Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 12 September 2014

Robert Ingersoll On Blasphemy Laws


Based on what I've read by Robert Ingersoll, I doubt he would have been too impressed by that photo of the teen apparently simulating a sexual act with a kneeling Jesus statue in Pennsylvania.

But I'm absolutely certain he would have been utterly revolted by the thought of this kid potentially getting two years in juvie -- a criminal offense! -- for this ridiculous act with a statue.
The criminal charge, which will be heard in family court, consists of “Desecration of a Venerated Object.”

Pennsylvania law defines desecration as “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.”
I'm sorry, is Pennsylvania stuck back in the colonial days?

Now that is far far more disgusting than any lewd -- generally immature because he's a minor! -- acts this kid did. Apparently you can end up in the slammer for long long time for blasphemy in some US states here, now in the 21st century! Imagine that for a moment.

Well, back in the nineteenth century Ingersoll had already done just that. He had this to say:
[...] All laws defining and punishing blasphemy -- making it a crime to give your honest ideas about the Bible, or to laugh at the ignorance of the ancient Jews, or to enjoy yourself on the Sabbath, or to give your opinion of Jehovah, were passed by impudent bigots, and should be at once repealed by honest men. An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment. It strikes me that God might write a book that would not necessarily excite the laughter of his children. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that a real God could produce a work that would excite the admiration of mankind.
Oh, and how is this any different than Saudi Arabia? It's merely a matter of degree, not kind.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Family Facing Deportation & Risk Of Female Circumcision Answers Reader's Questions

Fuh-Cham family do not wish to return to Cameroon where the women and girls will be forced to undergo female circumcision. (source)
A few days ago I posted about Hilary and Yvette Fu-Cham and their family, who fled their native Cameroon in 2007 to seek asylum here in Montreal, Canada. Hilary is next in line to become a tribal sub-chief in the small village of his youth and part of his royal obligations are that all of the women in his family undergo required circumcision (female genital mutilation).

Now it seems like the Canadian government is not granting them any form of stay and they will be deported in a month back to Cameroon. According to the Hilary and Yvette, they risk being hunted down by those who wish to violate Yvette and their two daughters to satisfy local religious traditions.

They are both Catholic and their church, Saint Jean Brebeuf Catholic, has signed a petition to the federal government and has called on their local MP to speak out against the deportation but there has been no positive response to this. You can keep track of the situation over at this website which contains other social media links.

This interests me not only at a general human rights level. It is also because it is local traditions rooted in superstition and tribal religion which seems to be motivating the circumcision. The ridiculous idea is that this cutting will remove any risk of infidelity in the women and it's apparently common practice in parts of Cameroon.

Hemant Mehta covered this as well over at the Friendly Atheist blog. While reading the comments thread, I came across reader Armin Tamzarian's excellent questions:
I don't completely understand. Who is forcing these girls to get circumcised? Is it the local community? Why not move to another part of Cameroon then? Is it the government? For what reason? Do they force people to become sub-chief and have their women circumcised?

So many questions, so little answers...
I forwarded these questions to Wendy de Souza over at Saint Jean Brebeuf Catholic in Lasalle and she got back to me with this response.
Hi Sean,

Thank you for the questions, they were put to our team and here are the answers (approved by Hilary):

Who is forcing these girls to get circumcised?
It is a small group of tribal elders, made up of both men and women. They are called “the king makers”, but the members are actually only known amongst themselves. This secrecy makes them even more powerful.

Why not move to another part of Cameroon then?
This group of elders believes completely in ancestral powers and they can be ruthless in getting their way. The majority of the people believe in their evil ancestral power and are afraid of them. People will do anything to please them, as they know that they can be harmed if they do not cooperate with them. Moving to a different part of the country will not stop them from searching for you and, if they so choose, killing you.

Do they force people to become sub-chief and have their women circumcised?
In this small village of Weh, home of the Wanageh tribe, the first son of the sub chief automatically takes the throne of his father. It has been this way from generation to generation and this cannot be negotiated. It is also a tradition to circumcise any female girl of the royal family because they believe that if they are circumcised, they will not have unwanted sexual desires and will not bring in children from unwanted relationships. This would be a big disgrace for the tribe.

Hope this helps, and again, thank you Sean for getting the word out there! We hope to meet you at one of our two rallies - Sunday at church 12 noon or Tuesday Phillip's square 5:30 p.m.

Best regards,
-Wendy .
I'm just passing this on from Hilary and his parish. I'm not certain, of course, how much of it is accurate but it does seem to fit some of what I've read elsewhere. Perhaps someone from Cameroon could comment here and let us know if this is indeed the case.

I'm not sure if I can make it Sunday or not. If so, maybe I'll share some pictures on the blog.

Monday, 8 September 2014

13% Of Students At Egyptian University Are Atheists & Grand Mufti Knows Why

I've recently covered how the Egyptian government is grappling with the sheer world-collapsing horror that is atheism. They've even launched hip new programs to investigate why young people are finding Islam so uncool and turning away from religion in general. Furthermore, clerics are showing how serious they are about confronting this existential threat of atheism by demanding a belly dancing competition television programme be canceled. So maybe not that hip after all, right?

Well now the historic Al-Azhar University (I think) has conducted a survey of some 6,000 young people and have found that 12.3% of them are atheists. That's a pretty high number considering how the government is actively trying to combat atheism. I'd be rather timid to answer yes to such a survey so I imagine the number might really be a bit higher.

Former mufti blames al-Azhar negligence for youth atheism
At a meeting with university graduates at the Helwan Leadership Institute on Monday, former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said a survey conducted by Al-Azhar on a sample of 6,000 young people showed that 12.3 percent of them were atheists.

The study attributed this to 56 reasons, the most important of which was because they were angry with God.
Yeah, I don't think the survey writers quite understand what atheism means. I mean, I'm still angry about how unlikeable Colin Baker's Doctor Who was and really didn't much like his character, but he doesn't really exist. So they could be atheists who are disgusted by the fictional character of God -- and he's really not a very likeable character, now is he? Why don't they see this?

