that gentleman's half brother. This may also be why, unusually for a poorer rural family, they were part of the Anglican congregation which Lillian found annoying; she told us that the local Chapel services sounded much more cheerful than those of the Church. It was also noticeable to her that several of the boys were given excellent positions in other houses, one (Pen, who was the only one she named) even becoming the stable master at a large house in London. This job enabled Pen to invite members of the family to London to watch the procession at Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (1897). She remembered being hoisted on her brother's shoulders to see the Queen and being severely disappointed by the "tiny, shrunken, old woman in black bombazine".

Sometime between 1906 and 1908 the unexplained ability of Lillian's father to ensure his children were well placed allowed Lillian to enter St Mary's Hospital, Paddington as a nurse trainee. At the time the premier Nursing School was the Nightingale, attached to St Thomas's hospital but nurses were trained elsewhere and (at least in London) expected to give the impression of being sturdy middle class women. Perhaps helped by this it was during Lillian's time as a nurse she met a man from a wealthy Midlands family and was courted by him.

His name was William and he was a bit of a black sheep having "run away to sea" where he (eventually) became the Captain of an Eastern Telegraph cable layer. It is a sign of how greatly life has changed in the past 110 years that when she went to visit his family she was completely unaware of how to use the water heater (the geyser) in the bathroom. What his family thought of this young woman is not completely unknown but despite this, somehow, the two were married and William used his authority as captain to allow Lillian to sail with him to the ports he was using as a base of operations; in the years before the Great War she visited Gibraltar, Malta, Corfu, Port Said and, finally Capetown, just at the outbreak of war.

The war gave seamen such as William somewhat different duties. Telegraph cables were important as they provided secure communications for the "Great Powers" and so were a target of both sabotage and espionage. William sailed without her, doing work he would not describe. All we do know of that time is that he was torpedoed (from which Lillian said her husband never truly recovered) and that, unusually for a member of the Merchant Marine, he received 2 decorations. Whatever happened, at the end of the war William and his wife purchased a small house in Hampshire and, in 1920, their only child was born.

What is know of the following few years is just as fragmentary, but William sailed to work in the Indian Ocean allowing his wife and their infant daughter to come with him on the later voyages. Part of this was in South Africa where, after a time spent in Cape Town and Durban it was necessary to take an inland jaunt to Johannesburg where tea was taken with the Bishop. Lillian said that whilst William was away sailing from Durban there was time for her to take trips into the surrounding bush as far as the Kwa-Zulu Valley of 1,000 Hills and Bloemfontein . In that last place Lillian was entertaining other Westerners but there was a bit of a drought so that milk was in short supply which made tea a real problem. One of the servants had a solution, well actually she was a wet nurse with a supply of milk to hand, so the problem was solved although not in a way that could be explained to Lillian's guests. After William had finished in Durban the two of them headed to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. where William demonstrated his remarkable ability to hold his breath by sitting on the bottom of Zanzibar harbour for (what Lillian said) was 5 minutes.

How and why William and Lillian went back to Britain is unknown but it may have had something to do with William's next work which was something secret based round Aden. He was gone for 18 months to 2 years when Lillian received a telegram from the Company saying that the Captain had been very ill and that he would need to be collected from Waterloo Station. She rushed to London and waited but was unable to recognise her husband as he had wasted horribly. Her nursing experience must have helped her as she brought the ailing and mentally dull man back to their house. Many years later it seems the symptoms she described him as suffering bore a resemblance to Gulf War Syndrome.

William was no longer employed by the company but, luckily he was in receipt of a small annuity from Eastern Telegraph and, I think there were investments, but it was 1929. Everybody suffered in the crash that year, Lillian and William included, but William's health kept deteriorating and the medical costs kept mounting. Their daughter who had been briefly able to attend Cheltenham College was withdrawn because of lack of money. Then the disaster, William died in 1932 and the annuity ended though Lillian was entitled to a tiny company widows portion.

You might think that as William's family was wealthy they might be willing to assist there seemed to be some feeling that the "lower class girl" who had "trapped" William did not deserve support. For whatever reasons first possessions were sold and then the house, but it was a buyers market at that time. For a time Lillian lived with a friend as a nurse/companion and waited whilst her daughter finished her education. Eventually Lillian was assured that certain friends in South Africa would help support and that the pension she did have would be sufficient to live upon. Like many such dreams these proved to be illusions.

Thrown back on her own resources Lillian rose to the occasion, she took a job as a cook/housekeeper/companion to a wealthy family in Johannesburg but it was not easy. The family was Boer and looked on, well everybody, as beneath them. Lillian was expected to manage the "Bleck" staff and was expected to speak to them in a polyglot, disgustingly called called "Kitchen Kaffir". She managed but never had a good word to say about the Boers afterwards. Things came to a head when Lillian noticed one of the houseboys was missing. Speaking to the other staff she found out that the lad lived in a shed in the garden, a place that a white woman was specifically barred from entering by the family. Seeking permission from the "lady" of the house she was told something on the lines of "the filthy little skellum is probably drunk," but that Lillian could check if she wanted.

