Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Conquest of Jeusalem (1099)I’ve blogged a lot about the movement I call “the Great Neocrusade” … an effort to remove Islam and Muslims from the US (and for many of its followers, to eradicate it from the planet after that). I’ve noted that, as of a couple years ago, it became an openly violent movement, with people being attacked over it (sometimes by mistake). Attacking people because they’re Muslims is, of course, not really new, but it did pick up a bit after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.

Well, the anti-Muslim violence is still going on. As KOLD-TV reports, it manifested recently in Tuscon, AZ (Archive.Is cached article):

A man is in custody after allegedly attacking a group of Muslim women in Tucson, city police said.

The Tucson Police Department said Manuel Lewis, 44, was arrested Sunday, Jan. 14 at an incident outside of the Starbucks on University Boulevard.

This attack appears not to have been Lewis’s first ride on this rodeo:

We’ve been told this has happened before – that Lewis specifically shouted derogatory comments nearby at Sinbad’s Restaurant, a middle-eastern food establishment in the area.

As I’ve said pretty much every time one of these stories pops up: Look, I get it. There is such a thing as Islamist terror. Muslim extremists have done a lot of terrible things. Oh yeah. I know all about it. I definitely don’t dismiss it. But, with that said … violent rages against those who’re part of a religion whose extreme members have also been violent, just doesn’t make any fucking sense. It’s time for Americans to grow the fuck up already and stop lashing out at every Muslim they come across. Sure, Islamist terrorists are dangerous … but on average, Americans are in far greater danger from ordinary sociopaths, than they are from Islamist terrorists. As horrific as their attacks are, there are lots of other dangers that deserve much more attention.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis in Prato (87)Over the last few years, Chile’s Catholic Church has been rocked by priestly pedophilia allegations. Many of them involve Fr Fernando Karadima, who was convicted in 2011 by the Church itself of having abused children (Archive.Is cached article). Karadima had been powerful and influential within Chile’s Church, having groomed many of its clergy. Among them is Juan Barros, whose elevation to bishop a few years ago was protested due to allegations he’d known about Karadima’s abuse but hadn’t tried to stop it (cached). There’s been acrimony in the Chilean Catholic Church ever since.

When it was announced that Pope Francis would visit Chile, it was widely assumed there’d be some drama. And sure enough … there was! His visit started out well enough, when he asked for forgiveness for “priestly pedophilia” (cached). I mean, it was an empty plea, but it was at least moderately conciliatory. But things went downhill from there, and as the Associated Press reports via RNS, the Pope left Chile on an unexpectedly harsh note (cached):

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas [sic], such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

The pope’s remarks on Thursday (Jan. 18) drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011.…

“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Barros’ most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

What childishness! While I’ve been disappointed with how Francis has dealt with this scandal, this kind of response is beyond the pale.

I’m not sure why Francis asked Chile’s priestly-pedophilia victims for their forgiveness, only to accuse them of slander a couple days later. It sure seems as though the Catholic Church’s handling of this scandal has been set back to the days when Pope John Paul II and his enforcer, who’d later become Pope Benedict XVI, were in charge, pathologically denying it all and desperately trying to keep it all quiet. That didn’t work out too well for them — but apparently Pope Francis never got the memo. Or he did, but decided to rip it up in the middle of his sojourn in Chile. What a fucking prick.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Photo from Highpoint Church event page, via their Web siteIt’s clear that things are, well, quite simply different among the good Christianist folk of the South. I mean, most of the time they disapprove of things like sexual assault. Such as when a former Democratic president has been accused of it, and his wife is running for president herself, and somehow they view that as disqualifying her from office. Yeah, they hate sexual assault so fucking much that they’d punish someone for it, who (herself) hadn’t even been accused of it.

But … it’s quite another story, when one of their own stands accused of it.

We saw this in the case of ex-Judge Roy “Decalogue” Moore who nearly won a Senate seat in Alabama despite allegations he’d had various rendezvous with teen girls while he was in his 30s. Many of the good Christianist folk of Alabamistan actually bought into the notion that these stories were “fake news,” or that it was no big deal for a very-adult Moore to troll habitually for teens in a mall, ’cause’n after all, y’all gots ta get to ’em while dey’re still young, ya see (Archive.Is cached article).

I’m not happy to report there’s been another example of this phenomenon — even though it confirms everything I’ve long known about American Christianism. Newsweek, among many other outlets, reports a congregation actually gave a standing ovation to a pastor who admitted sexual assault of a minor, years ago (WebCite cached article):

A Tennessee pastor who publicly confessed to having a “sexual incident” with a high school student in 1998 received a thunderous standing applause when he asked to be forgiven.

