05354 Palm Sunday in SanokThe litany of bogeymen whom the Roman Catholic hierarchy blames for the priestly-pedophilia scandal continues to grow. Earlier this month, a Polish hierarch identified a sequence of villains whom he thinks forced a bunch of otherwise-totally-innocent priests to abuse children. It all started, as Polskie Radio reports, when the archbishop of Przemysl wandered stupidly into “victim-blaming” territory (WebCite cached article):

The archbishop of Przemysl made the controversial remarks after being asked about the problem of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many of these instances of abuse could have been avoided if the relations between parents had been healthy,” the archbishop said. “We often hear that this wrong behaviour, or abuse, occurs when the child is searching for love,” he added. The archbishop suggested that children from broken homes can “cling on” to priests, hence creating the problems.

The idea that victims are to blame for abusive clerics’ action is not new at all, as I’ve blogged before. It’s actually a rather old notion that trickles far beneath everything the R.C. Church has said and done about the scandal. So I don’t consider this unusual, nor do I buy that there aren’t more hierarchs (possibly many more!) who think this way.

Michalik ostensibly apologized for these comments, as the article states. However, he wasn’t sincere about his “apology.” As Polskie Radio again reports, Michalik later doubled down with his blame-game (cached):

Head of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Jozef Michalik has claimed that abuse of children is caused by pornography, feminism and a “selfish love” undermining the family.

“The shameful abuse by adults towards children results from the acceptance of pornography […] and the promotion of a false, selfish love between people,” Archbishop Michalik has told a Mass in Wroclaw Cathedral, south west Poland.…

During the Mass in Wroclaw on Wednesday, however, Archbishop Michalik said that though the family has always enjoyed respect as an institution in Poland, larger family units “have become stigmatised”.

“You have heard of adults abusing children and this kind of evil is not to be tolerated, but no one asks about the causes of this,” he said, blaming TV networks broadcasting “pornography and a selfish love”

“Nobody stands up for children suffering from a lack of love from divorcing parents, which leaves painful and permanent injuries”.

The archbishop also mentioned the “new ideology of gender” with universities offering gender study courses and “the most aggressive Polish feminists who scoff at the Church and years of traditional ethics, who promote abortion and struggle against the traditional model of the family and marital fidelity”.

“The ideology of gender raises legitimate concerns, because it goes against the laws of nature, promotes marriage between persons of the same sex and fights for the right to legalize adoption of children by these couples,” the archbishop said.

Michalik’s complaint about a “new ideology of gender” forcing priests to abuse children mirrors the Church’s assertion a couple of years ago that “society” caused priestly pedophilia.

Oh, and don’t assume Michalik is just some fringe lunatic lurking at the edge of the Catholic hierarchy who has no influence elsewhere. He’s not merely the archbishop of Przemyśl; he’s the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the collective of hierarchs in Poland (that country’s cognate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). An equivalent situation would be if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, had made such comments. Michalik is that authoritative. His remarks — which he very clearly stands by, in spite of his supposed “apology” — are neither trivial nor meaningless.

If it’s not clear to anyone by now, let me lay bare the fact here: There’s a nasty psychopathology festering deep within the R.C. hierarchy. It’s not going to go away on its own, because that same hierarchy grooms its own membership and shapes those who are initiated into it. The sooner lay Catholics admit their Church is criminally dysfunctional, and not going to reform itself, the sooner they can get off their sorry, cowardly, sniveling little asses and repair it, fercryinoutloud.

But of course, we know they never will, so why do I even bother saying it any more … ?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Words not found in any Bible: 'Thou shalt be a complete asshole.' / PsiCop original graphicWhat is it about the practice of tipping that seems to bother Christians so much? Is it a true religious objection to it? Or are they just using their religion to rationalize saving a few bucks?

