IS THE CHURCH , LIKE THE WALLS OF JERICHO , DESTINED TO COME TUMBLING DOWN ?

The best-known and most controversial, if not the most popular, French philosopher today is Michel Onfray, author of “Treatise of Atheology”, among many others of his best-selling books. Recently “L’Express” (May 21, 2021), quoting his latest opus, “L’Art d’Etre Français”, summarized what for him is the losing battle of Christianity and its inevitable demise. Recalling the life and death of pre-Christian religions, including the cult of Horus at Luxor in Egypt, he aligns the “mechanism of decadence” and the “process of degradation” of the Christian religion : “The development of Nominalism which attacked the possibility of the Christian God in the Middle Ages, the rediscovery of Antiquity during the Renaissance, whch revealed that the Christian world was not unique, the appearance of Descartes who secularized thinking and turned to reason, rather than to God, to explain the world, the philosophy of the Enlightenment with its abundant use of reason against Christianity and its God, the political philosophy of the 19th century which, after the French Revolution, invented Socialism, Communism and Anarchism. All of this worked”, he wrote, “on the Judeo-Christian edifice like termites attacking the framework of a cathedral. The day comes when the building’s wooden structure turns to dust . . . and the monument crashes to the ground.”

“We’ll have to wait to see what happens” – as we are reminded constantly by TV journalists’ repeated, unenlightening conclusion to discussion of on-going current events. I doubt, however, that Christianity is destined to disappear any time soon. It has, after all, had a long run already and managed to survive the challenges Onfray recalls. More and more believers are finding their religion irrelevant, but the very competition between the three monotheisms is likely, paradoxically, to ensure not only the survival of the fittest but the survival of all three. “Delenda Religio” is still a pipe-dream, but this blog and its “Ridenda Religio” will continue to combat religious credulity and hopefully hasten its Requiem.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

IT’S ASCENSION THURSDAY : WE HAVE LIFT-OFF !

You have to pity the poor preacher at Mass this morning. He is expected not only to take seriously the myth that forty days after His supposed Resurrection, Jesus ascended – self-propelled and without any special boosters, equipment or protection – into Heaven (said to be “Up There”), but to say something credible about it. Surely he doesn’t believe this nonsense himself, any more than the “faithful” he is expected to inspire by his sermon. I’m sure he’ll find something to say, maybe with the help of his diocesan sermon-notes.,

Here in France, this is a public holiday. Few know why an “ascension” is commemorated today. Some may think it had to do with launching the rocket to the Moon or the current exploration of Mars. Whatever. It’s a holiday so let’s make the most of it. France used to be the “eldest daughter of the Church”. Like our splendid cathedrals, feast-days remind us of our history, and we continue to welcome the day off, without even realizing that this was originally intended to make it easy for everyone to attend (obligatory) Mass on this … holy-day.

Mary’s Assumption is celebrated on August 15 – a pity, because we’re all on Summer vacation anyway.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

BREAKING NEWS : ” WE WILL SEE WHAT HAPPENS “

Along with “at the end of the day” and “moving forward”, journos and pols use the title’s truism as padding when they have nothing more to say. Stating the obvious is becoming contagious; Facebook’s vacuous comments are a classic example. But stating the obvious has at least the advantage of not being untrue. Lies are, of course, the speciality of religion and politics. Politicians often lie. “Trump won the election” is the Big Lie. But preachers permanently promulgate patently false statements. You know them by heart : “God answers prayers”, “The wicked are condemned to Hell”, “A heavenly reward awaits the just”, “The Bible is the inspired Word of God”.

I am waiting for the mother of all Breaking News : “The Pope has admitted that not only are the Church’s doctrines human inventions, but that God does not exist”. Unfortunately we will never see that happen.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

A CURMUDGEON’S QUESTIONS

Not a word I often use. Matter of fact, if truth be told, at the end of the day (if not of my life), moving – more and more slowly – forward, I have never spoken or written the word in my life. But having become one, it is maybe time I did, thereby applying to myself a sobriquet which others – if they know the word – would not hesitate to apply to my illustrious person and cantankerous self.

