Because I am an atheist: Pharm Sci Grad »« Songs in the key of H(umanism)

Less relevant by the minute

Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved stories. Even as an adult, I am drawn to the narrative arc – the pacing, the twists and turns of a good plot, the art of a well-crafted climax – these have always been like magic to me. In my younger days though, I was drawn to Greek mythology in a big way. It wasn’t just the fanciful tales, although I liked that aspect a lot – it was the fact that each story was attached to some kind of lesson. They weren’t just stories told for amusement – they were expositions of human foibles and an accounting of how ancient peoples saw the world.

While Aesop’s Fables are not, strictly speaking, Greek mythology, they are perhaps the best exemplar of that type of morality and psychology as taught through story that we have. While Jesus of Nazareth (supposedly) taught in parables, it can often be an arduous exercise to pick out the nuggets of useful knowledge from the heaps of nonsense (what kind of shepherd abandons an entire flock to search for a single lost sheep? A bad one, I’d imagine). The fables attributed to Aesop are far clearer and more real-to-life.

One of the most famous, at least among the secular community, is the Emperor’s New Clothes. The reason it’s famous in our clique is because it so perfectly mirrors the public perception of religion – everyone is told how important and meaningful and significant it is, but as soon as someone takes a critical look at it the whole edifice quickly unravels to reveal one naked fallacy after another. However, turned on its head, there’s another valuable lesson contained in that story. One about the vanity and blindness that accompanies unchecked power and how it can lead people into situations where they completely fucking embarrass themselves:

Members of the Vatican’s bioethics advisory panel have called for its board to resign after scientists who don’t support core church teaching on issues like birth control and infertility were featured at its annual conference.

The members said the Pontifical Academy of Life’s Feb. 24 conference on diagnosing and treating infertility was a “Planned Parenthood-like meeting” that caused great scandal. They were upset because it was a Vatican meeting open to the public yet “consisted in promoting uncritically what the church teaches to be intrinsically bad.”

(snip)

Josef Seifert, an academy member who is rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, wrote a letter May 4 to Carrasco suggesting that the Pontifical Academy’s board resign. He cited the “enormous concern” of several members that the academy was “losing its full and pure commitment to the truth and its enthusiastic service to the unreduced magnificent church teaching on human life in its whole splendor.”

It’s like an irony-filled burrito. A bioethics board was fired because it refused to bury scientific truths. And that refusal to lie is called out for losing its commitment to the ‘truth’ of the “splendor” of Vatican teachings on when life begins – a teaching that is grounded not in science, but in the fevered mutterings of some musty old clerics whose relevance is rapidly slipping away. So a group that is explicitly for the purpose of uniting science with faith has now publicly thrown out science because it didn’t match the dogma. Anyone who talks about how Catholic teachings are grounded in science, or how faith and reason can purr together like friendly kittens, has just been (very ostentatiously) put to the lie.

But of course, it wouldn’t be a story about the growing obsolescence of the Catholic church if we didn’t throw in a little sex, eh?

The Vatican slammed a “sexual morality” book written by an American Catholic nun on Monday, warning believers to stay away from the tome which justifies masturbation, homosexuality and divorce. Margaret Farley’s 2006 book “Just Love – A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” “affirms positions that are in direct contradiction with Catholic teaching in the field of sexual morality,” the Vatican said in a statement.

Farley, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and professor emerita at Yale Divinity School, expressed support for a long list of sins in the eyes of the Church. “Masturbation usually does not raise any moral questions at all. It is surely the case that many women have found great good in self-pleasuring… (which) actually serves relationships rather than hindering them,” she wrote. On the issue of homosexuality, the prominent theologian said “same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities” and “should be respected.”

She also said not all marriages could last and supported both divorce for people who are irrevocably unhappy together and remarriage with new partners.

Better headline: Old Dudes Tell Lady to Stop Frigging Herself. The sad part is, of course, that the official dogmatic position of the Vatican is no more or less supported by scripture than Ms. Farley’s; theirs is just way less a) practical and b) fun. It would have been easy to say “the Catholic Church is an organization that is interested in a wide variety of expressions of human life, and we disagree with Sister Farley’s interpretation of scripture.” It would have been easy to say “we encourage Catholics to discover the joy of sex according to doctrine” (if they could keep a straight face while saying that). It would have been easier still to say absolutely nothing and let Farley’s book get whomped by 50 Shades of Grey.

But no. Not possible. Because the Vatican can’t not swing at pitches like this. It can’t say “look, we have a belief and we’re interested in seeing how we can share that belief in light of dissent. Who knows? Maybe we’ll learn something, like we have pretended to do dozens of times before.” Then, when everyone was sufficiently bamboozled into thinking that the Vatican might actually, y’know, think, they could quietly reassign the bioethics board to missionary work in Pakistan and send Margaret Farley to a leper colony.

But you don’t do that when you’re the emperor. You’ve been surrounded by sycophants telling you that your opinion is the finest gossamer raiments that are the envy of all who see them. They’ve been blowing incensed smoke up your ass for so long that you lose the ability to see that you’re parading down through the world, your shrivelled, useless dick waving in the breeze like a discarded condom hanging from the radio aerial of a rusted Popemobile rushing headlong down an abandoned dirt road that leads toward complete and utter irrelevance.

Wow… that got oddly graphic.

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Comments

  1. Lee Harrison says

    Dude – I only occassionally check out your blog. No disrespect, but there are only so many hours in the day and most of them (for me) are really frickin’ busy. I will henceforth be making a special point of visiting your blog far more regularly because you are unadulterated awesome, wrapped in a ninja, fucking a pirate.

  2. jim says

    Is there a Pulitzer prize for paragraphs? Cuz you deserve one:

    “But you don’t do that when you’re the emperor. You’ve been surrounded by sycophants telling you that your opinion is the finest gossamer raiments that are the envy of all who see them. They’ve been blowing incensed smoke up your ass for so long that you lose the ability to see that you’re parading down through the world, your shrivelled, useless dick waving in the breeze like a discarded condom hanging from the radio aerial of a rusted Popemobile rushing headlong down an abandoned dirt road that leads toward complete and utter irrelevance.”

  3. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    because you are unadulterated awesome, wrapped in a ninja, fucking a pirate.

    100% seconded

  4. Pandademic says

    Oh wow, that pull quote from Seifert in the first article is amazing:

    A neutral scientific description of methods of infertility treatment has absolutely no place in our academy, which was explicitly founded to deal with these matters in the light of anthropological, theological and moral truth.

    He didn’t even try the conservative tactic of portraying the mainstream science as biased, agenda-driven propaganda. He specifically comes out in opposition to unbiased science. If the research hasn’t been properly screened and prepared to fit the catechism, then take it outside.

    I mean, I knew that this is how these people operate, but it’s still nice to hear them say it.

  5. says

    I think he thinks he’s saying that there must be discussion of the moral dimensions of birth control rather than a simple description of fact, but as you point out he’s essentially telling you “be overtly biased in our direction or GTFO”.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    That final paragraph. Yes! It flows like a Tim Minchin piece, building and building until it erupts in a glorious sloppy spew of perfection.

    See? I told you you are a rockstar.

  7. left0ver1under says

    As with any chicken little, the less people listen to them, the more hysterical they become, the more ludicrous their claims get.

  8. Marie the Bookwyrm says

    Pedant here. The Emperor’s New Clothes was by Hans Christian Anderson, not Aesop.

    That said, this is a great post, Crom. :)

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