Archive for April, 2012

1933-may-10-berlin-book-burningNeocrusading pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville FL is no stranger to this blog. I’ve mentioned his childish antics any number of times in the past, and even pointed out his shady history while he was a “missionary” in Germany. Jones is absolutely beside himself with fury, you see, because there’s this horrific religion out there called “Islam,” and its followers (Muslims), you see, have this holy book, called the “Qur’an.” Jones just can’t handle the fact that these Muslims dare to revere and read their Qur’an, you see. Why, it’s an outrage! It can’t be tolerated! In Jones’s juvenile mind, no one but Christians are allowed to have any holy books, and the only holy book they’re allowed to have, is his own (Protestant, of course!) Bible.

Jones was so enraged that these Muslim types have so insolently dared keep their own holy book, that he threatened to burn some Qur’ans; after catching flak for that, Jones waffled and said he might cancel it; then, he dropped his uncertainty and promised to burn them anyway; then Jones inexplicably let the deadline pass without burning any Qur’ans; and burned one only later on, when no one was looking.

It seems Jones still hasn’t gotten over his sanctimonious outrage that Muslims still exist and still revere their Qur’an. The New York Post reports that he went and burned some more (WebCite cached article):

A controversial Florida pastor held another Koran-burning ceremony outside his church to protest the imprisonment of a Christian clergyman in Iran, The Gainesville Sun reported.

Jones, who made headlines worldwide by videotaping a similar Koran-burning ceremony in March 2011, burned several copies of the Islamic holy book alongside an image depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad on Saturday evening.

Jones uses Iran’s imprisonment of Youcef Nadarkhani as a pretense for his “protest.” But somehow, I’m not sure getting into a pissing contest with the Iranian government over who can be more religiously intolerant, is really all that great of an idea. It amounts to “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious. And I can’t see how it can get Iran’s theocratic mullahs to release Nadarkhani.

The sad part of this is, I’m sure Jones’s childish antics will be met with even more childish and violent antics by Muslims elsewhere in the world, as happened previously when he’d first stirred up this controversy. Ground zero for the flare-up is almost certain to be Afghanistan, home to hovels full of enraged Muslims who — just like Jones — cannot seem to handle the idea that there are actually people in the world who dare refuse to believe as they do.

Well, I have news for both Jones and any Muslims who respond to his Qur’an-burning by rioting, looting, pillaging, and/or killing: Here’s one skeptical, godless agnostic heathen who refuses to believe what either of you demands I believe. Don’t like it? Burn away. I’m not changing my mind, and there is nothing in the universe you can do to stop me.

For the record, while I support the right to blaspheme, I consider book-burning — of any kind of book, aside maybe from one which one is actually disposing of because it’s been ruined somehow — to be a crime against the intellect, and an action which is far too Nazi-like for my taste.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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crying baby leoThe Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is still having trouble getting over the fact that the government has decided to hold it accountable for its decades of abuse of children in its care. A number of years ago, the order of Christian Brothers attempted to prevent the Irish government from investigating the abuse. Although the order successfully prevented the naming of abusive priests, they failed to prevent the inquiries, which proceeded: the Ferns Report was released in 2005; the Ryan Report in 2009; the Murphy Report later that year; and the Cloyne Report in 2011. The Church has met each of these reports with increasing resistance, intransigence, and sanctimony, reaching the point of irrationality when the Vatican recalled their Irish nuncio because Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny condemned the Church for how it (failed to) deal with the scandal.

It’s no surprise that the Irish government has chosen to ignore the Church’s kvetching and is moving ahead with measures intended to prevent Catholic clergy from abusing children again, in spite of the Church’s growing hostility toward what it views as an insolent and ungrateful Irish government that has no right to dare criticize it. Among the preventive measures advanced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, is a mandatory-reporting requirement for clergy where abuse of children is concerned, which would apply even to abuse revealed in the confessional. According to the Irish Independent, though, Catholic priests in that country are absolutely livid over this (WebCite cached article):

Catholic priests will defy a new law that requires them to report sexual abuse disclosed to them in the confession box — despite the threat of 10-year jail sentences.

It came after Justice Minister Alan Shatter confirmed the mandatory reporting requirement would apply to priests hearing confession.

Fr Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests, which represents 800 clergymen, warned last night: “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone — Alan Shatter particularly.”

It’s nice to see that Ireland’s Catholic priests care so little for the welfare of children. Way to go, guys. Really. Well done! You must be so proud of yourselves for making a stand in favor of child abusers! I am just so fucking goddamned impressed by your exemplary values!

