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Johno goes to heaven

By 2353NM

Johno was (as they say in the classics) a good and decent man. When he dies, he goes to heaven, and St Peter shows him around. They go past one room, and Johno asks: ‘Who are all those people in there?’ ‘They are the Methodists,’ says St Peter. They pass another room, and Johno asks the same question. ‘They are the Anglicans,’ says St Peter. As they’re approaching the next room, St Peter says: ‘Take your shoes off and tiptoe by as quietly as you can.’ ‘Why, who’s in there?’ asks Johno. ‘The Catholics,’ says St Peter, ‘and they think that they’re the only ones up here.’.

Yes, it’s basically an old Dave Allen joke about religious difference (and would have been much funnier if you saw him tell it rather than read it). In contrast, Nick Earls recently wrote an article that discussed Australia’s seemingly never-ending preoccupation with ‘religious difference’ in The Guardian that shows wit and humour as well as having a good point. Earls claims:

I arrived in Australia in 1972 at the age of eight in the middle of an apparent Irish joke boom, and spent much of my lunchtimes over the next couple of years being dragged aside and read pages of Irish jokes. As fun goes, it had its limits.

But it wasn’t as bad as being the kid from the Italian family who had his “wog” lunch thrown in the bin most days, only to watch the perpetrators spend $10 in cafes 20 years later for the exact same food – focaccia and prosciutto – with no recollection of what they’d done.

Earls noticed a difference when travelling after the ‘9/11’ attacks in the US when those born in Northern Ireland were no longer ‘randomly selected’ for ‘special clearance procedures’ yet again. He also relates the history of Australia where the first Catholic Priest, a convict, was transported to Australia in 1798, then allowed to conduct masses from 1803 only until there was a rebellion of Irish convicts in 1804. The claim was that the rebellion was plotted during the mass (it would have been in Latin and the guards probably weren’t the smartest people in the room). The next Catholic mass in Australia wasn’t held until 1820.

Earls argues that the current discrimination against Muslims is equally as silly as the many decades of discrimination against the Irish around the world. While some Irish did belong to the IRA and were willing to do anything to ‘further their cause’, there were a hell of a lot of Irish people around the world that really didn’t care that much about the ‘free Ireland’ the IRA proposed. A lot of the Irish weren’t even Catholic! It would be nice to record here that discrimination and profiling by assumed religious characteristics died in the early years of this century when the world finally realised that every person with an Irish name or place of birth wasn’t a religious nutter with a bomb hiding in their luggage, but to believe that would be delusional.

As Earls mentions, early this century the focus switched from some Irish person going to blow you up to some Muslim person going to blow you up. While there have been some horrible atrocities around the world in the past 15 years caused by those claiming to further the Muslim cause (despite the mainstream Muslim religion abhorring violence), let’s look at some facts.

In September 2014, Crikey looked at various facts around terrorism. Between the Sydney Hilton Bombing in 1978 and September 2014, 113 Australians were victims of terrorism. While each life lost is a tragedy, Crikey points out that from 2003 to 2012, there were 2617 homicides, something like 8500 victims of car accidents and 22,800 suicides. The number of terror related deaths in 35 years is even eclipsed by the number of people who died from falling off a ladder (230), electrocution (206) and, surprisingly in a first world country, more died of shingles (228) as well as gastro and diarrhoea (168) in the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012.

So, is terrorism a problem? Of course it is – but is it an issue so all-encompassing that politicians like Pauline Hanson are correct in demanding CCTV cameras be installed in mosques? Of course it isn’t. Going back to numbers again, Hanson claims that she has a right to free speech and while there is no such clause regarding freedom of speech in Australia’s constitution, there is an implied right for anyone in this country to say what they want provided it doesn’t injure the reputation of others. Hanson also claims that she speaks for the majority of ordinary Australians. This too is debatable as her political party received around 500,000 first preference votes from the 16 million or so that were entitled to vote in the 2016 Federal Election. Mathematically, that means that around 15,500,000 Australian voters specifically decided that Hanson did not speak for them.

One of those who determined that Hanson didn’t speak for him is Barnaby Joyce (Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party). Joyce countered Hanson’s suggestion of CCTV being installed in mosques by stating that every religion has ratbags and suggesting that if all Muslims were terrorists, all Catholics were members of the IRA. Joyce is also correct in suggesting that:

… the democratic process which saw Pauline Hanson elected to the Senate should be respected and he did not want to start the new parliament with a “fight”.

“I am happy to have a cogent debate where nobody is insulted but I am happy to argue these things on the facts and on the reality of the nation I live in,” he said.

Last weekend, a teenager shot and killed 10 people in Munich, 27 other people were injured. It appears that the person with the gun had mental issues and thought highly of Anders Behring Breivik who murdered 77 young people on the Norwegian island of Utoya in 2011. Yet the same ABC online news report that reports all this in the first paragraph goes on to identify the perpetrator as a German-Iranian. Since when is the ancestry of a mass murderer relevant to the crime?

Earlier this year, Omar Marteen walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and shot 102 people (49 of whom subsequently died). According to the US authorities, while Marteen acted alone, he had mental health issues and was inspired by radical material he found online. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother, then drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot 28 people, including 20 children. Lanza had mental health issues.

All mass murders are horrific, but the ancestry and/or religious beliefs of Lanza were not discussed in the reporting of the events that occurred. See the difference?

Locally, most will remember the siege at the Lindt Café in Sydney which was initially claimed to be a terrorist attack – including this breathless reporting:

At 10.30am, the seriousness of the ISIS threat forced the remaining TV production staff to leave the premises, throwing to the network’s Melbourne news crew, anchored by Nick Etchells and Laurel Irving.

TV executive producer Max Uechtriz tweeted confirmation of the terror scenario, with hostages forced to hold up the sinister black flag of the Islamic terror group.

The reality was Man Haron Monis, who perpetrated the crime, had a long history of borderline criminality and certainly ‘was known to authorities’. And the ISIS flag at the Lindt Café that proved the connection with terrorism – well apparently it wasn’t the ISIS flag and didn’t prove a thing.

