Category Archives: Religion

Respecting Differences…(cough cough)


Now that the Ontario Catholic School Board has solved the problem of how to scupper the Gay-Straight Alliance movement within its system, while giving the very superficial appearance of support, all the poor, bullied, abused, suicidal Catholic students can rest easy. They’ll get their club. Sort of.

For instance: the name itself does not and will not contain the word “gay”, or any other word that implies “gay”. Also, any discussion or material that promotes awareness of homosexuality, or encourages activism for it, will be shut down by the mandatory supervisor, or by the invited chaplaincy. In other words, the catholic school board will support its gay population, provided it does not attempt to discuss (re: encourage) homosexuality.

What the administration says:

“We may not agree with the advocacy of a lifestyle, but still believe that gay students, and for that matter any students, should not be bullied.”

What the administration means:

We disagree with this lifestyle, and we will do everything in our power to shut these kids down, and, if possible, cure them of their affliction through the teachings of our Christian doctrine.

{By the way, the Catholic Church’s singular reason for existing is to advocate a lifestyle.}

What the administration says:

“We are totally against bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and have nothing against homosexuality. But this is about anti-bullying specifically, not promoting a lifestyle that goes against our Catholic teachings.”

What the administration means:

Children should leave the business of bullying homosexuals to the experts: the Catholic Church. Look, for instance, how we’ve managed to satisfy the government’s demand that we allow GSA-style clubs, without permitting any discussion of homosexuality. And look how we give the illusion, to the public and parents, if not the students themselves, of caring. Brilliant, if we do say so ourselves.

{You may have noticed that the two sentences in the quote contradict each other.}

What the administration says:

“[The Respecting Differences clubs] are not intended as a fora for activism, protest or advocacy of anything that is not in accord with the Catholic faith foundation of the school.”

What the administration means:

If you can’t live like a good Catholic, you should get outta Dodge.

Good idea, children. If you are, or think you might be, homosexual, it behooves you to get away from the destructive influence of the Catholic Church in all its forms, including its schools. They will never help you. They will only hurt you. If you don’t believe me, re-read the quotes above. Ask a native Canadian. Ask a Protestant Irishman. Ask around, kids.


Umbilicus Rex


Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth wants to compel parliament to re-examine the issue of when a fetus becomes a person under the law in Canada. He assures us it is not about abortion. “Whatever view one has on abortion, it would surely be important to know whether or not a child is a human being before birth.” My question to Mr. Woodworth: Why?

Let me count the ways.

Firstly, Mr. Woodworth is a former Catholic school trustee and crusader for the Right to Life movement—for the Liberal party, back before he was outed as a Conservative—so we know where he stands on abortion, if not politics. If he simply wishes to conduct a well-rounded “conversation,” as he claims, he would gather a few experts, intellectuals and clergy in his own drawing room, serve tea and biscuits, and do a little brainstorming to satisfy his own academic curiosity. No harm done. He would not be taking it to parliament. On the other hand, the primary reason an RTL advocate would want to “legally” define when life begins is so that the right to choose can be “legally” stripped from Canadian women.

Secondly, Mr. Woodworth is a lawyer. Once Canadian law recognizes the constitutional rights of a fertilized egg, there will be no end to the litigational possibilities. Imagine: lawyers suing mothers on behalf of miscarried or stillborn fetuses for “failing to provide the necessities of life.” Accuse her of eating the wrong foods, failing to adequately sequester herself during the pregnancy, not practicing her Lamaze breathing often enough, living in the wrong climate, wearing tight clothing, not praying hard enough for a living birth, &c. Proceeds of a successful suit going to the lawyers and the Church? Where does the father fit in? Is he, too, culpable? If that mother smokes a cigarette or takes a sip of wine during pregnancy, does that constitute intent in a murder charge? What if the prospect of giving birth presents a real and significant risk to the mother? Whose constitutional rights weigh heavier, mother or child? What if the pregnancy is the result of a rape? What if the mother carries HIV, knowingly or not? Attempted murder? …well, you can see the endless opportunities for an ambitious lawyer. Beats chasing ambulances.

Mr. Woodworth seems to be concerned that there is currently no law governing abortions in Canada, the previous law having been struck from the books nearly a quarter century ago. What he fails to understand is that there is no need for an abortion law, as the last twenty-three years have clearly demonstrated.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that there is an “eat well” law dating back to the eighteenth century, that compels Canadian citizens to consume, each and every Sunday, at the dinner hour, a meal consisting of Meat-and-Three. Sure, it’s good to have a well-balanced diet, so perhaps it made sense, two hundred and fifty years ago, to force people to do it by law, especially since so many of them were farmers. But what about vegetarians? In order to support the MAT law, the government would have to make vegetarianism illegal, wouldn’t they? What about children who hate vegetables? Will the food police be called in to supervise the “sitting-at-the-table-until-you’re-done” decree? What if the family can’t afford meat, even once a week? Will the government subsidize these families with “meat stamps?”

