Satanic Viagra

Reports on religion become stranger by the day. A recent report in the Telegraph made me question if editors had given up on journalists altogether. How else would the following subhead have slipped into publication:

‘Pope Francis’ effect credited with rising demand for exorcisms around the world.

Excuse me? Credited? That’s like saying Jihadists are to be credited for 9/11! The whole article reads like an episode from The Twilight Zone:

States Father Cesare Truqui, chief Exorcist in Chur, Switzerland:

“Pope Francis talks about the Devil all the time and has certainly raised awareness about exorcism. But all Latin Americans have this sensibility – for them, the existence of the Devil is part of their faith.”

Truqui uses a rather broad brush here, as I’m sure that not all Latin Americans are as batshit crazy as this idiot. But he does point to a real problem: in order to shore up their dwindling numbers, the catholic church is ratcheting up a fictitious threat to scare people into staying. They obviously don’t give a damn that full-on bronze-age superstition will scare borderline psychopaths into hurting or killing others – the end justifies the menace, so to speak. After all, it is quite damning (ha, ha) evidence that satanic possession is a phenomenon that only afflicts Christians.

But what bewilders me most is how priests can state the most outrageous stupidities without reporters calling them on it. In the interview, Chief Exorcist Truqui states that

I once treated […] a man who was obsessed with masturbating – he did it every day, many times

Seriously? So when you are able to jerk off multiple times a day you are now possessed by the Devil? Hey, I wish I could do that. Exorcise your libido? Did someone perhaps confuse that word with exercise and called the wrong professional? Only the uptight, sexually dysfunctional church could find something wrong with that. Listen, you idiots, don’t you know that Pfizer has a major product line to give clients what you think is the Devil’s work? Are you really that retarded?  

It gets worse. Claiming he can discern the difference between medically ill people and those truly possessed by the Devil, exorcist Truqui enthuses

There are some classic signs – people who speak in ancient tongues, for instance. Other people have supernatural strength when they are in a state of possession[…]. In some cases, people are able to levitate.

Note that Truquil carefully avoids an outright lie here – he doesn’t say that he’s ever witnessed such an event, just what would be indicative of a possesion. No reliable evidence of levitation, spontaneous language abilities, or truly superhuman strength has ever been recoded, and Truquil knows that. He just spouts these idiocies for the simple minded believers to sell his snake oil.

It’s not as if he doesn’t know it:

“A considerable number of the cases referred to us are in fact psychiatric cases”

Another narrowly avoided lie: they all are.

Pope Dumbass

Many catholics are proud of their pope. Catholicism, they say, has come a long way – from the days when the catholic church ruled in Europe – a period we today justly call the Dark Age – to today. They say that the despotic, terrible organization of blind faith has turned into a kind, loving brotherhood of moderate belief. And when pope Francis stepped up to replace Benedict (who, somewhat disaffectionately, was also known as Gods’ Rottweiler), people thought that finally kinder heads had prevailed.

In the wake of the Charlie Habdo massacre, though, Pope Francis showed that hopes for a better, more humane catholic church are premature. Instead of flat-out denouncing violence as an answer to words, God’s representative on Earth told the world that in his view, violence is a viable response to verbal provocation.

As the AP reports Pope Francis stated:

If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. […]

There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others. They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.

This is from the guy who runs the organization that used to burn people at the stake, broke them on the rack, or incarcerated them for disagreeing with their faith, let alone ridiculing it. Ask Galileo Galilei how much fun it is to be found guilty of disagreeing with false beliefs (Galileo proved that the earth moves around the sun, and for his discovery was sentenced to life imprisonment by Popes Paul V and Urban VIII). What an ass.

Being a learned man, Francis wouldn’t think twice about ridiculing the Flat-Earth Society. Yet it is a fact that there is more evidence for a flat earth than there is for gods. It’s therefore more likely to be true than religion – but Francis in all honesty wants to force us to treat with dignity an idea that is more ridiculous than a flat earth?

We must be able to ridicule any idea; stupid ideas deserve to be ridiculed. We should ridicule those who, for example, believe that the white race is somehow superior, or that women exist to serve men. Why is the idea that you must worship an invisible being that controls lightning and earthquakes any different? Special pleading for religious ideas has no merit, and is merely a result of undeserved entitlement. If the idea of a particular religion stands on its own, those who ridicule will eventually be proven wrong, and in due course become the object of ridicule themselves. If they don’t – well…

Pope Francis’ mentality of ‘criticize anything except religion’ is dangerously wrong and an unwelcome reminder of the Dark Ages, where narrow-minded bigots killed their critics with impunity.

Devil’s Due

The Roman Catholic Church in Grisons allegedly employs eleven professional exorcists, even though that Swiss Canton has a population of less than 200’000. Now, the Swiss are renown for their perfectionism, but that number is a bit extreme. By comparison, London would have to employ 450 exorcists to provide the same level of service. As far as I know, they don’t have any (at least not since ‘Reverend’ Andrew Arbuthnott was defrocked after a sexual assault disguised as ‘exorcism’). Is London in danger of falling to the Devil soon, or is Satan merely fond of the Alps? Or is perhaps a much more mundane reason at the bottom of this?

