Grant Rants

Archive for the ‘Glee is evil’ Category

A royal baby? Who cares? Cosmos returns!!!

- July 22nd, 2013

carl-sagan

“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!

I have a rule when I am on vacation: no news writing. I do not write any news while on holidays because I use my time off to recharge. It is a rule which has, for the last two weeks, been beyond frustrating.
More scandals in the Catholic church (and to mention the hilariously moronic push by the Vatican to forgive sins if believers would just follow the pope’s Twitter page), the prime ministers official enemies list, and news that that pox upon humanity known as Glee is doing a two our special on the Beatles — Listen, you vile pestilence upon music, keep your hands off the Fab Four! You’ve already butchered KISS and AC/DC, leave the boys from Liverpool alone for frak’s sake!

But even as I fought the temptation to rant about these things and more, I was bombarded by news that Kate Whatsherface — the rich woman who married the British prince — is having her baby. It’s apparently a boy. Coverage of the birth of yet another privileged member of the impotent monarchy has become so nauseatingly wall-to-wall and given such a sense of importance that I’m expecting three Persians to show up at Buckingham Palace bearing gifts of gold, frankincense  and myrrh.

I cannot muster up even a little enthusiasm for the arrival of this child, who will one day occupy tabloid headlines and inherit a throne that is to Canadian politics what the appendix is to human anatomy.

And besides, there is way more exiting news than the spawn of a prince. Cosmos is back baby!

In 1980 the original Cosmos: a Personal Voyage was a 13 part TV series hosted by the late, great Carl Sagan. It was about history, discovery, science, astronomy and our place in an unthinkably vast universe. It was brilliant and for many people, myself included, an the perfect introduction the power and glory of science and reason and beautifully bizarre mysteries of the universe we inhabit. The series and its companion book left a deep imprint on my psyche.  From the moment I saw the first episode as a kid, I was hooked.

Since Cosmos aired, there has been talk of a sequel. But the show was not a quick knock off. It was an expansive series, using (at the time) state of the art special effects to add verve to Sagan’s commentary and lessons. It was as entertaining as it was educational and inspiring. Alas, Sagan passed away before any sequel could be made.

But the man many regard as Sagan’s successor as the public educator of science par excellence, Neil deGrasse Tyson is hosting the sequel titled “Cosmos: a space-time odyssey”. It is aSagan-Calrissian-Tyson-600x337lso 13 parts and will air next year. The trailer looks incredible. Tyson, who is basically what you get when you cross Carl Sagan with Lando Calrissian, is the prefect man for the job of filling Sagan’s shoes.

Interestingly, it is being aired on Fox in the United States, not exactly a television network known for broadcasting programing with intelligence. What this means, I think, is that the kind of wonder about the universe and science Sagan created in 1980 will reach the eyes and ears of those who normally might not watch a show about science.

Be prepared to feel gloriously small in a beautifully vast universe. No royal baby will ever be able to create that kind of wonder and light the fire of curiosity like Cosmos can:

The stupid it burns: vote for a pope edition

- March 11th, 2013

Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!

So it’s time to pick a new pope! The conclave of cardinals are sitting about in Rome now and will soon being voting on which of them gets to inherit the pointy hat and ruby slippers.

The process itself a tad dull, given that the head of the church purports to be the moral voice for the entire planet. The cardinals vote in secret and send out a puff of smoke, black or white, to indicate if they have chosen a pope or not.

Frankly, I think it can all be jazzed up a bit. Made a little more interesting. It’s crying out to be a reality show. I’m thinking a Big Brother-meets-Survivor-meets-The Exorcist sorta of thing.

The cardinals should all have to live together in a house, and compete to stay in the competition. You know, “Name that circle of Dante’s Hell” contest. A Stations of the Cross obstacle course. Wafer eating contest. Wrestling in those inflatable Sumo suits. (‘Cause that is just awesome) And, since the Vatican has been a viper’s den of infighting, scandal and betrayal lately, just watching this guys interact will be entertaining enough. At the end of each show, another cardinal is voted out of the house and the final two have to race to build the bonfire that will send out the puff of smoke to indicate who won.

Well, that or they could use the Joker’s method of “tryouts” from The Dark Knight:

If it seems like I am taking the selection of a new top Catholic priest as seriously I would take the claims of holistic dentistry, it’s because the entire thing has become a bit of a circus side show, with the strong man and dog faced boy replaced by a old men in robes.

I mean, how many times in the last year have we read stories coming out of Rome about scandals in the Vatican bank and corruption scandals and the like on top of the annual insult to human dignity that is the seemingly never ending scandal of priests raping children.

(And seriously, if anyone posts a comment akin to “well one bad apple spoils the bunch” about the child abuse scandals in the church, lava might actually burst from my ears. How many more times does it have to happen before it can be admitted that this isn’t an apple apple or two, but a rot right at the core? Consider how often it is reported in Europe and North America where there is a free press and a functioning justice system. What goes on in places like latin America where these things don’t have the same influence or freedom?)

