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The Final Countdown

21 May

Well, Judgement Day is officially upon us and the outlook so far is…

… pretty quiet, actually.

Sure, there are celebrations planned by godless heathens across America, but as I write this there seems to be little in the way of giant earthquakes, wailing and gnashing of teeth, screams of the damned and all the other signs we were promised. I appreciate the Hieronymus Bosch-style renderings of ravening demons and heavenly trumpets are the products of mediæval imaginings, but where are all the piles of clothing left behind by millions of raptured True Christians™ ? The airliners and cars careering out of control with nobody at the helm? I’d even settle for a message in the clouds reading “Game Over. Press START to play again.”

It’s not as if this is all some vague, shadowy portent of doom we’re talking about here. Harold Camping and his Family Radio Worldwide have gone on record as being absolutely certain. Phrases such as “Without a shadow of a doubt” and “There is no Plan B” don’t leave much room for manoeuvre.

Of course, when this is all over Camping and his cronies will probably be consigned to the ever-increasing ranks of False Prophets – thus, ironically, becoming a sign of the End Times themselves. It’s worth considering that false prophets are almost never labelled as such before their prophecies fail and the next prophet comes along.

It’s all rather sad, really.

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Prophets without honour

29 Apr

Regarding my previous post about Harold Camping’s doomsday prophecy of May 21 2011 (“The Bible guarantees it!”), a deliciously ironic development has arisen.

Last Sunday, during The Atheist Experience’s Easter-themed “Zombie Apocalypse” show (available on their homepage for now; from their show archive as of next Monday), a caller who gave his name as Luca revealed that he had contacted Camping’s evangelical Family Radio Worldwide organisation to offer a donation of $10,000. However, there was a condition: if, on May 21, the world does not end, then on May 22 he will expect the money to be returned – plus 10% interest.

For some peculiar reason, they went off the idea at that point…

Vote of little confidence?

18 Apr

Had an interesting little leaflet about the upcoming “Alternative Voting” referendum pushed through the door today (lucky we had that letterbox put in or anything could have happened). Normally these things go straight in the bin, but I decided out of boredom to give this one five minutes. Now, I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about the proposed ‘new’ system, apart from it being Proportional Representation with a shiny bow attached, or that it would “make MPs work harder for [our] votes” – a phrase that instantly set off my Bullshit  Alarm. I’d also be lying if I said I cared.

This leaflet’s on behalf of the “No to AV” campaign, so it can hardly be described as a completely unbiased source. Nevertheless, it purports to set out in detail how PR – sorry, AV – would work (for best results, imagine the following being read out by Sir Humphrey Appleby):

You use numbers to rank the candidates in order of your preference. You put 1 next to your first choice, 2 next to your second choice, 3 next to your third choice and so on.

The number 1 votes for each candidate are put into a pile and counted. If a candidate receives more than half of the number 1 votes cast, they win and there is no further counting. If no candidate receives more than half the number 1 votes there would be at least one more round of counting. In round two, the candidate with the fewest number 1 votes is removed from the contest. If their supporters’ ballot papers show a number 2 vote for another candidate, they are added to that candidate’s pile. If the ballot paper does not show a number 2 vote, it is no longer used.

If no candidate reaches 50% after the redistribution of votes, the candidate with next fewest votes is removed from the contest, and their supporters’ ballots are looked at again to see if any of the remaining candidates are ranked. If so, the ballot papers are moved to the pile of the candidates ranked highest on each ballot paper. If none of the remaining candidates are ranked, the ballot paper is no longer used.

If more candidates are involved, this process can be repeated until one candidate has more than half the remaining votes.

What could be simpler?

Regardless of whether AV is really fairer than our current system, whether MPs really want us to tell them to work harder, and leaving aside the claim that only three other countries actually use the system (at least two of which apparently want to scrap it) – ignoring all of that, there is one tiny detail about the impending referendum which shines out like a beacon amidst the darkness, or a diamond in a cesspit.

We are to be given two options: “Yes” to change to AV, or “No” to keep the present system. The results of which would be counted and the one with the most votes wins.

You know – first past the post.

Gott mit uns – redux

15 Jan

It’s all coming out now. According to Alistair Campbell’s diary revelations in the Grauniad, our erstwhile not-god-doing leader made a habit of doing god:

Wednesday 16 December [first day of bombing] TB was clearly having a bit of a wobble. He said he had been reading the Bible last night, as he often did when the really big decisions were on, and he had read something about John the Baptist and Herod which had caused him to rethink, albeit not change his mind.

[Campbell noteJohn the Baptist denounced the marriage of Herod Antipas, Herod ordered him to be imprisoned and later beheaded.]

These are really scary revelations. The most obvious is the phrase “reading the Bible … as he often did when the really big decisions were on”. This is a man with the power to take the country – against overwhelming opposition, not to mention common sense – into a full-scale invasion of a sovereign nation, costing the lives of thousands of Coalition soldiers and over a hundred thousand civilians. And he consulted the bible to make that decision?

