synthetic zero


July 21, 2007

Sue found this article on the journey of a Los Angeles Times religion reporter in today's paper. He began as a fervent believer, but found his faith sorely tested by what he uncovered during his years on that beat...

I also thought that the victims --- people usually in their 30s, 40s and up --- should have just gotten over what had happened to them decades before. To me, many of them were needlessly stuck in the past.

But then I began going over the documents. And interviewing the victims, scores of them. I discovered that the term "sexual abuse" is a euphemism. Most of these children were raped and sodomized by someone they and their family believed was Christ's representative on Earth. That's not something an 8-year-old's mind can process; it forever warps a person's sexuality and spirituality.

Many of these victims were molested by priests with a history of abusing children. But the bishops routinely sent these clerics to another parish, and bullied or conned the victims and their families into silence. The police were almost never called. In at least a few instances, bishops encouraged molesting priests to flee the country to escape prosecution.

I couldn't get the victims' stories or the bishops' lies --- many of them right there on their own stationery --- out of my head. I had been in journalism more than two decades and had dealt with murders, rapes, other violent crimes and tragedies. But this was different --- the children were so innocent, their parents so faithful, the priests so sick and bishops so corrupt.

...I sought solace in another belief: that a church's heart is in the pews, not the pulpits. Certainly the people who were reading my stories would recoil and, in the end, recapture God's house. Instead, I saw parishioners reflexively support priests who had molested children by writing glowing letters to bishops and judges, offering them jobs or even raising their bail while cursing the victims, often to their faces.

On a Sunday morning at a parish in Rancho Santa Margarita, I watched congregants lobby to name their new parish hall after their longtime pastor, who had admitted to molesting a boy and who had been barred that day from the ministry. I felt sick to my stomach that the people of God wanted to honor an admitted child molester. Only one person in the crowd, an Orange County sheriff's deputy, spoke out for the victim.

On Good Friday 2002, I decided I couldn't belong to the Catholic Church. Though I had spent a year preparing for it, I didn't go through with the rite of conversion.

How could this happen? There has been a terrible disaster, a failure, I believe, among institutions claiming to promote spirituality. I believe it is because religion in our culture has become about "belief", it not only substitutes belief for skeptical investigation, it even actively suppresses investigation and critique. When your ethics are based on belief, they are easily broken indeed. There are much more sound bases for ethics, and spirituality, ones which can withstand critical scrutiny --- and which do not depend on blind belief at all --- and these bases ought to be publicized. It wouldn't be necessary for crimes and travesties to remove the basis for spirituality, in that case --- because it would have a much more solid, unassailable, basis. But most religions are fundamentally structured on a different assumption: a much more fragile one.

July 19, 2007

At a meditation retreat in San Luis Obispo. Very pretty country. It's been very deep for me, this time, not because I've gone anywhere, but precisely the opposite: just diving into where I actually am, as opposed to where I think I am. Where we actually are, what we actually are, and have always been ... that's the key. It's unlimited, and vast, and always already the case.

July 15, 2007


Penny Preszler, 46, a furniture refurbisher in Phoenix, said she had stopped wearing red on Fridays as she had done for the past year to honor the war effort. "It was when my son started saying he wished he could be injured so he could come home," Ms. Preszler said.

"There was no pride left in his voice, just this robotic sense of despair," she said, describing a telephone conversation with her son, Skyler, 24, an infantryman on his second tour of duty in Iraq. "Mom, we killed women on the street today. We killed kids on bikes. We had no choice," she recounted his saying.

The same week, she said, her son told her he thought he had seen the worst when he had to pick up the body parts of his dead buddy, but then he saw an Iraqi boy picking up what was left of his dead father.

Those who don't understand war don't understand that the thing you should fear is not being killed, but unleashing chaos. That chaos will rebound back onto you: but what's even worse than that is the fact that you've inflicted this chaos on others. If you aren't deathly afraid of this possible consequence of war, you had better not be the one making the terrible decision to go to war in the first place. Only those who know this in their bones have any business even contemplating entering a war.

July 10, 2007

The future is filled with things and events that seem impossible.

July 9, 2007

Manufactured Landscapes at Film Forum is beautiful, stunning, disturbing, and intriguing --- a documentary about the photographer Edward Burtynsky, it is filled with arresting images and a fascinating examination of how we as a human species are transforming, in ways both impressive and destructive the landscape, nature, and the world. It ends Thursday so see it while you can!

July 8, 2007

Saw A Zed and Two Noughts last night --- strangely enough, It was kind of nostalgic in a way --- absurdist and over the top in a way that made me think about the ways in which the culture has shifted since then --- it seemed for a while that we would just get more and more over the top as time went on, but these days things have moved in a very different direction. It was extremely well done, even if a kind of, as I say, nostalgic throwback.