Fastest growing atheist demographic: the Disillusioned | cc @pzmyers @richarddawkins

PZ Myers is disillusioned. Put away the “Surprised” Crayola; he’s not the first and he’s not the only one.

It’s interesting how (what I consider to be) the initial phase of New Atheism in the mid-noughts proudly considered itself somewhat radical, game-changey and fighting the establishment, only to turn around in recent years and itself become the establishment, as resistant to introspection and self-reflection and the admission of error or misjudgement as the hierarchy of any religious target they would’ve railed against, scarlet “A” banner flapping proudly in the breeze as they charged. Specific subject matter to one side, the behaviour of the self-described global thought leaders has, in the face of years of complaints of sexist behaviour and attitudes, rape threats and general misogyny, attempts at driving women bloggers into silence and many real allegations of assault and rape, been just the same as any Old Boys’ Club’s inner circle (and their concentric circles of wannabes) who are faced with inconvenient questions or impertinent highlighting of problematic behaviour or attitudes: deny, defend, deflect, denigrate, double down.

The old new atheists always revelled in their impropriety and impertinent interrogations of religion – they seem to very much resent receiving similarly irreverent treatment from the new new atheists. Their outrage, disdain and denial almost precisely mirrors the reactions they got from establishment religion in the middle years of last decade. Dawkins et al were accused of stridency and shrillness quite a lot back in the day and rightly scoffed, as the allegations were baseless hyperbole. Today? Not so much. If anyone ever wanted to see Dawkins finally earn that “strident” badge, just read his twitter feed when women are up for discussion. If invoking hallmarks of tyranny – e.g. when he employed “verbal jackboots” and the “FreeThought Police” – in response to being criticised on blogs isn’t strident and shrill, I’m waiting to see what is.

The fact is that the atheist movement – such as it is – that these (mostly) men founded (or at least accelerated) is changing. All movements do: feminism, LGBT rights, civil rights, indigenous rights and now non-religious rights have gone and all go through periods of intense forward motion followed by periods of reflection after their successes (even if they’re just in raising awareness) and discussions of “where should we go now?” Right now, atheism is expanding both its demographics and its agendas. Where once it was dominated by academic white guys who were all about church & state and proper science classes in schools, many of the atheists inspired by those people to examine their own beliefs are wanting to talk about – and apply their skepticism and secular reasoning to realising – other things like gender equality and ethnic inclusiveness. One byproduct of both this and the atheist habit for proud irreverence is that the words and attitudes of atheism’s purported leaders are now being questioned as deeply as they themselves would question those of the religious. Sadly, in many cases, those words have been found wanting, the attitudes they reveal as calcified as in any rank-closing bishop and the responses to criticism as reactionary as any wrathful believer – or insecure believer in belief.

In many of the cases of defensiveness on the part of visible atheists like Harris and Dawkins, the subject of the criticism isn’t responding to the content of the criticism, but to the mere fact of the criticism. The subject, incredulous, cannot possibly imagine why anyone would take issue with what they said, because (to their mind and to the bulk of their experience) they are right, what they are saying is common knowledge, utterly inoffensive, well-informed and could not possibly be disagreed with by any educated person of the right mindset. Accordingly, anyone who does disagree or criticise is obviously of the wrong mindset. Once categorised as Wrong, such people can then be summarily dismissed without the need to respond meaningfully to any specific criticism. If the Wrong reiterate or expand their criticism or issue followups, for example criticising the non-responses and summary dismissals, the subject can then invoke all sorts of tyrannical or oppressive or purely monetary motives (“doing it for the clicks!”), as if a single blogger or even a moderately popular blog network has any sort of censorial power over someone like the Richard Dawkins, a best-selling author and in-demand public speaker with (in the atheist world at least) unparallelled influence and access to resources, or any comparable ability to attract revenue just by publishing a post (if anyone’s wondering, this one’s on the house, just like every other one).

The transition was relatively rapid, too: one minute everyone’s apparently (I’ll get to that) on the same page and looking in the same direction, the next – as soon as women identify problematic behaviour and request that we guys not do that then start talking about harassment policies – there’s an instant rift dug by people who for some reason viciously resent being told that some behaviour makes others uncomfortable. Then a few visible “leaders” say some thoughtless or petulant things, one blogger wonders if atheism can be about a little more than debunking myths and is vilified at length for the mere suggestion, a blogger or ‘tuber or two reveal themselves to be unapologetic misogynists, a parallel atheist community is born for the sole purpose of harassing and obsessively monitoring two blog networks and before you know it, women are being threatened with rape and death. With rape and death. And others are laughing at it. Including other women.

