The public’s love affair with Pope Francis continues. Just today he uttered the, quite possibly, the most obvious sentence I have ever heard and believers are all aflutter. Here’s the quote; “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!”
The Catholic Church has been pulling the old, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ routine for so long now that many people no longer take them seriously. He may be winning back some hearts and minds with statements like the above, but for how long? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. My guess is that the pudding will be about as real as the invisible man they worship.
I have heard this saying more and more over the years. It always seems to be uttered by people who are trying to cheer someone who is going through a particularly tough time in their life. Scientifically, this saying is true. It’s a dumbed down and generalized version of Newton’s third law of motion which states, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The folks who pepper their speech with this saying are also fond of espousing that they think, “The universe has a plan”.
Yes, these pompous idiots actually believe that the universe is a sentient being that, not only knows you exist, but actually cares about what happens to you. The level of arrogance possessed by the human race never ceases to astonish me. Sure, the universe has planned out every little fart in your life, just like the ocean has big plans for each and every grain of sand on its floor.
I do understand that we humans have an overwhelming need to answer every question, but what good is an answer that is obviously a load of crap? No other species on earth has the luxury of being able to think beyond survival. We have that luxury and what do we do with it? We come up with trite little sayings meant to feed our already over inflated egos. But, it’s more than that, isn’t it? If everything happens for a reason and the universe has a plan, then we are not responsible for what happens to us. We can point the convenient finger of blame when things don’t go our way. Oh, it’s not my fault that I got fired, the universe (or Jesus, Allah, Vishnu etc.) has a plan and I wasn’t meant to have that job. Never mind that you stole from petty cash, sexually harassed a co-worker or disrespected your boss… it’s the Universe.
More of us should spend time looking through a telescope at the night sky in order to get a good healthy dose of just how insignificant we really are. A little humility would go a long way in this world. Perhaps, if we weren’t so puffed up we wouldn’t be so quick to go to war with each other. We might not go around belittling everything that is different from us by proclaiming that we are number one all of the time. We might actually realize just how little what we do, say and think matters in the grand scheme of things… and by grand scheme, I don’t mean the big script in the sky that has everyone’s roles all neatly written out. Conceivably, if we realized how unimportant and unnecessary we truly are we might spend more time on the questions that actually matter, like how can we live in better harmony with the planet that is hosting the parasite that we call the human race, as opposed to getting all caught up in blaming invisible forces or deities for our inadequacies. It would be a lot less of an effort to live and to take responsibility for our pathetically tiny lives if we just looked outside ourselves for a few minutes and saw just how little for which we are actually responsible. I notice that these very same people who blame the universe never credit the universe and it’s plan when things go well in their lives… nope, they are perfectly happy to claim full responsibility when they have a success. So, which is it? Does the universe have it all planned out or not?
Many religious types, when arguing with an atheist cite Pascal’s wager as an argument for a belief in god. Let’s take a closer look at what Pascal actually said.
I find this attitude to be not only disingenuous, but if there is a god, highly insulting to him/her. If there is a god and he/she is omniscient, then don’t you think they know that your are just hedging your bets. If only true believers are to go to heaven, then this type of behavior would be seen as a one way ticket to a flame filled afterlife. At least atheism is honest.
I see three camps when it comes to belief in a deity. The first group doesn’t know, but believe with all their being that a god exists. The second group doesn’t know, but due to an overwhelming lack of evidence choses not to waste their time believing. Then there’s the third group who doesn’t know and doesn’t care (agnostics). There is currently a battle waging between the first and second groups. The believers believe that they are being persecuted (IRONY!!) for their beliefs. The second group just want the beliefs of the first group to stop hindering their lives via the government or any other area of life that has been taken over by religion and are willing to stand up and fight against the first group. I don’t understand why the religious types need so much for everyone else to believe as they do, but they do. Hence they are constantly trying (and failing) to convince us atheists that their god exists via arguments like Pascal’s wager and sayings like “There are no atheists in foxholes”. This saying basically means that in a life and death situation everybody turns to god and prays.
