Thursday, July 31, 2008

One from the Road: Teetotalling Traveller

I'm writing this from Terminal 6 of Kennedy International Airport in New York, in an attempt to kill the considerable amount of time that stands between me and my flight to Pittsburgh, to finally reunite with some good friends from my exchange-student days (friends I have now spent more time away from than with).

Little did I know that July 31st is "Bring your small child to America day", as the plane was crawling with the snotty-faced urchins. The satisfaction I usually feel when I finally sit on the plane bound for wherever the hell I’m going was short lived, for my ears were immediately battered with the sounds of some screaming shit-dispenser behind me.

Before I had time to wince, a steward appeared in my vision, and told me that there was a family who would like to sit together and if I'd be willing- at which point I cut him off with a enthusiastic "yes". The flamboyant pretzel-pusher then tantalizingly promised "I'll take care of you for this" - making me excited about the prospect of a journey with a happy ending.

I was positively delighted to be putting some distance between myself and the wailing, but this proved to be a little premature. My new spot was right next to two children - one a few months old - the other three years of age at the most. The elder child and the mother were in a frenzied discussion as I joined them:

Mum, are we flying?
Not yet.
Mum, are we flying?
Not yet.
Mum, are we flying?
Not yet.
Mum, are we flying?
Not yet.
Mum are we flying?

She smiled at me, as if to say "isn't he so cute?” which I promptly shot back at her as she humoured the impetuous infant:

"Not yet."

By now the gelatinous lump on her lap decided it wasn't getting enough attention, so it let rip with a succession of shrieks, each one driving the grimace deeper into my already rather sour pus.

Thankfully, the mother was a woman of action, and she promptly shoved her tit into the tot's face, quelling his quarrelsome mood (a placating method men never grow an immunity to).

Being the polite passenger that I am, I turned away from the suckling nipper, and began to stare longingly at the empty exit-row seat. No sooner had the covetous thoughts taken a hold than a stewardess materialized from behind me and offered me the leg-roomiest spot on the plane.

The plane took off on time, and I got to spend six and a half hours, enjoying the ingenuity employed by a brother and sister pair in annoying one another. The stewardess of ambivalent offers appeared and revealed the spoils of my charitable acts: free alcohol.

Offering free booze to this teetotalling traveller meant about as much to me as my mother's assurances that she'd pray for my safe voyage.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Holy shit! A clergyman I respect

John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal bishop from Newark, N.J., talks about why Christianity must change its view of hell. Spong is one of the leading spokepersons for liberal Christianity.
This is a spiritual man who has grown sick of Christian bullshit, and is happy to hold onto a rather agnostic sense of reverence. While I don't necessarily agree with what he holds onto, I certainly hope that this movement catches on, and a more cerebral, less intrusive type of religion can remain in place for those who need the crutch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Saints and Shitters III: Triple Trouble

If you're not familiar with the Saints and Shitters series, you should check out Part 1 and Part 2 before continuing.

It's hard to believe, but five months have passed since the last documented sighting of a rather specific type of of vandalism.

"The Bible is the word of God - A Priest". So far this message has been found scrawled in permanent marker inside of mensrooms in Limerick, Clare and Galway.

Today, I present the latest confirmed victim of this evangelical-epidemic; the Limerick City Library's male toilets. After receiving a tip from (one-time Sully's Blog contributor) Dermot, I called over to the library and jumped into the cubicle closest to the door. The dim light made for a crappy camera-phone picture, but serves to illustrate what was there. Just underneath the coat hanger was some misguided bastard's slogan; a specimen that matched the graphology of the previous ones exactly:

I moved onto the next cubicle, to see yet again, the meaningless collection of words underneath the coat hanger:

In the third and final cubicle, I found the most intriguing example of the toilet-dwelling priest's handiwork:

Note that "Priest" has been crossed off twice, and replaced with "pervert" and "liar". Obviously this means, that like most criminals, the author of this endeavour has returned to the crime scene - at least three times! His cubicle-debating skills are astonishing - note how he has cleverly drawn a line underneath his signature, effectively separating himself from the name-calling underneath... Well played sir.

Despite being crossed out twice and replaced with a slur against his character, this man has returned each time to insist that he is - in fact, a priest. That's one pathetic persistent vandalising clergyman!

Dear reader, do your part to report these happenings! Next year I will be launching the Committee for Secular Cubicles to tackle this issue with the fervour it deserves... Until then - let me know of any crapper-based religious shenanigans via the comments!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Watch 20 children get molested...

... mentally, of course.

The following video is fairly old, and I first watched it about three months ago, but in honour of "mock-an-easy-target month" (working title), I thought I'd post it. It's a newspiece from ABC, called "Biblically-correct tours". The premise is that two religious "fuckwits" [Thanks, PZ] take a group of home-schooled children through a legitimate museum, ridiculing any scientific aspects that don't fit with their ridiculous religious beliefs, and obfuscating everything else.

Thankfully, the newspiece is sufficiently sceptical of their nonsense, which helps to restore my tarnished faith in the mass media (and saves me a bit of typing!). Whilst watching this perversion of science, I had to pause every minute or so to involuntarily exclaim, like a Tourette's sufferer, at the absolute stupidity of what I was witnessing. Whilst this video is quite hilarious in its outright absurdity, it's also utterly infuriating.