Well, Ali Gomaa thinks he knows the reason: They don't know that God is merciful.

Bingo! Well, that solves that then. These people who do not believe that God exists are just angry at him. OR they don't know that this non-existent being would actually be merciful (note: if it actually existed, which it doesn't.)

Curiously, much like a common evangelical trope in the United States, the evil secular university seems to be to blame. You know, education and free inquiry in a university setting may have something to do with it.
Gomma blamed the negligence of Al-Azhar for that phenomenon although he said it has succeeded in persuading 10 percent of them to go back to religion. “Still there is a long way to go,” he said.
Well, there you have it. It looks like Egypt is well on their way to understanding and fixing their atheism problem.

I'd love to see what the question actually was and what those 55 other reasons were for all these youth becoming atheist. I'm sure many are just as ridiculous as them being angry with god.

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!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Egyptian Clerics: Belly Dancing Dangerous, Like Homosexuality And Atheism


(Scroll towards bottom for video.)

As we know, Egyptian religious police, the Ministry of Endowments and Culture , in an apparent competition with Saudi Arabia, has already declared war on atheists. Well now Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, an Egyptian educational institute that appears to exist just to tell people and governments what's right or wrong, is tackling the existential threat that is a belly dancing program on television.

Egypt religious body: Suspend belly-dancing show

Belly dancing is by no means a new thing in Egypt, but American-style belly dance competition programs are.
The call by Dar al-Ifta, the top body that advises Muslims on religious and life issues, follows others criticizing the show called "Dancer." But the debate over it isn't all about it being too racy for television — it's part of a concerted effort by Egypt's government to show its both challenging Islamists as a political forces while still respecting the country's more-conservative values.
This is a little confusing, but I think it means they want to throw their fundamentalist conservative types a little meat by banning some dancing shows or jailing some atheists while all the same fighting dangerous groups like ISIS. I get it, but I think it's really the wrong way to go about it. It's sort of like taking away people's freedoms to improve national security or something -- sort of like what happened in many Western countries just after 9/11.
In its statement, Dar al-Ifta said the show "serves extremists who take such matters as a justification to promote the idea that society is fighting religion."
It seems like this is a move to prove to extremists that Egypt is fighting immoral acts -- like belly dancing... which has been going on in Egypt for centuries, but oh well.

Truth be said, I find these dance competition programs mind-numbingly dull. It also has a RealityTV feel to it which sounds awful, but I still think that banning it for reasons like this is pretty silly.
In an advertisement, the network said the winner would receive the title "the best belly dancer in the world." The contestants also shouted at each other and fought in the advertisement in the tradition of Western-style reality shows.
Still, the competition is international. So it might bring aspects of other cultures to the forefront that conservative critics may not like. It might be a force for good, showing the humanity of those in all sorts of different cultures. It may unify where unity is not wanted.


Apparently critics of the show are clerics and they've even filed a lawsuit! One such cleric has compared belly dancing to homosexuality and atheism... yeah...
Anti-Muslim Brotherhood cleric Muzhir Shahine and a group of professors Al-Azhar, a Cairo university prestigious in the Muslim world, issued a statement criticizing the belly-dancing show as part of "attacks on society's values," while also trying to compare it to atheism and homosexuality — which a large number of conservative Egyptians perceive as taboos.
Right... sure... I totally see the connection... Belly dancing: An attack on society's values since at least the 18th or 19th century -- maybe longer.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

God Photobombs Someone During "God's Not Dead" At Oklahoma Drive-In!

Divine photobomb! Circle added by news station so we can actually try to see him -- it's that obvious.  (source)
Take this, atheists! The Christian God, Yahweh, decided to prove to the entire human race -- well, actually some folks over at the Airline Drive-In movie theatre in Ponca City, Oklahoma -- that he is not dead at all! Hark, the divinity hath photobombeth a photograph Mandy Moehlman took of her daughter! Proof! How could you deny this evidence now?

People Claim to See God at Drive-In Movie Theater in Oklahoma

A Christian radio channel, KLVV (My Praise FM), spent thousands to refurbish the drive-in just to show God's Not Dead before it was to be demolished. Holy crap. Maybe God was pissed off they didn't use the money for food for kids or something? Do they not have this problem in Oklahoma?


Anyway, Moehlman shared a thought she had which I need to conclude with. It's about how convenient it was that God so undeniably chose to show up in the corner of a photograph of her daughter in the form of a nebulous vision exactly while they were all watching a film all about God's existence!
"He is very much alive," added Moehlman. "I just thought it was neat and ironic that we were at a movie called 'God's Not Dead,' and there is a picture of God's face in the clouds."
Curious, eh? Who would ever expect some Christians to perhaps see God-shaped clouds after watching God's Not Dead?

You know, during my misguided youth, I would occasionally lie on my back and see all sorts of things in clouds -- like boats, fish, elephants, penises... It's really amazing what people see in clouds. I wonder if this sort of thing is common?

Oklahoma, I love you!

(source)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Religious Freedom Should Have Nothing To Do With BC Polygamy Laws

Still shot from 16x9 -- Inside Bountiful: Polygamy Investigation (source)
As far as I am concerned, people should be allowed to date, sleep with and marry one or more people so long is everyone is consenting uncoerced adults. I've been in a couple of polyamorous relationships over the years and believe people should be let be when it comes to how they wish to arrange themselves relationship-wise.

Unfortunately, religion sort of has a bad track record honouring those three important criteria (consent, non-coercion, legal age --- e.g. no statutory rape allowed). It seems that religion is often used to break one or more of those three rules. Underage girls are forced to marry pervy old men with the younger men ousted out of the community, for example. It's resulted in horrendously abusive situations where childrens' lives have been mangled.

I won't even pretend to be an expert when it comes to the polygamy case going on in Bountiful, British Columbia. I plan to inform myself better! What's peaked my interest right now about this situation is all this talk about how religious freedom may be able to bend the rules in favour of the polygamists. Because, God... or something.