As an atheist who has been in a life and death situation, I can tell you, that is simply untrue. A few years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the position of the tumour, there was some question as to whether or not a mastectomy would be necessary. As I went under the anesthetic, I had no idea if I would wake up with breasts or not. For those of you who have read my post entitled, I hate my big breasts you know which way I was rooting. It had been discussed that if the doctor had to take the breast, that he would take both. When I awoke after surgery, I looked down and saw to my dismay, that both my breasts were still there. My doctor then gave me more bad news… chemotherapy would be necessary. This whole cancer ordeal took a lot out of me over a period of months, but not once did I find myself talking to an imaginary person in the sky. I was insulted when friends told me they would pray for me, for I see the act of praying for an atheist as, not only insulting, but purely selfish and more than a little smug. Instead of wasting your time praying for someone who does not believe in your god, perhaps you could spend that time making sure there is plenty of ice cream available for after the surgery (or whatever hardship they are facing), or just being there and listening to your friend as he or she goes through a difficult situation. Instead, some believers feel this is a situation in which their friend is ripe for conversion and they are ready to take full advantage. I actually had one friend who, before I went into surgery, told me that maybe I should get myself right with god. Way to be there for me! Not wanting to hurt his feelings (said the cancer patient to a perfectly healthy individual), I told him that I had come to terms with god. Not a lie, as my terms were that god doesn’t exist, but it seemed to make him feel better (because, of course that was what was important… that he feel better). With actions like these, I don’t understand why believers think that they should not be persecuted. It’s really tough to get on board with the whole, “we’re the good guys” thing when you act like this… or worse.
Another part of religion that I never understood is the need for an afterlife (or reincarnation). This seems very egotistical to me… and entirely exhausting, not to mention unnecessary. Again, if there is a god, it’s like you are saying to him that this gift of life he or she has given you is great and all, but there should be something more. (Gee Grandma, thanks for the 50 bucks in my birthday card, but why didn’t you get me a present too?) Talk about a slap in the face. I take great comfort in knowing that after this life is over, I will cease to be. This life was more than plenty, why would I ever want more? I have suffered in this life, I have known joy in this life. I have laughed and I have cried. I have experienced most of what this life has to offer and I am good with that. When I die, even if that may be tomorrow I feel that I have lived my life to the fullest and have absolutely no need of more as neither a reward, nor a punishment. I have gone all in and when the game is over, I will fold.
And now for something completely different…
Notice how the shop owner never argues that the parrot has gone on to a better place?
This new Pope is trying to brand himself as the Pope of the people. The dangerous thing is it seems to be working. New Pope Francis was quoted a few days ago as saying, “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.” He also reportedly, bowed to the crowd as he was presented as the new Pope and asked for their blessing before he would bless the people. While these acts are charming on the surface and are winning the hearts of the gullible, to me they seem like shallow attempts to seem different. I see this as ‘Meet the new Pope, same as the old Pope’ (to paraphrase The Who).
This new Pope has been very open in regard to his feelings on many social issues including the four big ones, homosexuality, abortion, birth control and the rise of women in the Catholic church to positions of power. In all four cases, like the Popes who came before him, his stance is a firm NO. So apparently the old ‘every sperm is sacred’ motto is still in effect, except, of course if that sperm creates a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person.
I don’t quite understand why people are acting as if the Pope talking about how the church should be helping the poor is such a new and controversial concept. Was it not Jesus who took the poor under his wing? This idea is older than the church itself. This new Pope says he “would like” a poor church, and for the poor. He doesn’t say he will make this come to pass. This is an easy thing to say when you are literally living in a golden palace. It comes off as ridiculously insincere when he says this with the vast wealth of the Catholic Church as his backdrop.
Then there’s the quandary of women. To this new Pope, we are still seen merely as baby making machines with no say as to what happens with our own bodies. We are still second class citizens who, unless we are virgins, are either mothers or whores… both being unfit to hold the priesthood, let alone any higher status within the church. Ah, yes the new pope is of the ‘keep them down’ mindset, just like his predecessors.
So here’s to the new Pope…
a man who was called a bishop, drinks from a golden chalice, wears expensive and flamboyant clothing and keeps women ‘in their place’. Remind you of anyone?
Famous pimp, Don “Magic” Juan calls himself the Bishop, wears expensive and flamboyant clothing, drinks from a golden chalice and keeps women down too. Though he is possibly more likely to be tolerant of the GLBT community than Francis.
Those of you who read me regularly may have noticed that I try not to use profanity within the confines of this blog. In this case, there is no way to express what I am feeling after hearing the news that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation without being somewhat profane. Seeing that I would like to keep my reputation for eloquence in tact, I will let someone else do the swearing for me… as his sentiments, set to music, mirror my own.
So without further ado, may I present the very talented Tim Minchin singing The Pope Song.
When one thinks of the people of Papua New Guinea, one might conjure up an image similar to this.
A 16 year old girl from a Mount Hagen tribe.
But Papua New Guinea is not just tribal paint, shells and grass skirts. For instance, the bystanders who watched a 20 year old woman as she was tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused with gasoline, then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. Why am I mentioning what they were wearing? It makes a difference in the way people will view the act.
Bystanders watch as a woman, accused of witchcraft is burned alive in Papua New Guinea.
