Piper Post


An ongoing  commentary on the world - from an atheist, Rainbow
                  imagematerialist and libertarian viewpoint - by Mark Owen, who is wholly responsible for any views expressed here.

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The Easter fable . . .

Each year Easter comes around - celebrated in our Western 'Christian' countries, a time for a break for many workers and an opportunity for a weekend away for some. But I often wonder if the holidaymakers have any real idea of what it is all about. Dedicated Christians know of course, although a minority do not approve of the Easter observances.

Some believers go to great lengths to display their faith. Among them is an Australian TV presenter and comedian, John Saffran, who in 2009 went to the Philippines to have himself nailed to a cross. Reportedly after the nails were driven into his hands he hung there moaning for five minutes before being taken down by 'centurions' and rushed to a tent for medical attention. Was this some obtuse form of comedy?

One local event where I once lived drew a crowd of about 100 to witness the re-enactment of their version of Jesus’ bloody death. Perhaps the spectators were drawn to the sight of the semi-naked young man carrying the cross and being whipped!  What a pity I missed that!  Perhaps if some real blood flowed - as in the Philippines and New Mexico and other parts - they'd get a bigger crowd!

Getting oneself nailed (or, more often, tied) to a cross in imitation of the suffering prophet, is a widespread Easter activity. People who would eschew the proclivities of B&D enthusiasts readily participate in these shenanigans. Frankly, I cannot treat their activities with any great seriousness. Take this story:

In February 1978 Eliana Barbosa, a Brazilian girl aged 16, had a dream in which a 'kindly old man who looked like God' told he she could only rid herself of the demons within by being crucified. With the aid of her family and pious believers Eliana had a cross made of solid timber, over 3 metres tall. It was to be set up on a hillside and when the time came a crowd estimated at 6,000 gathered to see the sight.
The girl was to be bound to the cross, not nailed, so to simulate the wounds of Jesus she had her hands and feet sliced with razor blades and a crown of thornbush placed upon her head. She was then hoisted aloft while the believers dipped their handkerchiefs in her blood, in between guzzling beer and wolfing down hot dogs from the convenient stalls nearby. For three days Eliana hung there and then was taken down, to be proclaimed a saint.

But what really is being celebrated on the Easter weekend? Supposedly it commemorates the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection on the third day. But there is, I believe, something more to Easter than the commemoration of Jesus' life and death. It is celebrated by Western Christians on the dates of the Jewish Passover, which is in turn linked to vestiges of lunar worship clearly evident in the Bible. This is revealed by the manner in which the dates of Easter are determined: Easter Day is on 'the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.'

I challenge anyone to read carefully the stories in the four Gospels alongside one another.  It was only when, searching for answers myself years ago, I extracted (yes, typed them all out) the accounts of that central legend, the alleged resurrection of the Nazarene from the grave, and set them alongside one another, that light dawned on my benighted brain. These stories, like so much of the Bible, conflict with one another.

Easter is a curious celebration; even the word comes from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring (Eostre) but in religion, as an old verse says, 'any god will do'. According to Bishop Charles Leadbeater of the Liberal Catholic Church, in his book The Hidden Side of Christian Festivals (1920), the name Eostre is in turn just another form of Ishtar, Astaroth, or Astarte, the Queen of Heaven.

And Easter, that all-important Christian festival, is celebrated on a date that varies from year to year, sometimes in March and sometimes in April. Christians have, in fact, come to celebrate the death of their prophet Jesus on a varying date! And once again we find that primitive religious rites, in the form of worship of lunar deities, have profoundly influenced the development of a 'higher' religion. Moon-worship is clearly evident beneath the surface of the Jewish Old Testament and this has in turn affected the New.

In 1997 it was reported that an effort was being made by Christians on a worldwide basis to unify the date upon which Easter is celebrated.  It was being proposed that a precise astronomical calculation, using Jerusalem as the basis, would be used and that the new system would begin with the Easter of April 15, 2001. There is no word as to what happened to this idea but then Christians are not all that good at co-operating with one another. (For my take on the ‘Resurrection’ story see my paper, The Resurrection - World's Greatest Fraud?)

Take away the resurrection story and so much else begins to crumble. In fact, a careful study of much of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, will reveal an edifice that is - beneath the fine words (especially the old English of the Authorized Version) a mishmash of ridiculous tales, conflicting histories, outlandish behaviour and the wholesale purloining of other people’s folklore.

Celebrate Christian Easter?  May as well remember Mithra who also ‘died and rose again’ (like so many deities), one of the precursors of the Christ-god. As I like to quote:
Interest is the key to life
Interest is the drum and fife -
And any god will do.
(Keener's Manual)
- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 02/04/2015

The ceremonies of death
. . .

From a press report: ‘As their friends held white roses, a group of students returned home from a language exchange program that ended in tragedy . . .’ 
The report was referring to the terrible murder-by-pilot of people on board a Germanwings plane that he crashed into the Alps and subsequent effort to the return of the bodies of the students to their families.

White roses and lit candles greeted the sad procession. A woman commented: ‘It should look nice when the children finally come home.’

Alas, the children will never come home. The children’s lives ended on the slope of a mountain. Only ‘remains’ - bones - are coming home.

