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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
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.
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.
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.
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!
Yesterday, news broke of the alleged death of Osama Bin Laden. The announcement was greeted with unrestrained jubilation, as thousands of Americans took to the streets, wrapping themselves in American flags and chanting, “USA! USA!” Is this really how we wish to define ourselves as Americans? Regardless of what atrocities Bin Laden may have committed in life, how can any thinking person take pleasure in the death of another human being? And does it really solve any of our problems?
The answer, quite clearly, is no. If anything, the announcement of Bin Laden’s death will simply create more problems. The image above from New York’s Daily News adequately sums up the the crassness to which Americans have stooped, reveling not just in the physical death of a human, but also in the fictional afterlife in which he will face eternal suffering. And it is the reference to this fictional afterlife, a religious symbol, that is truly disturbing, as it paints American actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan in religious terms. Bin Laden, an Islamic leader, was killed by a nation which, according to most of its politicians, professes to be Christian, while the US media proclaims his everlasting condemnation to the Christian hell.
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.
As some readers may know, I had the extreme misfortune of being stranded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a solid seven months of my life. I was drawn by the relatively high salary, but quickly realized that some things just aren’t worth the money.
What you see above is a shot taken in one of Riyadh’s most bustling neighborhoods, just outside of Bathaa. Bathaa is known as the immigrant area, or as some of my Pakistani colleagues liked to call it, Little Karachi. Unlike most of Riyadh, which was intolerably sterile and devoid of pedestrian activities of any kind, Bathaa actually felt like a city. But the sense of oppression was tangible; the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian immigrant laborers were, for all intents, slaves. Although they were paid a negligible amount for their services, they were literally held hostage at the whim of their Saudi employer. I can speak from experience when I say that Saudi employers can be savagely ruthless.
It is the American addiction to Saudi oil that allows this system of modern slavery to exist. And the hideous, rubble-strewn streets of Riyadh are testament to the fact that absolutely nothing constructive is being done with the unfathomable sums of money we’ve been funneling into Saudi Arabia for the last sixty years. Riyadh is among the ugliest, most under-developed cities I have ever visited – slightly above the capital cities of, say, Laos and Cambodia, but remarkably impoverished for what is purportedly the wealthiest city on earth. It is estimated that upwards of $1 billion dollars of profit funnel through Riyadh on any given day, but by and large the city and its residents – particularly its foreign residents – have seen very little of those riches.
The Saudi monarchy is corrupt. The Imams who wield the real power in Saudi culture are so obsessed with enforcing a millennia-old moral and legal code that they have little concern left for such arbitrary matters as social development or progress. And yet Saudi Arabia remains one of our strongest allies in the region, a supposed friend of democracy in spite of its atrocious record of flagrant human rights violations and its openly professed antipathy for the very concept of self-governance.
The moral of the story here is that our oil addiction has some ugly consequences, beyond the obvious implications of climate change. It’s time to lay off the oil, folks.
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:
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.
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.