The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Found in translation

Oh Holger, you didn’t. Please tell me you didn’t say that “women should shut up in public”.

Because that’s what the Herald Sun, The Age, The Gaurdian, The Daily Mail and the ABC are saying you said. And, oh dear, I just checked YouTube, and it’s on there too, for all to see. “You push me around like my wife”, you said. “Women should shut up in public”, you said. What do you have to say for yourself?

You thought you were off the record? Come on Holger, you’ve been playing the press game long enough to know that nothing’s really off the record, especially when you have about 20 microphones in your face and you say something stupid.

Oh hang on, it was only a joke? A private joke between you and your wife? Well, sorry Holger, but just because you and your wife think it’s funny, it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.

Wait, wait, what was that? What you actually said was “Mulieres taceres in ecclesia”? Haha, nice try Holger, but saying “Women should shut up in public” in Latin doesn’t make it sound any better. In French, maybe… but definitely not Latin.

Ahhhh, I see now. You were just quoting the Bible. 1 Corinthians 14:35, to be exact.

Well that can’t possibly be sexist. Carry on.

Spotted by the eagle-eared Martin from Furious Purpose.

Don’t call me bigot

There are some things that people don’t being called. Like arsehole, for example. Or bitch. Or Quincy. Most of us are fairly immune to such taunts, however, because of a quiet confidence in our true nature. “That’s OK,” we tell ourselves, “I know I’m not an arsehole, or a bitch. And I definitely possess no quince-like qualities.” There is one label, however, that is almost guaranteed to result in an outpouring of outraged indignation.

No one likes being called a bigot.

And, my, have lots of people been called bigots lately. Same-sex marriage opponents have been called bigots. Same-sex marriage supporters have been called bigots, too. Not even Mr James Bigot of Wetherill Park has been safe, despite assuring everyone that the ‘t’ is silent. But it all became a bit much for some people when our Finance Minister, who is raising a child in a committed lesbian relationship, said that the Australian Christian Lobby, and, by implication, all Christians who shared their view, were “peddling prejudice” and engaging in “bigotry that has no place in a modern Australia”.

Needless to say, a lot of people were a little unhappy. The ACL itself said that “the bigotry card…played by none other than the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Senator Penny Wong [made] no attempt to engage with our argument. Why bother when a slur of Christians will do?” Reverend David Swan shared a similar sentiment, saying that “if Senator Wong could take a moment to engage with the argument that has been proposed rather than simply accuse people of bigotry…then perhaps a better discussion might ensue”. And Gary Bigelow, who I’m told is most definitely not related to Deuce, felt that calling someone a bigot was “divisive and inflammatory…and unworthy of a politician in this country”. Because as we all know, Australian politicians are never divisive or inflammatory, are they? *cough*

So… are any of these criticisms justified?

To answer that question, it might be helpful to revisit what a bigot actually is. According to Merriam-Webster, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”. I prefer, however, the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract”.

It all comes down to open-mindedness, or, more specifically, a willingness to consider that you might be wrong. If you’re the kind of person who considers the evidence first and forms an opinion second, or if you adjust your view in light of new evidence, then you’re probably in the clear. But if you decide before you think, or you cling doggedly to your opinion as evidence to the contrary piles up around you, then, I’m sorry, but there’s a very good chance that you’re a bigot. And if your opinion is a basis for discrimination against a particular race, gender or sexuality, that “good chance” becomes a certainty.

So I guess the three people above just need to ask themselves two questions.

The first question is a simple one: “Does my view form the basis of discriminatory action against a race, gender or sexuality?”

Why yes, yes it does.

The second question is slightly harder. “Can I conceive of any evidence that could change my mind?”

Note that this isn’t asking if such evidence exists, but merely if such evidence is possible. Is it possible that same-sex marriage will not automatically lead to plagues of bestiality and incest? Is it possible it will actually increase societal cohesion, and not lead to complete moral decay? Is it conceivable that a study might show that same-sex families are as happy or happier than their heterosexual equivalents?

