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Pope On The Ropes
I'm often amazed that people go to houses of worship and pledge their allegiance (and time and money) to a ruler they have no evidence exists. The primitive childishness of making wishes to god is stunning and weird, especially in the 21st century. And yes, loads of people do it, but that doesn’t mean it makes the slightest bit of sense. More on that from Daniel Dennett tomorrow (notes from my attendance at the 2006 Human Behavior & Evolution Society conference at Penn).

I'm particularly amazed by the people who insist god wants them to be rich. God wants this, god wants that. How the fuck does anybody know what god wants? They don't -- they make it up; whatever best serves their needs: "God wants me to eat off 24k solid gold silverware in my million-dollar yacht!" “God wants me to murder everyone who doesn’t think like I do!” How come god never wants you to think rationally and act globally, and maybe even mind your own business instead of peering into your gay neighbors' windows?

Of course, this week’s Back-To-The-Middle-Ages moment was brought to us courtesy of the gay-hating, contraceptive-denying, AIDs-promoting, ex-Hitler-youth Pope -- in conjunction with that “religion of peace,” Islam. I know, I know, there are peaceful Muslims. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be doing shit to stop all the unpeaceful Muslims.

Where does this leave the rest of us? Stuck in a real-life game show: Battle Of The Primitive Thinkers! Or do you prefer Families Feudal? Or The Amazing Race -- except with chemical weapons and 16-year-old girls wearing belly bombs?

Now, it isn't often I cheer the head propagandist of the biggest pro-irrationality organization in the world, but it's nice that the naked emperor pointed out the nudity down the block -- the violent kind.

In the speech in Germany, the Pope referred to criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus.

The emperor said everything Mohammad brought was evil "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

Sam Harris writes about the Pope's his Prada-clad foot in his speech:

The world is still talking about the pope’s recent speech—a speech so boring, convoluted and oblique to the real concerns of humanity that it could well have been intended as a weapon of war.

...While the pope succeeded in enraging millions of Muslims, the main purpose of his speech was to chastise scientists and secularists for being, well, too reasonable. It seems that nonbelievers still (perversely) demand too much empirical evidence and logical support for their worldview. Believing that he was cutting to the quick of the human dilemma, the pope reminded an expectant world that science cannot pull itself up by its own bootstraps: It cannot, for instance, explain why the universe is comprehensible at all. It turns out that this is a job for… (wait for it) … Christianity.

Best of all, the Pope only sorta apologized -- apologizing only for making the Islamicists angry. Yet, other religions -- Christianity, especially -- haven't exactly been a walk in the park, either. Remember the Inquisition, anyone? The Crusades? The people who hate gays and lesbians and call them sinners (when they aren't beating them up and murdering them)? Oh yeah, that doesn't take much remembering, does it?

But Islam is the only current religion that advocates violence. Not all Muslims are violent, no, but far too many of them are. By the way, my recent favorite quote was that of the Pakistani foreign minister, Tasnim Aslam, whose Daily Show-ready response to Pope’s remarks was:

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence."

Well, what a surprise:

West Bank churches attacked

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Jabi Saadeh, a member of the Anglican Church in the city, said about four or five masked men in a white car threw several fire bombs at the wall of the church, without causing damage.

A similar attack on a Greek Orthodox church in Nablus set ablaze one of its walls, leaving part of it charred. George Awad, head of the Greek Orthodox church, denounced what he called “a childish act.”
In a phone call to The Associated Press, a group calling itself the “Lions of Monotheism” claimed responsibility. The caller said the attacks were meant as a protest against the pope’s remarks about Islam.

Relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians are generally peaceful, and clergy played down the attacks as isolated incidents.

But they said they’d worry if more Christian sites are targeted. On Friday, two small explosions went off near a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza, causing minor damage.

Yes, to show us all what a religion of peace it is, why not kill a nun in revenge?!

… an Italian Catholic nun was shot dead in a children's hospital in Mogadishu. A senior Somalian Islamist said: "There is a very high possibility the people who killed her were angered by the Catholic Pope's recent comments against Islam."

