Religions and empires

SUNDAY READ

The Manila Times, March 17, 2013

Painter’s depiction of the Battle of Tours, 732 A.D.: If the Christian Franks lost this battle, we would have been Muslims

It is when a new Pope needs to be elected that most people, through television,   get to witness the majesty and glory of Catholicism’s capital, the Vatican in Rome

Never mind that it was mainly financed by Pope Leo X’s so-called indulgences, basically pay-to-get-to-heaven schemes that triggered the Lutheran revolt that led to Protestantism. The Basilica of St. Peter must be the most magnificent building on earth, and as you walk beneath Michelangelo’s dome, the largest in the world that it signifies the heavenly firmament, you can very easily imagine – with the colossal statues of the evangelists, saints, and Popes looking down on you – that you’re no longer on earth but in the Palace of the Gods.

Thanks to the spread of television and in the Philippines, to the networks’ cerrado Catolico devotion, millions of the Catholic faithful watched the Vatican’s spectacle for choosing the new Vicar of Christ.  What they saw seemed unearthly scenes, and for many, a confirmation that the Roman Catholic Church indeed represents the Deity that rules all of the Cosmos.

A proselytizer would follow up an assertion of faith: 1.2 billion Catholics can’t be wrong in their belief.

The quick answer to that: There are 1.6 billion Muslims, 800 million Protestants, one billion Hindus, 800 million Protestants and other types of Christians, and 500 million Buddhists.  Scratch the surface of ancestor worship, and China (population 1.3 billion) and Japan (127 million) are atheist countries. Although difficult to estimate, atheists either of the strong or weak varieties are believed to number 1.1 billion, and by all accounts growing.

The long answer, which explains why Christianity and Islam are the two biggest religions of the world, and in one word: Empire. (more…)

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Why no female Pope ever, never?

Poster of a 2009 film on a legendary female Pope

The Manila Times, March 15, 2013

A stupid question?  Not at all.  In fact, the question goes deep into the nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

It is a question that has even haunted, as it were, the nightmares of the Catholic Church.  Thus the intriguing reports through the centuries – dismissed though merely as legend by church historians – of a female  “Pope Joan” in the 11th century who disguised herself as a male, to be exposed, and killed, only when she gave birth in a pontifical procession.  The legend’s fascination even in the modern era is evident in that two movies have been made on Pope Joan, first in 1972 (and then more recently, a European one in 2009.

The persistence of the legend through the centuries is also evidenced by the fact that she is depicted in the Tarot as “La Papessa” (the Popess) or, obviously in order not to hurt Catholic sensibilities,  merely as the “High Priestess.”

It is the deep fear of a female Pope that explains the rumors that the last step in  the confirmation of a new Pope – portrayed in the hit TV series The Borgias —  is for the pope-elect to sit without his underwear in the sedes stercoraria, a chair with a huge hole in the seat,  so a bishop by groping can confirm  if he has balls, literally.

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Sex and the Bible

THE DEBATE over the reproductive health bill points to the fact that, with some exceptions, those against it are really arguing not from rationality but from faith in the Catholic dogma.

The central argument in the basic Church doctrine against the use of contraceptives, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, is indeed a metaphysical claim: that the Church has a privileged knowledge of natural law, and that the use of contraceptives violates this law since it prevents sex from undertaking its “natural function” of procreation. We should be thankful that the Lord in his kindness designed sex to feel good, but the natural law should be complied with, it says.

But what does the Holy Bible really say about artificial contraceptives and, for that matter, sex?

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