Archive for the “Metaphysics” Category

Aimless metaphysics of all sorts

Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) / via IMDBThe Roman Catholic Church is facing a crisis. No, I’m not referring to the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked the Church for over 15 years, nor the resulting problem of dioceses experiencing financial straits and even bankruptcies. The Church’s problem is a shortage … but not of priests — a problem it’s faced for the last few decades (WebCite cached article).

While those are genuine problems the Church faces, they’re not the dire crisis I’m blogging about just now. That happens to be a different kind of shortage: A shortage of exorcists. Satanism and the occult are spreading like rashes, as the (UK) Telegraph explains, but the Church has too few anti-demonic personnel to fend them off (cached):

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.…

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.”…

“It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”

Cascioli’s complaints about the spread of what his Church considers black magic practices and “a decline in faith and values,” reflects the bellyaching of the main character in my last blog post (a Connecticut police chief who thinks the growth of atheism is making the crime rate go up). This sort of thinking is common in Christianity, what with its persecutorial psychopathology that causes them to delude themselves into believing they’re under siege and about to be wiped out at any moment.

Really, Cascioli has nothing to be worried about. Demonic possession never happens. There are no demons or devils, no Satan leading them, and no such thing as black magic, either. Exorcisms occur only in horror movies. There’s no viable reason for the Roman Catholic Church to divert any resources to creating a demonology school (which Cascioli has demanded). It’s all metaphysical nonsense, which until just a few years ago, the Church had de-emphasized through most of the 20th century. They should resume that policy and ignore Cascioli’s absurd kvetching about Satanism and “black magic.”

Photo credit: Still from The Exorcist (1973), via IMDB.

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Residents came out to show thier [sic] supports [sic] for Bridgeport Police Officers with a community march in solidarity in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. Dozens of residents joined members of the department and local clergy and officials at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Park Avenue and then proceeded to march to police headquarters nearby.  / Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut MediaIn the world of sanctimonious Christianist nutjobbery, atheists are only just a shade better than Lucifer himself. They’re to blame for almost everything that ever goes wrong, and even Christian-world villains like Muslims and pagans earn more respect from Christianists. An example of this sort of thinking, as reported by the Connecticut Post, came from the chief of police in Bridgeport, CT (WebCite cached article):

Teens joining gangs? Shooting incidents on the rise?

The city’s top law enforcement officer thinks irreligiosity is a major factor in the problems facing the city.

“We need God in our lives,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday to a group of around 50 people following a police solidarity march.

Perez, who is Catholic, addressed a group of mostly church members between the police department and City Hall.

“The problems that we’re having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen,” he said.…

Perez, in his remarks, advocated a lot more praying.

“Let’s bring God back in our lives, back in our church — bring our kids — in our city, in our schools — absolutely,” Perez told the crowd.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Perez said that he didn’t advocate a specific religious belief, though he stood by his statement about religion in schools.

Gee, it was nice of the Chief not to demand that everyone in Bridgeport convert to a particular sect of a particular religion; it’s OK by him, I guess, if that city’s citizens join a religion of their choice. But, he does appear to think everyone must belong to one religion or another. Non-belief isn’t an option, in his book.

He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. There’s a significant wing of American Christianism that genuinely thinks there’s no such thing as freedom from religion; that it’s possible — and legal! — to force every American to have to be a religious believer … of some sort. (Yes, they do. For real.)

Chief Perez doesn’t seem to realize that, although non-belief has been rising over the last several years, crime rates haven’t matched that curve. Despite his whining about atheism growing, the majority of Americans are religious believers (cached). And the proportion of folks in prison who’re atheists is actually lower than that of the general population (cached) … meaning that atheists are less likely than believers to have been convicted of crimes.

Crime and non-belief are not linked lock-step in the way he asserts. To be generous, the Chief is blowing smoke; to be more blunt, he’s lying through his teeth.

It’s long past time for religious believers to grow the fuck up for once and get over the fact that atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) exist. They need to stop getting their panties in bunches over the insolence of those of us who refuse to believe in their absurd metaphysics. They erroneously think they’re personally harmed by the presence of non-belief in their communities; that’s just fucking absurd. They object to atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) for only one reason: They’re insecure in their beliefs, and knowing there are people who don’t believe as they do, only serves to heighten those insecurities. Since they’re not mature enough to handle those insecurities, they lash out against them, like infants. “Waaah! Mommy, the bad people are <sniff> atheists! Wah waah! <sniff> Mommy, make the bad atheists go away! <sniff>” What a damned joke.

Photo credit: Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media, via Connecticut Post.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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BlasphemyUnbelievably, it’s a crime in many countries to “dis” a religion or any aspect of one. Of course, this makes no sense at all … since offending a religion causes no harm to anyone or anything. The religion will remain what it is, and its followers will continue to follow it, in spite of that disrespect. Nothing changes, just because someone “blasphemes.” Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

Despite the fact that many places have such laws on the books, very often this is still not enough for some truly sanctimonious folk. They feel a compulsion to take that blasphemy law into their own hands. An example of this, as the Associated Press reports, just happened in Jordan (WebCite cached article):

A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the shooter was a former imam, or prayer leader, at a local mosque, and said the man had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.…

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman. The reports said Abdullah had recently returned from a trip abroad, but gave no further details.…

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspect said he was motivated by the cartoon, which depicted a bearded man, smoking and in bed with two women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews. All physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition.