The pope is the moral leader of millions upon millions of Catholics around the globe and purports to have the authority to tell the rest of the world how to behave. The last pope had little problem telling us how gay marriage was a clear and present danger to the survival of the species, for instance, and generally telling democratically elected governments that allowing gay marriage would be the worst thing since the cast of Glee started singing AC/DC covers.

The massive weight of the irony here is enough to create a black hole. An old celibate man, appointed by a closed group of old celibate men, tells elected governments how their citizens ought to conduct their private lives. Um…

The whole thing would be hilariously funny and irrelevant  if it were not for the fact that some of the cardinals choosing the new pope are actually neck deep in the whole sex abuse by priests thing.  Like Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, for instance, was part of the cover up to hide the abuse by priests.The New York Times described his actions by noting that “no member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality. ”

Fun guy.

Although now publicly exposed for his wrong doing, despite being known to be involved in the protection of rapists who prey upon children, the Vatican saw fit to bring Mahony to Rome to vote on the selection of a new pope.

Just let that thought ripen in your mind for a bit. The church that claims to be the moral light of the world sought out a man known to hide child abusers to vote upon who should lead said organization. That is a rather like bringing in a bunch of known mob leaders to vote on who should be the Attorney General.

If that doesn’t indicate why I don’t take the Papal Conclave seriously, and why the entire affair is, frankly,  a pitiful farce, I don’t know what will.

The stupid, it burns: Dante’s ghostly criticism edition

- December 6th, 2012

Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!

One of the unavoidable effects of being a journalist, particularly one who also writes opinion column, particularly one who criticizes religion, is that one gets his fair share of hate mail and critics. Par for the course.

On occasion the criticism is thoughtful. I have had, for example, a long running conversation/debate with a reader by email on the subject of god and religion. We don’t agree with each other much, but our exchanges are lively and interesting. More often, however, the criticism comes from those who take shelter in the anonymity the internet provides, taking pot shots from the dark, never having the courage to voice their opinions in the same light of public consumption as the journalist does.

Case in point is a blogger who calls himself Dante Alighieri after the titan of poetry and theology. (Ironically, the blogger claims to be a non-believer. The real Dante most certainly was.) But since this fellow’s name certainly isn’t Dante, I’ve decided give him a random name. I’ve settled on Sean.

Sean is not a fan of mine and recently devoted a blog entry to what I presume he believes is some manner of rhetorical take down of me and my work.

Normally, I would not bother replying in detail, but Sean’s effort isn’t particularly long and mirrors some common criticism of not only myself, but other writers who publicly take exception to the efforts of the theoretically minded. And since he wanted to bring down the thunder by calling me out on Twitter, here we go:

“In a small local paper belonging to the QMI Corp. there is a regular columnist who exemplifies the worst of the fundamentalists, he rails against those whose ideas differ from his, mocks their ideas and world view, wishes their banishment from public view, wants their views suppressed, by the state if necessary, and calls them all types of names. His views seem to be supported by a large cast of “me too’ers” who join him in his vitriolic campaign.”

While I will often criticize religion, most often when religious activity attempts to shoe horn dogma into science class, attack the rights of other citizens, or claim a special status over others, I have never once called the suppression of anyone’s views – not even fans of Glee – even when they disagree with my own. In fact, the opposite is the case.

I’ve argued against creationism, using public schools as religious soap boxes, faith healing, religious attacks on homosexuals, gay marriage and women, the violence of jihadists ranging from honour killings to terrorism, suppression of free speech by religious groups and Scientology. Never, in any of that, have I once called for the suppression of free speech.

I am fairly certain that I have taken a much more strident view on free speech publicly than Sean has. I’ve done it several times. My opinion is  a long standing matter of public record. I have long argued that free speech is as close to sacrosanct an idea as there is. I have, on many occasions, argued that the state’s ability to limit free speech ought to be extremely limited and, as regular readers of my column will know, I like to drive the point home using an excellent quote from Noam Chomsky:

“Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favour of free speech, then you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favour of free speech.”

So while I will take up the argument against unwarranted religious intrusion into our public institutions, mock end of the worlders, and insist that dogma does not belong in a science class, I have never called for the state to shut up the religious. In fact, as recently as September, I defended the right to free speech of that Christian zealot who made the idiotic anti-Islam YouTube video that triggered all manner of violence in the middle east. I pointed out an idea that has been well known in secular circles since the 19th century that says  you do not throw away free speech because some people, in this case radical Muslims, start an orgy of violence, even if the speech in question was stupid on the highest order. You combat bad speech with more speech, not censorship and violence.

So, sorry Sean, but you rather missed the boat there.

NEXT!

 I watch with amusement as he rants and raves against their intolerance and bigotry, unaware that he is acting in the same way that he accuses others of being. He is, not a religious bigot of the Fred Phelps/Westboro Baptist Church type, but of the new fundamentalist type, the atheist fundamentalist.

