Showing posts with label catholicism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label catholicism. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

MUSIC VIDEO: Everything You Need To Know About "The Holy Trinity"

Holy Trinity according to The Axis of Awesome
So Australian comedy group The Axis of Awesome came out with this easy to understand instructional video explaining something I've never been able to figure out - even when I was a Catholic: The Holy Trinity.

Watch and learn!

Friday, 4 April 2014

"Pope Day" Mass Celebrated With Politicians In Ontario Legislature Building

The Pope before he was Pope shaving outside. Because there's nothing odd about that.
Oh drat! I missed Pope Day in Ontario! It was April 2nd and I had sworn to myself that although I am in Quebec I would have at least worn a silly hat or reminded someone of all of the child molestation that was covered up.

Collins reminds MPPs of Catholic schools' 'gift' to Ontario

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins has to remind people in Ontario that the Catholic schools are a gift because quite a few people have begun to question exactly what the point is of having a Catholic public school system riding alongside several others rather than a single secular public school system.

If you're repulsed at the thought of government pandering to churches then declaring a day to celebrate the man who became Pope is bad enough, but inviting clergy over into the provincial legislature is even worse.
TORONTO - On the first-ever Pope John Paul II Day in Ontario, Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins celebrated the first-ever Roman Catholic Mass at Queen’s Park in the building’s 154-year history. 
The 7:30 a.m. Mass in the legislature’s dining room was attended by politicians of all three parties along with Catholic teachers and school board trustees there to lobby them. 
In his brief homily, Collins reminded his small flock Catholic schools are “a gift to all the province,” while also praising politicians for their dedication.
I suspect that this is technically not a problem because it's taking place inside the legislature dining room but I'll say my part anyway.

I can remember some defenders of the day claiming that it wasn't a celebration of Catholicism. Oh no, it was a celebration of Karol Wojtyła - the shaving pre-Pope in the picture above. What a crock! It was nothing more than turning the knob and leaving the door ajar so the priests could come strutting in with their hats, robes, goblets and hosts.
“We do this every couple of years just to remind them,” she said.
The message to anyone who doesn't want the Church to be in bed with Government in Ontario is that they've been in bed together for a long time. The deed was first done way back with the Constitution and by now they're at the light the cigarettes and have the existential discussion phase of the 1960s French movie.  

Pope Day? Just one more proof that Catholic meddling in government in Ontario is here to stay.

Ontario's present day school system had its roots in the 19th century, when Ontarians could generally be classified as either Catholic or Protestant and segregation was seen as an convenient means to address the often acrimonious Anglo-Irish, French-English, and Catholic-Protestant divisions that marked the society of the day.  Constitutional provisions notwithstanding, religiously segregated school systems like Ontario's have now been eliminated in Quebec (1997), Newfoundland and Labrador (1998), and Manitoba (1890). 
Ontario is now the only province that funds the religious schools of the Catholic faith exclusively, a situation that led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to censure Canada for religious discrimination in 1999 and again in 2005.
Ontario. A province that may very well need to be dragged away from the Catholic Church into this century.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Catholic Students & Parents Shocked By Church's Stance On Homosexuality

I grew up Traditional Mass Roman Catholic. This meant going to Mass in Latin and reading about how all my friends would go to Hell in the Baltimore Catechism. It also meant finding disturbing Pro Life pamphlets in our basement and learning at an early age that any kind of physical intimacy outside of a heterosexual Catholic marriage was wrong, wrong, really wrong.

So I still find it surprising when I meet Catholics who were raised in less fundamentalist households. They sort of do what they want and don't seem to really know or care about what the Church actually says.

Furor at Catholic high school after nun presents Church teaching on homosexuality

I'm pretty certain that the initial response of most atheists, including me, would be something like: Duh! What did you expect? Do you not have any clue how homophobic your own church is? Apparently, the answer for many Catholics must be no.
CHARLOTTE, NC, April 2, 2014 ( – A North Carolina Roman Catholic school is holding a meeting today to address the concerns of parents and students who say they are outraged about remarks a visiting nun made criticizing homosexuality, divorce, and sex outside of marriage during a recent speech. 
Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, who often speaks to high school and college-age students on matters of sexuality, gave an hour-long presentation to students at Charlotte Catholic High School on March 21 called “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.”  School officials told the Catholic News Herald she spent about half her allotted time discussing homosexuality, blaming its rising influence in part on fatherless homes created by divorce and extramarital sex. 
Is this really a surprise? No, not a surprise. But students and parents were shocked and launched an online petition and a letter-writing campaign. Where have they been? What would happen if they learned of the pedophilia problem, then?

I still find myself surprised that they are surprised.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy they had this response and it proves that they are better human beings than those who run their church and school.

Now that they've learned this valuable information, the appropriate thing is to do is realize that this organization is rotten and has been so for centuries. The proper approach here is for the parents to take their children out of this bigoted school, leave their churches and go find other institutions.
We are incensed that you knew the content of this speech and allowed these ideas to be expressed in a school that should be preaching a message of love and acceptance.
Sorry, wrong religion. Please proceed to another religion - or no religion.
“As rational people, we know that most homosexual people lead healthy, normal and productive lives like their heterosexual counterparts,” the students wrote.  “We resent the fact that a school wide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said in an interview this past fall that ‘we can not [sic] insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives [sic] methods.  We are angry that someone decided they knew better than our Holy Father and invited a speaker who addressed the issue of homosexuality to our school to speak twice in the course of one school year.”
The sooner these parents and students realize they are not dealing with rational here, the better. As for Pope Francis; he talks the talk but has yet to walk the walk. They are getting the Church's view on these things whether they can stomach it or not.
Fr. Tim Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, sent out a mass email which said in part, “She represented well the Catholic positions on marriage, sex, same-sex attraction and proper gender roles. … The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.” 
Fr. Roger Arnsparger, diocesan vicar for education, stated, "Our students are bombarded with confusing messages about sexuality. Our task in religious formation is always to help people understand the meaning of love and relationships."
I hope the good sister and as many other like-minded Catholic clergy as possible go out there and continue speaking frankly about the Church's true positions on these subjects. It sounds to me like people out there need to be educated and what better way than the horse's own mouth?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Poll: Brazilian Women In Revealing Clothes "Deserve Rape"

Brazil Carnival 2008 (source)
So the Brazil government sponsored a poll where 65% of respondents justified rape of women who wear too revealing clothing. In case you are confused, there is no excuse for rape - ever.

Brazilians say women in revealing clothes deserve rape – poll

Oh, and 66.5% of the respondents are women.
And 58.5 percent of respondents also agreed that “if women knew how to behave, there would be fewer rapes.”
What could possibly create a climate where women are apparently 100% responsible for their own rapes and men have little to no responsibility. What could possibly contribute to this idea that rape is to be expected by men who cannot control their penises? A patriarchal religion of course.
“The most surprising thing is that it is permissible to walk naked in the Carnival, but not in real life,” Queiroz told AFP. 
The study revealed a well-known Brazilian paradox in which a cult-like obsession with the body and sensuality clashes with the society’s dominant conservative Catholicism.
And what happened when the government attempted to create new laws to protect victimized women?
Last year, Rousseff signed a law aimed at protecting victims of sexual violence. 
The Catholic Church criticized the law, saying it marked a first step toward broader legalization of abortion in the country with the world’s biggest Catholic population, at 123 million.
You would think that the Catholic Church would do the good thing and would try to protect women.  You would think this would be a no brainer! But then, since when has the Catholic Church had the interests of women at heart - especially when women and their sexual autonomy is involved?

