Why, why, why, why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck in the first place, huh? Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.
Conservatives don’t give a shit about you until you reach “military age”. Then they think you are just fine. Just what they’ve been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life… pro-life… These people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they’ll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it?They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don’t like them. They don’t like women.They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state.
Pro-life… You don’t see many of these white anti-abortion women volunteering to have any black fetuses transplanted into their uterus’s, do you? No, you don’t see them adopting a whole lot of crack babies, do you? No, that might be something Christ would do. And, you won’t see a lot of these pro-life people dousing themselves in kerosene and lighting themselves on fire. You know, morally committed religious people in South Vietnam knew how to stage a goddamn demonstration, didn’t they?! They knew how to put on a fucking protest. Light yourself on FIRE!! C’mon, you moral crusaders, let’s see a little smoke. To match that fire in your belly.
Here’s another question I have: how come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden? When did this happen, that we passed chickens in goodness? Name six ways we’re better than chickens… See, nobody can do it! You know why? ‘Cuz chickens are decent people. You don’t see chickens hanging around in drug gangs, do you? No, you don’t see a chicken strapping some guy to a chair and hooking up his nuts to a car battery, do you? When’s the last chicken you heard about came home from work and beat the shit out of his hen, huh? Doesn’t happen. ‘Cuz chickens are decent people.
But let’s get back to this abortion shit. Now, is a fetus a human being? This seems to be the central question. Well, if a fetus is a human being, how come the census doesn’t count them? If a fetus is a human being, how come when there’s a miscarriage they don’t have a funeral? If a fetus is a human being, how come people say “we have two children and one on the way” instead of saying “we have three children?” People say life begins at conception, I say life began about a billion years ago and it’s a continuous process. Continuous, just keeps rolling along. Rolling, rolling, rolling along.
And say you know something? Listen, you can go back further than that. What about the carbon atoms? Hah? Human life could not exist without carbon. So is it just possible that maybe we shouldn’t be burning all this coal? Just looking for a little consistency here in these anti-abortion arguments. See the really hardcore people will tell you life begins at fertilization. Fertilization, when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Which is usually a few moments after the man says “Gee, honey, I was going to pull out but the phone rang and it startled me.” Fertilization. Source: LYBIO.net
But even after the egg is fertilized, it’s still six or seven days before it reaches the uterus and pregnancy begins, and not every egg makes it that far. Eighty percent of a woman’s fertilized eggs are rinsed and flushed out of her body once a month during those delightful few days she has. They wind up on sanitary napkins, and yet they are fertilized eggs. So basically what these anti-abortion people are telling us is that any woman who’s had more than more than one period is a serial killer! Consistency. Consistency. Hey, hey, if they really want to get serious, what about all the sperm that are wasted when the state executes a condemned man, one of these pro-life guys who’s watching cums in his pants, huh? Here’s a guy standing over there with his jockey shorts full of little Vinnies and Debbies, and nobody’s saying a word to the guy. Not every ejaculation deserves a name.
On LYBIO.net you can find – The Largest community of text-script-video blogging service. http://www.lybio.net
Now, speaking of consistency, Catholics, which I was until I reached the age of reason, Catholics and other Christians are against abortions, and they’re against homosexuals. Well who has less abortions than homosexuals?! Leave these fucking people alone, for Christ sakes! Here is an entire class of people guaranteed never to have an abortion! And the Catholics and Christians are just tossing them aside! You’d think they’d make natural allies. Go look for consistency in religion. And speaking of my friends the Catholics, when John Cardinal O’Connor of New York and some of these other Cardinals and Bishops have experienced their first pregnancies and their first labor pains and they’ve raised a couple of children on minimum wage, then I’ll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion. I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Enlightening, too. But, in the meantime what they ought to be doing is telling these priests who took a vow of chastity to keep their hands off the altar boys! Keep your hands to yourself, Father! You know? When Jesus said “Suffer the little children come unto me”, that’s not what he was talking about!
So you know what I tell these anti-abortion people? I say “Hey. Hey. If you think a fetus is more important that a woman, try getting a fetus to wash the shit stains out of your underwear. For no pay and no pension.” I tell them “Think of an abortion as term limits. That’s all it is. Biological term limits.
But you know, the longer you listen to this abortion debate, the more you hear this phrase “sanctity of life”. You’ve heard that. Sanctity of life. You believe in it? Personally, I think it’s a bunch of shit. Well, I mean, life is sacred? Who said so? God? Hey, if you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death. Has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians all taking turns killing each other ‘cuz God told them it was a good idea. The sword of God, the blood of the land, vengeance is mine. Millions of dead motherfuckers. Millions of dead motherfuckers all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question. “You believe in God?” “No.” *Pdoom*. Dead. “You believe in God?” “Yes.” “You believe in my God? “No.” *Poom*. Dead. “My God has a bigger dick than your God!” Thousands of years. Thousands of years, and all the best wars, too. The bloodiest, most brutal wars fought, all based on religious hatred. Which is fine with me. Hey, any time a bunch of holy people want to kill each other I’m a happy guy.
But don’t be giving me all this shit about the sanctity of life. I mean, even if there were such a thing, I don’t think it’s something you can blame on God. No, you know where the sanctity of life came from? We made it up. You know why? ‘Cuz we’re alive. Self-interest. Living people have a strong interest in promoting the idea that somehow life is sacred. You don’t see Abbott and Costello running around, talking about this shit, do you? We’re not hearing a whole lot from Mussolini on the subject. What’s the latest from JFK? Not a goddamn thing. ‘Cuz JFK, Mussolini and Abbott and Costello are fucking dead. They’re fucking dead. And dead people give less than a shit about the sanctity of life. Only living people care about it so the whole thing grows out of a completely biased point of view. It’s a self serving, man-made bullshit story.
It’s one of these things we tell ourselves so we’ll feel noble. Life is sacred. Makes you feel noble. Well let me ask you this: if everything that ever lived is dead, and everything alive is gonna die, where does the sacred part come in? I’m having trouble with that. ‘Cuz, I mean, even with all this stuff we preach about the sanctity of life, we don’t practice it. We don’t practice it. Look at what we’d kill: Mosquitoes and flies. ‘Cuz they’re pests. Lions and tigers. ‘Cuz it’s fun! Chickens and pigs. ‘Cuz we’re hungry. Pheasants and quails. ‘Cuz it’s fun. And we’re hungry. And people. We kill people… ‘Cuz they’re pests. And it’s fun!
And you might have noticed something else. The sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to cancer cells, does it? You rarely see a bumper sticker that says “Save the tumors.”. Or “I brake for advanced melanoma.”. No, viruses, mold, mildew, maggots, fungus, weeds, E. Coli bacteria, the crabs. Nothing sacred about those things. So at best the sanctity of life is kind of a selective thing. We get to choose which forms of life we feel are sacred, and we get to kill the rest. Pretty neat deal, huh? You know how we got it? We made the whole fucking thing up! Made it up! The same way… Thank you.
George Carlin – Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Complete Full Transcript, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.
Throughout the new testament, especially after the crucifixion, Jesus appeared to different people in different form. It would be easy to laugh this off as confirmation bias in the face of obviously damning evidence, but Jesus doesn’t believe in damnation as much as salvation.
I’m something of an expert on salvation. It is literally my middle name. I’m not joking. It’s printed on my license. I know what I’m talking about.
But while Jesus may appear in many different forms to many different people, why is it that he always appears as a white hippy to Americans? In recent years he doesn’t even have a long beard, but rather a well-kempt one, as if he might have owned a Flowbee.
Well fret not my fellow doubters in Christ, the answers are as many as they are plentiful and cornicopiaieriaioreosally… As sure as Christ’s death absolved me of sin, that’s a real word.
Catholics everywhere were flabbergasted when, merely days after celebrating his 85th birthday, Pope Benedict XVI issued a formal statement acknowledging that God probably does not exist. Nevertheless, the Pope assured believers worldwide that they were not without a place to turn for spiritual sustenance. Specifically, he urged every practicing Catholic to get an “imaginary God friend,” which he emphasized will serve virtually the same purpose of what they had previously thought of as a real God.
Since the Pope’s statement, the Vatican has, predictably, been flooded with questions and comments from clergymen, parishioners and even lapsed Catholics who still consider themselves believers. Many chastised the Pope for imposing his own doubts upon devout Catholics.
In a follow-up statement, the Pope stated that his acknowledgement that God probably does not exist is not properly categorized as a “doubt.”
As he explained, “A doubt is thinking that even though the sun has come up every morning of every day in the history of humanity, maybe, for some reason, it won’t rise tomorrow. I don’t have that kind of doubt about God. The God façade is a sham, with no evidence whatsoever to back it up. I couldn’t continue to take part in upholding it. I’ve been living a lie.”
