Archive for March 2010

God of the Week: Eostre

March 29, 2010

God of the Week 03/29/2010: Eostre

Easter is the ancient Germanic goddess of spring.

The Christian celebration Easter is named after her, perhaps because it coincides with a festival held in her honor on the spring equinox, as attested to by the monk Saint Bede in the 8th century CE in his book De Ratione Temporum.

We Germans to this day call April ostermonat…Eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries. All the nations bordering on us have retained the Biblical ‘pascha’;

-Jakob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology vol 1, page 290

Was Pope Pius XII a Nazi?

March 27, 2010

With the beatification of Pope Pius XII under way, there has been a lot of heated public opinion shared about him recently, including Richard Dawkins referring to him as ‘Pope Nazi’ during a speech in Australia.

Was Pope Pius XII a Nazi? No. But, he also wasn’t the hero apologists have been trying to make him out to be.

When it comes down to it, when Pius XII was faced with the greatest human atrocity of the recent age, he left a few hints in a speech or two, but, for the most part, kept his mouth shut. No heroic acts, no great deeds. Nothing to show him to be anything more than just another frail human being put into an uncomfortable situation. Should we expect anything more? Well, atheists shouldn’t, but Catholics are under the process of making him a saint, an act that only diminishes the reputation of anyone that already holds that title.

Critics of Pius XII often point to Catholic antisemitic beliefs that undoubtedly attributed to Hitler’s Jewish hatred. These beliefs did start early in the Christian churches. You might say that picking on Jews is a Christian tradition:

“You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.”

-1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The anti-Semitic tone in early Christianity cannot be ignored. And the Catholic church’s failure to rise above it until the Vatican II, specifically in the Nostra Aetate, in the 1960’s cannot be ignored either. This council was called after Pius XII’s death, by his successor, John XXIII. So, for 17 years after WWII ended and the Nazis were out of power, 13 of those under Pius XII, the Church continued to sit idle on antisemitism.

The prima facie evidence defenders of Pope Pius XII point to was  a speech he gave on Xmas of 1942, in which, at the end, he made this statement about the situation with the Jews:

“”Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline””

Pretty vague. The speech was 45 minutes long, and, even though the situation in the heavily Catholic Germany was undeniable,  he did not mention the Jews by name, as many claim. And, as far as I’m concerned, the speech really counts as nothing. And I’m not trying to just dismiss the speech, I’m trying to be even handed. The current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, is currently addressing the issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church in a letter. Putting these two injustices side by side, I think it can be said that Ratzinger is doing more than Pius XII did for the Jews in WWII. In the case of the current pope, the topic is at least the primary focus of the entire letter. And I believe that it is plain to see that for all extents, writing a speech or a letter is the equivalent of not doing anything. It may communicate intentions, but it needs to be followed by some kind of action.

There is, of course, one other claim made in defense of Pius XII: the claims that he moved “secretly” to save thousands of Jews.

“Pope Pius XII worked courageously, secretly and silently to help save Jews targeted by the Nazis’ “criminal plan … to eliminate them from the face of the earth,” said Pope Benedict XVI.”

“we discovered that secretly he saved more Jews than all of the world’s religious and political leaders combined.”

I’m afraid that without some sort of proof (it’s been 70 years, it’s ok to release information now), this sounds a bit too much like single handedly killing thousands of men with the jawbone of an ass.

So, Pope Pius XII: not exactly guilty, but definitely not anyone to be proud of. A bit of a lily-livered coward, in fact, that accommodated the Nazis to a high degree to protect his own interests. I refer to him as the Vichy-Pope.

But, is this any different than any other pope of the modern era?

Why expect any action from the office of the Pope? Sure, during the glory days of the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope’s chair was an office of great power. But, once the holy dictator was kicked off his throne, the world is free to see the office for what it is: head administrator. The office holds no power outside the church, even though it is still given a token nod every once in a while (mostly to cash in on those juicy Catholic votes).

Perhaps the office could be used for more, but it’s probably best that it isn’t. Unless the man holding the office has outside training of some sort, their is no reason to suspect that any clergy in any church has any expertise, authority, or knowledge of the world just because they know the Bible. After all, I would not expect an expert on the Iliad to be able to perform marriage counseling; nor would I expect an expert in the folk tales of ancient Ireland to be given guidance in world politics.

The office of Pope is meaningless to anyone not in the organization, why do we even expect enough out of them to even criticize them?