Curtis Chang was a NSW Police Service accountant, shot and killed by a teenager while leaving work in Parramatta in October 2015. The claim at the time was the teenager had been ‘radicalised’. Senator-elect Hanson recently cited incidents such as the Lindt Café siege and Chang’s murder as reasons for a Royal Commission into religion on the ABC’s Q & A program telecast on July 18. Chang’s son has written an open letter to Hanson requesting that an entire religion is not blamed for the actions of a 15-year-old boy. From the letter:

As a high school teacher, I have Muslim students and I have met their parents and family. They have the same hopes and dreams of all Australians; to be successful in their lives and enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. I have not changed my hope for them to be successful members of Australian society.

This fearmongering directed at minorities is not a new phenomenon in history. Nor is it new with me personally. When I first arrived to Australia, I remember being a victim of the hateful and fearful attitudes that the One Nation Party promoted. I remember being told I will be sent back to where I came from because I was Asian and, therefore, not Australian. I remember feeling ostracised and isolated from the country and identity with which I had adopted – in harmony with my cultural heritage.

If anyone has the ‘right’ to ‘hate’ in Australia, surely it is Chang – not Hanson.

The Federal Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett recently reported in an opinion piece published by Fairfax:

At Eid Down Under earlier this month I had some halal lamb and cevapi and they tasted exactly like Australia. Despite being raised a Catholic in country Queensland I felt right at home at a Muslim celebration on Brisbane’s southside. It wasn’t a tradition from my childhood or my culture or my religion, but it was enjoyable – and the food was delicious!

Some politicians have mistakenly suggested that, in order to protect “our” culture and “our” way of life, the parliament should curtail the freedom of Australians to practise any religion that is not Christianity. As well as being offensive to around nine out of 20 Australians, such a restriction is contrary to our own Constitution.

And he’s right. Section 116 of Australia’s Constitution allows all those who live here freedom to practice their own religion. As Perrett points out, the Constitution was written by a number of ‘white blokes’. Those ‘white blokes’ apparently could tell the difference between an Irish Catholic and a member of the IRA. It’s a pity that those who attempt to victimise people based on some tenuous link between their appearance or name and a religious group over one hundred years later don’t have the same ability.

What do you think?

How is Australia less safe now than it was 50 years ago?

Have there always been religious ‘nutters’?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. king1394

    Of course we (Australians in general) are safe, in their own homes, on public transport, walking in the street in daytime and after dark. As a woman in my 60s, I have no qualms about safety. But I was brought up to have a sense of caution too. For a young woman it is unwise to take the same path home after dark, particularly through parks or isolated areas; you don’t leave a party or rave drunk and alone, stay with your friends – this is not because of terrorism unless you want to regard men as terrorists (because the fear is rape).

    The most recent experience of violence I had, one of the few I could add, was when my sons indulged in a punch-up when an argument got out of hand. Strangely it wasn’t over drugs, or a girl, but a disagreement about the privileges or lack of them enjoyed by Aboriginal hunters. There is no doubt that much of the debate about violence and the fear of violence is framed in religious or racial terms. As you say, the information that a perpetrator is from a particular ethnic background is provided in news items, and unfortunately when names are given that seem ‘arabic’ this reinforces opinions.

    There is a lovely word for when a person loses all sense of control and acts in a ‘murderous frenzy’ – amok. It entered the English language from South East Asia in the 16th century and the Wikipedia definition describes much of what we see today perfectly: “an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behaviour occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures”. The syndrome of “Amok” is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

  2. wam

    Certainly there has always been religious nutters and, arguably, less atheist nutters.
    Many religions, and all christians, accept killing of humans and suicide, as being forgiven by god in heaven.
    Islam goes one step further being a driver of murder as a means to get to heaven and be rewarded by god.
    Being safe from religion? yesterday? today? tomorrow? ever?

  3. harshmind

    You may disagree with religion, wam, but if you had read the article you would have found enough to suggest that it is not the religion at fault, it’s the deranged interpretation of the religion. Mental instability. And it’s killed less people in Australia than falling off a ladder

  4. 2353NM

    @wam – I’d argue that there have been more religious nutters because a lot of people ‘looking for something’ in their lives ‘find’ religion along the way, along with ‘interesting interpretations’ of what that particular religion and lifestyle choices mean to them and others.

    To follow your argument to its logical conclusion, if all Muslims support murder, so do all Christians (regardless of their particular ‘brand’ being Amish, Hillsong, Catholic or somewhere in between) as the actions of the Crusades, the reformation, the IRA and various other terrorist groups in recent and not so recent history were all justified on the basis of the perpetrator’s ‘Christianity’. The more likely scenario is that it is utter bollocks that all Christians or Muslims support murders in the name of their religion.

    You could argue that the ultra-conservative right wing of the Australian Liberal Party (which has to be an oxymoron in itself), the Conservative Party in the UK and Tea Party in the USA are still using religion to justify actions and policies that are inappropriate in the 21st Century, and that is morally equally corrupt as the actions of any ‘nutter’ Muslim Group you want to name.

  5. Miriam English

    Historically, Christians have turned out to be the most dangerous group of people in the world. I don’t know how they are able to see themselves as somehow specially peaceful.

    The massacre in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia? That was a case of Christians mass murdering their peaceful Muslim neighbors.

    The massacre in Rwanda? Encouraged and promoted by good Christian ministers.

    The Child soldiers in Sudan, Uganda, and Congo? You’ll find the Christian Lord’s Resistance Army at the heart of it.

    Apartheid in South Africa? Christianity was a prime motivator.

    The Ku Klux Klan is a Christian organisation which was fine with hanging people and burning them alive simply for having too much melanin in their skin.

    The Nazis were all good Catholics whose murderous rampage had the full backing of the Pope, and Hitler preached about god and Jesus every chance he got.

