Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fantasies and nightmares

Back in 1994, sixteen years ago, I settled down in Choranche. Mystified by the spiritual prospects and potential of my future hermitic life, I had nevertheless imagined, in the back of mind, that I might be terrified by the idea of living all alone, particularly in the dark and ominous silence of the middle of the Alpine nights. As things turned out, happily, that was not at all the way the Chinese cookie crumbled (to borrow a silly metaphor used by the radio Goon Show of the '50s). On the contrary, I came to acquire, rapidly, such a psychological domination of my territory at Gamone that I soon realized that it would be a relatively easy task to resist the onslaught of real invaders such as mercantile Gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses… not to mention brain-damaged individuals such as Stéphane (the most pernicious specimen ever, for my ex-neighbor Bob more than for me), who once suggested that it would be good if an old-timer such as me were to give him freely my fields at Gamone, so that he could raise hogs or God-knows-what.

These days, I take pleasure in wading through the swamps of both my fuzzy dream-time fantasies and my murky nightmares. The liquid realities of the former hover constantly over the image of Alison, in blue ribbons and white lace, in the precincts of the cathedral in Grafton, where our humble adolescent bodies might have come into magical fusion in a celebration of the Almighty. I say "might have" because I never in fact (for the records) got around to screwing my first great school friend… even though I certainly imagined hazily this kind of relationship. I can even recall, most clearly, an evening when I dared to allow my eager hands to stray upon her adolescent breasts. Alison promptly put them back in place (my hands, not her breasts), and celebrated this moment of interrupted ecstasy by telling me the most amazing trivial "joke" that my naive ears could have ever heard, let alone imagined. A guy happened to get into bed with his wife in an upside-down position, and he said to her: "Darling, you must shave your mustache." Today, half-a-century after having heard this joke, I would be a liar if I were not to admit that I didn't know what the hell was funny in Alison's joke, which I didn't understand at all at that time. In other words, at that stage, I hadn't yet discovered (unlike Alison, apparently) that humans grew hairs around their penises and vaginas. On the other hand, I'm still amazed retrospectively that Alison, at that early age, might have already gained "carnal knowledge" (what a delightful expression) of the famous 69 position in the Kama Sutra.

In the domain of nightmares, I had imagined that I would be beleaguered at Gamone by terrifying visions of cliffs. After all, I'm surrounded by such entities, and they continue to impress me immensely by their constant presence, twenty-four hours a day. There again, I'm surprised. My nightmares at Gamone are rarely associated with the local topography. On the contrary, I dream horrifically about the silly phenomenon of corporate computing activities, maybe in places such as Paris or Grenoble. Those are my regular nightmares… rather than the nice idea of being pushed off a Choranche cliff.

Conclusion. This situation suits me fine. I shall continue to think of corporate life as Hell, and of Gamone as Heaven. Meanwhile, Alison will remain forever as my Vestal Virgin. And Mary MacKillop is being beatified. What more could Saint William ever hope for?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oral's spout

Oral Roberts [1918-2009] was a US TV-evangelist, and this is a recent cover of a magazine on miracles published by his followers.

Jeez, Oral's spout might indeed be miraculous, and some folk might find it fun to get underneath for a taste of glory, but they sure have a weird way of healing in Oklahoma!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hard to watch

See how long you can watch the following holy shit (made, of course, in the USA) before being overcome by nausea:

I got as far as the first shots of real-life kids, then I had to give up…

Friday, May 21, 2010

Miracle of Cana

Rowan Atkinson is good in the role of an Anglican parson.

This sketch is quite brilliant in that it highlights the role of Jesus (if indeed he existed) as a showman performing demonstrations of magic.

