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A designer world?

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  • Andy Mulcahy
    If the creationists are right and this universe is actually designed, all the evidence so far suggests that cruelty, agony and death are its parameters. First
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 4, 2002
      If the creationists are right and this universe is actually
      designed, all the evidence so far suggests that cruelty, agony and
      death are its parameters.
      First off, this Designer obviously created
      us as a food supply for the planet, much like the sheep and
      the cow. We are meat, and one glance at our fangs and claws
      tells the rest of the story. This Designer clearly practices
      conservation by requiring that all life be recycled. All animals must
      destroy and consume another form of life, whether it be plant or
      animal, in order to survive. Life consumes life.
      What makes this so much worse is that it is done without the
      slightest consideration for the prey; in many cases, small animals
      eat their prey alive because they cannot kill it outright.
      And many insects lay their eggs in another, and when the
      eggs hatch, they begin to slowly eat away at their living host,
      hour by hour. Imagine.
      Indeed, as Dawkins points out, in the time it takes to read
      this many thousands of creatures will be screaming in terror as their
      hungry pursuers hunt them down, many thousands more are whimpering in
      agony as others chew into their bodies, eagerly ripping them open,
      helping themselves to their organs, their flesh.
      We may think of us as immune to this real
      world unless we are unfortunate enough to get caught by a crocodile or
      shark, but if we look a little more closely, we will note that cancer,
      strokes and viruses crouch eagerly in the shadows, eyeing us
      Now the scientists say this is just nature - it is
      not cruel at all, it just evolved this way. But if we are to
      believe the creationists and assume there is a knowing Designer, then
      that Designer must be terribly sadistic, terribly cruel. And the
      innate zest for life that sends the young deer, fascinated by the
      world about him, out into the perilous forest must simply be a sly
      and cruel way to set it up for its eventual kill.
      For our own sake let's hope there is no designer in
      this real world. We are much better off in a disinterested
      universe that couldn't care less should we find a way to beat
      the system.
      And, surely, if there is a Designer - no matter how mighty--
      it would be far, far better for us to walk courageously, proudly, into
      the jaws of its eternal hell than kneel before the despicable
    • Andy Mulcahy
      From globeandmail.com, Saturday, March 16, 2002 The blaspheming bishop The post-retirement project of former Anglican bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway
      Message 2 of 4 , Mar 19, 2002
        From globeandmail.com, Saturday, March 16, 2002

        The blaspheming bishop
        The post-retirement project of former Anglican bishop<BR>
        of Edinburgh Richard Holloway seems to be to question<BR>
        all the doctrine he ever professed. As he told JOHN
        he now thinks Christianity might be just an immature
        in the evolution of human moral thinking

        Religions need their heretics. Church leaders may prefer to
        burn them at the stake (the medieval solution) or ostracize
        them by press release (the marginally more charitable,
        modern alternative). But to survive in a secular world, even
        an orthodoxy needs creative dissent.

        Richard Holloway has taken on the task of forcing
        Christianity to adapt -- which is to say that many in his
        native Britain regard him as a dangerous atheist. The
        announcement that the 68-year-old retired Anglican bishop of
        Edinburgh had been invited to host the BBC's Good Friday
        religious program led to charges that the BBC was
        deliberately persecuting Christianity.

        Holloway doesn't come out and announce himself as a heretic,
        or even (almost as disturbing to obedient Christians) a
        prophet. But in two skeptical books about Christianity and
        its values, he plays those roles like they were made for

        Just the titles of the two books are enough to make obedient
        Christians think un-Christian thoughts. The 1999 volume,
        Godless Morality,argues that the continued use of God in
        debates about pressing modern issues is an intellectual dead

        If you say your moral position is divinely inspired, it
        closes off all debate, which may well be the intention. Once
        established, such positions cannot be changed, even when
        they're revealed as manifestly unjust, which produces the
        unhappy conclusion that God is either immoral or
        misrepresented by the deity's human agents. Better to leave
        God out, the bishop decided, if we are going to solve human
        problems by human means.

        Having rejected the moral authority of an omnipotent God,
        Holloway has now turned his subversive mind to church
        doctrines in Doubts and Loves: What Remains of Christianity.
        Not much, if you take his advice -- at least of the
        traditional church, which he sees as a toxic mixture of bad
        science and worse politics.

        "One of the indisputable facts of our time," Holloway writes
        with characteristic directness in Doubts and Loves, "is the
        gradual reduction of God's role in the specific management
        of the world: As our knowledge of the universe increases,
        God's function shrinks, until little is left except a
        feeling of absence or a vague sense of bereavement.

        "It's true that a generalized belief in God persists widely,
        but it has lost much of the explanatory clarity it once

        Holloway compares the position of God in the modern era to
        Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat -- slowly disappearing, until
        all that remains is a smile suspended in the air. And with
        God more or less out of the way, Christians,
        Christians-in-exile and even non-believers are freed, to
        read the Bible not as bad science or outmoded morality but
        as good poetry.

