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

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Does The Pope 'Get' Atheists?

Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
On October 29th, the Pope said this.
Causing scandal and being a bad example turn people off, making them think, "Hey, if that is being Christian, I'll be an atheist.' That's because our witness is what makes people see what it is to be a Christian," he said.
He really doesn't get it. I didn't become an atheist because I was turned off by Catholics. The scandals in the Church merely point out to me that it's a human construct and that there isn't anything particularly special or holy about it. On the contrary, it looks completely messed up. This gave me doubts about the Church, not God.

I could never choose to not believe in something. My non belief happened on its own after years of reflection.

I, like so many other people, scrambled into the light over a long arduous period of questioning and thinking. It took me years of reflection to finally realize that there was no good evidence for a God.

Atheism is not a rebellion against any church or a simple dislike of God or the church.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Montreal Catholic School fires Teacher for having done Porn Forty Years Ago

Sinner: The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac (1973) -- (source). Sinner is ironic, isn't it?
The beautiful woman pictured in the above 1973 photo, Jacqueline Laurent-Auger, is 73 today. She just got fired for something she did back when she was a starving actress -- forty years ago.

She had been working for the uber elite Catholic Brébeuf College in Montreal for fifteen years and then some students found some pornographic films she was in back before I was born and the school sacked her.

Montreal teacher, 73, loses job over film nudity more than 40 years ago

I'm sure this is because if there's one thing Catholic institutions are really sucky at it's forgiving what it sees as sexual misconduct... well... unless you've got a penis and happen to be a priest, bishop or cardinal and sexually abuse children, that is. They've got a bit of a history of sheltering the pedos, but Papa Francesco's got all that totally covered now, so no more of that, I'm sure!
“I did it as a young actress to make a little money,” she said in an interview on Monday. “The idea of throwing someone out the door for something they did almost 50 years ago is idiotic. It makes me angry.”
... 
The school was widely derided for its decision. In the Journal de Montréal, blogger Tania Longpré said many actors have some nude scenes in their repertoire, and they can’t afford to refuse them on the chance that one day they might want to go into teaching; she said Brébeuf’s decision hid “hypocritical puritanism.
... 
Her story has elicited widespread sympathy in Quebec since it first surfaced late last week. Meanwhile, the school – a Jesuit-founded institution that groomed leaders such as Pierre Trudeau and his son, Justin – has come under attack for a decision characterized as prudish and shortsighted. One blogger called it a case of “retroactive slut-shaming.”
It indeed does seem to be retroactive slut-shaming.

I consider myself to be a bit of a film buff -- mostly because one of my good friends is a film professor. Movies like The Devils (1971), Zabriskie Point (1970), or Ciao Manhattan (1972) were bold in their openness and were not afraid to show nudity and sexuality. These films were nothing like pornography or even cheesy erotica these days, they were real movies with real plots, real budgets, real actors. They were more like art films. This was not vulgar hardcore.
Ms. Laurent-Auger’s early films, including such titles as Le journal intime d’une nymphomane (The Secret Diary of a Nymphomaniac), date to the 1960s and ’70s when she was a struggling actress who had just graduated from theatre school in Montreal and moved to Paris.
The movie itself seems sort of compelling -- read a review -- other than the initial revolting and unfortunate premise that the heroine's nymphomania (if that even exists!) is awakened by a sexual assault. There is a hell of a lot going on there, over and above today's typical offering. It sounds a little like a B-movie offshoot of CandideAlthough I haven't seen the film, it's now on my list and judging by the reviews. I'm not expecting a masterpiece here, but there is likely something of a little 1970s time capsule there -- a product of its times.

