An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘Religion’

The Catholic Church, Then and Now

The Catholic Church deserves some credit for what it had done a very long time ago.  Through the power of faith, it is true that we were able to come from the marauding barbarism that had taken over Europe in the Dark Ages.  Societies have been formed since long before Christianity existed by people coming together over a system of beliefs, which are often a ground-work for their continued growth as a culture.

Patton Oswald was right when he said that religion gave us writing and agriculture and fire and civilization.  However, the key thing that isn’t addressed is that what was once then, isn’t now.  The great truth of the Catholic church and what it once stood for has been washed away.  Granted, it has always been a corrupt institution.  There isn’t a single system of power that exists in this entire world that isn’t.  But it’s corruption was once off-set by what it gave back to society.  Such is not the case anymore.

Looking far beyond the Dark Ages, it cannot be denied that the corruption of the Catholic church has consumed it, and now it is nothing more than an institution that does so much more harm than good.  Before looking at the current examples, let’s take a trip back through history, and look at some of the more historically famous things that the Catholic church has been responsible for.

  • 17 million African slaves were killed by slavers, which the Catholic church explicitly said was okay in 1836 and 1839.  These were official stances of the church, who favored slavery.
  • In the 15th and 16th Century, and probably well after that, there were countless deaths after Pope Innocent VIII was the author of “The Declation Against Witches.”
  • The Catholic church killed over 1 million innocent people in their Crusades to conquer The Holy Land (their term, not mine)
  • The Spanish Inquisition killed over 350,000 people, all of whom were innocent, in order to suppress and silence those who were not in league with the church.
  • The Catholic church had a very large participation in the the Rwanda ethnic cleansing.
  • They continued to support a bloody and violent regime in Zimbabwe because they gave the church support.
  • They supported the Croatian genocide of the Serbs.

Oh wait, look at the dates of all this.  This goes way back.  This goes all the way back to the Dark Ages.  Huh, well, scrap what I said before.  There was an order given to society, but at the same time, dating back to the beginning, the Catholic church has been nothing more than an organization of corruption and murder.

Today, on the other hand, there isn’t so much murder, but there is still a whole lot of corruption.  What are some of the more famous modern example of their corruption?  Some really modern ones?  Well, here’s another neat bulleted list.

  • Mother Teresa, a woman who is revered by Catholics, non-Catholics, and even atheists like myself, advocated for no women’s reproductive rights of any kind.  She advocated for people in Africa not being able to use condoms, which would have exponentially helped in keeping the amount of AIDS cases down.  Her hospitals were poverty-stricken Third World nightmares, even though it has been shown that with the amount of money she had, she could have easily made them into very great palaces of health.  She also advocated poverty, which is why she didn’t funnel any of her untold and vast amounts of money into those hospitals.
  • Over 5,000 priests and deacons are currently still active within the Catholic church, with there being public knowledge of their sex crimes against children.
  • The Vatican keeps records of all the sexual abuse crimes committed by priests and who has been abused.  They pay off the abuse victims and their families, often adding the threat of excommunication if they go to the authorities.
  • The Pope is expressly tied to the conscious efforts to keep the sexual abuse of the church under wraps, showing that this corruption comes down right from the top.
  • When SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) came to the International Crimes Court to finally bring the hammer down on the Vatican and make them pay, the Vatican PR machine did everything in their power to vilify SNAP’s lawyers and those who were coming out against the sexual abuse that is rampant in the church.  They almost took a Stockholm Syndrome approach, telling the victims of sexual abuse that it wasn’t as bad as they thought.
  • They are still working day and night to stop safe sex in third-world nations, along with abortion rights for women.
  • They will let abstinence-only education be taught in Catholic schools (and we wonder why religious areas have the highest rates of teen pregnancy).
  • At the Irish Sisters of Mercy, over 13,000 children were found to have been brutally physically abused.
  • A plethora of financial crimes associated with the Vatican Bank, such as the laundering of 23, million euros.
  • Oh, and the raping of all the kids.  Don’t know if we covered that.

The Catholic church is a corrupt organization, and the simple reality is this – this needs to stop.  It is high-time that the Catholic church felt the long-arm of the law.  They are completely exempt from taxes, yet they and all the other Christian organizations have a stranglehold on government.  This is an organization that couldn’t be more corrupt, yet couldn’t have more power.