The shed was cold, damp, draughty and lacked a bed or even any personal possessions. All there was was a single blanket on the concrete floor under which was a young man shivering with the high fever caused by smallpox.

The family were unimpressed but after what must have been a flaming row Lillian was allowed to take the pony and trap and deliver the boy to the isolation hospital. By this time word of the affliction had gone round the house so it was only by bullying and her own efforts that the horse was harnessed. The sufferer she had to lift in on her own. Then there was the night-time journey to a hospital which was unhappy about receiving a "black boy" at that time of night. Though she never explained fully it seems that after returning to the house and disinfecting the trap Lillian gathered up her daughter and her few belongings and somehow travelling to Capetown and a ship home.

By 1937 Lillian was in London pressing her old colleagues at St Mary's Hospital to admit her daughter to SRN (State Registered Nurse) training the next year. Amidst all of the too-ing and fro-ing of the past decade she had somehow been able to see her daughter through Matriculation which allowed the hospital to accept the girl. Lillian and her daughter now lived in a small flat near Little Venice and, probably, supported herself by working as a day nurse and cooking help to elderly ladies.

It seems very silly to say that the years of the Second World War and the austerity following were easy but after the disasters of the previous 12 years they probably were. Her daughter completed training, married a doctor (almost compulsory if nursing legends are true) and Lillian's first grandchild was born. The only real flies in the ointment were, firstly, that the father-in-Law was just as stubborn and bull headed as Lillian had become and, secondly, that the market for nurse/companions without the SRN qualification had dried up so reducing Lillian's income. Then in the mid-1950's troubles hit again, Lillian's son-in-law committed adultery close to the birth of his second child; being an, otherwise, honourable man he offered his wife one of the new and purportedly easier divorces.

It is difficult to understand today how bad divorce in the UK was 60 years ago. These were not no fault divorces; a guilty party had to be chosen, a fake assignation set up with a professional co-respondent, then a fake discovery by a specialist private investigator with a camera and only after this to court. There a judge would decide fault and mitigation, local and sometimes national newspapers would report. Both husband and wife were castigated by public opinion and would often have to leave home because of persecution. This whole process rendered Lillian's daughter an emotional wreck and, wherever she went, there were always the whispers of "You know she's divorced!"

Lillian took charge; she, her daughter and the 2 grandchildren moved at first to Hampshire. At first the seemingly generous maintenance payments (alimony), Lillian's small pension and the income her daughter could make from nursing made for a comfortable, if isolated, life. But as the 1950's slipped into the 1960's things became not quite as easy; neither Lillian's pension was "index linked" nor did the maintenance payments increase with the cost of living either and sometimes, for some quite good reasons, those payments were not made at all.

When the 1960s closed Lillian had to deal with another hard problem, for nearly 15 years she had vilified her daughter's ex-husband but suddenly her daughter called upon by him to help when his second wife died of cancer and she went to him. What is more she was forced to realise that her daughter had remained in love with him for the whole time. They re-married in 1969.

Whatever happened, Lillian handled it. She handled the appalling callousness of her daughter's employers, the large Sudanese gentleman who showed up on the doorstep wanting her granddaughter to be his wife (number 3) and the vicar who wanted to do a special blessing of her grandson's bedroom. All she needed in return were 20 or 30 unfiltered cigarettes (Senior Service for preference) and a quarter bottle of (bad) brandy per day. Mind you, she could be generous with the brandy; one Christmas, when asked for the secret of good brandy butter advised that, "... itsh esstremly difvicult," having partaken rather too well of that excellent product in all its alcoholic glory.

There has been so much missed out of this potted biography, Lillian's nickname of "Gypsy" or "Jip". The man on the steamer home at the start of the Great War who was to be executed for spying. The priest who (reportedly) had an unholy interest in her. Most especially her appearance has not been described. Lillian said said she was always best described as "handsome" although the earliest photo we have of her with her child shows a distinctly pretty, indeed beautiful, woman of about 30. That photo shows a woman with silver hair for it seems it lost all colour during the pregnancy.

Lillian was a wonderful and difficult woman; I am proud she was my grandmother.

Religiously enabled Child Sexual Abuse is not just a Christian problem

Links and excerpts about 2 stories regarding this.
First a case relating to Judaism. A message from Tzedek Founder & CEO Manny Waks
As many of you would be aware, I was sexually abused as a child while a student at Melbourne’s Yeshivah College and a member of the Yeshivah community.


