Politician's popularity unaided by his popular faith

Harry Clarke joins Andrew Bolt in bemoaning the anti-Christian menace.

This time it's Catholics, followers of the most popular sect (5 million) of the most popular religion (12.7 million) in Australia, who are being discriminated against:

Sadly, I cannot help thinking that prejudiced views on Tony Abbott's Catholicism have hindered his prospects. We live in a secular society where people like Abbott who seek to live by a decent moral code are regarded suspiciously.
Abbott is not disliked because he lives by "decent moral code". He is unpopular because he tries to enforce, through legislation, an illogical, harmful "moral code" based on belief in a sky fairy.

There is nothing decent about restricting access to emergency contraception. Or fighting embryonic stem cell research, an area of great potential which one day could allow for the development of "replacement nerves and organs to overcome a range of devastating illnesses."

Parliamentary Liberal Party members recognise how secular and socially liberal Australia is. As such, Abbott will never be their leader.

The Sunday Age Faith column II

Ever wondered why some people are rich and others poor.

Rachel Woodlock, in last week's Faith column (no link available), gives us an Islamic view:

...the amount of wealth a person might acquire over their lifetime was already written by the hand of god before birth.
So if you are a citizen of Zimbabwe, fighting hunger and 14,841% inflation, take comfort in the fact there is nothing you can do about it and that Robert Mugabe was sent by Allah to keep you poor.

Nutters Marginalised

In comments broadcast in a BBC1 television documentary, The Blair Years:

Tony Blair has sparked controversy by claiming that religious people who speak about their faith are viewed by society as "nutters".

The former prime minister’s comments came as he admitted for the first time that his faith was "hugely important" in influencing his decisions during his decade in power at No. 10, including going to war with Iraq in 2003.

Andrew Bolt stands up for those persecuted Christians in the West:
The one faith about which politicians mustn’t be open is Christianity...
This is certainly the case in Australia where our new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has failed to mention his Christianity over many years. The recent election was also devoid of politicians being open about their faith or openly appealing to Christians.

And even if those two previous sentences were proved to be false, Bolt has marshaled damning evidence of the omnipresent anti-Christian hatred in the Anglosphere:
Here’s a particularly foul example of that anti-Christian bigotry. From the BBC, of course.

And if you dare follow the link you find this "particularly foul" exchange:

JEREMY PAXMAN: Does the fact that George Bush and you are both Christians make it easier for you to view these conflicts in terms of good and evil?

TONY BLAIR: I don't think so, no, I think that whether you're a Christian or you're not a Christian you can try perceive what is good and what is, is evil.

JEREMY PAXMAN: You don't pray together for example?

TONY BLAIR: No, we don't pray together Jeremy, no.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Why do you smile?

TONY BLAIR: Because - why do you ask me the question?

JEREMY PAXMAN: Because I'm trying to find out how you feel about it.

TONY BLAIR: Possibly.

JEREMY PAXMAN: Right, would anyone else like to have a question?

That's right, Blair was questioned about his praying habits.

First they came for the communists etc.

Rewards of the hereafter insufficient

Demonstrating an astounding lack of faith in the motivating effects of an eternity in heaven, the Vatican has introduced performance pay for employees of the world’s smallest independent state:

The bonuses, which will apply to the 3,000 people who work in the Vatican, from the highest cardinal to the humblest cleaner, will be awarded on the basis of “dedication, correctness, professionalism and productivity”.

There is no word yet on how the productivity of those charged with communicating with God will be measured. Number of prayers answered perhaps.

Howard wins

If you were thinking about watching the election coverage tomorrow night don't bother.

We already know the result.

Kenneth Copeland, American Christian televangelist who believes Jesus was raped, tells us:

this is no time for that man [John Howard] to be defeated. Well he’s not going to be. Amen. He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is Lord over Australia! It has been announced! Amen.
And god has also spoken to Danny Nalliah:
The Lord told me to spend some personal time with Prime Minister John Howard and to prophetically prepare Federal Treasurer Peter Costello as the future Prime Minister of Australia.

