We are all wafer-desecraters now

11 07 2008

A Florida student receives death threats for attempting to smuggle a communion wafer out of a Mass, after being wrestled for it by a church leader. Other church figures describe the student’s actions as a “hate crime,” curiously neglecting to apply this description to the aforementioned death threats. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights campaigns for the student’s expulsion, but also remains curiously silent on the matter of the death threats.

Blogging on the transparent stupidity of this situation, PZ Myers makes the following suggestion:

Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. If you can smuggle some out from under the armed guards and grim nuns hovering over your local communion ceremony, just write to me and I’ll send you my home address.

This is, apparently, all it takes for Myers himself to become the subject of death threats, as well as a campaign to get him disciplined by his employer the University of Minnesota orchestrated by the very same Catholic “civil rights” organisation mentioned above that clearly values discs of bread over human life.

My ire at this breathtaking display of idiocy is not directed at Catholics in general. I appreciate that many Catholics are sane and rational people who are blessed with a sense of proportion and are not going to get their panties in a twist over the prospect of host-desecration. Those many Catholics should not be tainted with the sociopathy of that subset of Catholics who (i) are unable to comprehend that respecting the rights of individuals to believe what they want to believe does not mean that the beliefs themselves must be respected, and (ii) want to harm (or desire for harm to be brought upon) those who mock or question the ideas they cherish.

I guess I just don’t see why wafer rights should outweigh human rights.

See also: Friendly Atheist and Richard Dawkins.


World Truth Day for Pell and Hickey

8 07 2008

By now you’ll be aware of Cardinal George Pell having been caught lying misrepresenting the truth about his knowledge of sex abuse within the priesthood. Regular visitors to this blog will also recall the sex abuse scandal in WA involving the leadership of the Catholic Charismatic Bethel Covenant Community, and of the Church’s endeavours (as with the Terence Goodall case) to wash its hands of the affair, though the incidents have hitherto not received much national media attention. You’ll remember that Barry Hickey, the Archbishop of Perth who is aligned politically with Pell and has in the past engaged in identical antidemocratic ad baculums against Catholic parliamentarians, told the West Australian newspaper in May that the Church had received no complaints about sexual misconduct at Bethel before 2007, a claim denied by ex-Bethel members.

The Archbishop was lying. The West Australian has secured a copy of a report, outlining complaints about sexual misconduct perpetrated by leaders of the Bethel Community, that was handed to the Archbishop in August 2000. Read the rest of this entry »

Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City XXI

5 07 2008

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The mind-virus that is creationism has infected British schools, 40 of which are teaching in science classes that evolution is a “myth” and creationism a “fact,” according to a survey of Islamic, Jewish and Christian Evangelical schools. 1000 of the students being lied to about the scientific status of creationism attend schools wholly funded by the British taxpayer. (Ekklesia)
  2. Demonstrating its firm commitment to religious freedom, the Indonesian government has told Ahmadi Muslims in that country to convert to mainstream Islam or face 5 years in jail. (Online News)
  3. In Cheshire, UK, two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to pray to Allah during an RE lesson. (Telegraph)
  4. In Herefordshire, a student will have to take four separate buses to travel to school after the local council banned non-Catholic students from using the subsidised bus service it provides to St Mary’s school. (Telegraph)
  5. A 23-year-old woman in Mexico strangled to death a 16-year-old mother, and also killed her 3-month-old baby, because she thought the mother was practicing witchcraft against her. (PR-Inside)
  6. A professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary blames the phenomenon of spousal abuse on women who refuse to submit to their husbands’ “God-given authority.” Those mouthy bitches, Bruce Ware maintains, “desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.” (via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)
  7. Haredi Jews in Jerusalem vandalised and razed shops selling MP4 devices, which have been banned by the Orthodox Righteous Court of Law because they are apparently “the devil’s way to try and gain entrance to our protected homes and yeshivas, disguised as something you can listen to Torah lessons through.” (via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)
  8. In Romania, where abortion is outlawed, an 11-year old girl who was raped by her uncle will be allowed to abort her foetus, despite threats by 20 Orthodox Christian groups to press charges if the abortion goes ahead. (via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)

Sydney WYD: Mutaween for Jesus

4 07 2008

What the NSW Government is doing to liberal democracy in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Mutaween is a generic term for religious police in Islamic countries. They’re the guys (and of course they tend to be guys) who go around arresting, beating, flogging and even killing ordinary citizens who flout religious laws. In countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, women tend to find themselves the victims of the sadistic dogma-enforcers (see this Amnesty report from 2000), who on one occasion prevented schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building “because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress.” (15 of the schoolgirls subsequently died, having been beaten back into the blaze by the police.) We in the modern, enlightened West like to pride ourselves on our difference from sickeningly backward societies like the theocracies of the Islamic world. We value religious freedom, and are not so cognitively immature that we require the repressive apparatus of the state to artificially prop up religious faith and deliver us from reality. Certainly nothing could be more alien to the liberal democratic values we cherish than the idea of religious police, right?