On some level, it almost makes sense why the governments of the world are afraid to go after them.  This still is an incredibly powerful organization.  Their giant opulent palaces across the world should be testament to that.  There is a lot of money that governments need to finance their own corruption.  It is a giant network of corruption that infects this entire planet, and nobody will fight back against.

However, there is reason to hope.  There are groups coming together, refusing not to let themselves be ignored, and calling for justice against the Catholic church, until the abuse stops.  This organization needs to feel the hammer of the law, and until that happens, there needs to be a conscious effort against them.

Catholics, remember – we. are. watching you!

America and Creationism

There was a video that is getting a LOT of attention right now floating around YouTube.  In it, famous science celebrity, Bill Nye, has his opinion about a trend in America.

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States.

He’s got a very good point.  6 in 10 American do not believe in the Theory of Evolution.  For those who will come at us saying that it is just a theory, you need to understand the definition of a theory.  A lot of people confuse this with a hypothesis.  A hypothesis is when you have an idea about why something is, but have no proof for it, and you mean to test it.  A theory, on the other hand, is something that has been tested and has proof.  So why not call it a law?  Well, while there can be laws of physics, there cannot be laws of science.  We know so little about how the universe truly works that there is no way that we could say that evolution is a law.  We have a mountain of scientific evidence for it, so it is true, yet we cannot say that it is a law because there is always a chance that it could be proven wrong.

But, even with the mountains of evidence that exist for the theory of evolution, 6 out of 10 people in this country believe that it is not true.  So, what do they believe?  Well, in America, the bulk of them believe that a celestial being, either called God, Jehovah, or Yahweh created all the things in the universe.  It took seven days, and it wasn’t millions or billions of years ago, it was thousands of years ago.

They call this “creationism.”  Now, many will deny that, saying that the theory of creationism (which is there word for it.  There is NO proof of this) is that a being, an unnamed being, created the universe.  Or rather, could have.  But which being?  The Christian God?  Well, if that is the case, then your position becomes much, MUCH, more complicated.

For one thing – there is absolutely NO scientific evidence that suggests that the universe is only 10 or however many thousand years old.  The Theory of Evolution has a mountain of evidence, yet 6 out of 10 people believe in a story about the universe coming into being that has no evidence at all.

Another thing – if the “theory” goes that the universe was created, and we are going to say that this theory has proof, then which being?  Was it the Christian God?  Was it the Jewish God?  Was it Allah?  Was it Vishnu?  Was it Ra?  If they are going to try and prove that this universe was created by a heavenly being that left no evidence for its existence, how can you prove that it wasn’t another heavenly being that did it?  Through the course of human history, there have been countless religions and countless stories about the creation of life on Earth.  How can you prove one without proving another?

Bill Nye went on to say that if people wanted to believe that this world came to be from a heavenly being, and not through a process that has a mountain of evidence, that’s fine.  But the problem comes when people are trying to get that taught in classrooms.

Let’s be plain, here – this is not science.  Creationism is a theory in the same way that a tomato is a vegetable.  It simply isn’t.  There is no evidence for it.  But a very solid amount of people in this country want this “theory” to be taught in classrooms.  Well, that is just plain nuts.  Something that has absolutely zero basis in science doesn’t deserve to be in a scientific classroom, and anybody who thinks that they can argue that it does have a place there should see the previous problems.

There is no evidence of a holy being of any kind existing.  All secular evidence that exists about the universe shows that this universe is billions of years old, not thousands.  All secular evidence holds that life on this Earth did not get created at the same time, with humans playing on a swing hanging from a Brontosaurus.  It gradually evolved and changed over time.

Bill Nye is absolutely right.  Creationism has no place in schools.  And if we are teaching our kids that it is okay to ignore science, ignore evidence, and ignore facts, then what kind of future could they possibly have?  America is getting left behind by the rest of the industrialized world.

It amazes me that we don’t get it.

“Nessie” Disproves Evolution?

There aren’t enough hands to do enough facepalms for this one.  It is kind of poetic that this story takes place in Louisiana.  America’s south is becoming the great icon of stupidity in this country.  A new textbook, published by ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) has a rather interesting take on the theory of evolution.

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? `Nessie,’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.

