Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Two recent interesting reads on religion:

  • Lisa Miller’s Heaven – “Even some atheists regard heaven as one of the least harmful religious ideas: a soothing blanket to press onto the brow of the bereaved. But, in fact, its primary function for centuries was as a tool of control and intimidation. The Vatican, for example, declared it had a monopoly on St. Peter’s VIP list—and only those who obeyed the church authorities’ every command and paid them vast sums for Get-Out-of-Hell-Free cards would get themselves and their children into it. The afterlife was a means of tyrannizing people in this life. This use of heaven as a bludgeon long outlasted the Protestant Reformation. Miller points out that in Puritan New England, heaven was not primarily a comfort but rather a way to impose discipline in this life. It still gets used that way. For example, Mormons order women within their ranks who try to argue for full equality to recant—and if they don’t, they are told they will be sent to a separate afterlife from their families for eternity.”
  • Christian soldiers – “In some cases even the “camel’s nose” image doesn’t do justice to missionary wiliness. “Trojan Camel” might be better; some Christian missionaries call themselves Muslims — or at least muslims — because, after all, “muslim” literally means one who surrenders to God. A few have gone way undercover, growing beards and abstaining from pork. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose you were a Christian parent in America and you heard that someone who called himself a Christian had bonded with your son via genial Bible talk and then tried to convert him to Islam. That would be annoying, right? Might even lead to some blowback?”

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Some highlights from my bookmarks on Delicious on the scandal with the Catholic Church, the Pope, and the cover-up of child molestations and rape.  For more, see my delicious page with the tags crime+religion.

  • The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it – Hitchens – “In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing “abuse”?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for “therapy” by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to “pastoral” work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.”
  • Tear down the wall of silence in the Roman Catholic Church – Hitchens – “It’s interesting, too, that the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities, even forcing child victims (as in the disgusting case of Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual chieftain of the Catholics of Ireland) to sign secrecy oaths that prevented them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why were they so afraid of secular justice? Did they think it would be less indifferent and pliable than private priestly investigations? In that case, what is left of the shabby half-baked argument that people can’t understand elementary morality without a divine warrant?”
  • The pope is not above the law – Hitchens – “To take the most heart-rending cases to have emerged recently, namely the torment of deaf children in the church-run schools in Wisconsin and Verona, Italy, it is impossible to miss the calculated manner in which the predators used the authority of the confessional in order to get their way. And again the identical pattern repeats itself: Compassion is to be shown only to the criminals. Ratzinger’s own fellow clergy in Wisconsin wrote to him urgently—by this time he was a cardinal in Rome, supervising the global Catholic cover-up of rape and torture—beseeching him to remove the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who had comprehensively wrecked the lives of as many as 200 children who could not communicate their misery except in sign language. And no response was forthcoming until Father Murphy himself appealed to Ratzinger for mercy—and was granted it.”
  • The pope and the pedophilia scandal – NYT Op Ed – “With the scandal spreading across Europe, Benedict apologized to Irish Catholics last week for the “sinful and criminal” sexual abuse of thousands of children across decades. But he made no mention of the need to discipline diocesan leaders most responsible for shielding hundreds of priests from criminal penalties by moving them from parish to parish to continue their crimes. The pope’s apology fell short not only for Catholics in Ireland, but for those in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, where hundreds of new allegations are emerging to be investigated by a Vatican office that has but 10 workers to do the job.”
  • A devil of a scandal – Dowd – “Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist for the Holy See, said in Rome that The Times’s coverage of Pope Benedict, which cast doubt on his rigor in dealing with pedophile priests, was “prompted by the Devil.” “There is no doubt about it,” the 85-year-old priest said, according to the Catholic News Agency. “Because he is a marvelous pope and worthy successor to John Paul II, it is clear that the Devil wants to grab hold of him.””
  • German Diocese ignored abuse warnings, doctor says – “Dr. Huth said he issued the explicit warnings — both written and oral — before the future pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, left Germany for a position in the Vatican in 1982. In 1980, after abuse complaints from parents in Essen that the priest did not deny, Archbishop Ratzinger approved a decision to move the priest to Munich for therapy. Despite the psychiatrist’s warnings, Father Hullermann was allowed to return to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults. Less than five years later, he was accused of molesting other boys, and in 1986 he was convicted of sexual abuse in Bavaria.”

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To me, many people’s attitudes toward driving is a strange thing.  In the United States, it is the leading cause of death for people ages 1-34, and nearly 5 million people sustain injuries that require an emergency department visit each year.  In my own experience, there are sad emails that go out to the university informing of a death in the community; overwhelmingly these are traffic related, often either head-on car collisions or cars hitting bicyclists.

In light of this, two related aspects of people’s general attitudes toward driving confuse, and at times, annoy me.  The first is the general impatience and reckless people exhibit while driving – speeding, tailgating, talking on cell phones, etc.

The second is the lack of attention to this problem in most people’s minds.  Instead, a story like Toyota’s alleged problems with their cars will dominate the news, despite the fact that the impact of this on most people’s lives pales in comparison to the problem of reckless drivers.

Fortunately, some writers have addressed this issue, and I have listed some well-written articles on this that I have come across.  (As always, for other articles I find worth-reading, you can take a look at on my bookmarks on Delicious.)

  • Bad drivers are more dangerous than recalled Toyotas – “Have you heard about the operational crisis in the modern car? Recent news accounts are awash with evidence: cars that suddenly accelerate out of control, that careen through signalized intersections, weave across lanes with fatal consequences, spin wildly into people’s houses, and cannot stop in time to avoid killing (nonjaywalking) pedestrians.  What went wrong with the car in each of these cases? The driver.” – the author also has what looks like a very interesting book on the subject, titled Traffic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)
  • Toyotas are safe (enough) – “My back-of-the-envelope calculations (explained in a footnote below) suggest that if you drive one of the Toyotas recalled for acceleration problems and don’t bother to comply with the recall, your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit worse than one in a million — 2.8 in a million, to be more exact. Meanwhile, your chances of being killed in a car accident during the next two years just by virtue of being an American are one in 5,244.”
  • Sudden acceleration often caused by drivers – “In 1989, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that the incidents of unintended acceleration by the Audi 5000 were mostly caused by this kind of pedal error — not some electro-mechanical defect in the vehicle. To fix the problem, Audi designed something called an automatic shift lock, which, when the car is being started, keeps the transmission in park unless and until the brake pedal is depressed. If the driver should press the accelerator instead of the brake, the vehicle remains safely in park.”

Other bookmark highlights:

  • xkcd – Single Ladies (and Sauron) – hilarious
  • A nasty attempt to coerce Danish newspapers into apologizing for the cartoons of Mohammed – Hitchens – “The thing would be ridiculous if it were not so hateful and had it not already managed to break the nerve of one Danish newspaper. In Ireland a short while ago, a law against blasphemy was passed, making it a crime to outrage the feelings not just of the country’s disgraced and incriminated Roman Catholic Church but of all believers. The same pseudo-ecumenical tendency can be found in the annual attempt by Muslim states to get the United Nations to pass a resolution outlawing all attacks on religion. It’s not enough that faith claims to be the solution to all problems. It is now demanded that such a preposterous claim be made immune from any inquiry, any critique, and any ridicule.”
  • Texas hearing considers deeper conservative stamp on textbooks – scary – “There have also been efforts among conservatives on the board to tweak the history of the civil rights movement. One amendment states that the movement created “unrealistic expectations of equal outcomes” among minorities. Another proposed change removes any reference to race, sex or religion in talking about how different groups have contributed to the national identity.”

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