    The most Christian nation in the world — USA — has, from 1945 to 2003, attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements fighting against intolerable systems. In the process, the U.S. bombed some 25 countries, caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair. [– William Blum, Killing Hope]

    The Muslims have a pretty horrible religion, it is true, but most of them are good, decent people, just as most Christians are good, decent people. Certainly if you compare Muslims’ history with Christians they don’t look so bad.

    But we would be better off without any religions. As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” And that really is the center of the problem. Religion is irrational. We need more sense, not less, if we are to safely navigate the future.

    Luckily religion everywhere is failing. Give it a few more generations and it may be close to disappearing. As its influence wanes we become safer. We are now living in the most peaceful and safest period in human history. Part of the reason for that is undoubtedly the decline of religion. Everywhere that religion continues to fester it is accompanied by higher rates of homicide, disease, infant death and other social problems. In places where religion falls away to negligible levels homicide almost disappears, along with many other social ills.

    If we are going to worry about religion I’d be keeping my attention firmly fixed on Christianity far more than Islam.

  6. Michael Taylor

    And Miriam, let’s not forget the murder of a quarter of a million Aborigines by the Christian Englishmen.

  7. Miriam English

    Yes… the continuing murder.

    (Makes me ill just thinking about sanctimonious pricks like Cory Bernardi, Tony Abbott, Pauline Hanson, George Christensen, George Pell, and the rest of those despicable posers and all the hate and harm they inflict on other people while genuflecting to their imaginary god and fervently telling themselves they are the good ones.)

  8. Neil of Sydney


    I found myself nodding in agreement at your post until i hit this statement

    The Nazis were all good Catholics whose murderous rampage had the full backing of the Pope, and Hitler preached about god and Jesus every chance he got.

    Hiltler talked about god a lot? News to me.

    I think the so-called Christian West is very nominal. I know in my last year of high school i did not know one person in my form who claimed to be a Christian believer.

    I think only at most 5% of the Australian population goes to Church on Sunday even though 60% claim to be Christian on the census. I think 5% is closer to the number of Australians who are believers.

  9. Michael Taylor

    Neil, I think that Hitler was a church-goer (as were the Englishmen who murdered Aborigines). I could be wrong on Hitler. I’m sure you’ll Google it and tell me if I’m wrong.

  10. Neil of Sydney

    I doubt if Hitler went to Church. maybe when he was a kid sent their by his parents. I like Benito Mussolini. He was brought up Catholic but had the guts to say he thought religion was a load of rubbish and never went to church. Honesty is what we want.

    Like i said i did not know of one person who went to Church or claimed to be a Christian in my last year of high school.

    And no Australian should get married in a Christian church and make vows to a god they do not believe in unless they are Christians

  11. The AIM Network

    I’ll save you all the trouble of looking:

    Was Adolf Hitler a Christian?

    Throughout history, politicians have used religious language to win elections. One world leader was particularly good at it:

    “In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that He would give His blessing to our work, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right. I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty. No man can fashion world history unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.”

    That may sound like an ideal leader, but that speech was given in 1937 by the Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler. In his speeches, he challenged people to love their neighbors, to care for the poor and sick, and to take a stand against violence.


    At one stage, Hitler even wanted to become a priest.

  12. jimhaz

    Hypothetically, I’d say a lot of those things would have occurred regardless of the religion – well except Buddhism.

    Things would be a lot different if atheism flourished instead of Christianity due to the “thought boundaries” religion created for centuries (assuming we were collectively capable of atheism – we appear naturally inclined to believe in gods).

    I’m pretty sure the western world would have evolved to be more mature without it – which is probably the only thing that could have saved the aborigines from what occurred – if it was not us, it could easily have been an asian takeover with even worse levels of genocide. Who knows though – the lack of Christianity may have meant Russia or China cultural systems would now be the world order or we could still have Kings and Queens warmongering.

  13. The AIM Network

    jimhaz, as Newton said (and later borrowed by Marx): “God did not create man. Man created God).

  14. jimhaz

    Did you read further in that link. Interesting.

  15. jimhaz

    [God did not create man. Man created God]

    So many cultures created various gods. Once “answers” are created by our imaginations they seem awfully hard to get rid of. We are always slaves to our past to some degree. The less the better though.

  16. Neil of Sydney

    Throughout history, politicians have used religious language to win elections. One world leader was particularly good at it:

    That statement most probably is true.

    I read your link Michael. I clicked on the video and it said towards the end Hitler was ant-Christian and wanted to destroy the church and replace it with himself.

    But lots of people go into Churches to get married. How many of these people are Christian believers? How many people who post on this blog got married in a Church and made a vow to a god they did not believe in?

    I think a good indication if a person is a Christian is if they go to church. Did Hitler go to church? I doubt it.

  17. Miriam English

    Hitler carried a bible with him wherever he went and peppered his speeches with references to god, Jesus, and family values. He was intensely religious. His speeches would not be terribly out of place coming out of the mouth of one of today’s Christian fundamentalists. I’m sure Cory Bernardi would find himself in great agreement with much of what Hitler said. The Pope instructed all Catholics to do as Hitler said. All this embarrassing recent religious history has been conveniently forgotten. I even encountered a strongly Christian girl recently who insisted that Hitler was an atheist. I suggested she go and actually read some of his speeches and be prepared for a big surprise.

  18. Michael Taylor

    Neil, I said “I think that Hitler was a church-goer” (which was based on my memory of an old program I watched) and followed it up with “I could be wrong”. If I’m wrong, fine. But personally I don’t care if he went to church or not.

  19. Miriam English

    For those who find it difficult to reconcile the gentle image of Christianity with Hitler:

    Bear in mind that Christianity has done truly horrific things before Hitler and since. His actions were not out of character with the church. When the Christian church had absolute power they brought us a thousand years of Dark Ages. A thousand years!

    If it wasn’t for science and the collection of knowledge continuing in the hands of the Muslims we would have lost untold amounts. Sadly the Muslims are now dealing with regressive forces and we have the chance to return the favor so that they might discard their cruel man-made god too.

