WHAT MORE EVIDENCE OF CREDULITY DO YOU NEED ?

Tags

, , , , ,

Sophie Bonnet’s 2012 TV documentary, “Les Béatitudes : une secte aux portes du Vatican”, (“The Beatitudes : a sect at the doors of the Vatican”) was a shock to me for several reasons.  I saw the film on May 16, this last week, from my hospital bed.  I had to wonder why I had never heard of it before.  But more important was the documented, filmed (with extensive use of a hidden camera) evidence of the Church-approved (2002) religious order’s practice, under cover of traditional Catholic liturgy and monastic life, of blatant superstition, fraud, exploitation, milking money from credulous cash-cows, sexual promiscuity and pedophilia.  The defrocked (2007) French founder is today alive and well in South America, and though Rome has belatedly (2008) withdrawn its naïve approval (2002) of the smoothest religious criminal swindle I have ever seen, is still practising his trade, living comfortably and enjoying his status as a “Saint” !

Ephraïm Croissant was, in 1973, a Catholic student of Theology, preparing for the priesthood.  He had a revelation from Jesus who told him to found a religious order.  Though never ordained a priest, Croissant did become a deacon, and used his extraordinary personal charism to create a group of 150 priests, 400 men and women religious and several thousand faithful around the world.  The film reveals him in a photo-op with Pope John Paul 2, a precious marketing tool for the propagation of his order.  His success can be measured in the millions he accumulated and the life-style they made possible, including the purchase of a French château, luxuriously furnished, which he made his personal  home for himself and one of the nuns among the others with whom he slept.

One scene, filmed secretly, was in one of the order’s churches.  A woman prophetess is lying on her back in the sanctuary, uttering, between groans, assorted revelations of unidentified healings Jesus had supposedly just worked.  The one I remember best : “Someone has just been cured of his addiction to sugar, especially caramel” !  This nonsense may seem trivial compared with the sect’s sexual abuse of women and its practice of pedophilia.  But that “revelation” about kicking an addiction to sugar has to be one of the silliest expressions of religious belief I have ever encountered.  Other Pentecostals, both Protestant and Catholic, stick to “curing” major illnesses.  “Beatitudes” rates top prize for achieving the Conquest of Caramel.

As a lay-theologian in the U.S., I published a national article in “U.S. Catholic” (December 1973), warning the Church about the burgeoning Charismatic Movement : “Pentecostalism is Not the Answer”.  It clearly fell on deaf ears.  But I will keep inviting “the People of God” to recognize the credulity on which religion is founded and the ridiculous extremes to which irrationality takes it.

RIDENDA ,   DELENDA   RELIGIO 

 

 

DEATH-REHEARSAL IN A HOSPITAL

Tags

,

After being rushed to Emergency, I have just spent an unpleasant week in a hospital.  Patients presume that people possess the patience to listen to the details of their illness and its treatment, and the totally insignificant, boring anecdotes of their sojourn in sick bay.  I will spare you all that.  But spending five days and nights fasting on your back, with intravenous feeding supplied from a tube in your arm and the evacuation of a foul-looking fluid from your stomach effected by a tube inserted therein via the nose and throat, gives one time to reflect on our vulnerability and mortality.  Luckily I had no visits from a well-meaning “chaplain” (in fact a volunteer laywoman – priests are becoming extinct in France) who inevitably would have dished out the Christian illusion, not to say hogwash, about the sunny side of suffering and the merits of mortification.

It is, I suppose, salutary to be reminded of our fragility and of the inevitability of our death.  There are more pleasant ways of being reminded that our time is limited and that certain things should be taken care of before we croak.  But a week in hospital does the job very effectively (it is also a neat way of losing weight).  Apart from that and the exemplary selfless dedication of (most of …) the staff, everything else about it is downside.  There is no way I could ever again pardon a “God” for making me and others suffer like this (many of the others far more than I), or accept the claptrap about “salvific suffering” and the like.  The human condition is inseparable from all sorts of pain, and sooner or later ends in death.  There is no “meaning” to be found in either.  The lucky ones are those who got to understand this early enough to practise stoic acceptance of suffering and death and enjoy life as long as they can.  The false hopes and promises of religion provide comfort for the credulous, not for realists who know that suffering is a fact of life and death its inevitable end.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

