Monday, March 31, 2008

Transgendered tomfoolery!

So a woman who identifies herself as a man is pregnant. Wow. My wife just had a baby and she happens to be a woman to boot. No reporter was present for the birth of our son, and no pictures of her pregnant frame were published on any website. After reading about Thomas Beatie, nee Tracy Lagondino, I'm feeling like we got a bum deal.

Honestly, why the hell is this even a major story? Unless you have a hate on for biology and scienece, this story is about a woman getting pregnant via artificial insemination. For those who desperately want the world to treat it as the first 'male pregnancy': We won't. This is about a pyschologically mixed up woman using her pregnancy as a publicity stunt. It's happened before (pregnancy as a publicity stunt) and if it tells us anything, it's that we know now that Tracy Lagondino will be one shitty parent.

Islam: We're No. 1!

Muslims have done it! Islam has finally overtaken Catholicism as the world's single largest religious denomination. Mohammedians around the world rejoice, thine hour of victory is at hand!

So says a report published by the BBC in which a Vatican bishop claims UN census data shows that Muslims outnumber Catholics by a small margin. About 17% of the world population is Catholic, while 19% is Muslim. That means there are about 120 million more Muslims living today than Catholics - a first we are told since the Middle Ages.

Now this is an interesting story, not in the least because Islam has a great deal of self-worth wrapped up in its image as an unstoppable force (one Muslim student in my political philosophy class today spoke of how impressed she was by the sheer 'power' of Islam, before admitting that she was in fact a Muslim herself). What's even more interesting is that the claim is robbed entirely of its value once it's realised that it relies upon flawed methodology. If there is going to be a comparison of Islam to other religions, it has to be against the entire religion, not just one entity within it. Catholicism is but one of several massive Christian denominations falling under the umbrella of Christianity. Islam is an entire religion. Comparing Islam with Catholicism is only useful if you want to point out the sheer numbers of Catholics vis a vis the world's second largest religion.

A better and more accurate comparison would between Christianity as a whole and Islam. There are around 2 billion Christians, and anywhere from 1.1 to 1.3 Muslims. Of course if this comparison is made, the story loses all of its appeal, since Muslims don't want to remember that there are substantially more Christians and Christians don't want to remember there are another 4 billion people that need to be converted. An even better and illuminating comparison would have been to compare the number of Sunnis or Shi'as to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

Christiantiy makes up 33% of world's population, but that's not important to Christians. We are of course commanded to spread the Gospel to all the corners of the world, but we are first required to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbours. If we don't do that, it doesn't matter if there are 2 billion Christians or 200, since it's always been quality (or better yet, charity and fidelity) over quantity. Jesus Himself was aware of this during His life, asking his disciples whether he would find any faith on earth when he returns. It's never been a numbers game for us, even if we actually are winning.

::postscript:: I can't help but notice this story comes straight from a mid-level, previously unknown Vatican bureaucrat just after the baptism of Cristiano Allam at Easter. That baptism made many Muslims of shallow and disordered religiosity upset, which in turn tends to make wooly-kneed Westerners uneasy. It's as if someone out there was trying to lessen the shock to the Islamic world that Muslims do, and quite often when they are freely allowed, become Christians.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do Canadians have the balls to boycott the Olympics?

This evening the CBC ran what can only be considered a massive peice of pro-Chinese pro-Olympics propaganda. The situation in Tibet was only mentioned in passing; the real story, the CBC thinks, is that athletes might miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Call me callous, but when a government murders 700 innocent Tibetans, whose 'crime' we should remember was desiring an end to Chinese occupation of their country, I don't give a sh*t about the athletes. If these athletes wanted to make a point, they could boycott the games in a show of solidarity with Tibet.

I hope, and I think, many Canadians will boycott the Olympics. Canadians are traditionally a people very concerned with the plight of the world's oppressed peoples, or so we say we are. Take this then as a litmus test: If Canada boycotts the games, then we can take solace in the knowledge that we don't let our affections govern our commitment to advancing international human rights.

Let's not let ourselves down.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Law & Order was once a good show....

... until it attempted to tackle 'real' cases.

I was reading over at Jihadwatch about a Law & Order episode that depicts the murder of Christian girl, by her Christian father, for having a Muslim boyfriend. Critics of the show, and they are legion, are pointing out that this is a gross misrepresentation of a real issue: Muslim fathers killing their daughters for dating non-Muslims and/or not practicing Islam as fanatically as they do. Two Muslim girls were recently killed in Texas for dating non-Muslims, and last summer in Canada we had a similar story of a girl being killed for refusing to wear a hijab. What we don't have is a story of a fanatic Christian father killing anyone over a religious issue, let alone his own daughter. And yet Law & Order makes it seem to millions of viewers that it does happen. Go figure.