Christoph Casetti, chief exorcists in Chur, states that demand for his services is high (if not high-as-a-kite). One of the reasons is that in 1976 german priests managed to kill their victim during an exorcism. This alerted the german authorities to this medieval insanity, and promptly banned all exorcisms.

To the swiss Catholic Church, being what it is, this was a financial windfall: it allowed them to grow their offices in Grisons to eleven Exorcists after picking up customers from Germany. So what drives their business?

According to Gabriele Amort, president of the international association of exorcists (no kidding, they really do exist), the root cause for the increased sway the Devil has over our pathetic lives are Rock Music (of course), reading Harry Potter (of course), and Yoga.

Wait. Yoga?

I’m constantly amazed by these priests’ ability to keep a straight face while telling outlandish stories to grow their business.

Damn are they good!

Titans of Theology

Pope Francis recently got his knickers in a twist over the fact that Tycoon Richard “Virgin” Branson (the “virgin” part refers to his company, definitely not a biblical character, nor his procreational status) pays very little taxes.

The Telegraph rightly deconstructed Francis’ outburst. Strangely enough, though, the Telegraph’s Allister Heath needlessly employs some subtle sophistry himself:

There can be no doubt that Pope Francis is a devoted and selfless man […]. A phenomenal theologian, he abhors war and poverty and is an inspiration to hundreds of millions of believers.

There are two items remarkable with above quote:

  • I’m sure it’s meant as a compliment, but complimenting someone on being a phenomenal theologian is very much like calling someone a phenomenal astrologer or alchemist. Theology is no science. When each and every argument can be ended with ‘because God wants it so’ and every contradiction can be resolved ‘because god is mysterious’, there simply is no space for rational, scientific discourse. Plus, someone like Francis pretty much presupposes the conclusion that the Christian God exists, making even that discussion a moot point. If your discussions only revolve around magical beings someone has written about, you might as well discuss who will win: Starship Enterprise or a Star Destroyer. And even I found that somewhat silly back when I went to school.
  • Heath makes it sound as if Francis’ dislike for poverty and war is a result of his being a theologian. Unlike the Pope’s grasp of finance, his dislike of war and poverty is in spite of being a theologian. 

Francis’ attack on capitalism was not only stupid, it was entirely misguided. Unlike Heath, who ignores the elephant in the room, I’d like to point out that rather salient fact: Francis is outraged that Branson doesn’t pay taxes. Yet the Pope ignores the fact that his church is not only exempt from paying taxes in most countries – it receives significant amounts of tax payer’s money in those countries.

Only titans of theology can expect to get away with so much hypocrisy.

Because it is expected of them.

The importance of keeping a straight face

On Sunday, the Catholic church will make saints out of two former priests, one of them the late pope John Paul II.

As an atheist, I have nothing against this. It’s their club, their rules, and their show. But parts of their rules do look silly. To become a saint, you have to have worked two (not one, no, two) miracles. That’s about as reasonable as anything else when you believe in the supernatural. So now two miracles have been ‘confirmed’. I looked at all the recent miracles that were confirmed and then used to have someone accepted into the club of saints. They all have something in common: they’re not miracles. All – every one of them – are mere remissions of illnesses that are, gosh, known for their tendency to suddenly go into remission. If someone regrew a limb, that would be a miracle (at least until modern medicine can offer that as a therapy). Still, that’s OK. As I said: their club, their rules. But what’s with all the officious looking, important men staring intensely into TV cameras? I mean – come on! – you all know it’s a sham. Can’t you at least wink and have some fun?

As I said before – the true miracle here is that everyone manages to keep a straight face.

Experience vs. Learnings

In an interview, Swiss National Councilwoman Barbara Schmid-Federer commented on her religious views:

As a child I experienced first hand what it means to be a member of the catholic minority in the reformed city of Zürich. That is why today I’m committed to supporting religious minorities. [translation: cf]

Aww, too bad. So close, but still a miss. Barbara did experience religious discrimination, but didn’t learn anything from it. Minorities of all kinds need support, no doubt. Yet, the reason for her past discrimination wasn’t the fact that she belonged to a religious minority – it was religion itself. Had she learned from her experience, she wouldn’t fight the symptoms. She’d fight the cause: religious indoctrination and intolerance.

Bishop: pregnancy after marriage now compulsory

It’s not easy being a priest. After having lost his bid to becoming last year’s most disturbed catholic priest to raging lunatic Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Twin Cities, Chur Bishop Vitus Huonder is off to a good start to win the fool’s crown this year. His new idea: Marriage by church makes becoming pregnant compulsory. At least that’s his plan.

