Radical new plan for Australian churches.

Churches throughout Australia will be converted into social housing in order to make use of empty space, following an announcement from Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston.

“Catholic and Protestant churches throughout Australia will be renovated and repurposed into social housing, because most churches currently sit vacant for the majority of the year,” Ruston explained.

“This masterful plan is a pragmatic use of an under-utilised asset and an opportunity to finally provide an adequate level of safe accommodation to thousands of vulnerable people in Australia.”

The plan was devised in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more people jobless or struggling to pay rent and provide for their families, which in turn placed even greater strain on an overstretched public housing system.

“Church buildings will be ‘decommissioned’ and renovated into apartment-style accommodation, and will provide basic and comfortable housing for individuals and small groups. The building contracts will soon be put out to tender, though we hear Scott Cam is very interested in receiving more taxpayer’s money,” Ms Ruston outlined.

The rationale for the world-first program was simple.

“Most churches are not used, except at Christmas and Easter. They are empty buildings. Very few people attend church services, and most of the regular parishioners are elderly, meaning there will be even fewer attendees in 10 years time. Space for new public housing is harder to find nowadays, so churches were an obvious choice.”

Churches were also chosen because they are situated in suburban locations near shops, transport, medical and recreational facilities. Many are also next to primary schools. Most Australian suburbs contain at least one church, including new suburbs.

“We are still deciding whether children will be eligible for this type of social housing, as most churches sit next to the house of the priest or minister. One solution to this problem is to house the priests or ministers elsewhere – maybe in the Tent of the Congregation.”

Church groups, meanwhile, are outraged at the plan.

“It is sacrilegious to destroy a place of holy worship and convert it into an apartment. It is an outrage. Churches are holy, sanctified buildings which connect worshippers with The Almighty. They are the centre of every parish. They must not be made into generic, cheap housing for any random person. Some of the residents may be non-Christians, some may have criminal records, be divorced, single parents or even be pedophiles,” claimed a spokesperson for an alliance of church leaders.

Supporters of the plan wonder whether church leaders are desperate to protect the holy buildings, or the expensive stained glass windows and other ornaments within them. Ms Ruston, meanwhile, was adamant that the churches will be protected in the renovation process.

“Delicate items such as the tabernacle and the stained glass windows will be removed and offered to the church to be used elsewhere. The renovations will be simple but tasteful, and if Scott Cam wins the tender, he will build the greatest bathrooms you have ever seen!”

Ms Ruston also reminded church leaders that their mandate is to serve the poor and the less fortunate, and to accept everyone. In addition, churches and religious buildings have been used throughout history to protect local people from invading armies or neighbouring tribes, natural disasters, bandits and even ruthless drug traffickers.

“Furthermore, all religious organisations receive financial assistance from the government as well as tax concessions, so it could be said that the churches were built and maintained with public money.”

Churches such as St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney will be retained as places of worship because they attract large numbers for regular church services, and because,

“…we need the tourism revenue, especially after border closures,” said Ms Ruston.

Renovation on selected churches will begin immediately after the 2021 Christmas rush.

The End of Charity Fund Raising

The kind-hearted and generous folk of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are hereby advised that all charitable fundraising activities must cease forthwith. Consequently, residents are no longer permitted to organise, or donate to, charitable efforts such as the Wardy Claus Christmas present drive for sick kids. Also prohibited are the annual Mullet Pro at Tamarama Beach raising awareness of mental health issues, and Boards for Bushfires from the Bronte Boardriders. Sophie Smith can no longer Run for Premature Babies, and any other activities designed to harness goodwill for the betterment of the world are outlawed.

The aforementioned charitable undertakings may only resume when:

  • Every royal family, everywhere in the world, abdicates the throne and redistributes their enormous ill-gotten wealth among the great unwashed.
  • Every single cigarette smoker (or vaper) on the planet quits their disgusting, self-indulgent and destructive habit and donates their smoking (or vaping) money to charity.
  • People stop paying $AU90 to have their fur baby receive a massage.
  • Multinational corporations pay the tax they are required, at law, to pay.
  • Corporations return the taxpayer-funded JobKeeper payments they received while recording massive profits during a pandemic. Go!
  • The world’s major religions release the substantial wealth hoarded in sites such as the Vatican, and direct it to the less fortunate: blessed are the poor.
  • Celebrities stop spending $1315 for a dog collar, $550 for a dog leash, and $84,000 on a car for their 9-year-old daughter.
  • The Australian government reverses the decision to spend $500 million to glorify war.
  • Church organisations in Australia stop defending paedophile priests and redirect the exorbitant legal fees to their parishioners throughout the world. Just drop it off at Vinnies.
  • FIFA and the IOC pay every person who works at their major events, such as the 2023 Women’s World Cup, including the volunteers whose work is essential to the conduct of those events.
  • Local politicians replace pink flowers with institutional change next International Women’s Day.
  • Mattias Cormann pays for his own international flights.
  • Fees for the country’s aged-care facilities do not pay for mansions with tennis courts and swimming pools.
  • The most expensive and elaborate building in the village or town of so many developing nations is not the church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other religious house of worship.
  • Australian taxpayers see a return on the $190,000 Scott Morrison spent on an empathy consultant.
  • Parliamentary pensions are paid on merit.
  • NSW Labor politicians stop shopping at Aldi.

In the interim, residents are advised that special dispensation will be given to GoFundMe pages raising money for highly-paid homophobes and reality TV failures seeking social media stardom.

Image: http://www.istockphoto.com

First published in The Beast magazine, July 2021

…no religion too…

Imagine there was no religion taught in Australian schools. Imagine removing religion from the curriculum of every school and thus removing the primary justification for the existence of private schools.

Why?

Private schools are detrimental to the Australia education system, and almost all private schools are faith-based.

How?

Ban compulsory lessons which teach students a particular faith and allow schools to only teach about religion, the way government schools currently approach the subject. Students at government schools currently receive instruction in their chosen faith only in lessons taught by religious specialists from outside the school, and only if their parents have chosen that option. The remaining students participate in other subjects. In contrast, religious education lessons at faith-based schools are compulsory.

Teach about religion.

Religion underpins Australian society. The Judeo-Christian world view informs our parliamentary and legal systems, so religion cannot and should not be ignored. History and Humanities subjects can still examine the role religion played in events such as colonisation and the Stolen Generation in Australia. Students can study, and even join, religious volunteer organisations like Vinnies and the Salvation Army. They can also research the Crusades and the Reformation, the conflict in the West Bank and Northern Ireland, and even the convergence of major religions in the court of Kublai Khan.

Is it possible to teach about religion without teaching religion?

Yes.

Government schools do it. Steiner schools do it, so do the small number of independent secular schools. I’ve done it. I had to explain the term BC to secondary students at a government school in Brunei, a country under strict Sharia law.

A module entitled ‘Belief Systems’ or ‘Faith’ could also present the broad principles of the world’s major religions, without instructing students to follow any of these systems of belief.

Would any fee-paying schools survive?

Yes. Non-religious private schools exist in Australia and include the following:

  • Steiner, Waldorf and Montessori schools.
  • International schools, such as International Grammar School in Sydney.
  • National schools, such as Japanese, French, German schools…
  • Schools such as Reddam House and Ascham in Sydney.

What if private schools dropped religion?

Many may survive. Reddam, after all, is famously non-religious and is entering its 21st year, while Ascham is one of the most prestigious girls schools in the country – for families who can afford it.

How are private schools detrimental?

Funding

Private schools continue to receive substantial government funding as well as contributions from the religious organisations which run them, plus fees from parents. The same religious organisations receive additional government funding – for being religious organisations, and enjoy tax concessions – for being religious organisations.

This reduces the funding provided to government schools, which are poorly resourced and struggle to offer a strong education to their students. An underfunded public education system produces an undereducated population, and this is bad for most of the country – most, but not all. A weakened public education system strengthens the private education system and offers an automatic head start to the students of private schools. So much for an egalitarian society.

Studies have indicated that the single biggest determinant of academic success in Australia is wealth. Thus, it is not surprising that the following attitudes exist among everyday Australians:

  • Private schools are better than public schools
  • People only send their children to public schools because they can’t afford private schools.
  • Private schools, especially Catholic schools, have better discipline.
  • Private schools are great for networking, which helps students secure employment later in life.

They’re not learning anyway.

Most students at Christian private schools know very little about their own faith. I can’t comment on Islamic or Jewish schools, because the majority of my teaching has been in government schools or Catholic and Protestant schools. Despite up to 12 years of instruction in one particular faith, most students will leave Christian schools with very little knowledge about the teachings of their own faith. So why should these Christian schools exist?