I know it sounds absurd, but it is no different than a woman’s (or couple’s) decision to have an abortion. There is no debate required, really, to see that, as long as the child is connected to the mother via umbilical cord, it is, by any and all rights, the property of the mother, to do with as she likes—regardless of someone else’s beliefs. If one were of extraterrestrial origin, one could objectively refer to the fetus as a tumor, no different than a goiter, except that a goiter will probably not take care of you in your old age. The goiter/fetus cannot have individual constitutional rights because it is not an individual; it is a physical and measurable extension of the host body (aka: the Mother).

What would Mr. Woodworth do if the Pope stepped out onto his balcony and announced to his flock that a woman should not have a left arm?—that “a left arm on a woman is an offense to the eyes of God.” Somehow I doubt he would introduce a private member’s bill in parliament to have constitutional rights applied to the appendage, even though it is the tradition host for a wristwatch, plus, who would hold the paper steady whilst the host body attempted to write a letter?

Perhaps Father Woodworth would, on top of an anti-abortion law and a Meat-and-Three law, like to legislate mandatory Sunday service for all Canadians. If he believes it is acceptable to impose his Christian morals regarding our diet and birth rights, why should he exclude our everlasting salvation? He doesn’t seem to care that we are not all Christians, or at least do not all fall in line with his moral and ethical compass. To be sure, there is no shortage of examples where leaders of state attempt to control their subjects through the narrow and inflexible lens of religious doctrine. Look at the middle east. Look at the American Tea Party. Look at the tail end of the Roman Empire. The Crusades.

The irony is that his own party, the Harper Conservatives, do no wish to have this discussion, not because it doesn’t fit within the boundaries of their ideology (which is certainly does), but because they are savvy enough to avoid alienating half their voters (aka: Women). They know from experience that the way to office is to steer clear of contentious or polarizing issues. Stick to the babble-fluff, and the stuff that makes good headlines (Tough on Crime!). And Mr. Woodworth ought to know his party does not appreciate members who speak out of turn, or who fail to toe the party line. He was smart enough, it seems, to have got himself through law school, but he can’t see that he’s asking questions that have already been answered with relative clarity, and he also fails to see the risk he takes by opening a door that his own peeps wish to keep shut.

Then again, I reckon he’s only using the Conservative party as a transitional stopover, on his way to his real goal: leader of the NDP. Or perhaps a bishopric. Good luck, sir, and be glad you are free, as a good Catholic, to make the decision for your wife whether or not she has an abortion. Choice is good.


Let Us Prey


News flash: Another preacher has been arrested for sexual misconduct.

The Pope coughed up his Cheerios until someone informed him that, this time, it was a Pentecostal. “SEP,” muttered the Pope. Someone else’s problem. Thank Christ.

The Catholics have taken their share of penalties in this arena, and I’m sure they’re glad to skate past this one, thumb to nose, fingers wagging, raspberry blowing…okay, enough grade-four antics. Here’s what I see as the problem in general: These men are expected to show their utter and unswerving devotion to their God by eschewing carnal relations. They, of course, refer to the matter more politely as marital rather than carnal, because they proclaim unmarried sex a sin. Nevertheless, it all amounts to the same thing. Not only can they not do it with a woman (presumably of legal age and consenting), they can’t do it with animals, men, children, or inflatable props—they are forbidden even from dating their own left hand. Talk about devotion! Talk about restraint! How do they do it?

Oh yeah, they don’t.

How can they? It goes against human nature. The act of sex is primal, in both need and action. Really, it’s the only reason we exist. Same could be said for every beloved living creature on god’s great earth. Sex sex sex. Give it a euphemism, if you’re squeamish. Who cares? Just stick it in, somewhere, and hope for the best.

Centuries ago, when some wrinkled Priss in a peaked cap decided it would be a good idea for his Warriors of The Word to take an oath of celibacy, life expectancy for the average male was about twenty-five. (That was the same year they invented marriage—never expecting any couple to be together long enough to annoy each other; four centuries later, the divorce lawyer was invented.) The Priss must have had a reason that was personal and immediate, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual word of God. And while the argument will rage on for eternity, Jesus himself almost certainly was married. If not, he would have been ostracized, shunned, seen as an oddity as opposed to a prophet; at least, someone would have mentioned it if he wasn’t hitched by age thirty. And he was getting “foot rubs” from Mary the Young. So he was no different than any French president, except perhaps lacking a bit of discretion.

