Monthly Archives: March 2013

Yay and Nay – JT Eberhard and Andrew Wakefield

In a sudden attack of self-consciousness, I have elected to examine some of my personal likes and dislikes, and to engage in some good, old-fashioned criticism of my fellow humans. Who am I to judge, you say? No-one. But some people, in my most humble opinion, deserve to be lauded or deplored. Besides, I’ve had too many blogs lapse into disuse and neglect to ignore when I actually have the notion and motivation to write. Without further ado…

JT Eberhard – Humanity’s last and best hope in a zombie apocalypse

Those of an atheistic persuasion are probably familiar with Mr. Eberhard as the author of the WWJTD blog on Patheos, and further back on Freethought Blogs and beyond. I chose JT for my first “Yay” simply because he is my preferred source of news on religion, pseudoscience and general geekery, and because he seems like such a nice chap. I also know that he has struggled with – and appears to be currently kicking the arse of-  psychological demons in his time, and so I both identify with and admire how he has been able to do so. He, to me, is the model of how an atheist activist ought to be: informed, passionate, and able to make his readers both laugh and fume. Getting angry over the same kinds of thing can be a great builder of kinship, and JT often echoes my own feelings exactly – it’s not enough to disagree with abuses of rights, people and ideas, you need to be pissed off too.

If forced to criticise JT, it would be that he makes me somewhat ashamed that I don’t do more work to support the things I believe in. I know that for years he was involved with the Secular Student Alliance, helping high schoolers and college students set up secular and atheist societies, and maintain them when those students left. This, particularly in the United States, is of vital importance if we are to make it safe for young unbelievers to come out and eventually to relegate religion to its proper position as a person and private predilection, and for this I salute him. Hopefully my own future contains this kind of public service, even in the relatively secular UK.

Of all the atheist bloggers that I follow, JT seems the most human (this is not a sleight on the others, merely my irrational gut feeling). This is a guy who I would really like to have a beer with, although he may be doing the karaoke on his own – it’s only fair to other bar patrons that they not be subjected to my dulcet tones. And more than just sharing a cold, alcoholic beverage, I’d really just like to have a conversation with the man. Hero worship – obviously – is a slightly embarrassing vice, but I can’t help myself. JT is made of awesome.

Quote of Awesome (at least the most recent): “It’s not that I hate god, it’s that you want to be wrong with impunity and I don’t want to let you.” 

Blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/

Andrew Wakefield – The engineer of modern epidemics

On the other side of the coin, we find Andrew Wakefield, the former medical researcher responsible for the fraudulent study linking the MMR vaccine to autism, causing widespread panic among uninformed and innocently frightened parents, and therefore leading to children catching dangerous diseases that ought to be a distant memory. It’s rather difficult to explain my opinion of Wakefield without simply lapsing into a string of obscenities, but I’ll do what I can.

Despite having his medical licence revoked, his study disavowed by the journal that originally published it, and his reputation dragged through the mud, Wakefield remains steadfast in his claim that his study contained no bad data, despite a hand-picked sample and deeply flawed methodology, showing that he possesses one characteristic that sets me off much worse than most others. I can forgive a hell of a lot of wrongdoing if it is genuinely regretted and disavowed, but even as children go unvaccinated, and hence unprotected against terrible illness, this man cannot admit his fault. Again, I might like to discuss this over a beer with him, but the urge to introduce his face to the finer points of my glass might not be entirely irresistible.

To lie about science is, at absolute best, a stupid and pointless exercise – you will inevitably be found out. But to lie about medicine, and medicine administered to protect children no less, cannot be interpreted in any other way than as, to steal a phrase from Penn Jillette, “shockingly fucked up”. The genie is out of the bottle, and it will take a strong and concerted effort to gain back the ground that has been lost as a result of this prick’s selfishness and crass disregard for human life. Fuck Andrew Wakefield. The best that can be said for him is that he shares a small portion of the blame for this crisis with the media who overzealously reported the fallacious findings, but as the facilitator, he deserves the lion’s share of the scorn and hatred.

Sources

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2897%2911096-0/abstract

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/may/24/mmr-doctor-andrew-wakefield-struck-off

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2002/feb/07/medicineandhealth.publichealth2

Edit (Added source): http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/statement-from-dr-andrew-wakefield–no-fraud-no-hoax-no-profit-motive-113454389.html

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Filed under Atheism, Pseudoscience, Religion, Yay and Nay

Out With the Old and In With the New?