It's easy to see how a young woman right out of theatre school would take it on as a serious role. At that time, European and even some American films were leaning in this direction and she might have seen a future there.
She said the films in which she performed were not pornographic, but part of an artistic trend of openness in the film world in the 1960s and ’70s. “I would never do pornography,” she said. “We called them light, erotic films, and they have nothing to do with the kinds of things you see today.”
There really is a difference between this and crude 8mm pornography of the time and it was almost half a century ago! Still, the school is firing her because she isn't a good role model for the students.
Ms. Laurent-Auger stars in some of the films, which feature “erotic scenes,” raising the question of whether the movies are “models to follow for high-school students becoming initiated into theatre and arts in general,” the college said.
I question whether the school itself is a good role model -- firing someone for not breaking any laws and not forgiving someone after fifty years! I mean, I know this is all about a private school saving face but come on, we're forty years on here. Perhaps this is a good Catholic role model -- to fire a 73 year old woman who did something half-a-lifetime ago, force her into retirement.
“The fact that these films were shot 40 years ago doesn’t change their bold and suggestive – even explicit – character,” said the college. The Internet had brought the “erotic portion of [Ms. Laurent-Auger’s] career into the present,” and the students’ discovery of their teacher’s films affected the atmosphere in class, the school said.
I'll admit, that is a little awkward. However, the students discovered these films on their own. They were very likely already consuming pornography online and they are very likely to continue and they are very likely to see the equivalent amount of sexuality on shows like Game of Thrones. This is not Ms. Laurent's problem nor should it be a problem for the school.

Should these students be banned from any viewing or interaction of any actor who has made nude or sex scenes in cinema or television?

This women is obviously a different person now than who she was so long ago. However, what the school did here isn't very surprising to me. There is apparently no redemption from this Catholic institution for a woman who is tainted with sexuality like this. Her dirty act has apparently turned into something 'filthy' that this organization doesn't want to be associated with.

Opening scene to Diary of a Nymphomaniac. Obviously not safe for work.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Calgary (Catholic) Public Schools Sent Scary Anti-HPV-Vaccine Letter To Parents

Gardasil anti-HPV vaccine (aka. sexytime inducer) (source).
So, for five years, the publicly funded Calgary Catholic School Board refused to let their girls get vaccinated against HPV. Then, back in November 2012 they finally caved and allowed it. Now they want to extend it to boys as well. Well, the Catholic bishops are just not happy, not one bit.

Debate over HPV vaccine flares up in Alberta after Catholic leaders warn shots encourage pre-marital sex

Alberta is now  going to begin vaccinating boys as well as girls -- because boys can get cancer from HPV too and they can be carriers that infect girls. You think this would be a good thing. Oh no, think again.
The emotional battle over HPV vaccination in Alberta has flared up again, after Calgary’s Catholic school board directed parents to a letter from Church leaders that warns the shots could encourage pre-marital sex.
A little background. If there's one thing Catholic bishops are absolutely obsessed with, it's sexytime. In an article from October, 2013 -- nearly a year on after the board reversed its stand on the vaccine after much resistance -- Bishop Fred Henry  had this gem:
Bishop Fred Henry said society should try to curb sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like the cancer-causing human papillomavirus by encouraging abstinence and monogamy, not by using medicine to “palliate our vices.”
This stance seems so utterly revolting to me that I must take a step back and do a little analysis. Basically, I read it a little like this.

The good bishop is getting no sexytime at all -- at least as far as I know. So, he's not directly affected by any of this and I have no clue how anyone could consider him an authority either. I could only postulate he could be a little frustrated, but that's none of my business.

Anyway, some people could be getting sexytime. It's a shame many are underage, but this is a completely different problem -- the sexytime is happening in reality.

Now, they might be tempted to use condoms. Condoms are, of course, a Catholic no-no. They get in the way of the proper Godly punishment outcome of sexytime which is getting knocked up. God thwarting is bad! However, if the teens should not use condoms then there is the additional circumvention of God's proper punishment outcome of getting infected with HPV and eventually God-sanctioned cancer. Now how were the kids supposed to properly learn their lesson if they don't get cancer? I mean, is anyone thinking about God here? Hello!

How are these children supposed to properly suffer and atone for their transgressions against the Almighty?

