Original Sin?

Lovely limbo for the little losers:

According to Italian media reports on Tuesday, an international theological commission will advise Pope Benedict to eliminate the teaching about limbo from the Catholic catechism.

The Catholic Church teaches that babies who die before they can be baptized go to limbo, whose name comes from the Latin for "border" or "edge," because they deserve neither heaven nor hell.

Last October, seven months before he died, Pope John Paul asked the commission to come up with "a more coherent and enlightened way" of describing the fate of such innocents.

Hey! Slow down there. Infants "innocent"? If they ain't tainted, they're pseudo-sainted—free pass to the laughter hereafter. I've yet to hear of any coherent way to describe the fate of babies in terms of the Christian afterlife. There is no transition point in any person's life when they change from a reactive aggregation of cells to a sentient being, able to take responsibility for their decisions. Growing up is a gradual process.

Changing religious stories to be "more coherent and enlightened" is a marketing exercise. Should the devoted believers accept a new spin? How will it sound?
"We didn't know enough before, but now we've studied the scriptures much betterer, and thought about it with some truly excellent communion wine. This new improved doctrinal statement has 73% more Truth. Guaranteed!"

The advice to Benedict is much more savvy. Eliminate the teaching on limbo. If you don't mention it, most of the sheep will miss the fact that there are inexplicable contradictions in the heaven/hell stories when applied to babies.

Yeah, I know. Catholic church + dogma = easy target. Just tell me when any of the major world religions will be honest enough to admit that they haven't got a clue about life beyond death?

HereEndethTheBemusedRant. RAmen.

"it corrupts the society that tolerates it"

How is it possible, in the twenty-first century, for Cheney to justify a pro-torture stance?

Thigh Ornament

Last night I found out what it was like to have a fully grown cat suspended from one's thigh by three piercings (very recently applied). The results were not pretty, visually or aurally.

Enough said.

Staggering Stupidity

I thought I'd looked at idiocy from both sides now, but it seems there's always a fresh angle (via Making Light). What should we call this: the idealist's idea of the best possible disaster aid?

First, read the American Red Cross Disaster FAQ. Note where it says:

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

So, Homeland Security, stretched beyond capacity, unable to cope with the demand for evacuation assistance, are preventing people stuck in N.O. from receiving medical aid and food. People will suffer and die while they wait for the best possible solution--evacuation. Let the pragmatists in!


PZ and many others have noted and ranted.

George W. Bush, September 2005:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

Scientific American, October 2001:

New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen...

A direct hit is inevitable. Large hurricanes come close every year...

Since the late 1980s Louisiana's senators have made various pleas to Congress to fund massive remedial work...

Bush's statement would be better abbreviated to "I don't think."

The Return of the Curse

The curse is a long neglected literary device, but one I believe should be revived and added to the pundit's arsenal. The floods of invective, tirade, rant and snark have grown stale and are losing their emotional power. They've become old and comfortable, viewed as reassurance to the supporter and meaningless noise to the opponent.

The curse is more than an argument or an assertion, it is a word of prophesy. It ties fate to its victim's coattail. It signposts a course through the multiverse. Like science, it makes predictions.

PZ Myers draws our attention to the curse left by the famous UFO debunker, Philip Klass

The Last Will and Testament of Philip J. Klass

To UFOlogists who publicly criticize me…or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath THE UFO CURSE: No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs that you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.

Inspired by Klass's curse, I penned a curse in verse for PhaWRONGula (only to find on completion that Socar had been similarly inspired).

To Curse a Creationist

May your Luddite defiance and techno-anxiety,
Your morals from myth and pretensions of piety,
Irrelevance to an enlightened society
Let everyone know you're a freak.

May your lifetime's disdain for your own education
One day be the source of your mortification--
A breathtaking, gut-wrenching realization
Of your ignorant arrogant pique.

May your paranoid claims and continued insistence
That science suppresses your piece de resistance
Become such a part of your blighted existence
You feel that it's pointless to speak.

Mutilated Morality


It's hard to understand exactly how stupidly prudish the family-valued-religious-right have become. Does America really need to fund a government investigation into how a game with a Mature 17+ rating that glorifies the violent use of a car to kill pedestrians, has been modded to allow it to show simulated S E X scenes? The game (without any modification) gives you kudos for wiping out innocent people stylishly, and Hillary's worried about it showing people engaged in mutual pleasure? Gosh! We wouldn't want our 17 year olds exposed to that now, would we? Let's keep them focused on lawlessness and gratuitous violence.

It's wonderful the way Hillary spins the phrase "fallen into the hands of young people across the country."

"Gee mom, I was like just playing this racing game where you kill people, and the 'hot coffee' mod just fell off the web onto my disc and installed itself! Honest!"


What trauma?

Over on Pharyngula, a fundie troll has been trying to assert that godlessness is related to family problems during childhood. e.g.

Well, I just can't help but notice that the people who espouse atheism, evolution, anti-Christian viewpoints, wild and cra-zee promiscuity, and aberrant sex of all kinds, all had some really tough stuff happen to them when they were young, usually involving big problems with their fathers, which I firmly believe is why they have a hard time establishing a relationship with their Heavenly Father.

Of course, the troll goes on to employ the time-honoured "proof by selective example" to show the "strength" of her argument. She lists a few prominent figures who've expressed views she hates and points to their family problems, and hopes to thereby denigrate their views. You can read the easy refutations of her assertions in the Pharyngula comment thread.

So, there's a fundie troll commenting on PZ Myers's blog. What's new?

A coincidental encounter with another fundie who clings to a similar opinion. That's what's new.

Last night a man, after talking to me for five minutes and finding out of my apostasy (the subject was inevitable since we met at a party of a mutual Christian friend), convinced himself that I must have suffered some life-changing negative event to cause me to reevaluate my faith. As became apparent during the conversation, this "perceptive" man was an only-a-theory, all-scientists-have-been-duped, not-a-clue-about-science fundamentalist.

I have lived a fortunate life. Abuse free. Trauma free. Happily married for over 23 years. Well balanced kids. Stable employment. What led me away from faith was learning—finding out about the history of the church, finding out how a council of ordinary men decided what books to include in their canon, examining the claims that had been taught to me and reinforced by Christian friends, understanding how religious memes survive and propagate.

It seems to me that the idea that learning leads away from the church is uncomfortable for fundamentalists. Any other excuse (e.g., traumatic experience) is a rationalization to cling to. Counter examples must be relegated as exceptions. 

I won't try to generalize to all Christian fundamentalists, but when you meet a fundie, it's wise to be prepared for the preconceptions they may have about your life, the way you think, and the way you've been duped by the world-wide conspiracy to marginalize (their interpretation of) God.

Delicious Irony

PABAAH (Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood) win my boundless admiration for raising their flag over Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Sure, try to get everyone upset about a movie that allegorically criticises GWB's war. How anti-American can it get?

Lucas wrote his story (and the dialogue too) years ago based on his observation of a recurring political pattern. He had the Vietnam war in mind. That it so closely matches GWB's modus operandi, his black/white "for us or against us" polarization, his war initiated on false assertions of danger, should have made them engage their brains first. Was Lucas so prescient that he could criticise the Bush administration for what he knew they would do? Or, dare we consider that it is anti-American to tell of the dangers of absolutism?

If the black helmet fits, wear it.

End of a Space Opera

Star Wars Episode III.

Surreal scenery. Scintillating cities. Sensational stunts.

Script sucked.

See spoiler.

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