Well, the conclave has met and elected a new Pope in just a few short days. This was an opportunity for the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church to address the problems that have plagued it in recent times, and to find a new boss who is willing to help the Church to adapt in the face of its continuing slide into irrelevance. As the world painfully drags itself towards a point where homosexuals are considered fully human, where women are considered owners of their own bodies, and where the terminally ill have a right to choose how and when they die, and not be forced to wait for their ailment to cause their body so much trauma that it ceases function, a Pope was needed who was at least willing to enter the conversation on these vital social issues.

Enter Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal-Priest of S. Roberto Bellarmino. Ordinary for the Ordinariate for the Faithful of Eastern Rites in Argentina, and now Pope Francis. Pretty much the nicest thing I can say about this newly infallible chap is that he looks less like Emperor Palpatine than Ratzinger. An illustrative quote says all that really needs to be said:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” – Bergoglio on same-sex marriage.

According to the new boss, same-sex marriage is no mere misstep of miserable humanity, but an essential cog in the workings of the Devil’s plan to undo God. This is offensive enough to an unbeliever, simply because of the massive failure of basic decency and compassion that it belies, but coming from someone who believes with utmost conviction that the Devil and the God are real entities, this is beyond despicable.

The grass is no greener when we turn to his views on abortion and euthanasia, describing the former as being part of a “culture of death”. I really ought not to be surprised, but as someone who actually gives a shit about my fellow humans, it only takes one story of a woman being denied an abortion on religious grounds, despite medical advice stating that this was the best possible avenue, and then dying along with her child to make me realise that those religious grounds have no place in an ethical discussion. And we have far more than just one story. Of course, we could eliminate the need for countless abortions if we put in place a comprehensive scheme of sex education about the wonderful benefits of contraception which, as well as helping in the fight against sexually-transmitted infections, greatly reduce the need for abortions. But, alas, Bergoglio is opposed to that too, all but guaranteeing that women will die carrying unwanted children, and children will be born into poverty, disease and suffering.

Your average Catholic is simply better than their Church. Even some elements of the Church itself realise how foolish and destructive this doctrine against contraception can be – one need only cite the Winnipeg Statement, wherein the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops state that is is, “extremely difficult or impossible to make their own all elements of this doctrine.” According to Catholics for Choice, 96% of Catholic women have used contraception at some point in their lives, and 72% of those polled think one can be a good Catholic without following this absurd teaching. But, when it comes to the men at the top, it is fervent faith and willingness to maintain the status quo, and not human compassion and rationality that holds sway. Sadly, I must report that I have no faith that this change of papacy really constitutes a change at all. Such is anathema to the Roman Catholic Church.

Sources

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2004036,00.html

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/papabile-day-men-who-could-be-pope-13

http://web.archive.org/web/20060829044505/http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/winnipeg.html

http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/topics/prevention/documents/1998amatterofconsciece.pdf

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Filed under Abortion, Euthanasia, LGBTQ Rights, Religion

Lying for Traditional Marriage – Part 3

Reason 6: Marginalises the majority.

Calling opponents “bigots” is meant to shut down debate and stop people thinking for themselves. Nick Clegg landed in hot water over a draft speech which called opponents of redefining marriage “bigots”. He later retracted the word, but there’s no doubt that many who support this radical agenda think anyone who disagrees is not worthy of respect. Cardinal Keith O’Brien was labelled “bigot of the year” by gay rights activists, Stonewall. However, support for traditional marriage has come from many respected academics, lawyers, politicians from across the political spectrum, and religious leaders. They all know that redefining marriage would have a profound impact.”

So much wrong in so few words. Firstly, calling someone a bigot is not meant to shut down debate – it is meant to show that the person you are currently debating with is a bigot. Opposition to LGBTQ rights has had its time to show rational arguments for its position, and has entirely failed to do so (this asinine countdown is proof enough of that). Those respected academics, lawyers, politicians and religious leaders are bigots because there is no good reason to oppose LGBTQ rights that does not boil down to personal discomfort or baseless religious dogma. These are the same things that bigots of other stripes rely upon, and those who do rely on these to deny rights to their fellow humans can only be called bigots. This appeal to those who think that “traditional marriage” should be supported is a clear argument from authority, and is transparently ridiculous. David Hume was a racist, Aristotle wrote in support of slavery and Isaac Newton believed in alchemy. Does this diminish their achievements in other areas? One can be a terrible bigot, and yet still skilled at what they do.