Even you younguns out there may sometimes ask yourselves – about something you painfully succeeded finally in accomplishing – whether of not it was “worth it”. When your score is four-score and rising, as is mine, you look back and wonder whether what much of what you did during your life was, indeed, worth it. All that time you spent studying (Theology, for cryin’ out loud !), when you see your mates who dropped out of High School and became millionaires while you ended up with academic degrees that got you a dead-end job and a less than luxurious life . . . then you are inclined to ask yourself, as you might after ploughing through a 750-page book (or a blog with 1085 posts !), whether it was worth it. You strained your budget by traveling thousands of miles to attend a school-reunion that bored the hell out of you, with zombies you promise yourself never to see again, inflicting on the rest of us a series of monologues mining their nuggets of nostalgia which deserved to be forgotten. Money and time down the toilet. You got hooked by that interminable Netflix series, and persevered to the very end, wondering why you bothered.

If only we had our time over again – but we don’t. Best we can do is carpe the diem, think of spilt milk or England, keep calm and carry on … our backs our self-imposed and other burdens.

The bigger question, of course – given that there is no after-life – is whether your life was worth living. That’s for you to decide. Mine was and is. I am lucky enough to be able to do what I like (more or less). I resigned myself years ago to never winning the Nobel, becoming a filthy-rich celebrity in High Society, losing weight or sinking a hole-in-one. Those familiar with my background and careers – ecclesiastical, professorial and multinational – may wonder how I managed to survive and, in some measure, succeed. “Luck” is the easy, inadequate, inaccurate answer. The real explanation is that . . . “I got by with a little help from my friends”. They are the ones that made my life worth living. Treasure your friends. They are the diamonds of life.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

HERD CREDULITY

“Herd immunity” is a recent addition to our everyday vocabulary. “Herd credulity” is my own neologism for a phenomenon the world has known, without naming it, from time immemorial. A recent example is the headline : “50% of Republicans Refuse Vaccination”. The contagion of stupidity is as powerful as that of the coronavirus itself.

Religious faith ought to be a highly personal choice. It is not only reinforced by the fact that millions of others have opted for it. It is often the direct result of massive herd credulity. “65 million (formerly 40 million) Frenchmen can’t be wrong” was never an adequate, rational, intelligent reason for believing, in a country once proud of being “the eldest daughter of the Church”. Nor should the increasing popularity of agnosticism and atheism be considered a valid reason for abandoning religious belief and practice. Both religion and its rejection should be matter for the choice of individuals. Herd credulity, for ovine humans, is “flock” credulity. Accurately and aptly enough, that is the metaphor chosen by Christian Churches themselves.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

NONE SO BLIND

Some believers pretend they respect believers of other faiths. They know that they themselves are right and the others wrong, but prefer not to make a fuss about it – let alone an outright war as they used to. God will ( perhaps … ) forgive “the others” for remaining faithful to the false doctrines they believe. We – they all say – thank God that we alone possess the true faith. Those poor beggars splashing about in the Ganges, those poor kids in their madrassas learning the Koran by heart, those Buddhists spinning their prayer-wheels, those black Baptists dancing deliriously in their churches like the Blues Brothers, those Jews rocking back and forth at the Wall in Jerusalem – we secretly pity them all as we eat the body and drink the blood of a Man, alive, though He died 2000 years ago. Go figure.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

A VOICE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS ?

Like some of you, I myself am amazed that I have already published 1082 posts on this blog. I reckon I deserve a chocolate (80%) medal for perseverance, if not for pertinence. But I have long wondered why publishers have never proposed giving this blog a wider readership. I know I am inclined to be arrogant (proud of my modesty) but it would appear that my atheist blog is the only one in the blogosphere written by a former priest and professor of Theology.

On occasion, its content and style are unique too. You never in your life read a piece like my recent post, “Eating Jesus : Bon Appétit !”. Though brief, I believe it is the densest and most devastating denunciation of the eucharistic superstition ever read if not ever written. (I warned you about my arrogance.) It resulted in an exceptional spike in readership – for one day ! The title caught the eye of the curious, but few have commented on it (I truly appreciate those who did.) Should I persevere ? Am I talking to myself and a handful of faithful fans and occasional readers who stumble on posts that catch their eye but which apparently leave them cold ? OK, I’ve got – as we say Down Under – tickets on myself. I seem to have the illusion that at least some of my posts are ground-breaking insights into the absurdity of religion and the pathos of credulity. I do, however, openly admit my debt to multiple authors who have, for centuries, attacked the insane doctrines of the world’s religions, though I claim to launch my salvos with a certain panache and originality. With – I’m afraid – seemingly little effect.

I will, one day, publish my final post, either because I will have died, or decided that I have said enough. I can always find comfort in the conviction that “scripta manent” (“what is written remains”), that future generations will have access to my blog, or derive solace from the wishful thinking that the media, post mortem meam, will one day give it the attention I persist in believing it deserves.

