Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.


May 1st, 2012 12:46 pm | By

Teresa MacBain is another one of those ministers – the ones who lose their grip on god and then wonder how on earth they can deal with the situation.

“I’m currently an active pastor and I’m also an atheist,” she says. “I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday’s right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that’s totally false.”

MacBain glances nervously around the room. It’s a Sunday, and normally she would be preaching at her church in Tallahassee, Fla. But here she is, sneaking away to the American Atheists’ convention in Bethesda, Md.

Her secret is taking a toll, eating at her conscience as she goes about her pastoral duties week after week — two sermons every Sunday, singing hymns, praying for the sick when she doesn’t believe in the God she’s praying to. She has had no one to talk to, at least not in her Christian community, so her iPhone has become her confessor, where she records her private fears and frustrations.

I can’t think of any other job that has exactly that problem. Even various woo-based jobs like homeopath aren’t exactly the same, because homeopathy isn’t a person, or a Person. It’s that that makes it a matter of conscience, I think.

She was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. She had questions about conflicts in the Bible and the role of women.

She says she sometimes felt she was serving a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met.

For years, MacBain set her concerns aside. But when she became a United Methodist pastor nine years ago, she started asking sharper questions. She thought they’d make her faith stronger.

In reality,” she says, “as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn’t believe it.”

The questions haunted her: Is Jesus the only way to God? Would a loving God torment people for eternity? Is there any evidence of God at all?

And another, key question: would a loving God make the evidence so hard (we, being atheists, would say impossible) to find and then punish us for not believing without evidence? Would a loving God give us useful capacities to seek out the truth and test for falsehood yet demand that we ignore all that and have faith that there is a loving God?

I say no. That’s not a loving god. I am completely unable to believe in god, and I’m unable to countermand the aspects of my mind that make me unable to believe. That’s not something a loving god could or should or would punish me (or anyone) for.

MacBain misses the relationships, and she misses the music. But she doesn’t miss God.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

An edge in his voice

May 1st, 2012 12:22 pm | By

It sounds like an awkward time at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature panel on the life and works of Christopher Hitchens last night. Apparently it was billed as a tribute but it was also a discussion, and the result is that it wasn’t an unadulterated tribute.

Mr. Hitchens’s erudition, wit and prolificacy were taken for granted by the five participants: Katha Pollitt and Victor Navasky, his erstwhile colleagues at The Nation magazine; Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair; and George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker. The question initially posed by the writer Ian Buruma, the event’s moderator, was whether Mr. Hitchens’s work and ideas would stand the test of time.

Well I’ll tell you what I would have said if I’d been on that panel. Yes. Absolutely yes; very much yes. I think he had huge flaws – or, more to the point, that there were huge flaws in some of his ideas and work – but I also think the quality of his work was of the kind that stands the test of time. I think he wrote far too well and too shrewdly on too large a range of subjects with too much wit and insight not to stand the test of time.

Mr. Navasky said Mr. Hitchens didn’t have “original theories,” but rather offered “original takes” on things. Ms. Pollitt said that no magazine writer who “weighs in” so regularly on the issues of the day can expect their work to age well. She went further — since, she claimed, it was probably “the reason” she was invited to be on the panel — and called Mr. Hitchens a “tremendous misogynist” who didn’t have “a lot of serious, professional respect for women writers.” She also chided his habit of greeting her with a kiss on the hand, a habit she called “grotesque.”

That was one of the huge flaws – although I’m not sure I would call it misogyny (but then Katha knows a lot more about it than I do, having been a colleague for many years) – the failure to take women seriously. (Although there were exceptions. That Jefferson scholar who wrote about him shortly after he left the scene, for instance.)

But they also pointed to some of his vital work, both serious and comic, like the time he was voluntarily waterboarded, or his series about self-improvement, for which he had a seaweed body wrap and dabbled in yoga. Mr. Packer singled out Mr. Hitchens’s performance in a debate with Tony Blair about whether religion is a force for good, and he also praised Mr. Hitchens for speaking out strongly and often about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie when no one else was willing to “stick out their neck.”

Mr. Rushdie, the festival’s founder, was sitting front and center in the crowd. During the time allotted for audience participation, he approached a microphone and said he wanted to pay tribute to Mr. Hitchens, “which is what I thought we were doing tonight,” he added, with an edge in his voice. He championed his friend’s best works as “masterpieces of style,” called his book “God is Not Great” an “extraordinary polemic,” and said he fit comfortably in the tradition of great essayists going back to the 18th century and his work would undoubtedly endure.

That’s what I think. It’s exactly what I think. I said much the same thing almost ten years ago, when B&W was new.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The joke’s on them

May 1st, 2012 11:53 am | By

For awhile there it looked as if Mali were going to have a new and better Family Code to improve the rights of women.

Its provisions included raising the minimum legal age of marriage for girls, improving women’s inheritance and property rights and removing the clause demanding a wife’s obedience to her husband. The law was adopted by the National Assembly in August 2009 but was withdrawn following uproar from conservative Muslim groups.

Provocative headlines in newspapers warned that women would no longer have to obey their husbands and thousands took to the streets in protest. A task group formed by Mali’s top Islamic council called it an “open road to debauchery” and the National Union of Muslim Women’s Associations said the law reflected the wishes of a tiny minority of women. When the Family Code was finally enshrined in law in January this year, it was substantially watered down. Campaigners say that far from protecting women’s rights, the code perpetuates discrimination.

Religion trumped women’s rights, as it so often does. Religion equated equal rights for women with “debauchery” – as if women weren’t people at all but just walking genitalia; as if all equality and rights could possibly mean to women would be fucking any man they could find; as if all women ever want to do is just fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck and therefore they can’t ever have rights.

According to Safiatou Doumbia, a member of the Malian Association for Care and Assistance to Women and Children, the new law has set women back. “The new law brings women’s rights back to more than 50 years ago because some rights women had in the former law have been banned. Before, a woman would automatically keep her children if her husband died. This is not the case with the new law, which allows a family counsel to decide who should keep the children.”

Under the new Family Code, as in the original 1962 law, a woman must obey her husband, men are considered the head of the family and the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls, and 18 for boys.