BREAKING NEWS: An article in today's The Australian, entitled Catholics reach back to church tradition, indicates that a new English-language version of the Roman Missal corrects the revolutionary colloquial style introduced after Vatican II. The article contains a delightful misprint: "… the new translation was in accord with the Church's 1963 text Constitution on the Scared Liturgy." I imagine liturgy that's frightened to hell because it's so audacious. Seriously, this is yet another case of Ratzinger's desire to move backwards. In any case, I prefer the liturgical style of the Reverend Rowan Atkinson.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Separation of church and state in the USA

It was the archaic evangelist Billy Graham, a sort of circus mesmerizer of crowds, who succeeded in convincing the US Congress, in 1952, to establish a National Day of Prayer. I once listened to him out in Sydney, when I was a boy, and I remember feeling embarrassed, as if I had sneaked into a throng of idiots ready to be hypnotized by a snake-oil salesman.

America's official day of prayer is clearly an unconstitutional absurdity, which should have never come into existence. It's as if there were a special day on which the common folk of the nation were expected to attempt to perform miracles upon their fellow citizens, or to chase out devils from their souls, or some other absurdity of that religious mumbo-jumbo kind.

The Secular Coalition for America, whose executive director is Sean Faircloth, represents atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers in US politics.

Their advisory board includes outspoken intellectuals of international renown such as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Pinker and Salman Rushdie.

Click the photo to see their video concerning the urgent challenge of revoking the ridiculous National Day of Prayer.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bill Maher on Islamic extremists

I've always appreciated Bill Maher, an American stand-up comedian.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

King-sized Jesus in Oklahoma

I found this funny story in the excellent Pharyngula blog by PZ Myers [access].

The history of Catholicism is filled with magic happenings. In the case of St Francis of Assisi (the fellow who preached to birds), we encounter the phenomenon of a talking cross, shown here:

In the church of San Damiano, the image of Jesus on the cross said to Francis: "Repair my church. As you see, it is falling into a state of total ruin." Francis immediately set about repairing the actual building, but he soon realized that the words of the cross of San Damiano were to be interpreted as a metaphorical order, meaning that it was rather the ecclesiastical institution and its members that were in need of repair. So Francis finally started work on that much bigger task.

Over the centuries, the San Damiano Cross has inspired countless reproductions. The latest copy, some three meters in height, has been hung above the altar of a church in Oklahoma. And the least that can be said is that it's well hung.

This copy was executed by a local artist named Janet Jaime. She has highlighted the abdominal muscles of Jesus to such an extent that a naive observer might imagine that the King of Glory is exhibiting a king-sized erection. Needless to say, this copy has given rise to controversy among Catholic parishioners in the Oklahoma town of Warr Acres, where the church is located. The artist, though, gives the impression that she doesn't understand what the fuss is all about.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the illicit sexual behavior of certain Catholic prelates and priests. The last thing the Church needed was yet another much-publicized sex-oriented incident, particularly when it takes the form of a giant phallus emerging from the crucified body of the Lord. One can't help wondering whether this Oklahoma painting is in fact yet another element of an international conspiracy, orchestrated by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, aimed at screwing Joseph Ratzinger. And, talking about screwing, that awesome Oklahoma apparatus elicits an exclamation of admiration. In a word, as Mary Magdalene might have gasped: Jesus!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April bean day

This afternoon, I was looking around on the web for a recipe for soupe au pistou, which is a typical Provençal dish made with fresh basil and white beans. In a fine website about beans of all kinds, the following variety caught my attention:

In French, they're known by several names: Holy Spirit beans, or Nun's navel beans. Although my eyes have witnessed neither the Holy Spirit nor a nun's navel, I reckon that those are good names for those dried beans. The day I finally meet up with the Holy Spirit or a nun's navel, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they did in fact look a bit like one of those beans. Incidentally, the cream-colored spot surrounded by the curious brownish markings is referred to by botanists as the bean's hilum. This term (used also in anatomy) designates a kind of scar that has formed at the spot where the bean was once attached to the pod.

The website proposes interesting theories concerning the origin of the markings. Since these explanations evoke the influence of religious phenomena, I've decided to include them in my blog for April 1 on the eve of Good Friday.

