The Religion Report and the Archbishop’s unnecessary persecution complex

22 10 2008

Most of what Archbishop Phillip Wilson of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference has to say in his statement about the axing of The Religion Report is sensible. He points out that according to the 2006 census, 70% of Australians identify themselves with a religion, which doesn’t imply that 70% of Australians are ululating fundies, but does suggest “in theory at least, seven in 10 people will have a nominal interest in seeing, hearing or reading about matters of religion.” He notes the following that The Religion Report appeared to have garnered among atheists and agnostics, judging by the online response to the axing of the programme. Religion is socially relevant, he argues, because it “calls for engagement with one’s neighbour, and in the Christian tradition from which I come, this has meant that for more than 2000 years, religion has been at the forefront of public discussion.”

I would add at this point that “engagement with one’s neighbour” hasn’t always taken on benign manifestations, as many an apostate, backslider or outgrouper who has lived to tell the tale can attest. Still, the Archbishop’s point stands. Religion is relevant to theists and non-theists alike, albeit (at least in some cases) for different reasons, and therefore it is newsworthy.

Therefore it merits the professional, journalistic treatment that Crittenden’s programme provided (well, most of the time). Read the rest of this entry »

They should have axed The Spirit of Things

16 10 2008

Stephen Crittenden is justifiably incensed at the axing of his Wednesday morning Religion Report, but in all fairness, religion had a fairly big slice of the cake on the Radio National schedule with four weekly programs (The Religion Report, The Ark, Encounter and The Spirit of Things). His suggestion that the axing of his program and the religious history program The Ark will spell “the death of religion at the ABC” is a touch overblown in my view; but it is disappointing that ABC management chose to discard the two religion-themed shows that at least endeavoured to be informative, relevant and educational. Encounter‘s usually not that bad either, but Ark presenter Rachael Kohn’s The Spririt of Things is a syrupy paean to belief in belief and religious pandering that has been dumbing down the Radio National brand for a long time.

Of course, the shows mentioned here aren’t the only ones to go, and former RN presenter Andrew Dodd gives his take on the programming reshuffle at (“The dumbing down of Radio National“).

The good news is that The Philosopher’s Zone—perhaps the best philosophy radio show/podcast available anywhere—has been retained. They would have had to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Only a lobotomised nation could have sanctioned this with a smile on its face

25 09 2008

If you want a vivid demonstration of the abject sociopathy of authoritarian-follower morality, in which the harm principle is trumped by self-righteousness and aggression towards outgroups, look no further than the immigration detention regime presided over by the recently-deposed Howard Government. The People’s Inquiry into Detention, the product of documentary evidence, 200 testimonies at 10 public hearings, as well as 200 written submissions, “heard heart-breaking evidence of the unnecessary cruelty inflicted by the Howard government on people seeking asylum in Australia. It places the stories of detention on the public record from the perspective of those most affected by the policies and practices” (ABC News Online). The inquiry documents the deaths at sea of more than 360 asylum seekers between 2000 and 2001, the placement into desert prisons—often for years on end—of those waiting for their refugee claims to be processed, and the savage conditions within those detention centres.

It was told of people being forced to steal food to feed their children, of assaults on both adults and children, of physical and mental health care so inadequate that many former detainees now have serious, permanent disabilities. A lack of accountability created a culture of violence and self-harm within detention. Protests were routinely met with armed force. The inquiry was told of people eating glass and gravel and pouring boiling water on themselves, and presented with images of self-harm too graphic to publish.

A boy who spent three years in detention said:

The worst thing, I will never forget it, was people cutting themselves. It was horrible. I remember one time a person was harming himself up a tree and his children was crying under the tree. His wife was crying and yelling under the tree. His blood was dropping from the tree.

Once released from detention, many refugees told the inquiry their experiences had irrevocably changed them. Many were unable to forget the violent images they had been exposed to in detention and suffered ongoing mental health problems. Others told how the uncertainty of their temporary visa status compounded their anxiety.

Christian organisations, including the Brotherhood of St Laurence and UnitingJustice Australia, were among those in the front lines fightng to bring an end to the cruelty; other Christians, including many of those in the then-Liberal/National government, were among its most vocal supporters.

But none of this is really news for those who have been interested enough to follow Australia’s mistreatment of asylum seekers. The evil leftist ABC, SBS and Fairfax press—latte-sipping dibber-dobbers that they are—have been documenting such tales at a steady rate since Tampa. The aspirationals lapped it up, hailing as a national virtue the kicking in the guts of the downtrodden, and voted for Howard in increasing numbers. You can still see the vestiges of this crowd in the comments section of the already-cited ABC article, propounding the same “they were asking for it” apologetics they’ve been pushing throughout this decade-long debate.

The ABC Religion department goes off its meds

19 02 2008

From The Spirit of Things, 27/1/08:

Caroline Myss: By the time Teresa [of Avila] was in her 50s in the convent, not only did her sisters, the nuns that she lived with, realise that they were living with a saint. But the whole of Spain knew that, as well as Rome, the Vatican. Her experiences, her mystical experiences, had become famous, even though she was a cloistered nun. [. . .] But let me just give you an example: she would sometimes levitate.

Rachael Kohn: Levitate?

Caroline Myss: Yes.

Rachael Kohn: Other people witnessed this?

Caroline Myss: Oh yes. Now mind you, don’t picture her around the ceiling Rachael. She would go into states of ecstasy where she would hover over the ground by 2 inches, or something like that. Now that’s not unusual. I mean in the sense that Eastern mystics have been seen to do that.

Rachael Kohn: I’ve read that her face was illuminated.

Caroline Myss: Her face would be illuminated. [. . . emphasis added]

Oh, for fuck’s sake!


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