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

Monday, 14 July 2014

Michael Robbins & The Theist Cult of Nietzsche

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

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

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

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?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Calgary Doctor Refuses Women Reproductive Freedom Because: Religion

"Please be informed that the physician on duty today WILL NOT prescribe the Birth Control Pill."

If you're a woman who needs the pill and walk into the Westglen Medical Clinic in Calgary, you better hope you arrive while Chantelle Barry is on duty. Because, she won't prescribe those little 'baby killin' caplets -- it's against her religion! Jesus would want you to have that child, even if it kills you!

Calgary doctor’s refusal to prescribe birth control triggers outrage

Watch the video. Apparently, this sort of behaviour is just fine.
According to representatives with the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, all physicians are legally entitled to refuse to provide medical service based on religious or moral grounds, but must provide patients with contact details for a doctor willing to provide the service.
I wonder what happens when the last doctor decides not to sell birth control? An unlikely scenario -- unless you live in a small town. Dr. Barry once practiced in a rural community. I hope there was another doctor for her to refer women to. What if both doctors are against it? Do they take turns imposing their strongly held religious beliefs on women young and old alternating days?  Or does the poor girl or woman need to find a way to get into the next town?

Anyway, if you watch the video, you'll also see a short interview with a woman who has a medical condition which requires her to take birth control. She's not too happy with Dr Barry. This is not an uncommon situation.

Naturally though, God loves every tiny little egg so women must release every single one, every month! God's watching, but he can do nothing without Dr. Barry's help! Oh, and Barry's a doctor, she understands that taking the pill is indeed ovocide babycide.

Anyway, if this doctor is perfectly within her right to refuse to deliver this service, then the best response for everyone is to drop her as their family doctor and make a point of letting the clinic know why. I think this is one case that the free market can handle.

Of course, making noise about this to the College of Physicians is also a good idea. Imagine being a teenage girl and having to see this doctor about going on birth control?

Friday, 20 June 2014

UN Committee Concerned About Child Trafficking For Religious Rituals

Haitian Voodoo ritual. (source)
So, in today's disturbing news...

An article over at Voice of Russia is shedding light on concerns the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has about African children being kidnapped and shipped to the UK for use in Voodoo and other religious rituals. (Originally on AFP)
"We're concerned about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London, for religious rituals," said Kristen Sandberg, head of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The article says that British police have reported many cases of child torture and abuse for witchcraft rituals. It then goes on to list off a few such cases in more detail.

I found the report in question after some digging on the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights website. Here's the relevant bit.
Child Trafficking

30. The Committee is strongly concerned that thousands of children continue to be trafficked every year in the State party, particularly for sexual exploitation and labour, and it expresses its deepest concern about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the State party for brutal religious rituals, such as the so-called voodoo and juju rituals. The Committee is particularly concerned that:

a) The number of prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators of trafficking and other offences under the Optional Protocol is extremely low across the State party, leading to impunity for perpetrators, and that the prosecutors often choose to charge perpetrators of human trafficking with other offences, such as rape or abduction to secure convictions; and

b) While under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, a non-national who arranges the trafficking of a child outside the jurisdiction of the State party commits a crime in England and Wales, the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

31. The Committee urges that the State party strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement authorities and judiciary to detect and prosecute trafficking of children for labour, sexual and other forms of exploitation, including for religious rituals. The Committee further recommends that the State party enact a specific legislation on child trafficking in accordance with the Optional Protocol and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (UN Palermo Protocol) and ensure that the crime of child trafficking is defined consistently and prosecuted throughout the State party.  
It appears that sexual exploitation and labour are the two largest categories, but religious superstition is also a problem. Apparently authorities tend to downplay these events for some reason.
The British government launched a campaign against faith-based child abuse in 2012, saying there was a need to make a stand, working with African migrant associations.

Critics have pointed to what they say is a tendency to view ritual abuse differently from other forms.
Yet another bizarre and tragic double standard around religion.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vancouver School Board Does the Right Thing For Transgender Students

Good news out of Vancouver! The Vancouver School Board voted yesterday evening to update its gender identity policy to protect students' expression of their own gender identities.
The policy update will allow students to be addressed by the name that corresponds with their own gender identity. It will also allow transgender students to use the washroom of their choice.
These simple things can have a huge impact on the lives of transgender students who, with no such support, are at a disproportionate risk of suicide, self harming and dropping out.

Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus said before the vote,
"We need to do this. There's research that suggests when LGBT kids are supported at school, it actually lowers high-risk behaviours for all students."
You would think this would be a no brainer, but local parent groups fought it tooth and nail. Douglas Todd identifies Vancouver's large ethnic Chinese community as being a primary opponent to these progressive changes.
Still, this is only the latest public assault on programs for LGBT students led predominantly by members of Metro Vancouver’s ethnic Chinese population, which numbers more than 400,000 (three-quarters of whom are immigrants).

With some support from non-Chinese, they have frequently tried to stop school boards and Christian denominations from more fully embracing gays, lesbians and transgendered (sic) people.
It seems like some of it is cultural - in China, only 20% of respondents to a recent Pew Poll approve of "homosexuality" which may loosely map onto LGBT issues. However, Todd's article points out the very strong Christian component of this particular anti-LGBT movement in Vancouver. He does a good job of profiling the effects of strong (mostly evangelical) Christian motivators in both the Chinese and Korean communities in the city.

