Monday, May 28, 2012

Religious debates

Well that’s a good point and something I’ve wondered about too.  Over at WEIT, Jerry asks why the faithful don’t debate each other. Many religious opinions are fundamentally incompatible, even within what is nominally the same religion.  The most obvious examples are to do with whether the Bible should be taken literally or which bits should and shouldn’t be considered metaphor. You’d think the proponents of these ideas would spend a happy lifetime arguing with each other about who’s right.  But they don’t.  Or they don’t seem to.  If anything, they ignore their differences to unite against the common enemy of reason.

I think Jerry’s answer is the right one:

Because, I think, religious people realize that by attacking someone else’s superstition, they undermine their own.  By exposing the lack of evidence for the other guy’s faith, you inadvertently expose the lack of evidence for your own.

When faith-heads debate atheists they can and always do play the faith card.  They know they are right not because of evidence (indeed, to them  evidence is insufficient) but because of faith, which they think is good enough.  But if they debate each other they both have to use this trick and it doesn’t work. 

Not that it works against atheists either, but when its faith against reason, the faith-head can pretend she has the authority of all the religious behind them. If it’s faith against faith, it just looks like your-word-against-mine and quibbling over the details.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Pope’s butler

Just as we learn the incongruous fact that the Pope has a butler, he doesn’t have one any more, because he’s had him arrested for leaking details of corruption in Vatican City.  There isn’t much detail about the corruption in the press, but it seems to involve personal correspondence from the Pope implicating him in awarding state contracts to preferred people.  The butler is now in the Pope’s private prison, I’ve no idea what sort of justice he can expect.

The Pope is supposedly ‘shocked and saddened’ at the leaks, but apparently not at the wrongdoing itself.  This is a familiar response: Ratzinger didn’t care in the slightest about institutional child rape in his church but did everything he could to cover it up.

There are equally predictable claims that this is part of some kind of plot to discredit Ratzinger.  I’m not sure how his credit could be further reduced having clearly enabled child rape and protected child rapists for decades. It’s hard to see how a bit of financial corruption could be worse than that.  If I were going to go all conspiracy theory on his holy ass, I’d say it was a plot to distract people from more serious crimes.  But I doubt it.  It’s more likely that the church is just guilty of lots of different horrible things.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nobody would be surprised

A priest has claimed that a girl was kidnapped by the Catholic church for a sex party and then presumably murdered.  It wouldn’t be terribly surprising but the man is a known liar and idiot and there is no reason at all to take his claims seriously.

Here is one reason to not take him seriously: he claims to have done 70,000 exorcisms.

70,000. At one per day, that would take 191 years. Let’s be generous and say he’s been doing it for 50 years, one per day.  That would be 18250 exorcisms.  Nowhere near the 70k. He’d have to do three or four exorcisms a day for fifty years to get to 70,000. I don’t know about you, but I have two or three meetings a week which would blow my exorcism schedule right out the window. He was appointed to the post of exorcist (really, it’s an actual post) in 1986 and claimed the 70,000 figure in March 2010. So that works out at about 8 per day. 

That’s an impressive work ethic and a *fuckload* of demons.  And a testable claim: we just need to look at his diary.  I bet he has a secretary who could easily confirm his 8 appointments a day.  And presumably he had staff who weeded out the fake possessions so he didn’t have to waste time casting out fake demons.  He was on a pretty strict timescale, after all.

I don’t know whether Emanuela Orlandi was kidnapped by the Catholic church for a sex party.  It seems unlikely because they’ve never needed to kidnap anyone before in order to sexually abuse them.  Well, for a given definition of ‘kidnap’.  It seems more likely that Amorth is an unreliable witness or a supernaturally hard worker.

There are about 60m people in the UK. How many of us are demons?

Tory bigot wants it both ways

The Guardian says:

Owen Paterson, the socially conservative Northern Ireland secretary, has become the first member of the cabinet to say publicly he does not support gay marriage.

This is what he said:

"Having considered this matter carefully, I am afraid I have come to the decision not to support gay marriage,"

Or rather:

“Having considered whether or not people should be treated equally, I am afraid I have come to the decision that they shouldn’t.”

