Bad Faith Awards 2009: Pope Benedict XVI emerges victorious
After a tightly fought campaign, and more than 7,000 votes cast, we announce the winner of our coveted 2009 Bad Faith Award
Every year, New Humanist presents its Bad Faith Award to the individual deemed by readers to have made the most outstanding contribution to the cause of unreason. Last year saw a runaway victory for erstwhile US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, as she romped home with a stunning 33 per cent of the vote. The polls for this year’s award opened in November, and once again they produced a clear winner – the Holy Father himself, Pope Benedict XVI. He polled an enormous 32 per cent of the 7,037 votes cast – here's a pie chart breaking it all down, and below is the order in which the ten contenders came.
Winner of the 2009 Bad Faith Award: Pope Benedict XVI (2,287 votes)
It’s second time lucky for God’s representative on Earth – Pope Benedict was up for the award in 2007, but failed to make the grade in the face of strong competition, and didn’t even make the 2008 shortlist. No such problems in 2009 – charging out of the blocks in March by stating that AIDS “is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, and that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”. More than 2,000 people voted for His Holiness, ensuring some brand-new silverware will adorn the Sistine Chapel mantelpiece this year. And on that note, we'd like to take this opportunity to extend a formal invitation to the Pontiff to come and collect his award from our offices when he visits Britain later this year.
2nd place: Adnan Oktar AKA Harun Yahya (1,308 votes)
The Islamic world’s leading creationist charlatan was hoping to go one better than last year’s second-place finish, particularly in the wake of his exposure in the pages of New Humanist as the leader of what essentially amounts to a creationist sex cult (something he wasn’t too pleased about, if the emails from his lawyer are anything to go by). Sadly for Oktar, he has to settle for second best once again. Perhaps, if he declares himself infallible, he can mount a strong challenge to the Pope’s crown in 2010.
3rd place: British Chiropractic Association (1,103 votes)
This was an unusual nomination, since the Bad Faith Award is generally aimed at individuals, but there was no way we could leave out the organisation that has arguably done more than any other to put the problem of Britain’s illiberal libel laws in the public eye. Unintentionally, of course – the BCA are currently trying to sue science writer Simon Singh for libel, after he described as “bogus” their claims that chiropractic can treat childhood conditions like colic and asthma. The voting public seemed to agree with their inclusion, too – more than 1,000 people voted for the BCA, earning it a third-place finish.
4th place: Tony Blair (641 votes)
Another repeat nominee. Last year our former PM was put forward on account of his round-the-world interfaith quest, and that’s something he’s continued this year, in between making millions from after-dinner speeches and consulting roles with global corporations. And trying to bring about peace in the Middle East. Oh, and failing to become President of Europe. What probably earned Tony his nomination this time is a speech he made in October, in which he suggested that the major world religions should work together in the face of “an aggressive secular attack from without”.
5th place: Terry Eagleton & Karen Armstrong (454 votes)
An unusual double nomination, this – one is an ex-trainee nun and a scholar of religion, the other a combative Marxist literary critic. The link is that both have written books this year criticising the New Atheists and mounting what some might call a more sophisticated defence of religion – Eagleton in Reason, Faith and Revolution and Armstrong in The Case for God. To learn more, see Richard Norman's piece on the subject from our November issue, and Laurie Taylor's interview with Eagleton from our July issue ("God didn't create the world. He loved it into being. Now what that means, God knows, but that's exactly what Aquinas was saying"). As a result the two academics were nominated by a reader for “attacking Enlightenment values from the well-padded comfort of Enlightenment institutions”. In a field of nine, our in-house bookies had Eagleton and Armstrong as the 50/1 rank outsiders, but in the end they polled strongly, earning a fifth-place finish.
6th place: Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor (426 votes)
As he prepared to make way for Vincent Nichols as Archbishop of Westminster, the former head of the Catholic Church in England bid us all farewell by branding atheists as “not fully human”.
7th place: Dermot Ahern (370 votes)
Ireland stepped back in time a few centuries in 2009 when a law was passed making blasphemy a crime punishable with a fine of €25,000. As the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern was the man responsible for introducing it. This has since been challenged by Atheist Ireland's list of 25 blasphemous statements, released when the law came into force on 1 January 2010.
8th place: Anjem Choudary (232 votes)
This man surely represents Islamic extremism at its most ludicrous. Last year he tried to restart the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun with a meeting at London’s Conway Hall, which is somewhat ironically the home of British free thought, using his heavies to try and enforce a spot of Sharia-style gender separation on the building. At the end of the year he called off a planned march to demand Sharia law for the UK, having earlier revealed on his website how Trafalgar Square would look once Britain is under Islamic rule: he’d replace Nelson’s statue with a clock, while down the road Buckingham Palace would “be converted into a beautiful mosque”. Sadly for him, his controversial plans to protest in Wootton Bassett – and the subsequent banning of his organisation Islam4UK – came too late to bump up his share of the vote.
9th place: Damian Thompson (144 votes)
Telegraph blogger and editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald Thompson is no fan of atheists. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be a fan of anything, unless it’s Catholic (and even then, only if it’s conservative and backed by Pope Benedict XVI). We’ve had our own run-in with him before over God Trumps (“politically correct atheist cowards”, we believe he called us), and he recently described Richard Dawkins as “vicious and crazy” for having the audacity to criticise the Catholic Church. And, just as we were compiling the Bad Faith shortlist, Damian shored up his claim by declaring a wish to burn an effigy of national treasure Stephen Fry on a bonfire. Sadly for Thompson, in the face of heavyweight opponents, including the head of his own faith, he was unable to make the grade, polling a paltry 144 votes.
10th place: Anthony Bush (72 votes)
Bush is the proprietor of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, the creationist zoo on the outskirts of Bristol which we investigated in the September/October issue of New Humanist. He has grand designs for “Creation + Evolution”, his very own theory for how life on earth developed, telling us: “Our paradigm is radical, but may, as Galileo’s did, take many years for people to take seriously.” But it’s not just creationism that has put Anthony in the media spotlight – revelations that Noah’s Ark breeds animals for Britain’s last live-animal circus, and that the head of a tiger which died in childbirth was stored in a freezer at the zoo, have just seen Noah’s Ark expelled from the British zoo association. Nevertheless, fewer than 100 people thought this left Bush worthy of the Bad Faith Award.
Nominations are already open for the 2010 Bad Faith Awards. Put forward your favourite charlatans by emailing email@example.com and stay up to date on the New Humanist Blog