For the Love of Opus Dei

The BBC Trust has today rejected Opus Dei‘s complaint that the BBC series Waking the Dead presented their organisation unfavourably.

Opus Dei has indeed taken a bit of flak from recent fiction, notably in the movie The Da Vinci Code. Its name has become a byword for secret conspiracies with a medieval flavour.

I see from the Opus Dei website that they failed to sue the Da Vinci Code, so I am a bit baffled as to why the BBC represented a legitimate lawsuit target to them.

The BBC series was watched by 5 people in Reading. Well, OK then, maybe a few thousand people. Blimey, 7.2 million according to the BBC. (They must be exaggerating.)

Their entire budget probably wouldn’t have paid for a day’s catering on the set of the Da Vinci code. Which has been seen by zillions of people worldwide, so has garnered a lot of cash.

Here’s a bit from an interview for a Polish newspaperFrom the Prelate – The true face of Opus Dei (I’ve cut some minor reportorial sycophancies out to make this blog snappier)

W. Redzioch: Many people were surprised that …… you did not initiate a lawsuit against him or seek any compensation. Why did the Prelature react in this way?

Bishop Javier Echevarría: I would like to point out the fact that the most unfortunate aspect of Brown’s book is not what he says about Opus Dei but the falsified image of Christ and his Church that he presents to his readers. Opus Dei, which is a part of the Church, is a young, vibrant and beautiful reality. A writer’s inventions can obscure this beauty, and this is sad.
However, we realise that the beauty of the Church, which includes Opus Dei, is revealed in its fullness when we show the love of Christ and do not yield to hurt feelings. In this perspective love is the best way to present the figure of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Church. This is why our reaction, which was decisive but also courteous, was a manifestation of our sense of responsibility. Let us not forget that love is Christ’s commandment and in fact his most important commandment.
I’ll repeat once again: what is most painful about The Da Vinci Code is the way in which the author attempts to trivialize the Person of Christ.

Ah ha. They are so unselfish that they reacted with an outburst of pure love in response to a movie that they saw as bad because it “trivialised Christ”
(Oddly not because it had a daft and confusing storyline and seemed to last for a week.)

Am I misunderstanding the priorities here then? The BBC programme only offended Opus Dei. It didn’t trivialise Christ. I assume that means the BBC insult constituted a lesser offence under the Opus Dei moral code?

(Assuming that, in the afore-imagined moral code, it doesn’t rank its own importance above its god)

If the BBC had actually offended Christ, they would be getting loved up by Opus Dei by now, if the Da Vinci Code example is anything to go by.

Wow, what selflessness. They could as the Polish reporter said, have started a lawsuit against the Da Vinci Code film and got huge sums in compensation. (I am thinking of a small action on behalf of Da Vinci, myself.)

Though, they don’t seem short of a few bob, so maybe they don’t need it…..

They didn’t sue, apparently because their religious beliefs told them not to yield to hurt feelings. They didn’t sue the BBC either but complained to the BBC Board. So how is it that the BBC earned a complaint to its bosses rather than got treated to a lovefest?

I had some possible explanations ready, but it would be so much more in keeping with the spirit of this post if I leave you to devise your own.

Channelling Dawkins

Dawkins latest programme elegantly put lots of the same points that I ineptly failed to make in any comprehensible manner, in a previous post on holistic medicine. That includes paying for other people’s gullibility; alternative therapies meeting a need for attention; the placebo effect and alternative therapies referring to scientific sounding concepts; and so on. (You know who you are, Deepak Chopra)

This blog is clearly channelling Dawkins. If you need any chakra realignment, you can probably get it here from now on.

Today’s episode of the Enemies of Reason series has people promoting such odd theories that Dawkins only has to smile politely and give them enough rope…. Indeed, some express such utterly strange beliefs that the only charitable explanation is that they are joking

Atlantean DNA? A woman barefacedly told the world’s best known evolutionary biologist that bits of his DNA were missing. She then waved her hands about – in a surprisingly graceless manner, given the magical ritual context – to realign the missing parts of Dawkins Atlantean DNA. I guess it worked but he didn’t grow any visible gills, sadly.