And now for the “apparently”: as various discussions progress it turns out that no, we weren’t all on the same page and sexist and creepy behaviour didn’t just spring into existence ex nihilo in a lift early one morning; it’s been a problem nobody (especially insulated white chaps like me) really had any idea about for years – except those directly involved and in some cases, disappointingly, at the executive level of some atheist/skeptic organisations, where active decisions were made to do nothing to support employees who’d been victimised or harassed. It also turned out that there had been for years (like there is in other conference circuits) a grapevine, a back-channel utilised by women attendees and speakers to stay informed about infamous creeps and sexual predators.

And with every revelation and accusation, the rift got wider and deeper, the apologetics got louder and more (dare I say) strident, the responses got more toxic and hateful and the leadership seemingly became focused on prioritising the preservation of their positions at the cost of making what movement there was more welcoming to people who didn’t resemble them physically. Not only that, but the misogynist ragers, the hateful stalkers, the doc-droppers and the entrenched old boys then had the unmitigated gall to accuse those advocating for a more welcoming and diverse community of being “divisive”. As if, somehow, women and feminists pointing out sexist attitudes and harassment so as to raise awareness and start a discussion about solutions was something unexpected, a gross heresy, an unforgiveable sin, all part of a plot to – well, God only knows what. It has never been adequately explained how atheism as a cause might be irreparably harmed by making better and more meaningful efforts to welcome the other half of the population to atheism.

And now that many women, feminists, non-male people and now many non-white people are throwing up their hands and saying “fuck it, you want your “movement” to be pure, to be free of questions that make you uncomfortable, fine – you can have it,” I fully expect the apologists and the old boys themselves to further blame us (feminists, women, non-males, non-whites, inclusivists in general, those social justice warriors everyone seems so concerned about) for being even more divisive.

Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who challenge them, whether they’re accusing accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour or of simply saying things that are mildly (but no less thoughtlessly) sexist. In light of the last three years of harassment, obsessive monitoring, threats, both mild casual sexism and unapologetic misogyny, all with nary a disapproving look from the leaders over the tops of their spectacles, followed by wagon-circling and dismissive responses to allegations of assault and rape (some going back years), that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

Simply, the message in “movement” atheism at this moment appears to be: Speak, woman, and be vilified.


Education: still the greatest enemy of organised religion

And this bloke [source] has his cassock in a twist over it:

The Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church’s teaching they are “hedonistic”, “selfish” and “egocentric”, he said.

Aw. My heart bleeds for you, Paddy. Quick primer:

Graduates = people who have spent years learning about The World and how it works (ostensibly, anyway – it’s highly likely they’ve spent years learning to be alcoholics).

Bishops = people who have spent years learning about The Church and how it works whilst all but ignoring how The World works yet presuming to tell The World how it should work according to what The Church told them. Back to the bitching…

Bishop O’Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to “sickness in the Church and wider society”. “What we have witnessed in Western societies since the end of the Second World War is the development of mass education on a scale unprecedented in human history – resulting in economic growth, scientific and technological advances, and the cultural and social enrichment of billions of people’s lives,” he said.

And that’s a bad thing because … oh, that’s right. You people had absolutely nothing to do with any of it! In fact, much of this amazing progress (especially in the areas of cultural & social enrichment and scientific advancement) has been made in spite of the concerted efforts of monolithic religions such as yours. Hence this walloping serve of sour grapes:

“However, every human endeavor has a dark side, due to original sin and concupiscence. In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.

“Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

Good golly, how dare anyone use any modes of thought or philosophy other than those sanctioned by That Humungous Tomb In Rome Which Pretends To Be A Country! How dare anyone consider living their life ethically and knowledgably and to the fullest extent possible without consulting That Great Big Confusing Unverified Book Of Fairy Tales, Torture Porn And Contradictions!

