Dead Pope Prankster

Part 1

Achievement unlocked: Attain sainthood
There’s a story being repeated uncritically all over the Net, about a woman who had a brain aneurysm, but didn’t die of it because a dead pope magically healed her.

Oh, and this allows the dead pope to level up. From HuffPo:

Mora, her doctors and the Catholic Church say her aneurysm disappeared that day in a miracle that cleared the way for the late pope to be declared a saint on April 27 in a ceremony at the Vatican where Mora will be a guest of honor.

Now, one might reasonably ask, how do we know that this was really magic? Floribeth Mora presents this compelling line of evidence:

Acknowledging that many people would be highly sceptical of her recovery, and of the whole concept of miracles, she said that “people can think what they want – what I know is that I’m healthy.”

“There are always people who don’t believe me, who say I’m crazy, but what counts for me today is that this ‘crazy woman’ is cured.”

So we know that she was cured because she said so. With evidence like that, who needs to see X-rays or MRIs or lab results? Besides The Telegraph writes:

Even her neurosurgeon seems to be convinced. “If I cannot explain it from a medical standpoint, something non-medical happened,” said Alejandro Vargas Roman. “I can believe it was a miracle.”

But here’s what Reuters wrote last year, when the Catholic Church approved Mora’s cure as the second in the two-miracle-minimum needed for John Paul II’s promotion:

The neurosurgeon who admitted and diagnosed Mora, however, denies he gave her a month to live. Alejandro Vargas says he forecast only a 2 percent chance Mora could bleed into her brain again within a year of her diagnosis, possibly killing her.

“She was sent home with medication that would reduce her blood pressure and was advised to improve her diet so as not to raise her cholesterol levels and thus decrease the chance of her having a second bleeding episode. She was sedated because the headaches were too sharp,” he told Reuters. “We didn’t send her home to be sedated and wait until she died in her sleep.”

That’s all well and good—how many people can you name who survived a disease with a 2% mortality rate?—but how do we know that Dead Pope was involved? Religion News Service:

She claimed her prayers were answered when John Paul II appeared to her in a vision on the day he was beatified — the first step on the road to sainthood — after he was credited with his first miracle.

“When I woke up in the morning, I looked at the magazine cover which showed Pope Wojtyla with his arms outstretched.

“I felt a deep sense of healing. I heard his voice say to me, ‘Get up and don’t be afraid,’” she said, recalling one of John Paul’s signature lines.

I don’t know what else you doubting Thomases want. If you can’t trust someone who’s just been stressed out by a hospital stay, is on new meds, and has a thing in her brain, whom can you trust? There’s no way she could possibly be mistaken!

But she was cured, right? And both Mora and her doctor said that they don’t know how she was healed, so therefore they know how she was healed (it was Dead Pope Magic) (Dead Pope Magic is the name of my next webcomic). That’s just logic.

Okay, so she was dying (but not really dying) of an aneurysm, and now it’s gone. And she can’t think of a better explanation than the one that she really really likes (Dead Pope magiced her back to health), so obviously that explanation must be the correct one. And she won’t provide any solid evidence because, well, doubters gonna doubt.

I’m sold!


Part 2

But apparently there’s some kind of Law of Conservation of Pope Magic, because on the same day that the Catholic church was celebrating Dead Pope John Paul II healing that one woman… Well, I’ll let Italian news agency ANSA tell it:

(ANSA) – Brescia, April 24 – A young man in northern Italy was crushed to death Thursday by a falling crucifix that was built to honor pope John Paul II’s 1998 visit to Brescia. The 21-year-old’s death comes just three days before John Paul will be canonized in Rome.

Does this count as JP2’s third miracle?

He Just Doesn’t Get It

In today’s WaPo, we find an account of the pope’s visit to Germany.

He told reporters on the plane that there needs to be an examination of why people have been leaving the church recently, and the part that the abuse scandals played in the phenomenon.

Well, let’s see… How about increasing irrelevance in a world that has largely moved beyond the 13th century? No? What about ridiculous and dogmatic stances on contraception and homosexuality? Perhaps monsieur would like to see something in our “hypocrisy of speaking out against greed while living in a golden palace” line, or view the “spreading AIDS in Africa by pooh-poohing condoms” collection?

Oh, wait. He said something about some scandals:

I can understand that some people have been scandalized by the crimes that have been revealed in recent times,” he said.