Todd quotes his own piece about human geographer Justin Tse which draws out the real irony here. We have minority Chinese and Korean groups in Canada, themselves struggling for acceptance, which are actively attempting to limit the rights of another much maligned minority, transgender people. It seems that many simply believe Canadians are wrong with their human rights laws.
Among other, things, Tse described how many ethnic Chinese do not see a contradiction between their own struggle to be fully accepted as an ethno-cultural group in Canada and their opposition to accepting gays and lesbians. The SCMP recently ran a headline describing how Chinese-Canadians felt Canada’s human rights laws on homosexuality were “ridiculous.”
This is further illustrated in the South China Morning Post: Canada’s ‘ridiculous’ human rights galvanise evangelical Chinese
Tse wrote that his Cantonese-speaking evangelical research participants believed human rights were being taken to "ridiculous" extremes in Canada.
Tse's thesis described how a proposed federal bill to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure protection for bisexual and transgender people was hotly opposed by Cantonese-speaking evangelicals in Vancouver. The bill was passed by the lower house but died in the Senate in 2011.

"Within Cantonese evangelical circles, [the bill] highlighted for many that 'Western' Canadian society's constitutional fixation on 'human rights' was descending into nihilism, bolstering in turn the ideological merits of a universally 'Chinese' traditional family system that remained part of a rational sexual majority," Tse wrote.
Well, I'm happy that mothers like Chinese Canadian Fiona Chen, whose 11 year old son, born a girl has decided to identify as a boy, can finally see him get some acceptance at his school.
This world is full of bias and discrimination, and I want to clear the way for my son. He's courageous enough to come out to tell everybody who he really is, so as his mother, I'm here to help him, and to build a better world. And to have people better understand people like him.
I truly believe the trustees will vote for it, because it's the right thing to do.

If this policy pass, you will give them [students] more sense of being accepted by the whole society, that will really help them build their confidence, because feeling rejected is terrible thing, right?
People, we're talking about simple things like being able to use the bathroom assigned by society to a gender identity that corresponds to your own gender identity. We're talking about having the right to specify whatever name you wish to self-identify with and have others honour your decision. Why is this so controversial?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Whence Dignity?

Douglas Todd's latest column on dignity is pretty good. Not really for what Todd thinks - he doesn't really share that. Instead, it represents an ongoing debate over what's dignified and how it shapes public policy.

'Dignity' is often a kind of nebulous term upon which, for better or worse, some kind of common ground is being sought between an  increasingly wide gamut of often competing religions and non-religious groups. Back in the day, people just used to listen to whatever the Pope said, but that doesn't slice the bread anymore.

The obvious problem is there tend to be disagreements between these groups as many of them base their views on what's 'dignity' on 2,000 year old texts claiming to document the utterances of spooks in the sky. This comes to the forefront with issues like abortion, euthanasia and prostitution where much of the opposition is religion motivated.

Elsewhere, Charles Taylor seems to bring this up. If people are to bring their religions to the discussion table, they had better be compatible or there will be trouble, which is why he ultimately seems to believe that too many non-religious views can destroy the social cohesion required to keep a state together. The other approach is to keep your religious view off the table, of course, which is an approach favored by me and most of the state-church separation crowd.

Perhaps the problem with such an approach is the very word dignity itself. I feel it's burdened down with religious baggage - it's what's not 'unseemly' or 'blasphemous' or 'indecent' behavior, whatever doesn't offend the puritan's delicate sensibilities. It's bringing your religion to a table and dooming any discussion to failure as the number of differing religious perspectives and secular representation grows. The secularists are right. A proper separation of church and state is the only way.

God-given 'dignity' forms the backbones of broken arguments against abortion, prostitution and euthanasia - which interestingly has a a good secular argument for it: 'dying with dignity.' This goes to show how often the question is who's dignity are we really concerned about here? Indeed, does the human in question even have enough autonomy over their own bodies or are they simply on loan from God?

A better way forward would be to recognize the human rights that all people have and only put in limitations where real harm may result. I'm not talking about 'spiritual harm' or 'self-degrading harm', I'm saying that a prostitute who wishes to sell sex is not harming anyone if she herself is fine with this and is working in a legalized well-regulated system.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure most of the regular readers here have an idea where I stand on issues like prostitution (it should be legal and regulated) and dying with dignity (it should be legal). Todd's article was refreshingly unbiased - well at least it seemed that way this first time I read it.

There's just one point that confuses me.
Religions have other ways to determine supreme value than dignity. Broadly speaking, Christianity emphasizes love and redemption through Christ; Islam emphasizes submission to the will of God, while Buddhism emphasizes escaping the cycle of reincarnation through enlightenment.
I'm sorry, but wasn't this a little hand waving? Perhaps Todd can explain what all this means because I fail to see how such an equation can possibly translate into sound policy.

Some may see a secular approach as 'not grounded in anything concrete,' but I fail to see how statements like the above could possibly be anything but murky waters.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

John Baird Responds to UFO Religion's Request for Alien Embassy in Canada

John Baird and the proposed Raëlian embassy.

A few days ago, the Raëlians, who are a UFO religion that believes we were all engineered by aliens rather than a god (a minor point), asked the Canadian government to help them build an interstellar embassy for the alien race, the Elohim, so that we may become a galactic hub.

I thought this was quite silly, but I was interested if there would be a response from John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs. We'll he responded with a tweet, which my wife alerted me to only an hour ago.
Depak Obhrai is the Conservative MP from Calgary East riding. He responded in the affirmative, so here's hoping the Elohim are as friendly as the Raëlians claim they are or else he'll likely end up the first human served up as lunch to our new intergalactic overlords.
A CBC story releases a more detailed government response.
In response to a request from CBC News, ministerial press secretary @adamihodge explained that, "although tempting due to the promises of long term jobs and economic growth, sadly, current Canadian law is that only representatives of another state or an international organization can have diplomatic status in Canada - there is no mention of extraterrestrial entities."
It goes to to mention that the Canadian diplomatic licence plates wouldn't be big enough for the spacecraft and that if the Elohim would only make themselves known to the government, they would be happy to meet for coffee and discuss new galactic economic action plans. Har Har Har.