So I’m mistaken, am I? Pray, dear Bish, tell me exactly how I, one of your educated heretics, am currently living a happy & productive life with my gifted & gorgeous medical student wife and adorable dog and great band and vegetable patch (the lettuces are looking brilliant) and loving family (also mostly godless) and amazing, talented, beautiful friends (with whom I don’t know that I’ve ever had any sort of serious religious discussion because it’s simply not important enough a topic in our lives to discuss)? How is it that my wife & I are just as happy as those few friends of ours that are religious (not that we know exactly how many of them there are anyway because it doesn’t come up)? How am I less happy than your average petrified, guilt-ridden Catholic because I go through life not fearing Hell, not fearing “temptation”, not studiously avoiding evil “secular” knowledge & not feeling the eyes of God burning through my back as I muddle through life?

Jeez, Paddy … you and your fellow befrocked ones say ignorant, insulting, out-of-touch shit like that and then you wonder why people are, in ever-increasing numbers, viewing your Church and the people who run it as anachronistic geezers with an unhealthy (and often hypocritical) interest in how other people run their private lives, and accordingly turning their backs on it.

Your Empire had a moral monopoly on Europe and much of the world for centuries. The Pope replaced the Roman Emperor as supreme monarch. You imposed your rule by force and enforced & expanded it brutally. Times changed though, and dispossessing rich heretics of their worldly goods and roasting the feet of your still-living enemies as their families watched and screamed in horror became, shall we say, passe. Since the roasting stopped, people have slowly realised that all The Church has left is guilt-inducing judgements & public denunciations of normal behaviour from people like you & Herr Ratzinger to keep people in line, keep bums on pews and keep the souls rolling in. Since people have realised that you have only words to throw at them, they’ve realised that the only power those words have is the power that they give to those words.

If you could just sit in your average pub and watch peoples’ eyes roll (in a combination of mild amusement and apathetic boredom) the next time Ratzi or some collared clown (like, say, our own paedophile enabler, Cardy Pell) appears on TV, as if he’s some kind of social/medical/artistic authority, to spout a soundbite denouncing something pretty ordinary, you’d have some idea what you’re up against. People simply don’t take any notice of your morality police on TV anymore. If anything they laugh at them. Not because people are becoming more evil or more secular (one and the same according to your capo di tutti capi), but because they just don’t accept your self-appointed role as our moral superiors.

It isn’t the 1950’s anymore, where your local priest was the first guy you called in a pinch and not the cops or your lawyer or the milkman. People simply no longer accept that there’s only one source for their morality and, what’s more, they strongly resent hearing people like you (i.e. cloistered virgins with chips on your shoulders about anything fun) publicy denouncing them as hedonistic or self-obsessed or materialistic (or whatever other negative trait you can link to the modern world) just because they don’t go to bloody church anymore. Sheesh, you drive people away from your precious Church by continually being ignorant of modern society and modern peoples’ needs (not to mention being inert at best on the topic of child abuse) and insulting anyone who doesn’t conform to your view, then you have the idiocy to wonder where all the Catholics went! Are you serious?

People change. As societies are made of people, societies inevitably change. Some institutions change along with the societies that support them. Sometimes a change is in fact necessary for the survival of an institution, e.g. the British Royal Family – no longer a monarchy with any real power, yet still existing in all its gilded glory, supported by their society (the French Royal Family, on the other hand, refused to change and they, well, got the chop). Those institutions who refuse to change, or do it very slowly or reluctantly, run the very real risk of becoming irrelevant or useless (or even harmful) to the society in question. The Catholic Church, constantly railing against, insulting, denouncing and harshly judging our ever-evolving society (while simultaneously ignoring its realities), as well as fruitlessly exhorting it to change back (presumably to pre-Henry VIII times when Papists ran Europe and just murdered anyone who stood up to them and then rifled through their pockets), runs the severe risk of becoming irrelevant.

But hey, Vatican, you’ve always been useless & irrelevant to me (except as a museum of artistic genius and great example of reprehensible social policy at the hands of an unchallenged absolute ruler). It would please me greatly if Catholics left you and your judgements behind in droves. Exodus-sized droves. Just keep up whatever it is that you’re doing. You’re driving far more Catholics away with your corruption & hypocrisy & unwarranted moral superiority complexes & unwanted, insulting, ignorant judgements than I ever could!

Just take solace from this, Papists: former UK PM Tony Blair just converted to Catholicism … for some reason. I’m sure you’ll all welcome your newest soul with open arms. He certainly won’t be the first lying, mass-murdering, hypocritical piece of shit to eat your magic zombie-flesh and drink your magic zombie-blood.

