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Richard Dawkins Welcomes Ratzinger

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity.

He’s an enemy of children, whose bodies he’s allowed to be raped and whose minds he’s encouraged to be infected with guilt. It’s embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving child bodies from rapists than with saving priestly souls from hell. And most concerned with saving the longterm reputation of the church itself.

He’s an enemy of gay people. Bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews before 1962.

He’s an enemy of women, barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties.

He’s an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.

He’s an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families they cannot feed and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty which sits ill beside the obscene wealth of the Vatican.

He’s an enemy of science. Obstructing vital stem cell research on grounds, not of true morality, but on pre-scientific superstition.

Ratzinger is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly dissing Anglican orders as “absolutely null and utterly void,” while at the same time shamelessly trying to poach Anglican vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood.

Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, Ratzinger is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made Catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation, and authority. His authority.

On being number 11

I’m working from my phone, just got to South Carolina, haven’t got internet, so forgive any wonky formatting.

I just read a piece by Thomas L. Friedman about a “Newsweek” article that ranks the US as the eleventh best country to live. I wonder sometimes if the rest of the world gets bored of us always trying to be first. Some people would say something like well done america for being so high on the list or that’s impressive considering some of the great other countries in the world.

He argues that the reason america sucks (being eleventh would probably lead us to kill ourselves if we had japan’s sense of honor) is because our students aren’t motivated and everyone wants to get rich quick – he seems to think this is an american problem not a human one, for some reason. And he argues that the greatest generation was better, and they were better because they had a better attitude and wanted to make sacrifices.  Obsession with being the greatest and number one in everything doesn’t make his ranking of things americans do that are bloody stupid for some reason.

According to Newsweek, it looks like we lag further behind on health and quality of life than we do on education, in absolute terms if not in ranking. Five years difference in average healthy life span isn’t small potatoes. And I call bullshit that the greatest generation had better attitudes. They had a very specific set of circumstances to deal with, and we have a much different one, but anyone arguing that they had better quality of life, healthcare, lifespan, or education is just being ridiculous.

Look at the other top countries and tell me how a country that values independence, freedom, diversity and size can compete with little, rich, homogenous countries? I think we should be amazed that a country with so many immigrants from countries that are much lower on the list is even competing at all.

I’m not saying that there aren’t things, particularly within education and healthcare, that need to be fixed, but I think blaming it on the wrong attitude is a completely shallow and curmugeonly way of looking at what is in fact a very complicated problem because of economy, scale, and a varied population. If he’s got a problem with selfish attitudes destroying america, I’d love to see any evidence that that is true.

Atheists United: Barbara Forrest

Power Corrupts, PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely — Edward Tufte

I went this morning to something I found on meetup.com, which was an event hosted by Atheists United.  I’m not a dues paying member of Atheists United, but they function as sort of a community for Atheists that’s analogous to a church.  The event was a speech and lunch function, and the speaker was Barbara Forrest, who was instrumental in the Dover case against Intelligent Design.

She was very interesting and knowledgeable, and I feel immediate kinship to smart, rational, public school educated Southern women.  She had a powerpoint (keynote) presentation, and I really hate those, but other than that it was fascinating in a somewhat horrific way.  In Louisiana they’ve passed a law (SB 733) that basically says that a science teacher can supplement the science curriculum with whatever they want, the intention being that science teachers can teach Creationism if they so choose.

It’s so bad that, even though they’ve tried to pass it in several other states including Texas, the only place it’s actually passed is Louisiana.  It is a point of embarrassment that it’s still under consideration in South Carolina.  But apparently Louisiana, in addition to being ridiculously religious and conservative like the rest of the south, suffers from having an incredibly strong Executive Branch with an extremely right-wing religioso and politically vindictive governor, Bobby Jindal.  You’ll remember him from his embarrassingly bad response to Obama’s State of the Union.

I was shocked that I hadn’t heard about this at all.  I mean, you can teach creationism in public school biology classes in Louisiana.  It’s really icky.  Being a SC native, I’m hoping that the particularly weak governorship in SC will prevent this legislation from being pushed through there.

So, she was interesting.  But the event as a whole was a bit… geriatric.  I mean, I would guess the average age in the room was over 60.  They need to start a youth outreach or something because I felt very awkward being one of 2 people there under the age of 50.  Nothing wrong with older people, of course, it was just a bit weird.  I mean, people were impressed by the powerpoint presentation…