Millar Farr Believes Law Should Be Based on the Bible?

“How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, spoke at north and west Tyrone demonstration for Black Saturday. According to The Newsletter there were around 1,000 members of the institution on parade in 24 preceptories accompanied by 22 bands from Strabane, Castlederg and Omagh.

In his speech, Farr spoke of the adoration towards the Queen and Royal Family, as usual, while also chiming in on the issue of gay marriage stating:

“In God’s law there is no provision for same-sex marriage,” he said. “Holy scripture is quite clear on the subject – marriage is between male and female only.”

“While man-made laws can be changed, God’s law is unchangeable. How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

What else would he like to see made illegal?

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the first man to land on the Moon as commander of the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969, died today aged 82 — and he did it with less computer power that is in most mobile phones today! He was a true hero. The very act of man reaching the moon was such a vital moment to the human race, as Phil Plait of Bad Astronomer put it “we can divide all of history into two parts: before humans landed on the Moon, and after. It was not just an important moment, it was the moment… The end of homo sapiens terrestrialis and the birth of homo sapiens cosmos.”

The statement from his family reads:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

The very eloquently worded front page of The Onion on July 21 1969:

the onion front page moon landing
Click for bigger

The achievements of Neil Armstrong, and the crew of the Apollo 11 mission were far-reaching and inspire us all. As a race we extended ourselves beyond our own planet. He brought the moon to our living rooms and made a dream a reality. Despite this, he remained down-to-earth and shied away from media attention. To Neil Armstrong, Thank you.

Martin Robbins in the Guardian says:

Nobody born since 1935 has stepped on another world. Neil Armstrong’s death is a reminder that we have been screwing about for too long now – it’s time to go to Mars. It may not be rational, but we didn’t get where we are by being an entirely rational species – we did it by trying things, and failing pretty much most of the time. It’s time for someone to step up and show us all that we still have that drive, that when we have the guts to unleash that curiosity – and the guts to fail – we can still achieve greatness. Neil Armstrong’s death is wake-up call, a challenge to our generation. We can go to Mars, and it doesn’t need a miracle: we just need to decide to go.

Irish number plates to be changed to avoid “unlucky 13”

A proposal to alter the car registration system in Ireland for 2013 has been brought to government in order to avoid the “unlucky 13” superstition.

Michael Healy-Rae, South Kerry Independent TD, is getting his pitch in early. He told

“There’s people now who, we’ll say, always change their cars every two, three or four years. Take you, for instance — you might be one of these men who change their car every three years, and 2013 is your year to change. People like you are after going to the garages and saying they’ll wait until the next year before replacing their cars, simply because they did not want to drive cars carrying a number which is often thought to be unlucky.

Healy-Rae states that it is not his own way of thinking, but feels that this will ensure people will buy cars in 2013 who would otherwise have not done so due to this superstition.

In Ireland, the first two digits of the registration plate represent the last two digits of the year. Alan Nolan from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) has said that the proposed change is not only due to superstition, but that adding a further digit; 131 between January and June and 132 from July to Dec; will give a more accurate idea of the age of a car.

At the end of the day, this silly notion that people have based on an ancient superstition (triskaidekaphobia) which holds no merit in modern society, and only enforces nonsensical beliefs rather than promoting critical thought.

Story is at

Science Saved My Soul

I stumbled across this beautiful short film by YouTube user “philhellenes” which puts the universe into perspective and describes it beautifully: so poetic. It isn’t religious, but scientifically wonderful. Below is an excerpt:

“That night under the Milky Way, I who experienced it cannot call the experience a religious experience, for I know it was not religious in any way. I was thinking about facts and physics, trying to visualize what is, not what I would like there to be. There’s no word for such experiences that come through scientific and not mystical revelation. The reason for that is that every time someone has such a “mindgasm”, religion steals it simply by saying, “Ahh, you had a religious experience.” And spiritualists will pull the same shit. And both camps get angry when an atheist like me tells you that I only ever had these experiences after rejecting everything supernatural. But I do admit that after such experiences (the moments when reality hits me like a winning lottery ticket) I often think about religion… and how lucky I am that I am not religious. You want to learn something about God? Okay, this is one galaxy.

If God exists, God made this. Look at it. Face it. Accept it. Adjust to it, because this is the truth and it’s probably not going to change very much. This is how God works. God would probably want you to look at it. To learn about it. To try to understand it. But if you can’t look—if you won’t even try to understand—what does that say about your religion? As Bishop Lancelot Andrewes once said, “The nearer the church, the further from God.”

