Saturday, March 27, 2010

Democracy and Ignorance

A Harris Interactive Poll just released is frightening and sobering, which is truly an understatement. The Poll reveals that large portions of the American voting public have little grasp of some pretty unchallenged facts while holding some delusional opinions, to put it mildly.

The Poll asked some hot-wire questions: "... here are some things people have said about President Obama. Please indicate for each whether you believe it is true or false." You can find all the questions and a breakdown of the responses by political affiliation and education here:

It apparently is pointless to prove how nuts some of these beliefs are since they have been proven false many times over, but since these beliefs are easily disputed, here we go again.

The Obama is a foreigner, Muslim, not legally president stuff which can be shown to be objectively false has been well covered at and

The other items in the poll are, more or less, opinions. Is Obama a racist, Wall Street catering socialist(!) who wants to take our guns and who wants the terrorists to win?

Take the craziest of the above ideas: let's say that Obama "wants the terrorists to win" is the craziest idea; why on earth would he want this? What possible motive could a US president have in wanting terrorists to win against his own country?

Could it be that Obama is a Muslim and, of course, all Muslims want the terrorists to win? This is simply another certifiably nutty idea besides being totally untrue in its depiction of Obama as a Muslim. In fact, I would bet that the majority of those who believe that Obama is a Muslim think that being a Muslim means being a member of a race, such as Caucasian, or that it's a nationality, such as Canadian. It is just ignorance, stupidity and arrogance.

Add to this nonsense the impossible to ignore real world escalation of American efforts by the Obama administration in Afghanistan to FIGHT THE TERRORISTS, then it becomes simply undeniable that this opinion is just crazy.

Yet 23% of Republicans believe that Obama wants the terrorists to win! 57% of Republicans, versus 15% of Democrats think Obama is a Muslim! In my humble opinion, it is obviously fine to take issue with many of Obama's policies. However to believe that Barack Obama (or George W Bush before him) wants bad things to happen to the country is idiotic. It is possible that presidential policies can lead to American misery, and they have, but even W did not ruin our country on purpose!

But the cherry on top of American and particularly right-wing insanity is the belief of 24% of Republicans and conservatives that Obama may be the anti-Christ. This indicates a belief that there actually could be an anti-Christ, which is crazy enough, but it also supports a belief that, conveniently, their current political opponent is equivalent to the greatest evil of all time. What could be more evil than the anti-Christ?

I'm sure that this kind of idiocy is not confined to the right wing; many left wingers shared extreme beliefs about President Bush and his administration, including the nonsense that he somehow allowed or planned the 9/11 attacks as opposed to merely being incompetent or ignorant. But it would seem that the left wing nuttiness was truly confined to the extremes. 24% of Republicans believe that Obama is the anti-Christ and 57% think he's a Muslim and 45% think he's not legally the president. This is no fringe movement - if this Harris Poll is accurate (it would be good to review their methodology which was not perfect but may not have affected the results) insanity is now a component of mainstream Republicanism.

Where is this all coming from? What is the cause of the outright rejection of obvious facts or the formulation of ridiculous and illogical conclusions?

Could it be the mainstream and acceptable indoctrination of the average person into believing the planet is about 6,000 years old, that the universe is governed by an invisible man somewhere up in the sky and that death is not the end for us.

Maybe this indoctrination works not only to get us to believe the impossible, but to disbelieve the obvious.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Pope and Child Abuse

It may appear that I have some special animus towards the Catholic Church but I have no particular grudge with them. I was raised a Catholic but never experienced any abuse. My experience with them was ordinary and mundane. They are simply the biggest religious institution in the world and therefore the biggest and easiest target. And irrationality is a staple of any faith-held system of belief or dogma which often leads to human misery. Hence the numerous comments.

Right now the Church is experiencing in various European countries the same scandal that has rocked the US - that of pedophile priests and the inevitable coverup by the Church hierarchy.

The Pope apologized in that special papal manner: The Pope said Irish bishops "failed, at times, grievously," and "serious mistakes were made" when confronted with clerical sexual abuse. He called the abuse, which was outlined in devastating detail in two investigations released last year in Ireland, "sinful and criminal." (Go to .)

But the Pope did not admit that the Church hierarchy had any culpability; the organized and papally directed obfuscation remained off limits and not apologized for. What else did anyone expect?

