Je suis Waterford Whispers News!

In response to a recently televised clip by Irish satirist website Waterford Whispers, Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin published a tweet saying:

“I am shocked that producer/editor of ‘NYE Countdown Show’ @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.”

He goes on to say that:

“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE, @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians.”

The clip was a mock year-in-review news bulletin, portrayed as a broadcast from satirical website Waterford Whispers News, where former RTÉ newsreader Aengus MacGrianna reads a report over video footage of a man dressed in white robes being led by gardaí from a court.

“A shocking revelation this year,” MacGrianna’s says, “God became the latest figure to be implicated in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal.

The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young Middle Eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will before being sentenced to two years in prison, with the last 24 months suspended. Following the news, movie producer Harvey Weinstein requested a retrial in Ireland.”

The Archbishop’s reaction and subsequent opinions are his own. He is entitled to them and I have no objection to his public expression of same – although Twitter seems to me to be an ever-so-slightly-less-than-appropriate forum for such a ‘weighty’ initiation of religious debate by such an esteemed authority as an Archbishop. Does the Pope have a Twitter account?

I have both a minor and a major issue with the Archbishop’s statement.

Minor is his amateur attempt to augment his argument by stating that his shock was all the more severe given that the clip was broadcast during the ‘Christmas season… & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God.’ There is an obvious inference here and it is this. The timing of the broadcast appears to insult the Archbishop all the more to the extent that we can safely assume his shock would have been less severe if the clip had been published at some other time of the year.

The national broadcaster, to its credit, appears to defend the clip while simultaneously apologising for any offence caused.

“RTE recognises that matters which can cause offence naturally differ from person to person, within comedy and satire in particular.”

The major problem I have with the Archbishop’s statement is that once again we have a case of the Catholic Church (albeit it an Archbishop – middle management) maintaining the position that everything it stands for is inviolate and must not be questioned (whether in seriousness or satirically) despite the countless examples of dogmas that have been discarded over the centuries of its existence.

The institution of the Church will always and stubbornly remain steadfast in its beliefs until overwhelming evidence to the contrary is presented authoritatively – and even then may resist. What the Archbishop fails to recognise publicly on this occasion, although I suspect privately he is well aware of, is the obvious satire contained within the clip.

The sheer hypocrisy (and subsequent atrocities – although not in this instance) demonstrated by Islamic fundamentalists when Charlie Hebdo published a satirical cartoon of Muhammad has once again been displayed by a religious leader, only this time that leader is not an Islamic fundamentalist but rather a conservative Catholic Archbishop appointed by Rome.

Whether Rome agrees with Eamon Martin remains to be seen but is largely inconsequential in my estimation.

Je suis Waterford!

Praying for miracles is just downright foolish!

I just came across this article I wrote four years ago, having commented on a Facebook post which, unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your position, is no longer available but was originally at – https://www.facebook.com/juanObey1234/posts/1857663211221504

The post (somewhat eerily) suggested readers ‘like’ a photograph of a weeping ‘Virgin Mary’ and type ‘Amen’ in the comments section below – to receive a miracle within the hour! I have redacted any identifying information to save the blushes of the muppets!

Instead of ‘Amen’, I typed:

You will receive a kick up the hole if you keep sharing this shite!

I received the following reply in a private message:

How dare you challenge the power of God!

To which, at some length, I replied:

If we take the reactions of people on Facebook to this post as a population sample of humanity, a number of questions occur.

At the time of writing there were 21,000 emoticons. There are 6 emoticon options (i.e. Like, Love, Wow, Haha, Sad & Angry) but only 3 are used — Like, Love and Sad.

Likes number approximately 20,000 with ‘Love’ & ‘Sad’ making up the (residual) balance. Liking and loving a post are the most popular options used by all Facebook users. It can be assumed (with a reasonable amount of confidence) that the ‘Sad’ reaction is due to the fact that the image depicts a woman crying (let us also assume the image is a replica of the Virgin Mary — from Christian teaching).

Despite the poster requesting that viewers both ‘Like’ and type ‘Amen’ to recieve [sic] a miracle, there are only 15,300 comments — which means (on the presumption that most of the comments are actually ‘Amen’ — I have not taken the time to scroll through them all) approximately 5,500 people fulfilled only half of the poster’s request — despite fulfilment of the request only requiring a couple of seconds to complete.

The principle questions uppermost in my mind are

1. If receipt of a miracle is considered to be as significant a life event as it should be among those that believe miracles are, in fact, possible, why have only (approximately) 75% of viewers completed both requirements i.e. like and type ‘Amen’?