Religious freedom seems to be a special incantation used to get extra rights and privileges others cannot obtain.
The criminal trial against two men from a polygamous sect in British Columbia is likely to re-examine whether the ban on multiple marriages violates the right to religious freedom, experts say, despite a court decision three years ago that declared the law constitutional.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler were each charged this week with practising polygamy in a religious commune in southeastern B.C. known as Bountiful.
This Blackmore fellow is accused of being married to 24 different women. I have a hard enough time being present for one woman so I cannot imagine. What really bugs me though is that his sincerely held Mormon beliefs may give him a free Get out of Jail Card. Their criminal court case, beginning in October, is likely to re-open discussions about whether multiple marriages in general should be illegal in British Columbia. There's already talk about his Charter rights and how his religious freedom may make him untouchable.

Anyway, it seems like he lost his cast in 2011, when the judge decided that the harms of polygamy posed to society outweighed claims to religious freedom. How about having one law for everyone? Then, if we wish to make multiple marriages legal -- which is a valid enough question -- we can do so without having to trip all over each others' dogmata.

Really though, you see how complicated these notions of religious freedom make things? We need to all of a sudden have two different laws: one for regular people and another special one full of exceptions and exemptions for those who claim their strongly held religious beliefs give them more rights than the rest of us. The state is also forced to evaluate how serious or how strongly held these religious beliefs are. How the hell is it supposed to do that in a fair and objective manner?

Let's drop the religious discussion and talk about whether polygamy or polyandry or polyamorous marriage laws are even required. Let's examine it outside of the religious context. Beverley Baines, a Queen's University law professor puts it well.
Baines said there are other laws that already criminalize the harms often associated with polygamy, such as sexual abuse or child trafficking, and she argued the law could actually hurt women and children in polygamous communities.
This is a valid and interesting point.

I don't mean to trivialize the very real harm some have endured within some of these cloistered religious cults that have polygamous marriage, but this special consideration for people's religions needs to stop and everyone needs to be treated equally under one secular law.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Salon Writer "Horrified" By Atheist TV

Some art by yours truly. (source)
Well, it looks like American Atheists must be doing something right with their new television channel because Salon, the juggernaut of anti-(New)-Atheist drivel has come up with a real stinker.

It is so terrible and random that I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just throw a couple of comments out there.

I spent a day watching AtheistTV — and it was horrifying

Daniel D'Addario's -- who assures us all he is a bonafide atheist -- appears to have a problem with anything that mocks religion.
AtheistTV adheres to nasty stereotypes about atheism — smugness, gleeful disregard for others’ beliefs — to a degree that’s close to unwatchable.
When I first tuned in at 2 p.m. on Thursday, the closing credits for a show were scrolling, set to a parody hymn that rhymed “Don’t be offended by a word to the wise” with “There’s no real estate in the skies.”
After the second broadcast of a single “Atheist Experience” episode, the channel showed a 2012 rally in Washington, D.C.; speakers consistently described a future in which all Americans would join the movement, a future that they’d get to by mocking and hassling the beliefs of others.
Is D'Addario an atheist who does not at all see any utterly absurd and even potentially harmful beliefs within religion? Does he revere and honour the sincerely held beliefs of millions that he is a harmful person who is destined to Hell because of his atheism? How can anyone honestly do this?
Then, after several seconds of dead air, came a prerecorded call-in show called ”The Atheist Experience,” whose co-host Matt Dillahunty, wearing a black Hawaiian-style shirt decorated with flames and infinity symbols, needed no prompting to begin his show with the Biblical story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. “This is just absolutely horrible,” said Dillahunty. “And it’s the type of thing we get when we begin with the idea that the Bible is true and good, and you run into absurdities.”
Listen, AtheistTV is in its infancy. Most of the programmes on there are simply existing shows and there just isn't a wide enough selection of shows yet. Chill out, this will get better. And would it be better for D'Addario if Dillahunty were wearing a suit with nice hair and fake teeth?

Anyway, has he even considered the story of Abraham and Isaac? It is absolutely terrible and the Bible is quite full of absurdities -- D'Addario apparently doesn't know of any at all. He also either has no clue about the story itself or doesn't see any problem at all with dragging your son to the top of a mountain and traumatizing him for life.
What absurdities these were the viewer would have to fill in for himself; there was no extrapolation from this story in terms of what social ills have happened in the name of God, no sense that Dillahunty was bothered by people following the Bible for any reason other than that he thinks it’s nuts to rely on a book for wisdom and guidance. “I don’t worship any being,” he said, “though I respect a lot of people and a lot of fictional characters.”
WERE YOU NOT LISTENING, DANIEL?

Then there's this part.
AtheistTV frames atheism as a perpetual reaction against a conquering force. And that reaction isn’t reasoned debate. It’s unattractive nihilism.
You know, atheism is sort of a perpetual reaction against a conquering force -- perhaps even an occupying force. The name kind of gives it away: a-theism. If the theism stopped trying to control everyone's lives and brainwashing children into believing fairy stories atheism would pretty much no longer be a thing.

It makes me wonder if D'Addario simply grew up with his atheism and has never had to really consider religion at all -- perhaps it's just that pretty incense laden ritual that those folks do every week before crowding into buffets to eat their Sunday lunches. Maybe belief in one thing is just as valid and true as belief in anything else and for him beliefs have no consequences whatsoever.

And it's not meant to be attractive. It just needs to be true.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Another Article About What To Do About All These Churches Everywhere


There must be something in the air these days because only a week or so after I posted about some fantastic new uses for empty crumbly cathedrals here in Montreal, the New Republic has reprinted a really interesting article by Oliver Farry, Church Attendance Is Falling. Let the Buildings Fall, Too.
It is, of course, sacrilegious (from a conservationist point of view) to say this but I would sooner let them turn into elegant ruins or, as the French, those great connoisseurs of church architecture, have done so many times throughout history, knock them down and build something new in their stead.
I don't feel this way at all, that would be a terrible waste -- save the really ugly Catholic churches built during the 60s and 70s which looked more like Raëlian alien craft than churches to me. Go check out your favourite Quebec churches, perhaps you might get a good deal on one.

