Popes and Skeptics

Here comes the Pope.
Here comes the Pope,
In his Pope mobile.
In his Pope mobile.

This is the chorus of a song which school kids were forced to sing during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Britain in 1982. Well one school, the school I attended as a stupid ten year old. So stupid that I had a picture of the pope on my bedroom wall. Yes you heard me right deaf-o, I had a picture of the then alive pope on my bedroom wall. However I had to take it down at night because the face would loom out of the dark. An irony which was lost on me at the time.

In fact, right up to being fourteen I was a rosary bead carrying left footer. In fact I even considered becoming a priest. However one day I had the opposite of a divine revelation. You see I loved science when I was a kid. Chemistry was my favourite with Physics and Biology making up second and third place. Tomorrow’s World was one of my favourite television shows: although I used to tune out when Judith Hann went on and on about breasts and lady troubles. As I say; Biology was only my third favourite science.

So back to my anti-divine revelation.

One day I was lying in bed thinking- which was unusual because I was fifteen and in bed. While laying there, not wanking or even thinking about wanking, I thought about evolution. Now I knew that evolution was a true thing, it happened, we evolved from apes, end of story. In fact I even knew that we evolved from a particular species of Ape, which is why there are still apes around today. So why did the Catholic Church tell me that Adam and Eve were the first fully formed Homosapiens? Surely they must have read about Charles Darwin? It was in the newspapers and everything: I had to find out so there was only one thing for it, I had to become a detective.

The more I looked into what the church was telling me, the less it made sense and slowly the tapestry of my religious belief unravelled, then one day I realised that there was no god and Jesus was just a man. No doubt his followers, when challenged, would make up stories about how he cured lepers and rose from the dead. Because let’s face it, nobody wants to look a fool:

Bill: What happened to that ‘son of god’ you used to follow?

Ben: Oh him, he died.

Bill: Died!? What kind of son of god is he!?

Ben: But he came back to life.

Bill: Did he?

Ben: Yes, yes he did.

Bill: Blimey! Well played him. Where is he? I’ll buy him a pint.

Ben: Er, well he went to, er, um…heaven! That’s right! He went to heaven.

Bill: But I thought you said he came back to life.

Ben: He did but then went to, heaven.

Bill: Bollocks!

These stories were written down and over a couple of thousand years they were twisted to serve the interests of an increasing powerful church. Of course the stories alone were not enough to keep the money pouring into its already bulging coffers, so it invented the concept of hell. Before then, the worst that could happen to you after death was a stretch in purgatory but now you could burn for all eternity.  Then, purgatory didn’t exist for many years,  it was simply the church’s first upgrade to their investment plan, hell being the second.

For years I was incredibly intolerant of religion. Somebody only had to say thst that they were going to church and I would boil inside. Of course I’m a nice man so would never say anything out loud. But a voice in my head would always shout “how can an intelligent person believe in such horse shit?”

However over the years I’ve become more tolerant. In fact I quite like Vicars and Rabbis, who are, for the most part, nice people attempting to make the world a better place. However I will never speak to a Catholic priest. Not until the church changes its policy on contraception, which every year, condemns thousands of people to a slow and painful death.

God: Whoa! This is supposed to be a funny blog Wolfenden!

Sorry, pretend god.

Now there is new religion in town, it is called Skeptism and their dogma is science, or at least they say it is. A few months ago I attended a meeting of Skeptics. To begin with they looked like a group of intelligent people and I found them reasonably easy to talk to. The conversation began pleasantly enough and we chatted about the exciting work that CERN are doing and the godfather of rationalism Richard Dawkins. Then I steared the conversation onto other subjects. This is when I learned that people who believe in acupuncture, hypnosis or the possibility of extra terrestrial life are “imbeciles”. Their words not mine.

Now I thought that scientists were suppose to be open minded? When presented with a theory, no matter how ridiculous. Aren’t they are supposed to test it to see if it stands up to scrutiny and if it doesn’t, well, only then reject it? What they are not supposed to do is call the person presenting the theory an imbecile! By doing so they are exhibiting the behaviour of the most fundamental of religious adherents.

This is a great pity, because I believe that science is about finding answers but is not an answer in itself. So let religious people believe in their supreme beings and let the scientist poke things to discover how they work. Yes, religion is the product of a bygone age and has been the cause of death and destruction for thousands of years but it can also be a comfort to people who find the idea of a life ending, simply too much to comprehend.

Oh and Skeptics, get your act together. Don’t become another intolerant religious group, we’ve got plenty of those already.

Martin Wolfenden

Back in the early days of this Century, I made some money by saying the odd funny thing in public. On one of these occasions a fellow funny talker told me that I should write a blog (because that was the sort of thing funny talking people did back then.) Now, I’m not the sort of person who does things the easy way, so I rejected all the ready made blogging platforms and started my own website. Since then it’s become a repository for whatever stuff is bubbling out of my brains and a directory of various podcasts and videos that I’ve made with my friends and is completely unnecessary.