Ugh.  One can almost feel the stupid just leaping off the screen, can’t you?  People wonder why the rest of the world thinks that we’re stupid.  Well, now you have your reason why.  And this isn’t the only example.  This textbook also contends that the concept of Godzilla actually came from the when Japanese whaling boats supposedly caught a dinosaur.

First, let’s address the obvious – that these arguments are beyond ridiculous.  Apparently, ACE never heard of the concept of shame or intellectual integrity.  Hopefully they are also not stupid enough to think that a sharp kid with access to the internet is going to be able to blow holes in this a mile wide.

Second, while this is one the stupidest documents we have seen in a long time, and also a textbook, this textbook isn’t going to public schools.  It is going to private school.  The children who attend these institutions, which apparently don’t care that they are teaching them outright lies, are there because their parents paid for them to be there.  If the parents want their kids to be taught outright lies and completely nonfactual information, then they get what they paid for.  I guess they want their kids to be stupid, which is fine.

Third, it is good for the rest of us that these people are doing this.  The rest of America, those of us who went to public school, are being taught real science, with real evidence, and real data to back it up.  We have been taught to think critically. We need these kinds of people so that we can not only have stupid people to laugh at, but also to have people that can continually drive the pursuit of knowledge.  Disproving ignorance is a great drive to improve the quality of our science education.

But there are some more serious aspect of this document to examine.  Other parts of this textbook say that the Ku Klux Klan was a very influential organization that is trying to –

be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross … In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.

Yeah, they also killed people and brutalized a community simply because they didn’t like them.  They were such peaches, weren’t they?

Recap: Accelerated Christian Education has no shame, nor any amount of integrity to print this garbage, and children being sent to private schools are learning complete falsehood.  And this is proof like no other that people who argue for the privatization of education isn’t the answer.

Actual science has never looked so good.

The Question of Morality

There was a question that was posed by a public figure who isn’t known as a great intellectual, and yet he has some very poignant message about the way things are in the world.  His name is TJ Kincaid, also known on YouTube as The Amazing Atheist.  In a video on Bing, he posed a question –

If morality controls human behavior, then who, or what controls human morality?

While he furnishes his own answer, I thought that, while it is late and I am unable to sleep, I would write up what I believe to be the answer to that question.

The first thing that one has to accept when they are looking at this question is that morality is a human invention.  There will be those that argue for absolute morals.  If that is to be taken seriously, then the question comes – where did those morals come from?  Many will respond to this – God.  He created the world, and gave us this moral code.  However, this cannot be taken seriously.

There is no evidence for the existence of God, and if something cannot be proven to exist, saying that we must follow a code that is by it, and even more disturbingly, unchanging is absolutely false.  To do so is madness, in every sense of the word.

The reasons why are obvious.  What if the religious figure which you get your morals from is not the real deity?  What if it is something completely different?  If that is the case, then you are deliberately disobeying that absolute morals that you claim to cherish.

The next is that the fact is that the predominate source that Christians claim to be the source of their morality, the Christian God, has a holy book that is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions.  To obey such a text, absolutely to the letter, is not only impossible, but completely ridiculous.

The final reason is that to obey any set of principles, absolutely, without change or even the ability to discuss change, is nothing more than a way to be manipulated.  A moral code of any kind must be flexible, it must be open to change.  It must be willing to accept that there may be issues that one can take with it, and willing to change to accomodate that, along with changing social values.

According to the Bible, slavery was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.  God encouraged his various armies to take their slain enemies families and cities as their slaves.  He made rules about how much a master could punish their slaves.

The bible had a lenient punishment for rape, and virtually no punishment for murder.  While The Ten Commandments stated that murder was wrong, this didn’t stop those from murdering others in the name of God, did it?  Not only that, but God, on numerous incidents, commanded his followers to murder, telling his armies to kill the girls and women who were not virgins, and to tear open the bellies of pregnant women.

So, by that logic, the absolute moral code that is given to us by religion is a farce.  But if that is the case, then where can morality come from?  This brings us back to the question at hand, who controls morality?  Well, take a look at the previous statements about religion, and how it works.

Back before the days when literacy was high, the Bible was taught to the people by priests and preachers.  The growth of education and the growth of skepticism has led to the increas in the atheist population, because reading these books and judging them on their own merits naturally leads to questioning the absolute system they are taught.  However, these religious leaders are giving people the system as they believe it to be from their holy book.  These people have power over their congregations and give them the values that they have.