Even then though, why would we want to waste funds to knock down a building and replace it with cheap metal and plastic modern structure -- sometimes at the cost of the state -- when the building could simply be repurposed? In fact, in the case of public funds, we would be throwing new money at a problem to be solved in addition to all of that lost tax revenue. We still don't tax churches, so why not get some form of savings which could be used to pay down our debt? Although true for all churches still in reasonable condition, it is particularly the case for the older stone or brick churches which can be very sturdy making demolition costly
For this reason I am not a big fan of churches being converted for more practical uses when abandoned by the religious. The resultant effect is invariably kitsch or one of petit-bourgeois propriety.
Believe me, a lot of the later churches are horribly tacky. However, as my last post revealed, it is the bishop who is preventing churches from being converted to daycares and senior homes. Surely, these uses are not to kitsch for Farry?

All this said, I did enjoy the article and I too enjoy the majestic architecture of a beautiful Cathedral, so long as it's not all cluttered up with too many ghoulish statues of people being nailed to crosses.

I especially like the reference to Quebec and to Denys Arcand's set in Montreal film Les Invasions Des Barbares.
There is a scene in Denys Arcand’s 2003 film The Barbarian Invasions, in which a young French antiques appraiser visits a Quebec Catholic church to size up some long unused religious artifacts the local priest is trying to offload. The priest shows her around a dusty lock-up and tells her: “Quebec used to be as Catholic as Spain or Ireland. Everyone believed. At a precise moment, during the year 1966 in fact, the churches suddenly emptied in a matter of months. A strange phenomenon that no one has ever been able to explain.” The irony of course is that churches would in time also empty, or at least become emptier, in Ireland and Spain. This scene however sums up eloquently the material legacy a societal decline in religious faith leaves. Stripped of their function in a thriving congregation, surplus ciboria, chalices, and tabernacles of modest craftsmanship become items of largely worthless bric-a-brac. (It is interesting though that all three of those items endure as living, breathing examples of Quebec French’s wonderfully colorful profanity.)
The article ends rather weak, but starts out strong by giving insight about what different European countries are doing to cope with the ever emptying church situation.

This is sure to upset a few, forgive me but I cannot resist. I wonder when the first abortion clinic or clinic offering end of life care that includes assisted death will show up in an old church building?

On a more serious note, think of all the Humanist Centres and Secular Humanist schools that could move into these empty buildings?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Child Bride Situation In Nigeria

(source)
Not much time today but here's a dreadful story to start your week off wrong.

Nigeria girl faces murder trial over forced marriage
A Nigerian court on Monday postponed the murder trial of a 14-year-old girl accused of poisoning the 35-year-old man she was forced to marry, a case that has thrown the spotlight on the influence of Islamic law in region.
I'll distill it the quickest way I can. We have a 14 year old girl who's forced to marry a 35 year old man. She behaves in a criminal way -- however she is just a child! She should have never been thrown into this mess.

These short soundbites sums things up rather well, as does the infographic above.
"All we are saying is do justice to her. Treat the case as it is. Treat her as a child," Aliyu said.
and:
"A girl of 14 cannot stand trial under the criminal code. This case is just adding to our country's negative reputation in the eyes of the international community," he told AFP.
and:
She supported Ogunye's argument that regardless of religion or region, a child cannot face criminal charges in a high court and the case must be moved to the juvenile system.
If you have a child who's not old enough to be tried as an adult but must be moved to the juvenile system then why the hell should she be even allowed to be married to a 35 year old pervert? Oh, and why should human beings be sold off to older perverts like chattel? This is so very wrong on so many levels and yet it seems to be pretty cool as far as the religious are concerned in the region. Funny how these things so often conveniently work out.
The marriage of teenage girls to much older men is rampant in deeply conservative, mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, especially in poorer rural areas.

The region has since 2000 been under sharia Islamic law which some say does not prohibit the marriage of underage girls.

Under Nigeria's marriage act, which applies nationwide, a woman under the age of 21 who wants to marry must have the consent of her parents.
There is pressure within the country to remove the awkward and confusing sharia law and secular criminal code hybrid that's so common in the North and apply just the secular code. If people are indeed compassionate enough to see she should not be tried as an adult than I can only hope they can see that she shouldn't have been forcefully married off in the first place.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Nigerian Witchcraft Story So Outlandish It's Not Even Funny

(source)
This story would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that it's not April 1st and the report seems to be perfectly serious without a single hint of sarcasm or skepticism. Because of this, I can't even bring myself to laugh, I just feel sorry for people trapped in such soul sucking superstition.

Witchcraft: Boys allegedly transforming into cats caught by Police in Rivers state
Detectives at the Rumuolumeni Divisional Police Station in Port Harcourt, Rivers State are investigating a case involving three persons who allegedly transformed to cats.

One of the suspects is a twelve-year-old boy simply identified as John who had transformed to a cat and was caught by policemen at the Rumuolumeni Division.
When the police believe they've seen children turn into cats you know that anything goes as far as outlandish accusations and crimes.

It's possible that this dire situation might be in part the result of the horrid films portraying cannibal child witches put out by Christian evangelist and self-styled witch hunter Helen Ukpabio. Belief in child witches is common in Nigeria and has been the cause of immense abuse.

It's a problem common in Nigeria and pastors are often part of the problem. Afterall, the Bible acknowledges witchcraft.
Much more could be achieved if we could succeed in changing the minds of pastors. But many pastors are not about being spiritual shepherds. They are about getting rich. The wealth of some popular pastors and evangelists in Nigeria could compare with the wealth of some of the wealthiest mega evangelists and pastors in the U.S. This is obscene when placed against the culture of extreme poverty in Nigeria. I've often asked Nigerian pastors, "Why don't you do something to stop the superstition that leads to so many deaths of innocent children?" I asked one of them if he believed that children in Nigeria were witches. He said, "If Jesus would cast demons into pigs, why couldn't demons go into children too?" And he is the pastor of a huge church; when he walks behind the pulpit to preach, he enters as if he were a rock-star. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen any church in Nigeria with any program that addresses the issue of children falsely accused as witches.
Back to the original story. What led them to suspect something was odd?
DailyPost reporter who visited the scene of the incident reports that the policemen became curious after noticing that a particular cat was always running across the police station and decided to lay ambush for the animal.
A cat running across the police station, therefore child witches. What the hell. Then, apparently the cat turned into a boy. The local government also believes this nonsense.
The paramount ruler of Rumuolumeni in Oibio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Eze Ndubueze Wobo confirmed the transformation of three members of his community into cats.

