Questionable Motives

January 19, 2011

What does a smoking gun in Vatican terms look like over institutionalized child abuse?

Filed under: Catholic Church,child abuse,Crime,Vatican — tildeb @ 9:08 am

The smoking gun has been found. In this AP article we read that

A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims’ groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests.

The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

What’s almost as sad is that many faithful catholics will continue to excuse this reprehensible institution for its gross acts of policy indecencies against victims of criminal abuse.

Child-abuse activists in Ireland said the 1997 letter demonstrates that the protection of pedophile priests from criminal investigation was not only sanctioned by Vatican leaders but ordered by them.

“The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican’s intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

Perhaps the law suits that will now surely follow will drive home the point that the church cannot be immune from prosecution. Although I have no doubt the men in funny hats and dresses from Rome will insist that local parishes pay for their crimes, my sincere hope is that those who belong to local parishes will finally stop donating any money at all in any way to these criminals in Rome.

January 10, 2011

Where’s the line between your god and me?

Why do I keep harping about the dangers of religious beliefs in the public domain?
Many people assume I must have a vendetta or something against some past religious sleight, that I was abused by a religious person and am angry, that I must be searching for god because I stay involved in speaking out against faith-based beliefs. None of these is true.
I try to explain that I made a necessary decision long ago – one that all of make at some point – about what happens when one gives in to pimping out one’s conscience (conveniently forgetting the Golden rule) in favour of something else, something practical and self-rewarding. I try to explain a series of events that happened to me to bring it home when I was much younger.
I could see a direct correlation between being spat on at a bus bench in apartheid South Africa by a white woman for sitting on the wrong side of the painted bench that read ‘Whites Only’ and ‘For Coloureds Only’ to standing beneath the gate at Auschwitz and appreciating what had to have happened to make industrialized death possible. I could plainly see in my young mind that acquiescence to the faith-based belief that race is real and more important than human rights and freedoms for all is no different in principle than the faith-based belief that god is real and more important than human rights and freedoms.
The pimping of one’s conscience is to put aside the PRIMACY of fundamental respect for our common and shared humanity in favour of some faith-based belief, to then excuse acting on this belief as if IT were more important to uphold (in whatever name you care to insert) than the person acted upon.
I could plainly see then as I do now that placing some faith-based belief higher in consideration than the rights and freedoms of real people is the cause in practice to gross injustices. And this is what I see whenever faith-based beliefs are allowed to be the justification for actions in our world: that potential and far too often actual gross injustices.
Those who excuse or support actions in the name of faith-based beliefs – whether positive or negative  – are a great threat to humanity (not just because I think that their brains are addled but) because they do not have the intellectual discipline or fortitude or honesty to follow their faith-based sympathies to their logical conclusions – to the gates of their own supported version of Auschwitz. People continue to support faith-based beliefs without clearly seeing the very real danger to others they bring to the table of their communities; instead, they mollify their capitulated consciences with excuses under various banners already predetermined to matter more in importance than the rights and freedoms of others.
To me it is obvious: moving away from respecting FIRST the rights and freedoms of others and inserting something else in this position is wrong – it is morally reprehensible and ethically self-destructive – no matter what that something else may be. The worst offender is, of course, god but it could be nation or tribe or political affiliation or gender or whatever. It doesn’t matter what the selected particular may be. What matters is the willingness that something ELSE is more important, of greater consideration, than respecting the rights and freedoms of others. And that respect cannot be simply interpersonal but systemic: we must offer our primary support in the name of our conscience to the social and political and legal framework necessary to keep our rights and freedoms equal for all.
This is the battle I undertake because my conscience demands it be done. Do we have the moral courage to make right choices in our lives, to find and recognize that line of conscience we will not cross?
Here’s a little story about that line… one I found poignant yet strangely personal that shows exactly what I mean (h/t to Dead Wild Roses).

January 5, 2011

Chris Mooney is at it again: isn’t ‘spirituality’ really another word for ‘religion’?

The piece (Chris Mooney’s article in Playboy) is about scientists who aren’t religious, but are spiritual, in an atheistic sort of way. An excerpt:

But can scientists who say they are awestruck by nature and moved by their research really relate to more traditional religious experiences, a la those reported by saints? Aren’t “awe” and “wonder” nondescript notions that add emotional embroidery to the brute facts of the universe? Perhaps not. Feelings of awe, wonder and mystery recur in the context of human quests for deeper understanding or revelation. In his 1917 work The Idea of the Holy, German theologian Rudolph Otto singled out a sense of awe as a key characteristic of our encounters with what he termed the “numinous”–an overwhelming power or presence beyond ourselves.

