Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Atheist Churches

That’s right friends and neighbours. You read correctly. There is a small but growing movement afoot world-wide to create churches, or something, free from the tyranny of religion.

When I first heard about this brand spanking new phenomenon, all I could think was `everything old is new again’. Back in the nineteenth century there was a movement called the `Rationalist Church’, where atheist ‘preachers’ went from gathering to gathering denouncing God. It died out early in the twentieth century as atheism itself waned in Western society. This new movement seems to be a kinder, gentler version. Those involved simply gather together and socialize with those of their kind.

Humans are social animals. Atheists, denied the community of faith-based churches, need feedback and approval from those like themselves; so they have chosen to recreate a familiar and even comforting experience. Also, since life in heavily urbanized areas tends to be isolating, these gatherings provide what could be called face time with people who acknowledge your existence.

Proving the social nature of humans, many of these `churches’ have reached out to others like themselves, some have reached out to the broader ecumenical community, and a few have begun stirring the pot to see what kind of shit they can disturb.

They may be social clubs, but they’re not merely social clubs. Most examples that I’ve been able to research have a charitable and philanthropic bent. Some raise money for local charities, some for a national or international charity. They have speakers who talk about living ethically without religion, being kind to your neighbour, and that sort of thing.

There’s another fact about humans, we don’t like change. We prefer things to stay familiar. It’s all about evoking the familiar and comforting rhythm of ritual. The ritual, for want of a better word, of most of these groups seems to follow that of religious churches with a lecture, discussion, singing, and donating.

What I find highly amusing is the fact that these gatherings, which are for all intents and purposes social clubs, call themselves churches. It’s either an ironic misappropriation of nomenclature, a cynical thumb in the eye of the religionists, or an oblivious Pavlovian response; the last being that they call it a church because that’s what they’ve always called it.

To see some of these atheist churches in action, I have a couple of links to follow: here and here. I’m especially impressed by the fact that the Secular Church has Ten Commandments, just like the Christian Bible. On the other hand the Satanic Church managed to codify eleven.

So, since the motto of the militant agnostic is, “I don’t know, and neither do you.”, I’ll leave these fellow travellers to their mumbo jumbo and just wish them all the very best.

Tell me what you think.  Is this a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Or is it just some passing fad?

A New Pope, Same Old Story

So Pope Benedict the Whatever decided that he’d had enough of trying to save the Catholic Church, and pulled the pin on his career. He announced his resignation when declared his retirement. I note that he gave about two weeks notice, which is generally standard for professionals who resign, or quit, their jobs. As regards Pope Benny the Dick, I’m still waiting for the other red shoe to drop. What happened? Was it a financial fiasco, sexual impropriety, paternity suit, dealing in fake relics, did he exorcise the Holy Ghost? The possibilities are endless, and worrisome.

The conclave happened so quickly, that I barely got a chance to tell my favourite conclave joke. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a favourite conclave joke. If there’s black smoke, boo hoo, no new pope. If there’s white smoke, hooray, there’s a new pope. If there’s grey, greasy smoke, the cardinals are having steak. There it is, take it or leave it, I grant permission to use it next conclave. As a side note, my mother observed that the conclave occured during Lent, so steak probably wasn’t on the menu. Grilled salmon, on the other hand… 😀

The former Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, styled the first, got one hell of a promotion to Christ’s Vicar in Rome. Going into the first round of voting he was on the board, but as a 33 to 1 against long shot. Perhaps his papal motto should be Equus Tenebris Sanctis; that’s approximately Latin for Holy Dark Horse.

So, now we have Pope Frank. Wow. Of course, as an iconoclastic Militant Agnostic, I view all organized religions with a large helping of dubiousness. The more, and gaudier, trappings a religion has, the less I feel they have the welfare of anyone at heart; anyone but those at the top of the heap, that is. I tend to agree with Robert A. Heinlein in my view that religion is for the benefit of the priest-class rather than the congregation. The new supreme pontiff will have to put the church’s money, and a lot of it, where his mouth is, before I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t necessarily doubt Pope Frank’s honesty, honour, conviction, or anything else; but I do know about a phenomenon called bureaucratic inertia. It’s also called captured by the system. A reformer goes into a department to clean it up and make it efficient, but winds up embracing the established culture.

The Catholic Church is two thousand years old; they’ve had twenty centuries to become set in their ways. Assume an average human generation at twenty years. Boys and girls can sire and birth young sooner than that, but it’s a convenient rule of thumb to use. That means one hundred generations have passed since the founding of the Catholic Church. Another way to look at it is that the organization is more than twenty-five times the age of the guy leading it.

That sheer weight of numbers and the resultant ossification of procedure practically requires high explosives to shift.

My mother, who describes herself as a recovering Catholic, rather cynically opined that the reason the conclave elected such an obscure candidate was so that they (the bureaucracy) could pull the wool over his eyes and continue business as usual. Her version of business as usual was money-laundering in the Vatican bank, influence peddling, covering up for sexually deviant priests, and other similarly distasteful activities. Mom has what you might call a dim view of Mother Church.

If true, I think the PTB (Powers That Be) are in for an unpleasant surprise. Frank is a Jesuit, the Society of Jesus have a formidable reputation for scholarship, perseverance, and loyalty to the Pope.

So, as with so many other things, I wait and watch.

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