I abandoned the illusions of religion in favor of the illumination of atheism. Is my conviction that blindfaithblindfolly was and is worth writing, is worth reading, and is capable of making my atheism contagious – my last illusion ? In spite of the self-confessed arrogance I joke about, it is entirely possible that I am kidding myself about the supposed value of my blog. But I must tell you that the reason I submit that it is deserving of expanded readership is the testimony of several highly qualified professionals – two of whom are themselves renowned authors. Even I, Uriah Heep, would not dare share with you their flattering encomiums. That is why I hope that this little light of mine will no longer remain under a busheL

P.S. As I wait impatiently for the phone to start ringing, as eager editors line up to offer me tempting contracts, I have myself an offer to make that Catholic universities and seminaries will find difficult to refuse. I propose that my blog be made required reading in faculties of Theology, and that students be confronted in their examinations with a selection of my posts for them to rebut. Will Theology professors dare take the risk ?

RIDENDA RELIGIO

GUILTY , GUILTY , GUILTY !

George Gerschwin’s 1937 award-winning song, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, performed by Louis Armstrong and multiple others, was a hymn to the supposed permanence of true love. Fortunately this wishful thinking does not apply to religious credulity. After sometimes decades of fidelity to the fables that fabricated their faith, many believers begin to doubt their childish beliefs and finally recognize the truth that makes them free.

The family of George Floyd is unlikely ever to question their faith in the God they believe got the jury to find the arrogant, vicious cop, Derek Chauvin, guilty on all three counts of murder and manslaughter. The sentence, they all said, is the result of their confident prayer and unfailing faith in God’s goodness. Had Chauvin been acquitted, riots would have broken out throughout the U.S. and beyond, and the Floyd family would have been saying “Ours not to reason why” and would have had to settle for “God works in mysterious ways”. But in fact they are shouting “Hallelujah ! Thank you, Lord, for giving our George justice ! They can’t take our faith away from us !”

Believers’ belief in God and in the power of prayer will unfortunately be reinforced as a result of this Happy Ending to the tragedy of the gentle giant and small-time hustler who was George Floyd. Preachers, black and white, will have no trouble this coming Sunday exploiting the Good News about George and promoting the prayer that vindicated him. If this welcome verdict marks a real rethinking of racism and police brutality and immunity, atheists will join believers, not in thanking God but the brilliant prosecution attorneys for their competence and contagious convictions, as well as the brave jurors for their exemplary honesty and courage.

RIDENDA RELIGIO.

THE PRINCE CHARMING WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE

I have just finished watching, in real time, the funeral service of the Duke of Edinburgh in Windsor Castle. Not surprisingly, especially when you’re 84, I thought of my own (funeral, not castle). Let me make it perfectly clear that I don’t give a ratz what my family will decide for mine. I suspect that whatever they decide it won’t include much of the pomp and ceremony of this lavish, albeit Covid-constrained, final act in the exceptional life of an extraordinary man. Philip deserved it; few – even royals – do.

Philip’s life almost reached humanity’s perceived limit, but in spite of the slings and arrows of old age he remained surprisingly agile in both mind and body. His was a life of remarkable contributions to the well-being of the world at large, and in particular to that of the subjects of his wife, Head of State of more than half of the countries on the planet, including Australia. The BBC, and even CNN, made sure we all knew every detail about his life and accomplishments. He is now dead and gone, his long, full and fascinating life over – in the equivalent, in cosmic terms, of the blink of an eye, a blip on the screen of the history of the Universe.

It has always been hard for Homo Sapiens to accept that like the rest of living entities, we are all destined to die, after a life most of us think is far too short. In contrast with religious wishful thinking (which the Prince shared), we get to live just one brief, limited life and try to make of it the best we can, often against formidable odds (as did the Prince). We try to give meaning to our lives, but there is no way we can make sense of our deaths. The day we resign ourselves to this reality, we can carpe the diem, making the most of the undetermined time we have left before day becomes eternal night.

Of Prince Philip it can be said, in the fullest sense : “Here was a man”. He is now a corpse in the royal vault. After a long life of constant service, he no longer exists. But, in the words of Rabbis Kamens and Riemer in their “Litany of Remembrance” : “When we are weary and in need of strength, we shall remember him”.

RIDENDA RELIGIO.

EATING JESUS : BON APPETIT !

