I was recently involved in a bit of a twitter spat when I ‘came out’ as an atheist in a religious thread. I was agreeing with a sentiment that a religious moderate put out (except for the “god bit”).
In response, I had two religious fruitcakes going on about how I would find god if I suffered enough.
No, I won’t.
And how condescending is it to assume my unbelief is only skin-deep, and at the first sign of trouble I’ll start asking for help from an infectious imaginary friend?
Put the boot on the other foot: Do christians give up their god at the first sign of trouble? Do muslims? Imagine ‘coming out’ to an atheist that you’re a christian, and the response: “Never mind; maybe sometime you’ll regain your sanity and become god-free”
Within the atheist community, the attitude towards the catholic church can sometimes verge on the old-fashioned protestant style anti-catholic bigotry. That isn’t to say that the RCC doesn’t deserve its fair share of criticism – in particular women’s rights and reproductive rights.
But some of the anti-catholicism can be a little extreme.
But that was centuries ago! Were the crusades evil? Of course they were.
But take a look at what other organisations were up to at the same time – secular rulers were doing pretty much the same thing (usually at a smaller scale).
If you look at secular rulers of the early mediæval era, a good proportion of them qualify under modern standards of behaviour as psychopaths. Most “noble” families started off as successful raiders and war bands whose winning strategy at accumulating wealth was to find those with some wealth and extract it from them with force.
And the church leaders? Many of them were from those families and so it is not surprising that the mediæval church had its own psychopaths.
Take the Cathar Crusade in southern France as an example. It was the source of the phrase “Kill them all; God will know his own”. The catholic church spent nearly 100 years trying to convert them peacefully, and it was only after a papal legate was killed that the crusade began.
And this is all ancient history – when was the last catholic crusade?
So every priest is a pædophile? Not even close – the proportion of child abusers within the church is probably much the same as the proportion of child abusers within any other organisation with power over children. See https://www.newsweek.com/priests-commit-no-more-abuse-other-males-70625; one interesting datum from that article is that the insurance industry rates for sex abuse insurance are the same for catholic churches as for any other denomination.
And insurance companies hold no truck with religious morals; they deal with hard statistics and probabilities.
The RCC can be quite reasonably criticised for past crimes in concealing child abusers, and suspicion over how they will treat future crimes is not unreasonable.
But I don’t see them reacting differently to every kind of organisation which reacts to protect the name of the organisation. Protecting child sex abuse is an extreme example of this, but has still occurred in many different kinds of organisations.
The RCC is also a bit of a special case in that it predates nation states in existence today (the oldest state is Iceland which was formed in the 9th century) and has a long tradition of managing itself independent of secular authorities.
In a sense, the RCC thinks of itself as the authority in charge of the hierarchy and wouldn’t think of informing secular authorities of issues. This may be changing, and needs to change.
The Catholics and The Nazis
There are those out there who seem to be under the impression that the RCC was in cahoots with Hitler and the Nazis; such people are woefully and abysmally ignorant of the history of the times.
This might come across as a bit of a white-wash of the RCC, but it is not intended as such. It is merely intended to point out that the RCC is no more culpable to child sex abuse cases than many other organisations which have had similar incidents.
One thing that may be commonly overlooked is just how large the RCC is. There are approximately 2.4 billion christians around the world; of whom nearly 1.3 billion are catholic. You can take every single baptist out there (up to 100 million) and they will amount to no more than the error bars on the estimate of the number of catholics. No wonder that nearly every other week there is a new catholic scandal.
The phrase “Islam is a religion of peace” gets bandied about a great deal these days – either by those saying that it is a religion of peace and islamic terrorists are an aberration, or by those who question whether islam is a religion of peace at all.
To be honest though, the phrase is irrelevant. You can have the most peaceable religion in existence and yet fundamentalist followers of that religion will resort to violence, and yes you can have a religion that calls for the torture to death of all non-followers, yet if the followers of that religion are peaceable nobody is at risk.
Questioning the religion as a whole is all very well (and as someone who would prefer that all religions disappear in a puff of logic, usually to be encouraged), but it does tend to encourage the kind of idiot who normally goes in for racism into attacking all muslims (and often sikhs as well) because of the sins of a few.
Muslims are just people; people with the disadvantage that they have been indoctrinated into a faith – not much different to christians, sikhs, hindus, jews, or zorastrians (and if I’ve left out your religion, yes I mean you too). Some are good people; some are bad.
But in the words of Steven Weinberg: “but for good people to do evil—that takes religion”.
But truisms like that are overly simplistic; religious terrorists are people who are convinced that they are good – probably better than their coreligionists – and who want to enforce their beliefs and standards of behaviour on others. And are prepared to do so in ways that most of us would call psychotic.
These people – the religious terrorists – are in all likelihood only a tiny minority of all muslims (or christians, …), and in a surprising number of cases are not especially well educated in their religion. In fact many of them are petty crooks, with a burning desire to be more significant than they deserve.
In the end, debating whether islam really is a religion of peace or not is pretty much a waste of time because it is irrelevant – even the religions with the most peaceful reputations have terrorists (major religions only).
Today came the news that Stephen Hawking has died, which is a loss to England, Britain, the United Kingdom, and the whole world. Well worthy of having a spot in Westminster Abbey. Yet as soon as his death was announced, we had bad christians (and at least one muslim) crowing about how he was going to spend all eternity in hell.
Yes, atheists know that christians think we’re going to hell. There’s no need to shout about it on twitter.
Apart from anything else, it makes christians and muslims look bad – is it any wonder that religion is losing ground to secularism when we have such noxious examples of the religious?
Now I’m not one of those atheists who thinks that all religious people are evil; a bit deluded perhaps, but not necessarily evil. But we do not see enough religious condemnation of bad christians from the good christians, or bad muslims from the good muslims.
It’s always worth remembering that evil words and deeds speak louder than good words and deeds, so good christians and good muslims need to flood their bad co-coreligionists with enough condemnation to drown out their evil words and deeds.
Just seen something daft on the idiot-box (also known as “television”) where a character claims to not be an atheist because she believes in good and evil.
Which is weird if you think about it. We atheists pride ourselves on paying attention to the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence for the existence of good and evil deeds. What there is not evidence for is the existence of some cartoonish personification of good and evil; those characters sometimes called “god” and “the devil”.
It isn’t necessary for good and evil deeds to require some mysterious actor who lives in the clouds; people are quite capable of both good and evil deeds without help.
Evil deeds are carried out by broken people, and personifying evil as a mysterious actor is a way of absolving us from finding the broken people and fixing them.
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