Freitag, 25. März 2011

Natural desasters as signs of a god: the difference between rhetorically skilled priests and the general public

As we all know 2 weeks ago a disaster has hit Japan. Over 10.000 people are dead, people are fighting against a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima.

Why did all this happen? Was it a natural disaster? Was it the plan of a god? Did a god merely allow it to happen?
The problems of theodicy (bad things happening despite the supposed existence of a merciful and caring god) are old. And of course the standard answer to all is a typical "god might have a plan, we do not comprehend".
But that doesn't really satisfy people like me. Especially not in the wake of a catastrophe that killed tens of thousands of people.
God surely can't be evil, bad or (which some think is worse than being evil) not existent. So priests and religious people come up with quite a bunch of arguments and statements to tell us that it is not the wickedness of a god that caused these things to happen.

(00:55) It does not give us reasons to doubt that god exists. What we can say for sure is that there are morally sufficient reasons to allow these disasters to happen.... i think it's to strong a word to say he willed it to happen that he directly caused .... we have to understand that the natural world is contingent and has natural laws....
"Willed" it to happen is certainly a strong formulation not suitable for TV. So he "allowed" it to happen. You know it's just a natural disaster in a natural world. And there are undoubtedly "morally sufficient" reasons for this ... we don't know them but who cares as long as he knows. I would give a months salary to know what morally sufficient reason exists that justifies that catastrophe.

I actually don't have a problem with the idea of a creator that created and then let's everything run according to the natural laws. That would be a deistic god. It only becomes a problem when the same idiots that make that claim at the same time tell me that this creator is a loving and caring being that listens to my prayers and actually takes interest in my (spiritual) well being. At the same time, god can't be (morally) blamed. He can be the squared circle at once.... caring for us, listening to us and letting death rain upon us in a senseless way. After all ... if Japanese people hadn't settled there, nothing would have happened to them in the first place. Isn't it their own fault?

Look at the guy at 4:00 in above video. He tries the balancing act.

It's really astonishing what a great effort some people put into positioning god in a good light and defending the notion of his existence against all kinds of ... well REALITY.

Actually all those high level philosophers and priests shouldn't worry so much. If they point at Pat Robertson and others for putting god in a bad light, it is obvious that they themselves lost track of their own flock's perspective. At least in the US many people do not seem to have so much trouble with the idea of a god that senselessly murders thousands of people. The only hint of accommodationism is the usage of the word "sign" instead of the word "massacre".

Nearly 40% of those surveyed believe this to be a sign from god? I wonder if these 40% also read the same letters on that sign. What was the message again that needed this act?
29% believe God punishes a nation for the sins of it's citizens. That's a pretty moral god isn't it? It has the power to create universes, can punish whole nations and of course judges not on an individual basis but on a nationwide one. Killing innocents on a wide scale for the faults and sins of others that happen to live in the same region.... PRAISE THE LORD.
56% believe that god is "totally in control" of what happens in the world. Tell that those "philosophers" and "theologians" please. Obviously someone lost the connection to the "true" teaching of god. Which one might that be now?

The best statement:
"The poll reveals the complex way Americans think about the role of god in natural disasters"
Complex? Whats so complex?
Some folks have no explanation but many many excuses.
Some others simply glorify a mass murderer.

Vatican to the UN: homosexuality should be punishable, homophobes are the real victims of intolerance

(March 22, 2011) In a stunning development for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, today, Colombia delivered a Joint Statement during General Debate (Agenda Item 8 – Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action) that called on States to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and urged the Human Rights Council to address these important human rights issues. The statement was delivered on behalf of a broad grouping of 85 States from all regions of the world.
Ain't that progress? 85 member states supporting a resolution (although it is not binding to the states) that calls to an end of violations of what many people would consider a basic human right.
85 is a number in a continuously increasing array of numbers representing countries supporting this.
  • 54 in 2006
  • 66 in 2008
  • 85 in 2011
Of course some countries didn't support the resolution. 

Please keep the following statement of intention in mind that was uttered by the UN high commissioner:
“We are not trying to create new or special rights. We are simply trying to address the challenges that prevent millions of people from enjoying the same human rights as their fellow human beings just because they happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”
As was to be expected the Islamic ones mainly dissented with only Albania and Bosnia supporting the resolution. Shame on those. And then of course there was the Vatican. Basically it boils down to two distinct and in my view despicable points that the catholic church make.

Point 1: "Critics" of homosexuals are the real victims of intolerance (emphasis mine)
Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi spoke out in a March 22 meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling attention to what he described as a “disturbing trend” in debates over social life and human rights. “People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behavior between people of the same sex,” Archbishop Tomasi told the council. “When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature, which may also be expressions of religious convictions, or state opinions about scientific claims, they are stigmatized, and worse – they are vilified, and prosecuted.” The archbishop stated that these attempts to silence Catholics, and other critics of homosexual practice,  were a human rights violation according to the council's own standards. “These attacks contradict the fundamental principles announced in three of the Council’s resolutions of this session,” he pointed out. “The truth is, these attacks are violations of fundamental human rights, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.” The archbishop's remarks came as the council revisited the subject of “sexual orientation” as a human right, a subject that has caused tension between the Vatican and the U.N. in the past. Church officials do not support the criminalization of homosexual activity. However, they fear that the concept of a universal right to “sexual orientation,” under certain interpretations, could lead to international action against Christians and others who regard homosexual acts as immoral.

