Category Archives: atheism

Religion is a very serious business.

It’s not always easy being an atheist.  Too often I get caught in religious debates.  The same old stuff comes out; Pascal’s Wager1, Darwin didn’t prove life came from nothing, so evolution isn’t true2, our eyes are proof of intelligent design3, and so on it goes.  As an atheist, I’m not one to jump down believers’ throats and shout at them to tell them they are deluded.  It’s one of the fundamental human rights as laid down in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; people have the right to observe their religion.

I don’t believe religion is intrinsically a rort. However I do believe it’s protected by the Law more than secular belief such as humanism and is easily corrupted.  Yes, believe in whichever deity you want and you should not be persecuted by the state for that belief.  I say “the state” because it’s perfectly reasonable for any individual to question the integrity of such a believer; if such a believer is honest with nothing to hide, then the answers should flow freely, as any statement of faith should.

Yet this isn’t what really happens.  The very well publicised Harold Camping said the rapture would occur on 21st of May 2011.  He was (not surprisingly) wrong, and not for the first time on this matter, either.  Conservative Christians in the US, UK and here in Australia oppose gay marriage using 2 common arguments as a basis; 1) it would undermine heterosexual marriage by removing rights from heterosexual marriages, and 2) the law (at least in Australia) defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Both these arguments are, to be fair, weak.

Now I wouldn’t personally mind this kind of debate if it were on a fair playing field.  Dare I suggest most religious conservatives believe it is, or if not it’s slanted in favour of the “homosexual agenda.”  If only it were!  Organised religion is exempt from discrimination laws; religious schools can expel students and sack teachers on the basis of being gay, pregnant and unwed, or even being nonbelievers of the school’s religion e.g. a Buddhist can be sacked in a Catholic school.  That wouldn’t be such a problem if governments didn’t give such schools no strings attached subsidies!

This is nothing short of hypocrisy.

For all that, my biggest beef is that religions don’t pay tax.  Religions hold the cards here, because in nearly all democratic nations, religions are exempt from paying tax.  They are assumed to be not-for-profit organisations.

(Now to be fair, most religious organisations are not-for-profit, but how do we know if the books are kept in secret, and religion is exempt from Freedom of Information laws?)

These exemptions have their basis in medieval law, when the church and state were cosy bedfellows.  The church even had powers to tax.  That may have changed since the French and American revolutions and the resultant separation of powers, but religion remains untouchable when it comes to tax. It’s unreasonable, and unjust.

To make things a little more fair, organised religions should be taxed like non-religious charities, trusts and companies.  If a registered religious group is truly not-for-profit, then nothing changes; they won’t pay tax.  If they do make profits, or accumulate wealth through property, gifts, bequeathments, grants and so forth, then they should have to declare their income, assets, fringe benefits, etc., and thus pay tax.  Like anyone else.  The same rules should apply equally to all.

To demonstrate the hypocrisy, the Church of Scientology was taken to task by a few individuals who believe the organisation is quackery and fraudulent, claiming that Scientology is not a religion but a philosophy.  This may be true, and as an atheist I have little doubt that the accusations are true.  However the means of attack against Scientology was about their tax status, not values or ideology.  The High Court of Australia ruled that Scientology is a religion and therefore exempt from being taxed.  Anyone can form a religion as long as there is a belief in a supernatural something, and cannons of conduct exist and are accepted by the believers.  That’s all.

I’m not going to try to figure out how much governments – and therefore citizens – miss out by religious organisations not paying any tax, but as a guestimate the figure would be in he order of $1 billion.

In the meanwhile, approximately $600 million is being spent by the Federal Gillard government to place chaplains in all schools; private religious and government secular alike.  The Victorian Baillieu government is injecting a further $200 million.  These chaplins aren’t allowed to teach or proselytise, so what is the point of them being there?  I can only see them as bargain basement counsellors with no qualifications at all other than to have a working with children check like this or this.  Seriously, no teaching, psychology or any tertiary qualifications are needed at all; equivalent experience is enough.  Far from being representative of the non-secular make-up of Australia, these chaplains are all Christian4.  It’d be interesting if an atheist was appointed as a school chaplain under the NSCP.

Is it not galling enough that that secular entities don’t pay tax and yet many are given government grants, or paid contracts to provide essential services?  How is it fair that a church can “syphon” off funds from government to build a chapel instead of, say, a computer lab for students?  How is it fair that an organisation like The Salvation Army can purchase a vehicle tax free to provide for a Salvation Officer or employee in lieu of income?  (In any other context this is seen as Fringe Benefits and is thus taxed.)  This is a double dip that no other business can get away with.