In short, women (including girls) are on a par with livestock. They are wholly owned by men; a woman without an owner is as nature-defying as a feral Bichon Frise.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Adele Wilde-Blavatsky responds

May 1st, 2012 5:48 am | By

I’ve just published Adele Wilde-Blavatsky’s response to The Feminist Wire’s “Collective Response” to her article (also for The Feminist Wire) on the hijab and the hoodie. Don’t miss it. The “Collective Response” and the actions of The Feminist Wire – especially in summarily booting Wilde-Blavatsky from TFW – are a stinking outrage.

The ”Collective Response” said, among other things,

What we do find deeply problematic, however, is the questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab and the presumption that this decision is rooted in a “false consciousness.”

Wilde-Blavastky replied (but the Feminist Wire booted her out instead of publishing it, so I have the privilege of publishing it instead)

This is not a presumption, there is significant empirical evidence from Muslim women bearing witness to a deeply oppressive patriarchal culture and religious practice which entails being brainwashed and forced to wear the hijab and burqa from a young age and being severely punished for not doing so.  Women have been tortured and murdered for not wearing these clothes.  However, you only refer to the Muslim women who have the freedom to exercise choice. What about the millions of Muslim women who don’t? Are their voices and experiences not relevant in this debate at all? Is the fear of Islamaphobia so intense that it cannot accommodate the voices of Muslim and non-Muslim women who want to see the hijab banned?

In some circles, yes it clearly is.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Philosophers and physicists duke it out

Apr 30th, 2012 4:00 pm | By

Update: omigod – tricked again. I so nearly missed it…you just can’t ever be careful enough.

I nearly missed it, and didn’t because one of the comments on An Explanation From Nothing? quoted Krauss saying “the nasty review in the Times by the templeton funded philosopher is bringing more people out of the woodwork…”

Oh? thought I, so naturally I googled, and yes David Albert is Templeton funded, and furthermore, the Explanation From Nothing blog is part of the project, so it too is Templeton funded. I had no clue. I thought it was just a blog like any other blog.

I’m not saying the people in the project are corrupted by Templeton, but I do think the Templeton role should be very visible. It shows if you get there via the project but it doesn’t if you don’t. That’s…dubious.

Naïve pre-update post

Here’s a change of pace for you – the relationship between physics and philosophy. Something you can get your teeth into.

It’s a follow-up to An Explanation From Nothing? which was about David Albert’s review of Laurence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something rather than Nothing and drew comments from David Albert himself and from Sean Carroll and Lee Smolin.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest Krauss said in an interview that philosophers are big poopyheads who don’t know squat, and a number of philosophers disputed that claim, including Massimo Pigliucci and Brian Leiter.

I’ll give Leiter the last word, because I can.

My best guess is that the culture so celebrates physics, that physicists have come to believe the “PR” about them. Very good physicists tend to be very good at physics, and I, at least, am inclined to the view that if you want to know what really exists, it’s better to ask a scientist than a philosopher. But it’s not obvious that even talented physicsts are very smart about other matters, such as those that require conceptual clarity, subtle distinctions, reflectiveness about presuppositions, and the appreciation of logical and inferential entailments of particular propositions. More than anything, I hope Krauss’s tantrum and its aftermath will help disabuse the culture of the myth that being good at physics means being good at thought.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Loose morals

Apr 30th, 2012 3:31 pm | By

Udate: note this is from the Washington Times, a very dubious source.

Good old liberation struggles, like the liberation struggle of Chechnya from the brutal embrace of Russia.

Chechnya’s government is openly approving of families that kill female relatives who violate their sense of honor, as this Russian republic embraces a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam after decades of religious suppression under Soviet rule.

In the past five years, the bodies of dozens of young Chechen women have been found dumped in woods, abandoned in alleys and left along roads in the capital, Grozny, and neighboring villages.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly announced that the dead women had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives. He went on to describe women as the property of their husbands, and said their main role is to bear children.

Hmm. That’s nice. Imagine living in a country where the head of state announces that women who have Incorrect sex deserve to be murdered by their male relatives.

“You hear about these cases almost every day,” said a local human rights defender, who asked that her name not be used out of fear for her safety. “It is hard for me to investigate this topic, yet I worked on it with [human rights activist] Natasha [Estemirova] for a while. But, I can’t anymore. I am too scared now. I’ve almost given up, really.”

Estemirova, who angered Chechen authorities with reports of torture, abductions and extrajudicial killings, was found in the woods in 2009 in the neighboring region of Ingushetia with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Her killer or killers have not been found.

Has anyone looked?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The pansy ass exodus

Apr 30th, 2012 2:57 pm | By

Watching the Dan Savage video again.

The first student walks out after Savage says let’s talk about the bible for a second, because people point out “that they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans…that being gay is wrong.” Boom, she’s up.

That’s very quick. That’s very quick.

Why so quick?

It’s true that people say that. Why is she leaving just because Savage says people say that? Why is she leaving so fast when he hasn’t even said “bullshit” yet?

We can learn to ignore the bullshit about gay people in the bible, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner

And the second student is up and on his way out.

about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation.

Two more up and leaving.

We ignore bullshit in the bible about all sorts of things.

And now it’s a torrent and you can’t count any more.

The bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slaveowners waved bibles over their heads during the Civil War.

Bigger torrent. Lots of smirking.

The shortest book in the bible is a letter from Paul to a man who owned slaves. And Paul doesn’t say, “Christians don’t own people.” Paul says how Christians own people.

No more walkouts.

We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.

Two stragglers leave.

It does look orchestrated. Or it looks as though that first one, who was on her feet after one sentence, inspired a bunch of others.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Regina Martínez Pérez

Apr 30th, 2012 2:38 pm | By

Another journalist in Mexico murdered apparently for doing her job too well.

New York, April 30, 2012–Authorities must immediately investigate the murder of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez Pérez, determine the motive, and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The body of Martínez was found in her home on Saturday evening in Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, according to news reports. She had been badly beaten around the face and ribs and had been strangled to death, news reports said. The state attorney general, Amadeo Flores Espinoza, said in a news briefing that it appeared her TV, cellphones, and computer had been stolen.