My major grievances are directed solely at the Yeshivah leadership, past and present. They failed then, and are failing now.

How does it make sense that the Yeshivah leadership that was in place during much of the abuse and cover-ups, and among other things:
was directly responsible for shipping off a perpetrator (former Yeshivah teacher David Kramer), who went on to re-offend overseas (please read the powerful Victim Impact Statement written by one of Kramer’s victims and read out by me in court on their behalf);

despite the many allegations that were brought to their attention, allowed Cyprys to remain in charge of security until the mid-2000s;

despite the many allegations that were brought to their attention, allowed Cyprys to attend Chabad Summer Camps;

despite the many allegations against Cyprys, placed a student in his care whom he repeatedly abused;

asked a victim to leave the school for daring to speak out and take action regarding his abuse by Cyprys;

was publicly criticised by Victoria Police in court for not cooperating with them in these investigations; and
includes a senior member whose testimony was described by the Magistrate as being “unfathomable”;

Tzedek (Hebrew for Justice) is an Australian-based advocacy group for Jewish victims/survivors of child sexual abuse—promoting their needs and interests and offering them and other relevant stakeholders a range of services.

Second, (with a trigger warning) a story told to the Birmingham Mail by Nabila Sharma (that's Birmingham UK).
My Imam abused me nearly every day for four years at the local mosque
17 Mar 2013 09:10
Midland Muslim woman was sexually assaulted regularly between the age of 7 and 11.

I WAS abused almost every day between the ages of seven and 11.

My abuser was the leader of my mosque, the Imam.

One day, he asked me to come to his room, as he lived at the mosque.

I found this strange, but he said I could read to him and get ahead with my prayers before the others arrived.

Inside his room, he began touching my face and stroking my hair, telling me what a pretty little girl I was.

I was only seven, I didn’t understand what he was doing other than I knew I didn’t like it. It made me uncomfortable.

Third, (trigger warning) Hinduism is not immune witness this story from the Vancouver Sun-Sentinel.
Drum teacher at Hindu temple sentenced to life in prison for child sex abuse
A religious guru and music teacher was legally declared a sexual predator and sentenced to life in prison Thursday afternoon for repeatedly abusing a 10-year-old student during her weekly drum lessons.


The girl, now 14, testified that Munshi, 49, molested her, forced her to perform oral sex and masturbated in front of her.

Before the judge imposed the mandatory life sentence, prosecutor Mary Ann Braun read a letter from the victim's family: "You are a far cry from the word guru . Words cannot describe the pain, agony and mental torture you have brought upon my family and most of all a happy-go-lucky, beautiful and loving child."

Other cases are recorded by the Muslim Womens Network for for abuse of Asian women and girls and by Failed Messiah. Please note that Failed Messiah is, despite being written by Jews for Jews, regarded by some in the Jewish community as a hate site.

Kelpies are now complete (X-post UK forum)

Check the BBC slideshow

Not poetry but inspired by the Faithful

In Tennessee did Kenneth Ham
A shiftless pleasure Ark decree:
Where Ay seven five of tarmac ran
Past Bibles measureless to man
Down to the Carib Sea.
Eight hundred acres of fair ground
Would be wrought by pride unbound;
And there would green, fertile untainted hills
Be gouged by bulldozer, scarred with ease;
To make a space for bleeping tills
and waste the lumber of great trees.

String actuality - strong evidence for Neanderthals making string

Hot on the heels on reports of Heidelberg man possibly making spears ( Thanks to HarveyDarkey ), a new dig has shown strong evidence of string made 90,000 years ago in Europe.
From New Scientist
Perishable materials usually rot away, so the oldest string on record only dates back 30,000 years. But perforations in small stone and tooth artefacts (sic) from Neanderthal sites in France suggest the pieces were threaded on string and worn as pendants. "The wear patterns provide circumstantial evidence of early use of string, but the evidence is not definitive," says Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Similar circumstantial evidence has been found in perforated shells.

Now, Hardy and his colleagues have found slender, 0.7-millimetre-long plant fibres that are twisted together near some stone artefacts at a site in south-east France that was occupied by Neanderthals 90,000 years ago. Such fibres are not twisted together in nature, says the team, suggesting that the Neanderthals were responsible (Quaternary Science Reviews, doi.org/pzx).

Another post about this has details of experiments by the team:
From Past Horizons
As these fibres are not twisted in their natural state experiments were carried out involving incising, planing, whittling, scraping and boring. In all cases, no twisted fibres resulted.

Further experiments conducted by Bruce Hardy involved the scraping, cutting and slicing of a variety of non-woody plants (roots, tubers, reeds, etc.), and again these also produced no twisted fibres such as those observed.

