Tuesday, 29 January 2008

What the Devout Faithful are Really Worried About by Larro

Okay, I hear (read) quite a bit in the blogosphere about how evolution is a fraud and such nonsense. Fine, if people want to believe it's a fraud so be it (it's a side issue really). Those of the faith have a conviction that there "good" book is the one and only truth to go by and they lambaste atheists/agnostics/secularists/humanists/"evolutionists" as being in the same category as their dogmatic counterparts. I find this hard to reconcile and agree with. To a degree it could be said that the camp on the opposite side of the divide does hold such hard as nails convictions, but I would hope my fellow freethinkers would hold true to the freethought principles implied. Are atheists dogmatic? I don't think so. As the saying goes, "...it's like herding cats." A dogma implies that there are rules and codes to live by a certain ideology. I don't think atheists have such rules...ideas about how the world works and passions about how these ideas can be made real for the betterment of humanity, but not like the dogmatic, fear-mongering tactics you find underlying the works found in the "good" books of the world. Atheists don't say: "do this" or else you are going to suffer. Atheists don't prescribe a set code of morals to live by in order to appease the whim of somebody we've never met (and believe we never will meet).

The religious process has gone on so long that the questioning of it has flown out the window. Those who read this and feel that faith and religion deserve some kind of respect are deluding themselves. I know I'm sounding like I contradict myself with the above statement of "so be it", but "so be it" only applies in the sense that personal beliefs are kept as just that---personal. When we venture out into the public sphere and seek to impose personal beliefs onto the public at large then we have a problem.
Oh! Isn't that what atheists/secularists have been doing for so many years? Imposing their ideas into the public square? This is actually a tough question, but not that tough. If we define secularist and/or atheist ideals as the free-flow of information and ideas then yes. If we define secularist and/or atheist ideals as being contradictory to the belief systems of so many faithful...yes again.
Why is this a problem? Because in my opinion secularism is very easy to understand. Don't fucking push your fucking religious agenda onto the rest of us! The rest of us who don't particularly subscribe to said agenda. Be you Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever all secularists invariably respect and are inclusive of ALL religions (just not in the public sphere and policy making aspects of government). Secularists are not against religion (atheists on the other hand....probably).
That said. What, after so much civil progress in the last two or three centuries do these radical Christians have to bitch about? Seriously!?!?
Let's start with the abolition of slavery. How often have I heard the chest-pounding and righteous platitudes of the faithful in the role that religious moralists had played in this movement? Too many times. The secularist and the atheist is left out in the history books altogether. I never even knew what atheism was until I became old enough to even think about it on my own.
We think that Christian fundamentalism is rearing it's ugly head? It's been snarling at society and public policy since I don't know when. Long before the founding of this fine country. Why didn't I know about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her position on slavery and the Womens Suffrage movement? To know that she preceded Susan B. Anthony and was indeed Anthony's muse. History gets re-written as Stanton was an atheist and a true feminist. That's why she was relegated to the dust-bin of history. Why are atheists pissed off again? Society (US) at large is controlled by a Christian elite (however innocuously) to uphold their "good" book as a standard by which to live by (even unto those who don't believe it). True, most people of faith and most people of inquiry may not know or even grasp the notion that our society has been MOLDED into a frame-work that supports the status-quo of centuries. Christians bitch and complain about how things are getting out of hand and we need to go back to the good-ole-days. What "good-ole-days"? Were the good-ole-days all that good?

Personally I say, "Fuck no!"