Martínez had worked for the national magazine Proceso for more than 10 years and was known for her in-depth reporting on drug cartels and the links between organized crime and government officials. In the week before her murder, she covered the arrest of an allegedly high-ranking leader of the Zetas; the arrests of nine police officers charged with working for a cartel; and the story of a local mayor who was arrested with other alleged cartel gunmen after a shootout with the Mexican Army, according to news reports.

Well she won’t be doing that any more.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When you disagree, be sure to march right out

Apr 30th, 2012 11:47 am | By

About those high school students walking out on Dan Savage when he started talking about anti-gay bullshit in the bible.

They were there for a conference on journalism, a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association.

Journalists need to be able to listen to things they don’t agree with in order to do their jobs.

That’s one thing. Another thing is that walking out sends a message. What message were these students sending? That harsh criticism of the bible is a bad thing, bad enough to be worth the disruption and message-sending of walking out on a speaker.

But what Savage was saying is true. It is true that the bible accepts slavery as a given. It is true that there is a lot of bad stuff in the bible. It’s true, and it has done harm and it continues to do harm. So why is it bad to say so?

I think it’s mostly because we’ve all been trained to think that religion deserves a lot of deference, and that refusing to pay it deference is shockingly bad; walk out of the talk level bad.

We’ve been trained to think that, but it’s bullshit.

One of the teachers attending the speech with his students told CNN’s Carol Costello on Monday that he was taken aback by the speech and that he supported the decision of some of his students to walk out of it.

“It took a real dark, hostile turn, certainly, as I saw it,” said Rick Tuttle, a teacher at Sutter Union High School in Southern California. “It became very hostile toward Christianity, to the point that many students did walk out, including some of my students.

“They felt that they were attacked … a very pointed, direct attack on one particular group of students. It’s amazing that we go to an anti-bullying speech and one group of students is picked on in particular, with harsh, profane language.”

Ah but they weren’t picked on. They’re not the bible, so they weren’t picked on. No group of students was picked on; no group of students was the object of a very pointed, direct attack by Dan Savage. Those students are not Christianity. People don’t get to consider themselves identical to an organization or institution so that they can consider themselves attacked when the org or inst is criticized.

John Shore takes a dim view of the walkout in the Huffington Post.

I, for one, have no idea what the world has come to, when a person who has made his career out of speaking, in the most unadorned language possible, directly to great numbers of young people about some of the most important issues in their lives, dares to speak in unadorned language directly to a great number of young people about one of the most important issues in American life today.

Besides the fact that he was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and is the country’s leading gay activist, who is Dan Savage to say anything at all about the ages-old Christian condemnation of gay people? So what if his claim is manifestly valid that nothing contributes more to the destruction of the lives of gay people than do Christians falsely and hypocritically using the Bible as an instrument of brutality? So what if he believes that among the most egregious of all Christian sins is daring to proclaim that God’s love ends where their own fear and hatred begin? So what if every day, for decades on end, Dan Savage has dealt with young lives obliterated through violence informed and buttressed by the bedrock “Christian” view that gay people are less than human?

You know, it’s almost like the people who put on this conference, as well as a small but now (thanks, media machine!) significant number of individuals who attended it, don’t even know what the word “journalism” means.

Well, thank you, young people who walked out of Dan’s speech the moment he began talking about the parts of the Bible to which he takes exception, for reminding us of what beats so passionately in the heart and soul of every true journalist. Speaking as a person who for twelve years made his living as a journalist, I admire your dedication to the journalist’s creed: When you personally disagree with something someone is saying, get up and leave.

Well how else are they going to achieve martyrdom in this day and age?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The self-righteous exit

Apr 29th, 2012 5:30 pm | By

And I’ve been meaning to post Dan Savage telling high school students how the bible got some things wrong.

We ignore what the bible says about slavery because the bible got slavery wrong.

What’s interesting is that a whole bunch of kids got up and stalked out. What’s your point, kids? That it’s good to persecute gay people because it’s in the bible? Or as Savage said -

It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the bible how pansy ass some people react when you push back.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Catholicism v Freedom

Apr 29th, 2012 5:20 pm | By

Eric does a really thorough job on Bill Donohue and the Catholic League.

A sample:

This explains, for instance, the insistence, by Catholic bishops, archbishops and cardinals, that the law of marriage not be changed to accommodate the relationships of homosexual persons. Although according to canon 1059, “the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of the same marriage,” (my italics) it is clear that, by insisting that civil authorities cannot unilaterally declare the validity of marriages between homosexuals, Catholic bishops are holding canon law to be, in effect, superior to, and determinative of, what can be licitly determined by civil law. We should not be under any illusions about the scope of canon law in terms of the church’s own self-understanding. Canon law is, in crucial respects, prescriptive for civil law.

This is particularly evident with respect to laws governing abortion and assisted dying. The very existence of legal abortion or assisted dying is offensive to obedient Catholics. (The qualification is necessary, though, in general, the church holds that dissidents have effectively excommunicated themselves by their beliefs and actions. Only those Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium are considered to be Catholic in the true sense of that word.) In a short paper entitled “Response to Our Critics,” (The Review of Politics, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Winter 2000) 43-48) the Catholics Gary Glenn (I believe the linked Gary Glenn is the co-author of this paper) and John Stack inveigh against what they call the “civil liberties” regime in the United States, which they hold to be a great danger to Catholics.

Read on.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A pretty story out of Pakistan

Apr 29th, 2012 4:27 pm | By

Compassion is at the heart of every great religion. (Karen Armstrong)

That’s good, because if it weren’t, religious zealots might do some really horrible things now and then.

A British aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan in January has been found dead, the Foreign Office has said.

Khalil Dale, 60, who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in Quetta, south-west Pakistan.

The body of the Muslim convert was found in an orchard in Quetta with a note saying he had been killed by the Taliban, local police said…It is understood the militants holding Mr Dale had asked for a very large ransom which could not be paid.

The BBC doesn’t say so, but other headlines I saw said he was beheaded.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “He had many friends around the world and regularly travelled back to Dumfries where he was well known and loved.”

