atheism, censorship, christians, justice, law, minority rights, pedophiles/priests, religion, Things We Should Know

The Emerald Isle: Boldly Moving Forward into the 12th Century…

Let me preface these remarks by saying that if we were Irish nationals, both Kevvy and I would be criminals. Kevvy for his most recent post, and me for what I am about to write. Once more unto the breach, dear readers!

On January 1st, 2010, a new law came into effect in Ireland – the law is, according to legislators, primarily designed to modernise laws regarding defamation. Goodness knows, given the state of defamation laws in England, that area could use a bit of cleaning up in the Isles, so to speak. This, however, is not what is most troubling about this legislation. Contained within the law are provisions making blasphemy, the disparaging of religious beliefs which might offend practitioners of a given religion, illegal.  Of course, as one would expect, some, like Richard Dawkins, are speaking out against what is perceived to be a return to medieval thinking.

The Irish Constitution already contains provisions against blasphemy, however, Ireland and other countries which have similar laws or edicts have chosen largely to ignore them, given that they are impossible to define or enforce, and constitute an unreasonable restriction on free speech. Modern societies have largely recognized the importance of free speech and the benefits of the unrestricted flow of ideas. What is puzzling is that some commentators cannot even identify whose idea this was, or whether religious leaders of any denomination have pushed to have this law enacted.

Some will recall my post on the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to pass a United Nations resolution making disparagement of religion an offense around the world – even as a non-binding resolution, it is a terrifying prospect that such resolutions can even be seriously entertained in a global context.  This new law is an unreasonable and unwarranted attack on free speech and should not be tolerated. While we are turning our gaze toward Africa and threatening dire consequences if homosexuality is outlawed in Uganda, this type of petty, superstitious nonsense is actually happening in what is presumed to be the ‘civilized’ West. There are people around the world who are suffering unnecessary misery due to the efforts of supposedly well-meaning christians, and direct conflict between religious ideologies is killing hundreds, if not thousands of people a day in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Recently, a court in Malaysia decided it was acceptable for non-muslims to use the word ‘allah’, as long as it is not misused. Thousands are up in arms at what is seen as an insult to islam – never mind that the word ‘allah’ means ‘god’ in Arabic, and could conceivably come up in conversation in a respectful way – and this is just one of many instances where the rule of law has come up against the forces who encourage the growth of superstition and the suppression of competing ideas. The suppression of ideas, even ridiculous ones, is dangerous because it is a slippery slope from protecting one set of ideas from another to defining one idea, or ideology, as better or more worthy of promotion by a government.

Unless there are instances of demonstrable harm (such as are inherent in militant religions of any stripe), people should be permitted to share ideas and let the minds of others accept, debate or deny them as they see fit. It is the only way societies can grow and evolve – technology is great, but without ideas to determine its use, technology is just a tool. Moral ideas, divorced from the burden of religious dogma and developed to provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number, are the force that propels us forward as a race.

A restriction on speech is a restriction on thought, and any infringement on the right to think and speak freely is a violation of human rights, and should be regarded as a crime against humanity.

christians, general silliness, International News, Lighter Things, pedophiles/priests, religion

Full Contact Religion!

Pope Benedict, while on his way to celebrate mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, was knocked down by a woman who jumped the barrier to get at him. This isn’t all that funny – or, rather, it wouldn’t be if this hadn’t been her second try.

Papal Interference – 15 yard penalty, automatic first down.

The catholic church has indicated that they will review security, and the pope, in his speech, said the following:

…the church has been urging people to leave behind their “selfish” mentality, “to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn.”

Like the selfish mentality that exploits the fear and superstition of the poor, and sacrifices women all over the world (particularly in developing countries) to disease and death to ensure the survival of a corrupt hierarchy? The selfish mentality that allows pedophiles to go unpunished, and thousands of children to be vitimized, with the culpability of people in authority? I’d like to see that mentality banished too.

So, if I’ve got this right, god helps ‘choose’ the pope, communicates with him as his representative on Earth, and can’t be bothered to run a little interference?  One thing I must say, however, is admire the lady’s determination – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Susanna Maiolo, alleged attacker and aspiring defensive tackle

Never mind Madden – I’m looking forward to next year’s “Pope Tackle Challenge” videogame, coming soon to a retailer near you…


On distracted drivers and malingering priests

As an urban father and a (slow) runner, one of the things that I take very seriously is teaching my kids about traffic safety. “Cars can hurt you”, I hear myself saying now and again as I encourage them to look both ways, use crosswalks, etc. “Most drivers are really careful, but sometimes they might not see you.”

Enough cars are being driven by distracted, hurried, or poorly trained people that it is prudent to be wary of all cars, just in case. Throw in cell phones, dashboard GPS’s, and loud stereos, there are a lot of things that can take a person’s mind momentarily off what they are doing. As a pedestrian, not knowing what’s going on inside the car, you sometimes can’t tell whether a car will stop or not, so you play it safe.

Oddly enough, I see a parallel between drivers and priests. In the same way that sometimes drivers are paying attention and sometimes they are not, sometimes priests are pedophiles and sometimes they are not. And what’s more,  often enough from the outside you can’t tell which priest is a pedophile and which isn’t. (That said, who can look at a picture of Raymond Lahey and not see it screaming “pedophile”, at least, now.) I wouldn’t hazard to guess what the percentages are of distracted drivers or malingering priests, but it’s safe to say that there are good ones and there are bad ones in each lot.

That said, have we had enough cases of pedophile priests now to simply assume for the sake of safety that maybe they all are? Just to be on the safe side?

As an aside, there was mention on the radio this morning of Pope Ratzinger’s offer earlier in the week to Anglicans disenchanted with their church’s refusal to punish women or homosexuals as mandated in the Jewish Book of Folk Tales. On hearing this, my wife suggested the Archbishop of Canterbury respond with an offer to Catholics similarly disenchanted with the Mother Church’s treatment of women and gays and their apparent tolerance of pedophilia in their own (diminishing) ranks.

I knew I married the right woman.