I specifically mention the Salvos because they have many government contracts to provide services to the community, such as employment and food, clothing and transport.  It goes without saying the Salvation Army don’t do it for nothing, but we won’t find out how much profit they earn from these deals because they are exempt from FOI because they are a contracted service provider (and a religion).

Why can’t a secular charity or organisation provide these services?  Well, some do, but without the tax breaks afforded to them that religious organisations automatically get, secular organisations aren’t competitive in a bidding process.

All this makes me uncomfortable.  I’m not suggesting all nonsecular organisations are corrupt, but they are certainly open to corruption and have more mechanisms at their disposal to cover up any corruption.  It’s difficult to prosecute when wrongdoing is exposed, too.  Such as when a private religious school principal and his brother were taken to trial for fraud, but they were acquitted on appeal despite the obvious rort.

It’s time to stop giving religious organisations a helping hand at becoming asset rich whilst they cry poor.  Praying should not be conceded to be a public service.  Religious charities should not be allowed to discriminate when they are contracted to provide a government service to all members of the community.  Most of all, it’s time for the books to be open and tax paid in the same way, under the same rules, that secular organisations have to.

1. Pascal’s Wager suggests it’s a good idea to “hedge one’s” bet and believe in God.  If God doesn’t exist, then no harm done.  This logic fails because there is more than one god.  Also, any god who chooses humans because of their gambling habits over their value as humans is vain and capricious and therefore not worth aspiring to be with.

2. Darwin’s seminal work On the Origin of Species isn’t about first life, rather how new species evolve from common ancestors by natural selection.  It’s not just an idea, but a testable theory with observable predictions, just like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Further, debating anything in science using the premise “but x isn’t true” does not negate a theory in it’s entirety; just because science doesn’t explain everything doesn’t mean it can’t explain anything.

3. Human eyes are terrible at many things.  They aren’t like camera at all, and only a small part near the centre of the retina, near the blind spot, can detect colour.  Even then it’s not very good.  If the eye were designed, then the designer did less than a half-arsed job.

4. This blog here does an excellent job of dissecting chaplains in school, and why the commissioned report (which I linked here) for Access Ministries should be viewed as propaganda, or the very least, extremely subjective and biased.  Not one acceptable metric was used.

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>The Dashing of Babies’ Heads