Eze Wobo told Dailypost that one of the men, who is popularly called PAPA, confessed to him at the police station that he initiated the people to suck human blood and inflict their victims with diseases.

Wobo said the victim listed some items which would be used to cleanse initiated children, some which include native alligator pepper, Local gin, Local kola nut and so on.

Some of the residents of the community, including the security operatives who captured the cat before it changed into a human being said that the man confessed that he used packaged beef roll and other things to initiate the victims, who are mainly schoolchildren.
So, so sad.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

"Poor Secular Kids Can't Tell (Biblical) 'Truth' From Fiction!"

(source)
I heard about a fascinating study last week on the David Pakman Show about how children raised with religion -- seems like Christianity in this study -- are less able to discern fact from fiction. I Fucking Love Science blog describes it well.
For the investigations, researchers enrolled 5- and 6- year old children and separated them into four groups: children who attend public school and church, children who attend public school but not church, children who attend parochial school and church and children who attend parochial school but not church.

They then exposed the children to three different types of stories- biblical (religious), fantastical (where the divine element was replaced with magic) or realistic (all supernatural elements removed). They then asked the children to judge whether the protagonist (lead character) was fictional or real.
So what happened was that both groups believed the completely realistic stories (read: naturalistic). Also predictably, the Biblical stories -- like Noah's Ark -- were predominantly judged as true by children from religious backgrounds and fictional from children from secular upbringings.

The interesting part comes with the fantastical stories.
Children exposed to religion, either through school or church, decided that the characters were real, whereas secular children judged them to be fictional.
So it seems like being raised to believe in certain supernatural stories opens up the door to all kinds of belief in the supernatural without evidence, while a grounding in a more naturalistic secular point of view inoculates kids against believing in magic. Really, both groups of kids are behaving perfectly consistently.

Fast-forward now to an article by David Roach in the Baptist Press.

Religious beliefs form by age 6

About the title. Personally, I think that if religious beliefs are cemented by the age of six, we should all be concerned. A six year old is not qualified to critically examine metaphysical truth claims or realise when they possess inadequate knowledge to come to a sound conclusion. This is why we ought to let their brains develop first.

Anyway, what's really amazing with this piece is how it tries to turn the conclusion of most media observers -- including the study authors -- on its head. It's the secular kids who are most impaired here because they're unable to see the Biblical accounts as non fiction!
Media reports of the study have tended to portray children with Christian training as ignorant or developmentally challenged. For example, the Huffington Post reported that “young children who are exposed to religion have a hard time differentiating between fact and fiction.” But a careful examination of the study suggests the opposite of what some media reports imply. In the rush to slam Christianity, it’s been overlooked that religious children correctly identified the true stories far more often than did secular children. After all, the “realistic” and “fantastical” stories were mere concoctions of the researchers’ imaginations, unlike the biblically-based stories, which were largely true though some changed the details of Bible stories and one was an apocryphal story about Jesus that contained elements similar to what is reported in the Gospels.
Roach had pointed out earlier in his article that some of the Biblical stories were somewhat Biblically inaccurate, so the children could be excused for not always believing those versions to be true. 

This is what happens when True or Non-Fictional equals, in all cases, what's in the Bible. Boat full of pairs of every kind of animal on the planet? TRUE! Earth created in six days? TRUE! Talking donkey? TRUE!

It turns out that the poor secular children were unable to properly identify all those Biblical accounts -- because, I suppose, they just evaluate the plausibility of these stories as they would the The Cat In the Hat or Jason And The Argonauts! Aren't they silly?
Still, the secular children misidentified the religious stories as false at a higher rate than the religious children misidentified the fantastical stories as true. In the end, the Christian worldview proved more effective at recognizing truth than the secular worldview.
Enormous... facepalm...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Charles Moore: 'Atheists Are So So Sad'

(source)
I've been sitting on this review of Nick Spencer's new book, Atheists: The Origin of the Species, by Charles Moore over at the Telegraph for awhile now and figured now's as good a time as any to unload it onto my beloved readers. I did, however, write a little about Michael Collins' review of the same book where I was actually more fascinated by a strange Christian admiration of Nietzsche and Camus.

The sad business of trying to disprove God

Well, let us now examine this new textbook quality screed against the New atheists together, shall we? Please feel free to take out any common tired chestnut bingo cards you may have -- I really ought to make some.

First off, the title, The sad business of trying to disprove God. Nobody is trying to disprove God in the general sense -- well, not people like Dawkins anyway. Although, it is possible to find internal inconsistencies with God theories when they are defined properly -- or at all -- which can disprove those Gods.

The really tough gods to disprove are the vast majority, which are so ill-defined as to be utterly meaningless. The cannot be addressed in any logical fashion and hence cannot be proven to exist in any substantial way. You can squint your eyes and make believe, but that is not basis of proof.

The burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of the theist. Dawkins, like many New Atheists have merely examined what proof he has found or has been given and is unconvinced.  It would be nice if Charles Moore would provide proof for God in this article, but instead we're left with the same chestnuts.

Chestnut: They're all emotionless, robotic, science, man nerds.

Moore starts out with a light stereotyping of the average teenage atheist, who is a male, nerdy science type with no knowledge of the arts whatsoever.
You often meet them for the first time at secondary school. The typical teenage atheist is more likely a boy than a girl, stronger on science than the arts, and at the high-ish end of the academic spectrum. He tells you that he has studied the nature of matter, the universe etc, and can prove that God does not exist.
The problem with this teenager and Moore's argument is he's failing to say which God is being shown not to exist. This archetypal teenager is making the same critical error as many theists who claim to be able to prove their god -- prove 'what' exactly? Who knows, not my job. How this teenager is an example of New Atheists is a mystery to me.

Chestnut: Religion cannot be studied by science.

