Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Category Archives: Atheism

Vatican Inc.: The Profitability of Religion and Politics

Pedo Pope, CEO

If anyone required further proof of the parasitic nature of religion,  this sums it up quite nicely:

The Vatican says it was profitable in 2010, after three years of being financially in the red.

The Vatican said Saturday that it made a profit of more than $14 million last year on revenue of about $356 million. That contrasts with a loss of nearly $6 million in 2009 and losses in 2007 and 2008 as well.

The separately administered Vatican City State also was profitable in 2010, with earnings of more than $30 million on strong ticket sales at Vatican museums.

Despite the 2010 profit, the church said that donations from churches worldwide – the so-called Peter’s Pence – fell nearly $15 million to just under $68 million. The Vatican offered no reason for the decline in donations, but sexual abuse allegations against parish priests emerged last year in Europe, traditionally a top region for donations.

At least the Vatican is being open about the fact that their crumbling religion is little more than a giant, multinational corporation with hundreds of millions of customers.   Other religions are not quite so honest, but at its core religion is little more than a rather transparent gambit to acquire ever greater wealth and power.

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American Arrested in Thailand for Criticizing the King

It is deeply disturbing that such occurrences can still take place in the year 2011:

 BANGKOK – Thai authorities said Friday they arrested an American citizen on charges he insulted the country’s monarchy, in part by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation’s ailing king.

The man is also suspected of translating, from English into Thai, portions of “The King Never Smiles” — an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej — and posting them online along with articles he wrote that allegedly defame the royal family, said Tharit Pengdith, who heads the Department of Special Investigation …

Regardless of what is taking place behind the scenes in Thailand, it is absurd that anyone can be arrested for something as petty as “criticizing” a public figure.  Of all people, those in positions of leadership are precisely the ones who need to be criticized most.  What we see taking place in Thailand is a blind devotion to a man who has been elevated to god-like status.  He is, according to an antiquated way of thinking, beyond all insults.

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Self-Destructive Religious Beliefs Strike Again: KY to Build Creationist Theme Park While Slashing Education Budget

Continuing with the anti-religious theme, let us now turn to Kentucky, where creationism apparently trumps education every time:

In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.” It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.” …

Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks. At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. …

In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.

This is the very definition of idiocy, and another prime example of why we need to fight against religious belief in every way we can.  It is not simply a matter of respecting the beliefs of others, allowing people to live according to their own wishes.  The problem, as anyone who has ever met a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim understands, is that a substantial percentage of religious people are not content to keep their views and way of life to themselves.  Spreading religion is built into the very fabric of their belief system, as is the case with every successful collection of memes.

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Christian Wackos: The World Is Going to End Today


Seriously:

 Harold Camping of the U.S.-based Christian group, Family Radio, predicted that Jesus Christ will return to earth on May 21, 2011, to take with him the good ones to heaven and leave the sinners to face the end of the world.

Sparking fury across the world, the Family Radio president said, “Earthquakes would sweep across the earth, first starting in New Zealand.”

The day, May 21, which Camping predicted to be doomsday through a series of mathematical calculations 7,000 years after Noah’s floods, has provoked many.

Of course not all Christians are this crazy, as amply demonstrated by these believers who rushed to condemn Camping’s prediction of our imminent demise:

“Do not believe the hype! No man knows the hour when all will be said and done,” he urges.

Another staunch follower of the Holy Bible, Donna L. Serino, who is a businesswoman in Philadelphia, opposes the hoax of Saturday’s end of the world, while she refers to the Act 1:7 and Matthew 24:36 in Bible.

“Jesus said, it is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, but concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” she said.

In other words, and as vjack pointed out over at Atheist Revolution, the view held by sane Christians is that the world is probably not going to end today, but don’t let your guard down because Jesus will be coming eventually.  The only catch is that our loving creator decreed that we couldn’t possibly know when he was going to return, as this would allow all of us horrible sinners to repent and therefore save ourselves from eternal damnation.  What a compassionate God!

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Christian Zealots Welcome Disaster in Japan

I recently logged on to Facebook to find this lovely little gem posted by an aunt, the wife of a Baptist pastor:

Sept 11th (NewYork) Jan 11th (Haiti) and March 11th (Japan)….Luke 21:10-11 Then jesus said to his disciples: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes’, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. ‘Jesus says for behold I come quickly. So ask yourself r u ready? Sad to say, many won’t repost this.

This ridiculous post highlights much of what is wrong with religion, and why sharing the earth with people who hold such beliefs is more dangerous than most of us realize.

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The End of Suffering

I’ve had a strange couple of weeks.  This tumultuous period began with the death of my cat, just two days before the end of 2010.  Initially I suspected that he had been poisoned – this being Thailand, after all.  A quick Google search quickly revealed, however, that he had more likely died from rabies.  In his case, the disease appears to have taken the paralytic route, a lesser known but nonetheless extremely common form of the notoriously lethal illness.