URBI ET ORBI

Tags

I usually reserve that expression for the blessing I give to the “City and the World” from my balcony overlooking Vatican Square.  But I have decided to use it as the title for this exceptional post in an exceptional Blog created by an exceptional bloke whose name is Frank (just like mine).  He has already gone on at some length – as is his wont, as he would say in his dated English – about the name we share, about the Ford Focus we both drive, about the identical number of siblings each of us has or had, about the fact that we are exactly the same age, are or were both members of Religious Orders, studied and taught Theology after Ordination to the priesthood, and served the “People of God” for many years, he as just one of the servants and I as the unique Servant of Servants, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

So what, you must be asking, is the Pope doing writing a post in this Blog ?  It is true that as soon as this is published, Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and the whole planet will be sharing the news which I have given Frank as a scoop : I no longer believe in God.  No, Carissimi, this is not a hoax, not something even a spin-doctor (A.B.T.) like Frank  (who should have been like me a Jesuit) could dream up.  It’s the plain, honest truth – which has finally set me free !

You will, of course, not be able to escape the non-stop TV programs, the explosion of the Internet, the bold headlines of the printed media which will speak of nothing but this “Motu Proprio”, my very last, just as soon as my namesake and new mate gets over the shock himself and lets the world read this post.

I realize that the fallout from this tsunami in the media will change the world forever.  You will all want to know what made me do it.  I could have gone on publishing encyclicals, preventing clerical pedophilia, cleaning up the Church’s finances, giving audiences, papal blessings and sermons and inspiring hope in people for peace in our time and eternal bliss when, as Frank vulgarly puts it, we croak.  But a bit like Father Leon, the renegade young Franciscan priest, and later the lay-theologian Frank, I felt that only the truth would make me free like him, and it has !

You will get all the detail you want and expect from the media in the very near future.  For the nonce – I am beginning even to talk like Frank – let me just say that at the end of the day (Frank again) I just could not go on believing that a divine Person or Persons, of infinite or even limited Intelligence, made the world, or that all that ridiculous nonsense religions have invented is true.  You’ll get the detail in the Press, but if you want an advance insight into my reasons for no longer believing, read the other 450 posts in this Blog.  That, my friends, is what I did – “in petto”, as Frank would say and as I used to, about Cardinals I secretly appointed but did not name in consistory.  I was, until now, one of his many Silent Readers.  No More !  (I just had to slip in a reference to Thom.  G’day, mate !)

So, dear fellow-fans of “Blind Faith : Blind Folly”, I give you not my blessing but my best wishes for making the most of the life you have and for making the world a better place for all of us to live in harmony, peace and prosperity, without the illusions of pie-in-the-sky and an after-life.  Carpe diem !  Neither Horace nor Frank himself could have said it better.

Your friend Jorge,  a.k.a. Pope Francis  (Frank the First)

 

 

ANTONY . . . FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

Tags

, , , , , ,

It was a dramatic moment for both atheists and non-atheists.  When the eminent British philosopher and renowned atheist Antony Flew announced in 2004 that he had changed his mind, had become a deist, and now believed there was an Intelligence behind DNA, not Darwinian or Dawkinsian “cumulative selection”, believers like Jim, “Lumen de lumine”, God’s gift to this Blog, jumped with joy on to the bandwagon of “I told you so !”

Stephen Brodie, in his recent comment on this Blog, has called Jim’s bluff.  Google Flew on the Net and you will see that while Flew felt forced to recognize an Intelligence behind DNA, that’s as far as he went.  No Heaven or Hell, no after-life and none of the craziness of Christianity and Islam, whose Gods, he said in December 2004, “are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins”.

