Just a Little Common Sense

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

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Pope Speaks, Germany Protests

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After some struggle and public controversy, the pope was allowed to speak at the Bundestag in Berlin. It was a small victory for him though, as over one hundred delegates chose not to appear as a gesture of protest.
I feel with them: For anyone with modern values it must be painful to watch Europe’s last absolute monarch speak at the very heart of our democracy – The pope is the head of the only western state that has yet to ratify the international Bill of Human Rights.

Anyhow, the ruling conservative politicians just couldn’t have that. And so they chose to initiate what I view as one of the most pathetic moments in Germnan politics of (at least) the last two decades: They filled the empty seats with extras.

Which, by the way, I think ought to have consequences. The absent delegates in this case perfectly fulfilled their function of representing the German public. Masking this fact to the media (as well as to the pope!) is to lie to the people they are supposed to represent, in order to make a guest feel welcome who is unwelcome to half of the people here.

Anyhow. Meanwhile, more than 20.000 people went to the streets, making their anger at this blatant disregard of our constitution known. Among the many groups reporting the protest were, among others, several Human Rights organizations, the “Black Block” of the left-extremist AntiFa (anti-fascist initiative) and of course numerous feminist and gay groups. Here’s some pictures:

The Pope’s reaction to the protests, of course, was consistently in line with his churches’ policy: He ignored them.

Written by Phil

September 26, 2011 at 00:45

Two TV Ads for a Ban on All Religion

with 7 comments

There’s an Australian series called “The Gruen Transfer”. It’s kind of a comedy show with political context. I can’t really claim to have seen it, as it’s an Australian show and I only get to see snippets on YouTube. However, One of these snippets is what I’d like to share with you today: It’s a segment called “The Pitch”, in which they apparently ask different advertisement agencies to produce TV ads advertising completely unsellable ideas, such as “bring back child labour” or “Let’s Invade New Zealand”. In the end they vote for the best of the submitted ads.
In the following segment, the chosen theme is “Ban All Religion”. Two Agencies took up the challenge, and here is what they came up with. Enjoy!

 

 

Personally, I’d vote for the first ad because the second one is based on an argument that has been shown to fail repeatedly. That wars are waged and people are killed in the name of religion is nothing new, it has been pointed out millions of times. The only reaction it gets is “well, that’s just the extremists.” It’s the old and tired the-center-vs-the-fringe-debate, and it’s unlikely to be won by posing the same argument yet another time. The subversive argumentation of the first clip is way more likely to actually change minds, plus it’s not as negative as the second one.
“Religion is bad, let’s do away with it!” puts most people instantly on defense, even if they are not themselves religious. “Religion is outdated, we can do way better than that!” is a message much more likely to open people up to reconsider their views.

Written by Phil

September 8, 2011 at 00:05

Letter To Faith-Head Jim

with one comment

Yesterday I received a comment on my latest post that is exemplary of the condescending attitude of believers who believe that, simply because they are a few years older than me, my views are not even worth listening to. They’ve got it all figured out, and they’re just trying to help a poor, young and obviously confused soul.
That comment is so exemplary in fact, that for a second I wondered if it was just some fellow atheist’s idea of humour. In the end I was convinced of the authentic nature of the comment by the author’s abuse of punctuation and generally faulty grammar. Here it is, in all its beauty:

I stumbled upon your website and will probably never be back. I have no agenda other than to leave you with some thoughts you might find helpful. I know a lot of young people in their mid-twentys…none of them blog. I wonder why you do? Are you happy…I mean deep down? Life is short, death is certain, eternity is forever…Faith comes BEFORE knowledge and understanding, it must…the Truth is a Person…that Person will be with you every step of your journey despite your rantings. You sound like a smart guy…you can figure this out. I wish you well…Regards from America.

As I said, this is a perfect example of an attitude I encounter all the time. My usual tactic is to smile and ignore. It’s an invite to a game that I have stopped playing some time ago, when its predictable patterns started to bore me. This comment being on my blog however, for anyone to see, I felt obliged to answer. Having just had a really great although exhausting day, and feeling relaxed and a tad bored, I was in just the right mood, too. So I blew the dust of my trolling-gloves and accepted the invite.