Moore predictably pulls in non-overlapping magisteria and with a sort of smug omniscience, puts a boundary on the scientific enterprise. Apparently, science can have nothing to say about God -- it's verboten. This tool which has proven so useful in examining the evidence for any other truth claim out there is ill-equipped to deal with religion and I would have to agree. It's because any concrete claims religions out there have are so ill-defined or completely unfalsefiable that they seem to reduce to utter gibberish when examined under the critical eye of the scientific method -- that is, if they do not disintegrate utterly under the weight of their own internal logical inconsistencies first.

Like art, religion can be comforting, beautiful, inspiring and utterly nonsensical. Unlike art, religion does make truth claims which affect our physical world. Wherever it interfaces with the physical world it can be assessed by science.

Chestnut: Atheists are just rebelling against god/state/society.

Then we get that old idea that atheism is born from rebellion against authority. While in reality, it is nothing more than a non-belief in god. I would add that it is a rejection of a mostly nonsensical and ill-defined theory with about as many flavours as religionists.

Chestnut: Atheists are all smarty pants intellectuals elites.

We also find the canard that atheists are all smarty pant know-it-alls who believe theists are all dumb dumbs. I'll concede that some do and this is unfortunate. Still, the whole point of the Brights was to be a positive term for atheists, not to imply anything derogatory of believers.
In the current era of Richard Dawkins and the New Atheism, many atheists call themselves the “Brights”, pleased to make the rest of us out as dullards.
This is not the case and I would point out that there are quite a few theists out there who claim to know all the important answers, including what science is capable or not capable of doing.

Chestnut: Dawkins believes he's proved religion is hogwash and he's anti-woman and anti-poor(?) Moore's proof is? I suppose it's nothing more than an analogy.
Some atheists – Dawkins, Sigmund Freud, AJ Ayer – resemble, in essence, that clever young schoolboy. They believe they have brilliantly proved religion to be a load of hogwash. In their minds, it seems an advantage that their creed does not appeal as much to women or the poor and ignorant. 
Chestnut: Once again, the curious Theist Cult of Nietzsche:
Indeed, Friedrich Nietzsche saw more deeply how European society’s moral order would collapse with the destruction of faith – but welcomed it.
Chestnut: Required reference to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Lenin, etc.
People such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler took up such thoughts with deadly enthusiasm.
Chestnut: New Atheism is an expression of anger.
Spencer believes that the New Atheism is an expression of anger at the curious phenomenon that all over the world, except among white Westerners, God is back.
Of course it's a reaction to theism! New atheism is just atheism that is not afraid to make itself heard. Point finale. Although atheists do have plenty to be angry about and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this anger.


But here's a particularly new charge that I've yet to see until now.
This leads to the question: “Is atheism parasitic on religion?” There is something unsatisfactory about building your thought around an anti-faith. Some atheists – amusingly catalogued here – have noticed this, and set up Cults of Reason, secular societies and atheist chapels, trying, rather unsuccessfully, to reproduce the communal creativity of faith. Hamlet says: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Any imaginative atheist must sometimes be troubled by this thought, and worry that his ideas are so dependent on the very thing he opposes.
What the hell?

No, actually there is something wholly satisfactory about not building my thought around faith! I was fundamentally unhappy and dissatisfied during my religious days when I would examine the tenets and have them all fall apart utterly under with the slightest inspection. It was sad days wandering about from religion to religion looking for one that made the slightest bit of sense and could stand up to even a modicum of examination. I would find a new one and it would unravel into absurdity the longer I would test it.
... Cults of Reason, secular societies and atheist chapels, trying, rather unsuccessfully, to reproduce the communal creativity of faith.
No, actually there is something to be said for not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This is a reflection of the human need for community as well as the recognition that the only way atheists can ever hope to be heard in the public sphere is by banding together into groups.
Hamlet says: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Any imaginative atheist must sometimes be troubled by this thought, and worry that his ideas are so dependent on the very thing he opposes.
How utterly ironic of Moore to tell atheists that they ought to be troubled by there being more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy! Set the Bible, a Bronze Age book with talking bushes next to either Cosmos series to start. If these things are beyond this book, then perhaps someone could share the details so they can be properly studies. I'm willing to learn.

Because I'm wholly unimpressed with what I've read in the Bible or Quran.

Chestnut: Atheists cannot possibly understand Love, because only love can believe the Resurrection. Whatever the hell that means, it certainly sounds rather dehumanizing, doesn't it? This one hurts the most.

How A Moroccan Atheist Deals With Ramadan

Moroccan chicken, vegetables and couscous is one of my favourite things. (source)
There is an excellent interview in Morocco World News with an anonymous atheist who explains how he and other atheists in the country cope with Ramadan. This comes just a couple of weeks after another news story about atheists in Muslim countries who face jail time for not going along with state enforced fasting and abstinence. So there is at least an encouraging increase of discussion about atheism in the media in Muslim countries.

Interview: Moroccan Atheist Reveals How He Spends Ramadan

First off, this is not a joke. The Moroccan Penal Code specifies that eating in public during Ramadan, during daylight hours, can bring up up to six months in jail and a significant fine.

The interview is with Karim El Quamch (probably not real name). He describes Ramadan as "a period of agony and torture at all levels, physical and psychological." He points out the possible issues with starving oneself during the day while altering one's sleeping patterns in the night.

He describes the trouble he has to go through to avoid offending his family members and perhaps even go to jail. At this time, his family suspects nothing of his secret atheism.

He sleeps through a good part of the day to avoid the agony of fasting for something he has no belief in whatsoever -- or in other words, a theocratic imposition onto his own freedoms from religion.
“I go to bed at 6 or 7 a.m to kill time…usually that’s the best period to work in Ramadan because during the night all members of my family are asleep after dawn…thus I can eat and smoke while working without worries of being caught up.”

He goes on to add, “I wake up around 2 or 3 p.m..and I go outside to buy some food to eat… Eating and drinking happens inside my locked room. I always try to make sure that cigarette smells don’t escape from under the door using simple techniques.”
Remember, Karim is not a child. He is 36 years old yet the government is treating him like a mere boy. He is forced to hide in his room to eat -- not only by his family but by the State! This is a degrading human rights violation.

