Sunday, October 31, 2010

The incredible world of Diminished Reality

Making objects in a video disappear in real time-this is going to require a whole new level of skepticism. Amazing nonetheless.


Brother Andre's greatest deed-removing his followers' hands off the kiddies

45,000 Montréalais celebrated Brother Andre for building St. Joseph's Oratory; for miracles attributed to him and for being made a saint by the catholic church. According to an article in the NY Times he should have been celebrated for showing more decency and self control than the brothers who came after him:

MONTREAL — At least 50,000 Quebecers are expected to gather Saturday for something most rarely do: attend a religious service. But the Mass at the Olympic Stadium to celebrate the elevation of Brother André, a school porter and faith healer who died 73 years ago, to sainthood is one of many contradictions surrounding religion, and Roman Catholicism in particular, in Quebec.

But amid the celebrations over Brother André’s canonization — which took place this month in Rome — another issue looms. The police have opened an investigation into accusations of widespread sexual abuse of students at the Collège Notre Dame decades after Brother André worked there. These, to a large degree, have been advanced by a former member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order to which Brother André belonged and that controls the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

The article goes on to explain the lack of response to the accusations over a number of years and that only with the recent attention paid to Andre have investigations begun. Now if those brothers who performed the abuse get prosecuted and punished in spite of pro-catholic bias and a tendency toward cover ups in Quebec, then Brother Andre should get credit for this "miracle," his greatest and most helpful act to catholics in la belle province.

The 100 best signs at the rally to restore sanity

I wasn't able to attend The Rally to Restore Sanity, but these signs made me almost feel like I had. Some really brilliant stuff. (via buzzfeed)

Couple called 'swine' by wedding officiant

The Toronto Sun article explains that a Swiss couple renewing their vows got "counselling" as well.
The unidentified Swiss couple were renewing their vows at the Vilu Reef resort as the officiant calls the couple "swine" and "infidels".
Here's a news clip with part of the video-the rest doesn't deserve to be rebroadcast:

Yet another example of religion's attitude to marriage when those involved don't conform to the religion's rules. Whether it's the gender of the couple or their diet and prayer choices, religion gives itself a free pass to incite intolerance and mockery of others.

If this keeps up societies should give serious thought to putting religious practitioners on "time out" and suspending their opportunity to have their marriages recognized by the state until they can respect the marriages of others.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Thank Goodness we don't live in a christian society

This scary thought came to me re-reading Dan Dennett's essay "Thank Goodness". He makes the point (among others) that the medical practitioners that saved his life would be fired if they conducted themselves in the same way as the religious do. Instead they hold themselves to the highest standards of performance and take responsibility for the outcomes of their patients.

I've currently got a suspension problem that seems impervious to a mechanic's diagnosis and I thought about the sort of responses I'd receive if we had a truly christian society.

The catholic mechanic would tell me that the suffering was making me a better person, would reduce my time in purgatory if I accepted to gratefully and that like my time in purgatory that I should stop dwelling on how long it was taking to fix the car and instead focus on the end result-oh, and would I indulge him by paying one more shop charge?

The pentecostal mechanic would tell me that the whole garage had laid hands on the car and prayed in tongues for it to be delivered from that "swaying spirit" and that if it was still happening a) I needed to have more faith and b) there was unconfessed sin in my life that was keeping me from dealing with a).

The reformed mechanic would tell me that my car had been predestined to have this problem and that nothing could be done about it. The repair manuals only apply to those cars that god has chosen to fix, not mine.

Finally the unitarian universalist mechanic would tell me I needed to be more tolerant of my car's "differences" and to be less dogmatic about its performance. Then she would ask if I had considered whether I might prefer an imported car better.

Fortunately, I am served by mechanics who approach their craft from an entirely secular mindset, taking responsibility upon themselves to inspect, diagnose and repair the car properly, and who have not charged me because they've been unable to find the problem. I know they are capable from past experience and I know they will fix it-and I will thank them for it.

Blasphemy Day is gone and Thanksgiving is now approaching (we Canadians get to enjoy it in just 2 weeks) so let's move from ridiculing religious belief to expressing a hearty "Thank Goodness" that religion doesn't have more influence in people's lives. Living in a world such as the one Dennett and I have envisioned would indeed be hell.