Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To My Fish, Who Killed Himself

Its said of fish in many books: 
Their memories are small. 
It's clear without lean cats or hooks
They've got no woes at all. 

My  beta sought to beat those odds
And shed his scaly gown. 
The bowl he flees, the counter trods, 
And in the air did drown. 

He did not seek a found'ring shrink
Nor from his problems hide. 
In my kitchen never did I think
To witness icthycide. 

It's clear from his last desperate lunge
The ironies he'd crave: 
The fish who in the air did plunge
But flushed in wat'ry grave. 


Monday, December 30, 2013

Reunion


Nostalgia can make the air spongiform. 
Be careful. 
Take  a deep breath before you drown -- 
Or, do that anyway. 
I would enjoy it more if I could get
The ice out of my duodenum. 

Nailed It

First terror -- the ecstasy of the sweaty palm, 
The jittered voice, the caffeine rush of the 
Epileptic knee. Paralysis. Insanity of a kind. 

Then ambrosia, intoxication --
Drink deep the nectar of her perfume. 
Soon, swoon. Kiss her, 
Then fail your breathalyzer. 

Write fast, if you can. 
The world tilts but the pen sits still. 
Don't drink the ink. 

Oh, Edward, were you ever right!
For in me, indeed, 
"The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Languid

Ginsberg dreamt of Whitman inside a country store. 
Alighieri with the mind of Aeneid did converse.
Milton had his Father; de Vere his royal Sun.
Plath, at the last, had a oven. 
Eliot had the Church, and Kerouac a bottle. 
Auden had his students (too much of them). 
Houseman his memories and Owen his trenches. 
Not even to write, to dream, but just to breathe -- 
For your sweet smell I would trade their muses all.

Friday, December 27, 2013

In Which I Answer 10 Questions Designed to Challenge Atheists

Mr. Richard Bushey is a young student of religion, a follower of Christian apologetics, and is for all intents and purposes a very enthusiastic fellow. I had the pleasure of stumbling across one of his recent Twitter posts, posing ten questions he has listed on his website -- questions designed to require atheists to be very clear on their arguments or explanations in relation to the genesis of the universe and The Invisible Sky Wizard (my words, not his, obviously). At first, I must admit a strong reticence to even reading them, based on a familiarity with such ploys by the faithful in the past that result in semantically indecipherable hogwash masquerading as logic -- per contra, Mr. Bushey's intro was so genuine in his search for legitimate discussion, and his questions so distinct in their interpretation, that I felt I could not be a gentleman nor a proper atheist banner-man if I did not take the time and effort to provide him answers to the best of my ability. To Mr. Bushey, and to all, I hope you find them entertaining if not enlightening.  