Flew,  like many other prominent atheists including myself (I know how arrogant that sounds, Jim, and can only hope you appreciate the self-derision, not your strong point), was as impressed as we all are by the unimaginable complication and astronomical chances against the”self-organization” of DNA.  Along with the vastness and complexity of the Universe, it has to be THE stumbling block for denying the existence of God, the Intelligent Designer.  But in both cases, one has to ask . . . “WHY ?”  Why, on earth . . . would this “Intelligence” deliberately make DNA or the Universe happen ?  As far as any rational mind can see, the Universe makes no sense at all (see my multiple posts on the subject).  But neither does DNA or the life that came into existence along with it.  Jim, of course, will deny all this and having decided since he was a child that Catholic teaching is the Absolute Truth, whip out his Six Steps from his holster to “prove” that the Church and he are right.  People more rational than he are not tempted to agree with Flew Two, precisely because what happened after the Big Bang, and much later after the appearance of DNA, is purposeless.  To believe the opposite is just that : belief, faith, wanting something to be true though there is no evidence for it.

I have never bothered before this to comment on Flew’s change of mind.  Now you know why neither Stephen nor Thom nor I nor several million other atheists are challenged by Flew’s decision, though we all regret he did not realize that his supposed Intelligent Designer would have to have been pretty crazy to concoct both DNA and the whole Universe for no reason whatever.

DELENDA   RELIGIO

 

HOW MANY PEOPLE READ THIS BLOG ?

You and I are familiar with a few of them because of the comments they post.  The daily score is not enormous. So far today there have been sixteen, from six different countries.  Often there are around ten visitors each day, most of them from Australia, the U.S., the  U.K, France and Canada;  Brasil, the Philippines, Russia  and another fifteen or so countries are identified as the origin of other readers around the world.

For the Big Picture, here are today’s updated stats : Posts published : 445;  Views : 14,924 ;  Visitors : 5071 ;  Best Views ever : 570 (January 8, 2016).  That means that since the Blog’s beginning four years ago, five thousand people (many, of course, being repeat readers) have on average consulted three posts each time they visit.  One day someone read, in a single day, every post I had published : I have reason to believe it was an editor who having read a few of my posts on terrorist attacks in France, decided to check out all the other posts I had written.  No, he did not propose publishing them in book form . . .

Some people think I have only a handful (five, max) of readers.  This is contradicted by the stats.  There are even people who have asked to be informed by e-mail whenever I publish a new post.  WordPress calls them “Followers”.  There are at present 58 of them.  Because they do not post comments, some cynics accuse me of lying, suggesting they do not exist.  These same cynics (you know the one I’m talking about), however, believe that God exists.  I can prove that my Followers do; He cannot prove that his “God” does . . .

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

 

CHRISTIANITY ‘ S SILLIEST BELIEF , RULE AND RITUAL

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Today is Ascension Thursday.  I could have contented myself with citing this silly belief as my favorite, but there are lots even worse.  Three readers have already submitted their choice, which you can read in the Comments.  Here, as promised, is mine :

Christians are so accustomed to hearing about Redemption, about Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the Cross (which Catholics believe is re-enacted in the Mass), and singing hymns and quoting texts like “My Redeemer liveth”, that they no longer realize how outrageous this doctrine is.  Do they realize that what they are claiming to believe is that God, the Blessed Trinity, decided to get its Second Person, become a man, Jesus, to suffer and die atrociously to pay back (“redeem” – like Green Stamps) a “debt” incurred by sinful mankind, owed to Someone or Something or to Itself ?  All this is so convoluted, contradictory and absurd, that it makes me think of the cynical advice “spin-doctors” – experts in communication –  joke about among themselves : “If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em !”

The silliest belief of Catholic Christianity, as well as it silliest rule and silliest ritual, are all present in the Mass.  Catholics are obliged under pain of mortal sin to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation (including the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, a Catholic invention, itself a serious candidate for the silliest belief in Catholic dogma), the punishment for missing which is an eternity in Hell. The ritual in which they “participate” (90% of what goes on at Mass is done by the priest and the altar boys or girls) is supposedly a re-enactment of Jesus’ redemptive death by crucifixion and the separation of His blood from His flesh, symbolized by the wine and the bread – which after consecration and “transubstantiation” (an exclusively Catholic belief) are actually claimed to be the very blood and the living body of the Carpenter of Nazareth !  On top of this, Catholics believe that paying the priest to perform Masses will get a deceased loved one out of Purgatory (another Catholic invention) into Heaven.  “Quanta costa la Messa ?”