Human life ends at the moment of death. Yet for some strange reason family and friends of departed people insist on treating the bones of the departed as if they are the actual persons. Thus the ceremonies of death - the pointless, futile ceremonies - funeral and memorial services conducted as if the dead person is looking on and listening to what is being said about him or her - that is, the good things!  And subsequent strange activities - of visiting the grave, dressing the grave with flowers, and, yes, even talking to the dead in the grave. 

In recent times some people have turned their back, sensibly, on such practices. The body is simply shipped off to the crematorium (and surely cremation is the preferred end for remains), sans ceremony. That’s the way I’ll go.

The bizarre television program, My Uncle Was the Green River Killer, sees a bunch of well-meaning relatives of serial killer Gary Ridgway trying to extract information from the killer as to the whereabouts of the bodies of many of his victims. One can understand the feelings of these relatives, many women, who feel for the families of victims and want to give them ‘closure’ as they say. But there is no ‘closure’.  A dead body is no substitute for the living person. The pain never really ceases for those left behind.

There is no end to the superstitious regard for the body-as-person. Recently I read that a Korean power company had bought a Catholic church property in the Bylong Valley (NSW) as part of a coal-mining development.  Plans were afoot to move the remains  from the church’s cemetery. The church had placed a covenant on the graves, requiring them to be maintained by the purchaser. Well, it wouldn’t do to upset the departed!  They could get upset if they felt they were being neglected.

The superstitious treatment of remains often results in huge financial outlays to retrieve such remains from war zones; this has happened in recent times, as a result of wars long gone.  The men and women who fell in battle had to be brought back to their families, so we were told.  It is an impossibility! A heap of bones in a timber box or a bunch of ashes in an urn are, let it be said, emphatically not human. Sadly, the human has long since fled. The human no longer exists, except in the fond memories of their loved ones.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 07/09/2015

Anzac Day and the futility of war . . .

How can one write honestly about Anzac Day without seeming to denigrate the sacrifices of those who went off to fight - and die - in a far-off land? The ever-expanding legend of Anzac, carefully nurtured by vested interests - chief among them the RSL and the federal government - has become such a powerful history that any suggestion of flaws in the narrative is likely to brand one as some sort of traitor.

The chief flaw lies right at the beginning. How did it come about that thousands of young men were plucked from their homes and futures and dumped on a beach in a far-off land with which we had little to do?

Neither the Germans nor the Turks, their allies, were threatening our shores in any meaningful way. But they were, of course, threatening the Motherland and, like dutiful children we rose up to protect Mother’s honour. Australia had not long become a (relatively) independent nation. So much for our vaunted independence! The apron ties still held us. Some were conscripted and the debate over conscription divided the young nation. But many went willingly to face - what?  A great adventure. Maybe. A final adventure for far too many. I doubt most of those who rushed to join battle with the Turks had any concept of what a real war meant in terms of horror and pain.

And in a later era our self-elected dependent status was clearly seen when we jumped to the call of our great and powerful ally, the USA, with more young men being sent to suffer and die in Vietnam and then in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Yet again - appallingly in my view - our troops are in Iraq for a second time. It is, of course, in an advisory and training role, so we are told. But we all know the old adage about truth and war and our current government has proved to be very flexible when it comes to truth.

Our leaders, from both major political parties, have always been too quick to consign the young - willing and unwilling - to the battlefield. In this they reflect  impulsive and aggressive males who can’t have an argument outside a pub without throwing punches. Like the criminal who hasn’t thought out the consequences of that sudden flash of anger the (mostly middle-aged and elderly) politicians throw our young people into yet another conflict; never mind the consequences.

And when the war wagons stopped rolling what did we achieve? The Turks now welcome Australians as friends. The Vietcong took over in Vietnam. The Iraqis squandered what was won by the West and now IS controls some of its territory. And do we really believe Afghanistan will become a flourishing democracy?

What do we have to show for all the blood shed and the bodies maimed? And the huge sums of money spent?

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 20/04/2015

Do the churches 'render unto Caesar'? . . .

There is much debate in Australia of late about the alleged ripping off of Australia’s taxpayers by big corporations. A Senate committee has been conducting an inquiry into tax avoidance techniques.

One company in particular, Glencore, with dozens of coal subsidiaries, has been investigated by the Victorian and Tasmanian arms of the Uniting Church of Australia. Submissions were made to the Senate inquiry on the basis of these investigations.

Glencore claims that it ‘complies with all our financial reporting obligations’ and asserts that the Uniting Church report contained ‘multiple inaccuracies’ about the company.

I am no defender of big companies but I do think the Senate might do well to investigate why churches and religious bodies enjoy massive protection of their financial base. They work from rate-free properties and their incomes are not taxed like other businesses. For businesses they surely are.

The ripoff of taxpayers goes back a long way, indeed right back into historic times when governments actually levied an impost on people to support the Church. 

Certainly some concession should be made for those arms of the Church that do genuine charitable works, e.g. St Vincent De Paul and such bodies, but the main preaching and teaching structures of the churches and cults should pay their due like every other business.

(* Mark 12:17)

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 19/02/2015

On dominance and submission . . .

Release of the movie version of the blockbuster book Fifty Shades of Grey (see commentary on the book further down this page) has raised the interesting topic of dominance and submission, especially in male-female relationships in marriage or between partners.

