I’ll be quoting from a speech that Richard Dawkins wrote, indicting Pope Benedict XVI as an “enemy of humanity.” But before then, I’d like to make a general observation:
Dawkins has backed himself into a conundrum. In The God Delusion he said: “not all absolutism is derived from religion. Nevertheless it is pretty hard to defend absolutist morals on grounds other than religious ones” (232).
So how can he moralize about religion, or religious figures, when, by his own admission, religion is a precondition for moral absolutes? Without God, there are no moral absolutes. So how can he wax indignant against religion when religion admittedly underwrites his indignation?
“The unfortunate little fact that Joseph Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth has been the subject of a widely observed moratorium.”
I don’t think he exactly “joined” the Hitler Youth. Wasn’t membership compulsory? And Ratzinger was a teenager at the time. Surely that’s no way to judge the adult. How much say did he have in the matter at that time, age, and place?
“Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Or at least he was as much a Roman Catholic as the 5 million so-called Roman Catholics in this country today. For Hitler never renounced his baptismal Catholicism, which was doubtless the criterion for counting the 5 million alleged British Catholics today.”
There’s a grain of truth to this charge. Catholicism has very lax standards of membership. And Hitler was never excommunicated. At the same time it’s obvious that Hitler was not a pious Roman Catholic.
“But he certainly knew his overwhelmingly Christian constituency, the millions of good Christian Germans with Gott mit uns on their belt buckles, who actually did his dirty work for him. He knew his support base.”
But that undermines Dawkins’ argument. For in that case, Hitler’s religious rhetoric was just a cynical ploy by pandering to his audience.
“Even if Hitler had been an atheist – as Stalin more surely was – how dare Ratzinger suggest that atheism has any connection whatsoever with their horrific deeds?”
Why not? Even Peter Singer admits that human rights are traditionally grounded in the doctrine of the imago Dei. Once you reduce man to a meat machine, which is, in turn, the byproduct of a mindless machine (a la naturalistic evolution), then why not kill human beings with impunity?
“Unless, that is, you are steeped in the vile obscenity at the heart of Catholic theology. I refer (and I am indebted to Paula Kirby for the point) to the doctrine of Original Sin. These people believe – and they teach this to tiny children, at the same time as they teach them the terrifying falsehood of hell – that every baby is ‘born in sin.’”
Actually, I expect that Catholicism has gone soft on original sin and hell.
“That would be Adam’s sin, by the way: Adam who, as they themselves now admit, never existed.”
It’s true that having capitulated to macroevolution, there’s now a central tension in modern Catholic theology.
“Original sin means that, from the moment we are born, we are wicked, corrupt, damned.”
And Richard Dawkins is a living, breathing illustration.
“Unless we believe in their God. Or unless we fall for the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell. That, ladies and gentleman, is the disgusting theory that leads them to presume that it was godlessness that made Hitler and Stalin the monsters that they were. We are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus. What a vile, depraved, inhuman theory to base your life on.”
i) That’s ironic coming from a man who reduces human beings to blindly-programmed robots and bacterial colonies. Sounds pretty “vile, depraved, disgusting, and inhuman” to me.
ii) Moreover, didn’t Richard Dawkins also tell us: “If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it.”
“Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity. He is an enemy of children, whose bodies he has allowed to be raped…”
There’s a lot of truth to that charge. However, Dawkins is in no position to level the charge. The moral outrage of a moral relativist lacks moral authority.
“He is an enemy of gay people, bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews.”
i) Dawkins attacks Ratzinger for failing to crack down on pedophile priests, but he also attacks Ratzinger for failing to be more open to homosexuals in the priesthood. But, of course, it’s homosexual priests who prey on underage boys. Dawkins political correctness is at war with his blind indignation.
ii) Moreover, aren’t homosexuals defective by evolutionary standards? They don’t transmit their smart genes to the next generation.
“He is an enemy of women – barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties.”
i) Why does Dawkins even believe in woman’s rights? He denies moral absolutes. And he regards women (as well as men and children) as blindly-programmed robots.
ii) His charge is also paternalistic. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that women ought to be ordained. So what if the church of Rome were wrong in that respect? There are plenty of denominations which ordain women. Does Dawkins think woman are such frail, hothouse plants that they will be traumatized if this or that denomination refuses to ordain them? Do they really need a pat on the head from the Pope to bolster their self-esteem? Dawkins must have a very low opinion of women.
“He is an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.”
Where has Benedict XVI actually said anything to that effect?
“He is an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed, and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty.”
I disagree with the Catholic position on birth control. However, no one is forcing you to abide by that policy. Indeed, millions of Catholics routinely disregard it.
“He is an enemy of science, obstructing vital stem-cell research, on grounds not of morality but of pre-scientific superstition.”
Which begs the question.
“Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, he is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made catholic education infamous throughout the world…”
This depiction strikes me as an antiquated throwback to pre-Vatican II Catholicism.