Tag Archives: God

Dear Mr Abbott. Unlike god, the people are not infinitely forgiving

9 Feb

 

Good Government

 

“Good government starts today,” promised Prime Minister Tony Abbott, fresh from his party’s first failed spill motion this morning in which 39 members of his team turned against him, and one of them cast an informal vote. We are moving on, the difficulties are now behind us, is the vein in which he continued.

All of which begs the question, what kind of government does he think we’ve we been enduring since the LNP won power in September 2013?  Many of us already sensed it wasn’t a good one, and it’s reassuring to have this view validated by our PM, who is, after all, responsible for its lack of substance and quality.

These last seventeen months, as Bill Shorten remarked in a splendidly energetic display during Question Time this afternoon, are seventeen months of the nation’s life it will never get back, and what has it been good for?

Abbott’s determination to put all this behind him and make a fresh start reminded me that he is a Catholic, and so is very used to making fresh starts and putting awkward things behind him.

This is one of the many things I fail to understand about the Christian god. He is, apparently, infinitely forgiving and that to my mind is just plain stupid. Generous human beings will forgive much, but we have the sense to know when forgiveness is a waste of time and the offender has no intention of changing his or her behaviour.

One of the many problems in believing in a god who will forgive infinitely is that it can make you morally sluggish. It doesn’t actually matter what you do, you can count on being forgiven. We’ve seen this played out a million times in the Catholic priest pedophilia scandal, for example. Those priests surely confessed their crimes against children and were forgiven every time, then went right out and did it again, because why not?

And didn’t Abbott give one of them a reference once?

The concept of putting things behind one has much to be said for it, on the proviso that one has learned the lessons to be learned first. To be honest, I don’t have much trust in a government that admits it’s only starting good governance today, seventeen months after it took office. That’s a little long to stay on the training wheels, and they weren’t actually out of office long enough to forget how to govern.

I am also becoming more than a little aggravated with mainstream media commentators who are busily writing a new narrative about volatile, over-sensitive voters causing leaders to crash and governments to fall. This is codswallop. With the advent of social media and the twenty-four hour news cycle, voters are more engaged and more vocal than at any time in our history and we often do not like what we see. Politicians are more scrutinised than ever before, and we all too often and with very good reason take a set against what our scrutiny reveals.

The problem lies not with an hysterical (and therefore feminised, don’t you love it) electorate, but with the lack of substance and integrity of many of those who seek high office. The Abbott government (and the Newman government in Queensland) attempted to inflict its pathological ideology of inequality on a nation whose general ethos is still, miraculously, the fair go. We’ve turned on them. We’ve done this because we are largely a decent people who don’t believe those at the bottom  of the food chain should be ground even further into misery, while those at the top profit obscenely. We haven’t done it because we are volatile, over-sensitive and hysterical.

Politicians and mainstream media can find democracy a struggle.

Abbott is on notice, from his party and from the electorate. Not only does he have 39 home-grown dissidents to contend with, his personal polling figures are abysmal. I have no idea what the PM’s idea of “good government” might be, but I do think it is an admission of grotesque failure that he is promising the electorate good government from today, when he’s been in office all this time and only now because of a revolt and attempted coup. In other words, Abbott has been forced to consider “good government.” It hasn’t come to him naturally.

Prime Minister Abbott might well be about to learn the hard way that unlike god, we the voters are not infinitely forgiving, and he’s likely had his one and only shot at reforming himself and his ideologically driven party.

A song for the changed Tony Abbott: Bruno Mars and Today my Life Begins 

“I will leave the past behind me…”

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When it’s ethical to disclose your religious beliefs

11 Feb

I grew up in a nominally Christian household. I was educated at a boarding school run by Anglican nuns. As a young mother I had my sons baptised. Soon I’ll attend the baptism of my infant grandson.

In my early thirties, I ceased to believe in the Christian God and organised religion. A few years later feminism gave me the analytic tools to deconstruct religion and reveal it for the powerfully oppressive force it can be for women.

I look back to my time with the nuns with great gratitude, but I no longer subscribe to their beliefs.

What I learned about being a Christian is that a follower is expected to live his or her faith. It isn’t some abstract concept that is trotted out on Sundays. It’s supposed to imbue every aspect of life, every action the believer takes is to be taken in God’s light, and when a Christian encounters difficulties of any kind, a Christian prays to God for guidance and sustenance. No matter what one’s profession, one is expected to perform it as a Christian, according to Christian values.