What? Seriously? “some people”?

He really doesn’t get it, does he?

What I want to know is, why is anyone not scandalized by the church’s crimes? Why is anyone still a member of an organization that for decades, possibly centuries, covered up child rape as a matter of policy?

Does BillDo Even Realize When He’s Lying?

In his latest eructation, about opposition to the pope’s visit to England, BillDo writes:

The Catholic League does not exist to fend off legitimate criticism of the Catholic Church.

That’s rich, coming from the guy who defended pedophile priests several times, including claiming that since most of their victims had already reached puberty by the time they were abused, those were normal homosexual relationships.

He goes on to complain about the people criticizing the pope:

much of the criticism about the papal trip emanating from the other side of the Atlantic crosses the line.

The most organized attempt to smear the pope comes from the Protest the Pope campaign. Some two dozen organizations, ranging from Atheism UK and the Gay & Lesbian Association to the National Secular Society, have launched an all-out attack on the pope and the Catholic Church. To read a sample of the commentary, click here. Some clergymen have joined the chorus, including long-time anti-Catholic bigot Rev. Ian Paisley.

Wow! The pope’s critics must really be something, frothing at the mouth, shopping around for sniper rifles and building IEDs, right? Let’s see BillDo’s list of the worst of their comments:

Bernard Wynne, a spokesman for Catholic Voices for Reform, Telegraph, 9/8/2010:

“The church, I think, is deeply misogynist and we have to change that.”

“There is a whole series of issues … about the equality of women, but also there is also an issue of sexual orientation and how in fairness to what the church suggests, one could only say that it is intolerant of people of a different sexual orientation.”

Hm. That sounds like forthright criticism, but I don’t see any calls for papal blood.

Well, I’m sure “long-time anti-Catholic bigot” Ian Paisley will have something properly fire-breathing:

Reverend Ian Paisley, Sky News 9/9/2010:

“When the Roman Catholic people are torn asunder because of this matter that the Pope has in many ways closed an eye to, it is time for the Protestant people also to support them.”

Oh, no he di’int! How dare he say that… um… that Protestants should help Catholics. That seems, um, charitable or something. Some might even say Christian.

BillDo goes on to write:

When militant atheists like Richard Dawkins threaten to make a citizen’s arrest of the pope, and when gay activists like Peter Tatchell make a “documentary” about the pope to be shown on TV, then there is cause for concern.

Oh, no! Documentaries on TV! We can’t have that! As for Dawkins’s “citizen’s arrest”, what really happened, according to Dawkins, is that after a suggestion by Christopher Hithchens, he started looking for lawyers to mount a legal case against the pope, within the British legal system.

I think BillDo has had his head up his own ass for so long that he can’t even tell when he’s lying. Either that, or he doesn’t care.

The Pope’s Wrong Again, and I Have Data

The other day, on the occasion of World Youth Day, pope Benny gave a speech on the general theme of damage control:

Why aren’t kids interested in religion anymore? We used to be such friends, back when we controlled the governments and had thumbscrews, and before all that child-rape coverup stuff came out. Where’s everybody going?

Okay, that wasn’t a direct quote, just my paraphrase. Here’s something he really said:

As today’s “strong current of secularist thought” aims to marginalize God and create a “paradise” without Him, the Pope explained, “experience tells us that a world without God becomes a ‘hell’ filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope.

“On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship him in truth and listen to his voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits.”

That may be his experience — in fact, if we define “civilization of love” as “religious”, then he may in fact be right — but it sounded fishy to me, so I thought I’d dig up some numbers.

For starters, I found this table of religiosity, from a Gallup poll on religion and suicide. “Religiosity” here is based on whether people say religion is an important part of their life, whether they’ve been to a service recently, and whether they trust religious organizations.

Next, I found UN data on migration, available both as an attractive poster, and in convenient spreadsheet form. The part that interested me is column (6), which gives the net migration in or out of a country in people per 1000 population (that is, what proportion of the population emigrated or immigrated; I didn’t want to use raw numbers, because that would skew the data toward populous countries).

Anyway, to cut a long post short, the data I wound up with is here. And here’s what it looks like in picture form:

In case it’s not clear, the X axis gives Gallup’s religiosity, and the Y axis is the UN’s net migration. The green “correlation” line is a least-squares fit of the data points (ax+b, where a=-0.00102936 and b=0.433999). The US is in the middle of the pack, at 61,4. For some reason, Kuwait is up in the top right corner, above the “correlation” label, at 83,19.5.

