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‘Moral Monopoly’

Watching videos like the one embedded below make me feel quite fortunate to have grown up in the modern Ireland, where a staunch Catholic upbringing wasn’t the ‘common sense’ approach to take.

Whenever I hear a disgustingly nostalgic account about the ‘Catholic Ireland’ that was left behind, I think about the testimonies of people like this whose lives have been shattered by those who once held a moral monopoly*.

[Brought to my attention via http://www.atheistmedia.com/]

Good riddance to Catholic Ireland.

*An interesting aside: Tom Inglis’ book ‘Moral Monopoly: The Irish Church in Modern Irish Society’ published in 1987 is a a fantastically relentless broadside against the evils perpetrated by the church from a pre-sex-scandal era. The 1998 updated edition: ‘Moral Monopoly: The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland‘ dials back the tone considerably, and features an extra chapter cataloguing the ‘fall’ of the church in a rather sombre manner, as if eulogising a stern, misunderstood father, rather than the merciless tyrant that the first edition personified the institution as.

Why the rose-tinting, Irish commentators? Answers on a postcard in the comments!


Of course when you put it like that…

Quite the dearth of content around here these days – can we blame the recession like everyone else?

A few moments ago I received the following e-mail from a dear friend of mine:

To: Sully

From: [removed to protect the polite]

Subject: Funny

Was gonna post this on Facebook but then realised I’m friends with a priest on it and as much as I want to bare my raging atheist soul (haha) I don’t want to offend him too much cos he’s actually quite nice!


I reckon she ought to have posted it – if a person is offended by a rather glib summation of their belief system, then any offense they take to it would surely be prompted by their own nagging doubts being forced out into the open.

In other news, Facebook-using-priest “actually quite nice”. We’ll have more for you on this story as it happens.

Friday Music – loose interpretation edition

Friday Music, that’s when we post music videos from YouTube, right?

Well, this is a video from YouTube with some music in it…

It also happens to be one of the best videos I’ve watched online in some time, as it eviscerates anybody who resorts to calling their opponent in a debate ‘closed-minded’ for not being willing to suspend their disbelief.

Please to enjoy:

Saints and S***ters

Over on my (far less reticent) personal blog, I’ve posted the latest in the ongoing ‘Saints and S***ters’ saga, which documents the rather bizarre religious graffiti that has been popping up in public toilets all over Ireland. More recently, the enterprise of this serial-vandal has spread beyond the lavatory, as can be seen from this new artefact, left at a bus stop outside the Shannon Industrial Estate:

If I’ve piqued your interest, the full entry is here.

What if God disappeared – Edward Current

I’ve got to hand it to Edward Current – just when I was beginning to tire of his videos, he throws out this little gem.

Religulous Review

As a fan of Bill Maher’s Real Time series on HBO, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Religulous since I first caught wind of its existence well over a year ago. While Maher’s paranoid delusions about western medicine hardly make him the ideal poster-child for atheism, it’s always nice to see a witty and outspoken non-theist in a position to reach the (North American) masses.

After a series of tortuous delays made all the more painful by Maher’s continuing plugs on his weekly political chat show, I finally got to watch Religulous last week – here’s my review of the film, for those that are interested.

Maher has said before that so much footage was shot they could have made a 10-part television show, and after watching the film, I wish that this were the avenue they explored, given how it feels like a 100 minute teaser-reel for an upcoming miniseries.

Maher takes viewers around the world, highlighting various peculiarities of world religions, and while the journey is always fun with Maher’s wisecracks, the exhaustive pace at which topics and countries are jumped between obfuscates what exactly is the point of this fantastic voyage.

The film seems to tackle every aspect of religion it can manage – the plagiarism of Christianity from ancient religions, the violent overtones of Islam, the ludicrousness of Scientology, and the blatant racism of Mormonism stand out in particular. As well as this, Maher spends considerable time on the hypocrisies of all religions, the nefarious double-standards of ‘free-speech’, the outright lies perpetrated by creationists, the malleability of sacred texts by various cults, and the disgusting interweaving of the Judeo-Christian god with American politics and patriotism.

The style of the film is quite loose, possibly to imbue it with a sense of being more raw and honest, but it is quite distracting when the boom mic slips into view, or the director and crew are visible in a shot. Compounding this sloppy feel is the ADHD style of editing, in which interviews are interrupted by sudden non-sequitur clips, facetious subtitles are overlaid to lazily ridicule interviewees in post-production, and sound effects are dubbed in to add drama – as a result of these I found myself not trusting the editor, and trying to establish if clips were deliberately manipulated for cheap laughs.

After a while, it seems apparent that the reason the film doesn’t have a narrow focus because there is no overarching theme other than ‘look at how ridiculous you all look!’. For this reason, Maher can be forgiven for talking to the volume of lay-people that he does, as they are ill-equipped to deal with his rhetoric and only serve as comedic fodder.

