The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Why I am an atheist – The third bit

The story so far: Young impressionable boy attends very wacky Catholic school then moves to less wacky Catholic school but ends up deciding that just because something is less wacky doesn’t mean it isn’t wacky.

___

I was walking through Sydney airport. I can’t remember the exact date, and I can’t remember where I was going, but I was definitely walking because my feet were moving alternately in a forwards direction, and it was definitely Sydney airport because it was Sydney and I had paid too much for parking and there were planes everywhere. I also remember that I decided to pop into the book shop, and a book with a bright red and white cover caught my attention. It had “The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins” plastered across the front cover, almost certainly because that was the book’s title and author.

“That looks interesting,” I thought. So I picked up a copy, opened it to a random page, and started reading.

Now, it doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then you discover something so profound, so Earth-shattering, that it shakes you to your very core. One minute you’re sitting there thinking you’ve got it all figured out, and then BAM! A feint breath of knowledge has left you breathless, or a truth has suddenly rendered everything a lie, and all of a sudden you know nothing, Jon Snow. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that feeling you had when you first saw the end of The Sixth Sense (OMG he’s the dead person!), or the opening credits of Renegade (OMG he was a cop and good at his job!), or when your parents told you that Santa Claus isn’t real (OMG they were the ones secretly judging me all year!). And as I was standing there in the airport bookshop reading those random pages, I realised I was right in the middle of one of those moments. Yes, my friends, in that one, single instant, I was struck by an immediate, sublime realisation.

“This book is crap,” I thought.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t judge a book by its cover and a few random pages you read at the airport.” And OK, fine, that’s a well-known and common expression when it comes to books. But then again, I was able to conclude that Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey were crap after reading a few random pages at the airport, and we all know how they turned out. Well I don’t because I concluded they were crap and didn’t read them. But the point is that I’m really good at deciding that a book is crap after reading a few random pages at the airport, and my brief encounter with The God Delusion hadn’t done much to make me doubt the awesomeness of my crap detecting abilities.

Perhaps that surprises you. It definitely surprised me. I mean I expected Twilight and 50 Shades to be crap, since there’s only so much quality you can muster if you’re a barely literate moron writing about emotionally-stunted haemophiles who sparkle outdoors, or nauseatingly bland soulless billionaires with mummy issues. But Dawkins was a well-respected evolutionary biologist with a fancy accent and a dozen best-selling books to his name. And he was writing about one of the oldest and most important questions mankind has ever pondered. Surely he could manage to avoid being crap while I read a few random pages at the airport.

Surely.

___

If you’re going to argue against one of the oldest and most important questions that mankind has ever pondered, you’re probably a little boring and don’t have any friends. But also, you should at least have the decency to consider the best arguments mankind has to offer. For Dawkins, this apparently amounted to something called the “five proofs of Thomas Aquinas”.

For those that don’t know, Aquinas is something of a rock star in the Catholic Church, and would definitely be lead guitarist if Jesus ever started a band, which would obviously be called Nine Inch Nailed and have hit songs like “There’s something about Virgin Mary”, “Judas is a jerk”, and “I died on the cross for you, you selfish bastards”. Anyway, while not writing hit singles with his Lord and Saviour, Thomas apparently liked to spend a bit of time thinking about some of the most important questions mankind has ever pondered. So as well as being a little boring and not having any friends, he also thought about the existence of God, and came up with what he believed were five indisputable facts that proved His existence. I say “His” existence, because if God does exist then he’s obviously a man, since, you know, childbirth. And mansplaining morality on inconveniently phallic stone tablets.

Anyway, this was all news to me while I was standing there in the airport bookshop. In 12 years of Catholic schooling I had never seen or read anyone trying to prove God’s existence before, let alone someone as revered as Thomas Aquinas. After all, what’s the point of proving something so obvious?

Aquinas attempted it anyway, apparently, and concluded that yes, there is a God. This was probably a good thing for Thomas, given the consequences for concluding otherwise at the time, but I digress. The point is that Aquinas’ arguments as presented by Dawkins seemed to be if not outright asinine, then at least very, very silly. Now don’t get me wrong. Aquinas is one of the all-time intellectual titans of the Church, and probably knew Latin and how to spell “transubstantiation” and the difference between the immaculate conception and the Virgin birth. But there was no escaping the fact that his arguments were, in a word, crap. The conclusion for me was obvious. Dawkins was a massive jerk who’d deliberately left out all the good arguments for God’s existence, and just included the crap ones.

“Screw you, Dawkins,” I thought. “I’ll read the in-flight magazine instead.”

And I did. It had an article about two Instagram influencers from the Gold Coast who tried cupping in Canggu. It was called “Two Girls One Cupping”, and it was not crap.

___

Several years later, the red and white book that I had disgustedly discarded in an airport bookshop had sold three million copies, spawned a multitude of books in reply, and kick-started the New Atheist movement. The in-flight magazine I had chosen instead had achieved none of those things. It was time, then, to give “The God Delusion” another go.

Perhaps it was the intervening years of ever-dwindling faith, or the fact that I wasn’t reading a random chapter at the airport, but upon reading it properly for the first time, it didn’t immediately strike me as crap. In fact, it was so not crap that by the time I was a few chapters in I was actually starting to think that maybe Dawkins kind of had a point.

Books being what they are, I was of course destined to eventually reach the bit about the five proofs of Thomas Aquinas. You know, the bit that I had read at the airport and decided was crap. And by turning the pages in a sequential fashion, which is how my mum taught me to read books, I did indeed reach that bit. Here they are, paraphrased by me, in all their glory:

  1. Stuff moves, but can only move if moved by something else. So, like an awkward first date, someone had to make the first move.
  2. Stuff is caused, but nothing can cause itself. So there must be someone to blame for all this shït.
  3. Stuff exists, but nothing can bring about its own existence. So all this shït had to come from somewhere.
  4. Stuff can be good, but goodness is relative, so there must be something reeeeeeeeally supremely good against which we measure stuff’s goodness.
  5. Everything looks designed, including us. So there must be a designer.

