Amoral ignorance

We’re having a Catholic sex abuse scandal here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and I’m learning lots of interesting things. Did you know that you can rise to the level of archbishop in the Catholic hierarchy without learning that it is illegal for priests to have sex with kids? They just didn’t know it was bad to stick your penis into 8 year old boys. Maybe they thought it was a perk of the job.

The Minnesota lawsuit was filed by a man who claimed a priest abused him during the 1970s, and Carlson told the plaintiff’s attorneys that his understanding of those accusations had changed over the years.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson said. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

The accuser’s attorneys asked Carlson whether he knew in 1984, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, that it was illegal for priests to have sex with children.

“I’m not sure if I did or didn’t,” Carlson said.

If you have to ask yourself whether it’s OK to have sex with children, I think it’s pretty obvious that you don’t know that it’s wrong.

So, so far we’re learning that Catholic priests don’t learn about the ethics of raping children, or of throwing their dead bodies into a septic tank. What exactly do they teach in Catholic seminaries? Actually, push that back, since most of us learned that this kind of behavior would be bad so long ago that it is lost in the murk of our preschool experiences. Maybe the question should be about whether the Catholic church actively recruits psychopaths to be priests.

iERA blusters

The iERA, that organization of Muslim fanatics, has sent Maryam Namazie a silly cease-and-desist letter. They want her to take down an FtB post because, among all the other documentation about iERA’s status as a hate group, she says they have threatened people with death, which they deny. Which is amusing, because she has long been a target of their hatred (A woman and an ex-Muslim? Horrors) and is able to turn right around and quote what they’ve said about her.

And to prove our point, after the report was published, a number of iERA supporters/activists have called me a “murtad” and “munafiq”, which are clear death threats for anyone who knows the Islamist movement. There have been death threats against me on their Facebook page (which have now been deleted). Plus one of their speakers we exposed in our report, Adnan Rashid, has been calling me Janazie (which means a corpse)…

And then there’s Hamza Andreas Tzortzis arguing that beheading is painless

The Catholic honor killings

We’re used to seeing the concept of honor killing used as a marker for barbarity, applied to foreign cultures as a way to indicate their inferiority. I can agree that the principle is contemptible and ought to be treated with scorn, but let’s apply it equally — and the modern West is just as guilty. We’ve all heard about the discovery that 800 children and babies at a Catholic home for ‘fallen’ women in Ireland were discovered to have been discarded in a septic tank, after dying of neglect and abuse. Stephanie Lord calls this atrocity what it is: these were state-sanctioned honor killings.

The women themselves served a dual purpose in the Laundries. They were a warning to others what happened when you violated the rule of the Church, and they were financial assets engaged in hard labour on behalf of the Church. They were not waged workers; they did not receive payment. They could not leave of their own free will, and their families, for the most part, did not come for them; the shame on the family would be too great. Ireland had a structure it used to imprison women for being sexual beings, for being rape victims, for not being the pure idolised incubator for patriarchy, for not having enough feminine integrity, or for being simply too pretty for the local priest’s liking. Ireland has a long tradition of pathologising difference.

People did know what went on in those institutions. Their threat loomed large over the women of Ireland for decades. On rare occasions when people attempted to speak out, they were silenced, because the restoration of honour requires the complicity of the community. Fear of what other people will think of the family is embedded in Irish culture.

The concept of honour means different things in different cultures but a common thread is that it can be broken but restored through punishing those who break it. We are familiar with the hegemonic concepts of “honour killing” and “honour crimes” as a named form of violence against women in cultures other than ours. The papers tell us it is not something that people do in the West. Honour killings, and honour crimes are perpetually drawn along racialised lines and Irish and UK media happily present them within the context of a myth of moral superiority.

So 800 children died needlessly and were treated with that ‘pro-life’ attitude the Catholic church shamelessly propagates, all to the end of making sure women were kept in line. And even the lucky children who survived that orphanage were looked down upon by Catholic society.

The entire purpose of this disgraceful institution was to dehumanize women who didn’t obey the Church.