Sadly, the answer for many of the opponents of marriage equality seems to be “no”. But, strangely, such people are actually less infuriating than the people who answer “yes”. For, while these people will trumpet any evidence that happens to confirm their particular preconception, they will summarily dismiss any evidence that contradicts it. Say hello, Lyle Shelton.

And they do this because they have to. You see, for someone like Lyle, all these many questions are different versions of just one.

When it comes to homosexuality and marriage, could god be wrong?

And I think we all know how Lyle would answer that one.

So, are you one of these people? Are you willing to consider that you, or your god, could be wrong on marriage equality? No? Then you’re a bigot.

And just like anyone called an arsehole, or a bitch, or Quincy, all you need to do now is decide if you care.

Why I believe I can’t believe why this person believes what he believes

The latest Outreach Media poster is out, and I really don’t get it. Just what, exactly, is this poster trying to say?

Outreach Media - Why I believe

Apparently, it’s important that we know why this particular person believes in Jesus. But why? Oh yes, it must be because this person, Professor Ross McKenzie, is a world expert in condensed matter theory. That means he’s smart. Real smart. Much smarter, in fact, than anyone who happens to stop and read the poster, myself included.

Fine, fine… but what’s the point?

As we all know, there’s a lot of silly stuff in the bible. So maybe the point is that if a really, really smart person believes in something silly it’s OK for us to believe it, too. Which I guess means the poster is kind of saying this:

Why I believe 1

But perhaps that’s unfair. I don’t know what flavour of Christianity Professor McKenzie follows… maybe he’s so smart that he doesn’t take the Old Testament literally. Maybe he’s more of a New Testament kind of guy, and the poster is actually saying this:

Why I believe 2

OK, OK, I’m picking on a silly part of the New Testament. He’s probably just trying to highlight some of the more general beliefs shared by most Christians. You know, like this:

Why I believe 3

There, that sounds about right.

But hang on. They picked someone really, really smart for this campaign. That’s gotta be significant. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they have just picked Doris, world expert in condensed milk theory? Perhaps it’s because being a physicist means you have a better understanding of the universe’s origins… in which case, the poster is really trying to say this:

Why I believe 4

Hmm… perhaps I’m getting away from the original question. Why does Professor McKenzie believe? Maybe… just maybe… he studied all of the world’s religions objectively before deciding to believe in the one that had the most convincing evidence.

Or maybe he’s a Christian for the same reason pretty much everyone else is.

Why I believe 5

To Do’s unto others

The latest Outreach Media poster is out!


I dunno. Leaving aside the fact that entering eternal life means leaving this one, goals should at least be attainable, and drinking more water sounds kind of hard. With that in mind, I took the trouble to make a new list for them, one that is hopefully a little more achievable.


God is a gentleman… apparently

If you’re a good American Christian, and you play to the stereotype, it’s likely that the recent school massacre has reaffirmed a few things.

In particular, it’s probably reaffirmed that:

  • All those Christian founding fathers were bang on when they wrote the Second Amendment. It’s just the First Amendment they stuffed up;
  • What America needs, more than anything else, is more guns (let’s face it, you’re going to think twice about gunning down six-year-olds if you know they’re all carrying);
  • Anyone calling for even the smallest amount of gun control is a left-wing, anti-American, pinko, Muslim atheist kill-joy, and probably gay.

What it probably hasn’t affirmed is that, while your god might be great at weddings, he is, to put it mildly, a bit of an arsehole.

You see, if you believe in an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent god, you must also believe that god could have somehow stopped Adam Lanza from killing 20 children, but chose not to. But why on earth would he choose not to intervene? Let’s ask Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association.

So there you have it, folks. God will happily appear on your toast, find you a parking space at Costco, stop your son’s Little League team from getting the wooden spoon, and help you win a Grammy. But he won’t intervene to stop the slaughter of 20 six-year-old children in a public school, because god is a gentleman, and doesn’t go where he’s not wanted.


Because nothing says “You’re wanted” like being nailed to a giant cross.

Just a thought…

Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Turn the other cheek.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Homosexuality is an abomination.