Secondly, marginalising the majority? Not according to numerous UK and Scottish polls about attitudes to gay marriage. According to a 2012 YouGov poll, 55% of Britons support same-sex marriage, as opposed to 36% against. An Observer poll found 55% in favour of same-sex marriage. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found that 61% of people support same-sex marriage – somewhat torpedoing Marriage for Scotland’s specific claim of a put-upon majority. Yet another YouGov poll found an even greater support for same-sex marriage, 71% for.

However, the last part of the last sentence is absolutely true: Redefining marriage will have a profound impact, insofar as it will inevitably lead to same-sex marriage. What’s your point? Verdict: FALLACIOUS FUCKWITTERY.

Reason 7: Many gay people don’t want it. 

“Just four in ten members of the gay community see same-sex marriage as a priority, with only a quarter saying they would enter a same-sex marriage. A number of gay celebrities and journalists are themselves opposed to gay marriage. Latest official data shows that only 0.5 per cent of UK households are headed by a same-sex couple. Not all of them want, or will enter, a same-sex marriage. So why is such a monumental change being imposed throughout society?”

Easy: because a quarter of the gay community want to get married and legally cannot. This fantasy that this will constitute a “monumental change” is simply without basis – there will be no forty years of darkness, no cats and dogs living together, and no mass hysteria. All that will happen is that we’ll all be a little more equal, no matter what kind of junk gets our motor running. What if a majority of heterosexuals decided that marriage was outdated, and the statistics clearly showed that only a quarter of heterosexuals intend to get married – ought we abolish marriage altogether? Verdict: NOT ACTUALLY AN ARGUMENT.

Reason 8: The public don’t want it. 

“Most people in Scotland want marriage to stay as it is. In the Scottish Government’s consultation on the issue 64 per cent who responded said they opposed the plans. When an honest poll is taken, a majority, 55 per cent, agree that “marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman”. Only 38 per cent disagree. And half of all Scots want the matter to be decided by referendum, only 39 per cent want to leave it to MSPs. Ordinary people want the Scottish Government to concentrate on reviving the economy and providing better public services, not meddling with marriage.”

I have been unable to access the sources that Scotland for Marriage cite in their list, so I have no idea if they’re accurate. But I’ll gladly give them the benefit of the doubt, and simply cite the percentages I have already shown that show that the public, in actual fact, do want same-sex marriage to be legalised. All I can really do in this section is raise an eyebrow at the implication that all polls which disagree with them are dishonest, and make the emphatic point that human rights should not be subject to vote. I understand that they are, but this fact makes it clear that there ought to be only one outcome to that vote, and that is the full extension of human rights to all humans, including the right to marry whoever you love, wherever you please (within reason, obviously – no child marriages in abbatoirs).It’s fine that same-sex marriage is not a priority for most people, but since it is under consideration already, there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be dealt with while it is on the table. Verdict: WRONG, AND ODDLY IRRELEVANT.

Reason 9: A huge change to society.

Since we already have civil partnerships, isn’t same-sex marriage just a small logical next step? No. Rewriting the meaning of marriage will have a far-reaching impact on society. Over 3,000 UK laws make reference to marriage. The UK Government has already admitted that official documents will need to be rewritten to remove words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. In France the Government is eradicating the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ from all official documents.”

Ahh, I see, so the huge change to society is simply a matter of proper wording? Shame on me for assuming that your implication was that this would cause terrible stress and strife to the poor populace. But really, what’s the problem? Yes, a lot of documents will need to be rewritten, and a lot of terminology will need to be changed – this is the case with any change in law. Same-sex marriage is no different than any other legal proceeding in this. The point that over 3,000 UK laws make reference to marriage is a huge red herring, as these laws will now simply apply to a greater number of couples, requiring no change at all unless they use gendered language. Verdict: JUST… WHAT?

Reason 10: Freedom of conscience will be eroded.

