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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion

15/07/2016

Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya, Nice… and these are just a handful of the places to have suffered grave and unimaginable losses due to terrorism so far in 2016.

And we can shout “Terrorism has no religion!” until our throats are dry, but it is a lie.

Because all those lives have been lost not just to terrorism, but to ISLAMIC terrorism. I reiterate again, that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

Most of those Muslims carrying out attacks in the West were born and brought up in the countries they appear to hate so very much, by parents who (I imagine) moved here for a better life. In order to try and stem the advance of this carnage, and the divisive social and political disintegration it causes, we need to stop coming out with both excuses and blanket condemnations, and start concentrating our efforts on finding out why these people hate with such vehemence.

We need to find out how they could become so radicalised against the relatively mild background of democratic Western Europe.

Is it disaffected youth, whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters?

Is it the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions?

Is it the ease with which religion feeds into the innate and divisive human trait of seeking a righteous “us” versus an immoral “them”?

We need to find out whether their families, friends and communities simply fail to notice this radicalisation process taking place, whether their sense of kinship is stronger than their compassion for the innocent men women and children of their host countries, or whether the numbers of the complicit are higher than we dare imagine.

Most importantly , we must ensure that within our message of democratic freedom, a very clear emphasis is put on a secular Freedom of Religion. Not the freedom to do whatever you please in the name of religion, but the freedom for everyone to believe whatever they please and to live as they please, providing it is not detrimental to others and whilst understanding that religion is a personal choice, not a political or a moral framework.

And for all those who feel that the only trigger for these attacks is clumsy Western intervention in the Middle East, what about those Muslims who kill other Muslims for being the wrong sort of Muslim? What about those Muslims who kill ex-Muslims simply because they no longer believe in Allah? What about those Muslims who kill other Muslims simply because they have dared questioned some of the tenets of Islam?

I have no solutions to the sickness currently affecting Islam, but pretending it is not there is the height of stupidity.

Nice wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Brussels, Iraq, Bangladesh, Turkey, Orlando, Syria, Libya and Nice, cry for them and mourn with them, just don’t pray for them, for more religion is the last thing they need.

Status Viatoris

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives…

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Just Don’t Pray

14/11/2015

Charlie Hebdo, the apparently unstoppable rise of ISIS, refugees dying in European waters and now Paris.

Trying to make some sense of it all and attempt an opinion based on head and not heart is the hardest thing. The current trend of relying on the rhetoric of those who (albeit with the best of intentions) insist on turning the grey tones of reality into a feel-good monochrome of good vs evil and right vs wrong, is as harmful to the freedom of thought and expression as everything they believe they are taking a stand against.

Maybe some people sleep more easily at night if they have spent their day championing their chosen unfortunates through social media memes and surprisingly vitriolic attacks on those whose opinions they consider less altruistic – I am sure the certainty of their place on the moral high ground is some comfort to them in an increasingly chaotic world. But I am not convinced that their positions, as loudly as they proclaim them, are thought through with any real honesty.

I previously addressed the apologist “It’s not Islam” argument here, and although I am not going to bore you all with it again, I have to reiterate that although most Muslims are not extremist terrorists, most extremist terrorists are Muslim. And they ARE Muslim. It is dangerously naive to declare otherwise. Islam, like all Abrahamic religions, can be interpreted pretty much any way suits an adherent’s lifestyle. An extremist Muslim is just as much a Muslim as a moderate Muslim, they just take different messages from their holy book. And as long as Allah continues to resist making a personal appearance in order to mediate and clarify, that will remain the case.

It is not ‘racist’, it is not ‘discriminatory’, it is not ‘Islamophobia’. It is simply fact.

A few months after Charlie Hebdo the mass arrival by sea began and after that the heartbreaking images of Aylan Kurdi, sparking a massive response from an aghast European audience who were quick to assure the struggling refugees that they would be welcomed in Europe: an understandable reaction to the sight of a tiny body – victim of his family’s attempts to give him a more stable future, but was it really the solution?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) only serve to propel yet more people into the arms of utterly inhumane people smugglers and their unseaworthy vessels?

Surely the prospect of a relatively indiscriminate welcome in Europe would (and indeed has) encourage economic migrants to try to pass as legitimate refugees in order to take advantage of the situation?