Maybe I'm wrong, but this is the sort of message I read from the good bishops. This is a real disease and people are really getting sick from it. Why wouldn't the nice bishops want the children to get a medicine so they wouldn't get sick?

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. The bishops are saying they're just concerned that these kids could be having immoral out-of-wedlock sex. They believe that giving the children vaccine will make them even more horny and reckless than they already are. No, really! They actually believe this.

Here's a copy of the letter that was sent out this month.
The decision to permit your daughter or son to receive this inoculation rests solely with you as parents/ guardians. AHS provides you with medical information about the Gardasil HPV vaccine so informed decisions can be made from a health perspective. Some very important moral and spiritual considerations have been articulated about how this fits within our Catholic faith. On our website you will find a letter from the Catholic Bishops of Alberta at Alberta_Bishops_letter.pdf which can also help guide you in your decision-making process. 
The above-referred-to Bishops letter is from 2008 and essentially says that if your kid gets this vaccination they'll think it's all fine and dandy to go out and sex it up big time.
Secondly, although school-based immunization delivery systems generally result in high
numbers of students completing immunization, a school-based approach to vaccination sends a message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses "protection." 

This societal message also implies that young people are not capable of making
decisions for themselves or they are too young to make good decisions. We think more
highly of our youth and would prefer to equip them for proper decision-making.
Have these bishops ever been Catholic teens? Only if you can first get over the guilt instilled into you over years of indoctrination, you might find yourself in a situation where sexual intercourse is a possibility.

Have these bishops ever been teens? When you're fooling around stuff can happen. You know, when stuff is already underway it can sometimes be rather difficult to think with your "in-skull brain" about whether or not you've got a condom (not allowed) or have been properly vaccinated (not allowed) before the stuff continues and "in-pants brain" is leading the show. Protection failing or not being properly used or not used at all is how girls end up pregnant and at the abortion clinic! People make mistakes! Not just people, kid-people! That's what this whole goddamn 'sin' thing is all about, isn't it? Why is this so hard to understand? Or is this all about letting God mete out punishment unimpeded? Moar Catholic babeeze? It really makes me wonder.

As if getting an injection will determine whether or not a couple of teens hook up. Will this curb their hormonal urges? Please! Need common sense!

Well, here's what some (obviously materialist godless non-Catholic) scientists have to say:
However, a U.S. study that reviewed medical records of nearly 1,400 girls showed HPV shots does not increase sexual activity, said Juliet Guichon, spokeswoman and founder with HPV Canada, a group of doctors, health scientists and concerned citizens.
Furthermore, the very same Juliet Guichon, who's friend died of cervical cancer, had this other sensible thing to say.
The Calgary board should disseminate only science-based health information and is misleading parents by pointing them to the Church critique, complained Juliet Guichon, a University of Calgary bioethicist who has long advocated for the vaccine.

“This letter encourages fear, and undermines a public-health program that’s designed to help children avoid cancer,” she charged.
She also said this very true thing:
“What’s sad is that educated people don’t distinguish double-blind, randomized clinical trials and gossip. There’s a huge difference,” said Guichon, whose friend died of cervical cancer, leaving behind two young children. “If they want good information they can look at Health Canada, the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecology, the Canadian Cancer Society, or if they want to go abroad they can look at the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), in the UK, there’s the National Health Service. There’s many, many good sites for information.”
Feeling better? Here's what an actual scientist had to say.
As well as raising the promiscuity issue, the letter suggests the public-health community is divided on the vaccine’s benefits, a statement one leading scientist said on Friday was “hogwash.”

“We’re going to have to go back to square one and start the fight all over again,” said Eduardo Franco, a McGill University cancer epidemiologist and one of the world’s top experts on links between the human papillomavirus and cancer. “Too bad.”
Ahhh, yes that's better, thank you.

And then...
A spokeswoman for the board, however, said the district only wanted to expose parents to different viewpoints.

“We’re trying to balance the spiritual perspective and the health perspective and the parents’ perspective,” said Tania Younker, the district’s director of communications. “The bishop does guide us in our spiritual decision making. So we are respectful of the opinion he has. And we’re also very respectful of the health information.”
Mrrmfmfffffkkfmfffmff...