However, the therapist who seemed to be using a pricing gun to stamp the back of Dawkins neck may have accidentally amputated them, so don’t take that as a certainty.

I’ve made sense of this bit now. I was half-hoping to see Dawkins turn into an extra from that ten – or so- years old sci-fi series that was like old-style Battlestar Galactica but underwater. Without Silons. But with gills. It wasn’t good enough for me to remember its name. Stargate Atlantis – exponentially better. Why didn’t I think of that?

Well, it doesn’t really have people with gills. Anyway, the new even-more-gentlemanly-and-mellow Dawkins couldn’t even begin to qualify for the “arrogant genius” part in Atlantis, despite there being an Internet’s worth of creationists and others who think Dawkins is arrogant.

But maybe that’s what the magical Atlantean DNA lady meant. Dawkins is lacking the extra strain of arrogance that Stargate Atlantis’s Canadian genius has. So she put it back. And there are no gills to see, so there.

(See, it does all make perfect sense when you cleanse your DNA and start channelling……)

You have to worry a bit about the state of current medical education, when you see how many qualified doctors-turned-alternative practitioners Dawkins has managed to find.

One doctor detects chakras as “black holes” in the human body (or vice versa or something like that.) Another doctor – rheumatologist turned alternative practitioner – gives out water in the Royal Homeopathic Hospital, which has had a fair bit of public cash, to Dawkins’ justified annoyance.

If you live outside the UK, you can probably watch the new series on YouTube until it comes to a cable channel near you. Black Sun Journal has a link to the last episode.

Science fair

Wireless energy promise powers up, says a BBC article that claims that wireless energy transfer is close to practicable. Which would be impressive if it were true (although it might give the anti-wifi campaigners a few more warranted causes for concern than your standard Belkin device currently justifies.)

I probably am too cynical for my own good but I’d have to say this story has less of the ring of truth than the kidney transplant reality show that suckered me last week.

US researchers have successfully tested an experimental system to deliver power to devices without the need for wires.
The setup, reported in the journal Science, made a 60W light bulb glow from a distance of 2m (7ft).

For a start, I am not too impressed by making a lightbulb glow. Don’t some science museums have a display where you can light up a bulb at a distance by using some innate physical property of the gas in the light bulb? (Apologies for the vagueness. Yes, sometimes social science really isn’t a “science” and sometimes you really can’t ask me cos I’m just a girl.) This makes the whole public unveiling seem like a school science fair. (No, we don’t have them in the UK – or didn’t when I was at school – but we do get the Simpsons.)

But then again, maybe it is another example of a physical property that was considered only a toy that turns out to be really useful… I’m thinking of the gyroscope, but maybe the toy came after the engineering thing. OK, table blow-hockey and hovercraft then? Surely they had those tables before the hovercraft?

The BBC site says the news is from an experiment reported in Science. Ever diligent, I looked through a good few days’ news items in Science without finding it. Which is not to say it isn’t there, just that I couldn’t spot it. I looked at the MIT site and it had the “stem cells in mice” article that Science did, but no mention of any amazing new wireless energy transfer experiments.

Maybe this is actually old news and just appears on the BBC today because it’s a slow science day.

(Aside. It bloody must be. They have a totally spurious article saying that cannabis-caused mental health hospital admissions have gone up by 85% since Labour took power. Don’t make me go into the utter nonsense of this one. It merits an entire newspaper full of mocking deconstruction.)

So, with no easy science references to check out the light bulb, I was reduced to going back through the BBC’s own site. And, blow me down with a feather, etc, here’s a reference from November 2006 about the same chap, Assistant Professor Marin Soljacic, announcing that physics is about to solve the resonance issue, as soon as they build a model….

The article has basically the same content as today’s, even down to the same bizarre illustrations, minus the science fair-style lightbulb display..