Where is this huge influx of migrants going to live?

What are they going to survive on?

Where are they going to work?

How is Europe going to ensure that such large numbers of people are able to fully integrate into European life, and assimilate the European values that have made this the relatively successful group of countries people wish to flee to?

What explanation is there for the fact that there are children of previous Muslim immigrants – young adults born in Europe and brought up surrounded by European life and values – now taking part in murderous attacks on their countries of birth?

Who is going to rebuild countries like Syria if the brightest and best (or at least those with the funds to pay the immoral people smugglers) have been encouraged to attempt new lives for themselves in Europe?

The West has demonstrated time and again its total incomprehension of the cultural and historical mindset of Islamic countries – intervention by Western leaders is partly to blame for the spreading Jihadist mess the world finds itself in today – but is there another way in which the general populations of these countries can be given support other than the minefield (excuse the pun) of military intervention, or mass emigration?

Sadly I don’t have the answers I am only consumed by the questions, and perturbed by the attempts of some to simplify a highly complex situation by whitewashing many of the most pertinent issues, whilst allowing knee-jerk sentiment to drive their social judgements and political demands.

While the voices that appear to be shouting the loudest on the UK platform are those mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this post, the story in Italy is a very different one, partly (amongst a host of other reasons) due to the fact that Italy has long been obeying Europe’s orders to rescue and offer safe haven to boatloads of illegal immigrants, with very little back-up. Most of the memes I have seen circling here depict variations on a theme of happy immigrants living off obscenely generous government hand-outs, whilst Italian grannies hunt through the bins for scraps. No more factual than the mock-up of David Cameron, surfboard under his arm, stepping over Aylan’s corpse, but just as inflammatory – the savaging I got for taking one Italian social media commentator to task still boils my blood whenever I pass the man on the street.

So I was curious to see what would happen when a group of illegal immigrants arrived to be housed in the village. Dad, mum and small son from Ghana, two women in their early twenties from Nigeria, and two sisters of a similar age from Senegal.

The muttering from some quarters can probably be heard in Brussels (the village further up the hill got a large consignment of young African men, and the weight of the villagers’ displeasure led to the Mayor submitting his resignation) but a surprising number have been supportive of this development. And whilst the Ghanaian parents are so reserved I cannot quite see how they are going to begin making their way here, their six-year old son is already the life and soul of the party and as for the two Senegalese sisters, well they have brought with them an almost tangible sense of joie de vivre.

This, I think, has the potential to be a successful immigration story: a drip drip drip of people making it through the net in small enough numbers that the local community, rather than feeling overwhelmed, instead is able to welcome the newcomers; help them to find their feet and to integrate, whilst at the same time being able to enjoy the richness that the introduction of other cultures brings to all our lives.

And now Paris.

Disaffected young men whose apparent inability to find a sense of purpose in their everyday lives made them the ideal target for some particularly amoral puppet masters whose task is made even simpler by the ease with which religion can be interpreted to justify even the most heinous actions. It defies the imagination of normal people, as well it should.

But Paris wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last – that much is certain. And whilst we should not play into the Jihadists’ hands with unjustifiable hatred towards all Muslims (another ‘Holy War’ – Islam against the world, is exactly what they are hoping for), we owe it to ourselves and to the innocent lives lost to be brutally honest about the causes, because only then have we any hope at all of tackling them.

So think about Paris, cry for Paris and mourn with Paris, just don’t pray for Paris – more religion is the last thing they need.

(DISCLAIMER: This jumble of thoughts and ideas masquerading as a blog post is the result of my own difficulty in trying to understand what is currently occurring in the world. I am still very far from understanding much at all, but in a way I’m rather glad to be aware of that…)

*Edited with this message to the posters of this morning’s overly dramatic meme: While it would, have course, have been unforgivable on the part of the world’s press to have neglected to report on the terrorist attack in Beirut (they didn’t), claims that the world ‘only cares about white lives’ is another patently over-simplistic response. The Middle East has been in chaos for a long long time – the loss of life there as tragic as it is pointless – and many Westerners struggle even to begin to comprehend how people’s everyday lives play out against such a backdrop. But France was a country at peace, and we know France. We know Paris. Many of us have walked its streets, spoken to its people. They may speak a different language, dress slightly better, eat slightly differently; but their everyday lives are almost as familiar to us as our own, and if it happened to them, it could happen to us. Just as we are all horrified by cancer, by stillbirths, by death in general – the emotional impact is always greater when these things strike the people we know.