Maybe you need to run. Away from the mosque. Away from the church. Away from the priests and the Imams. Away from the Books to have any chance of finding God. Squeeze a fraction of a galaxy into your mind and then you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for. To even partially comprehend the scale of a single galaxy is to almost disappear. And when you remember all the other galaxies, you shrink 100 billion times smaller still—but then you remember what you are. The same facts that made you feel so insignificant also tell you how you got here. It’s like you become more real—or maybe the universe becomes more real. You suddenly fit. You suddenly belong. You do not have to bow down. You do not have to look away. In such moments, all you have to do is remember to keep breathing.”

Full transcript available here.


It’s #SexyALevels day again!

While have decided to call it a day, the fact still remains that the media loves attractive 18-year-old girls jumping in the air, and, boys don’t do A Levels. It is often said that ignoring issues such as this can do more good than pointing at it and giving it attention — though in the case of the Everyday Sexism Project, I think the opposite effect is occurring here and the newspapers need to answer why they do it too.

The guys behind gave a number of reasons for shutting down:

This thing has become a feedback loop. Cf. “We’re being ironically appalling”. As Chris Cook noted in the FT last year, this isn’t just something that newspapers do in isolation. The news agencies only submit the kind of pictures they think news publishers want; the photographers only take pictures they think their agencies are looking for; and the more publicity-savvy schools only pick and choose their most “beyootiful girls” to pimp out to the snappers. So it goes, right? Nobody is shocked, shocked by this stuff. But it’s sort of begun to feel like giving it a name and making it a big jolly media in-joke is only reinforcing that – what originated as a piss-take starts to feel like it’s become a pro bono branding exercise for the whole sweaty-palmed business.

Smash patriarchy, amirite? We’re dicking about here, obviously, but at the heart of this one-joke website is the tiniest, most serious core of fundamental truth: This weird boner that Fleet Street has for soft, female flesh is not OK and we all pay a psychic toll because of it. Now you’d be right to point out the psychic toll we pay is smaller than that which we pay for all the other sexist bullshit in the world, but that’s scarcely the point. It feels all enabley.

It’s likely that the attractive confident young adults who have received their results are more likely to want to post for the local press photographer, however this still does not explain the wanton need for newspaper editors to splash images of young girls all over front pages: It’s not what education qualifications/life are about.

In the news today: Sexy A Level girls:

This is the front page of the Mail Online:

And on the Mail Online’s article

The Sun also covered the girls:

Even the BBC:

As Steven Baxter of NewStatesman puts it: “It has just become a strange ritual, this yearly parade of young female flesh, a May Queen for the newspaper age. It doesn’t tell us anything about exams, or education, or anything like that.”

Not to be left out, the Belfast Telegraph also got in on the ‘girls jumping for joy holding A4 pages’ shot:

Plenty more examples are being posted on Twitter: #sexyalevels.

Ken Ham on the relevance of Genesis today

Ken Ham in Belfast

On Saturday night two of us attended a “meeting” at the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in which Australian young-Earth creationist, author, speaker, and founder of Answers in Genesis (who are behind the Creationist Museum in Kentucky), Ken Ham, spoke to the packed congregation who hung on to his every word, often murmuring in agreement and finishing his sentences when prompted (often lines from biblical scripture).

We arrived five minutes before the “meeting” (a word used often) was to begin and took our seat in the second row. Walking into the church was daunting in itself. On noticing how packed it was as we walked up the aisle we were left with no choice but to take a row which wouldn’t require crawling over people, or being close to anybody where we may be discovered as fraudsters infiltrating the group. The idea was to appear as inconspicuous as possible, though the minute the hymns began and we fumbled to find the page correct page (to look like we were taking part), followed by me getting my notebook out and jotting down every ridiculous thing Mr Ham said, I couldn’t help but think we stood out a little and that the crowd behind us at any moment would turn on us.

Obviously that would never happen as this is a civil society and the event was open to all, and naturally we would never stand up and yell abuse or argue the absurd claims made by the speaker, because we were, after all, in their place of worship — and not militant. So we sat quietly and politely and listened to what was being said. Though I couldn’t help but be overcome with frustration at the words being preached, and how they were taking it all in.

Ken Ham appears to be very friendly, often with a joke — like the one about how he could go on for millions of years on the topic — but mostly he is authoritative. He knows what he is talking about. And he has all the “facts” to back it up! The information is given in quick bursts, mixed with scriptural passages from the Old Testament; 2 Corinthians 11:3, Genesis 3:1, 1 Chronicles 12:32, Judges 21:25, Romans 10:9 etc. It’s all there in black and white.

