The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Should money-making mediums be banned?

Yes… yes they should.

Part 1:

Part 2:

(via Atheiest Media Blog, via the good ol’ BBC)

With all this Uren, it’s definitely time to break the Seal

As I mentioned the other day, the Irish Prime Minister (or Taoiseach, which by the way, is apparently pronounced “Tea-shock”), has called for the Catholic Church to do away with their cherished “sacramental seal” of confession.

Needless to say, the Church hasn’t exactly warmed to the idea. Given the paucity, (or rather, non-existence), of cases where paedophilic abuse was reported outside of the confessional seal, their reluctance is hardly surprising. What is surprising are the feeble attempts at wrangling such a cynical position into secular legitimacy.

Which brings us to Father Bill Uren, Jesuit priest, and Rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne. Unencumbered by such trivial concerns as empathy and common sense, Bill set his mighty intellect to work, and managed to coax three “arguments” out into the open. And here they are, in all their glory, paraphrased for your convenience:

1 – It’s all too hard
We have no idea who comes into confession, because of our fool-proof privacy measures. We may have been clever enough to figure out that god exists, is Catholic, wants his Church to be an obscenely wealthy dictatorship, and perfected (but declined to patent) the art of virgin birth, but how on earth do you expect us to see through that little curtain?

2 – We’d break the law anyway
Even if we knew who the confessor was, no one likes a snitch. Well, except Harry Potter, but don’t get me started on him.

3 – Confession would become boring
Faced with the possibility of being turned in, no more paedophiles would come to confession, which would leave us with just the blasphemers and chronic masturbators to listen to.

Pens down, Church wins!

Well, not really.

For one thing, it should be immediately obvious that his second and third arguments cancel each other out. I mean, if Bill is right, and Catholic priests never break the confessional seal, why would paedophiles suddenly be afraid of going to confession?

But let’s indulge Bill for a moment. Suppose that the laws of logic are temporarily suspended, and we concede that paedophiles will stop going to confession for fear of being turned in by someone who would never turn them in. If this happened, Bill argues, Catholic priests would lose the opportunity to convince paedophiles to turn themselves in.

So, let me get this straight. A paedophile won’t go to confession if he thinks the priest might dob him in, but he’s happy to go to confession knowing the priest will try and convince him to dob himself in?


Anyway, all this is irrelevant, unless Bill can point us towards a single instance of a paedophile following a visit to the confessional with a visit to the police.

Well, Bill, can you?

Somehow, I very much doubt it. Unless, of course, I just happened to be away on the day that hundreds of paedophiles ran into the Police station yelling “We surrender! Yay for Catholic priests!”.

Now that I think about it, his efforts at logic remind me of the Flashbeer guy. I mean, Father Uren seems like he’s doing his best, but he looks so ridiculous that you can’t really be sure that he’s not taking the piss.

Religious privilege needs a kick in the head

And here’s why.

Last week, in Sydney, a man was flogged for 30 minutes in the middle of the night, by four bearded men of “middle eastern appearance”. I first read about it in the Sydney Morning Herald, where the author of the article seemed determined to mention the assailants’ exotic origins and hirsute appearance as many times as possible, without explicitly stating what everyone else was now thinking: that the victim had hired the famous late-night bondage service, “Beard to the Bone”.

Imagine my surprise, then, when it turned out that the poor man’s savage beating had come via the ever-merciful hands of Allah’s “Islamic Justice Squad”, whose motto, “Whips be upon him”, now makes perfect sense. He was apparently a recent convert to Wahhabism (currently the only thing protecting Saudi Arabian society from women drivers), and had broken one of their most sacred rules. Did he shoot someone? Sleep with the imam’s third wife? Add “ito” to the front sign of every mosque in Sydney? No, what he did was much, much worse – he had a drink. Perhaps he should have chosen Christianity, where drinking is perfectly acceptable, especially on Sunday morning. Hair of the god, indeed.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Catholic Church is in serious trouble. Once considered beyond political reproach, the Church now finds itself under unprecedented attack due to the recent release of the Cloyne Report into “priestly abuse”. Lest this ubiquitous euphemism confuse you into thinking I’m referring to enforced viewings of Beverly Hills 902010 re-runs, let me be more explicit, and accurate. The report details, in gut-wrenching detail, the institutionalised enablement and cover-up of child rape. I dare you to read even a small excerpt without feeling sick.

