Editorial

Dogma or debate

It’s election time again here in the UK. An opportunity, so the pundits are always telling us, for the British public to engage in the crucial debate about the choice of who will govern and what policies will be enacted in the next four or five years.

Am I just a tad pedantic – cynical even – in believing that for there to be any meaningful debate about anything there has to be a divergence of position, a fundamental difference of opinion? If you like, a choice. For example, all the major contenders are, as usual, trying to outdo and score points off their rivals over who is going to spend more or tax less. But can you ever remember being offered the choice of not paying compulsorily taxes at all? I don’t think so. Instead, all the fuss is about half a percent more or less here or there, not about the really big question of whether compulsory taxation by the State is actually legitimate. You might care to ponder under what authority tax is extracted from the people at all, a process that, if conducted by any other body or organisation, would be called extortion and rightly condemned as unlawful and immoral. Seriously, if anyone can tell me under which Act of Parliament this is legally done, please do so.

If paying taxes were of such obvious benefit, why would coercion be necessary, unless, of course, you believe that human beings are corrupt, self-serving, untrustworthy creatures who cannot be allowed to determine their own affairs. But you are a humanist. How could you believe such a thing? I think most thoughtful people will probably have noticed that human beings are at their best and most benign as individuals and very small groups. The trouble starts when groups get too big. Somehow, our humanity seems to diminish in proportion to the size of the group until you end up with a totally dehumanised chimera called the State. True, big groups of people can do bad things, but it takes the State to commit the real atrocities such as the illegal and unjustified war on Iraq. It wasn’t in the Labour Party’s manifesto, the British people didn’t vote for it and in fact protested against it in enormous numbers, but it still happened. If you are looking for corrupt, self-serving and untrustworthy, look no further than the Government. Maybe in the end it doesn’t matter whom you vote for, who gets in, it’s still the government that wins – and that’s the root of the problem.

In his “Vote seXuality” feature Andy Armitage takes a look at whether being gay influences the way people vote. He asked the eight main political parties fielding candidates in the UK General Election a simple question: “What can your party offer to the LGBT community that other parties cannot or will not?”. Only three of the parties bothered to reply at all: the BNP, the Green Party and, very belatedly, the Labour Party. The fullest response came from the BNP. They pointed out the growing menace to gay people in Britain from the burgeoning Islamic culture. I certainly think they are right in this but can take little comfort in their nihilistic attitude to gay people and gay issues. It is naïve to imagine that anything but continued discrimination, misery and further suffering will result for gay people under such a regime. That said, they have at least promised not to torture and murder us, which is more than can be guaranteed by the other parties who seem blind to the growing Islamic menace in Britain.

Pretty damned unequal

Personally, I’m not really sure why a gay person would vote Labour. Surely, after 13 years of Labour government gay people are about as equal as they are ever going to be under Labour, which is pretty damned unequal. And, of course, they seem recently to have adopted the Pope as policy adviser, so don’t hold out too many hopes. As for voting Conservative, well, you would have to have severe cognitive problems even to consider this as an option. That’s pretty much what Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, the Tory gay group leader, thinks, too, as she’s announced she’s voting Labour!

Peter Tatchell too, is far from impressed by the platitudes coming from the Tories as he reports in his “Big Gay Flashmob” article. The election theme is continued in our “Out of Print” feature, which is taken from the Summer 1997 issue of G&LH, in which Terry Sanderson assessed the gay law reform prospects following the election of Tony Blair’s Labour government earlier that year. Steven Dean seems to have an opinion on almost everything, and this time he gives us an insight to how he chooses whom to vote for. As you would expect, there’ll be an “X” in it somewhere!

HIV = AIDS?

HIV-AIDS is another subject that still arouses heated debate, much of it no better informed than the political kind. As in politics, there are distinct bounds to what may be questioned and discussed. In particular, any suggestion that HIV may not cause AIDS is met with a tirade of abuse and much frothing of mouths and gnashing of teeth from the AIDS establishment. That question has been answered, they cry; move on.

Well that’s a funny sort of science they’re peddling that stops asking questions. Actually, no, it isn’t science at all: it’s dogma. Just imagine what these people would have done to that famous upsetter of Newtonian apple carts, Albert Einstein! Of course, scientific knowledge is always provisional, never final and always being revised, while dogma is certain, final and permanent. Not surprisingly, attacks on the substance of dogma result usually in either silence or personal attacks on the dissenters.