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This is a response to http://twitter.com/heidiraff/
@Epigrammist Ezekiel 9 Explanation – Question posed by atheists on Twitter: How can the order by god in… http://tumblr.com/xt1c64w9u
Which in turn was her response to @DanVerg’s question; How can Ezekiel 9 be justified?  I embellished the question – in order to get a response as @heidiraff was constantly stalling – with a passage form Psalms.  Psalm 137:9 to be precise.  You may remember the song as sung by Boney M; By The Rivers of Babylon:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? 5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. 6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. 8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;  happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. 9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Ok, so Boney M didn’t sing happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones, but it would have made for an interesting song.  Back to Psalm 137 later.
Ezekiel 9 says (in the King James Version):
1 He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. 2 And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. 3 And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; 4 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.  5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. 7 And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city. 8 And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? 9 Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not. 10 And as for me also, mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head. 11 And, behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as thou hast commanded me.
I suggest for those who aren’t familiar with bibles or concordances (those wonderful little bits of theological academia that justify anything, link any verse to any other verse, and generally attempt to confuse anyone trying to understand the bible for themselves) to grab one and have a look at the contexts in which Psalm 137 and Ezekiel are written.
@Heidiraff’s answer breaks down into 2 parts;
1. (biblical) Israel was corrupt, and
2. was in need of cleansing.  Yes, even new-borns who had no concept of “right” and “wrong”.
Ezekiel was an old school prophet; the “oh woe is Israel, oh woe is Jerusalem!” kind of guy.  This “prophecy” is no different (but I wonder if they only remembered and wrote down the prophecies that were right and those that were wrong were erased from history; certainly many prophets were denounced as false prophets).
In essence, what Ezekiel wrote (by tradition) was “God yelled at me, saying get all those that run the city, particularly priests, into the sanctuary with all their families so he can send his messengers down to destroy them.  Ok?  Thanks!  Oh, by the way, there is this angel next to me recording this event in a very efficient, bureaucratic way with pen and paper.”
@Hiediraff claims this is the same deal as Noah’s ark.  The obvious question here is that if Noah’s ark was supposed to rid the world of corruption and evil, since Noah was a righteous man, then why would it have to be done all over again?  If the story of Noah is to be believed, then we are all a result of incestuous sex from Noah’s family, which means the “flood” really wasn’t a great idea after all, even if there was archeological and geological evidence for it.  Which there isn’t.
Did god fail?  Because it’s starting to look like the god of the Israelites, Christians and Islamists is very good at getting prophets to write down a plan for humanity to marvel at before cocking up its execution.
More worryingly is that Ezekiel 9 is held up to be an example of how god looks after his chosen people by commentators like Wesley.  If we don’t turn to god and beg and plead and do everything god says without question, our innocent babies will be slaughtered by god’s henchmen, yay!
No matter who comments, or how Ezekiel 9 is interpreted, it all boils down to sin and corruption.  Ezekiel was tasked to tell all who would listen “If you don’t get your shit in one sock, then there is going to be lots of stick and no carrot.”  That’s pretty much the message of every Old Testament prophet, only they are imprecise and verbose.  Possibly due to the tea they made from that green stuff on the side of the road.
Back to Psalm 137: It’s a psalm that was, and is, used by exiled Jews (and now Christians) to remind them that although in exile, they will take back Jerusalem.  It’s also used to reassure Jews that Jerusalem is theirs for ever, no matter where they are.  Huzzah!
That, and that they’ll have a lot of fun smashing non-Jewish kids heads in with rocks.
What wonderful examples Ezekiel 9 and Psalm 137 set.  Wander slightly and your family will be slaughtered, follow the path of god and you have permission to kill newborns of your enemies.
This isn’t discipline, as @heidiraff claims.  It’s barbarianism.  For those who wonder why the extremes of Islam are brutal, this is it.  The same god, and the same reverence for the Old Testament (Torah) as Jews and Christians.  Next I’ll be told how only Christians have a moral authority because only they are the “chosen ones”.
I’m sorry; any answer that ends with the likes of @Heidiraff’s “In this case, God used other nations to discipline His children and bring them back to Himself. This was the push-me-pull-you relationship that existed until Jesus came and brought mankind back to God through His death on the cross.” is akin to saying “I don’t really know why, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but to me it doesn’t matter because of my personal relationship with God.”  I’d much rather the latter, honest answer than the former Jesus-makes-everything-taste-better answer drawn from the jar labeled “Stock Answers for when you don’t know the answer.”

