Hip-Gnosis: April 2007: Archives

April 23, 2007

If Only Someone Would Have Spanked Cho genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

It's always interesting to see the religious fanatic’s perspective on current events. If it isn't Pat Robertson blaming Katrina on Ellen DeGeneres and gays or Jerry Falwell blaming 9/11 on gays, abortionists, feminists, and pagans or Reverend Phelps blaming military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan on gays, it's the American Family Association blaming Virginia Tech on the separation of church and state. I found the following video at No More Mister Nice Blog and it offers the latest message from the AFA explaining how banning God from schools is responsible for pretty much everything that ails the nation.

The Day They Kicked God Out Of The Schools

Well there you have it...schools raise our children and we are helpless to impact the minds of our children because once the schools get hold of them, it's all downhill from there. But then again...I went to Catholic schools for twelve years and had far more religious training than reciting a prayer in the morning and I still ended up gay...and that happened without the help of any altar boy obsessed priest.

So what conclusions can we draw from my own life? Perhaps if we consulted the AFA, they would explain that "right living" depends upon what type of God one is exposed to in school...maybe Catholic school education isn't an acceptable presentation of God? I'm sure they can also explain why women had abortions before Madalyn Murray O'Hair and why boys had sex with girls before condoms were provided in schools and why there were gay people when sodomy was illegal.

Yes, society used to be perfect and everyone had a conscience and there was no violence, no infidelity, and no sin...ah the good old days! If we would simply put God back into the schools, nothing bad would ever happen...because we know that children cannot be influenced by the behavior of their parents...just teachers and peers.

Oh, one last thing...there is a charge of five dollars to receive your copy of this message...consider it a donation to God's latest enterprise. After all, it costs a lot of money to conjure up the next natural disaster to punish all the bad people.

Daniel DiRito | April 23, 2007 | 12:50 PM | link | Comments (0)
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April 20, 2007

Catholic Church Says No To Limbo genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek

When I was growing up and attending Catholic schools, we were taught that a child that died before it was baptized went to Limbo and remained there forever. For a number of years now, my dad has been asking what happened to Limbo because he hasn't heard it talked about by anyone within the Church hierarchy. Well, it appears that Limbo has passed away. The Church's Theological Commission (are they licensed like Realtors?) issued the ruling today.

From Reuters:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.

In a long-awaited document, the Church's International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an "unduly restrictive view of salvation".

The 41-page document was published on Friday by Origins, the documentary service of the U.S.-based Catholic News Service, which is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The verdict that limbo could now rest in peace had been expected for years. The document was seen as most likely the final word since limbo was never part of Church doctrine, even though it was taught to Catholics well into the 20th century.

"The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation," it said.

The document stressed that its conclusions should not be interpreted as questioning original sin or "used to negate the necessity of baptism or delay the conferral of the sacrament".

In writings before his election as Pope in 2005, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made it clear he believed the concept of limbo should be abandoned because it was "only a theological hypothesis" and "never a defined truth of faith".


Well isn't that interesting. When my peers and I were taught about Limbo, the priests and nuns failed to mention that it was merely a hypothesis or that it wasn't yet part of Church doctrine. I can't say that this surprises me because it has been my experience that the Church functions along the lines of "you better believe this or else...until we tell you that you no longer have to believe this". Would anyone care for a dish of arbitrary and capricious? I hear it's quite tasty though difficult to swallow. But then I do have a bad habit of forgetting how the notion of infallibility works.

Perhaps the Church has realized, in this instance, that fear (don't let that baby die before being baptized a Catholic) may no longer be as effective as it used to be in keeping the flock in tow. One final point...do not make a mistake and think that you can site this example for the reconsideration of other "teachings"...after all, we followers aren't privy to the inner workings of where hypothesis ends and doctrine begins.

Fortunately, it allows me another opportunity to have a little fun with Photoshop.

