Time for reflection on David Robertson’s blog posts!

On Friday 24th January 2014, the Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland issued a joint statement and press release in response to the ScottishDavid_Robertson_4thought_thumb Secular Society’s petition on religious observance.

Without delay an immediate tirade of abuse began to radiate from Dundee – in the guise of Facebook’s very own David Robertson (pictured right).

So nimble fingered is his reverence that he managed to fire off three blog posts on the issue before the ink had even began to dry on the joint statement.

You can read my analysis and response below.

David’s original blog posts on the subject are, in chronological order:

  1. Et Tu Kirka? Reflections on the Church of Scotland’s new alliance with the Humanist Society (25-Jan-14)
  2. Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society. (27-Jan-14)
  3. An Open Letter to C of S Evangelicals in the light of the C of S/Humanist Debacle (28-Jan-14)

So, lets take each post one-by-one and have a look.

  1. The first post, issued less that 24hrs after the original release, and without (as far as I can tell) speaking to anyone involved, started with the gentle suggestion:

“If anyone doubted the corruption that is at the very heart of the Church of Scotland (and the reason that Church is dying and deserves to die), then todays joint press release from the Church and the Humanist Society, should remove any such doubts.”

So, after that gentle start, and a subtle reminder about his opposition to gay ministers (well, why not!), David then goes onto describe the fact that the proposed change of legislation would exclude a ‘confessional’ approach, and not allow for ‘worship’ in schools.  That is of course true.  It has been in the guidelines from the Scottish Government since 2005, although without the backing of statute, led to many cases where the guidelines weren’t followed.  It has also been the policy of the Church of Scotland to follow these guidelines since 2005, the main change the joint statement made was a request to have these guidelines enshrined in law, removing their voluntary nature.

David then goes on to stick the boot into the Church of Scotland, citing the fact that they are loosing 20,000 members per year – although from my calculations (based on the 2001 vs. 2011 census) it’s more like 43,000 per year. I can’t comment on their finances, although things do look good for the future of JD Weatherspoon in Scotland.

David then goes on to reflect that the petition by the Scottish Secular Society is, in his opinion, ‘far more adept at advancing the secular agenda’. High praise indeed! I suppose it would just be too much for David to suppose that although there are many groups in Scotland which campaign for a secular society; Edinburgh Secular Society, National Secular Society, Scottish Secular Society & Humanist Society Scotland (not to mention the large number of local and university groups) – it may just be the case that different groups of people have different views about how to achieve our common vision.

David seems intent to portray these organisations as mutually exclusive and combatant, which isn’t true.  The Scottish Secular Society are partners with the Humanist Society Scotland in the My Death, My Life, My Choice campaign.  The Humanists in turn partnered with Edinburgh Secular Society in their petition to remove unelected religious representatives, which is in-turn supported by the Scottish Secular Society.

Despite differences of approach, it seems only reasonable to join together with other groups in order to achieve a common goal.

The next argument is a particular favourite of mine:

“We have a church that is now collaborating with the atheists to prevent Christian worship and prayers happening in a State education system – a system created by the churches when they handed over their schools on condition that they remained specifically Christian.”

This is an argument that David has used before. You can see from a brief history of the Scottish education system, which I wrote, that the Church did play a major role in the establishment of Scotland’s schools (that Church originally being the Roman Catholic one, before the Reformation). It’s also clear that the main purpose of educating boys (yes, boys) in those days, was training for the clergy and knowledge of the scriptures (y’know… because God only spares you Hell if you can read his biog).

Education began to be funded by local taxes in 1633, and in 1872 the majority of schools were taken over by the secular State, who have (through tax-payers) been building, funding and staffing them since!  The idea that there was a ‘deal’ done that schools must remain Christian is a bizarre invention of David’s imagination.  If such a thing was possible, then the idea of democracy is redundant, and we may as well close Parliament and spend the money on more bibles!

Tis’ true that the Humanist Society Scotland provides chaplains to a range of institutions, including schools, universities and hospitals. Some non-religious people find this hard to agree with, and many struggle with the term ‘chaplain’ due to its religious connotations. I’m mostly impartial, I don’t think it’s something which I can ever imagine making use of. I am persuaded by Chris Stedman’s arguments on this matter, which stress the need for humanist involvement in the ‘interfaith’ movement. The one big difference between HSS chaplains and some religious chaplains is that HSS does not take any state funding for its chaplains, all are volunteers and expense costs are met from its own central budget.  As opposed to the £30,000 that the Roman Catholic Church took last year for chaplaincy in NHS Lothian hospitals alone!