1 – Could the cause of all nature, space, and time, be natural, spacial, and temporal?
MR. BUSHEY: It is my stance that it should be impossible for nature, space, and time to be intrinsic to the cause of nature, space and time, because that would imply that they existed, prior to their existence. But that is obviously absurd, prior to their existence, nature, space, and time… did not exist, and as such could not stand in causal relations with themselves.
From this it should follow that if nature, space, and time had a cause, it should transcend nature, space and time, which is to say that it would be supernatural, immaterial, and eternal. I suppose the only way around this conclusion would be to say that the universe is eternal, which lead to logical absurdities, (such as Hilbert’s Hotel) and contradicts scientific discovery.
JK: It is both possible for the cause of nature, space, and time to be natural, spacial, and temporal as well as  unnatural, etc. -- at least, it is reasonable to think so without any other information in support of either. We do, however, find ourselves in desperate need of Occam's Razor when asking ourselves a question like this. If the natural causes can't exist before nature (which isn't by your logic or any other conclusively decided), it does not by omission suddenly present that an unnatural solution is present. This is not a semantic argument, though it sounds like one. I mean to say: the natural causes of the origin of the universe may be unfamiliar as they are unknown, as was the idea of the nuclear power of the sun until the awareness of it was made manifest. To we who think of the universe in natural and spacial and temporal dimensions, it may be difficult for us to hypothesize an event in universal history which either bends or warps those perceptions, but it is almost assured that we will discover (if we have not begun to discover already) the variations of natural laws and universal physics that do make such events possible. It is far more likely that an event based in natural law occurred that is either currently undiscovered by man or, with the changing of the universe since the moment of "natural" genesis, so too has the natural laws which made its origination possible also changed. 
This observation is actually the lesser of my two points -- it is here we strop the Razor: everything we know to have happened in the universe within provable or observable reality has occurred within the scope of nature, space, and time. It is therefore more illogical to assume that anything happened outside of these parameters without express evidence to the contrary. As before, the origin of natural law does not necessarily exempt a different kind of natural law previous to allow for the creation of the universe as we now understand it, but what we can deduce is that with natural law as our baseboard of universal understanding, we can sooner hypothesize a logical variant of natural forces acting in assumedly unnatural ways than we can the outright unnatural. We see examples of this every day: if a virgin bears a child, do we assume parthenogenesis occurred or do we more readily think that a Palestinian vixen told a lie? Naturally, I'm well and wide open to be proven wrong, but if we have to mold our hypotheses to logical assumption, we should bear our course to the actions of the universe that we know and understand: natural and not supernatural forces. 
As a side note, I do take slight umbrage with your definition of transcending natural causes. As I hope I have illuminated: it does not mean we jump to supernatural conclusions, but rather variations of natural laws that we have not yet discovered or have changed immutably since the birth of the universe as it now behaves. 
2 – Is there an objective moral difference between the pro-choice stance and the pro-life stance?
MR. BUSHEY: When the term objective morality is applied in this context, it is taken to mean moral values which are valid and binding, independently of whether anybody agrees with them or not. The question, therefore, is whether the pro-choice stance is intrinsically a more moral stance than the pro-life stance. If there is, that implies that there is a transcendent standard of morality that is beyond ourselves. But that is in stark contrast with what most atheists believe, which would be a position of non-objective moral values and duties.
Be careful to note that this is not the claim that atheists cannot be moral or that they make their moral decision arbitrarily. Rather it is the claim that atheists carefully and thoroughly apply reasoning to their moral decisions and do so out of love and empathy. The problem with this is that in the absence of a transcendent standard of moral values and duties, these moral decisions become unjustified, and this is precisely the conundrum that most atheists find themselves in.
As Richard Dawkins wrote, “There is at bottom, no good, no evil, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
JK: No, there is not an objective moral difference between one and the other. In either instance, we are dealing with the civil liberty of a sovereign being. A person, devoid of all exterior or religious influence on their decision, chooses a side solely on which life they think necessitates such liberty the most. The reasons further for such a decision are ultimately fluff because they mirror each other in all things reasonable. Religion intoxicates the argument by providing divine mandate for the choice rather than an objective reason for it, but that can be easily ignored if a follower merely states that they are campaigning on behalf of a defenseless human. 

I can't say I'm properly knowledgable as to why this question might be included in your fine list, except perhaps to require an atheist to define their point of moral compass, or elucidate from whence they received it. I don't want to speculate without your input too far. However, I would be remiss not to point out that the subject of abortion waffles widely on both sides of the cosmological fence and many atheists and believers have differences in opinion within their own factions. No matter the answer, it doesn't establish the subjective morality of either side, nor whether an objective, moral standard on the subject exists. I, myself have conflicting feelings about the practice and none of my at-war thoughts are influenced by my non-belief, as I would have to assume they would be not influenced by my belief should I be of the opposite persuasion. 

3 – If you are a mythicist (a person who believes that Jesus never existed), is it possible that your position is influenced by your opposition to religion?

