Police disappointed in scrapping of mental health pilot scheme

National’s spokesperson on the police, Chris Bishop, has uncovered the scrapping of a pilot project that would have added mental health expertise to front line policing.

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

RNZ: Police disappointed after mental health pilot dropped

Police officers are upset a proposal to improve 111 callouts has been dumped and mental health advocates hope it may yet be salvaged.

The former National government last year announced an $8 million pilot scheme where mental health workers would attend crisis calls along with police and ambulance staff.

The trial was due to start in September, but police headquarters said the new government had “re-allocated” the funding and so the pilot had been dropped.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the decision was “disappointing” and officers needed practical support “sooner rather than later”.

“It’s all good to have inquiries and to have think-tanks, but people need help now. They’re crying out for it.”

Front-line officers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls relating to mental health, he said.

“Police aren’t the best equipped to do this. It needs to be people in mental health services who look after them. It’s a medical issue, not a policing issue.”

Health Minister fobbed off queries.

Health Minister David Clark turned down an interview request, but in a statement said the proposal “was never fully developed” and it appeared National had cobbled it together in a hurry.

He expected the government’s mental health inquiry, announced in January, would include advice on how to improve the emergency response, he said.

How long will that take? What if that inquiry recommends the pilot project or something similar? Labour said there was a mental health crisis, but they are not acting like it is a pressing problem now.

The Mental Health Foundation…

…had been supportive of the scheme and its chief executive Shaun Robinson said it was a shame to see it fall by the wayside.

“The police have unfortunately been left to be the mental health service of last resort.”

Mr Robinson said he would be keeping a close eye on the inquiry’s findings and was hopeful it would come up with a similar or even better idea.

“We would really hope to see that there’s something significant in the crisis response area,” he said.

“It may be a short-term loss for a longer-term gain.”

Fiona Howard, from Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support in Christchurch…

…also hoped the inquiry would report back with a similar project.

She said she empathised with police frustration, but understood the government’s approach to first assess the entire mental health system.

“What I hope is that we can sort of pause – even though I know it’s hard to wait – to make sure that we get all the results from that inquiry in to make sure all parts of our system that are under stress get the resourcing and new initiatives they need.”

Reporting back with a similar project, and then implementing it, will take some time. Scrapping the pilot scheme seems very strange.

Winston Peters slams ‘multiculturalism’, wants single NZ culture

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has slammed ‘multiculturalism’, saying he stands for “a New Zealand culture”.

What is ‘multiculturalism’? According to Oxford:


The presence of, or support for the presence of, several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society.

‘our commitment to the values of multiculturalism’

‘the schools promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness’

So that would accept that Māori culture could thrive along side various Pākehā  cultures as well as accepting Pacific Island cultures, Chinese, Indian and other Asian cultures, and smatterings of Scottish in Dunedin (and elsewhere), retain a French flavour in Akaroa, some Englishness in Christchurch and Dalmatians in the north.

It would accept the overlaps and merging of various cultures but accept some distinctiveness would be seen as acceptable.

It would accept that Anglicans and Catholics and Methodists and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists could retain their religious cultures without prejudice or discrimination.

But Peters panders to populism: Winston Peters compares multiculturalism to ‘rising up mushrooms’

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters told talkback radio this morning that he stands for a “New Zealand culture”, not a “multitude of cultures”.

Speaking on whether multiculturalism has “failed”, Mr Peters appeared to argue it has.

“Well, let me tell you. There is one cultural thing we want developed in this country and that’s the New Zealand culture. That’s a unique culture that’s New Zealand,” Mr Peters said.

“It’s not a multitude of cultures and a plethora rising up like mushrooms in this country.

“No, we want a New Zealand culture. That’s what I’ve always stood for.”

It’s a similar message to one he shared on Q+A in 2016.

Back then, he said, “[Immigrants] can come from anywhere in the world. It’s not race-based. We want them to salute our flag, respect our laws, honour our institutions and don’t bring anti-women attitudes with them.”

How many Kiwis salute the archaic flag dominated by the flag of another country and often confused with Australia’s flag?

Of course every New Zealander should respect our laws in general (but have the right to criticise ass laws).

Obviously we shouldn’t want immigrants to bring anti-women attitudes with them, but we have plenty of sexual equality issues that linger in Māori culture and have immigrated long ago from the patriarchal England.

We must be able to choose our own cultural mix without being pigeon holed by populist pandering old politicians. I don’t identify with the legendary pissing up at the Parrot culture apparently favoured by some.