  20. helvityni

    “Throughout history, politicians have used religious language to win elections.”

    In which countries? May I ask.

  21. Miriam English

    But all this is distorting the main point of the article.

    Religion, dangerous though it is, is not as risky as getting into a car. You have a much, much greater chance of dying from a heart attack or cancer. Religion messes with your brain, but Alzheimer’s is a far more immediate problem. It would be great to shake off religion finally and we would be much better for it, but climate change poses a vastly greater threat. Even at its worst, religion is unlikely to ever wipe out the human race, but we still have the thousands of nuclear warheads from the cold war poised and waiting for the almost inevitable error that will send them flying to kill every last one of us. Religion has great potential for evil, but that potential reduces with every day that passes as, all around the world, it is thankfully dying.

  22. Miriam English

    helvityni, the number of devout countries in modern times is falling, but in USA atheists are basically unelectable. In most developing countries the general population tends to be very religious and leaders accordingly appeal to religion to get elected. As you go back in time this seems to become more common. Japan is one of the most atheist countries today, but before World War 2 the Emperor was synonymous with god. Even the Nordic countries were religious once, leaving their people open to manipulation by those pretending that they are favored by god (though they were kingdoms, so not elected).

  23. wam

    dear harshmind and 2353nm. Ample evidence????? aust is hardly the world and today is not tomorrow. Religion needs to reassess its premises about god’s will.
    ‘Earls argues that the current discrimination against Muslims is equally as silly as the many decades of discrimination against the Irish around the world.’
    earl arguesthe sillynees???
    Islam religion accepts murder of humans and preaches rewards in heaven and kills thousands of muslims and infidels..
    The IRA wanted to unite ireland after the english decision to partition.
    The scottish protestants made it religious to protect their economic base in belfast.
    Clearly economic not religious but wow unleashed paisley and his boyne???.
    Arguably no connection and certainly not ‘silly’
    As for support murder vs forgive murder that is not interpretation that is base dogma of islam and christianity.
    The point is that the former incites and the latter forgives.
    Both are wrong when they say they do not support murder.
    miriam all the aussie pollies in the cabinet and shadow put their religion to the fore. I have been asked to reclaim my religion because there is a fear that we will be a muslim country if too many mark none

  24. Matters Not

    Newton said (and later borrowed by Marx): “God did not create man. Man created God).

    The notion that ‘man creates god(s)’ was certainly entertained by the Greeks as far back as the 6th Century BC. Since that time, there have been regular ‘resurrections’. Too many historical examples to list or link. ? ? ? ? ? ?

    Also, there’s any number examples of individuals who declared themselves to be Gods. And in some instances had the military might to enforce that ‘truth’.

    One wonders whether the real ‘god’ punished … Just jokin

  25. Michael Taylor

    in USA atheists are basically unelectable

    It is speculated that the reason Sanders missed out was because as an ‘assumed’ atheist he wouldn’t get much support from the Christian belt states on the big day in November. Whether this is true or not, we may never know. I heard an interview where Sanders denied he is an atheist, but maybe he isn’t ‘Christian enough’.

  26. Michael Taylor

    Well here we go. He wasn’t a church-goer but ay one stage he wanted to be a priest:

    Although Hitler did not practice religion in a churchly sense, he certainly believed in the Bible’s God. Raised as Catholic he went to a monastery school and, interestingly, walked everyday past a stone arch which was carved the monastery’s coat of arms which included a swastika. As a young boy, Hitler’s most ardent goal was to become a priest. Much of his philosophy came from the Bible, and more influentially, from the Christian Social movement. (The German Christian Social movement, remarkably, resembles the Christian Right movement in America today.) Many have questioned Hitler’s stand on Christianity. Although he fought against certain Catholic priests who opposed him for political reasons, his belief in God and country never left him. Many Christians throughout history have opposed Christian priests for various reasons; this does not necessarily make one against one’s own Christian beliefs. Nor did the Vatican’s Pope & bishops ever disown him; in fact they blessed him! As evidence to his claimed Christianity, he said:

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)


  27. Miriam English

    wam, not strictly correct. Both religions incite murder and they both preach peace. Anybody can cherrypick to support their desire for either. The bible is a Rorschach test and so is the Koran. Radical Muslims have recently been making a big thing of using violence, but peaceful Muslims can point to texts in the Koran that say you should never strike the first blow; that you should try to live in peace with those around you.

    Sure, the Koran has a ridiculous number of bloody passages talking about how the infidels will be killed, but most Muslims see this as their bloodthirsty god talking about what he is going to do to us, just as Christians tend to believe that their sweet and loving god will torture us forever. There are many Christians who look forward to the “rapture” spoken of in the bible, particularly in John’s hideously violent Revelations. They would love to hasten it. This was a particularly scary aspect of Bush Jr’s Presidency — they wanted to bring on the end times.

    So who is worse? It is a bit like asking if you’d like to die of yellow fever or typhoid.

  28. jimhaz

    @ ROFL

    [Apparently this site would have us believe Pat Robertson is a go-to source for historical info as to whether Hitler was religious or not:]

    I was going to say something about that as I noticed it was a Christian site…but then I decided not to care. The Hitler thing was just an unimportant side point and research takes times.

  29. Matters Not

    The role of the ‘church’ should not be ignored even in (godless) ‘communist’ countries. Putin, for example, heads off to church on a fairly regular basis and reaps political endorsement from the religious hierarchy as a result.

    The US presidential election race has focused attention on the role of religion there …

    Thousands of miles away, however, there’s an ideological synergy between Church and State which is just as unhealthy. Under its leader Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has backed the aggressive expansionism of President Vladimir Putin, which has seen him extend Russian power into Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Kirill described Putin at a religious leaders’ meeting in 2012 as “a miracle of God”. It supported a government crackdown on “gay propaganda” in 2013. The ROC has made billions from trading concessions granted to it by the government. It is increasingly asserting its position as the largest of the 14 self-governing Orthodox Churches and is using its political muscle in support of Putin’s aims

    Yes ‘religious communists’ are quite the norm in Russia. It’s just ‘common sense’.