That does not in any way mean that we do not care about the Middle East, or about its long-suffering inhabitants, but their struggle is so complicated so apparently lacking in solutions, and so far removed from our own experiences that we no longer know how to react to it.

Childishly dramatic denunciations of a cruel and heartless ‘world’ (I presume the meme posters do not include themselves in this) are not only divisive, they serve no purpose whatsoever.

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion

09/01/2015

Je suis Charlie 

Twelve people dead, just to assuage the hurt feelings of some truly pathetic human beings. It is heartbreaking, terrifying and infinitely absurd.

And predictably, the apologist protestations have already begun: the terrorists are not “true” Muslims. These acts of terrorism are not religiously motivated. None of this has anything to do with Islam. None of this has anything to do with religion.

Poor, poor, poor misunderstood religion; the hardships it has to endure.

But unfortunately for religion, the deities who, several thousand years ago, so kindly dictated their respective rules, threats and petulant demands for blind obedience to willing scribes, neglected one rather important detail: clarity.

Hence why there are 300-odd Christian denominations, for example, and why some Muslims think Islam is the religion of peace whilst other Muslims think murdering their detractors in cold blood is a perfectly acceptable way to behave. Some religiously-motivated behaviour happens to comply with the laws of whichever land the adherent lives in, others don’t. But as religious extremists believe they are answerable only to their chosen higher power, to them it matters not a jot either way: they believe themselves to be morally superior to everyone who does not share their beliefs.

They and only they are the “true” Muslims, or Christians, or fill-in-the-blank, and their god – the one true god, in case you thought yours was – has got their backs.

And who are we to tell them differently, when every single one of the myriad of belief denominations is based on nothing more solid than an interpretation of texts written an enormously long time ago?

Sadly for us all, not one of the deities who were apparently so keen to communicate a couple of millennia ago has been back to clear up the many misconceptions, contradictions and inconsistencies left by their previous attempts at telling humans what’s what. So that leaves it up to personal interpretation, and as we know, personal interpretation relies heavily on personal experience, personal ideals and personal goals.

The interpretation is shaped not only by the character of the interpreter, but also by the life he is living, and the society and times in which he is living it. It isn’t objective. It isn’t reliable. But it can’t be disproved.

For example, if the New Testament really was a moral guide then there would have been no slavery, no Crusades, no Spanish Inquisition; in fact none of the cruelty, oppression, persecution and bloodshed committed in the name of Christianity during the period within the last two thousand years that such things were considered acceptable.

But it is not a moral guide. No holy book is a moral guide. Morals do not come from religion, they never have. Morals come from the human experience. Morals are the result of human beings discovering what aids cohesion, strength and the success of their community. And it would have been quickly clear that murder, rape, theft, adultery and dishonesty (amongst much other anti-social behaviour) within a society does not make it stronger.

Of course nowadays humans have progressed to the extent where most of us realise that murder, rape, theft et al committed against anyone at all, regardless of their “tribal” affiliations is also morally reprehensible, and so religion has been bent, watered-down and reinterpreted to suit new sensitivities. The parts of the holy books that are unpalatable to anyone with a conscience, and thus incompatible with progressive modern society, are resold as “analogies” or “not to be taken literally” regardless of the absurdity of such a statement.

For how can anyone possibly know how these books were meant to be interpreted? They stand alone.

However there are still people who remain true to the more unpalatable parts of their holy books: the Christian far right who think homosexuals should be put to death, who think women should bend to the will of their husbands, who think evolution is a lie and who would gladly drag the USA back to the dark ages of fear, superstition, bigotry and ignorance from which the Founding Fathers fled. And the Muslim extremists, who for those same reasons and more, would gladly drag the entire world into a monotheistic and theocratic hell where the word of paranoid misogynists with an intense hatred of freedom and democracy, would be law.

It has EVERYTHING to do with religion, because these people act in the name of their religion, and religion can be whatever its believer wants it to be.

