Wednesday, 15 February 2017

More KTI

From Exposing Britain First:

For those who don't know. Jim Dowson is also the man behind Br*tain F*rst and has been putting all the funds raised on his KTI page to use by forming a militia to 'patrol' the borders of Hungary.

No surprises to learn that Dowson and Nick Griffin (former leader of the far right BNP) teamed up to join a fascist group in Europe or that Jayda has a property in Hungary.

If you donate to Br*tain F*rst or KTI, this is where your money is going.

"The Knights Templar International has been advertising homes in Asotthalom on its Facebook page.

Its members include Nick Griffin, former leader of the British National Party, and the party's former treasurer Jim Dowson.  

Mr Toroczkai explains:
I have been contacted by Jim Dowson.  He came to Asotthalom a few times as a private individual, just to have a look. Nick Griffin also came with him.
Also featured on Victoria Derbyshire 7th Feb:

A Hungarian village is leading "the war against Muslim culture" with its own…

Monday, 13 February 2017


What Caused the Oroville Dam Crisis? Some Christians Online Blame CA Liberals for Defying God

From Friendly Atheist by Hemant Mehta:

Last week, in northern California, the situation at the Oroville Dam became potentially life-threatening when the emergency spillway began eroding. If the dam breaks, it could devastate the region, leading officials to force nearly 200,000 residents to evacuate the area over the weekend.

Why did this happen? Was it poor engineering? A lack of infrastructure updates over the years?

If you ask some Christians online, they’ll tell you God did it to punish liberal California for defying Him.

To state the obvious, the current political affiliations of Californians had nothing to do with this. The millions of fake voters conservatives claim live in the state had nothing to do with this. God didn’t cause this. And the Antichrist didn’t cause this.

In fact, there seems to be a battle online between Christians who say God did this to punish Californians, Christians asking God to help the people in the region, and Christians praising God for not causing the dam to burst.

None of them point out that tornados have devastated some of the most religious states in the nation. (God like throwing us off His trail, I suppose…)

Maybe if we cared more about maintaining infrastructure than wasting money on unnecessary projects elsewhere, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Knights Templar International: Fascists in Knighties

Just when you think the far-right's obsession with dreamy mythological Aryan knights on Crusade has been laughed out of court, here come the Knights Templar International. 

Could this be another fascist front?  The endorsement by the nauseating Paul Golding of Britain First is a clue.  Yes.  

Further digging by International Report Bigotry and Fascism reveals every sign that the repulsive fundamentalist Jim Dowson and discredited ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin are also involved.  Never let it be said that a far-right money-making scheme should escape their greediness.  Membership for £59 and T-shirt for £29.95?  Give me a break.  What mugs would pay that?  Oh yes, the lost white middle-aged men of the British far right.  Here are two of them in their knighties:

Knights were a favourite of the late unlamented EDL, appearing all over members' FB pages and in websites such as the East Anglian EDL and East Anglian Patriots.

We have had a good laugh at this childish retreat to misty British mythologising before.  Time for a reminder:


This one lives with "honor". Is it an American knight? The US did not have knights, right? Is it a knight character from a foreign video game?

The non-British spelling is a strange choice for anyone calling himself an English patriot.

The East Anglian Patriots have their own logo featuring two knights bent as if in prayerful homage to a - dragon? But isn't the Medieval dragon of the West a symbol of all that is base in Humankind, the evil that knights are sworn to vanquish through strength and self-discipline?

And yet here the East Anglian EDL appear to worship the dragon, which for a real knight is Evil personified, to be crushed beneath the feet. Or is Welsh.

Some other pictures used by members of the East Anglian EDL are harder to fathom. What do you make of this strange image?

It's the same knight, but not bowing to a dragon this time.  Here metaphors are mixed and eras are scrambled with the gayest of abandon, as a Crusader in a dirty tabard kneels to Jesus on the pebbled shores of some northern lake.