It is easy for those who have not been exposed to the peculiarities of what is known as the BDSM lifestyle to misinterpret what is happening on screen. There is more in play here than the simple desire of a powerful man to find sexual pleasure in the submissive receipt of pain by a young female. It is more complex than that. Alas, many critics will not go beyond such a simplistic interpretation and condemn the movie out of hand. 

Strange as it may seem to many, this is an intense love story. Grey wants to control Anastasia’s life and sets down conditions for their relationship, that is true, but clearly he has fallen for her. And Anastasia for her part is drawn to this man like the proverbial moth to a flame. Danger lurks but Anastasia, although young and somewhat naive, is not stupid. She negotiates.

Interestingly, at about the time the movie was released in Australia Fairfax Media carried an article by Julia Baird on the topic of female submission in the context of church teaching (’Submission is a fraught mixed message’).  Some churches, especially the evangelical groups, use verses of the Bible to teach women to submit to their husbands. They draw especially on the words attributed to Paul: ‘Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.’ (Ephesians 5: 22-23). In passing, it should be noted that Paul was one of the great misogynists of history. He had a sickness in that regard, seen also in later saints.

The contrast is telling. On the one hand we have women effectively ordered to submit to men, from which surely is derived so much misery in abusive relationships. Time and again one sees in stories of wife abuse and murder that the man seems to have imbibed as an evil meme (passing through generations of men) the idea that the woman should do as she is told. Her role is to be ‘barefoot and pregnant’ - spending her days raising children and attending to her husband’s every want, including sexual.

On the other we have a loving submissive-dominant relationship. Yes, although those outside the BDSM experience may think otherwise, there is love at the heart of the relationship. Essentially the story of Anastasia and Grey is a romance. Yes, a rather different - and even what might say dark - romance but still a romance.  Pain and pleasure are the mysterious twins in such a relationship for as many will testify there can be pleasure in both the giving and receiving of pain under specific and particular circumstances.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 17/02/2015

See further article Fairfax Media. Search for: 'My pious, abusing spouse was a wolf in sheep's clothing.' It provides a worthy contribution to debate raised by Julia Baird's article.
Horror from Islamic State . . .

President Obama has stirred up a hornet's nest by drawing attention to the evil perpetrated by all religions through the ages. The Inquisition, the Witch Trials, Christian involvement in slavery, some of the wars on the Continent and in Britain, the Irish question, the endless strife throughout the Middle East and Asia, all involved religion in one way or another.

Take just one of thousands of instances - read this extract from my ENCYCOPEDIA OF HUMAN CRUELTY on the appalling human rights abuses perpetrated by the Catholic Church with the AUTO DA FÉ. I immediately thought of this when I heard about the cruel burning of the Jordanian pilot. The Catholic Church was equally cruel.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net
Abbott pours more money into religion . . .

We have already seen Australia's Catholic Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, ignore the findings of the High Court and continue to persist with the outrageous godbotherer chaplaincy scheme, taking money from the supposedly strained public finances to push his religious agenda.

Now Prime Minister Abbott is dipping further into the public purse to help train priests, ministers of religion and other religious officials by announcing Australian government funds for private colleges.  Institutions teaching religion - ‘faith based’ as they are called - including theological colleges, will be eligible for a share of government handouts. This is in addition to the outrageous funding of religious chaplains in schools. Clearly Tony Abbott is continuing the work of John Howard who did much to advance the cause of religious superstition in the country. The Prime Minister is supported by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, who is also, unsurprisingly, a Catholic.

Labor higher education spokesperson Kim Carr commented: ‘This raises serious questions about the relationship between Church and State. The Church has traditionally funded the training of its own personnel.’ Greens Higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon: ‘Mr Pyne has gone one step further than robbing Peter to pay Paul - he is attempting to rob Australia’s public and secular education to pay private religious colleges.’

Australia’s sensibly secular nature is being threatened by a government that appears to be under the thumb of the Church. Australia is not a theocracy, Mr Abbott, much and all as you would probably like it to be one. Back off!

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 28/01/2015

Je suis Charlie . . .

The best comment on the Paris slaughter came from that master wordsmith, Salman Rushdie:
Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry, becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.
This heinous crime occurred in the heart of a great country that bequeathed to the world the rallying cry for all the world’s citizens: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

France was at the time of the Revolution in thrall to that great bastion of mental (and sometime physical) repression, The Church of Rome. But light was even then shining into darkened minds and in the centuries since an ever increasing proportion of the world’s people are discovering that religious faith is but a shell, all hollow within.

Surely it is time for all who called themselves people of faith to question the origins of their religious institutions. They owe it to themselves and the rest of us to ask some questions. Enough damage has been done through the centuries by the anti-human poison of religion.

The truth is, the origins of all religion are lost in a murky miasma stretching back through thousands of years. At no point in time did some deity command attention and set forth a declaration of his laws for the world. If he (or she?) did, please show me when and where.

Search and you will find no evidence whatever of such an event. Rather, all you will find is the declaration of an individual here and another there that they are the mouthpieces of the deity. Such self-appointed prophets still flourish today; many of them living in Utah. Unsurprising when one of the most famous of modern prophets, Joseph Smith, set in train a powerful set of memes that infected many then and since in that state.