Exorcism in the Modern Catholic Church

March 24, 2010

Are exorcisms still preformed in the Catholic Church? You bet they are!

In Rome, the Vatican is preparing its first official English translation of the rite of exorcism, which was promulgated in 1614 and reissued in 1999. Its chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, claimed this month to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms.

Don’t let  all the claims of today’s “higher theology”, or allusion to the subtle mystery of the trinity fool you. Today’s Catholic Church is just as superstitious. Father Amorth is not some lone crazy wandering the country side, he is fully employed by and endorsed by the church. This isn’t a euphemism for the grandeur of life, this if full scale belief in demons and magic rites.

“THE minor rite can be done by any priest and provides prayers of protection and assistance for people who fear they are being tempted by the devil. Prayers of minor exorcism are built in to the rite of baptism.

The major rite applies to cases of full demonic possession. The priest wears a purple stole, representing his role as a leader of the church. He carries holy water which he sprinkles over the victim during prayers. The crucifix is held aloft, representing the most potent symbol of Christ’s victory over evil. Prayers are either dedicative or indicative. During dedicative prayer, the exorcist asks God to drive out an evil spirit.

The indicative prayer directly commands the demon to leave: ”I command you evil spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, begone.””

Because a demon that can enter and control a human body is going to listen to a man in a dress, splashing special water, and holding magic talismans. Oh, wait, the magic talisman is held aloft … nah, it’s still silly.

Why are these exorcisms are being performed?

… generation Y risks a dangerous fascination with the occult fuelled by the Twilight and Harry Potter series.

That’s right, the Catholic Church is going up against what it sees as an equal enemy .. Harry Potter and Twilight. Fiction for fiction, I guess.

The Evolution of Confusion

March 23, 2010

Daniel C Dennett’s speech, the Evolution of Confusion given at the AAI’s 2009 convention. He talks about purposely confusing theology and secretly atheist clergy.

God of the Week: Ganesha

March 22, 2010

God of the Week 03/22/2010: Ganesha
Ganesha is a popular Hindu deity. Though he is depicted with the head of an elephant, he appears to be surprisingly nimble, since he is often shown dancing or sitting in a lotus position. He is one of the most widely revered gods in the Hindu pantheon and is also worshiped within Jainism and Buddhism.

The deity Ganesa is especially honoured as being the god who averts obstacles, whence he becomes a divinity of good fortune, who should be worshipped before each new undertaking. Various legends, hard to reconcile with each other, are told of his parentage and to explain his elephant’s head, which is apparently a symbol of wisdom. He is probably a god of some aboriginal tribe who was adopted by Hinduism.
-Mythology of All Races, Volume VI, Indian and Iranian, Edited by Louis Herbert Gray

Pope Wakes Up … Almost

March 20, 2010

Pope Joseph Ratzinger had finally taken a deep swallow and accepted the fact that the Catholic Church can not hide child rapists inside it’s midsts:

Pope Benedict XVI told priests who have abused children to submit to the “demands of justice,” according to a letter released Saturday.

The pontiff said a misplaced concern for the church’s reputation and inadequate methods of choosing priests had contributed to decades of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. He ordered a Vatican investigation into elements of the Irish church to tackle the problem.

Well, he has correctly identified some issues. But, unfortunately, he’s only half willing to deal with them. The priests (or the holders of other, higher, offices) that have committed acts of child rape do need to be turned in. They suffer from an affliction which necessitates that they are never allowed to be alone with a child. Ever.

However, the outright criminals in this case, the men that, even though they had their full faculties about them, still thought out and executed a crime by hiding pedophiles and, in fact, enabling them to strike again and again, need to be brought to justice! These men are not sick. They do not suffer from pedophilic addictions. They acted out of purely selfish and criminal desires. I have a feeling the Pope will not call for these men to turn themselves in, though, since he is one of them.

Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.”

Saudi Arabia Sentences Sorcerer to Death

March 20, 2010

This is just great, we finally find a real honest to goodness sorcerer, and Saudi Arabia puts him to death! They didn’t even let James Randi test him!

Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese man sentenced to death for “sorcery.”

In a statement released Thursday, the international rights group condemned the verdict and demanded the immediate release of Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Sheherazade, a Beirut based satellite TV channel.

According to his lawyer, Sibat, who is 48 and has five children, would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

To be fair, it sounds like he practiced “white magic”. So, it’s pretty benign, really.

Seriously, though, what a bunch of superstitious fucks. Time to get into the 12th century, already.