Monthly Archives: May 2008

Balls, Paths, Teachers, Daunting, Erred, Dr Who

Several articles of a religious nature from the SMH newspaper:

Purity Balls

An increasing number of young American women and girls are attending purity balls with their conservative Christian fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity until marriage. About 88 per cent of these women lose their virginity before they wed, writes Neela Banerjee.

There are a few things about these Purity Balls that make me go WTF? The biggest one is the sexual abstinence thing, it’s just not very viable (88% is a very high failure rate), the sexual urge is a very primitive and strong urge. One that at times needs to be tempered, but also needs to be acknowledged. Another problem is the lack of sexual education these people get, they are told “just don’t do it” and not provided with the knowledge to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs if they do ‘do it’.

And the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in the US found that rates of sexually transmitted diseases were higher in communities with a high proportion of pledgers.

I agree with PossumMomma, the best thing to do is provide education and develop a mutual trust and respect with your children. I wouldn’t encourage young teens to have sex, quite the opposite, but it’s better that they understand all the consequences and know all the options regarding contraception, STDs, etc. if they do want to have sex.

Catholic WYD – Clearing a path

It’s getting closer and the special laws are in place, so Sydney is now a Police State. The special World Youth Day Act means the State government can direct the Sydney Council to do whatever World Youth Day Co-ordination Authorities request! Apart from all the radical traffic changes, the authorities are/were planning on removing trees in a park to provide easier passage for the C-WYD pilgrims. Are these pilgrims so blinded by faith they need obstacles cleared from their path so they don’t bump into them? ** snerk ** 

The final paragraph of the SMH article sums things up quite well, and not just about C-WYD.

“I think we have to be careful about how communities are being disempowered under the guise of ‘You need this for security or to make this event successful’. Part of living in a democracy is consultation and coming up with better decisions together.”

Catholic WYD – I wonder what the Teachers really think?

Teachers and staff from Catholic schools ave been asked to give up to six days of their own time in school holidays to supervise overnight sleepovers for Catholic World Youth Day pilgrims.

Quite rightly, they are concerned with the logistics, duty-of-care and how to deal with inappropriate behaviour. I wonder how many also aren’t keen about losing their holidays?

Daunting World for Newly Secular

For ex Orthodox Jews the real world can be very daunting, and lonely. An interesting article featuring the story of Assaf Philip who used to be an ultra-orthodox rabbi. When Assaf decided to become a secular Jew it

cost him his family, most of his friends and excommunication from his entire community.

So, like Scientology, Exclusive Brethren and undoubtedly other religions, the ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews also practice disassociation for anyone who leaves their faith.

With no money, and no education in basic areas such mathematics and the sciences or the English alphabet, Philip says he was ejected from his home almost within hours of his rabbi learning he had lost his faith.

Philip, and others like him also have very little social skills as the Haredi Jewish community is a fairly closed community. Philip’s wife was picked for him by his father and rabbi and he met her only a couple of hours before their wedding.

Some of the other problems that secular Jews perceive are

that being Haredi carries with it certain privileges which include not having to pay tax, not having to work and not having to do three years of military service.

and some people think our government is lenient on the religious.


One last one I stumbled upon whilst trying to find the online links to the above articles. An opinion piece written by the Anglican Dean of Sydney Philip Jensen, the Anglican equivalent of the Catholic Archbishop George Pell. For those not in the know the Sydney Diocese of both the Anglicans and Catholics are the most staunchly traditional of the diocese around Australia. Pell and Jensen are also well known for voicing their opinions.


Church of Rome hath erred

So starts Jensen’s opinion piece.

Jensen says he thinks it’s an honour that Sydney is to host the Catholic WYD, but he is protesting none the less. Jensen’s protest:

is against the enormity of the claims of the Roman Catholic Church

Well that’s one thing I agree with Jensen about, but I think it may be the only thing.

Some people are born as Protestants. They are anti-Roman Catholic because of their own tribal roots.

