From front page - earlier comments

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,, 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,, 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,, 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,, 19/02/2015

On dominance and submission . . .

Release of the movie version of the blockbuster book Fifty Shades of Grey 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 evangelicals, 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,, 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,, 17/02/2015
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,, 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,, 10/01/2015

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. (And this fact is in itself criminal!) 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 conservative 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,, 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,, 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,
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,

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,, 22 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,, 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,, 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
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 nature.

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,, 30 April 2014.

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

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. 
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,, 22 April 2014.

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 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 petition to have the name Leelah Alcorn placed on her tombstone instead of her birth name has nearly 24,000 signatures.

- Mark Owen,, 01/01/15

Slavery by marriage . . .

Australian author Dorothy Michell wrote a novel with the telling title, Slave By Marriage. The story may be fictional but is described - an interesting note - as ‘autobiographical.’  It centres on a young woman, Diana who, when we first meet her, is being pursued, far too enthusiastically, by Carl. Indeed, Carl one might say, is obsessed and when Diana finally plucks up the courage to tell him she wants out of the relationship, he physically assaults her. Yet eventually Diana marries Carl and her married life follows an all too-familiar pattern. Are we surprised?

In the traditional wedding ceremony (e.g. the Anglican) the woman is required to answer in the affirmative the question concerning the husband-to-be: Wilt thou obey him, and serve him? But no such question is put to the man.  More recently marriage ceremonies have seen changes (welcome ones) in terminology.

Slave by Marriage - bookBut beyond the words, there is the symbolism of the event. And I wonder how many people taking part in a traditional Christian marriage ceremony understand this symbolism? A father ‘gives’ his daughter to another man and, the daughter then pledges her life to this second man ‘until death’. Effectively ‘ownership’ of the young woman is transferred from father to husband.

Such ‘ownership’ is not acknowledged by the modern young woman, quite rightly. But, alas, many men treat their wives or partners as their possessions. In truth these men are not far removed from those Islamic males who treat women as chattels. And clearly such possessiveness begins early in many relationships, hence the many crimes - of stalking, assault and even murder - committed by spurned lovers.

Now we have a new phenomenon among American Evangelical Christians, ‘Purity Balls’ - events in which young girls, around the age of 12 years, pledge their purity to their fathers, receiving a 'purity ring' as a symbol of their intentions, and dancing with their fathers*.  Clearly such a concept strengthens the notion that the young girl belongs to her father, who will in time transfer ownership to another male.
A patriarchal religion with a patriarchal views of marriage.

(* They do seem to have one thing going for
them: a couple I've seen on YouTube shows
the girls dancing barefoot. Now that is a fine idea!)

- Mark Owen,, 31 March 2014.

Sorry folks, when you pray there's nobody listening . . .

I wrote an essay of 2008 on the topic, The Power of Prayer.

The tragic loss of Malaysian flight MH370 has brought into crystal-clear focus the points I made then.

Surely we have never seen such an outpouring of prayer as has occurred in the past two weeks. Many of the gods of mankind have been called upon to save the people on board this airplane.Malaysian aircraft prayers for

Muslim, Hindu, Confucian, Christian, Jew, all called upon their respective deities to save the plane. Alas, it was all in vain, as is so often the case.

But rarely do we hear of the failure of prayer.  Believers grasp at the positive stories and conveniently ignore the negative. I speak from experience. In my days when I was a Christian believer I, too, managed to embrace the positive and ignore the negative. It is a very human trait.

The simple fact is this - taken over a long run of events 50 percent of prayers will be answered and 50 percent will fail.  Probability is the operative factor here, not prayer.

This has been a terrible disaster wrapped for too long in mystery but the false hope inspired by prayer merely prolongs people's misery.

- Mark Owen,, 23 March 2014

Gay rights under Christian cloud . . .

Gay men and lesbian women, who have for years been persecuted, imprisoned and killed because of their natural sexual orientation, have in recent more enlightened times been experiencing a measure of freedom never before known.  Far more people - at least in our more enlightened Western nations - are now prepared not only to tolerate ‘difference’ but to welcome such folk as equals.

Alas, not everyone is prepared to act reasonably, especially those whose minds have been darkened by the lies of religion, chiefly the lie that the so-called ‘holy books’ (the Torah, Koran, Bible) have been handed down to mankind by the deities. This quite amazing claim is never backed by evidence. Never!