... Prime Minister John Howard will be re-elected in the November election (if the Body of Christ unites in prayer and action) and pass the leadership onto Peter Costello sometime after.
And Nalliah isn't some crackpot cult leader. In August he had private meetings with the Prime Minister and Peter Costello. (Which may explain why the Coalition has been campaigning so badly - they know they've already won so what's the point in trying.)

If only Nalliah didn't think gambling places, along with brothels, mosques and temples, were satan's strongholds worthy of destruction. He could make quite a lot of money on the Coalition over at Sportingbet.

Piss off

American Rosemary Hunter must have been in the toilet when god was handing out special powers.

She claims the god-given power make people urinate using her mind. Not only that, Hunter can psychically refill your empty bladder, thereby ensuring the former is always possible.

Unsurprisingly, under controlled conditions at the James Randi Educational Foundation, god abandoned Hunter and she was unable to demonstrate her gift.

If you're just pissing away time this evening, you can watch the entire test here.

Australia Was A Drinking Country

Jim Belshaw argues:

that Australia was a Christian country

How do we know?

The first official buildings built in new settlements after police stations and pubs were churches.

So Australia was a Christian country. In the same way, well actually to a lesser extent than, it was a country of criminals and vigourous drinkers.

Unmissed Link

Club Troppo's excellent biweekly round-up of the Australian blogosphere, Missing Link, kindly links to two posts on this blog.

You can subscribe to Missing Link via email at Club Troppo. (Look for the box in the top right hand corner.)

Government saves souls from possibility of eternity in hell

The state government in Sau Paulo, Brazil, doing its bit to help increase the number of souls in heaven, has made available:

the morning after pill at train stations for less than $1.
In a fortunate side effect, such a move is also expected to reduce the number of women seeking illegal life-threatening abortions in Brazil where:
The federal health ministry admits that more than 1 million abortions take place... each year despite the country's strict anti-abortion laws.
Recognising the complexity of the situation:
The federal health department also wants to start training school teachers to teach sexual education
the Catholic Church is vehemently fighting the move.

Are Aborted Fetuses Lucky?

If you were an aborted fetus in heaven how would you feel towards supporters and enablers of abortion?

Amnesty International (AI) has recently abandoned its non-stance on the issue and come out in support of reproductive health including legalised abortion.

David Sch├╝tz, responding to Frank Brennan who maintains Catholics can still support AI in good conscience, says that:

Brennan better be confident of explaining his rationale for continuing to support Amnesty International to Jesus and the victims of abortion when he meets them.

It makes sense that god would be annoyed. Abortion stuffs up his little Earth game where he gets to test every one of his miniature creations while messing with the conditions once in a while to keep us on our toes. (You know, when he answers prayers, performs miracles, sends earthquakes and floods, appears in cheese sandwiches.)

Yet surely the aborted fetuses in heaven would be thrilled with their situation. Thanks to abortion doctors and pro-choice activists, they have skipped, what is for many humans, a pain-ridden existence on Earth, and gone straight to heaven.

As such, the risk that they may have grievously sinned on earth, and ended up in hell, is completely removed. Sure they’ve missed out on life, but for an eternity of bliss in heaven it’s a very small price to pay.

If the fetuses in heaven are on the ball, they won't be asking Brennan for an explanation, they'll be thanking him.

Sunday Age Faith Column

In yesterday's Faith column (no link available), Christopher Bantick defends prayer:

When prayer is not answered and an explanation does not come, there may be a temptation to suspect that our words are cast into a void.
And that suspicion would be right
Moreover, God's silence can promote a crisis of faith.
Commonly called accepting reality.
Sceptics may say that answered prayer is a coincidence. As one wise monk who had known God's silence remarked to me: "Stop praying and the coincidences stop."
Of course the coincidences stop. Coincidences need two events (the prayer and reality, in this case) to occur with one apparently affecting the other. Without the prayer these coincidence are impossible. But it doesn't mean prayer does anything.

Regardless, Bantick thinks these "coincidences" prove that prayer works. But what of the times when god doesn't bless us with "coincidences"?
Prayer is the faithful acknowledgment that it is though (sic) talking to God that clarification comes. This can be silence.
So when god doesn't answer prayers its a good sign?
Silence is a gift... the silence God gives offers nodal points of spiritual growth.
When prayers are answered it's a gift. And when they're not it's a gift.