Mr Peters has long stood against so-called “mass immigration”, but has been much quieter on it since becoming Deputy Prime Minister.

That’s probably because he isn’t seeking ignorant votes since the election. New Zealand has nothing like ‘mass migration’, it is strictly controlled, made easy by our remoteness and our very large moat.

‘Mass migration’ seems to have become a deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated euphemism for ‘Muslim migration’, something we don’t have any disproportionate problem with in New Zealand.

Mass migration refers to the migration of large groups of people from one geographical area to another. Mass migration is distinguished from individual or small scale migration; and also from seasonal migration, which may occur on a regular basis.


There is nothing like that here. Peters has repeatedly and deliberately falsely claimed we have mass migration in new Zealand – we haven’t had that since the influx of mostly Europeans in the 1800s.

New Zealand has long been a mix of many immigrant cultures.

There is one ‘New Zealand culture’ I would support – a culture of tolerance of different flavours of cultures, and an easy co-existence with people with different cultural practices and beliefs.

Claiming “a New Zealand culture” may pander to some who want their particular cultural mix to dominate, but it’s a nonsense.

I have never seen any definition of what “a New Zealand culture” would look like, especially from Peters.

General chat

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Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Hawk attack

I think hawks are generally seen as predatory attack type birds, but they are often on the receiving end, but this is the first time I have heard of tui attacking them.

ODT:  Aerial clash with tui sidelines hawk

As a nearby resident watched, the harrier was soaring in mid-air when “out of the blue, a tui charged him” and “slammed into the harrier so hard” it broke its wing, Dunedin Wildlife Hospital veterinary surgeon Dr Lisa Argilla said.

After the predator “just suddenly dropped out of the sky”, the resident looked after the injured bird overnight on June 29, and contacted the Department of Conservation, which contacted the wildlife hospital at Otago Polytechnic.

Hawks are seen more during the winter down here as they search for food. In a trip to Invercargill last month we counted twenty hawks on the way. They look out for possums, rabbits and other road kill – and cars are one of the biggest risks to them.

I often see a harrier hawk (swamp harrier) cruising along the bush line looking for lunch.

There are a couple of magpies who often chase and attack a passing hawk – I can remember magpie attacks on hawks from my childhood. The magpies can fly much faster, and circle, swoop and dive bomb hawks in flight.

Over the last couple of months we have had frequent visits from a pair of spur winged plovers who like open paddocks. I was working outside last weekend and heard their familiar squawking and wondered what the commotion was about.

There happened to be a hawk cruising by. The plovers took off, gained height and caught up with the hawk and swooped and harassed him for a kilometre or so until they had chased him out of their territory.

So hawks aren’t popular with a few different types of birds.

We have regular tui around here but I have never seen them attacking a hawk – they usually stick to chasing bellbirds (korimako) and each other.

The plovers are quite big, and are relatively recent immigrants from Australia, having first been observed nesting in Invercargill in 1932. They are now widely spread, but I have only recently seen them here.

Magpies are also Australian immigrants, introduced here in the 1860s and 1870s (mainly to control insect pests).

Harrier hawks (kāhu) are widespread throughout Australasia, including New Zealand islands like Chatham Islands, and the Snares, Auckland, Campbell and Kermadec Islands.

Pike River re-entry costs escalate

A ‘concept plan’ for re-entry into the Pike River mine to recover miners’ bodies has been presented to their families by the Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little (actually three alternative options), but with that is a bigger than previously estimated cost.

RNZ: Pike River re-entry: ‘Concept plan’ presented to families

A plan for re-entering the drift of the Pike River Mine has been presented to victims’ familes in Greymouth this morning.

The plan is being described as a “concept plan” with more detailed planning to follow if it is approved.

Minister responsible for Pike River re-entry Andrew Little, and Pike River Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn have been talking to the relatives of the 29 men killed in the mine in 2010.

Mr Little said the families were now discussing the plan and he hoped to give it the go-ahead on Monday.

However, he said he expected they would approve the concept plan.

“My sense is the families are really happy with the level of work that has been done, the quality of ther work. They seem pretty satisfied with it … They’re keen for the project to continue to make progress, so that we re-enter the drift and recover as much as we can.”

RNZ:  Pike River Mine re-entry narrowed to three options

The planned re-entry to the Pike River mine has been narrowed to three options.

