Guns n Roses made me an atheist

It was 1992 and I was 16. I’d been cranking the hell out of Guns n Roses’ latest albums, Use Your Illusion I & II. I’d worshipped the band since being introduced to Appetite For Destruction by friends a year or two earlier. The band appealed to my rebellious streak for many reasons: Axl’s gravelly wail and angry, occasionally hate-filled lyrics seemed like they were specifically tuned in to my undirected teenage rage, Slash’s peerless solos helped me rise above it all and I just loved the raw, grinding guitars and the whole “fuck you” aspect of the band. Really, what more could a 16 year-old want? The Gunners, in the end, were most of the reason I ended up growing my hair and starting a rock band with my mates that same year (a band which still exists to this day – curiously enough we’re working on an album we started recording in 2002 which, if it ever gets finished, is likely to rival Chinese Democracy in terms of completion time). But how did they cause me to leave my faith?


Of all the Gn’f’nR songs I adored, one in particular stood out: Garden of Eden from Use Your Illusion I. Not only is it one of the Gunners’ most balls-out, thrashy rock songs (with one of my favourite silly vids; see below), it contained a particular line that crystallised my slowly growing thoughts about the religion I thought I subscribed to. After the totally awesome solo from Slash, Axl spits out:

Organised religion makes a mockery of humanity

As a teenager with a growing loathing of authority – especially what I saw as the self-appointed, undeserved or entrenched variety – this leaped out at me in neon. First, I already had a chip on my shoulder regarding authority, thanks in large part to my discipline problems and the not-infrequent run-ins with teachers. Second, our high school had compulsory, innocuously-named “Religious Education” seminars. I say “innocuous” because they weren’t education about religion, they were transparent Christian conversion attempts. Until final year, every student was expected to sit there in the library and cop an earful of evangelism from the local Christians once or twice a year – what particular denomination wasn’t clear, but they sure were keen and, I thought, offensively cheerful. At the time, it didn’t trouble me that much that the local God-botherers were invading our library. I had become used to it in primary school where we had weekly Religious Instruction (where I first started having my doubts after hearing about Noah’s Ark – “how did he have time to find koalas and enough eucalyptus to feed them?” I asked myself at age seven – I still haven’t heard a credible answer); besides, the RE sessions at high school filled up an entire double period and gave some of the more smart-arsed among us a chance to ask sticky questions of the groovy youth pastors in the compulsory post-seminar dicussion groups. Even though I considered myself by default a Christian, I wasn’t a churchgoer or Bible-reader and I was suspicious of other Christians who wanted desperately to attract others into their particular brand. “Why,” I thought, “can’t people just speak to God or pray by themselves instead of signing up and joining some flock? If God’s everywhere and knows what I do and what I think, surely churches and priests are redundant?”

So, some time later, after listening to Garden of Eden, I read the lyrics and discovered “organised religion makes a mockery of humanity.” I pondered the meaning of that phrase. I pondered my own religious thoughts. I already had a suspicion that religions, even if they all had a kernel of Truth at their core, were human constructions as much as governments, guilds and golf clubs. Regardless of the original reasons for their creation (which may well have been entirely innocent and pure, I reasoned, giving them the benefit of my ever-growing doubt), they now functioned as highly effective control mechanisms and imposed arbitrary rules on their followers: “eat this, don’t eat that; wear this, not that; wait until marriage to do this, don’t do that at all unless you’re procreating; don’t ever ever do THAT, ever; you may hate these people but not those“. Some, like the Catholic church, sought (and still seek) to impose their particular arbitrary rules on people who weren’t even Catholic! I hadn’t even heard about the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition (except through Monty Python) or the Crusades just yet. In fact, I hadn’t heard that much about any of the religious idiocy and violence and hypocrisy that so offends my delicate sensibilities these days. Essentially, I had a small but growing suspicion that religions existed predominantly to further their own survival and would do just about anything to do so. In hindsight I wish I’d realised how Darwinian that seemed to me at the time and I wished I’d thought to point it out during some of those RE discussion groups.

