Religion = frog worship

March 2, 2011 • 6:26 am

A few days ago an English couple, Eunice and Owen Johns, were denied the right to be foster parents because of their vehemently homophobic attitudes derived from their faith.  As The Telegraph reports:

The judges underlined that, in the case of fostering arrangements at least, the right of homosexuals to equality “should take precedence” over the right of Christians to manifest their beliefs and moral values.

In a ruling with potentially wide-ranging implications, the judges said Britain was a “largely secular”, multi-cultural country in which the laws of the realm “do not include Christianity”.

Can you imagine an American judge making that last statement?

The judges added:

“Although historically this country is part of the Christian West, and although it has an established church which is Christian, there have been enormous changes in the social and religious life of our country over the last century,” they said.

It was a “paradox” that society has become simultaneously both increasingly secular and increasingly diverse in religious affiliation, they said.

“We sit as secular judges serving a multicultural community of many faiths. We are sworn (we quote the judicial oath) to ‘do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will’.”

Such is the slow erosion of faith in enlightened countries.  But here’s the funniest part.  The faithful, of course, are up in arms, defending the rights of parents to warp their children’s minds however they wish.  And one of them said this:

Speaking personally, Canon Dr Chris Sugden, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, said the judges were wrong to say religion was a matter of private individuals’ beliefs.

“They are treating religion like Richard Dawkins does, as if Christian faith was on a parallel with Melanesian frog worship,” he said.

If the shoe fits . . . .

Treefrog from New Guinea

82 thoughts on “Religion = frog worship

  1. Oh, my Frog! That’s fantastic!

    And just think of the worship services — hopping to the pews, singing the “Rainbow Connection,” the communion of flies…

    …well, perhaps they could be chocolate candies shaped like flies, at least….


    1. Think of the persecution these frog worshipers must suffer. They have the Christians beat hands down. Everybody knows it’s not easy being green. Saint Kermit told me so.

  2. Something tells me this nice couple might not have liked it too much if they lived during the era religion was the law of the land.
    They are black…

  3. Isn’t it amusing how Canon Dr Chris Sugden, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, at once comes out with the most benighted, xenophobic and colonially minded attitude towards ‘native’ religions – one might almost call his remark un-Christian were it not so obviously mainstream Christian from the very origins of Christianity?

          1. Plus, he should imbibe wine with that frog leg/communion wafer. To get the full religious benefits.

          2. Just trying to be like those hotshot Catholics. Don’t they eat their god? I bet mine tastes better at least.

  4. Aside from the obvious “yes, and…” (in other words, if you want respect for your religion, you need to be respectful of other people’s religion), do (or did) Melanesians actually worship frogs, or is Sugden simply being racist?

    1. I’ve been wondering that – Googling doesn’t seem to bring up much beyond thousands of pages of people amusedly quoting this very line, but there could be some genuine anthropological claim buried in there I haven’t found.

      1. According to an unreferenced paper I found via Google, ‘Frog Worship: A Unique Culture’ Nepal is the setting for this, where

        frog worship takes place annually on the full moon day of Shrawan (July) during the rainy season

        However the author of the mystery paper also warns the reader,

        But we should bear in mind that the accounts of a legend cannot be accepted ipso facto without analysing the verity of it. This is because truth must be extracted from myths as far as possible…

        So there’s about as much to frog worship as Jesus, then.

        1. Oh sorry Mike – you beat me to it while I was doing real work! I have added some links to those sources down the page, which are awaiting moderation.

  5. Dr Chris Sugden is being so uncivil towards frog whorshippers. But he will demand respect for his invisible zombie worship.

  6. Christianity is not in any way on par with frog worship. For one thing, frogs actually exist (as demonstrated by the photo you yourself posted.)

    1. Not only that, but some species of frogs are parthenogenic—they can produce young without fertilization. And that’s real, too, unlike the Virgin Mary.

  7. In answer to the question posed, no. American judges tend not to worry about ‘the laws of the realm’ – the laws of the state or the republic perhaps.

    Of course you might think these should be notably less christian in a secular country than in one with a state Anglican church. But there you go – life is odd.


  8. JAC wrote:
    “The faithful, of course, are up in arms, defending the rights of parents to warp their childrens’ minds however they wish.

    The judges in this case aren’t even challenging parents’ right to warp their children’s minds. This is about foster children, who are the responsibility of the state. It’s about whom the state should trust to take care of the kids it has a responsibility for.