2. Why have so many people responded at all?

It is to the second question I would like to turn my attention — the first appears to require more time than I have — given all the potential variables. I garner from the viral nature of the post that there is a deep-seated need in humanity. Remember, I started with the assumption that the responders to the post represent a sample population — and although the nature of the population raises more questions (e.g. what age range, beliefs are represented) — we must at least start somewhere in the absence of extensive data analysis!

The deep-seated need I refer to is the occurrence of a miracle — that miracle to be delivered by some higher power within the next hour. Let’s turn to the belief that there actually is a higher power that can deliver the promise — albeit a promise made by a member of Facebook. I think I am fairly safe making the assumption here that the poster is human — unless of course God himself is (at least) 13 years of age, has an email address, signed up to Facebook and created an account under the name of the poster — which would be deceptive of one not known for acts of deception — clearly, I am of the opinion that God fulfils none of these Facebook requirements — apart from maybe being old enough to have a Facebook account!

21,000 people (at the time of writing) have completed (or partially completed) the poster’s request to ‘Like’ and type ‘Amen’. Do they truly believe that this promised miracle will become a reality? Well — some probably do. Are they complying in the hope that the miracle will come true? Some probably are. Have some ‘liked’ on the off-chance a miracle is heading their way? Yes! Have a certain proportion responded because they simply like the concept of miracles. That could also be a valid explanation.

Ultimately though, 21,000 viewers have (for one reason or another) taken a few seconds to respond. I contend that a significant majority of the responders actually do believe (to some degree or another) that a miracle can occur and, further, believe in the higher power (i.e. God) who will deliver the promised miracle.

I am going to ignore the fact that they appear to believe in God and focus more on the fact that they have taken a few seconds to respond — for whatever reason.

When responding, were the viewers thinking of a miracle which would benefit themselves or were they thinking of a miracle which could be applied to someone they know in need of such an event? Let’s ignore those that were responding on behalf of someone else (in some perceived need of a miracle) and now focus on those that responded in the hope of receiving the miracle for themselves alone. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to everyone who responded except one. So, to continue, I am going to assume that only 1 out of 21,000 people who responded was hoping to receive a miracle which would benefit him (or her) alone. Although I suspect my generosity is far over-reaching with respect to reality, I am minimising my presumptions of the 21,000 to bring you to the next paragraph — which states the case for my reasoning in no uncertain terms.

To hope (and or pray) for a miracle for oneself is the most selfish act of belief in God possible! Belief in God presupposes an all-knowing and all-loving (omnipotent) entity. Surely then, knowing absolutely everything about you, God is sufficiently wise (and loving) without needing your prayers or aspirations to guide or implement the divine design for your life he has already created? I feel sure I should be capitalising the ‘H’ in ‘he’ but I’ll carry on — regardless.

Deferring to some external (unseen) entity in the hope or belief that

a. the entity exists

b. the entity can hear and listens and

c. the entity has the ‘power’ to implement

is part and parcel of all belief systems. Making a request for a miracle to benefit oneself, however, is nothing more than self-serving.

Additionally, to believe on the one hand God has a divine plan for each and every man, woman and child and, to then, with the other hand, pray for a miracle — contradicts (in an instant) the very nature of belief (and understanding) of God’s omnipotence — to the point of self-deception!

In closing, it must be said that if the act of praying (e.g. giving thanks, praising) satiates the mind or heart of a ‘troubled’ person, then I have no argument with that person’s need to pray. In fact, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. However, giving thanks or praising God are NOT the same as praying for a miracle. Even the simple act of praying for something ‘realistic’ (i.e. not some pie-in-the-sky miracle) for oneself is foolhardy! If you believe that God has already designed your life from start to finish — remember he’s busy enough implementing that — without having to make significant changes to the design because you prayed for a miracle. If you must pray for miracles — pray for them to benefit someone else. Your altruism might just convince God to put in ‘a little overtime’ — altering the design for your chosen recipient’s life!

Lord, I could do with a couple of thousand extra euro this month to pay off my credit card debts after the Christmas craziness!

Remember the plan for your life you believe God has designed? How could you possibly know if the miracle you are praying for is part of it? In all likelihood, it isn’t — so are you just chancing your arm that it might be? That’s not prayer! That’s just downright, plain ignorance — and folly!

Invariably, miracles DO NOT happen. Apparently, anecdotal evidence over an extended period of time (how long has the human race existed on earth?) would suggest, for the vast majority of believers, that’s NOT the way God works!

But maybe, just maybe, if you like the post and type ‘Amen’ (go on — sure it’ll only take a few seconds) this Facebook member can make it happen for you — within the next hour. You are far more likely to receive a kick up the hole from me (regardless of your geographic location on the planet or ability to run away) than a miracle from God. Do you play the lottery? Best of luck!

REPLY ENDS

I share here four years later by way of reiterating my position at the time, that position not having changed and being nicely summed up by the title of this post. Praying for miracles is just downright foolish!