Unfortunately for the Church, their lack of introspection and unwillingness to change has led one Irish politician (the Taoiseach, no less) to do what was once unthinkable – he’s called for the abolition of the “Sacramental Seal” of the confessional. Under this long-held and fiercely-protected tradition, if a person confesses a serious crime to a Catholic priest (basically, anything except the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th Commandments), the priest is forbidden to inform secular authorities, or anyone else for that matter.

Enda Kenny has now said “Enough is enough”. The Church’s response? Get fucked.

Tying these two incidents together is young Niko Alm, who demanded, and won, the right to wear a colander in his drivers’ licence photo. Wait… did you say colander…? But… but… that’s ridiculous! Unless it’s justified by religious belief, that is.

You see, Niko is a Pastafarian, the term for members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And his religion requires him to wear a colander on his head. Silly? Undoubtedly. But when you think about it, isn’t it just as silly, and religiously legitimate, as a Sikh’s turban, or a Jew’s Kippah, or a Muslim’s hajib?

Do you see the problem now?

If you have a holy book, anything goes.

Want to claim that wives are their husband’s property? Invoke religion. Want to whip people into a bloody pulp for the non-issue of drinking alcohol? Point to your holy book. Don’t feel like aiding in the prosecution of confessed paedophiles? Just tell ‘em the Pope said you can’t.

If all religions are equal, then religion can be used to justify anything.

But here’s the rub. Christians will point to the Muslims and say “You can’t whip people for drinking alcohol”, and Muslims will point to Christians and say, “You can’t protect child rapists”. Each will condemn the views of the other, while demanding respect for their own brand of revealed dogma.

And all the while, the Pastafarians just wish that everyone would put down their holy book, and use their noodle.

This oughta be good

The atheists are wrong. Wrong I tells ya!

Or at least, that’s what the three speakers on the affirmative will be arguing at the next Intelligence Squared debate to be held in Sydney. Happily, there will be another three speakers to set them straight.

I have to say, I like the way the topic has been worded. I admit that, at first glance, it seems as if the burden of proof has shifted from theists to atheists, which is, of course, absurd. But on further consideration, I think the topic as stated should make for a more lively debate.

So… who are we atheists up against?

The Most Reverend Peter Jensen
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is rather fond of throwing his ill-considered views into the secular ring, so it should be refreshing to hear him speak on matters that he is actually an authority on. That is, anything that doesn’t involve science. Or logic. As an aside, I love how religious leaders invent titles for themselves. How do the alleged servants of the humble son of a carpenter contrive to keep a straight face as they gambol about society with these ridiculous tributes to their own greatness? I mean, look at Peter. He’s not just a Reverend (from the Latin, “one who must be respected”), he’s the Most Reverend, as if they held a competition, and he out-reverend everyone else.

Dr Tracey Rowland
Tracey is an Associate Professor at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. She is certainly intelligent – I mean, check out her letters:

BA (Hons), LLB (Qld), B Litt, MA, Grad Dip Mod Lang (Melb), PhD (Cantab), STL (Lateran), Dip Ed St MCollT (London)

Unfortunately, nestled in amongst the Master of Arts, the Bachelor of Law, the Bachelor of Letters (whatever that is), and the Graduate Diploma in Modern Languages, is the source of her “Dr” title. Yes, it’s a PhD from the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity. Hopefully that means she gives us more of this:

What emerged from this was a magisterial emphasis on Communio theological anthropology and ecclesiology, including elements of John Paul II’s Thomistic personalism.