  30. Neil of Sydney

    Hitler carried a bible with him wherever he went and peppered his speeches with references to god, Jesus, and family values.

    Family values? I thought the Nazi’s were sexually decadent. They may have encouraged German women to have lots of kids but I don’t think they cared whether the kids were produced out of wedlock or in. As long as German women were reproducing were all the Nazi’s cared

    He wasn’t a church-goer

    Then he wasn’t a Christian

    I found this interesting


    According to the Goebbels Diaries,Hitler hated Christianity.[123] In an 8 April 1941 entry, Goebbels wrote “He hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity.” Hitler, wrote Goebbels, saw the pre-Christian Augustinian Age as the high point of history, and could not relate to the Gothic mind nor to “brooding mysticism”.[12] In another entry, Goebbels wrote that Hitler was “deeply religious but entirely anti-Christian.”[124][125] Goebbels wrote on 29 December 1939:[126]

    The Führer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of their religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end they will be destroyed. The Fuhrer is a convinced vegetarian on principle.
    — Goebbels Diaries, 29 December 1939

  31. Carol Taylor

    Neil, oh good..then Muslims who don’t regularly attend the mosque aren’t really Muslims either. Therefore if (deity forbid) Pauline Hanson ever convinces Turnbull to ban all Muslims, then all they will need is a letter from the local Imam saying that they’re not mosque-goers.

  32. Matters Not

    Me, I visit all places of worship every chance I get, whether they be Christian ‘chapels’, ‘cathedrals’, ‘basilicas’, ‘grottos’ or whatever. Been in Russian Orthodox establishments such as Saint Basils in Moscow. Serbian Orthodox establishments such as Saint Sava Temple in Belgrade. Almost every Buddhist Temple in Asia (just joking – but it seems that way. And where would the tourist industry be in Asia without Temples?)

    Won’t go into the list of Mosques, whether they be ‘Blue’, ‘Green’ or whatever. As for Angkor Wat …

    Seems to me that if you want to understand a ‘culture’ you need to ‘watch’ them at worship, at a minimum. Also the architecture in some of these places is a sight to behold.

    You might be an atheist, but if you want to understand ‘history’ – the forces involved and the like – you have to appreciate the importance of ‘religion’, broadly defined. While you may think it’s all a ‘nonsense’, religion was (and is) a very powerful force in the world.

  33. Neil of Sydney

    then Muslims who don’t regularly attend the mosque aren’t really Muslims either.

    That is what i would say.

    Tell you the truth i have not met many Christian believers. In the last building i worked in there were 300 people in the building. I did not know of one person who claimed to be a Christian. There were 3 Muslims however and everybody knew that.

    They say in the census 60% of Australians claim to be Christian. I would actually like to meet some. They do seem to be in a much higher proportion in Parliament. But how many of them go to church? Religion has changed in Australia. Most people put down CofE or RC on the census. Protestants use to be Coalition voters and Catholics used to be Labor voters and MP’s the same. Now the Coalition has Catholic members which was unusual 50 years ago. In fact most religious people seem to be Coalition voters and the unbelievers are Labor voters. That was not the case 50 years ago.

  34. Casablanca

    jimhazAugust 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm you said:

    ‘Hypothetically, I’d say a lot of those things would have occurred regardless of the religion – well except Buddhism’.

    I immediately thought of the violence toward Muslims perpetrated by the Buddhist Monks in Myanmar in recent years. No sooner had I typed the words ‘Buddhist monks’ into Google than I had a drop down menu with ‘Buddhist monks killing’ as a suggestion. The search results are here: https://www.google.com.au/?client=firefox-b-ab#q=buddhist+monks+killing&gfe_rd=cr

    I read only one article but it certainly blew the notion that Buddhists are a peaceful and non-violent lot despite ‘non-violence’ being an intrinsic Buddhism precept. The article is:

    Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims? Alan Strathern, Oxford University, 2 May 2013. Strathern states:

    ‘Christian crusaders, Islamist militants, or the leaders of “freedom-loving nations”, all justify what they see as necessary violence in the name of a higher good. Buddhist rulers and monks have been no exception. So, historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity’. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22356306

    It seems that violence, suffering, retribution are as intrinsic to the practice of all religions as are ‘love thy neighbour as yourself’ and ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’

  35. jimhaz

    [It seems that violence, suffering, retribution are as intrinsic to the practice of all religions as are ‘love thy neighbour as yourself’ and ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you]

    I would say intrinsic to the nature of humans, rather than “to the practice of all religions”. As we humans form groups – groupthink will arise and that will change the nature of the various truths contained within “noise” of the religion.

    Buddhism at its very core is not even really supposed to be a religion but a life system – but it became a religion as we all form groups for various reasons.

    The religion itself however preaches no harm whatsoever to others. Its problem is that enlightenment (egolessness) is so very, very difficult, so 99.9% of Buddhists only partly understand or follow the teachings. Egolessness means no attachments – but as every part of our lives involves forming emotional attachments of one kind or another it is almost impossible to become a Buddha.

    That it is near impossible to be enlightened does not make it unworthy, though it can seem like self-help books – fine as concepts but in practice not so easy. Just look at the basics:


    Understanding the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism (With Coffee)

    l’ve not studied the religion and its various forms in any detail, as there is no chance of me worshipping anything (buddhas should not be worshipped, only respected) and religion tends to destroy the value of truths (for example the reincarnation as an afterlife rubbish). I was only ever interested in the basics which contain the more fundamental truths.

  36. Miriam English

    As with all belief systems Buddhism is founded upon a bed of lies. What possible good can come from beginning with untruth?