SAY WHAT? People aren’t born as any religion, they get indoctrinated and brainwashed into the religion they are unfortunate enough to have been born into. They are anti-Catholic because their parents, Ministers and other authority figures tell them to be.

Jensen then goes on to rejecting various Catholic doctrines including the Catholics claim to divine authority, particularly

the Pope claiming to be the Vicar of Christ

Hmmm, something else I agree with, sort of. The Pope has no more ‘divine authority’ than anyone else, especially if you consider there is no divine authority.

Jensen then tells us that the Catholics have every right to get money from the government. It’s just being hospitable and like any other event hospitality is expensive. I wonder then how much money the Gay Mardi Gras gets from the government? I also wonder if Jensen, and Pell wouldn’t mind being just as hospitable to a World Atheist Day?

Jensen then discusses secularism.

World Youth Day does not compromise the separation of church and state. Nor does it undermine secular government. The Government provides facilities and security for any group, either religious or non-religious. We can only complain when there is favouritism for any particular group.

This is the confusion of secular with secularism. It is the confusion of secularist philosophy with secular government. Secular means this age – of this world. We have a government that is secular, i.e. relating to the things of this age – hospitals, building, roads, economy and so on.

Secularism is the religious philosophy, which teaches that there is no other age or world than this one.

The secularists wish to impose atheistic belief on society through government. They are the ones who do not believe in the separation of church and state. They try to use government to enforce their viewpoint. Thus they oppose the normal secular support that is given to Roman Catholics.

There are some valid points in the above quote but there is something wrong with the underlying ideas, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Can any tell me what Jensen has got wrong here?

Dr Who makes more sense than the Bible

One last thing, did anyone watch Good News Week last night? If you missed it you can watch the video here (episode 13, 122Mb). Towards the end of the show [40 min mark] they were talking about Dr Who and Paul said:

… because even a two hearted time travelling alien who lives in a dimension warping  [police] phone box makes more sense than the bible.

I cacked myself laughing 😆 I’ve just watched that bit again, trying to transcribe the above quote, now I’m typing this with a big smirk on my face. The article in question that GNW were discussing is:

The church is ailing – send for Dr Who

There’s another blog in that article alone, but I think I’ve done enough for today.

Last but not least – Five points to anyone who can make a good sentence from my headline.

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Filed under atheism, atheist, bible, Catholic WYD, Dr Who, Jew, pope, purity ball, secular

odds and sods, bits and pieces

Tokens of Doom

The Chinese may not believe in Jesus Christ, but they do have their own superstitions, this is one of the more unusual ones:

China’s earthquake disaster and other recent misfortunes have been linked to the five Olympic mascots

mascots_wideweb

The five Olympic mascots are Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, Nini and Beibei.

Jingjing, a panda, is the animal most closely associated with Sichuan province where the earthquake struck.

Huanhuan, a cartoon character with flame-red hair, is being linked to the Olympic torch that has been dogged by anti-China protests on its round-the-world tour.

Yingying, an antelope, is an animal confined to the borders of Tibet, which has been the scene of riots and the cause of international protests against China.

Nini, represented by a kite, is being viewed as a reference to the “kite city” of Weifang, in Shandong, where there was a deadly train crash last month.

That leaves only Beibei, represented by a sturgeon fish, which online doomsayers suggest could indicate a looming disaster in the Yangtze River, the only place where sturgeon is found.

from Tokens of doom: mascots seen as signs of times

Charles is Jesus’ great, great, great, great, etc, grandson

The legend that Mary Magdalene went to France carrying Jesus’ child may be true after all. Stew at 2000 Years of Deception has found some evidence that Jesus’ descendants made it to France, where they are now running a condiments business.

Charles CHRIST, the Authentic Taste

charles_christ

Doctors to trial cannabis spray

NSW Doctors are set to trial an oral spray which delivers cannabis compounds, on patients with various illnesses. Cannabis is believed to relieve pain, particularly to people suffering from HIV or cancer.