Is the Crusader seeking forgiveness for violence done, or benediction? Is this the Jesus of "righteous anger" or the "Love thine enemy" version? Is the Crusader dead and meeting judgement? It is a creepy picture for many reasons.

And then the pictures change from weird to downright laughable, such as the one above.

It seems to feature a crowned Aslan and an armed Jesus, flanked by two knights, all in a muddle. One shield with a cross of St George is evidently not enough, two appear with no regard to design, balance or allegorical sense.

Obviously this has nothing to do with the EDL, it is the Narnian Defence League, Wardrobe Division.

The BNP were brought down in part by the derision that greeted their undignified antics, one of which was their unforgettable Colander Knight, seen here with Nick Griffin:

In East Anglia we have our own knights, real men of rich lives, rather than images from foreign comic books, non-English gaming characters or in costumes made from Mum's curtains and a kitchen implement.

How about Sir Clement Paston of Oxnead?

You that behold this stately marble tombe, 
And long to know, who here entombed lyes, 
Here rests the corps, and shall 'till day of dome, 
Of Clement Paston, fortunate and wise; 
Fourth son to old Sir William Paston, Knight, 
Who dwells with God in sphere of christal bright.
Of Brutus race princes he served four, 
In peace and war, as fortune did command.
Sometimes by sea, and sometime on the shore, 
The French and Scot he often did withstand, 
A Pere of France, in spight of all his betters, 
He took in fight, and brought him home in fetters.
Oxnede he buildt, in which he lived long, 
With great renowne for feeding of the poor, 
To frinds, a frind, of foes he took no wrong, 
Twice forty years he lived, and somewhat more, 
And at the last by dombe of hie beheste, 
His soul in heaven, his body here doth rest.
Obt. 18 Febr. 1597.

But the fascists are oblivious to local history and the traditions of real knights. They are not interested in the very English history or culture they profess to defend.  They do not see that for most we were the villains of the Crusades.

Rather they are content to tootle along lost in their own fantasy world where EDL "knights" frighten sixteen year old girls and attack critical bloggers like me with foul-mouthed threats.

In reality the self-described "knights" of the far right are cowards, deluding themselves with confused imagery of valour and courage, when their actual reaction to any real problem or challenge is simple:

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Woodwose of Norfolk

I'm a Norfolk Humanist, but that does not stop me from enjoying the beauty, ingenuity and diversity of Church Art.  So many churches in Norfolk, and so much to discover.  Like Woodwose, for example.
The woodwose, woodhouse or woodwo, the wild man of the woods, was a popular mediaeval folklore figure, dressing in a lion's skin and in this case carrying a heavy club and shield -

The Ludham Woodwose.  There is also a very
rare carving of a female woodwose on this font.
I found two carvings of hairy men with clubs on the misericordia of Norwich Cathedral and took these pictures (with permission and on paying a small fee in the Cathedral shop). 

They are extraordinary images to find in a cathedral, and one can only speculate at the motives of the wood carvers.  Were they paying homage to older religions?  Were they hedging their bets with the Gods?

As you can see, the representations of "unregenerate" or unsaved man are not unsympathetic.  The figures seem healthy and well fed, even smiling slightly. What do they mean in their context?  Are they the secret messages of sceptics who could not otherwise express their doubts regarding the Christian message? 

Anton Wessels in his book "Europe:  Was it Ever Really Christian?" asks the same question from the Christian point of view, and acknowledges the strength of the Graeco-Roman, Celtic and even earlier influences, through enduring myths and legends still vivid even when Christianity was at its strongest.  

These woodwose are a joke, in my view, a wink from the past to fellow sceptics who do not take religion too seriously -

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Miracles on Elm Street?

The Curious History of Father Ignatius 1837 - 1908

By Nick Williams 
From Norwich Heritage, Economic and Regeneration Trust:

The plaque on the site of the short-lived Benedictine monastery

Joseph Leycester Lyne, later known as Father Ignatius, was one of the more colourful and controversial characters in the history of Norwich. A preacher and mystic he established a Benedictine monastery in Elm Hill in 1863. Within 3 years it had been closed amidst accusations of fraud and allegations of degenerate behaviour.