Thus, for example, some Christians make absurd claims about human sexual relations based on texts in the Old Testament, especially Leviticus 18:22.  But the validity of such texts in exactly NIL. And let us, for a moment, suppose the documents are valid expressions of the will of ‘God’. In these same documents will be found instructions on keeping slaves, worse, on selling one’s daughter into slavery, and clear evidence of human sacrifice by the Jews, along with a whole plethora of ridiculous strictures. I have written of these things elsewhere. Do those who so loudly condemn homosexuality because of a text in the Old Testament also agree with these other Old Testament instructions?

Right now there is an anti-gay movement headed by an American Christian, Pastor Scott Lively from Massachusetts. Very appropriate, I’d say: this state was the home of the notorious Salem Witch Trials. Pastor Lively is drawing together a worldwide network of gay-hating likeminded people, who are seeking to promote discrimination against gays through law and to see tolerance for gays wound back. Uganda is one country where this evil anti-human virus has found lodgment.

Perhaps these promoters of hatred should take greater heed of their own scriptures. ‘If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.‘ (Matthew 19: 23). I am not involved in any organization. I am not gay myself, but I defend the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders to live their lives peaceably and to enjoy the freedoms enjoyed by others, including the religious. But you can help in efforts to counter this plague.

- Mark Owen,, 15 March 2014

Women and crime . . .

More than most cable channels my daughter and I enjoy the Crime channel. Distressing, yes, at times as there are so many tragic stories (and remember these are actual cases, this is not ‘Law and Order’). They are interesting for many reasons. Among them is the fascinating forensic work that so often cleverly unlocks the truth of what happened. But there is another important aspect - the light these stories cast on the human condition. The petty jealousies, the obsessions, the greed, and, of course, the unbelievable depths of cruelty. It seems almost impossible to understand the pleasure someone can have in watching a victim die.

In the midst of all this one thing stands out - all too often the victims are female, women or young girls.  In fact, so much so that we have got to commenting about some crime or other, ‘the usual young woman...’ 

The world, or at least some of it, has just been celebrating International Women’s Day (8 March). The Sydney Morning Herald chose to remind us of the plight of many women with a front page story - Revealed: the women we failed -  telling some of the sad stories of women murdered. The statistics quoted by the paper are startling and alarming: 39% of homicides in the Australian state of NSW are domestic-violence related and 73% of domestic homicides are committed by men. Doubtless similar (or perhaps worse) figures could be elicited from many parts of the world.

Watching the parade of stories on the Crime channels we see the repetition of the same themes - The apparently happy marriage fracturing, the controlling impulse of so many men, their true nature only emerging some time after the wedding. And while the woman is castigated for any hint of interest in another man her husband feels no compunction in conducting an affair on the side.  And, of course, there is a physical and emotional abuse.  Mothers, with children to consider, find it so terribly hard to escape the abuse.

All of this highlights the need to re-examine the venerable institution of marriage. There is hypocrisy in pledging ‘till death do us part’ when we all know that half the marriages will not last. So often in the tales on the Crime Channel the marriage is the wife’s third or the husband’s second, or some such combination, testimony to the short-term nature of so many marriages. (The movie reviewed by me elsewhere - SNOW ANGELS - has much to say on this topic.)

- Mark Owen,, 9 March 2014

The high cost of free speech . . .

Two cases, one in the USA and one in Australia, highlight the dangers lurking for the unwary on the Internet. And I’m not talking about predators or stealers of identity but about the exercise of (apparently) free speech. A school music teacher, Christine Mickle, in the Australian state of NSW has won a defamation case against a former pupil, Andrew Farley, after Mr Farley posted derogatory comments about her on Twitter and Facebook.

It appears Mr Farley was unhappy because he believed - wrongly as it turned out - that Ms Mickle was responsible for his father, also a music teacher, leaving the school. District Court Judge Michael Elkaim ordered Mr Farley to pay $85,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $20,000 in aggravated damages.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the world an unhappy American father has lost an $80,000 settlement because of a posting his daughter made on Facebook. Patrick Snay had sued a Miami school for age discrimination after he lost his job as headmaster. The school agreed to settle the case with an $80,000 payout but the agreement included a ban on disclosing details to anyone other than his wife.

