Aug 31, 2014

We Are Legion and We Are Tactless

One of the most consistently baffling things to me about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is their tone-deafness. Do these Church officials really not know how out of touch they seem when they answer outrage over vile abuses with platitudes about forgiveness for perpetrators? The rush to forgive their own brethren left countless children vulnerable to non-rehabilitatable criminals. This was nowhere more true than with one of the Church's most notorious offenders: Marcial Maciel Degollado.

And they're still doing it.

Even as they are wrestling with lawsuits from his victims, his children, and the descendents of elderly people his organization bilked out of their fortunes, the Legionaries of Christ scramble to protect his legacy and his name. And of course they do it in an attempt to do what Maciel did best: raise money.

They have already raised $40 million of a needed $100 million to support an outrageous land-grab in the Holy Land. On the ruins of an ancient temple, they intend to build a new complex including a luxury hotel -- how very Maciel of them.

At issue is a women's institute promoted with a brochure entitled Magdala: God Really Loves Women. Yes, it's so nice the way God keeps forgiving women for being sexual creatures. Worse, it equates the Magdalene with Maciel. (I actually got a little queasy just typing that sentence.) The brochure text is truly unbelievable.

Aug 28, 2014

Bergholz Amish Win Appeal

It brings me no joy to report that Sam Mullet and his Bergolz Amish followers have won a victory in an appeals court and may "become loose" against the express wishes of many local Amish.

A deeply divided ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals went against the jury's determination that the hair-cutting attacks, with which Mullet's minions terrorized the greater Amish community, constituted a religious hate crime.

The majority of those convicted had already completed, or nearly completed their sentences. The real issue, as ever, is with Bishop Mullet, whose fifteen year sentence offered his community a life free of his sexual demands on the women, physical abuse of their husbands, and the psychological control he exerts over all of his Bergholz Amish.

It is not illegal to run a cult. It is not illegal to extort sexual favors from adult women, in most cases. It is not even illegal to consign grown men to incarceration in chicken coops. It is illegal to terrorize neighboring communities with physical abuse and assaults on their dignity, and it is for this that Mullet and his co-conspirators were convicted.

The larger question from the beginning has been whether cutting off the hair and beards of other Amish constituted a hate crime, in other words, were the crimes motivated by religion.

Aug 22, 2014

Negative Thinking Associated with Longer Life

"The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." ~ George F. Will

The data in support of "negative thinking" keeps piling up. I have posted a number of things about studies and assessments showing that staying positive doesn't necessarily bring positive results for either our physical or mental health, and can even be detrimental. See here, here, here, here, here, and here, for a start.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal addresses some of the newer findings that show pessimism and negativity can be better for you, depending on the circumstances and your natural disposition.

Experts say pessimism can at times be beneficial to a person's physical and mental well-being. Some studies have found that having a more negative outlook of the future may result in a longer and healthier life. Pessimism and optimism are opposite ends of a spectrum of personality traits, and people generally fall somewhere in between. 

One study found that older people who were pessimistic about aging had better health outcomes and greater longevity.

A study published last year in the journal Psychology and Aging found that older people with pessimistic views of the future were more likely to live longer and healthier lives than those with a rosier outlook. The researchers used data from a nationally representative survey in Germany of about 11,000 people. Among other questions, people were asked how satisfied they were with their lives and how satisfied they thought they would be in five years.

Aug 9, 2014

Dawkins Keeps Digging

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Does someone maybe want to take the shovel away from Richard Dawkins? 

His recent Twitter battle, discussed here, is having a ripple effect I don't think he expected or intended. It's rather interesting to see Richard Dawkins so completely on the defensive. He did, after all, set out to do what he does best -- use logic and reason to make sure everyone who disagrees with his world view knows how stupid they are. But it backfired and brought him a lot of negative feedback, even from some atheists. I think he may be learning the hard way that it's not as easy to get away with belittling women as it used to be.

His latest post on the issue shows him to be in full damage control mode and you know what they say: If you're explaining, you're losing.

I have briefly explained (it’s in An Appetite for Wonder) that, as a small boy, I was the victim of a pedophile teacher in the school squash court. He pulled me on his knee, put his hand inside my shorts and fiddled for about half a minute. It was very unpleasant, but it didn’t ruin my life and I had the temerity to say so in my memoir and elsewhere. I had the effrontery to downplay my experience and imply that it could have been worse. The teacher could, for example, have . . . well, I didn’t specify details, but anyone can fill in some of the appalling things that have happened to other children of both sexes.

Pandemonium in the Pigeon-lofts. Freethought Feeding Frenzy. “Dawkins actually said – I kid you not – that his experience in the squash court wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened. Wow, just wow. Where has he been these past few years? Doesn’t everyone nowadays know there are NO gradations? All cases are exactly equally bad. How dare Dawkins BELITTLE the horrors of pedophiliac assault?”

Aug 1, 2014

The Richard Dawkins Problem

Richard Dawkins has stepped on his crank. Again.

Another day, another tweet from Richard Dawkins proving that if non-conscious material is given enough time, it is capable of evolving into an obstreperous crackpot who should have retired from public speech when he had the chance to bow out before embarrassing himself.

“Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse,” huffs Dawkins. Seeming to have anticipated, although not understood, the feminist reaction this kind of sentiment generally evokes, he finishes the tweet: “If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.”

I've really written very little about Dawkins, the man, and restricted my criticism to his dogmatic atheism and his disingenuousness in that arena. He has a long history of intemperate, ignorant, and insensitive remarks, particularly in the areas of gender politics and sexual violence. I've never thought it deserved a free-standing post because it's not really relevant to discussions of his atheist views. This is, I think, for reasons articulated in that same article.