MR. BUSHEY: I have found that many atheists are very quick to jump on the Jesus never existed bandwagon, and I cannot help but suspect that this is a consequence of their dislike for religion. Due to their claim to respond to evidence, one must assume that they just have not been exposed to any of the scholarly work on this topic. It is the consensus of virtually all secular scholars in the field that the person of Jesus Of Nazareth did, in fact, exist. If we are to ignore the scholarly evidence in favor of some webmaster, then it seems to me that a more likely motivation is not evidence but an opposition to religion.
JK: Sir, it is not the consensus of virtually all secular scholars on the subject that Jesus existed -- I'm surprised you can propose so without blush. But, supposing it was, I would have private reservations outside of the works of such a hypothetical majority about the existence of the anointed: namely that no work exists in his own hand and that a host of historical documentarians of the time recording in and around Jerusalem make no mention of Jesus in their work (a lengthy list is presented in my book), whereas the much-followed accounts of his life are contradicting and composed decades after his death by the hands of people who arguably had never seen him. These mere observations (equally contested in a field you claim is overwhelmingly in agreement), would be enough to give me pause on the question of his life no matter what my other cosmological feelings are. (Note that by this same logic I must concede that Socrates also did not likely exist in the flesh, which is a sad thing for me to admit.)
As to your question, I think that the previous paragraph could serve as a decent answer. But to further clarify my position, my opposition to religion is not dependent on any of its claims being true. Without reiterating my entire argument from its current book form, I could simplify by saying the entire enterprise of religion (including the existence of Christ) would be all the more terrible and insufferable if it were true, and therefore would be at odds with my thoughts on the nonexistence of Christ. 
4 – What would you accept as evidence for the existence of a transcendent Creator of the universe?
MR. BUSHEY: This is a question which I regard as important but never really hear a good answer for. Most atheists and non-believers will think of something absurd, or absolutely unreachable. In fact, one person told me that if the clouds were to randomly form the words, “The Bible is the word of God,” he would not believe it, he would regard it as an unusual cloud formation.
What about you? If the clouds formed this sentence, would this convince you? What would convince you?
JK: We are all compelled and manipulated by our cognitive dissonance, Mr. Bushey: when presented with clear signs of the non-existence of god the believer equally responds with the absurd: "God works in mysterious ways!" or "His manifestation is more complicated that we could have dreamed!" These are logical capitulations that, to the credit of the atheist, don't carry the same degree of possibility (however slight) that clouds bearing such a message either aren't random, or the hallucination of our unhealthy brains, or a complicated and admirable hoax. What can be said about this question is that the requirements for believing in god for the atheist are absurd because the idea is absurd. I don't mean this as a slight -- I mean it to say that the manifestation of god in convincing reality would need to bend the rules of our perception in such a way that we couldn't rationalize it to any other point of possibility however small. His appearance, in other terms, would need to be so dominant that the point of Occam couldn't slice it. 
I could, in all honesty, never be sure that an event I am witnessing that makes me question my non-belief wouldn't be informed by bad logic, a hallucination, or any other material occurrence. (The Razor is mightier than the Word in all previous instances.) I can, however, give you the good answer you are searching for and say that what would change my mind would come in the same material premise. The absurd would only compel me to thoughts of absurdity -- I have no respect of the rabbit-hole. The existence of evidence of god, if it is to be found, would be discovered within the scopes of science and not through revelation. 
5 – If natural determinism is true, then would it be the case that your beliefs and non-beliefs are just a consequence of a previous natural cause; a chemical reaction in the brain, and not necessarily reason?
MR. BUSHEY: As Doctor Sam Harris pointed out, we do not cause our causes, there is no actual free will on natural determinism, but only a very severe illusion of it, even in lower animals, but especially in humans. As such, we are just dancing to our DNA.
But if that is the case, then it seems to me to follow that the decisions we make, whether to believe, or to not believe, would just be a product of our DNA, a chain of chemical reactions in the brain, rather than a product of reason.
JK: Yes. 
I would elaborate, but further thought follows the same premise as my answer to Question #1. If our belief and non-belief is of natural cause, then the believers only score a point if the origin of this natural process was divine. Ergo, see Answer One. 
6 – Is it possible that the cause of genetic similarities would be that there is a common designer?
MR. BUSHEY: The most frequent evidenced cited of common ancestry is the genetic similarity between all organisms, indeed human beings share DNA with mice, lower primates, and vegetables, and this is a point that I happily concede. But I cannot help but think that this is precisely what we would expect if there was a common designer. Often architects and engineers use similar design blueprint and apply similar patterns and structures, so why could not the same be said of the designer of human beings?
Now I am not saying that this proves that there is a designer, but if it is possible, I have trouble seeing why, that when applying as an argument for common ancestry, this would not be a case of what Jared Orme of Conversion Points Radio called evolution-of-the-gaps, which is to say that we appeal to evolution because we do not know the answer.
JK: Again, you half-prove your own point and half-support mine: we do appeal to evolution because a more elegant answer is not yet known to us that resonates in the natural laws of the universe. However, appealing to the reasoning listed earlier (I swear I am not being lazy): the explanation for the similarity in common genetic traits are logically going to be of natural origin and the added variable of an unnatural string-puller is, as Laplace said, unnecessary. If we don't yet know why common traits exist (and I'm not sure that we don't -- I have only a layman reading in the field), we can rest more easily in the idea that it has a natural rather than a divine ignition. In order to go against this, we would need the proffering of evidence of design rather than the absence of natural explanation. Refer again to Answer One. (I must apologize for that, but some of these questions follow very similar logical themes.)
7 – Is it possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering?
MR. BUSHEY: Often when talking about the problem of evil, or the claim that there is so much evil and suffering that a good and omnipotent God could not allow it, this is a point that is often overlooked. What we have to remember is that as an argument against the existence of God, from a logical angle, it bears a burden of proof. It must disprove the claim that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil and suffering.