I don't think it's just a Catholic thing - this desire to cover women up (under implicit threat of rape) seems prevalent in many religions. I also think that there is an underlying patriarchy that infuses many religions and is promoted by them. This patriarchy also runs through our culture as well in ways people do not see - just like religion itself.

Nana Queiroz, a 28 year old journalist, launched an online protest inviting women to post selfies of themselves topless (covering their breasts) with the phrase: I don't deserve to be raped. Over 20,000 women stood up and participated.

Queiroz has received several threats of rape online.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

How a Templeton Prize Winner Sees Atheism: Essay One

Last week, I read a short series of very small essays by the latest Templeton Prize winner, Tomáš Halík. I find it fascinating to read pieces like this, they give me an insight on how even very intelligent Christians misunderstand atheism.

Why Have You Forsaken Me? Five Theses on Faith and Atheism

Halík has been praised for his soft, gentle touch - much like Pope Francis. He's also rather wily.

Since time is a rare commodity for me these days, I'll start out here with a couple comments about his first essay. I'll follow up with more if the Muse moves me.

He begins the first essay by pointing out a curious commonality between Abrahamic religions and atheism - they are both not polytheisms. Isn't that sort of clever?

Although, I might raise my eyebrow at such a statement when considering the fervent Catholic devotion to Mary and the Saints, I do admit that monotheism in general has nicely consolidated the multiple gods of antiquity into a single godhead. It's just that atheists like me go one step further and abandon belief in this single god.

Yes, we both do not believe in the real existence of multiple gods but atheists do not believe in the Christian god for the very same reasons. There is no special pleading there.

Which brings me back to Halík who makes it clear that his god is, of course, nothing like some uber version of the gods of pantheist faiths - ancient of modern.
It is very important to recognize that our God is not merely one exemplar of a group of beings called "gods." ...
Sounds good! Whereas Minerva or Durga may be discrete expressions of some kind of numenus out there, this Christian god is much more. So what is it?
He is a great Mystery. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with atheists when they say there is no God, if by that they mean there is not a God who is "a thing among other things." In this they are correct.
Or, in other words, he is even less well-described then these gods of old. Halík's god is not a thing, which makes it pretty damn hard to defined, describe, investigate or prove. Upon reading this, I was pretty let down.
That is why I like to begin my dialogues with atheists with the question, "What does this God, in whom you do not believe, look like?" ...
Do you see what happened here? Halík just ducked any responsibility to define the God he believes in by waiving his hand about and calling it a Mystery - which is no description at all! It is not my job as an atheist to define God, it is up to the theist to describe his god so that he may prove it to me - or at least persuade me.
... and sometimes, after my partner in dialogue tells me about his image of God - as a heavenly policeman or a big daddy behind the scenes of our world - I say, "Thank God you do not believe in such a God! I don't believe in such a God either."
Hey, wait a minute! Isn't that my job as the atheist?

I find this so hilarious. Haliík's amazing schtick  - within the confines of this article at least- is to admit he has no idea about God and that he cannot describe him and so asks the atheist to define God for him; which he admits, more or less, is an impossible task.

Brilliant! No wonder he won the prize.

He then brings out the common religionist definition of materialism: a souless, vaccuous, empty world with no meaning. How could it have any meaning without God? Halík's imagined dialogue partner calls this the something beyond us.
People believe that there must be something, even though they will not call it "God." And this is a challenge for the theologian, to continue this dialogue and to interpret this "something."
Many atheists would tell you need not mean a god or anything supernatural at all. It can mean the humanity in humanism - the energy a group makes in song and dance at a Sunday Assembly or even working at a soup kitchen.

Then there is the thrill that runs down the spine when one contemplates their ultimate smallness compared to the Cosmos.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Commenter: Hey, New Cosmos! Stop Picking On The Catholic Church!

I haven't had a chance to watch episode one of the reboot of Cosmos yet. I must admit that, much like the reboot of Doctor Who, I'm a little nervous that this new version just won't match the original Carl Sagan masterpiece.

That said, I read an amusing review of episode one on Happy Nice Time People, a blog affiliated to own of my favourite blogs of all time, Wonkette.

I found the review to be funny and somewhat insightful, but as is common over at this blog, the comments are where it's at.

Here's the start of one comment that really lept out at me, the ex-Catholic atheist, by one Mike Pesarchick. 
A fine program overall, but I was disappointed with the obligatory Catholic Church bashing masquerading as the tale of Giordano Bruno, as if the Church was and still is anti-science. This is not so! Bruno was executed, after being given numerous opportunities to recant, NOT for his views on extra-solar planets but for denying the Trinity. I'm glad that Cosmos, in the interest of fairness, also at least pointed out that Bruno's "scientific" views also were mocked and rejected by Protestants in Germany, Switzerland and England.
OH WELL THEN, mea Culpa! The totally scientifically okay Church had no problem with the extra-solar planets. This impious mind just couldn't believe that three is the same as one.  He wouldn't recant; so stubborn! He didn't accept a bunch of unproven theology so he had to die. Well, that's infinitely more reasonable. Thanks for clearing that up.

At first, I thought that perhaps he was just joking. This is after all Wonkette, a satirical blog. I'm still not sure, but he did include several impassioned examples where the Catholic scientists have made contributions to science. If it's satire, then it so well done as to look real to me.

He concludes his comment like this:
I'll look forward to future episodes of the new "Cosmos," but hopefully without the Catholic Church bashing and ignorance of the Church's many contributions to science and education over the past 2,000 years, specifically the idea that morality should be a central component of any science, and that in reality, science and religion are not mutually exclusive.
How about a commitment to accuracy and truth being the central component of any science? It seems to me that this usage of the world morality could very well just be a stand in for all that complies with and does not cross Catholic theology. In other words, the Church keeps its hands on Science to try to keep Science in line.

For me, there is a way for one god to be the same as three - the Trinity. It only works if God doesn't exist at all.  Something without any kind of existence of discernable qualities can be made to equate to any other nebulous undefined cosmic vaguery: 0 times 1 = 0 times 3.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Canada's Next Cardinal Vows to Tackle Tsunami of Secularization

Gerald Lacroix (source)
Really important and interesting news, everyone! Arch Bishop Gerald Lacroix has been Cardinalized by Pope Francis.

Why is this exciting news for a secularist lefty like me? No, not because Lacroix is a Quebecer like me. It's because he thinks secularism is important too!

Canada's next cardinal, a missionary against secularism
Archbishop Lacroix’ time in Quebec City, the provincial capital, has been marked by an increasing “closed secularism” in which the government actively secularizes society and pushes religion “out of the public square altogether,” according to a Quebecois Catholic school administrator.
I've heard this public square thing all over the place. I wonder what it means to people like Lacroix. I sincerely do.