Given my existing suspicion of religions, my distrust of self-imposed authority and my objections to restrictions with no real explanation (why the hell shouldn’t I eat what I want?) I asked myself: “It’s a great sounding phrase, but how exactly does religion mock humanity, Axl?” How indeed. Well, the moment you label every born human a hellbound sinner in need of salvation, you mock their entire existence. As soon as they come out of the womb, you’re essentially calling them worthless before they’ve even done anything or had sufficient time to form their own thoughts or decide their own actions. Noone chooses to be born and judging and labelling a person before they’ve even had a chance to employ the free will supposedly given them by a loving and wise god is the height of mockery. “You’re here, you’re mine, bow down or suffer eternally. Use the “free will” God gave you to make this choice! Hah!” It’s like creating an advanced AI robot just to hang it over a pool of molten steel and demand obedience on pain of instant destruction. How is that even close to a choice? Religion mocks humanity by giving us no real option but to believe then dresses it up as a perfectly legitimate and free choice. What rational person – or even irrational person who nonetheless has a strong self-preservation instinct – when faced with Heaven or Hell (and being unaware of any third possibility) would choose Hell? Religion mocks us by presenting bliss or doom and calling it a “choice”. US voters get a similar “choice” every four years.

At the very core of humanity is the fact that we’re aware of ourselves to a far greater degree than any other organism. We’re so aware we can sit around and think about what it even means to be self-aware and discuss it passionately, clumsily & drunkenly for hours. We’re able to think outside our own heads and empathise with others; we can think abstractly and forecast the likely result of a particular action; we can predict how an action will affect us. The human species is uniquely able to use its brain to, given time, define just about everything and invent just about anything. Religion may claim to provide solace, comfort and even Truth and Salvation, but along with its grand promises come endless catches about behaviour, clothing, food, sex, prayer, genital mutilation and even length and style of hair (cranial and elsewhere). Some rules seem so arbitrary and sexually lop-sided it’s almost as if they were imposed by a dominant patriarchy in order to codify & solidify existing rules, as yet unwritten, and attach to them the claim of Divine Order in order to make them (and their keepers) unassailable in thought, word or deed. Religion mocks our ability to make intelligent, reasoned decisions by essentially overruling them in advance with arbitray restrictions which we are simply expected to follow without question. Religion mocks our very nature by preventing & discouraging honest inquiry.

Humans have a freedom that no other species has: the freedom to think outside the confines of our own experience, our own species, our own planet, our own galaxy – even outside of what we have named “time” and “space”. Religion throughout history has consistently and constantly acted to protect its dogma and to protect its own primacy and in doing so has consistently stood in the way of such human inquiry (think Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo and, more recently, Biblical creationists falsely conflating Darwin and the rise of Nazi eugenics or attempting to smother evolution in schools with Intelligent Design, a blatant mockery of real science if ever there was one). Religion mocks our free will, our inquiring spirit and our intelligence. Religion mocks us by placing itself in an undeserved position of authority in every area of human endeavour and experience. Religion mocks each and every human alive by presuming to know Truths that cannot be known; advance ideas that can be neither proven nor disproven and protecting them and enforcing absolute adherence to them, usually through guilt and fear and occasionally through brutality. To claim that a god has given you your inquiring mind and your free will and then attached endless caveats, disclaimers, restrictions, threats, bribes and occasional actual physical violence to ensure your obedience and prevent from using that mind and that will mocks you, mocks me and every human alive. Indeed, this idea of bestowing upon us an invaluable gift and simultaneously preventing its use mocks the very concept of a benevolent God.

It was a simple line from a Guns N Roses song with an ironic name that started me thinking about what I considered my religion. It was this thinking process that led me to progress from unaffiliated Christian to vague deist and eventually to atheist. It was this initial teenage rebellion and distrust of entrenched authority that led me to ask questions of religion and to question religion itself, much the same way I questioned the authority of my teachers and the relevancy of what we were being taught, both in RE and generally. This line of Axl’s was the catalyst to a reaction that ended up dissolving my faith entirely. And now I mock religion. Eye for an eye, I guess.

Enjoy my catalyst.

[edited for clarity & grammar; not for brevity]

Anti-quack gets his blog back

Via PZ: the good news. The bloke who called Maloney a quack (and subsequently had his blog pulled by Moritz after some world-class BAWWWW) is back online.
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What we say … what they hear

Cartooooooooons!