Therefore my question is whether it is possible that God has morally sufficient reasons, and if not, how do you know?
JK: Mr. Bushey, you betray an unfortunate piece of your moral reasoning with this question. Also, you present an a logically impossible challenge in that you ask us to know the unknowable, to literally divine the will of god (which should be unfathomable even if one doesn't take nonexistence into account), a task which, while many in the past have had the audacity or ambition to attempt (the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Gospel-writers, perhaps), I find myself happily unable to boast of tackling. I with regret must answer the question with a stipulation: if you (or anyone) could provide a moral reason for god's most evil actions (assuming god isn't going to provide one himself) that does not appeal to the mystery of god's plan or any other ambivalent phraseology, I would concede the argument in a heart-beat. Keep in mind that in so doing one is not only attempting the impossibility I have just illuminated, but taking up the position of defense attorney for the being who is quite literally responsible for every bad thing that ever happened in the universe. In all my rumination, discussions, and debates upon this very subject, I've never heard nor conjured an answer that did not unsettle my stomach. 
Is it possible? As with all arguments concerning the hypothetical, of course it is possible. But I've never heard someone profess an answer legitimating god's most inhumane work without, I think, a personal shudder of regret. 
8 – If Christian theology were true, would you become a Christian?
MR. BUSHEY: Be careful to note the conditional, namely, if Christian theology were true, would you become a Christian? If Christian theology were true, that would imply that the atrocities of the Old Testament were not a product of the wicked hearts of men, but of the righteous judgments of God, a God who was taking the lives that he gave in the first place. If Christian theology were true, that would mean that there was a being who was worthy of worship, who was omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and so forth.
If this were the case, would you become a Christian?
JK: Fuck no. 
This is evidence to my previous point that the legitimacy of the claim is no parent to my agreement with it. A similar question in my mind would be: "If you were  German in late the late '30s, would you do the will of your Furher?" If Christianity were as real as Nazism, I would still find myself morally opposed to every one of its basic tenets: a hypocritical dictator, a salvation based in blood sacrifice, an eternity of praise-giving, the possibility of eternal punishment for indulging in the nature with which I was created… the list goes on. Again: the idea of it being real makes it all the more repellant.
9 – Many claim that they know the risen Lord lives because he lives in their heart. Would that be an inadequate way of coming to know truth?
MR. BUSHEY: The most common religious epistemology is the claim that we have had an encounter with the risen Lord through the witness of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that this is a valid approach to coming to know God, for it is an approach which appeals to the five senses. At what point do we begin to deny that which our five senses is telling us, and moreover, if God really were to reveal himself in this way, how much more tragic would it be for us to deny him?
Something could be said of other religions, other people coming to know different conceptions of God in this way. I would just say that in the absence of an overriding defeater, people are perfectly within their rational rights to follow what their senses tell them. For example if I claimed to have experiences of the Almighty Square Circle, you would quickly point out that this was incoherent. But insofar as God so revealed by Christian theology is concerned, there is nothing incoherent about him, and so, why should it be invalid that we follow our five senses?
Indeed I might even go as far as to argue that it would be foolish to deny what we can see plainly.
JK: The insinuation of slightly offensive, as you seem to claim that all roads lead to Rome. But regardless of that, it bears relation to the corollary: if I believe with all my heart to the existence of leprechauns, are you going to respect the possibility of their existence based on my resignation? Of course not. The circumstance of one does not define an objective reality -- least of all their unsubstantiated thoughts. It's very important for the faithful to realize that when we make these comparisons, it's not in terms of comparison with the ridiculous, but that the substantiation is parallel. Believers make the assertion that god is real -- that's all very well. I think you can easily respect that in order for anyone to be persuaded, replying with such feathery garble as: "the Risen Lord lives in my heart" is not going to do the trick. 
10 – As an atheist, you support the claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence. That, in itself, is a claim which bears a burden of proof. So have you looked at all of the arguments?
MR. BUSHEY: This is to say that to claim that there is no evidence for God presupposes that you have looked at all of the alleged evidence in existence and studied it thoroughly to conclude that there is no evidence of God’s existence. If you have not looked at all of the evidence, perhaps consider more modest claims, such as I have never seen any evidence…
But this basically goes as an implore to take another look at the arguments with an open heart and an open mind, for if there are rebuttals which satisfy your objection, and Christian theology is true, I can conceive of no greater tragedy than missing that truth out of an opposition to religion.
JK: Has anyone read every letter on the argument of god? It would require the study of every religion back to the inception of the divine. It would be physically impossible to read every thought on the subject within one lifetime. It seems to me that you are basically asserting that all those who decide to participate in the discussion should take heed before casting the first stone and keep an open mind. A call to arms, if you will, of continuous study and non-bias. To this, there can be no disagreement. I don't wish to insult you, but this is impressive in its platitudinousness. Everyone comes to a conclusion after 'x' amount of material is presented to them. All we can do is continue evaluating the evidence and change our minds as compelling facts arise. 
It would be unfair of me not to highlight, however, that you have pointed out the very thing which makes atheists the more fair of fighters on this field. Most do claim that they have never seen any evidence to inspire them to concede to the faithful. The only absolutists in this fight are theists, who claim to know not only the answer to the creation of the universe, but indeed the mind of its creator. The atheist mentality is mandated to change, not with the Zeitgeist or the Tenderwende, but with the current of knowable fact. You will find that every study, theory, or hypothesis is by the nature of the scientific method required to be falsifiable. The only assertion I have ever seen stamped with the title of "inerrant" in all human literature is (and I think forever will be) the Bible. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Continued Thoughts on His Holiness