Because to me it means a public space where ideas can be exchanged, criticised, mocked, dismissed. The most important part is the first one, there, exchanged. I don't think it means trying to legislate against women being able to terminate their pregnancies, or preventing gay people from getting married, or keeping the corpses of women alive as incubators for horribly deformed non-viable fetuses against their family's will, or buying up all the hospitals so they can deny certain legal procedures to people based on their religion etc. etc. 

Anyway, I'm not certain who this school administrator is, but I am pleased to see an increasingly secular Quebec society. As this French Catholic priest would agree, secularism is the best thing possible for everyone; religious or non-religious.

Well, Lacroix is not happy with secularism and he's taken a missionary's position against it (as should all good Catholics).  He's upset that 83% of Quebecers consider themselves Catholic and yet secularism has been an increasingly popular position in this province since the Quiet Revolution when the population decided that maybe they don't need to be lorded over by the Church.
Archbishop Lacroix has called it a “tsunami of secularization,” and has made it his mission to evangelize the Quebecois.
Well, I say, bring it. Can we start with talking about removing the tax exempt status for church properties and deductions for clergy residences? God knows, the money could go to good use to fix infrastructure.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

My Reactions To Nicholas Frankovich's Comments

A long time ago, I wrote a post reacting to a piece by Nicholas Frankovich over at the National Review: Do Atheists Exist? I found the article about as irritating as anyone would if their own identity was being existentially challenged. Yes, it was pretty annoying.

Well, my post must have shown up in one of Nicholas' Google filters and he was kind enough to respond to my post in a comment. This is fantastic, by the way. I mean, I'm always really impressed when someone takes the time to leave a comment, especially someone who writes for the National Review.
Re religion and atheism: The definition of "religion" is disputed, even among scholars of religion. I don't attempt to define it in the article. I don't say that being morally or philosophically serious necessarily means one is "religious." I only note that it's a position that was argued by Dworkin, for example. It's also held by Ethical Culture Societies, which self-identify as a religion and are officially atheist (though emphatically not antitheist). 
If religion as you define it is bad, you'll reject the label, as many do (including some Christians). Dworkin and the Ethical Culture Societies define religion as good, and so they claim the label. That's all. 
It sounds like you're unfamiliar with Jurgen Habermas. Check him out. He's been prolific over the years, so no one except him (and not even him, given that he thinks a lot and so probably changes his mind about things now and then) will agree with all of it, but you might find in his writing some nuggets of insight that you value. 
Re atheism and sidestepping the mystery of Being itself: If you don't sidestep it, you're probably not an atheist, insofar as classical theism, commonly understood, is the response to that mystery. Are you sure that your experience of it is different from that of those who consider themselves theists? I'm not. 
The God of faith, the God of the philosophers: It's a longstanding distinction, and helpful. I gather that your identity as an atheist is based on your rejection of the God of faith. I'm not convinced that you reject the God of the philosophers, though it's clear that you reject the term "God" and the identification of the God of the philosophers with the God of faith.Re "nothing": The concept is problematic in mathematics, formal logic, and philosophy, for reasons that I touch on in the article. Heidegger's treatment of the question in "What Is Metaphysics?" is good, and I recommend it. 
A couple of corrections: 
Moses does not ask God why there is something rather than nothing. 
I say not that atheists are too quick to assume they've understood God but that they are too quick to assume they've understood someone who ventures to speak about the mystery of being. 
So, I'm by no means a theologian. And I'm sorry to say that although this response took a very long time, it's far from a masterpiece -- I spent much time avoiding it. In fact, it's really nothing more than a reaction to his comments. I guess it's no much more than one end of a conversation.

Anyway, I think his first point has to do with definitions and I think that, in a sense, Frankovich's original arguments rests primarily definitions of theism and atheism. More on this later.

Okay, I've never heard of Jürgen Habermas, but he sounds interesting enough. Still, I'd like to take this opportunity to vent a little about some of the Catholics with whom I converse. They all seem to be a well-read lot with rather ornate and complicated minds; with plenty of intricate folds which could be used to stash away difficult things. In other words, I mean this in a good way and a bad way too.

Several years ago, after my first wave of doubt, I settled into a sort of neo-pagan position and the very first Catholic I encountered then calmly told me I was dismissing a religion that I didn't properly understand. When I asked him to please clarify, he advised me to tolle lege my way through Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. It was all there, I just had to read the whole thing, come up with arguments against them and demonstrate them. Well after I get through all that, wouldn't it be a shame if it were all a big waste of time.

An analogy. The Hindu, of course, could demand that I read all of the Vedas to discount Hinduism. Muslims could refer me to the Hadith.

More recently on the Catholic front, I have been prescribed Frank Sheed's Theology and Sanity by Catholic Blogger Stacy Transancos.  I went forth valiantly into the material and penetrated fairly deeply until mind recoiled in horror several times. Such warping and bending of the very fabric of reality in this work caused a sort of shock and awe to my intellect - which I was advised to put on pause when it came between me and believing.

Christianity is just not easy, apparently. Whenever I ask for straight answers I get sent off to many a long tome. After awhile, it sort of begins to feel like being led down a bunny trail.

In the end, it's really up to Christians to package the information in such a way that it is solid convincing evidence for the atheist. The burden of proof is on them and it seems like after 2,000 years of work, they still have a ways to go.

Editor's Note: Shortly after publishing (less than one day), I changed Catholic to Christian in the last two paragraphs.
Re atheism and sidestepping the mystery of Being itself: If you don't sidestep it, you're probably not an atheist, insofar as classical theism, commonly understood, is the response to that mystery. Are you sure that your experience of it is different from that of those who consider themselves theists? I'm not.
Again, a sort of definition game. because, apparently, theism is the response to the mystery of Being. No, I'm not sure that my experience, whatever that is supposed to mean, is different than those who consider themselves theists. I'm reasonably sure we experience being in similar ways but we have different ways of processing it.

Responding to mystery by feeling the wonder, awe and emotion but not slapping a God label on it is the intellectually honest response to that mystery.

When it comes to the god of the philosophers, I did consider myself a neoplatonist for some time. I read Plotinus and some of the others. Then I realized that the closer one went towards the monad, so to speak, the slimmer god got until it was hardly anything at all.

Too much ado about nothing. Nothing, for me, means nothing at all. In a sense, nothing can never exist because it doesn't exist. If I were to put my bets on the table, I would say that there is no nothing and as a God comes closer to this, he too disappears into oblivion.

Nicholas responded also to a reader, Fallulah, who asked what was meant by God of the Philosophers. To which Nicholas responded:
"What is the God of the philosophers"? Classical theism, based in ontology, the mystery of being. Forget labels ("atheism," "theism"), tribal loyalties (to atheism or theism), and semantics ("atheism" and "theism" again). 
The fact of being elicits wonder in you when you think about it slowly enough. It elicits wonder in me too. It elicits wonder in people who call themselves atheists and in those who call themselves theists. 
Over the centuries people have established linguistic conventions for naming the mystery of being, though no one can explain it. We can only point to it. 
If we're going to use the word "God," either to deny or to affirm it, let's define the term. If you're allergic to it, fine. We can call what it points to something else. It's not a proper name. It's only a label.
As I explain in my article. It's not that long. Tolle, lege. 
Why don't we stop trying to define God? Because it seems like this word has billions of subtly different definitions and we're no closer to knowing what it is. It seems like this word has so many meanings that it means nothing at all. Nothing can be pinned on it anymore.