This bronze object in the form of the Sun, called a monstrance [from the Latin verb monstrare, to show], is a receptacle designed to hold and display the blessed wafers used in the mass. Pious old folk in the wooded eastern province of France known as Franche-Comté (nestled against Switzerland) tell the story of a peasant who once stole such an object from a nearby chapel. Realizing that he would be taking a risk by trying to sell the monstrance, he decided to bury it in his vegetable garden. Lo and behold, he was amazed to find that his next crop of white beans bore strange brownish markings depicting the stolen monstrance. You could think of this as old-fashioned criminal DNA, placed there by the Holy Ghost to mark the perpetration of an offense against God.

In Brittany, the origin of these beans is linked to the French Revolution. In a village near Brest, a church warden hid their sacred objects from the unholy marauders by burying them temporarily in the priest's vegetable garden and sowing beans to camouflage the site.

As everybody knows, you can't just plant beans on top of holy objects and imagine that nothing will come of it. The white beans harvested in the priest's garden bore the Holy Spirit's mark of the monstrance.

These otherwise fine tales don't explain how the meaning of the markings got twisted to the point at which people imagined them as depicting a nun's navel. Besides, were they really thinking of the navel, rather than of something a little further down? And what's so special about the navel of a nun, as opposed to that of any other female? I guess you could say it's just the good old Roman Catholic church dragging things down, once again, to the level of naked bodies and sinful sexual visions. They've always liked that kind of stuff.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Revised top ten

This is excellent Hitchens:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Great Viking god

As I've often pointed out, Y-chromosome tests have revealed that my haplogroup is R1b1b2a1b5, which means that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool European. Unless there was an adoption somewhere up the track, my Skyvington surname surely takes me back to a Norman companion of the Conqueror, whereas my grandmother's Pickering surname takes me back with a high degree of certainty to the Conqueror himself, in person. Although I've always enjoyed reading about the fabulous myths of Egypt and Greece and the profound legends of Judaism and Christianity (and still enjoy this recreation), I've never really "felt"—at a gut level, you might say—that my elders belonged to the tribes who produced such stuff. Never was this feeling stronger than when I used to visit Israel regularly, in the late '80s and early '90s. With respect to all the various peoples and cultures on the edge of the Mediterranean, there's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I'm a total outsider. I've devoted a lot of energy to studying both Modern Greek and Hebrew, and I would love to imagine that one of my ancestors might have been a Sephardic Jew who studied algebra in the great library of Alexandria, before moving across to teach the Kabbala in Thessaloniki. But I know that such thoughts are fairy tales. Noel Coward used to sing that "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". Seeing the way my skin turns crimson on such occasions, it's obvious that none of my ancestors used to hang around the Mediterranean or the deserts of Arabia and Northern Africa. As people in France might say: Billy and the Bedouins are two distinct entities.

Now, I've only navigated for a year or so in a wooden sailing boat (the Zygeuner, out in Fremantle), and I've never got around to plundering villages and raping maidens. Still, I often feel as if I have a Viking soul (if ever these fellows had such things). And a corollary of this feeling is my spontaneous admiration of the exploits of a good old Norse god such as Thor.

So, you'll understand why I was so thrilled to come across an excellent article on this subject written by a bright Scottish lass named Muriel Gray [display]. Insofar as my pagan heart still stirs to the soothing roars of thunder, maybe it's a mistake for me to describe myself as an atheist. I'll have to check whether there's maybe some kind of church in America that worships these archaic gods. I'm sure there must be. On the other hand, when I was working on the typescript of a novel about Master Bruno (founder of the Carthusian monastic order), I once tried to acquire a basic understanding of the legends of the Germanic Nibelungen (in which young Bruno, in medieval Cologne, was no doubt bathed), which strike me as the most confused shit I've ever encountered. So, maybe it would be wiser if I were to remain a pious old-fashioned atheist, devoid of fancy ribbons and bows.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A thousand and one hamburgers

In France, a fast-food chain has just announced that their burgers are composed of beef slaughtered according to Muslim rites, and that the bacon has been replaced by smoked turkey.