Over at the inimitably awesome Abstruse Goose lies the following awesome cartoon:

Which not only rang very, very true but reminded me of the following completely awesome Far Side cartoon:

Now, I’m not comparing Christians to dogs. Oh nonononononono. Dogs can be trained.

Kidding.

But seriously, some of the conversations with Christians (usually the queer-hating anti-choice evolution-not-understanding variety) I’ve either had or observed on the interweb have been exactly like either or a combination of these cartoons. Some particularly dogmatic Christians, when arguing with a rationalist, either misconstrue most of what’s said to them or choose what they want to hear, ignoring or simply simply refusing to respond to anything that either counters their arguments or threatens to force them to think outside the close boundaries set for them by their faith.

For example: it’s drummed into many Christians that atheists are by nature (or through their choice to reject scripture) completely immoral (or amoral); therefore anything any atheist every says to them must be filtered as if spoken by an agent of Satan. Even if what the atheist says makes perfect logical sense or is a simple, civil request to try out a hypothetical situation (e.g. what if you weren’t raised a Christian?) or consider their point of view, it is evil being spoken. I’ve long forgotten the amount of times I’ve had or seen an internet debate simply be shut down by a Christian’s endlessly circular arguments or refusal to consider the logical, historical or scientific points raised by their opponent. It’s the written version of plugging the ears with the fingers and shouting “lalalala I can’t hear you”. No wonder atheists are always accused of being cranky bastards; you would be too if you attempted to argue with people who start off “knowing” how absolutely right they are, to the point of simply not listening to the person they’re talking to.

Ratzinger waves his wand at Australia

Like Steve Jobs announcing a shiny thing to keep the fanboys drooling, Ratzinger has announced that nun Mary MacKillop will be canonised as Australia’s first saint.
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Nothing like a new hero to keep our minds off what the Vatican should be doing: attempting to atone and make amends for the endless revelations of decades of abuse, collusion and coverup at the highest levels of the organisation. But that’s another story.

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Quick bio: after being born in Fitzroy, Victoria in 1842 Mary moved to South Australia, where in 1866 she opened a school in an old stable in Penola then founded the Sisters of St Joseph. She set about founding over one hundred schools, orphanages and refuges for the needy and at the end of her days in 1909 she led over seven hundred sisters. Mary was actually excommunicated in 1871 for insubordination (excommunication: another telling piece of evidence that the Vatican’s priority isn’t living the words of a certain Palestinian chippie, rather the strict obedience of its employees). It didn’t last long though: a regional manager (bishop) spoke up for Mary and she was back in action in a few months (though her exoneration took a few years). Apparently she had a great effect on people: the campaigning for her sainthood began in 1926 and hasn’t let up. Unfortunately I can’t help but wonder whether any of the schools, orphanages or refuges she founded were tainted by the rape, torture and abuse that’s become synonymous with Catholic institutions of days gone by. I realise this behaviour didn’t occur everywhere there were priests or nuns, but such things have been revealed as very, very widespread indeed. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it happened in an isolated country town like 19th century Penola.

Now,  I have to wonder about sainthood – we could probably all rattle off several saints’ names without thinking about it; we could also name what they’re the patron of. But what is it you have to actually do to be canonised, what does being sainted mean for the dead person and why is it important enough to the living to run a century-long campaign? Interestingly, The Times reveals that Ratzinger actually tightened up the sainthood rules last year (nice how absolute spiritual matters can rest on the opinion of whoever’s in charge). According to some critics that old rabble-rouser John Paul Jones II had been running some kind of “saint factory” and rushing about canonising people after only one miracle! How very, very dare you! OK, back on topic. Criteria for sainthood:

Beatification, which confers the title Blessed, requires proof of one miracle attributed to the posthumous intercession of the candidate, usually a medically inexplicable cure. Sainthood requires two such miracles.

Okay then! Further research tells me that Mary, after her death, indeed interceded and cured a woman of leukaemia. For this, she was beatified by the Polish Pope in 1995 – the initial application for beatification was made in 1961, however, showing just how glacial the pace is in that big museum in Rome. 500 years to apologise to Galileo; 34 to verify an alleged miracle. They’re either very slow or very thorough. It seems Mary’s second miracle was verified recently by Ratzinger himself – a woman with inoperable cancer prayed and carried around a piece of Mary’s clothing and was cured. I believe a life of “heroic virtue” can also tip the scales in your favour. In fact, there’s a lengthy & very involved investigation by church authorities to determine a person’s holiness and the miraculous nature (or not) of their post-mortem antics. Interesting how in some areas the Vatican is happy to expend its resources performing detailed investigations of the actions of its employee.