>Shame Is The Only Weapon That Hurts Them

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Humans are flawed.  We are prone to err.  We make observational errors.  We unwittingly make assumptions that have no foundations.  Sometimes we deliberately deceive ourselves as a protective (or coping) mechanism so that we don’t have to face facts: the lie is comforting and protective.
Perhaps the most interesting psychological and social phenomenon that demonstrates one of our psychological flaws is the Fundamental Attribution Error.  We all have it to a greater or lesser degree.
What is it?  Well, it would be easy to insert a few links to Wikipedia or a paper or text on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or even the person credited with the term Lee Ross. Instead, I will explain it in hypothetical examples of a cognitive error.
Let’s say someone has severe depression.  One of the behavioural problems this person exhibits is severe social isolationism and an irrational blame system.  The sufferer may attribute all “good luck” to simple good but undeserved fortune, and any “bad luck” to deserved punishment, be it by “God”, or any other source, even themselves.
The use of “good”, “bad” and “God” is deliberate: they are loaded words, with a value that is different for each individual.
The same phenomenon happens in perfectly functioning individuals too.  For example, “bad” things that happen are entirely due to things beyond the person’s control, and “good” things happen because the person is a “good” person or because they pray to “God”.
It should now be obvious what is really happening: the individual is attributing in error what is happening to them.  As individuals we all do it from time to time.  As a society we gravitate towards those with similar belief systems and reinforce any errors.  To claim otherwise is in itself a fundamental attribution error.
So why talk about a psychological theory, especially one that is still debated amongst psychiatrists and psychologists?  There is a battle going on, and an ugly one at that.  It’s religious fundamentalism verses human rights.  Normally sanity prevails and on accommodates the other, but this “war” is becoming ugly as issues become polarised.
On the religious fundamentalism side, a claim has been staked for theological absolutism over morality.  The principle being only religion can own morality, since what is “good” and what is “evil” is defined by “God”, be it Yahweh, God, Allah, or any defined deity, and any human morality is corrupted.  The flaw in absolutism is exposed when absolutists can’t agree on moral “laws”, or even be consistent on interpretation.
This isn’t the crux of the problem, as conflict amongst religious absolutists has ever been thus.  What the current vortex has done is draw in an ever growing number of seemingly normal people capable of making their own decisions based on evidence and experience and turning them into bigots.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the US.  There is a growing fear, often unfounded, of Islam because a few radical “Muslims” deviate from orthodoxy and have an irrational belief that Christians and Jews are deserving targets in a violent jihad.  Similarly a growing number of centralist, nominal Christians in the US, as well as here in Australia, believe that homosexuality is equivalent to a moral cancer.  To recruit the otherwise “I don’t give a hoot” to the cause, they actively, deliberately, use fundamental attribution error to scare those on the outside into believing that gay marriage is a danger to children.
There are two very important issues that those against gay marriage, or homosexuality in general, that those behind these bigoted attacks don’t want you to know;
a) many western governments already accept same-sex couples for the purpose of taxation, estates and family laws,
b) the organisers of bigoted attacks deliberately confuse being homosexual with having homosexual sex,
c) the organisers of bigoted attacks deliberately obfuscate any logical debate, and,
d) the organisers of bigoted attacks pander to fear by linking homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, with paedophilia, when in fact evidence is to the contrary.  When any such activity is demonstrably shown to be from within a church then the cracks are papered over.  Nothing to see here, move on.
As a society we can arm ourselves the best we can with facts, and question every “fact” given to us.  As individual we can not give in to the moral absolutists.  Today is the rights of individuals to enter a civil arrangement and be equal before the spirit and the letter of the law and equals within society.  Tomorrow it may be your right to judge for yourself what is acceptable, how to raise your children, who you are allowed to associate with or something more sinister.
As an example how deep this self-belief (or delusion) goes, I’ve engaged with tweeters with different views to my own.  It’s important in my view not to devalue someone’s personal belief system for my own amusement.  However one tweeter came to my attention because the nature of the argument cementing into a “because”.  You know the type of argument. Master or Miss Four comes to you and asks a question, to which you answer.  But they are never satisfied, and eventually you give up and reply with a “because it just is” or “because I said so.”  That’s fine, since as the adult you set the rules and the boundaries.  However when it’s a debate with someone who is supposedly an adult, and the debate still reduces down to “because”, then you can bet that person is an absolutist, or worse a fundamentalist absolutist.  It may be tempting to dismiss such individuals as radical right-wing fundamentalists and not representative of others of their faith, but it’s a dangerous assumption.
I wish it could end with just religious belief, yet recent events both here in Australia (mainly in Melbourne and Sydney) and in India have brought up another societal ugliness: racism.
The murder of Nitin Garg, an Indian National, has brought out bloggers such as “Wendy” (I won’t give a link, as I don’t wish to promote her views.  If you wish, Google “culturedviews.com racism laugh” and take it from there).  The point is there is a growing resentment towards immigrants and asylum seekers in nearly all nations.  Racist classics like “we’re full” and “they take our jobs” abound.  Throw into the mix “no one’s forcing them to come here” and “they should count themselves lucky to be here”.  Yes, it’s very easy to be a racist without thinking about it.
I don’t know if the recent attacks on Indians living in Australia is racially motivated, however I have noted a increasing resentment towards Sub-Continent Asians by various people.  “They’ve fucked up the taxis single handedly” is one such comment I’ve heard.  Before this it was the Serbs or the Croatians  who were to blame.  Before them it was the Vietnamese.  You get the picture.
What I have noticed is India’s growing self assuredness as a nation.  The Indian media has certainly taken a more aggressive stance on the matter.  It doesn’t help when inadvertent comments made to the media further sour relations, forcing what should be a murder investigation into a diplomatic row.
Now let’s be utterly clear and frank.  We are all capable of expressing racism.  Racism isn’t solely the domain of “white” people.  And no-one is best served when generalisations are made about a person’s country or culture.  Finally, it does no harm to apologise for our failings of the past and current.  Not just “white culture” but all cultures.  Surely in this specific case, the interests of the victims it’s best to take a deep breath, both Australia and India, find, investigate and prosecute the offenders.
In the meantime, we should do our best to out the religious and racists bigots: shame is the only weapon that hurts them.