    (I feel uneasy saying “all belief systems” as I have the nagging feeling there may be one that isn’t founded on lies, but for the life of me I can’t think of one. And saying “belief systems” instead of “religion” lets me include capitalism, communism, feudalism, trickle-down economics, chain of command, and all the other silly belief systems that let people suspend responsibility and that they hurt and kill each other over. Frankly, I think the most sensible choice is to just let the data take you wherever it will; learn as much as possible, but don’t believe anything to be an eternal unchanging truth. Allow everything to be provisional, based purely upon the evidence.)

    If you’re wondering what falsehoods Buddhism is founded on, here are two:

    • rejecting material knowledge is the path to enlightenment. This is the kind of absurdity that is so common in religion (like “he died for our sins”, or “freedom by surrendering to god”, or “god gives my life purpose — a purpose which only he can understand”, or “my loving god will torture you forever if you don’t believe”). Such paradoxes confound thinking and tend to produce a feeling of awe in people when they can’t understand them, so they simply accept, and in doing so trick themselves into feeling like they understand it.

    • there is a soul that is reincarnated. It’s easy to show that there can’t possibly be a soul, but even if there was, how could anybody seriously think they had evidence of reincarnation? It all comes down to someone saying so and others simply believing unquestioningly. Often it has a self-serving aspect. They believe it because they don’t want to know that they end permanently when they die. But closing your eyes when walking out onto a busy freeway doesn’t make the trucks disappear.

  37. The Sword

    Hitler banished his religion when he started having a sexual relationship with Rudolf Hesse .

  38. Neil of Sydney

    Everything is a belief system. You either have the correct belief or incorrect belief and facts are irrelevant.

  39. Michael Taylor

    It’s funny you should say that, Neil. I’ve often considered that facts are irrelevant to you. ?

  40. Miriam English

    The Sword… whaaaa??? I’ve read a lot of crazy things online, but that seriously has to be one of the nuttiest.

    Neil of Sydney, I hope you meant that tongue in cheek. Facts are everything. The beauty of science is that it is a set of tools that help us sort out actual facts from the noise, letting us get at them without being influenced by our preconceptions.

    What is belief? There are different ways to use the term. I’m using it for when you think you have a complete understanding of something and that understanding is final and unchanging. As all knowledge is contingent upon change you can’t ever really be certain that any understanding is final. More evidence is always coming to light that changes basic understanding. There is a chance that your knowledge of something might be of a fundamental and unchanging fact, but you can never be certain.

    The biggest problem with belief is that when facts get in the way, the belief tends to be preferred over the facts. Belief basically guarantees error.

  41. jimhaz

    @ miriam

    [rejecting material knowledge is the path to enlightenment]

    Not sure what you mean here. In any case it is more about one’s relationship to that knowledge than any rejection of same. The rejection part is to help you break down the manner in which you view things in order to form an understanding of emptiness and the false separation we place between things (including ourselves and the universe).

    Admittedly, it never really gelled with me much either, so I am NOT saying you are wrong. I understood lacking ‘inherent existence’, but found it impossible to think non-dualistically, though I have communicated with a few that believed they could do so.

    Reader can get a better idea of this issue here for instance:


    [there is a soul that is reincarnated]

    I think the original idea with this was different to what it is now. The original idea was something along the lines of: Your mind and body are constantly undergoing change. Rebirth of the self is constant – the you of a minute ago is no longer the same you as now – each time your consciousness arises so that your “self” manifests, it has been reincarnated in a slightly different form.

  42. paulwalter

    With Miriam..Jimhaz, NOS, please re-read her comment.

  43. Miriam English

    jimhaz, I should first apologise for the rather brash manner of my post. Thank you for your patient reply.

    In truth, out of all the belief systems Buddhism is one of the few that resonates with me. I love the idea of reducing unhappiness by letting attachment go (even though it has great similarity to the philosophy of a drug addict with easy access to unlimited supply of opiates). A lot of other aspects of Buddhism really appeal to me too and I was very drawn to it in my teens. This is probably why a lot of my attitudes have a familiar ring to them (for example, trying to let certainty go).

    I like your explanation of the relationship to knowledge. Interesting. It is actually very much like how I try to view knowledge (sometimes unsuccessfully, I might add).

    Nice idea that reincarnation could have come from a distortion of the idea of constant rebirth — that I am different from day to day. No argument from me on that. Unfortunately there is no shortage of Buddhists who believe in a literal reincarnation of a soul that continues after your body dies. That even became an excuse for repression of women, as early Buddhists believed that women couldn’t achieve nirvana, but hilariously would have to be reborn as men in another life in order to gain that chance. Later revisions of Buddhism repaired that glaring example of unenlightened thinking.

  44. Matters Not

    there is no shortage of Buddhists who believe in a literal reincarnation of a soul that continues after your body dies

    They’re not alone in that belief. Quite widespread actually. Hinduism probably led the way. But rather than my scribbling, here’s a cut and paste.

    Transmigration of souls, sometimes called metempsychosis, is based on the idea that a soul may pass out of one body and reside in another (human or animal) or in an inanimate object. The idea appears in various forms in tribal cultures in many parts of the world (for example, Africa, Madagascar, Oceania, and South America). The notion was familiar in ancient Greece, notably in Orphism, and was adopted in a philosophical form by Plato and the Pythagoreans. The belief gained some currency in gnostic and occult forms of Christianity and Judaism and was introduced into Renaissance thought by the recovery of the Hermetic books.

    I believe I was a … in a previous life. My ‘atman’ has been on a long journey. ?


  45. Miriam English

    I should mention that there is a very ugly side to reincarnation too. It lets people rationalise miserable, diseased and poverty-stricken lives as being punishment for less than wholesome previous lives.

    And the idea that suffering can be alleviated, while being a brilliant concept, can also be used for evil in the same way that Mother Teresa taught poor people that they should embrace their poverty and not wish for more. It makes sense to relinquish attachment to things that are beyond your control, but ceasing to want can be a negation of life in the same way an opiate addict negates their life.

    At the risk of sounding trite, pleasure is the flip-side of unhappiness; that they’re in some sense the same coin. My Mum always said that the bad days let you appreciate how good the good days really are. There is a lot of sense in that. It releases you from dwelling on the bad aspects too much, while accentuating your appreciation of the good.