Jubilant daughter Dana posted on Facebook the message: ‘Gulliver [the school] is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.’  That message meant the end of the payout as the non-disclosure requirement had been breached.

- Mark Owen,, 8 March 2014.

A curious obsession results in legal action . . .

The very curious activity engaged in by some men known as upskirting - taking surreptitious snaps up women’s dresses - has landed one photographer in court and resulted in a surprising judgment.

Why any man finds the nether regions of the female anatomy an interesting object of photography is quite beyond me. As a photographer I am sure there are far more attractive subjects but, as I often say, ‘whatever turns you on.’  Unfortunately what is a turn-on for this minority is no turn-on for the women who feel abused by the activity. And while I have very liberal ideas on issues such as nude photography, surely consent is everything.  There was no consent given in the case in question.

The issue revolved around a man who had allegedly used his cellphone to take upskirt videos of women straphanging on the subway.  A lower court refused to drop charges against the man so the case ended up in the Massachusetts Supreme Court The latter found that state law as it stood allowed this activity. The law forbids taking covert (i.e. non-consensual) photographs of nude or partly nude people but as the victims were clothed at the time there was no offence - at least as the court saw it.

State legislators have promised a review of the relevant laws.  A number of states have already legislated against upskirting.

LATE NOTE: The legislators moved quickly and the law has already been updated.

- Mark Owen,, 7 March 2014

Sister fun

My idea of a nice subject -
one of my own photos - Sister Fun

Punishing crime with no victim
 . . .

A music video featuring the lovely Katy Perry has stirred up the bellicose fulminations of some Muslims. (I say ‘some’ as I think many sensible Muslims will decry the silly fuss.) ‘Blasphemy’ was the cry when they saw a promo for the hit Dark Horse. In it Katy, playing an Egyptian queen, zaps a man with lightning. He happens to be wearing a pendant bearing the word ‘Allah’ (the name of the Muslim god).  An unfortunate mistake, maybe, but hardly a cause for so much fuss. Indeed, a petition has been circulating demanding the video be banned. Reportedly the offending image has been removed from videos on YouTube.

All this for the terrible ‘crime’ of blasphemy, a victimless crime and thus a non-crime. We are not talking here about a real crime - someone being assaulted, raped, or murdered. No physical hurt can possibly come from a video. We cannot say the same about the unprovoked attacks on people around the world by Islamics who even murder their own.  Maybe we should describe these actions as blasphemy against the human race?

But what can we say of this imagined insult to a god? We ask, which god? Each rival religion considers its particular deity and/or prophet to be the object of the blasphemy.  This was highlighted in Britain in 1990 when conflict arose over the desire of Muslims in the country to have British blasphemy law applied to those who 'blasphemed' against their Allah, in particular author Salman Rushdie.  The British Muslim Action Front had claimed that Britain's blasphemy laws extended to the Koran and wanted Rushdie and his publishers, Penguin Viking, brought to trial. The English court ruled that British blasphemy law applied only to the Christian deity!

As there are, therefore, several rival ‘blasphemies’ - and no religion can prove their ‘blasphemy’ has any basis in fact, i.e. produce the victim, the penalties inflicted under various jurisdictions are clearly gross violations of human rights. Some of these are horrendous. In France blasphemers (of the Christian god, that is) had their tongues pulled out and attached with pins to their cheeks. This was under the aegis of the Catholic Church, but Protestants hated blasphemers, too, and were just as cruel.  In early America one of the punishment inflicted by the good Christians on blasphemers, was to pierce the offending tongue with a red-hot iron!  One cannot contemplate their supposed leader, Jesus, countenancing such a cruel action, even for 'blasphemy!' Other blasphemers in the American States were mutilated in various ways or simply sold into slavery, white slavery that is.

Unbelievably, in many places today people still die because of this non-crime. These deaths occur in countries sunk in religious superstition. Pakistan is one such backwater of humanity. A typical case back in 1995 saw a young boy and his uncle accused of blasphemy, resulting in death sentences being handed down. The boy was only 11 years of age at the time of the supposed offence! Judges meeting to consider an appeal against the sentence had to face hostile crowds of Muslim fundamentalists baying for blood. The crowds threatened that if an appeal was allowed the judges and the families of the judges would be murdered. The accused were reprieved but had to go into perpetual hiding.

