Friday, January 06, 2006

Heresy and Hearsay

Former Italian seminary student (and current “just old Italian guy”) Luigi Cascioli has brought a lawsuit against his former seminary buddy (and current “old Italian priest guy”) Enrico Righi – and the Catholic church at large – claiming that they have broken two Italian laws.

The first is Abuso di Credulita Popolare (Abuse of Public Belief) that was put into effect to protect the Italian people from being conned or swindled. The second is Sostituzione di Persona (Impersonation).

Cascioli charges that the laws have been broken because Righi and the church claim that Jesus actually existed.

So, of course, when I heard about this I knew that I had to put my two-cents in.

The case is going before the court for a preliminary hearing on January 27th to see if the case warrants being heard “for realsies” (legal jargon). If it does actually go before the judge, then finally there will be a ruling on the books in Italy as to the existence of Jesus.


Luigi’s motives for bringing the case stem from an incident that occurred which was not unlike something that might have happened to you – in junior high school. See, Luigi said that Jesus didn’t exist, Righi said “yuh-huh, he did too” and then, using his powers as a parish newspaper editor, published a story about how Luigi was a “dumb old blasphemous booger-head” or something.

Then it was off to the races. (As an editorial note, it’s nice to finally see Italians becoming more litigious. It melts my American heart.)

Other than being called a booger-head, and his devout atheism, Luigi has another motive. He just doesn’t like the church. He said “I started this lawsuit because I wanted to deal the final blow against the Church, the bearer of obscurantism and regression.”

Now, I’m an atheist, I should tell you that. I agree with Luigi about the church for the most part (and the dude gets points for using “obscurantism” in a sentence. In case you were wondering, the definition is: opposition to the spread of knowledge : a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public). I mean, that’s the reason the church exists isn’t it? To keep the followers in line? To keep them on the path? They’re the shepherds, aren’t they? Or at least the under-shepherds. And you can’t be a good shepherd if half of your flock goes off with a bunch of hookers to a String Theory Science convention in Vegas on a whim can you?

Ponder no more, the answer is no. You can’t.

So, yes, Luigi has a point. And it’s possible that soon an Italian judge will make a ruling for or against the existence of Jesus.

But here’s where my two-cents comes in.

Who cares? Who cares if Jesus lived or not? It’s not really the point is it? The argument is whether or not he’s the son of god, right? I mean, in my atheist mind that seems to be the crux.

See, legally speaking (and I don’t know how the courts work in Italy so I’m basing this on my infinitesimally small knowledge of the American court system), Luigi’s going to lose. He knows he is. He even made a joke about it. “It would take a miracle to win” he said.

Ha, ha. That’s a good one Luigi. But there’s a bigger problem here. In a civil case the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Luigi has to prove that Jesus didn’t exist. (Although I’m pretty sure that it’s not the case in Italy since Luigi said this: “In my book, 'The Fable of Christ,' I present proof Jesus did not exist as a historic figure. He must now refute this by showing proof of Christ's existence.”) And how can one prove that something didn’t exist? I believe that you can prove a negative, but it gets way more difficult to do when that negative you claim to be able to prove didn’t exist, “didn’t exist” 2000 years ago and has a crapload of stuff written about its existence (even if it is all speculation and hearsay).

So, Luigi’s going to lose. If he goes to court he’ll lose, and if he doesn’t go to court he’ll lose. And then Christians everywhere (United States) will hail the victory as the proof of Christ’s divinity.

A lot of Christians (American ones) love to use this logic: if something is said about something, say “Christ was the son of God,” and Christ actually existed, then Christ is, obviously, the son of god (I understand that by referring to Jesus as Christ, I’m inadvertently implying something, I just got tired of typing “Jesus”). This is obviously flawed logic. And most Christians (Europeans) would agree. But it doesn’t seem to stop them from becoming all self-righteous and smug every time another “lost” location from the bible is discovered.

Hey, they shot a scene from the movie “Gigli” at a pizza joint on the corner here near my house. Now, I can go to that pizza place (if I want to break my diet) and order a slice of their famous New York style pizza (which is delicious by the way, yummy pizza) and bring it home to eat it (damn this diet), but that doesn’t prove that the events that took place in the movie actually happened in real life – and it for damn sure doesn’t prove that Ben Affleck can act.

So what am I trying to say? I don’t know. All I can think about now is pizza.

Oh, yeah! As an atheist, I get tired of other atheists. I mean the ones who try to make a federal case out of everything (leave that to the Pat Robertson crowd). I agree, I don’t think that the phrase “under God” should be in the Pledge of Allegiance (it was added by Eisenhower in 1954. Is it because “we like Ike” so much that it’s become such a precious part of the pledge? Or is it religious exclusionarism? Hint: the answer is “B.”) and I don’t think that we should teach “Intelligent Design” in public schools.

But as atheists, I believe that we have to be as respectful to the Christian’s point of view as they are intolerant of ours. That’s the only way we’ll be able to live together.


Fun Fact: Cats make good pets. Indisputable!

And goodbye Lou Rawls, you performed some good music, man. Sad. Not “fun” at all.

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