Anybody who thinks (outside of any ideology) that women and blacks should not have been allowed to vote. That slavery was okay. That your run-of-the-mill atheists were (and are) communist, unpatriotic faith-haters (the Red Scare), that women should be considered property, ascribed roles in the household and have no legal rights, then you are really fucked in the head, because this is what religion has propagated for centuries.
And don't tell me that the Christian mind-set is different now that it is more liberalized. It might be in some circles, but to the best of my knowledge these liberalized Christians are the ones who take their faith "personally" and see no reason to infuse their own beliefs upon those who do not wish it. These Christians probably understand and have a true respect for secularism and how it benefits them personally. Those Christians who think they can revert and destroy the progress that secularism has made in this country (and the world, however marginally) only seek to roll-back the rights (real rights) of humanity. To think for oneself. To have choices. To enable and empower all of us to believe what we want to believe and HOW we want to believe it.
This very concept goes against the grain of organized religion. And I know it is an uphill battle to have such claims, but it's there. I truly think the modern Christian is really confused about the role humanity really plays in the grand scheme of things and by ascribing the guiding hand of a god can only circumvent free-will. This is at the heart of what worries people of faith about the nature of their beliefs and about the role their beliefs play in the future that humanity is moving forward into.
Am I being optimistic? Right now I am. Sometimes I'm not so optimistic, in that I think we will destroy ourselves because so very many people are looking for the end of the world that it just may come to pass.

What are the faithful worried about? Faith. Plain and simple. If less people believe then it's a sure sign that what they believe is incompatible with what society bases its foundation upon. That little by little the notion that religion and it's tenants are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Implying that they are wrong in what they believe. It's a scary thought and it's not so hard to wrap my brain around. This is what gets true-believers freaked out and up in arms. It's essentially what gets me up in arms as well. Yet there is a difference in beliefs. What is right and wrong about either one? I'd say that society as a whole dictates what particular belief system shall benefit the whole of society; what, in essence, shall help progress humanity into its future identity. To me the religious mind embodies stagnation of a sort (particularly the religious mind that shrugs off modernity). Change is needed to move humanity forward into the future in perpetuity. Yet with the mindset that the apocalypse is forever upon us and a Second Coming is inevitable; how can we as a human species look beyond such calamitous revelation and truly think beyond such "foretold" endings? We must simply shrug off these ingrained, preconceived notions of nihilism on earth and "think outside the box". Personally I don't believe in an after-life, I don't think that I will go to a heaven where I can forever forget about this dust mote we live on. I'd prefer to think about the future generations that I know will be present beyond whatever Armageddon is foretold.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Space Age Religion?

One of my more recent readers, who goes by the moniker "John", has raised a rather interested side-thought with regards to my most recent post: "Religion: A Soothing Balm for The Masses?" He has opined that, despite the obvious flaws and terrible ramifications of religion (Which I have highlighted from time to time in my blog), homo sapiens can derived some good out of the concept of Religion, and as far as the Space Age is concerned, humans will eventually bring their infantile beliefs to the stars and beyond.

Its a chic thought, I admit, and although I was inclined to denounce the whole idea as complete baloney, I will perhaps elucidate my thoughts and highlight several flaws of this rather cheesy "space age religion" argument.

The Advent of The Space-Age

It is almost a given to state that sooner or later, the first man will step on the Martian landscape, and Man will almost certainly colonize the Moon, either within this century or the next. As science and technology progressively open up new frontiers for our civilization, it is inevitable that we will be more reliant on Science than at any one point in the history of human civilization.

Having said that, John inevitably raises the question; in his own words: "Should we abandon Religion or fix it? Religion is simply a means for humans to rationalize the great unknown that confronts and bewilders us......Rather than abandon the benefits derived from Religion, perhaps it might be more beneficial to abandon the falsifications and failings of Religion."

John is spot on with regards to the "falsifications and failings of Religion": Either through deliberate subterfuge or sheer ignorance, us humans have inherited from Religion a vast amount of half-truths and hogwashes. The Holy Babble, for example, claims that the world was created in 6 days, a massive, singular flood killed almost every life on Earth, save those on both Noah's Ark, Jonah was supposed to survive in a fish's stomach without being digested by its gastric fluids, and lest we forget, the rather "virginal" story of Jebus' virgin birth.

Falsehoods aside, religious and sectarian violence have caused the ruin and destruction of empires (most notably the Roman empire), nations, peoples of various cultures wholesale, and it is not uncommon for religious teachers of all manner and creed to abuse their vested powers for their own financial, sexual or other forms of gain.

