Archive for February, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI BlessingWith today being his last day in office as Pope, I thought I’d recap some of Benedict’s “greatest hits” since I’ve been blogging here. These are categorized and listed in blog order:

That about covers it, I think.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ol' Crazy PatIt’s been a while since I blogged about the inane stupidity that spews from the mouth of televangelist Marion “Pat” Robertson. That’s not to say he hasn’t been saying anything idiotic; it just means the idiocy he has been saying, isn’t something I found very remarkable. I mean … it’s Patty Robertson we’re talking about, after all! But yesterday, he offered up some ridiculous tripe that I find remarkable, not merely because it’s moronic (like everything else that comes out of his mouth) but because it was in response to a problem that fundamentalist Christians face. Right Wing Watch reports on his answer to a question about purchasing clothing in a second-hand store (locally-cached article):

After a viewer, Carrie, asked whether to follow her mom’s recommendation to pray away demonic spirits over her secondhand sweaters, Robertson recounted a story about “a witch who had prayed over a particular ring and asked for a spirit to come into it, and this Philippine girl was so attached to this ring, she had to buy it and all hell broke loose because she finally recognized what it was.”

“Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects, the answer is yes,” Robertson said.

While Robertson noted that people don’t have to worry that every item they purchase is possessed by demons, he added: “Hey, it ain’t going to hurt anything to rebuke any spirits that happened to have attached themselves to those clothes.”

RWW offers video of this exchange, via Youtube:

Now, it’s easy to laugh at Robertson’s primitive religionism and its irrational concern about demons that may or may not be in second-hand clothing. It is funny that there are people in the 21st century United States who truly think this way. But really, given Christianity’s history, it’s not all that strange.

As a student of early Christianity, I’m aware that concerns of this sort date back nearly to the religion’s founding. Back in the first century CE, a lot of meat consumption (what there was of it, anyway) was associated with religious rites. It wasn’t entirely unlikely that any meat someone managed to buy might have been sacrificed to a pagan deity prior to it being butchered for sale. Because of this, a lot of Christians were very cautious about eating meat.

As it turns out, this anxiety shows up a couple times in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes that, since there’s only one god and idols don’t represent anything real, there’s no harm in eating such meat:

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (1 Corinthians 8:4-8)

Since an idol’s deity isn’t real, there’s no harm in eating meat sacrificed to it. The sacrifice itself was meaningless, so the meat is untainted.

Even so, this was such a contentious issue in the early Church, that Paul suggests Christians should avoid eating sacrificed meat, if it’s a problem for someone else (see 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). Elsewhere, Christians are advised to avoid eating sacrificed meat, likewise in the name of promoting harmony (see Acts 15:28-29).

What I find remarkable is that the position Paul laid out, way back in the 1st century … i.e. that idol-sacrifice is meaningless, therefore meat can’t be profaned … is a more rational and mature position than Patty Robertson’s. He claims that demons are real and they actually can infest objects, and might conceivably be found in second-hand clothing, therefore Christians must de-demonize all second-hand clothing before bringing it into their homes. Patty is actually more backward and primitive in his thinking, than the apostle Paul was.

Whodathunkit?

Photo credit: Random Factor, via Flickr.

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Cardinal Keith O'Brien is to resign amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA, via the (UK) GuardianThings just keep getting worse for the Roman Catholic Church. Great Britain’s senior hierarch, Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has resigned over abuse allegations, as the (UK) Guardian reports (WebCite cached article):

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned with immediate effect after being accused of “inappropriate acts” towards fellow priests.

The Scottish Catholic church announced that Pope Benedict had accepted the cardinal’s resignation as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which came after the Observer disclosed a series of allegations by three priests and one former priest [cached].

O’Brien has denied the allegations and had been expected to continue in his post as head of the Scottish Catholic church until mid-March, when he was due to retire at age 75.

But in a detailed statement, O’Brien said he resigned on Monday, and apologised to any people he had let down. He said he did not want the controversy to overshadow the election of the new pope.

Note, these accusations aren’t exactly like most of the abuse that’s been investigated and reported worldwide for more than a decade now. O’Brien’s four accusers were seminarians at the time of the abuse, three of whom are currently priests. That, of course, does not make what he did right. I’m just pointing out this is not a case of pedophilia; it means children are not the only victims of Catholic clerics’ abuse.

I also note that O’Brien is the Cardinal who, last week, announced he’d support ending the Church’s celibacy requirement for priests (cached):

The Scottish Catholic leader, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has said he would be happy for priests to be able to marry. Many priests struggle to cope with celibacy and should be able to marry and have a family, he added, in advance of a trip to Rome where he will help elect the next pope.

O’Brien told the BBC: “I’d be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should be married. It’s a free world and I realise many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood, and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”

He said this at the very same time he knew he’d been accused of abusing seminarians and while he was awaiting papal acceptance of his resignation … so this is not a coincidence. One wonders why he’d say such a thing, under those circumstances?

Photo credit: David Cheskin/PA, via the em>Guardian.