When considering what to do next (the eventual answer being to write more angry blogs), David suggested that:

“It would be far better to have meaningful Christian worship which pupils and teachers could ‘opt in’ to, rather than force everyone to go to the beige, bland, brain-dead, unquestioning banalities that would inevitably result.”

I was surprised to see a Free Kirk minister supporting a proposal from the Scottish Secular Society, so I though, in the interests of clarity, I would tweet them and ask:

DAR-FreeKirk Tweet

Perhaps this was just David’s personal opinion.  Anyway, I look forward to reading about a joint proposal from the Free Church of Scotland and the Scottish Secular Society on the ‘opt-in’ proposal from religious observance.  What a progressive move that would be!  Good luck David!

2. This blog post, written 3 days after the proposal, seemed merely a footnote to David’s mildly amusing title “Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.” – if all else fails David, there is a job for you writing headlines for Private Eye!

In this post, David seemed mostly upset about the joint statement from the Church of Scotland and HSS calling for all school visitor to sign-up to the equality and diversity policy of the school or local authority. Needless to say… well… needless.

For those of you who have forgotten, in the last year we have had American creationists distributing anti-science nonsense to children, child-frightener Pam Stenzel putting the fear of God into teenagers and Glasgow school chaplain offering us his thoughts on the ‘homosexuality disorder’. I think it might be a good move to ensure that these views have no place in Scottish schools. If David is concerned that these requirements might disbar some religious people from visiting schools, perhaps he might want to consider that the pupils and parents/carers of Scotland maybe don’t want them there?

David makes a strange assertion in this post.  He says “The Humanist Society is dedicated to the abolition of religion from society.”  Now, I’ve taken advice about responding to this post. So, here goes!
Lies! Dam lies! That’s it.

3. It seems that in his third and last (so far) blog post on the matter, David has come to his senses, and seeks contrition from his fellow Christians.

David then goes on to analyse the events between his knee-jerk reaction to the joint statement, and his latest blog post (published 28-Jan-14). David seems to think that the Humanist Society Scotland were ‘stitched-up’ by the Church of Scotland, who had ‘backtracked’, he said:

“Of course the Humanists then felt betrayed (as they were) and the C of S looked really stupid.”

Well, again, this is just lies! The Humanists did not feel betrayed, as there had been no betrayal.  HSS and the Church of Scotland stand-by the original statement on 24th January, again, you can read it here. The statement is clear in intentions. I cannot comment for later Church of Scotland communication, as that is purely a matter for the Church.

David then makes another blunder, he says:

“They moved from appearing together with the Humanists before the committee to “the committee was never due to take oral evidence today” hence their non-appearance.    But as far as I know their original submission still stands. I was due to appear on the BBC this afternoon but that has been cancelled, because the Humanists and the C of S seem to have broken off their alliance – although as far as I know their original submission still stands.”

Again – not true. I hesitate to say a lie, because perhaps David didn’t know the facts (of course that didn’t stop him speculating).

The Public Petitions Committee never planned accept any verbal evidence at the hearing on 28th January. Nor did anyone suggest they could. Anyone who read the join submission, would realise that it took the form of a letter to the Committee. That was the nature of the submission. Sally Foster Fulton even made that point clear when she contributed to BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call show on Monday 28th January (SOLAS Cpc has kindly recorded this session which you can watch below).

After a long list of reasons to hate the Church of Scotland, which I couldn’t care less about to be bothered to reply, David then reverses his initial outrage, by denouncing the joint submission, by saying; “Renaming something without changing it really isn’t that big a news story is it?”. Lets just remind ourselves of his initial concern about the Church of Scotland wanting to “…remove Christian worship from what has traditionally been the Scottish Christian education system…”

So, which is it David? A mere pointless name change, or the removal of Christianity?

Many of my humanist and secular comrades will testify that I have always defended David in public. I do not agree with most of David’s public statements on moral and ethical decision, but as the cliché goes, I defend his right to express them. I’ve never before felt the need to respond to his blog, but it seems at last I have succumbed.

It seems to me, that in his eagerness to criticise something he never fully understood, David has put himself in an embarrassing position of negativity and narcissism – he has become, as internet teenagers say ‘a hater’.

Better try next time David!

13 thoughts on “Time for reflection on David Robertson’s blog posts!

  1. Gary,

    Allow me to respond to your rather strange post – almost as strange as the idea of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society ‘journeying together’! Much of what you say is correct but allow me to correct where you get it wrong.

