Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Archive for July 2010

Musings on Monism, Minds, and Alcohol

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I’ve been over at H+ Magazine, reading through some random articles. The article that sparked my interest was one claiming to debunk the notion that we will one day be able to digitize our minds, uploading them onto computers. It’s a fun topic to think about, though the arguments in this paricular article are far from being well thought-out. That, however, is not what I want to write about. What puzzled me reading the piece and the response comments is the latent dualism that keeps shining through even in people who claim to speak from a naturalistic point of view.
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Written by Phil

July 30, 2010 at 19:30

Are You Sure  You’re Not Catholic?

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The question sounds silly only as long as you don’t know about the weird policy the church has regarding whom they consider to be a member. Essentially, once you’ve been baptized they regard you as a member for life – it doesn’t matter whether you actually believe in any of their doctrine, attend service, or belong to any community. Once a member, always a member, like it or not.
There are only two ways to end your membership in the Roman Catholic Church (and, by the way, most other churches too): Through either excommunication or formal defection.

Why is this important?
So if you have ever been baptized, by default you should assume that you are a member. Now before I tell you how to put an end to that sorry state, let’s discuss what reasons there are for withdrawing your membership. It’s quite simple: As most of us live in democracies, the churches’ claim to power is the number of people it represents, or claims to represent. Large membership numbers give them a kind of we-are-the-people-authority. Ending your membership is the most direct and effective way of diminishing the churches political power.
You don’t need to be an atheist to withdraw your membership, either. I think even believers should consider quitting the church; it seems quite obvious to me that if there was a god, this corporation organization of child-molesting, genocidal, chauvinist virgins is probably the one organization furthest away from representing his views. The structural problems and the political agenda that organization has by far outweigh any possible benefits that being a member could possibly have – Read the bible if you must, follow Jesus if you like, but please maintain enough of a link to reality to understand that the “Holy See” is pretty much the definition of evil, that condoms are a good thing, that stem-cell research saves lives without harming anyone, and that a woman’s interest in determining the course of her own life exceeds the imaginary right of a small, unfeeling, unconscious clot of cells to survive. You are perfectly free to believe in a higher being, and worship it by whatever name, but you should be awake enough to realize that the church is a political organization that represents views that, throughout history, have clearly shown to be extremely damaging to society.
So now that established the reasons to end your membership, how do you go about it? As I’ve said before, there are two ways: Excommunication and formal defection. Let’s take a look at both.

Excommunication
It’s the unlikely option. Excommunication means that you do something so horrible that the church herself will take action to end your membership, or as they put it, “deprive you of the privileges of being a member”.
You may think that in an organization as conservative as the catholic church it should be pretty easy to shock them enough to kick you out, and you’d be wrong. As recent history has shown, being excommunicated turns out to be rather hard. Apparently, things like genocide or the molestation and rape of over 200 deaf boys just don’t seem to be enough. Covering up all those crimes doesn’t do the trick, either. Well, you might always try to do one of those really revolting, unforgivable things, like getting divorced. That worked pretty well back in the 16th century, but recently the church seems to be loosening up on that one.

Formal Defection
Formal defection definitely is the more workable solution. Write a letter to your local bishop or parish priest. Here is a beautiful example of what that might look like:

Cardinal Francis George
c/o Archdiocese of Chicago
835 N. Rush St.
Chicago, IL 60611-2030

Declaration of Defection from the Roman Catholic Church

I, ——–, do hereby give formal notice of my defection from the Roman Catholic Church. I do not consider myself part of the church, and I have not attended or donated to any church since 2004. I do not believe in God, the divinity or resurrection of Jesus, the immaculate conception or assumption of Mary, or the Holy Ghost. I am an atheist and have been working to promote skepticism of religion since 2008.
I am especially repulsed by the church’s teachings regarding homosexuality. I reject the notion that homosexual desires or the expression of these desires are in any way sinful, disordered, or an “intrinsic moral evil.” On the contrary, the church’s continual mistreatment of gay people is the true moral evil at work here.