It is hard to believe that anyone believes that in every Catholic parish church in the world, there is a Man – alive and well, though He was killed 2000 years ago – living locked up in a small metal box on or near the altar . . . waiting to be eaten ! Some readers may think I am delirious, drunk, drugged or, at 84 years of age, just plain senile. But neither the Pope nor over a billion Catholics would deny what they call the “Real Presence” of Jesus in those little white tasteless wafers, the size of a euro, which they will later swallow, each believed to be the resurrected Jesus.

It is, I say, hard to believe that such a belief exists. but for four decades – half of my life – I myself not only believed in this “Real Presence”, but as a Catholic priest, miraculously made it happen every time I celebrated Mass ! The “miracle” is called “transubstantiation” : the substance of bread is transformed into the substance of Jesus’ body, while retaining the (convenient) appearance of bread ! “This is my body” I would say over the “host”, a wafer larger than the ones already “consecrated” and stored in the food-larder we called a “tabernacle”, using the words of Christ at His Last Supper. Over a chalice of wine I would then say “This is my blood”. The symbolic separation of the body and the blood of the Savior reenacts His death. The “bread” and the wine BECOME Jesus, and, like the Apostles the night before He died, we consume His living flesh and blood in a “Holy Communion”.

Forty years ago – after seven as a priest – I finally recognized all this as disgusting nonsense, checked in my chasuble and abandoned the Church and every shred of Christian belief in favor of militant atheism, Today I am dedicated to exposing and denouncing the exploitation of believers’ credulity, including my own, through this blog, aggressively entitled “blindfaithblindfolly”.

The Last Supper, prelude to Jesus’ crucifixion and purported Resurrection, has been ritually renewed for 2000 years in the rite both Catholics and Anglicans call the “Eucharist”, though Catholics prefer “Mass”. Nobody, including theologians, seems to be astonished that at the momentous farewell meal with His closest disciples, Jesus actually declared that the loaf of bread He was holding was … His body ! That was insane enough, even if He meant it symbolically. But we have to wonder why on earth, the night before He was to be put to death, He would suggest that His faithful followers “take and eat” His flesh, and worse (?) “drink His blood” ! Catholics, of course, differ from Protestants in that they insist on the REAL presence of Jesus under the appearance of consecrated bread and wine. (The Anglican Communion, be it noted in passing, does not know what to believe or teach about the Real Presence; take your pick.) But who, except cannibals, would ever be tempted to consume – even symbolically – human flesh, even if it supposedly, miraculously, retained the “accidents” (the characteristics) of ordinary bread ?

The eucharistic “hosts”, circular, tasteless wafers made from flour and water, are kept in a “ciborium” in the “tabernacle” in every Catholic church in the world. No one seems to question this multiple supposed “Real”, universal, presence of Jesus in the countless Catholic churches all over the planet. (The doctrine of the Trinity – three Persons in one God – is challenge enough to monotheists. What should we make of hundreds of thousands of Jesuses ?). A large host is enshrined in an elaborate “monstrance” to be displayed for “Perpetual Adoration” or for occasional ceremonies called “Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament”. Pious Catholics “pay visits” to their churches to pray before the living Prisoner of the Tabernacle, lonely in His … solitary confinement.

All this raises questions Catholics never ask because since their early childhood this is what they were taught in preparation for their First Communion. Later questions might occur to them, and perhaps trouble some to the point that they abandon their faith entirely. More often than not, the vast majority decide to settle for symbolism, thereby becoming crypto-Protestants. Of course the “settling for less”, while avoiding the absurdity of eucharistic cannibalism, begs the question as to why anyone would think that admiration for, confidence and belief in another person, could be appropriately symbolized by . . . eating him ! Go figure.

P.S. “Transubstantiation”. The Church has a gift for disguising nonsense with neologisms. “Immaculate Conception”, “Divine Inspiration”, “Resurrection” are all devoid of rational content. No one was ever conceived immaculately in the sense of being preserved from Original Sin – another theological invention – no writing (even this blog !) was ever divinely inspired and none of us has any chance of rising from the dead. But, according to official Vatican doctrine, I am still capable of transubstantiation. I could turn a whole baker’s shop into multiple bodies of Jesus ! Meantime, Catholics should check out the meaning of the words of “Panis Angelicus”, their favorite, tear-jerking, lovely hymn, which should make them throw up. You’ll find it in my post of July 20, 2020.

RIDENDA RELIGIO