“CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM (oops ! mea culpa !) I N E P T U M”

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I suppose Tertullian thought he was being clever, coining such an ironic expression of faith.  After all, atheists like me, especially one whose mantra is “Ridenda Religio”, have condemned and ridiculed religion precisely for the absurdity of its beliefs and claims.  To make absurdity itself a reason for believing (for example, in the Resurrection, “because it is impossible”, dixit Tertullian) is, to say the least provocative, but a sure way of grabbing attention.

St Augustine’s “Credo ut intelligam”  –  “I believe so that I may understand”  –  is a similar idea frequently used to establish (?) faith as a source, equally as valid as reason, for understanding.  Recent Popes have rejected the “quia absurdum” (in fact “ineptum”,  “incongruous”) as fideism, but adopted the “ut intelligam”.  But it is just as . . . absurd.  I can’t really comprehend that consecrated bread becomes Christic flesh, but I will understand if I believe it.  C’mon !  You’ve got to be kidding !  The pity is I know you’re not.

                                                  RIDENDA   RELIGIO   

IS IT A FLAT WORLD AFTER ALL ?

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I am sitting here on my deck, facing the Atlantic surf in South-West France, witnessing a Summer sunset, fascinated by the size of the ship on the horizon.  It must be one of those monsters, 12 stories high with 5000 people on board, heading towards Spain and ports further South.  Like the sun it will soon sink below the horizon.  Reminds me of an old Spike Jones’ classic : “As the Sun pulls away from the shore and our ship sinks slowly in the West, we approach the lovely island of Lulu, spelt backwards, “UL-UL”.  Don’t ask me why.  When you are approaching eighty, your mind does strange things.  (One reader has recently accused me, seriously, of insanity.  Sorry to disappoint you, Jim.)

But the cruise-ship really does seem to be ready to go over the edge (I nearly said “the brink” . . .).  One minute it’s there, and while you’re mixing another Bloody Mary, it just disappears.  We know so much more than our ancestors (they couldn’t mix a B.M. if they tried).

The subject  “God and Science” still draws the crowds and still provides substantial income to speakers happy to defend both sides of the question.  It took believers centuries to shake off their biblical certitudes about the earth, the sky, the planets, the stars – and especially our own star, the Sun, which does NOT, they finally had to admit, rotate around the earth.  You have to admire the mental and rhetorical gymnastics the Church had to go through to accommodate irrefutable scientific evidence which it once denied.  I’m glad I don’t have to bother any more.  Anyone for an ocean cruise, or maybe a Bloody Mary ?

                                                              RIDENDA   RELIGIO    

THE SINS OF THE FATHERS

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It is barbarous injustice to blame and punish children for crimes committed by their progenitors.  But we all inherit advantages and disadvantages from our parents’ genes, fortune, social status and level of education.  Some unfortunate children inherit even diseases given them by their parents.  Equally tragic is the inheritance of blame for the “sins of the fathers”.  The pernicious view that punishment should be inflicted on subsequent generations for the crimes of one’s ancestors is still shared by some.  But all of us are witnesses to the lasting effects of social injustices committed centuries earlier.  The current and recurrent example of this is the recent and on-going race-riots in Ferguson, Missouri.  Journalists have reminded us of multiple precedents, and some political pundits have warned us that unless certain mind-sets are changed, history will continue to repeat itself.  Having lived for ten years in the U.S. cheek-by-jowl with racial discrimination, I cannot but underline its obvious historical, criminal source : slavery.

Every nation has crimes on its conscience, from the Australian genocide of Aborigines to the disastrous inheritance world-wide of colonialism.  We must not continue to ignore the challenge to take effective action to eradicate the recurring explosions of the volcano, ever ready to erupt, which is racial prejudice.  But, more broadly, we should wonder about what other poisoned legacies we are preparing for our children.  Few would dare speak of religious indoctrination in the present context : a brash black adolescent being shot in the head by a white policeman, a reaction provoked initially by the youngster’s defiantly walking down the middle of a street in Ferguson, resulting in violent race-riots and the use of military weaponry to kill protesters.  But the implications of religious indoctrination of inherited belief deserve to be faced, as insignificant as they may seem in comparison with the current tragedy.

We are all responsible for the values we transmit to our children.  I am happy to assume mine.  I have left my children and theirs free to make up their own minds about religion, and will always respect their choice.  I would expect all atheists to do the same.  Non-atheists should, equally importantly,  wonder about the damage they are doing in perpetuating myth, illusion, blind faith, blind folly and fanaticism in their offspring.  God, fortunately (and for obvious reasons), will not punish any of them for their refusal to question their religious beliefs.  But their descendants would have reason to regret their acceptance of the status quo.  My parents, grandparents and earlier forebears did not have the luxury, the opportunity or the social fabric to question their faith.  I cannot blame them for their credulity nor for transmitting without questioning their beliefs and religious practice to their descendants.  But to do so today is to refuse, or at least limit, future generations’ freedom.