This is, of course, hilarious at this level alone. However, it becomes rather sickeningly ironic from the point of view of a skeptic atheist like me - someone who sees all religions as being rather equally kooky.

I don't mean to go too far onto a limb here, but as far as I can tell, the odds that we were manufactured by aliens are actually better than some nebulous, undefinable god thing! Presumably, aliens would be flesh and bone (or something natural) and would need not defy the laws of physics or magically bring about humans from nowhere at all - via will power, chi, life essence, "I AM WHAT I AM" or whatever God is supposed to have done.

So it strikes me as both hilarious and sort of sad that someone who believes in a magic sky god from the bronze age even feels the right to mock a religion that is probably more scientifically-based than his.

Speaking of religions. If Baird thinks this is hilarious, what about the Embassy to of Canada to the Holy See? Their claim to fame are crackers and wine that become the body and blood of a man who apparently lived and died 2,000 years ago. I honestly don't know which is the more ridiculous.

They are both equally ridiculous - but the Raëlians seem to be much less hung up about sex.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Raëlians to Lobby Canadian Government to Build Interplanetary Embassy for Aliens

Model of a proposed embassy the Raëlians wish to build in Cambodia. (source)

So the Raëlian Church of Canada - who do not believe in a god but do believe space aliens created us as science experiments - made a press release yesterday.

For years, they've been trying to build an interplanetary embassy to establish diplomatic relations with the Elohim, the alien race who created us in laboratory. They've been trying to convince Israel to let them build the structure in Jerusalem but they've been refused seven times. So now they've decided to give other countries a try!

Press conference - An Embassy to welcome an extraterrestrial civilization: the Raelians will file a formal application to the Canadian Government!

They plan to do this tomorrow (Wednesday June 4th).
"The file we will give to Prime Minister Harper, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Finance includes two main sections. The first is a request for a Lot Of Land, ​​4 square kilometers in Canada and the second is a request to grant extraterritoriality, as for all Embassies in the world", declared Daniel Turcotte, RAEL's assistant for the Embassy project. "In return, Canada will benefit from an economic impact of tens of billions of dollars in the long term. In addition, the host country of this Embassy will improve and enjoy an immense prestige being the interplanetary hub. The residents of this country will be the first to benefit from the Elohim's very advanced technology in the fields, among others, of  bio-robotics, nanotechnology, medicine, transport and communications, as well as an access to some sources of energy currently impossible to imagine by our scientists", added Turcotte.
A story in HuffPo covering this reports that the Raëlians do have one stipulation: no land in the Arctic. The Elohim do not dig very cold weather and members of the religion have been known to go in the nude during public events often. I'm certain they're aware of the cold winters here in Montreal since there is a strong Raëlian presence here.

I'm interested to see what John Baird will do with this information. Canada has lots of land, indeed, and four square kilometers would not go missed. Just think of the boon of being the world's first interplanetary hub! Now there's a return on investment!
On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 3:00 pm, the Raelian Movement will hold a press conference at Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St. Ottawa, Queen Salon (executive level), during which the Embassy file will be handed to the attending journalists. By the same occasion a model of the Embassy will be unveiled. Nicole Bertrand and Daniel Turcotte will also be available to answer their questions.
Naturally, I don't believe this for one minute, but I do find it fascinating. I am also intrigued at how the government officials will react. Are there any readers who could attend, take pictures, report back to base?

Oh, the release also mentions that Canada has had a many UFO sightings - an upswing in the last couple of years, actually. This obviously means the Elohim have been buzzing around but just do not have a suitable place to land!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Toni Braxton: My Son's Autism Is God's Payback For My Previous Abortion

Toni Braxton in Romania, 2012 (source)

Ever since it was posted on this blog's Facebook Page today, I've been dying to comment on this outrageous story.

Toni Braxton laments son’s autism as ‘God’s payback’ for abortion

It's all in her upcoming memoir, Unbreak My Heart.

Back in 2001, Braxton got pregnant but was taking Accutane for her acne, which has been known to cause birth defects. She also decided it wasn't the right time to have a baby. Hence, she had an abortion. I don't see a problem with this, but Braxton was raised in an uber cult-like Christian family and so apparently still feels immense guilt for this.
Braxton notes in her book that she grew up in a very strict household where she was forced to fast for two weeks during Lent, could not wear pants, and often had to neglect her homework in order to memorize Scripture. At the church where she and her family attended, students were forced to memorize at least 25 Scriptures per week.
What paints her God as a horrendous monster is that she honestly wonders whether her parents' divorce was caused by her abortion. Presumably God inflicted great pain and suffering onto her parents because of something she did.
She also believed that God may be punishing her with a diagnosis of lupus and her parents' divorce.
Because he wasn't done yet, apparently this God also decided that her son be autistic. Oh no, sorry, he let him have autism.
‘I have sometimes wondered whether God was punishing me for the abortion I had years ago by allowing my son to have autism. Or by giving me so many health issues’, she writes.
I honestly wonder what this says about her thoughts of autistic people as well. I know autistic children and adults and this kind of talk - of an affliction - can be seen as rather offensive. My own son and wife are both autistic and I do not see them as punishments from some (non-existent) God.

On top of this, jerk-God decided to also give Braxton Lupus. What a dick. And just how many abortions has he let happen recently?

Among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is roughly 15-20%. Miscarriage may occur for many reasons, not all of which can be identified. Some of these causes include genetic, uterine, or hormonal abnormalities, reproductive tract infections, and tissue rejection. Miscarriage caused by invasive prenatal diagnosis (chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis) is rare (about 1%).
Not to mention being strangled by their own umbilical cords!

