Religious rant

It’s been a while since I’ve got on this particular high horse, but I must say that you have to be concerned when a church is willing to all but split in two over the prospect of a woman becoming a bishop.

They make up 50% of the population, and are at least as smart as their male counterparts (and in many cases more so), and in the absence of a really convincing burning bush suggesting that they should stay home the whole thing makes the male hierarchy of the chuch seem like asses.

Only god knows what they’d do if they got sick and had to put their lives in the hands of a female doctor, or their freedom in the hands of a female lawyer, or their freedom to worship in the hands of a female lead government…

Oh yea of little faith

A book of the diaries and letters of Mother Theresa of Calcutta has just been published, and people seem surprised that she had what sound like pretty major crises of faith at various points in her life. It’s funny how people like to see things as absolutes. She was a famous woman of faith, so she must have had a constant internal belief that was guiding and self sustaining in spite of all the terrible things she saw each day while working with the urban poor of calcutta. All this really does is make her seem more remarkable, because in spite of her periods of doubt and uncertainty she continued on her path, and did what was right, and needed doing.

The whole thing should serve as an inspiration to others, although I also think this should serve as a little guidance for anyone of significance in the catholic church. She asked that all her letters and documents be destroyed after her death, but just as they later did for John Paul’s letters, they church ignored her wishes and forbade their destruction on the grounds that they may provide insight to assist in the process of her becoming a saint.

I think that you simply have to take a leaf from Hermes’ book on managing your affairs after death. (“Like my granny used to say back in her tar paper shack on Montego Bay “If you want a box hurled into the sun, you got to do it yourself”, (God rest her zombie bones).”).


And just to prove the it’s not the entirety of the catholic church which is stuck in the dark ages (merely the pope), an italian Jesuit magazine recently ran an article about how virtual online worlds should be considered “mission worlds”, in as much as that there are people in them who may wish for some spiritual input, and the church and it’s followers should consider entering them to provide for the spiritual needs of the inhabitants. I imagine it would work better in Second life than it would in world of warcraft, but I can still image the possibility…

Coming soon to a MMOPG world near you: Virtual god botherers (“I’d like to trade you for that +3 Battle Axe,  oh, and can I talk to you about Jesus?…” 🙂 )

That’s the christmas spirit

In what has to be one of the most bizarre and foolish thing I’ve read recently Catholic Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne last week unexpectedly banned Catholic children from praying with Muslim classmates.

Apparently the basis of this ban was that “The image of God in non-Christian religions is not identical with the God who is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Surely when we’re talking about (catholic/muslim/jewish) children, the fact that they’re praying AND getting along with people of other faiths in a christian/muslim/jewish manner is enough.

They’re not going to understand the dogmatic distinction between a catholic praying to god versus a protestant praying to god versus a jew praying to god versus a muslim praying to god (which all 4 groups would acknowledge is still the same god, separated by human dogmatic differences (whether you believe Jesus is the son of god vs. not the son of god vs. just another prophet). More importantly they shouldn’t have to, and for the Cardinal to try and impose division on children seems both callous and pathetic.

Thankfully it sounds as though he is pretty much being either ignored or openly criticised for the stance, and once again the chuch as an organisation is being marginalised because it continues to focus on dogmatic minutae and maintaining it’s power, while ignoring the major themes of love, tolerance, understanding and community on which most people base their faith.

One step closer

I have in the past commented several times on my opinion that a really worthwhile application of digital technology lies in the ability to digitally photograph, catalogue and store the contents of old and rare (particularly religious) texts so that they should be accessable to everyone.

The other day I stumbled on another little technology that makes this an easier and more realistic prospect.

It’s called DjVu and is a new image compression system designed specifically to allow documents to be scanned so as to be readable, and to compress the resulting files to be smaller than if they had been compressed with other systems such as JPEG.

One step closer.