Mining specialists, Pike River Recovery Agency staff and family members of the 29 men killed in the 2010 blast were on the West Coast for a second workshop aimed at coming up with a plan for manned re-entry of the mine drift.

A panel of technical experts will now shift the focus to three scenarios which are now being developed further.

The scenarios include:

  • building a new two by two-metre tunnel around 200m long;
  • drilling a large diameter borehole;
  • re-entering the main drift as it is with no second means of egress (exit).

The aim is to try and find out what happened in order to prevent any further tragedies, to give the families closure and where possible, retrieve any remains found in the drift, the agency said.

Dinghy Pattinson, the recovery agency’s chief operating officer, said he was confident they would get back in.

“Any mining activity has dangers or risks involved, so it’s a matter of just identifying those risks throughout the whole process and having your controls in place,” Mr Pattinson said.

“If there was any real danger then that would be a show-stopper, so at this stage all the risks identified – I feel confident we can manage them.”

Recovery Agency chief executive Dave Gawn said they had made bigger steps during this workshop.

“We still anticipate entering the mine before the end of the year, and we still think that’s achievable. This workshop is only step number two in a number yet to take,” Mr Gawn said.

He said among the steps was a detailed risk analysis of the preferred options.

It sounds like they are still far from certain how to get back into the mine, how risky it would be – and how much it would cost, even they they don’t yet know how they will do it.

Stuff: Pike River re-entry could cost $12m more than $23m budget, minister says

The plan to re-enter the Pike River mine could cost up to $12 milllion more than the $23 million budget, Stuff understands.

The Government had budgeted $7.6 million a year for three years, totalling up to $23m, for the Pike River Recovery Agency and re-entry to the mine.

When asked if he had told Cabinet the agency would need up to $12m more, Little said one of the options could cost up to that amount, but others would be less than that.

“We won’t know exactly what the figures are until more detailed work has been done.

While there remains a lot of doubt about how a re-entry would be achieved the expected cost seems to keep escalating.

I understand that some families really want the bodies of some miners recovered (some families don’t see the need).

What if the option chosen is the more expensive one – $35 million – and they get into the mine and they can’t find or can’t recover all of the bodies? What if bodies unrecovered are from families that most want them recovered? What then? Keep spending until they find and recover them all?

What if they can’t find out the cause of the explosions?


Is WFF corporate welfare? Would a UBI solve it?

Working For Families has long been referred to as ‘corporate welfare’. This month payments were increased, further entrenching it as a means of supporting lower paid workers with children (and also quite well paid workers with children).

I don’t think ‘corporate welfare’ is an accurate description. Corporations are generally seen as large companies, often international companies, but WFF takes wage paying pressure off many small businesses, perhaps more so than for larger companies.

Bryce Edwards is in the Working for Families is corporate welfare club.

As of last week, the Government is pouring $370 million more this year into Working for Families (WFF), further entrenching a system which has many critics across the political spectrum.

On the political right, the criticism has always been that the scheme is creating a nation of welfare beneficiaries. After all, it’s regarded as extraordinary that families earning around $100,000 qualify for WFF payments. However, these are effectively tax credits for people with children (which is very common among the OECD nations).

It is even more problematic at the lower income end, where full-time workers not only will often pay no tax, but effectively receive additional tax credits – welfare by any other name. So, state income assistance is being given to those that are fully engaged in the workforce – which, by historical standards, seems contradictory.

The criticism from the left has often been that the very existence of WFF indicates that many working families are not able to support themselves without quite large taxpayer assistance.

It isn’t necessarily the case that working families couldn’t support themselves. Things were economically tough for many families. That’s nothing new, lower paid workers have struggled financially for centuries. WFF has made it easier for them, but has also virtually entrenched them in a system of uneven government assistance that favours them over workers who don’t support children.

The accusation is that employers of low-paid workers are effectively being subsidised by WFF.

This has parallels with other modern welfare initiatives – such as the accommodation supplement, which is a subsidy paid by the state to private landlords of those tenants on low incomes. The left blames such payments for contributing to the rapid increases in rentals, because it effectively allows landlords to increase rents for low-income tenants beyond what they can actually pay.

WFF and accommodation supplements can certainly distort markets.

Alternatives to Working for Families

What’s the alternative to welfare that subsidises the corporates? Ideally, wages simply need to increase, so that workers have enough to live on. To some extent, the new Government is pursuing this objective with its commitment to increase the minimum wage for those at the bottom – with it going up by $4.25 by 2021.

