What are you giving up for Lent on this Ash Wednesday?

For the benefit of those who don’t know, non-Christians mostly, Lent is a 40-day fast and prayer, preceding Easter, which begins on Ash Wednesday, and supposedly represents the time spent by Jesus in the desert resisting the temptation of the Devil.

Traditionally, those Christian denominations which observe Lent,  indulge in some form of self-denial; usually fasting, abstention from meat, sex, alcohol etc. I’m no big fan of self-denial, or any form of self-inflicted punishment (not even S&M), simply because it reeks of irrational behaviour. However, just this one time, I’m willing to give up something, for a month at least…well maybe forty days. You’re probably wondering why I want to do something like this?

Over the past month or so, I’ve been feeling kind of guilty about lambasting a few Christians who have been peppering me with religious e-mails; you know the cutesy kind that tries to motivate you by making all sorts of unfounded claims, while somehow being threatening at the same time. Then there are the religious mails that spread plain old lies, hoaxes; some of which I have exposed on this blog. Well, over the last few months, I have brutally refuted most of these mails with cold scientific critique and sheer derision, and called the senders’ rational abilities to account. But no matter how much scorn I piled onto these mails, they kept coming, until I finally laid down an ultimatum: I will respect your right to believe in strange things if you will respect my right to not be bothered by it. The mails stopped coming.

So, with the advent of Lent, I am throwing up an olive branch to my Christian cor-responders: send all the cutesy religious mails you want, during this period, and I will give up my right to respond with contempt. (Offer only valid during Lent)

Why I Will Not Vote in the Upcoming Elections!

The American Presidential Elections has come and gone, and with record numbers of people voting, it’s no surprise that election fever has gripped South Africa as well, what with this being election year, and the voting date now set for April. However, for me, there is no election fever, just a throbbing headache from all the lies and deceit that accompanies election campaigns.

Maybe I’m just cynical and unappreciative of the hard-won right to vote, that so many fought and died for. But you will excuse me for having grown up during Apartheid’s most vicious years, then experiencing what it was like to vote for the first time, being suckered into believing that I would finally enjoy the fruits of democracy, only to see it all being sucked down the toilet, year after year, after year.

Political Parties will always offer people what they want, not what they need. Political Parties will always claim to be different from one another; they will pander to the ultra-liberal, the conservative and the moderate, the religious and the secular, the rich and the poor, decent folk and criminals, but also to right wingers, and other assorted nut-jobs. However, while the Parties all claim to be different, generally the politicians from these organizations always remain the same; slimy, deceitful, lying scumbags who are primarily concerned with looking after themselves. That has not changed since time immemorial, and never will. And South Africa has some outrageously prime examples; oh! boy! they sure don’t come slimier than SA politicians. Take a look around; I’m not saying they’re all bad, but the the good ones are really rare and kind of lost in a sea of  lies, corruption, incompetence, back-stabbing, nepotism, opportunism, disrespect for constituents, cover-ups, scheming, and more lies.

And that is why I will not vote.  Elections are about change, and in South Africa, politicians don’t change; sure, they change political parties often enough (looking out for a better deal for themselves is what they do particularly well), but in all other respects they remain slaves to their despicable political breed.

Render unto Darwin the things which are undeniably natural…

Today is Darwin Day. Beyond that however, today, the 12th of February 2009, marks the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th Anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species.

Those of us who take an interest in Science and such things, will recognize and appreciate the significance of this day.  Most of us who do, are usually Atheists, but not necessarily so. Our choice to recognize this day and honor one of the greatest men who ever lived, will lead to us being accused of worshipping Darwin as our “god.” Consequently Evolution or Natural Selection will be labeled as Atheist religions. This is not new. Some of us may get hot under the collar and pass disparaging remarks about this religious indiscretion, but most will however just get on with enjoying the occasion.

I therefore call upon all rationalists to just take in the day, savor the significance, and revel in the pure joy of free thinking.

Goalless Gunners

I have this Arsenal peak cap which I wear with pride. A friend asked me today why I still display my support so openly,  especially after the Gunners recent poor form. I replied, that it would be really fickle to ditch a team just because they have a few bad games. This evening finds me wondering philosophically about my belief in the team.

Being a fan of a sports team is like falling in love, experiencing pure passion, bitter quarrelling, feeling like strangling your partner, making up, and feeling the joy again. Yes, Arsenal has led me through, sheer ecstasy when they are firing at their best, beating up the furniture when a goal is missed, having bitter arguments with friends, then forgetting why you fought when watching a game of sheer brilliance again, jolting you to remember why you are still supporting the side. Watching Arsenal recently is an emotional roller-coaster ride of absolute joy and nail-biting expectation, interspersed with sheer frustration and downright anger. Also, I’m a purist and watching Arsenal play on a good day is like watching poetry in motion; no other team plays more beautiful football.

But, I’ve accepted the commitment and it’s going to be a long-term “marriage” – ’till death us do part. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Like a marriage, we have to endure the good times with the bad. It can only get better.

In Arsene We Trust…

Another Hoax Mail: Protest at Film Depicting Jesus and His Disciples as Gay

Gullibility and superstition are bosom buddies. Thus those who tend to be superstitious (usually the religious) are bound to be susceptible to gullibility as well. So, it was no surprise to me when I received another hoax email just the other day, in the form of a petition against the supposed release of a new film called Corpus Christi, and which claimed to depict Jesus and his disciples as homosexual; there were already 580 South African signatures appended to the mail.

In reality, there is no such film! How 580 people allowed this obvious hoax to spread, without even a cursory check on the veracity of the claims, is beyond me. According to Snopes.com, this hoax has been circulating since 1984 in one guise or another. But the thing that really bothers me is a reference in the mail to actions taken by another religious group when they perceive that their religion, gods or prophets are being maligned: “If the Muslims do what they believe to be right against their religion , where do we stand as Christians?” Are the originators of this hoax actually suggesting that Christians should resort to the same violent protests that sprang up all over the world recently, over some cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper? A total religious onslaught against freedom of speech is a serious cause for concern to all freedom-loving people.

Anyway, back to the 580 gullible South Africans who actually signed the petition: Where were you lot when Bill Maher’s Religulous was screened just a month or so ago at several cinemas across South Africa? I don’t recall any mails or petitions or protests. There was not so much as a whimper from the religious crowd when the film was advertised in the mainstream press, and eventually screened.  This inaction just confirms a very important observation: Religious folk are fixated with things that don’t exist (as in this Corpus Christi film, for example), but are  seemingly oblivious of real things (such as Bill Maher’s film, Religulous).

Madness in Zimbabwe: Gideon Gono and God Generate Giggles

Gideon Gono, arguably the most inept central banker in the world, and one of Mad Bob Mugabe’s goons, knocked off another 12 zeros from Zimbabwe’s less than useless banknotes on Monday this week, in an attempt to re-value the currency. Under the tyranny of Mad Bob, the country’s inflation rate is running in excess of an amazing (hilarious?)  five sextillion percent. Five sextillion? Few people have even heard of such figures before, but that’s 5 followed by 21 zeros!

And if Gideon Gono is to be believed, god is apparently on his side. He claims that the global financial crisis has forced other countries to follow his example, and thus considers himself vindicated by god. Assuming god does exist, bad results such as the Zimbabwean inflation rate would certainly be true to character for him, considering the mess in evidence elsewhere in the world. Worse yet is that Gono believes that his governorship of the central bank is a success, and the people that work there are at the cutting edge of the country. Cutting edge all right! It’s making calculators obsolete because they can’t handle all the zeros!

I don’t know which is more laughable; Gono’s delusions about his competence or god’s helping hand in this fiasco?