Monday, November 15, 2010

Why the pope eats beaver

Something reminded me this morning of the Catholic tradition of eating fish – or more accurately not eating ‘meat’ – on Fridays.  This is not commanded in the bible, but emerged as a tradition sometime later.  There are various stories purporting to explain the practice, but none seem particularly plausible.

It amuses me that the Catholic church, which is built on a foundation of insane notions such as zombie carpenters must have sat bolt upright and wide-eyed in bed one afternoon and said to the alter boy “You know, what we need is a bit more batshit insanity: we haven’t got quite enough”.  The way it works provides useful insight into religious thinking.

Laying off meat one day a week is a sacrifice, but it’s hardly up there with old testament style killing your children (or preparing to kill them, only to stop at the last moment when god tells you he was only joking: either way, the bible is chock full of human blood sacrifice of varying type and severity). 

These are people who believe that god wants them to avoid meat on Fridays.  The being that created the universe.  Who put in place every star and planet and who created life itself, the quintessential mystery.  The being who holds the power to grant an eternal life of bliss or of torment, depending on whether we do what he wants.

And yet, passing up a hamburger for a filet-o-fish one day a week is a bit too high a price to pay for an eternity in paradise and avoidance of hell.  So church leaders found ways to cheat.  Aquinas said you can’t eat "animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breathe the air and ... those that walk on the earth" and this was seized upon to mean it’s OK to eat those non-fish that spend most of their time in water.  Such as beavers, capybara, otters, presumably water-dwelling reptiles and so on.  And so it is officially permissible to eat those things on Friday, despite the fact that neither the people who made these rules, nor Aquinas on whose writing the rules were based, had any basis on which to claim special knowledge of what god wants.

This type of nit-picking is common in religious thinking.  It’s also hilarious that the entire institution of the Catholic church and its members are engaged in such a blatant and transparent attempt to fool what they believe to be an omnipotent, omnipresent being.  A being, moreover, who notoriously makes it his personal business to scrutinise what everyone thinks as well as what they do and to punish people with an eternity of torment for thinking the wrong things. 

This is the being they are trying to fool by saying beavers are fish.

Well, good luck with that, I guess. 

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