“Ideally, wages simply need to increase” – that may sound like a good ideal but it is far from simple. Artificially forcing up labour costs can force up prices, leaving those who don’t qualify for increasing assistance like WFF worse off and more financially disadvantaged.

And if small business employers who are forced to increase wages don’t qualify for Government handouts they will find things tougher – to the extent that some will reduce the number of employees through scaling down or moving more towards automation.

Of course, this will cost the Government itself, as it will have to lift the wages of many of its own employees receiving the minimum wage. Yet overall, the increase in the minimum wage is going to lead to a saving for the Government, as the wage increases will result in a reduction in tax credit payments made through WFF – because, generally, the more an individual earns, the less they receive in WFF payments.

Only partially offset. This should have been factored into the amount of increase and the costings.

All these years later, it’s become much clearer as to who benefits from the scheme. John Key famously called it “communism by stealth” when he was Leader of the Opposition, and then adopted the policy for himself. But in 2018, perhaps it can finally be more credibly labelled as “corporate welfare by stealth”.

Calling it ‘corporate welfare’ makes it sound like a subsidy for rich big business owners, promoting a ‘them versus us’ division, but it probably affects smaller and less well off employers more.

If costs for corporations get too high they can just down scale, or they can afford to automate, or they move production off shore, or they just shut up in New Zealand and move their business to lower waged countries.

Small business owners have their livelihoods at stake, especially if the don’t qualify for family subsidies.

Nonetheless, we clearly need to a have a debate about whether a family whose income is derived from wages and salary should be able to pay its own way without other tax payers subsidising them.

That is an ideal that we keep moving further away from as worker benefits keep increasing.

This was debated on Reddit – Bryce Edwards: Working for Families is corporate welfare – a subsidy scheme for employers who can’t, or won’t, pay adequate wages – where a solution was proposed.

“Yep both working for families and the accommodation supplement are corporate and landlord welfare. The only problem is how do you replace it without fucking everything up?”

“The only way to replace it is if employers paid them better. If they did that, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The only way forward is for the government to make sure they get the money but tax business owners accordingly.”

Higher taxes for business owners is far from simple, and will probably impact most on small and medium business owners – and their employees.

The reason they exist (were implemented in the first place) is because of a wealth inequality gap. People on the lower end of that gap were getting pushed in to shittier and shittier conditions by people at the higher end of the gap (not in a malicious way, but just the nature of economics.). And so subsidies for those people in need were introduced.

I agree with the article that they amount to corporate welfare but we can’t get rid of them until we tackle overall wealth inequality. Tackling that would be a mix of things I think; capital gains tax or other disincentive for amassing property.

My own personal pie-in-the-sky law would be regarding the pay difference between the lowest and highest paid individual in a company, maybe a max of 10-15 times the lowest yearly wages for the CEO or something.

Artificial rules on high end remuneration may be liked in theory as a rich prick limitation, but I don’t think that is a practical solution.

A Universal Basic Income is often suggestedf, as it is here.

Remove all current welfare programs and replace them with a decent UBI ?

  • Those who don’t want to work don’t have to (or look for it), but would likely need to live in the provinces due to housing costs.

  • No need for a bunch of welfare requirements, therefore no need for a welfare department or ministry.

Remove GST (and possibly income tax?) and replace with a non-refundable universal transaction tax, implemented through the EFTPOS / banking system.

  • Removing the refund system should make highly processed goods more expensive; basic products (think fruit and vegetables) should be cheaper due to less processing.

  • Effectively produces a tax on (all) house sales / purchases.

  • Captures companies (Apple, Facebook, Google, etc) off-shoring income as avoidance, by taxing both the product sale and the subsequent off-shoring transaction.

  • Taxes consumption rather than production.

  • Possibly less administrative than GST.

That’s a bunch of ideas that would be quite a radical change if implemented, but there are no costs, nor any consideration of flow on effects.

‘Those who don’t want to work don’t have to (or look for it)’ is one of the more contentious suggestions. I and I suspect many others would live to have the choice of a reasonable ‘income’ – level of Government welfare – for no work. It risks hugely increasing the cost of welfare, and severely impacting on overall production.

The size of a UBI would have to be at least as much as National Super so older people weren’t disadvantaged, and at least as much as current non-worker and worker subsidies and welfare. It would have to top everyone up to the best paid beneficiaries, and this sounds very costly.