He begins his talk by explaining about the Creationist Museum and how it walks people through the bible. He explains how they work on “the authority of the word of God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He then goes on to blame the Church for not teaching coming generations how to answer the “Sceptical questions”, this leads to doubt and ultimately disbelief. He is fixated on the idea that there is “an attack on the word of God”.

“The teaching of evolution; big bang, millions of years, that permeates the world… access to television, the internet and education systems that are organised in nations around the world in secular museums where anyone who has access to any of those has heard of evolution, millions of years… and you know what most of the churches have said? Here’s what’s happened, even pastors have told me, “I’ve told my young people ‘you can believe in evolution as long as God did it, you can believe in millions of years as long as God did it, you can believe in the big bang as long as God did it.'” They say to me, “What’s wrong with that?” You know what my answer is: it’s not what God said.”

“What happens when [a young kid] says, ‘Hey pastor/Mum and Dad, you told me to believe in evolution as long as God did it but evolution has Man from an ape-man and woman from an ape-woman and the bible has man from dust and woman from his side. Are you telling me God got it wrong?'”

“You know where the idea of millions of years came from? It came out of atheism. People trying to justify and explain the fossils without God.” Apparently secularists are “ballistic, because they have to have millions of years, “Millions of years is the anti-God religion. Millions is not in scripture,” he says. “If you reinterpret Genesis, if you try and fit millions of years in a gap [between Gen 1 and Gen 2], or millions of years in a day, when you try and add anything outside the bible you do two things: 1. you undermine the history that’s foundation of all doctrine and secondly, you undermine the very word of God.”

Naturally, Ken included a bit on the Giant’s Causeway, including images from his own visit to the new visitors centre about how evolution is “misrepresented” as fact. Apparently there is a battle between God’s word and Man’s word. In order to get his points across he uses numbers and a lot of detail, such as the fact that only 6.3% of British people are church-goers, that by college age in America ⅔ of people don’t believe in God: “People, we’re losing these kids at a young age. We need to be training these kids at a young age. Right from when they’re born. You know I think the bible even says something about that. Would you say questioning was the beginning of your doubt in the bible? Questioning. Did God really make the world in six days… But what about evolution? Little Johnny thinks, ‘If this is not true, and you’re telling me I can take the views of the world and reinterpret the bible here, maybe I can take the views of the secular scientists and reinterpret marriage too.”

“If there really was a global flood you’d expect to find billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth. And what do we find: billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth.” Science!

The basis of his talk is that we are being taken in by “Man’s word” over “God’s word” with “science” and secularists/atheists. He is frustrated with the enlightenment of the world today; television, the internet, secular education (though no mention of books and the printing press). As more and more people fall away from religion, we are listening to the word of God less and less. Sadly, the people who hear Ken Ham talk are likely to believe what he has said verbatim: though there is no Christian/Atheist battle, Atheists do not need to believe in millions of years to hold onto their “anti-God religion”. To call Atheism a religion is like calling “not collecting stamps” a hobby or “baldness” a hair colour. There is no hatred of a God that we don’t have a belief in. Personally, I have yet to meet a militant atheist, and neither Ken nor the audience in the room with us can say that there was any militant behaviour from the two atheists in the room.

Ken, and others like him, are gathering their armies. They can see that society is falling further and further away from religion and it scares them, and so he goes around churches to tell people that they need to change society as if it will happen and as if what they are saying is the truth. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ask Ken about the mixed fabrics he was wearing.

Finally, he spent 15 minutes plugging his books, DVDs, magazine — if you buy 5 today you can get them for this special price!

Listen to the audio from Ken Ham’s talk we attended here.

Jesus is Everywhere

Earlier in the week the Belfast Telegraph reported as “news” that the face of Jesus had been spotted in a tree stump. This newspaper has a very vague definition of news, but we could spend a long time discussing that. A video of the tree stump was posted on the YouTube channel of ‘bestofwest‘ with the description: “An image has appeared on a tree stump in Belfast’s City Cemetery. Upon close inspection, its hard to tell just how this image got there. Recently City Council employees trimmed trees in the cemetery, and as a result this phenomenon appeared.”

Stating where it is located they say: “Its located beside the wall which borders the Falls Park, directly behind the Feile marque which is errected in the park. If you walk up the path from the direction of the Falls, its on your right hand side”

One big problem with this “news” story is the wording: “An image of the face of Jesus Christ has appeared on a tree stump in a Belfast cemetery.” They say it like it IS the face of Jesus. While I feel ridiculous saying this, let’s just remind ourselves, and journalists, there are no images of Jesus. No one knows what he looks like. He image has not appeared on things.