Although she's been through a lot and it's not easy. I notice a common thread in all of these cases; they all point back to Toni Braxton and something she did. This can be either seen as rather self-centered of her or a symptom of way way too much guilt and ownership of a bad situation. This appears to be an unhealthy condition and the cause is a twisted up guilt-ridden religious view that attaches unproven consequences onto unrelated actions. Being ex-Catholic, I think I might get some of it.

I hope Braxton can try to get over this and realize it is not anything she did, but that will require getting over the sort of abuse it looks like she had to endure. I think she owes it to her kids to try.

Oh, and it is infact, even worse than it sounds. In her upcoming memoir, Braxton also mentions that her second son's Autism symptoms just so happened to coincide with the MMR vaccine. If you're going to go off the superstitious conspiracy theory deep end, you may as well go for broke.
"Maybe it's just a coincidence that after my son's first MMR vaccine, I began to notice changes in him," Braxton noted in the book.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Role of Witchcraft & Religion In the Central African Republic Conflict

Refugees from Central African Republic due to 2014 fighting. (source)

My ongoing weekend migraine - sorcery induced, no doubt - has prevented me from writing anything substantial for the blog.  So here's a link to an interesting story about the role of religion and belief in witchcraft in the war torn Central African Republic.

Sorcery at War

Here's a hint. Belief in witchcraft exasperates any sort of license to do wrong religion may provide and religion acts as a nice holy sanctioned dividing line between Christians and Muslims. However, the other of the piece, assures us that it's not religion - it's all politics.
And yet casting the conflict in religious terms is a poor way to understand it. The war was caused not by sectarian differences, but by political and economic grievances, the products of systematic neglect of Muslim areas by the government once run by François Bozizé, a general backed by Chad and France. Religious divisions mapped onto, and exacerbated, senses of longstanding economic and political injustice.

And if the violence has reached fearsome levels in the last few months, it is partly because a pervasive belief in sorcery among Central Africans has mapped onto and exacerbated Christian-Muslim divisions.
Political and economic grievances which apparently resulted from discriminatory government policy based on religious in-group/out-group attitudes. I suppose if they were all Christian or Muslim, they would find some other way to segregate the Northerners from the Southerners, but for now, it really does look to me like religion had a role to play here as a divisive tool.

Of course this is more complicated! I don't know anything about the situation in this country so I'll take his word for it. It's possible that, like North Ireland, an essentially political situation is codified in a religious language and outlook. This codification allows people to essentially do horrible things in the name of their religion and God. Witchcraft takes it to a whole new level of bad.

I'm certain the majority of New York Times readers can see just how tragic it is for unfounded beliefs in witchcraft leading to death and injury is. I wonder how many realize that the same is true for religion?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Christian "Prophetess" Sets Her Daughter On Fire to Drive Out "Witchcraft"

Bose Oluwole (source)
Things don't seem to be going particularly well in parts of Nigeria. In one region we have a band of insane militants, the Boko Haram, who are kidnapping girls, 'converting' them to Islam and selling them off to be married.

This piles on top of their recent anti-homosexual laws that prescribe jail sentences to anyone who dares love someone of the same gender. All of this is, of course, calculated to pander to certain religious elements in the country. Nevermind the north of the country where, thanks to Sharia Law, you can be stoned to death for being gay.

There seem to be many problems here that have one common root: strong, fundamentalist and mostly blind religious belief grounding in anything at all but fact. Otherwise known as too much religion and not enough education and critical thinking.

Oh, and don't forget Helen Ukpabio, who runs her odious Liberty Gospel Church where she pumps out ghastly films that portray children and babies as being possessed by the devil.

This last point leads me directly into this horrific story, which could be a snapshot of a much broader problem in a country that itself seems to be possessed by irrational belief.

Police nab ‘prophetess’ for setting 9-yr-old daughter ablaze

She's a prophetess and member of the Celestial Church, which seems to be an uber fundamentalist ascetic Christian sect that have a whole whack of prohibitions.

One day, while praying, she had a vision her daughter was a witch.
She told the police during interrogation: “I was only obeying God’s instruction. I had a vision while praying that my daughter is from the witchcraft world. When I prayed to God over it, I received an instruction through the Holy Spirit to burn my daughter’s body in order to deliver her from the evil society.”
This woman is clearly mentally ill - I suppose much like Abraham was before he nearly killed Isaac, I mean, who can really tell the difference, right? I'm guessing she truly must believe that Biblical story.
The girl identified as Damilola was said to have thereafter been rushed to Epe General Hospital by the policemen, where she is currently receiving treatment for what doctors described as first degree burns.
I suppose we should be thankful it's only first degree burns. This brave girl bolted out of the house and cried out for help in the street. Youths, who were visibly angry and frustrated by this insanity, put out the fires and saved her from life-threatening injuries.

Oh, and the girl's mother, who admitted to doing this, is pleading not guilty.

More education. More critical thinking schools. Less groundless belief in stories exalting the irrational, the dangerous.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Charles Taylor Talks About Secularism

Charles Taylor (source)
While clearing off my IPod, I recently found an old ignored McGill Religious Studies podcast with an interesting talk by Canadian philosopher - and Templeton Prize winner - Charles Taylor.

A Secular Age
Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University and recent winner of the prestigious Templton (sic) and Kyoto prizes. His address offers a succinct summary of the Commission of Inquiry he co-chaired with Gérard Bouchard concerning ‘reasonable accommodation’ of religious and cultural diversity in the Province of Quebec.
Although Taylor, as a Catholic, likely sits on the other side of the fence from me on any number of issues, his thoughtful and honest discussion makes it hard for me to ignore his ideas. In fact, I put him alongside C.S. Lewis as a Catholic thinker whom I may be able to read and take seriously. After listening to the talk, at least, I believe he offers atheist folk like me a window into how intelligent Catholics see the world. As such this talk is a golden opportunity to be challenged and grow.