The nun, in her mid-sixties, identified as Sister Leonella Sgorbati, was shot dead with her bodyguard by two gunmen at the hospital for mothers and children in northern Mogadishu.

The bodyguard died instantly, but the nun, from the Missionaries of the Consolation order based in Nepi near Rome, was rushed into an operating theatre after being hit by three or four bullets in the chest, stomach and back.

"She died in the hospital treatment room," a doctor, Ali Mohamed Hassan, said. "She was shot outside the hospital, going to her house just across the gate."

Islamic security chiefs said two people had been arrested over the shootings.

Was she killed because the Pope spoke out against the irrationality down the block? We don't know yet for sure. But Theo Van Gogh was, and so many others were. And think of all of those -- like Salman Rushdie -- who've been visited with death sentences simply for their words. What kind of religion is Islam if so many of its members respond to mere criticism with slaughter?

In a civilized society, that kind of behavior has no place. If Muslims wish to live in free democratic societies, perhaps they should play by the "When in Rome..." rule, and restrict the violence, hatred, murder, persecution (excerpt below), and abuse to their own societies:

The kidnapping of Christian girls by Muslim Arabs and Kurds in Iraq in the last few years -- and the suicide of at least one Assyrian girl following rape by her Kurdish master -- is a subject that can be found discussed at Assyrian websites. None of this has been reported in the Western press.

This is not strange. The world press simply has not bothered to study Islam; as a consequence, it usually ends up offering “mere” reportage which does not delve, does not comprehend, and repeats the latest Arab or Muslim propaganda and shuns matter which might call into question the Muslim-friendly view of things.

Take, for example, the coverage of the “Palestinian” conflict with Israel --­ that is to say, the Arab Jihad against Israel, where the local Arabs renamed themselves post-1967 the “Palestinian people,” and with a little help from Edward Said and a cast of thousands made everyone forget that 1) Jews in Israel came from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Iran, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, where for more than a millennium and a half they were cruelly mistreated as dhimmis (and in some places, such as Yemen, as chattel slaves) and not only from Europe.

Here's Dhimmi Watch:

Dhimmitude is the status that Islamic law, the Sharia, mandates for non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians. Dhimmis, "protected people," are free to practice their religion in a Sharia regime, but are made subject to a number of humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Qur'an's command that they "feel themselves subdued" (Sura 9:29). This denial of equality of rights and dignity remains part of the Sharia, and, as such, is part of the law that global jihadists are laboring to impose everywhere, ultimately on the entire human race.

Modernity and civilization anyone?

Posted by aalkon at September 18, 2006 11:17 AM

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If you are somehow postulating that you will be able to defeat the Islamists while continuing your crusade against 'other' Religions, I fear you are going to be very badly disappointed.

Who frankly gives a rats a** what the Catholic Church did in 1500? I surely don't, and I don't think it is EQUIVALENT to what a collection of fanatics are doing as we speak . There is a difference of 500 years here. In this case, one type of belief has 'moved' and 'progressed' and one has not.

It is the 'religious' types who are currently most opposed to the demands of the Islamists. I don't see your oh so progressive secular pals out there marching against the neo-barbarians of the Islamic Ummah. Did I miss that? Was it a sub-section of some clueless anti-Bush protest ?

"Of course, this week’s Back-To-The-Middle-Ages moment was brought to us courtesy of the gay-hating, contraceptive-denying, AIDs-promoting, ex-Hitler-youth Pope -- in conjunction with that “religion of peace,” Islam.

This particular comment was simply a triumph of cuteness and demagoguery over reason,and the Hitler Youth crack was pathetic. I hope it was beneath you, but I don't know you nearly well enough to say that definitively.

