Aug 122018

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.

The Crusades

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?

“Pædophile” Priests

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; 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. 

Institutional Secrecy

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.

There were some catholics who supported the Nazis, but overall the RCC was very strongly against the Nazis. For a quick overview of the history see:

Final Word

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.

Sep 172010

So the Pope on his visit to the UK is warning us of the dangers of “atheist extremism” and is comparing atheists to the Nazis.

I’m not sure what kind of thinking went on to associate Nazism with atheism. The Nazis repressed atheist groups in Germany with Hitler proclaiming in 1933 that he had “stamped [atheism] out”. It is just as ridiculous to claim that Catholicism lead to Nazism (as Hitler was brought up Catholic) as to associate atheism with the Nazis.

From his speech, it would seem that the pope is implying that atheists are less moral than those who believe that their imaginary friends will punish them severely if they behave badly. It is true that atheists do not have a single written code of morals to follow, but nothing stops us from following the sensible bits out of (for example) the bible. But what evidence is there that atheists behave less morally than those who believe in some religion ?

Of course we can all point out a list of historical atheists who haven’t exactly been good – Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler are usually top of the list, although it isn’t totally certain that Hitler was an atheist. The bigoted will point to that list as evidence that all atheists are evil, but of course you are not one of those fools.

The pope may have a point where he claims that morality in public life is in danger, but not when he claims that atheists are the root of the problem. A moral atheist is better than an immoral christian every single time, just as a moral christian is always preferred to an immoral atheist. We may not be able to agree on religious issues, but on most of the basics a moral atheist will be in full agreement with a moral christian – for example that all forms of murder and theft are wrong.

It is also a mistake to label everyone who doesn’t attend church or claim some sort of belief as an atheist. In a traditionally christian society, atheism is a choice to be made, and most people in Britain haven’t made that choice. Even those who put down “no religion” in the 2001 census (between 14% (England) and 19% (Wales) can’t be labelled as “atheist”, as “no religion” is a category that covers atheists, agnostics (the “don’t knows”), and the “don’t cares”.

And what examples of atheist extremism have we seen ? How many churches have been burnt to the ground ? How many bishops have been hung from lamp posts ? How many people attending churches or mosques have been spat at and reviled ? Well if all that has been going on, it mysteriously hasn’t shown up on the national news.

Perhaps us atheists aren’t that extreme at all.

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