"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Sep 16, 2010

An atheist response to the Pope

It seems the Pope doesn't entirely distance himself from the remarks made by Cardinal Kasper.  The Pope wisely managed to avoid repeating the Cardinal's offensive reference to the UK being like a Third world country. It is clear though that the Cardinal was expressing Vatican views when he made reference to secularism in the UK.

The Pope said;

"Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the 2 billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world." 1

This comes of course from the man who leads an organisation responsible for covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests and which has sheltered paedophile priests within it's cloisters. Clearly the man has some interest in getting the agenda onto a different subject.

His reference to "aggressive forms of secularism" is of course no accident. It is his intention that his flock and others listening should make the mental connection between atheism /secularism and aggression and violence.  This might wash with religious adherents who are already dumbed down by the deadening hand of religious mumbo jumbo but it really doesn't wash as a peace of analysis.

The fact is that almost none of the violence that we see in the world around us today has roots in either secularism or atheism. The vast majority of the violence we see today appears to have it's roots in a tangle of religious and cultural issues.

Religionists love to give Nazism and Communism as examples of what happens when Atheists take control. Again this is simplistic nonsense. These movements , just like religions,  had their own Holy Books - Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, which the believers followed as though they were the words of some inspired being.  They were in fact political religions. Indeed the record is clear that in Germany many churchmen provided moral and religious cover to the Nazi regime. So such arguments hold little weight and the Pope clearly doesn't understand his history. ( see for example the Wikipedia article on the religious aspects of Nazism )

In Pakistan, India , Northern Ireland and many other places we see terrorism and communal violence which comes from a tangle of religious and cultural issues. In the USA we have seen right wing Christians bomb and murder people involved with family planning clinics. I can't recall the last time I heard of an Atheist strapping on a suicide vest and blowing themselves up - possibly because they dont think they'll be met by scores of virgins in some fictional afterlife. Perhaps there is a secret cadre of "Darwinists " somewhere planning suicide attacks on Churches and Mosques?

The Pope will be happy of course for his flock to make simplistic connections between real violence and secularism  or atheism but the Catholic Churches' real fear , and the fear of other religionists, isn't that Atheists are starting to hoard kalshnikovs for some mythical anti-religious revolution.

No my dear Pope, you see us as "aggressive" because we no longer sit passively and quietly while god-botherers like you have the stage of public discourse all to yourself. Secularists and Atheists are increasingly out there, in force, setting out the arguments for the irrationality of religion and pointing out the iniquity and hypocrisy that often accompany religions. That's what you and your like fear. That's why my dear Pope you see us as aggressive.

The problem is that we are parking our logical tanks on your theological lawns and taking you and other religionists on in a battle of rationality and reason. And you know you can't win in the long run. So you and other religious leaders must scare your flocks and make us bogeymen.

The reality is that no atheist or secularist that I know of talks about actually banning religion or religious observance or indeed trying to stop people enjoying their associated "cultural practices" - within reason. The trouble is that one man's religious cultural practice is anothers abuse of human rights.

If you are / were a believer in some forms of African witchcraft ( ** ) then you might think that abuse of so called witch children is religiously and culturally justified. I don't. Sorry - but you dont get to to do that in my country.  (** I wonder if turning bread and wine into the body and blood of christ qualifies as witchcraft or sorcery?)

The Catholic Church has it's own set of backward religious / cultural practices - a primitive and repressive approach to birth control and attitudes to homosexuality that offend peoples sense of human rights.   So the Church doesn't get to set the agenda in this country on these issues. If that counts as "aggressive" secularism then so be it.  If pointing out the hypocrisy and evil of the Church covering up the sexual abuse of children makes us aggressive secularists then so be it.  If we have you trembling in your Prada slippers worrying that your flocks may start to think for themselves rather than passively swallowing your religious nonsense then so be it. We need more such aggressive secularism - not less.


Looney said...

I too think the pope needs to clean his own house first. But the job of the Pontiff is to pontificate ...

Regarding the church and the NAZIs, I was just reading about a dissident theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the NAZIs a few days before the war ended. Part of the story is the use of rigged elections to put NAZI leaders in charge of all the churches. Similar fusses are active in China (Tibetan Buddhism, Catholicism), and happened earlier in the Soviet block where church leaders were appointed by the state.

At another level, however, it seems to me that the problems of the Catholic church - since the first requirement for unmarried clergy almost 2,000 years ago - has been ill disciplined promiscuity. "Aggressive secularism", however, seems to me to be a synonym for ill discipline and promiscuity. Can the later cure the former? Or did I completely miss something?

Bunc said...

Hi Looney,
I love that phrase - "the job of the pontiff is to pontificate".