I don’t know if all Christians learn this, but we certainly did.

Followers are also expected to identify themselves in the hope that others will “see their good works and glorify their father in heaven.” And, hopefully, join the religion.

These seem to me a commendable set of expectations. Transparency, honesty, willingness to share, and to extend invitations to others to join you in what you believe to be the best way to live a life here on earth.

As long as they remain strictly invitations.

So I am entirely unable to comprehend the attitude held by Melinda Tankard Reist that her religious faith distracts from her work and she doesn’t want to talk about it for fear of being “labelled.” Labelled what, I’d like to ask. Labelled Christian? How and why does Tankard Reist believe that being labelled as a Christian distracts or detracts from her work?

In an interview with Reist on Mia Freedman’s website mamamia is this observation: Ms Reist herself has said in the past that she is reluctant to discuss her stance on religion because people tend to use it to ‘colour’ the rest of her work.

My understanding is that a Christian is supposed to “colour” their work, indeed colour their whole lives with the presence of God. Why is this “colouring” regarded as negative by Reist to the degree that she is reluctant to discuss her religious views and appears to distance herself from them when the question of their influence on her work arises?

In the same interview a comment from Herald Sun journalist Jill Singer:

Worst of all, in my view, is that Tankard Reist protests robustly if anyone dares question what it is that informs her strongly held opinions. Specifically, she gets very, very edgy if anyone dares suggest her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.

If you are proud of your beliefs, and are living a life based on them, why would you become “very, very edgy” if anyone suggests those beliefs influence your opinions?

As she is a Christian we can legitimately expect that Reist comes to her morality influenced and guided by the morality of her faith. If this is not the case, then one has to wonder what kind of Christianity she practices, as the concept of a Christian who is Christian in everything other than her morality is somewhat baffling.

When Reist in her role as the morals police seeks to influence public morality and public policy, it is entirely reasonable for her audience to ask if her morality is influenced by her Christian beliefs. Christians have very specific moral positions. They are not all the same, and unless Reist reveals what hers are, we can only make assumptions. To claim, as does Reist, that her Christian beliefs are in some way different from her moral campaigns and can’t be discussed as they will “distract” from those campaigns, is more than a little bizarre.

Ethically, Reist is required to reveal how her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.  The public is not required to sit meekly by and unquestioningly accept a social order likely designed according to Christian morality, particularly if that morality is in some way concealed.

My Christian upbringing taught open-ness, pride, and joy in that faith. The idea that faith would detract from a moral message is simply incomprehensible. Does one build compartments, then? In here my faith, in there my morality and the two have no relationship?

The ethics of the situation are obvious. If Tankard Reist is a practicing Christian then there is no doubt that her faith guides her moral values. If she has a relationship with God in which she seeks through prayer advice and instruction on her work, as Christians are required to do, then she is ethically obliged to disclose this.

If she is seeking to morally prescribe for the public then we need to know if she does this in conjunction with her relationship with the Christian God, or if she is acting entirely alone.

Why? Because there are millions of us who do not believe in that God and do not wish to be forced to live our lives subject to any Christian morality. We have a human right to live free of religion and the imposition of religious morality.

We have the right to ask, is Tankard Reist acting in the best interests of human beings or in the service of her God? Because the two do not always coincide. The bottom-line with just about all religions is what many of the followers perceive to be God’s will, and not necessarily the welfare of human beings. We have overwhelming evidence of this priority.

If anyone seeks to morally prescribe from such a position, I am entitled to know that and to make my decisions accordingly. In those circumstances it is, to my mind, completely unethical to refuse to discuss one’s relationship with religion and its influence on one’s very public work.


Gerard’s Christmas wish

27 Nov

Guest post today by Gerard Oosterman, artist, farmer and blogger

Would Islam work better?  (The addicted gamblers demand it)

Well, if Catholicism was going to save us from the evils of gambling, or the moral spinelessness of our leaders, might it be prudent to look elsewhere for answers?  All our heavenly hope was vested in a leadership that would be benign, kind and benevolent.  So much hope got washed upon the shores of Christmas Island and despite promises that things would change for the better, it just doesn’t seem to have happened. Boat people are still languishing for years in detention. Suicides are almost  par for course with being a boat person. That’s what they do, don’t they? We provide them with three square meals, a bed and a flat screen television. If that’s not enough, that’s just tough. Go and jump.  Our hearts of stone will not be moved.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-19/dramatic-rise-in-detention-centre-incidents/3681630

If we think changing leaders at the next round of elections will change anything, think again. The flipping and flopping about by Abbott is just so mind boggling, one wonders if his stint with the Jesuits did more harm than good. It is amazing how anyone making claims to having enjoyed a Christian grounding and professing to have a belief in a good and benevolent God can in this same strand of theological forbearance and profound insight, and in the same breath, ‘predict’ the rescinding of sensible poker legislation.