So, bang, two miracles, heroic virtue, Mary’s a saint. Leaving aside my predictable skepticism about miracles in general, the process of actually verifying that one happened in the first place and the process of verifying it was performed by a particular dead person and not just God, another dead Catholic or Vishnu, what does that actually mean? Is there something better than Heaven open to her now? Does she get to do “God” stuff? Watch Jesus’ kittens when he’s off appearing in tree trunks and dog’s arses? Appear in her own inanimate objects? Side question: is any of this sainthood criteria/investigation business even in the Bible? It’s been a while since I read it, but I don’t remember all this Orwellian bureaucracy.

What is a saint and what do they do? What are they for? About.com provides the following revelations:

The word “saint” literally means “holy,” and, in the New Testament, “saint” referred to all who believed in Jesus Christ and followed his teachings. St. Paul often addressed his epistles to “the saints” of a particular city (see, for instance, Ephesians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1), and the Acts of the Apostles talks about St. Peter going to visit the saints in Lydda (Acts 9:2). The assumption was that those who followed Christ had been so transformed that they were now different from other men and women and, thus, should be considered holy.

Okay. Holy people. Christians in general. Got it. But what about the dead ones as we know them today?

Canonized saints can be venerated anywhere and prayed to publicly, and their lives are held up to Christians still struggling here on earth as examples to be imitated.

Right! They’re dead people you can pray to. So you don’t just pray to God or his son Jesus or his weird half-brother the Holy Ghost or his mother Mary; you can pray to dead person who’s been canonised. Considering Ratzi canonised over 500 people himself last year and we’ve seen dozens, even hundreds of popes over the last 1500 years, there must be countless thousands of saints people can pray to for assistance and guidance and protection and a better sandwich. Tell me again how this Catholicism thing isn’t polytheism?

Well, About saw me coming:

The Difference Between Prayer and Worship

Many non-Catholic Christians believe that it is wrong to pray to the saints, claiming that our prayers should be directed to God alone. Some Catholics, responding to this criticism, have argued that we do not pray to the saints but with them.

Both groups, however, are confusing prayer with worship. True worship (as opposed to veneration or honor) does indeed belong to God alone, and we should never worship man or any other creature as we worship God. But while worship may take the form of prayer, as in the Mass and other liturgies of the Church, not all prayer is worship. When we pray to the saints, we’re simply asking them to help us, by praying to God on our behalf, or thanking them for having already done so.

 So it’s just a case of hair-splitting, really. It’s not polytheism because you don’t worship a saint, you just pray at them. And wear bits of their clothes. And have statues and icons and graven images of them hanging around your houses and churches. Some churches even hold boxes of their bones or other preserved body parts (being Catholics, I’m going to assume that for a nominal fee you can even touch them). A saint seems to be a middle-man or a demi-god. A patron saint has a special area of expertise (I wonder if God just allocates the patronage as soon as the Pope canonises them or they have to do some classes first?). Going on holiday? Ask St Christopher to delay your pilot’s heart attack. Irish? Ask St Guinness to bless you with an iron constitution. Australian? Ask St Kilda why he hasn’t let the footy team named after him win a bloody flag for the last billion years. With all the thousands of saint available, all you need do is pick your problem and google your saint. Lost your keys? There’s a saint for that.

So, you can pray to God, Jesus, Ghosty, Mary or any one of an endless range of saints but it’s not polytheism. It’s just that God has three family members and thousands upon thousands of holy immortal beings petitioning him on behalf of humanity. It’s the pantheon you have when you’re not having a pantheon. And once again, the Catholic church drops a layer of bureaucracy between you, the believer and God, the, um, god. Not content with throwing living priests and nuns and fathers and brothers and cardinals and Popes and all manner of capos & middle management & bouncers between man & God, there’s this whole other layer of fricking dead people to appeal to in case you think God can’t hear you.

