Anyway, let's start with Ricky Gervais. Now while I salute Gervais for being a high-profile atheist, I am by no means an uncritical fan of his stuff. While The Office was a work of genius, and Extras had its moments (the moments featuring Kate Winslet in particular, plus of course this bit), and the Ricky Gervais Show in its various formats has its moments too (though I'm not as convinced as Gervais seems to be that Karl Pilkington is a creation of comedic genius), I think he's probably jumped the shark comedically, certainly if Life's Too Short was anything to go by. The old argument that "I'm not promoting these views, I'm satirising them" is the same one made by Johnny Speight about Alf Garnett, after all, and there were those who weren't totally convinced by it. And his deeply unconvincing "blimey, I had no idea it meant that" reaction over the whole "mong" episode was a bit shit, really. None of this is particularly relevant here except to make the point that I certainly don't deem him to be immune from criticism. But the title of this week's Daily Mail article should give you pause for thought:
Now then: one of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong. One of these things....OK, I'll stop now. But you get the general idea; the point is that dwarves....exist. Disabled people....exist. Whereas God....well, you know what I think, but all but the most fire-and-brimstone (funda)mentalist would agree that there's some room for debate on the subject. This bit is quite interesting too:
'Some people are offended by mixed marriage. Some people are offended by equality. Do you know what I mean?’ This straw-man defence, equating his critics with reactionary bigots, isn’t uttered in anger. Gervais is enjoying the banter. But I think it gets to the nub of what he’s about.Couple of things here: firstly that's not what a straw-man argument is; a straw-man argument would require him to attribute to his critics views they don't actually hold, whereas that is actually a pretty accurate summary of their position. Secondly, what's wrong with equating those who oppose mixed marriage with reactionary bigots? They are reactionary bigots.
Also of interest is the story of the German court that decided that male circumcision done at the parents' behest for religious reasons amounted to "bodily harm". Now this doesn't equate to the passing of a law against it, and the ruling seems to be "not binding" in some rather woolly way, but as the setting of a precedent it's certainly a welcome step.
Say what you like about the Germans - their strange taste in shorts, being a bit too good at penalty shoot-outs (and football in general), that whole starting two world wars thing, centuries of anti-Semitism, David Hasselhoff - but they do generally take a commendably robust attitude to not giving nonsense special treatment just because it happens to be religious nonsense, the obvious other example being their no-bullshit approach to Scientology, which is after all pretty much 100% concentrated bullshit.