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Yeah, I get that the Catholic Church views the confessional as sacred and inviolate and all the rest of that metaphysical bullshit … but the cold fact is that the perceived inviolate nature of the confessional is the rationale that bishops and other hierarchs have historically used in order to justify remaining silent even when they knew abuse had occurred. “That abusive priest told me what he did in the confessional, so I couldn’t call the police,” they would always claim in hindsight. What Shatter’s proposal does, is deprive them of this rationale. If any of them had any sense of morality or ethics, they’d understand this. They wouldn’t like abusers using the sacred rites of their own Church as a tool to protect themselves and keep abusing children. And they wouldn’t want to make themselves into the willing accomplices of those abusers. But since the Catholic Church has no sense of morality or ethics, the priests and hierarchs are all too happy to comply with abusers’ wishes and shield them — using any and all justifications they can cook up, in order to do so.

Once again, the Catholic Church acts like a collection of Mafia “goodfellas” who will never “rat” on each other. Wonderful, eh?

Photo credit: storyvillegirl, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Wikimedia Commons / Michael Mukasey / File:20070917 Michael B Mukasey.jpgConnecticut isn’t in the Bible Belt (or should I call it, as its natives do, the Bobble Bayelt?), nor is it intensely religious, in spite of the fact that it’s home to a triad of reactionary-activist Catholic bishops. Thus, I’m astonished to note that a Neocrusader came to deliver another of their classic denunciations of Islam, at — of all things! — a business gathering. The Torrington Register-Citizen reports on how former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey used his speech to northwestern Connecticut businesspeople to dress down a religion he despises (WebCite cached version):

President George W. Bush is long gone from the White House, but one of the stalwarts of his tenure appeared Friday in northwest Connecticut in the form of U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, inparting [sic] fear of the Muslim Brotherhood, jihad and Shariah law to a predominantly business-driven crowd at Fairview Farm Golf Course.

Mukasey served as the 81st U.S. Attorney General under Bush, and on Friday, served the business community as a keynote speaker during Thomaston Savings Bank’s 14th Annual Business Breakfast.

Pardon me if I don’t see the propriety of this speech. It defies reason — even if there was a very loose pretense:

Before Thomaston Savings Bank donated a check to Wounded Warriors through Mukasey, the former law firm co-worker of Rudy Giuliani dove headfirst into warning the crowd of Islamic terrorists.

“Jihad is obligatory on every Muslim,” he said. “[An] obligatory struggle on Shariah law in the Western world.”

Yes, I get it. All Muslims are required by their religion to kill constantly … all the time, everywhere, without relenting. I wasn’t aware they were all doing that, but I suppose I should take Mukasey’s word for it, no? Of course, Christianity has its own notion of “just war,” which it has used to evoke violence all over the world, numerous times … but Mukasey, like all the rest of the dutiful Neocrusaders, ignores that. What a fucking hypocrite!

The R-C thoughtfully provides video of this Neocrusader’s speech, which you can see here:

Again, I’m stunned that Mukasey chose this type of event, and this type of audience, to deliver his anti-Islam speech. I suggest he — and everyone else — worry more about the excesses of domestic religious militants rather than those abroad. They threaten our freedom, too.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cartoon ghost / lemmlingA man right here in Connecticut claims he’s invented a ghost detector. And at least one newspaper has published an article about him which conveys his claim and leaves it unchallenged. This is all part of the “hauntings as news” motif I’ve noticed over the last couple of years and have blogged about on numerous occasions. At any rate, here’s the venerable Hartford Courant‘s puff-piece on this “engineer” who now claims to be able to detect ghosts (WebCite cached article):

In 2004, 17-year-old Melissa Galka, a senior at Granby Memorial High School, died after the car she was driving hit a tree in town.

Within days of her death, her father said, she begin communicating with her family.

“She started doing things like ringing the doorbell, changing TV channels, turning lights on and off,” Gary Galka said Monday. “Then one time she came into my room and I felt her sit on the edge of the bed.”

Now Galka has a thriving trade in paranormal detection devices, launched as a result of those eery events.

Note the obviously-sentimental and sympathetic lede in this story. The reader is supposed to believe what this guy tells us, because as a bereaved father, he somehow “knows” more about ghosts than any of the rest of us. While I sympathize with his plight — I really, truly, honestly do; I have lost relatives myself, after all — and while it makes for a dramatic story that reporters and editors are sure will “sell,” none of this grants Galka’s invention any veracity, and it doesn’t make what he’s doing “news.” It just doesn’t.