But the Pope went further; The Pope cited the country's long history of "persecution" and "recent decades of secularization" as some of the many cultural and societal factors that left Irish Catholics more vulnerable to "the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse."

So it was "secularization" that caused priests to rape children and for their superiors to cover it up!

It could not have been Church policy, could it?

From the Guardian: "Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.

The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week."
(Go to .)

The Pope is, in my opinion, a liar and, in my opinion, has been an active enabler of the sexual abuse of children.

ADDENDUM: 3 27 2010: (From AOL News)-- "Just days after Pope Benedict XVI chastised Irish bishops for covering up clerical sexual abuse in Ireland, new documents suggest he did nothing to discipline a Wisconsin priest he knew had molested scores of deaf boys -- and may have blocked a church trial in the case." (Go to .)

While the media struggles to admit the obvious, which is the Pope has covered up child rape in the past, these stories just seem to keep multiplying.

I'm shocked.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Pope's Silence: Fundamentalists Running Wild

You know, I really wish that it wasn't necessary to write stuff like this. It is not a pleasant task to dwell on how immoral the world's largest religious denomination's hierarchy is, while at the same time noticing that other denominations and religions are, well, even worse!

Here's how the Catholic News Agency described a recent meeting of Pope Benedict and Ugandan Bishops at the Vatican in early March 2010: "Pope Benedict XVI met with the bishops of Uganda this morning in the Vatican on the occasion of their “ad Limina” visit to the Holy See. He urged them to be strong in renewing evangelization in the east African country and resisting "the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism.'"

By "materialistic" culture, the Pope does NOT actually mean money or a possession-centered culture; as we all can see, the religious love money as much or more than the rest of us. How much money does the Vatican have, anyway? What the Pope actually means by a materialistic culture is one that is reality-based and not supernaturalism-based.

Great advice, huh? Who needs reality? Who needs a morality based on whether a behavior makes the world a better place? Not the Pope, apparently. He thinks we should just obey him since he has the direct line to God, like so many others.

And no, this is not the specific point of this little article. There is quite a miserable thing going on right now in Uganda that the Pope made no mention of in his meeting with the Ugandans.

From the AFP: Hundreds of anti-AIDS campaigners on Monday urged Ugandan lawmakers to reject a proposed anti-gay law calling for tough penalties against homosexuality, including the death penalty.

Around 400 activists presented parliament speaker Edward Ssekandi with a petition, criticising the bill as a violation of Uganda's constitution... But the parliament speaker said the bill had to undergo the due process...

The bill, which has sparked widespread international condemnation, would criminalise public discussion of homosexuality and could penalise an individual who knowingly rents property to a homosexual. It also calls for the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality", in cases of rape of a minor by a person of the same sex, or where one partner carries the virus that can cause AIDS (Ed.'s note: The law does not equally apply to heterosexuals). Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, punishable by life imprisonment in some instances.

So while the bill to seriously criminalize homosexuality is working its way through the Ugandan government, the Pope chose to say nothing about it during his visit with the Ugandan Bishops.


Could it be that the Pope thought that opposing the law might somehow lose the Church some followers in Uganda or lessen the Church's influence with the government? We know from past actions that he is not afraid to interfere with the legislative process in various counties. In the past he's called gay parenting "child abuse." He opposes efforts to legalize gay marriage around the world. He's not usually reticent on such important matters.

Actually, the reason does not matter. What matters is that the Pope had a chance to do something good in the "materialistic" real world but chose instead to only address irrelevant spiritual concerns.

And here is the kicker: The Pope's crime is only silence; by speaking out, he might actually have helped some poor soul.

Other religious denominations however, such as fundamentalist Protestants and Muslims, are actually promoting the law that could imprison or kill gays. They are not fringe believers; they are in the Ugandan mainstream politically and are supported by a number of American Christian fundamentalist preachers and politicians too. While the American supporters are not directly promoting the "kill the gays" law, they are also not denouncing and disowning their protege's from Uganda.

Once upon a time, the US supported religious fanatics in Afghanistan who opposed the USSR. That turned out badly. Now we are supporting Christian fanatics in Uganda and the ugliness has already begun.

We never learn.

The Pope's silence is bad; and that's religion's best face on the subject. What a disgrace.