Anyone who has studied the life of Mr Smith will know he was a charlatan plain and simple. Now Jo might have been an ignoramus (and he was) but he was also rat-cunning and upon his dubious prognostications - enhanced by mystical plates and magical spectacles - he built a successful world-embracing organization.

No different, really, to what was built by former prophets - Zarathustra, Muhammad, Paul (no, Jesus didn’t found Christianity, Paul did), and others (including that Korean madman Sun Myung Moon).

Why then, do people believe what has been handed down through generations from these dubious sources? What has been passed to later generations are fraudulent texts - words claimed to have divine origin but which, emphatically, do not. Human misery too often results. In earlier times it was the misery of men and women accused of witchcraft, based on ancient fraudulent Bible texts. In later times it has been the misery of gay and lesbian people who suffer because of another ancient fraudulent Bible text. 

And what of the Jews, whose ancient fraudulent texts tell them they ‘own’ a particular territory in the Middle East, causing endless strife with those who have been living there for centuries? And then we have the militant Muslims whose ancient fraudulent texts tell them infidels must die and that sharia law must be imposed on people? And, pray tell me, where did sharia law come from?

All religion is on trial here, not just Islam, religion that tells people that we must make obeisance to some invisible presence somewhere ‘out there’ (who knows where?) and follow the dubious laws and moral codes that have come down to us, not from a deity but from the accumulated ramblings of thousands of self-appointed scribes and prophets and sundry mad men and women through the centuries.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 10/01/2015

Religion strikes again! . . .

The evil face of religion is again on view for all to see its ugliness and inhumanity.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, an American transgender teenager, has apparently suicided.

Leelah, born Joshua Ryan, was never able to gain the understanding of her parents. She left a suicide note saying her religious parents refused to accept her gender identity. Instead they took her to a Christian ‘therapist’ who told her she was ‘selfish’ for feeling like a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

But her mother persisted with her views telling Leelah ‘God doesn’t make mistakes.’ Cementing her negative attitude to transgenders her mother wrote in a Facebook post about her daughter’s death using her birth name, Joshua, and male pronouns. She was roundly condemned by many posters.

Since then a Facebook group has been formed -  Justice for Leelah Alcorn - that highlights the problems with ‘conversion therapy.’ It already has over 17,000 likes. And a Change.org petition calls for a ban on the human rights-abusing conversion therapy programs. Calling for ‘Leelah’s Law’ to be enacted, this currently has over 66,000 signatories. Another Change.org petition to have the name Leelah Alcorn placed on her tombstone instead of her birth name has nearly 24,000 signatures.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 01/01/15

A woman of courage and politicians of straw . . .

A British woman, Debbie Purdy, has just died, effectively at her own hand, refusing food. This was her only choice as other avenues by which her pain-wracked life could be ended were closed to her.  She was suffering the misery of multiple sclerosis.

Debbie was a courageous person, prepared to face death. Earlier she had challenged the deadbeat British establishment, concerned that should she travel to Switzerland, to end her life through Dignitas, her husband might be charged with a crime. It is criminal in Britain and Australia to assist a suicide. She won so far as seeing the law clarified. But further moves to change the situation in Britain failed.

And we all know what happened in Australia, where a Catholic politician, with the approval of PM John Howard, steered legislation through Parliament to overturn the humane voluntary euthanasia legislation enacted by the Northern Territory. The same forces of reaction have since hounded Dr Philip Nitschke as he has endeavoured to help people face the end-of-life situation.

How much more courageous was Debbie than those craven politicians who waffle on about ‘sanctity of life’ or ‘pressure on vulnerable people’ as a cover for the fact they are cowards - in thrall to religion with its distorted view of life - and pain. And death. Too scared to move to introduce a humane exit strategy for sufferers. They tell us what we need is ‘palliative care’, by which they mean rotting away in a bed in some depressing catch-all of misery called euphemistically a ‘home’.

I challenge all politicians to provide us with a reason why they defy the stated views of the majority of Australians in numerous opinion surveys - in favour of voluntary euthanasia. Percentages have ranged from 70 to 90 percent of people.  Is it democracy to impose one’s own moral views on the wider community?

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 30/12/14

A message for the old year and the new . . .

It is Christmas Eve as I write this.

As an atheist I don’t celebrate Christmas (see The Truth About Christmas) but it does seem an appropriate time to say something about toleration. Perhaps some of my atheist friends in the USA need to consider what I say. 

In the USA Christmas has become an occasion when Christians and non-Christians are often at loggerheads. The public displays of the nativity scene and other memorials of Christmas spark animosity from militant atheists, pagans, freethinkers and others. In some cases demands have been made for space to display what would best be described as ‘opposition’ material.

We see
also the reactions to the rise of aggressive jihadist Islam.  Religion has become a battleground not only in terms of guns and bombs but in words and actions. Christians face persecution from Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims oppose each other, Jews and Muslims are at loggerheads, various sects of Muslims fight one another and atheists are generally shunned by all. When, for example, in my own country, Muslims wish to construct a new mosque opposition becomes quite vocal.

I confess at times I am nervous about the growth of Muslim influence. It seems to me there are elements within this faith, notwithstanding protestations from its adherents, that are antagonistic to my way of life and my freedoms. But then all religions tends to be dictatorial and aggressive in one way or another. The Catholic Church, for example, issues edicts banning birth control and divorce for its adherents (large numbers of whom, it should be noted, ignore these strictures).  Religions like exercising control.

