Friday, 6 November 2009

And Sing The Persecution Song...

Thanks to Pharyngula commenter Rorschach, I've been alerted to this opinion piece in the age. The Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University rallying against what he sees as an infestation of atheists that want to attack Christians and Catholics in particular.

Just now, we are facing one of our largest and least appealing infestations. Somewhat in advance of summer's blowflies, we are beset by atheists. Worse, they are not traditional atheists. These tended to be quiet blokes called Algie with ancillary interests in nudist ceramics, who were perfectly happy as long as you pretended to accept a pamphlet in Flinders Lane.
Yes, if only we were at a point where atheists were meek and inoffensive, a but nutty and not at all to be taken seriously. Gone are those days (I'm only 25, did they ever exist?) and there has been a new paradigm shift in behaviours of non-believers.

No, the new hobby atheist is as brash, noisy and confident as a cheap electric kettle. They want everyone to know that they have not found God, and that no one else should.
In a religious world, finding the confidence to speak out is tough. In Australia we have it lucky, there's not much overbearing religion so I find there's no reason really to speak out against it. I'll happily rant on the internet where believers are more than willing to engage, but outside the cyber-walls there's just no need. But I think there's a fundamental truth hidden inside such a statement, in a society where its expected to believe in a higher power, it should be able to be stated that it's not necessary and there are means by which to live without such a belief.

Though I wonder where such claims are being heard. I've seen plenty of Christians door-knocking, handing out pamphlets. I've even had a Buddhist stop me and try to sell me a book. Plenty of people trying to get me to sign up for different charities. But not once have I had a single person on the street ever preach there is no God. Maybe they exist on streets I don't walk on.

Their particular target seems to be Catholics. On the surface, this is odd, as there are plenty of other religious targets just waiting to be saved from a vengeful, non-existent deity. Smaller herds, such as the Christadelphians or the Salvation Army, might seem more manageable. But the Catholic Church has two incomparable advantages as an object of the wrath of proselytising atheists. First, it is the biggie. Taking out the Catholics is the equivalent of nuking the Pentagon. Guerilla bands of Baptists and Pentecostals can be liquidated at leisure.
I would really love to see evidence that this is anti-Catholicism. This sounds quite paranoid actually. Interesting that arguing against Catholic activity is being compared to terrorism, rather than protesting the United States military involvement. Maybe it's just me but I can see a difference between speaking out on the US occupation of Iraq and trying to blow up the symbol of American military dominance. When atheists start blowing up churches and threatening to destroy the vatican, I'll concede the point.

Though this may again be symptomatic of my socio-economic status, but the biggest bashing I see by Australian atheists is on fundamentalist religions - Hillsong is more than anything else the organisation that draws the biggest ire. Beyond that it seems that the complaints against Catholicism are to do more with the running of the church than anything else. But I'll come to that soon.

Notice what he did there? Firstly he complains that they target the Catholic Church, then right after he complains it's going after Catholics. Two very different things.

Second, the Catholics have the undeniable advantage that they do still demonstrably believe in something. Attacking some of the more swinging Christian denominations might mean upsetting people who believe a good deal less than the average atheist.
Yes, those Evangelical churches who take the bible as the inerrant word of God are the ones who don't really believe demonstratively in anything. Again, the main focus I've seen most atheists attacking is what Catholics should consider a straw man argument - it's against a literal interpretation of the bible. But again that's just my experience.

Mind you, the appeals of atheism as a diverting pastime are not immediately obvious to those of us who are on relatively easy terms with God. Why would anyone get so excited about the misconceptions of third parties as to the existence of a fourth party in which they themselves do not believe?
Why would atheists rally against religion? Why indeed? Is it jealously that they can't see the light too? Is it that misery loves company? Or could it just be that it has nothing to do with the beliefs - rather the consequences for beliefs?

Does it matter that Catholics believe that Mary really was a virgin, or that a priest saying an incarnation can turn a cracker into the body of Christ? Where are the media articles in The Age to that effect? No, it seems the articles in newspapers surround the systematic cover-up of child abuse, the pressuring by the Church on issues such as abortion and stem cell research, the spread of AIDS in Africa, labelling homosexuality as a deadly sin, giving refuge to the Anglican bigots who hate the progressive nature of the modern church, etcera. The wacky beliefs of Catholicism? They don't rate a mention.

The answer is twofold. First, the great advantage of designer atheism is that you get to think of yourself as immensely clever. After all, you are at least much brighter than all those dumb-asses who believe in a supreme being, such as Sister Perpetua down the road, Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Newton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So satisfying.
The sense of intellectual superiority. Interesting. I suppose there is something to this, people must be real dumb-asses to believe in the Judeo-Christian construct of God. That 44% of Mensa believe in Astrology and 56% believe that aliens have visited our world is besides the point, smart people cannot believe in weird things. Thus Spake Zarathustra.

And the obligatory name-dropping of smart believers in a situation like this. Look smart Christians, therefore I've completely invalidated this straw man argument. ha ha! You can taste the desperation in the air, though maybe that's because I'm on a floor full of IT workers. I'll give Craven the benefit of the doubt here.