What most never realised was that the nuns tendered for the business of running these homes and received very generous government funding, equivalent to the average industrial wage, for each mother and child in their so-called care. In addition, they profited handsomely from the forced adoptions they transacted, which saw 97% of all non-marital children taken for adoption in 1967.

With that knowledge it is unconscionable that the youngest babies, who should at least have been breast-fed by their mothers, could have died of malnutrition as is revealed on some of the death certificates meticulously uncovered by local Galway historian Catherine Corless in relation to the Tuam grave pit.

A potential explanation can be found in the account given by the late June Goulding in her book The Light in the Window, on the Bessborough mother-and-baby home in Cork, where she worked as a midwife from 1951-52.

She recounted being shocked on discovering the nun in charge of the new mothers insisted on an ad hoc system of wet-nursing where children, rather than being fed by their own mothers, who may have been working elsewhere in the home, were instead assigned to a random lactating mother to be fed. June Goulding, a young midwife, found this practice repellent and quickly grasped that it was part of the dehumanising regime designed to break down the women so they were incapable of questioning the nuns’ supreme authority.

Maybe it is demons

The latest explanation for schizophrenia published in a real journal:

Hallucinations are a cardinal positive symptom of schizophrenia which deserves careful study in the hope it will give information about the pathophysiology of the disorder. We thought that many so-called hallucinations in schizophrenia are really illusions related to a real environmental stimulus. One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world. Demons are unseen creatures that are believed to exist in all major religions and have the power to possess humans and control their body. Demonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders with delusions and hallucinations. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons.

This was published in the Journal of Religion and Health, so you can trust it. Unless you think religion poisons everything.

You know who else is bearded & drinks alcohol? ME. Also, Jesus.

Charleston Southern University has fired Professor Paul Roof for allowing his face to appear on a beer bottle.

"They said that this was not an image for the Christian environment and that it may seem to students that I am endorsing the use of alcohol," says Roof, who taught at the university for seven years and also founded the social club Holy City Beard & Moustache Society. HCBMS hosts beard and mustache competitions as charity fundraisers for ovarian cancer patients and their families.

What? This image?

paul-roof-m

If all Christians were that stylish, we atheists would have to worry that religion was becoming cool again. I usually keep my beard fairly closely trimmed, but Roof is making me think I have to try harder if I’m going to compete.

But nah, I don’t have to worry. When Christian schools are firing decent human beings over facial hair and beer, and when their commenters are saying things like this:

I’m very proud of CSU. I have children, and I would certainly consider CSU a college for them, based on CSU’s principles. Not enough people stand up to the bullies of the leftwing radicals.
From the disbanding of Gender Stiudies at USC-U and the funding-pull for homosexual propaganda at CofC, decent and moral people are fighting back.
Good for you CSU. We’re supporting you. Thank you for representing us.

I get to sit back and coast on my relatively feeble beard and once-a-month glass of beer.

Demons. It’s all demons.

Let us emulate the godly believers. We know what is right, and anything that deviates from it is…mental illness. But we might want to remember that sometimes the shoe is on the other foot.

Some people believe that atheism causes insanity.

But what about the variety of mental illness from which Richard Dawkins suffers? You see, that is the flip-side of the coin which belongs to the man on the corner who believes he is Napoleon. Dawkins may not believe he is a conquering French general, but he believes something just as preposterous. He believes that he himself does not exist. As illogical as that sounds, this is the ground which atheism is forced to defend. The worldview which insists we cannot believe (or know) anything aside from our senses is just as mentally ill as the worldview which insists that we cannot believe our senses.

Or that faith is an essential component of a mentally sound human being.

…the evidence today implies that atheism is a form of mental illness. And this is because science is showing that the human mind is hard-wired for faith: we have, as a species, evolved to believe, which is one crucial reason why believers are happier – religious people have all their faculties intact, they are fully functioning humans.

Therefore, being an atheist – lacking the vital faculty of faith – should be seen as an affliction, and a tragic deficiency: something akin to blindness. Which makes Richard Dawkins the intellectual equivalent of an amputee, furiously waving his stumps in the air, boasting that he has no hands.