The result of these attitudes is a fractured world, a world which sees religion, supposedly a boon for mankind, become instead a source of the worst kinds of abuses, e.g. the sexual exploitation of children.

There is an answer to all this - TOLERATION. ‘Live and let live.’ Let Christians of whatever stripe worship and live as they wish. Let Muslims do likewise, and Jews, and Buddhists, let pagans and lovers of witchcraft and everyone else including atheists and agnostics, live and/or worship as they think best.

Toleration is a two-way street. I am happy to tolerate Christmas Carols in the Park and I am happy to tolerate a Muslim woman wearing a chador. But how about religious people ceasing trying to dictate whether gays and lesbians enjoy marriage if that is their desire? How about ceasing trying to dictate to women what happens to their bodies? How about ceasing trying to interfere with people’s choice of movies they watch? How about ceasing opposition to what a majority of Australians desire - regulated voluntary abortion?

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 20-12-14

Keep superstition out of public schools . . .

All religion is fantasy. It has no reality (and I challenge anyone to demonstrate otherwise) In fact, religious belief can best be described as superstition.

Thus, I believe, the lives of those who teach and preach religion (and, I admit to my shame, I was once one of them) are under the thrall of superstition. Surely such superstitious people should have no place as helpers and advisers to impressionable youth, especially when paid out of the public purse.

Australia’s chaplaincy scheme as currently constituted, with participants restricted to religious believers, has no place in public education. Only a dedicated Catholic like Prime Minister Abbott would persist in seeking any means, however dubious, to maintain a system that has been condemned by Australia’s High Court.

Mr Abbott, I challenge you: show us proof of the beliefs you wish to foist on school children. Is ‘God’ really there? If you could show us some proof we might come to understand why you are so anxious to infiltrate the public education system with religious believers. I doubt you will produce anything; there is nothing!

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net.
Thoughts on Bettie Page . . .

The other night I watched the movie, The Notorious Bettie Page. I was quite familiar with the story of this famous pinup model but I’d never thought of her as notorious. Why the moviemakers chose to attach this epithet to the beautiful Bettie can only have been for one reason - to stir up interest, even perhaps (dare I utter the word?) prurient interest.

There was nothing notorious about Bettie. Many of the screwed-up self-appointed moralists of her day doubtless thought some of her photos to be notorious.  Bettie not only posed nude or near-nude on occasions, especially in photos for naturist publications, but she was much loved by a large group of fans for her bondage photos.

It was the latter than really got the creeps going. One especially, Senator Estes Kefauver,  who led a noisy campaign to shut down the purveyors of ‘pornography’.  In fact, bondage is not pornography which, according to dictionary definitions, involves the depiction of sexual activity. There is no sexual activity in handcuffing someone’s wrists, for example. Are the moralizers  suggesting the cops are engaging in sexual activity when handcuffing a suspect? There is no sexual activity in roping wrists or ankles, even in tying them together in the very popular (with bondage fans) ‘hogtie’.  Are the hundreds of boys and girls who engage in tying-up games (seen in many publicly available YouTube videos) involved in sexual activity? I think not.

Unfortunately the miserable gang of killjoys won the day, at least for a time, with disastrous consequences for the famous seller of movie stills, Irving Klaw (see story here). A highly-recommended discussion of Bettie Page and bondage, especially in relation to feminism, will be found in an issue of The Atlantic.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net.

Initiation - an outlet for sadism? . . .

The recently-released - and alarming - report on the abuse of teenage cadet sailors in Western Australia raises an issue which badly needs airing - initiation ceremonies, sometimes called hazing or bastardization - and what they mean.

In the Australian case boys aged mostly between 13 and 17 were abused in a variety of ways. Many were raped with objects such as broom handles, while being held down by their fellows. Others were severely beaten, sometimes so badly that it resulted in broken bones or damaged teeth. Nefarious activities also included having boot polish or other substances smeared over the genitals of a boy as he was held down.

Such initiation ceremonies are widespread. The USA has seen appalling cases of ‘hazing’ as the activity is called over there, even resulting in the death of victims.  Many high schools in the USA have secret societies, similar in nature to the more familiar sororities of colleges but generally illegal and operating clandestinely.

At one school, as well as being beaten, the girl initiates were forced to drink a sort of 'punch' made out of cooking grease, coffee grounds, raw oysters, water and castor oil.  One girl also had her back burned with cigarettes, after which she was spanked with the wooden paddle. Paddling is one of the common means of initiation used among girls. (See further details in:
Ceremonies of Initiation - or exercises in sadism?  - extracted from The Felicity Press Encyclopedia of Human Cruelty.)

It is clearly evident to anyone who observes these practices that initiations, by whatever name they are called, provide an almost unfettered outlet for sadistic impulses. Under the guise of a ‘friendly game’ it is very easy for anyone to give way to cruel instincts, to enjoy not only the pain of others but also their humiliation. In this respect initiation ceremonies are somewhat akin to bullying and, like bullying, need to be stamped out completely.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 22 June 2014.

The fantasy that rules the world . . .

How did it come about that a large part of the earth’s population believes in fantasy? The chief fantasy - GOD - and the lesser extensions of that one - angels, devils, spirits, the ‘other world’?