A fragile child

Born in London, one of seven children, Lyne was a fragile child who suffered ill health for most of his life, suffering repeated nervous breakdowns and bouts of what appears to have been nervous exhaustion. At school he was known by his fellows as 'saintly Lyne' but he appears to have had a mental strength and a precocious interest in spiritual matters. Whilst at St Pauls school he suffered a severe beating at the hands of 'an elderly clerical pedagoge' which resulted in a nervous breakdown with the perpetrator being dismissed from his teaching post by the school.

In 1856 he was accepted as a divinity student by Trinity College at Glenalmond in Scotland - the fees apparently paid by a female admirer after the refusal of his father to find the money. After leaving the college due to illness he subsequently held positions in churches in Scotland and Plymouth where he founded a monastic order known as 'the Society of the Love of Jesus' headed by himself with the title of Father Joseph. His behaviour brought him into conflict with the established church and with some of the parishioners. His stay at Plymouth ended following another bout of illness.

Following his recovery Lyne spent 9 months in 1862 at a church serving a poor area of east London. By now he had begun wearing a monk's habit and that along with his evangelical zeal, attracted opposition and support in equal measure. During his short stay in the east end there is a report of him confronting the customers of a rowdy public house declaring that 'We must all appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ'.

In 1862 he moved to Claydon, near Ipswich, where he established a Benedictine community in an unused wing of the rectory. The arrival of Lyne, now calling himself Father Ignatius, along with his preaching and proselytising provoked strong local reaction - including threats of violence. Within a few months of arriving at Claydon Father Ignatius was asked by the rector to leave.

The Elm Hill monastery

His next venture was the establishment of a Benedictine community as a monastery in Norwich later in 1862. They occupied a property on Elm Hill, described as being in poor condition and requiring much work to make it habitable; the building, number 14 Elm Hilll still stands. It was brought with the proceeds of a speaking tour throughout England and Wales undertaken by Ignatius. The house was purchased for £500, with a deposit of £50 being paid and the balance to be paid off in small instalments. The house became known as the Priory of St Mary and St Dunstan and opened in January 1863 when it accommodated Ignatius, one of his colleagues and a dog. Money being short, they apparently existed on a diet of bread and potatoes at first.

The preaching of Father Ignatius soon attracted support and donations to keep fed and clothe him and his colleagues. He also attracted opposition - particularly when he and his supporters processed to hold mass at the church of St Laurence on St Benedicts Street. Services at the monastery suffered from interruption from anti-Catholic elements. His stay in Norwich saw the attribution of miracles to him - reportedly including the curing of an epileptic, the ending of toothache and insomnia in a sufferer and the restoration of hair to a young boy. There was a less benevolent side to these 'miraculous events' as they also included the sudden and unexplained death of a woman who had blasphemed Father Ignatius as he passed by in the street.

The Benedictine community in Elm Hill continued to attract support - holding a parade through Norwich on Ascension Day in 1864 followed by a service on St Andrews Plain and a pilgrimage of some 400 people to Walstons Well outside Norwich. Work began on a new church building to hold these worshippers. This building became known as the Monastery Hall and exists today, standing between the Norwich School of Art & Design and the Monastery car park.

The Norwich Scandal

This progress was not to be maintained. In 1865 there were newspaper reports of a 'Norwich Scandal' featuring an inappropriate relationship between a novice monk and a young boy in the care of the monastery. There was further unfavourable publicity following an internal dispute about leadership of the monastery. Finally, in the spring of 1866, a disagreement over ownership of the monastery buildings saw the monastic community dispersed and the buildings sold, much to the chagrin of Father Ignatius who spent the next 12 years in a fruitless legal action to regain ownership. He also took more direct action, twice taking possession of the building, once gaining access by what he described as 'miraculous intervention'. But his actions proved fruitless as he was ejected on both occasions.