        "Maybe I'm in the final phase of a recovery program from
        religion," the tall, lean Holloway joked on a recent visit
        to Toronto, over a luxuriantly simple smoked-salmon sandwich
        on whole-wheat bread that he specially commanded from the
        restaurant kitchen. "And maybe I'll recover completely and
        find myself right outside.

        "But I kind of hope not, because Christianity -- and indeed
        all the great Abrahamic religions -- are the bearers of
        fundamental human values that we invented alongside all the
        diseased stuff. And I think that if we can now own that,
        then we can say, 'Yeah, there's good stuff here.' Let's
        liberate it from all the other stuff that clearly has an
        understandable history but is now a dead paradigm."

        Science and history have undone many of the Bible's
        fundamental truths, however reluctant most church leaders
        are to point out the fact, lest they be scourged by
        traditionalists. "I bet most of the Canadian Anglican
        bishops don't believe in hell except as some kind of
        metaphor," Holloway said. "But they're still tied to some
        kind of realism in the way they do theology. They still
        haven't made that logical cut, the transition that allows us
        to see it all as a way of talking to ourselves about our own
        pathologies and glories."

        Holloway views religion as a human-created structure that
        necessarily moves with the times that shape it. His
        description of basic Christianity's evolution is very much
        that of a rationalist: "We were thrown into life with no
        procedural manual supplied so we had to spend a lot of time
        trying to figure it out for ourselves, and supernatural
        religion was one of the first explanations we came up with."

        What astonishes him is how much of religion's primitive
        force endures -- or at least is allowed to endure by church
        authorities. "The critical approach to scripture has been
        around for 300 years, but most priests would rather not
        challenge what people fondly believe about Christmas.

        "They don't see that you can preach an honest way of
        thinking with those Nativity narratives," he said. "They're
        still packed with meaning and imaginative historicizing of
        prophetic passages in the Old Testament. But they'd rather
        talk about the three wise guys and a kind of satellite that
        leads them on, and keep everyone in a state of infantility."

        The history of Christianity, as he likes to say, may only be
        humanity clearing its throat before the great song comes
        out. Religion he likens to the rocket that gets the
        satellite up into space. "The role of Christianity and the
        other great religions in human history," he said, "is to put
        into human orbit certain fundamental values about justice
        and compassion and care for the downtrodden, a reverence for
        everything that is, an attitude to everything that's not
        plunderous. And then the rocket falls away."

        Holloway cites Jacques Derrida's writing about the
        Christianization of the world beyond the church, and how
        forgiveness should be seen as a human need apart from its
        metaphysical foundations. In his pluralistic version of
        whatever form of Christianity remains after he's done with
        it, he's willing to put up with believers who are more fixed
        in their beliefs -- provided they do no harm.

        "I don't mind if you believe in the literal resurrection,"
        he said in his calmest argumentative voice. "But if it
        simply sticks between your ears like a piece of rarefied
        metaphysic, then it's not making the slightest difference to

        What bothers him most, and rouses his antagonism toward
        organized religion, is when those traditional beliefs are
        invested with superior moral qualities and start issuing the
        condemnations that fundamentalists adore. "You believe in a
        realistic, omnipotent, dictating God? That's fine. But when
        that God starts dictating that women are subordinate to men,
        sodomites should be stoned and slavery is all right, then
        you reach a crisis. And when the consequential impact of the
        apparently inconsequential odd belief hurts people, that's
        when you have to say, 'Sorry, I must challenge this.' "

        For Holloway, the points of crisis in his own church
        involved the subordinate role of women and the hostile
        attitude toward gays and lesbians. He credited a landmark
        Anglican bishops' conference in 1998, where the liberal
        forces in the church were routed by conservatives on the
        gay-and-lesbian issue, with radically transforming his
        attachment to institutional religion.

        "I became allergic to being in rooms with bishops after
        that," he said. "Their primary job is to preserve the church
        as an institution. I don't think institutional continuity
        provides the biggest moral purpose in life. Whenever there's
        a paradigm shift, a new stage of culture, the people
        invested in maintaining the structure, as is always, resist
        the new thing that's coming. And they very often end up
        killing the institution because they refuse to let it

        But there's a fundamental paradox to Holloway's theory of
        Christian adaptation: When the church does adapt, it does so
        at the cost of its authority. The emancipation of women in
        the Protestant churches, despite all that scripture and
        tradition said to the contrary, made everything else
        relative. "We now know that none of the things we agree to
        has absolute authority, that they're all subject to change.
        This means that we can no longer call these ideas absolute
        or say they were dictated by God. They were clearly dictated
        by us and created by us."

        You can almost see his God smiling at the joke.