Funnily enough, within the context of this enterprise whose name is an English word, nobody seems to have drawn attention to the fact that the first three letters in the term hamburger designate, for Semites of both creeds, a detestable foodstuff. At a time when all our attention might be directed towards steering kids away from nasty food and obesity, it's deplorable that religion has once again reared its distasteful head. Decidedly, even in France, society is having trouble emerging from the Middle Ages.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nativity rites

Jean Sarkozy, the president's son, married his adolescent sweetheart, Jessica Sebaoun-Darty. The following photo shows the father and the son, accompanied by their respective wives.

A son, Solal, was born to Jessica and Jean on 13 January 2010. A few days ago, I saw in the press that the baby was subjected to the Jewish tradition of circumcision, which I find archaic and physically revolting. The Christian rite of baptism is less bloody, but just as stupid today, at the start of the third millennium. In both cases, an innocent child is being enthroned as a member of an elite body of religious believers, and this membership is being established solemnly at a time when the tiny creature at the heart of the ceremony is not yet capable of any degree of intellectual discernment. What utter nonsense, perpetrated by mindless adults!

In a recent article entitled Little gods [display], I mentioned my reading a book by the great atheist author Christopher Hitchens. On the question of circumcision, I was moved by the parts of that book in which Hitchens condemns "child abuse" in the form of "sexual mutilation". He even gives us the gory details of the way in which circumcision has been performed, as recently as 2005 in New York, by certain Hasidic fundamentalist foreskin-removers. Nasty stuff!

I predict a day in the not-too-distant future when a joyful nativity rite of a new non-religious kind will become, as it were, standard practice. The DNA of the newly-born individual will be examined and stored permanently (as permanently as possible) in a great database of the kind that would bring joy to the heart of a Mormon genealogist. And this rite would symbolize (literally, you might say, since the DNA sample is in fact a huge set of symbols) the baby's passage into the great planetary congregation of humanity.

For the moment, those who come closest to this nativity rite are the researchers in genealogy who get their DNA tested (like me). But it remains a relatively superficial affair, since only the Y-chromosome of males and the mitochondrial DNA of females are in fact examined. And it's a private firm that holds on to the DNA samples. So, I can't really count upon the hope—if ever that were my intention (which it isn't)—of my being cloned at some future time.

No sooner had I finished writing this article than I came upon a CNN story [click the baby photo to display it] indicating that US babies appear to have their DNA tested systematically, with medical reasons in mind... much to the distress of certain parents.

Insofar as humans seem to like ceremonies based upon rites of passage of various kinds (birth, marriage, death, etc), I can well imagine creative Americans (the sort of people who have transformed Halloween into a planetary event) who would find ways of transforming the baby's DNA test into a kind of celebration, with music, food and drinks, solemn speeches and even short readings from the books of Dawkins, performed by students of genetics. This new nativity rite could be called DNAtion (rhymes with creation, confirmation and ordination).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beautiful burqas

Maybe burqas might be nicer if they came in an assortment of different colors, like those delicious French cookies called macaroons, made of egg whites and ground almonds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Religious no longer a protected class

I've just finished reading a fine book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, written some fifteen years ago by the US philosopher Daniel Dennett. Last year, I had encountered an extract of this work in The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, edited by Richard Dawkins.

A short article by Dennett, entitled Religious no longer a protected class, has just appeared in The Washington Post [display]. He sums up his theme as follows: "Activities that would be condemned by all if they were not cloaked in the protective mantle of religion are beginning to be subjected to proper scrutiny." Dennett points out the existence of a "double standard that exempts religious activities from almost all standards of accountability", and he insists that it be dismantled immediately. He compares the violence done in the name of religion to "crimes of avarice", and he looks forward to the day when clergy who are "telling pious lies to trusting children" and "making their living off unsupported claims of miracle cures and the efficacy of prayer" might be convicted of fraud.