"Your problem is with God, not me…"

A Dangerous Intersection post of mine (a duplicate of this one here) attracted, surprisingly for me, a quick splash of comments from users. One born-again young-earth creationist respondent, a Mr Brewer, after pasting the usual slabs of fundie garbage & evangelist catchphrases, decided it would be ok to label me “depraved” (precisely, that I had a depraved or useless mind) because I’m not down with Jesus (I was already familiar with Brewer’s work as we’d had a brief stoush in a post of Erich Vieth’s about sex education. A pet project for fundamentalist ignorance and arse-backwardness, their stance on sex-ed amounts to “don’t tell ’em how to do it safely, just tell ’em not to do it at all.” Right. Worked a treat for Bristol Palin). And, yes, being called “depraved” annoyed me somewhat, as my responses no doubt indicate. So I bit back a couple of times. Who is this guy to judge & insult me because I disagree with him? At least I was only trying to, respectfully but firmly, smack his arguments (such as they were) down without resorting to insulting the guy.

But, really, being insulted (someone who thinks the entire planet is younger than verbal communication, the discovery of agriculture and the domestication of animals, no less, thinks my mind is useless?) wasn’t the problem. I can cop an insult, and “depraved” is pretty mild. Even so, I called him on it and pointed out that it’s not how grownups talk to each other. I didn’t expect an apology – at best, a cessation of such ad hominems in further posts would have been perfectly acceptable. Anyway, instead of an “ok, fine” or even just ignoring it and moving on (which would have been fine), he did it again. But this time he offered a justification – that it’s God who thinks my mind is useless. My problem shouldn’t be with Brewer whipping insults around the place in place of actual arguments, it should be with God. “Hey, don’t blame me, talk to God about it! It’s not me who thinks you’re depraved, it’s God. I’m just passing on his message. You can choose not to be depraved by accepting Christ! Gee, I’m sorry if you took offence at being insulted but hey, again, take it up with the Lord. I just want to help you poor pitiful atheists find Jesus because I care about you!” (I paraphrase here, but that’s the thrust).

Interesting, Mr Brewer. Even though it’s you who thought it and typed it and clicked “post” (repeatedly), it’s not your fault. The depravity – the “useless minds” – of all atheists might not necessarily be what you yourself truly believe but because you think God thinks it, you have a duty to pass it on for our own sake because you care … which is about the most gutless, laughable, pathetic and classically fundamentalist piece of rank bullshit I’ve ever heard. It’s on a par with “the devil made me do it!” as a complete abdication of personal responsibility. It’s a classic passing of the buck to someone who is completely unaccountable (and, to throw in my extra tuppence, whose existence is so gargantuanically improbable that it’s more or less safe to say he’s non-existent, or at least completely uninterested). You might think it’s okay, as many fundies do, to just throw shit like that out there and absolve yourself of any responsibility by hiding behind your god’s apron. “It’s God’s word, talk to him about it.” Or, in more accurate parlance, “Don’t blame me, blame my secret friend. He did it!”. Hey, it worked when you were six, why not keep it up?

I guess your average fundie clown would see this kind of thing as an epic win: you get to call the nasty old atheist whatever you want, be it “depraved”, “immoral”, “stained with sin” or whatever else you want to paste in the comments box from your weekly, talking-point filled email from Answers In Genesis or Ray “Watch Me Wank This Banana” Comfort or Ken “Not That Much Smarter Than A Leg Of” Ham. Then, if anyone gets shitty you can just say “Don’t blame me my friend, that’s just what God says.” Ha!

OK, I’m trying not to harp here. This isn’t a BAWW because some troll called me a name. Like I said, I’ve had worse. This is just a simple, honest Fuck You because the guy weaseled out of it by laying blame at the feet of his God who, conveniently, isn’t the kind who just answers you when you say “Oi, what’s this shit about me being depraved?” Shit, if you’re going to insult someone, have the balls to stand by it and accept whatever response you get and not refer me to your manager. Seriously, if you’re going to stand there, insult a person and say “oh no, it’s not me, it’s God” then you can go fuck yourself. Such blatant hypocrisy is a lot more insulting than an actual insult.