Just as soon as you’ve let your guard down, ready to dismiss the film entirely, you’re sucker-punched, as all of a sudden the epic music swells, the low angle shots of Maher begin, and the stirring monologue about how “Religion must die for mankind to live” cut to a rapid-fire montage of scenes of pollution, terrorism, mass supplication and sheer corruption starts up. Maher, standing next to the rather-subtle sight gag of a burning bush, lambastes all religions for their focus on end-times, draining motivation to improve life on Earth, and impoverishing the species as a result.

I’m not sure if I’m bothered by the fact that this thesis hasn’t really been established and bolstered over the course of the film – on the one hand, the sudden tirade lends a certain gravitas to the final ten minutes tacked onto the first ninety of light hearted jokes and cheap shots – on the other hand, it arguably renders those first ninety minutes obsolete, which might explain why Atheist Media Blog posted just the last ten minutes of the film before putting up the whole thing.

Despite the dichotomy of thought on this one, I’m inclined to recommend Religulous – if you’re like me and you’ve watched similar documentaries before, it won’t offer any new information, and the production may grate, but it’s enough fun to make it a worthwhile investment of your time.

Friday Music – Hell Yeah

Apologies for the puerile nature of this one, but I like to tie my Friday Music into the kind of atheistic/religious discourse that I find compelling, and this just happened to be the first song that popped into my head when I sat down to honour this noblest tradition of our blog.

Embedded below is a song called Hell Yeah from The Bloodhound Gang, from their album called <sigh>, Hooray for Boobies. Which sets the tone nicely.

Did I mention that the lyrics are funny?

But would I be a good messiah with my low self-esteem?
If I don’t believe in myself would that be blasphemy?

James Randi Speaks – Who Gets the Credit

I’ve been meaning to post about the religious response to the successful crash landing of the commercial jet on the Hudson river since it happened, but it seems that James Randi has beat me to it. If you’re just here for the straight-talk – skip to the 2 minute mark.

Friday Music – Atheist Rap

This Friday music, I’m finally getting around to posting about Greydon Square – an atheistic rapper who has been featured on popular sceptical podcasts such as Skepticality and Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. Rather than regurgitating what I learnt about him from the aforelinked, I’ll let you look into it yourself if you’re interested (Skepticality spend a bit more time with him).

The song I’ve embedded below is called ‘Squared, and it’s from his album, ‘The Compton Effect’. I downloaded this album over the summer, and found it generally enjoyable for sheer novelty value alone, as it’s quite satisfying to hear rational lyrics accompanying some funky hip-hop beats. That said, I don’t think I’d be doing my job as a sceptic if I didn’t highlight some negative aspects before slapping a hearty seal of approval on it, so bear with me for a bit.

After a few listens, the lyrics begin to cause some dissonance – I’m aware that rap is generally predicated on exaggerated metaphors and healthy narcissism, but it’s still hard to take a self-professed sceptic seriously when he uses a line like “What makes Republicans and Democrats any different than Bloods and Crips? / Absolutely positively nothing” (from the song Pandora’s Box)

Due to the constraints of the medium, Greydon either over-simplifies his topics or interrupts the flow to get his points across, which is hopefully a shortcoming that will be addressed in the next album, (which I intend on downloading over the next few days).

For the low low price of $3.99 from Soundclick, you can get 19 very varied tracks of atheistic-infused hip-hop, DRM free (and at a bitrate of 320kbps) – which is an absolute bargain. Even if you don’t like hip-hop, you should support this artist, just to hear some bitesize atheistic rhetoric – for less than €3(!) what have you got to lose?

Please to enjoy:

Greydon Square on MySpace

(Still Technically) Friday Music – NOFX

Phew! Just made it!

Unlike my esteemed blogging-colleagues, I like to tease the readers by making them wade through a bit of waffle before getting to the good stuff – and the video embedded below is the kind of thing that needs a preface.

I used to be a big fan of punk rockers NOFX, even if their songs all sound the same, they have the decency to repackage them with worthwhile lyrics. I decided to post this song based on the few lines I could remember, as I thought it features some nice commentary on how cavalier we as a species are with respect to our world. Of course, after just listening to the song, I’m now aware that the ‘We’ that is being referred to in the song is the denizens of the USA, but let’s just use some manipulative interpretation to convince ourselves that ‘We’ is in reference to the human race.

I’m not 100% sure about the others, but I know that the singer, Fat Mike, is a humanist – quite openly so (I’ve heard him tease theistic musicians in interviews), and this song’s lament at the lack of willingness as a species to self-correct our behaviour certainly reflects these beliefs.

Please to enjoy – ‘Wolves in Wolves Clothing’ from NOFX’s [“No Eff Ex”] ‘The War on Errorism’

[I know that NOFX openly express their hatred for Bush, but the person who made this video seems to think that they attribute all of the woes of the world to Georgie boy, which annoys me, so I’d like to divorce myself from majority of the visual-content in this video!]