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Bible Bashing

This post is originally an article written for today’s The Student newspaper. The editors of the Comment section ripped out all the offensive remarks about religion (fair enough – their paper, their choice, and I’m grateful they printed it), so here’s the original. This has been talked about in more detail by Mike, PZ, and The Freethinker.

In the beginning, there was a Bible in every bedroom in Pollock, a gift from the Gideons. But in 2005, those nasty old secularists in the SRC had the highly sensible idea of barring such sectarian literature from being placed in the Halls. Somewhat predictably, this caused considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Christian Union (CU), who tried, and failed, to repeal this decision at a EUSA AGM in 2006. That should have been the end of the matter, but history, I’m afraid, is repeating itself.

The latest in the seemingly eternal game of religious whack-a-mole comes next Tuesday evening (17th November), as the CU table their latest motion, begging for permission to put their holy book back into your bedroom. What does their motion (available here) say? Apparently, many students ‘…have taken comfort in a Bible passage in times of distress…’ so it’s exceptionally important for them to have access to a Bible at all times.

Greater hubris hath no society than this. Even leaving aside the fact that this is the 21st Century, and every single tedious, turgid version of the Bible is available in full for free on the internet (I should be God’s PR man), the notion of a Bible in every room is groan-inducingly archaic. Edinburgh students have access to several excellent advice facilities such as Nightline or the University’s own counselling service, and I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t choose them over an ancient text seething with homophobia, misogyny and violence.

Indeed, if the CU are so concerned about the wellbeing and comfort of their fellow students, one would think they’d be frantically advertising the University’s counselling services, since they offer all-encompassing and inclusive support, no matter what your beliefs.

After all, we’d want people to be at their most composed and rational before they start thinking of big concepts like whether God exists, wouldn’t we? Or is this simply another instance of religion’s frankly disturbing recruitment strategy of pouncing, vulture-like, on people at their most vulnerable?

In their motion, the CU throw a sop to the notion of diversity by saying ‘any group or society representing any particular point of view who wish to provide literature to be placed in every room in Pollock should be allowed to do so…’ While the notion of rooms stuffed with precarious piles of books from Mein Kampf to The Da Vinci Code is highly amusing, the CU’s argument is plainly disingenuous. They know very well that they’re one of the biggest groups on campus, stuffed to the gills with filthy lucre, and no other society can possibly come close to affording books for every room. So we end up with the opposite of diversity – one group monopolising unfairly.

Here, secularism is the only way to protect diversity. Privilege no-one – then everyone’s rights are protected.

You may of course be thinking ‘what’s the big deal? A Bible in a drawer is hardly going to cause anyone any serious anguish, and Pollock students need to get their roach papers from somewhere.’ This misses the greater point, however. We already live in a society that gives enough undeserved respect to religion, without making it worse by allowing Christians to invade peoples’ private space. The CU would dearly love to be a law unto themselves, but they must not be given special dispensation to trample over the rights of everyone else.

So at Tuesday’s AGM, consider the ways, and be wise – the only way to respect diversity, tolerance, and human rights is to vote against the CU’s devious, partisan motion. This is one time when we shouldn’t turn the other cheek.

  1. Diana Cepsyte
    November 10, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Hah, full of bitterness? I understand where you’re comming from, but I keep bumping into an obsession-like thinking going against religion, so much involved into the qeuestion of God-existence that it seems to be almost advocating a belief, Chrstian or whatever other religion it would be. I find that ignoring and simply leading one’s life is really the only workable ‘solution’, to what this is focused on at any rate. Nonetheless, to say once more, I see where you’re coming from. I’ll finish here.

  2. Senny
    November 11, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Just to clarify a few things. This motion is nothing to do with the CU. Instead it has been put forward to two former members of CU. The CU does not have a stance on it and was not party to this motion being tabled.

    • Stuart Ritchie
      November 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm

      I apologise for the error (it appears we’ve been misled by EUSA, who told us it was a CU motion – this is, of course, no excuse for not checking the facts).

      However, replace each instance ‘CU’ with ‘Christians at our University’ above and every single point (if not the grammar) still stands. And you can bet the CU will be right in there if the motion passes.

      I’ll try and get something into The Student next week to correct this.

      • Senny
        November 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

        Thanks Stuart

  3. November 11, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Is the Student version up on their website? I’m interested in comparison, but can’t find it.

    The idea of using a blog to write words that newspaper editors won’t publish is an excellent way to get your message across in the way you originally intended; I occasionally play spot-the-difference with Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column and his blog.

    I wonder if “They know very well that they’re one of the biggest groups on campus, stuffed to the gills with filthy lucre” made it unedited into the paper.

    • Stuart Ritchie
      November 11, 2009 at 5:32 pm

      It’s not on the website yet, but they took the ‘filthy lucre’ bit out! So much for all my nice Bible references.

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