Again we have Christians portraying themselves as the victims of a great injustice ... being stigmatized, vilified and prosecuted ... attacked, "only" because they might take "position" against homosexuality.
And if one were to declare sexual orientation to be a fundamental human right ... oh my (non-existent) God ! Would that not mean international action against Christians? Perhaps even persecution?
One must feel pity with these poor Christians that just get beaten up every day for being Christian and moral. the poor religious fellows that get their homes sacked, stabbed in the back or have their portrait put on national newspapers calling for their execution.
Wait a second ... That's the homosexuals that get such treatments.[1]
What harm was done to Christians lately because of their "highly moral anti-gay stance"? They got sued for not allowing a homosexual couple to sleep in the room of a B&B? I am really impressed. Poor fellows these must be indeed. They lost a law case.

Point 2: Vatican demands homosexual acts to be forbidden and punishable by law

Although the Vatican's overstatement of Christians being victims of an increasingly secular society seems stupid enough and the implied understatement of the suffering of homosexuals at the hands of people using the current situation is despicable i find the deception to be the worst of all. So (we quote again) the catholic news agency is very clear on stating that:
Church officials do not support the criminalization of homosexual activity.
Really? Read on (again emphasis mine)....

“There has been some unnecessary confusion about the meaning of the term 'sexual orientation,' as found in resolutions and other texts adopted within the U.N. human rights system,” Archbishop Tomasi noted in his March 22 remarks.
But he pointed out that the term “sexual orientation” refers properly to “feelings and thoughts, not to behavior” – a distinction he said was especially important to make, in order to avoid the complete deregulation of all sexual behavior.
“For the purposes of human rights law, there is a critical difference between feelings and thoughts, on the one hand, and behavior, on the other,” Archbishop Tomasi explained.
“A state should never punish a person, or deprive a person of the enjoyment of any human right, based just on the person’s feelings and thoughts, including sexual thoughts and feelings.”
But states can, and must, regulate behaviors, including various sexual behaviors. Throughout the world, there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law. Pedophilia and incest are two examples.”
While countries should not attempt to regulate thoughts or feelings, he said, they must avoid regarding sexual behavior as something completely private, and not subject to any restriction.

For those that didn't get it yet: Don't punish people for being gay, punish them for acting gay. So much for the lack of support of criminalization of homosexual "activity".
It's actually pretty easy: Either you are against homosexuality being punishable or you are not. You can't walk somewhere on an edgy middle trying to claim your are against punishing homosexuals but favoring the right of a nation to punish people that act according to their orientation unless you clearly stand at the side of all those regimes and inhumane countries that actually DO punish. 
One could therefore skip all the rhetoric blabla directly and state:
Vatican demands punishment of homosexual behavior.

However there are again two things that Mr. Tomasi should have noted even while he was mumbling his venom. When he states that throughout the world there is a consensus between societies that certain kinds of sexual behaviors must be forbidden by law then he elevates societies opinion to a binding guide line. According to that argument however and given the historic development of opinions in the homosexuality issue ... he simply looses his case and would have to accept that there obviously is a consensus between societies that homosexuality must not be forbidden. 
That Mr. Tomasi then mentions incest and pedophilia as examples of what we all agree on .... linking this to the question of homosexuality again.... what a cheap rhetoric trick. Especially of a guy like him working in an institution that is not really a shining example of fighting pedophiles. And even if the Vatican were a shining example of how to deal with pedophiles in their own ranks ... Mr. Tomasi certainly isn't.

Mittwoch, 23. März 2011

Two thirds of Brits not religious?

Yesterday i wrote about the European Court's decision concerning crucifixes in classrooms.
I argued that one could interpret the judgment less "pessimistic" if one took into account that the status of religion in Europe is quite different form the one it has in countries like the US.

Today i read the BBC once more and found an interesting survey that seems to fit with the idea of a different kind of religious belief or understanding in Europe (or some parts of it).

While 61% of the poll's respondents said they did belong to a religion, 65% of those surveyed answered "no" to the further question: "Are you religious?"

"Belonging to a religion" obviously means something else then "being religious". What might this be? Could the first question be understood in a more cultural context than a theological one while the second question is the real theological question? If so then indeed "being christian" doesn't actually mean something in Europe.
But it even goes further:

Among respondents who identified themselves as Christian, fewer than half said they believed Jesus Christ was a real person who died, came back to life and was the son of God.

Is it so unreasonable to take the position that the European Court took?
Following the idea that "the crucifix" or terms like "christianity" don't actually mean anything comparable to the meanings they have in the US?

Dienstag, 22. März 2011

Science in the Quran: A Myth debunked 1 of ?