If - bear with me, just for a moment (and I realize I am in a minority here) - we start with the proposition that what can be seen, heard, felt or measured by us is all that exists then where did our knowledge of the ‘other’ come from?

Clearly it must have come from somewhere. It did, or so the religions tell us. Information about the ‘other world’ came to us through specially favoured human individuals - prophets, teachers, shamans. Zarathustra, the Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, St Paul and the others, all announcing to their fellows that they are channels of this amazing knowledge.

But how do we know if these claims are authentic? I have not examined all of them but those that I have leave much to be desired in this regard. Moses, for instance, came down from the mountain (and which mountain is a matter for conjecture, as the ‘holy scriptures’ specify two different mountains!) and told the people they would see God - Yahweh as the Jewish deity was called. But Moses seems to have deceived the people for in the event Yahweh did not put in the scheduled appearance.

St Paul reported on the ‘other world’ - having been in contact, so he said, with Jesus, allegedly risen from the dead. But if we read his own report we find there are two conflicting accounts of this supposed encounter with Jesus. As for the others, well, we only have Muhammad’s word that he encountered the angel Jibral (Gabriel) in his cave. Or that Zarathustra encountered Ahura Mazda in the temple.

Since the days of these ancient conduits of divine knowledge there have been hundreds and thousands more. Are any of these others more authentic? Joseph Smith with his magic plates? Or any of the hundreds of self-appointed prophets of cults like the Moonies or the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints? 

All of this seems to me to be a shaky foundation upon which to build a vast system of belief. The objects of faith are surely built not on reality but on pure fantasy, strengthened by certain tricks of the human mind. Voices heard where there really are no voices. Things seen where there is nothing to see. The scientific understanding of maladies such as schizophrenia and our increasingly detailed knowledge of the workings of the human brain are uncovering the origins of our supra-sensory experiences. To feel a sense of mystery in the bush at night is not evidence of another world but of simply being human.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 16 June 2014.

Squeeze the poor but keep the chaplains . . .

Conservative Prime Minister John Howard was responsible for a major effort to turn back the tide of unbelief in Australia. Howard favoured the Church in many respects. Religious bodies, for example, were given an active role in helping the jobless find work - for which they were paid. But the most egregious action of the Howard government was probably the institution of a Chaplaincy in state schools.

Regrettably Prime Minister Julia Gillard, shamefully (and she an atheist!), maintained this outrageous accretion on the secular education system. It has now been cemented further by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former seminarian. Worse, Mr Abbott has extended the grip of the Church on state schools by ensuring that secular ethical counsellors who in some cases were involved now lose their jobs. It seems the aim is to ensure religion has an even stronger grip on impressionable young students.

Australia has had a very successful secular educational system. It is regrettable that divisive religious schools were ever allowed to flourish as the educational system was developed. Look around the world and what do we see? Religion dividing people and too often sparking violence. Notwithstanding claims made for its beneficial effects, religion mostly manages to produces a net surplus of evil over good. Yet not only do we allow people to run schools that teach dangerously divisive ideas to children but we fund them with vast sums of money from the public purse.

On top of this we have the fact that churches do not pay rates and taxes, a standing rebuke to them (they should have offered to pay!). Of course they do charitable works and such should be exempt from charges but not their preaching and teaching ministry that, on the public dime, peddles superstitious and unproven claims about life and death and the pie in the sky when you die.

Funny how the Government manages to find a quarter billions dollars to fund a bunch of godbotherers while squeezing Australia's poor and sick on every front. Evidently this is the way of Christian charity!

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 25 May 2014.

Jews, Islamics and Christians were slavers . . .

A few days back we had the spectacle of a goofball Islamic slavemaster reckoning Allah had talked to him!

And what did Allah tell this loon? Sell some schoolgirls into slavery.

He might be a deluded fruitcake but he’s a very dangerous one. He represents a band of self-appointed murderous enforcers of Islamic rule. But it should not surprise us that the girls could be sold as slaves. Never mind the claims made by religionists, slavery has only in late times been condemned by the world’s faiths.

In the Old Testament rules were set forth for the keeping of slaves, even allowing for the enslavement of a man’s own daughters. Detailed instructions for the orderly disposal of daughters will be found in Exodus 21: 7-11.

And St Paul in the New Testament evidently approved of the slavery of his day. ‘Let each man abide in the calling wherein he was called,‘ he wrote.  ‘Wast thou called being a bondservant?  Care not for it . . . ’ (I Corinthians 7: 20-21)   After the conversion, through Paul’s preaching, of the runaway Phrygian slave, Onesimus, Paul sent him back to his master bearing a note (Philemon 12).)

The record of Islam is far worse.  Across the centuries is was common for Islamic invaders to reduce people to slavery. The Arabs and other Islamic races developed the institution of the seraglio or harem.  From many countries captured young females were brought, with older prisoners, to the central cities and lodged in the harem.  Here they worked at household chores and some, but only some, were used for the sexual pleasure of the sultan or master.  These girls, too, were often as young as 13 when stolen from their lands.  And with few exceptions (mainly those who managed to produce an heir for a ruler) they were destined for the rest of their days to remain slaves.  No matter how dull their life, or boring their duties, or even how little work they were given to do, they were forbidden on pain of death or cruel punishment to attempt to escape.