The increasing notoriety and fandom of Twitter-pontiff Jorge Bergoglio is a magnet for theological discussion -- especially as an opening argument in the face of atheism. It would seem to many of the faithful, to those sitting on the agnostic fence, and even to moderate atheists that His Holiness Pope Francis is a new beacon in Catholicism for goodness, humanism, truth, and equality -- staples which many have futilely claimed to belong to the doctrines of Holy Mother Church since its inception. At a passing glance, it is easy to see their point: Francis's views on homosexuality, humility, poverty, and decadence are -- to say the least -- refreshing sentiments to be expressed from the Vicar of Christ. From all sides of the religious spectrum, the new password to the cult of religious passivity is: "Hey, I'm not that religious, but I like this guy."


It's difficult, therefore, not to feel that many of those with a more dedicated atheistic bent (namely, yours truly) are being looked at with arched eyebrows as if to be inquired of: "Well, what do you have to say now?" Naturally, this scrutiny is rare, and many of my close friends who are religious or even fervently Catholic have had the grace not to stick their necks over the hedge. Nonetheless, the question stands -- and it's a beautiful one. I might pose it of myself for the fun of answering it had it not already been placed to me.

The thesis is very simple: nothing that Bergoglio has to say, despite its basis in truth and kindness, is objectively good inasmuch that we should credit him for saying it. Some of what I am about to write has been said before in a blog post examining his remarks on homosexuals -- I apologize in advance if the overlap becomes too severe. The sum of this argument is in several segments. In order to understand the overarching theme, we'll have to originate with the meta-topical and then offer more specific instances later.