- Mark Owen,, 6 March 2014.

The bell tolls for thee, Rome . . .

The long-overdue day of reckoning for the Catholic Church has arrived.  It has taken a very long time but it is here at last.

The body that for nearly 2000 years has abrogated to itself the role of moral guardian of the world has been found out.  Like the wizard behind the curtain it’s claimed authority is a sham.

Every time I see those glittering parades of cardinals amidst the pomp and ceremony of Rome I am reminded of the words of Matthew 23: 27-28 - outwardly a great show of righteousness but inwardly many of the participants ‘full of hypocrisy and iniquity.’

One hundred thousand times a week the preachers have exhorted the faithful to moral lives, and those faithful knelt in the confessional and spoken of their own personal moral failings while on the other side of the curtain many of the listeners were themselves moral degenerates, debauchers of children, ruiners of lives.

The investigations that have spread around the world have uncovered a vast cesspool of malfeasance. In Ireland, where the faith was once all-embracive, a government-sponsored investigation in 2009 uncovered an appalling history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. There, as elsewhere, the abuse was continually either ignored or covered up. Cruel beatings and demeaning punishments were accompanied all too often by outright sexual abuse, confirming the common interlinking of pain and sex.

Andrew Madden, the first victim of an Irish pedophile priest to come forward, complained: 'It is 14 years since I first went public about this practice the Catholic Church had of moving priests with a record of child abuse on to another parish which would give them further access to children.'
The investigations revealed that the first details of allegations were shown to Cardinal Desmond Connell years earlier, when he was an archbishop. He was shown to have complaints against 28 priests in his files at the time. In several cases where priests were accused of just one crime, they admitted to multiple abuses. One priest admitted fortnightly attacks on a child during his 25-year tenure of a parish. Another admitted abuse of more than 100 children. And in another case two priests had abused the same child.

In many countries such investigations have likewise brought the evil into the light, including our own. And thousands more cases have been revealed. NSW and Victoria have held inquiries which have laid bare the evil-doings of the Church, while Australia’s federally-sponsored Royal Commission is even now ferreting out the truth (and posing questions about a number of other religious and social bodies along the way).
Laundry slave
Now we have an important UN body, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, entering the fray, castigating the Church for its past tardiness in dealing with abuse claims and demanding it ‘immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers’ from their posts in the church and hand over the cases to law enforcement authorities in the countries concerned.

Predictably the UN resolution was not well received by the Vatican, eliciting a diatribe on ‘the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom.’  As if the Catholic Church, having regard to its bloody history, could ever talk in such high terms. Old habits die hard!

- Mark Owen,, 6 February 2014.
From book: Women in Chains by W.W. Campbell (Sydney, 1947),
an exposé of Catholic slave laundries.  Caption reads: 'Eighty-four years of age,
this old lady slave must clean out the pig-sty in a Hobart convent laundry.'

Some wise words friom the German Chancellor . . .

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has told the country's parliament that the USA had endangered its standing by violating the freedom of the individual - as revealed by Edward Snowden. 'A way of operating in which the end justifies the means, in which everything which is technically possible is actually done, that violates trust, it sows mistrust. At the end of the day, there is not more, but less security.'

- Mark Owen,, 3 February 2014.

Hellish life for charity boys . . .

Before going out of office the previous Australian government launched a Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I doubt the present conservative government would do likewise. It would surely reveal malfeasance in religious bodies, so often favoured by conservatives. (There was a massive growth in religious influence in Australia under the Howard conservatives; institution of the appalling school chaplaincy program - stupidly continued by the Labor government - is just one example.)

The latest group to come under scrutiny is the Salvation Army. I confess when I first heard of their alleged complicity in child abuse I was quite surprised. I've always considered the Army to be one of the more decent Christian groups. I suspect one reason is the active participation in the mission by lay people with rather slender attachment to the faith who found positions in care homes. Abusers of children are always on the lookout for opportunities to get close to potential victims.