I must confess that I’m surprised at how flat the least-squares line is. Given that religiosity is negatively correlated with societal health, I thought that people would be fleeing more-religious countries and moving to less-religious ones. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On the other hand, Joey Ratz’s pronouncement about how more secular societies are miserable hellholes where you can barely hear the constant gunfire over the screams of the rape victims, while more religious societies are paradises where birds sing to skipping passers-by and priests pee root beer, turns out not to be true either.

But I can see why he’d think that: he moved from a fairly secular country (Germany: 37) to a much more religious one, and they gave him a palace and a chauffeured car. So yeah, there’s that.

Pope Calls for Penance

Hermes: What do we do when we break somebody’s window?
Dwight: Pay for it?
Hermes: Heavens, no! We apologize! With nice, cheap words.

Futurama, The Route of All Evil

The pope said today that the Catholic church must “do penance” for its history of covering up child abuse. Reuters quotes him as saying,

“Now, under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognize what is wrong in our lives,”

and

“opening oneself up to forgiveness, preparing oneself for forgiveness, allowing oneself to be transformed”

This is all very well and good and seems to be a step forward, but I see no mention of actually doing anything useful. It looks as though Benny hopes to put the abuse coverup scandal behind him with “nice, cheap words”.

Does the Pope Shit on the Woods?

I keep hearing that atheists attack a strawman version of religion,
that sophisticated theologians don’t make the sorts of simplistic
arguments we attribute to theists, and the like.

On Wednesday, the Pope gave a
speech about the environment,
in which he said:

Experiencing the shared responsibility for creation (Cf. 51), the Church is not only committed to the promotion of the defense of the earth, of water and of air, given by the Creator to everyone, but above all is committed to protect man from the destruction of himself. In fact, “when ‘human ecology’ is respected in society, environmental ecology also benefits” (ibid).

That’s rich, coming from the head of an organization whose policy
forbids family planning through birth control, a guy who himself, just
five months ago, said that
condoms make the AIDS problem worse,
in short, a guy who advocates policies of population growth checked
only by disease and competition for resources like water.

And then there’s the second half of that paragraph:

Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where is existence is denied? If the human creature’s relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the “final authority,” and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Ratz, no. Inconsiderate use of creation does
not begin where the existence of your magic man is denied, it begins
where people don’t think their actions will have undesirable
consequences. And by the way, if you’re going to rail about people
pursuing “a feverish race to possess the most possible”, may I suggest
that you take off the silk robes and step outside of your
palatial summer residence?
Just a thought. Might make you look a little less of a hypocritical
douchebag.

As for who owns the Earth, let’s take a look at the
Bible, page 1,
right after the copyright page:

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

The NIV says “rule over”. The NRSV says “have dominion”. I think it’s
clear how this can lead to a “fuck you, it’s my earth, I can do what I
want” attitude, the “final authority” attitude that Ratzinger
deplores. And creationists in Darwin’s day didn’t believe in
extinction, on the grounds that God would never allow one of his
creations to die out.

As for “inconsiderate use of creation”, I shouldn’t have to point out
that if there are no gods, then they can’t save us or the planet, so
it’s up to us. If we don’t take charge of passing on to the next
generation the kind of planet we’d like to have, who will? In fact,
the pope’s next paragraph says as much:

Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man’s responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner. Man is called to exercise responsible government to protect it, to obtain benefits and cultivate it, finding the necessary resources for a dignified existence for all.

except that he has to throw in a wholly gratuitous referece to God.

I can easily get behind a lot of what the speech said about protecting
the environment. But I can’t help noticing that the pope had to ignore
the Bible, his own policies, and a big chunk of the history of
religion in order to justify his conclusions with vague platitudes
about how “that covenant between the human being and the environment
that must be a reflection of the creative love of God”.

All of which would be mostly harmless if he hadn’t just taken a dump
on people who have been making those arguments long before he got
around to considering catching up to the 20th century, on the sole
grounds that they recognize his magic man for the superstitious tripe
that it is.

I keep hearing that morality has to come from God. And this is a
perfect example of that attitude: the leader of the single largest
sect on the planet saying that atheists must ipso facto be
inconsiderate and greedy.

So fuck you, Ratzi. Fuck you with a rusty crucifix.

