Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Heathen Humour

I have a b*%$! of an exam tomorrow, so to cheer myself up, here's some "free speech." Enjoy :)

Top Ten Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Jesus

10. No one will kill you for not drinking Beer.

9. Beer doesn't tell you how to have sex.

8. Beer has never caused a major war.

7. They don't force Beer on minors who can't think for themselves.

6. When you have a Beer, you don't knock on people's doors trying to give it away.

5. Nobody's ever been burned at the stake, hanged, or tortured over his brand of Beer.

4. You don't have to wait 2000+ years for a second Beer.

3. There are laws saying Beer labels can't lie to you.

2. You can prove you have a Beer.

1. If you've devoted your life to Beer, there are groups to help you stop.

Stolen from

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's a Little Historical Revisionism?

The Pope recently ended a pilgrimage through the Middle East, which is already churning with controversy. This particular Pope's presence in the Middle East is most notable because as a teen he participated in the Hitler Youth. This doesn't necessarily mean much; it was a long time ago, and it does not suggest that the Pope still carries Nazi sympathies. Plus, many Jewish people are still upset at Pope Pius XII for not taking a stronger stance against Jewish persecution during WWII. However, when addressing the nation of Israel, apparently, the Jews were looking for a little more sympathy than the pontiff had to offer.

Word must have gotten back to Pope Benedict, though, because he followed up with another statement--and it's with this one that I take issue. He said that "the brutal extermination of Jews by the "godless" Nazi regime would never be forgotten or denied."

Ummmmm... exsqueeze me? I have 3 words for the Pope: Gott mit uns.

I think there could be a genuine debate on Hitler's faith, and whether he actually believed in a god or just used religious rhetoric to inspire loyalty. But it simply cannot be denied that Christian faith was an integral part of Nazism. The Pope blatantly shifted the blame from Christians to atheists for Nazi anti-Semitism, which is a disingenuous lie. The people who committed the crimes of the Holocaust were Christians, and the Pope disrespects Judaism by simply passing off the blame to others.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

On the catholic church

This is an open response to a family friend of mine, who posted this comment on my Facebook page:

I just had a heated conversation with my husband about how warped the catholic church is. He maintains that if the church has said sorry it's question is when will the church mean it?

Comments on my response are welcomed by anyone.


I was raised as a Catholic, but was lucky enough to attend a very progressive Church. Also, as you know, my parents are very open-minded people. I enjoyed being part of my Church growing up, and I believe that my experiences there helped me learn how to be a better person. Even since I stopped believing in god, I still have a very strong emotional attachment to the Church in which I was raised. That attachment, however, no longer extends to the Catholic church as an institution, for reasons I will now elaborate on.

The lessons that I learned in Church while growing up included going out of your way to help others, spending more time with your family, the vacuity of being judgmental, and the power of forgiveness. Humility, love, compassion.

While these ideals might be the stated aims of the Catholic Church, they are certainly not values that I see displayed regularly.

Instead, I hear about institutionalised cover-ups to protect child-assaulting priests from being prosecuted. I hear about the Vatican protesting against a UN resolution to denounce violence against homosexuals. I hear their continued misogynist refusal to allow women to hold positions of authority.

It has become clear to me that the Catholic Church, as an institution, is more concerned with promoting adherence to it's own dogma than it is with the relief of human suffering. It is more concerned with maintaining power than with maintaining integrity. It has consistently failed to uphold the dignity of human existence, and for that I can no longer associate myself with it.

Take for example, the recent case of a 9-year-old Brazilian girl who became pregnant with twins after being repeatedly sexually assaulted by her step-father. After determining that, due to her young age and low weight, the girl's life would be put in danger if the girl took the pregnancy to term, two doctors medically ended her pregnancy. Despite the medical necessity of the abortion, the Brazilian Chruch excommunicated the two doctors and the girl's mother--but not the step-father, who is also accused of sexually abusing the girl's 14-year-old handicapped sister.

Another brazen example of the Church's indifference to the human condition lies with it's stubborn refusal to condone the distribution of condoms in Africa to stem the spread of AIDS, the world's leading cause of death by infectious disease. This is despite the fact that condom use has been shown to decrease the transmission of HIV, and that abstinence-only programs have been shown to be ineffective.*

And then, of course, there's the Church's outdated, dehumanizing view on gay relationships. It never ceases to amaze me how they can take a few (highly interpretable) passages from the Bible and use them to denigrate healthy, loving relationships. One would think that with all the claims they make about promoting love and companionship, they wouldn't make such a fuss about two men's relationship being recognized by the government.

Nonetheless, the Chuch's massive resistance to gay marriage is second-only in fervor to its opposition to abortion. However, it is not alone in its denial of gay people's humanity. Pat Robertson recently said that legalizing gay marriage will result in the legalization of pedophilia and bestiality (one wonders how children or animals, who can't give legal consent, would sign a marriage contract). James Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, recently said that a bill in the US House that would basically make gay-bashing a hate crime would also give protections to pedophiles and necrophiliacs (because the bill does not explicitly define "sexual orientation"). This is a lie, and Dobson knows it becuase he's a psychologist. "Sexual orientation" includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality; pedophilia and necrophilia are defined as "paraphilias."

Rick Warren, one of the most popular evangelical leaders in the US and head of an enourmous mega-church, also equated gay relationships to pedophilia and incest (though apparently he later apologised). He then went on to lie about his support for Proposition 8 (which took gay marriage away from Californians) on national TV, despite video proof of the contrary.