He had worked for the ICRC and the British Red Cross for many years, carrying out assignments in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

British Red Cross chief executive Sir Nick Young said Khalil first worked overseas for the Red Cross in 1981 in Kenya, where he distributed food and helped improve the health of people affected by severe drought.

He also worked in Sudan before his posting to Pakistan.

Sir Nick added: “He was a gentle, kind person, who devoted his life to helping others, including some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

So, to be perfectly honest, really the last kind of person who should be kidnapped and then murdered when the money wasn’t forthcoming. Most of us aren’t like that; I’m certainly not; people who are like that shouldn’t be murdered.

Shiela Howatt, who worked with Mr Dale when he was a staff nurse at Dumfries Infirmary in the 1990s, said he was “no stranger to danger”, and had previously been captured in Mogadishu.

“He was an absolutely lovely person devoted to caring for others less fortunate than himself,” she told the BBC.

“He spent his time in war-torn countries where help was needed, where people were desperate and that was Ken’s role in life.”

Mrs Howat, who knew Mr Dale for 25 years, said his fiancee Anne, who is also a nurse, lives in Australia.

The MP for Dumfries and Galloway, Russell Brown, said he also counted Mr Dale as a friend.

“We were all hoping for a somewhat more satisfactory end, but dare I say my thoughts are also tinged with a degree of anger,” he said.

“He went out to do good work in a foreign land, helping people out there as he’s done for many years in different parts of the world, and he gets captured, kidnapped, and meets a horrific death.”

Bad. Very bad.





(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Shermer and Stenger say

Apr 29th, 2012 11:20 am | By

As promised, from Victor Stenger’s Quantum Gods (Prometheus 2009).

First, from the Foreword by Michael Shermer. On a book tour in the spring of 2004 he met the producers of the documentary (although I would call it a “documentary”) What the Bleep Do We Know?

What the Bleep Do We Know? went on to become one of the highest grossing documentary films of all time…The explanation is to be found in the fact that the film is not really about quantum physics. The documentary’s central motif is that we create our own reality through will, thought, and consciousness, which, according to the “experts” who appear as talking heads throughout the film (most of whom are not scientists, let alone quantum physicists), depends on quantum mechanics, that branch of physics so befuddling even to those who do it for a living that it can be invoked whenever something supernatural or paranormal is desired. [p 7]

He quotes University of Oregon physicist (ret’d) Amit Goswamy saying the material world is nothing but movements of consciousness and that he chooses moment by moment his experiences.

I publicly challenged Dr Goswami to leap out of a twenty-story building and consciously choose the experience of passing safely through the ground’s tendencies. [p 8]

He cites Deepak Chopra and J.Z. Knight, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff. He asks Victor Stenger if the Penrose-Hameroff conjecture (about microtubules and stuff) has any merit.

Stenger explained to me that the gap between sub-atomic quantum effects and large-scale macrosystems is too large to bridge. [p 9]

In other words, no.

Stenger explains in the preface what “quantum spirituality” is.

The primary theme of the quantum spirituality movement is that “we make our own reality.” This principle is the subject of many book in which the authors grandly claim a new “paradigm” in our understanding of the nature of reality, with the human mind somehow tuned into a “cosmic consciousness” that pervades the universe. [pp 14-5]

Ok, now I get it. When I say that I too think I’m part of something much bigger than my own self, and cite the species, and animals, and living organisms, and the cosmos, and history, I’m not talking about what quantum spirituality people are talking about when they say they are part of something bigger than their own selves. They’re talking about something else; they’re talking about being somehow tuned into a “cosmic consciousness” that pervades the universe.

Yes. I don’t think we make our own reality, and I don’t think I’m somehow tuned into a cosmic consciousness that pervades the universe.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Finding quantum consciousness

Apr 28th, 2012 4:30 pm | By

A commenter on The golden tree of bullshit said some things about Quantum Consciousness which I don’t understand.

All my life I’ve lived in both the physical and spiritual world leaving me a bit spacey. I’ve always known I was part of something bigger than my own self but had to call the feeling God or Goddess even though the names didn’t fit. After much research I found Quantum Physics which calls what I feel the Quantum Consciousness. At last a scientific explanation for what I do and who I am.

I don’t understand any of that, to tell the truth. As I said in reply, I too know I’m part of something bigger than my own self, in fact many things -

The human species, the animal kingdom, the layer of life on this planet, the galaxy, the cosmos…History; the loose community of people who like to read and think and talk about stuff; nature…and more.

But I certainly don’t have to call the feeling (and it’s not just a feeling, it’s an obvious fact) god, nor does it leave me a bit spacey. (Other things do that.) I can’t begin to understand what that or what Connie mentions has to do with quantum physics, or why quantum physics would call what Connie feels quantum consciousness. I’m lost in a maze here.

So of course I turned to my friend, Google, which offered me Deepak Chopra (just as I expected), and Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose. I have no idea whether the latter item makes any kind of sense or not. Google also offered me Victor Stenger, with whom I once shared the weird Hyatt view-of-the-air-terminal elevator in Orlando last month, and who gave me the fish eye both times I spoke to him. Stenger says it’s bullshit, which is what I thought.

A new myth is burrowing its way into modern thinking. The notion is spreading that the principles embodied in quantum mechanics imply a central role for the human mind in determining the very nature of the universe. Not surprisingly, this idea can be found in New Age periodicals and in many books on the metaphysical shelves of book stores. But it also can appear where you least expect it, even on the pages of that bastion of rational thinking,The Humanist .

The assertion is made that quantum mechanics has ruled invalid the materialistic, reductionist view of the universe, introduced by Newton in the seventeenth century, which formed the foundation of the scientific revolution. Now, materialism is replaced by a new spiritualism and reductionism is cast aside by a new holism.

The myth of quantum consciousness sits well with many whose egos have made it impossible for them to accept the insignificant place science perceives for humanity, as modern instruments probe the farthest reaches of space and time.

