Monday, November 7, 2011

No Sacred Cows

Perhaps I should introduce myself. Or perhaps not. A minor part of me values my privacy. A more significant part of me realises the information will not be interesting to either of my readers. Perhaps it's better if I introduce my interest.

I talk to street preachers. Almost exclusively street preachers. I'm not the sort of chap who'll spot a pensioner clutching a set of rosary beads and demand the owner explain the distinction between the output of a Peritus and output caused by pertussis. I don't initiate conversation, though I have been known to walk past stalls incredibly slowly. In short, anyone who wishes to discuss their views on the nature of reality will likely find in me a receptive ear.

With that I find myself in the unusual position of reviewing my first atheist encounter, sparked in the comments section of my recent Moonies article. It seems I erred in singling out a single religion.

What tone do you use when you speak with a woman or man whose leader justifies the deaths of thousands of Africans because he considers condoms immoral? Or who fed into the anti-Semitism that fuelled that genocide? All while, of course, speaking badly about homosexuals.

What's so unusual about the Moonies that you single them out?
I do find it remarkable (and thus worthy of remark) that you find this specific religion so reprehensible. Meanwhile, you talk to adherents of other equally detestable religions as though they hold valuable wisdom that deserves respect.
Why do you not simply 'respectfully disagree' with this lunatic, as you do with, for example, Christians.
So I ask you, why are the Moonies so bad in comparison?

I'm surprised Galileo didn't come up. It is perhaps unusual to see Benedict blamed for fuelling the holocaust; it seems remarkably industrious for a man who was twelve years old at the outbreak of World War II. True, he fired on allied aircraft in a professional capacity, but much as I like to think my principles may have been stronger I'm forced to admit that were I in his shoes, with propaganda of war and bombs raining on my city I'd likely also have worn the Gott Mit Uns belt buckle of the Wehrmacht soldier. I have no reason to expect a higher standard of ethical behaviour from this man.

It's not the criticism I mind, its the amateurish nature. Bashing the Vatican for anti-Semitism without mentioning Benedict's rehabilitation of the Holocaust denying and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Bishop Richard Williamson smacks of little effort. And African deaths due to AIDS number in the millions, not thousands. 

So what tone would I use when talking to a Catholic? Making assumptions about Catholics based on the Pope's promulgations is foolish when we consider that 75% of Catholics largely ignore him on birth control. This could be why he's hoping for a smaller church. His farcical enactment of psychological tests to weed out homosexuals from the seminaries is worthy reading for those who see the Catholic view of homosexuality as 'love the sinner, hate the sin'. I welcome his growing irrelevance to those who describe themselves as Catholic and would never take the poor debate tactic of assuming their views coincided with his.
What's so unusual about the Moonies that you single them out?
I'm not sure why this needs to be spelled out, but the Reverend Moon claims to be God's representative on Earth, the culmination of all religions, and relayer of messages from the divine, along with Lenin, Marx and other dead persons of note. He says he has a message that all homosexuals will be purged. Soon. He has three million followers. The follower I spoke to considered it appropriate to refer to homosexuals as dirty, dung eating dogs (though she, of course, had 'lots of gay friends') and said that 'in a few years there won't be any more gays'. To say that this group is on a par with, say, the Gay Christian Network leaves me speechless. (Metaphorically, of course.) This group is dangerous. I do not by contrast lose much sleep worrying about the Amish.

I'm not sure what recommendations the catchily-named Ec5618 would make. Is it wrong of me to seek to understand the traditions and beliefs that have shaped our histories? Have my efforts to see the world through the eyes of my theistic friends and family been, worse than useless: an affront on the safety of society?

He seems to picture a world where the majority are religious, and the majority are written off. Where no-one of faith is worthy of conversation, or capable of human decency, or indeed practising of independent thought. I look at this worldview and find it the strangest, most jarring I've ever encountered. And I've seen some odd ones.

26 comments:

Ec5618 said...

Before I begin, I'd like to apologise for my snarky tone. It seemed appropriate in response to a post that does little more than mock my 'catchy' moniker. While I regret it now, I don't have the time to rewrite the following.


"It is perhaps unusual to see Benedict blamed for fuelling the holocaust; it seems remarkably industrious for a man who was twelve years old at the outbreak of World War II."
Very clever. But 'the leader' of the Catholics hasn't always been the current pope. I blamed Catholics for standing behind their leadership. Your witty comments do not address that.

"Bashing the Vatican for anti-Semitism without mentioning Benedict's rehabilitation of the Holocaust denying and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Bishop Richard Williamson smacks of little effort."
Bravo. Pointing out that criticisms of the Vatican exist, other than the ones I listed, makes you seem clever.