Why not leave this wonder at the fabric of being as the awe that Carl Sagan spoke about? Isn't it amazing how both theists and atheists can agree on the compelling -- nay spiritual -- emotion of this mystery of why we're here and how we're here? The atheist may look to Science for explanations, spurred on by his feeling of wonder and excitement at the world, not unlike a child. While it seems like the theist must slap their God word on top;  a pointer which, as far as I can tell, means very little on its own... practically nothing.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Exorcism: The Catholic Church Is Part of The Problem

Exorcisms seem to be hip again these days. The Friendly Atheist blogger Terry Firma, while writing up Another Parent Decides to Perform a Violent Exorcism on a Child. Are You Losing Count Yet, noted that it seems like the number of violent exorcisms is really on the rise.
Could be coincidence, or selective perception, but I’ve come across more reports of violent, usually fatal exorcisms in the past few months than I had in years.
Well, Terry's perception was confirmed by the Telegraph last Friday.

Rise of the exorcists in Catholic Church
Dioceses across Italy, as well as in countries such as Spain, are increasing the number of priests schooled in administering the rite of exorcism, fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.
The Church never gave up their belief in demons and spooks that can override their human hosts and make them do any number of ghastly things. Perhaps all those pedophile priests are really demon-possessed? Perhaps those cardinals and bishops who sheltered them are also infested with demonic parasites? I, of course, think it's a ridiculous idea, but perhaps the Church will offer this up as a latest excuse.
During the papacy of Benedict XVI he said that the sex abuse scandals which engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Australia and other countries were proof that the Antichrist was waging a war against the Holy See.
Because if there's anyone who ought to be strong enough to withstand the devil it ought to be... right, well then what's the point of listening to them then? For all I know, the entire Catholic Church would be Satan's plaything right now.
The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.
Another priest adds in yoga. Well, some might agree that yoga pants have been the cause of impure thoughts, but Satan? Come on.

There is, of course, nothing new here -- except for that evil Internet, source of free and wide dissemination of information and an enormous movement of those pesky atheists. Same old, same old.

Recently, Fr. Jose Antonio Fortea, a guy who wrote a famous treaty on demonology... not in the 16th or 17th century, visited Florida, the very state where a meth user recently tried to exorcise his son in the middle of the night violently.

Famed Exorcist Comes to Miami, Puts Santeria on Blast
Fortea, who is from Spain, said that although exorcisms are uncommon last-ditch resorts, the Vatican has emphasized the rite in recent years out of necessity. The Catholic Church does not advertise the number of exorcisms it approves annually, but some statistics do exist: Between 1991 and 2001, the number of Catholic demon-expellers in the United States almost doubled. Fortea claimed that modern culture has weakened the soul and made it more susceptible to possession.
I would argue that irrational superstitious beliefs common to Catholicism, Santeria (and perhaps meth users) have always made some souls more susceptible to possession.

Here's a hypothesis. Could there now be a feedback loop within the Church that could also be contributing to the increase in exorcism belief?

First it's possible a recent slide away from the enlightened post Vatican II progressive views of exorcism as being an embarrassing anachronism from the Middle Ages is warming more clergy up to the idea. Rigid traditionalist Popes like Benedict (who could be the Devil, actually) are part and parcel of this move to older views and Francis doesn't seem to be countering this.

This move also may benefit the Church which sees lots of its adherents in places like Africa slide away to more Pentecostal Christian religion that has a literal view of the Bible and demonic possession. And as developed nations secularize, the Church's reliance upon these under developed countries with strong belief in possession -- whether from evangelic Christian missionary influence or local tribal religious traditions -- increases. So, a slide further into this the devil is a real guy who wants to make you puke pea soup belief would then be all the more necessary to keep these Catholics filling the baskets.

The Church is, and always has, been a normalizing factor when it comes to belief in demon possession and exorcism, just like they were responsible for a lot of he witchcraft hysteria in Europe. And it is possible for certain deranged individuals to both see the Church's superstitious position as validation for their own delusions and take their own dangerous measures to banish the devils, regardless of whether or not they have the Church's blessings.

The Church broadcasts it out there into the Zeitgeist. Then it's a simple matter of cherry picking those things that confirm your bias while ignoring or explaining away those things that go against. We're human, it's what we do.

Belief in demon-possession and exorcism is just as dangerous as belief in witchcraft. It gives parents and communities excuses to act out on their own delusions based on superstition, fear and ignorance rather than science-based medical investigation. The Church probably knows better. They should just stop it. Exorcism is a dangerous and harmful institution that must be eradicated.

The delusional parent says: My child is possessed by a demon. Of course this is possible. The Church says so.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Maltese Journalist Asks: Is the Pope a Closet Atheist & Be Impeached?

Different Pope, same story?
Sometimes, you know that online news services might be fishing a little for links. You know, when they come up with titles to opinion pieces like this.

Is the Pope a closet atheist?

In a world where all is turning possible, what will we, believers – especially we staunch Catholics – do if the Pope wakes up one great day in Rome and declares from his most beautiful balcony at the Vatican that, after all, there isn’t a God?

First off, I love how this is framed. It's this scary new world where all is turning possible! Horror of all horrors! And the Pope admitting there is no God? That seems highly unlikely, but an Atheist can dream.

Much like previous articles and blog posts out there talking about when Catholics are allowed to declare the Pope cray cray and ignore him -- something most Catholics have been doing quite fine in the sack for decades, thank you -- this piece by Victor Calleja is talking about how conservative Catholics can ignore and then shut down the Pope should he become too much of a Communist, Marxist, non-judgemental hippy.

You know, theology aside, and, most importantly, infallibility aside!

Victor talks about the ultimate atheistic horrific scenario. The Pope goes mad or loopy and begins talking actual rational sense for a change about the man in the sky. Natually, Catholics everywhere would go insane and ransack Rome, lay siege on Rome and the rest of the non-believers. You know, rather than actually follow their religion. Will I ever understand?

Apparently, there was great consternation in the Church when Pope John Paul II became too infirm to run the show, but he died, so problem solved. Then (very) old Ratzinger came to the fore but he was a tired old man, so they had to resort to a retirement plan that hasn't been used for over 500 years.

And now we seem to have some sort of progressive talking Pope who keeps dropping lines about getting along with atheists and letting LGBTQ people get on with their lives unmolested. How distressing for the establishment! Where's the safety valve here?
Of course, I have no knowledge of things connected to divinity and theology but I do not think the Vatican, the cardinals or the faithful could have done anything if, instead of just an infirmity of the body, the Pope had an infirmity of the mind. What if a Pope goes mad? 
What if the Pope, who is chosen for life by a band of cardinals, and who is a supreme pontiff and sole arbiter of when he can go, or what he can do and say, goes loopy?
I'll try to withhold my godless sarcasm about whether or not all the Popes were a bit loopy and self-delusional! Instead I'll say that as an ex-Catholic I find discussion like this fascinating. It's like a ridiculous shell containing a gooey non-sensical filling. Was not the Pope ultimately chosen by the Holy Spirit -- essentially God? Do we not see a problem here?
Besides the obvious heresy mentioned above – saying there’s nothing up in heaven after all – he could also start doing out-of-line things like approving gay marriages and adoptions by gay couples or say that sex out of wedlock is permissible under canon law. He might even endorse some particular brand of birth control.
You mean he could start being sensible? I wonder if this is some sort of inherent defence mechanism of the "religion virus?" The urge to shut the very leader of the Church down because the holier-than-him masses do not approve?
Can a Pope be impeached? In the bad old days when popes had concubines and children they even appointed their own ungodly offspring to top positions and even gave them, denying divine meritocracy, sacred posts as cardinals.
And doesn't this tell you something about the Church itself and make you wonder whether or not it is the Church of an all-powerful existent God or just something made up by people?