Wrong. As you are doubtless already aware, the NSW Government has deemed it necessary to outsource the Sydney constabulary (as well as emergency services) as rent-a-cops for the Spanish Inquisition, and they have already proceeded to heavy potential critics: Read the rest of this entry »

(Updated) Do the religious have a right not to be offended?

1 07 2008

The Australian and international blogosphere is abuzz with news of New South Wales’ antidemocratic laws protecting Catholicism from criticism during the World Youth Day festivities:

EXTRAORDINARY new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.

The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.

Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service will be able to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event”.

People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.

The Church itself has denied requesting the regulations. You can read more at Pharyngula, The Thinker’s Podium and An Onymous Lefty.

An organisation by the name of the No To Pope Coalition is prepared to take the $5500 challenge. Which brings to mind recent police crackdowns on anti-Scientology protests in London and Glasgow, as well as the arrest last week of a Gold Coast teenager for wearing a T-shirt deemed “blasphemous.” Having our delicate religious sensibilities offended, it appears, is something we want the police and the government to protect us against.

But what do you think? Do the religious have a right not to be offended? Read the rest of this entry »

The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Father Thomas Williams

19 06 2008

Okay, I’ll bite. The man is a liar and a blowhard. A strawman-builder from the get-go:

“Though the atheists claim to represent the side of reason,” he asserts in his book, “their arguments more often than not are ideological rather than rational.”

Atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods. Period. If that’s all it takes to constitute an ideology, then not collecting stamps is an ideology. (Aphilatelism?)

Williams has joined the ranks of fleas with an anti-atheist tome entitled Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God. Why does the world need this book? (That is, in addition to the plethora of recent releases with the same Christian apologist/anti-atheist agenda?) Because there has been a “surge in neo-atheist literature” in recent times, with books by Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens making the best-seller list, and as a consequence:

most people only hear one side of the story. They become indoctrinated with the atheistic arguments without ever hearing a reasoned response.

You have to ask yourself what parallel universe this guy is inhabiting, because he’s certainly absent from this one if he can utter the phrase “most people only hear one side of the story” with a straight face, given that he means “the ‘atheist’ side.” Actually, the problem is that, regarding belief and especially regarding non-belief, most people do only hear one side: and that is precisely what is prompting individual atheists, prominent and not-so-prominent, to speak out. Williams’ ridiculous statement reminds me of British Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor’s call for Christianity to be given unopposed air time on the BBC–anything less would be “Christophobic,” according to the Cardinal. Both men are either completely disconnected from reality, or telling lies. Read the rest of this entry »

More Strawmen than you think: Interview with Father Williams

19 06 2008

Bruce and Mojoey are among those (I assume there are more) who have been contacted by publishers Hachette Group and offered the chance to review their anti-atheist book Greater Than You Think, by the Vatican’s Father Thomas D. Williams. There is an interview with Williams at Zenit.com. I’ll leave Bruce and Mojoey to look at it for now, though what it reveals is that what Mojoey, who has agreed to review the book, can expect is another dishonest exercise in broad-brush-stroking about atheists, based on a beef the author has with a certain Four Horsemen whose arguments he represents as standing in synecdochically for the beliefs of all atheists.

Any book which makes grandiose claims about “debunking” the “common fallacies perpetuated by atheism” needs to be read with a huge dose of salt, and that dose of salt is as follows. Atheism is a single position on a single question: “Do you believe in a god/gods?” (The atheist answer being “No.”) Any other claim about what all atheists believe, or what atheists in general believe, or what the majority of atheists believe, is likely to be a strawman, and should be treated like the dishonest rhetoric it plainly is. Unless, of course, the individual making the claim is prepared to substantiate it with sufficient evidence. If said individual is neither willing nor able to do so, he or she is a liar and a blowhard. Those aren’t simply ad hominems, by the way: they’re descriptive statements of fact. Furthermore, if the individual wielding strawmen happens to be a Roman Catholic priest, don’t be afraid to use that against him. Commandment number 8 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads as follows: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The Catechism continues: “The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: ‘You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.'”