    1. “The first post, issued less that 24hrs after the original release, and without (as far as I can tell) speaking to anyone involved,” – The first post was a response to a public published press release which I accepted at face value. And I did speak to several people who were involved.

    2. It was not a ‘tirade of abuse’ but rather an analysis of what was done. In that respect I think it is wrong and unwise of you to accuse me of being a ‘hater’ just because I critique your position and am much stronger about the C of S. Actually I think the Humanist Society have been pretty consistent in this. You were offered a great deal by the C of S and you took it. It is the C of S I criticise – for making the deal in the first place and for then denying that it really took place. By the way Douglas – its a cheap arrogant shot to go on about our ‘anger’. You don’t know what emotions I feel . It might be better if you stuck to facts rather than attributing emotional reasons which you cannot know for what people write. The name calling of anyone who disagrees with you as a ‘hater’ reminds me very much of 1984!

    3. “David seems intent to portray these organisations as mutually exclusive and combatant, which isn’t true.” – Again you are reading into my writing what is not there. I fully accept that the handful of people who constitute the various secular and humanist groups all have the same agenda – the removal of religion from public life in Scotland. Although in this regard it is interesting to ask why The Humanist Society does not support Secular Scotlands petition?

    4. “The idea that there was a ‘deal’ done that schools must remain Christian is a bizarre invention of David’s imagination” Not at all. All you need to do is know your history. One writer sums up the situation ” In 1872 the mass of Scotland’s schools – run by the Church of Scotland and the Free Church – were handed over to the state, on the firm agreement that there would be religious instruction, daily Christian worship, ongoing access by ministers, and church representation on school boards/local government education committees. This was confirmed by the 1918 Act as it made a similar deal with the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian churches, and remains the law.” The Scottish State education system is a Christian system – still by law. We don’t have the separation of church and state that exists in the US. And by the way Christians pay taxes too! .

    5. “The one big difference between HSS chaplains and some religious chaplains is that HSS does not take any state funding for its chaplains, all are volunteers and expense costs are met from its own central budget.”
    This is disingenous at best. No school chaplains are paid. We pay for them entirely out of their own budget.

    6.” I think it might be a good move to ensure that these views have no place in Scottish schools. If David is concerned that these requirements might disbar some religious people from visiting schools, perhaps he might want to consider that the pupils and parents/carers of Scotland maybe don’t want them there?” – Two things here. Gary and his tiny group of Humanists apparently think that a) they have the right to dictate what should and should not be taught in Scottish schools and b) that they know what parents and pupils want. It is the arrogance of the fundamentalist humanist – only what they want is allowed. And they know best!

    7. “The Humanist Society is dedicated to the abolition of religion from society.” Now, I’ve taken advice about responding to this post. So, here goes!
    Lies! Dam lies! That’s it.” – Actually no. That was the historical purpose of the Humanist societies. It is only in recent years that the requirement to be an atheist was removed (according to one Humanist official I debated in London). Of course in our nice touchy feely world the Humanists know that to publicly be seeking to remove all religion is not PC – so they argue that they are happy for religions to exist on a level playing field. And what is this level playing field? No place in public life. And certainly no part in schools – which are all to be entirely secular and humanist!

    7. “The Humanists did not feel betrayed, as there had been no betrayal. HSS and the Church of Scotland stand-by the original statement on 24th January, again, you can read it here. The statement is clear in intentions. I cannot comment for later Church of Scotland communication, as that is purely a matter for the Church.” – Garys faith is touching. I have spoken to Humanists who did feel betrayed. Indeed all you have to do is listen to the call Kaye show to see the rift. Bottom line is that the Church of Scotland put out a press release stating that it was a name change only and that there would not be any other change. It is slightly strange to say that public statement from the Church about an agreement with the Humanists, is not of interest to the Humanists! There are only two possibilities here – either the Humanist Society, who refused to support the Secularists petition on RO because it still allowed RO, signed up to a deal with the C of S which supports the current situation (but just has a symbolic name change), or the C of S is lying when it says it did not sign up to get rid of Christian worship and prayers in schools. Lets make it simple Gary – are the Humanists supporting the continuation of Christian worship and prayers in schools. In your Brave New Equal World – will I be allowed as a Chaplain to say that Jesus is God, that the Bible is the Word of God, that God created the world, and that we can pray to God? You will also note that the Clerk of Assembly of the C of S said that this will need to be agreed by the Assembly and that the committee do not have the right to make that agreement. So it does not stand.