BookI recently added a book to my stock, Salvation by Vikki Petraitis, which tells the story of just one Australian survivor from life in a Salvation Army home - Rod Braybon*. Rod was a ward of the state who, after passing through several institutions, ended up in the notorious Bayswater Boys' Home operated by the Salvation Army in Victoria. This is the place described as 'a paedophiles' paradise' by Angela Sdrinis, a lawyer whose firm has represented more than 1000 wards of state. So awful was life in this institution that some boys who had also been to prison said prison was better!

In recent hearings life in another Salvation Army home in Queensland, the Riverview Training Farm, was described.  Apart from floggings with straps or beatings with canes and at times lack of food a popular punishment was to lock a boy in a cell-like room with bars, sometimes keeping him there for days or even weeks. There was no bedding; they would sleep on the floor, and a bucket was provided as a toilet. The boys, it was claimed, were abused not only by staff but by older boys and this included sexual abuse. One former inmate told of being forced to suck the penis of an older boy. If any complaint found its way to police or other authorities no action was taken.  Instead, it was likely the home was advised and the complainer returned to be punished with a flogging.

In NSW the Army operated the Bexley Boys' Home. During the 1970s the man who ran this home was 'the most prolific of the child sex abusers' according to Simeon Beckett, counsel assisting the Commission. There had been complaints about his behaviour in the previous decade when he had been in Queensland but these were ignored by the organization.

The boys at Bexley were reportedly forced to have sex with other boys, it is claimed. When a boy was flogged for this behaviour - forced on him - he was told not to tell anyone or he would be punished even more severely. It has also been alleged by former inmates that members of the public were sometimes given access to the dormitories at night and would sexually assault the boys. Other boys would, it is claimed, be sent out to homes where they would also be assaulted. 

Girls, too, were reportedly abused although to date activities in Salvation Army girls' homes have evidently not been examined.

- Mark Owen,, 2 February 2014.

Justice, Italian style . . .

Question: How do you pin a murder on someone when the evidence is wafer-thin and a confession extracted under very doubtful circumstances? Simple: You just keep dragging the suspect through the courts as many times as are necessary until you achieve the result you want. Yes, folks, that is Italian justice as it appears to be functioning in the case of Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend.

Amanda KnoxThis is effectively a transatlantic crime, the dead woman British and the accused an American. And the partisan comments are flying thick and fast. Understandably many in Britain were upset that Amanda was exonerated in her second encounter with the Italian justice system (if it can be described thus) and one can sense the elation at the latest result in commentary I heard from Britain's Sky News. The commentator was falling over himself discussing Knox and friend 'found guilty of murder twice.'

On the other side of the Atlantic Amanda and her family have had their misery prolonged. (To be fair, the misery of the family of the dead girl is not to be dismissed out of hand.)

Amanda's plight should make anyone wary of travelling to far parts, especially a place like Italy that appears to have an appalling legal system. Beware of student exchanges. That the system can grind on and on until it gets the verdict it wants is unbelievable. This is justice in the mould of those Nazi courts where the outcome was a foregone conclusion.  Perhaps the Italians learnt from the Germans during the days of their close co-operation?

In the end, though, I doubt that Amanda will ever set foot again on Italian soil. There may be an extradition treaty between Italy and the USA but there are many complications in the process of extraditing alleged criminals to either country. Chiefly there is the question of Double Jeopardy. Lawyers in the USA are now actively engaged in debate over this question although there is yet another stage to be reached - a reference to the Italian high court - before the issue becomes more pressing. Some believe that Double Jeopardy only applies if the crime occurs in the USA. But, in any event, not all attempted extraditions have resulted in US citizens ending up in Italian prisons so the final outcome of this bizarre saga is far from certain.

FOOTNOTE: Since I wrote this Amanda Knox has been cleared of the charges. Netflix has an excellent documentary on the case.

- Mark Owen,, 1 February 2014

The dilemma of a young Jehovah's Witness . . .

I have watched with interest an important case progressing through Australia’s court system but due to legal restraints have been unable to comment until now.

The case is a sad one, involving as it does the physical and, especially, the mental wellbeing of a 17-year-old boy. He is a Jehovah’s Witness, a matter of some importance when it comes to health issues. Being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma mean being involved in a probable blood transfusion - anathema to Witnesses.  The issue ended up in court.