Before asking for forgiveness, Andy Savage, the megachurch pastor, sat on a wooden stool on the stage at Highpoint Church in Memphis on Sunday and admitted that he was guilty of sexual activity with a teen, according to video footage of the event.…

After his confession, the congregation congratulated the pastor for his honesty with loud cheers and a standing ovation.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with these people, but their raging hypocrisy is on display for all to see. Just check out video of it for yourself. This is, of course, a serious problem for Christians, because as everyone knows — or should know! — the founder of their religion explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical … at any time, or for any reason. Period. They very simply cannot be hypocrites. There are no caveats, no exceptions, and no wiggle-room.

P.S. This story should lift the hearts of all those Catholic apologists out there who keep pointing out that “it’s not just a Catholic problem!” I’ve never, ever said clerical sexual abuse was solely a Catholic problem — and this case further confirms it’s not — but I still keep getting a lot of kvetching about how supposedly I think it is.

Photo credit: Highpoint Church Web site.

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Women condemned for witchcraft burned at the stake / Rudolf Cronau [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsOne of the (many) surprising things I learned about the Middle Ages, while I studied that period in college, was that for much of the period — despite common folk belief that witches were real and a threat to society — witch-hunts generally did not occur. The Church actually taught that witches did not exist — despite widespread folk belief they did, in many areas — and that to suggest they did, was heresy.

That’s not to say the Church was a collection of pansies; they certainly did go after heretics of various kinds, e.g. the Cathars, against whom they marched to war in the early 13th century, and the repression of the Knights Templars was predicated on charges of heresy and blasphemy, not of witchcraft (as is sometimes said).

But through the 15th century this attitude changed, and witch-hunts began to occur. From the middle of the 16th century through the middle of the 17th, witch-hunts reached their peak. By the close of the 17th century, witch-hunting mania had all but died out, both in Europe and in the New World (the infamous Salem Witch Trials took place in the early 1690s).

I’d always suspected this had been brought on by religious reform fervor which had been underway for some time already (e.g. in the case of Waldenses, Cathars, Lollards, Hussites, etc.). Especially in the wake of the Great Western Schism ending in 1417, religion was being rethought in many quarters. In a world of religious speculation, fear of the preternatural rose, leading to witchcraft panics, but purging towns of witches didn’t offer any positive results, so these panics literally burned out. But that’s as far as my speculation went.

Recently two economists (of all people) have examined this mystery, and arrived at a possible explanation. The (UK) Guardian reports on their interesting findings (Archive.Is cached article):

But by 1550 Christian authorities had reversed their position [that witches didn’t exist], leading to a witch-hunt across Christendom. Many explanations have been advanced for what drove the phenomenon. Now new research suggests there is an economic explanation, one that has relevance to the modern day.

Economists Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ of George Mason University in Virginia argue that the trials reflected “non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share” [cached].

As competing Catholic and Protestant churches vied to win over or retain their followers, they needed to make an impact — and witch trials were the battleground they chose. Or, as the two academics put it in their paper, to be published in the new edition of the Economic Journal: “Leveraging popular belief in witchcraft, witch-prosecutors advertised their confessional brands’ commitment and power to protect citizens from worldly manifestations of Satan’s evil.”

They reach their conclusion after drawing on analyses of new data covering more than 43,000 people tried for witchcraft in 21 European countries.

It was about both sides each trying to one-up each other and prove their piety and sacred prowess. It’s an interesting idea, and makes a good deal of sense in the context of the time. Although the Guardian compares this to Stalin’s “show trials” of the mid-1930s, I see parallels elsewhere, such as with Islamist groups going after third-party (mostly occidental) victims in their efforts to impress the rest of the Islam world with their sanctity and to prove they have al-Lah’s favor.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Dalit demonstrators shout slogans and protest in the Indian capital New Delhi, on January 3, 2018. / CNNTo a large extent, the occidental world views India through the lenses of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who used civil disobedience to lead his land to independence, and inspired many others to use that same tactic elsewhere. Also, India is home to a number of movements and sects which are famous for being pacifists; Buddhism, for example, originated there, as did Jainism, whose adherents sometimes go as far as to brush the ground as they walk so as to ensure they don’t step even on the tiniest insect.

The West has an often-idealistic view of India which, unfortunately, doesn’t coincide with reality — which is that India is more or less as violent as any other nation on earth. It’d be wonderful if it weren’t so; if India were in fact a grandly sacred land full of deeply spiritual people who’d never harm a fly; but that’s just not how it is. I don’t mean to say this as a specific condemnation of India: Human nature being what it is, it can’t really be any other way. India’s people have the same human nature as the folk of every other country.

As an example of this, as CNN reports, recently India has been rocked by protests and assorted violence, over its ancient caste system (Archive.Is cached version):

Security forces were out in full force in India’s financial capital Mumbai this week, as members of the country’s low-caste Dalit community demonstrated against alleged violence by right-wing Hindus.

The unrest was concentrated in suburban areas on the outskirts of India’s largest city, which also saw transport disruptions.