    8. There was a change as regards the Parliaments committee. The BBC were fully aware of it. They had asked me to do an interview that day but when your alliance fell apart and the Humanists and the C of S failed to appear together (as they were expected to – some on the committee told me they were expecting them to come – although there would not have been an opportunity to give evidence), they cancelled the news item because for them it was no longer a news item. Which completely negates the following comment from Gary – because I was talking about why the BBC dropped the story, not what I thought David then reverses his initial outrage, by denouncing the joint submission, by saying; “Renaming something without changing it really isn’t that big a news story is it?”. Lets just remind ourselves of his initial concern about the Church of Scotland wanting to “…remove Christian worship from what has traditionally been the Scottish Christian education system…So, which is it David? A mere pointless name change, or the removal of Christianity?”

    The Humanist Society may choose to ally itself with the Church of Scotland. But don’t think that you are immune from a critique and examination of what that involves. And please stay away from the personal insults and ad hom. I am not a hater. I am a Christian who thinks for himself and is prepared to say what he thinks!

  2. David: “almost as strange as the idea of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society ‘journeying together’”

    The fact you see that as strange explains much indeed. It’s called outreach David.

    A common humanity is what should bind us all together. That fact the CofS are recognising their common humanity with humanists (and others) brings a little bit of hope that they are thankfully, leaving behind the black and white, rules-based fundamentalism of other churches in Scotland and moving towards a more human-centred approach to morality, pastoral care and the wider community.

    The church, in its various guises throughout history, has had a phenomenal amount of power. Yes the churches were owned and run by the churches. The 1st question this raises, of course, is where on earth a group, ostensibly about charity, got the kind of power and money required to educate the children of an entire nation.

    That aside, of course, when the church started losing it’s power and could no longer maintain the schools, they handed the schools over to the state to run. With that, they handed them the right to decide what schools teach.

  3. David

    Anger: a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.

    I don’t need to know your emotions. I can see and read them. I have watched the videos, read your posts and tried to understand what it is that drives the hostility that is evident. I mean, linking transgender issues to paedophilia is, at best, an angry act at lashing out at a world changing in ways you dont agree with. Yet it is clearly here, at the bottom of the page – http://www.solas-cpc.org/articles/the-boy-in-the-dress/.

    I think you are angry. Gary thinks you can be more closely defined as a hater: A person that simply cannot be happy for another.

    I think that you are perhaps an angry hater.

    1. Oh dear. You really want to understand? Then try reading – without the blinkers and the prejudgements. I did not even write the article you link to. If you cannot even get the author right, what makes you think you can discern my emotions?! An angry hater…..is that what you are reduced to? You can’t answer the arguments so you just resort to emotional name calling? Very very sad…

  4. Leaving aside the emotions of this I was intrigued by this:

    “will I be allowed as a Chaplain to say that Jesus is God, that the Bible is the Word of God, that God created the world, and that we can pray to God?”

    If invited to led a Christian prayer meeting for Christians then yes. If invited in to explain your interpretation of Christianity as part of RME then yes. After all, I would expect that for all of the worlds faiths (an none) to be explained and taught to children. So much that goes on in the world has a religious context I think that schools fail to meet the needs of children by providing them with enough knowledge to understand the world around them.

    Of course, if what you mean is to come to a school, give religious instruction and lead acts of worship for all children as part of the curriculum based on the assumption that since they are at school in Scotland they should be Christian (not *are* but *should*) then, yes, the HSS does question that.

    I understand that change is hard. I understand that losing a once privileged position in society must be, at times, incomprehensible. But lets be clear, I believe that all humans are equal and should be treated as such in the eyes of the state and the eyes of the law. Just as religious believers should and must be allowed to be free to believe, those of us who don’t share those beliefs should be free from their control.

    1. Thanks Douglas. Thats what I thought. You only want Humanism to be given the privileged position. Being ‘free from belief’ means that I will not in ‘Time for Reflection’ be allowed to teach that Jesus is God. O Brave New World!

      1. David>”You only want Humanism to be given the privileged position.”

        Where did anyone say that? Not having religious observance at an assembly does not equal having humanist observance (whatever that would entail).

  5. You only want Humanism to be given the privileged position.”

    I want no-one and no group to have a privileged position. Try reading – without the blinkers and the prejudgements.

    Just because one group desires that a privileged group be no longer privileged does not mean they want the privilege for themselves.

    1. I did and do read. It to me is quite astonishing that you do not realise how fundamentalist and dangerous your beliefs are – mainly because you do not recognise them as beliefs – but rather as self-evident. You want secular humanist values to the only norm.

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