Perhaps you could drop the 'tude' for a short while to remember the wisdom in that adage that has always meant so much to the history of the world. You know the one that goes---

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

There is US and there is THEM. One of these groupings IS truly medieval. One of these USED to be. It is important not to shoot up those standing on the same line for no apparent reason other than a vain intellectual conceit. If you can't tell the difference between a man who will sit you down and try to overpower you with 'words' and 'theory',and one who will simply overpower you and remove your offending unbeliever's head, perhaps you need to get out more.

Just saying---

ps--- Just FYI. Religious I am not. Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. And that includes the cult of anti-religion. Not a member of that either.

Posted by: dougf at September 18, 2006 7:55 AM

Well goddess your post inspired me again.
I shall favor you with my little op-ed.
I shall then pitch it to the timorous times and the like, but we already know what the answer will be. I'dbe happy to get in Hustler
they have more readership than the times don't they?
Chris Volkay

Bigfoot, Pluto and ?

First, the Bigfoot disappeared. The family of the
gentleman that perpetrated the hoax came forward after his
death. No Bigfoot, just a big galumpy guy running around in
a extra-large fuzzy suit. Who knew!

Recently, scientists took a vote and decided that poor,
enfeebled, little Pluto, who always had trouble taking care
of itself in the school yard, was going to be victimized
once again and demoted to the status of non-planet. Sort of
like a non-person.

It gets one to thinking. Don’t these things seem to always
come in threes? Like celebrity deaths. First one, then two
celebrities die, and then the death watch goes up all across
the nation waiting for the trifecta to be completed. Who
will it be? Tune in to “EXTRA.”

As we wait for the third shoe to drop in the Bigfoot,
Pluto evisceration lineage, I’m offering one up now. Gee
there are so many to choose from, believe me, it was one of
the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make.

Why don’t we pick the biggest one? Sure, some people
believed in Bigfoot and most in Pluto, but what is the one
that is the most universal, the most powerful, the most
consequential, and conversely, the most patently false?

Now hear me out, just hear me out before you torch the
torches and sharpen the pitchforks. I was going to say
werewolves, because really, there isn’t much evidence for
their existence either, but you know what, it doesn’t pass
the test of being consequential enough. Hmm, what could
complete the trio?

How about the gods? Not ours, but the other guys. We all
know that his gods are false. Just made up fantasies and
delusions about this and that. Rivers of this and virgins
of that and, oh please, come on. And look at all the damage
they do. Believing in afterlife and rewards, they can and
will do anything. And the Hindus and Buddhists with their
reincarnation. Oh come on.

While I’m sporting this most modest of all proposals, just
think of the ramifications. Think of the incalculable lives
we would save. If we could eliminate the religious insanity,
what person would drive a plane into a building, or blow
themselves up in a pizza parlor? We could eliminate so much
hatred, so much division, so much rage. Instead of dividing
people into soldiers, we could turn them into citizens,
human beings.

They would have to give up their notions of reincarnation
and the like, but think of the benefits. People actually
living here and now, in this life. Think how much stronger
they would be. Instead of simply existing until death
mercifully whisked them away from this veil of crocodile
tears, they would be forced to actually seize the reins of
their lives and make the best they could with them right
here and now.

Revolutionary! Yes, yes I like this idea better than the
werewolf. Besides there is so much more evidence for the
existence of werewolves than for that of these imagined gods
of the other guys. I mean come on, aren’t their gods just
there own fantasy creations to help them weather the storms
of a short, nasty and brutal life? All thinking people know
it’s true.

Oh but wait. Wait a sec. There’s another test, measuring
stick, that needs to be brought into the mix here. Damn.
We’ve got to include diversity, fairness, equality, if we
are to call ourselves truly fair, American. that
end we’re going to have to put our own god on the pyre along
with the others. I mean, we can’t possibly ask them to
abandon their phony gods unless we are ready to relegate our
own god to the round file as well. Painful as it is, it is
something that simply must be done. After all, they would
immediately point out that our god is just as, well how does
one put this prudently, whimsical as theirs.

There you have it. Bigfoot, darling little Pluto and god,
all gods. If this is how the current spate of debunking
plays out it would be a consummation devoutly to be wished,
as humanity, for the first time in it’s history, would
finally be on the path to maturity.