Looking through my rss feeds today i found a video interview of Alfred Kröner (via AtheistMedia)

This video reminded me of my own "research" into that field a few years ago, funnily using the same islamic site. I started mailing scientists and got some responses.
If there is some interest (please do comment) i might actually post those mails with their responses and some notes about the supposed Islamic claims in a small series.

The only point where my "research" differs from Kröner's statements is when it comes to the agenda of the conferences that were held in the 70s and 80s. As far as I understood they actually had the goal to declare a compatibility between Islam and Science in order to combat the notion that the religion would be old-fashioned and wrong. I was told that many a cleric feared the youth would abandon it and turn to science including of course then also turning to a more western life style.

School crucifixes in Europe ... different interpretations

The European Court Of Human Rights has ruled about the status of crucifixes hanging around in classrooms.
In 2009 the court had found it to be a violation of Articles 2 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This time the court ruled in favour of the religious folks allowing states to have religious symbols in classrooms.
The press release can be found here.

I don't want to go into all the details about the decision itself but rather speak about the "interpretations" of it that have been floating around the net these days.
I saw a neutral post on Richard Dawkins (copy of a BBC article) site, and an interesting one by Jerry Coyne here. Coyne displays the reaction that i think most atheists and secularists would display. Especially perhaps Americans living in a country that supposedly is still very religious. I can't help but wonder if he might not have understood the differences in perspective if you actually scan through the press release and know a bit more about Europeans.

Essential for the whole judgment (in my view) was the following passage:
The Court found that, while the crucifix was above all a religious symbol, there was no evidence before the Court that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.

Think about that statement for a while. I can understand that for example in America you would think this passage to be the greatest bullshit ever written about this topic. But in many parts of Europe (i don't really know about Italy) one actually has to agree.
I still do not fully understand how the vatican has welcomed that court ruling. Actually it means one thing:

The crucifix is no violation of human right laws because it is an irrelevant thing for any person that is no christian anyway. It has no effect.

That might be hard to understand for some but it actually is true in modern Europe. Europe is a group of nations where even in Austria, a predominantly catholic country only 1% of the people spontaneously think about the crucifix when they hear the term "catholic church".
In Europe the crucifix is more of a fashion ornament instead of a religious symbol.

Do I think the judgment is a wise one ? Not really. But it establishes something that I haven't thought about for a while.... that some things in real life have become so unimportant that actually it's even a waste of time debating them.
I still would have preferred a different ruling. One that said that while one may have symbols in a classroom, any such symbol would have to be taken off the wall if only one pupil protested.

Donnerstag, 17. März 2011

Germany's Next Topmodel ... no short clothes in the church please

Last weeks episode of  Germany's Next Topmodel took place in an empty church in England.
For those that don't know the show .... if you have girls at around the age of 14, be happy you haven't seen it yet. If you DON'T have girls at around that age ... don't tune in unless you want to suffer serious brain damage.

Anyway ....the ladies were to pose in what could be called "short" bride clothing. Don't worry ... the video is in my view definetly safe for work.  If that amount of clothes is a problem, then frankly you couldn't get out on the streets these days. Just take a look yourself.

Church ... short clothes ... church ... short clothes ...

  • One girl refused to wear the clothes and walk on stage because all of it happening in a church and she going into a catholic school.

I can understand that some think it is not decent to walk around in sexy or short clothes... i am fine with that. Everyone as he wishes. I do not have much understanding for people that think it's wrong to walk around in short clothes in an empty church but don't mind showing off on tv or a public place.
But when a person has either of the two "problems" i certainly have no empathy for them if they actually try to get into the top model business where it is quite clear what you will have to do in order to be successfull. That's just plain stupid and the worst thing that happened in the show was that they didn't throw her out of the competition right away when she came down the stage with jeans and a jersey big enough even for me. Of course Heidi and Co were clever enough to know that this would not sit well with some churchgoers ... firing a religious girl for refusing to show her knees in a church.

  • A (female) german CSU politician (christian social union) emphasizing that casting shows should pay more respect (don't you just love that word) to the fact that for many people churches are holy places.
You just have to love that. The fact that some people think that churches are holy places doesn't keep them from watching semi nude top models on tv once every week. But of course one episode with short clothes in a church without nudity are a problem. And we need a politician of a christian party to remind us of the respect we all should have for such folks.

Mittwoch, 2. März 2011

Democracy or Dictatorship ... plagiarism has no boundaries

It would seem that a modern democracy like Germany and a dictatorship like Libya don't have much in common.

Sometimes that's true, sometimes it is not.

Take Gaddafi's son Saif who has been accused of plagiarism.
Folks in Libya don't even get those news and if they got them most probably they wouldn't care much anyway.
In good old Germany members of the government get  a little bit more attention.

Now what is the difference between the two "statesmen"?
Of course the minister has now stepped down. Don't worry he will be back in a few years. Such folks never can be kept from running for office again and again (and getting it eventually).

In Libya I guess Saif wont survive the next month.