Ah, yes the claim that the atheist is a “fundamentalist” or a “militant.”

This too, fall well short of the mark. Fundamentalism, originally a term used by a brand of American evangelical Christianity, got it’s name because believers wanted to get back to the “fundamentals” of their faith. Because this involved a belief in Biblical inerrancy (including literal belief in a six day creation, the dead rising from the grave, miracles and several, non-textual beliefs regarded as so important they cannot be questioned) the term “fundamentalist” has become a kind of pejorative to describe any religious person who interprets their religious texts this way and then acts accordingly. Today, this mostly refers to some stripes of Christianity and Islam, though that is probably a limited view.

At their best, fundamentalists are intolerant bigots, obsessed with making sure gay people can never marry, women have little or no say over their bodies or that science is replaced by bronze age theology.

At their worst, fundamentalists murder abortion doctors, fly planes into sky scrappers, throw acid into the faces of little girls in Afghanistan for imagined crimes, and generally seek to find new and exciting ways to murder non-believers.

So what exactly is an “atheist fundamentalist?” The term makes no sense. There are no texts that are regarded as so important they cannot be challenged, no idea so invincible that it cannot be questioned, no argument so powerful that it can never be discussed.  Although being compared to Fred Phelps, you don’t see atheists protesting at military funerals, advocating the death of others, or the tearing down of democratic institutions. I certainly have never made any similar arguments.

“Fundamentalists” atheists write books and articles and advance arguments, with which others can agree or disagree. The worst of religious fundamentalists blow up buildings. The difference is not trivial, Sean.

Or it can be put this way:

Fundamentalists: believe 2+2 =5 because It Is Written. Somewhere. They have a lot of trouble on their tax returns.

“Moderate” believers: live their lives on the basis that 2+2=4. but go regularly to church to be told that 2+2 once made 5, or will one day make 5, or in a very real and spiritual sense should make 5.

“Moderate” atheists: know that 2+2 =4 but think it impolite to say so too loudly as people who think 2+2=5 might be offended.

“Militant” atheists: “Oh for pity’s sake. HERE. Two pebbles. Two more pebbles. FOUR pebbles. What is WRONG with you people?”

NEXT!

He seems to be offended by anyone who publicly states a belief in any sort of god-like entity, but really focuses his attention on those of the Christian faith. You never see him slagging or criticizing those of the Islamic faith. Although if you question him on it, he will respond with “well those too, as well”. He dislikes people who pray near him or open meetings with a prayer, place in public places symbols of their faith; mangers at Christmas etc.

I have said, in several columns that no one has a right not to be offended. I cannot recall a single instance where I have ever said I was “offended” by someone who publicly states religious belief. In fact my criticism is almost exclusively focused upon religious groups who attempt to hijack public institutions, such as public schools or elected houses of government or the courts.

Given my views on free speech, it would be odd indeed to get offended by public statements of faith. Nor have I taken exception to prayers in public meetings. In fact, I only once addressed the issue of prayer in government meetings when Premier Dalton McGuinty argued that it was time to dump the Lord’s Prayer from Queen’s Park. I agreed. Our elected houses are not churches and temples. They are secular and, as McGuinty correctly pointed out, should stay that way.  The business of government has nothing to do with appealing to one god or another, saving souls, or whatever else religions are up to. QED. We have lots of temples and churches for that sort of thing.

On the issue of “never” criticizing Islam, it’s pretty clear that Sean hasn’t really being read the Grant Rant. I have devoted considerable ink criticizing Islam on a number of fronts. I wrote extensively about the case of Muslim students in Toronto attempting to suppress free speech by using the human rights courts to silence a McLean’s Magazine writer. I have written several critical columns about the Taliban, the theocratic government in Afghanistan and the deplorable treatment of women and girls in Muslim countries.

NEXT!

He attacks the Christian through Human Rights complaints and court cases complaining that he is made uncomfortable by the actions and beliefs of the religious.

I have never, ever, used the human rights tribunal system in this province. EVER. For any reason. In point of fact, I have been a long standing critic of the human rights tribunals in Canada. For the most part, they have been used by religious groups, principally Muslims who have attempted to use the system to prevent public criticism of their religion. In Canada, atheists are not arriving to the tribunals in droves in order to shut down religious activities. Locally, the only such case was a Grimsby man who doesn’t want the Gideons to use his child’s school as a forum to win converts. And I quite agree.  It had nothing to do with being “uncomfortable” with religious belief, but a Christian group wanting the right to try and convert grade school students.

In point of fact, I have argued against the very thing Sean says I endorse – banning religion. I’ve argued, rather, that we shouldn’t shelter people, including school children, from the religious views of our world.

NEXT!

Now, I haven’t been in a church in over 20 years and that was for a wedding of a in-law. I couldn’t name more that 4 books of the bible, and have no beliefs in a “greater spirit”. Yet I don’t get palpitations when I hear someone professing a belief in a god, nor do I get cold sweats at the sign of a crucifix/cross in a public area, the sight of a manger on a city hall lawn at Christmas does not send me into uncontrollable spasms of rage. But for the Atheist Fundamentalist, all of the above seems to be a daily occurrence.