And it is clearly evident that today’s Islamic jihadists are in the same mold. They have no regard for human life and certainly none for children. They show this time and again by the cruel slaughter of children, e.,g. in Beslan, or in the efforts made to prevent children, especially girls, having a proper education. Or in condemning children to the possibility of becoming polio victims because they murder the doctors and nurses who are immunizing them. This same group of retards,
Boko Haram, murdered without compunction 60 boys not so long ago. To sell girls into sex-slavery or to forcibly marry them (in other words to provide a convenient cloak for what is essentially rape) means nothing to these immoral swine.

Read  a summary of what happened to boys and girls dragged away in Islamic SLAVE CARAVANS (extracted from my Encyclopedia of Human Cruelty) HERE.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 5 May 2014.

How Christians created
an erzatz world . . .

Christians regard ‘the world’ as the enemy of the believer’s devotional life. Worldiness is defined as ordering one’s life in conformity in the way society at large behaves.  Much quoted are the words of Romans 12:2: ‘Be not fashioned according to this world: but be transformed.’ (RV). And Christians pray they will be kept from the temptations of ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’

Always ‘the world’ is regarded as the playground of Satan, an earth-embracing den of iniquity where murder, cruelty, rape and all manner of horrors occur. Christians are ‘called’ to live in this world but, as the preachers would say, ‘be not of it.’ Some more extreme cults go further and withdraw completely, physically that is, from contact with this evil entity. Or at the very least, maintain ‘separation’ from it.  We had some members of the Plymouth Brethren in our family many years back and they would not eat with anyone outside their own group, not even family members.

It is all very well to maintain one’s distance from ‘worldly’ pursuits but, there are many aspects of everyday life that fulfill basic human instincts, especially among young people. If the Church turns it back completely on simple pleasures, like games, or music, or
reading a novel, even watching television, the young will surely be lost to the cause.

What’s to be done? Simple really!  Develop one’s own purpose-made world - of entertainment, of companionship, of social contact, complete with books and games and music and movies, even dances. The more exuberant groups, e.g. the Pentecostalists, provide a whole gamut of activities to embrace young believers.

If you happen upon a Christian TV channel you might well think you are hearing the latest rock music. Indistinguishable, in fact, the only difference being in the words sung.  You can purchase a romance novel issued by a Christian publisher and you can attend the


Father-daughter Purity Ball,
complete with honour guard

screening of a dramatic movie with a religious theme but one that, beneath the religious veneer, draws on the age-old themes that drive human behaviour.
My musings have been prompted by the latest - and perhaps cleverest - substitution - the father-daughter Purity Ball, which could well take the place of the prom for many young girls. It is a recent phenomenon among enthusiastic American Evangelical groups. (I will write at length on this topic in a future issue.)

An ersatz world is flourishing among Christians. It bears all the hallmarks of the world it replaces. Is it really any different?

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 30 April 2014.

Police harass elderly (and we need voluntary euthanasia) . . .

Police in Western Australia evidently don't have enough work chasing real criminals so instead they turned their attention to a small group of elderly people meeting together to discuss ways to end their lives with dignity. (Police claimed they acted on advice from the Australian Federal Police but the latter have denied this.)

The battle for a decent system of voluntary euthanasia has gone on for too long. The Northern Territory did have such a system in place but the politicians, lead by a Catholic minister, Kevin Andrews, aided and abetted by then Prime Minister Howard, who was in thrall to the Church, destroyed that system.

I have often written on this topic (see
Taking Charge of One's Death.) I cannot understand why politicians are so willfully blind to the fact that the majority of Australia's citizens (recorded in many surveys) favour voluntary euthanasia. Or is it that they are scared of the Church and its 'moral' teachings, a body that has shown its own peculiar immorality in the form of child abuse?  Or perhaps they fear hell if they accede to people's desire to determine their own life's ending, i.e. suicide. Well, they may believe in the fantasy of hell but many of us don't and we don't want our lives to be controlled by primitive beliefs. And we certainly don't want our deaths to be beyond our control as we languish in so-called 'palliative care'.

To be fair to them, many of our politicians of a more progressive hue have tried in vain to correct this appalling situation. But always they are stymied by those who would rather see people suffer pain and misery in their last days. For what end, I ask? Why do they set their face against the very people they are supposed to represent?

I recently had the sad experience of finding my beloved cat had cancer.  It was causing him much suffering. I was able to hold his little paws while a veterinarian injected him with a life-ending drug. In seconds his pain and misery were ended. Why can't humans - instead of being hindered by block-headed and cruel politicians - do the same?

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 22 April 2014.

The Easter fiction peddled again! . . .

Year by year Easter comes around, and is marked by many in our western nations as an important event. My favourite newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, usually carries an Editorial to mark the occasion.  The paper, like so many people, doesn’t seem to question the reality of the Easter tale. (I’ve always suspected that the Editorial for the day is probably supplied by some outside hand, maybe Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop.)

As anyone who reads my web site will know, I certainly question the historicity of the Easter story, especially the alleged resurrection of the god-man Jesus Christ. In fact, it was my own detailed study of the events of the first Easter that finally laid waste to whatever faith I had (by then a wavering one). Nothing adds up and no amount of word-spinning can hide the glaring flaws in the NT account. For a full exposition of the ‘Resurrection’ story see my paper, The Resurrection - World's Greatest Fraud?

