Pope to fight rise of secularism in the West, or, the decline of Catholicism and the fight to keep it alive

Seems that Christianity is dying a slow death; one shameful form of it at any rate. But even though that’s the natural order of things in an evolving world, the Vatican through its divinely appointed CEO, Pope Benedict XVI, would like to buck the trend and save this particular endangered species of mind-virus from extinction.

The Pope, besieged by accusations of cover-ups in clerical sex abuse cases, has, in a vainglorious moment of desperation decided to shore up his sinking ship, by implementing a new office within his religio-business empire to fight the rise of secularism in the West, specifically Europe. It’s to be called the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization [PCP-the-NE for short], and Monsignor Rino Fisichella has been hand-picked by the Pope to drive this department which is expected to “reinvigorate Christianity in the parts of the world where it is falling by the wayside.”

I’m sure the Pontiff is hoping that his new signing will have more success than the famous F1 driver, and that his new department will have the same drug-like hold that PCP once had in keeping a nation mesmerised.

One wonders what the new Vatican department will resort to in its efforts to “rekindle the faith.” I’m pretty sure that some of the methods of persuasion last used during the Dark Ages, won’t be particularly appreciated or tolerated in the age of enlightenment and unprecendented, but hard-won freedoms. But one never knows; if for some insane reason, there is a sudden rise in religious fervor in the West, the Dark Age mentality may yet cast its ugly shadow on the rest of the world.

But somehow, I doubt that this new Vatican department will have any success. I have faith that people are much smarter and less prone to gullibility than they once were. The rise of secularism is testimony to this development, and mental slavery will come to an end.

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

The Greatest Show on Earth

There’s been a lot of interruptions and too little time available over the last half-year or so, but I’ve finally completed reading Dawkins’ latest masterpiece, The Greatest Show on Earth. It’s subtitled The Evidence for Evolution, and boy is there a lot of it in the book.

It’s a strange title for a book on the evidence for evolution, but apparently Dawkins got the idea from a T-shirt given to him bearing the words “Evolution: The Greatest Show on Earth; the Only Game in Town”
Prior to reading this book, I needed no convincing that evolution was a fact, but Dawkins provides plenty of new information that I had not known before. Although it makes for heavy reading in some parts due to the complexity of the sciences involved, the book is geared towards the layman, and is relatively easy to understand.
 
As usual, Dawkins writes in that characteristically eloquent and witty style he’s famous for in his other works, often castigating the creationist lobby, who are referred to as “history deniers.” He’s often been criticised for his approach, but I can find little fault with his stance considering the undeniable ignorance that is prevalent in the religious world; a lot of it wilful in nature.
 
Creationists often point to the so-called missing links in the fossil record, as evidence that evolution is wrong. Dawkins makes a telling point that even if the entire fossil record were not available to scientists, the incontrovertible evidence from molecular biology and genetics is more than enough to prove the veracity of evolution and natural selection.
 
Off course, the book won’t appeal to the fundamentalist religious community; nor will it convince them to change their beliefs about creationism. Wilful ignorance is a pillar of religious strength. However, for those who are interested in actually learning something meaningful about life and the way nature really works, even those who are marginally religious, this book will challenge any preconceived ideas you held, if not convince you that evolution is in fact, a FACT.
 
Notable Quote:
Once again, humans are not descended from monkeys. We share a common ancestor with monkeys. As it happens, the common ancestor would have looked a lot more like a monkey than a man, and we should indeed probably have called it a monkey if we had met it, some 25 million years ago. But even though humans evolved from an ancestor that we could sensibly call a monkey, no animal gives birth to an instant new species, or at least not one as different from itself as a man is from a monkey, or even from a chimpanzee. That isn’t what evolution is about. Evolution not only is a gradual process as a matter of fact; it has to be gradual if it is to do any explanatory work. Huge leaps in a single generation – which is what a monkey giving birth to a human would be – are almost as unlikely as divine creation, and are ruled out for the same reason: too statistically improbable. It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is that they are opposing.