Oh Sean, this is not the sort of thing one should be proud of, especially for someone who claims wants to channel the memory of Dante! I don’t believe in any of the supernatural claims of the Bible, but I have read it several times. Being ignorant of it isn’t a badge of honour. Believe in the faith or not, there is no denying that the Bible is a key book of western history. Putting religion aside, you cannot hope to understand major works of literature if you don’t understand the Bible. Moby Dick and Hamlet, for example, are replete with Biblical references. Dante’s Divine Comedy makes no sense without knowing the Bible. The writers of these books, and many, many others, assume their audience has a working knowledge of the Bible.

To have not read the Bible is like not having read Homer or Shakespeare. One cannot claim to be culturally and historically literate unless one has an understanding of these stories. Sean, you may want to rethink your handle.

As for this nonsense about arguing against a city hall manager display during Christmas, well, it’s a pure fabrication. In fact, I have more than once argued that people need to get over the burning stupid that is the “war on Christmas.” A manager scene (Christian) a Christmas tree (Pagan) and other religious and quasi religious symbols used during Christmas do not violate the separation of church and state. They are quaint traditions that, frankly, few people give much thought to. It’s a non issue.

NEXT!

“If one is so afflicted that their daily lives are so disrupted, rather than seek to shut everyone down, a far simpler and less disruptive solution would be to seek the counselling needed to be able to co-exist within a community of diverse views and ideas. I do hope that he does seek out that counselling, I really do. Grant, I do feel your pain, although I don’t understand why you are so afflicted.”

I’m not “so afflicted” in my daily life by religion. Most of the time, it rarely crosses my mind. Professionally, I do write  more about it than most of my colleagues. And when the day comes that creationists stop trying to put their theology into science classes, stop trying to use public schools as a captive audience, stop trying to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, stop trying to undermine free speech, stop selling faith healing to the credulous and the ignorant…then I will happily lay down my pen. There are things worth defending, even in print, important things like democracy and free speech. I make no apologies for having done so.

It is ironic that Sean should get my body of work on the subject so horribly wrong. There might be something actually worth discussing here. As it stands, his blog reminds one of the Shakespeare’s poor player who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

PS. Sean asked me on Twitter to  “point out where separation of church & state are mentioned,” and I will indulge him on this last point. I presume Sean means where is it mentioned in the Canadian constitution. Of course, it is not there. The concept was enshrined in the US Constitution (a vastly superior document to ours, in my view.) with the establishment clause, but cannot be found in ours. In fact, our constitution makes a single reference to god in the preamble.

Ironically enough, Canada has rarely had the mix of politics and religion we see south of the 49th. And while our constitution does not have an establishment clause, the logic of the document does indeed support the separation of church and state and a secular government. Moreover, we have been functioning that way since before we even had our own constitution. Canada has always had that wall between church and state, we just basically took it as the way we do business,  much like most of Europe. When it appears that wall will be breached – like John Tory’s plan to fund faith schools a few elections back – Canadian voters take a very dim view of it.

And it is also worth noting that although our constitution makes one, vague reference to a god, it doesn’t reference a particular faith, certainly never mentions Jesus or Christianity or assigns religion any role in the affairs of the state beyond making a clear statement of freedom of religion.

QED.

“Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

-Mark Twain.

 

 

Evolution is incredible, but also horrifying

- October 30th, 2012

Greetings ghouls, ghost, zombies and the rest of you!

So staying in the spirit of Halloween, after having trashed some traditional Halloween monsters, I bring you something that is actually terrifying.

I’ve  often been asked why I don’t believe in the divine when I look out at the wonders and splendor of nature, from the beauty of distant nebulae to the miracle of birth.  My usual reply is that while I am awed and humbled by the universe we live and all its mystery and beauty, it’s actually not a very nice place for us to live. If you think about it, most of our own planet – the only one we know of so far that can sustain life as we understand it – is inhabitable by us. We would drown, freeze, starve or just be eaten. To say nothing of earthquakes, monster storms, Glee, and other nasty natural temper tantrums. And that is our HOME. Wander out into space and without advanced tech we die from exposure, get fried by cosmic rays, get spaghettified by a black hole, nuked by gamma ray bursts, or just disintegrated  in a super nova explosion.

Fun place the universe.

cymothoa-exigua-tonge-eating-isopod-louse-insect

Ewww….just….ewww!

But even more to the point are the horrible, awful turns that evolution takes. I mean, for every beautiful deer or majestic polar bear there are awful parasites, viruses, bacteria all out to survive by, well, killing other species in a particularly nasty manner. Evolution is about, after all, survival by adaption, and there is no guarantee those adaptions will be cute. If you want to see nature in all her glory, you need to see her in ALL her glory before you go on about how a pretty rainbow proves the existence of a god.