Back in January I blogged about a “pastor” who refused to tip a waiter because she objected to paying the waiter an 18% auto-gratuity when the Bible mandates tithing (or 10%). But this latest example of stingy Christian behavior is even more rude and insulting than that. KMBC-TV in Kansas City reports that a group of Christians refused to tip a waiter, because he’s gay (WebCite cached article):

A local server was thanked for good service during a recent meal at an Overland Park restaurant, and also received an anti-gay message with no tip.…

Here’s what happened: A server went to pick up a check from a meal, and found a message on the back of the bill. It read: “Thank you for your service, it was excellent. That being said, we cannot in good conscience tip you, for your homosexual lifestyle is an affront to God. May God have mercy on you.”

Friends of the server and customers took to social media to spread the word about what happened, and have vowed to go to the restaurant on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. as a sign of support.

It’s true these no-tipping-asshats didn’t identify themselves specifically as “Christians,” but one must concede that any group of God-mentioning gay-haters in Overland Park, KS is almost certain to be Christian, not members of some other faith. I suppose it’s possible they’re something else … like Jewish or Muslim … but honestly, that’s not very likely.

And that leads me to wonder what it is about Christianity that encourages people to use it to justify their bad behavior? I ask this in all seriousness. Why do Christians view their Christianity as a cosmic permission-slip allowing them to say and do the worst sorts of things, without remorse? Christians love to say their religion makes people moral; but it’s examples like this that demonstrate the opposite is true. Had their religion not taught these cretins to hate gay people, odds are they’d have just tipped their waiter the way people normally do. It took Christianity … and more specifically, the hatred of gays that a lot of Christians view as a component of it … to get these assholes for Jesus to stiff their waiter.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire, and Friendly Atheist.

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Baby crying and upset / Darren Beck, via Open Clip Art LibraryYou’ve just gotta love Rightists who infest the federal government. They’ve spent the last few years raging, fuming, screaming, and whining about the horrors of Washington, yet hypocritically, they’ve built careers in that city, make their livings on it, and have taken up residence there. They shut down the federal government with the expectation that doing so would coerce the administration into canceling implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and then, hypocritically, they staged a protest of said shutdown, as CNN reports (WebCite cached article). During that protest, the ferociously angry Christofascist Larry Klayman called for a revolution and ordered President Obama to surrender to him:

One speaker went as far as saying the president was a Muslim and separately urged the crowd of hundreds to initiate a peaceful uprising.

“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,” said Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group.

The whiney crybaby Larry is repeating his call for a revolution, which I’ve blogged about already. The problem with his yammering isn’t that he’s expecting Obama to do something he’s never going to do (i.e. resign). Of course juvenile Rightist cretins like Larry-boy are going to make demands of the president which he’s never going to comply with. Of course he’s going to caterwaul sanctimoniously about how awful it is that the insolent president — who was first elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012 — has dared remain in office.

No, the problem is Larry-boy’s implication that Obama is a Muslim. As I’ve blogged several times already, Obama is a Christian, and not a Muslim at all. He just isn’t. Maybe crybaby Larry and his Christofascist pals disagree with that, but too bad for them, they don’t have a vote in the matter. Obama is, in fact, a Christian. Multiple fact-checkers have explained this, but the Right more or less refuses to accept it.

(There’s a reason for this refusal: Rightists insist those fact-checking sites are “biased” to the Left, are “in the tank” for Obama, and knowingly lie in order to help him. These Rightists don’t know these sites have also called out Leftists — and Obama specifically — on their falsehoods, too. Their paranoid conviction that these sites are insidiously “biased” against them, of course, is a result of the hostile media effect, and is something that all ideologues fall prey to. As it turns out, the more fact-checkers explain these idiots’ errors to them, the harder they dig their heels in against conceding they’ve been lying. Yes, it’s a very childish game, but ideologues love to play it.)

Klayman’s hypocrisy exists at several levels: As noted, he protested the shutdown of the federal government that his own ideology worked toward; he built his career on a federal government he despises; and he opposes what he calls “judicial activism,” except when Rightists are doing it, in which case he cheers them on.

Like most Christians, little Larry hasn’t read his Bible. If he had, he’d have known that his own Jesus clearly and explicitly forbid him ever to engage in hypocrisy of any kind:

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:5)

Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Lk 6:42)

As I said at the start of this post, you’ve just got to love these guys. They’re so proud of their brazen hypocrisy, and so courageous in their refusal to accept any facts contrary to what they believe, they’re trumpeting it to the heavens.

