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.
In something I first heard about in the Daily Mail, so there was an instant credibility gap, it seems that Lord Carey has been blathering on about how Christians feel like a persecuted minority, and that the government is discriminating against them.
Which is of course complete rancid rhino bile.
And any christian who feels persecuted against needs to take a good hard look at things.
According to the 2011 census, 59% of the UK population claimed to be christian. Given that 59% is more than 41%, I’d say that any christian who feels that they are a minority probably needs to take their socks off to count above 10. It is the rest of us – humanists, secularists, muslims, buddists, hindus, atheists, agnostics – who have the right to claim to be a minority. Given that 2001 (72% christian) was the first time the question was asked, it is hard to make historical observations regarding levels of christianity in the UK. Christians would of course say that we have been historically a christian society where everyone was a christian; others would say those who weren’t christian were under a great deal of pressure to pretend.
There are occasions when we get forced to sit through some sort of christian ceremony, although it was more common in the past than today. And it can be quite creepy listening to you guys speaking to your imaginary friend (or is it friends?).
Nothing to do with what goes on inside your churches of course, but christian ceremonies in public life can be excluding to those who are not christian. Take for example, the infamous council meetings where pre-meeting prayers are no longer permitted. Or rather praying out loud as part of the meeting is no longer permitted. If such prayers are part of a council meeting, they are effectively an unconscious expression of the kind of people who should take part in the meetings – that is practising christians. Or in other words, you are saying that the real minorities – atheists, muslims, etc. are not welcome.
Not that a period of silent contemplation at the start of a council meeting is a bad idea – indeed, it is probably a very good idea. And nobody is saying that you cannot talk with your imaginary friend(s) in the silence of your mind.
Carey specifically mentions the legalisation of gay marriage as one of the symptoms of “aggressive secularisation” within the government. Actually legalising gay marriage is simply doing the right thing; there is nothing in the legislation that forces anyone to get married to someone not of their choice! So it is merely allowing those who choose to, to get married to the person of their choice.
What christians who oppose gay marriage are complaining about, is that they are no longer allowed to impose their views of what marriage should be onto those who believe differently.
In other words christians are complaining about not being allowed to persecute others.
If christians still feel they are being persecuted in the UK, perhaps they should look at some of the real examples of christians being persecuted around the world (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians). Any kind of inspection of what happens around the world will make any decent person claiming that UK christians are being persecuted thoroughly ashamed. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case (and frankly in the case of the BA employee, both sides could do with being told to just grow up), being unable to wear a cross in jewellery form at work hardly compares to being stoned to death.