So there you go.

The good news is that they appeared to be pretty much as I remembered them, which admittedly doesn’t happen very often, what with my memory being a bit rubbish. The good news, however, was that… oh wait, I’ve said the good news already, dammit. The bad news was that they still appeared to be crap. Proofs 1 to 3 are basically the same, and just scream intellectual laziness. “I can’t think of any other way this might have happened, so… God!”. Proof 4 is one of the most ridiculously see-through non sequiturs in the history of mankind. Goodness is relative so there must be something that is infinitely good? On what planet does that make sense? The only one that maybe had a chance was Proof 5. But that was hardly decisive, especially given the idiocy of the other four.

I read them again, slowly, and then I read them once more. And try as I might I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something had to be missing. Surely the ultimate question of life the universe and everything didn’t boil down to three identical platitudes, a play on words, and ignorance of evolution.

Surely.

Luckily for me, I was at home and had access to Google. So I googled “the fuve proobes of thomas aquians”, and after Google helpfully corrected my typing I soon discovered something incredible. Dawkins had, in fact, fairly and accurately presented the five proofs of Thomas Aquinas, and these were, in fact, the best arguments for God going around. People were still using them today, some 800 years later. Needless to say, this came as quite a shock. And so instead of wondering whether Dawkins was a massive jerk, I found myself wondering something else.

“Hang on… is this all we’ve got?”

And so began a big personal voyage of discovery. But you’ll have to wait for Part 4, so there.

– Tim

An open letter to Israel Folau

Izzyyyyyy! Maaaaaaaaaate!

How’s it going, champ? I guess that’s a silly question though eh mate. It wasn’t that long ago that you were raking in the big bucks and you were loved by everyone and you’d helped us lose our 16th Bledisloe Cup in a row. Then a few short months later you’re out on your arse and only liked by Christians and Andrew Bolt and you’re reduced to begging for money and you probably won’t get to help us lose our 17th Bledisloe Cup in a row. I feel for you mate. That really sucks. What do you think has sucked the most?

I reckon it would have to be not being able to play for your country any more. They say there’s nothing quite like pulling on that Qantas Wallabies jersey and losing a Bledisloe Cup for your country. I wouldn’t know cos I never got the chance to lose for the Wallabies. Not because I wasn’t capable, mind you. I reckon I could lose a game of rugby like nobody’s business. No, I never played for the Wallabies cos my mum wouldn’t let me cos I don’t have any muscles and I’m a bit of a sook. She was right, of course, but it still hurt.

I would have loved to represent my country. Imagine being able to represent the country of ANZACs and Dame Nellie Melba and Cathy Freeman and Russell Crowe. How proud must you be to be given the opportunity to go into battle for us, your fellow Australians, who were one of the first people to give women the vote and decriminalised homosexuality and recently had over 60% of the population vote for marriage equality, despite religious opposition to all three of them. Oh I guess it also sucks to lose a $4 million contract.

Or maybe the worst thing was having to choose between representing your country and telling atheists and adulterers and drunks and gay people they’re going to hell. That’s gotta be a tough choice. I mean, not many people like the pious judgement of people they don’t know, but that’s not your fault, Izzy. And people need to know these things.

That’s why I told the new Jewish guy at work that his people killed Jesus and he’s probably going to burn in Hell for all eternity. Shimon got all butt-hurt about it, of course, but Shimon loves getting butt-hurt, and I was just stating facts. What am I meant to do? Keep my opinion to myself? How would he know he was going to Hell? It was all fine though. The next day he came to me and told me that he’d thought about it and he’d completely renounced his Judaism, accepted Baby Jebus as his Lord and Saviour, and regrown his foreskin. So I guess I did the right thing.

Then there was that time that I told the CEO of my company that he’d lied about our projected profits. He tried to say it was just an unexpected experience deviation, but that just made things worse. “Try telling that to Jesus!”, I said with a chuckle. Yes we were at the Christmas Party but a lie is a lie no matter what time of year it is. Then I took his drink off him because he’d had two already and Jesus doesn’t like drunks.

Anyway, Izzy, the point is that you’re amazing. Just imagine how many liars have stopped lying and drunks have stopped drinking and rimmers have stopped rimming because of your Instagram posts. I only saved two people from Hell, but you’ve probably saved millions.

That’s all for now mate. I lost my job at the last Christmas party so I gotta go finish my resume. Good luck with the fundraising, and don’t lose hope. You’ll be back losing games for the Wallabies in no time.

Yours sincerely,

Tim

Latest Vatican Research Findings: Boys Have Penises

The Vatican or, more specifically, The Congregation for Catholic Education, has just released a document regarding the teaching of gender theory. As part of the GBA service, I have read this document so that you don’t have to waste the precious moments of your life doing so.

Plenty of other press organisations have covered the provocative timing of this release, as well as the reliably dissident Jesuit response, but there’s been little to no engagement with the actual arguments as yet, mostly owing to that tried and true journalistic practice of never reading more than the abstract and conclusion of anything, no matter what it is. I, however, believe that there should be little to no engagement with the actual arguments because they’re either not actually arguments, or they are arguments, but they’re stupid.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, beyond the usual guff about love and doctrine, and that curiously unique Vatican style – all technical sounding multi-syllables interspersed, seemingly at random, with sudden bursts of mediaeval English and Latin. I knew that it would basically be a combination of rebuttal book and conversation starter: a set of things teachers can say when confronted with non-Catholic or, as I like to put it, sane views of an issue, as well as a call for academics and whatnot to engage with their position. This kind of polarity is also typical of the Vatican – an open-hearted and sincere wish to listen, combined with a greasy bag of low-down sophistry designed to maintain, at all costs, their doctrinaire view of the world and of themselves. Like an obese contortionist covered in food waste, official Vatican thinking has a tendency to be simultaneously compellingly beautiful, impressively agile, and deeply repugnant.