The Pope equated his announcement with the children’s fairy tale in which an innocent but perceptive little boy points out that the naked emperor has no clothes. He emphasized, however, that despite the revolutionary nature of his atheistic message, not much really needed to change for Catholics on a practical, day-to-day level.
“Catholics can talk to and even pray to their imaginary God friend. For me, creating a personal imaginary friend, whom I call God, has been a great source of comfort,” he elaborated. “In fact, my imaginary God friend is just as effective, perhaps even more so, than the ‘God’ I used to believe was real. It’s very common for children to have imaginary friends. Now adult Catholics can have them as well.”
It remains to be seen the effect that the Pope’s statement will have on the unity and vibrancy of the Catholic Church. However, religious leaders of other faiths were delighted at the Pope’s message, anticipating a likely boon to their own religions.
“This is terrific for us,” said Rabbi David Golinkin, head of the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies. “The Catholic Church was always one-upping the Jewish faith by offering people God plus Jesus. But now we have something they don’t: a real God. People can’t but respond to that. I think we’ll get a lot of new recruits.”
This hilarious chain of events is non-supernatural in origin!’
RICHARD Dawkins is the star of a new sitcom where his wife secretly takes in God as a lodger.
‘This hilarious chain of events is non-supernatural in origin!’
Lord Above! revolves around committed rationalist Dawkins’s struggle to explain the miraculous and often infuriating events occurring in his house.
“Richard comes out and she’s forced to invent an unlikely explanation involving a pack of confused Welsh nationalists and a political canvasser with a malfunctioning tannoy.
“The excuses get even more outlandish in later episodes, when Dawkins runs himself a bath of Merlot during God’s secret party, forcing Mrs Dawkins to claim that the taps are hooked up to the local Oddbins.
“The following week she has to pretend that next door’s gay son has had a statue of himself made of salt put in the back garden.”
Dawkins, who still has an Equity card from his stint as Doctor Who in the 70s, hopes the public will take to his exasperated catchphrase, “For God’s sake!”
The first series ends on a cliffhanger as Mrs Dawkins discovers that, despite being long past the menopause, she’s miraculously fallen pregnant. The storyline will be resolved in a Christmas special.
One wonders how many Catholic youths are schooled in the crimes of the Popes. You can be sure they are well learned in doctrine of Papal infallibility
CRIMES OF THE POPES
A summary of the crimes and vices with which many of the
popes disgraced the chair of St. Peter; and before we conclude, the reader will see
that every villainy the imagination can conceive has been practised by the
Vicegerents of God. Peculation, theft, cruelty, murder, fornication, adultery, and
incest, not to mention still darker crimes, have all been notoriously committed by
the supreme rulers of Christendom, who sat in the seat of infallibility, and claimed
universal jurisdiction over the thoughts and consciences of mankind.
ST. DAMASUS (366-84).
He was the first to assume the title of Pontiff. His
election was opposed by Ursicinus, whose partisans accused Damasus of
adultery. [1 22:1 ] Riddle says:
“After some deadly conflicts between the followers of the two rivals,
Ursicinus was banished from the city; and a similar sentence was about
to be carried into effect against seven presbyters of his party, when the
people interfered, and lodged them for safety in one of the churches.
But even here they found no shelter from the fury of their opponents.
Armed with fire and sword, Damasus, with some of his adherents, both
of the clergy and of the laity, proceeded to the place of refuge, and left
no less than a hundred and sixty of their adversaries dead within the
sacred precincts.” [1 22:2]
That this was a massacre and not a faction fight is shown by the fact that on the
side of Damasus not a single person was killed. [1 23:3] Ammianus Marcellinus, the
contemporary historian of the event, says of the contention between Damasus and
“I do not deny, when I consider the ostentation that reigns at Rome,
that those who desire such rank and power may be justified in laboring
with all possible exertions and vehemence to obtain their wishes; since
after they have succeeded, they will be secure for the future, being
enriched by offerings from matrons, riding in carriages, dressing
splendidly, and feasting luxuriously, so that their entertainment
surpassed even royal banquets. [1 23:4]
Damasus gained the title of Auriscalpius Matronarum, ladies’ ear-scratcher. [1 23:5]
He died of fever, and the Romish Church still invokes the aid of this saintly vicar of
God in fever cases. [1 23:6]
SIXTUS III (432-40).
This pope, according to both Baronius and Platina, was
accused of debauching a virgin, but was acquitted by a Council under the Emperor
Valentina, who is said to have referred the pronouncing of the sentence to the Pope
himself, “because the judge of all ought to be judged by none.” It was without
doubt to establish this maxim that the “acts” of the Council were forged. [1 23:7 ]
ST. LEO THE GREAT (440-61).
Jortin calls him “the insolent and persecuting
Pope Leo, who applauded the massacre of the Priscillianists, and grossly
misrepresented them.” [1 23:8]
His election was violently opposed by the antipope
Laurentius, and three Councils were held to decide the schism. Accusations of the
most heinous crimes were laid against Symmachus. Bower says:
“This gave occasion to the rekindling of the war between the two
parties in Rome; and several priests, many clerks, and a great number
of citizens, fell daily in the battles that were fought in the different parts
of the city. No regard was shown by either party to rank or dignity; and
not even the sacred virgins were spared by the enraged multitude in
their fury.” [1 23:9]
Eunodius declared that the Pope was “judge in the place of the most high, pure
from all sin, and exempt from all punishment. All who fell fighting in his cause he
declared enrolled on the register of heaven.” [1 24:1 ]
ST. HORMISDAS (514-23).
He was a married man, and had a son, who was raised
to the popedom. He was full of ambition, and insolent in his demands to the
emperor, whom he exhorted to the persecution of heretics.
BONIFACE II (530-32).
His election was disputed by the antipope Dioscorus. Each
accused the other of simony, but Dioscorus opportunely died. Boniface “began his
pontificate with wreaking his vengeance on the memory of his deceased
competitor, whom he solemnly excommunicated, as guilty of simony, when he
could not clear himself from the charge, nor retort it on him, as perhaps he
otherwise might.” [1 24:2] This sentence was removed by Pope Agapetus.
He was accused of betraying the city of Rome to the Goths,
and was in consequence expelled from his see.
He was a deacon elected by bribery. He engaged himself to
obey the Empress Theodora, who gave him money to gain the suffrages of the
clergy. Anastasius tells us that he killed his own secretary in a transport of passion,
and caused his own sister’s son to be whipped to death. He is considered to have
been accessory to the banishment and death of Silverius. When banished himself
by the emperor, he speedily repented, in order to save his seat.
He was accused of poisoning his predecessor. This is
uncertain; but it is certain that, like most of his predecessors and successors, he
incited the civil powers to the persecution of heretics.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT (590-604)
According to Gibbon, this pontiff was “a
singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and
superstition.” [1 24:3] Jortin’s picture is still less flattering:
“Pope Gregory the Great was remarkable for many things — for
exalting his own authority; for running down human learning [1 25:4]
and polite literature; for burning classic authors; for patronising
ignorance and stupidity; for persecuting heretics; for flattering the
most execrable princes; and for relating a multitude of absurd,
monstrous and ridiculous lies, called miracles. He was an ambitious,
insolent prelate, under the mask of humility.”
Draper says that Gregory not only forbade the study of the classics, mutilated
statues, and destroyed temples but also “burned the Palatine library, founded by
Augustus Caesar.” Gibbon, however, throws doubt on this destruction, while
admitting that it was generally believed. [1 25:6]
Gregory does not appear to have been fond of women and wine, like so many other
popes; but he possessed the darker vices of bigotry and ambition. His
congratulations on the usurpation of the cruel, drunken and lascivious Phocas, after
a wholesale massacre of the emperor’s family, simply because the successful villain
favored the pretensions of Rome (p. 109), are a sufficient proof that Gregory would
scruple at nothing to advance the glory of his see.
Bower says he rendered himself so odious to the Roman
people by his avarice and cruelty to the poor, that they could not forbear abusing
him whenever he appeared. In a dreadful famine he raised the price of corn to
exorbitant rates. He accused St. Gregory of simony; but according to Baronius,
that departed saint having vainly reproved him in three different apparitions for
his covetousness, gave him in a fourth apparition so dreadful a blow on the head,
that he died soon after. [1 25:7 ]
BONIFACE III (607)
By flattering Phocas as Gregory had done, he induced him to
take the title of universal bishop from the bishop of Constantinople, and confer it
upon himself and his successors.