Or that the root cause of what we call mental illness is an absence of god.

All Depression is caused primarily by a lack of contentment. For the Christian, depression is a lack of obedience to the command "be content with what you have". It is not accepting your current condition, whether good or bad. It is a lack of faith that God loves you. It is a lack of hope of the glories and riches of heaven awaiting. For the non-Christian, depression is a lack of faith in a creator. It is a rejecting of Jesus for faith in Darwin. Darwin said we have no purpose, design, meaning other than random chance processes. Jesus can cure the depression of the atheist because their life has meaning and eternal purpose.

That source charmingly tells us exactly what mental illness is.

The Bible clearly teaches that people suffer both physically and emotionally as a result of sinful choices. The world labels this suffering as a mental illness, but the Bible labels this suffering as the consequences of a sinful standard of morality. Mental illness is sinful conduct.

A lot of atheists seem to think that same thing: that violations of conventional mores, or doing acts that harm people, are prima facie proof of mental illness. There must be something organically wrong with their brains to cause them to engage in behaviors we don’t like. They pray? They must be crazy, that doesn’t work. At the same time, the other side is saying, “They don’t pray? They must be crazy, god must be served.” If we’re going to define mental illness as something someone judges to be bad behavior, then every single human being on the planet is crazy.

Mental illnesses are real. We can identify chemical imbalances in the brain; if you’re depressed, drugs like TCAs, MAOIs, SSRIs, and SNRIs can be effective in making people healthier. Schizophrenia is real and debilitating; there are also antipsychotic drugs that reduce the symptoms. Obsessive-compulsive disorders are real; they can be treated with certain antidepressants, but also behavioral therapy also seems to be effective in reducing the problems. We actually do have fairly concrete indicators of genuine illnesses that affect the functioning of the brain.

However, it is not helpful to categorize bad ideas as similar. Elliot Rodger was a disturbed individual, but it was not because he had a disease — it was because he had been shaped by his narrow little world to regard a host of malignant ideas as perfectly normal. Almost all Europeans and Americans once believed that black people were inferior, and used that belief to justify everything from excluding them from educational opportunities to kidnapping and slavery. Were they all insane? Or did they just have a set of false, untested beliefs that they blithely propagated from generation to generation?

One would think that atheists, at least, would be able to recognize the power of ideas to shape how people think. We live in a world where the majority give credulous credence to religious nonsense, and I think most of us recognize that it’s not a symptom of a brain disease, but of the power of socialization, indoctrination, repetition, and widespread unquestioning acceptance. If you’re willing to see that a religious idea can have such potency that people will kill and die and suffer for it, why are you unwilling to see that there are other ideologies that can misdirect minds in lethal directions? That bad stories can persuade healthy, normal people to do stupid, evil things?

I’d also like to remind my fellow atheists of another way people think.

When a 700 Club viewer asked host Pat Robertson today if she should give up proselytizing to her atheist coworker and “let her perish,” Robertson speculated that the colleague might be possessed by demons or a survivor of rape.

If the way you are using the phrase “mentally ill”, with no evidence of genuine organic illness, can be replaced freely by the word “demon-possessed” without changing the sense, then you are engaging in the same magical thinking, using a phrase with no explanatory power. You’re just using the modern materialistically correct wording to express the same old sentiment, inventing a concrete causal agent with no evidence that it actually exists. That’s something else atheists need to be aware of: the seductive power of teleological or simplistically causal thinking to the human mind.

Who is arrogant?

Yesterday, I was interviewed by a reporter who was concerned about those aggressive atheists who were putting up offensive billboards in New Jersey, saying horrible things like that religion is a myth. Have we gone too far? Aren’t we turning people off with such rudeness?

I had to ask her if she’d ever looked at Christian proselytizers with that same critical view. I wish I’d seen this story about Brother Dean beforehand.

“I believe there are certain qualities that may be worthy of rape,” the street preacher added. “If a woman dresses proactively, gets blackout drunk, and is wearing really revealing clothing, then I would say that she is partially responsible for the rape.”