It’s really very amusing, and pitiful, in hindsight. Being accused of having a useless mind by a guy who is so mindless he won’t even take responsibilty for his own words & who believes the Earth is 6000 years old despite centuries of evidence (evidence – remember that?) to the contrary is probably the best & clearest example of fundamentalist hypocrisy I’ve ever seen. Sticks & stones, Mr Brewer. Hell, not even your words faze me that much. Actions, though, are something different. When you accuse me of having a useless, depraved mind, deny your own mind as the source of your words and then attribute responsibility for those words to the mind of your god (who’s conveniently unavailable for comment), you reveal yourself either as the worst kind of cowardly liar, eager to absolve yourself of responsibility for your own actions and pass it on to someone who’s completely unaccountable, as a rank hypocrite or merely as an intellectual zombie – an empty vessel for the thoughts and opinions of others, be they your god, pastor, community or whoever it was who originally put that idea in your head.

To me, a truly useless mind is one that can be used by others for their own purposes as easily as yours seems to be, Mr Brewer. The pity I now feel for your empty mind is far more than any annoyance I previously felt at being insulted. I can think of no worse fate than being a mere vehicle for someone else’s bigotry and ignorance. If I had a religious bone in my body, I’d pray for you.

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Alozno Fyfe: "When Atheists Attack!"

I direct your attention to this post by Alonzo over at Atheist Ethicist.

He laments what he perceives as a common occurrence in atheist blogs/articles: the tendency to take an isolated incident involving a religious person and use it as a hammer with which to crush all religion. Excerpt:

There are those who have taken every act performed by somebody who (claimed to be) religious and turned it into an attack on all religion. From 9/11, to every instance in which somebody who was religious has molested a child or stolen money from a church or viciously assaulted another member of the community, these have all been held up with a sign that says, “See what religion does!”

I must absolutely agree with Alonzo here, while simultaneously wondering if I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing. I do hope I haven’t, as I’m acutely aware of when religious people use an isolated incident involving an atheist to make the same kind of broad generalisations and group indictments about we non-religious folk and I’m acutely annoyed by it.

We, being non-religious people who give enough of a crap about religion’s influence on people and society to actually write posts like this, need to avoid being hypocrites. When responding to an attack or an article exposing a the hypocrisy of a religious person or group, our response has to be proportionate. It’s not good reading about, for example, yet another pastor being found guilty of seriously breaching his own faith’s guidelines – or the laws of his nation – and proclaiming religion as the source of his evil. That he used religion as a means to his greedy or lewd or hypcritical or criminal ends doesn’t necessarily indict either the religion he claimed to subscribe to or the rest of his followers. However, it can shine a spotlight on the fallacy that religion precludes people from doing illegal or immoral things. Saying “religion made him do it” is as bad as saying “atheism made the Nazis do it”. It’s not only factually wrong, it’s entirely unreasonable and hypocritical.

In quite a few of my own posts I know I’ve used offensive, crude language to express my displeasure at the actions of a religious person or group, but (without having sufficient time to check through all my previous blatherings) I hope I haven’t been guilty of tarring every religion and all religious people with the same brush I use to shellac the Pope or Sarah Palin or any other of the faithful cranks that have become the honoured subjects of my work. I do not for one second think your average, everyday Catholic is as deserving of my ‘praise’ as their ancient, feeble-minded murderous virgin bastard of an Emperor – though I certainly think more of them should simply grow a pair and tell the Vatican to butt out of their private lives and let them decide when to conceive children & if and when to end their marriage. I don’t think every American Evangelist Christian deserves to be flogged mercilessly the same way multi-millionaire faith-healing charlatans like Benny Hinn do – but I do know that Hinn and his tax-evading ilk wouldn’t be where they are without millions of devoted, hoodwinked (and quite possibly greedy – see “Prosperity Gospel”) disciples sending him their hard-earned money every single day. After all, you can’t light a fire without dry kindling (or Jiffies!).

However, having said that, every motherfucking last member of Fred Phelps’ gay-hating, military funeral-picketing, offensively coloured, worded & designed sign-painting, wilfully & consciously mentally retarded Westboro Baptist Church can go fuck themselves with a chainsaw.

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Seriously, Ratzinger, suck my arse

“Pope condemns ‘pagan’ love of money, power” [MSN]

Paraphrasing from the New Testament, Benedict decried “insatiable greed” and said “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

“Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?” the pope asked. Benedict blasted modern society’s thirst for these new “pagan” idols as a “scandal, a real plague.” The pope urged the faithful
to “shun the worship of idols. Do not tire of doing good!”’

