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Boy meets girl.  One thing leads to another.  That’s the way it often is in science.  Sometimes, however, by sheer good fortune, it happens that a scientist trying to invent a new glue, finds that his product just won’t stick things together permanently : the Post-It is born !  Or another stumbles on penicillin.  But more often than not, scientific advances depend on a logical process of deduction.  If x produces y, then we can deduce that y can produce z.  It turns out that it does.  Hence the genetics-shaking discovery of DNA and its double helix.  Thank you, Mr Watson.  Thank you, Mr Crick.

This blog recently waited patiently for a reader to produce his promised theological deductions from the premise which he and Aristotle call the First Cause.  If we accept – a very big “if” – that there was a Superior Intelligence behind the existence of the Universe, then, he said, he could deduce, in six easy steps, the veracity of current Catholic doctrine (for example, the defined “infallible” dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption).  I gave up waiting for Godot and the famous Six Steps when their revelation became the subject of a kind of blackmail, in the form of previously unannounced conditions.  It turns out that I have procured the promised precious prize without accepting any conditions or terms of blackmail.  Here they are, verbatim :

“Once it is accepted that an intelligence greater-than-human intelligence is involved in creation of the universe and humanity, the sequence of some half dozen ensuing logical D E D U C T I O N S leads to orthodox Catholicism, independent of any shortcomings of its human representatives.

1.   There is a greater intelligence than human intelligence involved with the universe.

2.   That intelligence has, necessarily, the attributes which orthodox Catholic teaching attributes to God.

3.   Jesus briefly took on humanity and claimed to be one with God and has backed up His claim in a multitude of ways.

4.   Jesus established a Church, personally assured of His infallible guidance  through the ages, to uphold the truth.

5.   The Catholic Church is the one and only church that fulfills that promise.

I did say some half a dozen, but that appears superfluous, as 5 seems sufficient.”

Any similarity between these Six become Five Steps and the six I predicted (“The Six Steps”, March 15, 2014)  - six of one, half a dozen, or even five, of the other - is (need it be underlined ?) not a feat of fantastic foresight, but the result of my having once shared the credulity which produced them.  It is however remarkable that they were the hyper-Holmesian deductions of an engineer-scientist, blinded by his need to believe.

P.S.   That this should be posted on April Fool’s Day is, of course, like the Big Bang which occurred against admittedly astronomical odds, a pure fluke  . . .




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1.   A long, long time ago, some primitive mid-Eastern story-tellers borrowed or invented tales full of drama, sex, violence, catastrophes, heroes and … miracles to enlighten their ignorant, illiterate peasant audiences.  Besides the exciting adventures of their comic-book characters like Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham and super-heroes like Moses, they threw in some rules and regulations about what’s right and wrong.  Later some scribes, having learned to write, and as anonymous as the authors of the camp-fire stories, put them on papyrus.  Pretty soon people were conned into believing that what they had written was in fact the inspired word of God or “Yahweh” as they did not dare call Him.  Over the years the books became THE Book, the Bible.

2.   A Jewish preacher, some millennia later, came on to the scene.  Jesus may or may not have existed, but we know the story of His life, doctrine, death and supposed Resurrection from another set of supposedly divinely inspired texts which became for them an extension of The Book, the New Testament, completing what Christians call the Old Testament.  It is much less exciting and short on sex, deluges, genocides and epic battles, but it is full of parables, miracles, moral injunctions and threats about what will happen to us when we die if we do not walk the line.  As Scripture it is the principal source of Christian dogma.

3.   But dogma has another source, reserved to Catholics.  It is called Tradition.  This means that if a given belief, no matter how weird or unfounded, survives a few centuries, it is thereby guaranteed to be part of Divine Revelation and therefore true.  (By the same logic, the survival of superstitions like walking under a ladder would be proof of their veracity…).