"And African deaths due to AIDS number in the millions, not thousands."
True. But not all African AIDS deaths are directly due to Vatican influence, as you well know. So I made a safe but fair accusation. Again, witty response, but without substance.

"I welcome his growing irrelevance to those who describe themselves as Catholic and would never take the poor debate tactic of assuming their views coincided with his."
That's grand. Never assume. There are many reasons for people to identify as Catholic, other than devotion to Catholicism.
That said, you may want to reconsider the poor debating tactic of mocking straw men.

"This group is dangerous."
True. Is that how it is distinct from the group that, by your words, is directly responsible for the deaths of 'millions' of people?
If you respond to nothing else (most of what you said, and most of my response, is incredibly banal, after all), please respond to this.

"Is it wrong of me to seek to understand the traditions and beliefs that have shaped our histories?"
No.

"I look at this worldview and find it the strangest, most jarring I've ever encountered."
Reading your version of my world view, I too am jarred. Thankfully, it isn't close to my actual world view.

Geoff said...

Are you based in Dublin? How about I buy you a pint some evening?

Geoff said...

Are you based in Dublin? How about I buy you a pint some evening?

Ec5618 said...

You would buy amateurs beer?

You are the sort of person that likes to hear other perspectives. I get that. You like to congratulate yourself for being so inquisitive, so open, so willing to learn.

I will consider your offer. Thank you.

In the mean time, please do me the kindness of responding to my argument:

If the Moonies, who argue in favour of dreadful things, do not deserve your respect, then why do others, who do the same (but perhaps in a way that your are more accustomed to), deserve it?

My hypothesis is that your were simply shocked. The beliefs of the Moonies, while not necessarily more horrible than the beliefs of others, surprised you. After all, you have had a lot of time to become accustomed to the horrors of, for example, Christian dogma.
Additionally, your religious friends make it difficult for you to believe that their religion is as wrong as it might appear. They live by their religion, after all, and they're nice enough. Genocide, schmenocide ..

If you have another (perhaps better) justification, I'm all ears.

Geoff said...

How about if I throw in a bag of crisps?

do me a favour - do some bullet points on "dreadful things" you think my friends advance. I'll reply tomorrow AM.

Ec5618 said...

You're missing the point of my argument.

This is emphatically not about a specific religion, or specific grievances I have with them.

This is emphatically not about a specific person's version of their religion.

This is about the obvious fact that several religions teach dreadful things.

Please, address my question.

Geoff said...

You call my friends bigots and offer no evidence. Should I take this lightly? I hereby officially rescind my offer of crisps.

I'm disinclined to list all world religions and all ills of humanity, then attempt to identify if one caused the other and to what degree.

It's also profoundly obvious that I agree several religions teach dreadful things. You've yet to give any example of such an instance that I've supported, and frankly this treasure hunt is growing tiring.

You're welcome to give me specific instances you'd like addressed. Will I do condoms, Jews and homosexuality with reference to Christianity for instance?

Ec5618 said...

"You call my friends bigots and offer no evidence."
What has gotten into you? I didn't do this. I certainly didn't do this in my previous post.

"I hereby officially rescind my offer of crisps."
So, you rescind your offer in response to my last post, in which I specifically explain that I am not talking about specific people or religions. Why the non-sequitur?

"I'm disinclined to list all world religions and all ills of humanity, then attempt to identify if one caused the other and to what degree."
I never asked you to.

"It's also profoundly obvious that I agree several religions teach dreadful things."
Good.

"You've yet to give any example of such an instance that I've supported, and frankly this treasure hunt is growing tiring."
I never said you supported anything. I specifically said this wasn't about specific examples of grievances.

"You're welcome to give me specific instances you'd like addressed."
That's nice. But I have told what I would like you to address. Whenever you've calmed down, please read my last comment, or the one before that. In fact, most of my posts explain my position, going back to your previous blog post even.
Would you like me to say it again?

Geoff said...

you say I respect religions that argue in favour of dreadful things. I can't address this if you don't give examples. Unless you want the aforementioned contrast of world religions and human failings.
You say I have religious friends who promote these dreadful things, and my friendship "makes it difficult for me to believe that their religion is as wrong as it might appear". Give me examples.
The pint offer is still going, only the crisps are gone.

Ec5618 said...

"you say I respect religions that argue in favour of dreadful things."
Yes. Or at least, speak civilly with its adherents.

"You say I have religious friends who promote these dreadful things, and my friendship 'makes it difficult for me to believe that their religion is as wrong as it might appear'."
Yes.

Are you implying that one can be a Christian, for example, without promoting the bible? That your Christian friends don't necessarily promote the bible, or agree with it?

