Tag Archives: War On Christmas

Catholic Comedy Is A Tragedy

PZ Myers receives hate mail from a Catholic. No surprise there. But I’m jealous. I’d like some of that ire tossed in my direction. Most of the Christians I’ve had ‘discussions’ with are of the Protestant persuasion, although, my childhood experiences with religion were mostly at Catholic Churches; they either consisted of my religiously apathetic mother dragging me to Christmas Mass, “for the pageantry”, or a friend’s parents inviting me to Easter services, because they thought I was a heathen. My boyish reaction at these events was usually the same; I felt like a disappointed fan at a rock concert when the main act doesn’t show up; everyone in the audience pretended like god the ‘rock star’ is going to make an appearance, but he’s a no-show. All hype and no delivery was how I saw religion. My feelings remain the same.

But one of my favorite stories about Catholic priests is from 2001, out of San Francisco. The details are so over-the-top that you’d think an anti-religious Hollywood writer had penned them while in therapy. One Rev. Bernard Dabbene was literally caught in the act.

A priest of 34 years, Dabbene was spotted by police on Nov. 11 with the teenager in a parked car at 25th and Illinois streets — an area frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes.

Both were found with their pants unzipped and Dabbene’s trousers fell down when police confronted him.

The boy said he was running from a gang and sought help from the priest only to be fondled. The priest said they were merely discussing unspecified job opportunities.

In the TV news reports at the time, it was stated that when Dabbene stepped out of the car, his pants fell to his ankles. This is comedy gold. And it reminds me of the twisted and often ironic humor of Dante’s Inferno. It almost makes me wish there were a hell.

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Religion Survey Results

A survey asking about people’s knowledge of religion has some not-so-surprising results. Protestants and Catholics are less knowledgeable about their own religion’s doctrines than atheists, Jews, and Mormons.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. [Yahoo News]

In addition, Americans don’t grasp the secular laws that protect both government and religion, the separation of church and state.

The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote. [Yahoo News]

Questions concerning Charles Darwin and evolution were included in the survey.

Respondents were also asked, “And which of these court trials focused on whether evolution could be taught in public schools?” and offered the choice of the Scopes trial, the Salem witch trials, and Brown vs. Board of Education. Only 31% of respondents selected the correct answer of the Scopes trial, 36% selected Brown vs. Board of Education, 3% selected the Salem witch trials, and 30% said that they didn’t know. [Nation center For Science Education]

Nothing particularly surprising in the results. The Pew Research Center’s report is here (PDF).

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It’s The Bishop Of Lancaster

I prefer Monty Python’s Bishop sketch to any story of real clergymen. But I’m sure the Bishop Of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donohue, is a warm friendly fellow who would offer a guest a cup of tea and a biscuit. When it comes to matters of the Catholic Church, however, I think he’s a die-hard theist. He’s all upset over the threat of “aggressive secularism”. He’s particularly in a tizzy over educated Catholics spreading skepticism. I think that’s called the free market, or in religion’s case, freewill. Huh. I get the feeling the Catholic Church doesn’t like competition, a.k.a. freedom of thought. What say you, Bishop?

“In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.”

“Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him”

So I’m obligated to buy your product, Bishop? Even drug dealers aren’t that aggressive in their advertising. Going door-to-door and shoving crack cocaine in people’s faces is bad for business.

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Charles Darwin, The Human Being

descent-of-man

Sexual differences in freshwater Swordtail. Male has a long tail appendage to show off to the ladies.

I consider Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man two of the greatest books never read by creationists. Both are beautiful works celebrating the details of the natural world. But many creationists condemn them without even a glance. They read reviews, they often say, or they rely on the “experts” to judge the value of Darwin’s “theories”. The unwilling creationists don’t know what they’re missing.

Even within Darwin’s dry technical books -as apposed to his personal journals or autobiography- there is the occasional glimpse into his sense of humor. In The Descent of Man, for instance, one can read a hundred pages of qualitative data and then be surprised with a mild joke, an anecdote, or a quip about the French. Here Darwin talks about the quiet female Cicada:

Every one who has wandered in a tropical forest must have been astonished at the din made by the male Cicadæ. The females are mute; as the Grecian poet Xenarchus says, “Happy the Cicadas live, since they all have voiceless wives.”

See, wife jokes were funny in 19th century England and ancient Greece. And it goes to show that a century is not a long period of time at all. The year 1871, when The Descent Of Man was published, was yesterday. In the 18th century, Charles’ grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, once wrote about lending a college friend his class notes. The friend angrily returned them with a scribble across the cover, which accused him of atrocious spelling and being the son of a whore. Charles Darwin, you devil, you’re a human being after all. And you’re “descended from monkeys”.