Or watch his approach.

[Read more...]

Cause to celebrate!

I surprise myself. I actually have two positive things to say about the movie, God’s Not Dead.

First, the projection was excellent. The last time I wrote about the workings of the theater, I described the amazing elaborate old-timey gadgetry to show a movie print. That’s all gone now, replaced by a modern digital movie projector. Crisp, bright, reliable.

Also, the movie itself was an elaborate exercise in projection. The academics were all portrayed as dogmatic and authoritarian and rather stupid — even the debate which was supposedly the core of this movie consisted of the Christian protagonist and atheist professor exchanging rounds of quotes from their respective corners. Dawkins says this, but Lennox says that. Hawking asserts X, but Strobel trumps it with Y. That may be how dopey Christians argue, with dueling authorities, but sorry, that’s not how philosophers discuss much of anything.

It was also implied that all of the students at this university were atheists, or apathetic enough about religion to blithely agree with the statement that God is dead, as part of the filmmakers’ martyr complex: this straw America is populated almost entirely with godless unbelievers. Here I am at a secular state university, and even here, that’s simply not true. Most of my students are religious, although probably not to the degree that the hero of the film is.

The second bit of praise, though, is for the fact that this is the most profoundly anti-Christian movie I’ve ever seen. I left the theater filled with contempt and loathing for Christians.

You know, most of us atheists are able to respect believers as human beings — I can appreciate that they’re just as intelligent, just as capable of living a productive life as I am, but that they’re simply burdened with years of indoctrination. Not this movie. In the hands of whoever wrote this drivel, Christians are dumbasses. It has to set up a whole universe made of straw. All the atheists are callous, cruel, vindictive people, while the Christians are pious and sincere. A first year college student is knowledgeable enough to out-argue a philosophy professor…and every argument he makes is well-worn idiocy dredged from the bowels of people like William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and C.S. Lewis, larded with bad quotes from Hawking or Dawkins, or good science mangled and distorted. It was little more than a Big Daddy style fantasy in which a Christian student can regurgitate tired, facile nonsense and send the godless professor reeling back in confusion and anger.

Really, the arguments for Jesus are: 1) the universe had a beginning, 2) life had a beginning, 3) there had to be a god to start things, and 4) how can you be moral without Jesus telling you what to do? And every time the professor would try to put the kid in his place by telling him that some other Big Name said otherwise, and how dare the credential-less punk disagree with them? It was appalling. I shall look forward to the young students who optimistically believe they will be able to crush the atheists with their brilliant strategies lifted from God’s Not Dead. This movie is setting up a lot of Christians with feeble assertions that will be so trivial to destroy — I fear my opponents have just been made stupider.

I would just like to thank Hunter Dennis, Chuck Konzelman, and Cary Solomon (the writers) for sabotaging the brains of another generation of proselytizers. You make it so easy for us.

But all that vapid noise was just the white bread foundation for the awesome mountain of fecal matter that would top this shit sandwich. I am going to tell you about the ending. You shouldn’t care — you don’t need a spoiler alert for a movie that is rotten from the first few minutes. This was the part that had me gawping in disbelief; it was the fate of the atheist professor that had me convinced that Christianity is actively evil.

He is crossing a street when he’s hit by a car and killed.

Not right away, though. He’s hit right in front of a car containing two missionaries, who get out and run to his ‘assistance’. Somehow, they are sufficiently knowledgeable about medicine to be able to tell that he’s going to die, and only has a few minutes left to live. So, with smiles on their faces, they tell him he’s going to be facing God in heaven in a few minutes, and that he must accept Jesus into his heart. It was my nightmare, that the last, brief, passing moment of life is spent with smug stupid assholes quoting Bible verses and pressuring the dying to affirm their superstitions, which is obviously the most important thing he could do.

See, projection. I just wish whoever made this film could imagine lying on their deathbed, when an atheist barges in and starts yelling that they are about to cease to exist, and there will be nothing forever, and slaps them a few times ordering them to reject God right now. That’s not going to happen, but of course all they can do is project their authoritarian proselytizing impulse on other. And of course, since this is the Christian straw universe, our atheist professor accepts Jesus with his dying breath.