>The Non-Secular Infection and A Spectacular Implosion

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I’m very, very cranky as I write this.
It’s great to live in a secular liberal socialist democracy.  One gets to vote, the media is freely available, health care is provided by the state and if one wishes one can supplement it with health insurance by not-for-profit insurers that have policies that are simple to understand.  Yes life is grand: almost a state of utopia.
Did I say utopia?  I meant semi-dysfunctional like all democracies.
Yes, I do enjoy all the benefits of a secular liberal socialist democracy, but there is so much crap to put up with.  For example, the secular bit: I have no problems with people wanting to believe in supernatural beings or forces that has not one iota of evidence to back it up.  But I do get peeved when politicians have a sudden bout of conscience or morality and convert to a religion.  Why?  Because suddenly they want to impose their “truth” and values as a universal truth on everyone else.  For example, my Prime Minister is a “moral Christian” and has instructed his Attorney General to investigate whether the Australian Capital Territories laws on recognition of marriage of same-sex couples conflicts with his idea of marriage, i.e., no gays allowed.  It’s not that he hates queers, good gracious no, the Honourable Kevin Rudd MP doesn’t like the idea of queers being legally married.  Which is amusing because he has no objection to having same sex couples declared as de facto married couples for the purpose of taxation and social security, knowing full well that when it comes to these decisions gay couples are proportionally taxed at a higher rate when working, and receive proportionally less benefits when not.
It’s a win-win situation for governments.  Rudd and the Australian Labor Party might as well say “Well, fuck you.  You chose your life, whereas straight couple didn’t have a choice and they have children to raise so they need the middle class welfare.”  This ignores the fact gay couples can have children if they wish.  In Western Australia, men who are recognised as a gay couple are equally entitled to adopt children as straight couples, for example.  And of course there are many gay parents who bring their children from a former heterosexual marriage into their gay union.
It gets worse: religions are tax exempt for no other reason than tradition.  The Church of Scientology was mentioned in the Senate as being a non-religion that should be investigated, or lose it’s tax free status.  Fine.  The Senate can do that.  But why stop at The Church of Scientology?  Why should any religion be tax exempt based purely on an outmoded ideology?  Fine, if a religion provides a service to the community and the net gain is $0.00, no tax should be paid, just like any other charity or not-for-profit organisation.  However charities and not-for-profits have to prove they didn’t make a profit to the Australian Tax Office, whereas religions don’t.  That doesn’t seem fair.  It costs money to comply with ATO rulings on even the simplest things with charities and not-for-profits, so that when Australians donate tens of millions of dollars to special appeals like the Boxing Day Tsunami Appeal of 2004, they don’t understand that for every dollar they give, approximately 30 cents disappears into the black hole of wages and tax compliance, even though no tax is paid, and the donors can claim their donations above $2 against their income.  Religions don’t have this “black hole” problem and as a result any money they claim as costs is in fact profit going towards building their religion.  Is that really fair?
Even if, as the Catholic Church claims, they provide services to the community that governments can’t or won’t, there still is a problem.  Take for example age care.  Your mum’s getting a bit dotty and it’s time for a home.  So you pay a church a considerable sum of money so she can live in a villa, ahem, flat and receive the basics.  The problem we don’t see is that you sell your mum’s house to buy a lease on that tiny “villa”.  When she dies, the age care home resells the lease.  They may argue that this will provide care for their patients.  What they are less willing to admit is that they receive government funding for each patient to provide that care.  So what happens to the money they make on selling a lease?  We may never know as religions aren’t required to open their books to anyone.  For all I know, the profits could be diverted to upgrading a cathedral.  Religions, particularly the Catholic Church, have a habit of complaining about being asset rich but cash poor.
Then there is education.  Education is a tax free environment.  Almost.  Books, for example aren’t always tax exempt.  But what perplexes me is how much money the Commonwealth Government subsides even the richest private schools that are run by religions.  Subsidies that state government schools would love to have.  You see, government schools are supposed to provide free education, but they can’t: there are fees for all sorts of items from extra curricular actives to buying essential items for all students.  At a private school parents expect to pay fees, after all, it’s a private school.  Some prestigious schools have long waiting lists and parents pay a non-refundable deposit almost as soon as the sex of the unborn is known, in the hope that they can have their child the best possible chance in life.  After all, why would one accept a “second-rate” education for their child when a “first class” education is available.  Again, why should private schools, which are run by religions, be tax exempt simply because they are religious in nature?  And worse, why should money be diverted away from government schools to private schools to make these exclusive schools more affordable?