Science can unleash this feeling too. Just sit in a darkened room and look at nebulae pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, as University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank describes doing in his book The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate. “Scientists are not the only ones who catch their collective breath before these pictures,” he writes. “The momentary hush and the gasp that follow are involuntary.”

Mooney is one of those authors (who is funded in part by being a Fellow the Templeton Foundation) to vainly search for ways to force science and religion to be compatible ways of knowing. He claims to be all about communication by bashing gnu atheists, making up stories about them, posting these lies on his blog at Discover, banning people who dare criticize him, and pretending that it is the atheists who inhibit this ‘natural’ fit. For years he complained about framing, that a failure to frame religion and its active interference in gaining and applying knowledge while promoting superstition and ignorance in their place was detrimental to promoting science. I hold Mooney and his ego in contempt.

Now he’s switched gears a bit and is on what I call the Spirituality Bandwagon: that religion is really a substitute word for what it should be… spirituality. Because what we call spirituality can be shared by both atheist and believer, Mooney wants to re-FRAME the natural incompatibility between faith-based beliefs and knowledge as one of a common spirituality expressed in these different but compatible ways. But are they?

From Jerry Coyne about what science and religion really offer each other:

1. Religion gains but one thing from science: an increasing knowledge about the universe that makes mockery of religious doctrine, forcing the faithful to revise their dogma while claiming that it was consistent with science all along.

2. Science has nothing to gain from religion, which is simply an annoyance that distracts us from our job.

This is an excellent post by Ken on the state of NOMA today with a bang-on cartoon by jesusandmo over at Open Parachute.

Meanwhile, back at Whyevolutionistrue, Coyne comments about Mooney’s article and gets to the heart of the matter:

What a smarmy and intellectually dishonest piece of accommodationist tripe, relying as it does on conflating two completely disparate notions of “spirituality”!  Can we agree, then, that when we get all emotional about a piece of music or a novel or a nebula, or experience wonder at the products of natural selection—that we give these emotions a name different from “sprituality”?  That just confuses the diverse meanings of the term (which was Mooney’s intent) and gives ammunition to acoommodationists.

PZ Myers joins in and is also bang on with his criticism of Mooney and his ilk:

Well, spirituality is all about the believers. It’s a slimy game relying on the fact that apologists love to dodge criticisms of religion, the body of concrete, specific, institutionalized beliefs about the supernatural, by retreating to the tactical vagueness of “faith” or “spirituality”, whatever the hell they are.

You can’t expect us to simply respect foolish ideas. We tolerate them, but people like Mooney go further and demand that we respect nonsense, and that’s not going to happen, and shouldn’t happen.

And trying to coopt an honest scientific appreciation of the wonders of the universe as support for religion is a dishonest attempt to prop up bogus superstitions with an appeal to emotions — any emotions. If a scientist isn’t a passionless robot, Mooney wants to be able to pretend they’re on the side of religious dogma. That rankles. Love of science is not equatable to clinging to ignorance, although Chris Mooney is straining to make it so.

January 4, 2011

Why isn’t MSNBC heaping scorn on those who ‘predict’ the date of the Rapture?

I usually just ignore these end-of-the-world so-called ‘predictions’ that have a long and solid history of being absolutely wrong. Even a semi-reasonable person should take such predictions as laughable jokes, yet when it comes to the rapture, far too many people seem more than willing to lend it an ear of respectability as if this time it may be true… just in case… and it is to those folk that I think we should hold in high contempt for their willingness to be so gullible.

MSNBC has within its editorial ranks just such people, who tell by the publication of this non-contemptuous article that there is

a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin on May 21, 2011.

Treating this religious inspired lunacy without scorn lends to it an air of legitimacy to the possibility that the  basis of the ‘prediction’ – in this case a calculation based on a scriptural interpretation  – may have some merit when there isn’t even the slightest shred of evidence to justify any such distinction. This faith-based gullibility – especially for those rational enough among us who actually know better but wish to pretend that their agnosticism is a more reasonable and tolerant position than a firm stance of ridicule for this absurd ‘prediction’ in the absence of any meaningful evidence – does a disservice to respecting a legitimate prediction based on what’s probably true, probably accurate, and probably correct.

It’s important to understand why and how these legitimate probabilities inform legitimate predictions rather than cast all predictions into the same pot from which we can draw whatever made-up crap we want and pretend that all are more or less the same quality… as long as we call them predictions rather differentiate made-up crap from evidence-based probabilities. The  May 21 rapture is no ‘prediction’: it is a guess about when the end of the world will occur with an extraordinarily high probability of turning out exactly like every other religiously inspired faith-based guess: absolutely wrong.

So here is my informed prediction: the world will still be up and running on the 22nd of May, 2011. You are a moron to believe otherwise.

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