There were also sporadic protests across the state of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is located in.

These Right-wing Hindus were responding to protests by the Dalits, aka “the Untouchables”:

It all began when tens of thousands of Dalits, who rank at the bottom of India’s ancient Hindu caste hierarchy, gathered in the village of Bhima Koregaon, 170 kilometers (105 miles) outside of Mumbai, on New Year’s day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which British colonial forces staffed with local Dalit fighters defeated a numerically superior army belonging to upper caste rulers of the region.

In the years since, many Dalits have come to regard the battle as an important historical moment when their community stood up against oppressive higher caste Hindus.

This year, Dalit activists claim that the annual commemoration was interrupted by right wing Hindu nationalists, who they say threw rocks at the gathering.

The situation deteriorated as riots broke out and two men died in the chaos, according to local media [cached].

CNN goes on to provide background for the Dalits’ protests and an oh-so-very-brief overview of the caste system itself. In the process, CNN mentions that the caste system is explicitly outlawed in India’s Constitution, but the article does not explain how deeply ingrained it is within India’s chief religion, Hinduism. In that religion, people reincarnate, via karma, into particular stations in life, i.e. their dharma, and hence into their castes. In Hindu tradition, and in the minds of some modern-day Hindus, the Dalits are “untouchables” — fit only for the lowliest jobs and the objects of societal oppression — because of this. To treat the Dalits any other way violates dharma. Thus, Right-wing Hindus view treating “the untouchables” as their equals in a democratic system as profane or even blasphemous.

It’s time for everyone to realize the very-real harm that religion inflicts on people … not just the Abrahamic faiths, which which most in the West are familiar, but the Dharmic faiths as well.

Photo credit: CNN.

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Cardinal Law arriving to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome in 2010 / Andrew Medichini, Associated Press, via New York TimesBy now most of my readers will have heard that Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, died in Vatican City (Archive.Is cached article). He was famous as one of the targets of the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team, which revealed “priestly pedophilia” in the US in a series of articles back in 2002.

Initial focus was on the case of Fr John Geoghan, whom the archdiocese purposely allowed to abuse children for decades during his career as a priest (cached). The now-late Cardinal Law, the Globe subsequently revealed, helped a large number of priests abuse children, not just Geoghan, then often used quiet settlements to keep their abuse a secret (cached).

Cardinal Law flew to the Vatican and resigned as archbishop, near the end of 2002, under the weight of the unfolding scandal. Pope John Paul II then granted him a cushy, make-work job (i.e. archpriest of St Mary Major basilica) which kept him in Vatican City and thus shielded him from potential prosecution in the US.

Good bye and good riddance to one of the more vile human beings who’s ever lived. I’m disappointed the current Pope, Francis, is going to preside over his funeral. What Francis ought to have done, back when he took office, was to dismiss Law from his job in the Vatican and ship him back to the ‘States, hopefully to be brought up on charges for what he did. It’s a pity that can never happen, now.

Photo credit: Andrew Medichini/Associated Press, via New York Times.

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Popular Mechanics / The Real Face of JesusChristians love to assume their religion is founded on historical fact. Specifically, they’re absolutely certain their Jesus lived and walked the earth in the first decades of the 1st century CE. This assumption is so compelling that we count the years in terms of Jesus’ supposed lifetime … i.e. our Year 1 is, supposedly, the first year he was on earth.

The reality of it, though, is that it’s by no means certain at all that Jesus ever actually lived. Many people find this surprising, but Jesus’ historicity has been a subject of scholarly review and conjecture for over a century now. While devout believers in Christianity are certain Jesus lived, the rest of us, and scholars especially, aren’t as sure, because the historical record of his existence is vastly less clear and compelling than Christians claim.

Despite the lack of scholarly certainty, this month’s National Geographic cover story proudly trumpets that Jesus definitely lived (Archive.Is cached article). Their evidence? The discovery of a tomb:

Just yards from the tomb of Christ [at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem] are other rock-hewn tombs of the period, affirming that this church, destroyed and rebuilt twice, was indeed constructed over a Jewish burial ground.

Nat Geo has made a big deal about the recent discovery of one particular tomb near the Holy Sepulchre. The problem is, in historical and archaeological terms, this finding doesn’t really tell us anything, and it certainly doesn’t prove Jesus must have lived. The site of that church was “found” by the (Christian) Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. When she was there in the 4th century, it’s possible she knew tombs were nearby, and that may have been why she picked that location. So finding a tomb in the area doesn’t mean anything.

The problem here is that Nat Geo is accepted as an authoritative publication. Many Christians looking to promote Jesus’ historicity are sure to use this article as ostensible “proof” that he actually lived. Unfortunately for them, it’s not “proof” of anything, other than that Christians would like to think he existed and will go to ridiculous lengths in order to say they’ve “proven” it.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Popular Mechanics.

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