He commenced the custom of dipping his pen in
consecrated wine when signing the condemnation of heretics, [1 26:8] thus
sanctifying murder with the blood of Christ. Of Adeodatus, Donus I, Agatho, and
Leo II (682-683)
we only know that they carried on fierce contests with the archbishop of
Ravenna for refusing to acknowledge their supremacy. Leo II anathematised his
predecessor, Pope Honorius, for heresy. Neither Benedict II, John V, nor
Conon, lived a whole year after assuming the tiara.
ST. SERGIUS I (687-701).
He had to purchase his seat from the exarch of
Ravenna by pawning the ornaments of the tomb of St. Peter. He was accused of
adultery, but his innocence was strikingly proved; for, upon the child of whose
parentage he was accused being baptised when but eight days old, he cried out,
“The pontiff Sergius is not my father.” Bruys, the French historian of the Papacy,
says, “What I find most marvellous in this story is, not that so young a child should
speak, but that it should affirm with so much confidence that the pope was not its
He is said to have excommunicated the Emperor, Philip
Bardanes, for being of the same heresy as Pope Honorius. To oblige Constantine,
Justinian II cut out the tongue and blinded the eyes of the Archbishop of Ravenna,
who refused to pay the obedience due to the apostolic see. [1 26:2]
ST. GREGORY II (715-31). He was chiefly noted for his endowing monasteries
with the goods of the poor, and for his opposition to the Emperor Leo’s edict
against image worship. [1 26:3] Rather than obey the edict, he raised civil war both
in Italy and elsewhere. He prayed that Christ might set the Devil on the emperor,
and approved the barbarous murder of the imperial officer. Yet the priests
place in the list of saints a pontiff who, to establish the Christian idolatry of image
worship, filled Italy with carnage.
STEPHEN III (768-72).
When elected he found on the pontifical throne a lay pope,one Constantine, who, after a violent struggle, was dislodged and punished with the
loss of his eyes, many of his friends sharing the same fate.
ADRIAN I (772-95)
He made a league with Irene, the murderess of her son, to
restore image worship, and presented to Charlemagne the pretended donation of
Constantine. Avarice was the vice of this able pontiff. He left large sums to
ST. PASCAL I (817-24)
At the Diet of Compeigne this pope was charged with
being accessory to the mutilation and murder of two Roman priests. The Pope
denied the charge, but refused to deliver up the perpetrators of the crimes,
alleging that they belonged “to the family of St. Peter.”
EUGENIUS II (824-27)
He had the honor of inventing the barbarous practice of
ordeal by cold water.
He excommunicated Photius, the Greek patriarch, and the
emperor Michael as his abettor, and threatened King Lothaire with the
ecclesiastical sword if he suffered any bishop to be chosen without his
consent. [1 27 :9]
ADRIAN II (867-72) He was a married priest. He congratulated Bazilius, the
murderer of the emperor Michael, and entered into alliance with him.
JOHN VIII (872-82)
The meek and holy nature of this worthy successor of St.
Peter may be judged by his ordering the Bishop of Naples to bring him the chief
men among the Saracens in that city, and cutting their throats in the presence of
his legate. A letter of John is extant, in which he justifies Athanasius, Bishop
of Naples, for having plucked out the eyes of Sergius, Duke of Naples, who favored
the Saracens in despite of the papal anathemas. He even cites the Gospel text as to
plucking out offending eyes. Cardinal Baronius declares that this pontiff perjured
himself, and that he rather deserved the name of a woman than that of a
man. The annals of the Abbey of Fulda relate that John VIII was poisoned
by the relations of a lady whom he had seduced from her husband.
He had been repeatedly excommunicated by John VIII. He
invited Arnulf, the German emperor, to invade Italy, which he did, committing
great atrocities. Formosus, however, had a great character for piety. He is said to
have been well versed in scripture, and to have died a virgin in his eightieth year.
BONIFACE VI (896)
Even according to Baronius, he was a man of most infamous
character. He had been deposed for his scandalous life, first from the rank of subdeacon,
and afterward from the priesthood.
STEPHEN VI. (896-7)
He intruded into the see in the room of the intruder
Boniface. Being of the opposite faction to Pope Formosus, he caused the body of
that pontiff to be taken out of the tomb and to be placed, in the episcopal robes, on
the pontifical chair. Stephen then addressed the dead body thus: “Why didst thou,
being Bishop of Porto, prompted by thy ambition, usurp the universal see of
Rome?” After this mock trial Stephen, with the approbation and consent of a
Council of bishops, ordered the body to be stripped, three of the fingers (those
used in blessing) to be cut off, and the remains to be cast into the Tiber. At the
same Council all the ordinations of Formosus were declared invalid.
Then followed what Riddle calls “a rapid succession of infamous popes,” of whom
we may mention that Leo V (903) was deposed and cast into prison by his
chaplain, Christopher, who was in turn ejected and imprisoned by Sergius III
(904-11). This pontiff also had been excommunicated by John VIII. He was, says
Baronius, “the slave of every vice and the most wicked of men.” Riddle
“This Sergius III was a monster of profligacy, cruelty and vice in their most
shameless and disgusting forms. But it was this very character which made him
useful to his party, the duration of whose influence at Rome, could be insured only
by a preponderance of physical power, and this again only by violence which should
disdain all restraints of morality and religion. Sergius was the man for this purpose,
who, while he lived in concubinage with Marozia, did not hesitate to yield all the
treasures of the Roman Church as plunder to his party.” To him succeeded
other paramours of Marozia and of her mother the prostitute Theodora. John X,
for instance (914-28), received his chair because he was the lover of Theodora,
while Leo VI and Stephen VIII (929-31) were creatures of Marozia. Adultery and
assassination form the staple of the annals of their pontificates.
JOHN XI (931-36)
He was the son of Pope Sergius III. by Marozia, and if possible
he surpassed his parents in crime. Elected pope at the age of eighteen, Alberic, his
half brother, expelled him from Rome and imprisoned their mother Marozia.
Stephen VIII (939-942) made himself so obnoxious to the Romans that they
JOHN XII (956-64)
the son of Alberic, was the first to change his name, which
was originally Octavian. He nominated himself pope at the age of seventeen. Wilks
says: “His profaneness and debaucheries exceeded all bounds. He was publicly
accused of concubinage, incest, and simony.” This pope was so notorious for his
licentiousness that female pilgrims dared not present themselves in Rome.
Bower says that he had changed the Lateran Palace, once the abode of saints, into
a brothel, and there cohabited with his father’s concubine; that women were afraid
to come from other countries to visit the tombs of the apostles at Rome; that he
spared none, and had within a few days forced married women, widows, and
virgins to comply with his impure desires. He was at length deposed by Otho, at
the solicitation of a council of bishops and laymen, on charges of sacrilege, simony,
blasphemy, and cruel mutilation. He had deprived one deacon of his right hand and
made him a eunuch. He put out the eyes of Benedict, his ghostly father, cut off the
nose of the keeper of the archives, and scourged the Bishop of Spires. On
the deposition of John, Leo VII was put in his place. John fulminated anathemas
against his opponents, and soon after died, from a blow on the head while in bed
with a married woman. Jortin remarks that “Baronius says, from
Luitprandus, that it was the Devil who gave John that blow; but it seems not
probable that Satan would have used his good friend in such a manner. It is more
likely that it might be the husband of the adulteress.”
Mosheim says “that the history of the Roman pontiffs of this century [the tenth] is
a history of monsters, a history of the most atrocious villainies and crimes, is
acknowledged by all writers of distinction, and even by the advocates of
BONIFACE VII (974)
The old authors in derision call him Maliface. Having had his
predecessor Benedict murdered, he plundered the Basilica and escaped with his
spoils to Constantinople, whence he afterwards returned and murdered John XIV
(984), then on the papal throne.
GREGORY V (996-99)
He was turned out of his see by Crescentius, who elected
the antipope John. Upon Gregory’s restoration he had this unfortunate creature
deprived of sight, cut off his nose, and tore out his tongue. He then ordered him to
be led through the streets in a tattered sacerdotal suit, and mounted upon an ass
with his face to the tail, which he held in his hand.
SERGIUS IV (1009-12)
This pope was called Os Porci, or Swine’s Mouth. Of his
doings little is known, but he is asserted to have gravely declared “that the pope
could not be damned, but that, do what he would, he must be saved.”
BENEDICT VIII (1012-24)
He saved the city of Rome from a great storm, which
it seems was caused by some Jews. The Jews being immediately executed the
JOHN XIX (1024-33)
He was a layman, brother of Benedict, yet he was raised to
the see. Wilks says:
“It was by gold, and not by imperial power, that the Romans consented
to this uncanonical election. The rapacity of this pope was so great that
he offered to sell the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ to the see of
Constantinople for a sum of money!”