No More Limbo

Daniel DiRito | April 20, 2007 | 11:40 PM | link | Comments (1)
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April 18, 2007

Let's Blame The Atheists genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

Big Questions

I realize that events like the tragedy at Virginia Tech are highly emotional and lead to countless reflections...but today I found one that elicited a double take. The posting is titled "Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen?" and it was written by Dinesh D'Souza who is employed at Stanford University.

Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.

The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul--well, that's an illusion!

To no one's surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it's difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho's shooting of all those people can be understood in this way--molecules acting upon molecules.

If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

Oh my...where to begin? OK, seriously, I understand the point D'Souza is attempting to make and I can even appreciate his effort to dismiss atheism in little more than three paragraphs...but I struggle with his insinuation that atheists like Richard Dawkins would view the Virginia Tech tragedy as nothing more than molecules acting upon molecules.

Can this event be scientifically characterized in that way? Of course...but that's true of virtually all actions. D'Souza and other like minded scholars frequently seek to paint atheism as heartless and without conscience. It's the same battle the Catholic Church has waged against secularism for as long as I can recall. The argument basically posits that non-believers must therefore be something approximating ruthless hedonists who spend all of their time trying to disprove God through science. I respectfully disagree.

Even the title of D'Souza's piece is part of the propaganda. Is he suggesting that there weren't any atheists in attendance at these memorial events or that they would refuse to attend one? The truth is that many atheists are humanists, hence the term I heard so often during my Catholic upbringing, secular humanists. No group has a monopoly on grief nor should anyone attempt to draw those comparisons or conclusions.

So what then is D'Souza actually suggesting? I read a blog called Pharyngula, a science blog, and they have frequently debated topics that involve the intersection of science and religion. A number of months back, the site did a posting that asked the question, "Does Science Need Religion To Have A Conscience?". The following discussion is from a Thought Theater posting on the topic and I think it speaks to the assertions made by D'Souza:

PZ Meyer, the sites author, wrote:

"No, we don't need religion for that. Atheists can have a conscience, too, and we are aware that there are human limits to what we should do. Too often, religion is used as a justification for doing the inhuman to heretics and unbelievers...and to pagans. It's a piss-poor substitute for morality, unless you think propping up the obscenely rich or damning people for what they do with their genitals is "morality" (and isn't that also an awfully petty concern for their majestic deity?)."

You can read the entire post and comment thread here.

The following was my comment posting:

I'm not a religious person and I don't believe in an afterlife. Ironically, while I also won't stake a claim to being a Christian in the defined and institutional sense of the word, I am content to support the notion that the examples offered by a man (fictional or factual are irrelevant to me) named Jesus can guide us to change. His is the story of a social critic who dissected the fallacies and hypocrisies that permeate the human experience. He did so at great personal risk because I believe "he" saw it as I choose to see it...if one man can elect to pursue and follow "truth", then he is entitled to believe and expect that all men can do the same.

In doing so, when each individual makes this necessary choice, we will cease pursuing and negotiating for a better, future destiny...and we will finally live heaven on earth. Our destiny is of our own making. I refuse to allow religion, or those who believe it is theirs to define, to remove that destiny from my earthly grasp. In the end, we can choose to be good people that honor humanity without submitting to any religious institutions or doctrines. Attempts to argue that science needs religion to keep it humane are therefore absurd.

The following was one of the replies to my comment:

While a generally agree with you thoughttheater, I must as a similarly flawed human take the stance that just because someone "attempted" to lead people to a better world, based on his own interpretation of what would make one, I would be a fool to assume that he a) had the knowledge necessary to adequately assess the consequences of his theories, b) sufficient knowledge of world customs and cultures, many of which he could have known nothing about and c) a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic biological drives that led to both the social structure he fought and the one he advocated, to succeed. History is rife with people like Jesus and Marx, who had utopian idea[ls] that "sound" good, but ignore the basic realities of how, and why, humans think and act the way they do.