It can be a reassuring sop to those scared of the permanence of death, a promise of better things for those living a life of hardship and an ego trip to those incapable of believing that we are no more important than any other species on our planet. It can offer a public veneer of “goodness” to those for whom simply being good is somehow not enough, and offer a sense of community to some who, for whatever reason, would otherwise feel alone. It can be warm and kind and touchy-feely for those who are happy to ignore the parts that are quite the opposite, and who are (happily for them) free to mould it to suit a personal ideal.

But religion can also be fire and brimstone. It can be about beliefs, not behaviour. You can be as “good” as you want, but if you don’t conform to a particular belief system, an eternity of hell fire awaits. Religion can be divisive; your tribe is the chosen tribe and everyone else is varying degrees of utterly wrong. Religion can be judgemental; it shames your sexuality, and demands dominion over your reproductive organs, your heart and your mind. And religion can also offer easy answers for the terminally disaffected – how wonderful for the previously purposeless to suddenly feel so vastly superior; able to sweep aside the boundaries within which lesser mortals are constrained to live in order to decide their fate. Commit the most heinous of acts, and be eternally rewarded by the highest power they believe there is.

These people might not represent the majority of Muslims, but they are still Muslims acting in the name of Islam, and to attempt to claim otherwise merely adds to the problem by continuing to shield religion from the scrutiny any idea wielding such power should rightly be subjected to.

And that is why the pencils of Charlie Hebdo and colleagues the world over must never ever stop chipping away at respect that is demanded, but not earned.

Why they must force people to accept that being offended is just one of the hazards of living in this fabulously free society – where everything must be questioned, nothing glorified, and where nothing or nobody is above criticism.

Why they must continue to be free to kill that sacred cow, again, and again, and again.

“I would rather die standing, than live on my knees.”

On est tous Charlie.

The Trickiest Relationship of All

15/07/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Last Wednesday heralded the arrival of the other most important woman in Tigger’s life: my soon-to-be mother-in-law.

Having been lucky enough to avoid the six-hour round trip to collect her from the airport by dint of being a particularly feeble pregnant person, I was instead left at home to sweat it out in the kitchen trying to prepare a feast fit for the lady I am often reminded is THE BESTEST COOK IN ALL THE WORLD, EVER.

Pressure? Just a little.

But by some miracle I did manage to throw together a meal – in between lying on the sofa with my legs up in an attempt to still heaving stomach and racing heart – and was therefore able to greet her with a semblance of domestic goddess panache.

Panache that was slightly jostled when she immediately opened her suitcase and began unloading fast-defrosting cuts of meat, huge balls of cheese, endless sausages and even a few frozen chickens she had killed and plucked herself only days previously, into our fridge and freezer – Tigger’s assurances that food is not lacking in Italy having apparently fallen on disbelieving ears…

But after all that, and despite being able to faithfully report that she is short, round, very smiley and more than capable of providing enough foodstuffs to nourish a small village; I am at present unable to offer a more in-depth insight into what makes my mother-in-law tick because we are essentially unable to communicate in any meaningful way.

My Romanian has yet to get off the starting blocks (due in part to laziness, but primarily to the fact that Tigger and his family speak to each other in Hungarian dialect thus reducing my Romanian language exposure to almost zilch) and my mother-in-law only understands about seven words of Italian and speaks but one: cipolla.

A blessing in disguise? Maybe…

Because despite being tired from the journey, and undoubtedly a bit overwhelmed at being fed strange foreign gubbins by her strange foreign soon-to-be daughter-in-law, it only took our visitor about an hour and a half to dive into that hotly anticipated/dreaded question: so, where will you be baptising the baby?

“Our child will decide for itself if and where it wishes to be baptised when it is an adult.”

Said Tigger.

And I was, once again, reminded that I am a very, very lucky girl indeed…

That small and briefly frosty blip aside, my first future mother-in-law experience was not the torturous occasion I had feared it might be – although I confess to being more than a little relieved by the fact that for the duration of her visit she will be staying up the road with her (far more pregnant than me) daughter.

The very same daughter who has been putting me to shame over the last three and a half months by her utter bouncy nonchalance in the face of pregnancy. My in-laws inform me that it is nothing more than a question of national suitability – sturdy country girls from the Romanian hinterland are usually up trees picking fruit when their waters break.