I knew, basically, that it would be very like other Vatican documents from this department. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how dim-witted it would be. Its attempts to define and answer gender theory reminded me of nothing so much as an octogenarian attempting to use Snapchat. The little tour of ‘gender theory’ the authors take us on is so befuddled, so obviously confused and intellectually outpaced, that it’s almost charming. One of their more risible contentions is the idea that the body, the sex, of an individual is a primary determiner of gender. This isn’t amusing or insane in and of itself, of course – what’s laughable about it is their assumption that gender theorists don’t agree with this. They do. For the same reason that most academics agree that rocks are made of stuff that forms rocks.

And then there’s their central contention – that gender theorists believe that gender is solely down to “human choice”. Now, I’m undecided on whether this is disingenuous or dim-witted, but the strong implication of the language is that this means an individual human’s choice. This is emphatically not an accurate summation of gender theory. Most theories of gender performativity, etc., emphasise the role of social and cultural constructs in the formation of gender. The radical bit is pointing out that these are artificial, and that the individual can and often does have significant agency in determining whether or not to conform to them. Which is actually a near identical position to the one adopted by the Congregation. Which would obviously be inconvenient and embarrassing, so I guess I’m going to opt for ‘disingenuous’ as the word which best describes the logical core of the argument.

Another charmingly oblivious aspect of the paper is its consistent use of the term ‘ideological’ to describe what they term to be the ‘radical’ end of gender theory. In the same paragraph – often the same sentence – as a call for the rejection of “ideologically based” theories, is a call for teachers to promote “doctrine”. One man’s ideology is another man’s doctrine, I guess. But this seemingly genuine lack of self awareness is another example of unexpected charm. It’s like Basil Fawlty – so flawed he can’t see his own flaws which, in certain contexts, is counter-intuitively endearing. The whole Catholic Church is a bit like that, and this comes through very clearly in this pretzel-like grab bag of random half-truths and invalid arguments.

Of course, when once we get past the impressive sounding ‘philosophical’ language, and the big-hearted rhetoric of universal love, the charm starts to wear off. Actual analysis of this document reveals that its entire position is based on a straw man and a false dichotomy. The egregious misunderstandings of gender theory are revealed as not so much befuddled as they are wilfully, shamefully dishonest and misleading. And the notion that only the most radical aspects of gender theory are being taught in schools, and that this represents a cultural crisis, is in actual fact on the same level of sanity as Alex Jones or David Icke. It does not represent reality in any way, and this isn’t because it’s a bunch of doddering confused old men doing the thinking. It’s because the Church is pulling an extremely nasty trick – the same one they’ve been pulling for about 1800 years. “We love you, whoever you are,” this document says, “so please come and talk to us so we can explain to you why you’re not allowed to own who you are.”

The Jesuit priest James Martin hit the nail exactly on the head. Or, to be more Catholic about it, rem acu tetistigi-ed. “Sadly, …[this document]… will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn’t even exist.” He’s right – it will be. Primarily because that is exactly what it was made to be.

Why I am an atheist – The second bit

The story so far: Young impressionable boy attends wacky Opus Dei school until he and his parents start to think Opus Dei might be a bunch of weirdos so they decide to try the Jesuits instead.

___

After renouncing the flagellating wackiness of the Opus Dei guilt machine, my parents and I packed up our rosary beads and set out for the wild west of Catholic schooling – the Jesuits. Mr Mullins, the Opus Dei assistant principle, made it clear that he thought this was a terrible decision, telling my mother that my soul was in great danger, and that he would pray for me. Mum told Mr Mullins to go fück himself. Not out loud, of course, because she’s a lovely young lady and would never speak to anyone like that, unless they reeeally deserved it. Which he did. But she still didn’t say it because, as I said, she’s a lovely young lady. And so off to the Jesuits I went.

The most remarkable thing about the Jesuits was that they weren’t really that remarkable. Sure, they were all monumentally overweight (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and they all had terrible haircuts (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and one of them was eventually sent to prison for being a kiddy-fiddler (not that the Church thinks there’s anything wrong with that), but I was generally just amazed at how normal everything seemed.

For starters, there was no talk about it being a sin to kiss girls, which allowed me to carry on not kissing girls, but with the added bonus of not being able to claim it was for religious reasons. Popularity seemed to be determined by more normal things, too, like sporting ability or what suburb you lived in or sometimes even personality, rather than naff reasons like knowing the Catechism off by heart or going to confession. Speaking of confession, my new school showed an exceptional lack of enthusiasm for guilting us all into going to confession. Or to Mass, for that matter. They didn’t even guilt us into going to confession before Mass to confess that we hadn’t been to the previous Mass. In fact, the only confession I really remember is Brother Healy confessing that humans actually evolved from apes, and not two functional idiots wearing fig leaves in the Middle East.

This was, I admit, a little bit strange at first. But it didn’t take long to get on board with the Jesuit’s refreshingly non-judgey vibe. Free from the Sauron-like gaze of the Opus Dei Fasholics (a brilliant portmanteau of “Fascist” and “Catholic” that I just invented), I decided to stop going to Mass every Sunday. I also stopped going to confession to confess that I wasn’t going to Mass every Sunday. And by the time an authority figure with poor judgement asked me to give the farewell speech at the end of Year 12 dinner, I didn’t mention God or Jesus at all. Not deliberately, mind you, but because I was too busy being outrageously funny and it just didn’t occur to me.

Continuing my trend of attending increasingly secular educational institutions, I then trotted off to university where, for the first time ever, I wouldn’t have to take an exam about God or Jesus. I probably should have, given my first year results, but I digress. The main thing to note was that, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t subjected to daily reminders that there is a God and a Jesus and they need to be worshipped. The void was filled by other things like beer and maths and statistics and beer, and conversations with my new classmates became less “How good is Jesus” and more “OMG like what’s the eigenvalue of that case of beer”. Before I knew it, I had become the sort of Catholic that Opus Dei had warned my mother about, and I started only going to Mass at Christmas and Easter. On the one hand, this kind of meant I was definitely going to hell, but on the other hand, Mr Mullins had said he would pray for me, and mum hadn’t told him to go fück himself so he was definitely still praying for me, so I was sure it would be fine. And it was fine, until two things happened that made me stop going to Mass for good.