Paterson wants everyone else to behave the way he wants them to.  Or does he?  He also says:

"However, the government is rightly committed to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and has already taken action to do so by allowing those religious premises that wish to carry out civil partnerships to do so, erasing historic convictions for consensual gay sex and putting pressure on other countries that violate the human rights of LGBT people.”

There are two ways to interpret this. Perhaps he’s saying that while he has certain views on the matter, it’s not up to him to decide what the nation should do and he’d abide by the collective decision.  But….wait a cotton-picking minute.  He has to abide by it, as do the rest of us. 

Saying that you hate gays but will tolerate them if you’re forced by law isn’t exactly an open-minded position and bigoted pricks like Paterson don’t get to pretend it is.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


What’s the cruellest thing you can think of?  I cried like a baby today when I heard a true story about a spiritualist church which bullied someone of limited mental capacity into telling someone else that they’d received a magical message of some sort from their dead son.

Every single thing about that is the cruellest thing I can imagine, especially the part where it made me cry.  Why do these people want to make me cry? What’s wrong with them?

Monday, May 14, 2012

AIDS is women’s fault for being too attractive and moist. So force them by law to have their heads shaved

Zimbabwe senator Morgan Femai knows how to solve the AIDS problem in his country.

Senator Morgan Femai reportedly told a conference he believed the killer disease had spread because men found it difficult to resist attractive and well-dressed women.

In other words, AIDS is all women’s fault for being so adorable.  Men can’t possibly be expected to keep it in their pants or –heaven (literally) forbid – practice safe sex.  The solution is obvious to Femai: naturally he called for laws that force women to shave their heads and bathe less to be less attractive to men.

He also decided that the female body contains more moisture than the male, which causes bacteria to grow. He seemed confident that this had something to do with AIDS.  He called for more research on the subject:

There should be a way to suck out that moisture.

He said.

Needless to say, Zimbabwe has a large Catholic population, with its priests undermining any and all efforts at educating the people not to die.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Awful awful awfulness

I struggle sometimes to understand people’s motivations.  The current Mrs Latsot, like many other people, suffers from chronic migraine. It’s a horrible condition.  Aside from the pain, the necessity to take medication every day (with its side-effects) and the need to avoid certain foods, drinks and other chemicals: migraine sufferers lose days when they could be doing something – anything - else. 

The good news is that migraine as a condition is becoming more widely understood and better treatments are emerging.  One proposed treatment is Botox.   There seems to be good evidence that it helps people cope with chronic migraine. NICE says that it’s a good treatment and if it turns out to be cost effective, Botox could become available for chronic migraine sufferers on the NHS. 


There are articles about this all over the news including – inevitably – one in the Daily Mail. And there are comments.  Look at this one:

I used to get botox injection for migraines 7 years ago and the muscle injected in my neck was completly solid, trying to inject it would bend the needles, the muscles spasms were so severe I was told they were pushing my spine out of shape. The trouble for me the injections only gave relief for 1 month and I could only have the injections once every six months and because the needles would bend sometimes it wasn't a pleasant experience. So now I put up it and try and carry on as normal with the view not much can be done about the problem. I get a migraine nearly everyday.

- Mickey Mouse, London, 11/5/2012 12:38

Well, that’s a lie. Your muscles bent needles? Are you a fucking golem?  The Botox caused muscle spasms, did it?  And they threatened your spine? Odd that nobody else has ever suffered any such symptoms.

It’s nonsense and a complete lie.  What possible motivation could this person have to make such a lying, hurtful, harmful comment? 

Mickey Mouse, London, has decided for no good reason that Botox is a bad medicine and that their personal arrogant opinion trumps science, objective reality and above all common decency.  This person wants people to suffer because he or she doesn’t like the treatment, for no good reason.

Mickey Mouse, London is obviously a liar and more obviously a horror show of a human being. 

If Botox really does help people with chronic migraine lead lives more free of pain, deprivation and horribleness, then it can’t be trumped by the personal squeamishness of idiots.  Spreading lies to try to enforce that squeamishness is the most cowardly, bullying, horrible thing a supposed human can do.