  • Prof Soljacic, in front of an LCD monitor with a garish abstract screen saver – messaging how cutting edge he is;
  • a GCSE science-style diagram of two antennaed headsets, with an explanation – this is the bit I understood. However, I saw too many Tomorrow’s World’s to be totally convinced. Please note: I AM STILL WAITING FOR THE JETPACK;
  • a lot of wires in a multi-socketplug – so we can find out what plugs in a multisocket look like, in case we’ve never seen one.
  • Plus a garishly coloured plug with trailing wire that looks like an artist’s impression of a future wirefree energy provdiing device, until you realise it’s supposed to be a standard plug, lit by someone with only a 1960s lightshow as their illumination.

Faith in its death throes?

Does expressing atheist views just strengthen bellievers? This issue is raised in Cal McCrystal’s entertaining and favourable review of A.C. Grayling’s short new book Against All Gods.

Grayling (and the Independent’s reviewer) argue that the increasingly forceful activity of believers is a sign that religion is in fact in its death throes. The reviewer makes the point that militant religions define themselves by opposition.

…as in Northern Ireland where people gain religious strength and fervour from their adversaries

I wouldn’t dispute this at all. It doesn’t necessarily lead to a peaceful outcome, though, if Northern Ireland is the template. The medieval Inquisition shows what religion under threat is capable of. Of course, as always, religion can’t be abstracted from the social power relations that it expresses/ supports/ reproduces.

There isn’t something called “religion” that just exists in the realm of philosophy. It’s in the real world helping to unite particulalr social and political groups against others. It doesn’t matter what the ideas behind it are – Grayling’s garden gnome gods or McCrystal’s jellyfish deities would be as useful if they could just convince enough people to worship them and build a hierarchy.

And it may be that opposing religion usually makes believers more determined in their adherence and their will to impose their beliefs. This can’t be taken as an argument for just shutting up and letting religion wither away under the weight of its own stupidity, though.

Even if every non-believer in the world just kept their mouths clamped shut on any faith topic, there’s a whole world full of potential enemy faiths – or opposing sects of the same religion – or opposition groups in the same sect – that believers can define as the enemy.

I would like to think that this capacity indicates a general weakening of belief but it seems to have always been a general characteristic of all monotheistic religions, as well as most others. If this means that religion has always under threat from unbelievers, it’s hardly surprising.

Most people throughout history must have been sceptical, at least in practice. Otherwise everyone would have always followed all the precepts of their religions to the letter. (And even then, they’d have ended up having to be a bit sceptical given that religions are full of contradictory requirements.) If you really believed you’d be eternally damned to hellfire for taking God’s name in vain, there would be no such thing as swearing, for example.

So, if you know the emperor is stark naked, you might as well have the guts to say so.

Wingnut Continues

I am somewhat saddened that I came across Dinesh D’Souza’s blog at a time when I have very little spare time to make my own posts. The things D’Souza says are stunning in the bigoted idiocy they demonstrate. If I didn’t know better I would have thought it was one big joke blog written by some teenagers laughing to themselves. Sadly, this wingnut appears to be a real person.

Looking over his blog today, I stumbled upon a post titled “Good Heavens, No More Limbo?” which is another fine example of his, erm, thinking. Basically, this is a post reporting that the Catholic Church has decided to do away with the concept of Limbo (where babies went if they died before being baptised) and from now on, all babies who die go to Heaven.

Seriously. Continue reading

Varnishing the truth

I was wondering whether scepticism might have become too much of a habit with me, yesterday.

I suffered a wholly-predictable fake vitiligo ill effect, through ignoring the “wear gloves” warning on a can of floor varnish. Plus, I suffered the loss of what would have been a 25 to 1 return on a small investment, when I ignored the Grand National tip given to me by a drunk in the street. So I woke up this morning feeling that a bit more willful gullibility might profit me.

However, reading an old post on Deep Thoughts about unconvincing arguments for the existence of god, I was forced back to my natural state. Mojoey reckoned that the argument about having a had personal experience of god was

.. my personal favorite because I hear it the most, and what can you say? So they talked to god…

This brings up my own ideas about personal experience of transcendence. To which I am going to subject you, sorry. Continue reading