While not definitive, the lack of twisted fibres in these experiments lends some credence to the hypothesis that these derive from cordage.

“If they are indeed remnants of string or cordage, then they would be the earliest direct evidence of string,” says Hardy. “Albeit very fragmentary evidence.”

Although the details I have seen are not (or cannot be) specific, I would not be surprised if this was twisted bast fibre. Detail on making it in this Internet Archaeology article just beneath the photos
"She strips the bark off the saplings she collects and peels the cambium fibre...away from the outer bark or shongol (lit. skin) which she discards. She allows the bark to dry first before stripping off its fibre, slitting the wands gathered lengthwise in two and placing them indoors over a fire, leaving them for about a week. But the fibre of ponjip figs, she may strip off green and dry separately; women often excoriate these saplings during collection, returning home with bags of unseparated bark..., and there peeling off and drying the bast. On average, 5g of dry phloem fibre will produce 10 metres of string. Sillitoe 1988 pg 245


added Link to the more extensive discussion of the spears started by Ichingcarpenter Sorry, I didn't check further.

Last week it was 1,800 mSv; this week - 2,200 mSv

Radiation levels around tanks storing contaminated water at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have risen by a fifth to a new high, officials say.

Ground readings near one set of tanks stood at 2,200 millisieverts (mSv) on Tuesday, the plant operator and Japan's nuclear authority said.

Last week we had a nuclear industry apologist claiming that the storage tanks had leaked a couple of buckets of water when it was 300 tonnes and claiming that beta radiation was comparable to anti-neutrino radiation from the sun. I wonder what the excuses will be this week?

Selections from P Z Myers' panel coments at EWTS*

* Empowering Women Through Secularism conference
I've been campaigning for atheism for about 20 years now, and I have a terrible confession to make. In the beginning, I had this naive optimism that leaving religion behind would make people better people — maybe not perfect, but it would set them on the right path to reasonable lives. Obviously, I’ve been increasingly disillusioned, as it has become clear that many atheists are, well, jerks. There’s nothing about atheism that is sufficient to make a good person: atheism is not enough. But also, I would add that there’s nothing about secularism that is sufficient to make a good state. Secularism is not enough; we also have to select good secular values.

Religion is, and always has been a tool for authoritarianism. By its very nature it imposes a vision of our interactions with each other and the world that is hierarchical and ordered and linear — the orders come from above. You will obey them. And further, the concept of faith is antithetical to transparency — you cannot question those orders, because there is no path for verification. You are expected to trust but not verify, and accept without reason.

I think I can safely say that any set of values that limits the potential of half the population, that reduces the health and happiness of one gender, or race, or class, is empirically detrimental to the long-term viability of the whole. I can definitely say that there is no objective reason one could argue that being born a woman, or black, or poor should make any individual a lesser contributor to our fully shared humanity.

The whole thing is well worth a read

What you think is news is more about damaging the President

You think it is news that the US Government is carrying out mass surveillance on its nationals? Well, it is not and that is the only reason I can see for the current flood of outrage over this story is the damage it does to the Obama Presidency. I am actually surprised that DU has given in to the delirium considering that stories about this have been discussed at length on this board in the past.

Let me introduce you to a place, it's called RAF Menwith Hill

By Matt Crypto (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This is where surveillance of phone calls and faxes and data communications by US nationals to persons overseas has been carried out for at least the past 50 years.

Nominally it is an RAF base but the majority of the personnel are (by 3 for 1) from the US forces and intelligence services. It is also rumoured to be one of the main clearing houses for communications between drones and their "pilots".

It is a British base because, officially, the US cannot regulate what their dreadful allies can do; so they agreed to "part" fund the construction and so have a watching brief on what the terrible British have intercepted (and most definitely NOT the NSA, really-o truly-o double pinky swear, Congressman). Of course as this is intelligence "gathered" by US allies the US does not have to reveal the extent of this data gathering to Congress because doing so would shatter the delicate relationship and so restrict the US oversight of the data collection.

Excuse me I need to take a break after typing that paragraph of bovine fertilizer

You might think that this has little effect on the current shock shown by the US media except that nearly all data communications out the USA passes through choke points; notably Britain, Spain, Australia and Japan; and I believe there are similar installations to Menwith Hill in the last 3 countries as well. What is more, because any data (even digitised voice comms) do not have to travel in a straight line even internal US data packets could easily go halfway round the world before it gets to the intended recipient. My suspicion is that that packet copying and re-routing also is far more common than we know.

Now if there has been such a massive growth of digital traffic you would expect that Menwith Hill and similar satellite interception centres would have shrunk except they have expanded along with the growth of digital traffic - funny that.

So ask yourself, "Why, now, has the US media suddenly started playing the fainting dowager over this?"
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