His doctor has said that without such a transfusion the boy had an 80 percent chance of dying from anaemia. A judge earlier this year ruled that the boy’s wishes could be ignored and the transfusion allowed. His family appealed but now their appeal has been dismissed.

The issue is unusually difficult.  If the person involved had attained the age of 18 he would be free to refuse medical aid but as a minor he cannot make such a choice and the state will, as in other issues, step into the situation. (He is just four months from his birthday.)

If I were in his situation I would certainly want to make my own decision. At the age of 17 he is, I believe, competent to do so. But how sad it is that a distorted view of ‘what God wants’ has blighted the life of this young man. Jehovah’s Witnesses, like the more orthodox Christian groups, think - ridiculous as it seem to many of us - that a mouldy old book of folklore, long discredited on every side, is ‘the word of God’.

I am tired of hearing or reading people intoning ‘God wants’ or ‘God says.‘  What effrontery!  They have no such knowledge. What they are really saying is that ‘the Bible says’ - the Bible being a mish-mash of unauthentic history, ridiculous saws, confused genealogies, fantastic and unbelievable tales, and outright lies.

Sadly this suffering young man is suffering even more than he needs to suffer by his well-meaning adherence to the destructive forces of religious superstition.

- Mark Owen,, 2 October 2013.

A woman's right to dress as she wishes . . .

Every so often some judge, magistrate or do-gooder tells women they should take care how they dress, so as not to arouse carnal thoughts in men. Well, you dopes, carnal thoughts are very often in the minds of men anyway. How many young women have felt that penetrating gaze from a man? Men are not excused from controlling whatever urges course through their fevered selves just because a pretty girl chooses to wear a mini-dress.

The issue has been raised again following the tragic death of a young woman in India who was gang-raped and then thrown off a bus. She later died from her injuries and decent Indians, men and women, were outraged. Into this heated situation On float in street parade
stepped a politician (wouldn't you know?) Banwari Lal Singhal, of the opposition BJP.  He wants schoolgirls to wear pants to keep them 'away from the lustful gazes of men.' An idea he picked up from Catholic girls' schools? Or Islam? The suggestion was ridiculed by Mamata Sharma, Chairperson for the Indian National Commission for Women, saying instead of changing the dress code, 'he should ask men to change their attitudes.'

Maybe Indian men are as prone to act on their carnal urges as are many Arabs. I can think of only two reasons for Muslim women wearing sometimes extreme coverings over their bodies, the first, that they cannot trust Muslim men to leave them alone. Have you ever wondered about those black-garbed women broiling under the Middle East's midday sun? Less painful than being raped, I guess.

The only other reason I can see is to emphasize the woman's inferior place in society. Of course, many Muslim women who wear these garments claim they do so by choice and I would defend their right to choose what they wear. But if not to protect from rape nor to show their submissivenes, what other reasons is there? I'd love to know. 

She can dress like that; she's on a float in a street parade (one of my own photos).

- Mark Owen,, 16 September 2013

On the joys and pitfalls of spanking . . .

The massive success of the Fifty Shades books cheered me up no end. B&D has always fascinated me but at a safe distance, voyeur rather than participant. The books have a bit much ‘vanilla’ sex for my taste but the kinky bits are nice. I think I first started getting turned on by such deviant desires from about the age of 6 when a bunch of boys tied me to a tree. Later I did some of the tying. Thus the bondage part of my aberration. And I was ever both terrified and fascinated by the cane (although I only experienced its sting on three occasions during my school years). So, fascination with both bondage and discipline permeated my psyche.

These ruminations on abnormality have arisen from finding some old notes I’d written years back about the very prevalent desire, especially among men, to spank. Harmless if the partner (male or female) is a willing adult who doubtless enjoys the experience as much as the giver of that experience. But not so in other cases. No, no, no!

The particular story I came across happened some years back in what was then my home town of Newcastle (NSW). A rather naughty old man (and I can lay it on here for he was found guilty and sentenced to a term in the slammer) found a great way to get his jollies in the shape of a lovely young thing - a 16-year-old Norwegian exchange student staying in his home.
He managed to convince this innocent abroad that he had to discipline her over a number of matters. And further, he convinced her that Down Under ‘we have this special way’ of disciplining wayward youth (especially nubile young girls, of course).  It involves the culprit stripping off her clothing and being laid naked over the knee and spanked on the buttocks.  This the man proceeded to do on more than one occasion, telling her the state of nakedness meant she suffered ‘total embarrassment.‘  Although, in his defence it must be added that he at least had the decency to tell her she had a good figure!

