Today in Religion: U.K. Edition

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It would be unsurprising to discover that, as a loyal servant and employee of Her Majesty the Queen, access to, say, Dutch MILF websites would be restricted on state computers. But how about the Richard Dawkins message board? The Sam Harris appreciation society? Or reason.com? According to this BBC report, employees of the Birmingham City Council are allowed to freely waste taxpayer money perusing Christian, Muslim, and Hindu-themed websites, but are blocked from viewing sites that promote "atheistic views":

Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was "discriminatory" and they would consider legal action.

The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.

Rather more disturbing is this story from the Daily Telegraph, in which the celebrated British playwright Simon Gray accuses celebrated National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner of cowardice. According to Gray, Hytner demonstrates "fearlessness in attacking Christianity," such as when he staged a production of Jerry Springer: The Opera, featuring Jesus "wearing a nappy and saying he was 'a bit gay.'" But Grey says the National Theatre is petrified of offending radical Muslims and wouldn't dare risk their wrath: "If there's going to be a play about 'inside radical Islam', it'll be a profoundly sympathetic, inquiring play, I'm sure. I can't imagine a play that's violently opposed to Islam … you can't be publicly … and certainly not at the National Theatre."

In other recent acts of Broadway bravery, Laurie Anderson, pretentious performance artist and wife of Lou Reed, opened her new production Homeland, a meditation on the harrowing life of a dissident violinist in Bush's America. New York Times critic Edward Rothstein notes the program's reference to Anderson's brave confrontation of "taboo subjects"—which, he soon finds out, aren't particularly taboo. As Rothstein says, "it turns out that the taboo of which Ms. Anderson speaks is the taboo against criticizing the war waged by the current Bush administration. But if any such taboos exist, surely they are at least as evident in the breach as in the observance. Moreover, Zimmermann's and Ms. Anderson's insistence on their own lonely courage and the urgency of their profound messages turns out to be not a strength at all."

If you're in the market, Laurie, I know of a cantankerous British writer who could suggest a few other "taboo subjects" that might be worth tackling. 

Full review here.

NEXT: Lessons from Professor Barack Obama

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  1. Making fun of Jesus is generally safer than making fun of Mohammed. It’s not cowardly and unprincipled to avoid making fun of the Muslim faith; just prudent.

    Dawkins, Harris and others often concentrate more on Christianity, as they claim they are more familiar with it. This is partially true, but also, they saw what happened with Salmon Rushidie.

  2. I’m not sure why Edward Rothstein has fond memories of Laurie Anderson’s early work, back then she screeched a lot and said silly things that were supposed to be deep. It was just as dumb as what he says she is doing now. Having a strong political viewpoint does not make one a genius, especially if that viewpoint has the depth of a bright 13 year olds. My guess is that Anderson hasn’t gotten worse, instead Rothstein has matured and now recognizes triteness when he sees it.

  3. Isn’t attacking Jesus also attacking Islam? I guess if I called a Moses a fraud, these people would harass me about how I am too cowardly to attack Christianity or Islam. But I guess they could just be attacking the Christian Jesus, which I guess is as different from the muslim one as God is from Allah.

  4. Douglas, that is true of Dawkins but not of Harris or of Christopher Hitchens, who have been both critical of atheists who take that tact.

  5. Doesn’t the United Kingdom have an Established Church? Don’t they lack the equivalent of our 1st Amendment? Is there any legal basis for a challenge based on “discrimination” when it comes to restrictions on the use of state property for non-state business?

  6. As the head of the Church of England, can’t the Queen lock her atheist civil servants in the tower of London? If it was good enough for Thomas More, it’s good enough for Richard Dawkins-fans.

  7. In other recent acts of Broadway bravery, Laurie Anderson, pretentious performance artist and wife of Lou Reed, opened her new production Homeland, a meditation on the harrowing life of a dissident violinist in Bush’s America.

    I always thought Anderson was Lou Reed’s husband.

    Don’t forget–hire the vet. He hasn’t had much fun yet.

  8. Banning all browing that isn’t related to work makes sense just for the productivity. Banning only Atheist websites is wrong.

  9. Is the Birmingham ban the product of fanatical Christers or fanatical towelheads?

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