Sunday, April 22, 2012

And so to a Sunday homily involving angry Anglicans and wayward Catholics ...

(Above: oh yes, that old routine is back).

According to a stat at the back of Harpers magazine currently residing in the pond's bathroom, only 52% of Americans approve of god's job performance.

And sure enough when you check on the intertubes, you find Only 52% of Americans Approve of God's Job Performance.

Now this is a better figure than Obama, John Boehner, Congress, and Rupert Murdoch, and way better than Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, but really it's not much more than a bare pass, when most deities might expect a distinction, or even a high distinction, or perhaps a perfect 100%. After all, if you're all-knowing and all-powerful, anything less is showing disrespect.

And if god herself is doing so poorly in the polls, is it any wonder that her representatives are such a feeble lot? Take the angry Anglicans for example. It turns out that they like having angry atheists to argue with:

Yep, there it is, in black and white in Goodbye atheists, y'all come back. As well as faux Americanisms, angry Sydney Anglicans like an argument:

The opportunities for gospel conversations always open up whenever Richard Dawkins is around and the atheist lobby hasn't twigged to the fact that for Christians, the only thing worse than being argued with, is not being argued with.

Yep, next time you meet an angry Sydney Anglican argue with them. And if it dissolves into a shouting match, so much the better. Seems like they love it.

Forget harmony, love, sweetness and light and the whole damn thing, Sydney Anglicans hate being ignored most of all. If you argue, it just makes them stronger and madder. Like Nietzsche ...

All the same, the pond is placing an interdict on them, until Michael Jensen gets his act together and produces his fifth homily on the sins of Sydney. The town's falling apart, the centre isn't holding, mere anarchy and petrol is loosed upon paddy wagons outside tattoo parlours in Newtown, and while they talk of bikie gang warfare, it seems the cops are doing most of the killings ... and while it all erupts, and the apocalypse, doomsday and the rapture are just around the corner - perhaps as early as tomorrow - Jensen is silent ...

Instead all that's left for the pond is an argument with angry Pellists.

It seems that Cardinal Pell is still brooding about his televisual encounter with Richard Dawkins, the "notorious atheist from Oxford."

You can always tell when people think they've had the raw end of a pineapple or an argument when they come back for a second serve, and the notorious Pellist from Sydney holds out his plate in the Sunday Terror with Debate.

And wouldn't you know it, Pell is an intelligent designer:

The universe was either created or evolved by chance. The odds against the random production of a human brain or eye are impossibly high; like producing a card house in a gale and by chance!

Now it's true that he didn't mention irreducible complexity and the bacterial flagellum of E. Coli, but that's probably because it's too scientifically complex for him.

But as usual he does commit a great faux pas, which is to think that the theory of evolution involves mere randomness and chance.

He should talk to a horse breeder some time. The whole point of natural variations and mutations is to arrive at a better adjustment to environmental changes or improve the chances of survival or provide defences against predation. Perhaps he should talk to a dinosaur about that one. And maybe he could discuss the impact of random meteors while he's at it.

But so far as evolution goes, randomness isn't the point at all, rather the point is that the human brain and eye have evolved, and owe more than a little to other forms of brains and eyes which were part of the evolutionary process, and now we have the DNA evidence to confirm it. If a high school science class can get this, why can't Pell? And why is he spluttering about intelligent design, which has always been an ersatz form of creationism?

And to think the man fancies himself as a climate scientist.

Even more alarming, Pell seems to celebrate the growth in Islamics, heretics, dissidents, and believers who don't believe in the Catholic church:

The number of people in the world belonging to the four biggest religious traditions is increasing in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the world's growing population.

Any belief in a storm, eh? So it's alright to celebrate the increase in absolute numbers of people who believe in the flying spaghetti monster, Scientology or the 70,000 people who in the 2001 Australian census declared themselves members of the Jedi order? The growth in Jedi knights and Jedi-ism around the world shows belief is on the march, and the Darth Vadars of the world are doomed, and so why not believe in a religious tradition, pick one, anyone you like?

But let's get back to the science:

Every animal in the world has the same body plan, except the jelly fish!

Oh dear sweet absent lord, is he still banging on about intelligent design?

The speed of light, the gravitational constant, the mass of a proton or electron are the same throughout the universe.
These patterns, this order are not an illusion.
The fantastic spiritual Intelligence outside space and time responsible for this fine, minute calibration is what we call God.

Yep, he is, and if he keeps going that way, he'll end up a deist or a theist, with god a remote watch-maker sent to a remote corner of the universe to light the fuse, and stand well clear. And all the gibberish about a personal god of the kind celebrated in the old testament, keen to perform genocides with floods, will seem like a nice hoary old myth.

But wait, there's more, and yes, it seems that god's main point has been as the producer of a set of checks and balances:

Most scientists believe the universe began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Some scientists e.g. Einstein were reluctant to accept this because it was compatible with the idea of Godly creation.
If the explosion was one millionth of one per cent faster the universe would have exploded into a spray; no stars or planets.
If it diminished by a similar tiny amount the universe would have collapsed.
A 2 per cent change in our distance from the sun would destroy human life. Life is only possible through a succession of unbelievably fine balances.