John seems to hint that we should discard all these "evils" that seem to plague Religion since time memorial, and the gist of it should be retained and carried for as a "emotional, philosophical" baggage in the form of a quasi, space-age religion, as we begin to jet off into infinity and beyond.

Can Religion & Science Co-Exist?

Advocates Against the Teaching of Evolution during the Scopes Trial

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642): Slapped with Heresy Charges for Having the Temerity to Suggest that The Planets Revolve Around the Sun

A crucial question to John's supposition will be a question of two conflicting schools of thought: More often than not Religion stands at direct opposition to Science. When Galileo suggested that the planets revolve around the Sun, instead of Earth being the center of the Universe, he was charged with heresy. The Scopes trial in the early 1900s put Darwinism on trial, and even in the advent of 21st century Science, we have to deal with religious nuts who staunchly refuse to have blood transfusions, vaccinations for cervical cancers and other medical treatments because of the rigid demands of their respective religious dogmas.

All these conflicts and dilemmas are not simply one-offs or mere coincidences, as some moderates may concur, but rather because of deep-seated differences etched within the philosophies of both schools of thought: Science requires evidence for its suppositions, and every preposition and hypothesis must be justified with solid evidence and data. It thrives on bringing forth the truth, and is not afraid to admit its failings: Potential Falsifiability is applicable to all scientific theories and laws, which states that every scientific knowledge has the potential to be wrong one way or another.

Religion, however, rests its reputation on third, or latter person testimonials, one-off dogmas, and supernatural tales that are at best wild, deluded stories concocted by deluded, albeit talented story-tellers of the ancient world. Most, if not all the incredible claims can neither be justified nor proven, and faith or blind belief must be invoked in order to justify the dogmas of an ancient, archaic religion. Unlike Science, Religion demands for total servility and obeisance to its vast throngs of dogmas and moral codes, leaving no room for questioning and discerning.

Space Age Religion?

With all due respect to John, I am not inclined to buy into the idea of a hybrid Space Age Religion, although I fear that Religion, like the rat that hides in the cabins of ships, Religion will be unwittingly shipped out into Space along with pious Spacemen who have crazy inclinations to convert a Martian or two on the trot.

Religion, with its rigid dogmas and outright rejection of evidence, concerns itself not with truth, but total piety and obedience. This nonchalant attitude towards Scientific endeavor will only hinder the progress of Science as humans seek to surmount the immense difficulties of forging into the almost infinite realms of space.

Like John, I agree that there is beauty in Religion, albeit from a mostly aesthetic point of view: The beauty of the Sistine Chapel, the angelic voice of Gregorian chants, the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, and so on. Having said that, we should not ignore the bloodthirsty history and lessons behind these beautiful monuments, if only because we do not wish to repeat the vicious cycles of religious genocides yet again on a more "inter-planet" scale, if that is one way of putting it.

As Far as the Scripture Goes, The Moon is Made of Green Cheese......

After all, the last thing we want is an Inquisition on the Moon.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

-Seneca the Younger

(For A More Detailed Read of John's Site, Kindly Proceed Here. )

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Religion: A Soothing Balm for the Masses?

Religious Institutions: A "Soothing Balm" for The Downtrodden?

More often than not, stone-walled religious apologists who argue for the need for religion are apt to use the "soothing balm" theory to justify for the ills of Religion: It makes people feel good!

The down-trodden, the sick, the dying: Every soul in dire straits, it seems, requires the soothing balm of religion and its idiosyncrasies of religious sacraments, bizarre rituals and outlandish beliefs.

It seems that without religion, there is nothing to look forward to, other than the dark abyss of eternal death and endless suffering.

Religion: Rife With Abuse

Because of the herd mentality of Religion, it is imperative that Religion exerts total, complete mind control over its submissive serfs who are known collectively as "sheep" by Christian pastors: Pliable, docile creatures who can hardly be depended to exercise any willpower of their own.

Take a leaf out of most religious texts, and the call for complete mental submission is hard to miss:

For the weapons of our warfare are casting down imaginations ... and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

– St Paul, 2 Corinthians 10.4,5.