Friday, May 04, 2012

How could I possibly have known it was wrong to rape children?

"In 1975 no State or Church guidelines existed in the Republic of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor. No training was given to priests, teachers, police officers or others who worked regularly with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be made."

-- Cardinal Brady

Nobody ever trained me how to deal with child rape, either.  But I’m pretty certain that my default position – due to lack of training – would not bot to protect the rapist.  I think I’d probably do every single possible thing in my power to stop the rapist raping anyone else and do whatever I could to help the victims.

I guess that’s just my lack of training showing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

It turns out Jesus doesn’t cure cancer

This billboard in New Zealand breaches advertising standards and has to be removed.

“[A complainant] said the billboard was dangerous and deceptive as it could potentially offer false hope and lure in the vulnerable in their time of illness and sadness.”

Quite right, but why do we have to keep saying this? Why do skeptics have to show the harm, especially when religion is involved?  Isn’t the fact that it is an obviously unsubstantiated claim enough?

The church said they believed the Bible as the authoritative and reliable source of information and it gave numerous accounts of Jesus healing people.

No they didn’t. Either they cited unverifiable claims from the Bible about Jesus healing people or equally unverifiable claims that some peoples’ healing in modern times was down to Jesus and not to their doctors.  Like this, for example:

"Our belief is substantiated by the fact six people within our congregation have testified to Jesus healing them from cancer," the church said.

Oh, ‘testified’ sounds so much more impressive than “claimed”, doesn’t it? How would these people know that Jesus cured their cancer?  Were they receiving conventional treatment as well as praying?  Do they even exist? We will never know. 

The church said religious advertising and freedom of speech were vital components of a free and democratic society.

But false advertising is not. That is an essential limit on the freedom of a society because it is an enabler of exploitation. We know that advertising is disquietingly effective and virtually impossible to avoid entirely, so we have to make sure that people are not being conned.  I’ve no objection – at least, no objection I can properly justify – in churches putting up posters saying that they believe that Jesus cures cancer.  That’s a statement of fact, however stupid.  Saying that Jesus does, in fact, cure cancer is a very different statement.  Specifically, one that is not true.

Pastor Lyle Penisula recognised that using ''the C word'' made some families uncomfortable and believed this was why the billboard hit the limelight.

Pastor Lyle doesn’t get it.  This is not about squeamishness.  Many cancers are curable or treatable if caught early enough.  We know perfectly well that telling people that Jesus cures cancer can prevent them from seeking medical help.  Once again, why do we have to keep saying this?

''In the days of Jesus, leprosy was the word of fear, that everybody sort of walked around, and Jesus in his day healed leprosy. In today's day cancer is probably the modern day leprosy and people just want to tread carefully around it.''

Someone wrote in a book that someone called Jesus healed lepers (although, why didn’t he just heal all lepers?) therefore….. it’s totally true that he heals cancer?  Because people were frightened of leprosy and people are now frightened of cancer so they’re totally the same?

"I would be more than happy if this billboard was to read 'Jesus Heals' and that way it could be interpreted to mean he heals spiritually/emotionally which I believe is more along the lines of what the church are trying to say."

I cannot share that opinion. I guess the billboard could be taken in that way, but it could also be taken entirely literally to mean physical healing of illness.  But – more importantly – JESUS DOESN’T EXIST AND HE DOESN’T GO AROUND HEALING PEOPLE, EITHER PHYSICALLY OR ‘SPIRTUALLY’, WHATEVER THAT CAN EVEN POSSIBLY MEAN. 

It’s still a lie.

The church’s new advertisement reads:

Jesus Heals every Sickness & Every Disease - Matthew 4:23

Which is disingenuous in two ways. First, that verse says that Jesus healed, not that he heals today and second it says ‘every disease and sickness among the people’ not ‘every possible disease’.

The billboard is still quite clearly claiming that Jesus can heal your body and is still dangerous and sickening.  But the church is hiding behind the fact that in a free society, we need to be tolerant of idiots. The secular society has done its best: sadly it’s up to the conscience of the church now.