                                                                      RIDENDA   RELIGIO

   

 

   

DON’T JUST SIT THERE !

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Harold Wilson was once accused of “stirring up apathy”.  There are moments when I wonder whether militant atheism and even its brilliant spokesvehicle which is this Blog, could not be accused of the same.  Let’s face it : the message is not new.  The choice of ridicule and reductio ad absurdum is no innovation.  Some might even say that its impertinent content is sometimes not all that pertinent.  Maybe we should chuck in the towel.

No way !  Perhaps it’s the Irish in me but I am as pig-headed as Paddy’s.  Readers would not be aware of the fact but my militancy is not limited to this Blog.  For example, like so many millions of others around the world, I was horrified by the beheading of that American journalist, whether or not his butcher was British.  And like so many other readers of “The Guardian”, I reacted with a comment (August 23 at 8:29 p.m.) – one of the more than 1000 comments published.  For the record, here’s what I wrote :

“A former Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, I recognized forty years ago not only religion’s absurdity but also the crimes against humanity it motivates fanatics to commit.  My blog (blindfaithblindfolly.wordpress.com) is dedicated to the destruction of religion : “Delenda Religio”.  But Carthage could be, and was, destroyed.  Religion cannot, and never will be.  So I have to content myself with the mantra “Ridenda Religio”.  Its beliefs, rules and rituals are too silly for words.  But ridicule is not enough.  Nor are indignation and outrage at beheading journalists in the name of Allah.  The world should wake up before this unholy Third World War makes our own Inquisition and wars of religion look like a parish picnic.”

A quoi bon ?  To what purpose ?  What good is it to vent one’s anger and outrage ?  Stéphane Hessel was right in inviting us, in his pamphlet read by millions, to express indignation, in the tradition of the French resistants who refused to accept the status quo of Vichy’s submission to and collaboration with the German occupants.  His “Indignez-Vous !” was the opposite of “sit down, shut up, don’t make waves !”  But what’s the point in screaming, literally, “bloody murder !” at outrageous Islamic fanaticism ?  And what hope do we have of having any effect whatsoever on the damage religion continues to inflict on the world ?

The only possible, respectable response is “What other choice do we have ?”  Resistance is potentially dangerous and too often ineffective.  As a militant atheist I am a voice in the wilderness perhaps, though far from alone in trying to make my voice heard; our name is, in fact, Legion.  History’s heroes, people who made a difference, have always been those who dared to condemn injustice, crime, torture, manipulation, oppression, obscurantism and obstruction of human liberty.  They were not looking for fame but for freedom, for themselves and especially for others, often at considerable cost including loss of their own lives.  Against criminal fanatics and exploiters of credulity, silence is not an option.

                                                     RIDENDA   RELIGIO   

      

   

VINTAGE APOLOGETICS

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I must reassure readers that our dear departed Jim who no longer appears in this blog is alive and well and catechizing in Australia’s most beautiful city (it is not Melbourne).  I know he continues to read everythng written here, posts and comments alike.  He will love the following text, published in 1802; I trust he will  pardon my imperfect translation from the French :

“A writer who refuses to believe in a God, author of the Universe and judge of men whose immortal soul He made, banishes first of all the infinite from his writings.  He encloses his thought in a circle of mud, from which he can no longer escape.  He sees nothing noble in nature; everything in it is the work of impure means of corruption and of regeneration.  The abyss is just a little water full of bitumen; mountains are mere protuberances of rock; and the heavens, where daylight prepares an immense solitude, as though to serve as a camp for the army of stars which night brings in silence; the heavens, we say, are just a narrow vault momentarily suspended by the capricious hand of Chance.”

If this is great literature, then this Blog deserves the Nobel.  I am not sure that even our most astute readers will understand or appreciate either the style or the reasoning in Chateaubriand’s “Le Génie du Christianisme”, any more than I do.  But at least Jim will love what the Great Man says about atheist writers, insensitive to the nobility and beauty of nature, refusing to recognize the Infinite and attributing the Universe to Chance.  If anyone finds the courage to read this boring anti-Enlightenment diatribe aimed at defending and reestablishing Catholic faith and practice, s/he will discover in Chateaubriand’s apologetics the same quaint credulity to which Jim has accustomed us.