Australia is a secular society. Most students are not practising Christians, neither are their parents. Some students don’t belong to the faith of their school, nor do some of the teachers. Religious education is seen as the ‘bludge’ subject and very few parents ever book appointments with teachers of religion during Parent/Teacher interviews – but they all see the Maths teacher!

In fact, the dearth of religious knowledge among students at Christian private schools prompted a previous article on this site. The article proposes an independently administered exam in the faith of that school, to be sat by every student at that school (except K-2 students). If schools do not score an average of 80%, across the entire school, then they do not receive any government funding in the next round of funding distribution. They can only regain their funding when they score an average of 80% in the exam.

I am certain most Christian schools in Australia would not pass such an exam.

In addition, most Christian churches are largely empty during weekly church services, and Christmas and Easter are now a celebration of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Most children are sent to private schools because they are ‘better than the local public school’. Furthermore, the religious education subject is often given to (or forced upon) young teachers or new teachers at Christian schools, who can only ‘off-load’ the subject once they’ve proven themselves in their core subjects.

Australia is a secular country, and yet almost all of its private schools are religious.

Single-sex education

Most private schools are still single-sex. In 2021. Some have become wholly or partly co-educational, but most cling to their single-sex traditions. This can be beneficial to some of the students, depending on which educational theorist you read, but is it beneficial to society?

Students at single-sex schools miss the opportunity to mix daily with members of the opposite sex, but are suddenly forced to do so when they enter the real world. Moreover, some exclusive private schools still provide boarding. Thus, students study and live among their own gender, for up to 12 years. This informs their world view, and many of these students, especially boys, become leaders of society and make decisions which directly affect the lives of every Australian.

We are still suffering the results of this phenomena.

Attorney General Christian Porter was recently accused of historical rape. He was never found guilty, but was exposed for infidelity and sleazy behaviour with young female members of his staff, in a public bar near Parliament House. Porter attended Hale School in Perth. He and the remainder of his party have refused to allow an independent inquiry into his behaviour, which many Australians see as a disregard for the victim of the alleged rape and to women in general. The revelations prompted widespread protests throughout the nation calling for greater gender equality.

The response from the government has been appalling, and continues to inflame the conflict. Most of the politicians responsible for the response are male, and most attended single-sex, faith-based, private schools.

This follows the very public and misogynistic behaviour of students from two of Melbourne’s most exclusive boys private schools, Wesley College and St Kevin’s. It also follows allegations of a culture of rape and sexual abuse of girls by boys from Sydney’s most exclusive private schools, which was recently revealed in the mainstream media. An online petition signed by thousands of former private school girls alleges sexual assault by private school boys, and calls for greater focus on consent in sex education lessons delivered to boys. The creator of the petition, Chanel Contos, claims the culture of rape in Sydney is the worst she witnessed, despite having lived in two other countries.

Recent articles by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper, and from respected child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, do not blame private schools for the toxic masculinity that pervades Australian society. They do, however, concede that they are a contributing factor.

Restricted curriculum

Religious schools present a restricted curriculum. Religious doctrine determines their teaching of science, gender, sexuality and other social issues. Future leaders carry this particular world view into politics and make judgements based on that world view. Our government and business leaders have also grown up in a world in which religious chaplains replace qualified counsellors at schools.

Where will students learn religion?

At home.

Place the onus on parents to provide their children with a religious education, either entirely at home or at institutions like Sunday School. The classes would take place outside of school hours and receive no government funding.

How can students learn morality?

At home.

Religious devotees of all faiths often argue that a non-religious person cannot learn morality. The boys at St Kevin’s, Wesley College and Hale clearly did not learn morality. The male politicians in the LNP, most of whom attended faith-based, single-sex private schools, show no evidence of moral learning. It is clear that notions of gender, class and racial superiority took precedence over values such as compassion, morality, respect, tolerance and service, for students of these private schools.

Is this article just religion bashing?

No.

Religion bashing is certainly on trend in Australia, but this article is not targeting religion per se. The article cites religion as the primary justification for the existence of most private schools in the country, and nominates private schooling as the problem.

A precedent

Private schools are rare or non-existent in countries such as Finland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Scandinavian countries. Singapore does have private schools, but these cater mostly for international/expat children. These same countries consistently top the rankings in international standardised exams. Experts suggest there is a correlation. When almost every child is forced to attend their local government school, every parent has a strong vested interest in the quality of that school. Thus, parents put pressure on the government to maintain high standards at local government schools, and hold the politicians and schools accountable. In addition, the people who make the decisions about school funding and educational standards, politicians, also send their children to government schools.

In Finland, apparently it is illegal to charge fees for a child’s education.

One must also point to the culture of these countries, not just the lack of private schools. Academic achievement is highly regarded in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and this explains their success. The countries themselves are also far from perfect. Enormous pressure is placed on students in some Asian countries and this can have disastrous effects on young people That said, Australia can learn something from these countries as literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall throughout the nation.

What happens next?

What would happen if schools were prevented from teaching religion in Australia? What would happen to the schools?

Schools could drop religion and remain private. Many parents would not remove their children, because we’ve already established that most parents don’t send their children to private schools for a religious education, but for a better general education.

If private schools are not religious, religious organisations have no reason to fund them. They may run into financial ruin, at which point they would be taken over by the government and become public schools. Parents could leave their children in that school, or seek another private school and compete with other parents for limited spaces.

If existng private school parents were forced to send their children to a public school, they would put more pressure on the government and educational authorities to adequately fund and resource the school and to ensure strong academic outcomes. More parents would have a vested in in quality public education, just as they do in countries such as Finland, Japan and Singapore, and governments would have no choice but to allocate more resources and care to public education.

Not only would parents demand adequate funding for their child’s school, but children from different social backgrounds would attend the same schools, and this has been found to create greater empathy between all groups in society, including those who formulate laws.

Where will they find the money?

The money to fund public education exists. Much of it is currently being directed to private schools, some of it is sitting in government coffers waiting to be spent on projects which will win votes at the next election. If there were fewer private schools in Australia, public education would become one of those central issues which could determine the outcome of an election.

The main obstacle to adequate funding of public education is political will, and religion.

Images: Element5Digital, http://www.pridelife.com.

Satan bills the Vatican for construction of new facilities.

Satan has sent an enormous bill to the Vatican to cover the cost of constructing a new facility in the underworld to accommodate priests and brothers guilty of molesting children. The devil was forced to expand the overflowing facility set aside for paedophiles after countless ordained minsters were sent to hell upon their deaths.

“Too many priests and brothers are arriving in hell,” declared Satan. “We weren’t able to accommodate them all in our existing facilities after God refused to let them into heaven, and the new facility cost a fortune to build. It is only fair that the Vatican meet the cost of the renovations, because the priests belonged to the church.”

“Plus, we know the Vatican can afford it”

The construction of new facilities in hell is normally provided free of charge by property developers, who represent a large percentage of residents. If construction does incur a cost, that is normally met with the proceeds of crime, which always find their way to hell. In the case of paedophile priests and brothers, however, none of the residents of hell were willing to build their accommodation for free, such is the contempt in which they are held.

“Don’t forget, continued Satan, “that hell also takes the people who protected the paedophiles by covering up the crimes or moving priests to a different parish, so this adds substantially to the number of people we are forced to accommodate.”

Satan also explained that members of the church are accustomed to a certain standard of accommodation, especially the more senior members, and this added significantly to the size and cost of the new buildings.

The Vatican has refused to comment on the invoice, but anonymous sources inside the holy city revealed that the bill poses a significant problem for an organisation already embroiled in a financial controversy involving the misuse of millions of dollars. The sources also conceded that paying Satan would leave little money left to pay expensive lawyers to defend child molesters.

Australian government bans the teaching of Ethics.

The Australian government has outlawed the teaching of Ethics in all Australian schools for fear that it will encourage students to expect ethical behaviour from adults.

The ban will be implemented immediately and will include all government and private schools across all levels of education. All ethics activities will be replaced by studies of Christianity.

“Ethics has no place in Australian schools,” announced Minister for Education Dan Tehan.

“Just as ethics has no place in Australian society.”

Tehan explained that when ethics is taught, students expect ethical behaviour from adults such as politicians and business leaders, and that this was an entirely unrealistic expectation.

Ethics was previously offered as a stand-alone subject (or a module in other subjects) throughout the country in primary and secondary schools, and many students at government schools chose the subject instead of scripture classes.

The subject examined ethical and unethical behaviour in all spheres of life and aimed to create young people who would adopt lifelong ethical practices. Ethics will no longer be offered, and teachers of the subject will be forced into seminaries along with school counsellors.

“The only place students will see Ethics on the curriculum is in History, where it will be presented as a quaint relic of the past,” stated Tehan.

The minister then cited politicians as a prime example of unethical role models in contemporary society.

“Every day we see reports of grossly unethical behaviour from politicians (except me) who not only keep their jobs, but are voted back in at elections, proving that many Australian adults care little for ethics. Similar behaviour is repeated by leaders in the corporate world, and the shareholders who profit from their actions.”

“If we continue to teach ethics to the youth of today, they will develop an unrealistic expectation of ethical behaviour in the current national leaders, and are likely to engage in reasoning, critical thinking and the application of evidence when they become adults and take leadership of society.”

“For this reason, Ethics has been replaced with Christianity, which is much more effective in creating compliant citizens.”

Image: http://www.abc.net.au

La Virgen de Guadalupe.

Mexico is unique. It boasts its own distinct cuisine, its own colloquial language and its own liquor. Musical genres such as Banda, Musica Nortena, Narco Corridos and Mariachi originated in the country and Charreria belongs to the state of Jalisco. It stands to reason then that Mexico would possess its own Virgin Mary.

How is La Virgen different to The Virgin?

La Virgen de Guadalupe has dark skin. In contrast to the white-washed version of Jesus, Mary and Joseph which dominates contemporary conceptualisation of the holy Christian family, Mexico’s sacred mother bears the skin tone of the mestizo people of her homeland.

La Virgen also took physical form in Mexico. Mary immaculate, according to accounts in the Bible, only existed in body in the Middle East, but La Virgen is authentically Mexican.

The popular account told to every Mexican child is that La Virgen appeared to St Juan Diego in 1531. St Juan Diego was apparently an Aztec who converted to Christianity and saw the apparition of La Virgen on Tepeyac Hill. Juan Diego is believed to have seen the apparition of December 9 and again on December 12, and on one occasion La Virgen requested that a shrine be built on that site in her honour.

As with any report of a miracle, religious authorities at the time demanded proof from the witness. Juan Diego was ordered by the Bishop to provide proof of La Virgen’s presence before they agreed to build a shrine, so she told the young man to collect roses. Juan Diego then fronted the bishop and opened his cloak to reveal dozens of roses which fell to the floor, and, more importantly, an image of La Virgen on the inside of his cloak.

The famous image now appears in the Basilica of Guadalupe which sits on Tepeyac Hill in modern-day Mexico City.

Visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe is a pilgrimage of significant importance for many Mexicans and a cultural experience for foreigners. Many locals, and even tourists, speak of the transformative experience of entering the basilica to witness the unveiling of the image of La Virgen.

I visited the Basilica. I’m reluctant to share my thoughts and reaction to the experience of viewing La Virgen because every person will react differently to a site and an image of such revered religious, spiritual, historical and cultural importance.

The experience should be personal and reflective.

El dia de la Virgen is a celebration and veneration held on December 9 and December 12 in various locations in Mexico City. Why are there two celebrations for La Virgen? Firstly, because La Virgen appeared to Juan Diego twice. Secondly, because It’s Mexico.

The influence of La Virgen is evident in daily life and explains why so many Mexican women are called Lupita. Thousands of Mexican women are christened Maria Guadalupe in honour of the virgin, and are known affectionately as Lupita, even into adulthood. It’s impossible to travel through Mexico without eating at a ‘Tacos Lupita’, ‘Loncheria Lupita’ or a stall selling pozole, enchiladas, burritos or sopitos prepared by Lupita.

Christmas has Santa Claus, and Easter has chocolate eggs and a bunny, so the site of La Virgen at Tepeyac Hill must also succumb to the inevitable lure of commercialisation. Visitors can buy religious iconography in the form of crosses, statues and rosary beads, but also take home pillows, key rings, T-shirts and other paraphernalia bearing the image of the virgin.

A visit to the Basilica of Guadalupe can be a spiritual transformation, a patriotic obligation, a glimpse into history or an immersive observation of contemporary Mexican culture. Whatever the motivation, it is a worthwhile stop on any visit to Mexico.

Let Us Pray: Rodeo Townsville.

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The Professional Bull Riders event in Townsville was supposed to be a celebration of athleticism, courage and rodeo skill, but it was as much as celebration of religion, patriotism and the military.

The PBR Townsville was the final event of the Australian leg of the international sporting competition, and served as the finals of the national championship.

The overt militarism of the event was obvious before entering the stadium, as fans lined up for selfies with the sparkling new army tanks parked outside the convention centre. This continued during the prelude to the sporting contest as members of the defence forces were presented to the crowd, and when the American host referenced the military ties between Australia and The United States by using a phrase similar to “The Coalition of the Willing”. George Bush would have been proud.

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The bull riders were presented to the crowd and the well-lubricated fans showed their admiration for the athletes, especially those from Queensland. The raucous cheering subsided upon the singing of the national anthem, as cowboy hats were removed and beer cans put aside.

Once the national anthem was finished, I expected either an acknowledgement of country, or a bull bucking in anger. However, neither happened. An acknowledgement of country is a spoken recognition of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land on which an event takes place. Anyone can do it, and it has become very common in Australia in recent years. However, there was no acknowledgement of country at PBR Townsville. I don’t know why.

Nor did the action begin.

No, first we had to say a prayer.

I have never said a prayer before a sporting event in Australia, and I’m no spring chicken. But this was my first PBR, so I could only assume this is normal.

Thus, hats were removed, beer cans put aside, again, and the hundreds of people in attendance stood silently and in great reverence for a prayer which thanked god, thanked the military for keeping us safe and protecting our freedom, and asked for the safety of the riders and the bulls. Yes, the host even prayed for the bulls – but did not acknowledge country.

The prayer was also surprising because I can guarantee that most of the crowd, who showed great reverence and finished the prayer with a loud ‘Amen!’, would never got to church – except at Christmas and Easter, in true secular-Australian style.

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With the prayer over, and the military saluted, I though the bull riding would finally begin. But no, there was another treat for the audience: Ryan Weaver. The worst singer I have heard in public for a long, long time. This guy was worse than a drunken friend at a karaoke bar. He was terrible, but he was loved.

Why?

He was patriotic.

Not towards Australia necessarily, but towards the US. He emerged in boots, buckle and big hat, with the stars and stripes emblazoned on his T Shirt. He was universally loved because he sang about patriotism and the military, and because he is a US war veteran.

Once Ryan had made his patriotic exit, the bull riding finally began.

The action was impressive, as the hulking masses of beef bucked off rider after rider and only a select few riders manged to stay on their ride for the mandatory eight seconds.

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One rider stood out from the rest not because of his scores, but for another reason. His name is Cody Rodeo Tyler. Yes, that’s his real name. On his birth certificate, his passport and his entry form.

The boy from Guthrie, Oklahoma was obviously destined to ride bucking animals, and he does it well. One wonders, though, if Cody has a son and wants to set his offspring on the path to success in the future, will he call him Cody ‘Rodeo’ Tyler Jr., or Cody ‘Influencer’ Tyler.

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Cody and his colleagues threw themselves around the arena for the initial rounds in an attempt to qualify for the final, and after many thrills and spills, an intermission was called so the riders could take a well-earned rest.

I was deciding whether I needed to go and buy another pie, take a comfort break or stretch my legs, when the decision was made for me. Ryan Weaver walked back out onto the arena and belted out another massacre.

Time for a pie.

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Ryan finally made way for the riders, who treated the crows to some exciting action and spectacular falls.

Who won the event in the end?

Let’s just say patriotism was the winner

Australians flock to churches after closure of Uluru.

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Australian and international tourists are planning to hike through places of worship across the country following the announcement that Uluru will be closed for climbing in October this year.

The Desecration Tour, as it has been labelled, will begin at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney before continuing to other churches as well as temples, mosques and synagogues throughout the nation. Streets surrounding religious buildings will soon be inundated with vehicles parking illegally, while residents have been warned that their gardens are likely to be used as toilets and rubbish dumps.

Participants in the Desecration Tour are determined to hike in as many sacred sites as possible after learning that they will be prevented from climbing Uluru due to the wishes of the Anangu people, the traditional custodian of the land on which Uluru lies.

The famous rock in the centre of Australia has always been scared to the Anangu people, who ask visitors to respect their culture and beliefs. Despite their wishes, and the multiple, multilingual signs at the base of the rock, hundreds of tourists climb the rock every year.

Tourists are set to don hiking shoes, backpacks and zinc cream as they descend upon places of worship, where they will take selfies, enjoy a picnic, leave behind rubbish and place themselves and others in danger.

Visitors will be encouraged to visit as many sacred places as possible, and record their achievements through the Sacred Summits App and facebook page, where they can upload photos as proof of their conquest. Visitors will earn extra points for conquering a sacred place during a religious ceremony, such as the Christian mass.

The facebook page has already attracted thousands of ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘comments’ and ‘posts’ and has united tourists, who are calling on religious organisations to install toilets, rubbish bins and other amenities on the altar or consecrated section of each religious building, in order to cater for the visitors. Countless members have also demanded doggie bowls so that their dogs can have a drink.

Religious groups have issued mixed responses to the news. Many were horrified that grown adults would knowingly desecrate a sacred site in direct opposition to the stated wishes of the custodians of the land, while others promised to welcome all visitors.

“We’re just glad to have someone turn up to Mass,” conceded a spokesperson for Christian church groups in Australia.

“The only person who has been on the altar of our churches for many years is the priest, or minister, because most of our parishioners are too old to reach the altar, and we can no longer invite children to the altar in light of recent events.”

Tourists, meanwhile, have taken to social media to express their delight at finding a new opportunity to demonstrate their respect for sacred beliefs.

“Religious sites belong to all Australians, and all Australians should be able to climb them.”

“If I don’t climb this mosque, someone else will.”

“This rocks – let’s bag this b/.ch”

“Wow, great idea, plus it’s free, heaps cheaper than Bridge Climb.”

“Great way to teach my kids true Aussie culture and Aussie values.”

“Wonderful initiative, hiking through sacred sites will help me to gain a greater understanding of various religions.”

“Following the footsteps of Moses, who climbed…something.”

The Desecration Tour is set to continue for an unspecified period of time, and will even involve scaling the stage of the Horizon Church in Sutherland, in Sydney’s south, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison prays for all Australians. Tourists have already created a spin-off called Climb the Hillsong, to take place at every Hillsong megachurch throughout Australia.

Image:www.australiantraveller.com

 

 

God bless my Taxi.

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We craned our necks for the source of the excitement. We could hear it but we couldn’t see it.

What was it?

Horns blaring, engines roaring, people shouting, music blaring, bells ringing.

From atop the hill we had a great vantage point over Zacatecas and its surrounds, yet we still couldn’t determine the source of the noise.

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Was it a protest, was it a celebration, a festival, a fiesta, a beauty contest, a football game…?

It’s often hard to tell in Mexico, as any event seems to be a perfect pretext to become boisterous. Any day, any time.

The origin of the pandemonium eventually revealed itself. A fleet of brightly decorated taxis rounded the bend and climbed the hill in a convoy of commotion. Vehicles were draped in streamers, covered in balloons and painted or wrapped in the national flag. Red, white and green dominated the scene as more and more taxis wound their way up the hill to the church.

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Why?

To be blessed, of course.

On this particular day, the taxis of Zacatecas were receiving their annual blessing from the priest and, through him, the almighty. They were asking for protection and, no doubt, many lucrative fairs for the next 12 months.

Patriotically-adorned taxis and motorised mayhem lined up outside the church and the noise eventually subsided as the drivers and their family and friends waited for the priest to bless every vehicle in turn.

While the event certainly surprised me, it was not entirely unexpected. Sure, I’d never seen taxis blessed in my own country, but I had noticed during my time travelling in Latin America that taxi drivers would bless themselves every time they drove past a house of worship.

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The procession of taxis had interrupted our quiet inspection of La Quemada archaeological ruins, so we decided to return to the city. With tired legs and the burden of history upon us, we realised the best way to return to the city safely, and saintly, was by taxi.

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Can Gay people save the world?

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The biggest problem facing the world at present is overpopulation. Gay people could help us solve that problem.

The number of people on the planet is placing enormous strain on resources and population numbers look set to increase. One solution to this problem is to limit the number of children being born, and gay people could play a large part in this.

Before we continue, it is important to establish that, for the sake of this article, ‘gay’ and ‘homosexual’ refer to men in relationships with other men, and women in relationships with other women. Yes, the article does use a very narrow definition of gender, but the premise of the article is based on the simple fact that ‘gay’ people cannot naturally reproduce.

This, therefore, is the starting point for our theory.

Gay people cannot naturally reproduce, and, therefore, cannot naturally add more people to the population. Even in countries in which same-sex marriage has been legalised, biology prevents couples from creating their own children.

What about artificial insemination?

Yes, gay people can turn to modern medicine to help them start a family, and this has been successful in many cases. But, remember, effective and safe insemination services are only available in wealthy countries, and sometimes only to the more wealthy people in those countries. Most people in the world are not wealthy, most people work very hard to put food on the table every day. So, while this option helps create loving families in some parts of the world, it is not a realistic option for most couples.

Plus, artificial insemination adds another human to the planet.

What about surrogacy?

Like artificial insemination, this is another successful method used to bear children. But, like insemination, it is often only realistically available to couples from wealthy countries. Many women is poorer countries do act as surrogates, but only out of sheer economic desperation. Surrogacy can place significant strain on a woman, and lead to dire results. Furthermore, many men in these patriarchal societies are unlikely to approve of their wives carrying a child for other people – unless there is significant financial compensation.

Plus, surrogacy adds another human to the planet.

A one-child policy?

China tried the one-child policy. It didn’t work, for the simple reason that any system that is created by humans can be exploited by humans.

Interestingly, in the case of the one child policy in China, apparently, the ‘one child’ referred only to the women. If a man divorced his wife, then re-married, he was apparently allowed to have another child with the new wife – therefore bringing two children into the world.

What about adoption?

Yes, gay couples can adopt, and many of them do. Through adoption, a child finds a home and a couple is gifted a child to love. It is usually a very positive outcome for all concerned, and it is a positive outcome for the planet because an adopted child has already been born. The parents of the adopted child are not creating another child and are therefore not adding to the world’s population.

Thus, gay couples adopting children is one effective solution to reducing the number of children being born, and this is clearly the most humane solution to limiting population growth.

What are the other methods of limiting population growth?

A human cull.

Extermination of people in order to reduce the number of humans on the planet.

Yes, this is a deplorable suggestion, but it has been attempted before. It has been attempted by all of those people who filled the pages of your highschool history books – Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao Zedong…many of whom deliberately attempted to eliminate particular groups of people. Surely this could never happen again, you argue, we are now too enlightened, we’ve learned from our mistakes.

Really?

Examine the rise of extremism throughout the world, and examine how many of these extremists are unemployed, poor, displaced and affected already by overpopulation.

Natural forces

Unfortunately, if population increases as it is expected, and if the world continues to operate according to the current reality, it is natural forces that will reduce population numbers.

This is not good.

Natural forces include hunger and starvation, borne from poverty, as more people compete for fewer jobs. Another natural force is environmental destruction, which is already destroying access to clean water, food sources, clean air and spaces fit for human habitation. Some people are already dying as a result of environmental destruction, and informed projections indicate that this phenomenon will only increase.

Another natural force is conflict. Conflict is inevitable in humans, but this primal trait will manifest itself more frequently and more obtusely in a world full of hungry, disillusioned people who have become economic and environmental refugees.

If gay people can help save the world, what is stopping this from happening?

Religion

Religion is an impediment to limiting population growth. Religion stigmatises or even criminalises homosexuality and same-sex relationships which not only causes harm to homosexual people, but often forces them into marriages they do not want. These marriages produce children. Often those children are loved, and provided for, but they would not have been born if one, or both, of the parents had not been heavily pressured to conform to their society’s dominant religious belief.

We might also digress and examine the fact that religion discourages contraception and many religious families bear many children. Furthermore, religion, of any kind, is often a barrier to abortion and so many women give birth to child that they either didn’t want or can’t realistically support. Legalising and providing safe access to abortion is one way to not only to control population numbers but it helps to ensure that many children do not enter the world without the love and support that they need in order to thrive.

Men.

As long as men control women’s bodies and reproductive rights, limiting population numbers will be impossible. Men still largely control legislation, relating to issues such as abortion and LGBTQI rights. Men still control religions. Men still control relationships and, in most parts of the world, men determine if a woman will fall pregnant.

Ignorance and intolerance.

Ignorance, intolerance, hate and criminalisation of homosexuality often forces many men and women to remain in the closet. As discussed earlier, many gay and lesbian people are living in marriages they would not choose if it were not for the stigma attached to homosexuality in their societies.

Removing stigma, criminalisation and discrimination against the LGBTQI community should enable more people to live as they want to live, and may, in turn, help reduce the world’s population and create a more livable planet for everyone.

Image: Vector Stock