Take away the resurrection story and so much else begins to crumble. In fact, a careful study of much of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, will reveal an edifice that is - beneath the fine words (especially the old English of the Authorized Version) a mishmash of ridiculous tales, conflicting histories, outlandish behaviour and the wholesale purloining of other people’s folklore.

Celebrate Christian Easter?  May as well remember Mithra who also ‘died and rose again’ (like so many deities), one of the precursors of the Christ-god. As I like to quote:
Interest is the key to life
Interest is the drum and fife -
And any god will do.
(Keener's Manual)
- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 16 April 2014.

Muslim religion and radical Islam . . .

I am no racist nor do I, as an atheist, condemn people for being religious, but It is hard to ignore the fact that all over the world a major source of aggravation appears to emanate from the body of people known as Muslims. Even as I write a TV program is being screened to commemorate the awful bombing at the Boston Marathon. Two Muslims perpetrated this barbarous assault on innocent people. And nobody can forget the events of 9/11 when almost 3000 people, ordinary New Yorkers going about their daily work, were slaughtered by Muslims.

And what about Beslin? Hundreds killed and no mercy even for children - little kids forced to run for their lives, some being shot down as they ran? In our own time in Afghanistan and Pakistan and in some African countries children are being murdered by gangs; their chief offence: they are trying to attend a school and get an education. In the Philippines, Thailand, western China, in numerous African countries, parts of Europe, and across Africa, Muslims and murder go hand-in-glove. One gets the impression that radical Islamics want the whole world to become Muslim and will use the sword to bring this about.

Yes, I know - this is ‘radical’ Islam and the great mass of Muslims want no part of it. But surely there is a hint at least of guilt by association.  Why hasn’t this huge mass of decent Muslims shouted down the murderers? Time and again we witness some new destructive event perpetrated by the radicals, yet few Muslim voices are heard denouncing the murderers. And murderers they are - cold-blooded psychopaths who use religion to cloak their blood-lust.

If decent law-abiding Muslims are unhappy with the criticisms they receive, perhaps they should consider - maybe they have themselves to blame, to some degree at least. Are they, for example, speaking out in support of Ayaan Hirsi Ali as she works to reveal the abuse of women in Muslim countries? No - right now a Muslim body (
the Council on American-Islamic Relations) is actually attacking her. They refuse to face the truth of what she is saying - and, let it be noted, what she has experienced herself (including that abomination - genital mutilation).

Do they denounce the bombers, the murderers of children?  Are they denouncing those in Pakistan who would deny children polio vaccinations, thus condemning many to a possible life of crippled misery? It is about time Muslims lived up to the principles they claim their religion embodies.

- Mark Owen,
piperpost.net, 12 April 2014.

Immortality: the grand delusion . . .

Heaven is for real?  So says a 3-year-old boy!

Colton Burpo was undergoing surgery for a burst appendix when he found himself in heaven, or so he later told his parents (he was evidently 4 when the events were recounted to them).

The result of the experience - and its telling - was a book, Heaven Is For Real, a New York Times bestseller.  Curiously, although I sell books, I have never heard of it nor come across it. Only the release of a movie of the same name has drawn my attention to the story.

I don’t suppose the fact that Colton’s father is a minister of religion has anything to do with this? Clearly the boy had an out-of-body experience, although the family denies this and clings to the fantasy that Colton actually went to heaven. I cannot bring myself to debate this, it is all too absurd, but a good dissection of the story will be found in a blog here: http://respectfulatheist.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/is-heaven-for-real.html

Of course they produced a book and now a movie.  The latter follows other books and movies that are being churned out in droves. Desperate believers, contemplating the crumbling structure of their rickety old churches, are busily grinding out propaganda at an unprecedented rate. There’s not a moment to be lost. Christians need to gather in more deluded people to fill the empty pews -  and the empty coffers.

- Mark Owen, piperpost.net, 8 April 2014

Elsewhere on this site:

PAST COMMENTARIES (earlier than above)

The Archives

Writings by Mark Owen

10 Reasons why I am an Atheist
Armageddon and All That Jazz
      The Origins of Religion
      How the Lies of Religion Kill Innocent People
      Curse the gods and die!
      Religious fascists and the conscience vote
      The Armenian Genocide

Meet the First Christians
      Some Errors in the 'Infallible' Bible
      The Resurrection - World's Greatest Fraud?
      The Scandal of Child Sex Abuse in the Church
      In Which we Tremble for the End is Nigh
      A Cardinal Speaks Out of Turn
      The Truth About Christmas
      The Power of Prayer
      The Non-Catholic Church Abusers
      When fantasy overtakes reality
      Apoplectic archbishop deplores gay rights

      The Origins of Islam
      Moses and Myth
      The Mormon Madness
      Jehovah's Deluded Witnesses

      The Family That Shoots Together May Not always Stay Together
      Drugs - Let's End the War and Secure the Peace
      Taking Charge of One's Death
      Populate and Perish
      Captives for a Decade - the Cleveland Sex-Slaves.
Ceremonies of Initiation - or exercises in sadism?
      Irving Klaw and the bondage photo trade

      Delight in the Sensual
      Fear of nakedness


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