Monday, September 20, 2010

Dawkins on the warpath

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.


  1. It always strikes me as strange when atheists argue that women are qualified for ordination while also arguing that Christian pastors perform a useless, or even a detrimental, service to their people. Basically, they're saying that women are as qualified to harm humanity as are men, and churches ought to be letting them do so.

  2. 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.

    I just want to clarify that a homosexual isn't automatically a pedophile and neither is every pedophile a homosexual.

    In fact, I'd venture to say most homosexuals are not pedophiles.

    Anyways, for the most part the sex of the child doesn't matter to a pedophile because they aren't physically developed yet and are for the most part physically the same. Thus it is not unusual for them to prey on both sexes though they may generally keep to the one.

  3. In the priestly abuse scandal, there was a very high correlation between the gender of the victim and the gender of the abuser. So homosexuality is not incidental or coincidental.

    And most of the abuse was directed at adolescent males, not prepubescent kids.

  4. (1) Doesn't Dawkins think that parents are committing child abuse by enrolling their children (without the children's consent) in religious schools? I believe he's likened it to brainwashing. So why is a young German who is enrolled, without his consent, in the Hitlersjugend a culprit rather than a victim? Why doesn't Dawkins sneer at adult Catholics that they "chose" to go to a Christian Brothers or Marist or Jesuit school at age 12?

    (2) Dunno about PapaRatzi but numerous conservative RCs do in fact claim that condoms don't prevent HIV/ AIDs - either because they are not used correctly, or because the HIV cells are smaller than the holes in latex, or something.

    My understanding from listening to the secular critics is that condoms both (a) are such a perfect safeguard against HIV/ AIDS cells that their mere availability would allow promiscuous sex with strangers to take place free of adverse consequences, and (b) are such an imperfect safeguard against semen that their mere availability in no way reduces the need for abortion to be available to prevent women (though not men) from becoming parents "against their will".

    (c) Due to the structure of many RC parishes, it would be easier for a priest attracted to boys to predate unchecked than one attracted to girls. Traditionally, RCS were wary of men seducing females (and of females using their wiles), but same-sex attraction was such an unthinkable abomination to them as to be off the radar. Eg, if a priest were to give teenage girls lifts, unchaperoned, in his car, then eyebrows would be raised (at the very least), because after all, he was a normal man. But if you raised concerns about a priestgiving teenage boys unchaperoned lifts in his car - why, you were accusing him of the vile sin of homosexuality! Unthinkable! What a filthy mind you must have!

    So the conservative RCs built a Maginot line of safeguards that were, we know in hindsight, facing the wrong direction. As a result, the proportion of homosexual paedophile RC priests is larger, it appears, than the proportion of homosexual men in the general population.

  5. "Moreover, aren’t homosexuals defective by evolutionary standards? They don’t transmit their smart genes to the next generation."

    This admission is one of those things you rarely if ever hear from secular evolutionists.

  6. Controversial as this may be.. given that Dawkins and many other New Atheists A) clearly approve of homosexual behavior, and B) also approve of sexual relationships among the young (See many modern secular takes on age of consent laws, etc), and C) the claim that apparently many of the sex abuse cases in the Catholic church was related to adolescent males rather than prepubescent children... don't the claims of outrage on the part of NAs ring a little hollow?

    I mean, it would depend on the cases in question. Some kind of forceful rape would still be condemnable (though there would still be problems there for a moral relativist or nihilist.) But if someone approves of homosexual behavior, and also thinks the age of consent should be lower / has no problem with sexually active children, then... well, I guess that speaks for itself.

    Especially given that, if I recall correctly, Dawkins himself downplayed sexual abuse and said that teaching children about hell (or perhaps even just raising them in a religious household) was 'more harmful'.

    Either way, Dawkins comes off like such a joke in this speech. For more reasons than were given in the commentary - and that list alone is enough to dismiss the man as a serious force for 'reason'.