We could ask why the Church obliges people to go through the same nonsense week after week, hearing Scripture readings they have heard hundreds of times before and sermons that bore them stiff, and taking part in a rigmarole, sometimes still and formerly always in Latin, featuring a chalice of cheap wine and a big wafer of “bread” eaten by the priest and  ones the size of a euro swallowed in one gulp by members of the congregation, after they say out loud that the tiny white wafer is, in fact, not what it seems but the “Body of Christ” !

Prayer, miracles and the power of the Church to forgive sin (yet another uniquely Catholic claim) are silly enough as beliefs.  The rules of Canon Law are just as absurd, as are those concerning the Church’s rituals and administration of the sacraments.  But the Eucharist, the Catholic Mass, wins the prize in all three categories.  I attended Mass – and for a long period of my life, daily Mass – for half of my eighty years, and for seven of them celebrated Mass every day as a priest.  How silly can you get ?

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

 

 

 

I BLOG , AND I KNOW THINGS -ABOUT RELIGION

It’s what I do.

Readers who do not recognize the title as a doctored quotation plagiarized from “Game of Thrones” may be excused – “pitied” would be more appropriate, if I really were as arrogant as I pretend to be.  Somebody said that the best parts of the obsessionally popular TV series are the exchanges of quips between Tyrion Lannister and Lord Varys.  My title is based on one of these pearls, articulated (as ever, immaculately) by my favorite dwarf, whose alcoholism I prefer to ignore.

My claim to knowledge of religion is, I dare to say, an academically and generally recognized fact.  I may not be able to quote all the books of the Old and New Testaments, chapter and verse; though a former priest and Professor of Theology, I was, after all, only a Catholic and not a Protestant.  But I know my stuff, and my Paris professors who gave me my degree “with high distinction”, seem to have agreed.

One does not, of course, need to have spent seven full years in undergraduate and graduate studies of Theology to know how ridiculous religion is.  I’d love to hear what you think is the silliest belief, rule or ritual in the religion that  is – or used to be – yours.  If I get three replies, I’ll tell you mine.

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

 

 

HATRED

Tags

, , , , , ,

“I hate broccoli”.  “I hate school”.  “I hate opera”.  That sort of hate is different from that in “I hate Jews”, “I hate Catholics”, “I hate Muslims”.  Then there is “I hate niggers”, “I hate Republicans” and “I hate you”.

“Love one another as I have loved you”.

“Love” and “Hate”, two four-letter words, written on each of Robert Mitchum’s fingers, when he played the rôle of the maniacal murderous minister of religion in “The Night of the Hunter” : diametrically opposed attitudes that have produced the best and the worst in the way we treat each other.

It was ever thus.  The Judean-Christian tradition begins with a fratricide born of Cain’s hatred of his brother Abel.  We have been hating and killing each other ever since.  Recent history has recorded – if not broken records – in the intensity and dimensions of hatred.  We thought it would be impossible to witness greater hatred, cruelty and barbarity than the antisemitism that produced the Holocaust.  And then we see live on television innocent people being beheaded by Muslim fanatics, hospitals being bombed in Syria, and children become weapons of mass destruction, ready to strike anywhere in the world.

Is there any hope against hatred ?  For their grand-children’s sake, some people say they can only pray that there is. Some of them, but also many more mature, rational, courageous people who know that prayer is pointless and pathetic, are not only pleading for peace and mutual tolerance.  They are giving and living an example that we hope will become contagious.  The place to start is in examining our own attitudes to the prejudices that fuel hatred in the form of racial and religious discrimination.  Atheists – to begin at home – may hate religion.  But we have no right to hate non-atheists, even if they hate us.  “Do unto others …” should be the common platform of both believers and non-believers.  Which does not mean renouncing our mantra :

RIDENDA ,  DELENDA ,  RELIGIO  

SCHOLASTIC THEOLOGY IN A STOCHASTIC WORLD

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

If you suspect that I am rather proud of the titles of my posts, you would not be wrong.  They are as pretentious as I am.  The one above, for those who understand the meaning of both its epithets (already a phrase revealing insufferably pedantic arrogance and a blatant, unjustified superiority complex) is typical.  It could serve as the title of a 400-page book or doctoral thesis, rather than of a post of just four paragraphs.