The only functional system is one that sways with the occasional punches thrown by the individuals that "fail" to fit into the structure. Societies are like bridges. Build them to sway to little and they break, let them sway too much and they vibrate themselves into the point of failure. We barely understand the stresses that can screw up one person, based on a rough estimate of their personality. Jesus, Marx, et al, tried to build bridges with no understanding of the materials, no comprehension of the scale of time needed to succeed and no clue what the existing, never mind new, stresses would be.

The bridges they built collapsed, but society survived by living in the wreckage, until some other fool came along and tried a new design. Only, just as we still fail at building new structures, we continue to fail at building new societies. The problem is, when a real bridge falls down, someone looks it over to find out "why", societies sadly keep being rebuilt using various combinations of historical ideas, with no grasp of the reasons for failure and no desire on the part of those that proclaim themselves as the arbiters of morality and social order wanting to learn from the mistakes, never mind ever doing so. Progress when it's made is made in spite of such people, and like old world church builders, if it works and doesn't look offensive to them in some fashion; they adopt it, then claim they knew all along that it worked. When it doesn't, they more often than not try to rebuild the same unsupported towering columns, defective dome ceilings and fancy pedestrian threatening crenalations and physically impossible arches. And of course, they blame demons and goblins (or atheists and liberals) when the whole edifice collapses.

I then moved the discussion to Thought Theater and replied with the following:

First, in my offering Jesus as an example, I wasn't actually attempting to support an established doctrine but moreover to demonstrate what I perceive to be an effective method for the pursuit of "truth". Underlying all of my beliefs is my strong conviction with regard to the sanctity of humanity. For me, nothing holds greater weight...nothing. Keep in mind that I stated that "the examples offered by a man (fictional or factual are irrelevant to me) named Jesus can guide us to change." Therefore, my focus was on an endpoint; not a prescribed path...hence the key word "guide". To give an analogy, suppose we want to obtain a total of ten particular items...say marbles. The way we count those marbles may be different but the goal is something we can agree upon; we all generally concur on how to define a marble and we all have an understanding of what the number ten means.

Essentially, my premise is founded on the notion of "truth". Note that I am not supporting what I would characterize as dogma or doctrine...that being Truth. That begs the question, what is "truth?" To understand that premise, one needs look no further than the underlying principle, "the sanctity of humanity." The individual that responded to my remarks stated:

"I would be a fool to assume that he (Jesus)...a) had the knowledge necessary to adequately assess the consequences of his theories, b) sufficient knowledge of world customs and cultures, many of which he could have known nothing about and c) a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic biological drives that led to both the social structure he fought and the one he advocated, to succeed."

There is "truth" in those remarks. However, they do not refute the endpoint...they simply explain that he (Jesus) may have been more distant from it then than we may be now. Obviously, at the time one would have expected people to believe that the world was flat or numerous other incorrect assumptions. More importantly, in seeking "truth" we can be wrong until such time as the data tells us otherwise...so long as we continue to seek it and to honor the sanctity of humanity. If the stated goal is sincere, doctrine and dogma will not stand to block the newfound "truth"...it will support it since it is consistent with the end goal...more "truth" to bolster humanity.

Science, as I see it, accepts the methodology I am advocating. At the same time, goodness, as the logical adjunct to the concept of the sanctity of humanity, can travel simultaneously and in synchronicity with science without the need for religion. In my construct, the advancement of humanity is the ultimate objective. To say it differently, religious doctrine is not allowed to intervene and insert judgments that distinguish beyond the basic definitional denominator...our humanity is sacred.

Repeating a portion of what the other commenter stated:

"The problem is, when a real bridge falls down, someone looks it over to find out "why", societies sadly keep being rebuilt using various combinations of historical ideas, with no grasp of the reasons for failure and no desire on the part of those that proclaim themselves as the arbiters of morality and social order wanting to learn from the mistakes, never mind ever doing so."