“The civil liberty of people who believe in traditional marriage is already being eroded. The former leader of the SNP, Gordon Wilson, was ousted from the Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau because of his support for traditional marriage. South of the border, a housing manager from Manchester was demoted and lost 40 per cent of his salary for stating, outside work time, that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far”. And all this has taken place before any change to the law has taken place. What will it be like if the law does change? A leading human rights lawyer has outlined the devastating impact of redefining marriage on civil liberties in Scotland.”

Now let’s take a closer look at these sob stories. In the case of Gordon Wilson, he was not fired from his job, but rather failed to gain re-election to his position with the Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau. This was due to his position on same-sex marriage, but I fail to see how this is an erosion of his civil liberties. He has the right to oppose same-sex marriage, but he doesn’t have the right to be automatically re-elected if those who vote do not wish to vote for him. As for the case of Adrian Smith, the housing manager from Manchester, this indeed seems to be a case of wrongful dismissal for comments made in private – and he eventually had his dismissal overturned in court. It should never have happened in the first place, and his victory is a victory for free speech too. So, you have one example where no civil rights were affected, and another in which civil rights absolutely were, but that was eventually righted by legal action. Not great evidence for the widespread erosion of civil rights.

The final point about the “devastating impact” of legalising same-sex marriage is based on a report by Aidan O’Neill that shows how various scenarios would play out if same-sex marriage were legalised, generally showing that opponents would lack the “civil right” to break equality laws in the course of expressing their opinions in an official capacity. One need only appeal to interracial marriage to show that this is generally a reasonable outcome. If a racist teacher refused to endorse or teach about interracial marriage, they would be fired for contravening equality laws. If a racist church advertised that it would only perform marriage ceremonies for whites, they should expect to lose their right to use council-owned facilities for contravening equality laws. There is precisely no argument that can be used to oppose same-sex marriage that cannot, and has not, been used to oppose interracial marriage, and neither position deserves any more respect than the other. Verdict: STUPID CLAIMS BASED ON NO EVIDENCE.

Sources

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/w0hvkihpjg/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-14-161212.pdf

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/oct/26/relationships

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/08/12/61-per-cent-of-scots-support-gay-marriage/

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/living_together_2012.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-15494577

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234252/Vindicated–ruined-In-historic-victory-Christian-demoted-work-writing-Facebook-opposed-gay-marriage-church-tells-battle-come-terrible-price.html

 

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Lying for Traditional Marriage – Part 2

Reason 3: Equality already exists.

“Same-sex couples already have equality. All the legal rights of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships. Equality doesn’t mean bland uniformity or state-imposed sameness. If
the Government genuinely wants to pursue equality, why is it banning heterosexual couples from entering a civil partnership? Same-sex couples have equal rights through civil partnerships, but they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.”

Can any two consenting adults get married? No? Then equality does not already exist, Q. E. D. Need I say more? If you insist. Same-sex civil partnerships, while they do offer the same legal advantages as a marriage, are not legally recognised as being married, meaning that there is a clear difference being drawn between couples of one variety and couples of another. Additionally, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 specifically states that a civil partnership cannot take place in a religious building, meaning that same-sex people who are religious are denied the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. This difference being unjustly drawn is all the evidence needed to show that equality does not already exist. Imagine another minority group being subjected to the same treatment. Say, black people cannot get married, but are able to enter a civil partnership with their partner that has all of the same legal rights. Are you honestly going to argue that this is not a form of implicit and explicit discrimination?.

Admittedly, Scotland for Marriage do make a good point – why are civil partnerships not available to heterosexual couples? However, this does not help their point much, as the solution is simple; we either allow everyone to get married or enter a civil partnership, or we do away with civil partnership and let everyone get married who desires to. That’s what equality looks like. Point 3: YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD. I DON’T THINK IT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS.

Reason 4: Impact on schools.

Education guidance from the Scottish Government says schools should teach about the importance of marriage. If marriage is given a new definition, schools will be under huge pressure to teach about same-sex marriage. According to expert legal advice, any teacher who fails to endorse same-sex marriage in the classroom could be dismissed. Parents will have no legal right to withdraw their children from lessons which endorse same-sex marriage across the curriculum. Already supporters of gay marriage are recommending books for use in schools which undermine traditional marriage, and call on schools to get children to act out gay weddings. The effect on schools will be polarising and divisive.”