These religious schools don’t have to follow a state, let alone a national, curricula, which means any fundamentalist religion can require that students learn religious education before numeracy and literacy!  As an example, an Islamist College in Perth for girls was investigated for embezzlement.  Fine, but the court ruled that both the Western Australian and Australian Governments’ own rules didn’t prohibit money both governments gave in subsidy, as well as the fees of the students, from being diverted to a third party in another country.  It’s a similar situation with Christian Colleges: part of the fees and government subsidies leave the educational environment and are handed over to their respective churches.  An internal tax, or profiteering?  You decide.

In related news: today the Liberal Party (which is actually a conservative party — yes, it is confusing when people immigrate here and have to vote) imploded.  There is so much commentary on this, an unbelievable amount. For a time #spill was the leading hashtag on Twitter.  We Aussies were riveted to the core with how the Libs could manage to simultaneously shoot themselves in the foot as well as shove said foot firmly into their collective mouth.  Entertainment plus, much hilarity.
But on a more serious note, even though the Libs are not in government, it does have big repercussions.  As it stands, the Senate is in impasse.  The bill commonly called the ETS, the Labour government’s Emission Trading Scheme with which to go to Copenhagen, looks certain to be defeated twice by the Senate.  This means the government shall have the right to send a writ to the Governor General for a double dissolution.  That is an early election of both the House of Representatives and all of the Senate.  The normal election cycle is for elections for the House of Representatives and an election of Half-Senate.
The idea of a double dissolution is to break the dead-lock.  At present, with the worst of all possible candidates becoming the Liberal Leader and hence the Leader of the Opposition, things are looking bad for the Libs.
The real problem is that an ineffective opposition cannot properly hold government to account.  A party, any party, that has both government and the majority in the Senate can use it for it’s own cynical purposes and ram bills, bad bills, through in very quick time and list them for gazettal before the next election cycle.  I’ll point out here that I’m neither a Liberal or Labor voter, but am a realist and know that the Liberals (in coalition with the Nationals) or Labor are the only viable government alternatives for the foreseeable future.
And this is the related bit. All the major players are fundamentalist Christians.  Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister, is Protestant, Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition, is a Capital C Catholic and major player in the cross benches of the Senate, Senator Stephen Fielding, is a “happy clappy” conservative Pentecostalist and Climate-Change Denialist.
Our highest parliament, the most important and powerful of our parliaments, is now infected with fundamentalist Christians.  And all have adopted an anti-GLBT stance.  None want to allow same-sex marriage.  None wish to see gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have equal rights under law as “straight” people, or the same human rights as “straight” people.  I say “straight” people because no one is truly heterosexual. (Read Kinsey’s work, and peer reviewed academic papers on sexuality: discuss.)
It’s not just me that will be affected. All minority groups will suffer.  The real irony is that Australians have a long held common majority view that politics and religion do not mix.  If you go into a pub, don’t talk politics or religion if you wish to walk out again with ego and/or body intact.
And yet we get these fuckwits thinking they have “moral authority” to impose their wishes on all of us.
Yes, I am very, very, very cranky as I write this.

Update: 2 December 2009.  The ETS Bill was blocked by the Senate for a second time.  The gun is loaded, will the government pull the double dissolution trigger?  The situation is too fluid to blog here.

>A shameless plug for Dr. Karl

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This really is a passion of mine: If Dr. Karl didn’t have a loving wife and kids, I’d ask him to marry me.  It, however, isn’t going to happen.

The next best thing, as a lover of all things science, and as an atheist, is to shamelessly plug the good Doctor’s latest endeavours: another book and a first for Karl, a real punk song mixing science and his vocals.

Visit his website http://drkarl.com/
In the meantime, enjoy this:

(I must confess I enjoy the line about the so-called Shroud of Turin.)

Speaking of science…

I’m one of many hundreds of thousands of people that suffer from poly rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, so I don’t ask for pity.  Just a little understanding will do.

Recently my liver has been more of a bitch than normal.  It’s has bee some years since I “passed” a LFT (liver function test), but it has become much worse.  Meaning from time to time I’m crooker than a mongrel dog, despite doing all the right things, like eating well, exercising and not drinking alcohol (a lapse of a glass of red or a beer twice a year isn’t going to be a problem, yet.)

So If I’m moody, or not up to my usual levels of levity, I blame my liver and my arthritis and what the disease and treatment is doing to my liver.  Thus, if I give you shit on Twitter, or you don’t receive any sympathy from me because your back hurts, forgive me in advance: it’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t care at that particular moment as my back is more probably by far more insufferable than your slight twinge because you happened to be out partying hard the night before.

Nothing more shall be said of the subject.  Normal transmission shall resume.