    It seems to me that the trick is to find just the right amount of attachment to avoid undue disappointment, yet continue to draw you onward to the best things.

  46. Miriam English

    Interesting site, Matters Not (though I find its tendency to turn ordinary words into “Proper” words willy-nilly a little distracting). I’ve long been interested in comparative religion. Added to my bookmarks. Thank you.

    I was amused to see them say it is a mistake for people to be irrationally certain that their own religion is right and all others wrong, while nevertheless gently insisting that they know what their god wants. 🙂

  47. Matters Not

    Miriam I don’t believe there’s a ‘superior being’ without beginning or end – the ‘divine’ and all that. But I am the first to argue that such beliefs are widely shared and an appreciation of same is therefore fundamental to any understanding of our ‘culture’. Indeed, those concepts are essential in attempting to understand any of the great ‘cultures’. (And no I am not going to get into a discussion of the ‘culture’ concept.) ? ? ?

  48. Miriam English

    You won’t get any argument from me on that. 🙂

    If we are to understand function it is helpful to understand dysfunction. Much of culture has historically been bound up with all sorts of weird beliefs — that women are inferior, that sacrifice is intrinsically good, that words can alter reality [spell/curse/jinx], that order is better than disorder, that purity is better than variety, that we are something supernaturally more than our physical stuff, that the position of stars and planets relates to our personalities, that chakra and ley lines and chi exist, that you can find water with a stick, that crystals have special powers, that spirits/ghosts/gods/fairies exist, that bleeding can cure illness, that royalty are special, etc.


  49. Neil of Sydney

    I hope you meant that tongue in cheek. Facts are everything.

    No facts can be manipulated. Belief/faith is everything. You either have the correct belief or incorrect belief.

  50. Miriam English

    Neil, your first sentence contradicts what I think is your intent. Perhaps you meant “No. Facts can be manipulated.”

    You are using the term “fact” incorrectly.

    n 1: a piece of information about circumstances that exist or
    events that have occurred; “first you must collect all the
    facts of the case”
    2: a statement or assertion of verified information about
    something that is the case or has happened; “he supported his
    argument with an impressive array of facts”
    3: an event known to have happened or something known to have
    existed; “your fears have no basis in fact”; “how much of the
    story is fact and how much fiction is hard to tell”
    4: a concept whose truth can be proved; “scientific hypotheses
    are not facts”

    Data can be manipulated. But by using the formidable tools of science we can uncover the actual facts, or at least approach them, limiting the area of uncertainty.

    Belief is a trap. I’m not sure how you are using the term, but even the way you use it gives no solution. As you say, “You either have the correct belief or incorrect belief.” Belief is no help in trying to uncover whether that belief is correct or not. It doesn’t let us find what reality is. It just binds your mind in an inflexible system that is usually wrong, and perhaps always destined to be wrong, because even if belief has workable accuracy at some particular time, as more information comes to light that belief will always fail. Belief leads to inflexibility and the inability to adapt to new, more accurate data.

    The world is full of beliefs that are patently false. There are more than 1,000 major religions, and if you add all the other crazy beliefs in things like astrology, dowsing, telepathy, crop circles, ley lines, etc., that number spirals out of control. Belief gives no way of finding out whether your belief is true or not. All you can do is carefully sift through the data using the tools of science to remove or correct for misleading data and approach the facts more and more accurately. Belief, on the other hand, gets us nowhere.

  51. Michael Taylor

    Only his first sentence, Miriam? Usually it’s his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh.

  52. Matters Not

    The relationship between ‘theory’, ‘fact’, ‘methodology’ and ‘meaning’ attribution is somewhat complex. IMHO, Neil isn’t completely wide of the mark. It’s a ‘beginning’ with a long, long way to go.

    But Neil never takes advice, so I won’t offer any. ?

  53. jimhaz

    Miriam said:

    [It seems to me that the trick is to find just the right amount of attachment to avoid undue disappointment, yet continue to draw you onward to the best things]

    Yes, that is my ideal, more or less (it is anguish not so much disappointment that I wish to avoid).

    From the past however, I would like to be completely non-attached. Ideally, nothing negative in the past should by rights affect us in the now. So much depression and so many mental illnesses arise from not letting go of the past. We will always reflect of course, but we should strive to avoid allowing it to emotionalise us – don’t let the reflections slowly build into emotional turmoil. I’m not so much referring to myself here but to people who suffer from DV or other forms of abuse, suffer from past mistakes or just had plain bad luck with experiences.

    The same applies to the future at least for some people. I’ve seen people here get unreasonably depressed as they worry themselves about the difficulties life will face down the track. Being too attached is harmful.

    The recent terrorists were likely to be overly attached to both the past and future.

    Like everything involved with the mind though – easier said than done. Still though it is part of the reason I would like philosophy to gain a more important place in school education. Such philosophy would include the basics of Buddhism.

  54. Neil of Sydney

    we can uncover the actual facts, or at least approach them, limiting the area of uncertainty.

    I tend to agree we can approach the facts. But ultimately it is a faith decision. Take global warming. Just say you are a scientist who believes in AGW. In your investigations you find an area of the world which is cooling. Would you publish the data? Most probably not because it goes against your belief and the cooling therefore has to be an aberration.

    Human bias has an incredible effect on the so called facts.

    On a slightly different topic you find out what people believe by what they do not by what they say. The ALP locked up 50,000 boat people. That says a lot to me. There is noway a Coalition govt would have allowed that to occur. They would have found a way to stop the boats which they did not long after winning govt.

  55. jimhaz

    Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet.
    He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath.

    This made him .. A super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

  56. Möbius Ecko

    First off the boats haven’t stopped. Dutton said as much a short time ago.

    Only in a RWNJ’s mind is torturing children better than finding other ways of stopping refugees making perilous boat journeys. Gillard offered a first step solution but Abbott preferred torturing children.