Again, there is "truth" in these remarks. I agree that many seek to determine the direction of society based upon their own doctrines of morality...that is typically found with most religions...and it is often unwavering in spite of any sufficient evidence to the contrary. In fact most religions don't actually seek to build societies...they seek to keep them as they envision them, based on dogma, for all of perpetuity. Nonetheless, that doesn't refute my basic premise...it merely points out the obstacles that are created. Another example might be beneficial. Since the origin of the Bible, numerous interpretations have been offered and, more recently, more documents have been exposed that seemingly indicate that the content that was placed in the Bible, to a large degree, was chosen by those in positions of authority.

Clearly, there are Gospels that were not incorporated into the Bible. The fundamental premise is that God spoke to those who authored the Bible and yet it is obvious that humans had to make determinations as to which conversations were real and which were fabricated. That endeavor was necessarily based upon doctrine over science and that dogma continues to assert authority today despite the evidence that the methodology remains subjective and therefore potentially flawed. Jesus, whether factual or fictional, challenged many of the notions found in the Old Testament. Presumably, he did so because he felt the doctrines it contained conflicted with his pursuit of a larger "truth". Was his purview sufficient for eternity...of course not. Has his methodology remained valid...I contend it has. Keep in mind that I called him a social critic which by its nature defies conventional precepts in order to expose more "truth"...a construct that remains fully consistent with my contention.

I want to come back to one of the commenter's remarks. He indicated that individuals like Jesus and Marx must have had "a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic biological drives that led to both the social structure he fought and the one he advocated, to succeed." In theory, this still remains true. We don't understand all of the biological factors within the individual and therefore the society. Nonetheless, we have the ability to pursue them. Again, the goal remains consistent...the pursuit of more "truth"...and the methodology is still valid...continue to dismantle and question without reliance on doctrine in order to find more "truth".

Jesus and Marx approached change by pointing out the very things the commenter objects to...a reliance on established methods despite evidence to the contrary. They both promoted change by explaining the faults with the status quo. In other words, sometimes the visions for the future are nothing more than the dissection of the foibles of the past. In that regard, both Jesus and Marx told us what was wrong and what to walk away from...the absence of "truth"...and to move towards what might be better...the discovery of more "truth".

Not long ago I saw a play in Denver called Marx in Soho by historian Howard Zinn. The premise of the play is that Marx has come back for one day to defend himself and his theories. The following is from Westword, a Denver publication:

He is not a Marxist, this Marx insists, going on to condemn the power-mad thugs who terrorized Russia and China in his name. He describes his belief system as essentially humanistic, a blueprint for a classless society in which everyone is free of want and able to develop fully as human beings.

On the other hand, the critique of capitalism is spot-on, since capitalism, too, carries within itself the seeds of its own corruption. "I predicted that capitalism would increase the wealth of society, but this wealth would be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands," Marx says, describing the America we know with absolute precision. When he talks about the manipulation of patriotism to make people "forget their misery" and thunders against capitalism's tendency to commoditize everything, including art and human individuality, it's hard not to stand up and cheer.

Although Marxism contended with capitalism for dominance and legitimacy over much of the twentieth century, few Americans know anything but a cartoon version of it; Marx in Soho is an excellent antidote to this ignorance.

The point of the play, and my point about those who seek to advance social change in the interest of the sanctity of humanity as the underlying premise, is that it is not the choice of those who call for change, in order to promote change, that stops change; it is halted by the failure of more to choose it because they see the sanctity of humanity as secondary to the singular objectives of the individual. I contend that this is in fact the hidden, yet compelling, force behind religion.

Establishing a construct that "allows" the individual to take priority over the whole of humanity (I think the acceptance of humanity being inherently flawed is a choice) and at the same time be provided with the opportunity to obtain redemption is the very essence of religion. Once in place, this collective mentality allows the individual to come first because it is supported by the accepted premise that humanity is flawed. Subsequently, as part of the fundamentals of religion, forgiveness can then be obtained by supporting and participating in religion.

There are scholars who contend that the actual message of Jesus was in fact that all men are the sons of God because humanity is sacred. In other words, his message was that we must all choose to honor the sanctity of humanity. One often hears it expressed that he was "the only begotten son" of God. It isn't hard to conclude that the reference simply meant he was alone in his choice to honor the sanctity of humanity here on earth. His fate speaks to the fact that established beliefs can and do hinder the unbiased and unfettered pursuit of more "truth".