I have some comments to bring up about the talk. However, it's possible these aberrations are due to the very compressed nature of the delivery. I'll mention a couple now.

One thing that bothered me, and continues to bother me, is this obsession with religious garb in public places. I believe that both Taylor and I would agree that the idea of a Secular Charter in Quebec isn't necessarily a bad thing and and could be beneficial - I of course think it is and my ideal wouldn't likely match Taylor's.

The nausea I felt when the charter debate here in Quebec was reduced to what people are wearing was sparked again in some small way when I heard Taylor bring up the whole Muslim hijab issue as his first example. I sighed audibly listening to the tape.

I don't blame Taylor for this. It's really not his fault. I've written about this before. I think squabbling about this sort of thing cheapens the whole principle of Secularism. Could we not discuss the 80% government subsidies which go to private Catholic school children in this so-called secular Quebec state of ours? Could we fight to level the playing field when it comes to taxation so that churches, temples and clergy pay the same property and housing taxes as the godless Sunday Assemblies and Humanist Community Centers of the future? How about fighting to remove the intimidating Catholic statuary and gruesome crucifixes in our National Assembly chamber and in city halls across the province? Much of this is odious to both atheists and secular religious people. Surely, we could work together to minimize these crucial and tangible state endorsements of select religious groups.

I could really go on and on, but instead we were squabbling over a piece of cloth - which happens to identify a religious and cultural minority.

Taylor also seems to describe two models of secularism. There is a Diversity Model and Religion Controlling Model. It's my understanding that the first promotes diversity and equality of all religions within the social sphere, while the latter attempts to expel any religious expression in or by the state. Both approaches have their own implementation challenges.

Taylor perhaps failed to show that this is a sort of spectrum of degree that is non-homogeneous across issues. The same person can hold closer to one end of the spectrum about one issue while be on the other end for other questions. No two secularists are alike when it comes to their views. Now, I am all for the complete expulsion of all religious symbols, language in laws and documents, statuary, prayer, funding to religious instruction, etc. by and within government - one hundred percent. However, I do not care what politicians or government workers wear - with some limits for decency or hate-speech etc. If anything, I would rather know what insane metaphysical nonsense a government worker or politician believes. In the case of the government worker, I am unlikely to proceed to the next wicket. The parameters of their job are too narrow for their religion to affect. In the case of the politician, I am likely to study their beliefs and voting record before potentially voting for someone else.

I also got the impression that Taylor was saying that the mark of a successful society is its plug and play support for different moral groundings - reasons to accept rules and the law. Different groups should be able to use their own particular moral grounding to accept the state's rules. So the Catholic or Muslim etc. would use their own religious traditions to ground morals which are ultimately compatible with each other.

Naturally, this will only work when the different factions which are listened to within a society happen to share the same of very similar sets of values. For example, Catholics attempting to bring about anti-abortion or anti-LGBT equality laws come squarely up against different groups with opposing sets of grounding principles.

Thus, the only way to make such a system work, if I understand what he's saying, is to either ensure the incompatibly-grounded minority - e.g. those who do not base their ethics on a Catholic or religious foundation - either remain statistically insignificant (e.g. the 'village atheist') or are kept voiceless. I wonder if Taylor would be just as happy with a country full of atheists grounded in secular humanism functioning by grace of a very low number of fringe religious folk who base their grounding on their religious faith? Because, thankfully, this could be the direction in which we are headed.
The civil doctrine has to be held strongly as an ethic and not just as 'well I guess we'll have to do this or else the police will be onto us and so on.' You can't run a democracy if people don't have very profound identification with its very fundamental principles.

So if it has to be very strongly endorsed, then you can't see it simply as emanating from purely secular or natural reason. Because you're saying to people who don't take that stand, who don't start from there - religious people, for instance - 'well, you have no reason to support this.' And what you really want to happen in our society is that everyone from their point of view will strongly support it and it has to be therefore from their point of view.

And if you want to say, 'Well, our civil doctrine has an official canonical justification which is something like Kantian or Utilitarian theory, then you're violating principle two. The principle of equality of all these different outlooks. All these different outlooks must sense themselves equally at home in the of the fundamental principles of  this society.
This makes me question if Taylor actually lives in the same world as I do. Having dealt with construction contractors recently, I can assure him that the well I guess we'll have to do this or else the police will be onto us is quite alive and well within our democracy. In fact, the whole point of having police in the first place is a testament to just how strongly religious folk have held these principles and abide by them.

I'll resist the urge to press the point that an individual who requires intimate knowledge of his religion or the inner workings of Utilitarian theory in order to be a decent human who cares about himself, family, home and country strikes me as a frightening character indeed. I wonder if Taylor is doing a sort of disservice to religious people by seemingly implying they are unable to tap into their humanity enough to discern what's right or wrong without leaning on their religion. Are they automatons who do not see any reason to follow any rules whatsoever unless their book or Pope tells them to? (Hardly any Catholics I know actually listen to what the Pope prescribes to them as moral behaviour.)

Unless, of course, the implication is that society is now hanging by a thread because an ever increasing number of non-conforming atheists. Do atheists have any strongly held ethic? Is it possible to keep a society together without strapping religious faery stories on top and pointing to them and calling them the grounding for our morality? I am suspicious that perhaps Taylor is skeptical this is even a possibility which makes me question his views of an ever growing demographic of nones or atheists who appear to be moral creatures living happy lives without buying in to mythologies.