Dear Jim,
I appreciate your kind but entirely misplaced concern for my personal happiness. If you would actually wonder why I blog, you could of course simply have asked, but if you prefer to stick to your preconceived notion of the angry and frustrated young atheist who blogs because he has nobody in real life who will listen to him, that’s just as fine with me.
I can’t help wondering a little myself… those people you know, presumably my peers by age, do they watch a lot of quality TV like American Idol or Big Brother? Do they drink a lot of alcohol? Because I don’t. And I’d like you to consider which is the more fulfilling past-time: That, or blogging about the kind of political and ethical issues that I find interesting, in a foreign language?

I know you weren’t really interested in an actual answer to your rhetorical question in the first place, but here it is anyhow: I blog because I enjoy writing. I enjoy playing that weird but beautiful instrument that is the english language, enjoy to improve my grasp of it. I rant because it’s something I enjoy doing from time to time. It’s an intellectually engaging way to keep my english-skills alive, and it most certainly beats watching TV. Satisfied?
I am a smart guy, thank you, and I already figured this out. I know it makes you uncomfortable to even consider the possibility of a happy atheist, because that might mean you need to seriously reconsider your world-view, but YES, I actually am happy deep down.

You are right, faith does indeed come before knowledge. That is because it acts as a gap-filler in its absence. Those who choose to still stick with it once actual knowledge is available are cowards, too afraid of change to opt for improvement and a widening of their horizons. Terrified, they stick to the mundane and shrink away from exploring the realms of intellectual growth and sensual fulfillment in which true happiness can be found.

It’s kinda cute to see you try to patronize me, Jim, but your petty fairy-tales and empty promises of a better beyond fail to impress: With music, philosophy, art, literature and human relations I have a wealth of experience and beauty at my disposal right in the here and now that makes your promises of heaven look pale by comparison. My faith is in people, and it’s a faith stronger than yours will ever be.

——–
UPDATE: Despite his announcment not to be back, here he is. The discussion continues in the original comment thread.

Written by Phil

March 9, 2011 at 00:46

More Abuse in Mother Teresa’s Homes

with 3 comments

A few weeks ago I shared Sally Warner’s story with you. She had been a volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity (MoC) in India for thirteen years, and now finally found the courage to speak up about the countless cases of abuse and gross medical negligence she witnessed there. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here.
I also urge you to visit Sally Warner’s own blog, where you will find more detailed stories about the abuse she witnessed, harrowing pictures of the same, and accounts of her trying (and failing) to move the nuns in charge of the various homes to change their policy.
Two days ago, I received a new comment on that post, also from a former volunteer. Read for yourselves:
Note: I’ve taken the liberty to edit out the typos from both her comment and my response.

I too volunteered at Mother Theresa’s Orphanage in Pondicherry – St. Terese Street. What I found there was appalling. Babies who were brain damaged were force-fed by filling their mouths with some kind of food and holding of their noses so that they either had to choke or swallow. Some of these babies were blind and deaf and only a few weeks old. When I complained bitterly to the sister in charge, she said that she knew these things were going on. They were also fed very hot food and very hot milk. They were left in soiled clothing the entire day and feces and urine ran from the mattresses and mats on which they lie , all day long. I actually rescued one child from their grip. seven children died whilst I was there, for 6 weeks.

The sister in charge was a materialistic torturer and cared nothing for the children under her care. The other sisters did nothing to stop what was going on.

I am still in India ten years later. But NOT with the MOC.

I’ve just written her a mail, asking for an interview. The MoC remain one of the richest “charities” of the world, and Mother Teresa’s name continues to be a synonym for good even among secular people. I think it’s important that stories like these get told. Not only does this ongoing abuse need to stop, but people also need to be educated about what is really going on in this “charity”, and where they can direct their donations to make a better impact.