More Catholic Idiocy

While in Israel, pope Benny
said:

“Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews – mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends – were brutally exterminated under a godless regime.”

Yeah, “godless”.

Nazi belt buckle with the inscription "Gott mit uns": "God with us"
Now, I’m no historian, and my knowledge of religion in Nazi Germany
comes from such places as
Wikipedia
and
The Straight Dope,
and it looks as though the situation is about as clear as mud: yes,
there were people like Martin Niemöller, but there were also Catholic
priests and bishops who didn’t seem to have a problem with the Nazi
regime. And Hitler certainly paid lip service to religion a lot. And
as far as I know, no one was ever excommunicated for participating in
the Holocaust.

Oh, and, of course, there’s the matter of Benny’s own membership in
the Hitler Youth.

At any rate, the situation is certainly nowhere near as clear as “Nazi
Germany was a godless regime.” In fact, one could easily make the case
that Nazi Germany (and the Soviet Union) had a lot of the uglier
aspects of religion: cult of personality, adherence to dogma, sworn
fealty to the authorities, and so forth.

But maybe The Ratz is simply using the word “godless” as synonymous
with “evil”. In which case, I hope he won’t mind if I use “Catholic”
as a synonym for “pederast”.


Irony meter
On a lighter note, Jesus and Mo
informs us
that Catholics have
condemned
reiki
(aka magic massage):

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine in late March dismissed reiki as superstition incompatible with Christian belief or scientific teaching, and said it is inappropriate for use in Catholic institutions, including hospitals, retreat centers and schools.

From the Catholic Committee on Doctrine’s
Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy:

[F]rom the time of the Apostles the
Church has interceded on behalf of the sick through the invocation of
the name of the Lord Jesus, asking for healing through the power of
the Holy Spirit, whether in the form of the sacramental laying on of
hands and anointing with oil
or of simple prayers for healing, which
often include an appeal to the saints for their aid.
[…]

[A] Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating
in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith
nor science.

(emphasis added)

Clearly, “faith” here means “the good kind of superstition”.

Unicode and the Pope

I keep thinking that
Unicode
has everything, but it turns out that it doesn’t. In particular, there’s a
collection of emoji
that’s been proposed, but hasn’t been approved by the powers that be.

The reason I bring this up is that recently, the pope made some
remarkably boneheaded comments; naturally, people pointed and laughed,
because that’s what you do when someone says something embarrassingly
stupid.

In response, the Catholic News Service published
a story
chiding people for that:

ROME (CNS) — Mockery is not acceptable in public discussions, especially when the subject is the pope, said the president of the Italian Catholic bishops’ conference.
[…]

“We will not accept that the pope, in the media or anywhere else, is mocked or offended,” said Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, opening the spring meeting of the permanent council of the Italian bishops’ conference.

I hope that emoji proposal passes; that way, the next time something
like this happens, I’ll be able to write

<span style="font-size: 1">💚</span>

to represent the world’s smallest violin, playing for the poor little
WATBs
and their hurt feelings. To quote Bender, “Oh, wait. You’re
serious. Let me laugh even harder.”

Meanwhile, maybe someone can explain to the Catholic church that if
they don’t like being ridiculed, they shouldn’t say such ridiculous
things.

Seriously, is this the best they have left? People shouldn’t make fun
of religious people because it hurts their feelings?

Oh, and the article also says:

The pope has often urged the world to become “more God-fearing while building a society based on humanitarian values and moral principles of life,” they said.

Maybe the problem is that he’s trying to pull in opposite directions:
it’s hard to build a society “based on humanitarian values and moral
principles” while at the same time telling them to be afraid of a
magic man in the sky. Drop the fear and the superstition, and then
we’ll talk.

Lack of Evidence for God Is Evidence of God, Says Pope

Quoth the NY Daily News:

“All believers know about the silence of God,” he said in unprepared remarks in Italy. “Even Mother Teresa, with all her charity and force of faith, suffered from the silence of God.”

He said believers sometimes had to withstand the silence of God to understand the situation of people who do not believe.

So God doesn’t actually, like, make himself known to people because he wants believers to sympathize with atheists? And maybe the fact that I can’t fly is a gift from Superman to help me sympathize with the residents of Smallville. I gather that “unprepared remarks” is code for “pulling lame excuses out of his ass.”

(HT Olly’s Onions via Jesus and Mo.)