    The slow down of boat numbers started under the Labor government, not the Coalition government.




    Only a Liberal supporter could be so cruel and heartless as to condone unending human torture as a supposed method for saving a life.

  57. helvityni

    jimhaz, looking around at country shopping malls makes me wish that more people ate as little as Matama Gandhi, and walked as much as he did (shoes on is OK).

  58. jimhaz

    Yep, its going to be a real big problem if we don’t work out ways to fool the body into thinking it has worked out.

    For 10 years now I have had the view that the current generation will die 10 years younger than current retirees due to what technology does to us in removing the need for physical effort.

  59. Miriam English

    “super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis”

    😀 heheheheh I like it.

    Agreed that reducing attachment to certain things is useful, but even that attachment has some importance. Years ago I read a brilliant book “Permutation City” by Greg Egan. In it some people manage to copy their brains’ architecture into a computer in order to secure a much extended lifespan living inside a simulated world in the computer. One of the people decided he wanted to edit his mind in order to remove the parts he didn’t like and add to what he did like. The question was posed in the story, was he then himself? Or did he end himself and produce something else?

    I suffer from bouts of great distress remembering things I’ve said or done that I regret. The ridiculous thing is that I know most of those things are trivial and were never considered important by other people, so the only person they affect is me, so the distress is disproportionate. Even worse, I’ve started having those same bouts remembering mistakes made by others. I expect something is wrong with my amygdala’s sensitivity and I’ve often wished I could damp down that distress, but at the same time I’m very aware that it makes me a better person. If ants have found food in the kitchen sink I will spend half an hour shooing them away before washing up because I can’t bear to kill them. I try very hard to be patient and help everybody around me. When I fail I try to always apologise. So, even the painfully unpleasant attachments can be important and improve us.

    On eating less, yes. It is the only reliable way found to extend lifespan. In all experimental animals so far it has been able to extend life by up to a third beyond “normal” lifespan. It is often called “caloric restriction”. There is more to it, however, and it seems restricting protein intake is almost as important. There is some evidence that it works by inhibiting growth hormone, so it should probably only be used on adults.

    On exercise, not necessarily. Gentle exercise appears to be important, in a use it or lose it fashion, but heavy exercise seems to have little going for it. When I was a child I and my science-nerd friends became interested in longevity. I looked into what occupations have the longest-lived people. At that time they were music conductors, philosophers, and poets if they didn’t drink — not exactly professions renowned for heavy exercise. Athletes rarely ever live long. More recently I looked into it again (google makes it much easier) and it turns out office workers — accountants and the like — are now the longest lived.

    Gentle exercise, such as walking, and eating less (so long as you avoid malnutrition) is a good prescription for a long healthy life. Avoiding the business end of a gun is good too. Sadly, Mahatma Ghandi failed on that last, though his stand of non-violence should have helped him there too. The fool who shot him was clearly suffering excessive attachment to some illusions.

  60. Miriam English

    Neil of Sydney, I’m puzzled. Why would you think faith has anything to do with it? It seems to me that faith is the very opposite of what’s called for. Faith is believing something despite the facts.

    You said, “Human bias has an incredible effect on the so called facts.”

    Human bias has an awful effect on people’s perception of the facts. Human bias doesn’t affect the facts themselves.

    Scientists do quite regularly publish data that show some places have unusually cold weather, or that the ice has spread in some places. The neat thing about science is that it encourages scientists to try to disprove their most cherished hypotheses and theories. This is one of the reasons global warming deniers are so very mistaken. The deniers do the religious thing of cherrypicking data in an attempt to shore up their belief and ignore anything that contradicts it, whereas scientists actually put a lot of effort into trying to find flaws in their own data. Global warming deniers never understand this; they think scientists are doing the same thing they are. Karl Popper showed that something is not science unless we can find a way to disprove it. This is the very opposite to how the deniers think.

    As Möbius Ecko said, the boats were never stopped. They still come. I don’t care what government is locking up innocent people and torturing them in an inhumane and pointless attempt to stop refugees. It is an evil thing to do. Both governments have done it and I have the deepest disgust for them and their illegal and immoral actions. As Möbius Ecko pointed out, there have been attempts for a more humane solution which were blocked by the xenophobic and cruel Abbott government. Though I don’t think Labor come out of it smelling like roses either.

  61. Neil of Sydney

    Faith is believing something despite the facts.

    I guess you are right. Too bad facts can be manipulated.

  62. The AIM Network

    Miriam @ 6:47. Yours was the first comment I read when I opened the site. I can’t continue reading without first saying that it was a brilliant comment.

  63. Miriam English

    Neil, I agree. It is hard for me to understand why people manipulate data to misrepresent the facts. It doesn’t make them correct. It actually guarantees they make worse and worse mistakes, taking them further from reality.

    AIMN moderator, [blush] thanks. 🙂

  64. Miriam English

    rotfnlmao, when I said “despite” what I meant was faith is believing regardless of what the facts say. Just as a person might choose to go out despite the weather — sun, wind, or rain. Whether the facts support or contradict a faith has little effect. You’re right though, that it does sound like I was saying faith is always contrary to the facts. That was not my intent. I’ll be more careful in future.

    Some people believe and have faith in evolution, which is clearly a real thing that the facts support, but I’ve heard people speak in its favor with absolutely no understanding of what it is. This produces bizarre mistakes, such as that the strongest survive, or that evolution has a goal, or that humans are its ultimate result, or that evolution will make us smarter/better/whiter. TV science fiction from the USA is commonly a terrible offender.

    In reality, often the weakest survive, because they’re the most fitted to circumstances (butterflies are not strong, but they’ve outlasted the dinosaurs). Evolution is the result of a blind process; it can have no goal. Every life form today is the result of more than 600 million years of evolution — from the malaria parasite to cockroaches, and yes, humans too. It may well be that our energy-expensive brains are too wasteful, especially if we end up exterminating much of the ecology supporting us, in which case I can imagine a less intelligent, more chimp-like human could be more fitted to survive.

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