Here’s my mail to her:

From: Philipp Schaub
To: xxxxx@xx.com
Date: Wed, Feb 2, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Subject: Your Comment Regarding Mother Teresa

Dear Roslind,

I am Phil, the author of Just A Little Common Sense. Two days ago you commented on my post about Hemley Gonzalez’ interview with Sally Warner, telling your own story of abuse you witnessed in one of the homes of th MoC.
First of all, I’d like to thank you, not only for taking the time to stop and comment on my blog, but also for speaking up about the things you’ve seen.
I think it is important that stories like yours get told. The MoC remain one of the largest “charitable” organizations around the world, and continue to receive millions of dollars in donations every year. Those donations come mainly people motivated by genuine goodwill and unaware of the practices of the MoC, not from conscious supporters of their ways. I think it is mandatory to educate the public about their horrible and inhumane practices, not only to stop the abuse going on in the MoC-homes, but also to redirect those millions of dollars to better causes and more responsible charities.

People tend to respond a lot more to personal stories than a dry set of facts. Rather than just writing another post saying “A commenter told me there’s a home in Pondicherry where she saw babies mistreated”, I’d like to tell your story in more detail.

Would you agree to answer a few questions about your time at the MoC?

I would be very happy to share your story. My blog doesn’t have many readers on its own, but I have a few contacts to larger blogs and a few news-outlets in the secular scene that would also have great interest in publishing a story like yours.
Whether we would include identifying information about you or do this anonymously is entirely up to you (If you agree to be interviewed at all, that is).
It may only have been six weeks, and ten years ago, but I still think it is a story that matters, and one that needs to be told. It needs to be told for people to realize that the events Hemley Gonzalez (www.stopthemissionariesofcharity.com) and Sally Warner (sallywarner.blogspot.com) described are NOT isolated cases, but ongoing and regular practice in the homes of the MoC.

I am looking forward to hear from you.
Kind regards,

Phlipp Schaub
Just A Little Common Sense

PS: I will write a post for my blog publishing your original comment and this mail to you as my reaction. Please rest assured that I will NOT publish any response you might write to this without your explicit permission to do so. I will regard any subsequent mail exchange as confidential. Nor will I publish your mail-address or any other identifying information.

I’m excitedly awaiting her reply.

Written by Phil

February 2, 2011 at 17:54

God Done Diddit

with 4 comments

I want you to picture a guy, let’s call him Paul, walking into an urban police-station. Beaming, he proclaims that he knows what happened to the dead body that was found in the river five days ago; that he’s solved the mystery.
Let’s assume that by some random chance, or maybe out of desperation, the police actually take him seriously. So they ask him in, lead him into a room, sharpen their pencils, switch on the tape-recorder, and take a statement. This is how it goes:

PAUL: “You ready? Can I start?”
OFFICER: “Sure. Please tell us what you know.”
PAUL: “You see, he was murdered. Frank did it.”
OFFICER: “Frank… Frank who?”
PAUL: “Well, Frank of course. Frank Frank. Who else would I mean?”
OFFICER: “…”
PAUL: “…”
OFFICER (With disappointment at the realization that this won’t be the clue they’d been hoping for): “That’s it? That’s what you came to tell us?”
PAUL (Genuinely puzzled): “What do you mean? I told you what happened. What more could you want?”

We could imagine this going on indefinitely, but this little conversation is enough to convey my point. Merely tossing a name out there and proclaiming that a murder took place is not the same as truly solving the mystery of an unidentified body.
Yet, this is exactly how religious people tackle the question about the origin of our universe. They proclaim that it was “made”, and that it was “God” who made it. And then they lean back, satisfied with their accomplishment of having “solved” the mystery, gaze us a beaming smile, and react confused when we reject their “explanation” as preposterous and stupid.

To complete the analogy, let’s have Paul defend his thesis by proclaiming that it’s more likely Frank committed a murder than that the water of the river simply morphed into a dead body.
Theists frequently claim that, due to the apparent fine-tuning of our universe, it being made is more likely than it just coming into existence “by a giant explosion”. Of course, nobody ever said that a giant explosion was the origin of the universe, just like nobody at the police-department proposed that the body is actually magically transformed water of the river.
The Big Bang Theory is actually not about the origin of the universe: Like the police, we’re still pretty clueless regarding that mystery; like the police, it’s likely we’ll solve it eventually. What the Big Bang Theory actually is about is the early development of the universe: The theory states that the universe transformed from a very hot, very dense state to a less hot, less dense state, which is analogous to the police stating that it’s very likely the body they found was, at some point in the past, alive. It’s something we know beyond reasonable doubt. It’s something we can prove pretty much for sure.