The article surprisingly doesn't go into any of that -- and we don't hear the Office of Religious Freedom bringing this up either. However, a Muslim commentor, Yassin Moutaouakil, apparently hailing from Université Mohamed V Rabat -Souissi, did come to Karim's defense, which I found encouraging.
Karim, I declare my solidarity with you. I respect you, though I am a muslim, who fast Ramadan. But, it us unfair that you have to memic following the beliefs of this damned society.
i don’t think any majority-islamic country allows freedom from and of religion. you can’t be an atheist in these nations. that means the entire religion is that way. pray to my god or die. wow, what a choice.
Well, there is hope in the next generation after all.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Men Cut Infant Penises, Sucked The Blood, Gave Herpes In The Process: No Jail Time

Brit Milah circumcision tools. (source)
Well, I'm sure you all know how I feel about circumcision. So I'm pretty sure you can guess what I think of circumcision in the context of religious ritual. But can you guess how I feel about grown men using the pretext of religion to suck the blood from a freshly butchered infant penis and giving them herpes in the process?

You likely cannot fully comprehend the sheer level of confusion, bewilderment, disgust and anger I'm feeling after reading...

2 Infants Diagnosed With Herpes After Ritual Jewish Circumcisions: Officials
In both cases, the infant boys were born to mothers with full-term pregnancies and normal deliveries. They were circumcised using the direct oral suction technique practiced by some Orthodox Jews eight days after their birth, and developed lesions on their genitals shortly thereafter, the Health Department said.
Holy crap is this revolting. Can someone please tell me how grown men can get away with such sick and unthinkable acts? I know you know why.
There have been 16 confirmed cases of herpes since 2000 in newborn boys after circumcisions that likely involved direct oral suction, including three in 2014, according to the Health Department.

Two of the infants died and at least two others suffered brain damage.
Inexcusable! Send these men to jail, immediately. I mean, how could you excuse this? The article goes on to talk about how it's all an ancient ritual. Oh well then, I suppose there's no problem with this, then.

Apparently, in 2012 the Health Board made a rule that rabbis had to get written consent from parents before cutting the penises and licking the blood. A group of Orthodox rabbis attempted to sue their way out of this rule...

What the hell is going on here on this planet of ours? Why are the infants' legal guardians even allowed to authorize some guy to suck blood from their babies' penises with the documented risk of potentially transmitting herpes and killing them? How could this make sense? I think you know how.

Quick question, if this wasn't a 'religious thing' would these men be in jail right now? I'm sure you know the answer.

Religion.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Michael Robbins & The Theist Cult of Nietzsche

(source)
By now I'm certain that many of you would have had the chance to encounter Michael Robbins review of this new book by Nick Spencer, Atheists: The Origin of the Species over at Slate. Robbins deserves a medal for the title of the article, Know Nothing: The true history of atheismIf you scroll down, a header appears at the top reading: 'Atheists used to take the idea of God seriously . That's why they mattered.'  If it's meant to be click bait, it worked with over 6,500 comments after a mere four days. Although I find these articles frustrating, something else is beginning to bother me even more. I just don't get where these articles are coming from.

The trouble starts as early as the first two paragraphs. This is where Robbins bemoans the popular idea that religion once touted the answers to life the universe and everything but then reason and science came along and gradually took it away from the clergymen one fact at a time. He points out that even the church fathers would have been confused by those who see Science and Faith in constant opposition.
... setting up an opposition between reason and faith that the church fathers would have found rather puzzling.
Yes, the church fathers would have likely found this rather puzzling. They thought having faith in that which there was not sufficient evidence was perfectly reasonable. Science has achieved an impressive body of knowledge that requires no Spanish Inquisition to buttress it.

As atheists, we have access to a bottomless ocean of Christian faith trying to pass itself off as proof for God. But it's evidence we require in our modern world where mere strongly held religious belief and mere faith is not adequate evidence for a proposition to be true. This is what the scientific method has brought us -- this is what gives it its power over battling feelings and emotions.

Now religion pretends to know more than simple natural phenomena. It pretentiously boasts knowledge of all time and space through its books of Genesis and Revelation. It claims to know both the natural and the supernatural in its entirety. It sets up a being who it claims knows the thoughts and hearts of all men and women for all times past and future. Surely, this bolder claim attempts to annex even the natural phenomena relegated to science. If this is not Robbins' Christian views, then I submit that it is the case for the ignorant multitude, the οἱ πολλοί, whether he likes it or not.
To be sure, several scriptures offer, for instance, their own accounts of creation. But Christians have recognized the allegorical nature of these accounts since the very beginnings of Christianity. 
Allegory is a natural escape for anyone who wishes to gloss over logical contradictions in their holy books. Though it comes with a price. Each time one of these escape hatches is cut into a wall, the more weakened its supporting function. How many escape hatches does Robbins have cut through the walls supporting his faith edifice? Are there any walls left? Is the structure still standing? Is his scripture merely a collection of feel good Aesop's fables?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Man Drinking Coffee, In A Car, During Ramadan

(source)
The borough I live in has a very large Muslim population. In fact, it contains largest mosque in the province. This translates to very delicious food all around me. There are no fast food joints here, only wonderful delicious Pakistani, Lebanese and Moroccan food.

Of course, we are now roughly at the halfway mark in the month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from basically putting anything in their mouths -- food or water. They break their fast at sundown, which, because of our high Canadian latitude, isn't until around 9pm. I've noticed this makes for some tired looking people and it seems like some drivers get a little erratic around 6 or 7pm.

This brings me to this morning. When my wife got up and opened the blinds she noticed a car parked out front. There was a man sitting in it drinking coffee. It was a little unusual. Several minutes later I noticed the car and there could have been some food there too. Was he eating breakfast? Was he waiting for someone, perhaps? Around an hour later my wife noticed him still there and then he apparently just drove off.

I don't know for sure, but a thought came to my mind after reading about atheists living in Muslim dominated countries where non-observance of Ramadan can lead to a jail sentence. There have also been recent protests over the years as well by non-Muslim populations who felt oppressed by this enforced fast.