So I present you to the Cymothoa exigua or tongue eating louse.  A nasty piece of work by all accounts. It gets into the mouth of the fish, destroys its tongue and then takes the place of the tongue!!!! And the weird part is that the fish gets along just fine with this thing from the Alien movies as it’s tongue. Seriously!

Tell me this handsome fellow isn’t more horrifying than a zombie or the wolfman.

 

 

The stupid it burns: anti-vampireism and bald as a hair colour edition

- May 14th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

Ok, I have some ranty mojo brewing today and I’m in need of a target. Fortunately, the world is a big place with more stupid than it is possible to catalog, and it was easy enough to find one. Just up the highway in fact. In Toronto, that mythical center of the known universe.

Specifically, a column by rabbi Dow Marmur, who evidently doesn’t like us heathens very much.  The problem with we atheists, he says in a meandering column in the Toronto Star, is that we are pretty much like jihadists:

I’ve, therefore, consistently refused to engage in debates with atheists. They may consider me a cowardly man of little faith who’s afraid of exposing himself to the truth, but impartial observers will know that contemporary atheists are often even more fanatical than religious fundamentalists. Their zeal seems to know no bounds.

Interesting. Last time I checked, the most fanatical religious fundamentalists in North America try to have their dogmatic nonsense taught in science classes and are obsessed with telling women what they can do with their bodies, including a hilarious Republican bill that passed recently in Arizona that defined pregnancy as starting two weeks before conception. (no, that is not a punch line.) In even more extreme cases in North America, Europe, and of course, the middle east, the fundamentalist set is busy killing other people, often using that delightful method employed by the truly deluded, suicide bombing.

Atheists write books and blogs.thestupiditburns Oh, the horror, the horror.

Marmur points to Alian de Botton’s weird newish book Religion for Atheists, where in de Botton says he wants to build atheist temples, as some manner of evidence that atheism itself is becoming a religion (which is why we are worse than the worst religious fundamentalists….you know without the bombs and such) and in fact, heathens have “religion-envy.”

Ok, look, first de Botton strange book was greeted with disinterest by the atheist community, such as it even exists, and the most anyone could say about it was “uh, what?”

It’s true, there are atheists who seem to want to ape the group cohesion provided by most religions, but it’s an attitude I’ve always found puzzling. It’s why I don’t belong to any skeptic/atheist/humanist groups nor go to regular meetings. I don’t have any need to get together with people to talk about what I don’t believe in. I tend to, this rant notwithstanding, focus my commentary in his regard on attempts to breach the wall between church and state, or religious attempts to undermine basic freedoms like freedom of speech, or attempts to win converts by stealth (like the ongoing efforts of the Gideons to be given access to elementary public school children.) But sit around and talk about why I don’t believe in the existence of gods? Zzzzzz. Please. I’d almost rather watch Glee.

Marmur’s entire argument crumbles because it starts with a false premise. He treats atheism as though it’s a thing like Christianity or Scientology or Jedism something. The tacit assumption he makes is that atheism is a complete philosophical entity, with dogmas, and rules and holy books and, I would guess, priests or clerics or some sort that one obeys. And uses this argument as he defends the excesses and violence of religion:

Because religion is articulated and administered by human beings, it often falls short of its stated ideals — just like atheism.

Really? Really, Rabbi Marmur? And what ideals are those exactly? Where do I find them? Where, in the name of Zeus’ holy toga, do I find the “stated ideals” of atheism?

Look man, atheism is barely a thing at all. Not believing in a god or gods is all atheism is. Period. QED. End of frakkin’ story. The only reason we have a name for it at all is because historically everyone around us has been totally hell bent for leather on this whole god business.

I mean, even the name “atheism” is pretty stupid because it dignifies the thing that it denies. Look, I don’t believe in vampires or big foot either, right? But there is no need to run about calling myself am “anosferatuist,” or an “asasquatchist,” is there. The bottom line is that atheism is a religion like bald is a hair colour. The “ism” at the end makes it all sound fancy, I guess, but it isn’t.

I pretty well agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson on this front when he says “at the end of the day I’d rather not be any category at all.”

Even the so called “atheist community” is a disjointed lot that is only bound by the disbelief in the supernatural and generally shared respect for science, evidence and reason. There is also some broad agreements on the values of democracy, freedom of speech and the like. Beyond that, it is pretty well, to use the cliche, like herding cats. Disagreements abound. Yes, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, PZ Myers and a few others are the most public and well known of the so called “New Atheists” (which is only new by the authors refusal to shut up when told.) but they constantly disagree. Tyson and Dawkins’s disagree over how to talk about science and religion in popular culture. Myers recently took Harris to task over issues of racial profiling at airports. And I’ve lost track of how many non-believers were sharply critical of Hitchen’s views on the Iraq war.

But I am sure Marmur will tell us where in that mess there are the “ideals” of atheism. Or is that the sound of cricket’s chipping?

