Meet the world’s most influential witchdoctor

18 03 2009

From The Guardian:

The Pope today reignited the controversy over the Catholic church’s stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa.

The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent’s fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

The timing of his remarks outraged health agencies trying to halt the spread of HIV and Aids in sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated 22 million people are infected.

The Roman Catholic church encourages sexual abstinence and fidelity to prevent the disease from spreading, but it is a policy that has divided some clergy working with Aids patients.

The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was “a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”.

Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that if the Pope was serious about preventing new HIV infections he would focus on promoting wider access to condoms and spreading information about how best to use them.

Hodes, the director of policy, communication and research for the campaign group, added: “Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

Millions of lives are at stake owing to the sad fact that this man’s ill-informed and anti-scientific utterances are taken seriously. (That, compounded with the—hopefully diminishing—human desire to flush one’s brain down the toilet, ignore reality and prostrate oneself before dogma and self-appointed authority.)





Why does the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference hate freedom?

17 03 2009

I think gambling is a complete and utter waste of time and money. I have never enjoyed visiting the casino with my friends, and when I did, I never placed a bet, considering the practice the equivalent of emptying the contents of my wallet into the toilet.

But hey, that’s me. Many others, for reasons I personally cannot fathom, enjoy gambling. As long as their activities don’t harm others, who am I to stand in their way?

Who am I? I’m not a Catholic bishop, that’s who.

When you’re a Catholic bishop, you believe not only that you are, by virtue of the notion that you are the representative of a deity, able to deliberate authoritatively to the wretched paeons and sinners on how they ought to conduct their lives. You also believe that the law of the state should coerce people to conduct themselves in accordance with your dogmas, regardless of whether they belong to your religion.

You are, in effect, an enemy of liberal democracy. You are an enemy of religious freedom, and the separation of church and state, because for all your bluster about being God’s representatives on earth, about serving a higher power than any that humankind can devise, either the God you claim to represent is utterly weak, or your powers of reason and persuasion are so pathetically handicapped, that you need the earthly powers of the state to force people to do what you want them to do. You have always needed this.

It’s simple, really. Don’t like gambling, drinking or shopping on one of your “sacred” holidays? Then don’t do it. Don’t like others gambling, drinking or shopping on one of your “sacred” holidays? Then make an argument, convince them that they shouldn’t.

Or else prepare to be mocked for your obscene presumptuousness in dictating to the rest of us how we should live our lives. That mockery is a sign that human society is liberating itself from the superstitious and unnecessary fear and awe of old male virgins wearing funny robes. History is pwning you. And that’s a good thing.





Great Moments in the History of “Christian Love” (TM): How Religious Fascism Poisoned Little Axe

28 02 2009

A recent episode of Ed Brayton’s Declaring Independence podcast (Feb 5th 2009) featured an interview with Joann Bell, one of the plaintiffs in a 1980s suit against the school district of Little Axe, Oklahoma. In 1981, the town’s elementary school was allowing a “voluntary” teacher-sponsored student prayer group called the Son Shine Club to operate on school grounds before classes began. The school buses used to drop students off in front of the school 30 minutes before classes began, and since school rules dictated that no student was allowed inside the building without permission before the first class, students had to choose between standing outside in the rain or cold, and joining the prayer meeting inside the school. Eventually, peer-pressure forced more students to attend Son Shine Club meetings, which would sometimes run over into the first class.

Bell, who belonged to a different denomination than the Baptist Son Shine Club, brought up the issue with the school board, where she was told to take it up with the ACLU. When she along with other parents brought a lawsuit against the school district (which the plaintiffs won on appeal), that’s when all hell broke loose: including death threats, assaults on herself and her children, and eventually the firebombing of her family home, forcing the family to move away from the town.

More details are available at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, where we also learn the school superintendent’s response to his community’s loving Christian treatment of the plaintiffs: “The only people who have been hurt by this thing are the Bells and McCords. The school goes on. They chose to create their own hell on earth.”





I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel all that safe . . .

