Category: Religion

Forgetting History

George Christensen MP (for Mackay to Townsville, QLD), tweeted this:

 Wow. Ex @SenatorBobBrown sledges Aust’s top cleric at #NPC. The Church has done more good 4 humanity than Greens ever will.

According to George’s twitter stream, the top cleric referred to is George Pell.

After receiving some very minor, as far as the replies to the original tweet indicate go, criticism of his comment, George posted the following:

 The lefty church-hating #twitterwarriors would do less good in their collective lives than most nuns, priests or brothers.

Clearly, in George’s blind faith to the Catholic Church he is forgetting some key history of definitely not good, that the Catholic Church has been involved in – and I do question whether the past (and even the present) can even be forgiven with further good works.  Though he has tweeted (on 1 June) that not all Christians are actually Christian when referring to Pastors calling for the killing of those who are LGBTIQ:

 @equality4dawson There’s bad in every crowd inc Christians. Ultimately, its the song, not the singers, that matter.

But anyway, back to his comments, suggesting that those who have issues with the Catholic Church do less good in their communities than those who have joined religious orders, as well as the comment that the Catholic Church has done more good for humanity than the Greens ever will.

When you have an organisation that today says that the ordination of women is a sin equally bad as the rape of children by priests, when you have an organisation that calls those who are LGBTIQ “intrinsically disordered“, when you have an organisation that covers up the abuse of children (and the forgotten adults) by paying off priests, moving them between churches, hushing up the abuse, and treating the victims as if it were their own fault, when you have an organisation that tells people that condoms spread aids, when you have an organisation that excommunicates the mother of a 9 year old girl, and the doctor who performed the abortion, but not the father who had repeatedly raped his daughter, because abortion is a far greater sin, and when you have an organisation that believes and teaches that it is better for pregnant women to die than perform a life saving abortion, then you have an organisation that is not doing good for the world.

And that’s just now.  If we look at recent history, then we have the Catholic Church’s involvement in Australian politics with the DLP, and we have the Catholic Church and their involvement with the Stolen Generations in Australia.

In less recent history we have the Catholic Church and the witch trials, we have the Catholic Church and the Inquisition, we have the Catholic Church and the pillaging of South America, we have the Catholic Church and conversion by the sword.

I don’t have problems with people stating that the Catholic Church does good things, but I do have a problem when those people don’t acknowledge the big issues that have faced and are facing the Catholic Church.  There are indeed many wonderful things certain Catholics and certain Catholic organisations do, but there is still a lot of corruption, and a history and present that is liberally bloodied.

I definitely have a big problem with anyone claiming that the Catholic Church has more “good” than any other organisation in the world, especially given the atrocities previously and currently being performed in the name of the Church.  I cannot see how an organisation, one with it’s own country, one with a staggering asset base, one with an amazing number of adherents, still sees so many of their adherents in poverty, is not democratic (and not just the old men voting for other old men, but rather the people the policies affect voting for who is in charge), and seems so resistant to change that so many of its adherents desire.

So George, don’t claim that the Catholic Church has done more good for humanity than the Greens ever will, unless you can really back that claim up with some solid facts.  I don’t see how you’re going to manage that without looking like an apologist for an organisation that is still hiding its dirty laundry in the bottom of the cupboard.


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The right to die

Frank Brennan SJ, had a piece republished in ABC Religion this week, titled “The law of death: Reflections on the right to die“.  Unsurprisingly, Brennan is a Catholic theologian afterall, he came down against euthanasia, throwing around some alarmist, but un-cited references, and making appeals to higher powers.

What I find interesting is that the bible doesn’t really have a position on euthanasia, instead has many examples where family kill other family members for minor transgressions, or suggestions that said family members should kill other family members.

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The Pope is in Spain

Yes, this is likely to be another post trashing the Vatican and the institution of Catholicism.  If you have problems with this, I suggest you go and look a cute kittens or other baby animals of your choice and come back when I blog about something else.