I also honestly doubt there’s anything new here. After all, “paranormal investigators” have been using EMF detectors to chase after ghosts, for decades. I’m not sure how Galka’s device is appreciably different from any of the myriad other EMF detectors that have been used this way … except that he seems to be marketing them specifically to ghost-hunters.

I suggest Galka and/or fans of this device — if they’re so convinced it does what they claim it does — put this device to the test, and collect a huge payday, while they’re at it. They should immediately submit an application to James “the Amazing” Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. I’m not sure why they would not want to do so; a million dollars is, after all, a lot of money to just leave there, waiting to be claimed.

It’s inevitable that grieving people will come up with things like Mel-Meter and the SB7 Spirit Box. It’s quite natural. And as I said, I really do sympathize with Galka. What I find unacceptable here is the Courant‘s lazy and uncritical reporting on Galka’s devices. The story clearly implies they do precisely what Galka says they do — i.e. detect ghosts — however, they in fact do nothing of the sort. In truth, ghosts do not exist; they cannot be detected; they don’t haunt buildings or graveyards; psychics do not talk to them; and science has never demonstrated that they exist. The Courant doesn’t even include a brief comment from a “token skeptic” — but it does add Galka’s own childish swipe at skeptics, expecting them “to ‘take a better position'” (as if it’s up to him, personally, to decide what “positions” are “better” than others). The nation’s oldest newspaper can do better than this … and it should. What a waste.

Photo credit: lemmling, via Open Clip Art Library.

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Cathedral of St. Mary Peoria IllinoisAmerica’s Roman Catholic bishops are furious at president Barack Obama, because his administration has exhibited what they view as impermissible insolence, and dares to prevent them from forcing the entire population — Catholic or not — from having to live according to their own religious doctrines. Their war against Obama has been going on for several weeks, without letup. Their latest tantrum, as reported by MSNBC, came in the form of Peoria bishop Daniel Jenky hurling a reductio ad Hitlerum at the president (WebCite cached article):

“Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room,” Jenky said. …

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care.”

“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path,” he said.

I’ve blogged numerous times about the tendency of American pundits and officials to throw around the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. It goes without saying that it’s old, it’s juvenile, and it fucking needs to stop, fercryinoutloud. Can’t we just give the Nazi comparisons a rest, already?

Jenky and the rest of the bishops appear to predicate their reasoning on something like the following syllogism:

  1. I have religious freedom, and can believe whatever I wish to believe.
  2. One of my beliefs is that everyone is required to live according to my beliefs
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of me imposing my beliefs on others, therefore …
  4. … is thwarting my freedom of religion, which is impermissible.

I’ll open up my longstanding dare — which, to date, no one has shown the courage to accept — to America’s bishops. If you want to exert your “religious freedom” and force me to live according to Catholic doctrine … well, by all means, go right ahead. Give it your best shot, guys! Track me down, and then do whatever you feel you need to do, and make me live however you demand I live.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t do it, since you believe yourself entitled to, and have said as much. Why wouldn’t you put your words into action and coerce me to act like a devout Catholic, if you think it’s necessary?

Let’s face it, folks, the country’s R.C. bishops are a bunch of whining crybabies. Boo fucking hoo. The bishops should fucking grow up and act like the elderly adults they are.

P.S. In past blog posts, I’ve directly addressed — and refuted — the claim that Obama, his administration, the Democrats, or the American Left are Nazis. They are not. The Nazis said and did a lot of things that none of those guys have even imagined doing, much less attempted.

P.P.S. Contrary to what Jenky says, Stalin and Hitler were far from identical in their treatment of religion. The Soviets generally suppressed religion, it’s true, but the Third Reich’s policies were more subtle and manipulative; they commandeered the Reichskirche, or unified Protestant churches of Germany, and subverted it to serve them. They also disarmed the Catholic Church within Germany by signing the Reichskonkordat with the Vatican. Thus, Jenky lied when he said Stalin and Hitler treated religion the same. They absolutely did not, and this places Jenky in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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TSA at Gate B9I’ve blogged a couple of times about the joke that is the TSA … you know, the people who make you take off your shoes and your belts, throw away your coffee, scan your innards — and in some cases pat you down thoroughly — before you go into the gate area of an airport. Interestingly, someone who once ran the TSA, from 2005 to 2009, agrees with this assessment. Kip Hawley wrote a book — and penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal — in which he makes this concession (WebCite cached article):

Airport security in America is broken. I should know. For 3½ years — from my confirmation in July 2005 to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 — I served as the head of the Transportation Security Administration. …

More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. Preventing terrorist attacks on air travel demands flexibility and the constant reassessment of threats. It also demands strong public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve.