Door to the old monastery at 14 Elm Hill

He clearly retained some support in Norwich and returned to speak on several occasions - in March 1890 holding a mission service at the Agricultural Hall before preaching to 'a crowded congregation at the Church of St John de Sepulchre' in Ber Street. His last recorded public appearance in the city was in March of 1894 when he spoke to 'a crowded audience' at the Agricultural Hall.

Llanthony Abbey

Father Ignatius moved to London where, with the help of his female supporters, he established another Benedictine monastery in a house at Laleham, near Staines. Within 3 years, in 1869, he had bought land in south Wales where he built Llanthony Abbey - paid for by his supporters and the proceeds of his speaking tours.

He continued to attract controversy during his time at Llanthony until his death on October 1908. He was buried in the abbey grounds. The monastery remained open for only a short time after his death and subsequently fell into disrepair.

Only wondering why such a man and his strange ministry is commemorated in Norwich.  Perhaps as the shortest-lived monastery ever?  But I'm glad he is remembered, it's a good story.   

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Local hero John Hurt

In 2010 the acclaimed actor John Hurt told the Times:

I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. 

Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f*** up everything.
In this cautious attitude towards religions, in his risk-taking and compassionate portrayals of controversial figures such as Joseph Merrick the "Elephant Man", and Quentin Crisp the "Naked Civil Servant", John Hurt was a Humanist.  In his zest for life and in his important patronage of local sports and arts, John Hurt was a great local Humanist.

Tribute from Craig Murray, once candidate for Norwich North:

Homosexuality was a criminal offence in the UK until I was nine years old. Attitudes towards gay people remained extremely hostile in much of society even after it was legalised for people over 21 in 1967. At school, I am sorry to say I shared to a large extent in the sneering and intolerant culture that was prevalent at that time.

In an age where there were just three television channels and nobody watched one of them, a new television play was a major event that could reach a mass audience in the way nothing can today. That is partly why Ken Loach had even more political effect with Cathy Come Home than with I, Daniel Blake. I am convinced that John Hurt’s towering performance in The Naked Civil Servant changed society. It brought the individual confrontations Quentin Crisp had engineered his entire life, and expanded them to confront half of the nation with the existence, and right to dignity, of gay people.

Of course Crisp himself was the hero, but John Hurt took a career threatening risk in taking the part and showed great courage and conviction. Hurt’s ability to manipulate the palette of courage, arch wit, and vulnerability that the role required gave the drama its impact, and propelled it with a shocking force I don’t believe any other actor could have managed.

I am not gay, but in a kind of solidarity I immediately adopted as a boy a number of Quentin Crisp’s mannerisms, including the long fingernails, hair and velvet jacket! I persisted with this for a great many years. A group of us at school adopted similar style, though I don’t recall ever discussing the Crisp influence. In 1978 I was delighted to meet Quentin Crisp, still pushing the boundaries by performing to a Dundee pub.

It was always a joy thereafter to see John Hurt appear in anything. We all have to die, and there is no point in getting maudlin about the death of celebrities. But I thought The Naked Civil Servant effect worth recording.

The EDP reported 28th January that "Norwich supporters lead a mass applause at Carrow Road in tribute to Sir John Hurt"

(This) sporting tribute to the Hollywood star was announced on the Norwich City website. It said: 
Everyone at Norwich City Football Club was saddened to hear of the passing of Sir John Hurt at the age of 77.

Sir John lived in north Norfolk and became strongly affiliated with the Canaries, often cheering on the team at Carrow Road as a fan and as a guest of the directors.

The Bafta-winning actor also developed strong links in the local community as chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts and patron of Cinema City.
John Hurt's versatility as an actor is celebrated here.  He will be missed, not least in Norfolk for his humanistic values of tolerance for human diversity and mistrust of religion, and for his important work supporting sports and championing the Arts in Norfolk.