There really is no chance Bantick will be disappointed. Or reasoned with.

Religion financially supported

The full bench of the Federal Court has ruled that businesses are not taxable as long as their profits are:

entirely used for charity and to advance religion
Profits used to buy bibles, build Hubbard Electropsychometers (E-Meters) or voice concerns that Satan has infiltrated democracy shouldn't be taxed?

And if tax-free breaks weren't enough, and they are, the Federal and NSW governments have chipped in nearly $100 million to the Catholic Church's World Youth Day festival.

While governments throughout the land have financially supported 'major events' in the misguided hope that the general
economic benefits would outweigh the taxpayer contributions, one can't help but feel that the presence of the pope caused the economic analysis to be disregarded even earlier.

Religion in the Australian Constitution

Section 116 of the Australian Constitution prevents the Commonwealth from:

make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

In the United States almost identical constitutional wording, section 116 was modeled on the First Amendment to the US Constitution, has been interpreted broadly:

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government... can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another... No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion...
In Australia, a 1981 High Count ruling that federal government financial support to religious schools was not unconstitutional, illustrates the the scope of section 119. Chief Justice Barwick held that in order to breach section 119 a law must be:

intended and designed to set up the religion as an institution of the Commonwealth.
Unlike in the US, the establishment clause in Australia has been interpreted very narrowly.

And as a result we get rubbish like the National School Chaplaincy Program.


Atheist Blogroll

Mojoey has kindly added this blog to his impressive blogroll.

The scrolling version can be found on the right.

Religion kills in New Zealand

In Wellington, New Zealand, a woman, 22, has died during an "attempt to exorcise a Maori curse." It is suspected that she drowned.

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he had witnessed the successful removal of a likely makutu after a child started barking like a dog. "It's not for me to say that it's all supernatural and there's nothing in it.

"With the right karakia [prayer], the right chanting ... [the curse] can be lifted by their own family."

No it can't. There are no such thing as curses; prayer achieves nothing. And the Maori Party, which has four MPs in New Zealand Federal Parliament, should not be encouraging such illogical and dangerous thinking.


Chaplaincy nothing to do with religion?

Reverend Evonne Paddison, chief executive of ACCESS ministries, makes the odd argument that,

the National School Chaplaincy Program categorically does not provide religious programs in schools.
Then why are we employing chaplains. Religious instruction is what chaplains do.
As highly qualified professionals, chaplains do not deliver "metaphysical balms" or "spiritual snake oil" to their students; they offer sound professional guidance and help, and they are trained to recognise when additional professional services are necessary.
So nothing to do with religion or spirituality then. Just counseling for which trained counselors, social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists would be better suited.
It is a voluntary program that will assist school communities to support the spiritual wellbeing of their students...
Oh, so it does have a spiritual and religious component. Paddison can't even maintain consistency for 700 words.

But this is exactly what the National School Chaplaincy Program is about.

As the Prime Minister makes clear, the program is to provide,
pastoral care and spiritual guidance...
And we're paying $55 million a year for it.

Militant Atheism Defined

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what militant theism is. I only know that people call me a militant atheist whenever I express sentiments that fail to show the deferential submissiveness traditionally accorded to religion, religious beliefs, and religious believers.

Unicorn Lobby Still Small

Dinesh D'Souza, in his recent debate (youtube) with Christopher Hitchens, complains,

We live in a very unusual time in which atheism has emerged as a kind of militant phenomenon. On the face of that, it seem a little bit odd, because if you are an unbeliever, why be militant? I don't believe in unicorns; but, I haven't written any books on the subject. I don't spend a lot of time denouncing unicorns; I live my life as though unicorns did not exist. But what we have from the atheist side is a belligerent attack on theism and specifically on Christianity.

D'Souza is right that both god and unicorns have the same likelihood of existing.

But the difference is that belief in god informs the politics and ethics of many people. It creates unnecessary suffering and division.

Belief in unicorns does not necessitate any (im)moral precepts. Unicorn believers don't hijack government resources to further their supernatural world view nor fight to prevent access to contraception and abortion.

A Definition

Atheism /aythi-iz’m/ (noun) -

the realisation that there is no good evidence for the existence of god or gods.