…alas, quantum consciousness has about as much substance as the aether from which it is composed. Early in this century, quantum mechanics and Einstein’s relativity destroyed the notion of a holistic universe that had seemed within the realm of possibility in the century just past. First, Einstein did away with the aether, shattering the doctrine that we all move about inside a universal, cosmic fluid whose excitations connect us simultaneously to one another and to the rest of the universe. Second, Einstein and other physicists proved that matter and light were composed of particles, wiping away the notion of universal continuity. Atomic theory and quantum mechanics demonstrated that everything, even space and time, exists in discrete bits – quanta. To turn this around and say that twentieth century physics initiated some new holistic view of the universe is a complete misrepresentation of what actually took place.

The final sentence of the piece:

The myth of quantum consciousness should take its place along with gods, unicorns, and dragons as yet another product of the fantasies of people unwilling to accept what science, reason, and their own eyes tell them about the world.


Well I’ll just go on realizing I’m a part (a very damn small one) of a lot of other bigger things, and let it go at that.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Mona Eltahawy defends her article

Apr 28th, 2012 12:14 pm | By

Yes it makes us look bad but we have to do it anyway.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Donohue to citizens: stfu

Apr 28th, 2012 11:51 am | By

I promised to pay more attention to Bill Donohue, so here goes. (It’s going to be irritating, doing this; the fingernails on a blackboard kind of irritating. The fact that he’s the only one who talks but he still finds it necessary to quote himself as if he were another person – that’s going to be very irritating.) He says Catholics can do whatever they want to so shut up.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the right of Catholic institutions to determine their own prerogatives:

If a racist Catholic were disinvited from speaking at the commencement exercises of a Catholic college, the only relevant issue would be why the invitation was extended in the first place. But when a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Catholic, Victoria Kennedy (the widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy), was disinvited from giving the commencement address at Anna Maria College, the issue was not why she was invited in the first place—it was the decision to disinvite her. That’s because many liberal Catholics are angered by racism and tolerant of abortion. Worse is the spectacle of non-Catholics like Faithful America petitioning the public to get Worcester Bishop Robert McManus (who properly intervened in this matter) to allow Mrs. Kennedy to speak.

You see what I mean about irritating. How would you like it if I said at the top of every post, “Butterflies and Wheels blogger Ophelia Benson comments on [whatever it may be]“? Whom would I fool if I did that? No one. Yo, Bill, you can skip that part – we know it’s you talking, we know there’s not a third party telling us it’s you – just say what you have to say and sign your name to it, that’s all. No need for the fake introduction by a pretend ghost.

So, what he said – check out that “Worse is” – he’s saying that it’s bad that many liberal Catholics are angered by racism and tolerant of abortion. He’s saying Catholics should be tolerant of racism and angered by abortion.

Then he’s saying that what Catholic bishops do is none of our business. Yes it is. They interfere with government. They violate their tax-exempt status by telling parishioners how to vote. They all but wrote parts of the health care bill. What they do is very much our business.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Mine is better!!

Apr 28th, 2012 11:17 am | By

Cristina Odone was very annoyed a couple of weeks ago that religions she takes to be inferior in some unspecified way are sometimes counted as Big Serious Grown-up religions like Catholicism.

Saint Morwenna, who in the 6th century built a church on a cliff with her bare hands, must be turning in her grave. Her beloved Cornwall, the last redoubt of Celtic Christians, is to teach witchcraft and Druidry as part of RE. The county council regards her religion (and that of other Cornish saints such as Piran and Petroc) as no better than paganism.

And? So what? If that’s true (which I doubt), what of it? Why shouldn’t Religious Education simply teach about all religions (or as many as there is time for in the curriculum) impartially? The county council is a branch of government, and as such, ought to be secular. The county council isn’t a branch of the Church of England…much less of Odone’s favored religion.

 When the BBC’s The Big Questions asked me to join its panel of religious commentators two years ago, I was taken aback to find it included a Druid. Emma Restall Orr rabbited on inoffensively about mother nature, but I was shocked that her platitudes were given the status of religious belief by the programme makers. Ms Restall Orr exults in her website that the media has stopped seeing Druidism “as a game” and now invites her on serious faith and ethics programmes from ITV’s Ultimate Questions to Radio 4’s The Moral Maze and Sunday Programme.

Well I’m shocked that Odone’s platitudes are given the status of serious thinking worth a spot in major media. Are Catholic platitudes really better (or more serious) platitudes than Druid platitudes? Odone gets invited on “serious faith and ethics programmes” even though she’s confused enough to think that “faith and ethics” make a natural and sensible pair, so why shouldn’t Orr be likewise?

H/t Roger.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The golden tree of bullshit

Apr 28th, 2012 10:34 am | By

Mark Vernon, always eager to plow new ground and alert us to new insights and ways of looking at the world, asks

Is it just me or has the dialogue between science and religion become a bit stale?

Ok I was joking. That question is staler than last year’s bread. The very idea that there is such a thing as “the dialogue between science and religion” is not only stale but also blatant propaganda by pro-religion types who are desperate to convince everyone that religion’s claims to discover truths about the world are every bit as reasonable as those of science. It’s unpardonably naïve to talk about “the dialogue between science and religion” as if it were an obvious, sensible, reasonable thing with no trace of an agenda or vested interest. It’s unpardonably naïve to talk about it without pausing to thank the Templeton Foundation for all the cash.

The bulk of the article is the usual slush about talking stones and spiritual nature and listen to the music and how evil is materialism. There’s one item that sticks out though.

Barfield argued that we need to recover our full imaginative capacities if we are deeply to know that the world is alive. Matter, he believed, would then be seen for what it once was, as an expression of spirit. (“Matter” is linked to “mater”, or mother, remembered in the expression, mother earth.) This might not be so difficult to achieve because, actually, we experience it every day. When you perceive the matter called a human being speaking, you spontaneously know those perceptions as one person communicating with you, another person. You do not have a theory of other minds, as some philosophers have proposed, driven by a flattening scientistic ideology. We know such matter as spirited people – as souls, you might say.


When you perceive the matter called a human being speaking, you spontaneously know those perceptions as one person communicating with you, another person. You do not have a theory of other minds, as some philosophers have proposed, driven by a flattening scientistic ideology.