Wait … what? You think God can’t hear you? You think God needs you to speak to him through all these countless zillions of people, living and dead? You think your almighty Creator of Everything needs someone in a special robe and special building saying special things in order to know what you need? What kind of second rate god is this guy anyway? It all sounds a bit suss … if I didn’t know better I’d say Catholicism is a millennium and a half-old bureaucratic superscam designed to frighten the lot of you into promising it your soul while you give it your money. And I’m not sure I do know better.
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Quacks ahoy!

Following on from my previous post calling out a certain quack calling himself “Dr” Mahoney, I bring you this following passage, harvested by PZ, from the site of an uber-quack named Andreas Moritz. Moritz is going in to bat for Mahoney and, true to the quack playbook, threatening a lawsuit. But what really grabbed me is the passage below concerning cancer:

…Constant conflicts, guilt and shame, for example, can easily paralyze the body’s most basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.

After having seen thousands of cancer patients over a period of three decades, I began to recognize a certain pattern of thinking, believing and feeling that was common to most of them. To be more specific, I have yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict and worries, or past emotional trauma that still lingers in his/her subconscious. Cancer, the physical disease, cannot occur unless there is a strong undercurrent of emotional uneasiness and deep-seated frustration.

Citation. Needed. You bloodsucking fucking leech. Vampires might be cool right now, but leeches? Not so much. Probably never. You are not a pale, gaunt, romantic, eerily sexy European. You are a small, slimy slug-looking thing with no purpose to your existence but to poo out from a dark, moist crack to remove sustenance from unsuspecting organisms.

Quackery is one thing – go ahead and treat colds with a sugar pill if you want, go ahead and “cleanse” your liver (the liver is self-cleansing if you leave it the fuck alone and stop putting beer through it – did you miss the “liver” part of your alleged medical education?), go ahead and prescribe berries instead of an H1N1 vaccine. But blaming the patient for their own cancer? Wow. That’s so low you should be able to limbo under my fridge and find that dollar coin I dropped there yesterday. Seriously, do it. I need change for the Coke machine.

Cancer quackery shits me – above all other forms of quckery – for many reasons: it’s completely unsupported, it’s dangerous(fatal) if used in place of actual medicine and it places the blame on the patient, which is personally fucking offensive, both to me and I’m sure anyone else whose lives have been touched – mauled – by cancer. I’d like to see this chump waltz into Camp Quality and tell all the kids with the bandanas playing theatre sports that their leukaemia is their own fucking fault. Or offer them a goddam liver cleanse.

Why does this get up my arse so much? Last week I lost a cousin to cancer which had metastasized from her lymph nodes and invaded her entire body; a year or more ago she was given months to live. What kept her alive, from her diagnosis eleven years ago until last week? Not counselling or prayers. Not cleansing diets. Not reiki. It was science-based medicine with proven effiicacy: chemo & radiation – combined with her utterly dogged determination to live and squeeze some more love and joy out of a life she knew was coming to a premature end. Additionally, in recent years we almost lost an aunt to breast cancer; my grandfather had cancer of the prostate; Mrs M’s dear friend has been battling cancer for almost a decade with more ups, downs, scares and elation than anyone should have to tolerate; a dear friend of mine lost his mother to non-Hodgkins lymphoma after an epic twelve-year battle. Numerous other friends have numerous other stories about people they’ve loved having scares, having biopsies followed by sighs of relief or sleepless nights; fast, traumatic exists or long, drawn out wars with their own bodies. Indeed, you could walk into any room anywhere and rapidly find similar from perfect strangers. But what is it that saved their lives or kept them alive until nothing more could be done? Not some preachy, hair-trigger, lawsuit-brandishing supplement-flogger who namedrops woomeister Deepak Chopra in a threatening letter to a blogger and blames the victim for their own illness. Would this chump blame me for being born with chronic asthma? There’s a lot wrong with my body that’s my own fault, certainly, but what people need to accept is that, sometimes for perfectly logical reasons and sometimes for no reason at all, people get sick and they die. Sometimes young – sometimes too young. Moritz capitalises on this fear of the unknown, this fear of shit happening, tells you it’s your fault then offers you The Way Out. Much the same way the Bible sets you up, from conception, as a worthless Hellbound sinner … and then offers you Jesus. Makes me sick.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and this isn’t a considered medical opinion. However: it is my personal opinion Andreas Moritz is a fucking quack.