As religious folks are often taught to be servile and never to question the words and "wisdom" of their sacred scriptures and the religious organizations concerned, when abuse starts to seep in, it is usually harder to detect than in secular institutions.

Take the Catholic Church, for example. For decades, pedophile priests who were accused of molesting or worst, raping children were not reported to the police: In most circumstances of this nature, the alleged offender is handed to the police, who is then subjected to the court of law to be tried via legal, secular proceedings.

Not in the case of the Catholic Church: This barbaric class of priestly hucksters, child rapists and evil bastards commit their dastardly crimes in the name and image of their filthy deity, and are allowed to get away with their crimes scott-free because the offenders have garnered too much undeserved respect from the masses. When these victims, most of them young children who are obviously too traumatized by their experiences, complain to their parents, most of them would refer to Church authorities than the police. The Church, being filthy, ugly institutions unto themselves, sometimes pay up the "hush" money and transfer the rather offending priest into another diocese, when his once-again unblemished record allows him to be in a position to carry out his pervert acts. This vicious cycle has repeated itself for so long and in so many dioceses that by the time the long slew of Catholic churches were revealed to have shady dealings to cover up the dirty acts of the priesthood, most of the victims were already grown-up or nearing their 50s or 60s.

Quite obviously, complete servitude and docility leads to rampant abuse, but that is not all there is to it: The huge, opulent Evangelical Churches, particularly those in the United States, rake in billions of dollars from their huge swamps of sheep who turn up every other weekend for their daily "feel-good" dosage of dancing, speaking in tongues, and all manner of unspeakable nonsenses (In fact, having attended a few sessions myself, I am obliged to comment that these actions are more at home with mental institutions than anywhere else on this puny planet).

"Rave it up for Jebus!", "If I don't raise ten million bucks today God will smite me to death!" and other shameless, huckster-like, bible-spewing vermin are thrown and heaped at the throngs of the faithful, who gratefully lap it up and give their dues to undeserving institutions and pastors of the Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson variety every other Sunday. And if that isn't enough to satisfy these big fat oligarchs, they have to throw in "Healing Sessions", all the more better to reach into the pockets of the sick and the elderly, people who are more in need of medical treatment than the whimsical, theatrical "cast the demons" action-packed chicanery dished out by these poisonous charlatans of their filthy Gods.

Religion: A Self-Delusional Drug?

Drug Abuse: Similar to the Shady and Euphoric Nature of Religion

If a Christian or any other theist for that matter, wishes to justify Religion with the "feel-good" factor, then I would be justified to argue that heroine or other forms of drug abuse is good for us as well: In both cases, you get the feel good factor, but in the long run, one faces mental and eventually, financial ruin.

Sure, Religion does induce the euphoria of a rock concert, but if this is the only reason used to justify against the ills and abuse of Religion and its cohorts of priestly pimps, I will venture to say that Religion has no other useful purpose than a pest is to its human host.

"Religious experiences are like those induced by drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and sleep deprivation: They tell no uniform or coherent story, and there is no plausible theory to account for discrepancies among them."

- Michael Martin
, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), p. 159.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Atheists Don't Make Good Parents?

In most secular countries, child adoptions are extremely complicated affairs: Because of the legal and ethical issues that are entangled with child adoptions, it is understandable that potential parents tend to be thorough in their decision making before deciding to adopt children as their own.

As a rule of law (and a necessary one), any potential parents or adopters who wish to adopt children from childcare agencies have to be be extensively screened: Past histories, the state of financial stability and other details of potential parents are sieved and analyzed, so as to ensure a conducive, safe environment for the lucky child who has been put up and accepted for adoption, as well as to sieve out potential adopters who may have questionable inclinations (serial pedophiles, for example, are barred from all adoption agencies because of their nefarious activities).