The first was that, like every other cool idea I’ve had (e.g. jet engines and socialism), this one had been invented already, and pretty much every normal Catholic already only went to Mass at Christmas and Easter. This meant the church was packed on those days, and a packed church seemed to make this particular priest very, very grumpy. To wit, instead of dedicating his sermon to the birth or resurrection of Baby Jebus as the occasion required, he dedicated it to telling us all we were annoying, ungrateful little shïts for only coming at Christmas and Easter. Somehow it failed to occur to him that he was basically wishing for the church to be that packed every week, which was odd, since we knew from what he had just told us that a packed church made him very, very grumpy. In any event, it didn’t take long to realise that the best way to avoid a lecture on diligence from someone who drew his salary from a collection plate was to just not go to Mass. Ever.

The second thing that happened was that I went back to Mass.

Yes, I had already decided that I would just stop going, but a friend of mine asked me to go one day, coincidentally to the same church as the above, and I thought that since it wasn’t Christmas or Easter, maybe the grumpy priest would talk about something interesting rather than being grumpy. And he didn’t disappoint, spending a good 25 minutes reinforcing traditional gender roles in heteronormative family units. Men do the jobs, you see, and women do the kids, and that’s how God wants it. I should add that this was about 20 years ago, and I had never even heard the words “traditional gender roles” or “heteronormative family units”. But even then, listening to a religious justification for entrenched sexism from an unemployed celibate man in a bright green muumuu struck me as odd, and it turned out to be the final straw. When it came to Mass, I was done.

___

Questions are an interesting thing. You grow up believing something without question, and then one day, a lone, innocent little question presents itself. In my case, I was told that if I accepted communion in my hands, there was a chance Jesus would end up in the washing machine, and that would be bad. And the question I had was, if Jesus was God and God was all-powerful, why would he allow himself to be put through the washing machine? And even if he did allow it, why on earth would he care? Surely an omnipotent being that conquered death could conquer a Fisher & Paykel 8kg WashSmart front loading wachine machine with SmartDrive™ technology for a quiet and reliable wash. And that’s the thing about questions. If the answers prove unsatisfactory, they invariably lead to more questions.

My next question was around how Jesus came to be inside the communion wafer in the first place. For those who are unaware, it happens through the power of transubstantiation – a very silly word for the very silly belief that a grumpy celibate man in a bright green muumuu is imbued with the power to turn a small flavourless cracker into the actual flesh of Jesus Christ. For an extra ten points, he is also able to turn a shït Hunter Valley shiraz into Jesus’ actual blood. And no, I am not joking. This is what practising Catholics actually believe. And while it does shed some light on why you might be careful not to put some of the wafer through the washing machine, it doesn’t really explain why it’s apparently OK to chew Jesus up and subject him to our digestive process. I mean, if Jesus knows how to exit the wafer before he encounters the wonders of the lower intestine, surely he can figure out how to avoid the much more hygienic process of a spin and rinse.

While such questions led to the gradual waning of my Catholic belief system, there remained some things that, to me, were still obvious and irrefutable. In other words, I came to realise that while the Catholic version of God may not exist, surely there is some being that created everything and transcends us all. That seemed like a reasonable position to take.

That was until I read a little known book called The God Delusion. And that’s when things got even more interesting. But you’ll have to wait for Part 3, so there.

– Tim

In which I am proven to be an amazingly prescient genius person and not just because I know the word “prescient”

Hi there. I’m Tim. Sometimes I make predictions. Sometimes they are hugely false, like that time I predicted Trump would resign after six months because he would get sick of working eight hour days. Silly me… I should have figured he’d only work a three hour day. But sometimes… sometimes I prove to be amazingly prescient. Like the time I predicted this:

Once marriage equality comes in, the objections [to it] will stop. The bigoted fear-merchants who fought for so long, and warned of such dire consequences, will put down their tooth and nail, pack up their placards, and fade into obscurity.

You see, today marks the first anniversary of that time the Liberal government made us all waste $120 million to spend a few months vilifying the LGBTIQ community to re-verify the results of countless already-available public polls and decide on an issue that wasn’t the public’s business and parliament could have voted on for free. So it’s a perfect time for me to reflect on my prediction and check in on how amazing I can be. And lemme tell you… all signs point to me being quite amazing.

You see, I have noticed a little bit of a trend in conservative objections to progressive ideals, which seems to be thus:

  1. An injustice is recognised.
  2. A proposal is made to correct the injustice.
  3. We are told that correcting the injustice will lead to the wholesale destruction of society.
  4. The change is made anyway.
  5. Society is not destroyed.
  6. All the people who said society would be destroyed forget about it and move on to something else.

This exact sequence of events has played out in a multitude of historic advances. Female suffrage, inter-racial marriage, no fault divorce, IVF, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, to name but a few. In each case, we were told that to make the change would be to ring the death knell of life as we knew it, and usher in a new era of calamity and universal suffering.

We know, of course, that in each case, no such calamity ever came to fruition. Instead, we collectively benefited from a society that was more accepting, more kind, and one step further along the long path to true equality. Every time these disastrous changes were made, we saw that, ultimately, life went on, and after a while, most people didn’t care.

I should point out that, logically speaking, this does not at all prove that their objections were unfounded (there are many other reasons that prove that). What it does highlight, however, is the perfidy of their professed sincerity.

Let’s just think about this for a second. Female suffrage, we were told, would be an absolute disaster. One poster that depicted the dangers of female suffrage showed “a grim-looking man arriving home from work to a scene of domestic chaos, with weeping children, a dangerously smoking lamp, and a casual note attached to a suffrage poster – ‘Back in an hour or so’”. My god, that sounds horrendous! Can you even imagine? If you can’t imagine, the people of the time were happy to produce gems like this to help out:

Yes, friends… if women were allowed to vote, it would definitely, definitely result in never ending nagging.