About the only thing that Marmur gets right is that religion allows people to form a community of believers and atheism doesn’t do this. Well, yes. So what? De Botton’s goofy book aside, how is that supposed to an argument against atheism, or put more correctly, for religion? Does it demonstrate the existence of a god? Because that is what it would take, son. That pesky thing call evidence sort of matters.

Ultimately, Marmur’s entire argument seems to boil down to the idea that religion makes you feel good, and atheism doesn’t. I suppose that could be right. Atheism provides no guidebook, no bromide of any sort. Attempts to make it do so are as foolish as attempting to grasp quicksilver. To me, not having that kind of crutch is freeing. Yes, life can be miserable. It can suck. It will, as Rocky says. “beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently  if you let it.”

Speaking only for myself, I would rather harden myself to deal with it than rely on help that isn’t there because it makes me feel good to believe there is. I would rather deal with life as it is, honestly, and be miserable than to cling to some manner of false hope. If atheism is a thing at all, it’s living life on your own terms, taking the awful and the good as they come.

I get email: God needs a sponsor

- April 10th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

So by now I am used to getting email from religionists who are hell bent, if you will excuse the phrase, on converting me. Mostly Christians. On very rare occasions Muslims. Never Jews or Buddhists though. Weird that.

Anyway, I am actually not sure what religion this email is supposed to represent. ChristIslam or something I guess. It’s an email asking me to sponsor “God Allah” (which technically speaking would translate to “god god”. But never mind the fine details.) for the resurrection. So I guess this is like a walk-a-thon of some kind? You sponsor god, and for ever $5 he raises he resurrects a Hebrew carpenter? Well, you tell me then!thestupiditburns

Also it appears that god will just take anyone to be sponsor him. It’s been a while since I have been in Sunday school, but I distinctly remember the big fella being somewhat more discerning about who he choose to as someone to smite or be a minion. And of course, as always, it appears god needs money. Like the late George Carlin used to say, he’s all powerful and all knowing but he just cannot handle money!

Finally, since when did god get an email address? What happened to the burning bush method of communication? Who’s his service provider? I assume he is using wireless tech. Not sure how one extends a coaxial cable into the afterlife…

Anyway, this certainly goes  in my file of “most bizarre and nonsensical emails that do not involve a politician or Glee.” Enjoy:

Official Third Millennium Arrival of GOD ALLAH
**********************************
Allah wants to partner with you for the purpose of saving planet Earth.
Allah wants to locate sponsors for The Resurrection.
All applicants automatically accepted ; however, We require more sponsors which may include business, organizations, communities, and groups.
Please do reach out to Us over email; We respond within twenty-four hours or sooner. Thank you for your review.
Love,
ALLAH

Sorry, busy fighting the Reapers. You’re welcome, galaxy.

- March 12th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

Saving the galaxy, one planet at a time. You're weclome.

Saving the galaxy, one planet at a time. You're weclome.

I know this blog is usually the place where I can vent spleen about robocalls, religion, religious robocalls and Glee.  Or maybe religions that robocall about Glee. And I would like to do that right now, I really, really would.

Thing is, Mass Effect 3 has recently been released. Which pretty well means my regular life is now consumed defending you, citizens of the Citadel, from the Reaper invasion. It will be harder for me to  blog for a bit, as I travel about of the galaxy cementing alliances to defeat the horrible mechanical menace. And before you think I am being silly, why don’t you try and get the Korgan and the Turians to get along. I mean, really! I don’t see YOU volunteering to do it.

I also realize only a small number of you may actually know what in the name of Harbinger’s metal tentacles I am talking about. But I don’t care. BECAUSE MASS EFFECT IS AWESOME!!!!!

Thursday hodgepodge: new website and big boxing bouts that just aren’t.

- February 23rd, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

Ok so first things first, my pretties: the Standard FINALLY has a revamped webpage.  The  face life and redesign that should make it easier and more fun to read the stories of your favorite local reporters – like devilishly handsome writers  with Quebecois names who hail from Alberta perhaps? Anyway, since you are here you know the link, but just in case, check out www.stcatharinesstandard.ca and let us know what you think.

Now, onto other stuff bouncing around in my head. I don’t watch a lot of sports. Honestly, most of it bores me. Not as much as Glee, but close. Something like the Superbowl, to me, is like having some kind of anesthetizing agent injected directly into my brain. The one exception to the rule is boxing, the best sport here is. You could argue with me on this point, and you would be wrong. (Golf fans: don’t even bother making a case for your game. Walking about a manicured lawn knocking a wee ball into a hole with clubs someone else carries for you lacks not only drama, but a pulse. Twain was right. Golf is a pleasant walk spoiled. Go hang out with the guys who like lawn darts and televised poker.)

However, I have to despair a little about the big fights coming up soon, because they just aren’t. Big I mean. They are approximations of big. Yes, Manny Pacquiao will make a gazillion dollars fighting Tim Bradley in June and Floyd Mayweather will make probably more fighting the always game Miguel Cotto in May. But THE fight is Pacquaio vs. Mayweather. We all know it. And it just never seems to come together for reasons what would be the subject for another day.