Since 2012, the number uptakes of the vaccine has gone from 24.5% to 61% with girls (I've seen as high as 75% elsewhere). Apparently, cancer rates related to HPV are still on the rise and vaccination is the best way to fight it. So I say, okay, bishops, you guys keep saying this and we'll let parents keep ignoring you to be pro-life of their children. We'll see who ends up on the right side of history.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Catholic School Disciplines Teacher For Informing Students of Their Rights & A Poll!


Another week, more news about Catholic schools in Ontario.

This time, a teacher at a Peterborough Catholic school got rapped on his hand with the ruler for simply informing his students about a recent court ruling allowing them to skip religious courses and ceremonies.
An Ontario Catholic high school teacher was disciplined for informing his students they can’t be forced to study religion, underscoring the determination of Catholic school boards to get students to take religious studies.

The teacher, Paul Blake, had a disciplinary note attached to his file in May, after he told a group of Grade 12 students of a recent court case that affirmed their right to an exemption from religious courses and ceremonies.
Grant Lafleche wrote an excellent article about this and the general path to extinction the Catholic school system is taking in Ontario: Catholic schools on slow march to extinction. In it he amusingly compares to the Catholic School Board to a sort of Wily Coyote.
You have to give Catholic school boards in Ontario props for being consistent. You know, in the same way that Wile E. Coyote is consistent, no matter how many times he falls off that cliff or runs headlong into a stone wall, he still gets up and tries to eat that bird.
Lafleche's piece does a magnificent job of explaining how the Catholic church has reacted to the court ruling.
In April, the courts told the schools students can be exempt if their parents wish it.

The Catholic boards reacted by jumping into bed, pulling their blankets over their heads and pretended the court ruling doesn’t exist.
Along with what, one school at least, has instructed their teachers to do.
[ ... ] Given the court ruling and the number of news stories about it, he thought it prudent to discuss the issue with his students. When he asked his principal how he ought to approach it, he was told never to discuss it.

Because, you know, the best and most responsible way to handle things is to pretend they aren’t happening.
Because knowledge is bad and apparently a student body and parents who are aware of their rights is also bad. All in all, it seems like the Board is in denial about the trajectory Ontario is on and... perhaps... on its way to extinction.

Go read the article, and vote in the poll!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

It's Time For Ontario Parents To Stop Supporting Catholic Schools With Their Tax Dollars


I just saw this infuriating story on Hemant Mehta's blog about how Catholic schools are shoving 70 minutes of their own religious education down the throats of their students -- whether the parents like it or not. And they're doing it with public funds. And they don't care what the court said on the matter.

Catholic schools force students to study religion despite court order
Catholic schools in Ontario are requiring students to take religious courses despite a recent court decision that ruled they can’t be forced to attend.

In multiple correspondences reviewed by The Globe and Mail, Catholic school board officials from across the province have denied requests from Catholic high-school students that they be excused from religious studies on the basis that their parents are Catholic school ratepayers.
The way I understand it, this ratepayer business refers to a box on your property taxes that designates whether you support the Catholic public school system or the secular public school system.
Property owners are asked to designate themselves as supporters of either Catholic or public schools. While this affected school-board funding in the past, it no longer does – as of 1997, school boards have been funded solely by the province. 
So, it doesn't matter which box you check on your taxes, you're still funding these Catholic institutions. However, if you check the Catholic box, the Catholic school board is unilaterally claiming authority to indoctrinate your kid, whether you like it or not -- even if your child has an compelling reason not to be wasting their time getting Catholicized -- even if you happen to be Catholic and take care of all the Catholocizing at home and want the school to help your kid learn about science or math or something useful. Really, you have no freedom at all.
The issue of whether Catholic schools can require students to participate in religious programs – not just courses, but also liturgies and retreats – was the subject of a recent court case brought by a Brampton father against the Peel-Dufferin Catholic District School Board. A panel of three judges ruled in April that students had a right to be exempted from religious programs. Catholic school officials are interpreting that decision as applying only to those students whose parents declared themselves as public-school supporters.
It's so nice they've taken to interpreting the laws for us. I suppose courts and judges are no longer required in Ontario. It's like the good old days in Ontario.