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Gendering and exclusion all at once

I was catching up on Australian news today, now that I’ve returned from Malaysia, and stumbled across an article about the Freemasons in Sydney as their election of a new Grand Master.

The journalist thought that this was an appropriate comment to make:

Some may have looked like cardinals, while others sported more bling than a man really should.


Clearly, thinks whichever anonymous journalist for the AAP that wrote this article, there is an upper limit on how much jewellery a man can wear before his manliness should be called into account.  As men should never have their manliness called into account (they might be wearing enough jewellery to be mistaken for women!), they should be careful how much jewellery they wear.

I call bollocks.

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No, you’re wrong

James at Slutwalk
James (my husband) at Slutwalk. Photo taken by me

*Trigger warning for discussion of rape*

I was at slutwalk yesterday, and as I’d volunteered to be a marshall at the Melbourne event, apparently I was a “slut wrangler” – thanks The Age.  It was a fantastic event and the organisers did a great job liaising with the police and the city council regarding the march, getting great speakers and keeping everything together.  This post isn’t about the great signs, fantastic people, great speakers and the courage that everyone showed by marching or attending yesterday, no, this post is about the protesters to the march who just don’t get it.

As reported in The Age today:

Two lone Christian protesters holding signs saying ”Rape is horrifying but so is immodesty” and ”God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” were the only visible opponents.

There was perhaps a third protester on the steps of Treasury House at the top of Collins Street.  I heard that there was someone there with a sign that was very close to illegible due to the amount of text on it, who ended up being surrounded by people who were marching before the police took them away (the sign holder, not the marchers).  I have no idea what was on that sign, so I’ll leave my commenting to the ones reported in The Age.


Rape is horrifying but so is immodesty

So, apparently being immodest, is as bad as being raped.  I take it that the author of this sign hadn’t:

a) thought for more than 5 seconds;
b) been raped;
c) know anyone who has been raped (though if they do, they probably think that it was the victim’s fault); and/or
d) listened to the experience of someone who has been raped/sexually assaulted and asked why/how the rapist could do that.

The author of that sign also clearly missed the entire point of the march.  The fact is, that regardless of what women wear, rapists will rape.  I was (sadly) briefly friends with a woman at university who was raped at knifepoint when walking home from school one day.  She had her throat slit during and was incredibly lucky to survive.  She was wearing her school uniform and carrying her school bag – she was not dressed immodestly.  I was raped by my then boyfriend.  I was partially naked at the time, which I suppose is considered immodest, but given I was in a relationship with him, then again no – any more than I’d be immodest if I was raped today by a partner (which wouldn’t happen).

Before I started reading this post I thought I’d do a little bit of reading about modesty (on wikipedia of course), to make sure I understood what the protesters were talking about.  There are some very interesting quotes in the wikipedia article on modesty which I thought I’d share.

Modesty may be expressed in social interaction by communicating in a way exhibiting humility, shyness, or simplicity. The general elements of modesty include:

  • Downplaying one’s accomplishments;
  • Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency

Standards of modesty vary by culture, or generation and vary depending on who is exposed, which parts of the body are exposed, the duration of the exposure, the context, and other variables.

Proponents of modesty often see it as a demonstration of respect for their bodies, for social norms, and for the feelings of themselves and others. Some people believe modesty may reduce sexual crimes. Some critics assert that modesty reflects a negative body image, and there may be a correlation between repressive body attitudes and undesirable outcomes such as sexual crimes, violence, and stress.

Most discussion of modesty involves clothing. Issues of modesty and decency have arisen especially during the 20th century as a result of the increased popularity in many countries of shorter dresses and swimsuits and the consequential exposure of more of the body. This has been more pronounced in the case of female fashions. Most people consider the clothes that they are wearing to be modest. Otherwise, they would not wear the clothes. What is considered “modest” in this context will depend on the context when the clothes will be worn and can vary between religions, cultures, generations, occasions, and the persons who are present. [emphasis added]

Modesty is such a fluid concept, it changes year to year, and what is considered modest now, would be considered highly immodest 100 years or more ago.  The fact that modesty has different rules depending on which gender you present is also incredibly suckful and unfair, and good reasons for it to be ignored.  Immodesty is not as horrifying rape, I’d happily walk naked across the CBD of Melbourne, but I’d not happily be raped.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble

I’d just like to laugh at the irony of this statement.  Humility is nicely defined as:

Humility (adjectival form: humble) is the quality of being modest, reverential, even obsequiously submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-aggrandizing.