This could prove to be of great benefit to pain sufferers, especially ones who don’t like the idea of smoking a joint.

Though I can see it could be abused – “but Officer, it’s just my asthma inhaler, honest”.

from news.com.au and smh.com.au

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Doomsday Cult leave cave

The stench of rotting corpses has driven the final members of the Russian Doomsday Cult out of their cave. Late last year 35 members of a splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church moved into a cave to await the end of the world. Their leader Pyotr (also called Pavel) Kuznetsov had predicted the world would end in April or May this year.

24 members of the cult left the cave in March after rains had affected their cave. Yesterday the final 9 members left the cave after the smell from the rotting corpses, of two of the members, threatened to intoxicate them.

A small article in today’s SMH (print) alerted me to this so I did a quick search to find further details, here are some links:

  • SMH
  • ABC News
  • IHT – background story from 15 Nov 07
  • Al Jazeera – most detailed, with links to stories from Nov and Mar.

From the Al Jazeera article:

Pavel Kuznetsov, their leader, predicted the apocalypse for April or May this year, but would not join them underground, saying God had different tasks for him.

He reportedly told followers that in the afterlife, they would be judging whether others deserved heaven or hell.

Hmmm, I wonder what Kuznetsov’s task was?

Kuznetsov has been charged with setting up a religious organisation associated with violence.

That’s an interesting charge, I wonder if other countries have that?

It’s amazing how deluded some people can be, and also sad that two people died because of it.

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Bush’s incongruence

Is it just me, or does telling the world you’re on the side of one country, when you are supposedly trying to assist in a peace process between that country and another, make things a little difficult?

An advance copy of a speech by President George Bush, which he was to deliver to the Israeli parliament, said this:

“Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you,”

If I was a Palestinian I’d be thinking “If Bush and his 300 million mates stand with Israel then who stands with us?” How does Bush ever expect to ‘shore up the Israeli-Palestinian peace process’ when he so blatantly supports Israel?

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Salam Cafe

Salam Cafe, SBS Wednesdays 10pm
A new series which started last week (8 May 2008), I watched it for the first time last night.

The show has it’s own web site and episode 2 (this weeks, 15 May) is available to be watched online (as of writing this blog). There is also a blog section with comments from viewers (worth a read).

This series stars Muslims and is supposed to be based on and around Muslim experiences and give Muslims a voice on the TV. It is a panel type of show, a bit like “The Panel” with head scarves.

I actually found some of it interesting and at times funny (though lots of things are funny when you are sipping on a Jameson’s Whiskey). Though, like a lot of new shows, some of the jokes fell a bit flat and the actors didn’t get everything quite right. However that’s not my problem with this show, it was some of the sentiments that got me going “WTF?”.

Here’s some excerpts:
at the [4:32] mark, Susan is discussing the Muslim call to prayer and says

“It’s hard to believe that it would cause any controversy”

They then discuss that in Oxford England some residents have complained to the council to prevent the ‘call to prayer’ being broadcast. Personally I don’t blame the residents, no matter what the ‘call’ is I don’t want to hear it, keep it to yourselves people. You should hear (and see him!) what the Oxford historian has to say [5:50].

The special guest was Rhys Muldoon who talked about the 2020 Summit and going to church with Prime Minister John Howard, this is what he had to say [15:08]

“I found it quite moving to be next to a Prime Minister who was kneeling and praying”

The only movement I had was a severe rolling of my eyes!

They then went on to discussing Play School (Rhys used to be on it) and made a joke about a new version called Pray School, as Rhys said

in brackets “Children of Abraham” …

then Nazeem Hussain says [16:24]

in other brackets you could have “dot dot dot, ’cause atheist kids go to hell“.

Well that will sure win you some points with 18-30% of the population. Way to go, show some compassion and inclusiveness.

There were some funny moments in the show but the overtly religious overtones put me off (but I guess I should have expected that). Will I watch it again? Maybe. Do I recommend it? Not overly, but that is partly because it didn’t seem very professional. Then again I never liked ‘The Panel’ much either.