“You mustn’t worry,” they assure me “we’re just more cut out for childbirth than you.”

And as I clutch my aching head, bend double over my churning stomach and try to avoid catching a glimpse of my grey and spotty visage in the mirror, I can’t help wondering if they might have a point…

This is Status Viatoris, fervently hoping that her bun’s sturdy Romanian genes are beating the feeble English ones into submission as she types, in Italy.

Straightening Records

17/05/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

It was pointed out to me yesterday that my previous blog post could possibly be construed as an attack on my future mother-in-law, as well as being very offensive to those who set great store in an invisible sky fairy a god.

Firstly I would like to clearly state that any woman capable of producing a man as wonderful as Tigger, most certainly gets my vote. But that does not change the fact that I have always tried to write about myself, my life and the people in it with humour, and I do not feel that my in-laws should be any more exempt from that treatment than my ovaries, for example.

Secondly, it is an indisputable fact that I am often rude about religion. I am rude about a lot of things, but being rude about people’s religious beliefs is for some inexplicable reason considered to be beyond the pale.

Personally I think that making even a half-hearted attempt to emotionally blackmail your son over his wedding plans is also beyond the pale, but there we go – when it comes to someone’s religious beliefs we are just supposed to just humour the believer and assume that they know no better.

If a woman wants to attend Mass three times a day then of course, that is up to her. I may feel that her time would be a lot better spent reading a good book, playing silly games with her grandchildren or admiring the beauty of the world around us, but it is her life, not mine.

But religion is sadly not something that is confined to simple personal choice. It still attempts to use a guise of moral superiority in order to force its controlling nature on others: women’s reproduction, women’s sexuality, the love between consenting adults, children’s education, government policy, scientific fact and indeed almost every other step of human life.

But on what authority? On books written by a myriad of anonymous writers thousands of years ago? Books that contain more gratuitous cruelty, intolerance and bloodshed than even the best gory thriller…

Religion is no more a guide to morality than The Big Bang Theory is a science documentary. If it was, there would be more than 0.1% Atheists/Agnostics in US jails.

Non-religious countries would boast violent crimes rates superior to religious ones.

And the murderous Inquisitions, the evils of slavery and the Holocaust – to name but the tip of the religious-atrocities iceberg – would not have been carried out by those convinced they were acting with “God” on their side (all of this long after the “discovery” of the supposedly pacifistic and loving New Testament).

So yes, I proclaim it my right to be rude about religious belief.

I also proclaim it my right to complain very loudly about its undue influence in the lives of those who do not chose it.

After all, not only has religion shown itself to be the very antithesis of morality, but there is also not an atom of proof that even one god exists, let alone the plethora of deities that control the lives of so many.

But luckily for all concerned; Belligerent Atheist is not all I am in the same way that Faithful Catholic is only a part of who my future mother-in-law is, and I am sure that we will find plenty of other things to share in the years ahead – not least our love for a very loveable man…

This is Status Viatoris, who was herself shown up (but not offended) this morning for not having read enough about climate change – the pursuit of knowledge is what makes the world go round, in Italy.

One of Us

15/05/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

When my future husband (aka Tigger) went back to Romania last summer to build his dear old mum a fence, he also had a rather more delicate task to carry out: that of informing his three-times-a-day-to-church parent that his girlfriend, as well as being ancient, was also a dirty dirty heathen.

Sadly there were no flies on that particular wall, at least not any wily and/or bilingual enough to report back, so I had to take my beloved’s word that the conversation went something like this:

Tigger: “Mummy, the time has come to inform you that my girlfriend, as well as being ancient, is also a dirty dirty heathen. How is that likely to work for you?”

Three-Times-A-Day-To-Church-Parent: “My sweet boy, if she makes you happy, then who am I to judge? After all, you’re the one who has to live with her and put up with her dirty dirty heathen ways. Just promise me that you will refrain from becoming a heathen yourself.”

Tigger: “No probs on that score, Mummy. I shall remain for evermore a good(ish) Catholic boy.”

The End.

Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Because when the time came to inform her we were getting hitched, she immediately wanted to know if the church ceremony would be in Italy or Romania.