After calling us Atheists dreary, Calleja ends his article suggesting that universal suffrage be used to choose and maintain a papacy. It makes me wonder if he is Catholic or perhaps a Humanist?
Maybe we could also be asked to go the whole hog and start electing, selecting and deselecting canons, cardinals and the mighty Pope himself by universal suffrage. 
That would be one sure way to solve the dilemma of a senile Pope – have him voted out.

I always thought the story was that it was God who chose the Pope. But apparently it's just a bunch of old guys in flowing gowns and big hats. So why not just have all Catholics vote for their Pope?

Or why not just be honest and realize that if it's Catholics who know better than some Pope or the institution of the Church, then why not ditch the whole papacy thing all together? Why carry on with the charade if this isn't anything more than Humanism? I mean, it seems that if Popes can be so amazingly wrong and individual (conservative) Catholics have this ability to know when the Pope has gone too far then why bother with the Pope? Why bother with God?

Why not vote the Pope out permanently and become Secular Humanists like me? Listen, I'm all for pomp and ceremony and I love the smell of incense. So you can keep the hats and the gowns and the beautiful churches and songs and stuff. Why not base it off the Sunday Assembly?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Catholic Skeletons On Parade!

A glass case protects the corpse of the "martyr Candidus"
at the Irsee Abbey, Bavaria. (source)
Here's another short rant.

I was a Catholic up until a few years ago - the hardcore Latin Mass kind. For some reason, the really odd stuff was kept from me.

So now I'm discovering more and more that Catholicism is creepy. I mean, really gruesome and strange. Don't believe me? Drinking the blood and eating the body of Jesus not good enough for you? Revering the foreskin of Jesus or the bone fragments of dead people not bizarre enough for you?

Well then, how about the skeletal remains of fraudulent saints adorned with wildly valuable and gaudy jewels?
During the Beeldenstorm of the 16th century and continued iconoclasm of the 17th century, Catholic churches throughout Europe were systematically stripped of their religious symbols, iconography and relics. In response, the Vatican ordered that thousands of skeletons be exhumed from the catacombs beneath the city and "installed" in towns throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 
Few, if any, of the corpses belonged to people of any religious significance though given their burial, some may have been early Christian martyrs. Each was nonetheless "painstakingly" dressed and decorated as one of the various Catholic saints. One church spent 75 gulden dressing their "saint".
I'm certain the money for all those jewels could have gone to more useful ends. And isn't this sort of worship and reverence looked down upon - especially by Protestants at the time?
Though selling the relics would have been considered simony, enterprising church officials still managed to raise funds while countering the iconoclasm by charging for transportation, decoration, induction and blessing.
Nice scheme, eh?

Now you can see pictures of these! They're part of a new book released this year, Heavenly Bodies.

Beauty from the crypt: Mystery of Europe's jeweled skeletons

The Catholic Church really seems to have a problem with the flesh and material or carnal things. Until those things die and only their bones remain, of course. Then they are relics to put into gruesome displays of death and to be revered.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Word 'Atheist' In Reviews of Philomena

So there is a new movie out called Philomena. Actually, it's been out awhile, but I've been so absorbed with work and house renovations, I've sort of tuned out of popular culture.

Anyway, the movie is a story about a woman who had her baby forcibly taken away from her by Catholic nuns back in the 1950s because she was single. Although the movie is set in Ireland, this sort of thing happened in Australia and even Canada.

It's yet another travesty to add to the Church's twentieth-century rap sheet. She's joined by a journalist who's got a problem with the Church - AKA a sensible person.
Journalist Martin Sixsmith has just lost his job as a Labour government adviser, and isn't sure whether to take up running or write a book about Russian history. Meanwhile, Philomena Lee confides to her daughter that, 50 years earlier, she had given birth to a son in Ireland, but because she was not married she had been forced to give him up for adoption. Soon after, Martin meets the daughter at a party. Although he initially scorns human interest stories, he needs work and an editor wants the story. He meets Philomena, and they start to investigate what had become of her son.
Now I've haven't seen this movie (yet), but it showed up in my Google filters for the term atheist. I noticed the review the filter found for me painted the atheist character as the angry sort. I realize the character is set up to be an angry atheist but as a non-scientific test, I decided to do a Google search for 'Philomena atheist' and I got back a wealth of results where the word atheist was closely surrounded by all kinds of interesting modifiers. Surely, on some psychological level, this must indicate something about our society.

Martin is Oxford-educated, arrogant and an atheist, while Philomena is cheery, fond of romance novels, and, despite how the Church treated her, loyally Catholic

his cynicism (not to mention aggressive atheism) ... his atheism is both sour and intellectualized ... Philomena’s unreasoned but compassionate acceptance of what happened to her 

Philomena is deeply religious, while Martin is an atheist; Philomena is kindly to a fault, and Martin is kind of a dick

cynical modern atheist ... sweet-natured traditional believer

Martin being a cynical atheist compared to Philomena's unquestionable faith in God and the Catholic church

Sixsmith is a staunch and sardonic atheist who grows increasingly impatient

An angry atheist and a civilized churl, Martin rolls his eyes

Sixsmith's highbrow atheist, Philomena's lowbrow Catholic

The cynical atheist and the earnest believer (Philomena remains a devout Catholic) 

As is the case with most hardline atheists, the one-time BBC man is also entirely dismissive of Philomena's near-incorruptible faith. 

Martin, the cynical, world-weary atheist who rudely questions everyone and everything,

His journalist is an avowed atheist who is allergic to sentiment and pushy when he doesn’t get answers. ... Despite her experiences, Philomena remains a devout Catholic, pleasantly naive and bubbling with enthusiasm.

And it goes on and on and on. I could have given your pages.

I know these reviewers are working with a film that apparently portrays the atheist (Martin) this way. But I just find all these original and unique descriptions of his character interesting windows into, perhaps, something in our collective psyche.

It turns out, I wasn't the only one who found the atheist- and intellectual-bashing sentiment I did.

‘Philomena’ Review: Judi Dench and Steve Coogan Bring Much-Needed Brimstone to This Cinematic Treacle
Stephen Frears’ docudrama urges us to forgive the sinning Catholic Church, which is one thing, but why the condescension toward atheists and intellectuals?
And I quote a little more.
“Philomena” has a similar head-patting brand of dismissive arrogance, which is doubly offensive given its theme of forgiveness against those who have done you wrong. If the movie wants to let the Catholic Church off the hook lightly for its crimes against unwed mothers in Ireland in the mid-20th century, that is its right, but why top that off with such a dismissive attitude toward non-believers?
Although I haven't seen it, I would imagine this film might just give believers an excuse to forgive their Church without feeling too icky about doing it - which is precisely what the Church wants.