By his exactions, debauchery and tyranny, he became so odious to the Romans
that he had to flee for his life.
BENEDICT IX (1033-46)
A nephew of the last two pontiffs. Some say he was
raised to the papacy at the age of twelve — others, at eighteen. He “stained the
sacred office with murder, adultery, and every other heinous crime.” [1 31 :1 ]
Desiderius, afterwards pope under the name of Victor III, styles Benedict the
successor of Simon the sorcerer, and not of Simon the apostle, and paints him as
one abandoned to all manner of vice. Being eager to possess the person and
property of a female cousin, he sold the papacy to John Gratianus, “the most
religious man of his time,” for a sum of money, and consecrated him as Gregory VI.
Benedict afterwards poisoned Pope Damasus II. The Romans, weary of his crimes,
expelled him from the city, but he was reinstated by Conrad. “But,” says Jortin,
“as he continued his scandalous course of life, and found himself despised and
detested both by clergy and laity, he agreed to retire, and to abandon himself more
freely to his pleasures.” Stipulating therefore to receive a sum of money, he
resigned his place to Gratianus, called Gregory VI, and went to live in his own
Mosheim calls Benedict IX “a most flagitious man and capable of every
We have already seen how Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory, were alike declared
unworthy of the pontificate, and Clement placed in the see, and by what means
Hildebrand contrived to extend the papal power. This great pontiff, Gregory VII
(1073-85), has been accused of poisoning his predecessors in order to obtain the
popedom, and also of committing adultery with Matilda, Countess of Tuscany, who
bestowed all her possessions on the pope. But these accusations probably arose
from the spite of the many enemies aroused by Hildebrand’s high-handed
PASCAL II (1099-1118)
He was a disciple of Hildebrand, and inherited his
ambition without his talents. He compelled Henry IV to abdicate, but on his son
Henry V marching against him, after a sanguinary struggle, he gave up to the
emperor the right of investiture. Afterwards he excommunicated all who should
declare his own grant to be valid.
ADRIAN IV (1154-59)
The only Englishman who ever became pope. He caused
Arnold of Brescia to be burnt at the stake (1154) for preaching against papal
corruption. The Irish should remember that it was this pope who, in virtue of the
pretended Donation of Constantine, made over to Henry II of England the right to
take and govern Ireland on condition of the pope receiving an annual tribute of one
penny for each house.
ALEXANDER III (1159-81)
The Lateran Council (1179) declared war against all
heretics, and a crusade against them was sanctioned by this pontiff.
CLEMENT III (1188-1191). He published the third crusade (1189).
INNOCENT III (1198-1216) also preached a crusade. He claimed for his see
universal empire and established the Inquisition to support the claim. He
excommunicated Philip II of France and put the whole nation under interdict.
Afterwards he placed England under interdict, excommunicated John, bestowed
the crown on Philip of France, and published a crusade against England. He also
instituted a crusade against the Albigenses, butchering them by tens of thousands
with every circumstance of atrocity.
GREGORY IX (1227-41).
He formally established the Inquisition; and, to support
his ambition and the unbridled luxury of his court, raised taxes in France, England
and Germany, excommunicated kings, and incited nations to revolt; finally causing
himself to be driven from Rome.
INNOCENT IV (1243-54).
He conspired against the life of the Emperor Frederic,
through the agency of the Franciscan monks. To avoid confronting his accuser, he
retired to France, summoned a council at Lyons (1244), and excommunicated and
deposed the emperor, whom he coolly denominated his vassal. He also
excommunicated the kings of Arragon and Portugal, giving the crown of the latter
to the Count of Bologna. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and pretending to have the
right of disposing of the crown of the two Sicilies, offered it to Richard, Earl of
Cornwall, brother to Henry III of England. Innocent made exorbitant claims to the
bishoprics and benefices in England. [1 33:1 ]
BONIFACE VIII (1294-1303).
He had his predecessor, Celestine, put in prison,
where he died. [1 33:2] He openly styled himself “King of Kings,” trafficked in
indulgences, and declared all excluded from heaven who disputed his claim to
universal dominion. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and ordered the city of
Bragneste to be entirely destroyed. He was publicly accused of simony,
assassination, usury, of living in concubinage with his two nieces and having
children by them, and of using the money received for indulgences to pay the
Saracens for invading Italy.
CLEMENT V (1305-1314)
He is noted for his cruel suppression of the order of
Knights Templar, so as to appropriate their property. He summoned the grand
master of the Templars under false pretexts to his court, and issued a bull against
the order in which he brought against it the most unfounded and absurd charges,
and finally pronounced its abolition, having the Grand Master and many leading
members burnt alive. [1 34:4] After sharing the spoils of the Templars with the king
of France, Clement V fixed his court at Avignon, and gave himself publicly to the
most criminal debaucheries. He preached a new crusade against the Turks and
gave each new crusader the right to release four souls from purgatory. Dante
places him in hell.
JOHN XXII (1316-34)
Like his predecessors, he persecuted and burnt heretics.
He anathematised the emperor of Germany and the king of France, and preached
a new crusade. Money was raised in abundance by the sale of indulgences, and was
misappropriated by the pope. He left enormous treasures. Villani, whose brother
was one of the papal commission, states that this successor of the fisherman
amassed altogether twenty-five million florins. [1 34:5] Gieseler says: “He
arbitrarily disposed of the Benefices of all countries, chiefly in favor of his own
nephews, and the members of his curia.”
URBAN VI (1378-89)
In his time occurred what is known as “the great Western
schism,” which lasted from 1378 till the Council of Constance (1414). There were
during that time two popes, one residing at Rome and the other at Avignon. But
which of the popes was the true one and which the antipope has not yet been
decided. Urban VI was a ferocious despot. He ordered six cardinals, whom he
suspected of opposing him, to be brutally tortured. Nor was his competitor,
Clement VII, behind him in violence and crime. For fifty years they and their
successors excited bloody wars and excommunicated one another. The schism,
which cost thousands of lives, was ended by the deposition of John XXIII (1415),
who was found guilty of murder and incest. He was accused before the Council of
having seduced two hundred nuns. Theodoric de Niem informs us that he kept two
hundred mistresses in Bologna, and he is described by his own secretary as a
monster of avarice, ambition, lewdness and cruelty. The same author says
that an act of accusation, prepared against him, presented a complete catalogue of
every mortal crime.
MARTIN V (1417-31)
His crimes were not of a kind to be censured by a Council of
bishops. He had John Huss and Jerome of Prague burnt alive, and to put down
their heresies excited civil war in Bohemia. He wrote to the Duke of Lithuania: “Be
assured thou sinnest mortally in keeping faith with heretics.”
EUGENIUS IV (1431-47) His first act was to put to torture the treasurer of his
predecessor, Martin V. He seized that pontiff’s treasures and sent to the scaffold
two hundred Roman citizens, friends of the late pope. The Council of Basle
was called and deposed the pope, setting up an antipope, Felix V. Civil war and
much cruelty of course followed.
PAUL II (1464-71)
He broke all the engagements he had made to the conclave
prior to his election. He persecuted with the greatest cruelty and perfidy the Count
of Anguillara. He strove to kindle a general war throughout Italy, and
excommunicated the king of Bohemia for protecting the Hussites against his
persecutions. He also persecuted the Fratricelli. “His love of money,” says
Symonds, “was such that, when bishoprics fell vacant, he often refused to fill them
up, drawing their revenues for his own use, and draining Christendom as a Verres
or a Memmius sucked a Roman province dry. His court was luxurious, and in
private he was addicted to all the sensual lusts.” The same writer says that
“He seized the chief members of the Roman Academy, imprisoned them, put them
to the torture, and killed some of them upon the rack.” He died suddenly,
leaving behind him an immense treasure in money and jewels, amassed by his
avarice and extortion.
SIXTUS IV (1471-84). He strove to excel his predecessors in crime. According to
Symonds, “He began his career with a lie; for though he succeeded, to that demon
of avarice, Paul, who had spent his time in amassing money which he did not use,
he declared that he had only found five thousand florins in the papal treasury.”
The historian continues:
“This assertion was proved false by the prodigality with which he
lavished wealth immediately upon his nephews. It is difficult even to
hint at the horrible suspicions which were cast upon the birth of two of
the Pope’s nephews and upon the nature of his weakness for them: yet
the private life of Sixtus rendered the most monstrous stories plausible,
while his public treatment of these men recalled to mind the partiality
of Nero for Doryphorus … The Holy Father himself was wont to say, A
Pope needs only pen and ink to get what sum he wants.’ … Fictitious
dearths were created; the value of wheat was raised to famine prices;
good grain was sold out of the kingdom, and bad imported in exchange;
while Sixtus forced his subjects to purchase from his stores, and made a
profit by the hunger and disease of his emaciated provinces.”