So, with so much on the line, what did such people do when women were finally granted the right to vote? Did they fight to their last breath to have universal suffrage overturned? Are they still fighting today? Or did they all die from incessant nagging? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding “No”. I wonder why.

Which brings me to my prediction about marriage equality in Australia. We were told that it would destroy families. We were told it would result in people marrying their cats. We were told that there would be another stolen generation, which was a rather oblivious objection, coming as it did from the sort of Christians who instigated the original. Even I can admit that, if true, that would be a high price to pay indeed.

History now shows that they lost, as they were always going to. That’s not particularly interesting, given the multitude of polls that showed that defeat was inevitable. What is interesting, is what happened next.

And what happened next was… nothing.

Sure, there were a few whinges on social media. Lyle probably cried, not there’s anything wrong with that. But apart from that… nothing. No extended campaigns to reverse the decision. No marching in the streets demanding the maintenance of the status quo. No bills introduced to parliament to prevent this catastrophic change to Australian society.

Which means one of two things. They’re just a fear mongering bag of dïcks, or they don’t really believe the shït they’re shovelling.

And just to be fair, I’ll let them decide which.

Religious Protections? How Astonishing!

scott-morrison

It’s generally a good rule that you can determine what’s important to a country by observing what its government or laws protect. Of course, in the case of Australia, the phrase ‘unrepresentative swill’ has a curious persistence in the public mind, possibly created by the fact that we are, in fact, governed by unrepresentative swill. Just as cream rises to the top, so too does scum, and generally in unregarded places – the dark corners and byways of our great nation where we can’t be bothered to go. It’s worth thinking about how we actually got our current crop of leaders. It would seem that the main ways would be through the kinds of community networks churches are so good at (more of which in another post), and through the internal mechanisms of the two major parties and their feeders, being the union movement and big business/big Jesus respectively. So for Australia, what needs to be said is that you can tell what the government, without reference to the people, cares about by observing what it’s most willing to protect by law.

Back in the heady days of the Same Sex Marriage Don’t Call It Marriage Equality Debacle And Signal Failure Of Parliamentary Responsibility, which I call ‘The Coward’s Plebiscite’ for short, many questions were raised, some by this author, as to whose job it actually was to make laws. Now this is quite a basic question, and it was quite tricky to expand the answer – parliament – into a six hundred word post. I did this mainly by impugning the character, tolerance, and courage of our fearless leaders, being hesitant to address that which is much more difficult to determine, i.e., what they were actually thinking. In the light of hindsight, and with our nation’s new First Creationist, I mean, Prime Minister, having emerged from his gratuitous bloodbath to set his policy agenda, it has, in fact, become a bit easier to determine what it is this particularly trollish coterie known politely as ‘the conservative faction’ were actually thinking. Basically, our first impression was correct. So unwilling were they to institute equal civil rights for homosexuals, they followed a template from their favourite bedside book and did a Pontius Pilate. Washing their hands of the responsibility, they devolved the power of execution onto the mob hoping, I’m now absolutely certain, that the mob would be nasty and vote to crucify the progressive movement. The fact that they were so emphatically wrong still keeps me warm on cold nights with the memory of the time I fell even more deeply in love with my country.

But that’s all ancient history in the rough and tumble of politics, right? Well, not exactly, as it leads me back to my original point that you can tell what a government thinks is important by looking at what it’s willing to protect with legislation. The review on religious protections, commissioned by Turnbull as he bravely ran away from yet another of his political principles, has reported. The government is now getting ready to implement its recommendations, and all of this is going very smoothly. The report’s still secret (not officially, just in a ‘not yet released’ way), but even the Jesuits on the panel are saying that it’s just a matter of putting ‘some small tweaks’ into existing anti-discrimination laws. I really don’t have a problem with this. Religious freedom is key, and is the very principle which allows me to say that Scott Morrison’s religion is only separated in craziness from Scientology by its age and pedigree. But the problematic part is what it tells us about the nature of this government.

Basically, this Liberal government was so unwilling to make laws protecting the equal civil rights of people outside their own template of normal that they spent twenty million dollars of our money taking a punt on the Australian public being as ungenerous and backward as themselves. Simultaneously, they’re so willing to protect their own atavistic, myth-loving kind, that they’re announcing legislation to do so, almost as a first action after the chaos of their own utterly self inflicted wounding. So it’s pretty clear that religion is the most important thing to these people. I would hazard a guess and say that this is simply not the case for the majority of Australians, but I don’t have to thanks to the census. Which leads me back to the idea of ‘unrepresentative swill’. Worth thinking about, if you live in Wentworth or, if you don’t, as a thought to save up for whenever God tells our PM to call an election.

Scott Morrison’s ‘Upbeat’ Church

Australia is under threat from extreme ideologies. The creeping influence of these vile theologies has penetrated our civil society, soured our political discourse, and impacted every level of our nation, right up to its highest office. I am talking, of course, about Christianity.

There has been some recent and very polite attention drawn to the church of our new Prime Minister, Horizon Church, particularly in the SMH, wherein can be found an extremely soft soap profile of their high priest or pastor or god whisperer, or whatever they call themselves. In this article which, the more I read it, the more it looks like a masterful exercise in misdirection, senior Jesus Wrangler Brad Bonhomme is asked a series of searching questions about his energy levels and the fact that he is not a member of the Liberal Party. Or, at least, that is the only inference which can be drawn from the content of the article. He describes his church as ‘upbeat’, and then spends a long time being utterly irrelevant in a beguiling way by explaining that he has no input on the Liberal Party’s policy direction. Which is one of those truths which is actually a lie. But nowhere is there any exploration of what a Pentecostal church actually believes.