As for the condescension, the movie may be saying one thing, but the reviewers could be saying a whole lot more. Go check Google out for yourself and you may see what I mean.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Conservative Catholics Now Ask: When Is The Pope 'Really' Infallible?

January 1870 cover of Vanity Fair features
Pope Pius IX, the Infallible. (source). See how
he's sitting in his chair? That's important.
A rather interesting short essay has been making the rounds in anti-abortion websites lately.

A definition of infallibility in light of the Pope Francis interviews

All the blogs that link to this essay point back to a LifeSiteNews Special Report. The essay purports to derive its authority from a real smart person in Rome who - for reasons unspecified - would prefer to remain unnamed. Or perhaps someone else made it up. Who knows.
The following essay was written by a theologian in Rome who specializes in ecclesiology.
It would seem as if Pope Francis' recent comments about homosexuality, atheists, poor people etc. have begun to alarm some Catholics who were rather comfortable with the ever slightly more conservative approach of his predecessor.

(Really, he's only been talk up to this point and his talk is only being lauded by progressives because all his predecessors have been stuck in the Middle Ages.)

Even so, now certain Catholics are looking for a way to really tell if the Pope is really really truly speaking infallibly or if he's just making another one of those silly off the cuff comments about atheists potentially not going to Hell or about how one should not judge gay people. I mean, do those really count?

It all depends on whether he's proclaiming these things while on his holy throne.
The Holy Father is infallible in the same way that the Church is infallible when he teaches: as head of the Church, determining an object of faith and morals to be held by the whole Church. This manner of teaching is called ex cathedra, that is, teaching “from the chair.”
Well, okay, I know it's a metaphorical throne but I've been known to do some of my best thinking on a throne.

Based on this theologian's analysis, Francis is, of course, not speaking infallibly when he makes all these, dare I say, progressive comments about social issues.
With regard to the recent statements of Pope Francis, it is obvious—really obvious—that most of his comments are not infallible definitions. Letters to the editor, interviews with journalists, even daily homilies fail to meet the criteria necessary for a statement to be infallible. Although he may be speaking about faith or morals, he is emphatically not making a solemn definition that the Church must hold this teaching.
Oh! It's obvious -- really obvious! See! He's not speaking infallibly!

Hence, there is no need for conservative Catholics to pay any attention to these disquieting remarks. Apparently, he just feels this way and that's okay (the author supposes). No need to listen to any of what he's talking about until he sits in his chair! Silly Pope!

The essay goes on to more or less say that the Pope is only human and has failed to respond to the graces he was given.

Conservative Catholics -- who apparently know better than the Pope -- are still to respect him but not shy away from outright opposing him... should he continue being fallible, naturally. You know, respect him until you just can't take it anymore.
We can look at the Pope’s words and actions, and, with a spirit of humility and charity, come to the conclusion that they are not particularly helpful—or that they are positively counter-productive, even dangerous. In that case, we might have an obligation to speak out or even resist the Pope.
Seems like for some the Pope is only infallible when he's singing the same song as they are. In the end, he's just a man wearing a big silly pointy had, spreading his ridiculous superstitious beliefs -- a human being like everyone else.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Herb Silverman On God In Papua New Guinea

A mudman from Asaro with his unique clay mask. Photo taken at Kabiufa (~5km from Asaro), Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea.
A mudman from Asaro with his unique clay mask. Photo taken
at Kabiufa (~5km from Asaro), Eastern Highlands, Papua New
Guinea. (source)
There is a very fascinating piece on the Washington Post On Faith religion blog by Herb Silverman, President of the Secular Coalition for America.

God in Papua New Guinea

In it he recounts some of the detrimental effects of religion - specifically imported Christianity - on this island nation of diverse tribes. In PNG over 95% profess to be Christian (Catholicism the largest denomination) but mix in a great deal of local animism and tribal religion.

There are some sad testaments of mixed up Catholic priorities on the island due to messed up theology.
One day I encountered a Catholic priest who deplored the “ungodly” sight of bare-breasted women. When I brought up serious problems like wife beating, which was legal at the time, he just shrugged and said he couldn’t change everything. Shortly thereafter, I attended a UPNG beauty pageant with five contestants representing different villages. My colleagues were impressed when I confidently predicted the winner. You see, the primary judge was the priest, and four of the five contestants were bare breasted.
But what I found most interesting was how Herb was able to draw clear parallels between civilized Christian religion and PNG blood sacrifice and cannibalism.
The PNG blood sacrifices and cannibalism only seemed strange to me because I was in an unfamiliar culture. But I have to wonder how gaining strength by eating a body and drinking the blood of a tribal enemy is much different from the Catholic practice of Holy Communion, where communicants believe they are actually eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus, magically transformed from a wafer and wine by a priest’s incantation. Blood, a life force for all, is important symbolically for Judaism, Christianity, and PNG spirit practices. A circumcision ritual performed when I was eight days old sealed a covenant (Hebrew for “to cut”), without which my “soul” would be cut off from my tribe.
Yes, I know that for many people the whole idea of the body and blood of Christ turning into a wafer and wine is purely metaphorical. But remember, Catholics in particular, the Church still says that transubstantiation is real. It's still holy doctrine and the majority of people in PNG consider themselves Catholic. What better way to compliment pre-existing superstitions related to sacrifices and cannibalism?
Folks everywhere learn passages from holy books to justify what they believe or want to believe. Christian belief in Satan, demons, ghosts, and supernatural evil provide sufficient justification for PNG Christians to continue their ancient practices.
The article also mentions the horrendous situation women find themselves in. They are often seen as little more than property and are sometimes branded as witches, which is often deadly on PNG.

Well at least Herb had some encouraging news:
One practical Catholic priest, who understood the importance of family planning, overlooked Vatican policy against contraception because he saw how such a ban leads to more poverty. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Catholic School Principal Doesn't Want To Let Students Learn About Other Religions Without Catholic Bias

There was an interview in the National Post last week with (Catholic) Loyola High School principal Paul Donovan who wants to teach the provincially mandated religion and ethics course from a Catholic perspective. He won in court, then lost and now he's going all the way up to the Supreme Court.

I wrote about Loyola last December, when the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a previous decision allowing the school to teach the mandated religion and ethics course from a Catholic perspective.

The provincial government won their fight to force the Catholic school to teach the course from a neutral secular standpoint. This means the students would be exposed to many different views on religion without any Catholic bias.
The ERC program was mandated at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year for all students, and spans from grade one to the end of high school. The course purports to take a “neutral” stance on world religions, giving equal merit to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and aboriginal spirituality, as well as pseudo-religions such as atheism.
Heaven forbid Catholic kids be exposed to other religions and left to make up their own minds. However will the Church survive?