Furthermore, when Taylor is saying that all the different outlooks must sense themselves equally at home in the fundamental principals of the society he means most of the different outlooks - the ones society deems worthy. I believe this is why the founders of the United States opted for a secular Constitution based on We the People and not What Our God Says. Although Taylor has different ideas of what secularism was and is in the United States, I still believe that it was about making a clear and level playing field - a safe space - where religions are not people, people are people and laws must not be passed based on the whims of personal gods.

Of course, I could be misreading Taylor completely and I'm certain I'm missing some nuance, but that's how it strikes me with my limited knowledge.

The podcast is named after his recent, and very well received, tome, A Secular Age. I haven't read it and fear that I am ill-equipped to understand it. I reached out to Taylor asking how an amateur like me could begin listening to the conversation about secularism - and perhaps someday contribute to it as an atheist. He was kind enough to respond (on his mobile phone, I believe).
Thanks for your letter. I'm travelling in Europe, and am away from my base, but off the top of my head, there is the book that I wrote with Jocelyn Maclure "Laïcité et Liberté de Conscience" (also translated into English). There is also a number of interesting discussions between Rajeev Bhargava, which you could get refs to on line. The best historian of Laïcité is Jean Baubérot. I'll be back in a couple of months, and I could probably do better from my home office.
Thank you, Charles! I'll be doing some reading. Although I do not agree with what I'm understanding, I still find it fascinating.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Canadian Senator Declares War On Scientology's Tax Exempt Status

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant (source)

Scientology has been having a bit of a hard time here in Quebec lately. A couple of years ago, their Narconon center got shut down by the government because of discovered patient abuse - and the price was pretty abusive as well.

Well now they have a Canadian Senator after them, Céline Hervieux-Payette. Who says Canadian Senators just sit around collecting bogus Christian degrees? This one appears to be useful!

Canada Senator declares war against Scientology tax exemptions

The link above is to an unofficial translation of the original news story in the Journal de Montréal. I have no idea why the Rest of Canada media hasn't picked this one up yet.

She is questioning why this religion gets tax exemption in Quebec - or perhaps all of Canada, the story is a little unclear. So far, she's declared war on Scientology's exemption and even gone so far as approach the head of Bell Media and MusiquePlus to make them promise to discontinue airing Scientology videos on their networks. Bell Media is an enormous collection of Canadian television stations while MusiquePlus is the québecois version of MTV or VH1.
«Je souhaite obtenir un engagement de votre part à refuser toute forme de publicité de cette soi-disant Église de scientologie. Dans le cas contraire, je me réserve le droit de porter plainte auprès des Normes canadiennes de la publicité», écrit l’ex-ministre libérale dans une lettre adressée à la direction du Journal de Montréal.

«Nous avons besoin au Québec de diffuseurs responsables face à une clientèle jeune et influençable», ajoute-t-elle
"I'm seeking a commitment on your part to reject any form of advertising for the so-called Church of Scientology. Otherwise, I reserve the right to file a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada..."

"In Quebec we need broadcasters responsible to a young and easily influenced viewership."
The Senator also declared that if a thorough analysis had been done, Scientology would not have been granted the status of a church.
"Scientology is not a church or a non-profit organization. It's a money-printing machine that rakes in billions of dollars. Our governments have been too lax in the way they treat it," she believes.
She is strongly proposing that the Quebec government begin taxing Scientology in the province. She believes the cash-strapped province would find some of the money they are looking for.

I completely agree with the Senator. Let's tax the Church of Scientology, but no need to declassify it from being a religion. Let's tax all religious organizations and enough with the free ride!

More Atheists & Pagans Means Moar Exorcists!

Awesome fridge magnet scene from the Exorcist recreated with beads! (available at Etsy)

Do you know what an increase in Secularism and Neo Paganism brings us? Less church attendance and more patchouli oil? Noodly-appendage deities and campsite festivals with bonfire-leaping skyclad ceremonies? Well, maybe so and it doesn't sound that bad to me.

However, the Church thinks it means more Satan! We have proof from Harvard - that secular school is just crawling with demons and witches and satanic things like Cultural Studies Clubs. I'm sure your conservative Catholic parents warned you of this left-wing hippie lot. Studying other cultures means studying non-Church-sanctioned dogma - it's like watching HBO.

Decline of religious belief means we need more exorcists, say Catholics

This is what happens when we stop paying our weekly protection money. Or more specifically:  Decline of religion in the West has created a rise in black magic, Satanism and the occult.

This on its own is a little confusing to me. I mean, don't people need to be religious to be Satanists - either in the religion of LaVeyan Satanism or the probably much less popular worshipping of the Christian Satan character himself? Does anyone actually do this for more than a lark?

You know, from an outside non-religious observer, the sorts of hand-waving, transubstantiating, holy water sprinkling, water-dunking, chalice-raising, incense-waving stuff Catholics do sort of look like occult magic rituals. Sorry, that's just how it looks, okay?

I considered myself a neo-Pagan for a couple of years. I performed my own rituals and attended rituals put on by groups. I believed in a sort of magick that permeated the universe and actually did do the rituals alone with chalices and cauldrons, candles and ceremonial knives. However, looking back, I think I did much of it for the esthetic of it all. I was into the gothic aspect of it. When I got my first SLR camera I took black and white photos of graveyards. I know, I had it bad.

All this time, I seemed to have missed out on all this devil business and the group had the usual mix of harmless and somewhat creepy people. There really wasn't anything abnormal about this lot other than all that spell-casting and candle burning, of course.

So, this Italian conservative Catholic group called GRIS - not to be confused with this Montréal organisation helping LGBT youth safely come out and advocating for LGTB rights - seems to have held a 6 day conference where some 200 Roman Catholic priests were trained to be uber exorcists.