Thus forcing Tigger to gently explain that dirty dirty heathens are certainly not permitted to marry in the Holey Catholic Church. We would be marrying in the local town hall – a place less concerned with one’s invisible sky fairy affinities, as well as being cheap and unfancy (just like us).

Three-Times-A-Day-To-Church-Parent was unimpressed.

So very unimpressed was she, that Tigger feared she might even boycott the wedding entirely.

Personally I just felt extremely sad that something so minor as my lack of invisible sky fairy affinity risked causing a rift between mother and son whilst seriously souring my future mother-in-law’s opinion of me before we had even met.

But sisters-in-law got involved, family talks were held, and eventually Three-Times-A-Day-To-Church-Parent rang to declare that Tigger had completely misunderstood.

She hadn’t been unimpressed at all! Not a bit of it! In fact it was all great! Super! Smashing! What could be better than a town hall wedding – it would be cheap and unfancy, just like us.

Didn’t Tigger know perfectly well that she loved all her children equally? And all her children-in-law just as much – even the dirty dirty heathen ones? Didn’t she always respect their choices? Because whatever made them happy, made her happy.

Oh! And by the way, son, is there really no way you can persuade your dirty dirty heathen fiancée to join the Holey Catholic Church and become one of us? It would be so much nicer…

This is Status Viatoris, now mildly curious to see what will happen when her future mother-in-law finds out she may eventually end up with at least one unbaptised grandchild, in Italy.

The Next Generation

28/06/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

With love from the heavenly heathen 😉

FAITH definition – “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.

ATHEISM definition – “a disbelief in a deity (god)”.

A Roman Catholic and an Atheist walk into a bar…

…and that’s it really. They order a couple of beers, share a kiss, then chat away about life and universe whilst leisurely sipping their drinks.

And as long as that’s all they do – well, that and going to the cinema, enjoying barbecues in the countryside, meals in, meals out, occasional DIY, evenings with friends or family and evenings spent curled companionably on the sofa watching television – then all is well and good.

But what would happen if they enjoyed each other’s company to such an extent that they decided to make things rather more official?

(Not my case yet, I can assure you – I’m still far too young to seriously consider taking such a step).

But let us suppose it were my case…

For whilst I can apparently marry in a Roman Catholic church (providing my hypothetical Catholic groom’s bishop gives the nod) because I was christened, I am certainly not a Christian.

And whilst I would be prepared to go through a Catholic marriage service out of love for my hypothetical Catholic groom, I would certainly not be prepared to lie about my beliefs should openly declaring them be a stipulation.

But let us suppose that my hypothetical Catholic groom and I somehow make it through the nuptial minefield to arrive safely on the other side; it does not then require a huge additional leap of imagination to envisage we may wish to add to our newly minted hypothetical family.

What then?

For whilst I agreed to marry the person I love under the conditions dictated by his chosen religion, I am a consenting adult who knew and understood what she was agreeing to.

There is no such thing as a consenting baby; a baby (even a hypothetical one) cannot possibly understand the criteria involved in stating a religious belief.  Which is why it is inconceivable to me that I would baptise my hypothetical child into a faith whose diktats he cannot possibly comprehend and whose veracity remains utterly devoid of any evidence.

A parent’s role should surely be to help a child learn and understand the facts of the world around him and to educate him in the rules of moral conduct that enable (and have always enabled) human beings to co-exist in relatively co-operative harmony.

A parent’s role should surely be, above all, to encourage a child to use that which sets him apart from so many other species – his mind. That wonderfully absorbent organ which will lead him to search, question, assess and eventually, opine.

The default position of each and every child is that of Atheism; teaching impressionable children religious ideas as facts can only be described as  indoctrination. Human beings can only truly consent to choose (or to disregard) the unproven hypothesis of religion when they reach adulthood and attain the necessary maturity to process the evidence independently.

With this in mind, your ideas, opinions and personal experiences would be invaluable in enabling me to deal with either of these hypothetical conundrums should they ever arise.

Comments on a postcard (or even just in the Comments box below)… 🙂

This is Status Viatoris, currently ravaged by a very un-hypothetical hunger, so off to make some lunch, in Italy.

Tiny Little Churches

07/06/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

May, in My Little Italian Village, brings us the chiesette (lit. little churches) in honour of La Madonna (the Virgin Mary), whose month it is according to the Roman Catholic calendar.