Through the years there have been a long series of such tales.  Now let’s face it, some of us would like to spank the bottom of an attractive (and even naked) young lady but we manage to confine our activities to WILLING partners.  Not so some men. Just one story I recall. On 8 December 1973 the following item appeared in US papers:

'Cleveland city Councillor John J Prince tied up and spanked his 17-year-old secretary for making typing mistakes.’ 
Poor Mr Prince, the urge to discipline obviously got the better of him. He punished the girl six times, parents told police, spanking her with a wooden paddle (we're not told just where and how), then stood her in a corner like a naughty little girl, making her repeat 'I am stupid.'  The stupid one was John J. Prince.  Quite carried away, he was, even made a bit of a movie of the goings-on.  He wasn't all bad, though.  He did apologize, sent the girl $100 and destroyed the film. When last heard from the psychologists were checking him out. Trying to find out why he destroyed the film?

What is it about Cleveland? That’s the home of the late unlamented sex-slaver Ariel Castro who tied up and beat three young women and kept them locked away for years (see story: Captives for a Decade - the Cleveland Sex-Slaves). Cleveland has also recorded numerous murders of young women. Not long after Amanda, Gina and Michelle escaped from the clutches of Castro news came of the discovery of the bodies of three murdered women in Cleveland. But this crime was far outshone by the murder some years back of 11 women by Anthony Sowell. He was known as the Cleveland Strangler. 

Is there something in the water in Cleveland?

- Mark Owen,, 12 September 2013

In defence of beauty pageants . . .

I am forever mystified by why people find it so interesting watching a posse of muscular men kicking a ball around a field. In fact, I cannot raise a modicum of interest in any sport at all, going back to school days when I was forced to play sport by stupid rules that decreed that children should be compulsorily subjected to both sport and the even more horrendous PE as forms of torture ‘necessary to all-round development.’  In our school PE was called PT. Stood for Physical Training but was usually referred to, more correctly, as Physical Torture.

There is just one slim exception to this disinterest. It is nice watching barefoot girls doing gymnastics. But then my interest is clearly heterodox - in the barefootedness of the participants, not their skills.

Curiously, although I might enjoy watching girls do gym I have no great interest in beauty pageants. They seem to be so ‘over the top’, especially when the entrants are sub-teens. The images we saw some years back of murder victim JonBenet Ramsay strutting her stuff on stage are hard to erase from our minds.

But - I defend the right of people to enjoy whatever turns them on. Provided the small pageant girl is not being forced onto the stage or the small boy being forced to play football, let them alone. Likewise the games adults play - be they on a cricket pitch or (dare I say it) bondage games. 
Some young gymnasts waiting to perform (my photo) . . .
Gymnasts aiting to performAnd, if people get enjoyment from a beauty pageant, so be it. Damn the busybody feminists, the religious do-gooders and all the tribe of butinskis who think they have a right to dictate what others do with their lives. Every pageant some winge starts up. As I write a beautiful Asian American young woman, Nina Davuluvi, has been berated by some for having the effrontery to win the Miss America 2014 quest. Huffington Post quotes one such critic: ‘Are you serious??!!! The Arab wins??!!! This is miss AMERICA!!! Not miss Arabia!!!’  Nina is not an Arab, you dope,  she is from India and she is not a Muslim as some allege. She’s a Hindu. (What petty minds; how I hate racism!)

And then there are those dreaded skeletons in the closet - the ‘indiscreet’ photos of the girl taken in other times that now surface to spoil the fun. What an unnecessary hoohah these evoke. She once posed for some nude photos? So what?

Let people have their pageants, their football, their cricket. Consent is everything. Provided a person is not engaging in gratuitous physical or sexual abuse they should be left to do as they will. ‘Whatever turns you on,’ is a perfectly acceptable reason to enjoy something. And if a beauty pageant is your pleasure - whether as a contestant or an onlooker - so be it. To paraphrase Voltaire: I’ll defend your right to participate in a beauty pageant.’

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