Archive for the ‘religion’ Category
According to a recent RedC poll Ireland is losing its religion faster than most countries. Now we must of course be wary of polls and declaring the end of religion as we know is still a bit presumptuous, but the poll is encouraging. For me it is obvious that the increase in non-believers has coincided with an increasingly educated population, wider access to information and the inevitable decline in the influence of the church. It is clear that the abuse scandals, cover ups and authoritarian reaction from the church to all this has done its fair share in damaging the influence of Catholicism. But I would be more inclined to think that regardless of the all the scandals this decrease in religiosity and move towards secularism was an inevitability.
We live in a time where science is uncovering truths and debunking myths at a rate of knots. It is a wooden stake in the heart of myth and mediaevalism and for many believers it is becoming harder to reconcile the myths and doctrines of their religion with the hard cold reality of scientific fact. Not to mind the Vatican’s obvious disconnection with the social realities of modern society. Their teachings with regard to homosexuality, contraception, and a host of other moronic dictates are at odds with the thinking of a majority of people in Ireland.
The church is increasingly isolated in its thinking and its dogmatic arrogance and narcissism only furthers the widening gap between a modern forward thinking population and a dusty irrelevant dictatorship. With every new scientific discovery from the Higgs Boson to an understanding of human consciousness, the creation fantasies and claims of the Judeo-Christian religions are eroded one step at a time.
While we may never live in a world free of religion we can live in a world where it is domesticated and its more destructive forms are sidelined and treated with the contempt they deserve. But we have a long way to go yet.
Reading the piece in the Journal today regarding Monsignor William J Lynn being found guilty of covering up sexual abuse by priests in America, brings Cardinal Sean Brady to mind. In America dogged prosecutors armed with the law pushed to have the Monsignor convicted of what to any thinking person is a crime.
In Ireland a few years back, we had Mr Brady coming on TV with not a single hint of remorse claiming it was the ‘times’ so therefore I’ve done nothing wrong. The Irish state has not bothered to even attempt to prosecute him.
Let me remind you what Mr Brady did; he made two young children sign some archaic Latin documents forcing them into silence and a lifetime of hell after they told him of the horrific abuse they had suffered at the hands of a fellow priest, and never informed the police.
Not informing the police meant a sexual predator was able to continue raping children for many years to come. Silencing the children guaranteed a lifetime of suffering and anguish. No thinking moral human being could possibly defend these actions. Unless of course you happen to be a priest attached to one of worlds most morally bankrupt organisations.
Ask yourself this – Were a teacher to have been found to have forced two school children into silence after they informed on their abuser and he then told his principal who then decided not to tell the police. What do you think would happen? Do you think as a society we would be happy to accept the same defence from the hypothetical teacher as we did from the very real Mr Brady?
Of course not. They would be prosecuted and vilified in the press. Why has this not happened to Brady? I honestly don’t know. If it’s some cultural hangover or a lack of political will due to some childhood fear of the church still lingering in the older politicians, I can’t say.
All I know is it’s wrong and that every time Brady opens his mouth and spews some arrogant bile from the pulpit or in front of the TV, he should be treated with the contempt he deserves.
Limerick TD and Fianna Fail attack dog, Willie O’Dea has according to the Irish Examiner claimed that Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter is “prejudiced against Catholics” because he refused to allow the army to provide a guard of honour for a procession at the recent International Eucharistic Congress.
How this amounts to prejudice is beyond me since I don’t see why the army has to or should provide any form of escort in a religious ceremony that has nothing to do with the state. Not to mind the waste of taxpayers money and that the army has better things to be doing.
Since Mr Shatter is Jewish, I also have to wonder would O’Dea have called a Catholic Minister for Defence prejudiced for making a similar decision. When looked at from this angle it adds a darker hue the O’Dea’s reasoning and should be viewed with the contempt it deserves.
O’Dea has spent his entire career turning up at bars and funerals in Limerick and doing very little else for the city. This smacks of an irrelevant politician from a dying party trying to court the Peoples Front of Judea.
However he wouldn’t be the first religious person in the country to shout prejudice now that the Government has realised we live in a multicultural state and has made moves towards a more secular republic, albeit slowly.
David Quinn, head of Iona Institute and regular contributor to the Independent, has made a career out of shrill warnings that the end is nigh because of the secularisation of the state and left-wing conspiracy. The slow demise and relevance of the Catholic Church in Ireland has the religious right clutching their rosary beads praying for a return to the good old days.
While it is easy to laugh at O’Dea and his ilk we shouldn’t forget that they represent two of the major hurdles Ireland has faced in becoming a modern secular republic. Parish pump politics and Religion. It should also remind us that neither has gone away.
Scanning through the news today I keep coming across the non-story that is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s inevitable divorce.
Each report starting out with some blurb regarding the divorce followed by updates that Miss Holmes has already moved on and sold the wedding ring on E-Bay.
Then it is followed by the questions, “Did Scientology cause the divorce?” and “Is Scientology a cult?” the excited reporter then spends several minutes expounding on the fundamentals of Scientology and their belief system, while trying not to laugh when they get to the part about aliens and Thetans. Insinuating that it is indeed a nasty, evil, mind controlling cult that brave little Katie finally escaped from.
Yet I doubt very much if either of them were members of the Christian community the news media would be filled with serious faced reporters asking “Is Catholicism a cult?” with follow ups like, “Was Jesus a conman?”