We know that there are more bad things as well, alcohol, obesity, smoking, drugs and much more that have proven to be so damaging to hundreds, if not millions of people. But, we made inroads in smoking but are now not able to take on the pokies. Why not? Where is the God in Abbott?

Perhaps it is time to ask; where is the Allah in Australia? If society is crumbling even with our long held beliefs in Christianity, should we swap for something a bit more solid, a bit more reliable, and a bit gutsier?  Of course, no- one is heralding the entry of religion in our government and we all dearly want to remain secular, but how would we would feel having a Member of Parliament, a Minister, if not a Prime Minister, holding Islamic beliefs?  What would we feel about a female MP for the seat of Bennelong wearing a headscarf, or a white-robed defense minister, for example? Could we cope, seeing we are hardly capable of accepting a couple of thousand from those hotbeds of Islam, Afghanistan and Iraq?

Might it not be wise and prudent to add up and balance some of the positives of Islam and its culture? They are against gambling and would most certainly soon sort out our gambling addiction. They do enjoy breeding and racing horses, so it doesn’t seem that bad. They don’t want a drop of alcohol and can you blame them, just look at us. Smoking the water-pipe and chewing khat leaves are ok. So is a bit of hashish, smoked or inhaled.

It is not as simple as we might believe and there are big differences even within the same country or the same religion. Islam is as diverse as Christianity.

We, here in Australia have the Friday night spectre of the pub’s ‘meat tray raffle’, or ‘happy hour’ with reduced prices for schooners. What do you think people from Islamic countries might make out of those peculiar cultural oddities? The pushing of buttons on glittering and light flickering machines by ladies with blue or pink hair could also easily be seen as a strange voodoo like habit.  And so it goes on, so many differences but also many similarities. We all share love, sadness, joy, vanity, modesty, greed, brutality, friendliness, hatred, spite, generosity, togetherness, and loneliness.

We need to be far more tolerant and informed about the rest of the world, especially when borders disappear and so many people with all sorts of beliefs are roaming to find peace and happiness.

May Allah be with us also.

Gerard blogs at  Oosterman Treats Blog

And here, Watermelon Man David Horton has written a timely meditation on holes in the ground.

Did Bush claim God told him to invade Iraq? Yes, he did.

3 Oct

On Q&A tonight, News Limited journalist Greg Sheridan insisted, and insisted, and insisted again that George Bush did not claim that God had told him to invade Iraq.

But the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Age, and The Washington Post said this in October 2005:

(In June 2003)…the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”

And “now again”, Mr Bush is quoted as telling the two, “I feel God’s words coming to me: ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.’ And by God, I’m gonna do it.”

Those Christian fundamentalists and their imaginary friends.

Those News Limited journalists and their selective hearing.

Those warmongering religious fanatics with God on their side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we’re forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side.

Sunday with Leonard; born to be bad, and how long is a duck’s dick?

15 Aug

In need of spiritual nourishment and it being Sunday, I gave myself a dedicated Leonard Cohen day. This entailed, along with the scented oils, incense, beeswax candles and floaty shawls, a total immersion in music and lyrics enabled by our new system that transcends anything we’ve ever had before in terms of thrilling quality of sound.

As it turns out, it is perfect for Cohen’s fruity rasp, and for appreciating the brilliance of his musicians and backers, each one of whom is a top class artist in her or his own right.

Later,as the white blond moon peered through the window at me and the dog with the cauliflower ear, I settled down with a glass of red to a viewing of the On The Road DVD, featuring excerpts from Leonard’s recent world tour, and, how sweet it is, backstage stuff about Leonard’s quirks.

Needless to say the rest of the household had buggered off by then. Sympathetic to Cohen’s music though they are, nobody has my staying power.

I am crazy in love with this man, or at least the idea of him, having never met him. Up close he’s probably as irritating as every other human being can be: it never pays to confuse the art with the artist, especially someone like Cohen who writes many of his songs from what appears to be an imagined God perspective. Or channels them, depending on your belief system. This might make him even more difficult personally than the average bloke.