Dawkins has commented: "What an utterly splendid piece by Dan."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Irish law on blasphemy

On this first day of the new decade, Ireland's medieval law on blasphemy becomes operational.

My article of 26 November 2009 entitled Damnable Irish Catholic behavior [display] evoked a report on disgusting sexual crimes involving children committed by Catholic personnel in Ireland. Today, it's frankly preposterous that this same nation should be intent upon promulgating a law against blasphemy. This ugly law must be repealed as soon as possible!

People might react by claiming that Ireland is an independent nation and that the Irish have the right to outlaw blasphemy if they so desire. In other words, if Ireland wants to remain backward, it's none of my business. Well, I would reply that, since the creation of the entity known as Europe, everything that's decided in Europe in the way of new laws is the business of every European. But there's a stronger reason for worry. This kind of archaic law about blasphemy is wind in the sails of extremist Muslims who've been lobbying at a UN level for the drafting of new international laws designed to protect religion... which means, of course, their religion and religious customs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

In God we don't trust

Theoretically, in the USA, the national legislative body has no power to deal with religion. That's to say, church and state are separated, as stipulated in a clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Nevertheless, the nation's official motto is "In God we trust".

Since 1978, an association of freethinkers named the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, has been striving to erode the grip of God's trustees. Among other things, they've got around to designing what look like stained-glass windows of a new kind. Here's their Dawkins model:

[Click the banner to display a humongous version]

The word "trust", with financial connotations, can be found in French dictionaries. The presence of this verb on US banknotes lends weight to the view that the power of the dollar is, in some mysterious way, divine. This money is backed by God, as it were. I used to feel the same way about the basic monetary unit of modern Israel, the shekel.

Here in Europe, we've got a lot of work to do before the euro shines divinely like a piece of silver warmed by the hand of God. The underlying problem, of course, is that the mythological pagan creature Europa was not exactly the kind of female who would be welcomed into the home of a normal God-fearing family. As for the idea of "In Zeus we trust", this just wouldn't sound convincing to a serious banker.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cute religion

When referring to religious beliefs, people generally use adjectives such as "ancient", "sacred", "profound", etc. To my mind, the fabulous American belief system known as Mormonism is simply cute. There's no better adjective to describe it. Compared to old religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Mormonism is cute in the same way that babies are cute, in the same way that this old Kodak poster is cute:

And here's a terribly cute video presentation of Mormonism that I found on the web:

I ignore the origins of this video. Was it really produced by the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If so, they're dauntless folk. There's a French proverb: "Ridicule kills." What it means is that, once somebody has acquired a reputation as an object of ridicule, he's basically dead. It's almost impossible to recover his status as a person to be taken seriously. So, from that point of view, it could be said that the Mormons don't seem to fear death.

I've had two kinds of personal contacts with Mormons. Whenever I visited Jerusalem, back in the '80s and '90s, I invariably ran into small groups of cute Mormon girls from Utah, who were exceptionally friendly. Later, in Grenoble, LDS church members helped me enormously in my genealogical research by lending me precious microfilms of English census data. These days, I continue to use constantly their splendid Family Search website:

If ever a miracle were to occur and the voice of God were to boom out from the heavens above Gamone, informing me that it was time for me to choose a religion and pay up my church membership fees, I think I would become a Mormon. To borrow the language of Some Grey Bloke in my earlier article entitled Nasty stuff, should be censured [display], I like their options. I mean, those laid-back Utah spirit-chicks in Jerusalem were really angelic, in a cute way. Besides, at a deeper spiritual level, if you were to ask me to sum up my impressions of the fabulous theology of Mormonism in a single word, I would not hesitate in saying that it's truly... cute.