What bothers me about all this is not that there actually are people like Paul out there, who really do not see the problem with the sort of oversimplified skyhook-explanation they give for complex problems.
What bothers me is that my analogy fails at one very important point: Paul the potential witness is regarded as a lunatic by society, and will probably find himself in a mental institution in the near future. Paul the theologean, on the other hand, is a highly respected member of society, gets invited by TV-stations to comment on enormously important political topics and has a huge influence on public opinion regarding an incredible variety of topics.

Missionaries of Inhumanity

with 20 comments

Warning: Due to the distressing nature of the images, I’ve posted all of them at the very end of this post. May not be suitable to be viewed at work. Viewer discretion is advised.

Hemley Gonzalez, currently back in India, has found another volunteer for the Missionaries of Charity who is now, after 13 years of working for Mother Teresa’s famous organisation, willing to speak up about the countless cases of abuse, medical negligence, and financial fraud she witnessed. And she has many stories to tell. Here is the full-length interview, courtesy of Hemley Gonzalez.

Sally Warner, a registered nurse with a degree in sociology and a graduate diploma in social work from Western Australia, began working as a volunteer with The Missionaries of Charity in 1997. She quickly realized there was something horribly wrong going on in all of the children homes she had visited and volunteered in and soon after became a dissenting voice and critic of the organization, publishing her first book titled “Mother Teresa” in 2003 about these experiences and now currently working on her second publication “Mother Teresa: Sainthood Delayed” to be released in 2011. Sally had heard about my work and the facebook campaign: STOP The Missionaries of Charity / www.stopthemissionaries.com and after finding out I too was in Kolkata, a meeting was scheduled. The following is the transcribed audio of my hour-long interview with her on this most disheartening subject. More about Sally’s work: www.sallywarner.blogspot.com

Hemley Gonzalez [HG]: When did you come to Kolkata to work with the Missionaries of Charity?

Sally Warner [SW]: I’ve spent the last thirteen years volunteering and visiting several houses operated by the Missionaries of Charity, and eventually made my way to Kolkata in late 1999 and began volunteering in some of the houses in early 2000. Here I have visited and volunteered in: Green Park, Shanti Dan, Premdan, Daya Dan and Kalighat which I found quite awful, I lasted only a few day there as I thought it was very dangerous for volunteers with all the highly contagious cases of Tuberculosis, but I had to see it for myself and couldn’t believe it. Speaking of Kalighat, it is now closed for renovations which I’m sure you and your “STOP The Missionaries of Charity” campaign had much to do with.

HG: How many houses would you say you’ve worked in over the last 13 years?

SW: The following is a timeline of the homes I’ve worked in as well as the many others I have visited. I have spent most of my time in the children homes, there were some I could not deal with, some of the ladies homes, and others where patients were just sitting around and doing nothing, often in cement floors and lying in their own excrements, people drugged wrongly by the nuns and of course there is or should I say for now “was” Kalighat, where anyone could just walk in and immediately see an average of 50 men and 50 women laying in cots and basically rotting away.
Read the rest of this entry »

Much Ado About Nothing

with one comment

My local catholics are playing dress-up again, walking the streets chanting and carrying candles. I left my window open for just a minute too long, and now my whole fucking room stinks of fucking incense. I am seething. Just what gives them the right to rub their silly rituals in my face like that?
If I’d run through public streets at this hour being as loud and producing as much smell, I’d be arrested within minutes. From noise pollution to disturbance of public peace, scandalization and what-not, I’d be charged with a variety of stuff and it’d end up being a very expensive prank. Plus, if I was wearing as silly a costume and a funny hat while annoying the shit out of people for no reason, I’d probably be put straight into the mental ward. And rightfully so, because that is where people who engage in this kind of activity belong. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

November 14, 2010 at 19:34

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