Was he a Muslim sneaking a coffee and perhaps some food on the downlow?

Of course, having a coffee and perhaps a croissant won't lead to a jail sentence here in Canada, but what about his wife, his co-workers, the people he knows at the cafe even? He doesn't even need to be an atheist for this. What if he's a believing Muslim who is wracked with guilt but unable to help himself because he's hypoglycemic?

It's sad if he cannot do something as natural as eat or drink due to unsupported beliefs.

Or, I guess he could be just a guy drinking a coffee parked outside my house. That article did get me thinking though.

Monday, 7 July 2014

More Doctors Who Refuse to Prescribe The Pill

(source)
Awhile back we heard about a Calgary clinic with a doctor who was refusing to provide birth control pills to women. Well, a recent opinion piece in the Toronto Star recounts yet another case of this in at least one Ottawa clinic this past February.
At an Ottawa walk-in clinic last winter, Kate Desjardins requested a prescription for birth control and was denied. Instead, she was handed a letter explaining that the one doctor on duty that day wouldn’t provide contraception “because of reasons of my own medical judgment, as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values.” Desjardins left the busy waiting room shocked and humiliated. Surely this was illegal, she thought, or at least a breach of professional conduct.
The excellent piece goes on to mention that, like in Alberta, Ontario has rules in place that allow doctors' religious freedom to trump the rights of patients to receive legal medical services. The author asks the very same question I did in my post about this. What happens if you live in a very small rural community with one doctor?
The policy, which is currently under review in Ontario, ought to be overturned. In its attempt to protect a doctor’s freedom of religion, it unacceptably threatens a patient’s right to adequate care.

Desjardins, who is 25 and married, was able to find a doctor at another clinic to write her a prescription. But what if she had lived in a more remote area with fewer accessible doctors? What if the doctor at the next clinic also objected?
The piece goes on to report that two other doctors in the very same clinic refuse to prescribe birth control on moral/religious grounds! The common thread here seems to be a religious one.

As I wrote in my previous post on this, the author asks the question: "What if this is a young girl who lacks the confidence to stand up to a doctor and demand her prescription?"  I would add: What if she doesn't have access to another doctor? Does she need to drive to the next county? Does she have a car? Can she afford a bus? Can she take time to travel and not get fired? Can she safely ask her parents for help?"

Unbelievably, obstacles like this are standing in the way of already pregnant women trying to obtain legal abortions with the number of active clinics dwindling in parts of the company -- say, P.E.I for example! Now are we seeing the very same people who would wish abortion to be made completely illegal ultimately increasing the likelihood of abortions because of their religious freedom? 

It really makes me wonder if these people wish to outlaw abortion, birth control or, perhaps, non-procreational sex, altogether.
Of course, it’s reasonable to attempt to protect physicians from being asked to deliver care they find morally reprehensible. But when that entails patients being denied common, medically uncontroversial treatments by public health facilities, it’s an accommodation too far.
Absolutely. Perhaps these clinics should pay to have these medications couriered to women if these doctors are too squeamish to do it themselves.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Quebec Passes End Of Life Care Bill 52

(source)
I'm not sure how I missed this, but Bill 52, the dignity in dying law was passed last month. This makes Quebec the first North American government to allow those who are suffering greatly to end their own lives.
Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, received broad support on Thursday from nearly 80 per cent of MNAs. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard allowed his caucus to vote according to their conscience. The 22 MNAs who voted against were all Liberals, including 10 cabinet ministers.
As I outlined in my last post about this bill, doctor assisted suicide has very broad support in Quebec -- 79%.
The legislation outlines the conditions in which a terminally ill adult patient who is of sound mind may request continuous palliative sedation that would lead to death. Patients would need to have an incurable illness and be in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capacities.” They would also have to be in constant and unbearable physical and psychological pain that doctors would view as impossible to relieve through medication.

The procedure for making the request would be supervised by the attending physician and approved though consultation with the hospital’s medical team. And, finally, a patient could at any time withdraw a signed request for medical aid in dying. (source)
Here's a quote from a press release from the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops.
Of course we understand the anguish and sorrow of everyone who has ever heard a loved one ask for death during a difficult end-of-life phase. The authentic response of society and of medicine to such a situation is palliative care. Palliative care is the best way to allay the suffering of a person who is approaching the end of her life, and to help her to live this final step with humanity and dignity
Here's a quote from Jewish General Hospital executive director Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg.
We do not give life, and we have no right to take life,” Rosenberg affirmed. “The National Assembly has no bona fides to determine what is high-quality medical care and what is not.” ...
... According to Judaism, he said,  “we are not the owners of our body; only God can terminate our life
Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, said:
“We have no right to take our lives. Our lives are not ours. Our lives are a gift from God,” Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of Canada's Campaign Life Coalition, told CNA June 26.
“We have no right to take our own life or to take anyone else's life. It violates the gift of the Creator,” Douglas said, noting that bill opponents “have to continue to emphasize the sacredness of human life.”
She also countered views that suffering justifies assisted suicide, adding that Catholics and other Christians believe that human suffering has merit when it is “united to the suffering of Christ.”
Well, that's fine then. Please, by all means, go ahead and suffer to the end! Just don't make us all suffer in pain to satisfy your own religious ideas!

Now here are some of the things the bill's author, Véronique Hivon said.
Sometimes when you are suffering in pain, one hour can feel like one week.… The protection of the vulnerable is reflected in every aspect of this bill...
For me, dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering … and respecting who that person always was during his or her whole life..
Sounds like this is coming from a place of compassion and consideration for the patient's suffering. Quebec Premier Couillard, who was a neurosurgeon before entering politics said.
Not once did patients tell me that they wanted to die. But they often told me that they no longer wanted to endure the pain and wanted to go to sleep...
Both sides are coming at this from different places.

I was made aware of this while listening to an excellent interview on Freethought Radio with Wanda Morris, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada. There are many compelling stories told on this interview and Couillard's above observation seems to be much more on the mark than all this God talk above.

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?