If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.

A human life is created by the joining of a material body and an immaterial soul at the moment of conception.

The Devil exists, and is currently taking time out of his busy schedule of never-ending torture to campaign for marriage equality in Australia.

Any pregnancy resulting from rape was intended by god.

An invisible all-powerful being named God created the universe and everything was fine until a snake tricked a woman into eating some magical forbidden fruit which she then gave to her husband but god found out so the man tried to pin the entire blame on her (what a douche!) but God decided to just punish them both (even though he was really to blame because he put a completely unnecessary but apparently very forbidden tree within easy reach of two idiotic nudists with limited reasoning skills) so the woman had to squeeze babies out of her inadequately sized vagina and the man had to grow vegies (which doesn’t really seem fair but being all-powerful God could do what he wanted so he did) and the two of them had to populate the earth but there were only two of them so there was a lot of incest until one day God decided to kill pretty much everyone on the planet but instead of just clicking his fingers to kill everything he decided to do it all dramatically via a massive world-wide flood so he ordered some guy named Noah to build a hunormous boat with very specific but conceptually inadequate dimensions and then gather up all the plant and animal species on the planet and put them on the boat as well as enough fresh food and toilet paper to survive while the earth was flooded (pity the rabbits if they ran out of toilet paper) which admittedly all sounds a little far fetched but the plan apparently worked because the flood came and everything died and life on the boat was pretty good except Noah’s sons nearly smoked all the marijuana but luckily Noah caught them just in time otherwise we wouldn’t have any marijuana today and after the waters all receded Noah ended up living to 900 or something which is why “Are you a builder of large-scale ocean going zoos?” is now a standard question on all insurance underwriting forms and he and his family repopulated the earth so once again there was quite a bit of incest but everything went back to normal for a while until God decided it was time to send his son who was himself down to earth because that was absolutely the only way he could think of to forgive everyone for the whole forbidden fruit tree debacle so he sent an angel to impregnate an engaged Jewish virgin named Mary and Mary’s fiance was like “Mary, WTF?!” and she was all like “Calm your farm, it’s God’s baby” and Joseph was like “Well OK” but secretly he was thinking “I bet it’s that Ishmael fucker next door” but anyway Mary gave birth to God’s son who was himself and he performed a few miracles like turning water into wine (it may have been merlot, but definitely wasn’t shiraz) but he pissed off the Jewish and Roman authorities so they hatched a plan to arrest him which God’s son who was himself wanted them to do anyway except for that one time in the garden where he asked his father who was himself if he could bail but god who was he said no so he went for a nice quite meal and was betrayed by one of his followers and now everyone hates that guy even though it was all part of god’s son who was himself’s plan but I digress so anyway they nailed God’s son who was himself to a big cross and he went to hell for three days for some unknown reason but then he came back to earth and released a zombie hoard before floating up to heaven and now many years later if you’re Catholic he will turn himself into a tasteless biscuit so we can all sit around on Sunday and eat him.

Ten Christian beliefs, which begin as common sense and end in abject, interminable absurdity. The trouble is, the final absurdity is not a Christian belief, but its definition.

Which renders the other beliefs a little irrelevant, don’t you think?

Let me fix that for you… again

The last poster was stupid. This one’s just sad.

In the accompanying article, the woman in the photo, Belinda, explains that she was “born with a broken face”, and “despite some clever doctors doing their best to fix” her, she remains disfigured.

I am happy that she seems to have found some kind of peace with the hand she’s been dealt. But I also feel profoundly sad. Sad that she celebrates the beauty that her god sees in her, while simultaneously wishing she’d been “fixed”. Sad that she finds strangeness in the human reaction to her appearance, but not in the deity that bestowed it. Sad that she doesn’t realise that although “god doesn’t dislike us because of our scars”, he dislikes us enough to give them to us. Sad that, for every person who has managed the double-think required to love the god that cursed them, there are 1,000 others who’d swap the imaginary cosmic compliment for some kind of normality. And sad that, although Belinda was able to ask her god for answers, there are countless others, like my autistic nephew, who will never be able to.