“He was restrained by no scruple from rendering his spiritual power
subservient to his worldly views, or from debasing it by a mixture with
those temporary intrigues in which his ambition had involved him. The
Medici being peculiarly in his way, he took part in the Florentine
troubles; and, as is notorious, brought upon himself the suspicion of
being privy to the conspiracy of the Pazzi, and to the assassination
which they perpetrated on the steps of the altar of the cathedral: the
suspicion that he, the father of the faithful, was an accomplice of such
acts! When the Venetians ceased to favor the scheme of his nephew, as
they had done for a considerable time, the pope was not satisfied with
deserting them in a war into which he himself had driven them; he
went so far as to excommunicate them for persisting in it. He acted
with no less violence in Rome: he persecuted the Colonnas with great
ferocity: he seized Marino from them; he caused the prothonotary
Colonna to be attacked, arrested and executed in his own house. The
mother of Colonna came to San Celso in Branchi, where the body lay —
she lifted the severed head by the hair, and cried ‘Behold the head of
my son! Such is the faith of the pope. He promised that if we would give
up Marino to him he would set my son at liberty; he has Marino: and
my son is in our hands — but dead! Behold thus does the pope keep his
Jortin says that “Sixtus IV erected a famous bawdy-house at Rome, and the
Roman prostitutes paid his holiness a weekly tax, which amounted sometimes to
twenty thousand ducats a year.”
INNOCENT VIII (1484-92).
Schlegel, in his notes to Mosheim, says he “lived so
shamefully before he mounted the Roman throne, that he had sixteen illegitimate
children to make provision for. Yet on the papal throne he played the zealot against
the Germans, whom he accused of magic, and also against the Hussites, whom he
well-nigh exterminated.” Wilks says: “He obtained the votes of the
cardinals by bribery, and violated all his promises.” [1 37 :8] The practice of selling
offices prevailed under him as well as under his predecessors. “In corruption,” says
Symonds, ” he advanced a step even beyond Sixtus, by establishing a bank at
Rome for the sale of pardons. Each sin had its price, which might be paid at the
convenience of the criminal: one hundred and fifty ducats of the tax were poured
into the Papal coffers; the surplus fell to Franceschetto, the Pope’s son.” [1 37 :9]
The Vice-Chancellor of this rapacious pontiff, on being asked why indulgences were
permitted for the worst scandals, made answer that “God wills not the death of a
sinner, but rather that he should pay and live.” It must be added that “the traffic
which Innocent and Franceschetto carried on in theft and murder filled the
Campagna with brigands and assassins.” The Pope’s vices cost him so much
that he even pledged the papal tiara as a security for money.
ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503)
Roderic Borgia was one of the most depraved
wretches that ever lived. His passions were so unbridled that, having conceived a
liking for a widow and two daughters, he made them all subservient to his
brutality. Wilks calls him “a man of most abandoned morals, deep duplicity, and
unscrupulous ambition. Like his predecessors, he had but one object at heart, the
temporal and hereditary aggrandisement of his family.” Mosheim says: “So
many and so great villainies, crimes and enormities are recorded of him, that it
must be certain he was destitute not only of all religion, but also of decency and
shame.” This pope, at a certain feast, had fifty courtesans dancing, who, at a
given signal, threw off every vestige of clothing and — we draw a veil over the
scene! “To describe him,” says Symonds, “as the Genius of Evil, whose sensualities,
as unrestrained as Nero’s, were relieved against the background of flame and
smoke which Christianity had raised for fleshly sins, is justifiable.” [1 38:4] His
besetting vice was sensuality; in oriental fashion he maintained a harem in the
Vatican. He invited the Sultan Bajazet to enter Europe and relieve him of the
princes who opposed his intrigues in favor of his children.
In regard to his death we follow Ranke:
“It was but too certain that he once meditated taking off one of the
richest of the cardinals by poison. His intended victim, however,
contrived, by means of presents, promises and prayers, to gain over his
head cook, and the dish which had been prepared for the cardinal was
placed before the pope. He died of the poison he had destined for
another.” [1 38:5]
JULIUS II (1503-13)
He obtained the pontificate by fraud and bribery, [1 38:6]
and boldly took the sword to extend his dominion. [1 38:7 ] Mosheim says:
“That this Julius II possessed, besides other vices, very great ferocity,
arrogance, vanity, and a mad passion for war, is proved by abundant
testimony. In the first place, he formed an alliance with the Emperor
and the King of France, and made war upon the Venetians. He next laid
siege to Ferrara. And at last, drawing the Venetians, the Swiss and the
Spaniards, to engage in the war with him, he made an attack on Lewis
XII, the king of France. Nor, so long as he lived, did he cease from
embroiling all Europe.”
PAUL III (1531-49)
He was as much a man of the world as any of his
predecessors. He acknowledged an illegitimate son and daughter. [1 38:9] The
emperor once remonstrated with him on having promoted two of his grandsons to
the cardinalate at too early an age. He replied that he would do as his predecessors
had done — that there were examples of infants in the cradle being made
We now close this horrid list of criminals. Since the Reformation the popes have
been obliged to live more decently, or at least to conceal their vices instead of
flaunting them before the world. Should the Protestants object that they are in no
way responsible for the crimes of the Papacy, we shall cheerfully concede the plea;
but at the same time we beg to remind them that Catholics are also Christians, and
that the historian must deal with the whole system through all the centuries.
Besides, as Michelet observed, Protestantism is after all only an estuary, and
Catholicism the great sea.
We were later to learn that indeed the vices were well concealed and that levels of debauchery went unchecked for many more centuries right up to the present time
In this Danish cartoonist image, John Paul II is the Sun as the Infallible most powerful Pope of the Catholics with seven rays of the 7 Sacraments, he is in his white papal uniform and his two papal hands pulls up the children”s robes because he enabled and allowed thousands of pedophiles rapists-priests to go on freely sodomizing and raping little boys (and girls) during his longest reigning papacy of 26 years, together with Cardinal Josef Ratzinger his right-hand man.
A “Free Bradley Manning” button.
Although we had to swelter in the Maryland sun on Saturday, I found the pre-trial rally at Ft. Meade to support Bradley Manning particularly spirit-filled. It seemed there was an unspoken but widely shared consciousness that Manning is as much Biblical prophet as Army private.
I think Manning can be seen as a classic prophet in the Abrahamic tradition. Such prophets take risks to expose injustice and challenge the rest of us to do the same. They also are a very large pain to those who oppress — and a pain, as well, to those of us who would prefer not to have to bother about such things.
Prophets will neither acquiesce in injustice nor hide wrongdoing; they answer to a higher chain of command with very different “rules of engagement.” Take Isaiah, for example, who is described as an eccentric, walking around for three full years “naked and barefoot.” (Hat tip here to Rev. Howard Bess, for his recent reminder in “Rethinking the Genesis Message,” that, whereas Bible stories are largely myth and cannot be read as history, they often witness to truth in a way that mere history cannot.)
What was Isaiah trying to say by his nakedness? Biblical scholars conclude that he sought a vivid way to demonstrate to the Israelites that, if their oppressive practices did not stop they too would be “naked and barefoot, their buttocks shamefully exposed.” (Isa. 20:2-4) Or, more simply: It is not my nakedness that is shameful. It is yours — those of you who have stripped yourselves of the vision with which you were blessed, a vision of justice and shalom.
Can we borrow Isaiah’s eyesight to see and acknowledge that the abuse uncovered and revealed by Bradley Manning — including the torture and slaughter of Iraqi civilians — exposes the buttocks of us Americans? (And I refer not simply to those in the chain of command, but the rest of us too. Are you starting to feel a draft on your derriere?)
In suggesting we all need to examine our consciences, I take my cue from a more recent prophet in the tradition of Isaiah, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who insisted that wherever injustice takes place, “few are guilty, but all are responsible.” Rabbi Heschel drove home the point, adding that, “indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself.”
Responsible If Unaware
Those of us Americans who have seen and heard the U.S. Army Apache helicopter gun-barrel video showing the killing of a dozen civilians (including two Reuters journalists) in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, (during President George W. Bush’s much-heralded “troop surge”) can appreciate how that video, which has been given the apt title “Collateral Murder,” leaves our buttocks “shamefully exposed.”
The premier German TV program Panorama, unlike its American counterparts, replayed the most salient parts of the gun-barrel footage, but also put context around the incident in a short 60 Minutes-type segment. Those of us who had some role in the German version begged the producers of Panorama to “undub” the program. They acknowledged the need, made an exception to their corporate policy against “undubbing,” and what emerged is a 12-minute English version titled “Shooters Walk Free, Whistleblower Jailed.”