To begin with, let's do away with the obvious: the pope is a mammal. He was born of the same process as are we all and he will decompose in the same fashion, albeit likely in one of the most gorgeous palaces built in human reckoning. Bearing the Fisherman's Ring does not a telepathic connection to the divine make, and when he speaks an opinion, he does so with the same relevance and magnanimity as any soul on Earth, with no more or less authority. The stature of moralist is not reserved for those who claim to know the will of god. All superstition, transubstantiation, and Resurrection aside, the pope is as per the old colloquialism: a man in a funny hat. It is astonishing to me, therefore, that the vehicle of his thoughts do not seem to inspire his followers (and others) by merit of their virtue, but by a sense of argumentum ab auctoritate. Merely by the fact that the pope said something, its morality or immorality notwithstanding, there is a weightiness to the sentiment that must be acknowledged in the minds of all those who care about the height of a clerical career. One can easily see the flaw in reason with this train of thought. Despite being a man, despite being a mortal, despite having no further connection with the transcendent than a transient on peyote, the mark of the Holy See makes true that which may not be so.

In order to follow the argument fluidly, let us assume that the above observation does not matter (I will give those in favor of the pope continuous benefit of the doubt as we sojourn forward). Let us pretend that the office of His Holiness does indeed carry with it the authority of truth by virtue of its existence, and that everything the pope says is, a priori, true (or, at the very least, moral). We then must ask ourselves whether or not what he says is done in originality, i.e.: is he professing something we didn't already know, and therefore does the basis of its truth lie in the fact that he professed it or in the existence of the fact already? (One can see a slightly mortalized version of the Euthyphro Paradox, here.) For example, Francis has extolled the virtues and rights of the homosexual (there are many ill-construed facets of this that I won't repeat here, but you can read the earlier blog post I have on this subject if you are curious as to my thoughts on this specific instance): could the morality and merit of homosexuality have been determined through basic humanism, evolutionary psychology, or even sheer fucking empathy without the pontificating (notice the origin of that word), patronizing acceptance of His Holiness? (The answer is undoubtedly yes.) It stands to reason, therefore, that Francis did not illuminate or contribute to the discussion, but rather provide information that was already there. In this as in all other moral issues on which he has cared to comment, the pope has helped as much as anyone without his position or apparent insight to the human condition. Thus, the question: why care what he thinks if anyone else with a decent moral compass could have come to the same conclusion, and indeed had done so long before his time?

Of course, the argument goes further -- for the implied answer to the question above is that: "It's important that his Holiness profess a position of humanist morality because it will help to steer the Church into a more tolerant direction, away from bigotry and malice, and set the example by his leadership." While I would never be the one to suggest that the path to truth lies down apathy's yawning maw, it would be remiss of me not to point out the following:

Despite the obvious morality of Francis's statements, unoriginal and unsupported by a respectable authority as we've just illustrated, there is nothing to suggest that his profession of them will do anything to curb the domineering and discriminatory arm of Holy Mother Church that has arched its shadow over humanity for centuries. The pope has not made a single effort to change dogma, to challenge divine revelation as was written in the Gospels or in the laws of the prophets, to convene ecumenical authorities in order to address the issues on which he has earned the most fame (the acceptance of homosexuals and atheists, the luxury of the clergy, etc.), to issue a single edict by which the authority invested in him by god might legitimately make for the better of his church. Instead, he has merely spoken -- beautiful, true, and moral things, no doubt -- but in the end, they amount to little more than sound bytes for the amusement of those who are shell-shocked by his admission of them. Again, to concede the benefit of the doubt to those across the aisle, it is obvious that the beginning of any true change lies in the exposure of the issue, and it can be easily asserted that the Holy Father is doing this exact thing -- but can we please agree to accept the condition that nothing yet has transformed, nothing has moved, and Francis's words are currently air and not canon law? Leviticus 18:22 and countless other pieces of biblical barbarism still stand as the inerrant word of god, and many of the faithful will hold true to this no matter what plain shoes, robes, crosier, and throne the pope adorns himself with. Or, to explore this even further, it must be reminded of the reader that no mandate of His Holiness is permanent outside of his lifetime -- a conservative pope following the death of Francis could in the mere span of a day undo any artificial changes to dogma that Francis might actually accomplish in the course of his papacy: and it is extraordinarily likely that the product of conclave will be such a man. Furthermore, those whose minds refuse to be changed won't allow themselves to be swayed by the word of a new pontificate, and those who do are clearly invalidated of the moral substance of the assertion to begin with.