Numbers in [] are time marks on the 25 minute video.

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PS. don’t forget to read my other post today: Book Review – Blasphemy

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Book review – Blasphemy by Douglas Preston

Just finished reading this great novel – Blasphemy by Douglas Preston. It was, as they say, ‘a real page turner’ and boy, does he stick it to the religious right. Interestingly, Amazon’s suggested book to buy with this one is The 6 Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly, another fast paced action novel.

From the author’s web site:

The world’s biggest supercollider, locked in an Arizona mountain, was built to reveal the secrets of the very moment of creation: the Big Bang itself.

Will the Torus divulge the mysteries of the creation of the universe? Or will it, as some predict, suck the earth into a mini black hole? Or is the Torus a Satanic attempt, as a powerful televangelist decries, to challenge God Almighty on the very throne of Heaven?

Twelve scientists … are sent … to turn it on, and what they discover must be hidden from the world at all costs. …, a secret that will either destroy the world…or save it.

At over 400 pages this is a fair sized novel but I managed to read it in a few days, the plot rolls along faster and faster until the twist towards then end.

The book pits science against religion, with politics intricately involved. A bit like real life actually. Some of the characters are well written, Douglas has managed to capture the religious zealot very well. There are sections in the book that could have come straight off any of the many fundamentalist Christian web sites or blogs. His portrayal of the TV Evangelist (Spates) is just like many of the real TV Evangelists, only in it for the money, fame and power. They say one thing and then do the other.  Several times in the book the religious person’s ability to justify any indiscretion or atrocity and then either ask for God’s forgiveness or blame it on God’s will is demonstrated. The following examples is from an early section in the book:

Every sermon seemed to generate vilification from the atheist left. It was a sad time when a man of God was attacked for speaking the simple truth. Of course, there’s been that unfortunate incident in the motel with the two prostitutes. … Spates had asked for and received God’s forgiveness.

blasphemy_cover I’d like to discuss this book more, but I don’t want to give too much away. If you like a good action packed intriguing novel Blasphemy might be one to read.

I think Christians should read this as well as us atheists, it might make them think about the machinations of the religious fundamentalists and how dangerous they can be.

There are plenty of favourable reviews for this book around the web, including an interesting interview with the author at ITW.

And remember ‘Blasphemy is a victimless crime’

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Einstein said belief in God ‘childish’

so says the head line at news.ninemsn.com. Over the years many people have tried to misconstrue Einstein’s words  and insinuate he believed in God. Well here is another piece of evidence he had NO inclination to believe in God at all.

A letter, which has been in a private collection for over 50 years, explains it all. Here is the article:

Albert Einstein described belief in God as “childish superstition” and said Jews were not the chosen people, in a letter to be sold in London this week, an auctioneer says.

The father of relativity, whose previously known views on religion have been more ambivalent and fuelled much discussion, made the comments in response to a philosopher in 1954.

As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they “have no different quality for me than all other people.”

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

“No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this,” he wrote in the letter written on January 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, cited by The Guardian newspaper.

The German-language letter is being sold on Thursday by Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, said the auction house’s managing director Rupert Powell.

In it the renowned scientist, who declined an invitation to become Israel’s second president, rejected the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people.

“For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions,” he said.

“And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.”

And he added: “As far as my experience goes, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

Previously the great scientist’s comments on religion – such as “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” – have been the subject of much debate, used notably to back up arguments in favour of faith.

Powell said the letter being sold this week gave a clear reflection of Einstein’s real thoughts on the subject.

“He’s fairly unequivocal as to what he’s saying. There’s no beating about the bush,” he told AFP.

I particularly liked his comment “… the Jewish people … have no different quality for me than all other people”.

Jews are often cited as being the Chosen? Chosen by who?

I was going to blog about the great book I just finished reading, but this find was too good to miss. hat tip to my secret source. Please return tomorrow for my book review.

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