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Cardinal Tukson 987The Roman Catholic Church’s continual effort to pin blame for the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s dogged it for over a decade now on anyone and everyone but itself, continues apace. This time, one of the leading lights of the Church, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana — who happens to be among the contenders for the papacy — proudly declared that his own continent’s fierce intolerance for homosexuality somehow protected it from that scandal, hence, the his implication that homosexuality itself is somehow responsible for “priestly pedophilia.” He made this announcement during an interview on CNN (WebCite cached article):

When Amanpour asked Turkson about the possibility of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal spreading to Africa, he said it would unlikely be in the same proportion as it has in Europe.

“African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency,” he said. “Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society.”

This is, of course, totally false. Sexual orientation and sexual fixation are unrelated:

According to the American Psychological Association, “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”

CNN offers video of Turkson’s appearance on Christiane Amanpour’s show (cached):

So not only is this claim counter-factual on its face, it also fails in another way: It says nothing about the Catholic hierarchs’ ongoing cover-ups of the abuse by its clergy. Does Turkson seriously contend that “gayness” somehow forced the world’s bishops to repeatedly shuffle priests around in order to protect them, and worked to ensure the abusers would never be prosecuted? Maybe the Cardinal and some other Catholics are willing to go with that, but the thinking world knows how utterly asinine such a contention is.

Once again, I can’t help but ask when this fucking bullshit is going to stop? When, exactly, are the supposedly-godly men who run the Catholic Church going to “man up” and take responsibility for their own behavior? I don’t see it ever happening, until lay Catholics decide they’ve had enough, and take control of the situation. They could easily do so if they wished, using the power of the collection plate: Starving the Church for donations would coerce its hierarchs into changing their behavior. That the world’s Catholics haven’t done this, shows they support the hierarchs’ behavior and approve of the Church’s criminality.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Supporters of Islamic political parties burn and kick an effigy of a blogger inside a madrassa, or religious school, during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on February 24, 2013. Islamists demanding the execution of bloggers they accuse of blasphemy clashed with police in Bangladesh for a third straight day Sunday, and at least four protesters were killed when police opened fire (AFP Photo)This is such an old story, I almost don’t want to blog about it any more. The Islamic world’s inherent and pervasive immaturity continually rears its head, every time something happens that Muslims think is an insult to their religion. All too often, that immaturity results in people being killed, simply because too many Muslims cannot, and will not, control their fury and rage over what they perceive as affronts to Islam and its founding prophet. The AFP via Yahoo News reports on the latest example of people being killed because of this juvenile murderous impulse (WebCite cached article):

Islamists demanding the execution of bloggers they accuse of blasphemy clashed with police in Bangladesh for a third straight day Sunday, and at least four protesters were killed when police opened fire.

Up to 3,000 protesters, including students from religious schools known as madrassas and supporters of the main opposition party, barricaded a highway at Singair in the central district of Manikganj, police said.

The protests, and the killings that resulted, have been brewing for some time:

The violence broke out as 12 small Islamic parties, backed by the largest Islamic group Jamaat-e-Islami and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, called a nationwide strike in protest at Friday’s police action against Islamists.

Four people were killed, three in police shooting, and about 200 injured during Friday’s protests by tens of thousands of Islamists demanding the hanging of bloggers whom they say blasphemed Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

Tensions have risen over allegedly anti-Islamic blog posts by Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was hacked to death last week near his home in Dhaka.

In recent weeks Haider and fellow bloggers had launched massive protests demanding a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami, and the execution of its leaders for alleged war crimes in the 1971 independence struggle against Pakistan.

The government of Bangladesh has been trying to pacify the santimoniously-enraged childish Islamists by cranking up the censorship:

The government has warned of tough steps against those who incite social tension, and urged newspapers and blogs not to publish defamatory writings against the Prophet Mohammed.

It has cracked down on anti-Islam blogs and also given police protection to some bloggers in the wake of Haider’s murder.

Keep it upJyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon, via Assyrian International News Agency, crybaby Muslims. By all means, please continue killing people because people blasphemed against your almighty deity, and insulted your blessed prophet. Continue raging, fuming, blustering, rioting, smashing, burning, and murdering because you haven’t got the maturity to handle the fact that not everyone else believes what you believe.

Also, I cordially invite you to keep stomping around demanding that your dour, uncompromising religionism — and the metaphysically-propagated immaturity that goes along with it — be “respected” by everyone else, regardless of whatever horrible things you may have done in its name. Yes, this means you should continue telling us … as the giant head did in The Wizard of Oz … never to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Yes, that’s right. Jyllands-Posten Mohammad Cartoon / 'Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins!' / via AINAI want you to keep indulging your murderous immaturity. I want you to keep providing the rest of the world with ongoing examples of what is wrong with being enslaved by primitive metaphysical thinking. I want you to keep showing us your barbarism so we won’t forget what metaphysics can do to people.

Oh, and just to egg you sniveling little babies on a little more, I’ve included a couple of anti-Islam cartoons in this blog post. Please, use their presence here to justify yet more riots and killings in the name of preventing your religion and your prophet from being “dissed” by this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen.