Because older children have distinctly lesser chances of being adopted (sounds a tad cruel, but older kids look a tad less "cute" and appealing to perspective parents), it is often an arduous task for agencies to tread a fine line between looking for the right homes for kids and finding suitable families within the shortest time frame. There is also the emotional trauma to be considered: For every child that is returned back to an agency after being adopted by foster parents, one can only imagine the hurt and anguish of a child who has been rejected by a family, either through incompatibility or worst, abuse.

And the situation is sometimes worsened when the courts do intervene on a wholly religious basis: In a remarkable show of stupid, religious piety and Stone Age thinking, a US judge had turned down an adoption scheme because the parents weren't stupid enough to worship a Supreme Deity (I wonder if the Cosmic Mc Muffin counts?)

Can Atheists Be Parents?

After six years of childless marriage, John and Cynthia Burke of Newark decided to adopt a baby boy through a state agency. Since the Burkes were young, scandal-free and solvent, they had no trouble with the New Jersey Bureau of Children's Services—until investigators came to the line on the application that asked for the couple's religious affiliation.

John Burke, an atheist, and his wife, a pantheist
, had left the line blank. As a result, the bureau denied the Burkes' application. After the couple began court action, however, the bureau changed its regulations, and the couple was able to adopt a baby boy from the Children's Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange.

Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 31, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. Since the agency endorsed the adoption, the required final approval by a judge was expected to be pro forma. Instead, Superior Court Judge William Camarata raised the religious issue.

Inestimable Privilege. In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes' right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes' "high moral and ethical standards," he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that "no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience." Despite Eleanor Katherine's tender years, he continued, "the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being."

The Right To Be Stupid?

Whenever I read stories of such break-taking inanity, I am prone to uttering 4-letter expletives in the direction of the offending religion: How, in the demented brain of Judge Camarata, is the child's inherent right to worship imaginary deities being impeded by the introduction of adoptive, non-religious parents?

Proverbial straw men arguments aside, one must wonder why only a religious couple is morally fit and adept for adoption in the first place: Will a Muslim couple, hell-bent on sending future Jihadists into paradise, be considered suitable candidates, even if their ultimate mission is to train adopted children into dastardly, murderous suicide bombers in the name of Allah?

Denying John Burkes the right to adopt based on nothing else but his lack of faith is simply an affront to human integrity and the Separation of Church and State, and yet another reason to denounce religious hegemony on what is primarily a secular affair.

- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

US Constitution, First Amendment

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Prayers In Public Schools: Separating Fact from Fiction

Public Schools: A Constant Target for Proselytization?

It is a common theme, almost akin to a form of constant whining, from religious institutions: Claiming to be the oppressed majority, religious groups, particularly of the Christian variety, have often insisted and coerced authorities with regards to public prayers, claiming that they have been victimized by devious, Satan-inspired secular groups who have gone all out to quash their quaint little prayer sessions.

Considering that most religious groups are tax-free and are free to indulge in their stupidity and deity ass-kissing antics, such arguments seem a little shady and lame, and rightfully so, too.

The Right to Pray

In the context of a secular state, no law should be enforced with regards to one's religious affiliation. All religions, save those that run against the rule of secular law, should be allowed to thrive and carry out their practices in their respective places of worship. Proselytizing, while being a serious irritant to most infidels, is not outlawed, and Religion cannot be held accountable for lawful, religious activities held in legitimate places in public. A priest who preaches in a park, for example, cannot be held accountable for holding contempt of the law.

Even in public schools and government institutions, everyone, from the head of the school to the average student, is allowed the individual freedom to pray, so long as work or education is not impeded.

In that aspect, everyone's rights to sanctity is respected. The problem arises, however, when one or few dominant religious groups are determined enough to impose their bigotry and beliefs upon non-believers amongst their colleagues.

The Problem With Public Prayers in Schools

When a Christian group attempts to impose a public prayer, say, before school commences, it is in essence a form of religious coercion: By enforcing public prayers in a school setting, other students who are non-Christians are thus subjected to unnecessarily peer pressure to participate. From the school's point of view, such a informal form of religious indoctrination can only lead to potential confrontations from others who refuse to bow down to this kind of stupid, pious drivel.