Quebec Catholic school principal fights for right to teach religion course with faith

The interview has some interesting perspective into his views about education and the Quebec Charter of Values. Here's a snippet or two.
Q: So you have no trouble in promoting pluralism, which is the stated aim of the course? 
A: We are in agreement with those goals. We just want to teach it from a Catholic point of view. Quebec wants us to keep any explanation out of why people believe what they believe. You are supposed to say this is what they believe and that’s it. The government requires that when you’re dealing with other religions that the teacher in the classroom completely disassociates himself from any religious perspective or religious value. So we can never say, ‘As Catholics, we see this…’
Isn't there enough time to discuss what they believe as Catholics in church or in church-related discussion groups? Why can't they have a bias-free religion course for just one period of the day? I'm sorry, but I just don't see the big deal here - I think a simple course laying out the various tenets of different religions would be a great idea. Wouldn't it help challenge and strengthen their faith?

Especially since my tax dollars go to partially subsidizing this school. Donovan's response to this is:
The subsidies are a complete non-issue in this case because in Quebec the course has to be taught whether funded or not. But even if you want to view it as Loyola taking “secular” funding it shouldn’t matter. We still teach math, English, French, history. So we are doing what Quebec wants all schools to do.
Um, actually they are a complete issue with me. Especially if they are mangling the course and presenting it through their Catholic god-tinted glasses. Can I have my money back now please?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Nun In Training Kills Her Baby To Cover Up Having Had Sex

Here's a sad and twisted story brought to you by the Catholic Church and their messed up ideas about celibacy and birth control.

Samoan woman who came to D.C. to become a nun is charged in death of her newborn son

So a nun in training, Amoa (26), from Samoa travelled to a convent in Washington, DC. She delivered her baby in secret and then suffocated the life out of it rather methodically only minutes after it drew its first breaths.
She said that she placed a black wool garment over the child’s nose and mouth and applied pressure with her hand for two to three minutes. The mother said that prior to placing the wool garment over the child’s nose and mouth, the child was breathing and had cried. The mother said that after she removed the garment from the child’s nose and mouth, the child was not breathing and she knew the child was dead.
How unspeakably revolting. I'm sure all Catholics would agree this is a tragedy. I'm also reasonably confident that a majority of Catholics would agree with me that it's a shame she wasn't on the pill or at least able to obtain an early abortion. Instead, she waited for the baby to be born and then murdered it.

It's here that I think the Church is to blame. If she could obtain proper birth control or access to abortion then presumably this ghastly thing wouldn't have occurred. In a repressive environment, she felt the need to hide her sexual behaviour to the point of murdering a child.

If the church didn't have such backward ideas about sex, it's likely that even at this late stage she could have turned the baby over for adoption at some good Catholic orphanage.
At first, the suspect told police, she lay down with the child, who cried for two or three minutes and then stopped suddenly, according to the court papers. She told police that she became afraid the nuns would hear the baby and find out that she had lied to them about sexual activity.
I'll admit, this is likely not black and white. She claims to have not known she was pregnant and it's hard to know how much knowledge she had of these things due to a possibly cloistered Catholic upbringing. We don't know. She obviously had sex - but was it consensual or not?  Of course, if the Catholic Church weren't so hung up against birth control, she wouldn't have gone down this ugly road.

One could argue from the outside that she needn't have stayed in the convent - that she had a choice between her career as a nun and a mother. Obviously, the logical action would have been to have used  a morning after pill, get an abortion or leave the order and raise her child. However, we are not factoring in the religion wildcard here.  How clearly was she thinking if she was dealing with intense shame for having sex and then sheer terror of delivering a (possibly unexpected) forbidden child?

Although this atheist would love to see a complete end to the nonsense that is the Catholic Church - would that their vast coffers feed the hungry mouths of the world! I'd happily settle for this more liberal Pope to let nuns and priests date and marry other consenting adults. You know, like human beings. Anything to prevent nuns from murdering their baby boys to conceal the act from which they were conceived.

Rebecca Savastio over at the Las Vegas Guardian Express concludes her piece:
A nun has murdered her own baby to conceal her sexual activity, leading some to ask if it’s time for the Catholic Church to reevaluate its stance on celibacy. Social media commentary on the incident seems largely in favor of such a suggestion, but whether the Catholic Church will take notice of this event remains to be seen.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Ron Paul + Anti-Semitic Fringe Traditional Catholic Group + Conspiracy Theorists = A Crazy Time In Niagara

So did you hear the news? Ron Paul and the president of the John Birch Society will be joining my favourite fringe Roman Catholic group in Niagara Ontario this weekend! 

Paul headlines an international summit of a radical Catholic traditionalist organization that rejects the Vatican's liberal reforms

Here's a screenshot from the conference website:

It's bound to be a dandy of a conference full of interesting and exciting people with interesting and exciting ideas! Did you see the ironic air quotes flying around when you read that?  I hope you did.

I've written before bout the group that's putting it on, the Fatima Network. I attribute some of my more special religious traumas to them. They've got ideas like this one:
... the Center’s mission has been to secure the Consecration of Russia the Blessed Virgin requested in the Fatima message so that such crimes against various peoples and classes of people, which are still being committed in numerous places, will cease and the whole world will have peace—just as Our Lady promised if the Consecration were performed by the Pope and the bishops of the Catholic Church.
I grew up listening to their radio show with my parents and have recently come to the realization that their interpretation of Catholic isn't at all what your mainstream Catholic would think. Yes, I was truly on the fringe.

Now it turns out the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the group "perhaps the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in North America." In the interest of fairness, I'll include the Fatima Network's response to this here.

The SPLC also doesn't have a great deal of love for Paul either.

And just to be clear, I understand a fair contingency of atheists like Paul. I'm guessing this would be the Libertarian crowd? Well that's cool. I'm really not a Libertarian, myself. Being the Canadian socialist type I am, I'm likely to find what he says amusing at best, terrifying at worst - a recipe for entertainment. I love disturbing political ideas - it's sort of like watching a horror film.

However you feel about Paul, between him, this group and the Birchers, I really regret not being able to make it down there. I'd love to just observe and report on things. And it would likely trigger some interesting memories about my goofy religious upbringing.

It should be a whacky whacky whacky time, indeed.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

US Jesuits: Gay is OKAY! ... Well they'll let you in the door at least...that's about it, I think...

New York City Bishop Dolan looking pretty fabulous in his
colourful hat and wielding a magickal stick. (screen capture
from one of the videos)
So there's this crater left where my mind just was after watching these videos put out by the US Jesuits (Catholic order) about how it's just fine to be gay and all. No problem!

US Jesuits release gay affirming video series saying faith and sexuality is compatible

The Catholic Jesuit order in the United States has produced a video series saying LGBT people are welcome in the church following Pope Francis I’s comments that he cannot judge gay people

At first, I thought "how could this be possible?" And I will admit that some of the commentary does strike me as rather mind boggling and baffling.
‘A reason why I think a lot of gay and lesbian people feel unwelcome in the church has less to do with the formal teaching of the church and more to do with the informal bigotries among Catholic Christians,’ the Rev. Matt Malone says. 
‘There is no inherent conflict between having same-sex attraction and being a faithful Catholic – there’s no ipso facto conflict there. The question is how do we live our lives and that’s the question that everybody faces.
And there's the rub. Nowhere in the series does it say it's actually okay to have a homosexual relationship and get married to your partner. Nowhere does it say it's okay to have sex with your same-sex partner or even to be intimate in other ways. I'm certain these things are forbidden and I can't help but feel a little sorry for people who are so desirous to make their Catholicism work that they deny a part of what makes them human, their sexuality.