And so, the more appropriate caption is this:

Reality is in the hands of the creator.

Belinda is beautiful. But she’s not beautiful because of the way her god made her. She’s beautiful in spite of it.

Edit: I had originally recaptioned the poster with “God. Messing with people’s heads since 4000 B.C”. Many thanks to Chrys for highlighting my insensitivity, unintentional though it was.

Even if…

When I did debating back in high school, apart from dazzling people with my spiffy private school blazer and my ability to occasionally (and very deliberately) look up from my TAB cue cards, I used to employ a little tactic called “The Even If”. I remember that it was my father who suggested it first:

“You don’t always have to argue against the facts they present. That can take ages. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just accept their fact and argue against its implications. Also, you’ve got tomato sauce on your blazer.”

Sorry, that last sentence probably wasn’t relevant, but you can see the appeal. Rather than spending your entire life researching the bogus claims of your opposition, you simply take what they say at face value and shoot down whatever nonsense their “fact” implies. Take the following example, which I covered here:

    Same sex marriage opponents:
    Research shows children do best with a mother and a father!
    Well that may or may not be true, but even if it is, a child raised by your average gay couple will do a lot better than a child raised by hetero drug addicts. It makes no sense to ban one and not the other.

Case closed!

Yes, the claim being made may very well be false (as in the above example), and proving it so is admittedly very satisfying, but it can be quite time consuming. So I was understandably torn when, just last week, Jim Wallace astounded us all with this piece of wisdom:

The life of a [homosexual] male [is] reduced by up to 20 years. The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke.

My interest was immediately piqued, and the humanist, logician and actuary in me all wanted to run off and check whether this astounding revelation was true (to the life tables, Statman!). But, as I sat there considering how best to tell my wife that I couldn’t feed our newborn son for the next few hours because I needed to research the almost certainly false assertions of the jelly-brained leader of a mediocre Christian lobby group, I suddenly realised… there was no need to. Even if Jim’s claims are true, he still loses.

So let’s imagine for a moment that we live in Jim’s world. A world where homosexuality is a habit, just like smoking, that people indulge in to look cool, or to relax, or to have something to do with their hands at parties. A world where homosexuality can be encouraged and discouraged with the proper educational tools. A world where there are apparently no lesbians, which is a shame. And, most shocking of all, a world where any gay man that indulges his homosexual habit will shorten his life by 20 years.

What are we to do? Apart from training up a few lesbians, I mean.

Well, according to Jim, since we tell our children not to smoke, we should also tell our children not to gay (if “to smoke” is a verb, then “to gay” must be, too). Probably something along the lines of, “Don’t gay, or you’ll get AIDS, and do drugs, and wear mesh shirts”.

It doesn’t take a great deal of mental exertion to see that, even if we accept gaying is a habit, telling children that the only solution is not to gay is simply ridiculous: while there is no way to smoke safely, there is a very easy way to gay safely. For less than Jim’s 2012 ACL performance bonus, you can buy a thin latex sheath to put over your penis before you put it in your partner’s bottom. And if that’s not enough for you, you can put on two (condoms, not bottoms). Might it not make more sense to tell children that, rather than telling them to avoid gaying at all costs? To answer that question, let’s see what the ACL thinks of the situation in Canada:

Not only is the [Toronto District School board] trampling parents’ freedom of conscience, it is also trampling that of teachers…saying that “teachers refusing to create an inclusive classroom that is safe and supportive for all students would create a poisoned learning environment”.
Senate submission on same sex marriage

Why, that’s awful! What else is going on over there?!

The Toronto curriculum, designed for K-12 students, is particularly aggressive in that it goes beyond highlighting homosexual issues and urges teachers to encourage children to engage in social action on the issue, such as by participating in homosexual pride parades. New teachers in Ontario will be required to undergo mandatory “training in sexual orientation and gender diversity”.
– ibid.

AGGGGGGHHHHHH! My eyes! My eyes!

But… surely we’re immune from such nonsense in Australia? Not a chance!

