Recent Entries by Bill Cooke

Despite everything, the UN justifies its existence

October 06, 2015

It’s easy to be disillusioned with the United Nations. Seventy years after its formation, the Security Council remains unreformed and unrepresentative. And power politics on the Security Council means that blood still flows in Syria. And meanwhile, Saudi Arabia remains on the UN's Human Rights Council. But behind the headlines, real work continues.

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Render unto Caesar – Unless You’re the Greek Orthodox Church

July 27, 2015

It’s long been known that Greece's wealthier citizens have evaded paying taxes on a massive scale. But, until recently, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Greek Orthodox Church which, despite being the largest land owner in Greece, pays laughably low amounts of tax.

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Does ISIL Terrorism Represent “True Islam”?

November 24, 2014

The CFI Free Thinking blog featured a very interesting conversation, begun by Dr Stephen Law, in response to the English writer Karen Armstrong, who had made a case for the “myth of religious violence.” Not surprisingly, Armstrong endorsed Barack Obama’s and British prime minister David Cameron’s denials of any link between the barbarism of ISIL fighters and “true Islam.” Dr Law was moved to call this sweeping dismissal “silly.” We can understand why Western leaders feel the need to distance ISIL violence from “true Islam.” The West could not mount its under-strength response to ISIL without significant help from Muslim countries like Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. And Western leaders need to take care not to alienate Muslim communities within their own borders.

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Civil War in Ukraine, with Religion as the Fault Line

May 27, 2014

There is not much doubt now that Ukraine is falling into civil war. Like the English and Scots, Ukrainians and Russians have lived together for centuries. They have intermarried, shared political highs and lows and come to know each other very closely. But that hasn’t meant they’ve liked each other. Only in the area of religion is there any significant difference. 

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India Votes, with Consequences for Secularism

May 19, 2014

The election just held in India, the world’s largest secular democracy, should attract more attention than it has. With a voting population of more than 800 million people, the election takes five weeks to complete, broken into nine phases. It has resulted in a new Prime Minister for India: the BJP leader Narendra Modi. 

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The Vatican Caught Out

March 31, 2014

For many years the Vatican has presumed for itself the status of a nation-state. It’s not, of course, but that doesn’t stop it making the claim. As the British lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has made clear, the Vatican is not, and cannot be a state. It lacks all the necessities of a sovereign state.  With this in mind, the Vatican’s attempt in 2002 to gain full member status of the United Nations was turned down. As a sop to ruffled feathers, the UN spoke of it enjoying “permanent observer status.”

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Adventures of Piglet and Hedgehog Provoke Death Threats

February 13, 2014

You wouldn’t have thought that publishing a children’s book would result in getting death threats. But it does in Poland. Andrzej Dominiczak, our CFI man in Poland, runs a publishing arm which specializes in humanist and atheist thought for the Polish market. Dominiczak has run into trouble from hardliners before, even from within the non-religious community. 

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Humanists Helping Pregnant Girls in Uganda

February 06, 2014

Since the beginning of time, becoming pregnant without sufficient means to maintain oneself and one’s baby has been a guaranteed path to hard times. In the event of the man refusing to play his part rearing the child, the girl’s plight has been dire. Right to the present day, teenage mothers are subject to vicious superstitions. Even when they have been raped, everything still ends up being their fault.

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Making Progress in Poland

February 03, 2014

We all know that good things take time. Nowhere does democracy emerge fully mature, open and transparent. It takes dedicated people to make these things happen. Poland’s progress to open, mature democracy is faltering, with the Catholic Church and far right elements acting as drags on liberalization. Against these powerful forces CFI-Poland is quietly working away. Andrzej Dominiczak, head of CFI-Poland, has built up a reputation for fair-minded and objective work across a range of normally deeply divisive topics.

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