It's more Catholics - including some clergy it seems -trying to salvage the Church from the inside. They're sticking with it to change it and make it better. Because God's church is all busted and screwed up. Because the Pope is infallible. Because transubstantiation. Because Catholicism is true.

No wait, because in the end, isn't the whole thing just entirely made up by people anyway, through and through?  Yes, I think it is.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Darwin's Great Great Great Granddaughter Becomes Catholic Theologian: Checkmate, Atheists!

Charles Darwin
So back in June the Catholic news and blogosphere was rocked to its core again by a story about a highly educated smart person who was raised non-religious who became Catholic.

Yes, I know, it sounds improbable - and many Catholics apparently agree because they made quite a fuss about it! - but it did happen.

The last time I heard about this sort of thing happening was way back when the atheist blogger, Leah Libresco announced she was turning Catholic.

This was big news! She ended up getting interviews on major news networks for her conversion to Catholicism!

Now, if Catholicism makes so much sense, what with over 2,000 years of theology backing it up, then why is this such earth-shattering news? Okay, never mind that obvious question - look the other way! - isn't it amazing? Let's get back to this last story, the one in June.

Well, it turns out that Darwin's great-great-great granddaughter converted to Catholicism and is now an independent Catholic scholar and theologian. Earth shattering isn't it? I mean, she's related to Darwin!


Descendant of Charles Darwin becomes a Catholic apologist

So says the Catholic Herald back in June 2013. The descendant shall be here afterwards referred to as Laura Keynes.

In the interview, she pointed out some of the motivating factors that led to her conversion to Catholicism. None of these make much sense to me. Anyway, when she was working on her doctorate at Oxford, she began to re-assess her values and was influenced by Dawkins and the New Atheists.
The debate sparked by Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion inspired her to read more about the subject, and she concluded that “New Atheism seemed to harbour a germ of intolerance and contempt for people that could only undermine secular Humanist claims to liberalism”. 
She writes: “If atheism’s claim to the intellectual high ground is bolstered by my ancestor’s characteristic ability to explore and analyse inconsistencies in the evidence, that same family characteristic led me towards a sceptical assessment of what can and can’t be known absolutely.”
I have about as much difficulty parsing the first paragraph above as I did trying to understand some of Libresco's reasons for converting to Catholicism. All I can interpret here is that some atheists came off as intolerant to her. And this very intolerance will inevitably lead to a total undermining to any claims to liberalism secular Humanism may have.

Come again?

A. I have no idea how some vocal atheists rub off on her could possibly lend credibility to Catholicism or reflect badly on atheism as a whole or how tenable it is philosophically.

B. I have no idea how what a few atheists say could ever undermine Secular Humanism as a positive movement.

C. I haven't the foggiest what claims to liberalism really means.

Look, I get it. She was put off by some atheists out there and decided she felt better as a Catholic. Why not just come out and say it?

As for Darwin's ability to explore an analyse. Nobody doubts that. And there are very smart people who are Catholic out there. I don't doubt that either. What makes Darwin different is he used the scientific method to actually demonstrate his ideas. He was so self critical and skeptical, that he worked for years gathering actual scientific evidence to back up his theory. Christian philosophers and theologians have been at it for hundreds of years. I can't say they've come up with anything that even compares to what Darwin achieved.

As for those things that are absolutely true, I would assume she can only be talking about logical or mathematical absolutes. Because when it comes to things in the physical world - how can we ever hope to know anything with absolute confidence?

Anyway, back in June, I sort of pushed this story aside and forgot about it. But it seems like evolution also occurs in the Catholic and Christian online media as well. You see, I kept seeing this story pop up again and again. It's like some kind of strange recessive gene that's being selected by the Catholic blogosphere.

The National Catholic Register re-ran the story on August 14th.

If Only Charles Darwin Could See His Descendant Now

Either they don't have windows in heaven or hell or else the Register agrees with me that there is no afterlife! Gotcha, Catholic Register! Yes, I know, it's a figure of speech. But I find it an amusing thought nonetheless.
But in mid-June, the Catholic Herald reported the startling news that this highly educated Darwinian descendant had evolved into a Catholic apologist, joining Britain’s Catholic Voices.
No, actually it's not very startling at all. Unless they believe that views on religion are genetically inherited and this is a shocking disproof of evolution?  No, they couldn't think that. They must be startled that a highly educated person would become Catholic? Yes, that seems to be what they're saying.
“Atheists prefer certainty and use Darwin’s theory of evolution to state categorically that God does not exist, overegging Darwin in their argument in a way that Darwin himself would be uncomfortable with. He thought agnosticism the more coherent position, saying, ‘I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect.’ Resting in doubt, he allowed others their conscience. He set out to follow the evidence where it led, not bring down Christianity. The evidence did not have to lead inevitably to materialism, but, for various cultural reasons, this is where it led: to materialism and the culture of death. This is the real battle: the culture of life, supported by Christianity, vs. the culture of death, supported by materialism.”
I'm sure some atheists will use evolution as some kind of proof that God doesn't exist. It could be used to argue against some definitions of gods. But, of course, all the theist must do is slide into some different register of God and the atheist is left once again at square one. It's like philosophical whac-a-mole. A more appealing means is forcing the theist to define their god and then point out the contradictions there. I'll wait for Keynes to do this to lay out the functional diagram of her god so we may all peer review it together. I suggest she comes up with something original, since the eons of work by the theologians of yore just didn't produce anything useful.

As for the culture of life being Christianity, I remain completely confused. I would say that all life is supported solely by materialism. By this I mean all matter, what is real, what is in this world and not in the fanciful myths and mountains of unprovable and nonsensical words written by armies of theologians.  Oh, if those books would only rot away in the basements of empty churches - useless corpses of once majestic forests reduced to material vessels containing nothing but stale immaterial ideas from dark and tragic times.

Like secularism, materialism is an overloaded word these days. This is a shame. Ever since the days of Plotinus, the Church has simply never been a big fan of matter - that is to say, reality.
"... I would then ask the claimant to consider whether it might not, paradoxically, be anti-intellectual, and therefore undermining reason as a value, to dismiss belief in God as irrational and beyond reason, because this claim represents a threat to the practice of philosophy and theology as academic disciplines. The question of whether the existence of God is demonstrable by rational argument has kept philosophers and theologians busy for centuries. I’d ask the claimant to explain how closing this discussion furthers the cause of reason. So I’d respond gently, but if I really lost my patience, I’d tell them: 'Just go and read Aquinas!'”
What? ...

Okay, I don't think Aquinas will make it any easier for me to understand.

Yes, we've been wrong for a very long time. Thank goodness for the scientific method.

But here's what really spurned me on to write this post.

Catholic Church 1, New Atheists 0

A woman with some of Charles Darwin's DNA converted to Catholicism and is having a go at being a theologian! Well then!


I think, like the whole Leah Libresco affair, the very zeal and rabid enthusiasm the Catholic online press has gobbled this all up with betrays some sort of underlying lack of confidence.

It seems like nothing warms the hearts of Catholic readers more than a story of atheist turned Catholic. It's like a rare and colourful bird who's scarcity brings about feelings of wonder. I suppose it helps to confirm their faith somehow.

You can find an article written by Laura herself at Strange Notions with the equally shocking title:

I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic

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