6 thoughts on “Popes and Skeptics

  • Great blog Martin. I like to hear how people came to realise such things and the fact that in our generation it is much more acceptable that we do so.

    The skeptics part saddens me, I must say my local skeptics meeting is very friendly and open, it also encourages people who use alternative medicine to come along and discuss the topics. It should not be about insulting other people but about educating them. I have family members who have used allsorts of alternative medicines, but once we did a bit of research and found out that there was evidence suggesting they did not work, or a lack of reliable evidence that they work at all then they usually decided to try some other method.

    I am one of those skeptic type people but I hope to never come across as a bully or to be offensive for no reason. I accept that lots of alternative medicines have a placebo effect and some work for some things, such as the possibility that acupuncture may work for some types of pain or nausea (but the evidence is borderline so more research is needed), I do not believe in the principles behind it, such as meridian lines. I’d hope that most skeptics can remain open minded and look for the worth (if there is any) in anything whether they believe it all or not.

    There is one point at which I would call someone an ibecile, if they gave a child alternative medicine of some nature instead of seeking professional help for a sick child, especially when that child then dies (this sadly has happened).

  • Hallo there, Martin,

    I have the word “gusset” typed in to prove I’m a person, and not an angel, devil or god. Hope it works!

    Nice essay, and being a true story, your experience, it counts for more than the opinions of people who have never seen the Catholic Church from the inside.

    That includes me. Apart from a few family marriages to Catholics, my only real connection was lusting after Saint Sebastian.

    I was a card-carrying Mormon. The higher-up Mormons really do carry special cards, a pass to go in a Temple. Mormons, of course, believe that they are “gods in embryo” … that God was a man, and men can become gods.

    Where does one sign up for the Skeptics? What makes Mankind special, and higher than the rest of creation, must surely be its ability to be skeptical. “I’m not sure I can walk on water … I’ll get my unpleasant neighbour to have a go first.”

    Have you seen Pedro Almodovar’s “La Mala Educacion”? Some of us got off lightly.


  • Interesting blog, I used to sort of believe in God. And then shit happened and I concluded if there was one he was a bit of a cunt.
    I just don’t say that out loud very often.

  • Sunny

    Oh Good. I got to type “Rimming” as my word of proof I’m no robot.

    Interesting Ross, what you say about Mormons, oh and yeah, I agree with you completely Martin, regarding organized religion, the Bible, scientists and Skeptics. But back to you Ross, and including you, Martin, my father shared many of his thoughts, ideas on life with me. He was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah and raised Mormon. He left home and his religion behind at 18 when he joined Air Force. One of his favorite topics, the idiocy of the factors behind the various religions, how much is simply a form of mind control over their masses who follow.

    Well he was a pilot, flew and built his own planes. One day up flying around, the plane failed, somehow he managed to correct it, and save the flight, land it. Something happened to him that day when he obviously looked death in the eye. He and my mother have returned to the Mormon church, left Texas and returned to Utah. He’s now head of one of the Wards there.

    Now he and my Mom are mum about the entire thing, they don’t talk religion nor their church with myself nor my siblings.

    What is my point, where am I going with this? That I’m not sure, but have been left with many, many questions about this turn of events.

  • Hallo again,

    Interesting story on your parents, Sunny. There are times when I almost wish an angel would come down in a shaft of light and tell me what’s what and what to do about it all. I dare say at a moment such as your father experienced when his engines failed one might say, perhaps unintentionally, “God, help me!” And when things suddenly are resolved, the engines start, one has to rethink things. That would be an intensely personal thing, not something one could preach at others.

    The Mormons taught me how to conduct meetings, teach classes, write and deliver sermons, and get into genealogy. All very useful, it turned out. However, after going in the Temple I totally freaked out and got into some major searching into not just Mormon theology, but its history. Oh, my! It gets frightfully weird.

    If there is a god, I cannot imagine him having such a cruel streak as to have his chosen people dress up in Mormon temple clothes and carry on as they do in the sacred, secret rituals.

    I am glad, of course, that when Martin recently did his gymnastic event on his staircase he was not terribly injured. One wonders if he said, “Oh, God!” on the way down, and now the angels want tithes and offerings.

    Some of my best friends are, by the way, ex-Mormons.

    I’ve got “spitroast” to prove I’m human, which is a bit worrying for vegetarian me. I’m picturing a Mormon missionary on a spit being slowly turned by a cannibal. Entertaining, for sure, but not on my diet plan.


  • Sunny

    Well Ross, hilarious what you allude to – the whole ‘magic underpants’ thing is disturbing enough without the whole play-acting that apparently goes on behind the scenes in Temple. I try not to think too much about my folks involved in all that after my very non-religious upbringing.

    That’s complete irony your getting “spitroast” and being a vegetarian. I do love those little humorous twists of irony.

    I received “Gusset” as mine this time – Urban dictionary definition: So yeah, Martin, your blog is an evil entity. ha.


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