If anything else, the very essence of Religion is such that it enforces a form of exclusive, tribal mentality, the "you vs me" dichotomy that creates mental drifts amongst different people of differing beliefs. Introducing public prayers may help in gelling Christian students into a tighter, kneaded group, but will in time alienate them from people of other beliefs and creeds. The situation worsens when other religious groups follow suit: Instead of being a harmonious, conducive institution of learning, schools become potential breeding grounds for religious bigots, extremists and other riffraffs to breed more ignorant buffoons, not to mention the threat of conflict between religious factions.

In a secular state, a delicate balance is struck between separating Religion from the everyday affairs of the state, and at the same time maintaining individual liberty for the masses to choose their own, preferred beliefs. Apparently, religious groups are determined to erode this delicate balance, and some groups will utilize all kinds of underhanded means to sneak in their prayer drivel into public schools, since children and young teenagers are often referred to as easy targets for proselytizing and brainwashing.

Complaint challenges moment of silence in schools

C-FB ISD: Perry aide says state law doesn't force students to pray

An atheist couple whose children attend a Carrollton-Farmers Branch elementary school have filed a complaint in federal district court arguing that the state's mandated moment of silence in public schools is unconstitutional.

David and Shannon Croft named the school district and Gov. Rick Perry in their complaint, filed Friday. In it, they say one of their children was told by a teacher to be quiet because the minute is a "time for prayer."

"I do not believe there is any secular reason for a moment of silence," said Mr. Croft, 37, a computer programmer. "This is just a ruse to get prayer in school without calling it prayer in school. Is there any study showing a moment of silence helps education?"

Schools Are Centers for Education, Not Proselytization

It is undeniably sordid and disappointing to see religious institutions resorting to such underhand measures to infiltrate Religion into the public school, even though common sense tells me that religious morons are capable of going far lower (Remember the Kansas Board of Education, which tried to sneak Creationism and Intelligent Design so that they can be "taught alongside Evolution"?).

It is high time for secular people to wake up and smell the coffee: Unless we wake up and complain about the infiltration of religious indoctrination in secular schools, it would not be long before schools will start churning out incompetent, irrelevant priests, reverends, shamans and charlatans instead of professionals such as lawyers, engineers and scientists.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Pope Razinger Lauds Exorcism, Promoting Superstition and Stone Age Stupidity

Typical Scene from "The Exorcist": Flipping Eyes Do Scare the Shit Out of Audiences

Tis a typical scene from the TV series, "The Exorcist": The woman (Strangely, for reasons best known to scriptwriters, most demon-possessed victims are invariably women) is tied to the bed post. The priest, at the footed end of the bed, recites religious or biblical incantations, while the bound-up woman writhes and moans in an inhuman, beastly voice, spewing profanities, blasphemies and finally, a green, viscous fluid in the direction of the offending priest.

Exorcisms: Religious rituals meant to dispel, "exorcise" and eradicate supposedly devious, vicious and ultimately invisible entities from human bodies. It is an ancient practice, prevalent across a myriad of cultures and continents.

Ask any well-respected, credible psychiatrist, and he or she will explain that most supposed "demon-possessed" victims are really victims of clinical psychiatric and mental disorders, and a prescription of medication and well-advised psychiatric follow-ups will do a great deal in alleviating, if not curing these ill-conceived concoctions of the supernatural kind. Schizophrenics, for example, can hear voices in their heads, hallucinate about non-existent objects or entities and cannot differentiate fiction from reality; other mental disorders can cause mental patients to behave in ways so erratic and abnormal that superstitious people are apt to attribute them to an attack from evil, unseen entities.

While Science is still lagging somewhat in terms of mapping out the exact mechanisms behind mental disorders, continuous research into the functions of our brains have given us no reason to suspect a supernatural notion behind mental disorders: Like any other organs, our brains are simply never "designed": It is a product of millions of years of simian evolution, and like our ape counterparts, we are just as susceptible to mental and physical impairment as our evolutionary cousins.

