Leap of Faith

August 21, 2013

The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. David Hume.

“Honey, the Lord has spoken unto me.”

“That’s nice, dear, what did He say?”

“He said, ‘Sean, my son, takest thou thy wife and the little children of thy loins, and go to San Diego. There buyest thou a small boat—say about ten cubits long by, oh heck, three and a half cubits wide–and sail it across the Pacific to Kiribati, that thou mayest be free of the Godless laws of America, where men are permitted to lie with men, and women with women, and the unborn are ripped untimely from their mothers’ wombs at the expense of the federal government, and my commandments are not permitted to be displayed on the walls of the city courthouse.’ ‘But Lord,’ I replied, ‘we know naught of nautical matters–there is no sea in Arizona–and we are sore afraid of the ocean.’ Then He said in a loud, annoyed kind of voice, ‘O ye of little faith! It’s not called the Pacific for nothing, you know. And as to the matter of navigation, I shall guide thee.'”

And so Sean Gastonguay took his wife, Hannah, and his daughters Ardith (3), and Rahab (8 months) to San Diego, bought a small boat, and set sail for Kiribati. It is unclear whether or not they knew that the highest mountain in Kiribati is about a yard high, and the government of that unhappy nation has advised its citizens to leave as pronto as possible, before rising sea levels drown them. But off they went into the Pacific where, to quote Mrs Gastonguay, it was just “storms, storms, storms.” After ninety days all they had left to eat was honey and fruit juice; the deck of their boat had begun to separate from the hull, like the upper coming adrift from the sole of an old shoe; and they hadn’t the faintest idea where they were.

They were luckily spotted by a fishing trawler and rescued. They are back home in Arizona, jobless and considerably poorer than when they left. The federal government are charging them $10,000 to cover the costs of their repatriation, in addition to the $9,963 they already owe in back taxes.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.


God Bother

December 12, 2012

Alber Saber is due to be sentenced today in Egypt for the crime of ‘insulting Islam.’ He is alleged to have administered the Egyptian Atheists page on Facebook. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out, but in the meantime there are some questions to be asked of a jurisdiction that makes thoughts the subject of criminal proceedings.
blake_1
Mr Saber was brought up in a Christian household, but at some stage decided that he did not share the Christian beliefs of his parents, or indeed any belief in any supernatural gods. Mobs of believers descended on his home and demanded that he be arrested and punished for daring to say that he disbelieved in the things that they believed in, which is what happened. The obvious question this raises is why believers think that their gods are so fragile they need this kind of protection.
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Death Penalty

November 29, 2012

I first saw America as she should first be seen by a foreigner: from the deck of a ship approaching New York harbour. We had passed the Nantucket Lightship in the night watches, and now at dawn could see the island of Manhattan, dominated by the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. We picked up the harbour pilot and steamed slowly in up the East River, past Governors Island and nudged into our berth at Brooklyn Pier 6.

This was in the early 80’s, and New York was a grubby, rowdy, bustling, crowded place of which I, as a young African, stood in awe. When I wasn’t on cargo watches I would ride the subways and buses, taking in the sights; sometimes I would stop off at one of the ubiquitous Irish pubs for a beer, and would chat to the locals, who—for some reason or another—would always ask whether or not I had been in Florida.

I spent the next year or two on the East coast liner trade: New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newport News (beware of submarines), Charleston, Savannah, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans (occasionally Baton Rouge), Houston. During this time I conceived a real affection for the American people, who were invariably friendly and courteous; and apart from a curious ignorance of the events—or even the geography—of the rest of the world, they seemed sophisticated enough to value their freedoms and to take pride in the achievements of their nation. They are mostly liberal, and think quite deeply about morality and the constituent parts necessary to the maintenance of a just society. Which brings me to the point of this post.
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Lady and the Loonies

June 28, 2012

It has reached my ears that there exists a person called Lady Gaga. I don’t know whether she is a member of the British aristocracy, or “Lady” is her name, like that dog in the movie, but I’m told that she makes her living by donning surprising costumes and singing and dancing. She is coming to sing and dance in Cape Town soon, and I say good luck to her. I shan’t be attending her performance because that sort of thing isn’t what floats my boat; but I’m quite sure that there are plenty of people who will enjoy what she has to offer in the way of entertainment.

Her imminent arrival has also flushed the usual crew of crackpots and lunatics out of their malodorous lairs. They have set up a facebook page called “Christians against Lady Gaga & Beyonce’s SA tours!!” They claim—amongst other things—that Lady Gaga is a satanist and may even be the bride of satan. Here’s a sample of the comments left on the site:–
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Art Raises its Head

May 24, 2012

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.
John F. Kennedy

A week or two ago I wrote about my “blind spot” with reference to the visual arts in general and, in particular, The Scream by Edvard Munch. Now a very different painting has been dominating the news, not because of the absurd price it commanded,–it sold for a modest $16,000–but because it depicted the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, with his penis hanging out of his trousers.

The Spear would probably not have been in the news at all were the South African government not as ignorant of the Streisand effect as they are of constitutional law, philosophy, civics, economics, geography, democracy and science. They brought suit in the High Court seeking an injunction against the painting being displayed in the Goodman Gallery, or on the website of a newspaper, the City Press. Their grounds are that the painting is disrespectful and impairs the President’s constitutional right to dignity. The case will be heard today, but the outcome is moot because the image is now hosted on thousands of websites worldwide. Oh, hell, let’s make it one more:–

The Spear


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Corporate Bullies

March 22, 2012

In South Africa every household that owns a television set must, by law, purchase a licence every year. Businesses must have a separate licence for each TV set. A TV is defined as any electronic equipment that can receive a TV signal, so, for example, a VCR or PC equipped with a TV card are counted as TV sets and must be licensed. Failure to pay the licence fee is a criminal offense. The money thus raised is paid to the SABC, but not to other commercial broadcasters. I have argued elsewhere that the SABC licence fee is immoral; but this post is about the revolting, dishonest, thuggish bullying that the SABC and their collecting agencies use in an attempt to frighten consumers into paying licence fees that in many cases are not even owed.
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Gay Uganda

February 16, 2012

David Bahati doesn’t like gays. In fact, he dislikes them so passionately he wants them to be put to death. This wouldn’t matter a jot if David Bahati were some African version of Archie Bunker, sitting on his LazyBoy in front of his television with an open can of Tusker, watching a football game and fulminating against all and sundry; but David Bahati is a member of Uganda’s parliament and the National Resistance Movement, which is the ruling party in that splendid country. He has brought a Private Member’s Bill called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (PDF) which, if passed, will ensure that no one’s member remains private. He wants life imprisonment for homosexual acts and the death sentence for what he regards as “aggravated” homosexuality–offences in which the perpetrator is either HIV positive, or seduces a minor, or is a serial offender.

Apart from the barbarity of penalties envisioned, the entire Bill is based on a false premise. The first paragraph of the Bill states:

This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.

But same sex attraction has been shown in numerous peer-reviewed research papers to be precisely an innate and immutable characteristic.
Here are some examples. But even if homosexuality were a choice and not an immutable characteristic, it would still not be excusable to pass legislation of this sort which seeks to criminalise consensual sexual behaviour between adults.
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