Clearly, if I'm going to spend Eternity in nice company, while pursuing my favorite hobby of computer-assisted family-history research, then the Mormons sound like the right people to get mixed up with.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday pests

The local Catholic priest has never tried to convert me to his religion. That's understandable, because there's no longer any such individual in the neighborhood. A visiting priest does the rounds of the dozens of churches in the district for masses and marriages... particularly since the latter give rise generally, at the end of the betrothal, to a generous donation in crisp brightly-hued banknotes. This morning, for example, it was the big Sunday for Choranche, and my neighbor Madeleine was thrilled to inform me on the phone that there were at least two dozen aging individuals in the congregation. Just try to imagine that pious flock emerging from the doorway of the village church, seen in this old postcard (expertly tinted by a minute of Photoshop):

Burials, on the other hand, are taken care of by a compassionate middle-aged lady who lives at Pont-en-Royans. That solution might be thought of as a regression by old-timers who remember priests in black soutanes and altar boys in white laced cassocks. But it can be said that nobody buried under the auspices of this kind lady has ever complained of their treatment.

Meanwhile, this morning at Gamone, I received a visit by three young women on foot, members of the Jehovah's Witness organization. Now, if there's anything that drives me momentarily but furiously mad on a sunny Sunday morning, when I'm calmly devoting my time and energy to a subtle blend of gardening and computer-based work, it's a visit from Jehovah's Witnesses. I see them as pests, to be chased away. To be honest, it hasn't happened for ages... and I don't think it will happen again for quite some time. Let's say that I have a method for dealing with such individuals, in a totally spontaneous but well-oiled manner. The underlying rule is to dominate totally the discussion (in fact, a monologue), bringing up various well-chosen topics, and consistently refusing to allow them to get a word in. I do this reasonably well in the sense that I have a fair amount of experience in lecturing and industrial training courses in computing, where you don't really expect listeners to intervene verbally. Little by little, I allow them to start a sentence or two, which I exploit immediately in a harsh demonstration of their stupidity, ignorance, etc. This "dialogue" is conducted politely, almost respectfully, but I am constantly waiting for one of my listeners to pronounce a few words that might be construed as an attack on science. Then I pounce. This morning, one of the poor women started to say: "But, after all, Darwin's ideas are merely a theory, which can be contradicted..." That was largely sufficient for me to explode in an almost dignified style. I told the women to piss off immediately, and to never come back to Gamone to waste my time.

My farewell tactic is always the same, seemingly spontaneous, but in fact well-oiled, like the rest of my diatribe. Calling the three women back, I stammered out something along the following lines: "Excuse me for getting so upset. You must realize that I'm particularly fond of Charles Darwin. Criticism of his brilliant ideas upsets me immensely. I should force myself to remain calm, but it's stronger than me. You know how it is. In a rural setting like this, people tend to get upset by encounters with strangers like you, who drop in unexpectedly and start trying to tell us how to think. Besides, I must warn you that it would be unwise for you to visit local folk such as myself at any old time of the day or evening. You know, in the dark, all the local people have weapons, and one never knows how we might react if we were visited by individuals in the twilight, with the dogs barking, etc."

I don't mind being considered as a little crude and crazy. After all, I look upon Jehovah's Witnesses as immensely mindless creatures, on a cerebral par with medieval theologists. Readers will notice that, in what I've said, there's nothing that might be construed as an explicit threat, merely almost-friendly general advice, to avoid the possibility of nasty happenings. In parting, rapidly, the women wished me a happy Sunday. And I did the same. Needless to say, I've lost three would-be friends. But I believe I'm perfectly within my rights to discourage vigorously, in my own style, such visits from religious proselytizers.

A minute after our separation, as the women were retreating on foot down along Gamone Creek, with Sophia continuing to bark gruffly, spasmodically and dispassionately (in the way she barks when minor events are unfolding before her eyes), there was a totally-unplanned Magic Moment. A series of three loud gunshot bangs rang out across the valley from Châtelus. The three females looked back up over their shoulders, half expecting to see me with a gun in my hands. I waved a farewell. It was only this morning that Madeleine, after describing the mass at Choranche, and knowing that I don't read newspapers, added: "I forgot to warn you, William: the hunting season started yesterday." Yes, Madeleine, I saw three wild birds at Gamone.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Miraculous viruses

An ordinary Christian believes in God. But the thing that characterizes a true Man of God is his belief in miracles.