Chateaubriand is full of surprises.  Even the most assiduous culture-vultures would probably never bother to plough through his limping, convoluted efforts at defending Catholicism, including an extraordinary, laughable justification of clerical celibacy (there are too many kids already : “Excessive population is the scourge of empires”).  But they may be interested to read in the first sentence of his first chapter his remarks on Christianity’s principal opponents :

“Ever since Christianity appeared on the earth, three kinds of enemies have constantly attacked it : heresy-archs, sophists and those people frivolous in appearance who destroy everything by ridicule.  Many defenders of the faith have victoriously responded to the subtleties and the lies; but they have been less successful against derision.”

Encouragement for our Blog from an unexpected source, two hundred years ago.  Ergo . . .

                                                       RIDENDA   RELIGIO

 

“INCH ALLAH !”

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“God willing”, some readers reading this will realize that He doesn’t really exist . . .

The pious tag is tacked onto just about anything, however incongruous or absurd it may be to make it dependent on God’s will.  It can be a prefix or an affix or stuck in the middle of a sentence, but wherever you put it, it makes just as little sense :  “God willing, it will not rain during the parish picnic”;  “He will, God willing, not be killed or wounded”;  “I intend to become a doctor, God willing.”  Surely the examples are enough, but just in case some may not have appreciated just how silly all this is, consider the following :

Christians may or may not know that the expression is found in the New Testament, in the Epistle of James, 4:15 : “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that”.  But even Christians know of its constant use by Muslims (for them it is in fact obligatory); “Inch Allah” is sometimes heard coming, in ordinary conversation, even from non-Muslims.  In whatever language, it is most often a sincere expression of faith in the inexorable, ultimate reality that God’s will is constantly at work in the world.  Things don’t just happen.  They happen because God wills them to happen.  This is, naturally, something of a problem for parents mourning the death of their infant.  Somehow it is supposed to be a consolation to them that it is part of God’s plan.  True Christian believers request in the Lord’s Prayer that “Thy will be done”.  The clergyman, called in to console, will usually come out with the not terribly helpful “God works in mysterious ways”, an admission that he, the parents and the rest of us haven’t got a clue why God would want babies to die like that.

The implications of “God willing” are far-reaching.  Many believers not only pray that God’s will be done, but they claim to know what it is, and are ready to help Him out in making sure that whatever they believe He wants to happen, does.  A current example in the press is the Israeli-Palestinian war in Gaza.  Colonel Ofer Winter, in charge of one of Israel’s infantry brigades, recently gave his soldiers a text in which he wrote that they were on a divine mission against the “cursed enemy terrorists” who “challenge and insult the God of the armies of Israel”.  After a particularly bloody battle he publicly thanked God for allowing his brigade to kill five Hamas militia men, and in a later interview stated that God sent the clouds he needed to launch his offensive.  By the time you read this the Colonel may be out of a job.  (His faith is, in fact, no different from that of General Patton who ordered his chaplain to get God to provide the fine weather he needed – which, of course, he therefore got – to win one of his battles in the push to Berlin (see my “From Illusions to Illumination”, page 134).

In another Middle East war-zone in today’s news, Maan, a town in Jordan under the control of the jihadists, is covered with graffiti, including “The Islamic State is here”, “Apply the charia”, and “Very soon – if God wills it (!) – the government will be crying”.  The trouble, of course, is that combattants on both sides believe that God is on theirs.  Inch Allah, Deo volente, God willing, one day victory will be theirs.  Whose ?  God knows !

                                                    RIDENDA   RELIGIO    

THE VITAL QUESTION

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What do you think great thinkers 150 years ago would have considered, in the words of their contemporary, John Stuart Mill, “the vital question of the future” (that’s NOW !) ? For some it might be how far we would have advanced beyond the Industrial Revolution, and whether we would be able to cope with expected progress in engineering and science. For others, realizing the implications of Charles Darwin’s copernican revolution concerning the Origin of Species, the question might have been whether religion could possibly survive in the 21st century. For John Stuart Mill himself, a rare combination of philosopher and politician, the question that most worried him was whether a democratic majority might force its will on a minority. Even in 1859 this idea was considered controversial and dangerous. Today it would be heresy in some Western countries where many consider it their God-given mission to offer, and to impose if necessary, their values on the nations of the world, just as Islamists are dedicated to imposing charia worldwide. For Mill, freedom of thought, freedom of action and freedom to join together with other like-minded individuals, are necessary to avoid society itself becoming a tyrant, “a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression”.

The subject is close to the very essence of this Blog. The Catholic Church, for centuries, succeeded in silencing dissenters. Today it is powerless to do so. (Our very own Catholic spokesman, Jim, has said in this Blog that he and his friends have decided “to starve” me “of oxygen” (see his comment on “Rise and Shine”, August 18). If this were to be taken literally, it would be a threat to murder. Of course it isn’t. It’s just an expression of frustration that they cannot silence me. Before and since Galileo, the Church has tried and often succeeded in silencing dissenters, depriving, for example, Giordano Bruno at the stake not only of Mill’s three freedoms but of … oxygen.)