4.  On the basis of these two sources, the One True Church –  of which the infallibility is guaranteed by Source No.1 and a story about Jesus building His Church on Simon the fisherman become Rocky the Fisher of Men, alias Peter, the first Pope – is authorized to proclaim as divine truth whatever it sees fit to proclaim.  It can declare, for example, that Jesus is bodily, really present in consecrated bread and wine, because of His words at the Last Supper, as recorded in the New Testament Gospels : “This is my body; this is my blood”.  It decided to declare, nineteen centuries after the event, that Jesus’ Mum Mary was conceived free of Original Sin, a concept invented by Saint Augustine some three hundred years after her supposed Assumption physically into Heaven, because both beliefs, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, had been held, for long enough by enough theologians -  with some notable exceptions including the mistaken Thomas Aquinas - as well as by a lot of the faithful.  To make the justification sound serious, this is called the “sensus fidelium”, the “sense of the faithful”, guided by the same holy Ghost who inspired Scripture.  The result is dogma, also known as fogma, Godologians’ stock-in-trade, the subject of sermons and the stuff of blind faith and blind folly. 

                                                   RIDENDA   RELIGIO 





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Some readers of my book and of this blog have told me how much they pity me, and how much they regret, despise and oppose what I am doing.  Good Christians, they genuinely feel sorry for me and the presumably sad, empty life I have created for myself.  They are afraid my case, like my life, is hopeless, but pray for me anyway.  They thank God they have their faith to keep them warm and happy and hopeful.  They are distressed that I am trying to get others to question and abandon their faith.   As if it were not bad enough that I am ruining my own life, wasting the opportunities I had and still have to discover the bounties of His love, the satisfaction, the comfort, the reassurance that come from faith in a loving, forgiving God, it seems that I am hell-bent on getting others to share my miserable, meaningless existence, and leading them to regret eternally the Heaven they and I could have had.  Sadly, they say, I sometimes succeed in getting believers (on the brink) to give up God, leaving them with nothing : nothing and no one to believe in, no hope for the future and no reason to care about anyone besides themselves.  They might not go quite as far as the gentle Jesus, who declared that it would be better if scandal -mongers like me had never been born and that we deserve to be drowned with a millstone tied around our neck.  But they would prefer that I cease and desist, or at least soften my cruel blows against belief in God, His revelation and His Church, and not disturb the serenity of people whose faith is essential to the meaning they give to their lives and to their deaths.

An “Apologia Pro Atheismo Meo” would not convince hard-core believers, any more than the 400 Reflections already published to date here (178) and in my “From Illusions to Illumination” (227).  But I feel obliged to remind them at least of the following :

1.   People have every right to believe, or not believe, whatever they like.  People have the right to express their belief or disbelief.  People also have the right to try to convince others to change their mind, to reject or accept beliefs.

2.   Efforts to encourage people to modify their belief or disbelief must be devoid of physical, psychological or other duress or the threat thereof, as well as of dishonesty, manipulation and attacks against, or disrespect for, the person of the believer or unbeliever.  Respect for the person does not exclude disrespect for the beliefs held or rejected.

3.   Persons attempting to promote or destroy beliefs are entitled to use any other means they wish which they consider appropriate to achieve their objective.

Propagandists on both sides of a question realize that their cause is not served if their methods alienate their opponents.  “Captatio benevolentiae” (capturing benevolence) is a permanent rhetorical imperative.  But “le style c’est l’homme”, “style is the man”.  Mine is not everybody’s cup of tea, and I have only myself to blame if I shoot myself in the foot, turn people off or mix metaphors.

But I will always reject the fallacy that only religion can assure a genuine joie-de-vivre.  I have learned to live without religion’s illusions and would not want to seek meaning, purpose and joy in fantasy.  I have no need of religion to lead a meaningful, purposeful, joyous life which I know will end definitively in death.  Nor do I need religion to give me reasons for respecting my fellow-man and contributing to helping ensure that his life, as well as my own, are in keeping as far as possible with human dignity.  I am honest enough to say that I am NOT my brother’s keeper (if only because such a “brother” is a metaphor derived from the myth of God the Father of us all), and do not claim or pretend to love my fellow-man as much as myself, my own family and close friends, but I am dedicated to offering people in need whatever help I can, including my vision of religion as ridiculous and atheism as a liberation - even if I am a bit heavy-handed, trigger-happy and never short of poisoned arrows aimed not at people but at silly beliefs, silly rules and silly rituals.  Ridicule is a two-edged sword but often an effective means of getting people to realize that religious credulity would be funny if it were not so tragic.  Hence  :