Photo credit: Darren Beck, via Open Clip Art Library.

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Antonin Scalia 2010By now most of my regular readers have heard about Antonin Scalia’s New York Magazine interview. The main news out of it has been that Scalia believes Satan is a “real person.” I hadn’t commented on it, since I don’t find it very remarkable that a famous Christianist believes the Devil is real. I mean, seriously … that’s news to anyone? Come on! I initially regarded that interview as a “water is wet” or “sky is blue” story, unworthy of attention.

With that said, I recently noticed something he said which, after consideration, I find noteworthy. At least, I think the significance of it needs to be pointed out, if for no other reason than that to show that almost anyone can fall into illogic, if s/he isn’t careful — and that large amounts of irrationality and illogic can be expressed within one short statement.

The important part comes in page 4 of the article (WebCite cached version):

[Interviewer Jennifer Senior:] Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?

[Justice Antonin Scalia:] You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

First, note the sanctimony of Scalia’s response. Sanctimony is the religionist’s stock-in-trade. How dare Ms Senior question belief in the Devil? Scalia’s outrage is palpable. But it also doesn’t mean anything — to anyone.

Next, Scalia cites as evidence of Satan’s existence, that “most of [America] believes in the Devil.” This is a fallacy known formally as argumentum ad populum, and by other names, such as appeal to consensus, the bandwagon fallacy, appeal to popularity, the democratic fallacy, appeal to the masses, etc. The error here should be obvious and summed up in this short statement: Veracity is not up for a vote. People — even many of them! — can be, and often are, very wrong sometimes. Just because something is widely believed, doesn’t make it true. For most of history, nearly all of humanity was utterly convinced the earth was at the center of the universe, with the sun, moon, planets and stars all revolving around it. It turns out, that’s not true at all!

Another piece of evidence Scalia cites as proof that Satan is a real person, is that ‘Jesus Christ believed in the Devil.” Sorry, but this isn’t going to fly, because the reports we have of what Jesus did and didn’t believe come only from the gospels, which Scalia also cites, themselves, as evidence of Satan’s existence. The problem there, of course, is that this just means some late-first-century Christians who wrote those books, believed in the Devil. It’s not actually objective or verifiable evidence of Satan’s existence as “a real person.”

Third, Scalia lambastes his interviewer for being “so removed from mainstream America that” she’d dare imply belief in the Devil as “a real person” is a bad thing. This is his attempt to discredit his interviewer by saying she’s an elitist; and this, too, has been a common Religious Right tactic. Folks on the Right love to rage and fume about “the Elite” (aka “the Bicoastal Elite,” the “Mass Media Elite,” etc.) and how horrible they are for being insolent enough not to think, act and talk in ways unlike all the folks they call “normal Americans” (aka Flyover Country, the Deep South, the Bible Belt, etc.). The cold fact is that Justice Scalia is, himself, a bona fide card-carrying member of the country’s “elite:” He’s university-educated; a professional, no less (i.e. a lawyer and judge); and he’s one of just 9 people who comprise one of the most powerful bodies in the US. Scalia is one of the last people who ought ever to accuse anyone else of being out of touch with America!

After these little tidbits of illogic and irrationality, Scalia swerves back to the old argumentum ad populum, citing the beliefs of “most of mankind” and of people “more intelligent than” himself or his interviewer, as evidence of Satan’s existence as “a real person.” Unfortunately, as I’ve already explained, this is fallacious. What’s more, for Scalia to repeat a fallacy, in the (obvious) hope it will reinforce what he’s saying, is itself a fallacy, called argumentum ad nauseam, or argument by repetition. Saying something that’s not true more than once, can never make it suddenly, magically become true. Nonetheless, fierce religionists like Scalia love to think the universe works that way. They repeat tired old canards like, “Evolution is ‘just’ a theory,” and “It takes more faith to be an atheist than a believer,” and so on. They truly think that repeating these things without cessation will make them so. But it can never work, any more than saying “2 + 2 = 5″ endlessly can never make that equation mathematically valid. It just can’t.