On the way to school this morning I was once again dumbfounded by the sheer blinding cluelessness of politicians on multicultural issues. This time it was the New South Wales backbencher Bronwyn Bishop proposing that the government ban moslem girls from wearing head scarves in schools.
Coming a week after the government ran a meeting with Moslem leaders to promote dialogue and understanding this comes out as promoting the exact opposite.
Now although I don’t agree with it at all, there is nothing legally to stop the government saying that you can’t wear religious symbols to school, but any rule has to apply to everyone, not just muslim girls wearing head scarves. It has to be an equal opportunity opression, stopping christians wearing crosses, catholics carrying rosaries, jews wearing a kippah, and so on. The fact that she was focusing on only one group shows that it is not a matter of opression, but simply a matter of racism, which is far far more disgusting in a supposedly human rights embracing parliamentary democracy.
Subsequently the PM came out this afternoon and quashed the idea, although his reasoning was because such a ban would be “Difficult and rather impractical” to enforce.
I think that Greens senator Kerry Nettle was wholely correct when he made the observation that: “The right to wear a headscarf if you are a Muslim schoolgirl is surely a matter of cultural and religious freedom, which the Prime Minister appears not to understand. Freedom of religion is an Australian value – that is the message John Howard should be sending – not that banning headscarves is simply impractical.”
As a side note I’ll also be interested to see what comes of the law suit that the 10 year old imigration detainee has filed against the government, especially given that the Australian Human Rights Commission ruled that his continued detention was unjust 3 years ago.

Well that didn’t take long

As if on cue, the Vatican has resumed it’s quest to alienate europeans, and invalidate itself within the modern word.

From the second article, a quote from the Spanish prime minister:
“One of the guarantees of democracy is the freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and freedom to carry out a political project with the citizens’ vote.”

And on the specific topic of the spanish gay-marriage bill:
Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar argued that the bill overcomes “the barriers of discrimination, many of them with deep historical or primitive roots, which affect rights and freedoms and, in a specific way, the extension of free choice in the search for happiness, an unwritten basic right”.

Depleting the fan base

The writing of this entry precipitated a full-on 2 and a bit hour theological and sociological debate in our house. Hope it does in your’s too.

Well, we have a new Pope, and as widely predicted it is the highly conseravative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from Germany. While not being unexpected, it does seem a little unfortunate in several regards (at least from my perspective as a liberal white member of the first world).

As many of you may already know, before he became Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was for 20 years the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which basically is the organisation that arose out of the old holy inquisition (the Roman one, which in the grand scheme of things was pretty tame, rather than the Spanish one, which was not), and is charged with maintaining and protecting the orthodoxy of the Catholic church. He holds strongly conservative (from my perspective read: negative) views on contraception, abortion, gays, women clergy and priestly marriage. This is not unexpected, but it seems that the conclave has made a decision that really doesn’t help them on either of their popularity fronts.

Given that the Catholic church appears to be relatively rapidly losing relevance (and thus followers (often to more accomodating branches of Christianity)) in the western world (which has always been it’s traditional power base), while relatively rapidly spreading and gaining followers in the poorer countries of the world, most notably in south american and sub sharan africa, it would seem that the church has two options in leadership directions: either they try and regain support amongst the western populaces by modernising the church and trying to more closely integrate religious philosophies with current western lifestyle realities (which is not in fact as difficult as it might initially sound, if they are willing to forgo some of the teachings and tradions that they have aquired and then feverishly held onto over the last two milenia, but which are not directly supported by or derived from the scripture), or else they can choose to stay their current dogmatic doctrinal path and acknowledge their shift of priorities from the traditional eurocentric view towards a more developing world centered set of priorities.

In choosing a new pope who at first sight appears to be both Conservative, and Euro-centric, they have essentially sent a snub to both of their obvious potential (re)growth groups:

  • Westerners (particularly women and the sexually liberalised youth) who will continue to be intolerant of the church’s hard line on matters which they percieve as reasonable demands, such as allowing female priest, and letting priests marry.
  • and the developing world, who while they are currently more willing to accept doctrinal conservatism, will continue to percieve to some degree or another that the church is controlled by middle aged white europeans, and that cardinals from the third world will only ever be allowed to rise so far (ie. they won’t get to lead the church as Pope) no matter how important those third world congregations may be to the continued validity and survival of the church.

I suppose it is a rather nasty thing to say, but perhaps the conclave was simply hedging their bets when they elected Benedict XVI. If a eurocentric conservative pope continues to draw support and continues expansion of the church then they can feel that they did the right thing, but if it doesn’t work out in the church’s best interest then at least he may not hang around too long, given that he is already 78.

It’s at this point that I should figure out how to put a feedback form on the site, as I’d be quite interested to hear what other people had to say on the matter….