It’s no surprise to anyone except the Church that these poor, forsworn soldiers have so consistently fallen off the path. And it’s no surprise they tend to pick on children, who are weak and easy to manipulate, and who don’t yet understand the power of an oath. A priest may hit on a grown woman, may overpower her physically, may be able to manipulate her emotionally, but he will not be able to overcome that woman’s understanding of the monumental vow he is breaking. He won’t be able to meet her accusing eye.

It seems to me a Man of God, regardless of denomination, should marry joyfully, have an abundance of children, all of whom he should treat with utmost kindness, gentleness and respect. He should, like all leaders, lead by the best example possible. Be the best husband, in order to show his flock how to do it. Be the best father, for the same reason. It’s hard to imagine the Church would suffer for this. And it’s even harder to imagine God would object. Isn’t love infinite? Plenty to go ’round? Certainly enough to love one’s God and one’s family, maybe enough left over for a pet or two.

Yet, church leaders appear no closer to enlightenment. Despite the deluge of scandals, they don’t wish to face the ugly truth about this policy. Celibacy doesn’t work. We don’t require any further studies; no more enquiries; not another opinion of either the expert or ecclesiastical variety needs be gathered. We’ve got the data. All we need now is for the church to confess the policy is perhaps overdue for an update, concede it’s possible to devote oneself to God and have a family. Given the ever-thinning ranks of church congregations these days, they might even reclaim a soul or two for being brave enough to make the admission, and make the change. If they cared less about losing face and more about protection innocent children, they surely would.

Let us pray. Amen.


Oh God, Where Art Thou?


I understand Harold Camping.

In case you’ve been away, he’s the gimcrack preacher who told us the world was going to end last week, that the Chosen Ones will experience Rapture, oneness with God, leaving the rest of us behind. For some reason, it got a lot of press outside the looney Christian community, and there was much debate about whether or not it would be worth it to mow the lawn, since the world was about to end…and so on. I myself continued to make plans beyond the weekend, being a non-believer, and as such not entitled to my Rapture. So be it.

Now that Camping has been proven wrong, he has come out to apologize, and to admit his calculations were off by five months. Apparently Jesus was just coming round on May 21st to take a census, make his list, sort of like Santa, but without the elves to help; an administrative prelude to the Big Event, which Camping has now declared will actually take place on October 21st of this year.

Go ahead. Mow the lawn. Enjoy it while you can. You won’t have to rake the autumn leaves, though. No point, really. You’ll either be going North or South, and there will only be the cockroaches (and a few Conservative Senators) left to scrounge through the ruins.

As I said: I understand Harold Camping. His ministry is worth over a hundred million dollars. In 2009 alone he raked in over 18 million smackers. A pretty good haul for someone with a track record of failure. Did I mention the world was going to end in 1994? According to Harold Camping, that is. But his math was off then, too. Still, he was forgiven by his followers, who continued to throw money at him. Of course, at 89, he can’t afford to wait another 17 years for Armageddon, so he’s set it up for this October. With any luck, he’ll live long enough to see it through.

What I fail to understand, though, is why there are people still willing to take anything this man has to say seriously. His motive is clearly monetary; one hundred mill is a respectable piece of fraud, even by churchly standards. And while most of us feel only shame for him, feel that he gives humanity and mainstream religion a bad name, there is a group who will open their ears, and their wallets, all in the futile hope that everyone is going to die. Are they crazy? (Well, they elected GW Bush twice, so perhaps the question is redundant.)

Anyway, the result of all this fervor is that I have just declared myself Dear Leader of the Cosmic Pinball Wizards. If you send me a donation, I will give you the winning numbers for next week’s lottery. Don’t worry if my numbers don’t come through for you, though. It happens. Even God isn’t perfect. My math is a little sketchy, I admit, but if you’re a true believer, you’ll win, sooner or later. Just keep those donations coming in. That will assure you a spot on the winners’ list. As a sign of good faith, here are Wednesday’s winning numbers: 3, 12, 26, 27, 33. Yeah, yeah, I know…that’s only five. I stared into that crystal ball for, like, twenty minutes, and all I got were five. Maybe if your donation was a bit bigger, I might be persuaded to “see” the sixth number a bit more clearly.

I await your envelope, dear reader. But please get it to me before October 21, 2011. Just in case.


Hawking Heaven


It took renowned physicist Stephen Hawking to confirm what some folks have thought for a long time: there is no Heaven.

Says Mr. H., “That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Easy for him to say.