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More Lies Supporting Expelled: The Movie

Pseudo-Science

Pseudo-Science

Ben Stein is putting his smirk and whiny voice to ads for the DVD release of Expelled: The Movie, No Intelligence Allowed. Christmas is just around the corner and a rotten lump of pseudo-scientific coal makes such a great stocking stuffer for the kids. In the ads, Mr. Stein claims Expelled is the #1 documentary of 2008. I think not. Let’s check the stats. Expelled grossed about 7.7 million and opened in 1052 theaters, while Bill Mahr’s documentary Religulous grossed 10.6 million and only opened in 502 theaters. If Mr. Stein is alluding to the reviews of Expelled making it #1, then he is wrong on that point, too. Most reviews were resoundingly negative. For example, The New York TImes said,

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

Finally, if you go to the Expelled website you can crash their ironic poll asking, “Do you think Darwin’s theories are outdated?” If Darwin is over-the-hill, then creationism is fossilized. I made a funny.

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Obama, A Conservative’s Nightmare

In 2000 I feared a George Bush presidency, but I never seriously thought Bush was the devil’s disciple or that he would bring on the apocalypse. I just thought Bush would bring terrible policies. And he did. He dirtied America with his rotten conservative values, reckless decision making, and heavy handed foreign policy. But his slimy fingerprints on our beautiful country can be wiped away, and Bush can be relegated to the mistakes pile.

Eight years later and conservative pundits are screaming that America as we know it is going to be destroyed by an Obama presidency. For example, Michael Medved, movie critic, radio hack, and cheerleader for intelligent design, is crying that changes brought about by a President Obama would be “permanent and devastating”.

But conservatives need to face the fact that Barack Obama has promised profound systemic changes that will be irreversible—absolutely permanent alterations of our economy and government where there is no chance at all that Republican office-holders of the future could in any way repair the damage.

Medved uses the prospect of higher taxes to spread a little fear amongst conservatives. But he makes a serious mistake in his thinking.

Yes, it’s true that some changes by liberal presidents can be erased by future conservatives – for instance, George W. Bush cut the top marginal tax rate to 35%, after it had risen to 39.6% under Clinton (it’s sure to go back up to the Clinton rate – or higher – under Obama).

Conservatives often cite tax rates the same way twelve-year-old boys recite baseball stats. The problem is that a tax rate, a percentage, does not equal the actual amount of tax collected. Corporations, and the ultra rich, have perfected the art of moving profits and assets offshore. They also know how to reap the benefits of corporate welfare. So, wealthy conservatives exaggerate their tax burden. What do they want, to have a lower tax rate than the middle class?

Medved goes on to list what Obama will bring to America: “Homosexual marriage”, “subsidized health insurance”, “The National Endowment for the Arts”, liberal immigration, etc. Medved ends with:

The conservative movement, and the survival of a viable small-government faction in American politics, depends upon a McCain victory in November. A triumph for Barack Obama, combined with Democratic gains in both House and Senate, could easily usher in a dark new era with decades of corrupt, welfare-state, bureaucratic leftist rule.

This nightmare of Medved’s is purely of his own twisted imagination. A liberal agenda might indeed be enacted, but will it force America into “a dark new era”? The answer is no. I don’t even think Medved believes this. Conservative pundits use fear mongering as a tool to whip the masses into an angry froth. And what’s more effective than screaming “liberal”, “socialist”, “terrorist”, and “anti-American”. Medved isn’t a commentator, he’s a professional propagandist. If Obama does damage America, it will endure. American is not as fragile as the wacko conservatives would like you to think. If Obama scrares you, it’s because you’re too impressionable.

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Faith By Any Other Name Is Just As Empty

In a Newsweek opinion peice from September 27th, writer Lisa Miller, “argues against the atheists”. The column is called “Belief Watch”, and Miller’s apologetic scribblings do the vacuous nature of religious belief complete justice. She begins by arguing that atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are unfamiliar with real believers.

First, if 90-odd percent of Americans say they believe in God, it’s unhelpful to dismiss them as silly. Second, when they check that “believe in God” box, a great many people are not talking about the God the atheists rail against—a supernatural being who intervenes in human affairs, who lays down inexplicable laws about sex and diet, punishes violators with the stinking fires of hell and raises the fleshly bodies of the dead.

When over fifty percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, what are we atheists supposed to think? If we include all Christians worldwide, particularly the ones in poorer Catholic and Eastern Orthodox nations, the percentage is probably much higher. This doesn’t take into account the non-democratic Islamic nations, where Western ideas are spat upon, and where basic education is limited to males, and where people are threatened into believing in the all-powerful Allah. So, the actual number of believers in an angry, vengeful, and intervening god is probably much much higher than even Lisa Miller cares to imagine.

Apologetics is a form of faith; it’s faith in faith. Miller finishes her paper-thin argument by hauling in the invisible sacred cow.

Submitting faith to proof is absurd. Reason defines one kind of reality (what we know); faith defines another (what we don’t know). Reasonable believers can live with both at once.

Reasonable believers? Can reason and faith coexist? And how can faith define the unknown? Isn’t the unknown, by its very definition, indefinable? Here, Miller’s mental gymnastics are Olympic quality. And most believers would likely take great offense to her reducing their unshakable faith to an algebraic X. Personally, I prefer to think of all faith simply as a Y.

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