If the bible justifies an atrocity, and your friends justify the bible, then your friends must also justify the atrocity. That is their baggage, for choosing to hitch their wagons to the bible.
If they don't want to justify the atrocity, they can stop justifying the bible.


This was a slight tangent, but I appreciate the effort to move closer to my original point. I'll word my argument one more time:

Question 1) Do you speak respectfully with a follower of the Rev. Moon, i.e. a Moonie?
Question 2) Do you speak respectfully with a follower of the pope, i.e. a Roman Catholic?

If you said Yes to both questions, I can only respectfully say that I do not think they deserve it.

If you said No to both questions, I can understand where you're coming from.

But if you said No to Question 1 and Yes to Question 2, I ask you: why do you show respect for a person who follows a doctrine that has killed thousands upon thousands of people, and show none for a person who follows a doctrine that hasn't?

QMonkey said...

Ec5618 - do you realise, what an extreme line you are taking here. I don't think you do.

The comedy is that you take this pseudo fascist approach that it's out of order to EVEN speak respectfully to anyone who's not an atheist... but you think it is they who are intolerant.

When you order a pint at the bar, and the bar maid it wearing a cross, do you spit in her face? or do you say please and thank you.

speaking respectfully and politely is common human courtesy. What you need, i think, is to get yourself more friends who disagree with you on things, it would make you a more interesting person, and a more rounded human.

Ec5618 said...

"The comedy is that you take this pseudo fascist approach that it's out of order to EVEN speak respectfully to anyone who's not an atheist"
No, I don't.

"When you order a pint at the bar, and the bar maid it wearing a cross, do you spit in her face?"
No, I don't.

"speaking respectfully and politely is common human courtesy."
Yeah? Then why don't the Moonies deserve common human courtesy? Geoff expressly stated that he regrets his civil tone.

"What you need, i think, is to get yourself more friends who disagree with you on things, it would make you a more interesting person, and a more rounded human."
That's very patronising.

Geoff said...

To quote Hitchens I reject the grammar of the question. We've already discussed Catholics and condoms. I've given you figures on how many respect the pope's rulings. Criticizing condom-using Catholics because someone they largely ignore is largely anti-condom is nonsensical. Criticizing someone who fully supports a chap proclaiming a purge of all gays is an obligation.

By your logic we should not speak to those wearing England rugby shirts because they're obviously in favour of civil war, colonialism and invading Iraq.

What would you have done differently?

Ec5618 said...

"Criticizing condom-using Catholics because someone they largely ignore is largely anti-condom is nonsensical."
Really? Criticising hypocritical Catholics for not paying attention to their church while the church uses their tithing as fuel to destroy the lives of others is nonsensical?
I don't agree.

"Criticizing someone who fully supports a chap proclaiming a purge of all gays is an obligation."
Good. I'm glad you agree.
Why does this not apply to people who support the pope's agenda?

"What would you have done differently?"
I wouldn't have been shocked that the Moonies follow a dangerous dogmatic man. Catholics do the same thing, after all, though perhaps less actively.
As far as I can tell, that is the excuse you give the Catholics: they support the pope, but do it passively, so they shouldn't be blamed for the results.

I really don't see how someone who identifies as a Roman Catholic, and by doing so tells the world that he/she supports the pope, can be unaccountable for the things that pope then does in their name.

Especially when a Moonie, who has never actually hurt a fly, directly or indirectly, is denied the 'common human courtesy'.

Basically, what you're doing is pretending that Catholics aren't bound to the Vatican. Which is surprising.

Geoff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geoff said...

I removed an accidental double post.

Ec5618 said...

I think you may have removed too much.

Geoff said...

EC, I'm still not following you. It'd be ridiculous of me to criticise you, a citizen of the Netherlands, for Dutch suppression of Indonesian uprisings before you were born, or for Dutch government failings in the protection of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But these are the criteria by which you criticise Catholics. I haven't met any Catholic who is against using condoms.

Ec5618 said...

"I haven't met any Catholic who is against using condoms."
Three things:
1. Some of them must. Indeed, quite a lot of them must. The Church is funded by its followers, after all. You must not have been looking very hard.

2. Then they disagree with the pope. What exactly makes them Catholic, then?

3. Are you saying that if you were to meet a Catholic who unapologetically follows the pope in this matter, you would regret any civil words you might have exchanged with them, just as you regretted being civil to the Moonie?

Ec5618 said...

"It'd be ridiculous of me to criticise you, a citizen of the Netherlands,..."
Yes. Yes it would.
Were I actively supporting that government, it would be a different story. Which is where your comparison fails. Clearly.

Geoff said...

