Why I’m an atheist

Over at WashPo Susan Jacoby couldn’t resist having another laugh at the expense of the Catholic Church. But this is like sniggering at the shmendrick who drops his ice cream on the sidewalk: it’s too easy. Here’s Jacoby:

Let’s see. One in four American-born Catholics have left the church during the past 20 years. Parish schools are being closed throughout the country because many dioceses are strapped for cash after settlements with victims of priestly pedophilia. Seminaries are empty and nuns (those who are left) are in open rebellion against a male hierarchy that will not even consider ordaining women as priests. I guess it’s logical that the church needs more exorcists.

Talk about desperate. If I were the pope I’d be trying to make my church a bit more modern, a bit more humanistic and a bit more, well…serious. Exorcism is sheer buffoonery, like clown shoes. Did you ever see the pope walk out in public wearing something so silly as big, floppy clown shoes? Well, I guess you have.

Jacoby nails moderate religious belief as well:

The problem with “moderate” religion–as distinct from fundamentalists creeds that insist on the literal truth of ancient collections of fantasies–is that there is really no difference between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” supernatural beliefs. When you think about it, it is really no more absurd to believe that Satan can make us froth at the mouth than it is to believe that ashes will one day be reassembled and restored to life. Any belief for which there is no evidence apart from one’s own longings and fears is unreasonable. That is why I am an atheist.

She’s right, too. Why is belief in the recomposition of a decomposed body any less outlandish than belief in devils, demons and dybbuks? It’s all nonsense, and that’s the point. All religions are full of such beliefs, right down to the central one about God. If you think I’m being unfair (and I know a lot of people who hold on to God as a pre-teen boy holds on to his teddy bears) I’d like to know what you think the difference is.

And that’s one reason I, too, am an atheist.

Exorcism is complete and utter nonsense

I just wanted to briefly add my voice to the chorus of those who thought Laurie Goodstein’s NTY article on the revival of exorcism in the Catholic Church was silly. I mean, is this news? PZ Myers made a thorough frisking of it here, so I won’t go into it. His point is summed up thus:

In any other subject, if someone made a specific claim like that, I’d expect a good journalist to ask, “how do you know that?” and try to track down a credible source for such a claim about an individual. When the subject is the Devil, though, anything goes. You can say any ol’ crazy thing about Satan, and the reporter will dutifully write it down and publish it without ever stopping for a moment to wonder, “Hey, is my source just making shit up?”

Ooga-booga, ol’ Satan is back to haunt us in the pages of the New York Times. I would expect this kind of silliness from the Osservatore Romano or even Corriere della Sera because I’m aware that the Italian media bend over backwards to accomodate the Church, regardless of the ridiculous nonsense its mouthpieces are spewing, in wholly uncritical fashion. We’re talking about expelling demons, for chrissakes!

Here’s the kind of thing that makes me laugh:

“The ordinary work of the Devil is temptation,” he said, “and the ordinary response is a good spiritual life, observing the sacraments and praying. The Devil doesn’t normally possess someone who is leading a good spiritual life.”

That’s the last paragraph of Goodstein’s article. Straightfaced. Let’s say it loud and say it proud, “THERE IS NO DEVIL. THERE IS NO GOD. IT’S ONLY PEOPLE MAKING SHIT UP. WE ALL KNOW THIS. NOW LET’S STOP PRETENDING AND GROW THE FUCK UP.”

I feel better. Enjoy your weekend.