So, what will the upcoming fights look like? Prediction time:

Mayweather vs. Cotto: Mayweather by clear decision.

Look, yes Cotto has looked great since Pacquiao beat the unholy hell of him a few years ago. And his demolition of the hated Antonio Margarito was impressive. And yes, he is bigger and stronger than Mayweather. But don’t buy into the hype. Cotto’s only chance to blast Mayweather with something huge to hurt or knock him out QED. A puncher’s chance.

Watch Cotto’s fights. He will stand and brawl if he has to, but his style is to step back, let you come forward and catch you coming in. He is not a counter puncher, al la Mayweather or Marquez – the two best counter punchers in the game today – but he uses his step back and fire style to set his opponent up. And it’s worked very well for him. But Mayweather isn’t going to chase Cotto. He isn’t going to hunt him down. He is going to step back himself, force Cotto to come forward and counter punch him to death – like he does everyone else. Look at Cotto’s fight against Pacquiao. Pacman didn’t need to bull rush him. He made Cotto come forward, and Cotto got caught up in the Pacman buzzsaw.

Mayweather will not likely knock Cotto out, he doesn’t have the power or sustained attack to put down a guy like like that, but he will out point him easily over 12 rounds.

Manny Pacquaio vs. Tim Bradley: TKO by round 9

Forget how Pacquaio looked against Marquez. Marquez is a counter puncher – the one style Manny simply cannot cope well with. (which is why should he ever fight Mayweather, Pacman has to be the underdog by a wide margin). Any fighter who stands with Pacquiao, or come forward, gets mulched. They walked into a blizzard of punches that come from weird angles and – provided Pacman has figured out his leg cramping problem which plagued him and slowed him down in his last two fights – he isn’t there to be hit much.

Bradley is a very very good fighter. Would ruin me inside a few rounds. But he is a straight ahead, come forward puncher. Tailor made for Manny Pacquiao. So unless Bradley suddenly developed new skills, or Pacquiao really is a force in serious decline as his critics say, it’s going to be an easy night for the Pacman. Bradley will learn a painful lesson about allowing himself to be used as cannon fodder.

I get feedback: the gay conspiracy agenda edition

- January 30th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

So it seems my last column has touched more than  few nerves, given by the piles of emails that hit my inbox over the weekend. No surprise really, given that I was poking Ontario Catholic educators in the eye for their “alternative” to gay-straight alliances in their schools in recent guidelines that create “respecting differences” groups for students that do none of the things gay-straight alliances do.

Essentially, I have hard time accepting all the talk of respect and dignity in recent Catholic school guidelines that turn to the Catholic Catechism as it’s foundational document — a catechism which regards homosexuality as being fundamentally depraved. This cannot, I wrote in the Grant Rant, either respect and help gay students, nor will it do much to prevent bullying.

Well, I suppose it was inevitable that someone would try to defend these guidelines. And it was equally inevitable that gay bashing would be part of it. To whit, I offer this bit of feed back to the column for a reader who goes by the handle “thatsallfolks”:

Typical left-wing, religion-bashing distortion. LaFleche is trying to restate Catholic beliefs by accusing Catholics of labeling homosexuals depraved when their teaching clearly reveals that it is “homosexual acts” which are “distorted” and “depraved”. There is a BIG difference between the sin and the sinner. Christianity commands us to love the latter and hate the former.

Wonder when Mr. Grant will do a piece on the inappropriate homosexual indoctrination which is occurring in the youngest grades of our PUBLIC school system via a cloaked anti-bullying curriculum? Can’t we just have generic “bullying” education REGARDLESS of race, sex, and gender? Funny I can’t recall anyone reaching out to the obese, the less than beautiful, or the “four eyes” population like myself?

Oh where to begin?

First, he is technically correct when he says the Catechism describes homosexual “acts” as fundamentally depraved and disordered. And this becomes the first line of defense for this kind of discrimination. You know, the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” stuff.

First, it’s a fairly absurd precept to being with. It’s a bit like saying “oh well love Darth Vader, but hate Death Star.” I mean, what?

More important for our discussion here, however, is to point out that people are what they do. To say that is fine and dandy to be gay so long as you never have an actual relationship with another gay person is like saying “oh it’s ok for that animal to be a bird, so long as it doesn’t fly.”

Ultimately, it’s just a cover. A po’ duck game of semantics that is used to try and defend a point of view that is fundamentally unfair, unrealistic, outdated and discriminatory. Attempting to the draw the line between gay people and gay sex is a meaningless distinction.

But Mr. Thatsallfolks and a few others readers — not many, mind you, but enough to get my attention — go a step further than this Through the Looking Glass rationalization. I am referring of course to talk of the evil gay agenda bent on turning school children to a legion of homosexuals who will, from what I can gather, destroy the world. Or at least join the cast of Glee or something. Well, you tell me! It’s like these bozos think that gay people gather together in secret meetings and plot the take over the world, one child at a time, until there isn’t a straight person left. It’s never made even a little bit of sense.