    BTW, Dawkins’ quote is about the elbow joint of the “lesser spotted weasel frog” – is that a real critter?

  9. As an anthropologist, albeit with a focus on eastern Indonesia rather than the area most commonly known as Melanesia (ie, New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomons, New Caledonia, Fiji), I can say that I have never heard of ‘frog worship’, and I have no idea what that would entail. I think it’s just an example of racism, frankly. Indigenous religions of Melanesia are, obviously, on a par with Christianity and others, but I’ve certainly never come across an instance of worship of frogs. It’s strange in a way that humans aren’t. While humans are capable of some pretty odd religious practices, and while many of those odd practices, including the ritual ingestion of large quantities of semen or the cannibalism of supposed witches, are found in New Guinea or island Melanesia, I don’t think people are all that likely, anywhere, to worship a fucking amphibian. An anthropomorphic frogman, maybe, but not a frog, and in that instance, it would be just as demeaning to that belief to call it ‘frog worship’ as it would be to call Christianity ‘Jewish zombie worship’.

    1. Perhaps Jerry can comment here but wasn’t the lack of frogs on many islands – they don’t travel well over salty waters – one of they key pieces of evidence that led Darwin towards his theory of evolution?
      Are there even frogs on most of the melanesian islands? I guess there are on New Guinea but places further afield, like the Solomon Islands, might be out of range of frog migration.

      1. There are certainly plenty of amphibians in New Guinea and the Solomons, and there are all kinds of snakes (sea snakes and land-dwellers) in that part of the world. I don’t know about Vanuatu. The thing is, the boundaries of Melanesia are pretty unclear – it always includes New Guinea and the islands east of it up to Fiji, but the people of Maluku, Aru, Timor, and parts of Flores in Indonesia are just as dark and frizzy-haired as any New Guinean, and they speak non-Austronesian (sometimes called ‘Papuan’) and Austronesian languages in that area, just like they do in the rest of Melanesia, and I can tell you from experience that they definitely have amphibians and reptiles in abundance in that part of the world.

        Also, looks like I’m wrong about frog worship. It appears that some people are inclined towards worshipping amphibians, after all. Just goes to show, you should never underestimate human cultural diversity.

  10. Apart from the obvious irony of the frog worship line, the other great thing about this story is the incandescent rage its causing amongst mainstream religious commentators – such as Mad Mel Phillips at the Spectator and Ireland’s version of Bill Donohue, David Quinn.
    “How dare they withdraw our right to impose our bigotry on others!”

  11. According to Theo Alerts, in a recent publication from the University of Papua-New Guinea Press, the ‘latest census in Papua New Guinea’ shows that ‘over 96 percent of the (Melanesian) people profess now to be Christians, and that this fact is even enshrined in the state’s national constitution’ – traditional Melanesian religion, which, so far as I can ascertain, never involved the worship of frogs, having been destroyed by the usual suspects, the Christian missionaries, so Sugden is not merely croaking up the wrong tree, he is being thoroughly and unconscionably racist and insulting the people of a far more Christian country than his own. And since ‘frog worship’ in Nepal is mentioned above, I think one needs to be pretty careful about such unqualified assertions: the San and Kung! people of South Africa (Bushmen) got pissed off with foolish and ignorant Christian missionaries saying that they worshipped praying mantises (the character Mantis plays an important part in their mythology).

  12. While the inane huffing and puffing of the Christianists on this one is indeed hilarious, I retain some ambivalence about all this. I’m not convinced that barriers to adoption should be particularly high, especially with all the kids out there waiting to be adopted. After all, we wouldn’t call CPS to take away parents’ biological children if the parents were virulently homophobic, would we?

    I am not exactly sure where I draw the line, and I think this case is mighty close to it. It raises a lot of interesting questions.

    Anyway, the weird thing is that the only people defending the parents seem to be people who see nothing wrong with extreme homophobia. So that’s pretty lame. No nuance at all in this argument… heh 🙂

    (To be clear, for those who unequivocally agree with this decision, I’m not saying you’re wrong just because you lack “nuance” — nuance is not appropriate everywhere, and maybe it isn’t here either. It’s just interesting to me that nobody seems to be taking the middle road. Maybe that means the middle road is crazy and I should get off it? heh… I dunno, it’s just unusual, most debates — even ones that shouldn’t have a middle road — have some people who want to straddle both sides, but I don’t see (m)any on this one…)

    1. James, I think it’s a lot more clear-cut in the case of fostering arrangements, like this case here. It’s not even addressing adoption.