As with all things sex (at least consenting), the good bishop has no experience, and a lot of trouble thinking it though. Obviously, couples must not have had sex before they marry (well, the woman at least – Deuteronomy 22: 20-21), so it makes little sense to check for pregnancy beforehand. But I’d really love to see how the Bishop tries to enforce pregnancy after marriage. After all, he can’t really threaten to divorce the couple (Luke 16:18) if no offspring is forthcoming (uh, uneasy pun there). And if you are clinically unable to procreate – well, God loves you, I guess, but this cleric will not marry you.

All this silly talk reveals the real hare-brained thought that begot (ha ha) this terribly stupid idea: homosexuals can’t procreate (at least the males), and that way this homophobic idiot thought he could get his way after failing spectacularly with his homily against ‘Genderism’ a couple of weeks ago.

Homophobic Homilies against Human Rights

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day. In other words, another perfect opportunity for the Catholic Church to publicly disgrace itself, this time with yet another homophobic homily.

Chur Bishop Vitus Huonders published (warning: in german) his official letter for Human Rights Day. In it, he denounces what he calls ‘Genderism’ – his thinly veiled ersatz for homosexuality. True to christian form, he calls homosexual behavior immoral, and demands that gay people must not marry nor be allowed to adopt children. He complains that the rights these gays ‘allegedly’ have would corrupt our impressionable young, and will invariably lead to the downfall of civilization. In short, he went full-on Goebbels. Denying essential rights on International Human Rights day is an interesting way to assert moral superiority.

In a somewhat confused middle segment Huonders also seems to cite scientific ‘evidence’ that homosexuality isn’t natural. Since he is a scientific ignoramus (a.k.a. ‘deeply religious’), we can forgive him that stupidity, although I fear the irony of that is lost on this cleric.

Another Bishop, another Stupidity

In the tranquil valley of Erschmatt in Switzerland, a storm is brewing. The predominantly christian community has to deal with a shocking development that threatens the very fabric of their existence.

What has happened? In Switzerland religion is a subject that is taught in all schools. Presumably, the curriculum contains information about the world’s major religions. Edith Inderkummen, a catholic, has a degree in religious pedagogy from the University of Lucern, and was teaching religion and ethics at a local state school. Then she decided to convert to judaism. She was fired for this (warning: article in german).

The Bishop of Sitten revoked her license. He seems to believe that someone who has a degree in ethics and religion is unfit for teaching after committing the vile act of converting to a different religion.

This opens a couple of questions:

  • What exactly is taught in these religion classes? More importantly: what does the Bishop think is taught in these classes? Information about religions, or catholic indoctrination?
  • Officially the stance is that only someone who believes in gods can teach religion. Isn’t that like saying only someone who is a child can be a pediatrician? Or that only blind people can become ophthalmologists? But even if – the woman still believes in essentially the same god; it’s just that the belief is sold by a competitor.
  • Why does the Bishop think that converting to judaism makes someone unfit to teach Ethics? I agree that religion makes a bad ethical foundation, but does this Bishop really believe that his own bronze-age morals are better? I’m sure that – unlike the Bishop – someone with a degree in Ethics can differentiate between religious ‘morals’ and truly ethical behavior. All the Bishop has proven here is that he is unfit to teach ethics.

A lot went wrong here. But what went wrong most of all:

How the hell can a Bishop fire a teacher employed by a secular school?

Bishop breaks cardinal rule

(Sorry, I’m a sucker for puns)

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is a bon vivant. That’s usually not a problem – unless you are a church official, and have broken a cardinal rule just so you can keep your high life. It’s somewhat worse if you are a Bishop.

Here’s what happened:
Bishop of Limburg, Germany, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst went on a trip to Bangalore’s slums to help poor children. He traveled there fist class, which, in view of his destination, was a bad choice. Asked by a reporter, he explicitly denied traveling first class. That was a bad idea. When the truth eventually came out, he denied – under oath – his denial. That turned out be Very Bad Indeed: the reporter had the good Bishop on video. Now, perjury is an offense in Germany even if you are a man of god. And so he was handed down a sentence.

A bishop caught out in a lie is bad. A bishop caught in perjury over lying is almost tragicomical. You wouldn’t believe the number of free bible lessons Tebartz-van Elst received over this, all of them focusing on the 8th Commandment. To add insult to injury, many of the lessons were administered by atheists.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here.

You see, it turns out that at the same time, the Bishop was remodeling his home, the episcopal headquarters in Limburg. It transpired that he also employed some ‘truth remodeling’ when he disclosed the cost: What should have cost 5 Million € (6.8 million USD) suddenly ballooned to over 30 million (41 million). Playing that loose with truth unfortunately is also an offense in Germany. Plus, being untruthful with money usually is called ‘stealing’.

So it would seem that the Bishop stole money and lied through his teeth – just to afford his lifestyle. As always in cases like this, the church has one cardinal rule: don’t get caught. It seems Tebartz-van Elst broke that rule. It’s unlikely the church will forgive that transgression.