This man has blood on his hands right up to his armpits. This man believed his god wanted him to launch another Holy Crusade. Why is he still at liberty?

Here’s a little experiment: swap the words “reading the bible” with “talking to the Great Pumpkin” in that diary entry and tell me your blood  didn’t suddenly run cold.

Then we have Blair’s “wobble”. After putting his own interpretation into a lesser-known biblical vignette and deciding it was about him – psychologists, please get in touch –  he paused but went ahead anyway. Of course he did – by now he was committed (or at least, he ought to be).

So he rationalised his wobble. This is typical fundy behaviour. Not for them the uncertainties of contradictory revelation (of which the bible is crammed) – no, for them it’s all true and can be explained away perfectly if only you tilt your head just right and read the words through half-closed eyes.

No wonder these people didn’t want to go on record as “doing god”. The amount of spin that would have taken would almost certainly have thrown the Earth out of orbit.

Talking to yourself in public

25 Dec

Ratzinger, the popenfuehrer, took the opportunity at yesterday’s Mass to announce his use of the Vatican’s wealth to fund a massive multi-million dollar campaign aimed at stamping out violence and war, and to bring about world peace for good and always.

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Warning: your irony meter is at risk

25 Dec

Ready? You have been warned.

Right then. As I write this, Rowan Willams is delivering his xmas message, and what a beauty it is:

The Archbishop of Canterbury will use his Christmas sermon to question whether the richest people are bearing their share of the economic downturn.

Dr Rowan Williams’ comments amount to a rebuke to the most prosperous in society, said BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.

[ . . .]

Dr Williams will speak of the importance of mutual dependence, fellowship and loyalty in current economic times, stressing the need to share the burdens of adversity.He will say that society can only bear hardship “if we are confident that it is being fairly shared”.

The richest people in society, is it? You mean… like the Church of England, perhaps? Does this mean Williams is going to instruct his church to start paying damn taxes and fund itself for a change? Because that alone, by the CoE’s own estimates, would free up £1000,000,000 a year. How many hospitals and schools would that pay for?

He continues:

“Every Christian marriage is a sign of hope, since it is a sign and sacrament of God’s own committed love.”

“And it would be good to think that in this coming year, we, as a society, might want to think through, carefully and imaginatively, why lifelong faithfulness and the mutual surrender of selfishness are such great gifts.”

Then he sets up his strawman, which of course he knocks down effortlessly:

The Archbishop will reflect on the trials of marriage and also the inspirational examples of partnerships he has seen.

“There will be times when we may feel stupid or helpless, when we don’t feel we have the energy or resource to forgive and rebuild after a crisis or a quarrel, when we don’t want our freedom limited by the commitments we’ve made to someone else.

“Yet many of us will know marriages where something extraordinary has happened because of the persistence of one of the parties, or where faithfulness has survived the tests of severe illness or disability or trauma.”

As an example of severe disability or trauma, he cites a typical, average wedding of an average, everyday couple:

“As the prince [William] and his fiancee [Kate Middleton] get ready for their new step into solidarity together, they will have plenty of inspiration around, more than you might sometimes guess from the chatter of our culture,” he will add.

Low-paid ransomer owl of barbaric, snotty church (Anag.), yesterday

I’m pretty sure that a lot of marriages would be as inspired and happy if they were funded so massively by the public, as well.

He concludes with the usual crap about xtians being persecuted for their faith, citing Zimbabwe and Iraq especially. I have no data about those countries, so I’m unable to take an informed view on the point. Williams may well be right, but I wonder why he makes no mention of persecution of other groups, such as women and homosexuals, that takes place not just in the Middle East and similar nations, but also in so-called elightnened countries like America? Generally speaking, this famous image still holds true:

I will just make one observation regarding the “xtians oppressed because of their faith” card. If any one religion really was the One True Faith, if the god they worship was truly what they claimed, there would be no persecution. They would be unstoppable. Think about it; it’d be like bringing an atomic bomb to a conker fight.

So let us all remember those sage words as the humble Dr Williams tucks into his roast goose and fatted calf or whatever. Use your wealth for the benefit of society, get married and be content (and if you aren’t content, be inspired by the rich and famous [and straight, that goes without saying]), and be excellent to each other. All, well mostly, good advice, but consider the source.

Physician, heal thyself.

Archbishop gets behind gay bishops… sort of

25 Sep

Dr Rowan Williams, realising that nobody’s pointed a camera at him for nearly ten minutes, has decided to throw himself onto the Ratzinger bandwagon. His latest mumblings, which can be read at the website of The Times if you fancy making Rupert Murdoch slightly richer, were presumably intended to illustrate how broadminded, modern and down wit de yoof the modern Church is.

However, as with many of the verbal owl pellets he emits, Williams demonstrates instead his inability to fully think his arguments through. His attempts to address what is regarded as the biggest hot potato for the Catholic Church (no, not kiddy-raping priests) have hilariously succeeded in offending and alienating the very people he claims to support.

Epic fail, as the kids say these days. Total self-pwnage.

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