                                          RIDENDA   RELIGIO        


This blog has become as much the work of Thom, indefatigable commentator, as my own.  We share a fascination with credulity, and in particular with beliefs, myths, become officially defined dogmas.  My buggaboo is the Assumption of Mary, her miraculous Lift-Off.  Thom’s is the equally incredible Immaculate Conception.  Readers will appreciate his insights in the extended comment that follows



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Democritus, Lucretius and Darwin were right in what they all wrote about “chance and necessity”, and in denying any intentionality or purpose in creation.  To say that a supposed Intelligent First Cause created the world is a highly improbable claim.  To suggest that on the basis of this unlikely, incredible hypothesis one can deduce, in six easy steps, that Mary was physically assumed into Heaven is not only to abuse logic but to expose such credulity to ridicule.  On the other hand, even Dawkins recognises the astronomical odds against the improbable spontaneous coming into being of our Universe and ourselves.  Both the theist and atheist affirmations are, in differing degrees, pretty hard to swallow.  But the evidence strongly favors Dawkins and atheists like myself.  There is not and never was a Divine Watchmaker, blind or otherwise.

On a more down-to-earth level, my own life has been full of the unexpected, unforeseeable and improbable.  Chance – literally – would have it that I was born in the Lucky Country, and, as it happens, of Catholic parents.  Given the context which I detail in my book, “From Illusions to Illumination”, it was hardly unexpected, unforeseeable or improbable that I should have become a Franciscan Roman Catholic priest, a bit surprising perhaps that I was chosen to do doctoral studies in Godology, not exceptional – it was the revolutionary year of 1968 – that I asked to be dispensed from my religious and priestly vows to get married, a little more surprising that I taught Godology for a full decade before, improbably, becoming an atheist.  My subsequent professional career I sometimes find hard to believe myself.

It is fun to establish a list of personal improbabilities, but its interest is more than limited for the people one reader calls the “invisible readers” of this blog.  It is true that only a few of my readers post comments, but the official statistics show that no less than 25 readers have explicitly requested to be “Followers” and to receive so as to read every addition to the blog.  It is also true that even its first version (canalblog) had anonymous readers from at least a dozen different countries, and that I know the names of an admittedly small number of people who are regular but “invisible” readers.  No one knows how many others out there read but never comment.  It would in fact be unlikely, improbable, that among the countless blogs present on the Net, mine should attract legions of readers (wait and see, say I …).

Jesus apparently wrote nothing, except perhaps a few Pharisees’ names in the sand.  My words in the blog will not blow away.  What I have written, I have written, and, however improbably, may be read, by invisible readers, even when I am no longer around to add posts like this one.

                                           RIDENDA   RELIGIO 





This was the daily mantra many office-workers heard at the pub Down Under in the distant days of 6 o’clock closing.  Off work at 5:30 p.m., they had just thirty minutes to down as many schooners as they could. (laborers started and got off work earlier, so they had more time to guzzle).  The pace and the quantity of Tooth’s or Toohey’s consumed ensured the accomplishment of their mission, which was to get sloshed, or at least feeling no pain, before they took the train home for “tea” – which is what we called, in the British tradition, the evening meal.  There was no problem with alcohol-tests, which didn’t exist, and even if they did the vast majority, if ever they had a car, never drove to the office or its often daily complement, the pub.

For us kids, “Time, gentlemen, please !” came out as “Pens down !” at the end of a test at school.  For the punch-drunk in the ring it was the gong marking the end of the round, or the number “ten” if they were K.O. on the mat.  For the planet it will be the Final Explosion, the end of it all, matching the Big Bang which was its beginning.  But before that, it will be for each of us that frightful death-rattle I hope my grandchildren never hear.  

Not a terribly entertaining or comforting thought, all this.  But it needn’t be depressing.  Right now I’m feeling fine.  I know it can’t last, but that, my dear Finian and other friends, is what finitude is all about. Those who are suffering as they read this (the frequent effect on readers of much that I write, even on people in good health) know that their pain, like their joys, will one day come to a definitive end.  Meager consolation for those, the unlucky ones, whose pain cannot be assuaged by medication.  Life itself has its limits, our days are numbered, the end is, if not near, at least getting nearer for all of us.  “Finis coronat opus” – “The end crowns the work”.