While the government of Jordan condemned this vigilante killing, Hattar’s supporters contend the government actually had put him in jeopardy, by having charged him with “blasphemy” in the first place. And lots of Jordanians are happy that Hattar had been gunned down:

But on Sunday, social media accounts of prominent Islamists in Jordan and elsewhere were celebrating Hattar’s death, saying he deserved it for blasphemy.

I expect the killer in this case to be showered with praise, as happened to a Pakistani who assassinated the governor of Punjab in the name of protecting that country’s blasphemy law.

Killing people over “blasphemy” is the height of foolishness … because as I pointed out at the start of this post, mocking, criticizing, or disrespecting a religion quite literally cannot harm it or any of its followers. A religion is a collection of ideas, and as such, can’t be damaged by disparagement. Its followers will continue to believe in it, and it will endure irreverence. The only reason to act out violently over “blasphemy” is immaturity. It’s long past time for the world’s religious believers to grow the fuck up, get over themselves, and accept that not everyone loves their faith (whichever one it may be).

Photo credit: Silly Deity, via Flickr.

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King Arthur II concept art 4Most of my readers have never been part of fundamentalist Christianity. As such, they’re unaware of fundies’ very strange — and supernaturally-saturated — worldview. As a former fundie myself, I’m familiar with it, but unless you’ve been part of it, it can be difficult to comprehend. This worldview is predicated on the presumed reality of the supernatural and preternatural, with powerful and infernal forces at work in the world, actively trying to destroy the godly and saintly.

Yes, I realize this is actually a very primitive mindset, one that made sense in ancient times, when nature wasn’t very well understood. Indeed, it probably did — way back when, in prehistory — seem as though invisible metaphysical agents were at work in the world. It’s a philosophy that seems downright bizarre now that we have a much better idea of how the world works. Yet, fundies cling to it — fiercely, and even angrily. And it explains a lot of what they say and do.

Take, for example, retired Army officer Robert Maginnis, who made this pronouncement on disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker’s show (WebCite cached article):

He even said that he had “personally met” with witches [cached] who told him that they are advising high-ranking government officials in Washington, D.C. “I know that there’s demonic forces in that city,” he said. “I have personally met people that refer to themselves as witches, people that say they advise the senior leadership of the country.”

Yeah, as though any of these people Maginnis says he “met personally” actually walked up to a Christofascist like him and said, “Hey, Bob, just want you to know, I’m a witch!” I’m sorry to have to say it, but this guy is clearly spewing bullshit.

And that, my friends, is the problem with this sort of thinking. It’s easy to make up all sorts of tall tales about witches and demons and devils and all that assorted horse-hockey, because it’s all metaphysical and non-demonstrable anyway. As long as Maginnis never provides the names of any of these supposed “witches” who’re working with “demonic forces,” there’s no way anyone can even begin to confirm any of his B.S.

To be clear, however, there’s no such thing as a witch, nor are there any demons or devils. Satan exists solely as a literary character, in works such as the book of Job and Paradise Lost.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Afghan protests against the burning of a Quran in Florida. (AP photo, via Politico)Yeah! Let’s hear it for “the Religion of Peace” (as people like then-president George W. Bush like to call it)! This weekend we were treated to a sampling of that faith’s approach to life in the form of several terror attacks.

One of these took place in St Cloud, MN, for which ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood claimed responsibility (WebCite cached article). That one ended with the terrorist being killed.

Then there was a series of bombings and attempted bombings in Seaside Park & Elizabeth, NJ and in New York City. The suspected terrorist in those cases was caught and wounded in a gun battle (cached).

Despite the obvious terrorist angle to all of these stories, officials spent the weekend tap-dancing around the issue of whether or not these were terrorist attacks. For instance, in this New York Times story, we read (cached):

Officials said they did not know of any motive — political or social — for any of the attacks.

Really!? I’m no expert on terrorism or crime, but it was pretty fucking obvious to me that a bomb placed in a trash can near the finish line of a race is almost certain to have been a terror attack (cached). Feigning befuddlement over motive in cases like this is — in a word — inexcusable. It’s fucking absurd!

I grant that America’s Neocrusaders will jump for joy, again, over these attacks and attempted attacks. In their minds it will “prove” how horrific Islam is, and that it must be outlawed and all Muslims banished. They’ll also see it as “proving” their own religion, Christianity, is virtuous and perfect.

What they will forget is that Christianity is far from perfect. There is such a thing as Christian terror, as I’ve blogged previously, and that has maimed and killed Americans too … even if not many people wish to admit it.

