Mar 16, 2014

Bill Maher on Noah and his Genocidal God

I like Bill Maher. His New Atheist views less so. I think his views on religion are often under-informed and facile. That said, I find little to disagree with in his latest anti-religious rant. It is a little frightening that so many in the US take Biblical myths literally. Maher claims that 60% of Americans believe Noah's Ark is a true story. I assume this isn't in the sense that it is reflective of similar catastrophe myths found around the globe or that it probably derives very directly from the Sumerian legend of Utnapishtim.

The statistic Maher cites most likely comes from a 2004 ABC poll. That same study found that literal belief is strongest among evangelical Christians, much as one would expect. But this is always the problem with New Atheist arguments. They focus on their direct nemeses, those as dogmatic in their views as they themselves are. And, in fairness, there really is no arguing that literal belief in this story poisons our thinking for the central reason Maher states. This Old Testament god they worship is a genocidal maniac. Belief in such a god sets the stage for all manner of cruelty and consciously or unconsciously justifies atrocities.

Joseph Campbell has said much the same and I have cited the following more than once. Maher just says it funnier.

[The Bible is] the most over-advertised book in the world. It's very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.

The thing I see about the Bible that's unfortunate is that it's a tribally circumscribed mythology. It deals with a certain people at a certain time. The Christians magnified it to include them. It then turns this society against all others, whereas the condition of the world today is that this particular society that's presented in the Bible isn't even the most important. This thing is like a dead weight. It's pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can't break loose and move into a modern theology.

One of the great promises of mythology is, with what social group do you identify? How about the planet? To say that the members of this particular social group are the elite of God's world is a good way to keep that group together, but look at the consequences! I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today.

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Mar 10, 2014

Anthony Peake on Philip K. Dick and the Nature of Reality

Note to self: Read more Anthony Peake and Philip K. Dick.

Sometimes I think the only way to tell the truth is to write SF and Fantasy. This is a fascinating interview... more of an Anthony Peake monologue with a few interruptions, really, and all the more excellent for it. Recommended.

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Mar 9, 2014

Pope Francis Sex Abuse FAIL

Pope Francis has delighted many, myself included, as the kinder, gentler pontiff. But I've said from the outset that when it comes to Catholic leadership the sex abuse crisis is where the rubber meets the road. So when His Holiness addressed the crisis with the same tired rap we've been hearing from Church apologists for years, he brought predictable disappointment and outrage.

When challenged in an interview about his less than proactive response to the crisis, his reaction was to rest on the laurels of all the progress the Church has made. And in a second thoroughly typical reply he deflected criticism of the Catholic Church by making vague statements about how badly everybody else has handled the issue.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility,” the pope continued, arguing that most abuse occurs in the home or other community environments. “No one else did as much. And yet, the church is the only one being attacked.”

Does the Catholic Church train its clerics in self-righteous blame throwing?

Mar 7, 2014

Rhode Island Legionaries to Face Lawsuit

A lawsuit against the Rhode Island chapter of the Legion of Christ will proceed. A previous lawsuit, discussed here, here, and here, was dismissed on the basis that the plaintiff lacked legal standing to bring the suit. That case is on appeal. As discussed Mary Lou Dauray's lawsuit inspired reporters to seek and win a treasure trove of documents pertaining to the Legion of Christ. They revealed the organization's long history of concealing its founder's many abuses and its pattern of extracting large sums of money from its devotees.

Enter Paul Chu whose father also willed a sizable donation to the Rhode Island Legion.

A federal judge in Rhode Island has agreed to let a lawsuit move forward against the Roman Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ, turning down an attempt by the disgraced order to end the lawsuit brought over a late Yale University professor's $1 million bequest.

. . .

It's the second lawsuit making its way through the courts in Rhode Island that raises questions about how the Legion secured large donations from elderly supporters. The other is in state court and involves around $60 million left by a wealthy widow. It was dismissed because the judge found the woman's niece did not have standing to sue, but a state Supreme Court appeal is pending.

In the federal lawsuit, Chu, the son of retired mechanical engineering professor James Boa-Teh Chu, says his father was wrongly coerced, defrauded and deceived into signing over $1 million to $2 million to the Legion before he died in 2009. He says his father, who lived in East Providence, R.I., was led to believe the Legion's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a saint, even as the Vatican was investigating serious sexual abuse allegations about him.

Mar 3, 2014

Sexy Jesus, Pt. II: The Gallery

Well, it took years, a Portuguese sex symbol, and a trending hashtag, but they finally got there. The major media has noticed the strange tendency to portray Jesus as the sexy white guy he almost definitely wasn't. Well, he might have been sexy. We don't really know. But white, not so much.

Son of God has been doing big box office as the striking Diogo Morgado reprises his role from The Bible. But strangely it seems the first time the press has seriously entertained the question: Why is Jesus so sexy?

It's something I've been asking for quite some time. Why is Jesus always hot? He was kind to prostitutes and adultresses, so the story goes, but never had sex with any of them. He never had sex at all. Any suggestion that he may have sends the Vatican into a full-blown tizz.

There is something deeply disturbing about these endless portrayals of Jesus as a very handsome -- and emotionally available -- but asexual man. Yet, Jesus has been dead sexy down through the ages.