I have found this realization a liberation. I love living and at 77 am making the most of it, but I once thought and taught that death was a mile-stone, a fork in the road, a transition to an imagined eternal life, not a dead-end to existence.  To be able to live and enjoy life without this illusion is no doubt the most precious gift of atheism.  I won’t mind hearing, or imagining I hear, “Frank, it’s time !”

                                      RIDENDA   RELIGIO   



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Anglosaxons do not eat pig; we eat pork.  “Porc” (Latin “porcus”) is the word in French for both the animal and the meat.  We take the dog, not our canine companion, for a walk.  We take a stroll; we do not ambulate or go on a promenade. Sometimes we prefer the harsher, less lyrical, teutonic words of Saxon.  (If 60% of English is derived from Latin, the meaning of a full 40% of our bastard mother tongue, with no relation to Latin roots, is difficult for speakers of modern Latin-based languages to guess.  “Tongue” is Saxon, “language” is Latin.)  As an ecclesiastic (Latin), a church-man (Saxon), I studied THEOLOGY, a word of double Greek origin (“theos” and “logos”), which is more elegant, sophisticated and academic than my neologism.  GODOLOGY is ugly, Saxon and Greek, but it is just as meaningless as “Theology”.  Whatever you call it, it is a discourse about … NoThing, about the NoBody most people unquestioningly believe actually exists.  As I have already suggested, “Fairyology” or “Hobbitology” would be far more fun and much more interesting, though about as useless as the nonsense I spent so long studying and even teaching.

One of Godology’s champions, Saint Anselm, less famous perhaps than other saintly scholars like Augustine, Albert and Aquinas, was remarkable for his invention of the ultimate in the hot air and hogwash which is God-talk.  Before him, other Godologians had come up with detailed identification of the attributes of the Godhead if not the Godtail.  He was, and is, and always will be, perfect.  In fact, “perfect” sums Him up … perfectly.  Now, opined Anselm, if we attribute perfection to Him, this must include the attribute of existence.  If He were not perfect, He would not be God, and if He didn’t exist, He wouldn’t be perfect.  Q.E.D.  The “ontological proof” (!) is simplicity itself.  The word is apt.  Only simpletons, like other Godologians, could accept it.

But Frank, surely you must have learned SOMETHING during all those years studying Dogmatic Godology, Moral Godology, Sacramental Godology, Maryology, Angelology and Whateverology !  Sure I did  !  I learned all anyone could ever want to know – and then some ! – about what other Godologians had dreamt up over the centuries and expressed in their corollaries to and glosses on the unfounded thesis that the deity, invented by primitive peoples and become the subject of the Sacred Writings of religions all contradicting each other, actually existed, created the world and all of us, expects that we obey – under pain of eternal punishment – the commandments concocted by their predecessors, and that we provide a living for them and a clerical caste we pay to remind us of the myths, make sure we obey the rules and join in the rituals to worship their imaginary business product and source of income who has shared with them not only inside info about how to avoid the Hell He created for His naughty children and secure a passport to Paradise for those lucky enough to be His Chosen Few, but special powers only they possess, the effects of which remain invisible like the NoBody Himself but are vital to our salvation.  (It would have been good if they had also taught us to be taut in the way we write, rather than gas on like their endless monotonous monologues which their long-suffering congregations are expected to listen to docilely every week.) 

When I realize the errors of my ways and revert back to believing the baloney, as some pious people pray that I do and as have a Flew (!) erstwhile atheists polluted by Pascal, I will walk around wearing a sandwich board, with, on one side, “Repent, The End Is Near !”, and on the other, “Support Your Local Godologian”.

                                        RIDENDA   RELIGIO




Our favorite Catholic apologist claims he can prove, in just half a dozen steps, that IF there is an intelligent Creator (and he knows there is because a watch implies a watch-maker – although Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” demolished the application of that argument to the origin of the Universe), then the Catholic Church is His infallible spokesman and the sole source of salvation.  Let’s see if we can guess what are these Six Steps (which must seem to most people nothing less than a quantum leap) which he suggests we take to get from his beloved First Cause to bleeding hosts and all the other myths of his blindfaithblindfolly.