The Pentecostal churches and I are old adversaries. I have always contended that they are a cancer on society, exploiting the poor and vulnerable, openly operating for profit, hiding toxic and hateful beliefs beneath their manic smiles and doing all of this, of course, not only without paying any taxes, but with a fair amount of government money and, around election time, courtship. It’s probably enough to say that among the council of churches of which Horizon is a part is that cankerous boil on the backside of religion known as Hillsong, but I feel it’s important to go where the SMH either didn’t dare or think to tread, and provide answers to some actually important questions about the church.

It’s telling that it takes four clicks to get to their doctrinal basis. For those not as intimately familiar with religious doublespeak as this Catholic educated author, I should explain that the doctrinal basis is like a theological constitution. It describes core and broad beliefs, but like a constitution, limits itself to those which are fundamental and non-negotiable. Basically, it’s a useful document because it’s a valid assumption that all members of this church either believe, or say they believe, the stuff on the list. And as far as this list is concerned, it’s actually quite worrying stuff. The preamble uses the phrase ‘inspired Word of God’ in describing the bible. This is usually code for ‘I’m a fundamentalist nut job’, but not always. You’ll find a similar phrase in the Baptist doctrine, for example, but Baptists are generally free to interpret the bible in their own way. But not in this case. The phrase appears multiple times with the addition of words like ‘direct’, ‘sufficient’, and ‘accurate’. Basically, the Pentecostal churches are biblical literalists.

What this means is that we have a Prime Minister who believes that the world was literally crafted and made by God, that humanity was literally created by God from the clays of the earth, that Moses literally received the law in tablet form on Mount Sinai, and that every word of the books of the law should be followed. If you click through their bible reading plan, you’ll find that the first reading is Leviticus, that famous book of laws about stoning gay people and people who wear clothes of different fabrics. Now you might think I’m overstating this, but click through to the doctrine and scroll down to the end, past the bit about getting the world ready for the second coming, and the one about believing that sinners burn in hell for all eternity, and you’ll see that there’s a simple, clear statement of belief in creationism.

Now, I should point out that we live in a pluralistic society. I firmly believe that everyone has the absolute right to believe whatever crazy garbage floats their boat, whether it be Ickean lizard monarchs, gay frogs, or immortal Jews with revolutionary tendencies. But I also think it’s important to be aware of just who the crazy people are. Given the last census, it’s worrying to see just how unrepresentative the Parliament generally is when it comes to religion. Fraser Anning: Evangelical. Mike Baird: Fundamentalist. Tony Abbott: Catholic. Cory Bernardi: Catholic. Scott Morrison: Happy Clappy Tongues Speaking Lunatic. And these aren’t just vague religious affiliations – they’re forward deployed, staunchly held positions. Morrison himself has been quoted as saying that faith informs everything he does. So no wonder he doesn’t like climate change scientists. The man has apparently got a B.Sci himself, though I have no idea what kind of insanity is required to reconcile that with creationism in this day and age. But what I mostly wonder is, if faith does inform everything he does, then what steps will he be taking to prepare us for the Millennial reign of Christ at the End of Days, as his church instructs him is necessary? And what steps do we think he’ll take to try and save all Australians from the eternal hellfire?

The biggest question, though, is this: Should we accept a Prime Minister who has beliefs incompatible with basic sanity?

I say no.

Is he allowed to Izzy Folau?

So apparently some guy who is good at handling balls and rolling around on the ground with other guys told some guy that any guys who handle balls and roll around on the ground with other guys will spend an eternity with all the other guys who handle balls and roll around on the ground with other guys unless they stop handling balls and rolling around with other guys. The original guy was of course Israel Folau, who started life as Palestine Folau, until his mother realised that name wasn’t as marketable. And the guys who roll around with other guys are of course the gays (and definitely not rugby players), and the place where they go to roll around with other guys is of course HELL (and definitely not a club on Oxford St).

If that all sounds like a bit of a mouthful, I will refer you to the words of young Izzy himself, who is probably also a bit of a mouthful, but only for women because that shït will send you to hell. To wit, when asked on what appears to be an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram what God’s plan is for gay people, young Izzy replied that God’s plan for gay people is:

“HELL – unless they repent their sins and turn to God”.

Needless to say, this caused quite the kerfuffle. No one likes to be told they are going to hell – oh, sorry, I mean HELL – just for being who they are. Well, that’s not quite true. Personally, I couldn’t give a cräp if young Izzy told me I was going to HELL. I guess it helps that I’m heterosexual, so god obviously loves the cräp out of me. Not literally though, cos that shït will send you to HELL. On the other hand, I am an atheist, so god hates me just as much as the gays. Maybe even more. But on the plus side, he doesn’t exist, so I’m in the clear, along with all the gay people, which is nice.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Isn’t he free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin? Why should I care if some random rugby player decides to tackle an issue on an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram? Does he deserve to be publicly mauled, or should we let his views pass by without comment? Should he be penalised for his views, or would that amount to religious persecution? Izzy just a ruckwit? And finally, should I ask any more questions, or should you all go back and appreciate all the rugby puns I just made?

Given the furore young Izzy’s comments have generated, you would be forgiven for thinking that these are difficult questions to answer. Like, “Why is there no light in the freezer?”, or “Why doesn’t my iron have an off switch?”. Thankfully, however, Good Bad Asinine is here to navigate through the confusion. So here we go.

Isn’t he free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin?
Oooh good, an easy one to start with. Yes, of course he is free to do that. He is also free to advise us of his thoughts on deconstructed coffee, and whether Han shot first.

However, his views on the gays are… interesting… once you realise two things.

Firstly, the bible being what it is, it’s actually very easy to construct an argument that says gays won’t go to HELL. And a great many Christians have done just that.

Secondly, as a work of moral guidance, the bible’s authors have covered themselves in something, but it certainly isn’t glory. Just look at my favourite bible verse, Deuteronomy 22:10:

You must not plough with a donkey and an ox yoked together.