But here’s some other things Jesus has appeared on:

Jesus on a dog’s butt

Jesus shadow

Jesus on a stingray

Another tree

Jesus on a Marmite lid

Jesus on tea towel

There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good- will to every thing, that hurts or pleases us. — David Hume, ‘The Natural History of Religion’

This is also known as Pareidolia; a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. This is not news and people who see these things should not be encouraged or indeed duped into thinking that they have seen something significant, this simply furthers the problem of a lack of critical and scientific thought.

This is not news.

Ken Ham on Tour in Belfast

Evangelical Australian young-Earth creationist, Ken Ham, is taking his tour around various churches in Northern Ireland next week. Ham, along with others, set up the Creation Science Foundation in Queensland, though this sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to me. He later founded the Creation Science Ministries, later renamed Answers in Genesis. The Christian ministry specialises in young Earth creationism and promotes the belief that the initial chapters in Genesis should be taken as literally true and historically accurate.

On his website Ken answers many of the tough questions such as ‘What really happened to the dinosaurs?‘ and ‘was there really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?’. He refers to the idea of “millions of years” as a “disease”, answers the age-old question ‘why did God create us’, ‘why we don’t all have the same skin colour?’ And many others. He also includes many pictures and charts to aid his “scientific*” explanations. *Bible

noah's ark

It is through Ken’s Answers in Genesis that he is touring his conferences.

August 11th: Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church, Belfast.
8-9pm ‘The Relevance of Genesis in Today’s Culture’

August 12th: Newtownbreda Baptist Church, Belfast.
11am-12noon ‘The Relevance of Genesis in Today’s Culture’

August 12th: Ballygowan Free Presbyterian Church, Ballygowan, Co.Down.
7-8pm ‘Six Days and the Authority of Scripture’

August 13th: Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast.
8-9pm ‘Death, Suffering, and a Loving God’

If anyone would like to join us to any of the talks leave a comment below.
We will be attending the Talks on Sunday 12th and Monday 13th.

We attended the event on Saturday night at the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church. It was certainly an experience. Full write-up to come on the blog.

Happy Pride

The Belfast Pride Parade takes place today!

The parade happens for a number of reason, many of which are listed in the guest posts featured on the blog this week. I can barely choose one or two to single out, though I will say that pride is about visibility. About showing that LGBT people are all around and not to be ignored, but accepted as people who should never be discriminated against. And whilst it is not illegal to be gay in this part of the world, homophobia is still a large problem. We also parade for those people in other parts of the world who can not be open about their sexuality, and who face punishment for being who they are: imprisonment and even death, whether legal or not.

So come out. Celebrate and demonstrate. Wear bright colours. Be happy. Be gay. Or straight.


Pride Breakfast
Northern Whig 10am
Just around the corner from the parade starting point, there will be food and early morning fun!

The Parade
Begins at 12noon from Custom House Square.
The Belfast Pride parade is the largest cross community carnival parade in Belfast and definitely one of the most talked about. The starting point for the parade is Custom House Square. The community, family & retail area at the Lagan Lookout will be open from 11am with the parade starting off at 12 noon SHARP!

A group of gay (and gay friendly) Christians, under the banner of Faith and Pride, will be supporting the parade along its route. They will be gathered outside St Georges Church, High Street from 10.30am.

Party in the Square
Custom House Square opens at 11am.
Have a drink, mingle, eat, and have fun.
Music and entertainment on stage.

Families in the Square
Beside the Lagan Lookout/Big Fish there will be a quieter alcohol-free area for families/kids and generally chilling out. Also this is where you can get all the info on the community and political groups who do stuff to help improve the rights and general equality of all people, including those who are in the LGBT community.
There will also be wifi hotspots and electrical goods charging points!

Bottom line: Have fun and don’t be a dick.

‘Pride Comes Before Social Change’ by Fidelma Carolan

fidelma coralanFidelma Carolan is a Regional Officer with UNISON whose primary focus is on lifelong learning. A former President of the University of Ulster Student’s Union, she has over 15 years experience working with the women’s and youth sectors in a variety of managerial and consultancy roles. She has been an active advocate for lesbian, gay, bi and trans rights over many years and is co-author of the ‘Shout – The Needs of Young LGBT People in Northern Ireland’ report.

For me Pride is an opportunity to be visible within wider society, highlight the diversity within our community and enable friends and families to show their support. I was involved in the Pride committee in the mid 90s and there are now more stewards walking than we had in the entire parade. We ducked the odd bottle and suffered verbal abuse from people on the sidelines and saw so many LGB&T people watching, perhaps wishing they could be part of it, perhaps wishing we wouldn’t draw attention to us and to them.