Also, it bears to note that the emptiness of these words is made doubly toxic by the mark of his office -- I do not mean this in the same way as I do the merit of his office as mentioned above: it is to say that the pope cannot be considered a serious authority on morality while he heads an organization that for hundreds of years was and is the proliferator of such things as: the complete abjection and subversion of women, the instigator of the Inquisition, the inspiration to the Crusades, the silent supporter of Hitler through the Reichskonkordat and Mussolini via the Lateran Pacts, the fraudulent sale of indulgences, the trial of Galileo, the shameful world-wide communal rape of young parish children and the full-knowledge of the Holy See in the obscuring of those crimes, the persecution and execution of heretics, a replete history of anti-Semitism, the cheerleading of the Ustaše; a church that promulgates the end of the world, who holds the creed that a certain human sacrifice was not only a moral act but one that all living souls should revel in, that beatified pederasts, gangsters, liars, and thieves -- and a litany of other complaints besides! A man who worships this history littered with the blood and tears of innocents, who serves such an organization, who then aspires to lead it in the form own his own person and has the audacity to claim knowledge that we empirically know is impossible for any human to hold: is this a man in for whom we should care what he thinks, even if he happens to be right (and thankfully doesn't hold the authority on the subject to give it substance regardless)? And do not his statements hold even less resolve when made from a pulpit that was wrought out of the agony of all the actions and many more listed above? I hate to be so blasé, but such a conclusion seems obvious. As Dan Savage quipped when asked to comment on a Hawaiian priest who claimed that children are traumatized when brought up by gay parents:

"He’s confusing children with gay parents with children who are raped by Catholic priests ... They don’t have moral high ground when they talk about the welfare and safety of children, they just don’t. They have squandered that on the tips of their dicks.”

None of this is even to comment on the legitimacy of the Church as a constructive entity, whose entire basis of morality is based on a lie. And, were it based on truth, would be even more ghastly in its implications.

Allow me, gentle reader, to lead you only slightly further down the rabbit-hole. Let us for a moment wipe away all I've just said -- I'll even concede it to the other side for a moment as insubstantial and perhaps even untrue, if only for the more fun in the antithetical argument. Let's throw the ball as far into the other yard as possible and entertain the idea that Francis changes the Church for the better -- for the best, even. Through his tireless efforts, the Catholic Church now recognizes in canonical law the salvation and marriage of homosexuals, the humanity of atheists, issues the world's most heart-felt apology for its past and current atrocities -- throw on whatever other what-have-you's while we are at it. Then ponder the outcome of this and ask yourself truthfully: what has changed? As a homosexual, as an atheist, as a woman -- even as a Catholic -- are you more fulfilled, more human, more valuable than the day before the pope and the Holy Roman Church made such a concession? By their feeble acknowledgement of your right to happiness and even existence, are you made more whole? Is anyone else?

Of course not.

If you take away nothing else from this post, gentle reader, then know this: you do not require the acceptance of anyone or anything. There is no god or church on earth that can tear down your individuality, can amputate the essence of your soul or divide you into nothingness -- nor can it equally validate you, compose you, represent you. You are the sum total of your own accomplishments, thoughts, vindications, and proclamations. You are the basis of the human condition defined and perfected. Do not forsake that liberty to hang with false hope on the words of some other great ape in a robe, no matter if he is the head of a clubhouse with 1.5 billion initiates. No more than let him or his antiquated rulebook hover over your own sense of worth should you imagine that it defines that of anyone else.

In summation: fuck what Francis says, even if he happens to be offering the correct conclusion. Even a blind nun finds a rosary, once in a while.