Not just a quack, he’s a cancer quack. Possibly the worst, most despicable kind. The kind which blames the victim for their cancer and then tells them to eschew actual medicine in favour of whatever he’s flogging on his website (remember: one particularly quacky callsign is the constant selling of “remedies”). In light of the fact that this shit costs peoples’ lives, “quack” almost seems to harmless a word for this guy. Suggestions?

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Christopher Maloney is a QUACK, part four hundred billion

Apparently, according to our benevolent be-tentacled lord & master PZ Myers, some ranting naturofail named Chris Maloney is a quack. Observe the money quote and see for yourself:

Parents waiting for vaccinations can provide their children with black elderberry, which blocks the H1N1 virus. A single garlic capsule daily cuts in half the incidence and the severity of a flu episode for children.

Quackery in a nutshell. Pick a current, serious health issue. Attach to it extraordinary claims. Provide no evidence. Man the harpoons in case someone dares to disagree.

Which is more or less what happened. Based on that passage a student criticised, with good reason in my humble opinion, naturopathy, calling it “pure bull”. Okay, whatever, happens all the time. But, instead of going “meh” and dealing with this difference of opinion like a growed-up adult male man, le Canard complained to WordPress, who hosted the student’s blog. WordPress shut the guy’s blog down. Nice work, WordPress. Way to suck oily prison balls.

As a skeptic, cheerleader for science (save the cheerleader, save the world!) and despiser of all amazing things claimed without evidentiary support, it is my duty to jump in on this meme and proclaim to the three people who read this blog that Chris Maloney is a quack.

Now, this is a textbook case of the internets working against you: go ahead and whine and shut down someone’s blog if you wish, but this almost never happens without some kind of blowback (remember how VenomfangX had to apologise to Thunderf00t, and the whole internet, publicly on youtube for making false DMCA claims? Of course you don’t, but now you can googly it). Christian pressure groups learn (or not) this lesson all the time: bitch and moan publicly about a particular movie/TV show/video game/sandwich in order to have it shut down and watch the object of your righteous anger receive an instant spike in popularity and public interest. After all, you’ve brought the very thing you hate to the attention of a large number of people who didn’t yet know it existed. Now it’s more popular than ever, and you helped it get there! Not only that, now your moany whiny organisation/blog/church/self will almost certainly cop some new publicity of your own, usually of the unwanted/sarcastic/cynical variety.

That’s precisley what el Quacko did: bitched wildly about something, behaved inappropriately in censoring an opposing viewpoint, publicised the issue beyond all reasonable measure & received even more disagreement – and now ridicule on a blog with a very large, very loyal readership. Now, with PZ schooling him and spreading his quackery far & wide, Quackbot 9000 is getting a lesson in how the internets work. Not only is Chris Maloney a quack, but he’s a silly foot-stamping tantrum-throwing child, whose epic self-pwn will ring throughout the interwobble for, well, perhaps days to come.

Apparently he didn’t like being called a quack by PZ, so he hit the good prof with a sermon, which predictably resulted in Chris Maloney being called a quack again. Not only that, PZ upped the ante somewhat and brought back that good ol’ fashioned term, witch. I’m happy to call anyone who prescribes berries over vaccines for influenza a witch.

Finally, it seems that quack Chris Maloney has been receiving harrassing phone calls and such. Um … bummer. Makes us look nasty. I wouldn’t recommend it. Surely internet-wide ridicule, followed by an inevitable slide back into obscurity, is punishment enough?

Hey, did I mention that Chris Maloney is a motherfucking quack?
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It just never seems to end

You’ve heard the story before: a Catholic priest molests, abuses or rapes children. The Vatican “investigates” the matter itself and, instead of censuring or dismissing the culprit or involving the authorities, quietly shuffles the priest to another area. The abuse occurs again. The procedure happens again. The cycle continues. Years or decades later, documents are unearthed, records are unsealed, whistles are blown, victims come forward and a scandal ensues. Empty babbling from the Vatican is heard about investigations and about how seriously they are taking everything. The story fades from the press. Until it happens again, somewhere else. Chances are you know someone who’s been affected by one of these stories, perhaps directly. Chances are you don’t know it.