Yep, it's as if being a watch-maker is too sophisticated, so god must be reduced to a risk manager and the maker and manager of a finely balanced scale set, or perhaps a politician intent on a finely developed set of checks and balances, or perhaps a clown doing a performance on a unicycle. So when that meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, it was because he dropped a ball while juggling on the unicycle ...

No wonder the humourless Dawkins (he once had a sense of humour) found it hard to argue with Pell, who completely fails to understand that an argument about the mechanistic systems of the universe isn't an argument for the Catholic god.

It's typical of Pell that he would avoid the spiritual or the mystical, and attempt to grapple with science. The man is way too worldly, and a reflection of the kind of politician that gets rewarded by the Vatican on his way to power in his own patch of Pellist turf ...

And by the way, you might be asking, why did Einstein actually object to the notion of the big bang? Was it because, as Pell proposes, because somehow it allowed for the existence of god?

Tosh and piffle:

...Einstein absolutely rejected Big Bang and Black Hole singularities throughout his lifetime. He insisted that observational facts must be the foundation of any physical theory, including his General theory of Relativity. His scientific philosophy was absolutely opposed to non-physical concepts like Black Holes and Dark Energy. (here)

Religion had nothing to do with it. But even if religion were in the mix, Pell, in his usual garbled, gobbled way, gets the wrong end of the telescope. He doesn't even keep up with the propaganda being put out at UNIV, coming to him from Rome:

In January 1933, the Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre traveled with Albert Einsteinn to California for a series of seminars. After the Belgian detailed his Big Bang theory, Einstein stood up, applauded, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened." (here in pdf form)

So how does that square with Pell's bald statement?

The irony is of course, that Einstein left room for the kind of clock-making, scales-wielding absentee landlord god who infests Pell's column:

I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. (more here)

Humility? Weakness of intellectual understanding?

How decidedly un-Pellist ....

(Below: a simple visual explanation of Pellist theory?)


  1. I’d like to see Michael Jensen’s next homily on Sydney’s sins deal with the vices of forgiveness and compassion.

    Michael is on the council of the Anglican Church League, you see. The ACL is the conservative and dominant factional grouping within the Sydney Anglican diocese – it’s what got his dad elected as Archbishop and then bought him 3 a three year extension on the usual term for an Archbishop. Michael’s dad and his uncle Phillip are also on the executive of the ACL.

    Anyway, this week on their website ( they link with breathless assent to an article by the Southern Baptist Albert Mohler Jr about the trial of Anders Behring Breivik. In his tirade Mohler abhors the loss of a Godly ‘instinct’ for punitive justice in post-Christian Scandinavia. He rails against Norway’s defiance of God’s command to kill all murderers when they abolished the death penalty.

    He quotes God: “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis)

    This “rejection of the Christian worldview and the loss of biblical moral instincts” have also lead the godless Norwegians to do away with life prison terms and to even provide prisoners with comfortable accommodation! Without irony he castigates them as “a nation that considers punishment itself to be barbaric”.

    I’m sure Michael could rustle up a few colonial poems and song lyrics to show how Sydney’s prison reformers and capital punishment abolitionists have mocked God’s law of retribution – an eye for an eye, etc. He could finish up, in his usual fashion by entreating Sydney return to the Kingdom of Christ where, following the teachings of Jesus, no one will turn the other cheek, love thy enemy nor forgive those who sin against us.

  2. I maybe wrong here, but didn't the Catholic Church (reluctantly) endorse evolution a few years ago?Sounds like Pell is treading perilously close to heresy to me....

  3. On JJJ this morning, John Safran posed this question for Pell: "is Jesus walking on water more or less miraculous than Katrina & The Waves walking on sunshine?"

  4. Dorothy,something strange has happened...Phillip Jensen has taken to posting his social commentry on a Monday as opposed to Friday.Is this to avoid your Sunday Roast? He has not let Angry Anglicans down when elaborating on the Dawkins/Pell debate..."Evangelicals should not have been disappointed with Cardinal Pell, for they should never have expected him to represent them, or to present the gospel accurately. He is a Roman Catholic, defending and promoting his understanding of Catholicism. We may have a common opponent in the new atheists like Richard Dawkins, but we do not have a common gospel. The ecumenical and irenic spirit of our age must not seduce us into forgetting that we are Protestants. Our protest is against Rome, for as the Anglican Articles declare 'the Church of Rome hath erred not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies but also in matters of Faith' (XIX)."

  5. Oh dear anon, I see the Jensenists have pinged the Pellists in the matter of atheists going to heaven, and then pinged purgatory, and in the process provided a splendid reminder that all they should not be seduced by the great whore of Babylon which dwelleth in Rome.

    The good news is that this will see the Pellists writhing in hell for heresy, unless of course the Anglicans got the wrong end of the stick way back when, and so they will be the ones writhing in hell. Maybe they'll see each other in hell if the long-absent lord tires of the bickering.

    Let's not have any of this yabber yabber about the ecumenical and irenic spirit. Hellfire and brimstone and damnation all the way with the Angry Anglicans ... and may they continue to smote each other mightily and righteously from a great height ...

  6. Its about time everybody got their facts right when talking about the BIG BANG.
    It used to be common knowledge that the Big Bang was what happened on ones marriage night - with plenty of pain, possibly blood on the sheets, and sooner of later deflation. Of course sometimes the husbands flaming thunderbolt wouldnt come up and explode.
    Such used to be the case before pre-marital porking became the norm.


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