I ended up receiving rabies PEP only to later discover that the course of treatment I was administered was well beneath the standard of that recommended in the States (for those who know the score, I was given the vaccine only, without HRIG/ERIG).  Needless to say, this resulted in quite a bit of worry on my part, as I considered the (relatively small) possibility that I might be one of the unlucky few who developed symptoms of the disease more rapidly than the vaccine alone could provide immunity.

This sudden possibility of my own imminent demise necessarily lead to, amongst flashes of sheer panic, reflections on the nature of life and – at the risk of sounding cliched – our ultimate purpose here on this earth.

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Christian Wackos: 20,421 People Have Gone to Hell Since You Opened This Web Page

I come from an extremely religious family, of the fanatical Protestant type.  I grew up attending church services multiple times per week, and daily Bible study and prayer was simply a part of life.  Everything revolved around an obsessive belief in Jesus and the notion that some day, after death, we would join him for  an eternity of bliss.

Needless to say I’ve outgrown such parochial beliefs, but the majority of my family – both immediate and distant – have not.  And although this means I can’t discuss anything more than the weather with most of my family, the endless stream of wacka-wacka Christian emails and Facebook postings provides a steady source of entertainment.

Today, for instance, I was directed to the website of “100.9 The Cross,” a cheesy Gospel music station in North Carolina, with which one of my relatives is affiliated.  Now, the website in itself provided a barrel full of laughs – just check out this screen grab:

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The Decline Effect Demonstrates Strength of the Scientific Method, Not Weakness

There is a fascinating article up at the New Yorker [h/t Susie Madrak] dealing with the disturbing trend of a “decline effect” in all types of scientific research.  The article is rather lengthy but worth the read.

The gist of it is that when a newly discovered phenomena tend to be well-supported by research in the early days, but become undermined by newer studies as time goes on.  The author cites the example of “verbal overshadowing,” a concept which claims that people who try to verbally describe an experience immediately afterwards will be less likely to accurately remember it.  In the original study, it is was overwhelmingly demonstrated that verbal overshadowing exists.  As the years progressed, however, the effect became less and less pronounced in progressive studies, until even the original researcher is now unable to replicate his original findings.

The article asserts that similar occurrences are happening in a broad swathe of scientific research, from psychology to biology to pharmacology.  It suggests that the causes of the decline effect are largely grounded in pervasive biases among the experimenters.  That is, the beliefs and expectations of the scientist inadvertently alters the outcome of the experiment.  Although this phenomenon has been widely recognized, the article implies that it is far more pervasive than many would like to admit.  In fact, it even goes so far as to suggest that the scientific community is preventing discussion of the decline effect, an accusation with profound ramifications for a society as deeply dependent on science as ours.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the article was the implication that the decline could be attributed to the fact that we know so very little about existence itself:

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Bible Belters Against Sharia Law: Surprisingly, They Got It Half Right

From Mother Jones:

By now you’ve probably read about the ongoing legal wrangling over Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment to ban Sharia. There are plenty of reasons to pick on Oklahoma, but it turns out the state actually has plenty of allies in the fight against Islamic law. …

Although Oklahoma’s law is the first to come under court scrutiny, legislators in at least seven states, including Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah, have proposed similar laws, the National Conference of State Legislatures says.

For good reason, Oklahoma’s move to ban sharia law has lead to endless mockery and ridicule, largely from the left.  A remarkably homogeneous state some 80% of the population white and 85% Christian, it is readily apparent that Oklahoma does not stand in imminent danger of being plunged into Sharia law.  Yet as is strangely the norm in today’s world of doublespeak politics and shameless corporate-media-driven propaganda, the right seems in favor of restricting religious practices, while the left seeks to uphold religious freedom.

Partially, this is due to the nature of being a self-professed Republican.  Unless a person is substantially wealthy, voluntarily affiliating oneself with the Republican party is essentially tantamount to an admission of unfathomable ignorance.  It really is that simple:  the disgustingly rich and the embarrassingly uninformed represent the entirety of the Republican base.  Sadly, an integral part of being uninformed in this country seems to include being viciously prejudiced.  Thus, white Christian Republicans invariably despise – whether secretly or openly – those of other ethnicities, religions and/or sexual orientation.

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American Theocracy: Obama prays for envoy Holbrooke’s recovery

Only in the United States – and perhaps Saudi Arabia – would this make headlines:

Obama prays for envoy Holbrooke’s recovery

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Saturday night called Richard Holbrooke “a towering figure in American foreign policy” and said he is praying for the critically ill diplomat’s recovery. …

“Richard Holbrooke is a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world,” Obama said in a statement.

Obama said he had spoken to Holbrooke’s wife, Kati, on Saturday “and told her that Michelle and I are praying for Richard.”

“We continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time,” said the president.

Let’s ignore for a moment Obama’s dubious appraisal of the war-mongering Holbrooke as “a towering figure in American foreign policy,” and focus instead on our nation’s morbid fascination with the intermingling of politics and religion.

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