The bishop of Orléans, André Fort, is such a believer. Defending the theories of His Fallible Holiness Benny XVI, Andy the Strongman (the French adjective fort means "strong") has just announced that AIDS viruses have the miraculous capability of passing through the latex material out of which condoms are made. Now, I don't know where Andy obtained his facts. There must be some kind of an ecclesiastic laboratory in Orléans in which dynamic viruses can be observed bursting through condoms with the same divine energy as Joan of Arc breaking through the walls of the besieged city on 8 May 1492.

In the eyes of the enlightened bishop, condoms are holey... not to be confused with holy. If a man were dying of thirst after spending 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, he couldn't even use a condom to collect morning dew to drink. If you jumped into the ocean from a sinking ship, you couldn't even blow up a condom and use it as an inflated raft, because it would fizzle flat like the tube of a bike that has just run over a nail. A lady caught in foul weather while returning on foot from her hairdresser couldn't even drag a condom down over her perm to protect it from the rain, because the droplets would get through the latex skin like a horde of uncouth viruses breaking through the windows of a jewelry boutique. The Church has known all along that AIDS viruses have the same magical powers as the precious solidified blood that you find in tiny glass vials in Mediterranean churches. The faithful only have to conjure up the divine image in their minds, and the blood liquefies like a gelato in the sun of Naples.

If Benny and Andy were nice guys, prepared to assist uninformed fornicators, they would reveal holy secrets making it possible to waterproof condoms by the use of prayer, or maybe transform sperm into harmless holy water, or a miraculous trick of that kind. Another solution: Condom users in Africa and elsewhere could stock up with the prestige Driza-Bone ® product from Down Under... used by the Drover in the Australia movie. It's high-priced protection, sure, but 100% safe. And, as Nicole puts it, women like the rough outback feel.

BREAKING NEWS: You might recall the hilarious Monty Python sketch of scenes from a Ministry of Silly Walks [display]. These days, I have the impression that Catholic prelates throughout the world have been participating in a Mission of Silly Statements. André Vingt-Trois started the ball rolling. He's the archbishop of Paris whose attitude towards medical research was mentioned in my article of 26 November 2007 entitled Red can be wrong [display].

[An archbishop's colorful head and shoulders can look like a condom.]

A few weeks ago, on Women's Day (March 8), this Andy 23 was awarded the Macho of the year prize for his amazing declaration of 6 November 2008 on Radio Notre-Dame : "The most difficult thing is finding trained women. It's more than just wearing a skirt. It's a matter of having something in their heads." Then, in January of this year, the pope canceled the excommunications affecting a band of antiquated bishops, one of whom immediately aired alarming and unlawful revisionist views of the Shoah. A few days ago, Benny 16 gave us his unforgettable opinion on condoms, and he was backed up, first, by Di Falco then, yesterday, by Andy of Orléans.

Well, during the few hours since I ended the above article, another major ecclesiastic has jumped on the Silly Statements bandwagon, Brazil's Dadeus Grings, who claimed publicly that the major victims of Hitler's death camps were not Jews. Here are the words of our joyous Daddy Gringo: "The Jews talk about six million people killed. But how many Catholics were victims of the Holocaust? They were 22 million in all.''

I believe, seriously, that all these silly statements form the lyrics of a pathetic swan song from men who realize, maybe only subconsciously for the moment, that their old-fashioned system of Christian faith is doomed in the forthcoming future, for it has been overtaken by information, knowledge and scientific wisdom. Their declarations are fragments of a funeral dirge.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Light and darkness

I'm employing this pair of words metaphorically to designate clarity and obscurity. And the theme of my post is a petition that has just been launched in favor of the German theologian Joseph Ratzinger, now known to Christendom as Pope Benedict XVI.