As a “big thinker” and probable atheist, I’m sure that’s how it looks to him. The difficulty here is that, while most of us use a mere ten percent (or less) of our brains, Stephen Hawking uses a full eleven percent, which in neurological terms is significant. It makes his opinions more important than ours, and more important than those of the smartest computer, which may use 100% of its brain power, but has no independent thought or free will, or any of the other intuitive features that separate humans from machines (so far). In other words, if I make a public statement about the non-existence of heaven, I am slotted in with all the other crackpots that roam the earth and write blogs about all this human nonsense.

When Hawking speaks, the world listens.

But, smart as he may be, he’s missed the boat. Or, at the very least, he’s given us an incomplete answer. With so much of his thinking aimed heavenward, it’s a bit odd that he doesn’t seem to have given the issue of Faith much attention. He’s so busy studying quarks and novas, he’s neglected humanity’s need for faith. Or a large percentage of humanity, anyhow.

Some of us take the broader scientific view, which agrees with Stephen Hawking’s assessment of Heaven and Afterlife. Yet there is a significant population who wants or needs to have faith in a higher power.

In the pagan days, they might have prayed to the sun for a good harvest, to the moon for a little divine luck in an upcoming war, to the alligator for the safe delivery of a newborn child. Yes, I’m making some of this up, but only to make a point. People want to believe there is a deity helping them through this hard life. For the Christians, it’s the promise of a cushy Afterlife that gets their ecclesiastical blood flowing. The Christian God doesn’t really help much, day to day; (S)He’s more of a “sink or swim” type, although (S)He does encourage good behavior amongst the flock. So, since the faithful cannot necessarily rely on God for a good crop, or victory in battle, or a long and healthy life, all they can do is believe that if they try to be good people, to the best of their ability, their reward will be an infinite Happy Hour after the fact.

Getting back to Mr. Hawking and his unfortunate declaration; what he fails to realize is that, even if the Afterlife is a lie, it’s a necessary lie within a necessary human need, and therefore must be true in the same way that Life itself is true. I mean, smart as he is, Hawking has not satisfactorily explained the human body’s source of power. Where are our batteries, sir? Perhaps the Energizer Corporation has the answer, locked in a secret vault, so they can sell more double-A’s (I’ll save that topic for my piece on Conspiracy Theories). Even an atheist must take it on faith that those bodily batteries exist; otherwise we would not.

So even with my measly ten-percent brain, I say to all you faithful out there: don’t listen to him. Hawking is just a brainy nerd who understands the forth and fifth dimensions the way we understand 2 + 2; but unless he’s going to give humanity a little more attention, he should restrict his opinions to the cosmos, where he is most comfortable. Heaven knows, we don’t like to have our illusions shattered.

Dear Santa,


Vonder Voman, ver RU?


Look at the photograph carefully and you still might miss it: Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason.

What’s that, you say? Not there? Hm.

The photo in question appeared on the front page of New York-based Hassidic paper, Der Zeitung. It showed U.S. President Barack Obama and members of his staff, sitting in a conference room, watching the live video feed of the military raid on bin Laden’s compound. The photo is unremarkable except for this small fact: Hillary and Audrey were missing from the photo, had in fact been Photoshopped out by staff at Der Zeitung.

But but but…why, you ask? Why?

Here is part of the answer released by Der Zeitung: “…laws of modesty does (sic) not allow for the publishing of photos of women…women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like…the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite.”

Um.

The first part makes sense, for a bunch of angry old men who long for the good old days, before women got the vote, were permitted to drive cars, got involved in politics, wore pants. The second part contradicts the act of removing these women from the photo. Do we not appreciate Hillary Clinton and what she is doing as the second most powerful person in the U.S. government? Same goes for counterterrorism director Audrey Tomason. Where would we be without counterterrorism? Would they have caught bin Laden without the hard work of this woman? Seems to me the Jewish laws strive to appreciate women not for who and what they are, but for what the (male) Jewish lawmakers wish them to be. Maybe I’m mistaken. The third part of the statement seems to contradict itself. If the Jewish laws were respectful towards women, they would not be deleting them, but praising them for their good work and success. That’s respect.

If the Jewish laws (I don’t know what else to call them) wish to keep their women hidden from view and repressed, for whatever reason, they should gather the nuts to say so, without apology; they should stand up for their beliefs, even if some of us find them medieval and unfair. I don’t know about Ms. Tomason, but I’ll bet Ms. Clinton, who owns a man-size set of (figurative ) nuts, would attest she does not require this gratuitous protection of her modesty. For Der Zeitung to attempt to convince us they are showing respect for these two women by protecting their modesty, well, that’s just mishegas.