For example, WFF is already very expensive now. If a UBI was going to be universal then people who don’t support children would have to be paid as much as those who support children – greatly widening and boosting welfare.

Or, if this was avoided by having children also qualify for a UBI, this would also greatly increase the cost to the Government (that is, to taxpayers if there are any left).

While in theory a UBI sounds very fair I think it would be far too costly, both in the expense of it to Government and as a disincentive to work and production.

The more the Government hands out money the harder it gets to change the system without a revolutionary overhaul that would be either result in many people being worse off, or it would be be unsustainably expensive. Or both.

We have an increasingly complex and expensive welfare system, which get’s increasingly difficult to fix.

And there is no sign of any interest in making major changes. The current Labour led government is having a tax review but that is so limited – there are many things it can’t change – that it is likely to little more than tinker a bit more.

We look like being stuck with WFF and accommodation supplements and National Super and other forms of widespread welfare.

General chat

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Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

From #MeToo to #WhatNext?

The #MeToo campaign has done well to raise the profile of the insidious history of sexual abuse, but Jacinda Ardern has made a good point – how to translate the initial impetus into ongoing action in New Zealand,

The Spinoff: ‘We need to say, OK, what next?’ Jacinda Ardern on the impact of #MeToo

The New Zealand prime minister has called for the energy of the #MeToo movement to be translated into action. Speaking to the Spinoff as part of a new podcast series in collaboration with the Auckland Museum, Jacinda Ardern said that the sharing of stories risk equating “to nothing in real terms” if there is no resulting change.

“What we need to do is then say, OK, well what next?” Ardern told Noelle McCarthy in the first of the podcast series Venus Envy. “You don’t want a movement, really, of women continually feeling like they need to tell stories that then equate to nothing in real terms. And so that’s the question that I’m interested in asking: what next?”

The challenge was to change the view around what was acceptable behaviour, she said.

“That to me comes back to that respect question, of how we treat one another, of conversations around consent and healthy relationships.”

These were “things we should be talking about in our schools, in safe places, where we learn and kind of our social norms, before people are entering into the workplace”.

The solutions to the issues raised in recent months needed to have both a cultural and policy dimension, she said.

“When you’ve got a country where you have such high rates of violence against women, you want to remove every barrier so a woman can make a choice, have a choice about her future. And, so long as we have women over-represented in low-paid work, or unsupported as carers, the choice is removed.”

Ardern is diverting onto a largely separate issue there.

There continues to be alarming levels of abuse and violence against women, but that’s not all. It is also a major problem for children, and men also victims, both directly and indirectly.

The anti-violence, anti-abuse and anti-discrimination  messages need to be repeated over and over if New Zealand society is to become a decent society for most citizens. At the moment we are falling well short of a decent society.

And this decency needs to also become far more apparent in our discussions and debates, in Parliament, in the mainstream media and in social media.

This is not a political issue apart from needing more politicians to speak up and act. It is largely a social issue, which means all of our society should be acknowledging the problems and contributing to finding better ways of interacting and better ways of behaving towards each other.


Guest post from Gezza

The only way to cure Islam’s ills is to educate Muslims out of believing the Quran. To do that, you also have to educate the Jews out of believing the Torah & the Christians out of believing the Bible.

All of them derive their basis for belief from the first scribblings of unbelievable myth & bullshit in the Jewish Scriptures, & all are demonstrably false.

All of them, & all other supernatural religions, have become interwoven over centuries into the ethnic, cultural & national identities of scores of religious sects & diverse peoples throughout the globe. They have driven land grabs, wars and strife for eons. False beliefs taught to ignorant people of long bygone ages still lie at the very heart of most of the worst tensions & strife between nations & ethnic groups & cultures around the world today.

Of them all, Christianity, while influential in the development of the better aspects of Western civilisation, especially over the last century, has probably reduced the most in direct influence on Westerners, as secular morality has developed & improved on the limits of the so-called 10 commandments, & the Golden Rule. (Even the Golden Rule is reportedly actually quite common to many religions & societies around the globe, or at least between believers or members of the same group.)

Christians forget that making slaves of people from other nations is still sanctioned by God (& Jesus never countermanded Mosaic Law) in the Bible. It is time people looked at the Torah, the Bible and the Quran only as important historical Books.

The Bible played an undoubtedly important part in the development of Western Civilisation & law, but, when you put the pastor outside, clear your mind of the reinterpretations you’ve been fed by the priestly class, & simply read it plainly, end to end, it is instantly revealed, self-evidently, as merely a collection of 3rd 4th & 5th hand scribblings about historically unsupportable superstitions, myths, magic, & logical & scientific nonsense.