Roman Catholicism would prefer that we forget its fascist, fanatical, terrorist past and appreciate its new-found ecumenism and “tolerance”. Thanks to Mill and other defenders of the hard-won right to dissent, minorities are free to express their opinions. Voltaire may or may not have said : “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Mill did express the lapidary principle which must govern the discussion of different opinions : “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”. 150 years from now, and for as long as humans inhabit this world, the principle remains a self-evident truth we must never again forget.

(A handy summary of Mill’s thought, including the right to self-protection as well as the right and duty to prevent or punish action that causes harm, can be found in Andrew Taylor’s “Books That Changed the World”, Quercus, London, 2014.)

RIDENDA RELIGIO

Spiritual or Religious – What Are We?

frankomeara:

This is the first time I have ever “reblogged” a post from another blog. This one deserves to be shared with you. As you will see, it is well-written, intelligent and sincere. Its author has become a Follower of ours, and now receives everything posted here. He would perhaps disagree with much of the content and style of blindfaithblindfolly, but his outlook reflects that of many who need something “spiritual” to fill the void created by rejecting religion.

Originally posted on Spirituality Exploration Today:

Spiritual or Religious?

 Spiritual or Religious?

Spirituality is in vogue. As Americans use the term “religious,” it is increasingly limited to dogma, ritual and other religious practices, and institutions. Whereas, “spiritual” and “spirituality” are far more inclusive, encompassing all of their lives. Large groups of Americans want to deepen their spirituality, and self-understanding, according to surveys.

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RISE AND SHINE !

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He had been Resting, presumably In Peace, for three days. But He was no R.I.P.van Winkle. For one thing, He had not been asleep; He was DEAD ! Three days in the tomb were quite enough for Him. He had, of course, taken the precaution to put on hold the normal post-mortem putresence that sets in pretty quickly, especially at a time, two thousand years ago, when refrigerated morgues had not yet been invented, and in a country where it’s already quite hot in April. He didn’t have much in the way of decent clothing, an oversight no doubt, as He was about to appear to a lady, who for some reason would mistake him for a somewhat oddly dressed gardener. The story gets better as it goes along. The best part is when He meets up with two guys who didn’t recognize Him either at first, on their way to Emmaüs. Took a while for them to cotton on to what later would be called His Resurrection.

If you refuse to believe all this, you’re on your way to Hell, brother. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Rise and shine, my friend ! Praise the Lord and enjoy your Easter eggs with the other kiddies.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

AS CHANCE WOULD HAVE IT . . .

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When Bogey lit up another Lucky Strike, none of us kids at “the pictures” (the cinema) on Saturday arvos in Sinney would have wondered about the name of his favorite brand. Even Americans no doubt could care less, as they incongruously say, that the marketeers meant to suggest that striking a match to smoke a Lucky was a stroke of good fortune, equivalent to finding gold in them thar hills : every cigarette was a Lucky Strike for the future cancer victim, comparable with finding an enormous nugget or seam of gold during the Rush.

An ex-smoker who actually once panned for gold in Arizona (the whole truth and nothing but, in my Blog), I must confess that the famous brand takes me back further than the forties, back in fact 65 million years, when the Earth suffered a most Unlucky Strike. We all know about the dinosaurs and their extinction, and sometimes wonder when the next giant meteor is going to strike. So far we have been lucky. Matter of fact, our whole history has been one of luck, beginning with the Big Bang.

Have no fear, I am not going to get into trillionths of nanoseconds and all that. The BB happened to happen, and later, much later, 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth did too. Quite recently we also happened to happen. We call Oz the Lucky Country. But we all live on a Lucky Planet in a Universe that is the product of chance.

I say this purposely, of course. God did not make the world on purpose. Nobody did. No point in arguing. Believe that the world and we have a purpose if you like. Everything indicates that it and we don’t. But if, for a moment, we atheists admit that it and we do, you have to wonder about that meteor and the dinosaurs. You have to worry about all the volcanoes ready to erupt, all those tsunamis that could wipe out millions. Does a Divine Architect, an Intelligent Designer, and Omnipotent God of Love do or even allow things like that on purpose ? I suggest we not waste what little time we may have left – depending on forces beyond our (and obviously “God’s”) control – discussing the teleological “proof” for the existence of God, or trying to argue one way or the other about Purpose in Creation. Let’s just get on with our lives, as long as our luck holds out.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

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