1.   The divine Creator made it easy for His human creatures to know all we need to know about Him, ourselves and our purpose and destiny, by inspiring some chosen members of His chosen race to put it all in the writings we call Sacred Scripture, the Bible.  How we know that He did this is not at all clear, but apparently some holy old men said that these writings, written by other holy old men, were God’s word so they are.

2.   Because the said Bible is His word, everything it says is necessarily true – so long as we ignore the tall tales and the fiction pretending to be fact.

3.   In case  you’re wondering, the Jewish Bible we know is His authentic word because the Prophets’ supposed prophecies were supposedly fulfilled.  Some of these prophecies promised the birth of a Messiah, which, we learn, naturally happened in the conditions foretold – with the help of some blatant fiction, including a certain Roman census which never took place.

4.   Jesus of Bethlehem (?)-Nazareth proved He was the Son of God by supposedly working miracles supposedly witnessed by thousands.  So all that He is said to have said is true.  Some people who heard about the “miracles” by hearsay were so convinced that they preferred torture and death rather than denial, thereby proving that the miracles really happened. 

5.   Jesus established a Church under the leadership of Peter, the first Pope, and guaranteed its divine guidance.  Nonetheless history would provide multiple examples of ghastly goings-on under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

6.   This Church is the Church of Rome, the one, true, infallible Catholic Church.  If the Church decides that Mary was assumed into Heaven, then she really was.  If it decides that bits of Christ’s flesh appeared on eucharistic hosts in Lanciano, and that similar hosts actually bled on the altar in Orvieto, it must be true.

Q. E. D.

“Six of the best”, the gentle Marist Brothers used to call the caning they practised.  Our Apostolic Apologist gives another meaning to the phrase with his Six Steps, presumably similar to those we have imagined, putting Catholic Theology and Apologetics in a nutshell, if not for nutters at least for the naïve.

                                   RIDENDA   RELIGIO




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” … without strong Catholic influence, which has been its foundation and support.”  Readers will recognize the stamp and style of JIM, the indefatigable contributor of no less than forty-nine (49 !) of the most outspoken, provocative comments ever to appear in a blog.  Those who have read them will recall the academic and professional credentials of this Green Catechism Catholic, with whom I attended primary school from the age of eight.  His brilliant future career as an engineer was already predictable in his early school days.  Jim won the admiration of his classmates as well as that of our teachers, the Marist Brothers.  He had competitors but few equals in the classroom.  We all shared  a Catholic faith which not a few of us were to abandon later, but Jim preserved his, in all its pristine purity and infantile innocence, these last seventy years.  He is so convinced and sure of himself that he can make lapidary pronouncements like that in the title and the first sentence of this post.  Previous Dialogues of the Deaf with him on this blog revealed both his extreme credulity (the Lanciano “miracle”, bleeding statues, etc.) as well as his unshakeable religious certitudes.  His recent sweeping, quasi-apocalyptic, doomsday statement reveals his dogmatism even in the field of geopolitics : “We’ll all be rooned”, he could have said, in the words of John O’Brien, a talented Australian poet who happened to be a Catholic priest endowed with both literary talent and a funny bone (not Jim’s strong point).  Jim is deadly serious in predicting a cataclysm of historic proportions for our world, unless the Church exercises the influence and power it once had in Western society.  Jim the dreamer clearly does not realize what a disaster such a retrograde step would be.

Readers familiar with the history of the last two millennia will find this prediction preposterous for their own multiple reasons.  I will limit mine to the following, in view of what the Western world was like when it was under “strong Catholic influence” :

1.   The Supreme Pontiff would be not only a powerful Head of (a real) State with vast territories, immense wealth and a massive army ready to engage its military forces in bloody battle, but the world’s supreme political figure, dominating if not virtually nominating other Heads of State, as a quasi-universal monarch and king-maker.

2.   The Church would exercise considerable influence if not control over the leaders of other States, and would exact tribute from their populations in the form of obligatory “contributions” for the right to exercise certain functions and to benefit from its spiritual powers, including eternal salvation, with which God, it claims, had endowed it.

3.   Dissent and non-conformity in any form, Protestantism, non-Christian religions, let alone atheism, or even failure to practise the state religion of Catholicism, would not be tolerated but rather duly punished by restoration of the Inquisition, with the help of updated tools of torture and especially particularly inhumane capital punishment.  Books and films would be severely censored, professors would be “silenced”, school and University syllabuses, especially in science, forced to conform with official Catholic doctrine, and worst of all, there would be, on world television, a public incineration of both my book and blog, along with, please God, their author.  