I’m certain that education guidance from the Scottish Government says that schools should teach about the importance of the origins of our universe – and if new evidence regarding this arises, schools will be under huge pressure to teach about this new information. This is what we in the real world call progress. You keep harping on about this new definition of marriage, when the actuality is that you are simply removing either the word “man” or “woman” and replacing it with “woman” or “man”. Some redefinition.

Should teachers have the right to teach whatever they want in their classes? Let’s take the example of creationism – should a biology teacher who teaches this demonstrably wrong and laughably ignorant view of life be allowed to keep their job? No, because they are failing to perform their job properly. In exactly the same way, a social education teacher should be obligated to teach an evidence-based curriculum, not a narrow and bigoted view of human relationships. I have never heard an argument against homosexuality that was evidence-based, and didn’t ultimately boil down to either religious dogma, or an infantile “ick” reaction.

I genuinely find it amusing that bringing about greater equality among people is feared by its opponents to cause “polarising and divisive” consequences. You are either doing precisely the opposite – breaking down barriers that separate people and allow the same rights and respect to all – or you are dividing people into those who are willing to accept and love their fellow humans as they are, and those who value their personal bigotry over the happiness of their fellows. And frankly, I’m both happy and proud to be divided from such people.

An aside: The previous point warned about the dangers of “bland uniformity” as a result of equality, and now about the horror of things being “polarising and divisive”. Mixed messages? Point 4: CLICHED “WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN” BULLSHIT.

Reason 5: Thin end of the wedge.

“If we redefine marriage once, what’s to stop marriage being redefined yet further? If marriage is solely about love and commitment between consenting adults, what’s to say we shouldn’t recognise three-way relationships? It’s already happened in nations that redefined marriage. In Brazil, a three-way relationship was given marriage-like recognition under civil partnership laws. A similar situation has existed in the Netherlands for several years. In Canada after marriage was redefined, a polygamist argued in court that his relationship should be recognised in law. When politicians meddle with marriage it all starts to unravel.”

A very good point – if marriage is solely about love and commitment between consenting adults, what’s to say we shouldn’t recognise three-way relationships? Really, the only problem with recognising polygamous marriages is the additional legal complication when more people are involved. But if two, or three, or ten consenting adults want to commit themselves to one another, who the hell am I to say that they can’t do it? This entire paragraphs seems to be panicking about exactly nothing, relying upon outdated notions of what is expected of people in order to stir up either disgust or disapproval. If people want to be with more than one partner, and everyone involved is cool with that, then any reason to ban or scorn such relationships has disappeared into snobbery and prejudice.

I will credit that this argument used by Scotland for Marriage has not devolved to the truly despicable level that this form of argument often takes – namely that, “If we legalise same-sex marriage, what’s to stop people from wanting to marry family/dogs/children?” The stupidity of that kind of argument should be obvious to anyone with a functional brain-stem, and I commend Scotland for Marriage for not stooping that low. Point 5: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.

Sources

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/33

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Lying for Traditional Marriage – Part 1

The rather inaccurately-named Scotland for Marriage organisation has on its website a manifesto claiming to sport 10 reasons that the legalisation of same-sex marriage would be disastrous to modern civilisation. However, I have reason to doubt that allowing people with matching junk to get married in a church will cause the horses to turn and begin eating each other, and so I wish to take a closer look at the bogus arguments offered for denial of civil rights to a sizeable minority of citizens.

Reason 1: It will undermine marriage.

“Evidence shows that redefining marriage actually undermines support for marriage in wider society. In Spain, after gay marriage was introduced, marriage rates across the whole population plummeted. In the Netherlands too there has been a significant fall in the marriage rate since marriage was redefined. Same-sex marriage does not promote marriage.”