To view the video please click on the following link
Lacking any real competition, the 12-minute English version is, in my view, the most straightforward depiction of what happened, including the war crime of murdering the “Good Samaritan,” who stopped to help one of the wounded.
War crime? Yes, war crime. “Justifying” the killing of a dozen people, including two journalists, based on the claim that a camera was mistaken for a gun and that therefore the killing was in keeping with the “Rules of Engagement,” as Defense Secretary Robert Gates claimed at the time, is already a stretch. But killing someone trying to help the wounded stretches that “justification” well beyond the breaking point. It is a war crime.
As Bradley Manning commented later, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the Apache helicopter shooters] appeared to have.”
What Moved Manning?
As I see it, Manning’s motivation was not necessarily religious, but rather a profoundly human reaction of the kind described in the Cain and Abel story in Genesis. I think most of us understand the imperative to be our brother’s keeper, but I do find the Genesis story helpful in sorting through these thorny issues.
What we need to bear in mind is that Genesis is not the first book of the Bible’s Old Testament that was written; it is one of the last. It was composed during and after the Babylonian captivity (587 to 538 B.C.E.) as a counter-story and repudiation of Babylon’s religion of empire.
That kind of “religion” was based largely on the concept of redemptive violence as the way to defeat evil and stave off chaos until the next time violence would be seen as unavoidably necessary. (How fortunate that we 21st Century sophisticates have long since risen above that primitive concept!)
Counter-stories are often tools designed to repair the damage inflicted on people by abusive power systems. That’s what Genesis was all about. The Israelites desperately needed to teach their children a narrative that would negate the influence of the violence-prone, opulent Babylon — their home for half a century. (Have any of you noticed how seductive the redemptive violence ethos can be, even — or especially — in nations that claim “city-on-the-hill status?”)
One story in Genesis is key to this understanding: Abel meets a violent end at the hands of his brother Cain. When God asks Cain where his brother is, Cain gives a Babylonian-empire-type response: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In his Come Out, My People: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond, Wes Howard-Brook highlights the impact of this passage, pointing out that with this question and Cain’s response, “Genesis undermines Babylon’s claim to divinely authorized violence.”
The murderer has no escape when faced with this question because there is someone who hears the victim’s blood crying out. These words, valid for the whole history of humankind, protect the person as a creature of God from other people. No cover story, no rules of engagement, can justify Cain’s act. God hears the cry of victims even from the bloody ground. And, we can add, even from the bloodstained streets and sidewalks of Baghdad.
Howard-Brook makes the point that biblical “myths” can shed light on human behavior — and misbehavior — even today. I am not suggesting that Bradley Manning was consciously motivated by the “Am I my brother’s keeper” story in Genesis. It would be a good question to ask him. I do think this story/myth can provide both guide and warning as to how we humans are to treat one another.
Manning and Goliath
Having just begun his fourth year in prison, the “speedy trial” that is every citizen’s right starts today when Bradley Manning’s actual court martial gets under way at Ft. Meade.
Indignities galore have tainted the pre-trial proceedings. Perhaps the most egregious travesty of justice occurred on April 21, 2011, with what must be the “mother of all command-influence” assertions. At a fundraiser in San Francisco, Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama was videotaped claiming that Manning “broke the law.” Taking their cue from their commander, zealous Army prosecutors down the chain of command are throwing the book at Manning, even accusing him of “aiding the enemy” and demanding a life sentence.
The objective of the Obama administration is transparent. It has little to do with the law, but rather is designed to make an object lesson of Manning. The administration wants to deter others truth-tellers who might also be tempted to reveal information that is labeled secret to hide oppression and abuse — including, in this case, U.S. war crimes.
Despite all this, Manning has kept his cool. Readers may not have learned the following from the “mainstream media,” but on Feb. 28, 2013, when Manning was finally given a chance to speak, after countless “pre-trial” Army court sessions, he said this:
“The video [of the July 12, 2007, Apache helicopter attack] depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other war-porn type videos depicting combat. However, the recording of audio comments by the aerial weapons team crew and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me. …
“The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq or MNF-I would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded.
“The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good Samaritans.’ The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the weapons team members] appeared to have.
“This dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded.
“Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
“While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew … repeatedly request authorization to fire on the bongo truck and, once granted, they engage the vehicle at least six times.
“Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote ‘Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kid’s into a battle’ unquote.
“The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body — or one of the bodies. As I continued my research, I found an article discussing the book, The Good Soldiers, written by Washington Post writer David Finkel.
In Mr. Finkel’s book, he writes about the aerial weapons team attack. As, I read an online excerpt in Google Books, I followed Mr. Finkel’s account of the event belonging to the video. I quickly realize that Mr. Finkel was quoting, I feel in verbatim, the audio communications of the aerial weapons team crew.
“It is clear to me that Mr. Finkel obtained access and a copy of the video during his tenure as an embedded journalist. I was aghast at Mr. Finkel’s portrayal of the incident. Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as ‘payback’ for an earlier attack that led to the death of a soldier. … For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally. …
“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”
A final comment or two before I leave for the start of Manning’s trial. Is it not transparent what our government wants to keep hidden from us? Is it not a safe bet that the court proceedings will be orchestrated such that what remains hidden will not be revealed? But truth has a way of seeping out. I trust that it will.
Friends in the Los Angeles Catholic Worker have given this very serious issue a light touch with bumper sticker: “Jesus Loves WikiLeaks — Mark 4:22.” Here’s the verse from Mark: “Whatever is hidden away will be brought out into the open, and whatever is covered up will be uncovered.”
Which prompts the question: Where are the leaders of Christian institutions on all this? Deafening silence.
Sometimes it takes a compassionate but truth-telling outsider to throw light on our country, its leaders, and its policies. After the attacks of 9/11, Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa, a long-time fearless opponent of the earlier apartheid regime, offered this prophetic word:
“I have often suggested to American Christians that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire. …
“American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth.
“You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.
“This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good. But it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all. All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”
A Charism Moment
Bradley Manning has given us a charism-moment — a Christian belief in total consecration to Jesus — and a chance to reflect on all this. It is up to us now to unwrap the red, white and blue myth and ask ourselves if we are up to taking the kind of risks required by the times, if we really believe we are “our brother’s keeper.”
As we did our best on Saturday to wave our Veterans for Peace flags, I thought back to the President’s May 23 speech on drones and on Guantanamo. With eight American flags behind him and one on his lapel, Barack Obama referred to the “ruthless demagogues who litter history.” He then added that “the flag of the United States will still wave from small town cemeteries … to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.”
And I thought of the late Howard Zinn’s observation: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
Obama concluded his long speech with his customary: “And may God bless the United States of America.” If there is a God of Justice (and I believe there is), we run the risk of forfeiting that blessing, unless and until we stop playing the role of violence-prone Cain; that is, if we fail to recognize, as Bradley Manning did, the mandate to be keepers, not oppressors, of our brothers and sisters.
God will not be mocked — or fooled by flag-waving.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of (more…)
From 1 January 2010, Irish blasphemy law came into being. Blasphemy is a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.
This law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentivises religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.
We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.
Publication of 25 blasphemous quotes
In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O’Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Dermot Ahern.
Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.
Campaign begins to repeal the Irish blasphemy law
We ask Fianna Fail and the Green Party to repeal their anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act that is included within the Act. We ask them to hold a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.
We also ask all TDs and Senators to support a referendum to remove references to God from the Irish Constitution, including the clauses that prevent atheists from being appointed as President of Ireland or as a Judge without swearing a religious oath asking God to direct them in their work.
If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.
List of 25 Blasphemous Quotes Published by Atheist Ireland
1. Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.
2. Jesus Christ, talking to Jews about their God, in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” This is one of several chapters in the Christian Bible that can give a scriptural foundation to Christian anti-Semitism. The first part of John 8, the story of “whoever is without sin cast the first stone”, was not in the original version, but was added centuries later. The original John 8 is a debate between Jesus and some Jews. In brief, Jesus calls the Jews who disbelieve him sons of the Devil, the Jews try to stone him, and Jesus runs away and hides.
3. Muhammad, quoted in Hadith of Bukhari, Vol 1 Book 8 Hadith 427: “May Allah curse the Jews and Christians for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” This quote is attributed to Muhammad on his death-bed as a warning to Muslims not to copy this practice of the Jews and Christians. It is one of several passages in the Koran and in Hadith that can give a scriptural foundation to Islamic anti-Semitism, including the assertion in Sura 5:60 that Allah cursed Jews and turned some of them into apes and swine.
4. Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909: “Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.” Twain’s book was published posthumously in 1939. His daughter, Clara Clemens, at first objected to it being published, but later changed her mind in 1960 when she believed that public opinion had grown more tolerant of the expression of such ideas. That was half a century before Fianna Fail and the Green Party imposed a new blasphemy law on the people of Ireland.
5. Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: “Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who’s got religion’ll tell you if your sin’s original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!”
6. Randy Newman, God’s Song, 1972: “And the Lord said: I burn down your cities – how blind you must be. I take from you your children, and you say how blessed are we. You all must be crazy to put your faith in me. That’s why I love mankind.”
7. James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: “While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death’s final ejaculation.” This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.
8. Matthias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979: “Look, I had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was that piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah.”
9. Rev Ian Paisley MEP to the Pope in the European Parliament, 1988: “I denounce you as the Antichrist.” Paisley’s website describes the Antichrist as being “a liar, the true son of the father of lies, the original liar from the beginning… he will imitate Christ, a diabolical imitation, Satan transformed into an angel of light, which will deceive the world.”
10. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1989: “In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: ‘Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.’ Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.”
11. Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”
12. Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.
13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”
14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”
15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”
16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”
17. Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera, 2003: “Actually, I’m a bit gay.” In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.
18. Tim Minchin, Ten-foot Cock and a Few Hundred Virgins, 2005: “So you’re gonna live in paradise, With a ten-foot cock and a few hundred virgins, So you’re gonna sacrifice your life, For a shot at the greener grass, And when the Lord comes down with his shiny rod of judgment, He’s gonna kick my heathen ass.”
19. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that “it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.”
20. Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world’s largest Muslim body, said it was a “character assassination of the prophet Muhammad”. The Malaysian Prime Minister said that “the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created.” Pakistan’s foreign Ministry spokesperson said that “anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence”. The European Commission said that “reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.”
21. Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”
22. PZ Myers, on the Roman Catholic communion host, 2008: “You would not believe how many people are writing to me, insisting that these horrible little crackers (they look like flattened bits of styrofoam) are literally pieces of their god, and that this omnipotent being who created the universe can actually be seriously harmed by some third-rate liberal intellectual at a third-rate university… However, inspired by an old woodcut of Jews stabbing the host, I thought of a simple, quick thing to do: I pierced it with a rusty nail (I hope Jesus’s tetanus shots are up to date). And then I simply threw it in the trash, followed by the classic, decorative items of trash cans everywhere, old coffeegrounds and a banana peel.”
23. Ian O’Doherty, 2009: “(If defamation of religion was illegal) it would be a crime for me to say that the notion of transubstantiation is so ridiculous that even a small child should be able to see the insanity and utter physical impossibility of a piece of bread and some wine somehow taking on corporeal form. It would be a crime for me to say that Islam is a backward desert superstition that has no place in modern, enlightened Europe and it would be a crime to point out that Jewish settlers in Israel who believe they have a God given right to take the land are, frankly, mad. All the above assertions will, no doubt, offend someone or other.”
24. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, 2009: “Whether a person is atheist or any other, there is in fact in my view something not totally human if they leave out the transcendent… we call it God… I think that if you leave that out you are not fully human.” Because atheism is not a religion, the Irish blasphemy law does not protect atheists from abusive and insulting statements about their fundamental beliefs. While atheists are not seeking such protection, we include the statement here to point out that it is discriminatory that this law does not hold all citizens equal.
25. Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Justice, introducing his blasphemy law at an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting, 2009, and referring to comments made about him personally: “They are blasphemous.” Deputy Pat Rabbitte replied: “Given the Minister’s self-image, it could very well be that we are blaspheming,” and Minister Ahern replied: “Deputy Rabbitte says that I am close to the baby Jesus, I am so pure.” So here we have an Irish Justice Minister joking about himself being blasphemed, at a parliamentary Justice Committee discussing his own blasphemy law, that could make his own jokes illegal.
Finally, as a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: “We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief.” Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland’s new blasphemy law.
My father was a lost cause, Granny informed us shortly after arriving to spend her final year of wisdom and illness with us, and by the time she was almost ready to be judged herself, confined to her armchair in the living room from morning until evening when he – The Great Sinner – would carry her to bed, she had given up speaking to him entirely, judging him solely with her eyes.
Despite her assurances that even a venial sin could get you barred from heaven, there were occasions when my mother’s mother was so taken with the idea of damnation that a definite hint of affection could be detected in her voice when she spoke of it. She would turn bright red as her sermonising became more vitriolic, and her eyes would seem to shine. My father called it the ‘venial glint’, and said that if she didn’t feck off to heaven soon he would have her removed from the house – or remove himself – to escape it.
Venial sins were like pennies, she told us, adding up to make a pound, and if you didn’t repent your pennies you would be left with a pound of mortal sin. I was sure that if she didn’t stop talking about venial sins my father would commit a mortal one.
My mother was a sinner by virtue of marrying my father, who was soon forced to enjoy his evening whisky in the shed. I was a sinner for not finishing my vegetables and a heathen for watching cartoons. The newsreader was a sinner for wearing make-up, the weatherman for predicting God’s wind, and the dog for being a dog. We were all doomed.
On the evening she finally departed for heaven, there was an air of quiet celebration in the house. I was allowed to watch television instead of doing my homework, my father was allowed his whisky in the living room for the first time in almost a year, and my mother sat peacefully while the colour that had drained from her face within days of Granny moving in began to return.
I wondered whether Granny was as happy as the rest of us that she was finally up in heaven, and whether her exacting standards would be too much even for the angels. My father, after a whisky too many, wondered aloud how long – if she had managed to get there – it would take for God to have her removed, now that she was living in his house, or whether the big man would simply remove himself and return to us mortals for an early second coming, just to escape that venial glint…
It was a sin to say such a thing, I was sure, but my mother said that God would understand, now that he’d finally met her in person.
Written by Chris Connolly Illustration by Thomas McCar
If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists.
Buddhism is not about either believing or not believing in God or gods. Rather, the historical Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment. In other words, God is unnecessary in Buddhism. For this reason, Buddhism is more accurately called nontheistic than atheistic.
The Buddha also plainly said that he was not a god, but “awakened.” Yet throughout Asia it is common to find people praying to the Buddha or to the many clearly mythical figures that populate Buddhist iconography. Pilgrims flock to stupas that are said to hold relics of the Buddha. Some schools of Buddhism are deeply devotional. Even in the nondevotional schools, such as Theravada or Zen, there are rituals that involve bowing and offering food, flowers and incense to a Buddha figure on an altar.
Philosophy or Religion?
Some in the West dismiss these devotional and worshipful aspects of Buddhism as corruptions of the original teachings of the Buddha. For example, Sam Harris, a self-identified atheist who has expressed admiration for Buddhism, has said Buddhism should be taken away from Buddhists. Buddhism would be so much better, Harris wrote, if it could be cleansed of the “naive, petitionary, and superstitious” trappings of religion altogether.
I have addressed the question of whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion elsewhere. I argue that it is both philosophy and religion, and the whole “philosophy versus religion” argument amounts to shoving Buddhism into ill-fitting conceptual packaging. But what about the “naïve, petitionary, and superstitious” trappings? Are these corruptions of the Buddha’s teachings? Sometimes, perhaps, they are, but sometimes they aren’t. Understanding the difference requires looking deeply beneath the surface of Buddhist teaching and practice.
Not Believing in Beliefs
It’s not just belief in gods that are irrelevant to Buddhism. Beliefs play a different role in Buddhism than in many other religions.
Buddhism is a path to “waking up,” or being enlightened, to a reality that is not consciously perceived by most of us. In most schools of Buddhism it is understood that enlightenment and nirvana cannot be conceptualized or explained with words. They must be intimately experienced to be understood. Merely “believing in” enlightenment and nirvana is pointless.
In Buddhism, all doctrines are provisional and are judged by their skillfulness. The Sanskrit word for this is upaya, or “skillful means.” Any doctrine or practice that enables realization is a upaya. Whether the doctrine is factual or not is not the point.
The Role of Devotion
No gods, no beliefs, yet Buddhism encourages devotion. How can that be?
The Buddha taught that the biggest barrier to realization is the notion that “I” am a permanent, integral, autonomous entity. It is by seeing through the delusion of ego that realization blooms. Devotion is a upaya for breaking the bonds of ego.
For this reason, the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate devotional and reverential habits of mind. Thus, devotion is not a “corruption” of Buddhism, but an expression of it.
Of course, devotion requires an object. To what is the Buddhist devoted? This is a question that may be clarified and re-clarified and answered in different ways at different times as one’s understanding of the teachings deepens.
If Buddha was not a god, why bow to Buddha-figures? One might bow just to show gratitude for the Buddha’s life and practice. But the Buddha figure also represents enlightenment itself and the unconditioned nature of all things.