The Australian Education Union actively promotes homosexuality among its members and in schools. Its policy document, Policy on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People, says it is committed to fighting heterosexism, which involves challenging “[t]he assumption that heterosexual sex and relationships are ‘natural’ or ‘normal’.
– ibid.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting the impression that Jim isn’t all that keen on discussing gaying in the classroom at all, so gaylord knows how he’s going to discourage children from gaying, let alone telling them how to do it safely.

And there you have it. I could have spent hours finding the studies his figures were based on, and then checking who commissioned them, where the data came from, whether there were sampling biases, and whether there were any other studies that contradicted them. Instead, however, all I had to do was show that Jim’s suggested course of action was not only illogical, but something he doesn’t want to do anyway.

Easy peasy.

I should add that, thanks to some diligent legwork by the always awesome Chrys, we know that the claim is bogus anyway. Surprise, surprise.

Submission impossible

The scene: Joe and Mary want to get married. Unaware of Sydney Anglicans’ new marriage vows, they approach their local Anglican priest to enquire about using his church for the ceremony…

Joe: Hi there. I’m Joe, and this is my fiance, Mary. We were wondering if we could talk to you about getting married in your church.

Priest: Hi Joe! Come in, please. Will Mary be waiting outside?

Joe: Excuse me?

Priest: Oh, you’re one of those. Fine, fine. Come in, please.

Joe: Thank you.

Priest: So, you want to be married in my church?

Joe: Yes, if that’s possible.

Priest: Shouldn’t be a problem. You’re both Christian, I hope?

Mary: Yes, we are.

Priest: Good, good. And I assume you know what will be expected of you, as soon-to-be-married Christians?

Joe: I think so. We should at all times be to each other what Christ was to his followers.

Priest: And that was…?

Mary: Respectful, loving, forgiving —

Priest: Goodness gracious! Where on earth did you hear that?

Mary: Oh, I thought the bible —

Priest: Haha, poor little thing. That’s not what the bible says at all… Your husband is your master!

Joe: That doesn’t sound right…

Priest: I can see how you might have missed it. I mean, it’s only in the first frikken book. “And the Lord God said to Adam, It is not good that you should be alone; I will make an help meet for you.”

Mary: An help meet?

Priest: Well, OK, the wording is a little silly. But there’s more, Mary! “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. See? You have to find him sexy, and he gets to boss you around.

Mary: Oh… It really says that?

Priest: And more! This is the best bit. Adam wasn’t punished for eating the fruit, he was punished because he listened to his wife! “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, cursed is the ground for thy sake”.

Mary: Well, maybe, but that’s just a story, isn’t it…

Priest: Don’t be so worried! Submission isn’t a bad thing, Mary. It’s like dancing. The man always leads, right?

Mary: I guess so… but a dance doesn’t last 50 years, does it?

Priest: OK, OK. Bad example. Think of it more like an altar boy submitting to his priest.

Joe: Well that doesn’t sound so bad. Right, honey?

Mary: Yeah, that does sound better!

Priest: So, we’re all on board?

Joe and Mary: Yep!

Priest: That’s great news! It’s great being Christian, isn’t it? Imagine being one of those damned Muslims. The way they treat their women. Disgraceful…

Public Service Announcement!

Our old friend Trevor Cairney, leader of the world’s least impressive Christian apologetics organisation, and author of a blog even more inane than this one, is back! He went quiet there for a little while, but stifling debate is pretty hard work, so it’s understandable.

Anyway, his latest post concerns the Girl Guides’ decision to drop ‘God’ and ‘the Queen’ from their pledge. Needless to say, it’s powerful stuff.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Buried in amongst the largely forgettable psuedo-intellectual whining is this little gem:

Who we are, and what is for my good, is always to be for the good also of others.

That statement hit me like a neutrino. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time!

And so, I want to make you all this promise. From now on, if I ever masturbate, and I’m not saying I will, but if I do (I’m sure I won’t), I will be thinking of you.

Don’t worry, it’s for your own good.