That’s one of the most willfully mindless, incurious statements I’ve seen in awhile. “You do not have a theory of other minds” – yes you do! Of course you damn well do. It’s a measurable stage of development*, and if you never acquire it, that means you are autistic. Not having it is a crippling disability for a human. It’s important to understand this, and it’s interesting. Sneering at it as a product of “a flattening scientistic ideology” is revoltingly know-nothing and anti-intellectual.

*You know those experiments – the researcher shows the child a crayon (say), then puts it in a cookie box (say), then a new person comes in and the researcher asks the child where the new person will look for the crayon. Until about age 4 (I think) children always say the new person will look in the cookie box. After that age they realize the new person will be fooled by the cookie box. It’s the difference between understanding that other people don’t know what you know, and not understanding that.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Bruce on Day Five – Monday: Night of the Wankers…

Apr 27th, 2012 5:08 pm | By

A guest post by Bruce Everett

I’m sure you Americans in the readership have the same phenomena where you are, albeit with different tourists, most probably the English; ‘FAWCET-FAWCET-FAWCET-WELL-HOWDY-PARDNER-BATHROOM-FAWCET-MCDONALDS!’

Do you ever get sick of visitors to your country overusing your words, and using them wrong? Technically wrong; wrong connotations; wrong situation; mismatched nuance and misjudged tone?


This is what you look like when you overuse the lingo. It’s not a good look, mate.

I tried preventing this before it even had a chance to happen with CFI’s Debbie Goddard, by confounding her with complete nonsense, and I think it worked. If you ever get the chance to meet her, ask ‘why can’t Fred ride a bike?’

(Don’t ever ask me, ask her.)

I never got to PZ Myers in time though, before he’d called Chris Stedman something like a ‘fluffy feelgood wanker’ (I paraphrase). I not sure about the ‘fluffy’ or the ‘feelgood’, but he did call him a ‘wanker’ – I do remember that bit. PZ’s been using the term ‘wanker’ a lot lately, like he’s the overly proud recipient of an honorary doctorate in

Strine from Steve Irwin University, for achievement in the twin fields of ‘Crikies’ and ‘Ubeudies’.

I do agree though, at least in my understanding of the term; Chris Stedman is a wanker. I’m not sure though, if PZ wasn’t actually looking for a harsher term (it’s not entirely uncommon for some Australian parents to lovingly call their kids ‘wanker’ for being silly, so I’m a bit taken aback at how PZ’s use of the term has been seen by some as so shocking).


Monday morning was the beginning of a wonderful, if a little grey, Melbourne day. I had chores to do, and places to go; it was my last full day in the city of Melbourne.

As it turned out, I ended up having quite an enjoyable breakfast with Rod, one of the volunteers from the GAC (you may have seen him running around in a blue convention t-shirt). Rod was even nice enough to shout. Here’s breakfast…


Coffee, yum, etc…

Note the sepia tone, the latte, the mostly out-of-shot remnants of a vegetarian breakfast, all taken on-location in Melbourne’s inner-suburbs.

To Australians, all these factors add up to one thing…


(Actually, the latte is very common in Australia, consumed by yobs, bogans and working class yahoos. Pretending the latte is wanky, technically makes you a wanker. It’s the same deal with sparkling white wine, incidentally.)


After talk of green energy sources with Rod, talk of the local promotion of Aboriginal cultural enterprises, talk of public housing and wrought iron fences, and talk about this-and-that inner-city topic, it was a handshake before heading off to La Trobe University to meet up with another mate. We talked about Alvin Plantinga’s argument that naturalism was self-refuting (rubbish!); talked about student publications; talked about the continental philosophers over at Australian Catholic University (rubbish!), and talked about which Greek philosopher my mate’s lecturer looked like, all while I had a vegetarian lunch.

To Australians, all these factors add up to one thing…




Before I go any further, I must confess that I once did a bit of interfaithy professional development in values education, run by UNESCO…



Given that discussion, at the interfaithy event of the night called The Road Less Travelled, would be based largely on anecdote, I’ll summarise my own anecdotal observations about interfaith, up-front. These are the thoughts I had on my mind, going into this thing.


There’s too great a fetish in finding shared values, to the point of fabrication – oh, we’re all believers one way or another. (I’m so grateful that Hitchens caught Mos Def out on this, the dross that it is).

There’s ecumenical hostility towards atheists in the interfaith movement, often manifesting as scapegoating for social problems, more likely caused by religion (don’t you love those ‘New Atheists’ and ‘secular fundamentalists’, with their mosque bans and their placards reading ‘go home, this is a Christian nation’? I’ve never seen such a thing, actually.)

There’s far too much tokenism, not just in the selection of tokens from minorities, and in the singling them out from the nasty remainder. There’s also the exaggeration, and fabrication of the nastiness of the ‘nasties’, often enabled by the token themselves.

Z: Y isn’t like the rest of the Xs, and even if most Xs aren’t nasty, THOSE outspoken Xs over there ARE, isn’t that right, Y? (Oh, how we’d like to be able to cooperate with the Xs, if only…*sniff*)

Y: Yes, they’re not helping. They’re making my job harder, helping you cooperate with them. If only they’d be more respectful, you could allow them to cooperate in fixing the problems they didn’t create. Then they could finally be relieved of the consequences of these problems they didn’t create, which they complain about no end, which again, isn’t helping.

Z: Don’t worry Y, we’ll shelter you from those consequences. You’re Being Helpful. You’re an equal around here.

Interfaith pats people on the back for stuff they’re supposed to do, regardless. You’re not supposed to be fighting amongst each other! Congratulate you for getting along? Next you’ll expect an award for not roasting any of your children on a spit this year. Congratulations on your low expectations!

The most useful thing interfaith does in developed countries, it seems to me, is offer an avenue for middle-class singles to hook up for hot, hot, interfaith sex. ‘You are so spirichooal!’ Wakka-chikka-wah-wah!

(Honestly, you’ve got about as much chance of convincing me a good part of middle-class interfaith isn’t about lonely horny people, as you have of convincing me that the spiritualism in Lady Chatterley’s Lover isn’t the result of DH Lawrence focusing on giving himself a solipsist reach-around.)

Interfaith appropriates acts of ecumenical cooperation through innocuous branding, advancing an increasing monopoly over such cooperation. Having a single approach, or movement, monopolising cooperation is a Bad Thing. It stunts innovation, and allows vested interests to more easily hijack or pervert initiatives (see UNESCO).