Yes, Izzy, the Great Book that gave you “GAYS GO TO HELL” also felt it necessary to issue advice on bi-species land management practices. And OK sure, maybe you can waive that away as a bit of silliness. A Biblical version of Jar Jar Binks, if you will. But how about Deuteronomy 25:11-12:

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.

Apart from being very interested in why this was such a common occurrence as to warrant its very own rule, one also has to wonder whether cherry-picking the bible really is the best way to decide what’s right and wrong, especially in a sport that regularly features men reaching out and seizing other men by their private parts (the imaginatively named and much feared squirrel grip).

So yes, as silly as his view is, Izzy is free to decide what belongs in his own personal sin bin. Whether we should actually care what some random rugby player thinks, however, is another matter…

Why should I care if some random rugby player decides to tackle an issue on an express cocaine delivery service called Instagram?
Oooh nice segue! And another easy one… two words – frikken empathy.

As a heterosexual atheist, it’s extraordinarily easy for me to say I don’t care if some narrow minded biblical literalist publicly states what I already know narrow minded biblical literalists to believe. An eternity of suffering for being mutually attracted to the people that some imaginary being made you attracted to? Pull the other one, mate (just don’t pull it too often… that shït will send you to HELL). But, thankfully, not everyone is the same as me, and I’m not stupid or insensitive enough to expect that if something doesn’t upset me, then it shouldn’t upset anyone.

Whether he should be publicly mailed, however, is another matter…

Does he deserve to be publicly mauled, or should we let his views pass by without comment?
OMG… these segues are amazing!

Well, on the face of it, it may seem like young Izzy doesn’t “deserve” to be singled out for expressing a view that is as old as it is tedious. And let’s face it, a throwaway comment on an otherwise unremarkable Instagram post isn’t exactly the same as using your post-match press conference to call for a return to (Biblically-mandated) public stonings. There is a problem here, however.

You know who else Izzy believes should go to HELL? Murderers, that’s who. And rapists, obviously. Not to mention adulterers, pedophiles, thieves, liars, blasphemers, Muslims and atheists. This list is not exhaustive, of course, but it does illustrate my point quite nicely. Young Izzy believes that two people in a loving, consensual homosexual relationship are on the same moral level as a murdering rapist who lied about how much goddamn shït he stole by hiding it in his underage mistress’ burqa. Looking at it that way, it’s not a stretch to suggest that young Izzy might like a return to the good ol’ days, when instead of wasting millions of dollars deciding if gay people could marry, we just locked them up instead.

And that, my friends, is why we need to call young Izzy’s comments out for what they are. And what they are is pretty cräp. Whether he should be penalised, however, is another matter…

Should he be penalised for his views, or would that amount to religious persecution?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking, “Get to the point, you muppet”. Which is basically another way of saying, “You’re so right, Tim… but what, if anything, should we actually do about it?”.

On the face of it, this seems like a tricky question to answer. His comment was odiously stupid, of course, but people do odiously stupid things all the time, and we just let them glide on by without so much as a nipple cripple. Golfers, for example. And Camry drivers. So why are so many people calling for Izzy to be sacked from the Wallabies, but not Warren, who drives his Camry to Riverside Oaks every frikken day of the week?

Well, for starters, Warren is too slow and uncoordinated for the Wallabies (that’s why he’s playing golf). But more than that, Warren doesn’t have a legion of adoring fans, who look to him for guidance and inspiration. Warren doesn’t have thousands of children show up each week to watch him showcase his skills. Warren doesn’t walk around after the game, surrounded by people asking him to sign their “WARREN” jerseys. And, let’s face it, no one has posters of Warren on their bedroom wall.

You know who does, though? Israel Folau. Well, he doesn’t have a Warren poster on his wall, but you know what I mean.

Like it or lump it, young Izzy has a lot of fans. And some of those fans will be young, and either openly gay, or struggling with their sexuality. For those fans, Izzy’s comments aren’t just little bit of odious stupidity. They are yet another reminder that the bullying they endure at school doesn’t end when they leave, and that there will always be people who treat them as second class citizens. Even some of their heroes. And all for the apparently awful crime of just being themselves.

And so, from the ARU’s point of view, the question isn’t so much why he should be penalised, but how. And if young Izzy doesn’t like it, he is welcome to play rugby in Uganda, where I’m sure his views will be welcome.

Is he just a ruckwit?
Despite the above, I’m sure young Izzy is an otherwise lovely young man, so the answer to this is, probably not. I just really wanted to say “ruckwit”.

Should you all go back and appreciate all the rugby puns I just made?
Definitely!

Otherwise, feel free to go to HELL. 🙂

Why you should vote “Yes”, even if you don’t want to

Well, the day is finally here. The High Court challenges have been struck down, the campaigns have been run, and now here I am, walking up the street to cast my vote, in the warming sun of spring-time Sydney.

As I approach the polling place, I cannot help but smile that the vote should take place in a church. How satisfying, to imagine god looking down upon me as I vote. I must remember to look up and wink at him, right when I mark my ballot paper. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. Just in a completely platonic “Hey buddy, I got this” kind of way. But anyway… what a sweet irony, that the democratic process of this lucky, prosperous, fair-go-for-all country should call on me to vote in god’s own house. And how fortunate, that that same democratic process is giving me an opportunity to have a say in how other people live their lives.

But that’s the problem, isn’t it. It’s not just a say in how they live their lives. It’s about how their lives affect me. Even they admit there aren’t many of them. What is it, like 8% at most? And yet they already affect every aspect of our lives, and, more importantly, the lives of our children. That’s what this is really about – a battle. A battle for the minds of the young. Because the future is forged in the minds of the young. And fart jokes. Fart jokes are also forged in the minds of the young. Their side has always known that. Probably not the bit about fart jokes, because they never appear to have a sense of humour. But definitely the bit about the future. And that’s what they’re trying to do here.