So Scientology is a cult because they believe in aliens and Catholicism is an accepted religion even though they believe in a Jewish zombie who is his own father and can grant you immortality if you pray to him telepathically?
Like most Irish people of my generation I grew up going to mass every Sunday, went to a Catholic school and took part in the usual cult like initiation rituals like communion and then confirmation. It was in primary school when I was very young that my first suspicions that maybe this god stuff was not all it was made out to be started to germinate.
Every now and then one of the local parish priests would arrive, unannounced of course, and spend several hours telling us that Jesus loved us and if we didn’t love him back just as much we’d burn in hell. Along with the obligatory prayer sessions, we also went to confession once a month (8 year olds being renowned for their wickedness) where we would usually wait patiently for our turn to go into the confession box and make up some sins.
Usually the sins in question were discussed and agreed upon with fellow class mates beforehand.
But well I remember one particular priest who just loved to make children cry, for horrific crimes such as not blessing ones self right or for having said a bad word(fuck having been just discovered). While we sat waiting our turn, child after child would come out crying hands clasped tightly together ready to say 20 Hail Marys in order to be forgiven for their crimes.
Even then I felt that something about this chap, who was supposed to represent the essence of love, was flawed. But it was one particular occasion when I had my epiphany. A different priest, a scarecrow like character with a bald pate, pinched face and permanent hunch arrived in for the usual indoctrination session. After several suicide inducing hours he began talking about good old Adam and Eve and the talking snake. One clearly precocious student (alas not me) eagerly threw his hand into the air to ask a question. Essentially asking, well if this is true then what about all that evolution stuff we’ve been covering as well?
The scarecrow sputtered and waffled, that the only truth was the truth in the Bible etc his head bobbing sagely, eyes bulging at the effrontery of such a question, while our teacher busied herself with finding something under her desk, lest her opinion be asked.
And I knew, I just knew he was lying. My young mind couldn’t really quite grasp why or intellectualise the feeling but there it was, the genesis of my journey to atheism. By the time I was in high school I’d discarded the entire edifice of Christian belief and told my parents that mass and I would be parting company.
But it was as an adult that I began to look forensically at religion and it’s proponents. The hateful, misogynistic, genocidal and narcissistic nature of the god all these people believed in was so obvious to me that it was clear it was a man-made delusion. Its entire purpose to act as a security blanket against the guaranteed end awaiting us all and as a powerful weapon of control over the illiterate , gullible and uneducated.
Add the insane claims these religion make for themselves, their seemingly never-ending thirst for killing people who disagree with them, it really is a miracle anyone believes at all. And without obligatory religious indoctrination of children in many schools throughout the world the number of religious people would be far fewer than it is now.
Thankfully in Europe religion has for the most part been domesticated and reduced to the realm of personal belief where it should be. But we still have a very long way to go.
While I do not believe in a god I do accept the idea of the numinous and love that frisson of excitement that I get when I hear or see something that touches me profoundly whether it be art, music, science or a line of prose. For these are far more rewarding than any biblical fairy tale and I dare anyone to look at the Hubble Deep Field image and not to be awed and to see how paltry and petty religion is in comparison.
We are lucky to live in a time when we’ve had the eloquence of the late Christopher Hitchens fighting for reason alongside, Dawkins, Harris and A.C Grayling.
So what happens after we die? no idea and it doesn’t matter because what’s important is what we do while we live.
I’ll leave the final world to the great Christopher Hitchens.
Watching the results of the presidential election in Egypt yesterday was both inspirational and worrying. What we take for granted here in democratic Europe, elections and peaceful change in power, was an historical event for the people of Egypt. The result was clearly cathartic and reassuring for the millions who voted regardless of the outcome and while Tahrir square may have been filled with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the election was a victory for all Egyptians.
None the less the arrival of a democratically elected Islamic party into power in the largest state in the Middle East is a cause for concern. They have a clear mandate to introduce their manifesto and potentially a constitution based on Sharia Law.
However the realities of rule in a country with so many domestic problems and many other minority groups including the secularists, who made up the core of the initial revolution, will mean that the Brotherhood may find it far from easy to implement its agendas. When jobs and clean water are the priority of millions then trying ensure women cover themselves up and Israel bashing may be pushed to the side. Add that to an army that has shorn the presidency of any real power and in reality still control the majority of institutions in the country, the brotherhood may find themselves with a sysphian task just to implement the basics of their agenda.
While there will be much gnashing of teeth and hyperbole from certain political quarters, the Brotherhood, regardless of their Islamic nature have been democratically elected and American and European countries must learn to work with them constructively rather than criticising anything than smacks of non liberal thinking.
But most importantly the reason that this writer has hope, are the millions of women who voted in the election. The power of that vote is not to be underestimated and if the Brotherhood prove to be just another religious group of zealots pretending to play politics and the power to vote remains, millions of women will remove them from power.
I believe that the Arab spring must be as much about women’s emancipation and freedom as it is about the escape from dictatorship and religious medievalism. Egypt is a nation with many secular,educated and political women demanding a better future and they will not be silenced. Women like the human rights and political blogger Dalia Ziada will be watching and campaigning.
The Muslim Brotherhood cannot operate in isolation in this new Egypt nor can they ignore the rights of millions of women who have tasted the power of their vote. It will not be an easy transition and we in the west must be patient and we must above all support them in what is sure to be a long and at times bloody transition to a real democracy based on rights or all.