Photo credit, top: AFP, via Yahoo News Singapore; middle & bottom photos, Jyllands-Posten, via Assyrian International News Agency.

P.S. I am, of course, being facetious when I say I want Muslims to keep throwing tantrums — even if what they’re doing proves the point I’ve been making for many years. I’d much rather they become mature and learn to live with the fact that not everyone believes what they do.

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Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)In one of the most laughable examples of “spin” that I can think of, the archdiocese of New York actually bragged about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s deposition concerning his time as archbishop of Milwaukee. CNN reports on their ridiculous claim (WebCite cached article):

“Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors, during the time he was privileged to serve as archbishop of Milwaukee,” Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a written statement.

“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could, and he was looking forward to talking about the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims.”

You may remember, while he headed the Milwaukee archdiocese, Dolan bribed abusive priests $20,000 a piece to walk away from the Church, rather than defrocking them and then handing them over to the authorities for prosecution. The stated reason for paying the abusers was that defrocking is a long, arduous process, so paying abusers to quit was easier. That may be true, however, the defrocking process (or “laicization”) is something the Church’s hierarchs — Dolan among them — control. If they find it too difficult, they can change it to make it more efficient. This excuse also does not explain why Dolan didn’t forward accusations he thought were solid enough to merit bribing a priest to quit the Church to the police. It’s an idiotic pretense that I am nowhere near stupid enough to buy into.

As for Zwilling’s claim that his boss “was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could,” well … most folks who are “eager” to be deposed, don’t spend something like two years dodging and swerving away from them. Rather, they call the lawyers and stenographers together and they get it the hell over with — immediately. They don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table as Dolan was.

Their disingenuousness places Dolan and his spokesman into my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Photo credit: Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times.

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Roger MahonyI’d hoped I was done blogging about retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, former Archibishop of Los Angeles. If you recall, he claimed to have been blissfully unaware of the fact that child abuse was a bad thing. After blogging about how his successor managed to “punish” him without actually punishing him, I’d expected that’d be all that needed to be said about the creep.

But I was wrong. Mahony, apparently, refuses to let go of the matter. He took to his personal blog to proudly declare to the world that he forgives the insolent folks who dare criticize and rebuke him (WebCite cached article):

From our earliest catechism days we learn about the virtue of humility. We study it, we think about it; but we don’t embrace it.

And why? Because humility is all about self-effacing, about seeing ourselves as far more diminished than we had hoped. As a result, few of us set out to embrace humility for Lent or as a pattern for our lives. Most us us accept a few affronts and neglects as humility, and then move on.

But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are actually called to the fullness of humility: humiliation, and publicly. …

In the past several days, I have experienced many examples of being humiliated. In recent days, I have been confronted in various places by very unhappy people. I could understand the depth of their anger and outrage–at me, at the Church, at about [sic] injustices that swirl around us.

Thanks to God’s special grace, I simply stood there, asking God to bless and forgive them.

There are so many things wrong with this, I hardly know where to begin. Nevertheless, I’ll dive in and point out the following:

  • Mahony punctuates this lecture on “humility” by declaring — as publicly as he can, by posting it on the Internet — that he’s been humiliated. Excuse me? That’s the opposite of “humility.” True “humility” would be taking the criticism and keeping it to himself. Not broadcasting it to the planet.
  • It’s not up to Mahony to “forgive” his critics. Any criticism Mahony has taken, is something that, by all rights, he actually earned, by virtue of his behavior. If anyone should be doing any “forgiving” here, it’s the child-abuse victims. Not him.
  • In these remarks, Mahony reveals that he views himself as a victim of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal. This isn’t unusual, since most Catholic hierarchs think that way. They blame anyone and everyone but themselves for it. Truthfully, neither Mahony nor any other hierarch is a victim here, and not one of them has any right to claim to be one.
  • Another revelation of this childish screed is Mahony’s egotism and self-centeredness. He views the scandal as being all about him. No one else really matters. This is about as un-Christian an attitude as one can have, which is surprising in a man who’s supposed to be Christ-like and act as Jesus’ representative.
  • Mahony says he is “being called to … be humiliated.” In other words, this is something that was inflicted upon him from outside … sort of like Job being used as a pawn by God and Satan. He refuses to acknowledge that he, himself, did anything to be criticized for.
  • And what’s up with his blog being hosted on a Blogspot domain in the UK? Huh? What does a blog about Los Angeles (according to its name) have to do with the UK? I don’t get it.

It’s long past time for Cardinal Mahony — and the rest of the sniveling crybaby hierarchs — to stop whining and bellyaching about what’s happened to them as a result of a scandal which they, themselves, worked diligently and for decades to manufacture. What childish fucking bullshit. When are they going to grow up and act like grown adults. Oh, and when do lay Catholics plan to understand their Church is run by a cabal whose ethics and morals are little different from the Mafia? Remember … what you refuse to correct, you condone.

P.S. For anyone who plans to pontificate on the virtues of humility: It’s best to begin by actually being humble and contrite. Mahony clearly hasn’t gotten there yet, and is in no position to tell anyone about “humility.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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