Do I really need to pick this apart and spell out exactly what’s wrong with this picture? A spiritual monarch, appointed by a 1500 year-old entrenched, insular oligarchy, wearing Prada & silk & gold robes, paying no tax, living in a fucking palace the size of a city (with his own private army), who is treated with more deference and reverence and suckingthefuckup than any living king, queen, prime minister, president or rock star, “blasting” the world for daring to pursue material gain?

And all this before he flies to Lourdes, a place where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to a peasant girl a century (or something) ago, and which (like practically all other similar places) is now a massive cash cow for any opportunistic seller of glow-in-the-dark Mary statues to set up a stall and rake in francs from the gullible hordes. “Shun the worship of idols”, he says…Lourdes, a place where Mary, mother of Jesus, is idolised & worshipped & prayed to by Catholics as much as her famous son, or his infamous father (this in a supposedly monotheistic religion); a place where this Mary-worship is cashed in on, on a daily fucking basis by shrewd vendors of religious garbage. Though the hordes of Lourdes may not be Ratzinger’s fault, his physical presence there legitimises and condones the very behaviour he’s apparently railing against. Lourdes is the very embodiment – and perfect combination – of idolatry & the love of money. It is the one place you’d expect Ratzi to single out for special excoriation. You’d think if the gottfuehrer was really out to emulate the J-man and kick the money-lenders out of the temple, he’d go up and down the route to Lourdes getting medieval on the stall-holders with their cheap trinkets and cynical cashing in on vulnerable, gullible peoples’ willingness to be deceived and fleeced – or even single them out for a special Papal “blast”. But I won’t hold my breath. After all, the very thing that’s made the Catholic church one of the most wealthy (but also most secretive) non-corporate, non-governmental organisations in the world has been its long history of deceiving people out of their wealth through appeals to peoples’ fear of hell, or simply taking what they want at the point of a sword or a set of thumbscrews. Why the hell should anyone expect a career hypocrite (the latest in a long line of such hypocrites, born from an environment of the purest hypocrisy) to suddenly change his spots? Why should we expect any action on this facet of Papist hypocrisy when we can’t even expect them to effectively apologise for and pursue the perpetrators of decades of child-rape?

So, no, kids, he’s not serious. This is an empty, populist platitude, like so much of what we in the real world hear from this man and many of his silk-robed generals & lieutenants & associate wizards on a regular basis. A king – an emperor, no less – chiding us for wanting the good things this life has to offer. After all, that’s what most of us want. Not the best, not the top-tier version of everything. Just good things. Hell, most of us just want things that work. A car that starts, a washing machine that washes, doors that lock, a dog that barks, a computer & connection that are fast enough to just load webpages without too much staring at that little bastard hourglass. And if we can afford stuff that might make our lives a little easier or a bit more enjoyable, leave us to enjoy it. Ratzi’s “avoid the love of money” platitude is just a standard call & response to make middle-class Catholics feel good about themselves and assuage any guilt they may have at their own material success, all the while knowing the majority of their Catholic brethren just struggle to eat enough in a day, let alone have the luxury to dream about Aston Martins or houses at the beach (how many residences does Ratzi have again? At least as many as the old Czar of Russia, I’ll go out on a limb and assume). While Ratzi continues the Vatican’s reprehensible “only have sex for kids, condoms don’t work and might even kill you faster” routine, millions of Catholic third-world citizens, already in severe straits, are condemned to even more poverty & hardship through having children they can’t afford to feed. Ratzi then congratulates them on their Christ-like poverty from his gold throne, or from the platform of his gleaming, bullet-proof Mercedes.

I’m not a religious man (just thought I’d spell that out), but it’s at times like this I have lots of admiration for people such St Francis of Assisi. I may not have agreed with Frank on how best to spend one’s life, but the fact that he actually practiced what the bible apparently preaches about avoiding materialism, instead of just preaching it to others as he grew wealthy and fat off their toil, demands my respect. Until his death, St Francis railed against the pursuit of wealth and fame and was enraged by the cult of personality that had grown around him in his later years. If Ratzi had half that guy’s balls I’d – well, shit, I’d be really, really, really surprised. A Catholic demigod, not being a fucking hypocrite? I’d be sticking a thermometer in the ground to see if hell was freezing over.

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