Once again, Justice Scalia has provided me with evidence that anyone, at any time, can engage in fallacious thinking, and probably not even be aware of it. It’s something we must all be on guard against, at all times.

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novastock0015A lot of the time, metaphysical beliefs that people have appear harmless. What’s wrong, for example, with believing in angels? That wouldn’t seem a detrimental belief — unless one believes in angels so fiercely that one thinks one can leap from a rooftop and be caught by angels before hitting the ground (not that I think people are doing that).

Among some other metaphysical beliefs that also appear to be harmless, is reincarnation. When combined with the notion of karma, however, a lot of potentially-harmful complications can result from it. This story, reported by the Associated Press via ABC News, provides a sterling example of how this is possible (WebCite cached article):

A psychic accused of bamboozling clients out of tens of thousands of dollars was convicted on Friday after a trial that peered into the legalities of a business built on mysticism and uncertainty.

Sylvia Mitchell’s case drew back a bead-edged curtain on a Greenwich Village parlor where customers were warned about “negative energy” and their problems were traced to past lives. Prosecutors argued that Mitchell was a fortune-telling fraudster who preyed on vulnerable people.

The AP offers two examples of how Mitchell used the combination of reincarnation and karma to swindle people:

Lee Choong wandered in while working 80 to 100 hours a week at a New York investment bank, missing her family at home in Singapore and struggling with a one-sided workplace crush in 2007, Choong testified.

A skeptical but scared Choong gradually paid more than $120,000 as Mitchell told Choong she had “negative energy” and said Choong’s family had harmed the object of her affection in a past existence but concluded the two had a future together, according to testimony and prosecutors.…

Debra Saalfield, a ballroom dancing instructor from Naples, Fla., went to Mitchell after losing a job and a boyfriend within a day in July 2008. Mitchell told Saalfield she’d been too attached to riches in a previous life as a princess in ancient Egypt so she needed to prove she could part with money by giving Mitchell $27,000 to hold, Saalfield testified.

This is why reincarnation coupled with karma is the ideal platform for a perfect scam. According to the reasoning behind these ideas, you can explain anything for anyone at any time by appealing to “something happened in a past life” … and get away with it, because of course no one can remember anything from a past life and verify whether or not it’s so.

Which leads me to wonder about the logic of reincarnation and karma. If — as I’ve been told by “New Agers” who believe in this sort of thing — we each live multiple lives in order to learn cosmic lessons, it makes no sense for us to have no directly-accessible memory of all those past lives. What cosmic lessons can we possibly be “learning” if we can’t recall any of those past lives?

Maybe this is the kind of question that only occurs to viciously-cynical godless agnostic heathens like myself. Maybe I’m the only person in the entire cosmos who doesn’t inherently understand it. Oh well.

Photo credit: Gerard Fritz, via Flickr.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided a home in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn early Thursday morning.  / Michael Nagle for The New York TimesThis news out of New York is horrific. Some rabbis there chose a disturbing means of getting around a peculiarity of Jewish divorce principles, as the New York Times reports (WebCite cached article):

The two rabbis offered an unusual service to Jewish women who could not get their husbands to agree to a divorce, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For a fee, they would convene a rabbinical court and authorize the use of violence to get a recalcitrant husband to agree to a divorce, the F.B.I. said.

But that was not all, according to court papers unsealed Thursday morning. They were also willing to employ hired muscle, two men known as Ariel and Yaakov, to actually kidnap the man and torture him, until he pledged to divorce his wife, according a criminal complaint in Federal District Court in Newark.

Two men whom the authorities describe as rabbis — Martin Wolmark and Mendel Epstein — as well as a third man, Ariel Potash, have been charged in a kidnapping conspiracy according to court papers. In connection to the case, F.B.I. agents carried out raids in southern Brooklyn and Monsey, N.Y., in Rockland County on Wednesday evening.