The Vatican, however, is hell-bent on buckling Medical Science: For reasons only the pockets of greedy, opulent churches will know, hordes of God squads have been sent out to "deal" with alleged demonic possessions, all under the name of waging a war with Satan, the alleged archetypal angel-turned demon.

Pope's exorcist squads will wage war on Satan
by Nich Pisa, Daily Mail

The Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of Satanism. Vatican chiefs are concerned at what they see as an increased interest in the occult. They have introduced courses for priests to combat what they call the most extreme form of "Godlessness." Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession. The initiative was revealed by 82-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican "exorcistinchief," to the online Catholic news service Petrus. "Thanks be to God, we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on," he said. "Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.

Turning Back The Clock: Rejecting Science and Reason for Witch Hunts and Superstition

Like the witch hunts of old, the Vatican is adamant when it comes to kick-starting lynchings of this sort, although it must be said that Satanism and Pagans have often bore the blunt of alleged child sacrifices and other macabre acts, which actually paled in comparison to what the Vatican could do in their heyday: Mass annihilation of flowering cultures, from the Cathars in France to the decimation of the Mexican and other north American tribes in the subsequent colonialization of the New World (a blame which was laid solely on secular authorities, despite the fact that mass burnings and coerced conversions were carried out with the blessings of Vatican friars and explicitly requested by the Church).

As a religious skeptic and a bonafide atheist, I tend to smell a rat when the Pope starts brandying anti-science propaganda that, given a modern era such as ours, should be considered a stupid, pious joke rather than a statement that should be taken seriously (Who, except the Catholics and the occasional Muslim who burns cars and flags when the Pope speaks ill of Islam, bothers to listen to that old fuck anyway???).

A lethal combination of priestly pedophilia, bad press and falling tithes may have something to do with this, and while the Vatican has always have priests trained to conduct exorcisms, such a prominent support for such an archaic act truly defies common sense.

The insipid idea that mentally-ill people be unnecessarily subjected to Godly abuse and untested exorcisms is not only an unnecessary waste of money in the form of hiring the impotent priest, exorcism methods, such as dunking a victim's face into water in an attempt to drive out an alleged demon or spirit, can endanger the lives of people who are actually seeking for a cure.

Just as we no longer seek the aid of priests to cure our physical diseases, we should not depend on priests and shamans to cure or alleviate mental problems. If anything else, the Vatican should concentrate on eradicating their own vermin in their backyards, instead of poking their offending noses into the realms of Science.

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy."
-David Brookes

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Evolution: Mere Theory?

One of the most incredulous analogies I have ever had to read with regards to the purported "myths" of evolution is statistical improbability: According to Christians or Creationists, Evolution seems to hover somewhere between the supernatural and the impossible: It would be the equivalent of a Boeing 747, stripped of all its mechanic and electronic parts and scattered randomly on an airfield, and then invoking a hurricane or maelstrom to jumble up all these parts and assembling a whole Boeing 747 from the resulting storm. According to these religious skeptics, the human body is so intricately "designed", or any living organism for the matter, that life on Earth would have to be dependent on the constructive hands of a Creator.

If anything else, such an analogy is laughable, and indeed highlights the abject ignorance of Christians towards the theory of evolution. While the idea that a visiting weather catastrophe can hardly be expected to conjure up a flying plane of any sort, the idea that evolution requires a simple, random factor to dictate its fate is furthest from the truth, as I shall proceed to illustrate.

Evolution: More than Just "Mere Theory"

If anything else, such an analogy is laughable, and indeed highlights the abject ignorance of Christians towards the theory of evolution.

Quite often, as I read about the profound nonsense uttered from the Creationist camp, the phrase "mere theory" is invoked as a convoluted form of misunderstanding towards Evolution: Evolution is a theory, not a fact, according to Creationists. The very fact that such a statement has been uttered time and time again is testament to either a deliberate distortion of truth, or a deep misunderstanding of "scientific theory".

As a word unto itself, a theory is synonymous with supposition: Mere speculation without the presence of tangible proof. Such an explanation cannot be deemed wrong in the original sense of the word, but again, a scientific theory encompasses more than mere speculation.