But even if they weren’t trying to convert our kids, I’d still vote “No”, because they’re wrong. As simple as that. They’re wrong and they want to drag the rest of us down with them. I can’t stand the thought of all the things they do and say behind those closed doors. It’s gross. And ridiculous. It’s… it’s… dammit. I was trying to combine “gross” and “ridiculous” into a word but I can’t, because I’m so angry and grodiculous.

These are the thoughts that consume me as I shuffle along in the queue, smiling at my own righteousness, and breathing in the delicious smell of sausage. In fact, all I can smell is sausage. Far out, now all I want to do is eat a sausage. Not in a sexy way, mind. That would be a little hypocritical, given why I’m here. It’s just a democracy sausage. I’m allowed to eat a democracy sausage.

Eventually I find myself completely alone in a small cardboard cubicle next to 30 other people completely alone in their own cardboard cubicles. I try and stifle the similarities with that weird night out in Hong Kong, and I look down to see a piece of paper, and a crappy pencil, and a simple question. But no sausages.

And the question is beautiful. And just what I wanted. And I will vote “No”, because that’s what I believe, and that’s what they deserve. So I grab my crappy pencil, which is way too short and digs into my palm. And as I look down at my hand, and at the pencil digging into my palm, I am struck with both the simplicity and the power of it all. There’s no fighting in the streets, no storming of the palace gates. All it takes is me, armed with a simple pencil, and answering a simple question, and the lives of many are changed forever. And I imagine the hand of a “Yes” voter poised above the same ballot, possibly right next to me, and I grin as I imagine what she must be thinking. She’s also thinking about the simple question, and the simple pencil, and about how right now millions of her fellow citizens are grinning, just like me, at being able to have their say in how she lives her life. Her hand is probably shaking… with rage, or fear, or embarrassment, that something so dear to her, something so innate and precious, is being subjected to the whims of a bunch of complete strangers.

Wait, what? Where did those thoughts come from?

This isn’t about her! It’s about me, and my children, and what’s right. Right?

My pencil hovers above the “No” box. Now it’s my hand that is shaking. What am I doing? I look once more at the question before me, the question previously so simple and beautiful:

“Should we continue to allow the public practice of Christianity?”

I read it again, and again, and again. And suddenly everything is not as simple as I thought. Their faith is misplaced, and it does affect my life, and they do try and influence our children.

But it is precious to them. And sincere. And their right.

We’re all different, but we’re all in this together. And a part of our democracy would die if we were to take it away from them.

So I vote “Yes”. Not because I agree.

But because it’s right.

Court 1: The Margaret Court Centre for Kids Who Can’t Write Letters Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too Like Play Tennis

Say what you like about Margaret Court and her views on marriage equality, but dayum… girlfriend sure knows how to write a letter.

I know this because she wrote one and, like many of you, I read it. But unlike the rest of you Philistines, I didn’t merely recoil with horror at her tendentious mendacity, and berate her for the belligerent homophobia of her splenetic polemic. No! Because to me, her words were art. And, much like a painting by Andrew Bolt’s doodle, surely we can appreciate a great work of art, while distancing ourselves from the dïck that created it. What is to separate us from the beasts if we can’t? Oh, pants. Pants also separate us from the beasts. But you get my point – Splenetic Polemic would be a great band name. And also, Margaret Court’s letter was like a painting by Andrew Bolt’s doodle.

So that is why I waited a little while for things to settle down for Margaret, before rushing to enrol in The Margaret Court Centre for Kids Who Can’t Write Letters Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too Like Play Tennis. And boy, am I glad I did. After attending the course last week, I can now say without a word of a lie that, not only is Margaret a great tennis player – oh hang on she’s probably not that good any more. I’ll start again. Not only is Margaret a great former sports entertainment person, but she’s a great teacher, too. And for those of us lucky enough to attend the course, she great teachered the cräp out of us. I now know how to write a letter just as amazing as Margaret’s, and my forehand has improved by at least 8%.

Now, Margaret wants to keep this knowledge a secret. She said that with a great forehand comes great responsibility, or something like that. But I think this knowledge deserves to be out there. I think we should all be able to write letters like this. Especially today, when there are so many letters to write, and so many social causes to champion. So, at great personal risk, I managed to smuggle out the Margaret Court Guide to Writing Letters Good, which walks you through the real-life letter mentioned above, and shows you how you too can write a letter just as amazing.

And at the risk of being sued, here it is:

See? I told you it was amazing. But as amazing as it most certainly is, what if such brilliance is beyond me? How can I possibly know whether I am worthy of receiving such wisdom? Well, I thought about it a long time, and I decided that the only way I will ever know is to write a letter myself. And so I did – to Virgin, who are also an airline, and who also support marriage equality. My letter is below, and Margaret, if you are reading, I hope I did you proud, and you find it a fitting tribute to the elegance and luminosity of your undeniable artistic ability.
_____

Dear Mr Board Person,

I write this as an open letter to the Virgin board as someone who works with spreadsheets a lot. Seriously, I have the best spreadsheets. Just fantastic.

As you will know, I can make a really funny noise with my ear, and I once ate a whole box of Barbecue Shapes for dinner.

Now, I’m not mad, but I’m disappointed that Virgin has decided to actively promote gender equality in the workplace. I believe that it is wrong to plough with a donkey and an ox yoked together, as stated in the bible.

I feel so strongly about this that I absolutely refuse to fly with you ever again. That is how important it is to me. But, on the other hand, I don’t like trains or buses, and I can’t fly Qantas, so I might have to fly with you sometimes. But I will give you all dirty looks.

How proud I was to promote Virgins throughout the world, from the Aircar SkyChariots to the Boeing 7-Elevens. I did this as I was absolutely quite certain that Virgins were a huge promoter of gender inequality, right up until your recent public statement.

I used to be a penguin, and will be pleased to attend your family Christmas dinner at any time. But it won’t be in March.

May the kisses of a thousand racehorses grace your birthday party.

Tim, B.BBQ Shapes, Somewhere in Scandinavia
_____

There. It is done. Thank you Margaret for your guidance, and may the kisses of a thousand racehorses grace your birthday party.