If they were dressed in tribal garb, this story might never have been made global. It might have been excused as just a barbaric act carried out by a people who don’t know any better. The fact is those, not so innocent, bystanders were educated in a place that has long been civilized. They have a police force and a government. It is a democracy and is part of the Commonwealth. The most popular religion in Papua New Guinea is the Catholic Church, with 27% of the population identifying as Catholic, followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church with 19% and a slew of Christian offshoots. I mention this because it is important to understand that, by and large, the people of Papua New Guinea are taught the same religious doctrine that the rest of the Western World is taught. Yet, Kepari Leniata, a 20 year old mother was not only accused of sorcery, but tortured and killed in front of hundreds of people who took pictures and cheered, because people believed in magic.
Or was is that simple? Were she a man, would this have happened? Accusations of witchcraft and sorcery are usually targeted toward women. Is this just another instance of a woman cut down in the prime of her life as an example to other women not to get too comfortable? Either way, if people didn’t believe in magic, or if women weren’t painted as the enemy, it would never have happened.
The good news is that the Police Commissioner isn’t having any of it. He was quoted as saying, “We are in the 21st century and this is totally unacceptable.” The Prime Minister is also on the right side of history, calling for the arrest of the killers and saying, “It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with.”
It is unfortunate, however that the Police Commissioner wants to establish courts to deal with sorcery allegations as an alternative to villagers dispensing justice, instead of stating outright that there is no such thing as magic. I guess that would mean that the religions that have a foothold in the area might lose some members of their congregations. If the people actually come to their senses and realize that if there is no such thing as magic, then maybe, just maybe, religion’s biggest role is keeping the people from the truth. The truth that they exist solely to rob you of your money, your intellect, your dignity and your human rights.
Every year the Super Bowl is at the center of some sort of controversy. Sometimes it’s the game itself, sometimes it’s the halftime show . This year it was an advertisement. The Church of Scientology found a way to buy ad space during the airing of the big game without having to pay those exorbitant prices. They cleverly bought ad space in local markets during times that were scheduled for breaks saved for regional advertisers. They did this in a multitude of local markets including, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Clearwater, Florida. Here is the original ad (the one that aired during the super bowl was cut to a 30 second run time).
This ad has been online on YouTube since December, where it had been viewed 60,000 times until yesterday. As of 1:30pm EST today (less than 24 hours after it aired during the Super Bowl), it has been viewed 93,500 times and counting. Not the landslide, I’m sure they were hoping for with such a high exposure time slot, but it’s still more than half of what they had been able to accumulate in the past 6 weeks.
This morning, there is a video going around the twitter-verse (thanks to the CultOfDusty) that I wish had aired instead of the Scientology ad during a time when the whole of the USA was praying to a god that their team would win. At first glance it looks like exactly the same ad, but if you stick with it until the end, you will see that it is indeed very different.
The tag line, ‘We go one god further’ is in itself a stroke of genius. Atheists have long said that everyone in the world is an atheist when it comes to all of the deities in which they choose not to believe. For example a Christian does not believe in Zeus, Allah, Krishna, Vishnu, Jehovah, Freyr, Loki, Ao, Maru, Jupiter or Shiva. Therefor a Christian is but one god (and his son) away from being an atheist. The same holds true for the Islamic people, the Hindu, the Shinto, the Jewish people, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on down the line. Once you have decided that you do not believe in a long laundry list of gods, it’s such a small step to shed that last one, which is why the fastest growing group in the Western world is the non-religious.
After all, we are all born atheists. It’s not until we are indoctrinated by our parents or our “spiritual leaders” that we succumb to a belief in any one deity.
This week brought us two seemingly different, yet surprisingly similar, court cases involving women. The first case is from south of the border in Iowa where a dental hygienist named Melissa Nelson was fired for being so attractive that her boss couldn’t trust himself around her. She did the only thing she could do. She sued on grounds of gender discrimination and the all male Iowa supreme court sided with her boss. Apparently it’s entirely understandable that her hornier than thou boss fired a long time employee and married mother of 2, who, from all accounts, he was in no danger of sleeping with, rather than act like a professional and keep his pants zipped. Sadly, the boss’s wife also plays a major role in this drama. When she found out that the dentist and his hygienist had sent text messages to each other, she demanded that Melissa be fired. I have news for you, lady. If he can’t be trusted around one woman, he can’t be trusted around any of them. And just exactly what does he mean that he couldn’t trust himself around his employee, who, by the way, had worked for him for 10 years? Does he mean that he can’t help but flirt with her? Or perhaps he means he can’t help but verbally harass her. Or maybe he means that, even if she says no, he won’t be able to stop himself from having sex with her. So this woman, who had done nothing wrong, gets fired because nobody bothered to consider that she actually had a say in who she decided to sleep with… or, in this case, not sleep with.
Then there was a case from this side of the 49th parallel where a Muslim woman wanted to testify while wearing a niqab.
N.S., a woman who wants to testify in court, while wearing her niqab.
