Monday, February 25, 2013

David Quinn and the Sporting Chance

David Quinn begins his latest article by describing the killing of Reeva Steenkamp as a "high profile sporting scandal". The paragraph judges her name unworthy of inclusion and ends: "Whether or not [Pistorious] is eventually found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, his image is badly damaged." Callous is not the word to describe such prioritisation.

By coupling this with the hopefully unintentional pun of "heroes are proving to have feet of clay" Quinn left me ill disposed to view the remainder favourably. I trudged drearily through a list of sporting controversies, learning that Tiger Woods was unfaithful, that Armstrong partook of performance enhancing drugs and that paedarasts have not eschewed the role of coach. By travelling thousands of miles Quinn also succeeded in citing a single organised cover up of child rape outside religious spheres. He concludes that  sports fans do not abandon their calling through scandal, and the faith they display is thus demonstrably stronger.

How valid are these comparisons between religion and sport? Few could doubt the devotion displayed by fans who tattoo their bodies, construct shrines, wear sacred garments, attend regular gatherings and learn reverential chants. The time and money invested by committed sports followers far surpasses that invested by an average person of faith. Quinn states that "sport to them is a sort of religion", that they "believe in sport. [They] like it, value it and cherish it." and while I'd say it's more accurate to view religion and sport as devotional cousins, in the main we agree.

What implications does Quinn's broadened view of religion have?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who's Using Home Abortion Pills?

In 2009, the Irish Medicines Board seized 1,216 abortion pills destined for Irish addresses. This is a significant increase on the 2008 total of 48, though this may well be a result of improved detection rates rather than an increase in demand. No customs office is infallible and no prohibition is complete; it would be farcical to state that these represent the sum total of all abortifacients posted to our shores.

It is now 2013, and groups such as Women on Web no longer ship home abortion kits to addresses in the Republic of Ireland. Instead they suggest identifying a suitable address in Northern Ireland for delivery, requiring that their customer make a trip to collect. Customs interceptions have decreased as a result: they seized 671 in in 2010 and 635 in 2011. Does this mean that women are no longer performing abortions alone, isolated, and with a threat of prison sentence should they dare seek medical help?

I used Google trends to chart the popularity of searches for 'abortion pill' in England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland:

As a nation we're consistently more likely to be searching for information on abortion pills than are the citizens of Scotland and England. Northern Ireland spikes from highs to lows, a function of its lower population more so than rapid cultural change. And the point that must be emphasized is that increased customs seizures have not reduced this desire for knowledge. If anything it has grown.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On the Marriage of Iona and Twitter

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the past David Quinn has referred to me as hilarious and on the fourth of February he once more favoured me with endorsement by seeking to base a blog post entirely on data gleaned from Twitter. Those of you new to this blog will discover, as you delight in my past episodes, that this is something of a forté of mine.

Quinn's tentative steps towards imitating my methods are quite endearing. They consist mainly of copying and pasting tweets. He is but one man. Assistance was required, and who better to stand up to this momentous data gathering task than @IrelandStandUp? Regular readers will recall that they have some experience in the intricacies of Twitter automation, almost an eighth of their followers being paid for fakes. Their qualifications are further bolstered by direct experience with abusive tweets - they enjoyed tweeting faked pictures of abortions and strange references to demons, battles and snares of the devil during pro choice gatherings. (They've had the good sense to delete many of these tweets.)

Quinn's blog post was timed as a response to the Late Late show's discussion on marriage equality. Lacking any stronger point or argument of substance he opted to take issue with language used by viewers via Twitter. His upstanding companion and he compiled utterances deemed offensive and crafted from them a "river of bile", a cliché which will hopefully not impinge on his writing career.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Pro Life Atheist Guest Post

I'd like to thank David for writing the below. Like many of my past guest posts it's fair to say we disagree but  there's little point in blogging if you're not going to listen to those of differing opinions and as an atheist opposed to abortion his voice is one not often heard in the debate.

I requested this guest post through a rather unusual method. I'd examined the Twitter account of @ProLifeAtheists and found that most of their followers were Catholic. While I still consider @ProLifeAtheists a poor example for those seeking to demonstrate diversity among those opposed to abortion, it was never my intention to imply that being an atheist and not being pro choice were mutually exclusive. I'm glad that David has been willing to give of his time to share his thinking.

He's indicated that he'll be happy to respond to comments below as time allows. I know that he's a busy chap and appreciate any time he can give.

I was asked to put some of my thoughts on paper because I happen to be an atheist who happens to be ‘pro-life’. I was asked to explain ‘why I'm an atheist’ and to also outline my feelings on abortion.

Well, I was born to Catholic parents. I was educated in a Catholic environment, and I would say that my present ‘values’ would be Christian influenced. But who was Christ? Well at this stage, to me, he was a man who lived a few thousand years ago who had some pretty enlightened ideas on how people should live with each other, ideas which, I think, have much in common with most other religions/social philosophies of the world. To me, Jesus was a man with ideas, and he wasn't the first or last person in history to have been persecuted for proclaiming unconventional or unfashionable ideas. From around the age of 16 I finally decided to defy my parents by no longer routinely going to mass with with them on Sundays, cos I simply did not believe in the whole thing. As for me, ‘agnostic’ may have been what I was as I started thinking for myself as a teenager. But at this stage of my life, when I think on it, I realise that I have been an atheist for quite some time. It actually feels odd to me to realise, that if I were to be pigeon-holed, it would be into that little box marked ‘ atheist’. It’s not something I dwell on too much, and its not like I remind myself every Sunday that I'm an atheist by attending some atheist church!! And I don’t belong to any kind of atheist club or anything like that. I'm a bit surprised at the notion some people seem to have, that being an atheist can’t be compatible with being anti-abortion, and that folks might think I'm just pretending not to be some kind of praying church-going bible-bashing ultra-Catholic, disguising myself as an atheist just to try to be cool.