The second factor has to do with wit. For some reason, contemporary Australian atheism seems to consider itself terribly funny. Its proponents only have to wheel out one of the age-old religious libels to lose control of their bladders. To outsiders, of course, it is a bit like watching a giggling incontinent drunk at a party. This is not to say that believers - and perhaps especially Catholics - do not get seriously irritated by atheists. They do, but not because atheists are fearfully clever or Wildely funny.
Again he's got us, damn and here I was thinking that Tim Minchin settled this debate in his humourous song "Ten Foot Cock And A Few Hundred Virgins" where he used incredible wit to ridicule Paley's watchmaker argument and thus destroy the designer argument that Hume couldn't do because he wrote it in a philosophical dialogue - and Aussies are more about the wit than the substance.

Frankly, the prime reason the average believer finds the common or garden atheist as appealing as a holiday in Birchip is because they consign them to that sorry category of individuals who spend their lives loudly congratulating themselves on their own intelligence without noticing that no one else is joining the chorus. Thus, as a Catholic, I do not normally sense in some tabloid atheist the presence of a supreme discerning intellect. I simply place him or her in much the same pitiable bin of intellectual vulgarians as the chartered accountant who cannot see the art in Picasso, the redneck who cannot admit of indigenous culture, and the pissant who cannot see the difference between Yeats and Bob Ellis.
It's not about saying "I'm more intelligent than you", but I'm sure when someone says a cherished belief if silly that it must be out of stupidity. So Muslims who believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven on the back of a winged horse only believe that out of stupidity, and the Christians who reject that are doing so out of smarts... of course not. Does the muslim who rejects the notion of the trinity do so out of a sense of intellectual superiority? Does the Buddhist? What about rejecting the notion that Uri Gellar can bend spoons with his mind?

This comes just two paragraphs after complaining that atheists have an air of intellectual superiority. Got hypocrite?

It is not deep perception we encounter here, but a critical failure of imaginative capacity. It is a bit like the old joke: how many atheists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None - no matter what they do, they just can't see the light.
oh I get it, the use of wit. For some reason, contemporary Australians seem to consider themselves terribly funny...

So it's two for two. The two things he complains about atheists for he does himself. The hypocrisy is so blatant that if this were an anonymous internet poster I would have to take it as someone taking the piss. Doesn't he see his on hypocrisy?

The second wearying thing about the new atheism is that it is not new at all. It is so banally derivative of every piece of hate mail ever sent to God that I am amazed Satan has yet to sue for copyright infringement. No old chestnut is too ripe, rotten or sodden, especially when it comes to the Catholics as accredited suppliers of what apparently is the Christian equivalent of methamphetamine.
I actually agree, there's not anything new in the arguments really of the new atheism. Not that there needs to be. Creationism still does just fine trumpeting long discredited arguments like evolution violates thermodynamics. Just because the argument still exists in the public sphere doesn't mean that it hasn't been discredited already. The difference between the new atheists and what came before (from what I can tell) is that it is a reaction to the spread of cultural relativism; that it's considered important to speak out against what is perceived wrongness. As for what is that perceived wrongness?

In an average week of atheistic bigotry in the Melbourne media, we can expect to learn that Catholics endorse child molestation, hate all other religions, would re-introduce the crusades and the auto de fe at the slightest opportunity, despise women, wish to persecute homosexuals, greedily divert public moneys for their own religious purposes, subvert public health care, brainwash children, and are masterminding the spread of the cane toad across northern Australia.
Endorse child molestation? No. If there was a childcare organisation that systematically covered up the abuse of children in its care by moving carers from one child centre to another and paid hush money to the victims, that wouldn't be endorsing it. To label homosexuality and abortion deadly sins aren't in the slightest acts to persecute homosexuals or deny the rights of the woman. And offering disgruntled Anglican priests who are against the Church of England's allowance of gay and women priests a place in the Catholic Church? That's not anything at all. George Pell may have threatened NSW politicians who voted for stem cell research with excommunication, but you're not meant to focus on that.

This is what I don't get, it seems somewhere along the lines the happenings of the Catholic Church has been conflated with individual Catholics themselves. To speak out against the systematic cover-up of child abuse by members of the Catholic order is meant to be taken as a condemnation of all people who call themselves Catholic. This is nothing more than claiming persecution where there is none, protecting immoral practices on the grounds of indignity.

At the bottom, of course, lies hate. I am not quite clear why our modern crop of atheists hates Christians, as opposed to ignoring or even politely dismissing them, but they very clearly do. There is nothing clever, witty or funny about hate.
Hate? HATE?!? It's not about hate at all. I've got to say I don't know any atheist who hates Christians just because there are Christian. But again, that may be just in the circles I reside in. I know atheists who are incredibly anti-theist, others who are supportive of religion, and many who don't care. But it seems that daring to speak out on social issues that go against the church has to be underlined by hate. It can't be about protecting children, it can't be about equal rights - we must hate Christians and particularly Catholics in order to say anything.

I'd be tempted to write it off as projection on account of the author, but maybe I'm wrong. I really didn't know that Melbourne has become an anti-Catholic war-ground. Yet I'm stuck in Canberra where no-one seems to care. Had to bus in a religious fanatic from Victoria to pray over parliament house - that's probably telling.

1 comment:

Be Thou My Vision said...

Thank you so much for sharing this topic/post to us! God Bless!