In the Zen monastery where I first learned about Buddhism, the monks liked to point to the Buddha on the altar and say, “That’s you up there. When you bow, you are bowing to yourself.” What did they mean? How do you understand it? Who are you? Where do you find the self? Working with those questions is not a corruption of Buddhism; it is Buddhism.
See also the essay “Devotion in Buddhism” by Nyanaponika Thera.
All Mythological Creatures, Great and Small
The many mythological creatures and beings that populate Mahayana Buddhism art and literature are often called “gods” or “deities.” But, again, just believing in them is not the point.
Most of the time, it’s more accurate in western terms to think of the iconographic devas and bodhisattvas as archetypes rather than as supernatural beings. For example, a Buddhist might evoke the Bodhisattva of compassion in order to become more compassionate.
Do Buddhists believe these creatures exist? Certainly, in practice Buddhism has many of the same “literal versus allegorical” issues one finds in other religions. But the nature of existence is something Buddhism looks at deeply and in a different way from the way people ordinarily understand “existence.”
To Be, or Not To Be?
Usually, when we ask if something exists we are asking if it is “real,” as opposed to being a fantasy. But Buddhism begins with the premise that the way we understand the phenomenal world is delusional. The quest is to realize, or perceive, delusions as delusions.
So what’s “real”? What’s “fantasy”? What “exists”?
Libraries have been filled with the answers to those questions.
Mahayana Buddhism, which is the dominant form of Buddhism in China, Tibet, Japan and Korea, all phenomena are empty of intrinsic existence. One school of Buddhist philosophy, Madhyamika, says that phenomena exist only in relation to other phenomena. Another, called Yogachara, teaches that things exist only as processes of knowing and have no intrinsic reality.
One might say that in Buddhism, the big question is not whether gods exist, but what is the nature of existence? And what is the self?
Some medieval Christian mystics argued that it is incorrect to say that God exists, because existence amounts to taking a particular form within a space of time. God has no particular form and is outside of time. Therefore, God does not exist. However, God is. That’s an argument that many of us atheistic Buddhists can appreciate.
Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?
What Buddhists Believe
Four Noble Truths
Secular Buddhism – Have Your Say About Secular Buddhism
The Four Dharma Seals — The Four Dharma Seals Define Buddhism
Stephen Batchelor’s Confession
Buddhism and Science – How Buddhism agrees with Science
Mount Meru – Mount Meru and the Buddhist Universe
Religion or Philosophy? – Buddhism
Buddha Versus Buddhism – Buddhism
Buddhism Basics — Start Here to Learn About Buddhism
Investigating Dharma — Working With Buddhism and Buddhist Doctrines
Are Beliefs like Buddhism Religion or Philosophies? Polls on Religion
It’s not enough to point out that our political system is completely corrupted by money, including money from coal and oil and nukes and gas. Of course it is. And if we had direct democracy, polls suggest we would be investing in green energy. But saying the right thing to a pollster on a phone or in a focus group is hardly the extent of what one ought sensibly to do when the fate of the world is at stake.
Nor do we get a complete explanation by recognizing that our communications system is in bed with our political system, cooperatively pushing lies about our climate and our budget (defunding wars and billionaires is not an option, so there’s just no money for new ideas, sorry). Of course. But when the planet’s climate is being destroyed for all future generations, most of which will therefore not exist, the only sensible course of action is to drop everything and nonviolently overthrow any system of corruption that is carrying out the destruction.
Why don’t we?
Misinformation is a surface-level explanation. Why do people choose to accept obvious misinformation?
Here’s one reason: They’ve already chosen to accept other obvious misinformation to which they are deeply and passionately attached and which requires this additional self-deception. The beliefs involved correlate with poor education, so government choices to fund fossil fuels and highways and prisons and Hamid Karzai rather than schools certainly contribute. But perhaps we should confront the misinformation directly, even while pursuing the creation of an education system worthy of a civilized country.
According to a Newsweek poll, 40 percent of people in the United States believe the world will end with a battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. And overwhelmingly those who believe that, also believe that natural disaster and violence are signs of the approach of the glorious battle — so much so that 22 percent in the U.S. believe the world will end in their lifetime. This would logically mean that concern for the world of their great great grandchildren makes no sense at all and should be dismissed from their minds. In fact, a recent study found that belief in the “second coming” reduces support for strong governmental action on climate change by 20 percent.
Apart from the corruption of money, whenever you have 40 percent of Americans believing something stupid, the forces of gerrymandering in the House, disproportionate representation of small states in the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the winner-take-all two-party system that shuts many voices out of the media and debates and ballots while allowing Democrats to get elected purely on the qualification of not being Republicans, and a communications system that mainstreams Republican beliefs almost guarantees that the 40-percent view will control the government.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma (a state whose citizens get 10 times the representation in the Senate that Californians do — if one can accuse Diane Feinstein of representing anyone), says that only God could possibly change the climate, and we should stop being so arrogant — as if taking $1.4 million in campaign “contributions” from fossil-fuel profiteers and imagining that your positions are purely determined by your access to an all-powerful being who runs the universe on behalf of the 30 percent of the world raised on the same fairy tales as you isn’t an arrogant belief.
Another senator who claims to be a theist but not of the Inhofe-Shimkus variety, publicly denounced an unnamed colleague this week for pushing the don’t-worry-God-is-on-the-job line in a recent meeting.
When a large portion of the population believes that catastrophe is a good thing, rather than a bad thing, and wars are celebrated and crises bring excitement and solidarity to our lives, the influence is toxic. Of the 40 percent who believe Jesus is on his way, some no doubt believe it more than others, allow it to shape more of their other beliefs and actions. Of the other 60 percent, some are no doubt influenced to varying degrees by the armageddonists.
Belief in theism itself reaches as much as 80 percent in the United States and includes strong activists for sustainable policies, including some who passionately proselytize using the argument that only theism can save us from our apathy in the face of global warming. And there is no question that our most dedicated peace and justice activists include some strong religious believers. But theism is essentially the belief that some more powerful being is running the show. Perhaps the armageddonists haven’t really found a solution to the problem of evil (“If there is a God, he’ll have to beg forgiveness from me,” said a prisoner in a Nazi camp), but the non-armageddonist theists have never found a logical solution to the problem of free will, either. Theists can go either way and all make as little sense as each other. But they must all of necessity promote the notion that a more powerful being is in charge.
And where does that belief show up to damaging effect? In our politics it shows up primarily as an attitude toward presidents. While President Obama has spent five years working diligently to destroy our natural environment for all time to come, the largest block of those concerned about global warming have spent their time telling each other to trust in Him, that he works in mysterious ways, that he is up against the Evil One and must be allowed time to succeed in his battle. You see, the problem with theism is not that some of its spin-off beliefs succeed in an undemocratic system. The problem is that theism is anti-democratic at its core. It moves us away from relying on ourselves. It teaches us to rely on someone supposedly better than we. And the same 80 percent or so also believe in something called heaven, which renders real life far less significant even for those generations that get to experience it.
This, in turn, fuels a belief in optimism. We are all told to be optimists regardless of the facts, as if it were a personal lifestyle choice. Combine that with a belief that everything is part of a secret master plan, and you’ve got a recipe for submissive acceptance. I’ve had great activists tell me that everything will work out for the best, either because that keeps them going, or because they’ve learned that saying anything else earns them fewer speaking invitations. Hardcore optimism is compatible with active engagement. But the net effect is almost certainly a contribution to apathy.
I wish it were needless to say that I am not advocating the equally dumb position of willful pessimism. I’m proposing the unpopular position of taking the facts as they come, acting accordingly, and acting cautiously when it comes to the fate of generations as yet unborn — even if that caution requires huge sacrifices.
There are other powerful forces weighing against action as well. There is our love of technology, including our fantasies about inventing our way out of catastrophe, colonizing other planets, re-creating species. Maybe our senator friend is onto something after all when he points to arrogance. There is also greed, including our fear that living sustainably would involve living with less of the materialistic crap that currently clutters our lives and fuels our obesity. There is also the con job continuously played on us by our government that persuades so many of us that we are powerless to effect change. It’s not enough to believe that the world is being destroyed and that we humans are on our own with the plants and the other animals, if we’ve fallen for the biggest scam governments pull on their people, the lie that says they pay no attention to us. History teaches the opposite. People’s influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It’s weakened primarily by people’s failure to do anything. Impotence is a self-fulfilling loop. Those longing for the end of the world are far from alone in imagining that we don’t have the power to make the world over ourselves. Nonetheless, among the things we should be doing right now is explaining to our neighbors that Jesus isn’t coming back.