It is, unfortunately, a story common to most, if not all, nations that have been blessed by the presence of this morally bankrupt church. Countless children in Latin America, Australia, the UK, the USA, Ireland and now, it is revealed, Germany, have suffered sexual violence, humiliation, shame, fear and rank injustice at the hands of those who claim moral authority not just over their Catholic subjects but the entirety of human existence. This story of rape, coverup and denial is depressingly familiar, as is the feeling of complete powerlessness much of the world feels when hearing the latest instalment of Vatican-sanctioned depravity.
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I really don’t know what to say about this anymore.

The Vatican has had in place, since 1962, an internal policy requiring everyone from cardinals down to remain silent about any and every claim and report and instance of child rape in the name of the trinity, on pain of excommunication and, presumably, attendant denial of eternal salvation. This “omerta” policy betrays not only the trust of every child ever placed in Catholic “care”, but the very words of the Jewish carpenter which are the cornerstone of its teachings. Will this policy be reviewed? Repealed? Will a new policy exhorting priests at every level of the Papist heirarchy to report any and every allegation of abuse to the relevant police forces? Mandatory reporting policies are in place in every childcare centre, school and hospital in the modern world. Why not a church which, given its claim to moral superiority in every aspect, should find such mandatory reporting second nature? Why should the Vatican get a free pass to ignore what every other institution concerned with child education and welfare takes for granted and sees as a part of everyday operation? You can bet that if a school, hospital or other large organisation had such a sinister record regarding child welfare that its relevant authorities would be all over it like a rash, closing offices down, subpoenaing documents, arresting people & auditing its books. I really don’t know what it would take, in the light of this continuing circumvention of the law and shameful hypocrisy, for someone, anyone (Carabinieri? Interpol?) to investigate the Vatican at every level of its operation from the ground up. I don’t know what it would take for the UN to suspend the pretend statehood of the Vatican until its every grotty little nook is dusted and exposed to the light; every record unsealed; every allegation investigated, aired and pursued to its conclusion. What good is a body like the UN if a particular state is not beholden to the same rules and standards as every other member?

How could the self-described keepers of The Word of God not be able to see how keeping these allegations a secret is as good as being accessory to them? If you wish, view that question as semi-rhetorical, for it more or less answers itself with a little thought: because the Vatican’s rules and policies self-evidently exist to serve not God, not Jesus, not the blessed Virgin or its other many deities, definitely not to serve the one billion or so adherents; they exist, first and foremost, to protect the Vatican and its willing servants.

The fact that the word “Catholic” has become synonymous with rape, abuse, scandal & coverup should make everyone who calls themselves Catholic apopleptic with rage. Catholics: your name has been dragged through the shit, not by “strident, militant” atheists, not by rival denominations, not even by other religions, but by the very organisation you have willed your eternal soul to. What will it take for you, good Catholics of the world, to let these “fathers” of yours know that this is not how you treat children? That this is not how you even treat adults? When will you understand how corrupt and self-serving this church of yours is? A Christian’s allegiance, one would think, should be to Jesus and his message, not to a human political construction that exists to further itself ahead of the salvation of millions. If no other wrongs had ever been done by the Vatican in the entirety of human history this continuing, global scandal of child rape and enforced silence should have you leaving your pews in disgust and spitting on the golden finery of your alleged betters. European history is replete with examples of dissatisfied subjects rising from their fields and factories to overthrow and destroy the privileged, perfumed, primped princes that ruled, robbed and demeaned them – would that a similar thing would happen to the world’s last corrupt empire.

Catholicism is empty – not as practised by the everyday Catholic, but how it is practised by those who claim to hold its keys; it is a greedy, shameful blot on humanity’s past and present. I hope that someday Catholics will realise they don’t need the church to be Christians. I hope they desert this rotting empire in droves. I hope the Vatican will one day need to hold a bake sale to raise money for a new Pope-mobile, which in a best-case scenario will be something like a 1997 Toyota Corolla. Decent car, no doubt, but a far cry from a million-dollar bulletproof Mercedes.

This isn’t an atheist issue. It’s not even a religious issue. This is a human issue. This is not about pointing the finger at Christianity and claiming that it is invalidated because of the actions of a small number of its adherents. This is about the specific claims to moral superiority that the Vatican has been making since it declared itself emperor of Christendom centuries ago, and how since then those claims have consistently (almost constantly) been shown to be as vacuous and hollow as a bishop’s mitre.