Make sure your defection gets noted in your baptismal register, though that should happen more or less automatically. Bureaucratic stuff like that is one area the church is actually good at. It might be of interest to you that defecting from the church does not actually undo your baptism. According to the laws of their weird twisted fantasy-land, the baptism is a mark that “is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection”, meaning that although they recognize that you left the “earthly” organization of the RCC, they cannot change your underlying identity as a catholic, which results in your soul still being subject to all canon laws, whatever that means.
However, what the defection does  is stopping them to use you as a number in their statistic to justify their political power. And that makes it totally worth it.

PS: In some countries the process might be more complicated, namely when the state is involved in the administration of membership and church tax. I can’t tell you much about that, but I’m sure that in pretty much any country of this world there are secular organizations happy to provide you with all the information and help you might need. If you’re a German planning to leave the church, feel free to contact me. I’ll be glad to help out or put you in touch with organizations that will.

Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate”: Uganda Made it Real

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Facebook Ain’t So Bad

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Today I was on my way grocery-shopping, when I saw a couple coming my way on the street. The guy wore a shirt that said: “I don’t need FACEBOOK or TWITTER, I have a LIFE.” It made me want to go over, pat him on the head and ask his girlfriend just where she found such an adorable little neo-luddite.

Unfortunately, he’s not alone: Who doesn’t know one of those people who patently refuse to sign up on facebook/twitter/MySpace/Bebo/whatever? Incidentally, those are exactly the people who refused to buy a mobile phone until years after everyone else had one. Of course they gave in after even they realized it was more than just a passing trend and hey, these are actually kinda handy. But so far, I have never seen anyone actually advertising his Luddism on a shirt. It instantly reminded me of this little xkcd-gem:

It's depressing how many of these are real shirts.
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Written by Phil

July 22, 2010 at 03:56

On Happiness

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The internet is brimming with new-agey blogs providing endless lists with how-to-become-happy-instructions, such as this one from the blog of an Australian counselling service called Reach For The Sky.
It’s a neat list, common wisdom, but some of it rings true. In the end, most people reading it will already agree to some extent, but a list like this is not likely to convince anybody who has not gained these insights for himself already; to a great many people this will sound like a bunch of simple platitudes and empty phrases. Anyhow, it makes a neat read for the new-age hippie clientél it is directed at, and that’s all that really matters on a blog that is essentially an advertisement for a small service-provider. I could have picked any such list, but this one is fairly representative of them all, so I’ll just have a go at this.

1. Happiness is accepting “what is” and getting on with life. Recriminations or regrets have no place in happiness.

I perfectly agree with this part. Accepting a mistake for what it is and learning from it is better than regretting not having made a different choice and dwelling on how things could have been. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

July 20, 2010 at 12:44

Touchable Holograms

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Japanese scientists achieved quite an impressive feature: They created the world’s first touchable hologram. The Machine uses cameras (cannibalized from Nintendo wii-remotes) to determine the position of the user’s hand, and then creates a sensation of touch with the use of directed ultrasound. Very cool.

I want one.

Written by Phil

July 20, 2010 at 03:34

Catholic Child Abuse: The Media are Understating the Situation

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There is a serious structural problem in the Roman Catholic Church, and I am tired of it being referred to as “the paedophilia problem” or “child rape”. Neither are the main problem here.
First, not many of the cases of sexual abuse do actually have anything to do with paedophilia. Children are often mere substitute-objects. The perpetrators aren’t necessarily paedophiles, they simply use children because they happen to be around, are easy to control and intimidate, and most importantly they don’t put up much of a fight.

  • Regressive Type: His primary sexual preference are adults, though he can be sexually aroused by children. Due to the easy availability of children, to nonsexual problems, and to problems with adult sex partners, he falls back on children to satisfy his sexual needs. One can speak of a substitute-object culprit [Ger.: Ersatzobjekttäter]
  • Fixated Type: His primary sexual preference are children. He can hardly or not at all be sexually aroused by adults. A classic paedophile.
  • Sociopathic Type: He is characterized by a lack of empathy for his victims and sometimes has sadistic tendencies. Sexuality is not used to satisfy sexual needs, but as a means of opression. This is also commonly called a sadistic type.

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