Got an autistic kid who needs extra help in math so he can get a job and support himself? Too bad, you'll need to hire a tutor for that since the school needs to fill 70 minutes of their day with religious instruction at your expense and your child's time. You checked Catholic on the tax form -- too bad so sad.
But Ms. Borgstadt said she has been told by the school principal that Cameron isn’t entitled to an exemption. “I feel that my son has been cheated,” she said. “It’s 70 minutes every day for an entire semester. Nobody needs that much religion, particularly when you’re talking about a child who’s struggling in the school.”
The solution here is obvious and the article even goes into it. If parents, even Catholic parents, wish to be free to decide, they must start out by revoking their support for the Catholic school board on their property taxes immediately. This institution must be shown it cannot take such outrageous liberties as it's apparently grown grotesquely accustomed to in the past.

Of course, the State should stop funding these schools altogether. Maybe if people begin to revoke their support, the numbers will dwindle to the point that politicians stop being so cowardly and finally do the right thing.
“It had nothing to do with religion, nothing against the courses or what was being taught,” Mr. Barbo said. “It was simply about my son’s dedication and getting into his goal university.”
The Catholic Church is all about religion and apparently the school -- a sort of state-funded extension of the Church -- is completely uninterested in Mr. Barbo's son's educational goals.

Visit www.oneschoolsystem.org and CFI Canada for more information and share this with your Catholic parent friends.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Vatican Approves Of International Association of Exorcists!

You can smile all you want! They're coming for you! (source)
Watch out, Satan! The Vatican is all done with all the easy problems, like witches and heretics who desperately needed to get burnt -- that was so 17th century!  Nobody believes in those silly things anymore! Now they can focus on real problems: devils and demons etc. etc. possessing people all over the place.

Move over, psychiatrists. Out of the way, Teen Exorcists! Young ladies, you have nothing on this latest batch of Vatican Endorsed(tm) demon hunters!
Exorcists now have an extra weapon in their fight against evil – the official backing of the Catholic church. The Vatican has formally recognised the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.
Isn't it funny how it always seems to be the faithful who require liberating? You would think that people of the faith would be less vulnerable to spiritual attack. For all I know, there could be demons fluttering in and out of my nostrils this very minute but they really don't seem to be bothering me. It really seems like they're just ugly figments of people's imaginations.

No matter! The Church is all about capitalizing on people's imaginations!
The head of the association, the Rev Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. "Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," he told L'Osservatore.
Is it tax deductible though?

I wonder if there are any fee being charged for this or if it's completely charity. How does this International Association of Exorcists get its funds? If so, then how is this any different than Benny Hinn and his exorcisms? Even if this snake oil works, is it ethical?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Mission Of Ontario's Publicly Funded Catholic Schools


I've been following the whole publicly funded Catholic school debate in Ontario from a distance. So, this interview with retiring Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board director of education, Patricia Amos, piqued my curiosity. She's had the job for over 40 years, so this should be the inside scoop.

When asked what the biggest challenge is facing Catholic education, she responded. Emphasis is mine.
Catholic Education has to be able to clearly articulate the mission and value of Catholic education to the broader community – that our schools are rooted in the faith traditions of our church and that our students are guided by gospel values and that they view the secular world through the lens of their faith. We have to demonstrate that Catholic education is not a duplication and that it is cost efficient.

Some perceive education to be merely an instrument for the acquisition of information that will improve the chances of worldly success and a more comfortable standard of living. Catholic schools emphasize the inalienable dignity of the human person and our mission to form our students to be good citizens of the world, loving God and neighbour, thus enriching society with the leaven of the gospel.