Next up, we have governmental systems.  The laws that we make are secular in nature, designed to be fair to all parties, while still using a metric that is within the purview of people’s understanding, such as how killing and rape is wrong, and should be severely punished.

There is a pattern that you are seeing with these systems, aren’t you?  The people in power.  The religious leaders have power over their congregations.  They are informing their congregations of the values of the book that they are teaching, since it has been shown that most Christians are unfamiliar with the bulk of what is in their Bible.  Likewise, the people in government have power over the entire nations.  This power gives them the ability to dictate the morality of a nation.

Take Sparta, for example.  In the ancient city-state, there was the belief that kindness was weakness, and to show any kindness took away some of your honor.  In the Hindu-guided states, if you were suffering, it was your fault, for what you did in a past life.  There are parts of culture, even here in America that encourage hate, seperation, bigotry and being divided.  This tactic has been used by the powerful to keep the lower-classes in line.

So, where do morals come from?  Well, the answer is simple – they are a tool that is used by the powerful to control those without power, or those who are ignorant of their power.  Moral systems are simply a device that is to keep order in a society.  But what of morality?  How do we know that things are right and wrong?  How do atheists like myself know that killing people is inherantly the wrong thing to do?

The answer is empathy.  Those have this knowledge within them based on their ability to empathize with other people.  Through that, the real natural morality is born.  Perhaps, when we abandon these systems that we are taught and embrace empathy, then real progress of acceptance and kindness between people can be born, away from the systems that drive us apart, and teach division, rather than working together.

Of course, given how gullible people are, probably not.

Peace out,

Lefty

“Religious Freedom,” an easy cover for bigotry

Whenever somebody is looking to promote an idea that the religious groups in this country at large don’t agree with, have you ever noticed a pattern?  The pattern that these groups will have their members come out of the woodwork and claim “religious freedom.”  It is such a clever line, and through it, all kinds of hatred and bigotry are able to be defended.

There is a new battle against anti-gay bullying in schools.  It is being led by Focus on the Family.  They claim that this new legislation isn’t just about preventing kids from bullying LGBT students, but is about “indocrination” and “promoting homosexuality.”  It fails to register to them that this is blatantly untrue.  These laws in various states are designed to protect LGBT youth from being bullied because they are gay.  No child deserves the right to be bullied.  But according to Focus on the Family, not only do these kids deserved to be bullied, but to stop them from being bullied is against “religious freedom.”

Of course, this card has been pulled before.  When Obama said that the new health care law had a section in it that said that health insurance providers had to cover contraception at no cost to the patient, the Catholics came out of the woodwork, claiming that denying women access to birth control, which has health benefits far-beyond just preventing pregnancy, was within the purview of “religious freedom.”  Never mind that this was about insurance providers, not religious organizations.  They wanted to make a stand against it anyway.

This argument of “religious freedom” is so unbelievably worthless in the grand scope of things.  By the arguments that have been made, people like Hitler could have claimed that we were against his “religious freedom.”  Think about it – his Roman Catholic beliefs guided his actions.  He believed that it was what God would have wanted – for him to killl Jews.  When the Allies fought against him, he could have claimed that we were hurting his “religious freedom.”  This argument holds no water, because it is always proven to be blatantly false.

How is the freedom to worship whatever deity you choose hurt by legislation that protects LGBT students?  How are you suddenly unable to believe in the religious system of your choice when insurance providers are told that they have to cover contraception?

Or a little closer to home – how are the religious suddenly made unable to go to their religious institution because members of the LGBT community aren’t able to be discriminated against in regards to housing and hiring and firing?  The argument by Protect Your Rights was that this law which failed to pass, Proposition 5, was hurting “religious freedom.”  But how has it ever been hurt by any of these pieces of legislation?

The fact is that this reasoning is simply a rallying cry to the bigots in this country.  It can boiled down as simply as that.  Think about this – Focus on the Family openly admitted that there shouldn’t be laws in place to protect gay students.  They are perfectly fine with bullying.  They are openly condoning the behavior of the worst of us.  Of course, they won’t admit that.