21 01 2009

. . . given the amount of rabid evangelical Christians in positions of authority in the US military, and who seem hell-bent on transforming it into one giant Jesus Camp. It seems the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has been receiving many emails from servicemen and women who were pressured into applauding Rick Warren’s invocation at President Obama’s inauguration. Chris Rodda at DailyKos provides one email from a Methodist serviceman who found, watching the invocation with his fellow officers, “who could not muster the courage to resist the pressure of his ‘serious and committed born again Christian’ commanding officer to applaud Rick Warren.”

Today, I watched President Obama’s inauguration on the television set up in our Brigade staff conference room. I attended as a member of (unit level designation withheld) staff along with over 40 other senior officers, senior enlisted an few senior Army civilian staffers. There had been much talk here about Pres. Obama’s selection of the evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the ceremonies.
Our current Commander is a very intolerant and “serious and committed born again Christian” as he always describes himself to all his subordinates. At every military assignment I’ve ever been to it’s always the same thing; if you are not a born again “serious” Christian you are branded as pretty much worthless. Read the rest of this entry »





Surprise, fucking surprise

1 11 2007

Family First is demanding that all Federal candidates declare whether they are now, or ever have been TEH GAY:

The Family First candidate in the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt says voters have a right to know the sexual preference of all candidates contesting the federal election.

A report in today’s Courier-Mail newspaper says Family First’s Ben Jacobsen demanded that the Liberal candidate Charlie McKillop declare if she is gay.

Mr Jacobsen, who is against gay relationships, says he was not targeting Ms McKillop, but speaking generally about every candidate.

“Look I think this is a public office, this is a person that’s going to represent Leichhardt in our House of Representatives,” he said.

“I think the public have a right to know the values that you’re going to pursue in Parliament.” (ABC)

And everybody knows that gay values aren’t Australian values, non? Everybody knows that as soon as you let one of those into Parliament, they’ll immediately proceed to infect our beloved Christian democracy with TEH GAY. Santorum spreading everywhere. Before you know it, your 15-year old son is being sodomised with the rough end of a heroin-laced outcomes-based education, while being forced to watch lesbian witch porn on the Internet.

Fundies First: the gift that keeps on giving.

UPDATE: The backpedalling has begun already.





Blog Against Theocracy: Atheists in private schools

1 10 2007


This post has been inspired by recent events involving an acquaintance of mine whose contract as a teacher at a religious private school was terminated when it was discovered (I assume via that most cherished of pastimes in John Howard’s Australia: dobbing) that said teacher operated a blog containing views contrary to the religious doctrines of the school. The teacher had not made any reference to the school on the blog, nor had students or teachers been made aware of the blog’s existence by its author. (Truth be told: I’m not even aware of the sacked teacher’s religious affiliation.)

The OUT Campaign, drawing inspiration from gay and lesbian liberation movements, urges atheists to “come out of the closet”–to demonstrate to a theistic world that we are not the horned and scaly demons we are imagined to be. We are your fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. We are your local firefighters or policemen, or doctors, or community workers. We may even be your teachers. & c. & c. Therein lies a slight problem (one doubtless recognised by OUT Campaign organisers): there are some careers in which it is more difficult and dangerous to be an “out” atheist or non-theist than others.

For example, I am an English teacher by trade and an atheist. But given the proportion of private to public schools in Australia, it is clearly against my professional interests to be an “out” atheist, because it would significantly decrease my employment opportunities. This is despite the fact that (a) being an atheist makes no difference whatsoever to my ability to teach English well, any more than if I were a teacher of mathematics, science, economics or history (Christians–apart from a select few who hold that pi=3–don’t do mathematics differently than non-Christians, for instance); and (b) being an atheist makes no difference whatsoever to my ability to support the “ethos” of the school–unless, that is, someone wishes to meet Christopher Hitchens’ challenge and point to a moral action that a believer could perform but which could not possibly be performed by a non-believer. Should I secure employment with such a school, it would also be against my professional interests to discuss my atheism with my colleagues–even in private over a few beers–because, as my friend’s experience demonstrates, it is the kind of thing that could be used against me.

This isn’t paranoia–it happened. It is curiously ironic that, in a supposedly modern, enlightened mature liberal democracy such as Australia, one is best advised to adopt a pseudonym if one wishes to speak one’s mind freely–particularly on matters religious or political. But there it is: if you are a non-theist, have a blog, teach in a religious private school and wish to keep your job, anonymity is the best policy. That, and being extremely careful about who you share your blog address with.