Once our humanity and its obligations are subrogated to religion, a whole new hierarchy has been fabricated by the few for the many. When this happens, religion has thus supplanted our accountability to humanity such that our actions in relation to others are viewed through this new prism. Unfortunately, the prism is different from one religion to another. In one way or another, they all attempt to place value judgments on some or all of our natural human activities such that the sanctity of humanity becomes secondary to the principles of any particular religious doctrine. This is often done regardless of conflicting scientific information thereby frequently suppressing the acceptance or pursuit of more "truth".

The example of Jesus cannot be characterized as that of a rigid doctrinaire. In the end, if Marx or Jesus were to actually return to this world as it now exists, I believe they would analyze the prevailing Truth, assimilate the actual "truth" available, compare and contrast both, offer their views on the degree of either's legitimacy, and lastly, and most importantly, choose to live all the "truth" available despite the potential risks...while remaining committed to seeking more...ever mindful of the underlying objective...the sanctity of humanity. The visionary, whether placed on the horizon of yesterday or today, always looks backward before moving forward...yet always remains a visionary.

Daniel DiRito | April 18, 2007 | 10:39 PM | link | Comments (2)
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April 11, 2007

Imus, Bias, Devils, And Heaven genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

Don Imus

I’ve never been a Don Imus devotee. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I listened to any portion of his show. I’ve never met the man and I know next to nothing about his character or his motivations other than what I’ve garnered during this rancor over his racially charged remarks.

So what do I know? I know that people on both sides of the political divide have sought to take advantage of the situation. While that isn’t necessarily wrong, it is indicative of a much larger problem in our society. In the broadest sense, it’s the oversimplification of us versus them…good versus bad.

To make my argument, the best example I can offer is from the 2004 presidential election and the circumstances surrounding John Kerry’s military service in Vietnam. At the Democratic convention, Kerry made his oft quoted announcement, "Reporting for Duty", and so began a series of volleys intended to frame the issue for the voting public. The two choices offered were that he was either a courageous war hero who risked his life for his fellow soldiers and then focused his energy on opposing a war that was wrong…or he was a cunning opportunist who crafted his actions to garner the accolades of a heroic soldier in order to provide him with the vehicle to make inflammatory accusations about the war and his fellow soldiers to promote his own political and personal gain.

Back to Imus. There is no doubt that his actions triggered this mess. His derogatory comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team were ignorant and inflammatory. His words were immediately met by a barrage of criticism and that is as it should be. In short order, MSNBC acknowledged the inappropriateness of his remarks and suspended him for two weeks. As an outside observer, that certainly seems warranted.

So now what? Well, this is the point at which it gets tricky. This is the juncture at which the situation becomes larger than the sum of its parts. This is where it becomes less about Don Imus and more about ideology and advantage for those in search of opportunities to engage in the dialogue of us versus them…good versus bad…from positions that have eclipsed the essential considerations of those involved in and impacted by the transgression. It’s not surprising and it’s nothing new…but it is wrong.

Duke Blue Devils

Let me attempt to explain. Fortunately, today’s headlines provide a relevant example…the dismissal of rape charges against three Duke University La Crosse players. By all accounts, the local District Attorney sought to manipulate the system and the media to further his own agenda…regardless of the intended purpose of his office…to determine the guilt or innocence of the alleged perpetrators.

First, my own mea culpa. When it was reported that one of the accused had previously been involved with, and charged in, a gay bashing incident, I felt justified in doubting the assertions of his friends and family that he was incapable of the alleged rape. In my own way, I wanted to punish him and all those who would commit crimes against gays…and I made the rape incident about more than those charges and the guilt or innocence of those alleged to have committed those specific charges.