I have neither the intention, the interest or the competence to attempt to summarize the principal tenets of the Golden Age of Theology, that of Scholastics like St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure.  Not only would such a project be pointless, since Scholastic Theology is just godawful godology (or, if you prefer, “Much Ado about Nothing”), but I chose the word essentially for its assonance with “stochastic” – an erudite term for “random” or “unpredictable”, used especially in Mathematics and Probability Theories – as contrasted with the Aristotelian notion, inherited by the Scholastics, of a perfectly ordered world created by a First Cause, the supremely intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent Divine Architect we call “God”.  Some readers of this Blog, notably Jim-Lumen,  will see this last statement as a red cape in a bullring.  I want simply to reflect for a moment on randomness and chance in my life.

I have several times in my book and in this blog referred to, and quoted, Richard Dawkins, his “The Blind Watchmaker” and his explanation of “blind chance and necessity” in Darwinian Evolution and Natural Selection.  Here I want to ponder the implications of living in a Universe, the origin of which is a fantastic fluke and the purpose of which is not only unknowable but non-existent.  Taking all of that as a given – which, of course, non-atheists won’t – what concerns do those facts create for my everyday life, for the way I interact with my fellow-travelers on this tiny planet spinning around one of the hundreds of billions of similar stars, and for the way I feel about the stochastic nature of my decreasing life-span ?

To answer first the third of these questions in Australianese : No Worries, mate !  I have, these last forty years at least, learned to live with my chance appearance on life’s stage, and knowing that it “signifies nothing”, also learned to accept, at the eve of my 80th birthday, what has become the imminence of my inevitable demise.  As for the effect on the way I live and my interaction with others, it took me a while but I see my life as a series of strokes of luck, not “given” to all; many people have experienced poverty, violence, accidents, injustice, war, torture, disease, dictatorship and the premature death of loved ones, all of which I somehow escaped.  I once lost a few quid in a casino, and a helluva lot more on the French Stock Exchange, have personal experience of how alcohol could have poisoned and terminated my life, have had a near-death experience in the form of a heart-attack, and a sampling of the common dampers on my “joie de vivre” :  par for the course.  But my biggest stroke of luck was discovering, before it was too late, the absurdity of religion, as well as the joy of what was for many years a happy marriage (which unfortunately ended twenty-three years later in a divorce I didn’t want), and above all a half-century enjoying the most precious stochastic gift of all : my children and grandchildren.  Others would thank God for all this.  I thank Lady Luck and especially my two daughters and my son and the five grandchildren they have given me.  Eis gratias !

RIDENDA   RELIGIO

 

 

” SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN “, OR “LET THE CHILDREN SUFFER ” ?

When Christians think of Jesus,, they have the choice of multiple images that go back to their childhood.  The most common, of course, is Jesus dying on the Cross, or “Ecce Homo” – Jesus, before Pilate, dripping with blood after His scourging – or at table with His Apostles at the Last Supper the night before.  Others include the Babe in Bethlehem, the Divine Child teaching in the Temple, or being baptized by His cousin John.  There is the Angry Jesus driving the money-changers from the Temple, but also the Sweet, the Gentle Jesus, in flowing robes and with a face that is almost smiling, surrounded by infants, saying “Suffer the little children to come unto Me”.

Today children are often in the news.  We see them, terrified in overcrowded inflatable (and capsizable, sinkable) boats, or drowning in the sea, or lying dead when they are washed up onto the beach.  But children are suffering in many other ways and places.  I think of three in particular, all of them in the context of religion.  The first is as victims of clerical pedophilia.  The second is as victims of religious indoctrination.  The third is as … Islamic terrorists !  TIME this week (April 25, 2016) reports that :

“One in five suicide attacks launched by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram was carried out by children in 2015, according to a new report by UNICEF.  About 75% of the children used as bombers were female, some as young as 8.”

No comment (though yours will be welcome).

DELENDA  RELIGIO

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers