Brian May, best known as the guitarist from Queen, writes a sort of blog which he calls a "Soapbox".
If you don't know anything about Brian (or about Queen for that matter), you might be forgiven for assuming that a rock star's blog is likely to be a fairly thin gruel. That would be a mistake. Brian is amongst other things a PhD in astronomy, a passionate stereo photographer, a univeristy chancellor, and a generally brilliant, interested-in-everything lovely guy. As for Queen, well they were the smartest, most talented band in our history, whose tongue-in-both-cheeks humour confused the dead mass of critique into thinking they were frivolous. But the simple-minded always find the great frivolous, looking instead for a sign of what they consider to be intellectual cred, like certain key words, and standard positions on particular issues. What they would make of Mozart's lovely piece called "Lick My Arse" would be interesting to see.
Brian's current entry continues a discussion about Relativity. There's always lots of juicy physics stuff there, and that's not an oxymoron. But I have to take issue with him about the rolling out of the standard hagiography about Galileo and the Catholics. Brian says: "How terribly sad that he was incarcerated and mentally (and probably physically) abused by the Catholic Church. I believe they have now apologised." The story of what happened to Galileo has become a sort of turban myth, like the War on Terror - short on detail, and all the more melodramatic the less detail there is. If you actually read the full details of the Galilieo trial and the events leading up to it, it's pretty clear that the Catholics on many occasions offered him an out-clause, and he behaved like a self-righteous prat. Fundamentalism was being bandied about by both sides, in illiberal doses.
Brian goes on: "For organised religion has been at the root of so much of the injustice and needless violence of the last two thousand years. Surely it is a basic human right of every person, to pursue his (sic) own private relationship with his God? And not try to force his views on his neighbour?" You know what he means, and of course nobody should be bullied or persecuted. But really this sort of historical analysis is about as accurate and as sophisticated as "poo bum wee". The thousands of innocent people tortured and killed for their beliefs that Brian mentions pale into utter insignificance next to the tens of millions suffering the same fate under the various atheistic fascist regimes of the last century, for starters. I don't care for attempts to point the finger of responsibility at religion or at anyone else, to be honest - I think stupid dumb fucks will always find reasons to be stupid dumb fucks. And atheists invented the bomb, although for sure loons of the religious persuasion would love to get their hands on it. So long as you have a big bad nasty thing to point the blame at, idiot individuals keep getting away with doing idiot things.
Further while Martin Luther would enjoy tremendously Brian's attempt to turn religion into a Freudian, individualistic me-and-my-God thing, alas that again makes as much sense as asking politics to be only about what each man (or woman, Loretta) thinks should happen. We've tried that, each man or woman it turns out often enjoyed nothing more than cutting throats. On top of this the cosmologists within physics itself talk and act more like religious fundamentalists than many fundamentalists, and let's also not forget the basic fundamentalism of most of science itself in its belief in an 'objective world out there'. Out where? Why isn't it just here? And why do only scientists know how to access it? I'm sorry, I have no trouble accessing reality right here.
I'm sorry, I see loons everywhere, in every sphere of life.