Extra! Extra! Pope smooches imam!

The Freethinker brought this to my attention:

Apparently the BBC wouldn’t risk reproducing the image on their website, and even Benetton removed it from theirs. The ad is part of a campaign pitting “world leaders who are often at loggerheads, such as President Obama and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, locking lips.” What’s so controversial about that?

I don’t know if the imam’s people went apeshit over the ad, but you can just imagine those pasty fellows over at the Vatican pulling their hair out over it. No respect for the Holy Father! Lolz.

I think it’s pretty hilarious, and I long for the day the religions can no longer throw their weight around in defense of “the feelings of believers.” Considering that Catholics are spoonfed homophobia from a young age as part of their church’s doctrine, I don’t think they have the right to have such “feelings” respected.

All are not equal before the law

The Italian Chamber of Deputies decided it didn’t want to dignify homosexuality by approving a law that would make hate crimes against gays punishable. On. Fabrizio Cicchitto of the PDL explains:

We’re not homophobic. Our position is basically this: we consider gays citizens equal to everyone else. For precisely this reason we contest every legal attempt at differential treatment which would thereby admit and accentuate diversity, which is in substance unconstitutional.

Which isn’t true at all. They don’t consider gay citizens “equal to everyone else.” It’s for this reason that gay marriage is still illegal here (among other forms of discrimination). They’re taking cues from the Vatican, of course, which has perfected the art of discriminating while playing the victim. They cry out about the tyranny of minorities, about how if you give them an inch they take a mile, that the majority (read, “Catholic heterosexual majority”) are somehow in danger of a rabble that wants wants wants…equality.

It’s always the same story: Italian politicians will not risk going against “Catholic values” for fear the Vatican will…what, exactly? What are they afraid of? That they’ll ask a nuncio to come home from his plush quarters down the street? That they’ll get “serious” – always a sign that someone has managed to piss off the Privileged Few? That the Catholic masses will be mobilized to take action against them? And when has that ever happened?

The Italian Constitution has this to say:

(“All citizens have equal rights and are equal before the law, without distinction by sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, or personal or social condition.”)

All of which sounds great, but isn’t true, either. (Notice, for instance, it doesn’t mention “sexual orientation.” Maybe that’s grouped under “personal/social condition.”) That’s why in every courtroom in Italy there is a huge wooden crucifix above the words, “The law is equal for everyone.”

But we know this is a lie, too. Just ask Judge Luigi Tosti.

Self-portrait of a homophobic politician

Carlo Giovanardi of Italy’s PDL (that’s Berlusconi’s party) had a few things to say about Lady Gaga’s upcoming appearance at the EuroPride parade in Rome:

“…all the surveys prove scientifically that the majority of Italians are against gay marriage.” 

“It’s wrong to allow the Coliseum, symbol of the death of thousands of Christian martyrs, to be dressed in so-called rainbow colors. The Coliseum is where the pope celebrates the Via Crucis, the place of Christ’s martyrdom.”

“Isn’t it possible to find another monument to light up for the gay cause without offending anyone’s sensibilities?”

“I’ll attend the Gay Pride parade when it’s a civil demonstration and no longer an exuse to jeer at the Holy Father, make fun of the religious and those who dedicate their lives to others, and prance around in fancy costumes – things which have all happened so far. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is free to do what they want, but I won’t go as long as they overdo it.”

I guess that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Everyone is free to do what they want, as long as it doesn’t offend the religious sensibilities of a bigoted clique of fundamentalist Catholic politicians and their overseers in the Vatican. They, of course, may offend whomever they wish and even prevent other people’s happiness by law in the name of their creed.

There’s no better way to drive intelligent people from the faith, guys – keep it up! Your churches are empty, and our numbers are swelling.

Belief (almost) made me a complete asshole*

I’ve been having a debate (what else to call it?) on Facebook lately with a couple of friends over whether religion can be held responsible for its homophobic teachings. I say it can and should, whereas my friends disagree. They suggest that prejudice most likely has a different explanation, and religions simply capitalize on pre-existing feelings of hatred and fear. That’s quite true. But religion has crystallized these emotions and normalized them for billions of people, weaving them into the fabric of belief. To be a Roman Catholic who does not think homosexuals are “disordered”, or “unnatural” is to have shed an important part of that belief system, and one that is hammered home at every opportunity by those in charge of Roman Catholic beliefs.

Once, when I was flirting with religious belief, I was on the road to such thinking as well. I remember quite vividly the way in which my perception of sexuality became more prudish. I was reading the Bible and trying hard to put my thinking in line with what I thought was a “Jewish” view of sexuality. While I never became homophobic, I did begin to think differently about two men having sex (but not two women). I began to adopt more “conservative” or “traditional” opinions. And this opinion was rather negative, as I recall it.

It didn’t stick, though. The more I studied and tried hard to ignore the cognitive dissonance of “believing” while going to the movies on Friday evening – which is strictly forbidden by Jewish law – the more I felt like the whole edifice was just that: an artificial construct. Then it fell, just like the cardboard cut-out it was.