It’s long past time for believers — in all religions — to own up to the extremism that lurks deep inside religions generally. It’s true that not all Muslims are terrorists like the cretins in Minnesota and New Jersey. It’s also true that not all Christians are clinic bombers and doctor killers. In fact, the majority of Muslims and Christians are the opposite. Nevertheless, their religions have produced those terrorists. People who followed those faiths, having read their sacred texts and having followed their teachings, became violent militants.

That doesn’t happen by accident. It also needs to be fixed. And only believers can do that.

Unfortunately, too many of them don’t wish to do so. They’re too busy waving off events like this, saying “Those terrorists aren’t ‘Real’ Muslims” or “‘Real’ Christians” or whatever. They don’t want to deal with the problem of religious militancy because they’re too infatuated with the presumed virtue of their religion to do so.

More’s the pity. Because as I’ve said many times: If the followers of a religion don’t respect it well enough to police it and control the militants within it, then they can’t reasonably expect outside observers, like myself, to respect it, or them for following it.

Photo credit: Associated Press, via Politico.

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Husité - Jenský kodexI’ve noted some time ago that the Christianist trope I call the Neocrusade has gone from a mere propaganda campaign to get Islam abolished in the US, to a violent movement that’s victimizing Muslims all around the country. It hasn’t abated; if anything, it’s gotten much worse, as all these recent stories make evident:

  • According to WNBC-TV in New York City (WebCite cached article): A Muslim woman was set on fire by a stranger on a midtown street, according to the NYPD, prompting an investigation into whether it was a hate crime.…

    The 35-year-old woman, a tourist from Scotland, was window-shopping on Fifth Avenue near East 54th Street Saturday night when she suddenly felt heat on her arm and noticed her blouse was on fire, police said.

    She noticed a man standing next to her with a lighter in his hand, according to police. He ran away eastbound on East 54th Street, not saying a word.

  • According to CNN (cached): A woman yelling anti-Muslim sentiment allegedly attacked two Muslim women as they pushed their children in strollers in New York, authorities said.

    Emirjeta Xhelili, 32, allegedly tried to rip the hijab from the women’s heads during the attack in Brooklyn on Thursday.

    She struck the women in the face and body, and repeatedly shouted, “this is the United States of America, you’re not supposed to be different from us,” court documents allege.

    Xhelili allegedly told the women, “get the (expletive) out of America (expletive), you don’t belong here.”

  • According to WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, FL (cached): A fire overnight heavily-damaged the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, a mosque once-attended by the Pulse nightclub killer and another American terrorist.

    The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said later the fire is the work of an arsonist.

    Investigators say the person involved is shown on surveillance video.

    The video shows a man riding up to the mosque on a motorcycle, possibly a Harley-Davidson.

As I’ve also said many times, I get what the problem here is. I get that Muslim terrorists attacked Americans in Boston, in San Bernardino, at Ft Hood, and on September 11, 2001, among other times. I get that there are barbaric Islamist terror groups at large in the world, including al-Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever, Boko Haram, the al-Nusra Front, al-Shabaab, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and many more. They’re all around the globe, and they maim and kill almost at will. These groups have even managed to “inspire” attacks by Muslims who don’t even belong to them. Islamist militancy is dangerous.

But what the Neocrusaders don’t comprehend is that none of this means every Muslim is a terrorist. What’s more, even if Islam were eradicated from the US, there would still be shooting sprees and other sorts of horrific violence. Some of it would even be Christian-generated (even if Americans tend to ignore Christian terrorism). And they don’t seem to notice the obvious irony of victimizing innocents in the name of — presumably — preventing innocents from being victimized.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Missionaries of Charity Mother HouseThe canonization of Mother Teresa has been brewing since her death in the late 1990s. The Pope at the time, John Paul II, had been a serious fan of hers, and greased the skids so as to speed up her sainthood — something that usually takes decades, if not centuries. He arranged for her beatification (the first step in the process) in 2003, and many in the Vatican have worked hard since then to get her sainted. As the Religion News Service reports, she is now “Saint Teresa of Calcutta” (WebCite cached article):

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Mother Teresa’s reputation for charity goes beyond just the Catholic Church, largely thanks to her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But the reality of her work doesn’t support this reputation. She’s been accused of not having actually helped all the ailing in her “hospital,” due to her devotion to the idea that it’s actually good for people to suffer (good for them, and for humanity as a whole).

Among her critics was the late British journalist Christopher Hitchens, who hosted a documentary and wrote a book explaining that her charitable reputation was undeserved. You can watch that documentary, Hell’s Angel, right here:

But for many fans of Mother Teresa, particularly devout Catholics, wouldn’t accept anything Hitchens had to say about her; after all, he was one of those horrific “New Atheists” and isn’t to be listened to. But she had other critics, including Dr Aroup Chatterjee, who’d worked for her clinic for a time (cached), and a team of Canadian academics, whose review of her work concluded she was “anything but a saint” (cached). None of those folks has any anti-Catholic or anti-religious axe to grind. So their criticisms should get some attention … even if they weren’t enough to prevent her canonization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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