Perhaps damnably, interfaith enables homophobia, especially on an international stage – people who should never have been consulted on human rights, through interfaith approaches (and an aversion to modernist ‘imperialism’) are now able to steer human rights discussions, simply by virtue of their numbers and faith positions (aka different ways of finding meaning aka different ways of not liking gays). Homophobia is a ‘shared value’, and nothing unites the tribes like the shared loathing of another Other.

(Perhaps it’s worthy of mention at this point that almost by definition, having anything to do with interfaith makes a person a wanker – and I paid for a ticket.)

You may be forgiven for reaching the verdict that I’m a little sceptical about interfaith.


So, at The Road Less Travelled, PZ Myers, Chris Stedman and Leslie Cannold were moderated in discussion by Meredith Doig of The Rationalist Society of Australia (Australian free-thought gets damn good value out of this lady, incidentally), on the big question:  ‘can believers and atheists work together for the common good?’

I’m glad this specific question didn’t get much time, because while it looks good on a flyer, it goes nowhere very fast. Can believers and atheist work together for the common good? Well, yes, obviously. Can I go home now?

When I was a little boy age two, living out in the middle of rural Australia, I had a godless family, while our neighbours were Christians. We didn’t proselytise each other – we had other priorities at the time, namely food and shelter (honestly, my family lived in a corrugated iron shack). We cooperated, and even though we needed to cooperate, we did so primarily because we loved one another.

While I cherish having had this relationship, it’s a particularly unremarkable story, at least here in Australia. It happens all the time, especially amongst the working class – with the interfaith movement nowhere in sight.

So I had a question in mind, particularly for Chris Stedman, before I even rocked up to the event…

If atheists can get along with the religious by other means – without interfaith initiatives – what does interfaith have to offer above and beyond existing cooperation, and what would atheists be expected to bring to the table in order to make such extended cooperation possible?

…then I rocked up.


Truthfully, I was more impressed with Chris Stedman than I expected to be. The fact that he too was pissed off with the shared values fetish, and that he recognised substantive difference as needing to be acknowledged before any kind of binding decision making, went a long way with me.

He was also less effulgent and far less vague than I’d expected, given what I’ve read of his online. (Is he able to be like this on a regular basis, in the US?)

I didn’t entirely buy his objection to being tokenised, though, although I guess it’s not nothing that he at least has this concern. The stoushes he’s had with ‘New Atheists’ online, and the complaining about his job being made harder, at least flirt with the prospect of his making a token of himself.

As for my question, well I didn’t need to ask as it was effectively answered as the discussion unfolded – the upshot of interfaith is getting closer to religious people on an organisational level, while the price is deference, paid in the currency of ‘respect for belief’.


Simon Blackburn raises the concern in ‘Religion and Respect’, published in Philosophers Without Gods (Oxford University Press), of ‘respect creep’ – how demands for ‘respect’ (a ‘tricky term’) through vague terminology, increment until the demand has become for deference.  It’s an essay that anyone treating the civility of ‘respect of religious belief’ as common sense needs to be made to read.

If you consider this ‘respect creep’ in the context of marginalised religious minorities, and empowered religious majorities, it’s not long before you realise that common sense civility in these matters means certain things. The minority will show deference to the majority, while the empowered majority will overlook reciprocity, simply because it can get away without thinking about such details. Naively playing along, in order to ‘cooperate’, in campaigns geared towards anything approaching equality, is a ludicrous strategy.

Something along these lines seemed to pan out in the discussion between PZ Myers and Leslie Cannold – although to be fair to Cannold, whether it was flippancy or Minnesotan modesty, PZ downplayed the significance of the ‘Crackergate’ affair (the point of contention), making it look like a random blasphemy stunt. PZ was told it didn’t help campaigns for separation of church and state when religious beliefs were mocked.

PZ progressed through an array of rationale; ‘bragging’; to show nothing is sacred; scientists care about the truth, and the truth is it’s just a cracker; ‘you know this used to be a ritual used to justify pogroms against the Jews?’ (I paraphrase).

PZ never mentioned there was already an angry Catholic mob campaigning against and threatening some poor sod who accidentally ‘abducted’ a communion wafer, well before the wafer desecration of ‘Crackergate’ fame. PZ never got to mention that his choice of desecration – the nail – was in response to the old anti-Semitic wood carvings depicting Jews crucifying communion wafers.

PZ never got to mention the torrent of (often anti-Semitic) hate mail and death threats he received in response to the desecration.

Obviously, the level of detail involved in ‘Crackergate’ would have taken up the whole night, and then some. I didn’t actually expect PZ to give us the whole story. I would have liked it though if he’d raised the point that he was acting in retaliation against a specific case of the demand for deference; something that goes to the heart of what the discussion was about.

How do you cooperate with a hateful, forceful, bullying and sometimes violent mob that expects deference? This is what PZ was up against in ‘Crackergate’, and it rears its head at other times as well, sometimes even with mock politeness when ecumenical cooperation is sought.

We don’t normally deal with quite this kind of thing here in Australia, and while my own behaviour and interaction with the religious is more in line with Leslie Cannold’s stated views, and while my interest in the truth comes more from a ‘need-to-know’ utilitarianism, I still view ‘Crackergate’ as both a moral, and a politically necessary victory. In this case, the mob needed standing up to and I don’t care one dot when people bemoan how decorum comes into it.

I find a lot of staged acts of blasphemy to be contrived, self-aggrandizing and clichéd attention-seeking (i.e. wanking), but not ‘Crackergate’.


I went away from the gathering with a better impression of Chris Stedman than I’d expected*, a more fleshed out impression of Leslie Cannold, and pretty much the same opinion of PZ Myers as I had a few weeks earlier. (Although Leslie Cannold’s polished mock-familiarity [say when pretending to whisper to the crowd] seemed better geared to larger audiences than the smaller, closer crowd we were in.)

I found the some of the crowd quite annoying (although Jason Ball, and a number of the other young rationalists were around, which was good), being seated to one fellow who just kept complaining about this, that and whatever that had happened around the traps**.

