Shimoniac Jones

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

Archive for the tag “theology”

Jihad This…

So the big international news story this week concerns `Al Qaeda in Yemen’, invading a stronghold of the great enemy of Islam and killing a score of unbelievers who were armed with that most devastating weapon… A pen.

I’m talking of course about a bunch of terrorists killing cartoonists who worked at Charlie Hebdo, a French satiric magazine that uses cartoons to lampoon politicians, celebrities, and others who find themselves in the crosshairs.  The so-called reason for this unreasonable attack was that the magazine had published cartoons that were deemed by these skid marks of humanity to be `insulting to Islam’ and `disrespectful of The Prophet Mohammed’, or maybe that was vice versa.

As sad as it sounds, the attack, per se, did not surprise me.  These scum have shown, again and again and again, that they are ready, willing, and able to commit any atrocity, for any reason, real or imagined.  What does it say about your, for want of a better word, movement, that what you’re best known for is blowing up innocent bystanders, kidnapping unarmed schoolgirls, and beheading journalists?

Of course, the blood hadn’t even dried yet, before the usual suspects were bleating in front of the cameras about how `this isn’t true Islam’ and `moderate Muslims deplore these activities’.

Seems to me, I’ve this before; many times.

I live in Canada, and back on October 20, 2014, a Canadian soldier, Patrice Vincent, and an unnamed comrade were run down by a man who then called 911 to dedicate his atrocity to Allah.  The Parliament Hill shootings two days later, which killed another Canadian soldier, Nathan Cirillo, was committed by a man who professed the Muslim faith, and who left a video explaining his motives, which included a reference to his religious persuasion.

So, as much as they would have you believe that they don’t support this aberrant behaviour, the fact is that it continues.  The very fact that these butt nuggets are somehow able to acquire weapons, ammunition, computer up-links, and the like shows that they are funded by someone.  Somebody has to know who they are and where they are.  Maybe it’s time for the moderates to put their money where their mouth is and start pressuring their friends, family, and other contacts to give the radicals up.

If they don’t… Well, then they’re just like other politicians, all sizzle and no bacon.

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.

Religious vs. Agnostic

You may have noticed that I claim to be a militant agnostic.  There’s a quote saying that an agnostic is an atheist without the courage of his convictions.  That’s simplistic and offensive.  It’s simplistic because it doesn’t think deeply into what agnostic means.  It’s offensive because it assumes that an agnostic is a moral coward.

The dictionary has multiple definitions for `agnostic’.  For convenience’s I’ve entered some so that you don’t have to navigate away look them up and not get back to me.

Noun:

  1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
  2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
  3. a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic.

Adjective:

  1. of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism.
  2. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
  3. holding neither of two opposing positions.

Synonyms: doubter, empiricist, secularist, skeptic; disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; pagan, heathen, heretic, infidel.

The best simple definition of agnostic is, as far as I’m concerned, doubter or skeptic.  A skeptic is only a person who questions the validity of things claimed to be fact.  On a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 is an absolute unwavering belief in a god, gods, goddesses, or any combination thereof and 0 is a similarly absolute unwavering belief in the absolute lack of a god, gods, goddesses, or any such combination, I fall squarely at 5.  I don’t believe in them, or unbelieve.

In my opinion, and to me my opinion is the only one that matters, there is no evidence that any omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, supernatural, metaphysical being exists now or has ever done so; having said that, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

On an episode of Futurama, the character Bender is lost in space, and hosts a colony of intelligent beings who think of him as `God’, and no matter which path he followed, either direct intervention or absolute disregard, the beings are maimed and die off quicker than goldfish in a five-year-old’s room.  Later, as he drifts mourning the passing of his worshippers, he notices that the universe is blinking in a binary pattern.  He holds a conversation with an unseen being who, eventually, asserts that as a god to do it right, it has to look like you’re not doing anything at all.  That could be what whatever magical being is ordering the universe is doing.

How can we possibly know?  I can run a toaster, or a light switch, and I think I’ve even got doorknobs and dead-bolt locks figured out; an entire universe is just a little beyond me.  Watch the episode, it’s marginally worth it and I’ve over-simplified it to the point of being meaningless.  Besides, I may misremember key points.

I like the additional `militant’ tag because, to me, knowledge is based on objective proof or empirical evidence.  What people who believe have is faith.  While I have faith in the perversity of the universe, I also have proof of said perversity because I’ve seen it so often.  Besides, I’m pretty far from militant; people who have opinions just go around bothering each other.  I have views, outlooks, and things like that.  I try to be willing to change the way I think, or do things differently if someone comes up with a way that is better than mine.

If you keep an open mind, you never know what will drop in.

My sister and father attend, on a fairly regular basis a meeting of Free-Thinkers.  What are Free-Thinkers, you ask.  Well, Free-Thinkers are generally atheists who have banded together to oppose the rabidly religious among us who want to shove their way of doing things down every one’s throat, in opposition to the official separation of church and state.  One day, while at this gathering, a young man sat next to my sister and asked her how long she had been an atheist.  He was confused when she set him straight.  My sister’s not atheist, she’s a pagan; she worships differently from the mainstream, but she does worship.  Apparently he skipped the `thinking’ portion of the title.  That’s why I say they’re generally atheists, not all Free-Thinkers believe there are no gods.

My own view, which I state as seldom as possible, is believe, or not, what you want, but for the sake of sweet charity, keep it to yourself.

Post Navigation