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.)





Funny quote of the day

18 03 2009

From a Pharyngula comment thread on endeavours by well-wishers to free Kent Hovind (sung to the tune of “Free Nelson Mandela”):

Dr. Kent Hovind’s oppressors have to decide whether they want to live in fear or learn to live in love. If you don’t agree with this I question your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Gold.





Sunday reading: Epiphenom on the link between religion and homophobia

8 03 2009

What’s the connection between religion and homophobia?

You don’t need me to tell you that religious people are more likely to be homophobic. But what you might not have thought too hard about is why that should be. Is it that religion makes people homophobic, or is it simply that religion attracts people who are conservative and/or authoritarian – people who also tend to be homophobic? Then again, ‘religion’ is a pretty broad church. Is all religion linked to homophobia, or is it just specific types?

And what about racism? Are religious people more likely to be rascist? And if not, why not? This is an important question because religion acts to strengthen group cohesion, and it also comes with a lot of moral rules. Either of these could explain the link to homophobia. But most religions tend to be at least overtly anti-racist. So if religious people are more racist, this is probably because the ‘group cohesion’ effect overrides the ‘moral censure’ effect.

Sometimes it seems like you wait years for big studies to come along tackling these issues, and then two come along at once! Putting both of them together starts to put some really interesting meat on the bones of this very fundamental question (with the caveat that, like most research in religion, these studies were done in the USA/Canada)

More here.





Quote of the week: Jerry Coyne on the incompatibility of science and religion

4 03 2009

Jerry Coyne, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, reviews two books by theistic evolutionists in The New Republic:

It would appear, then, that one cannot be coherently religious and scientific at the same time. That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause, Giberson and Miller pick and choose what they believe. At least the young-earth creationists are consistent, for they embrace supernatural causation across the board. With his usual flair, the physicist Richard Feynman characterized this difference: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” With religion, there is just no way to know if you are fooling yourself. Read the rest of this entry »





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.”





The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Garret Oden’s Burgess Shale of ignorance

18 02 2009
Lately I’ve been weighing in to a debate on Matt’s Notepad between the eponymous Matt and one Garret Oden, regarding the latter’s “A couple reasons [sic] to believe that God DOES exist.” Pointing out the manifold factual errors and logical fallacies in Oden’s list of arguments for theism, a plurality of which are based on the assumption that arguments against evolution are arguments for the existence of God, would (if you’ll pardon the expression) try the patience of a saint; you may do so at your leisure. His waterboarding of reasoned argument is replicated in his exchanges with Matt and myself, such that it is difficult to determine whether or not Oden is a Poe. A glance at his website makes it all the more tempting to draw that conclusion:

 Source: http://www.fredthespot.com/

 
(Source: Fred the Spot)

[UPDATE: BTW, Fred the Spot "evolves" into a crucifix, complete with Biblical texts so grovelling and self-abasing that they would make a BDSM sub blush. This guy should be writing Chick Tracts.]

Garret’s name links to the aforementioned website, so it is reasonable to conclude that it is his. Here are a few tasty morsels, both from his own Forever Christian blog and from pages linked to Fred the Spot. Read the rest of this entry »





Things they would have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City XXX

14 02 2009

The week in fundie:

  1. For starters, given that it was Darwin Day only a couple of days ago, here’s the idiot quote of the week from Australian Bishop Tom Frame:

    The problem I face is weariness with science-based dialogue partners like Richard Dawkins. It surprises me he is not chided for his innate scientific conservatism and metaphysical complacency. He won’t take his depiction of Darwinism to logical conclusions. A dedicated Darwinian would welcome imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, euthanasia, forced sterilisations and infanticide. Publicly, he advocates none of them. (Brisbane Times)

  2. In Irasburg, Vermont, a public school is being sued by two families after it was claimed that a schoolteacher proselytised in class, bought religious (including creationist) literature with school funds for dissemination in the classroom, and punished students who complained. (Times Argus)
  3. OMGTEHHOMOSEXUALAGENDACONTROLSTELEVISION!!!!!!!!!!!! World Net Daily shrieks hysterically about teh radical homosexual agenda to control your TV sets and convert your children to gay homosexuals. “Note” “their” “over-use” “of” “scare-quotes” “around” “the” “word” “gay,” “as” “if” “gays” “don’t” “really” “exist”—“even” “though” “they’ve” “just” “spent” “the” “whole” “article” “whining” “paranoiacally” “about” “them.” “Morons.”
  4. Meanwhile, in Australia, loving Christians are up in arms at the Victorian Police Commissioner’s plans to march in the Pride Festival. Article writer Peter Stokes, of Christian group Salt Shakers, quotes Peter Stokes, of Christian group Salt Shakers: “The normalisation of homosexuality by these people is a disgrace!” (Christianity Today)
  5. There have been more than 50 murders of suspected “witches” in Papua New Guinea over recent months, according to Times Online. One woman was burnt alive on a pyre of rubber tyres. Another woman escaped death when she began to give birth while hanging from a tree.
  6. In the Indian state of Bihar, eight members of a poor family were shot and beheaded after a family member married a wealthy girl. (UPI)
  7. Also in India, Hindu extremists who recently stormed a bar, dragging out women and beating them, have warned that they will attack anyone they catch celebrating Valentine’s Day. (Telegraph)
  8. Journalist Laurie Lebo takes a look at anti-Darwinism as a “peculiar American institution.” (Religion Dispatches)







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