It is the story of a savage, jealous, vengeful, murderous, infanticidal, rape & slavery-condoning God who Christians still say – notwithstanding that he ordered and /or committed these heinous acts – MUST be good! Because he is God. And God is good. So he must have had a good reason for such horrific cruelty & immorality. This is just bizarre. Truly daft that anyone can try to rationalise it with pathetic defences about relative morality meaning it was good behaviour from Jaweh for those times, but it’s not now.

Modern, secular society Christians, as empathetic, intelligent, social, human beings whose ideas of morality have now gone well beyond the Bible’s, would NEVER willingly choose to do these horrible things to other people. With the blinkers of highly selective Christian teachings off – the Judeo-Christian God’s actions & commands are actually evil by today’s standards. Jaweh orders the Israelites to commit murder, genocide, rape, infanticide for heaven’s sake. If he came to earth today, he’d literally be in the dock for crimes against humanity!

The same, & new, maybe worse, errors, horrors, pointless, repressive, oppressive, conflicting, bloodthirsty, outdated regulations, bad science, teachings, & beliefs of superiority over others, dictated by a middle-aged Arab warlord, are set out in the Quran & Hadith that Muslims are forced by their theocratic rulers and family & social pressures to believe & take with them wherever they go.

I don’t hate these religions, per se, but I know beyond any reasonable doubt they are false & well out-of-date.

And I DO hate how the contortions & distortions of these ludicrous scripts can be twisted in the minds of gullible believers, who suspend their rationality, & listen when imams & pastors tell them these clusters of confused crap mean something totally different to what they actually say – really, only out of the instilled fear of everlasting torture if they don’t believe it, or the need of desperate or fearful people to call on some hoped-for divine universal power to help them deal with adversity in their daily lives, and give them vain hope of some vague glorious reward of everlasting life & happiness in a hereafter beyond their inevitable expiry date on this earth.

There is NO actual evidence of any such thing. You won’t be seeing your pet dog or the roast lamb you ate for lunch in Heaven either. (Well, I’m an agnostic really. I can’t absolutely guarantee that there is no more existence for our personalities beyond this earthly lifetime, but it’s such a remote possibility that the probability of our death being our complete end of existence would be well in excess of 99.99999%. And it’s an absolute certainty, in my opinion, that in the unlikely event I’m wrong, any existence beyond our earthly one would not be anything like what’s promised in any of these dreadful Holy Books.)

In my view, all children should be given a secular education. They should be taught, first, written language & mathematics, then logic & reasoning, & science, & then told to forget their preachers, & their parents’ beliefs, & be instructed to just read these Holy texts, without reinterpretation, from start to finish. If, by the end, they haven’t figured out:

“WTF? Who can seriously take this garbled rubbish recited to ancient sheep herders & camel drivers as divinely inspired instructions to humanity?”

they should then learn the history of the people who, it is claimed, wrote them, and of how they spread their religions, and warred over them.

That would, hopefully, be the end of the religions, & when their believing parents finally pass away, they could just bury them respectfully, & then just put their Holy Books on the shelves in the Great Myths & History sections of libraries, & focus on establishing or evolving the fairest & most tolerant sets of values, ethics & laws that fit their own ethnic cultures & customs, settle their border squabbles, & renew good relationships with other people & cultures who live in this world – without this bloody religious dogma continually overpowering their reason & humanity & pitting devout, deluded believers & their descendents forever against each other.

Value your separate customs of dress & hospitality, & languages, & other delineators of your cultural & national identities & borders. Live freely in the places your cultures now belong, or have belonged for centuries, & welcome visitors from different lands who respect your customs while there.

If you move to another place, adapt to their culture. If eventually, in the future, we can all meld together with common evolved values & customs & laws & behaviours, so that borders can effectively disappear, there is maybe hope for a true paradise on earth – but that is a long, long way away yet, in my view.

In the meantime, for heaven’s sake, please, read, THINK, & then throw out all the false Gods that tell you you are a special & favoured people, & that all the other gods & their deluded believers are wrong! Humanity MUST outgrow these mythical supernatural rulers if we are ever to evolve the kind of world we really want.

We need to learn to love & live the life we have to the full. It is the only one we have. We need to grow up & face this fact. It is time for us to put away these childish fairy & troll kings – & become better than them.