    2. Even if it were adoption rather than fostering, there are far, far more people who want to adopt than there are children available. I see no particular reason for the government not to be discriminating if that’s the case. I think something less than 1% of all births are given to adoption, so it might be just that the facts of current life have yet to catch up to the common perception of adoption (that its easy, and there are a ton of adoptable children).

      1. It is sort of true that there are more people wanting to adopt that their are children waiting to be adopted, but only in respect of babies.

        When it comes to older children they often have emotional, behavioural, physical or health issues that will be challenging for anyone adopting them.

      2. At one point, my husband and I were considering adoption. One of the stopping points for me was fear of the screening process, in which I’d heard there was much attention paid to the would-be adopters’ religious bona fides. I didn’t think I could fake any…

  13. Indian, Nepalese & southern China, yes they revere or worship frogs –

    The seminal article is –
    A. L. Waddell, ” Frog Worship among the Newars,” The Indian Antiquary, xxii (1893), p. 292 ff.

    the Zhuang in southern China –

    In Nepal –

    The only evidence of Melanesian frog worship I could find is a Peanuts cartoon – scroll down the page in this Google book…

    So that is the level of argument here.

  14. Actually,the story is untrue. The Christian Legal Centre appeared in the case and have issued a press release. The release was almost entirely made up of lies (surprise), and many ‘newspapers’ printed it without checking. Anyone can find a transcript of the court case via Google.
    The local authority involved sought a ruling as two aspects of English law seem contradictory. The court decided that it couldn’t do that without specific evidence and carefully made no ruling. The couple have not been refused permission to foster children as they have not yet applied.
    The whole thing reeks of the kind of put up cases being trawled through the courts by extremist nut jobs with access to large amounts of cash.
    Please do check the transcript of the case and you will come across other interesting snippets.

    1. A clear summary of an imaginary storm in an imaginary teacup. But it brought some bigots out of the woodwork.

      ‘Andrea Williams, from the Christian Legal Centre, which backed the Johns’s case, said the ruling “undermines the position of the established Church” in England.”‘

      And about time too!

      “Canon Dr Chris Sugden, the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, said the judges were wrong to say religion was a matter of private individuals’ beliefs.”

      It’s not? What does he imagine it is?

      “They are treating religion like Richard Dawkins does, as if Christian faith was on a parallel with Melanesian frog worship,” he said.

      Hooray! About time Melanesian frog worship* got the restpect it deserved.

      *a search on MFW found only this quote.

      I suggest that the Melanesian Frog go up there with the FSM and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    1. o tempores o mores – can you believe I found a spelling error in that judgement? They had ‘equiperate’ when they should have had ‘equiparate’!

    2. There were a few other details about this case that aren’t being emphasized by the religion brigade.
      For a start this couple, rather than being some sort of highly experienced fostering role models, have not fostered for the past 18 years. As well as that they claimed that they would not bring a child to a mosque due to their religious beliefs. In addition they would not agree to give up their two religious attendances on Sunday in case of emergencies with the foster child!
      As others have suggested it looks like they are simply fronting for some religious advocacy group with deep pockets.

    1. You know, you scroll through the whole list of comments to make sure you don’t make a derivative comment & there, right at the end…
      Well played, sir. Well played.

  15. Actually, Dr Sugden is right about the wrongness of comparing Christianity to frog worship – I mean, with it, there actually *are* frogs to worship…compared to Christianity’s totally mythical sky being where you have to pretend…

    1. Yes, after I wrote “I suggest that the Melanesian Frog go up there with the FSM and the Invisible Pink Unicorn.” above, I realised that was a problem.

      And of course sophisiticated and nuanced Melanesian Frog Worshipped don’t worship the frogs themselves, but the powerful gods that are their essence. Only their accidents are green and slimy. (And the same is doubtless true of the heathen who in their nuance and sophistication bow down to wood and stone.)

  16. Would it be an accurate assessment that Dr Sugned well and truly nuked his own foot?

    I always thought nature worship was at least more explicable than other forms of religion. For example, I find it is much easier to see why a country such as my own(India) would historically come up with treating cows as sacred: cattle just happened to be much too important in the rural economy.

  17. Moral values that take precedence over the right to equality may not be as moral as that. But it’s only a frog’s opinion.

  18. Great! Another Brit on Richard’s case but I take it as a good sign. This person must read Dawkins or at least listen to him on the tele. Most people with that attitude don’t listen to him.

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