Giuseppe Ferrari is the point man for the group. He's got this to say.
"We live in a disenchanted society, a secularised world that thought it was being emancipated, but where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality, inevitably leads people to ask questions about the existence of evil and its origins”, he told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency.
By disenchanted I suppose he means we're not buying what he's selling anymore. I wouldn't disagree that there is plenty of superstition and irrationality to come in and take the place of religion (aka superstition and irrationality). I also fail to see why asking questions is such a bad thing.

Apparently, the Vatican gets loads of calls about possession every day, but a certain Father Truqui assures us it's nothing to get too worked up about.
“Exploring the theme of demonic possession does not mean causing general paranoia, but creating awareness of the existence of the Devil and of the possibility of possession,” Fr Truqui told Vatican Radio. “It happens rarely but you can fight it with God, with prayer, with Marian devotion.”
Hey, no worries. The Church so happens to have the solution to this problem they have so kindly pointed out to us! Just take this medicine we've got and you'll be just fine. Otherwise... you know... something might just happen to you... [insert hell-like consequence here]
Demonic possession manifests itself in people babbling in foreign languages, shaking uncontrollably and vomiting nails, pieces of metal and shards of glass, according to those who believe in the phenomenon.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Boston Archdiocese Wants All Masses To be 100% Satan-Free!

One depiction of a Black Mass. I'm sure there are likely many variations. (source)
 A typical conversation, indeed.
"Hey, so what are you doing this weekend?"

"Oh nothing, really. Laundry, finishing my paper for Cultural Studies, watching the re-enactment of a Satanic Mass. You know."

"Oh right. Okay."
So, in a completely unsurprising move, the Satanic Temple is re-enacting a Satanic Mass for the public. I'm not really too sure why this is such a big deal considering Satanism is a religion and they are likely looking for more members. Big whoop right?

The Catholic Church isn't keen on these masses because they make fun of the Catholic Church.

Catholic Church denounces planned satanic mass at Harvard
A reenactment of a Black Mass celebrating Satan is scheduled to take place at Harvard University on Monday evening. It has outraged the Catholic Church, but the group holding the event says it's educational.

WBZ-TV reports the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club is hosting the Satanic Temple from New York. The Black Mass is scheduled for Monday night in the basement of Memorial Hall.
Sounds highly entertaining to me and the Cultural Studies Club also points out that it will be educational and that the cracker they'll be using won't be a pseudo-host which will absolutely not contain any Jesus - but won't be gluten-free. I've heard Satanism described as atheist dinner theatre - I suggest people listen to Seth Andrews' great program about the Church of Satan (not that I wish to lump all groups together).

Well, the Archdiocese of Boston wants this stopped. I'm sure they have a reason other than being offended. Here's their makes-perfect-sense-to-everyone statement.
The Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Boston expresses its deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a "black mass" on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.

For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the Church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship. This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil. 
In a recent statement, Pope Francis warned of the danger of being naïve about or underestimating the power of Satan, whose evil is too often tragically present in our midst. We call upon all believers and people of good will to join us in prayer for those who are involved in this event, that they may come to appreciate the gravity of their actions, and in asking Harvard to disassociate itself from this activity.

Oh dear. This doesn't seem to be a valid reason to censor the event at all. It sort of relies on a belief in their god and their devil; what their Pope says and the very existence of Satan (which most Satanists do not believe in!). In fact, based on this very statement, I think the Archbishop should attend this mass and perhaps learn about Satanism as well.

Here are some more Catholic calls to ban the event outright.
“We see the black mass as something that is degrading to the Catholic religion,” said the Rev. Michael E. Drea, senior chaplain at the Harvard Catholic Center and pastor of St. Paul’s Parish in Harvard Square. “The black mass is a contradiction to the Catholic faith and is rooted in hatred and bigotry. The university shouldn’t tolerate something like this under the guise of academic integrity.”
I write things that lampoon, ridicule and mock the Catholic religion quite often. I do not know if this mass rooted in hatred and bigotry - I would guess not at actual Catholics but probably at their institution. You know, though, that charge is a little rich from an organization that works its hardest to prevent women access to safe abortions. They also work to prevent adults who love each other from getting married if they have the wrong junk downstairs.
The Archdiocese of Boston said it strongly opposes the satanic black mass — which lampoons the sacred Catholic tradition — and is calling on Harvard to “disassociate itself” from the event.
My heart bleeds for the Archdiocese.

The Boston Globe describes the re-enactment.
According to a flier advertising Monday’s reenactment, members of the Satanic Temple will perform the black mass while a narrator will provide commentary and historical context.

Studies of satanic rituals are not new to campuses. For example, an 1891 novel by the French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, “La-Bas,” which describes in detail Satanic rituals, black masses and their practitioners, can often be found on college syllabuses.
I went to University here in Montréal. Things are a little more relaxed here when it comes to nudity. If you were to add some heavy metal, goth or industrial music to this mass thing you might actually mistake it for one of the popular goth/industrial clubs back in the 1990s. Not that I ever attended any such clubs during my college days.

As far as I can tell, this Black Mass thing has been around for awhile. At least back to 1891 but there seems to be evidence of this sort of thing happening earlier as well. So why wouldn't it deserve study?