The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.

I applaud Hawley for finally admitting that the TSA does not actually serve its stated purpose and needs to change its ways. But even having given him that credit, I must point out that the man is a brazen hypocrite. Back in 2008, he was interviewed by Leslie Stahl in the course of a 60 Minutes piece on the broken nature of TSA security. In that interview, Hawley insisted to Ms Stahl that everything TSA was doing, was required in order to thwart al-Qaeda … and to skip any of it would be to let the terrorists through and risk another 9/11/2001. He was adamant that nothing TSA was doing amounted to “security theater.” You can read the article on the CBS News Web site (cached)*, if you wish.

I invite Mr Hawley to supplement his welcome comments on the TSA’s ineffectiveness, with an apology for having himself been part of the fraud behind it. (I don’t use that word lightly … the TSA is a fraud, in every sense of that word, except for the fact that the people who created and run it will never be prosecuted for having rammed their scam down the throats of American travelers.) Few people have the courage to make such an apology, so I don’t expect Hawley will ever offer it. This, I fear, is the closest he will ever come to doing so.

Photo credit: steuben, via Flickr.

Hat tip: CT Watchdog.

* The CBS article is broken into 4 pages; here are links and cached versions of each: Page 1 (cached), page 2 (cached), page 3 (cached) & page 4 (cached).

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Pope Benedict XVI, holding a tall, lit, white candle, enters a hushed and darkened St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican Saturday, April 7, 2012, to begin the Vatican's Easter vigil service. Except for the twinkle of camera flashes, the basilica was almost pitch-black as the thousands of faithful in pews awaited Benedict's arrival through the rear entrance Saturday night. Christians on Easter joyously mark their belief that Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion. Praying at the start of the service, Benedict said Easter brings hope to the faithful. On Sunday morning, he will lead Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)I continue to be amazed at the audacity of the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI who rules it. I suppose by now that nothing that comes out of that vipers’ den should surprise me any more, but it does nonetheless. This past Easter, the Pope used his Easter vigil service — unintentionally, I assume — to issue a moral indictment of his own Roman Catholic Church. The AP reports via Yahoo News (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, carrying a tall, lit candle, ushered in Christianity’s most joyous celebration with an Easter vigil service Saturday night, but voiced fears that mankind is groping in darkness, unable to distinguish good from evil. …

Benedict worried in his homily: “The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil.”

“The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general,” the pope said.

“If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other ‘lights,’ that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk,” Benedict added.

Over the past several years I have blogged about the staggering amorality of the R.C. Church; its unwillingness to permit itself to be held accountable for its actions; its long history of keeping abusive clergy on, despite knowing they have abused children; its frequent attempts to shelter abusive priests from prosecution, and to silence those who would report them; its consistent claims to have done nothing wrong, that it’s more a victim than the abuse victims are; spewing nothing but excuses — some ridiculous or even insulting — over its worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal; and its staunch refusal to do any more about it than issue vapid non-apology apologies (along the lines of, “Bad things happened, we’re sorry they did, now stop complaining about it!”).

As for not knowing the difference between right and wrong, let’s talk about the R.C. hierarchy’s record in the matter of moral discernment. Former archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland admitted he’d been unaware that child abuse was wrong. While he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, retired Cardinal Edward Egan was indifferent to abuse allegations, to the point where he asserted no such cases had been reported in his time there, which is demonstrably untrue, and further claimed he had no legal mandate to report it, when in fact he did.

So we have child abuse worldwide, going on under the noses of the Catholic hierarchy. The Church was negligently indifferent to it, sometimes covered it up, to the point of thwarting attempts to investigate it. We have hierarchs who openly admit they did not give a fuck about children being abused. We have a steady stream of excuses being made — both for the abuse itself, and the concerted efforts to cover it up — along with a persistent, continuous refusal to accept responsibility for any of this behavior. We have, furthermore, the claim that the scandal itself is a complete fiction, cooked up as an attack on a totally-innocent Church.

All of this — and more — clearly demonstrate that the R.C. Church, as an institution, is every bit as morally blind as the Pope claims “the World” is becoming. Benedict sure has a helluva lot of nerve, whining and bellyaching about moral blindness in others, while he himself is as morally blind as anyone ever was.

Yes, folks, this is the very same kind of hypocrisy that Jesus himself clearly and unambiguously forbid his own followers ever to engage in. Maybe someday the Pope will actually try to live up to the standards of the religion he claims to follow and to speak for … but that day, apparently, is not today.

Photo credit: AP Photo / Pier Paolo Chito, via Yahoo News (cached).

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