I’d like more Christians to be humble, and to not attempt to dictate to others what they should and should not do.

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Why do atheists focus on Christianity?

I was on the edge of a conversation the other day in which one person asked why atheists target Christianity specifically (there was more to the conversation, but this is the bit I want to focus on).  The answer is quite simple, well the answers, because there are several simple points, which I can easily address.

Yes, this post will focus on Australia, because that’s where I live and I can draw a bow to other English speaking, Western nations (such as the UK, Ireland, Canada, and the USA, because there are some ways in which we’re all similar).

The majority of Australians are Christian

Sadly, 64% of Australians identify at Christian (2006 census), and around 20% identifying with no religion.  So with that in mind, many people who are leaving a faith are more likely to be leaving Christianity than other religions – that’s just maths.  This also translates across to other English speaking, Western nations, where Christianity is the religion of the majority.

Christianity is a privileged religion in Australia

Christianity has it’s major religious feast days recognised as public holidays, having government funding delivered to private schools – mostly Christian, and the default assumption is that you are Christian (particularly if you are also white).  There are no social penalties for being Christian and in fact many people assume that everyone else knows about Christianity – which takes my to my next point.

Christianity is an accessible religion in Australia

If the majority of Australians are Christian, and the Special Religious Instruction/Education in schools is Christian, and the default assumption is that everyone is Christian, then Christianity is the easiest religion to critique – because it is all over the place, loudly claiming to be persecuted because some of the privilege formally given to Christianity is slowly being chipped away (fault free divorces, abortion rights for women, the demand that public education be religion free, etc), and because there are less Christian people about the place.  Also if many new non-believers are formally Christians, then it’s easiest to critique what you know.

Christianity is overwhelmingly white

Christianity is the default religion of the white-Anglo Australian.  If your circle of friends and acquaintances, and the blogs you read reflect the dominant voice, then your exposure to non-white atheism, and non-Christian focused atheism is going to be lessened.  That said, even non-white, non-formally-Christian atheists in Australia may write on Christianity because it is the majority religion in Australia and is easier to critique given its privilege and number of arsehats involved (who do stupid things in public).

So, it’s not that atheists particularly hate Christianity (except where Christianity attempts to enforce its religious strictures on our lives), but rather it’s the biggest target.  And not all atheists are former Christians, but many white atheists are.  If your circle of friends is limited, perhaps consider reading outside your sphere to find different stories and different points of view.


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Mr Kevin Donnelly is racist

I’ve struggled with calling Kevin Donnelly racist, versus what he wrote being racist – but given the repeated racism in his article at the ABC, I can only say that he is racist based on his beliefs.  I also thought about whether or not I should even give Donnelly airtime, but then decided that calling out his racist arsehattedness (yes, that is a word) was important – even though the commenters on the ABC piece did a great job of doing that anyway.  Michael Stuchbery‘s response piece is also fantastic, and had it not been for his response, I wouldn’t have seen the original article.

The article penned by Kevin Donnelly was first written in July 2010, and what we’re reading is a revised version – so clearly he stands by his racist comments and sees nothing wrong with them…. Unlike me.

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Wouldn’t it be nice if…

the ACL, now that Jim Wallace decided that tweeting bigotry was a great idea, vanished up it’s own arse, especially as the outrage on twitter and elsewhere has demonstrated that they do not have the wide support of Australia (Christian or otherwise) that they claim they do.

For those that missed it, Wallace tweeted (on ANZAC day no less) that:

Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!