The reason for this extreme approach, is because, as the Times explains, Orthodox Jewish husbands have a “veto” on divorces, and wives can end up stuck in bad marriages with no recourse:

In some Orthodox Jewish communities, a divorce is granted only once a husband provides his wife with a document known as a get. And stories of the frustrations and obstacles that women face in their quest to obtain a get are commonplace. While a woman can sue in rabbinical court to try to secure a get, some husbands do not comply with the court’s edict.

That, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is where the rabbis came in. “You need special rabbis who are going to take this thing and see it through to the end,” Rabbi Wolmark said in a recorded telephone conversation with an undercover F.B.I. agent posing as a woman whose husband would not grant her a get.

Whether or not a divorce is granted, is solely up to the husband. If he doesn’t want it, then it can’t happen. While I can understand the desire to help wives who want divorces whose husbands won’t grant them, kidnapping and torture is — quite obviously! — excessive. A much better and more effective approach would be to allow wives an equal say in whether or not they get a divorce. I don’t know, maybe that seems too simple a notion? Or maybe, being a cynical godless agnostic heathen, I just don’t understand the spiritual importance of giving husbands total and absolute control over their marriages and allowing wives no say?

Once again, we have ancient ritual purity codes getting in the way of contemporary practical considerations. It’s time we finally fucking got over the idea that women are property already and started treating them like real human beings. No?

Photo credit: Michael Nagle / New York Times.

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Jesus weptWhen I heard Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’s screaming, tantrum-throwing prime-time gadlfy, was writing a book about the life and death of Jesus Christ, I groaned inside. Lots of people over the years have attempted to write about the historicity of Jesus, so it’s not as though the topic has never been handled. I’ve read a lot of those books, and most of them are poor attempts at historiography. Based upon reviews of Billy’s book I’ve seen, by scholars like Candida Moss, the Fox News host’s effort is no exception.

O’Reilly’s contention is that Jesus was killed, because … <drumroll please> … he objected to Roman taxation.

That’s right, folks. Billy-boy’s Jesus was a first-century tax protester, ergo he was killed.

Think about that for a moment. Just stop, and think about it. For a moment.

There’s a very simple and very obvious problem with this claim. It shouldn’t take most Americans long to come up with it.

Go ahead. Stop. Think. I’m sure it will come to you.

In case you haven’t got it by now, I’ll explain: According to the gospels (well, three of them anyway!), Jesus was clearly, explicitly, and specifically not a tax protester! Allow me to quote from the Billster’s own Catholic Bible:

Then the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap him in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away. (Mt 22:15-22)

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’ They were utterly amazed at him. (Mk 12:13-17)

They watched him closely and sent agents pretending to be righteous who were to trap him in speech, in order to hand him over to the authority and power of the governor. They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?” Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent. (Lk 20:20-26)

Given that Jesus was reported by three gospels to have said this, how can anyone rationally conclude that Jesus objected to the Romans’ taxation? Clearly, he did not! The Billster’s effort to turn Jesus Christ into a classical-era prototype teabagger is laughable, transparent, absurd, and — perhaps most importantly — directly contradicts what Christian legend tells us about Jesus.

Before anyone asks … no, I haven’t read O’Reilly’s book. And no, I have no plans ever to read it. (The same goes for Reza Aslan’s book that I blogged about back in July.) I’ve long since soured on books that claim to dig into the life of Jesus as a historical topic. Almost invariably those books have nothing to do with “history”; truthfully, most of their authors are not interested in “history” in the first place. All they’re doing is selling their own ideas about Jesus by cloaking them behind the claim of being “historical.” Unfortunately, the actual historicity of Jesus is more elusive than most people, including scholars, will admit. Barring some kind of discovery that sheds new light on the matter, that’s the way it’s going to stay. Centuries of Christian legends, history revision, myth-making, and trampling of the historical record, have made sure of it.

P.S. If you really feel the need to read about books that examine the historicity of Jesus, I suggest starting at the beginning of that contemporary effort, and read The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer (yes, that Albert Schweitzer, the famous philanthropist-physician … he’d been an accomplished theologian before embarking on a career in medicine). Although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, nor do most other scholars, his book got the ball rolling, and that alone makes it seminal. For a more recent work on the subject, I suggest Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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