I wasn’t alone. A number of influential Black leaders came to the defense of the alleged victim. Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting they were wrong to come to her aid or to advocate on her behalf. Had that been the limit of their actions, I wouldn’t be able to use the situation to advance my argument. However, they too sought to make the incident about more than the needs of the alleged victim and ascertaining the guilt or innocence of the accused

The media outlets were also duplicitous. Almost immediately, the cost of tuition at Duke University was discussed and the social and financial standing of the families of the accused was reported. The inference to the excesses of class and status was palpable. They went further. They also portrayed La Crosse as the sport of choice for the privileged and hinted that the ability to participate might involve implied racial considerations. As is so often the case, the media sought to expand and exaggerate the breadth and depth of the situation…because it better served their need for sensational stories to attract viewers.

So what are the connecting points? Essentially, our culture has devolved into the serial practice of partisanship without regard for the individual or the pursuit of the truth. We’re not looking to find the truth, we’re looking to create truth and that is a pivotal distinction. As such, each issue becomes the flagship for opposing interest groups and the epicenter for partisan politics. Those actually involved in this and other incidents (and they are often victims) become nothing more than pawns in an elaborate game of chess…and they are frequently further victimized.

How does it play out? In ways that defy logic and deny reason. Don Imus has yet to speak with the Rutgers basketball team and they have not yet had the opportunity to confront him directly. Imus has apologized numerous times in countless ways…through the media. The Rutgers players have reacted…through spokespeople and the media. I’m sorry but when I see how these situations unfold, I am convinced that we suffer the severest form of "nothing is as it seems". Until we begin to realize that resolution and redemption begin at the most fundamental level…person to person…accused with aggrieved…true progress cannot be achieved. Why are direct dialogue and a face to face meeting between Imus and the Rutgers players the last consideration?

Frankly, we are fast becoming the epitome of a Jerry Springer society. It seems to have become more important to have an audience and notoriety when confronting conflict than it is to attain resolve and mutual respect. That model seems to serve the needs of the exploited and those who seek to exploit; reinforcing all that relegates objectivity to the outhouse while making the frailty and imperfection of the human condition a spectacle that harkens back to the Coliseum.

No doubt the Rutgers players were drawn into this fray through no fault of their own…which should afford them far more leeway as well as the right to determine the method and the means to achieve reconciliation. Unfortunately, the interlopers that seek to parlay the predicament are soon dictating the dynamics…fueling resentment and recalcitrance in order to advance their agendas. Putting them on display seems to be more important than facilitating the confrontation and apology that is necessary to begin the healing process and the restoration of their hard earned dignity.

Beyond that, the actual merits of Don Imus the man or the employee cannot and should not be ciphered through public opinion…especially public opinion that results from the systematic hijacking of the incident. In fact, one might be safe to suggest that those manipulating public opinion may well have more malicious motivations and intentions than those that underlie the incendiary words uttered by Don Imus.

Parental Advisory

This situation isn’t and shouldn’t be about whether liberals or conservatives, this race or that race, hip hop or honky-tonk, one group or another, are more offensive and therefore more responsible for all that is wrong with America. I am not capable of judging the whole of Don Imus nor am I capable of crafting a recipe to fix all of America…and neither are the countless pundits and partisans who have sought to frame it so.

I may be wrong, but I’m convinced that fostering or fixing the direct relationships we currently have is where we will begin to find solutions to our much larger societal issues. Consequently, I’m also not willing to subjugate the rights or responsibilities of the individual for the benefit of some beguiled brotherhood. When we do so, we endorse a system that substitutes subjectivity for substance and we are all diminished.

I’m not a religious person…but I often find kinship with the imagery surrounding the portrayal of one called Jesus and his teachings of understanding and forgiveness. For all the banter I hear about the Bible and Christian values, it certainly seems to me that we are fast abandoning what many view as the sacred "tablets" in favor of the sacrosanct tabloids. If I’m right, all I can say is heaven help us.