He later retracted his statement saying:

OK you are right my apologies this was the wrong context to raise these issues. ANZACs mean too much to me to demean this day, not intended

Note the lack of apologies to the LBGTIQ and Muslim communities… no instead we get a, “Oops, I shouldn’t have said this today of all days, I’ll come out and say this again at some other time and not feel even remotely guilty for erasing LGBTIQ service men and woman, and Muslim service men and women… oh and I’m totes justified in hating all of them because the bible says so.”

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The Catholic Mass

Now I’m a long, long, long time ex-Catholic (ok, probably not that long, but long enough), I don’t hold a torch for Catholicism (you might have noticed with my posts about the place focusing on The Pope), but I still have family involved in the Church, and spent some very happy times there (going LALALALA about certain aspects).  I enjoyed the Mass as it was, the rituals were comforting and familiar, and I liked the ideals (that I understood) of Vatican 2 – the inclusiveness of the actual Church goers (you know, the people that fund the Church for the most part) in the rituals. (An aside, I learnt more about the whys and wherefores of Vatican 2 from Brides of Christ than I ever did during 12 years of Catholic education)

Anyway… I read with some dismay the changes to the Catholic Mass that are the beginning of an attempt to roll-back the progressiveness of Vatican 2 (how this works with the infallibility of Popes I have no idea).  The Age had a useful explanatory article (warning picture of Pope Benedict – I mean Emperor Palpatine) detailing some of the changes to the Mass wordings.  I don’t know about other people, but I struggle to remember changes to texts when they’re suddenly changed, particularly if I’m not happy about the changes.

So, the Catholic Church has decided that rolling-back Vatican 2 is a good idea because… well politics and power and removing power from the individual churches and concentrating it higher up.  It’s always annoyed me that such a large institution, one that claims it serves the faithful, is such an undemocratic organisation.  Surely those that fund it and use it, should have a say in how the organisation runs.  It’s not like democracy is a new thing, but I suppose that dictatorships are even older.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)

So off you go Mr Pope, and Mr Cardinal, and Mr Bishop, and Mr Priest.  Go and wash the feet of your faithful, the feet of those who provide the church with money to fuction and provide charity to others.  Go and ask what they want, and stop imposing things from on-high as if you are the only men in the world who have a direct line to God (if ou exists).

British commentator William Oddie trumpeted in the conservative Catholic Herald last month that the liturgy battle is over but for a bit of mopping up, and ”the good guys won”.

”The new translation is wholly successful, and if we had been using it from day one, thousands of people repelled by the banality of the translation now being superseded would still be regular worshippers rather than lapsed Catholics. I really believe it’s as important as that.”

But it takes a particularly fervent advocate to suggest, as William Oddie does, that a liturgy-led revival will reverse declining church attendance.

Bob Dixon, head of the Australian church’s Pastoral Research Office, regards the idea as ”absolute fantasy. When we asked people why they stopped going to church, almost nobody said it was because the church has lost its sense of reverence by using modern English. They said they stopped because they can’t find relevance, they can’t see a connection between the church’s agenda and their own agenda, they disagree with certain church teachings.”

DIXON has two concerns. Nearly a third of Australian church-goers come from non-English-speaking backgrounds , so will a more elevated, less idiomatic liturgy create language hurdles for them? Second, will some of those disenchanted with the church over sexual abuse by clergy say, ”you have this crisis and you are just fiddling with the language”, and leave?

Seriously, people don’t leave a Church or a faith because they think that the language used in the liturgy is “banal”.  I’m with Dixon who suggests that perhaps there are far more important reasons than boring language behind people leaving Catholicism.  Perhaps the priests, the bishops, the cardinals and the pope need to sit down and listen to people who have left or who are going to leave – and decide what is really in the Church’s best interests versus the power-hungry grabbing that is going on now – just saying.


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How to radicalise your population

I’ve read with… well not exactly dismay because it is part of the whole USA falling into a chasm… more resignation, the stories recently of the US Congress setting up a body to probe US Muslims, of US taxes going towards law enforcement bodies to “educate” them about Islam and instead failing to do so, and about Tennessee wanting to ban Sharia.