Scott Stevens
Scott is the online editor of the ABC’s Religion & Ethics portal. He is a former Uniting Church minister, and a former lecturer in theology and ethics. He also thinks the Vatican needs George Pell. Since I have a strong feeling that neither the planet, nor anyone on it, needs George Pell, I would be perfectly fine to hear Scott talk us through that.

The debate isn’t until September 6, but I’m already looking forward to it. Should be a cracker. You can buy tickets here.

See you there!

Thank Crap for Media Watch

Honestly, it’s the best show on TV. In the twelve minutes it would take one of the real housewives of New York or Tittybong (or wherever they are these days) to force their botox-crippled face into a smile, Media Watch will have opened your eyes to all the self-serving, opportunistic, deceptive idiocy that the Australian media has to offer.

It… is… awesome.

Take this episode from June 27. It starts off fairly innocuously, with a story from the SMH website about a female tennis player undergoing a breast reduction, “much to the disappointment of her male fans”. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “OMFSM, that’s unbelievable!”. I couldn’t believe it either. A perfect opportunity to say that male tennis fans had lost “a set to love”… wasted.

We then move on to more important matters. Namely, the poker machine reforms proposed by independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie to mitigate the enormous social costs of problem gambling. “What problem gambling?”, you ask. The problem gambling that results in nearly 300,000 Australians losing an average of $12,000 per year. That’s $3.5bn, before you’ve even allowed for the flow-on impacts on divorce rates, mental health and domestic violence. It’s an enormous problem.

So is basic comprehension, apparently.

This is what Andrew Wilkie had to say in support of his proposed reforms:

The Productivity Commission … found that 40 per cent of the money through the poker machines comes from problem gamblers.

These are the actual words in the report he is referring to:

The share of total spending … by problem gamblers … was 41 per cent (with the range from the minimum to maximum being 22 to 60 per cent, and with 80 per cent of the estimates being between 27 and 54 per cent)
Gambling, volume 1, page 5.33

Seems like Mr Wilkie’s comprehension is just fine. Let’s see how the good people who run our clubs manage:

  • The proponent of this deal has said himself that revenue impact would be up to 40 per cent.
    – Peter Newell, President of Clubs Australia (Source)
  • [Andrew Wilkie admitted] this morning that his deal with the Prime Minister for a mandatory pre-commitment system will reduce club revenue by up to 40%…
    – Clubs Australia Press Release, 24th November, 2010
  • …if the new laws were introduced it could reduce the club’s revenue by 40 per cent.
    – Joe Kelly, Cowboys Leagues Club
  • We stand to lose 40 per cent of our revenue, and no business is sustainable with that degree of financial loss.
    – Larry Collins, City Bowling Club
  • Our revenue will drop 40 per cent and no business can take that.
    – Geoff Knight, South Sydney Juniors

No, no, no.

As pointed out by Media Watch, most people seem to have lost the two rather crucial words preceeding the 40 per cent figure – “up to”. And if that’s not bad enough, how’s this for a punchline?

Clubs Australia’s CEO Anthony Ball told the ABC’s Lateline that the revenue loss will come from “…casual gamblers like me”. If he’s right, then the Productivity Commission’s 40% figure is completely irrelevant.


It’s also worth mentioning that:

  • The 40 per cent figure relates to gaming revenue, not total revenue. Unless, FSM-forbid, clubs have recently stopped selling poorly-assembled parmagiana and carafes of shitty reisling, the impact on total revenue will be much less than 40%.
  • Revenue aint profit. Yeah, sure… if all the problem gamblers stopped playing the pokies, your poker machine revenue would go down 40%. But so would your poker machine payouts.


And speaking of idiots, the final items come from Today Tonight, and can be summarised as follows:

    Miracle cure!

    Oi, government! Pay for my miracle cure!

    Haha, kidding… It might cause cancer.

    Umm… how about… welfare cheats!

    Look at all the mansions owned by welfare cheats!

    Haha, kidding… they’re all owned by rich Channel 7 employees.

Not a bad way to spend 12 minutes, eh?