These are but the most obvious examples of the “strong Catholic influence” without which “the Western world is doomed”.  Jim pines for a theocracy that would surpass even contemporary Muslim versions.  Does he seriously believe, literally, that outside the Church there is not only no salvation but even no possibility of maintaining law and order and the satisfying of legitimate needs of humanity, unless the Catholic Church once again exercises a predominant rôle in human society ?

Many of us are convinced that the world today faces unprecedented challenges for its very survival : nuclear and/or biological warfare, uncontrolable ecological disasters, fascism in all its forms, religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, capitalistic indifference to and domination of increasingly hungry, and even thirsty, desperate, exploited peoples.  But Jim is suggesting, or rather dogmatically declaring, that Western civilization is doomed unless the universal, political, cultural, spiritual and intellectual influence of the Catholic Church is restored.  Along with the threat is a nostalgia for the good old days (?) of “Christus vincit” and the “One True Church”, of dominant Catholicism.  If I were not an atheist I would say “God help us !”

Jim, you recently claimed on this blog that “the Catholic Church built Western civilization”.  If you want to restore the Ancien Régime, for which you give the Church credit, good luck !  Fortunately such an absurd dream will never happen.  Unspeakable crimes were committed in 1789, but the Revolution had to happen, the Catholic Ancien Régime had to disappear.  Vive la République laïque !  Long live the secular Republic !

You will no doubt, in a fiftieth contribution to this blog, want to exercise your right to reply to the above, although you have every right not to.  Just make your text no longer than this post.  Tell us why, in your view, the Catholic Church and its influence, values and doctrines are vital to our survival.  Its ghastly track-record of cruelty, exploitation and obscurantism, coupled with its contemporary  scandalous behavior, would suggest, on the contrary, that we would be far better off without it.  DELENDA  ECCLESIA  CATHOLICA.

                                    RIDENDA   RELIGIO  




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I have long been a Napoleon buff – not a fan, not an admirer (though some of his non-military accomplishments were remarkable) – because of his relationship with Doctor Barry Edward O’Meara, his private surgeon-physician on Saint Helena.  The Emperor, “His Majesty”, as his British jailers refused to call him, has been dubbed a 19th century Hitler.  Some historians have objected that one should not use today’s criteria to judge behavior of an earlier era.  The same principle has been invoked recently in discussion provoked by Richard Dawkins’ provocative brushing off of corporal punishment in the form of caning and the “mild pedophilia” of which he himself had been the object when he was a child in a British school.

Being an atheist does not make Dawkins right about pedophilia or oblige other atheists to agree with him.  While it is true that the comparison of Napoleon and Hitler is excessive, nothing can justify the crime even of Bonaparte at Toulon and certainly not the massacre of millions in Napoleon’s wars.  Closer to home, I myself have been ridiculed by former classmates for condemning the caning to which the Marist Brothers brutally subjected us (“six of the best”, “three on each hand” administered by the sadistic Brother Maurus when I was eight years old !)  “Part of growing up”, they said.  “Made men of us”.  “At the time everybody, in homes and public schools, thrashed their kids.”  “No harm done.”  It was, said a classmate who was later to become himself a Marist Brother, “more playful than vicious”.  BALDERDASH  !  Abuse of children, unjust wars, slaughter of citizens, slavery and torture are crimes against humanity in any and every period of history.

It is pathetic that anyone could think that he is scoring a point against atheism by accusing a celebrated atheist of condoning or at least of minimizing the crime of pedophilia.  The luxurious life-style of the Bishop of Bling or the machinations of Marchincus with the Mafia at the Vatican Bank, may be fair game for condemning abuses in the Church, but not the expression of a mistaken judgement of a believer.  When mud-slinging descends to this level, the antagonists should have another beer, go home and sleep it off.

More seriously, atheists and non-atheists should hold fast to immutable, timeless principles of morality.  We may differ as to their source and justification, but we can agree that even “mild pedophilia” is an abominable crime, whatever the epoch in which it was committed.

                                                RIDENDA  RELIGIO  







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