Our schools are not institutions but rather genuine communities of faith. Our goal is to promote “overcoming individualistic self-promotion, solidarity instead of competition, assisting the weak instead of marginalization and responsible participation rather than indifference.” As a catholic school system we must ensure that the spirit of Catholicism permeates the entire curriculum, not only in our religious education courses.
Isn't that great, Ontarians? Those public schools aren't merely instruments for the acquisition of information. Oh no! They're not institutions but rather genuine communities of faith! Just think of all the new young minds that can be Catholicized with your tax money.

Later in the interview, she was asked why the Catholic school board should remain publicly funded.
Catholic schools make a distinct contribution to the well-being of our province and our communities.

Education in faith is similar to education in general – in that it is a lifelong process.

Our students go forward as effective communicators who use and integrate the Catholic faith tradition, in the critical analysis of the arts, media, technology and information systems to enhance the quality of life for members of our society. They are reflective and creative thinkers who manage and constructively influence change in a discerning manner; as self-directed, responsible, lifelong learners who examine, evaluate and apply knowledge of interdependent systems (physical, political, ethical, socio-economic and ecological) for the development of a just and compassionate society.
No doubt they will view the secular world through the lens of faith. The very same secular world that's paying for their god-coloured glasses.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

A Little Ironic?: Pope Francis Opposes Recreational Drugs

I just don't know. There seems to be something vaguely ironic about this slideshow picture on a recent CNN article about the Pope's opposition to anyone using recreational drugs because...
"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," he told participants at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome.
(source)
In case the Pope forgot, alcohol is a drug and alcohol addiction -- alcoholism -- is no joke at all. Thousands of people have died from this disease. It tears up families and destroys lives. I suppose the Pope is just fine with that.

Of course, if alcohol were made illegal (again in the States), the Church could be exempted from the prohibition like they were at the beginning of the last century. Because: 'religious freedom' and because --- after all -- 'it's not wine, it's Jesus blood,' or something.

Luckily, like other matters, the world is moving on and progressing in the right direction while the Catholic Church remains in the Middle Ages. Public opinion in the United States is moving to the much more reasonable idea of legalizing drugs like marijuana which have been shown to be practically harmless compared to alcohol.

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Young Autistic's Journey out of Institutionalized Education and Socialization toward Clarity

(source)
This is a guest post by author Michael Scott Monje, Jr. who blogs over at Shaping Clay. Michael is running an Indiegogo campaign to write about their own experience being an Autistic atheist through the imagery of an upcoming fictional web serial. 

Their story is a fascinating one and I've asked them to share a little of it here and tell us about their upcoming project, Imaginary Friends, and how we can directly help give time to work on it.



I have been an atheist for much, much longer than I have known myself to be autistic. In some ways, it feels like a stronger, better-mapped part of my identity. In other ways, though, it hardly feels like a part of myself any more. From the time that I first read the Gospel of John on my way through the New Testament, I have known, deep in the part of myself that speaks moral truths in a physical language, that the stories are stories, and not histories. Years before I had a way to explain how I knew this, I felt it as I read my way through fantastic story after fantastic story about miraculous events and world-shaking prophecies.

My lack of belief did not prevent me from cheerfully participating in the Catholic church at first. As a child, it seemed natural to me that I would know something is make-believe and still act as if I was dedicated to the belief that it was otherwise. It felt like a healthy suspension of something that I was asked to wear like a cloak over my natural attitude all week, and I imagined that this playing time (mixed with the discussions about morality that ran through each week's sessions) was a healthy and natural thing that everyone did to stay relaxed.

It wasn't until middle school, or rather, until the Sunday night youth groups for teenagers, that I realized how different my theory of religious participation was from everyone else's. It was a rough and rude awakening—I had taken it so for granted that everyone else understood our religious practice the same way I did, and as I realized through the social events and the classes that they did not, I became very disillusioned with the character of my community. It ceased to be a comfortable place for me, and instead it became a place where people I did not understand reassured one another that things that could not possibly be true were, in fact, true. When you add to that the kind of rude and confrontational social atmosphere that is almost like air to adolescents as they first start to negotiate adult socialization, the youth group was a terrifying place for a young Autistic to find themself in.