That’s the ultimate truth – these groups can’t admit the ugliness of their own position, because if they did, we would reject them.  We would reject their ideology based solely on hatred, lies, and the public at large being unable to question or fight against it.  This religious demagoguery goes largely unchallenged, because people don’t want to talk about stuff like this, or debate stuff like this.  The idea seems to be that we don’t have the right to call a spade a spade.

Or a bigot a bigot.  The simple truth is that these groups of people are merely finding a very poetic cover, for their own bigotry.  And meanwhile, students, women, and people just trying to live their lives, are the ones to suffer.  Our government does little to nothing to stop this bigotry.

To do so would be against “religious freedom.”

Peace out,

Lefty

The Meaning of Life in a Nutshell

Hypothetical situation: say that an alien race comes to Earth.  They have vastly superior weapons and technology.  Immediately, the employ these things to violently attack our species.  Humanity is left with only two choices – fight and probably die, or surrender, and become slaves to these aliens.  And, for the sake of this situation, say that you are one of the people who chooses to fight.

Are you really going to care what the person standing next to you, fighting until the bitter end believes?  Will you care if this person worships Allah, Jehovah, or nothing at all?  Will it matter to you if the person is a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative?  Will it be so incredibly important if this person is a man or a woman?  Will you care if this person seeks solace in the arms of somebody of the same sex?  The two of you are probably going to die just the same.

Think about it – you are facing the end of your entire species.  There is nothing outside of this.  You no longer can afford to let the petty prejudisms of this world dominate your thoughts, because it is almost over for us.  It’s the twilight of the human race, and nobody can stop that.  There is nobody coming to save us.  We stand alone.  Or do we?

The answer is no.  The true meaning of life is something that I have pondered for some time.  While others will choose to believe that it is something petty, like worshipping God or loving America, I see it as something much more profound.  The irony is that the predominant faith of America’s savior agrees with me in this regard.  What is the meaning of life – to look out for each other, because we are all we have.

This is something that soldiers have figured out in foxholes, getting shelled endlessly.  When they are in that place, trying desperately to survive, I guarantee you that the last thought that is going through their mind is whether the guy next to them is Christian, or their breed of it, or whether or not that person is into other men.  They have never thought about that, because all they could count on was the person next to them.  It’s ironic that in the most bitter of situations, humanity has found an ability to bond like never before.

When a huge tornado spree absolutely destroyed a large part of states like Wisconsin, you could hear the sound of hammers, the sawing of wood.  People of the community came back together, to rebuild what they had lost.  There is some great truth to that.  Truth that the leaders of this country will never seem to understand.

It’s easy to see why they don’t.  Take a look around, it’s everywhere.  The Democrats and Republicans both try to divide the people of this country.  They talk about all the things that make us different, all the ways that we are not the same.  They will point out how people need to be afraid.  Always trying to fracture and divide the people, so that they can steal the wealth and keep their power, and never be accountable to anybody.  This has been true of this government for about as long as it has existed.

But the truth is, the meaning of life is to look after each other, because we are all we have.  There is no God coming for us.  There is no eternal bliss after this.  You die, and that’s it.  But together, we can make this life the best life we have ever had.  It wouldn’t be hard.  All it would take is a little dedication.

We need to stop these pointless feuds between nations, which are forever trying to further a game of money and power that nobody wins, and almost everybody loses.  We need to abandon the outdated and absolutely worthless traditions that are holding back progress, such as the belief that a woman shouldn’t have the right to her own body, and the faith that brings that to the front.  We need to look after the least of us, which would mean having the wealthiest of us be willing to give their fair share.  It’s not asking too much for the richest 1% to pay more.  We don’t want to bleed them dry, but something like a 3-10% increase in taxes isn’t unfair.

There was a rather brilliant quote by Stephen Colbert about how things work in this country –

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

That’s well-spoken, and from a man who has lived in the realm of comedy, and satired the way things in this country are.

In the end, it isn’t about you and me.  It is about all people, in all places, trying to survive.  Because there very well could come a day where it is only us, or the enemy out to destroy or enslave us.  And hopefully, by that time, we haven’t ruined our world beyond the realm or redemption.  Hopefully, by then, we have learned that we are all we have, and its time for us to start looking out for one-another.

That is the real meaning of life – making things better for everybody, and making this world a better place.

Peace out,

Lefty

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