It seems like the people who say the worst things about gay people are actually the religious devout. Religious instituions are the major impediment to respect for gay people. Historically, they have also been the source of major resistance to almost every progressive social advancement in the past few centuries (women's rights, abolition of slavery, interracial marriage, etc.).

Lest my message be misconstrued at this point, let me say that I don't think all religious people are homophobes. Nor are all Catholics cold-hearted. What I'm trying to prove with the above anecdotes are the following:

1. While claiming to be on higher moral ground than the rest of us, religious people and their leaders often take positions that are completely inhumane and often detrimental to their fellow man. This includes countless recent examples of outright lies being spread to keep gay people from gaining equal protection and rights under the law.

2. While I have no problem with people choosing to live by whatever personal beliefs they choose, I do not believe that they have a right to force their religious beliefs on others. By denying gay people the right to marry or to be protected from discrimination without any secular reasoning, that's exactly what they are doing.

3. Perhaps my biggest disappointment is with "moderate" religious people, who claim that the outspoken homophobes "don't speak for them." News flash: the homophobes are speaking loud enough for everyone, but the voice of opposition from moderates is not being heard. It sounds an awful lot more like silent consent.

I haven't heard of any recent apology from the Catholic Church, but even if I did, it would take a lot more than that to make up for the hurt they've caused gay people everywhere (not to mention other minorities and women). I'll start listening to them again once they show that they're more concerned with helping their fellow man than getting their own way.

*Clarification: the best type of education is one that includes information on both abstinence and safer-sex practices, not necessarily just one or the other.

Update (11/05/09): The Catholic Bishop of Maine has just issued a statement in response to the Maine legislature's legalization of gay marriage. The good Bishop claims that gay marriage is "dangerous." However, I'm starting to think that maybe the Catholic Church is dangerous:
[In Maine] 63 priests and other diocese employees had been accused of sexual abuse over the previous 75 years


This is an oldie, but a goodie.


A few days ago, a Mr. Mike Rogers (blogger) was interviewed on daytime TV about an upcoming documentary called "Outrage." During a back-and-forth debate, one of the co-hosts actually threatened to take Rogers out back and punch him.

...Like--seriously--he physically threatened his guest on national TV. And you know what? As far as I can tell, he's suffered absolutely no punishment for his distasteful behaviour. Which just goes to show that threats and violence are wrong...unless the victim is someone gay.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Haha, I can't believe I forgot to post about this! Maine legalised gay marriage last week. YAY!

Of course, conservatives are going nuts. Someone's proposing a public referendum. What this means is that the law cannot take effect until the group either fails to gather the required number of signatures to put it on the ballot, or until the motion fails in the November election. It's a highly unfortunate situation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Latest Article

Here's a transcript from an article I just wrote. It's a last-minute addition to the upcoming copy of our med student newsletter. Enjoy, and please feedback with your ideas and opinions. :)

In the world of public health, the goal is to benefit the greatest possible number of people. When it comes to blood donations, that means getting as many people to donate as possible, without compromising the safety of the blood supply. To this end, Canadian Blood Services not only screens the blood it receives for pathogens, but also screens out at-risk donors from giving blood in the first place.

In the 80’s, when HIV first burst into the public health scene, little was known about it except that the infection was endemic among gay men. This prompted a blood-donor ban, not just on sexually active gay men, but on any man who had ever had sex with another man (MSM) since 1977. This policy is still in place today. Potential donors are screened via questionnaire.

The obvious purpose of banning MSM from donating blood is to prevent iatrogenic transmission of HIV and other STI’s. However, the donor questionnaire doesn’t ask potential donors if they’ve had unprotected sex recently, nor does it inquire about anonymous sexual partners more than 6 months prior.

To clarify, this means that some guy who got “curious” (yes, including oral) at college once in 1981 but now has been straight and monogamous for 25 years and has 4 kids can’t donate blood. Meanwhile, another guy who had unprotected sex with 3 strangers in Vegas last year can. Somehow, I don’t feel like our blood supply is made safer by this policy.

Think of it this way: since, in Canada, men have a higher prevalence of HIV than women, we should ban men from donating blood, right? Of course not, that’s a ridiculous overgeneralization. The at-risk group can be narrowed down, as it has been. But limiting the at-risk group to MSM is still overly general. There are lots of sexually active gay men who use condoms intelligently with every partner, who get tested regularly, or who have been monogamous for years. These men are no more at risk of contaminating the blood supply than heterosexuals—and are less likely to do so than some!

One obvious remedy to this problem is to ask donors pertinent questions, rather than use a criterion that’s both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. Such questions could include “Have you had unprotected sex or a new sexual partner in the past year?” or “When was the last time you were tested for HIV?” These types of questions would weed out potential donors are at genuine risk for infectious diseases, but allow healthy, monogamous gay men to help their fellow Canadians by donating blood.

Other solutions include improving the reliability of testing and removing monetary incentives. However, the latter has already been implemented in Canada, and current blood screening is already so reliable that only one HIV-positive sample in a million would fail to be detected, according to the US FDA. Surely the best way to solve today’s shortage of donors is to add to the donor pool. The question is: how do we weed out those people who are truly at risk, without turning away healthy donors? Whatever the best answer is, the current policy is certainly not it.

Note: image from wonderfully humourous gay-centric Canadian blog.