Science isn't limited by superstitious notions that cannot be challenged - it doesn't start with a framework that everything has to be hamfistedly stuffed into. Nor is it decided in the courts. Reframing evolution as a "philosophy" or "religion" is absurd, and done only because it is not a part of evangelical Christianity. Just to further reflect on how insane this is - the Catholic Church officially accept evolution - (and the pope has a blinking-red-bat-phone direct to God!). We know that science works because people who have never talked to each other can come to the same conclusions through empirical observations; a feat lacking not only in different religious creeds, but also their spin-off denominations. These people are getting so wrapped up in the minutiae of their allegorical fables that they are beginning to unravel the progress of our civilisation as a whole!

Indoctrinating a child with religious beliefs is bad enough, but actively crippling their understanding of the world, and planting crackpot theories is absolutely child abuse. Does anyone else feel disturbed after witnessing just how shameless and brazen the efforts of the religious right are to unravel human knowledge?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Christians? Crackers!

In December ’06, during my fourth month or so in the States, I had to do a “cultural breakdown” of some public event, and contemplate it at a level people generally don’t. I made casual reference to this in a blog entry at the time, but didn’t go too far into the polemical specifics, as I had yet to embrace representing the full extent of my beliefs on this blog.

It was supposed to be a 'cultural breakdown,' but since I winged it and was deulsionally tired, it turned into a ten minute lecture on why everybody should be agnostic.

The thesis of the presentation was that ‘faith‘ is just reframed superstition, and anyone who invokes it is openly declaring their lack of intellectual integrity. It was my first public denunciation of childish beliefs, and most greeted it with a stunned silence, or laughed at the absurdity of what the large Irish man was saying.

The presentation was borne out of the frustration I felt at being surrounded by so many people who seemed to punctuate their sentences with allusions to religious dogma, and the general lack of scepticism with which they approached all topics, as a system of binary oppositions seemed to define most; democrat/republican, pro-life/pro-choice, “global warming is real”/ “global warming is a scare-tactic by liberals”. I'm also keen to point out that I had yet to hear of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or any others in the atheistic movement before moving ahead with my diatribe.

Anyhow – as part of my project, I attended a Catholic mass, went up for communion for the first time in years, (forgot what came after “Body of Christ” and said “cheers” instead of "amen"), and slipped the communion-wafer into my pocket, so I had something for show-and-tell. The presence of the communion-wafer on my study desk made my suitemates a little uneasy at first, but it didn’t take long for them to give up on my hell-bound soul.

Why am I bringing this up again? I just read a blog entry by the legendary PZ Myers, in which he highlights a story that is a reflection on the sorry state of our species, which tells the tale of young Webster Cook, who “smuggled a Eucharist[...] out of mass, didn't eat it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it”. This incident is hardly newsworthy on its own grounds, until you factor in the immensely stupid response of the religious, who have accused him of hate crime, condemned his “mortal sin” (sending him straight to hell when he dies), and are actively trying to get him expelled from school!

Let’s have PZ break it down:

That's right. Crazy Christian fanatics right here in our own country have been threatening to kill a young man over a cracker. This is insane. These people are demented fuckwits.

PZ Myers is an educated man. A scientist, even. Who teaches biology. Biology is a science which furthers our understanding of ourselves and the world, and is therefore important. And these people just made him say “fuckwit”.

Of course, as appalled as I am by this story, my overriding narcissism has to kick in, and I have to think about myself for a moment. When I made that presentation in Pittsburgh, I decided not to use the cracker at the last minute, thinking that my classmates would cry “offensive!” and not listen to what I was actually saying. Not only would I have committed a “hate crime” by removing the magical Jesus-bread (listen to how stupid your beliefs sound, Catholics!), but I would have used it as a prop in a 10-15 minute “hate-speech” against Christians. They probably would have tried to get me deported, and at the least, it would have destroyed my chances of staying a second semester.

Unsurprisingly, PZ Myers is now being attacked by the pitchfork-brandishing “fuckwits”, merely for reporting on the issue, and treating it with the reverence it deserved:

I have received 39 pieces of personal hate mail of varying degrees of literacy, all because I was rude to a cracker ... I even have one email that says I should be fired, that the author would like to kill me, and that I only criticize because Catholics are so gentle and kind.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

C'mon readers, time to give something back...

So now that I've finished with college, society informs me that the next step expected of me is to enter the workplace. Since I've decided I quite like this writing lark, I'll be pursuing it as a means of putting food in my belly and gimmicky electrical devices in my house.

The only problem with trying to get hired as a writer is that people expect me to provide them with examples of how I write. Since the amount of stuff I've bothered to get published is minuscule (and I didn't keep copies of most of it), I'm going to try and use my blog as an example of what I'm about. The only problem with this is that sending a potential employer to my blog would lead to pointless posts like this!

Here's the solution: over the next few days I'll be going through the past entries of the blog, tagging the best of them with a label like "hireme". Would-be employers come to my blog via and voila! No pointless posts to endure!

Anyhow - I'll be requiring suggestions and advice via the comments - every entry that I tag or am thinking of tagging will be linked from there. So get to it! What posts make me look good?