The comedian doth show his hand…

I have really nothing to write about this evening, but I found this blog post in the Mail & Gaurdian by John Vlismas, a South African stand-up comedian and would like to share his real-life stand-up beliefs with you:

Why doesn’t God pay tax? I’m not suggesting that God actually does the transfer. He has elected representatives among us, apparently — and authorised them, allegedly, to collect funds on his behalf. Some of them have outfits and everything. The ruling that God’s money is safe from SARS can only ensure that shysters and thieves breed under and cling to his holy hem. If we audited churches and had them cough up, surely we would help create a better average quality of believer, surely? Wouldn’t the faithful like the idea that we assist them and close loopholes in tax laws that will keep the worms out? Why would you resist such a suggestion? Because we hate scrutinising our strongest beliefs — faith is like writing or music — the popular kinds are seldom any good. Questioning what you believe is not to destroy your belief, it’s to make sure the thing you believe in has foundations — a house built on rock, I think it says.

Catch the rest at Father, Son and tax evader.

Church should stay the hell out of government

I read with utter dismay this afternoon that our bumbling President, Jacob Zuma is contemplating allowing the Church and possibly other faith-based organizations to play a role in governing the country.

Apart from Julius Malema being appointed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, this is the most dreadful calamity that could befall this poor country, already threatened by various religious organizations wanting to trample on our basic freedoms, and a chorus-line of politicians trampling on everything else.

The government is doing a damn fine job of fucking things up; we don’t need the Church or the clergy from any other religious sect joining in too. There is only so much tax-money that can be siphoned off from the treasury, and we don’t need any religious organizations pigging out at the same trough.

When the politicians are done screwing things up, the clerical vultures can have their turn mopping up. But for now, stay the hell out of politics!!!

Going Dutch – Could this be Holland’s World Cup?

Some of the more fancied teams have seen their asses being kicked. The stars of the soccer world have performed pretty much below expectations. The favorites to win, Brazil and Spain have not looked very convincing.

Neither has the Netherlands, but something tells me they could go all the way at this World Cup. The first two matches were won – not very easily, but won nonetheless. They don’t have that many superstars in their squad, so we won’t be assaulted with any preening and showmanship from the Dutch. The talent is undeniably there; and it shows signs of erupting magnificently.

Their supporters have shown that they care about far more than just soccer. Their protests against the ridiculous advertising rules imposed by the tournament organizers makes me proud of the nation in orange…. and clogs.

I’m rooting for the Dutch; it’s about time they finally go all the way.

The World Cup in 3-D

I haven’t watched the film Avatar in 3-D yet, only the normal 2-D video. I can only imagine the audience reaction as the characters and assorted objects literally popped out of the screen. I think 3-D was created for, and is ideal for action films, but wait…

Although sport is filled with action (for the most part), you wouldn’t normally expect to watch it in 3-D. However, sport has not been spared the attentions of the 3-D aficionado’s at our sports broadcasting networks, and thus the 2010 World Cup football tournament is currently being broadcast for the time in glorious 3-D; around 25 matches at least.

I’m really lucky to be working as a Media Venue Manager on the FIFA project here in South Africa, and caught the first half of two games, in FIFA’s HD Cinema, located at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), right next to the Soccer City stadium, host of the opening ceremony and final game.

Unlike action films which I suspect leaves one twisting and turning in one’s seat, dodging things popping out the screen, 3-D sport scenes really gives one the impression of being right there at the stadium. It’s the next best thing to actually sitting in the crowd. You get the feeling that you’re looking into a box with live persons performing inside. It’s utterly amazing, and I am now convinced that there is no other way to watch sport; most sports at any rate.

Having to wear those geeky-looking 3-D glasses over my own pair of spectacles is not exactly comfortable, but tolerable considering the unique opportunity I’m being accorded to watch for free. For those who don’t have those new 3-D TV sets that are now being sold everywhere (at huge cost), some of the games will be broadcast in selected cinemas around the world. I highly recommend taking in at least one game; it’s a truly memorable experience.