The Supreme Court of Canada released their decidedly ambiguous ruling last week, basically saying whether or not a niqab would be allowed in court would be decided on a case by case basis. As a feminist, the niqab fills me with all sorts of anger. The niqab, is a garment used to cover the face of women (because the burqa didn’t cover enough) so that Muslim men are less likely to be distracted by a pesky erection in their daily lives. As much as I am entirely against the wearing of a niqab, in this case I find myself with mixed feelings. N.S. is charging her uncle and her cousin with sexual assault. She wants to wear her niqab in court. The lawyers for her attackers want her to have to remove it saying that they should be able to face their attacker in court. This seems to me to be purely a power move designed to stop N.S. from testifying. If she removes her niqab in a court room full of male strangers, she will be ostracized and humiliated by her community and branded a whore, which, to me, is basically akin to raping her all over again. Because the Supreme Court’s ruling passes the buck, N.S. might still have to remove her niqab.
There have been many countries who have banned the burqa and the niqab, including France, Belgium and even Syria. If the Canadian government had the balls to follow suit, instead of kowtow to a religion… a religion, whose text, I might add, does not say that a woman must cover her face, unless she is the wife of the Prophet, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. Even a Canadian Muslim group is calling for a ban.
So because these men won’t take responsibility for their own erect penises, two more women must pay the price.
Ever since the advent of the Gregorian calendar, there occurs a numeric phenomenon where the day, month and year are the same number within the first 12 years of each century. With all of the fuss over 12-12-12 and last year, 11-11-11 and so on, I can’t help but wonder if people lost their damned minds at the turn of the last century or the century before that? Or were people just too busy trying to survive that this numerical anomaly went by unnoticed. Do we really have so much free time on our hands that we have assigned meaning to the meaningless? The truly pathetic thing is that the meaning is different depending on who you ask.
Contrary to popular belief, numbers are not mystical or magical. Numbers were invented by man to count, label and measure. They are a tool we use to try to find order amid chaos. Calendars have been changed numerous times since the beginning of recorded time, so what we think is 12-12-12, actually isn’t 12-12-12 if you refer to the Islamic calendar, the Hebrew calendar or the Hindu calendar or even one of the first calendars used: the Early Roman calendar.
So why all the fuss about a man-made system to measure time? The one thing we know for sure about mankind is that we make mistakes… constantly, so why put so much faith into something that is so subjective?
A little fear can be healthy. A little faith is dangerous.
May I suggest that faith is born of fear. Without crippling fear of the unknown, we would not jump so quickly to put faith in an answer, even a subjective or nonsensical answer (yes I am comparing this numerical hokum to faith in religion/god). Or perhaps we are just so bored that we need something to look forward to… even if that something is the end of the world. If only we used our fear to fuel our curiosity instead of to control the masses or to excuse stupidity, we might be further along the evolutionary ladder than to think that just because the Gregorian calendar says it’s December 12, 2012 that it is a special day, full of more possibilities than any other day.
A while ago I read a great blog post by Amanda over at Musings from a Misfit Named Amanda regarding Christians who think they are being persecuted and prayer in school among other topics. Amanda was recounting an online conversation she had with a person who believes a moment of silence is a compromise for those people who do not want public prayer. That person wrote, “That’s why I say having a few moments of silence is the best option-those who want to pray can pray quietly, and those who don’t can simply reflect on the situation, or whatever they choose to do. If it’s silent, everyone can do what they want w/o bothering others It won’t kill anyone to be quiet for a few moments lol-both sides should just respect the other’s rights, even if their beliefs r different, is what I’m getting at…”
This stuck with me for quite some time, getting me angrier and angrier until finally I felt the need to post my opinion.
As an atheist, I am entirely opposed to forced public prayer, whether it be in schools, or any other public forum (unless, of course it is in the confines of a church/mosque/temple with other, like-minded individuals.) But, at the risk of stating an unpopular opinion, I am also against a forced/organized/national “moment of silence”. For example, to commemorate a tragic event like the events of September 11th, 2001, I think a moment of silence is insulting. Insulting to all of the people who rushed to ground zero to save survivors and dig bodies out of the rubble and debris. Insulting to all those who lost loved ones in the attacks. Insulting to all the people who are now suffering from Cancer and other deadly diseases as a result of actively helping rescue others from the wreckage. These people could still use financial and legislative help. My suggestion is, instead of using a ‘moment of silence’ to bow your head and look sad and thoughtful, why not use it to write a check to a first responders charity… or a letter to the Federal Government, demanding that insurers cover the ailments of first responders and area residents. If more people had gone that route, perhaps it would not have taken 11 years before the President officially recognized the need to financially compensate these people.
Is it just me, or does a ‘Moment of Silence’ look an awful lot like prayer? To me it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance accomplishing absolutely nothing. Perhaps people should remember the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” and actually do something to help others instead of just stand there doing nothing.