Readers of my Antipodes blog are probably aware that one of the only things in common between Joe/Benny and me (please call me Billy) is the fact that we have both recently acquired dual nationalities. Joe was German, while Benny now has a Vatican passport. Similarly, Billy was Australian, while William now has a French passport. I've looked hard for other links and common features between us, but this domain remains murky. The Holy Ghost has refrained from inspiring me and enlightening my quest. [Notice the subtle way in which I've started to insert the light and darkness metaphors into my discourse.]

You've realized, no doubt, that my profound sense of Christian charity has prompted me to publicize the above-mentioned petition by papal defenders. But there was method in my madness. At the bottom of the petition website, there's a fabulous set of web banners: a colorful collection of links to everything that's Byzantine and medieval in the way of today's distinguished Catholic sheep... or should I say goats, in honor of my genetically-engineered friend Jeanie [display]?

Those interested in holy rocket science could spend an entire afternoon browsing through all those lovely links. With a bit of chance, you might even learn how to make fire by rubbing sacred wafers together... but I advise you to keep a flagon or two of the blood of Jesus on hand to quench the flames if ever they attained Aussie bushfire proportions.

Seriously, what some of these folk would appear to crave for is obscurity. The neat thing about Latin, particularly if you're not a Latinist, is that you have no idea whatsoever about the sense of what's being said. This is a truly great solution for those who consider that the ways of God must necessarily remain mysterious. And lots of fuddled old-timers think that way. Ignorance has always been bliss. And there's no better way of installing a shroud of profound ignorance than to chant about existence in a mysterious language.

Meanwhile, there are those who would like to see the light... for example, concerning the exact way in which the Nazis exterminated Jews. Years ago, a Californian literary agent pleaded with me to sit in on the trials of Robert Faurisson in the law courts of Paris. I did so, for professional reasons (you might say), and soon became most confused, because vain attempts to cast light upon Nazi darkness gave rise rapidly to more murkiness than ever. The Nazi barbarians concluded their exterminations by putting out the lights, as it were, so that no meaningul traces would remain of their unspeakable acts. Blinded by ignorance and confusion, we would-be observers have no other choice than to accept the shroud of obscurity. And society condemns those—like Faurisson and his ecclesiastic adept Richard Williamson—who would dare to lift theoretically a corner of this terrible shroud by vain and painful promises of dubious assertions of facts, and false enlightenment. This is neither more nor less than the law of civilized society, designed justly to attenuate the pain of victims.

Fortunately, in ancient history, the light is falling at last upon scenes and situations that were once obscure. We now know, for example, that Jesus was essentially a Jew, and that Christianity was preceded by a lengthy and rich epoch of Judeo-Christianism, of which the Apocalypse of John is the purest expression. The apostle Paul then stepped into the picture to develop early Christianity as we commonly imagine it, incorporating Gentiles. Retrospectively, it goes without saying that the idea that Jews might have perpetrated deicide, through the Crucifixion, is mindless bullshit. So, many naive Catholic traditionalists whose web banners are displayed in the context of the above-mentioned petition concerning our quaint but curious German pope might take a more serious look at their Christian culture.

Seriously, I've always considered that all Christians who can do so should spend at least a few weeks in Israel, which is truly a land of light, capable of dispelling archaic Christian darkness. Many things, in the Holy Land, become clear. Other things, alas, are doomed to remain forever in darkness. But, since time immemorial, this pilgrimage to where it all happened has been obligatory. It teaches you to open your eyes and see. To discard darkness, and place yourself in the light.

Admittedly, it's not yet, exactly, the light of Science. But the Holy Land is an excellent beginning. Judaism is an ancient system, and we all know that Jews didn't drop down in the last shower of rain. Modern Israel, too, is an exceptionally smart nation, accustomed to facing and solving life-and-death problems. I can't think of a better place to start one's quest (as I once did) for enlightenment.