Monthly Archives: July 2011

Downplaying the rape and torture of children

The Vatican’s latest (unofficial) reponse to the Cloyne Report has been to express “surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions” by the Irish government.

…Reactions to the Vatican covering up the rape and torture of children in order to protect its reputation. Yes, the Vatican is “disappointed” in the Irish government – like a father with his son – for getting so worked up over the atrocities it’s committed.



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Filed under Catholic Church, News, Religion

To those who supported same-sex marriage in New York…

Just look at what you have wrought! It’s awful – look at these sinners, these reprobates. Sixty examples of what is wrong with society.

…Or not.

Again I say, way to go New York!

It’s time we stopped tolerating the idea that people like the above are deserving of condemnation.



Filed under Government, Homosexuality, Marriage, News, Religion

Altered Consciousness

I just read Sam Harris’ post from a few weeks ago entitled Drugs and the Meaning of Life. Harris makes several good points regarding drugs and altered consciousness – it’s a good read. I’d just like to highlight how this topic ties in with scientific understanding of “religious experiences.”

Religious people will often claim to have subjective experience that corroborates their metaphysical claims. “I can feel God in my heart”, and all that. We know that altering the chemistry of the brain can cause people to have mystical or numinous experiences, feelings of having transcended normal consciousness or reality, and so on. Brain surgery can cause this, as well. Therefore, one cannot use these religious experiences as evidence that their religion actually is true, when they very well could be illusions caused by certain states of the brain.

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Filed under Psychology, Religion, Science

Some ideas for the Archibishop of Ireland’s apology

In a guest post over at Butterflies and Wheels, Patrick O’Malley has drafted two versions of an apology.

The second of these, while a bit over the top, is a good example of what true remorse and willingness to make amends would look like. We’ve never seen anything like this from the Catholic Church in all the iterations of the sexual abuse scandal. As a result, the first version of the apology looks a lot more accurate.


UPDATE: An official response by the Vatican to the Cloyne Report is still forthcoming, but already the excuse making has started. The Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, has issued a statement saying that the Church wasn’t contradicting Irish law in objecting to the mandatory reporting of allegations of child abuse to civil authorities. This is true – there was no law mandating this at the time. What the Church objected to, says Lombardi, was the idea that allegations should be reported. It is an idea that “contained aspects that were problematic from the point of view of compatibility with universal canon law.”

I suppose that under universal canon law it is illegal to protect children and see to it that criminal actions are investigated, when doing so would expose wrongdoing within the Church.


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On the “gift” of virginity

As I was doing research for my Sex is great, sex is good series, which defends premarital sex from slander by the religious, I came across a couple of arguments that demonstrated the immature, undeveloped relationship many Christians (and sexually restrictive religious people in general) have with sex.

One argument that I found in lots of different places is that it’s better to save sex for marriage so you don’t have to worry about comparisons with past partners. To quote from the first source above:

Premarital sex with other partners creates a variety of sexual experience. Some may see this as a plus but in real life it’s not. Your spouse may not do things the way a past lover did and then you have frustration and dissatisfaction. You have sexual memories that pop up at inopportune times. There can be jealousy over past relationships or fears over comparisons to past lovers.

Where to begin? First, if my partner is not satisfied by the sex we have, we have the kind of relationship where she will tell me, and I her. If one of us isn’t getting what we need sexually, we will talk about it and work on it just like we would any non-sexual problem that we have. “Frustration and dissatisfaction” in this scenario aren’t a result of having had past sexual partners; they’re a result of not being open and honest with the one you currently have.

The “jealousy” issue I’ll come back to in just a minute.

Another argument I’ve seen is that when you have sex with someone you aren’t going to marry, you are taking something that belongs to someone else. From the latter source:

Do you want your future spouse to wait for you? Then you should wait for your future spouse. Do you want the person who is currently dating your future spouse to take what rightfully belongs to you? Then you shouldn’t take what rightfully belongs to someone else.

And another relevant quote:

For many reasons, one of the greatest gifts a husband can ever give his wife, and a wife can ever give her husband, is his or her virgin body on their wedding night.

I imagine a lifetime of building sex up as this magical thing that must take place with only one person ever (nevermind the fact that people can get married multiple times) would cause a person to take this view. But when analyzed, this view begins to take on a sinister tone. Your virgin body is a gift, it belongs to me. It’s not enough that you’re giving yourself and your love to me now; true love requires you to never have given it to anyone else.

And thus we return to the subject of jealousy.

I have had the experience of being jealous of a girlfriend’s previous sexual partners. It’s one thing to rationally acknowledge that she has dated other people, but it becomes a much more visceral experience when you’ve actually met one of those people. For me it was a very unpleasant, disturbing feeling. “This guy has had sex with the girl I love!?”

It’s ironic that such a sentence has almost nothing to do with love.

I imagined what it must have been like for my girlfriend in her previous relationships. She’s dated other people, kissed other people, been in love with other people (as have I). The thrill and excitement of being with me is something she used to feel for other people. I do not expect her not to have had these experiences – these experiences of happiness, love, and yes… sexual pleasure with other people. I’m happy that she was happy then, and I’m glad that we’re happy with each other now.

It would be further unjustifiable to say, if my girlfriend and I were married, that she had given something away that should have been mine. What, exactly, have I lost? I’ve written before about some of the things that, to me, make sex wonderful: the love, the caring, the physical pleasure and the joy of giving that pleasure to someone else, the ability to bring one’s full mind and personality into the act.

We have all of that. We’ve loved others in the past, but that doesn’t change our ability to love each other now. If anything, we bring what we’ve learned in previous relationships into this one to make it better. That’s the kind of gift that really matters to me.

So all this pleasant-sounding language that Christians use to describe sex is really hiding an unpleasant and unrespectable philosophy. Honestly, it’s sad. It’s sad when social pressures force a person to impose this stupid, inhumane requirement on themselves, and they must later face the reality that other people are having sex before marriage and they’re not ashamed of it or harmed by it. It’s no wonder that Christians invent reasons to find harm in premarital sex, find ways to boost themselves up (“I’m saving myself for marriage!”), and find ways to describe their partners’ virginity in terms of something that is owed to them.

But we need to acknowledge this dissonance reduction for what it is – a way to feel better about a view of sex that makes people feel worse. And we need to be as outspoken as we can so that people know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Filed under Marriage, Relationships, Religion, Sex

The Catholic Church is still protecting criminals

The Catholic Church just does not care about people at all… unless those people are priests who are sexually abusing children.

The Irish government has just released a report showing that the Church in Ireland was covering up abuses by priests until as recently as 2009 – fourteen years after they promised to report all cases of abuse to civil authorities.

It never ends! These people are nothing more than criminals who will do anything they can to preserve their reputations and avoid punishment for the atrocities they’ve committed.

A group called Bishop Accountability, quoted in the article, gives a concise summary of the entire sex abuse scandal.

[The Cloyne Report is] disheartening confirmation that even today, despite the church’s knowledge of the profound anguish of thousands of victims, its reform policies are public relations ploys, not true child protection programs.

Exactly. In every incident, the Church has taken care to protect its reputation above all else, and avoided taking responsibility or showing true remorse for the horrible things its members have done.


Filed under Catholic Church, News, Religion

The importance of free speech

Johann Hari gives an excellent lecture defending free speech.

There are so many wonderful points made in this video. I’m just going to highlight two of my favorites:

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do.

Nothing worth saying is inoffensive to everyone. Nothing worth saying will fail to make you enemies. And nothing worth saying will not produce a confrontation.

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Filed under First Amendment, Free Speech, Government, Religion