[ok I now have a fever and am sick, so if this post doesn’t make all the sense that I intend, apologies]

The stories above are just the Government actions taken against US Muslims.  They do not detail in any way the daily prejudice, discrimination and bigotry faced by Muslims in the US.  Islamaphobia is in full swing.

From where I’m sitting (sick and fuzzy headed), the Islamaphobia in the US (yes, I know it exists in Australia too, and is equally problematic) can lead to some very bad outcomes.  The estimated number of Muslims in the US is around 2.3% of the US population (Australia’s Muslim population is 1.71% of the overall population).  There just are not enough Muslims in the US (or Australia) to rise up and protest against the oppression they’re suffering (unlike the peoples in many Middle Eastern nations currently – which has nothing to do with Islam and all to do with oppression, lack of opportunities, etc).  The research on stereotype threat also suggests that Muslims may feel that they have to conform to the predominant sterotype held of them, which doesn’t do anyone any favours.

If we look back at history, we can see many many examples of groups that have been vilified and terrible results (clearly we are very bad at learning from history and are doomed to repeat it).  The news media played a large part in the Rwandan Genocide.

According to recent commentators, the news media played a crucial role in the genocide; local print and radio media fueled the killings while the international media either ignored or seriously misconstrued events on the ground.[14] The print media in Rwanda is believed to have started hate speech against Tutsis, which was later continued by radio stations. According to commentators, anti-Tutsi hate speech “…became so systemic as to seem the norm.”

From late October 1993, the RTLM repeatedly broadcast themes developed by the extremist written press, underlining the inherent differences between Hutu and Tutsi, the foreign origin of Tutsi, the disproportionate share of Tutsi wealth and power, and the horrors of past Tutsi rule. The RTLM also repeatedly stressed the need to be alert to Tutsi plots and possible attacks. It warned Hutu to prepare to “defend” themselves against the Tutsi. (Source: Wikipedia – link above)

Sound familiar?

We can also look at the internment of Japanese people (definitions on who was Japanese or not was interestingly broad) in the US during World War 2.

Many concerns over the loyalty of ethnic Japanese seemed to stem from racial prejudice rather than evidence of actual malfeasance. Major Karl Bendetsen and Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Command, each questioned Japanese American loyalty. DeWitt, who administered the internment program, repeatedly told newspapers that “A Jap’s a Jap” and testified to Congress,

I don’t want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty… It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty… But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.

Internment was popular among many white farmers who resented the Japanese-American farmers. “White American farmers admitted that their self-interest required removal of the Japanese.” These individuals saw internment as a convenient means of uprooting their Japanese American competitors. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942:

“We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It’s a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over… If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we’d never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either.”

The Roberts Commission Report, prepared at President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request, has been cited as an example of the fear and prejudice informing the thinking behind the internment program. The Report sought to link Japanese Americans with espionage activity, and to associate them with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Columnist Henry McLemore reflected growing public sentiment fueled by this report:

“I am for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don’t mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd ’em up, pack ’em off and give ’em the inside room in the badlands… Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them.”

Other California newspapers also embraced this view. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial,

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched… So, a Japanese American born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere… notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, and not an American… Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion… that such treatment… should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with their race.” (Source: Wikipedia article linked above)

Again, the same sort of language is used to vilify a group, which then results in investigation and restriction of that group’s ability to participate in society.  I worry that the Muslims in the West (particularly in the US and Australia) are going to be increasingly targeted and that is going to end up being really bad.  I don’t really have a solution, just fears that the situation is going to get worse, but I hope I can stand up against Islamaphobia whenever I encounter it.

Propagating this fear runs the risk of radicalising the general population against those who follow Islam, and that crimes against Muslims may not be reported or may not be fully investigated by the authorities.  Discrimination and prejudice will continue to rise, people may feel obliged to recant their faith in order to face less bigotry, to hide their culture and act white, to remove their sense of self to find some safety.  This sucks.

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