Mate, I've gone to considerable pains to get you stats such as the 75% of Catholics who use birth control in the article. Of the remaining 25% some are trying for kids and some are too young, too old or too unattractive for it to be an issue. Looking at the new remainder, some of those are against birth control but for STI control. You're asking me to dislike an entire body of people for a minority position.

Is it inconsistent for Catholics to ignore the Pope? I think most Catholics I know would benefit from giving serious thought to a Protestant or Dissenter community. A good chunk of them should give their beliefs some serious introspection. If you're saying most Catholics are theologically illiterate then you've got the bones of a good argument, but not one that involves condoms.

In answer to point three, if I met Bill O'Donoghue there's a risk I'd lose the run of myself and knee him in the balls. But I suspect he'd still be an ignorant, spiteful homophobe if he was a Jaian, albeit with a smaller platform.

Perhaps I didn't get my Netherlands analogy across properly. Would you criticize me for child rape, civil war, infanticide and the Magdelene laundries if I expressed any affection for my Irishness?

Ec5618 said...

"You're asking me to dislike an entire body of people for a minority position."
You argue that most Catholics don't actually support the anti-condom stance of the Vatican.
That's nice.
You're right, if all of these people are going against the anti-condom stance of the Vatican and don't actively support the Vatican policies in Africa, you shouldn't dislike them for being anti-condom.

You should dislike them instead for being hypocritical. And you should dislike them for callously supporting an organisation that does what they find abhorrent; an organisation that actively takes away condoms from people, killing people, while hypocritically using condoms themselves.

"In answer to point three, if I met Bill O'Donoghue there's a risk I'd lose the run of myself and knee him in the balls."
So, Moonies an Bill Donahue are unique in deserving your condemnation. But a Catholic who blithely tithes to an organisation that kills in his name is worthy of respect. I don't see why.

"Is it inconsistent for Catholics to ignore the Pope? I think most Catholics I know would benefit from giving serious thought to a Protestant or Dissenter community."
So, ... yes. You could have made this conversation a lot easier by agreeing earlier that people who don't follow the pope have little business calling themselves Roman Catholics.

"If you're saying most Catholics are theologically illiterate then you've got the bones of a good argument, but not one that involves condoms."
How very generous of you to say.

"Perhaps I didn't get my Netherlands analogy across properly. Would you criticize me for child rape, civil war, infanticide and the Magdelene laundries if I expressed any affection for my Irishness?"
Not especially.
If a German man is proud of his heritage, that's fine. If a German man proudly claims that regardless of what he may have done wrong, Hitler was a great man, that's not fine.
An obvious distinction, I would have thought.

If an Irish man is proud of his heritage, that's also fine. But if he argues that the Catholic Church is an amazing institution that has made him proud to be Irish, Magdelene laundries be damned, that isn't fine.
Again, obvious.


And again, this is all a tangent. All Christians follow a bible that tells of horrid things that were done in the name of their religion. A Moonie follows a man that tells of horrid things that should be done, but weren't. And by your standards, it's only the second that is abhorrent.

thechipmonk said...

Geoff, you have the patience of a saint.

Ec5618, whether you've intended to or not, you've come across as aggressive, pedantic, judgmental and ungracious. I presume this is keyboard-warrior antics and not your real personality!

If your wish is to convince others of your position (as I presume it is,given how much time you have invested in replying to Geoff's posts) I suggest that you adjust your tone, as it is very hard to hear anything you are saying over the angry tone. Geoff looks more and more reasonable with every retort you give. Just a debating tip.

Ec5618 said...

Yes, brilliant. Thanks for that.

"it is very hard to hear anything you are saying over the angry tone"
Right back at you all. On a blog where everyone seems intent on misunderstanding everything I say, and responding snarkily, pedantically and condescendingly, quite frankly, I don't care to maintain a completely cool tone.

Don't you dare pretend that my tone is somehow the problem here. No-one seemed to mind the fact that Geoff devoted a complete blog post to mocking me and my nom de plume.
How dare you complain about my tone in response to that?


For the record:
You acknowledge that your own mindset is keeping you from taking me seriously. But you do nothing to overcome your mindset.
You must be aware that most responses to me have been mocking me.
In that context, the simple point I'm trying to make is somehow misunderstood, and you would pin the blame for that solely on me?

Stuff your 'reasonable'. If reasonable means the stuff you've been throwing at me, I want no part of it.

Ec5618 said...

I hope that someone here will be able to read that last post without the goal of trashing it.

I sincerely hope that someone will be able to read that last post without the assumption that I have no point to make.

I hope that someone in this group of (intelligent) people can empathise with the minority voice long enough to actually bother to come to understanding.

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