After which, the two smiling missionaries tell each other that they have “cause to celebrate”. A man just died. They want to celebrate. They’re going to Disneyland!

Fuck me. All I felt was hatred. That was despicable.

I’ve got to start carrying a knife now. Just so all you Christians know, if I’m in a fatal accident, and I’m lying in the street dying, and you’re not running over to stop the bleeding or otherwise physically help me, and you try to pull that prayer-and-conversion shit on me, I’m going to stab you. I’ll have nothing to lose, and you sure as hell don’t deserve to continue living. I don’t like violence, but I will make an exception for this one possible circumstance.

Now I know a lot of Christians aren’t like that, and that there are many who are also appalled at this wretched excuse for a movie. You can have another reason for disliking it: it has hardened the heart of an atheist even further against your religion.

Christianity is barbarism, evil, and gibbering insanity. Thanks, God’s Not Dead. When your religion is extinct, then I’ll have cause to celebrate.

Complex, real world problems

I saw the new Captain America movie last night. It wasn’t bad, for a comic book movie, and there were a number of things I very much liked about it. The super-heroes weren’t that super — technologically enhanced, really, really good at battling the forces of evil, but also human and vulnerable to mundane menaces like bullets. I think I also like stories that don’t end neatly with the good guy beating up the bad guy, and presto, problems solved. Instead we have deeper issues that aren’t neatly resolved, because we live in a complex and difficult world full of messed-up human beings.

Speaking of a complex world…I arrived at the theater shortly before the 9:00 movie. I was surprised — there was no parking in any of the usual places within a block of the theater, and I had to park a whole block and a half away. That may not sound onerous to you, but it was unusual for me, since this is Morris and I can usually show up 5 minutes before the movie starts and park right outside the theater. The place was jammed. Swarms of people were there for the 7:00 movie.

Heaven Is For Real.

Captain America: sparsely attended. Ludicrously stupid movie that claims Jesus is waiting for you in a magical land of flowers and eternal youth: packed. Both are totally escapist fantasy, but one is honest and openly admits to being a made-up story based on a work of patent fiction, while the other is feel-good bullshit that puts up a pretense of being a true story. This is the reality: that a large part of the population here wants to be reassured, wants to be told that the dumb stories they were brought up on are really true, and wants to be promised that they don’t have to worry about this world because the next one is really nifty … and it’s not the same population that wants to go see a gosh-wow spectacle based on comic books.

Obviously, I don’t see a problem with wanting to be entertained by a work of fiction, but I do see a problem with mistaking fiction for reality, which is the entire premise and appeal of this Heaven bullshit.

Now if I were really sucked into thinking the fantasy worlds of Marvel were parables for how to handle a difficulty, I’d suggest a solution: I just have to find the one nefarious priest in town who has been poisoning the minds of the citizens, and engage him in an epic battle in downtown Morris. Sure, a few storefronts would be smashed, and a few craters would dapple Atlantic Avenue afterwards, but boom, the malignant influence would be gone and the happy people of Morris (who would all be lining the barricades around the city center, cheering) would be free. The End.

But that’s not how it works. There are no bad guys here, no foci of evil. The people sincerely want magical reassurances of a cosmic plan for their lives, and a destiny of bliss and goodness, and they specifically want the fantasy stories passed on by their parents to be literally and completely true. I have no super powers, and in fact, the ideas that I know to be true and verified by evidence and reason — there is no magical resurrection, superbeings like the supernatural Jesus did not and do not exist, we have this one life to live and nothing after death — would mark me as the villain in this story.

Man, real life makes for a lousy action movie.


By the way, the next movie coming to Morris is God’s Not Dead. It’s the story of a villainous atheist villain who is defeated in a final battle with a good-hearted Christian hero. It takes the trope of the movie that supports the reality of a superstition, and combines it with the very worst element of the superhero movie, the ultimate showdown that determines what is right. I imagine the theater will be packed again.