(An aside, check out David Horton’s piece on climate change sceptics today, titled “I believe.” It’s a little gem. As Leonard says: Take the only tree that’s left, and stuff it up the hole in your culture…)

Back to writing in the God voice, look at the Lover Lover lyrics: (I’m using the capital “G” because I’m referring to one imagined transcendental being, not a whole bunch of them in which case I would use the small “g.” The concept of a whole bunch of them doesn’t work at all in this instance. And I know God could just as easily be a woman, but that doesn’t work either.)

I asked my father, 
I said, “Father change my name.” 
The one I’m using now it’s covered up 
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame. 
Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me, 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

He said, “I locked you in this body, 
I meant it as a kind of trial. 
You can use it for a weapon, 
or to make some woman smile.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

“Then let me start again,” I cried, 
“please let me start again, 
I want a face that’s fair this time, 
I want a spirit that is calm.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

“I never turned aside,” he said, 
“I never walked away. 
It was you who built the temple, 
it was you who covered up my face.” 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

And may the spirit of this song, 
may it rise up pure and free. 
May it be a shield for you, 
a shield against the enemy. 

Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me 
yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. 

Now, personally I can barely resist the notion of an imagined transcendental being driven by such passion and such profound longing for reunion with me. It busts the heart right open, but only if it’s Cohen that’s singing about it, I’m not getting sucked in by those fundamentalists banging on about how God loves me and longs for my love in return.

Which reflects badly on me, I know, suggesting as it does that it’s the aesthetic not God after all, that transports me with delight.

There’s nothing “pure and simple” about violence and greed. Yet this phrase and others like it have been used over and over again as “explanations” of the motivations of those who rioted and looted in British cities last week.

It’s becoming evident that the offenders were not a homogenous group. Students, employed people, young kids, representatives of the middle class, the unemployed and a variety of ethnicities were all involved. Perhaps the only generalization that holds up is that they were young.

That their behaviours are criminal is unquestionable. That they ought to be held accountable is also unquestionable. What does need to be questioned is why this particular group of opportunistic looters are being singled out for attention when the world is awash with the predatory species. Check this link to the Drum today and Michael Brull’s excellent piece.

Like drug mules, the rioters and looters easy targets. They’re at the bottom of the opportunistic criminal food chain.

“They did it because they can” is another “explanatory” phrase. But all opportunistic criminals do it because they can, many of them causing far more mayhem and misery, unchecked, and for far longer periods. Opportunistic criminal behaviours, like domestic violence and incest, cross social divides. Those who are protected from the surveillance of authorities by money, power and influence are rarely called to account. Those who act out their capacity for violence and greed in the public gaze are pulverized by the self-righteous orthodoxy with the means to conceal their own criminality.

Lock them up and throw away the key, stop their benefits, chuck them out of public housing and make them homeless, that will teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.

The orthodoxy will do all this and more, because it can. It will do this because its prevailing attitude is that certain people are born bad and that’s all there is to it, and to them. The born bad fulfill a useful purpose: they distract public attention from greater opportunistic crimes perpetrated by another certain kind of person. This kind of person is presumably not born bad because being born bad means not having the ability to hide your criminality. The not born bad opportunistic  criminal commits crimes that are not perpetrated in clear sight. This species is among those with whom the orthodoxy is on good and mutually self-interested terms.

British politicians led by Old Etonian David Cameron are also engaged in giving the police a bollocking for not doing things properly. Which is a bit rich considering it took Cameron a few days to get back from his holidays in a Tuscan villa. It looks as if the only people not responsible for any of it are the politicians, who have been badly let down by both the opportunistic looters and rioters and the coppers, while they had their backs turned on their hard-earned summer holidays.

I can’t run no more,
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud…

 

That last line always makes me think of Tony Blair. You have heard about his Faith Foundation, haven’t you, the one that “promotes respect and understanding about and between the world’s major religions,” and has a flourishing branch at the University of Western Australia?

I suppose it makes a change from bringing democracy to Iraq through Blair, Howard and Bush’s Christian method of bombing the living shit out of civilians no matter what faith they follow.

Finally, I now know that the Argentine duck has a penis that is almost half a metre in length, and is, dear God, shaped like a corkscrew.

Here is a picture of a duck checking on his penis. He looks like he can’t believe it either. That’s mine?! WTF!

I don’t know how the female deals with this appendage. Please don’t anybody feel they have to tell me.

Did God give the Argentine duck his body to make the girl duck smile? Hallelujah!!!

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