A large chiesetta.

The village and its surrounding countryside (and, indeed, most of Italy) is liberally festooned with small shrines to the various saints, all but the most central of which tend now to be left looking forlorn and neglected for much the time, bar the odd bunch of limp wildflowers gifted by a passing flock member.

A smaller chiesetta.

At the end of April, however, the small stone edifices in and around my village are briefly rescued from their state of abandonment with a profusion of flowers and statues of Maria, together with clusters of red church candles and sometimes even a typed or elaborately scribed prayer.

A roadside chiesetta.

Also tacked somewhere nearby will be a piece of paper with the time and date that the faithful should congregate at that particular chiesetta.

A temporary chiesetta.

Any carruggio (a world typically used in Liguria to mean narrow street, usually cobbled and impassable by motor-vehicles, and often with arches or parts of houses built overhead) in the village that does not already have a chiesetta but whose inhabitants wish to take part, simply uses a lace covered table or even cardboard box on which to perch their offerings.

Our chiesetta!

And then almost every afternoon or evening – depending on the distances involved in reaching the shrine – during the entire month of May, people gather at the chiesetta in question in order first to hear the local priest read mass, before reciting the rosary and singing hymns.

A proper chiesa…

Just another cultural oddity that makes My Little Italian Village special, and it is for that reason Pooch and I often drag our heathen arses along for the walk – even if we always decline to hang around long enough to hear the incantations…

…anyway, we reckon we get enough musical culture down the pub; listening to tipsy locals Acapellering their harmonious way through the dialect songs this region is famous for.

This is Status Viatoris, in no danger of being seduced to the “way” the “truth” or the “light” by the smell of incense, you will all be relieved to hear 😉 , in Italy.

Freedom for EVERYONE

15/03/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

If certain sources are to be believed; in this world there are Atheists and then there are militant Atheists – militant apparently being the term to describe those who actually verbalise their opinions and their perfectly valid reasons for holding such opinions (and presumably also those who beat up homosexuals, blow up abortion clinics, set out on murderous crusades, deliberately incinerate other people’s holy books, murder abortion doctors, detonate bombs, instigate mass suicide… ).

Essentially, anyone who is remotely vocal about their lack of belief in a deity, is often described as ‘militant’, ‘aggressive’ or ‘overly defensive’. Most often we are portrayed as the bully-boys of the party; our primary goal to pop the balloons and stomp spitefully on the cake of the nicer children; but in some parts of the developed world we are considered to be irredeemably beyond the pale in the evilness stakes, worse still than those bellicose Muslims.

Even setting aside the millennia during which the ‘faithful’ of the principal denominations have been attempting by more foul means than fair to ram their particular set of beliefs down the gullets of all and sundry, it still seems a little unjust that we Atheists are so vilified for speaking our comparatively innocuous minds.

Especially when taking into consideration that both the history of humanity and the huge leaps in scientific understanding go a long way in giving credence to our suspicions that the existence of a deity is, at the very best, unlikely; and that there are entirely rational, demonstrable and demonstrated explanations for our continued existence that render the necessity of a divine being obsolete.

Of course there are non-believers who do not feel the need to speak out, and that is fine, but those of us who do are not so much involved in a dastardly plan to convert everyone to our way of thinking, but simply a desire to free the world from the shackles of religious interference: to ensure that religious belief is a matter of personal choice that does not impinge either on public life or on the lives of those whose beliefs differ, and that it does not hold back the advances in logic, reason and freethinking.

In order to accomplish this goal, however, it is necessary to pick apart many of the corner stones of religion: holding it up to a  light that shines brightly on its flaws and its inconsistencies – how else are we to explain why we wholeheartedly reject something that many people consider to be vital to their existence? How else can we create an understanding as to why the world would be a better place if religion were unwoven from the fabric of public life, and relegated to the privacy of people’s minds, their homes or their specific places of worship?

(And if there are those who, through our arguments, find the answers and clarity of ideas that they feel had previously been lacking, then that is their right.)

I doubt there are many here in the West who feel that many of the monotheistic Muslim cultures wouldn’t be improved by a spot of secularism – the quality of life (especially that of their women) and the improved stability of the world in general could well be guaranteed by such a move.

But what about us?

