Self-portrait of a homophobic politician

Carlo Giovanardi of Italy’s PDL (that’s Berlusconi’s party) had a few things to say about Lady Gaga’s upcoming appearance at the EuroPride parade in Rome:

“…all the surveys prove scientifically that the majority of Italians are against gay marriage.” 

“It’s wrong to allow the Coliseum, symbol of the death of thousands of Christian martyrs, to be dressed in so-called rainbow colors. The Coliseum is where the pope celebrates the Via Crucis, the place of Christ’s martyrdom.”

“Isn’t it possible to find another monument to light up for the gay cause without offending anyone’s sensibilities?”

“I’ll attend the Gay Pride parade when it’s a civil demonstration and no longer an exuse to jeer at the Holy Father, make fun of the religious and those who dedicate their lives to others, and prance around in fancy costumes – things which have all happened so far. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is free to do what they want, but I won’t go as long as they overdo it.”

I guess that about sums it up, doesn’t it? Everyone is free to do what they want, as long as it doesn’t offend the religious sensibilities of a bigoted clique of fundamentalist Catholic politicians and their overseers in the Vatican. They, of course, may offend whomever they wish and even prevent other people’s happiness by law in the name of their creed.

There’s no better way to drive intelligent people from the faith, guys – keep it up! Your churches are empty, and our numbers are swelling.

Do you not use your brains?

The videos of the World Atheist Convention in Dublin are being uploaded on YouTube. Here’s a gem: P.Z. Myers and Aron Ra debate two Muslim creationists on embryology. Basically, these guys believe:

◊ The Qur’an states things nobody could’ve possibly known in Muhammad’s day – because pre-Muslim Arabs were just too stupid.

◊ There were only seventeen literate people in Muhammad’s hometown (and he clearly wasn’t one of them.) And no scholars.

◊ Pre-Muslim Arabs were desert cave people who knew nothing of the world, conjectured nothing and thought nothing. This view is consonant with the popular Christian propaganda that “pagans” were essentially amoral beasts, and the Jewish view with regard to Canaanites etc…otherwise what they call prophecy would carry no weight, if one could just as easily have plagiarized Aristotle as channel the Word of God.

“Do you not use your brains?” is a key quote from the Qur’an they which keep throwing at P.Z., which is hilarious. It’s an excellent example of how religious faith can distort your perception and turn otherwise intelligent people into blathering zombies. And it’s completely lost on them that they are making the exact same claims as Christian creationists, but coming to a wholly different conclusion.

An insult to language

I haven’t read Susan Jacoby’s “Spirited Atheist” column in a month or two, but today I found an absolutely wonderful article on A.C. Grayling’s The Good Book: A Humanist/Secular Bible. Suffice to say the first time I read any of Grayling’s souped-up anthology I thought it sounded awful, like one of the umpteen translations of Genesis that try too hard at saying the same well-worn phrases in novel ways. But how many ways can you find to write, “In the beginning…?” They all just end up sounding vaguely “biblical” no matter how you rearrange the words (which is likely the point.) Here’s Jacoby:

Let me quote from the first chapter of the first “book” (again, modeled after the format of a standard bible), called—what else?—Genesis.“In the garden stands a tree. In springtime it bears flowers; in the autumn, fruit. The fruit is knowledge, teaching the good gardener how to understand the world…When Newton sat in his garden, and saw what no one had ever seen before: that an apple draws the earth to itself, and the earth the apple….”

You can’t satirize this stuff. Forget the vapidity of the language. It’s not even factually accurate, which, at a minimum, a secular bible ought to be. Another chapter (9:18) has arteries carrying “nascent blood,” while “lengthening veins return the crimson flood.” Wrong again. Arteries carry bright red blood, because it is fully oxygenated, away from the heart, while the returning blood in veins is much darker because it is generally deoxygenated.

Apart from my initial sense of enthusiasm on hearing about Grayling’s Good Book, I’ve had some reservations about it (I generally enjoy Grayling’s work). I’m not sure how homogenizing 3000 years of wisdom into an authorless mish-mash of slightly “elevated” (read: biblical) language serves any purpose – especially if one’s purpose is to offer an alternative to the Bible. One thing I love about literature is knowing who wrote what, when. I think that really does matter in the end. And unless the intent is satire, I don’t think many atheists/secularists will be drawn to a book based chapter-and-verse on another book we’ve read – and often trashed – the Bible.

Jacoby sums up:

There has already been a good deal written, particularly in England, about whether Grayling’s bible insults religion. This is utterly beside the point, since the book is an insult to language, to authors who deserve credit for their words, to translators who deserve credit for translating those words, and, above all, to the intelligence of secular readers. We don’t have one Good Book. We have good books, thousands of years of them, and the real Euripides, Shakespeare, Spinoza and Darwin are all available to provide a genuine humanistic education.

Exactly. Who the hell needs a sterilized version of Shakespeare, anyway?

“I crave the stillness of rooms”

Every so often I mention that I write poetry. I used to write a lot of poetry, though lately it’s kind of tapered off due to our recent move, our ten month-old daughter and a hundred other things that eat away at the imaginative mental loitering time so conducive to writing poetry.

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago and posted at my wife’s blog at the time. Probably nobody ever read it but her. I’m posting it again because I like it; it has the scent of Cavafy, Pessoa and the “crepuscolari” poets so dear to me. Enjoy.

I crave the stillness of rooms
full of smoke, after the party,
when all the guests have gone.
That’s when the poem is born.

Late at night, sitting at a desk
in the city, or outside of one,
the poet remembers those rooms
full of smoke. He lives in them,

a world of his own making.
He conjures the odor of ash,
the yellowed lampshade, the stain
of lipstick on a shard of glass.