There are of course very practical reasons for smearing Christians rather than Muslims. One is that, like it or not, there is always the lingering spectre of sectarian conflict. Another is Western society's penchant for persecuting minorities since the Englightenment started 300 years ago. But most importantly, Christians will take the smear, whereas Muslims won't (just ask Theo Van Gogh, the Danish cartoonists or Christians in Iraq). Hence Law & Order having a Christian, rather than a Muslim, murdering his daughter for dating a heathen.

Folks who drink this tripe up are what worry me. If someone can honestly sit throught this episode and think, 'by golly, those darned Christians!', then our society is in real trouble. Why? Because for someone to believe that, they'd have to be utterly divorced from reality. And you know, a lot of people watch Law & Order.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mikhail Gorbachev is NOT a Christian...

Well, I was wrong. I was gullied into believing that Mikhail Gorbachev had in fact returned to his Christian roots, but alas, it was simply a case wishful thinking and an over-enthusiastic journalist. Thus, I have changed the post.

"However, as someone who dabbled in Marxist philosophy and politics, I'm interested to know what lead Gorbachev away from the logical positivism of Marxism/Leninism and toward Christ."

I wrote this last Wednesday when I thought Gorby had reverted. He hasn't, but I still want to know what's keeping him an atheist.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day! Belated? Well, yes! Since no feast day can fall in Holy Week (or Pasche for you Frenchies), St. Pat's was moved to March 14, though not many people noticed. Since it is Holy Week, and thus No Beer Shall Be Consumed, I think it's worth remembering a few details about St. Patrick's life.

St. Patrick was kidnapped as a young man and was sold into slavery in Ireland, spending six years in captivity before escaping and returning home. In a dream he was commanded to return to Ireland to spread Christianity, which he did apparently right away. Although he did not actually drive all the snakes out of Ireland in a literal sense, he did drive out slavery, centuries before it was outlawed in continental Europe. Thus it's ironic that many Irish have forsaken their Christianity, only to still celebrate the life of a Catholic saint. Without St. Patrick Ireland would have been just another backwater island, mired in the Dark Ages, rather than a beacon of enlightenment and civilization.

So for all those folks who will be drowning their metaphysical sorrows tonight in green beer and poorly poured Guiness, here is a section of St. Patrick's Breastplate:

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eliot Spitzer: A true American hypocrite.

The word hypocrite is thrown about a lot these days. Usually it's applied improperly, and usually it's only applied to Christians and other fallen figures of the political right. Rare is the occasion when we the public have a singularly perfect example of a through-and-through hypocrite, but this day we do, and his name is Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, in case you didn't know, spent a lot of money on prostitutes. He also spent a lot of money on the people who find and indenture these prostitutes. He also spent a lot money making sure everyone involved kept his identity secret. He lied about his name, he lied to his wife, he lied to the public, and he lied to his three teenage daughters.

To make the grade as a hypocrite, a person needs to be actively duplicitous. He must make sure people think he is against the very sin he is committing, by actively championing a position against the sin while happily and willfully committing it. This is a point that most people forget when they call out what they think is a real example of hypocrisy. The Enron and Worldcom CEO's were thus hypocrites, whereas Dr. Martin Luther King was not. Sure, this makes it very hard to actually call someone a hypocrite, but then again, there aren't really that many anyway.

Enter Eliot Spitzer, who as governor passed into law a bill that cracked down on sex trafficking, which is exactly what we know now the Emperor's Club specializes in. As an attorney, Spitzer crusaded against the very same financial corruption he was in fact concurrently engaging in. In Spitzer's resignation speech, there was preciously little repentance or contrition, but a lot of petulance. Listening to him pathetically speak of 'what could have been', I couldn't really escape the feeling that Spitzer just seemed bummed that he was caught. There was no emotion, just disappointment. The gig was up and it was time to go home.

::postscript:: I think the press picked up on Spitzer's attitude, and as such switched the focus to the prostitute, whose personal life story should make anyone who thinks prostitution should be normalized stop and think.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is being made into a movie. Thankfully for those of us who enjoy McCarthy, the Coen brothers are now where near this one - yes, despite the awards, No Country for Old Men the movie was a pointless, violence driven exercise in the Hollywoodization of two former 'independent' filmmakers.

The wikipedia entry has a long quote from British environmentalist George Monbiot. Monbiot likes the book: "It could be the most important environmental book ever. It is a thought experiment that imagines a world without a biosphere, and shows that everything we value depends on the ecosystem." Hmm.

I believe that once an artist has released his work, he no longer has a hegemony on its interpretation; that's just one of the many beauties of good art. But I think Monbiot, and many others like him, are reading their own beliefs into the novel beyond what is even reasonable by artistic standards. A history lesson: the term 'the road' is a medieval term referring to the pilgrimage to Santiago de la Compostela. It was a penitary pilgrimage, and a very dangerous one (nowadays it doesn't offer pilgrims the same physical risks, but still gives those applicable a plenary indulgence).

I'm just saying.