Posted by: everybody hates chris at September 18, 2006 9:41 AM

Dougf, those fundie Christians may have "progressed" from those wacky ol' Crusader/Inquisition days, but scratch the surface and there's enough barking dogma inside for everyone. To wit:

Left Behind Video Games

Pat Robertson

(too many incredible blundering comments to list here, but they do include calling for Hugo Chavez's assassination -

Abortion clinic bombers/bomb threats

Killing of Matthew Shepard, among other gay bashing incidents


Not all of those latter two are done in the name of Jeebus or God, but those doing them more often than not like to claim they are divinely instructed.

It has been expedient in recent decades to suppress group fundamentalism among Christians. It is not perceived to be expedient any more, and so these things are coming out of the closet (so to speak) again.

Are there differences between Christian and Muslim true believers? Yes. Are there similarities? Yes. The common thread? Fundamentalism. (And I'm waving at the rabid Orthodox Israelis, too.)

That's what needs to be fought, and rallied against -- no matter who's making the speeches.

Posted by: Kitt at September 18, 2006 10:09 AM

Dougf, those fundie Christians may have "progressed" from those wacky ol' Crusader/Inquisition days...--Kitt

Not going to defend anything that Pat Robertson says. He's a fruitcake. And yes I agree that fundamentalism(or rather the impulse to demand conformance to YOUR thoughts) is a PROBLEM, but the current Pope is NOT,IMO. I don't agree with everything he says but I respect his intellect, and my critique of this post still stands, The Hitler Youth thingee was childish, offensive and most importantly WRONG in its implications. It showed poor 'tactical' judgement.

I also frankly don't give that rat's ass about Robertson et al., at the moment. He is a brush fire smoldering somewhere on the back 40. There is no real tinder around and there is plenty of time to deal with the problem later if required. I don't care what he says. As long as he does not advocate death to infidels and un-believers(not just saying they should die because they are 'immoral', but actively demanding that state of affairs) --- I just don't care.

ps - the Chavez thing was typical Pat. Stupid to say and even more stupid to say out loud. But just between you and me, I would not be exactly crying big tears, if Hugo fell down a mine-shaft. Can't abide the little demagogue.

pps-- I am not exactly sure how to classify the 'Crusades'. I know. I will use a word that will fit right in here ---- I am agnostic on this issue. Once one separates the 'how ' of these efforts from the 'why', I am not at all certain that they were not essentially defensive in nature,and therefore more than justifiable in the politics of the era.

But frankly that was then and this is now. Or at least it is for me. And that brings us back to why Islam is the REAL PROBLEM for everyone who is not Islamic. And back to the gist and intention of my comment in the first place.

Posted by: dougf at September 18, 2006 10:53 AM

Having lived in the small-town South, I can tell you that there is quite a bit of violence and intimidation in store for anyone who publically criticizes Christianity in areas that aren't so diverse as our big cities.

It's still no comparison with Islamic terror, and doesn't usually lead to actual murder, but certainly enough to induce sarcastic "Religion of Love" remarks.

Posted by: LYT at September 18, 2006 12:57 PM

Christians killed Matthew Sheppard? I thought it was some neanderthals of no known religious affilation. Did they say they were killing a "fag" for Jesus?

Posted by: Juliette at September 18, 2006 3:49 PM

> that includes the cult of anti-religion.

At last, a brother in moderation!

I don't understand why everyone's expected to be tolerant of gays, but no one's expected to accomodate religious belief. There are a lot more believers in the world than gays... It seems a much deeper part of the human condition.

> Christians killed Matthew Sheppard?

Last I heard, it was mostly about a drug deal gone wrong. Sheppard had lived in Europe for two years, traveled widely, and enjoyed the things you'd have expected him to enjoy. He sounds too sophisticated to have gotten in trouble with hillbillies in a bar.

Posted by: Crid at September 18, 2006 8:34 PM

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