The talk of “homosexual indoctrination” and the “gay agenda” is exactly the consequence of the kind of policy the Catholic Church is trying to enact in Ontario’s (public funded) Catholic schools. Once you point to a segment of the population and say “oh THOSE people are screwed up” which is what the church does, it becomes easy to define them as a “them” against you “us.” And of course “them” are always bad, always up to do something to undermine the “us”. I mean, if you listen to all the talk of the gay agenda and replace “gay” with “Jewish” you have something that resembles the paranoid rhetoric from Germany circa 1939.

So I will say it once: there is gay agenda bent on destroying school children in the same way there is Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, UFOs, a good James Bond movie before the Daniel Craig version and sugar coated happy endings for all us. IT DOESN’T EXIST!

(On the other hand, there is an identifiable Catholic “agenda”. The entire outfit exists to spread the faith by converting, well, everyone. There aren’t gay churches designed to turn straight people gay, are there? So…just sayin’.)

The bottom line here is that that is being established in Ontario’s Catholic schools with public tax dollars is institutionalized discrimination, and that is something that needs to be very carefully looked at.

The Burning Stupid: Mock the Pope edition.

- January 10th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

I know I haven’t been been blogging much lately. There was the pre-holiday crazy, the during-the-holiday madness, the post-holiday blues, the post-post-holiday blues hangover,  and House MD marathon.

So I sat down this morning and figured it was time to return to the blog. What, but oh what, could I write about?

Turns out I didn’t have to look that far. After about three second of looking through Google news, I hit upon this fun story about the Pope claiming the future of humanity was in danger. What, you may ask, could threaten us as a species? Mecha Godzilla? The cast of Glee taking over the world? Zombie-robot apocalypse?

All good ideas, dear reader, but no. The thing that threatens our very existence on the planet is….dun dun duuun! GAY MARRIAGE.

Seriously. Pope Benedict is claiming that gay marriage is a threat to the species:

The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.
He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”
“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said.

Let that little bit of burning stupid bounce around in you skull a bit. If it makes any sense to you at all, let me know.

I mean, there are things that could potentially threaten the future of humanity, like say the planet getting hit with a giant asteroid. Or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Or our continued and careless misuse of our natural resources. Or the scarcity of clean water. Or growing global economic inequity. Theocratic governments with powerful weapons. Evolved bacteria resistant to our medications.

But the Cardinal of Rome has precious little to say about any of that. No, no, no. The real problem is two men, or two women, living together and getting the same tax breaks as a straight couple. Ooooh scary.thestupiditburns

When, by Odin, will this anti-gay marriage claptrap end. WHEN? Cause I have to tell you Popey, and the rest of the bigoted “gay marriage is s threat to everything” crowd, you don’t have an argument. You don’t even have something that smells vaguely like an argument. Calling this line of reasoning an argument is like looking at a gold brick and saying that it’s Saturn.

I have yet to hear an argument against gay marriage that made any sort of sense whatsoever. “My holy book says so,” isn’t an argument. If you are not gay, and don’t want to marry a gay person, you don’t have to! But to claim that civilization, nay, humanity itself, is threatened because of gay marriage is akin to Walter Ostanek opening for AC/DC. It’s INSANE. How does gay marriage threaten the future of humanity? Well, according to the Pope, it just does. QED.

Ugh. I need a bottle of aspirin here.

Yes, I know, you are going to claim, Mr. Pope, that you are just following what’s in the Bible, and if it is in the Bible, it totally cannot be bigoted right? I mean, it makes no sense that bronze aged texts written by people who whose sum total knowledge about the universe was nearly zero might contain unethical and immoral pronouncements about people who didn’t fit their social norms, right? Human moral and ethical reasoning could not have possibly grown and evolved over the last 2,000 years of civilization. That is just crazy talk, isn’t it?

Look, hiding behind ancient texts, and claiming those texts are the infallible word of a god no less, to attempt to strip people of their civil liberties and demonize doesn’t make them less cruel, less out of touch, less useless or less harmful. It’s just feeble reasoning that has no basis in anything other than old hates. That is all Ratzinger is doing. Keeping hateful ancient, narrow minded, memes alive.

(Oh and if anyone tries to say “hate the sin, love the sinner”, I might punch you. Or at least mock you until you weep.)

He doesn’t deserve respect because of his title. Nor because of group of gruesome old celibates voted him to be their leader. Nor because he presumes to tell the world what they should do in their private moments. Nor because he has the gall to try to tell democratically elected governments how best serve their citizens. His status as a “holy man” shouldn’t protect him from criticism.

So long as the Pope and his followers choose to demean and attack people whose only “crime” is choosing to commit to someone they love, he deserves nothing but barbed mockery until he decides to catch up with the rest of us who live in the 21st century.