Through the 90s I volunteered with the AIDS helpline, was on committees about lesbian health and setting up an LGB&T centre, graffitied ‘lesbians are lovely’ around Belfast, learned how to eat fire with the lesbian avengers, delivered anti-homophobia training to the RUC, responded to over one hundred Section 75 equality schemes and danced a lot at the Duke of York. HIV+ is now a condition you live with, not die from, the Public Health Agency included lesbians and bisexual women in their most recent screening booklet, there are LGB&T Centres in Belfast, Newry and Strabane, the Policing Board launched their thematic LGB&T action plan, Section 75 has forced public authorities to respond to our existence, lesbians are still lovely and I still dance.

In 2003, I co-authored the Shout report with Sharon Redmond, which looked at the needs of young LGB&T people in Northern Ireland. It was the largest sample size at the time and even I was shocked at the statistics which highlighted significant levels of self harm and having been medicated for depression linked directly to their experience of growing up in a society which told them they were deviant, perverse and not normal. The stories which participants shared about the isolation and bullying they endured in school, often with tacit and sometimes overt consent from those charged with their care, was heartbreaking.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are still generally invisible in workplaces, within families, in sport, in politics, in the media, in schools, in business and in the public sector. This makes it easy for us to be pigeon holed, it is easy for critics to focus on what we do in bed and they don’t mean sleep, read the papers and occasional breakfasts. We are defined by sexual practices, not the holistic nature of our lives. I am lucky, I have always worked for organisations where I felt it was safe to be out, perhaps I chose that career pathway for that reason. It is essential for me to be able to talk about what myself and my partner Eileen did at the weekend, about the puppy we fostered who is now a permanent feature, about what our nieces said and about concerns for elderly parents. Though as well as being important for me, it is also an incredibly effective way of challenging people’s ideas of who we are and how we live. Try having a conversation in work about rows over housework if you want to get people on your side. Recently on twitter I started a series of tweets about conversations between myself and my wife to demonstrate the banality of lesbian life.

But still too many people censor themselves and the impact on someone’s wellbeing cannot be underestimated. The Rainbow Project’s research indicated that around one quarter of people were not out at work, some smaller scale research within the health service here found that 52% of staff were not completely out in the workplace. Surely with the leaps in legislative change where we are now have civil partnerships and protection in employment, training, goods and services, this is startling? Perhaps not when this year the Equality Commission’s research exposed that 27% of people didn’t want an LGB person living beside them rising to 40% if you are transgender. This increased again in the question about having a LGB person as an in-law where 42% would be unhappy and 53% if their in-law was transgender. I contended on the Stephen Nolan show that it was likely that many of those who responded negatively had certainly never met a trans person and had limited real life exposure to lesbian, gay or bisexual people. Lord Maginnis who was also on the Show albeit by phone, commented that gay people were dangerous to children. The only danger I would be to a child is if they ate something I cooked.
This is why visibility is so important. We need more role models, we need those in senior positions in business and public sector to be out, so people don’t pick the organisation where they will be safe, but the job which they can contribute to most, we need sports people, so aspiring competitors don’t live in fear of being outed, we need teachers and youth leaders to be able to be themselves because of the influence they can have on the environment young people grow up in and we need more people in a range of media roles so they can reach entire populations.

Pride is an important part of that visibility, it may be just once a year but it is not just one day, it is an entire programme of political, educational, social and cultural activities. It stimulates debate within our own community and provides an interface to engage with others. While the media photos will probably be of the effervescent drag queens, who as always bring fabulous colour and feathers to every parade, there will lesbian and gay couples walking with their children, sports groups, faith organisations, staff from the Health & Social Care, trade unions, Amnesty International supporters, in fact people walking from every facet of life. Many will be walking for those who can’t. I walk for that young person who feels isolated, different and alone, for the person in a workplace who feels forced to lie about who they are, for the transgender person who doesn’t feel part of our community and for those who are no longer with us.

“Pride makes us long for a solution to things – a solution, a purpose, a final cause; but the better telescopes become, the more stars appear.” — Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

Fidelma Carolan is a Regional Organiser with UNISON and an Equality Commissioner. You can follow her on twitter @fid1dec.

References for Research
Matthew McDermott, Rainbow Project (2011) ‘Through Our Eyes – Experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in the Workplace.
Equality Commission (2012) Do You Mean Me?
There is no published report from the staff survey carried out by the Public Health Agency on LGB&T people’s experience working in Trusts and regional health organisation, it was used to inform a response to issues raised by Trade Unions. However, as a consequence, there is now a forum for staff who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. You can join the confidential email list by sending details to or follow them on twitter @LGBT_StaffForum