It is clear that those pushing political religions will try to usurp traditional religions to their own ends - this isn't always difficult for them to do I suspect because the tendancy of the "flock" to have faith and want to believe can be manipulated. I guees it's abit like the way the Christians usurped some of the beiefs and cermonies of the earlier pagans.

I'm not quite sure how you see aggressive secularism and "ill discipline and promiscuity" as synonyms though. That strange religionist obsession with sexuality seems to be rearing it's head again.

Looney said...

Here in the US we can compare the periodic sex abuse of married clergy to the Catholic priests. The main thing we note is the industrial scale pederasty of the priests, followed by a parish shuffling when they are caught.

The married pastors usually molest one or two, have an affair with a prominent lady, and then get fired. Of course they usually migrate somewhere else and worm their way into another church, but at least it isn't an official transfer.

Bunc said...

Parish shuffling just about sums up the church's response to date.

I found it quite rich if the Pope to express his "sadness" at the Church's failure to address the problem.

This from the man who was peviously responsible for internal church discipline and has since been the head of the whole organisation !! Where is the sense of personal responsibility?

Livingsword said...

Now this was wonderful to read! Since I am a follower of Jesus thus neither Roman Catholic nor religious I must say I concur with you…

I would suggest to you that while you pontificate upon the thinking processes or lack thereof of those who believe that a deity created the universe (ala your main top column statement) that neither fish nor humans go “mountaneering” since it is not a word…perhaps you mean mountaineering? Just a tip from your friendly brainwashed and brainless Jesus follower…who used to be an atheist…

Bunc said...

Always happy when people identify spelling corrections.

It does remind me a little though of what happens in some organisations when early draft papers are distributed by folk - most people respond by concentrating on addressing the substantive issues but there are always a few whose only real contribution is to spot spelling or punctation issues.

I don't know how the world would make any progress without such folk. The world of ideas would be a poorer place without them that's for sure.
( note - I even spell checked my comment just for you !! )

Livingsword said...

Hi Bunc…

*humbly bowing*

Always a pleasure to talk with you…

Mea culpa is always on my mind…if you were to grammar check all of my articles you may harm your grammar checker! ;)

Let me tackle the substantive issue…it seems…perhaps…(enough disclaimers? No…)…that maybe…you infer that we who trust in a deity are perhaps not quite right in the head…or are…say…“brainwashed”…

I have noticed that many in the strongly opinionated atheist world (I am perhaps not including you here, but I was one of them)…seem to give the impression that they are intellectual (plus not prone to mistakes) and that any that trust in a deity are…well as bright as a tuna…

I suggest that we all make mistakes and cannot be 100% sure of our assertions. At many junctures of our lives we invest trust (or faith) into persons or objects…even atheist do this…

Bunc said...

Hi Livingsword,
Don't worry I was only teasing - I've no intention of spending my time grammar checking ...

On the substantive issue - no I don't think that creationists are necessarily "not quite right in the head" - except on the subject of creationism itself. I touched on the point you make here.

The evidential base for the scientific explanations of "creation" are so strong that it takes a particularly obtuse and ignorant approach to the subject to ignore this and sit in the "God did it five thousand years ago" camp.

However on many other issues in life a creationsist is as capable as anyone else of thinking rationally. The shame is that they set this faculty aside when it comes to the whole issue of creation and evolution. My asssertion is that they often do this not because of a rational approach but because this belief in biblical creation is so fundamental that it renders them almost incapable of actually grasping the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Hence my little paragraph at the start of the blog.

One area where I have more respect for the Catholic church is it's ability ( sometimes reluctantly ) to address the findings of science in a constructive way and to accomodate to them ( well some of them at least).

To accuse a "believer" whose beliefs are founded in faith of not basing their beliefs on rationality is of course merely to state a truism. Scratch the surface and believers will admit that their faith does not require evidence.

It's no coincidence that the Church sought to demonise "doubting" Thomas - for he wanted evidence before he would believe - and that of course is a cardinal sin in any form of religious belief system.

Only the truly religiously blind could stand on the Mount Everest of evidence pointing to a no-creationist explanation of creation and fail to appreciate the view.

Rummuser said...

Leaving aside all other supporting arguments, I heartily endorse your suggestion that we need more aggressive secularism, but qualified with the proviso that what passes for secularism now is replaced with complete and total disconnect between the state and religion, be it the majority religion or the minority one/s.

Bunc said...

Rum - we agree entirely it seems. I don't think that this type of aggressive secularism means forcing people to not worship or believe or anything like that.

Religion(s) should have no special status.

By the way - I'm completly unable to get a comment to submit properly on your last post. Im not sure why.

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