The experience was useful, however, for it put me in the mind of a believer for a short time. Some might say this isn’t accurate, as I was never really any such thing. Either way, it felt a lot like what I’ve read over and over again about the tension people feel when they put their religious beliefs to the test and decide they can’t go on lying to themselves.

To get back to homophobia, though. In my admittedly anecdotal experience, I was aware of a change taking place. And that wasn’t because of radical preachers, fundamentalist company or any such thing; it was what I had begun to intuit about the Bible itself and its archaic worldview (I even began to wonder how one might make sacrifices in the 21st century). I only wished to get in line and act, well, religious.

Thankfully, this proved rather difficult. I have a bad habit of analyzing things to death, and for me whatever ad-hoc idea of God I’d begun to formulate in my head vanished under scrutiny. By the time I’d finished reading The End of Faith, I had accepted that the religious life – and accompanying worldview – wasn’t for me.

In fact, more than anything it was the way an even diluted religious belief messed with my mind that turned me off. It was a bit like drugs (I’ve had bad experiences on both). It was the realization that I wasn’t in full control, that I felt puppeted, manipulated by the things I was reading. I even began to entertain creationism, which is a perfect example of the way religion can damage one’s thinking; I can think of no other reason on Earth anyone would question the evidence for evolution if not for a religious (read: Abrahamic) worldview.

As an atheist I’m always discussing religion with people who will discuss it with me. Having briefly tasted belief, I’m curious to know what others experience and how it affects them. Some even quip that I’m more “religious” than the religious because I take belief seriously. Well, I’ve seen what it can do, and it’s heady stuff. Trust me.

* Some people think I’m an asshole now, of course; but they don’t know what was happening inside my head then.

Nichi Vendola on being gay

It almost slipped by me as I was writing my last post, but a reader caught it in the comments. Quoting from the Haaretz profile, which still appears to be the most substantial yet in English on the rising star of the Italian left, I wrote:

Vendola does not see any contradiction between being a devout Catholic and his declared sexual identity. “I have always been Catholic and gay, I have never concealed this and I refuse to adopt feelings of guilt,” he said in interviews with Italian media. “It is easier to talk about this with priests than with politicians.”

Of course the reader in question (and this is why comments matter) asked, “Hm, suppose they have more gay priests than gay politicians in Italy?” How could I have overlooked that one?

It occurs to me that Mr. Vendola was skirting the issue a bit. Instead of looking the homophobic dogma of his Church in the eye and challenging it, he clips his sails to the prevailing winds. It’s easier to talk about these things with priests than politicians; that is, with those responsible for perpetuating the idea that homosexuality is an “evil” among huge swaths of the voting public, and inculcating a mechanism whereby politicians court the vote by adopting the rhetoric of the Church, which is itself bursting with homosexuals dressed up as Clark Kent.

It’s a tricky, Orwellian shtick abounding with smoke and mirrors. I’m always a bit baffled by devout gay Catholics. What exactly do they love about their Church, which is so consistently and stridently opposed to their sexual freedom and does everything in its power to deny them the same rights afforded to heterosexuals, endlessly manupulating the political processes of Catholic-majority countries like Italy to achieve their ends?

I’d love to see an Italian politician courageous enough to stand up to the unlovable Vatican. I bet a lot of disenfranchised Italian voters would support that, too. It might finally give them the voice they’ve been denied for so long by cowardly hypocrites prepared to steamroll democracy every time the pope hiccups the word “relativism.”

Dear PZ, please have Berlusconi pharyngulated

Yesterday, P.Z. Myers politely boasted that he got a homophobic bigot named Daniel Spratlin fired from the Examiner by drawing attention to his anti-gay rhetoric. Spratlin wept:

Take, for example, a man that I’d never heard of (thanks be to God) by the name of PZ Myers. He just couldn’t stand by why I actually had the audacity to speak ill of sin. He wrote this disjointed piece a couple of days after my post. (NOTE: This “man” is unable to engage in civil conversation so please be aware of vile language in his writing.) “Why is he so full of hate,” you may ask. Well, Johnny, when a person’s heart is so absolutely hardened to God, he will act like the heathen that he is. It is the way man is due to the Fall. It really shouldn’t surprise me but, then again, I always want to be surprised by sin in all its forms

So, P.Z., as you are our largest arsenal of deadly cyber rays, please point them towards the Tyrrhenian coast. It’s time you took out Silvio Berlusconi and his cabinet (Italian voters can’t manage this on their own) of crusading homophobes. Here is his latest, “Oops, did I say that in public?”

“I’ve always been like this. Sometimes I find myself looking into a pretty girl’s eyes, but it’s better to love pretty girls than to be a homosexual.”

My wife, who knows Italian politics far better than I do, assures me this was not meant for Nichi Vendola, who is openly gay and gaining ground in the opposition party. I have my doubts.

Berlusconi is a clown. Pharyngulate his ass!