It’s a given that the technology will evolve and true 3-D TV sets which don’t require those pesky glasses will probably be commercially viable pretty soon. I’ve heard that we can expect to watch 3-D holograms of matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

2010 World Cup: Touching but not feeling

It’s finally here. No more days to count down – just hours. The 2010 FIFA Football World Cup is about to kick off in South Africa, and I’m right in the middle of it all; touching it, but unfortunately not feeling it as I should.

Maybe it’s because I’m too busy making sure the world can enjoy all the games in full high-definition and even 3-D, by working on building and maintaining the broadcasting network. Or maybe because I’m so exhausted after months, no years, of working on this project. At any rate, I’m smack bang in the middle of it all, but I somehow don’t get to enjoy too much of it.

I catch glimpses of video feeds coming in from all the stadiums and other parts of the country, while visiting broadcasters, sports networks, radio networks and other media in their cubicles and studios, here at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) where I’m stationed for the duration of the tournament, but it all seems so disconnected, so far away, almost unreal. And mixed with it all, there’s this multitude of nations and languages from around the world; cameramen, journalists, television presenters, beautiful women and important-looking men, all conspiring to disorient me even further.

It could just be that I’m simply mesmerized by all this show of technology; a lot of which is being used for the very first time in FIFA World Cup history. Perhaps I’m sub-consciously taking it all in and storing it away, for playback at a later stage. In case this is just wishful thinking, will someone please fill me in on the spectacle I’ve missed.

Revolting Cocks…and marvelous quotes

There’s this industrial rock band known as the Revolting Cocks. I quite like their music; they’re really good.

There’s this bunch of politicians in South Africa known as the Repulsive Dicks [Ok, they’re not really known as the Repulsive Dicks as yet, but time will rectify that]. I really detest their dishonesty; they’re quite bad.

In fact their repulsiveness was predicted by some very famous people such as:

H L Mencken

[I]f experience teaches us anything at all it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. His very existence, indeed, is a standing subversion of the public good in every rational sense. He is not one who serves the common weal; he is simply one who preys upon the commonwealth.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and thus clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.

Government, in its very essence, is opposed to all increase in knowledge. Its tendency is always towards permanence and against change … [T]he progress of humanity, far from being the result of government, has been made entirely without its aid and in the face if its constant and bitter opposition.

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.

Ludwig von Mises

The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.

Liberty is meaningless if it is only the liberty to agree with those in power.

Barry Goldwater

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.

And my personal favorites:

George Will

The reign of Virtue shall begin when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. Or so ’twas said many reigns of Virtue ago.

Anonymous

Politicians, like diapers, have to be changed frequently – and for the very same reason.

Does our school system kill creativity?

South Africans are all too familiar with our very own wretched schooling system which is the direct result of government ineptitude. However, according to Sir Ken Robinson (don’t worry if the name does not sound familiar – what he has to say is more important), schools all over the world may be failing our kids, perhaps not as badly as South African schools at the moment, but bad enough nonetheless.

Ken introduced the idea of creativity-killing schools way back in February 2006 at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Monterey, California. Instead of trying to retell you about it, why don’t you watch his often funny, yet very thought-provoking Talk for yourself? I promise it will be approximately 19½ minutes of your time well spent:

At the TED conference in February this year, Ken Robertson followed up the theme he introduced in 2006, with another awe-inspiring Talk, exhorting us bring on the revolution in education. I hope you’ll find this just as enjoyable, funny and off course thought-provoking, as his previous effort:

COPE-ing with the civil circus

Source: Mail & Gaurdian online

I’ve been following the latest South African political fiasco with utter disdain. There is in fact hardly anything happening politically at the moment which causes me to break out into any semblance of a smile; I either cringe or break out in hysterical fits of laughter.

The most astounding thing about the acrimonious leadership battle between  Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa, of the COPE party, is not their public display of rank stupidity, but that each still have die-hard supporters. To me, that’s one of the most baffling features of South African politics. In mature democracies, the citizens abandon errant politicians at the first whiff of a scandal. In South Africa, which is arguably a struggling fledgling democracy, the citizens seem to rally around shamelessly arrogant, downright incompetent or woefully inadequate, and brazenly self-serving politicians.

Is it any wonder that our present government is a civil circus. Dumb people get the government they deserve…