        * * * * * * * *
        "The Scientific approach, then, is not merely
        a matter of taste for Humanists,to be applied
        or ignored at will. It is instead, integral..."
        Dr. Pat Duffy Hutcheon
      • Andy Mulcahy
        From globeandmail.com, Tuesday, March 19, 2002 Sins of the fathers and the church MARGARET WENTE In Boston, Catholics are demanding the head of Bernard
        Message 3 of 4 , Mar 19, 2002
          From globeandmail.com, Tuesday, March 19, 2002

          Sins of the fathers and the church


          In Boston, Catholics are demanding the head of Bernard
          Cardinal Law, the top Catholic prelate in the United States,
          for sheltering a pedophile priest for decades.

          In Florida, the popular bishop of Palm Beach has resigned in
          disgrace after he was exposed for molesting two teenage boys
          back in the 1970s. He had been brought in to clean up the
          mess left by the previous bishop, who also had resigned in
          disgrace for sexual misconduct.

          Across America, Catholics are discovering just how far the
          cover-up extends. It turns out that their churches have
          sheltered hundreds of abusive priests over the years and cut
          secret deals with complainants to buy their silence. They
          protected the abusers while harassing the abused. It is a
          crisis that is perhaps just beginning.

          "I always said going to church was setting the right example
          for my kids," one Catholic mother told The New York Times.
          "Now I am just so glad my son has never been an altar boy."

          Why did church officials learn so little from the last round
          of scandals? What's the matter with the church? And what's
          the matter with the priests?

          The debate is going to be a scorcher. Some people are
          blaming the church's unrealistic and unenforceable demand
          for priestly celibacy. Some people are blaming its poor
          training programs and its abysmal ignorance of human
          sexuality. And some people are blaming homosexuals.

          "People with these inclinations just cannot be ordained,"
          said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, spokesman for the Pope, in The
          New York Times.

          That could be a problem, because gay men make up a
          disproportionate number of Catholic priests. Richard Sipe, a
          psychologist and former priest, says as many as half the
          priests and seminarians in the U.S. are gay.

          The evidence is that gay men are no more likely to become
          pedophiles (people who abuse prepubescent children) than
          heterosexuals. But the vast majority of abuse cases in the
          church don't involve young children at all. They involve
          teenage boys.

          "Whatever you want to call the phenomenon that exists, there
          are too many cases that involve teenage boys to ignore the
          psychodynamic complexity of the gay-clergy culture," says
          Jason Berry, who wrote a book about abuse in the church.

          In Canada, the church (which did learn from earlier
          scandals, and adopted a policy of zero tolerance), frames
          the issue as one of celibacy, not sexual orientation.
          Suzanne Scorsone, spokesperson for the archdiocese of
          Toronto, says that, although the church officially regards
          homosexuality as a "disorder," gay men can be good priests
          if they keep their vows.

          Other people suspect it's the church that suffers from a
          sexual disorder. It has long been a haven for the
          emotionally immature, the misfits, and people who hope that
          a vow of celibacy will somehow resolve their sexual
          confusion. "The system that currently operates in the
          Catholic Church with its phobia about sexuality, its poor
          educational program for priests, and mandated celibacy sets
          up good men to fail and opens the door for bad men to wreak
          havoc," writes Peter Mullen, a former priest.

          Zero tolerance "is something that Canadian bishops
          understand well now," says Monsignor Peter Schonenbach,
          general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Bishops. Ms.
          Scorsone says, "There is no one in pastoral ministry in this
          archdiocese who has a history of abuse." But that is not
          true of all dioceses, each of which makes policy

          Two years ago, a woman, Elizabeth McKenna, reached a
          settlement with the archdiocese of Sault Ste. Marie over a
          case of sexual abuse by a priest that began when she was 17
          and lasted more than 10 years. In a third-party action
          between insurers in the case, a judge said the priest's
          conduct amounted to sexual battery. The bishop apologized to
          Ms. McKenna, but the priest still has his job. "He is a very
          holy man," the bishop said recently.

          Other priests with a history of abuse are still in business,
          too, according to their victims. Some have simply been
          shifted to the United States. Father Schonenbach
          acknowledges that the church is re-examining the practice of
          "reinsertion" -- allowing a priest to stay a priest if the
          church thinks he won't reoffend -- because people will no
          longer tolerate it.

          Today, dioceses across the United States are scouring their
          files and reporting priests to prosecutors -- sometimes,
          anyone who was under suspicion at any time in the past 40
          years. Each day, more victims come forward. The cost of
          settling the civil suits will mount into the hundreds of
          millions. And some people are warning about a witch-hunt
          that will bring down the innocent along with the guilty, and
          sweep away the men who once did something foolish along with
          the most hardened pedophiles.

          It never would have happened if the church hadn't
          stonewalled, and if it had faced the facts of life long ago.


          * * * * * * * *
          "The Scientific approach, then, is not merely
          a matter of taste for Humanists,to be applied
          or ignored at will. It is instead, integral..."
          Dr. Pat Duffy Hutcheon
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