There was a young wanker in the audience, who seeing as how PZ ‘valued disrespectfulness’ (I paraphrase), and how PZ supposedly thought he was ‘better than us [religious people]’ (again, I paraphrase), decided to point out that PZ was unsuited to the role of scientist because he was fat. That was fun. After having his misconceptions and curious assumptions calmly punctured, our young wanker friend was forced to concede, ‘…then… we agree…’

If only every religionist who chimed in about how ‘New Atheists’ were trying to get Francis Collins sacked on account of being a Christian were as open-minded and as able to listen as well as our young wanker, we’d have had a more productive discussion on that front. Maybe the difference is down to the humanizing capacity of face-to-face discussion. Either that, or Miller et al. are bigger, more sanctimonious wankers than I realise.

(A defensive interjection by either a PZ fan, or a dietary science student, wasn’t needed – PZ had things well in hand).

Sadly, I didn’t get too much face-to-face myself at the after-party at Embiggen Books, owing to not going. I had to prepare for my departure from Melbourne, city of wankers, scheduled for early the next morning.

Somehow, I get this sense that discussion of serious matters would have stayed serious, while the overwrought stuff (like ‘respect for belief’) would at last have been treated with due relaxation. I get that feel about after-parties generally, and Embiggen Books specifically; not wanky.

(An exception being, I have this image in mind, of PZ waddling around Embiggen Books, trying to speak Ostrayun, while eating Vegemite smeared communion wafers – very wanky).

Shuffling back out into the dark with my thoughts and reflections, while the party went on, was how my experience of the Global Atheist Convention of 2012, ended. Thanks for having me, Victorians.

~ Bruce

* I may even be able to handle reading his book now.

** Like my GAC coverage?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Donohue’s success

Apr 27th, 2012 3:24 pm | By

Useful background on the Catholic League.

The Catholic League was founded in 1973 by Jesuit priest Virgil Blum. William Donohue assumed leadership in July 1993. Since then, the membership has grown from 27,000 to 200,000. According to Donohue, the League has “won the support of all of the U.S. Cardinals and many of the Bishops as well…We are here to defend the Church from the scurrilous assaults that have been mounted against it, and we definitely need the support of the hierarchy if we are to get the job done.” Thus it can be considered an arm of the Church. It supplements or replaces priest-controlled organizations of the past described by Blanshard and Seldes. The League apparently has a single mission: suppression of all mainstream criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are many recognizable principles governing the behavior of the League. One is revealed in a vicious 1994 attack against the New London newspaper, The Day, for an editorial critical of the Catholic Church: “What is truly ‘beyond understanding’ is not the Catholic Church’s position, it is the fact that a secular newspaper has the audacity to stick it’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. It is nobody’s business what the Catholic Church does.”

Orilly? It’s the Catholic church’s business what everybody does but it’s nobody’s business what the Catholic church does? They’d like that, wouldn’t they. They can meddle as much as they want to while we have to leave them strictly alone.

And then people wonder why atheists sometimes get grumpy.

A second basic premise is the League’s commitment to canon 1369 of the Code of Canon Law: “A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who, at a public event or assembly, or in a published writing, or by otherwise using the means of social communication, utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.” Canon law is the law of the Catholic Church. All criticism of the pope or the Church is in violation of this law in one way or another. This chapter will make clear that the League follows this canon to the letter and demands that all others conform—or pay the price for their violation.

There it is again already – they want their “Canon” law to apply to all of us, but they don’t want our secular free speech and unhindered mockery to apply to them. Nope; no can do.

Donohue also justifies the League’s aggressive behavior by claiming that it is culturally unacceptable for nonCatholics to criticize the Catholic Church. “Perhaps the most cogent remark of the day,” he asserts, “came from the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, who politely remarked that his mother always advised him not to speak ill of other religions. It is a lesson that apparently few have learned….Non-Catholics would do well to follow the advice of Ed Koch’s mom and just give it a rest. Their crankiness is wearing thin.” This cultural norm is widely accepted in America, to the enormous benefit of the Vatican.

The Vatican and other theocratic organizations and individuals. Hence occasional grumpiness and inability to oblige.

One final element makes clear the objective of the Catholic League—protection of the papacy against all criticism. Writes Donohue, “It is the conviction of the Catholic League that an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.” He offers no rationale to support this theory. Obviously, millions of liberal American Catholics would disagree outright, for it is they who have been attacking the Church.

While at the same time supporting it and validating it. They would do better to abandon it. They would do better to remove the tacit support it gives by not leaving, so that the pope and his henchmen can see that reactionary dogma exacts a price. They could have fewer but better Catholics.

The suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy is the goal of the Catholic League. The visit of the pope to the U.S. in October 1995 was a major media event. Given all the gravely serious problems faced by the Church and the enormous amount of dissent by American Catholics, as well as the growing hostility from non-Catholics as a result of the Church’s interference in American policy making, one would expect wide coverage of these realities in the media during his visit. Instead, it was treated as a triumphant return.

The Catholic League believes that it played a major role in this great public relations success—and with good reason. In August 1994, it launched a campaign to intimidate the press in an astounding advance warning to media professionals preparing for the pope’s visit to New York in late October. A letter signed by Donohue announced a press conference to be held just prior to the pope’s visit that will present “10′s of thousands of petitions from active Catholics” that have been collected over the past year. The petition speaks for itself. What else but intimidation of the press is the intent of this campaign?

The November 1995 issue of the League’s journal, Catalyst, is headlined, “Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score.” Donohue writes, “By all accounts, the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was a smashing success. Media treatment of the papal visit was, with few exceptions, very fair. Protesters were few in number and without impact. From beginning to end, this papal visit proved to be the most triumphant of them all.” A month later he writes, “The relatively few cheap shots that were taken at the Pope by the media in October is testimony to a change in the culture.” And of course the desired “change in the culture” is the elimination of criticism of the pope and his hierarchy. The Catholic League is succeeding on a grand scale far beyond what all but a handful of Americans realize.

If that’s true it explains something that has puzzled me for years, which is precisely the reverential way the US media report on the pope and his doings. I didn’t know they’d been overtly bullied into it.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)