The Satanic Temple are the same group that had lesbian and gay couples kiss above Fred Phelps' grave to make him gay. This was a little silly and amusing but also, perhaps, a tad juvenile. However, wanting to do a service over at Harvard seems pretty legit to me and totally within their right.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Past Escort's Exposé of Brunei Sultan: "He Violated His Sharia Law With Me"

So, on May 1st, Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, figured he ought to share his own religious convictions by jamming them down the throats of his subjects. He decided that the laws in Brunei were okay but things would be absolutely fantastic if they adopted Sharia Law. Perhaps he believed that the previous laws just don't jive with this modern 21st century world.
Bolkiah is implementing a Sharia law penal code that includes death by stoning, the severing of limbs, and flogging for crimes in Brunei such as abortions, adultery and homosexual acts.[1] The sultan has had three wives and has numerous children. He has received many awards from the leaders of other nations.
Okay, maybe not. Sorry, it's actually a barbaric and inhumane collection of brutal punishments. It's actually horrendous. What a sour puritan this man must be. I mean, why else would you want to legislate your own ancient morality on others unless you're some sort of fundamentalist aesthetic monk or something?

All this makes this story over at The Daily Beast rather apropos.

How the Sultan of Brunei Violated His Sharia Law With Me

It's written by Jillian Lauren, author of a rather fascinating memoir, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem.  In it she describes her own story of becoming a Prince's mistress. That Prince was Jefri Bolkiah (short for His Royal Highness Pengiran Digadong Sahibul Mal Pengiran Muda Jefri Bolkiah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien).  He's a bit of a party animal and is also the youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei.

It's always the youngest that have the most leeway, you know what I mean? The parents totally relaxed after the first 9 kids and this is what you gotit is alleged he kept a harem of up to forty women for several years, which included the writer Jillian Lauren, who published a book about her experiences.

Anyway, the story is that one day, Jefri imported Jillian to be his mistress and apparently they did some pretty naughty stuff. Some of it Jillian found a little degrading even for a mistress. Like the time he decided to loan her off to his brother the Brunei Sultan Bolkiah (Sharia Law booster, himself). Apparently the lease was for more than a nice game of Scrabble or tea and biscuits. That's what this excellent Daily Beast article is all about.
As a teenager, I was the mistress of his brother—who ‘gave’ me as a gift to the sultan. And in just one night, we committed at least two offenses under his newly implemented penal code
I am no expert in international human rights. My only qualification in commenting on this issue is that one drunken evening in the early ’90s, the sultan and I committed at least two of the aforementioned offenses as we looked down on the lights of Kuala Lumpur from a penthouse suite.
Jillian, very correctly asks the following question about how these religious laws often seem to get broken by those in high places within the religious institutions. In Brunei, the head of state is also the Head of Religion, namely Islam.
And yet it is the privilege of the prince and the sultan to misbehave. The picaresque escapades and legendary extravagances of the brothers are indulged with a collective wink. For everyone else residing within Brunei’s borders, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, freedoms are curtailed, and those limitations now are potentially enforced by brutal violence.

As the citizens of Brunei face the erosion of their rights, I imagine the man I once knew, holed up in a posh hotel suite somewhere, maybe with another American teenager in his lap, making laws that legislate morality.
It really does smell of rank hypocrisy. A most familiar smell.

It's, of course, a common pattern. Recent examples are Catholic priests and Christian pastors abusing their power positions to rape children. Even some Orthodox Jewish religious leaders have been caught at this. Across history, there have been some horrendous Popes abusing their religious authority to be monsters.

The Sultan is like all the rest. Paint a pious picture to appease the fundamentalist religionist base and control the populace. "Do as I say, not what I do."

Friday, 2 May 2014

Pasadena's Health Director Anti-Evolution, Anti-Gay, Anti-Disney etc. & Satan's Everywhere...

Pasadena Public Health Director and fundamentalist, conspiracy theorist, anti same sex marriage, 
homophobic, islamophobic, anti-Disney, witchcraft-fearing, anti-evolutionist  and who knows what else, Eric Walsh

Here's a story about Pasadena Public Health Director, Eric Walsh, who's also a minister at a Seventh Day Adventist church. It's a very interesting story because Walsh is a very interesting person. Apologies, I meant to say «interesting» person.

Pasadena's anti-evolution, anti-gay health director has some explaining to do

He's got some fascinating opinions about evolution - and a bunch of other kooky stuff. Honestly, I don't think most people could offend more people if they tried. And he seems to do it so naturally.
In videos that came to light this week and that record him delivering a series of sermons, he denounces homosexuality as a sin, describes evolution as a “religion created by Satan” and says the prophet Muhammad was a Satanist. He contends that God does not recognize any second marriage following a divorce unless the first was destroyed by adultery. He’s also no big fan of plastic surgery or Disney.
More specifically, he believes Disney is a "dark empire" of superstition and witchcraft. Just thought I'd clear that up.

I bet I could correctly guess his opinion about climate change!

Well, he was going to do the commencement speech over at the Pasadena City College - but now the school and likely most students no longer want him. College kids today and their progressive ideas, I'm telling you! Incidentally, the original speaker they had in mind was uninvited because a sex tape made with his boyfriend was leaked. To be honest, in this day and age, what's the problem with this? Doesn't everyone who's anyone have a leaked sex tape? I think they should ask him back - at least he's not Eric Walsh.
It does seem the burden is on Walsh, however. He might start by explaining how a person holding a position that requires some scientific knowledge can dismiss the fact of human evolution. Someone ought to look up what grade he got in biology.
One only hopes he had some belief in germ theory at least, right? It would put him back a century or so, but at least he would clear the Middle Ages.

I think the city would be better off without him.

You'll find the good doctor at least purportedly pushing a 30-Day Health Recovery Program over at The Original Plan which describes itself as a Bible-based Health Ministry Medical Missionary Network. You'll find suggestions bordering precariously on woo. However, I'm not certain about the legitimacy of this site. Honestly, after reading about the sermons - it's hard for me to tell what's likely or unlikely here.

Edit 2014-05-02: Just after hitting 'Publish' I find this more detailed account over at the Pasadena Star-News: Pasadena Public Health Director Dr. Eric Walsh placed on administrative leave after homophobic sermon furor