Daniel DiRito | April 11, 2007 | 7:57 PM | link | Comments (8)
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April 5, 2007

Catholicism Must Evolve genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts

Science tells us that humans evolved over millions of years and will continue to evolve. History and the positions of the new Pope, Benedict XVI, tells us that the Catholic Church is still struggling to evolve...often holding fast to institutional traditions despite being confronted by new challenges. The position of the Church is that Catholic teachings are not secondary to cultural influences...or said more clearly...what they believe to be right and wrong rarely changes.

Notwithstanding, a review of history demonstrates that the Church has held wrong views and taken inappropriate and misguided positions on a number of issues. Sadly, it still relies on the infallibility of the Pope in establishing doctrine, regardless of numerous examples disproving the notion. In doing so, it often lags the rest of society in accepting and acknowledging new information. One can argue that this makes it easier to view the Church as a follower rather than a leader since they are frequently espousing dogma until they can no longer do so in good conscience. In addition, their need to remain viable has on occasion facilitated a voluntary recantation.

In my opinion, the Catholic Church views unchallenged authority as one of its most cherished possessions...and it has no doubt proven a valuable tool in maintaining control over the beliefs and values of its followers. After a brief period of conciliatory gestures by the new Pope, he has begun to assert the authority many anticipated might become the hallmark of his papacy. The following excerpts are from an Associated Press article found at 365gay.com:

(Vatican City) After sliding smoothly into his job as pastor of his flock, reaching out to dissidents, other faiths and countries long hostile to the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict has started drawing the line.

With his 80th birthday and the second anniversary of his election as Pope approaching this month, he has rebuffed calls - including by bishops in his native Germany - to let divorced Catholics who remarry participate fully in the Church.

He has warned Catholic politicians who must decide on such issues as abortion, euthanasia and marriage that Catholic values are "not negotiable.'' And he has closed the door on any relaxation of the celibacy requirement for priests.

Benedict's persistent defense of the "traditional family'' based on marriage between a man and a woman has emboldened Italy's bishops, who are waging a fierce battle against the government's proposal to extend some rights to non-married couples, including same-sex unions.

One of the Pope's prime targets for a rekindling of the faith is Europe, which he recently described as "going down a road which could lead it to take its leave from history.''

Having already lost a battle in predominantly Catholic Spain, which went as far as approving gay marriage, Benedict has now turned his sights on his own backyard.

Enrique Miret Magdalena, a respected moderate Spanish theologian who is himself 93, said Benedict is "an old man, and the papacy weighs heavily upon him. He's afraid of change.''


I agree with Magdalena's assessment; but the legacy of John Paul II set in motion a clear shift to the right. Benedict was widely seen as his theological enforcer and John Paul's appointment of numerous conservative Cardinals assured that his doctrinal precepts would be sustained well into the future. Benedict's election further entrenches this move to the right. What remains to be seen is whether the Church can turn the tide of religious complacency and secular momentum that is found throughout Europe. If the Church continues to see authority as the means to reestablish the relevance it seeks, I would anticipate their continued decline.

I believe that the widespread access to education and its appropriate reliance on the scientific method will require the Church to revise its arguments and conduct a reasoned dialogue with its followers. Fear and force must accede to an open exchange that recognizes facts over faith when the evidence is compelling.

The following graphic is not intended to suggest that the Catholic Church is responsible for all that ails the world nor all the conflicts that have transpired during its existence. Nonetheless, it is intended to point out that if the Church is, as it argues, an agent for good, then it must stand up for the oppressed, the weak, and the abused…when it happens; not years later when it decides an apology is warranted.

Leaders act…and if the Church wants to have a voice in leading the world, then it must reverse its propensity to sit on its collective hands when so many in the world are in desperate need of a hand. Far too many people have suffered or lost their lives at the hand of those who take liberties under the guise of self- righteous symbols. If the Catholic Church wants its symbols to be respected, then its symbols must stand for more than arbitrary authoritarianism. Evolution is necessary.

The Evolution Of Catholicism

Daniel DiRito | April 5, 2007 | 6:00 PM | link | Comments (4)
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