Marriage Rates per 1,000 inhabitants

Country          1960     1970     1980     1990     2000     2009     2010     2011

Spain               7.8        7.3       5.9        5.7       5.4       3.8        3.6       3.4

Netherlands      7.7        9.5       6.4        6.5       5.5       4.4        4.5       4.3

U.K.                 7.5        8.5       7.4        6.6       5.2       4.3        4.5       …

France             7.0        7.8       6.2        5.1       5.0       3.9        3.9       3.7

Germany          9.5        7.4       6.3        6.5       5.1       4.6        4.7       4.6

Italy                 7.7        7.3       5.7        5.6       5.0       3.8        3.6       3.4

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Spain on 3 July 2005, and in the Netherlands on 1 April 2001, and indeed we find a drop in marriage rates in both of those countries ever since. However, same-sex marriage was emphatically not legalised in the U.K., France, Germany or Italy, and those countries have experienced a comparable rate of decrease in marriage rates over the same time. In fact, all of these countries have had a drop-off in marriages in recent decades, with nary a ring-bearing sodomite in sight. Scotland for Marriage, correlation is not causation. Support for equal marriage rights also correlates with increased life expectancy, but  I doubt you would recommend support for LGBTQ rights as an elixir of life. Point 1: UTTERLY DEBUNKED.

2. Marriage is part of our history.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is not a recent social invention. Everyone knows that marriage predates law, nation and church. It goes back to the dawn of time. Yes, matrimonial law may have been tweaked over the years, but the law has never fundamentally altered the essential nature of marriage: a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage would rewrite hundreds of years of legal tradition and thousands of years of cultural heritage.”

This is an example of one of my most loathed kinds of argument in support of anything: It’s traditional, and therefore good. You know what, traditionally women were treated as the property of her father until she was married off, at which point she became the property of her husband. Their definition of marriage as “a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman” is historically inaccurate in many different ways, and the “tweaking” that the law has done has already rendered this definition utterly false. In the U.K., before Henry VIII, not even a king could divorce, but since 1973 (1976 in Scotland), divorce has been freely available to us peasants as well, provided that we tough it out for a year. So much for a “lifelong commitment”. Consistency demands that Scotland for Marriage must also campaign for the abolition of divorce laws too. As for “one man and one woman”, a rudimentary knowledge of history shows that this is absurd. Polygamy, usually polygyny, has been a fairly common form of marriage throughout history, whether in China, Greece, or among the Church of Latter Day Saints in 18th and 19th Centuries. For Christians who want to defend “traditional marriage”, please account for Abraham, Jacob and David in the Old Testament. The idea that marriage has been one thing for thousands of years is both parochial and inaccurate, and even if it were true offers no support for denying marriage rights to same-sex couples. Point 2 – INACCURATE AND IGNORANT.

TO BE CONTINUED – Just reading this stuff is starting to depress me. I need to do something more uplifting…

Sources

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Marriage_and_divorce_statistics

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1973/18/part/I/crossheading/divorce

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It Took This?

A few days after Cardinal Keith “Same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful” O’Brien admitted and apologised for his predatory sexual behaviour towards other priests, his replacement, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia has expressed worry that, “…the credibility and moral authority of the Catholic Church in Scotland has been dealt a serious blow…” I find this idea a little baffling, given the recent and not-so-recent past of the Catholic Church. I don’t disagree that O’Brien’s behaviour demonstrates both immorality and a repugnant hypocrisy, but why is this the revelation that broke the camel’s back? I’d like to compare the damage done to the “credibility and moral authority” of the Church by O’Brien’s actions before and after the revelation of his sexual “misconduct”.

Taking the latter first, O’Brien has admitted to inappropriate sexual advances made against priests, and has opined that his “sexual conduct has fallen beneath the standards expected,” of him. Perhaps the most charitable thing one can say about his crimes are that he managed to avoid the Catholic cliché, and did not molest children, only adults. The effect of this upon the Catholic Church is mainly one of embarrassment for showing flagrant hypocrisy in one of their high-ranking members, and the questioning, at least by those outside the Church, of the doctrine that priests must remain celibate for life. While I do not agree with those who hold that O’Brien ought to be shown sympathy because of this inhuman doctrine, it certainly helps to make sense of his actions. If you are human, and therefore in possession of some degree of sexual instinct, but are prohibited from slaking it, you will be sorely tempted to express this bottled lust in secret, and impose it upon those over whom you have power – in this case those further down the Catholic hierarchy. This case clearly shows an example of how the very dogma of the Catholic Church can create a situation in which people take deeply immoral actions. I do question whether O’Brien’s actions were the result of repressed homosexual feelings or simply the fact that he had the requisite power over an exclusively male priesthood. In the former case it is rather tragic that perfectly healthy feelings were crushed and strangled by his backwards beliefs and forced to seep out in an ugly way; in the latter, he strikes me as nothing more than an abusive prick. But in either case, this shows a tremendous hypocrisy in one of the darlings of the Catholic Church, further showing the organisation up as immoral and anti-human.