Years later, after my diagnosis, I started to reflect on the social structures within the church and on the way that they shaped my level of comfort with the practice of the faith. It's not that I think being Autistic necessarily made me more or less likely to be an atheist. On the contrary, I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with it, since I know many, many Autistic people who practice a faith tradition. I do think, though, that the combination of my communication difficulties and my divergent social development produced situations where I was not participating in the same conversations that other people thought I was participating in, and the resolution of these miscommunications—both negatively and positively—definitely had an effect on my ability to participate in these communities.

I also think that my divergent intellectual development, along with my fascination with belief and myth as structures, strongly influenced my orientation toward my faith community. Given some slight differences in the level of guidance and the exact order of my literary development, I might easily have turned into a practitioner of the “of course it's not literal, it's a moral metaphor” kind of faith tradition that many of my friends practice. That did not happen, though, and partially, I do think it was early exposure to a wide and diverse range of myths and traditions that primed me to see a recursive pattern of fulfilling cultural needs where other people saw a truth that they could live by.

In my new web serial, Imaginary Friends, I will be telling a story that is very close to my own developmental pattern. The goal of the project is to use fiction to do what I have always understood it is supposed to be used to do: To create an imaginary allegory for a specific cultural understanding or event. In this case, Clay Dillon, an Autistic boy around the age of 8 or 9, is thrust into a nexus of early literacy, religious instruction, and institutionalized education and socialization (American public schooling), and the narrative focuses on how the intersection of these factors, along with many others (including class, ethnicity, and family structure) shape his emerging sense of himself and his relationship to his community.

The first chapter of this story will go live on June 6, and it will run for roughly 50 chapters. I have an Indiegogo page up (see below), and I'm offering perks that include my other books and some authorial services. If we make the funding goal, I will be able to run 2-3 chapters per week. If we fall short, the project will still go forward and the perks that are purchased will still be honored, but I will only be able to afford to run 1 chapter per week.

You can check out my campaign here. You can also find my blog, Shaping Clay, here.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Catholic School Refuses to Allow Sick Girl Attend Prom

Vintage photo of 1950s(?) prom night. (source)

Katie Bialy isn't allowed to attend her prom because she didn't complete enough course credits. The Catholic Holy Cross high school principal is sticking to their guns and taking a principled stand here. I suppose it's all part of the good fight, right?

I mean, she was only unable to complete her credits due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which can cause her joints to disconnect at any moment. What kind of excuse is that?

‘It wasn’t fair’: Why an Ontario school isn’t letting a sick girl go to prom

Actually, this really is a heartless and dour act.  This is not letting this girl attend even as someone else's guest her prom night due to circumstances beyond her control. She wanted to go to this year's prom to be with her friends in her class.

She tried to complete her courses at home because should wasn't mobile enough to attend class but the pain was too much and now the school has decided to pile a little more emotional pain on top. How could anyone be less in touch with human empathy?
“While typing, my fingers dislocate. So it gets really hard. And I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to school work. I get really nervous,” she said.

The genetic condition with no cure is also associated with a lot of pain and discomfort.
And EDS is accompanied by chronic pain that simply does not go away.

One thing that does apparently go away is Bialy's chance to even attend a prom. She's 17 this year and...
When Bialy does graduate, she still won’t get to go to prom. Once students past the age of 18 work to complete a high school diploma, they will be enrolled in the Adult and Community Education Program. According to Bialy, students enrolled in the program do not attend prom.
I keep hearing on and on about how the (publicly funded) Catholic School system is  so very necessary and that we must keep faith in them. Surely, they must be bastions of Catholic ethics and morality.

What does it say when these schools reject the formation of GSAs, pushes political agendas onto its students and now refuses to let someone into a prom because she was too ill to study? Is this leading by example?

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

(source)
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 (LifeSiteNews.com) – 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

(source)
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?