Saturday, February 19, 2011

“Anonymous” Issues Ultimatum To “Graceless Sociopaths” at Westboro Baptist Church

Mashable reports that the hacktivists who form "Anonymous" have threatened Westboro Baptist Church with irreversible damage to their websites and congregation if they don't close their websites and cease their protests. Based on their experiences with Wikileaks opponents and in Egypt, they are obviously able to carry out their threat.

Given Westboro's antigay stance and protests at the funerals of soldiers and celebrities where they make frequent references to hate, hell and numerous slurs I don't imagine that many feel particularly sympathetic at the moment. That aside it does raise a question regarding the responsibility of society to protect free expression and to protect its members from abuse.

So is this a case of vigilante justice, repression of free speech or activists accomplishing what government and law enforcement can't do?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wrestling with faith in Iowa

Faced with the choice of wrestling a female opponent, Joel Northrup decided that his faith and conscience wouldn't let him. So he forfeited the match.

Some may decry this as sexist; others may complain that his "right" to compete has been infringed upon and still more may declare him some sort of modern day "saint" for his "sacrifice.

All that aside, I think it was the proper outcome.

If Joel believes that his faith won't permit him to wrestle a female opponent, and varsity wrestling requires wrestling both male and female opponents, then Joel's faith limits his ability to wrestle at the varsity level. Rather than attempt to change the rules for everyone else, he accepted the limitation imposed by his faith and forfeited in such a way that he may win the consolation round (assuming no female opponents).

This is how religion should be treated in society, with everyone given equal access to opportunities, but people choosing not to act on some opportunities because of faith or other beliefs. This is pluralism. This is Humanism.

Looking at some of today's issues such as equal marriage and science education, the principle is the same-if religious believers feel that their beliefs don't allow them to share marriage with a same sex couple or to learn about Evolution, then they can live without civil marriage (still getting married in their faith tradition) and find an alternative educational path.
The early christians living in the pagan Roman Empire knew this when they avoided certain professions such as tutor, soldier and gladiator-let's hope their heirs can as respectful of modern secular society.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vatican letter on sex abuse from '97 revealed

An Irish bishop has provided the media with a letter on sex abuse from '97 confirming that the vatican ordered the Irish church not to disclose abuse to the authorities. CBC news reported that the vatican declared the Irish churchs' policy of mandatory abuse disclosure contradicted canon law.

This provides the media with the first hard evidence of the vatican's role in covering up abuse. While the contents of the letter have been spoken of, this is the first instance where a copy of the letter was made public.

For all of the catholics out there who have demonized the media for not accepting the vatican's claims of innocence, please go and sodomize yourselves with the largest, bluntest object within your reach.

In the case of Bill Donohue, chief whitewasher of the abuse crisis, that would be his head.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vampires rejoice - Blood created from human skin!

Too late for Hallowe'en, but not a moment too soon for vampires (and their victims), a Canadian university has been able to create blood from human skin.

CBC news reports
Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton report that they converted patches of skin directly into blood. Their process doesn't involve any intermediate conversion of skin stem cells into multi-purpose stem cells that can create almost any other type of cells.
"We have shown this works using human skin. We know how it works and believe we can even improve on the process," stated Mick Bhatia, scientific director of McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute. "We'll now go on to work on developing other types of human cell types from skin, as we already have encouraging evidence."
The process was repeated several times over a two-year period and was conducted using skin cells from people of various ages.
Here's the sort of story that can capture the public's imagination about science-whether through a vampire tale, or the knowledge that a loved one requiring regular blood transfusions now has more options. It's also a step toward creating other cells-all knowledge that can be linked back to evolution and the scientific method.

(And it's a verifiable type of "transubstantiation", not like the catholic kind that can't be proven and relies on outdated aristotelian metaphysics for its definition-Science 1 catholicism -2 )

 That leaves science doing "miracles', healing people and making a better world, while religion tries to talk a good game.

Fail religion.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We can think (and sing) such messed up things if we add god to the mix.

Yesterday I heard Pearl Jam's version of "Last Kiss":

While I had always liked the song, I found myself bothered by the lyrics:
Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.
While I don't believe the original songwriter was trying to make a theological statement, I think it shows how deluded we can be as a society that accepted the idea of a murdering god who holds people hostage with the threat of no reunion to their loved ones .

If the singer had written about lovers eating one another, or murdering puppies, or torturing people in their basement, there would have been an outcry to ban the song from the radio. Put the gun in god's hand and let him turn the thumbscrews on the survivor and it's considered a lovely sentiment of true christian love.

It boggles the mind.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swiss Catholics split over condoms

Catholics in Lucerne started handing out condoms as part of an AIDS awareness campaign, provoking mixed reactions from other catholics. According to the New Zealand Herald, the campaign is focused on raising awareness:

"We needed something to appeal to people who wouldn't dream of talking to the church about that kind of issue," said spokesman Florian Flohr.
The campaign is targeted at those as young as 14 and includes talks in schools about the devastating effect Aids is having in Africa.
"It's not about promoting promiscuous activity. We're using the condoms to prompt people to think about HIV and Aids."
As one might expect, other catholics see it differently:
Officials in the diocese of Basel, of which Lucerne is a part, didn't respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman in the neighbouring Church was quoted by Swiss TV as describing the condom campaign as a mistake.
"It sends the wrong signal," Christoph Casetti told SF1. "From a medical point of view, I also think it's wrong because we know condoms don't provide certain protection."
Vatican officials also repeated the same tired answers.

While the catholics giving out condoms still saw them as linked to promiscuity instead of mature and safe sexual activity, they have at least raised their standard of care for others to the point where causing unnecessary risk through non-use of condoms is unacceptable. It is progress, and if it provokes a debate in the church, that will also prompt more people to question and reconsider dogma.

And help save lives.

Proof against Intelligent Design: The 80's

Would an all-powerful and all-knowing deity have built his greatest creation in his image and provided it with the cognitive ability and natural resources to create technology and capture information to share worldwide so that we could fulfill his plan for us by producing this:

I love the silly quirks that define the 80's and enjoy both Tracey Ulman and the song "Breakaway", but even the most diehard IDer can't explain the existence of silliness. With design, purpose, destiny and god's will, there's no place in the ID cosmology for it.

Nontheists don't have to explain away silly-given that our mental software has been developed "on-the-fly" to meet needs as they arose, it makes perfect sense that it produces thoughts and actions that are "out there".

Think of it as error checking or a self-diagnostic-as long as silliness is still silly to you, the mental mechanism is working properly. It's only when silliness makes you angry or intolerant that you've likely gotten a defective meme in your head (like religion) that needs to be flushed. South Park anyone?