Turning to O’Brien’s behaviour prior to these revelations, is it really such that it doesn’t damage the Church’s “credibility and moral authority”? His continued opposition to LGBTQ rights, and membership in a Church that supports such bigotry worldwide ought to be enough to show that the authority wielded by the Catholic Church is far from “moral”. As for “credibility”, his comments regarding the supposed damage done to people and society by allowing gay people to marry shows an utter disconnect from empirical reality. O’Brien has been a strong campaigner for Scotland for Marriage, the organisation fighting against equal marriage rights in my home country. I’ve had a look over their reasons for their opposition, and they are so laughable that I’ll need to save my thoughts for another post. But needless to say, his involvement shows him to be a bigot and a throwback. Even if he is only following the dictates of his church, he ought to be scorned for showing moral cowardice.

My point is not that this new scandal over O’Brien’s sexual crimes has not done damage to the status of the Catholic Church. My point is that claiming that this is not just another nail in the coffin, facilitated by this man, is simply ridiculous. Keith O’Brien has been damaging the “credibility and moral authority” of the Catholic Church for years among those who are not threatened by two people declaring their love for one another, while deigning to possess matching genitalia.

 

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21649475

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21663605

http://www.sconews.co.uk/latest-edition/14858/scotland-fails-homosexual-people/

http://scotlandformarriage.org

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Improving Revenge of the Sith

This notion is just so genius that I felt compelled to share it. Any Star Wars fan has their own personal opinion on the point at which the saga was utterly destroyed. Some will point to the very first line uttered by Jar Jar Binks, while others are happy to write off the prequels, provided that they do not sully anything present and beloved in the original movies. I fall into the latter camp, and so my personal moment would be the point at which Darth Vader, one of the most compelling and downright cool villains in science fiction, was told of the death of his beloved wife and his unborn child, and let fly with one of the narmiest big “NO”s in cinematic history. During his temper tantrum, this supremely powerful Force-user lets loose all of his emotion in a psychic storm that manages to… er… smash a few jars and generally mess up one small room. You’re more likely to burst an eardrum from his verbal outburst than be injured by his telekinetic fit.

Which brings me onto the idea which would, in a single stroke, bring a far greater emotional significance to this pivotal scene, and immeasurably improve Revenge of the Sith – the point that such improvement is not difficult is acknowledged and beside the point. Picture the scene. Anakin has just been defeated, maimed, and left for dead by his mentor and best friend. He is under the misapprehension that his wife, the woman he was willing to sacrifice everything for, was in love with said mentor and best friend. He has gambled everything and lost it all. The last thing he has left to cling onto is the hope that his love still lives. This is the thought that sustains him through his rescue and subsequent anaesthesia-free surgery to save his life, grafting him into a half-human, half-machine life support system that leaves him in terrible agony. He reaches out to Palpatine, the only friend and father figure he has left, for confirmation that this sustaining thought is true, that Padmé is alive. And he is told not only that she is dead, but by his own hand. His last hope is destroyed, leaving him with nothing left in the universe. Anakin was the Chosen One, one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live, if not the most powerful. His very birth was the result of Force manipulation. And in this moment, he has lost all control, all of his humanity. His scream of pure anguish is accompanied by a tremendous outpouring of Force energy. The city-world of Coruscant, the entire planet that never sleeps, falls into darkness under this barrage of terrible emotion and power. Slowly, the lights begin to flicker back on, and the world begins to turn again. Anakin Skywalker has been subsumed by Darth Vader, the dark lord of the Sith, with nothing left to live for but faithful service to his Master.

I may be wrong, but this idea really appeals to me. This is supposed to be a turning point in galactic history, the birth of one of the driving forces for the rest of the story. The gravity of this event is essential for the importance of the events of Return of the Jedi – it’s supposed to be a big deal that Vader manages to struggle out of the abyss and regain his humanity. But alas, I can only feature this event in my own personal canon – such is the tragedy of the betrayed fanboy.

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