Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Collective Secular Action: Protest

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Category: , , , , |

Since arriving in London, I'd been intending to meet up with fellow sceptics, humanists and affiliated people. It took a while, but I got around to doing some stuff.  I've been involved in three things in the past two weeks: the Protest The Pope march at London Pride 2010, a meet-up of the Central London Humanist Group last week, and a talk by Simon Perry (he of Quacklash fame) at the meeting of Westminster Sceptics on Monday night.  I'll blog about each of these in turn. Saturday 3 July, participating the the London Pride 2010 parade and march from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square, I joined the 'Protest the Pope' section in the walking group of the pride march.  We had a large placard stating that we 'Protest the Pope', the particular relevance of which for London Pride 2010 is the Pope's position on equality of sexual orientation, on 'biological differences' between people, on denying the freedom of choice to women, on Ratzinger's own criminal acts as a concealer of pedophilia in the church, etc.1 It must be noted that we were not out there to protest Catholicism or religion generally, but rather the particular positions that the pope has taken and on the ways in which he has affected government policy and pressured policy in the UK. march went well.  To choruses like "Say yes to condoms, say Nope to the Pope", we handed out fantastic stickers protesting the pope's state visit to the UK and pamphlets about the organisation.  [As a state visit an invitation extended by the British head of state to the head of state of the Vatican it will be paid for by the UK taxpayer and should cost upwards of 30 million pounds.2] We also protested the things mentioned in the paragraph above, in addition to abstinence only sex advice and more.   It was a pleasure to be involved in a well-organized march on behalf of the LGBT community, but also in support of a crusade in which I believe - trying to protest the power of religious leaders in secular societies.   

I hope that in the future I can participate in similar protests as part of the on-going movement toward a secular society in which separation between religions and the state is constitutionally protected and in which individuals are better educated about alternatives to religious morality, of which secular humanism is one I find particularly attractive. Specifically, I would like to see increased activity in South Africa, in the mode of what Michael Meadon, Jacques Rousseau, Tauriq Moosa, Angela Butterworth, and many others have been trying to promote as and how they can (I would link to more of you, but I just can't do it Captain).  I hope that it becomes more widespread and more formalised and I intend to do my bit when I return to South African.  Later in the week I'll comment briefly on my experience of the Central London Humanist Group and the Westminster Sceptics - all of it positive. 

End Notes
1. On this, yes, there are biological differences between men and women, for example,  I happen not to have particularly large breasts.  The point is that, for those things that 'count' there may be greater variation within one gender than between genders such that it is difficult to claim what is meant by 'a single biological difference' that is totally unaffected by culture or social context. It also isn't obvious that 'biological differences' imply anything about gay marriage commitments either, unless we tie it to 'consummation' that, for whatever reason, can only occur between a penis and a vagina.    
2. Notwithstanding the fact that the reason that the Vatican is itself treated as a sovereign state is because of a deal - the Lateran Accords - between the then pope, Pope Pius XI, the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III and the fascist Benito Mussolini. 'What?' I hear you say, "We're held to deals made by a monarch and a fascist?" Indeed we are. It's contract law, see. It made the Vatican a sovereign state, see. And we can't interfere with sovereignty in international law, see? The treaty was adopted into the Italian constitution in 1947, so some may say, "Ahah! Your grievances are irrelevant." But, I don't get how one country (Italy) can decide at one of its weakest points in history on the continued existence of a theocracy that affects the world internationally.  Granted, this happens all the time in the middle east, but I will support my position by saying I object to all theocracies, not just the Vatican. I do need to consider this more, but genuinely consider it to be a problem. 

Currently have 5 comments:

  1. Hello all,

    I am the proverbial horse's mouth and I am now gifting you with the Vatican's worst nightmare, now realized.

    The Vatican is being set up for a much bigger fall than most are expecting. Some amazingly damaging information about pivotal religious assertions is about to become widely available and understood. This child abuse scandal is merely proof of their absolute lack of veracity, before the real controversy is unsealed. Here's an early peak.

    Following is a link to a draft-preview of my upcoming new book for parties like yourself, who are more likely to make good use of the information. The next update is due out later this month.

    Finishing the Mysteries of Gods and Symbols

    Peace and Wisdom,


  2. Also: it's now Angela Meadon. :--)

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Pope protest looks like it was a fun (and very worthwhile) event. Thanks for the linkage - trying to generate some unified action sure is a difficult business, but we'll keep at it!

  4. Something I forgot to mention in the post, the photographs and video are courtesy of Alice Fuller and Marco Tranchino.