“This is a Christian country!” – it is also a country that once believed independent and non-conformist women should be tried as witches, that women were the chattels of their spouses and that blood-letting cured most illnesses; that doesn’t make it right.

“This country was founded on Christian values!” – the fact that the majority of human societies, Christian or otherwise, exist and have always existed within similar moral frameworks is a inarguable indication that those values are innate to the survival of the species and not divinely inspired.

“Christianity is the religion of love!” – certainly the New Testament runs along slightly more compassionate lines than the Old, but bearing in mind that it has been kicking about for nearly two thousand years now, the benevolent and loving side has taken an inordinately long time to take real precedence – delayed interpretation, or a modern need to conform to the more human expectations of the developed world?

“Faith is a virtue and deserves our respect!” – the blind belief in something for which there is absolutely no evidence is a personal choice, not a virtue. But it can be respected, always providing that blind belief does not have an impact on the lives of those who prefer to choose more tangible reasoning.

Of course for every religious fundamentalist who feels that theirs is the only truth there are hundreds of other more moderate believers who happily subscribe to a live and let live philosophy; but in this ongoing tussle against religious dominance of any sort, distinctions simply cannot be made – it doesn’t matter how ‘loving’ your religion is, it has absolutely no place in the public arena.

And as long as there are people who think that impressionable children should be schooled in religious beliefs as ‘truths’, that one religious belief should be given precedence over others, that political parties of  powerful countries should be allowed to govern through religious dogma, and that the opinions of a band of mere men – set above normal people only by  ‘virtue’ of their teachings of blind faith in an unprovable hypothesis – should hold sway; the gradual chipping away at the religious stranglehold must continue.

It is the path to freedom for EVERYBODY.

This is Status Viatoris, holding in particular contempt the local Catholic priest who, coming across her sitting in the square minding her own business, imperiously ordered her to stand up out of respect to one of the endless Catholic processions that happened to be passing. Respect needs to be earned, little man.

An Awkward Aside

10/02/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Whilst deep in a steadily more tipsy discussion with a horny handed son of toil about humankind’s road to doom, as mentioned in my last post, I was put on the spot by an unexpected comment.

The conversation was proceeding more or less as follows:

H.H.S.of.T: Modern man is  too obsessed with acquiring money and things. It’s all; money, money, money, things, things, things.

SV: Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could reintroduce a barter system? I’ll translate your CV for 2 kilos of tortellini and a bunch of bananas..

H.H.S.of.T: …and I’ll mow your lawn in exchange for a couple of demijohns of vino and an English lesson…

SV: Oh for a simpler way of life, back to nature and all that.

H.H.S.of.T: Well I’m halfway there; I use horse shit on my land instead of man-made fertiliser.

SV: That’s very admirable. I shall attempt to follow suit should I ever acquire a plant.

H.H.S.of.T: It’s good stuff, you know, horse shit. My dog loves it.

SV: I don’t doubt it, I’m rather partial to the smell, myself, that and cowpats. I’m a country girl born and raised. Unfortunately my dog prefers the sort the hunters leave in the undergrowth.

H.H.S.of.T: That’s awful. Hunters are evil shysters whose crap smells atrocious because they eat so much meat (oh THAT’S how we got on to the topic!). Killing for food is one thing, but killing for fun – and tiny songbirds as well, awful.

SV: I know. Shocking and pointless. So many people these days feel no affinity to the natural world.

H.H.S.of.T: Well that’s because modern man is  too obsessed with acquiring money and things. It’s all; money, money, money, things, things, things.

Then:

H.H.S.of.T: Did you see that photo of Christ on Facebook the other day?

SV: Ummmm. Christ? Jesus Christ? A photo? Nope. Must have missed that one.

H.H.S.of.T: It was amazing! Somebody had taken a photograph just at the moment Jesus’ face was looking down through the clouds. He looked upset. I mean, he died on the cross for our sins and everything, and now modern man is only obsessed with acquiring money and things. He must wonder why he bothered.  What do you think?

SV: Ummmm. Goodness! Is that the time? Must dash! Ciaoooooooo!

Photoshop has A LOT to answer for…

Status Viatoris, who could have been no more surprised had she been slapped several times rounds the chops with a wet Watchtower, in Italy.


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