It may be objected that private schools are just that–private–and therefore have the right to determine their own hiring policies. Furthermore, nobody is forced to seek employment there. Private schools, however, comprise a significant proportion of the education sector, and one of the main reasons for this is that for many years they have received federal funding. Lamentably, private schools overall tend also to provide better teaching and learning environments (e.g. facilities, behaviour management, etc.) than public schools. In other words, money which might have been directed to public schools, and which might have helped improve conditions there, has instead been used to promote the growth of private education. And given that private schools are permitted to discriminate on the basis of religious belief or non-belief, whereas public schools are not, the federal government is effectively endorsing discrimination against non-theists with taxpayer’s money by funding private schools. That’s not to say that I oppose federal funding of private schools. But I do think certain conditions should apply, and one of these is that schools receiving taxpayer funds in a secular liberal democracy should not have hiring policies that discriminate on the basis of religious belief or non-belief. Does that sound so unreasonable? Furthermore, is it really fair or just that teachers are locked out of a substantial proportion of schools merely by virtue of the fact that they are non-believers?

But I digress. I think much of the systemic discrimination against non-theists in private schools stems largely from their invisibility–were it to be more generally acknowledged that non-believers are just as “normal” and moral as any believer, such discrimination might not be so much of a problem. And this can most effectively be achieved if atheists are prepared to “out” themselves. Even if attitudes don’t shift so quickly at the level of the schools themselves, there might develop greater legal and governmental advocacy and support for atheists if they were more visible. On the other hand, atheists who “out” themselves do so at potentially great personal, or at least financial risk. That alone is enough to discourage me from outing myself, and I think there would be many atheists in the same boat.

Kudos, however, to those atheists who do have the courage to stand up and be counted, both here and and in the US.





Blog Against Theocracy: the Australian Christian Lobby Has Control of Your Television

4 07 2007


On August 9th, both John Howard and Kevin Rudd will address 200 church figures in a National Press Club event, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, that will be broadcast live across the country. Why? Here’s why:

The Federal Election, to be held later this year will be a significant election. In the 2004 election for the first time in many years, election analysts identified the impact of a Christian vote or Christian constituency. ACL wants to assist this important constituency to make an informed decision on how to vote in 2007.

In 2004, the influence of the Christian Right (whenever you hear someone like Jim Wallace crowing about “the Christian vote,” he means the Christian Right) was most keenly felt in the arena of marriage legislation, when the Federal Government–eagerly supported by the “Opposition”–introduced a law banning same-sex marriage. The impact of this new “Christian constituency” was soon felt in the education portfolio, where in 2005 the then Minister Brendan Nelson, having watched the Campus Crusade for Christ DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life: Intelligent Design, opined that ID should be taught in schools if that’s what parents wanted. And last year, in the midst of a long debate over the supposed lack of “values” in secular schools, the Federal Government unleashed a $90 million plan to fund school chaplains.

So what’s on the agenda this year? First of all, the ACL is very keen to see that the filthy homosexualists don’t get too uppity about “equality under the law” and whatnot: “We would [. . .] not want to see any [. . .] moves made which would undermine the traditional definition of families, and therefore the strength of families as an institution, or jeopardise the best interests of the child.” (WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN???) Furthermore, now that the Federal Government has banned the sale of X-rated material to the dark-skinned savages, the ACL is calling for an across-the-board ban, lest this filth corrupt the pure hearts of decent white Christian folk:

“The deeply concerning problems in the Northern Territory show just how great a problem pornography is and how far greater controls are needed,” Mr Wallace said. “It is time we put the future of our children before the demands of the pornographic film industry!”

WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN??? Hmmm . . . there seems to be a theme here.

While it will be interesting to hear Rudd couching ALP social democracy in the patois of the Bible-thumper, while Howard promises to lead the nation into an era of 50′s-style socks-and-sandals wowserism, it would be nice if there was an Enlightenment constituency–a secular liberal democratic constituency–for our political leaders to pander to.

After all: we think, and we vote.








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