Trouble reading this email? View newsletter online.

Newsline 22 March 2013

Becoming a member of the National Secular Society is a declaration of your support for the separation of the state from religious institutions. Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular society. Join today.
Read Newsline in full (PDF)

Parliamentary inquiry claims religious education in schools is “poor”

Parliamentary inquiry claims religious education in schools is “poor”

News | Tue, 19 Mar 2013

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education (APPG) has found that RE lessons are frequently taught by teachers with no qualifications in the subject, and is calling for more resources to be put into RE teaching and for the subject to be included in the new Ebacc.

Evangelicals put indoctrination ahead of education

Evangelicals put indoctrination ahead of education

News | Thu, 21 Mar 2013

A survey for the Evangelical Alliance shows that evangelical parents are more likely to choose a school for their children based on whether it has a strong religious ethos rather than whether it fares well in league tables or inspectors' reports.

New poll shows religious leaders out of step with the nation

New poll shows religious leaders out of step with the nation

News | Mon, 18 Mar 2013

A new Yougov poll for the Sunday Times finds that the nation is split down the middle on the issue of whether it is appropriate for clergypeople to get involved in politics.

Feeding the fires of fundamentalism

Feeding the fires of fundamentalism

Opinion | Tue, 19 Mar 2013

By Terry Sanderson

Professor Lawrence Krauss, the world-renowned theoretical physicist, is the NSS's newest honorary associate.

He made a significant splash last week by threatening to walk out of a debate at University College London because the Islamist organisers wanted men and women in the audience to be segregated.

Professor Krauss, a former adviser to President Obama, was taking part in a debate entitled: "Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?" organised by a group called the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), which has now been banned from holding events on the UCL campus.

Professor Krauss was due to debate with Hamza Tzortzis, a Greek convert to Islam.

Mr Tzortzis is a name familiar to the NSS. He writes to us regularly challenging us to debates with propositions such as "Is there a God?" and variations on the theme of the superiority of religion (Islam) over atheism or secularism.

We no longer accept his invitations because it has become clear that the only purpose of these "debates" is to prove to his devout followers that the infidels must be overcome.

There is nothing that fundamentalists like better than to be outraged by those who not only disagree with them, but actively oppose them. Arguing that there is no God or that religion has no value with such people is like lighting the blue touch paper on a firework.

So, we would seriously suggest that all atheists, humanists and secularists give Mr Tzortzis a wide berth when he comes knocking with invitations to "debate" with him. Don't give him the opportunity to represent you to his extremist audience as proof that people in the West are simply "heretics" or "infidels" or "blasphemers". We should also swerve other Islamist groups who issue similar invitations.

The topics they propose — usually theological in nature — are not arguments you can win, even if you make the better case. Your challengers will be laughing up their sleeves because these confrontations are nothing to do with free exchange of ideas and everything to do with reinforcing and increasing fanatical feelings.

And should Mr Tzortzis be under the impression that we are afraid to engage with his ideas because we have no answer for him, just show him this and ask if it is true. There is no way that any debate is going to change the mind of a man who does not believe in freedom on any level, despises democracy and seeks totalitarianism. Those who agree with him and make up the bulk of his audience are not there to listen to arguments and balance the evidence. They are there to have their unwavering certainty underpinned by the wicked unbelievers.

Meanwhile, you can see Professor Krauss making his brave objections at UCL.

And see some of his many other excellent videos here and here.

See also: How Tzortzis is trying to score points from the Krauss encounter on the internet

New report confirms that religious TV is least popular genre – but the BBC won’t let up

New report confirms that religious TV is least popular genre – but the BBC won’t let up

Opinion | Wed, 20 Mar 2013

By Terry Sanderson

A new report, confirming previous research, shows that religion is the least popular genre of programming on TV.

TeleScope is an annual TV industry report produced by TeleHappiness, an initiative of TV Licensing. It looks at the UK's television viewing habits – identifying how we're responding to new technologies and how our viewing patterns are changing.

The National Secular Society has argued for a long time that TV — particularly the BBC — gives far too much airtime to religion. The vast majority of viewers obviously don't want or appreciate it, and given that we have so many channels on so many platforms that specialise in it now, there is no need for the national broadcaster to devote so much of its resources to religious broadcasting.

On my TV set top box I can now get dozens of religion channels representing all faiths if I want them. They are commercially self-sustaining and can be easily avoided by those who aren't interested.

The BBC Trust is currently conducting an inquiry into religious bias on TV, to which the NSS has contributed.

Despite this further evidence that its audience isn't interested, the BBC gave over almost the whole of its Tuesday morning news programme this week to cover the inauguration of the new pope in Rome. Catholic bishops and fawning BBC presenters gave the Catholic Church a completely clear run at presenting itself as something virtuous, valuable and spotless.

James Naughtie, the Radio 4 Today presenter, lost all sense of proportion as he put on his most unctuous voice to describe the arcane rituals involved in the overblown ceremonial. The only good thing about it was that the new "humble pope" reduced the palaver by an hour.

All consideration of child abuse and attendant cover-ups, financial irregularities, sex-crazed Cardinals and viciously anti-human papal teachings were swept under the carpet as the BBC (and just about every other news station) got carried away in the inflated theatricality of this ghastly gerontocracy.

At the same time, the BBC has announced its Easter schedule. It starts with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Thought for the Day – Mr Welby will also be interviewed on Songs of Praise, where he will discuss the "significance of Holy Week".

Radio 4 will broadcast a live service of worship from Liverpool Cathedral. Reverend Lucy Winkett will give the final in a series of Lent lectures on Radio 4. The Bishop of London will present Prayer for the Day.

The Mystery of Mary Magdalene on BBC One will see Melvyn Bragg set out to "unravel the many questions surrounding one of the Bible's most vivid, and to some, controversial figures."

Ann Widdecombe will be given a programme to moan about Christianity being "mocked by comedians". The Church of Scotland service will be broadcast on BBC One followed immediately by the pope chuntering in Latin on a balcony in Rome.

Head of religious propaganda at the BBC, Aaqil Ahmed, commented: "Easter is the cornerstone of Christianity and the programmes across the BBC reflect the beauty and mystery of the season through sacred music, reflection, live worship and documentaries".

And any critical commentary, it appears, will not be tolerated.

Download the report TeleScope 2013 (pdf)

See also: BBC doesn't understand religion

NSS Speaks Out

Terry Sanderson was quoted in a Times story (subscription) about the new Archbishop of Canterbury's intention to interfere in politics.

NSS Scottish spokesperson Alistair McBay was extensively quoted in a feature in the Courier on the new pope (not available online).

Keith Porteous Wood was on Radio 5 Live talking about religious education and campaigns manager Stephen Evans was on BBC Surrey and Sussex on the same topic. Stephen also appeared on ITV Wales News to discuss the controversial plan in Flintshire to require pupils attending faith schools to "prove" their religion to qualify for free school buses.

Keith appeared on BBC World TV to discuss the global influence of the Catholic Church.

This email has been sent to you by National Secular Society in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Address: 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL, United Kingdom.
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7404 3126

Please Note: Newsline provides links to external websites for information and in the interests of free exchange. We do not accept any responsibility for the content of those sites, nor does a link indicate approval or imply endorsement of those sites.

Please feel free to use the material in this Newsline with appropriate acknowledgement of source. Neither Newsline nor the NSS is responsible for the content of websites to which it provides links. Nor does the NSS or Newsline necessarily endorse quotes and comments by contributors, they are brought to you in the interests of the free exchange of information and open debate.