As a scientific theory, evolution is supported by tons of physical and empirical evidence: From the fossilized bones of creatures that have long gone the way of the dodo, to the empirical data garnered from carbon dating and DNA sequencing, we now know that life has been steadily growing and diversifying into the various branches we see today: Mammals, birds, plants, reptiles, etc.

The point of contention, according to Creationists, is that there is a general dispute amongst the scientific community (minus one or two oddballs, plus the Kent Hovind, fake-scientist prototypes) that evolution may or may not viable enough to explain the diversity of life. The opposite, however is true: Not only are scientists absolutely sure that Evolution is a scientific theory and a fact, they have by and large acknowledged the fact that evolution is the standard mechanism for all schools of biology: Through the random replication of genes and the process of natural selection, life evolved gradually over billions of years.

Without an adequate grasp on the subject of evolution, a scientist will not be able to explain and decipher general mutations in viruses which can produce new prototype viruses that can sustain an immunity against an outdated drug. Various biological traits in species, such as the approximate sizes of animals, are determined by the environment they live in: The Galapagos tortoises, for example, are far larger and heavier than most tortoises because of the relative comfort afforded by an isolated environment, which is devoid of prey, other than Man himself.

When scientific theory is concerned, scientists do not question the legitimacy of Evolution: Rather, they argue about the finer points, such as the characteristics of prehistoric animals, or the manner in which a T-Rex is supposed to seize its prey.

Climbing Mount Improbable

As Richard Dawkins illustrated in his book, Climbing Mount Improbable, he likens evolution to a mountain: On the very base of the mountain is perhaps the very origins of life: Single-celled bacteria. On the very top is Man. In front of the mountain is a treacherous slope, and almost vertical climb that no one or organism can reach within a single leap. Behind the mountain, however, there exists a single, gentle, slope. The gradient is ever so slight, so that anyone can walk comfortably to the summit without a great leap of faith.

Cue Evolution: From the simplest of organisms, life emerges and takes small, gradual, and incremental steps, hence breaking that very distant and remote improbability into manageable events that branch out from a singular source of life. Evolution, given a incredibly long span of time, is a viable, observable process, albeit not in its entirety.

If anything else, Evolution is more than just mere theory: It has become an established fact, albeit the fact that there are still more facts and probably some niggly gritty problems that still require a lot of work from biologists and other scientists.

As for Creationists who continue to question the legitimacy of Evolution, they might want to start sourcing for any concrete evidence for their biblically-inspired bullshit, Creationism, and its Trojan Horse, Intelligent Design. Either that, or take a long vacation to a natural history museum, instead of some bogus Creationist Museums and some other charlatan-inspired drivel.

"Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators."

-Richard Dawkins

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

A Happy New Year to One And All

First of all, I would like to greet my readers a great new year ahead. Of late, I have been a tad busy with personal matters, and as such I haven't had as much time on my hands as I would like to have, and suffice to say I haven't been writing since Dec 19, 2007.

A brand new year, and a whole new perspective. Perhaps another excuse to indulge in another round of orgy and food fiestas. Nonetheless, let us not let our guards down, as religious fanatics and fundamentalists of all shapes and sizes assault secular humanism and rationality and in general, the very fabric of civilization.

2007 has had its fair share of bad news: With the dastardly murder of Benazir Bhutto by a Muslim suicide bomber, we are once again reminded above the evils of religion, and how it has manipulated young, fledging lives to become tools of self-afflicted murder and other forms of unspeakable atrocities. A British teacher was almost sentenced and punished with the lash of the whip for having the audacity to name her teddy bear after Prophet Muhammad.

For all the gloom and doom, atheism has, under the emergence of the four dark horsemen in the shape of Dawkins, Hitchens, Bennett and Harris, once again asserted atheism in the social consciousness, and hopefully, with more and more skepticism and free inquiry being standard fare in secular nations, religion will be forced to relent its tenacious hold onto many facets of our lives.

Once again, I wish my readers a happy new year.