Nowhere is this trait more evident than in the “debate” over what causes AIDS. A recent attack of this kind was made in the November/December 2009 issue of the British publication New Humanist by an AIDS establishmentarian Seth Kalichman, a clinical psychologist, who has written several books on AIDS. Kalichman uses both approaches in his article. First, he mounts a scurrilous ad hominem attack on a number of well-known HIV-AIDS dissidents, and then urges his readers never to enter into a debate with dissenters about the facts surrounding the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.

Outraged

One reader of Kalichman’s article, HIV-AIDS dissident John Lauritsen, was understandably outraged by what Kalichman had said and asked the New Humanist editor, Caspar Melville, for the right of reply. For reasons best known to Melville and New Humanist, this perfectly reasonable request was denied. In this issue’s “AIDS critics” article we have given Lauritsen the space to make the rebuttal that he was denied by New Humanist.

Though hardly radical by freethought standards, debate within the Church of England has been rumbling on within that stalwart of dogma for the past decade or so. There has been a head-on collision between the traditional hard-line dogmatists of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the slightly less dogmatic “liberal” reformers. The anti-reform backlash has been marshalled by a group called, in true Orwellian fashion, “Reform”. In his feature, Church’s end, Neil Richardson laments the influence of these hardliners and remembers fondly the “tolerant and easygoing C of E” of his youth, an image, or perhaps illusion, not too familiar to many gay people.

Whether or not Richardon’s view of the Church of England is true, I doubt that he would see the Catholic Church in such a vignetted way. The Roman Church has been waging war on humanity, and particularly gay people, for centuries. Many people feel that this evil seat of hateful dogma is guilty, quite literally, of crimes against humanity.

Arrest the Pope

What more appropriate action could there be then, than to arrest the current Mr Big himself? But will someone really arrest Pope Ratzinger? In his feature, “Arresting the Pope”, Andy Armitage assesses the likelihood of success for this audacious plan. The mounting evidence of Ratzinger’s involvement in at least concealing child abuse within his Church would seem to be good enough grounds alone for his indictment.

In his “Priestley abuse” article, Andrew John discusses the impact of a letter from the 1980s alleging that Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, counselled against the defrocking of a California priest, putting the unity of the universal church first and asks, “Where does it all go from here?”

Sometimes it seems that the world at large is rife with homophobia wherever you look. Many of us harbour the dark thought that, with the resurgence of radical religion across the world, things are getting worse. Though I don’t altogether share his optimism, author Narvel Annable counsels against being too negative. In his short article, “House of homophobia”, he cites much to give us hope and says that “the House of Homophobia, like a house of cards, is fast falling.” I hope he’s right.

Social-awareness campaigns

Continuing in a more optimistic vein, gay-rights campaigner Mirka Makuchowska tells us of the extremely active Polish gay rights organization, Kampania Przeciw Homofobii,of which she is currently secretary. The organisation was set up in 2001 as a national public-benefit organisation and has since worked in many areas and specialises in large educational and social-awareness campaigns.

One of its current campaigns is for a Polish civil-partnership bill. It intends to create a photograph exhibition of gay couples in other European countries who have legalised their partnerships, juxtaposed with pictures of Polish gay couples who would like to do the same but are prevented from doing so by Polish law. In support of this, George Broadhead and Roy Saich of the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) have supplied photographs and a brief account of their civil partnership registration in 2006.

This issue see the first of our new-look news feature, “The full story”, which replaces the long-running “News Watch” and “World Watch” features. The intention is to provide a more integrated view of chosen news stories worldwide in an attempt to join up the news dots, as it were. Dean Braithwaite and George Broadhead have the full story.

Blogwatch this time focuses on the blog of Derren Brown, who will have been seen on UK television by many readers. For those who don’t know of him, he’s an illusionist extraordinaire, a mentalist and a painter. And he’s a sceptic.

Another well-known illusionist is James Randi, who at the age of 81 has recently come out as gay. In his feature, “An amazing escape”, John Brand takes a closer look at Randi and how he decided to come out. Warren Allen Smith also has something to say about Randi in his “Gossip from across the Pond” article, in which he tells us of his correspondence with Randi following his coming-out.

To the woods

Last issue we presented an article by Neil Richardson about woodland burials. This article discussed the more ecologically sound choice of burial that is becoming more and more popular. Also becoming popular are nonreligious ceremonies, not just funerals but birth and wedding ones, too. George Broadhead takes a look at what’s on offer in his feature, “Exit strategy”.

As always, we hope you’ll feel the urge to write to us if you have something to say. Please see our Contact page for details of how to get in touch. We would be particularly interested to hear from you if you have an article or letter you would like published.

Whatever you have to say, we’d love to hear from you.

Mike Foxwell
Editor