Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Secular Inquisition

This piece somehow escaped my notice when it came out a week ago. Writing at Spiked, Brendan O'Neill rips the Dawkins-Hitchens cabal a new one:
The New Atheist campaign to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested when he visits Britain later this year exposes the deeply disturbing, authoritarian and even Inquisitorial side to today’s campaigning secularism. There is nothing remotely positive in the demand that British cops lock up the pope and then drag him to some international court on charges of ‘crimes against humanity’. Instead it springs from an increasingly desperate and discombobulated secularism, one which, unable to assert itself positively through Enlightening society and celebrating the achievements of mankind, asserts itself negatively, even repressively, through ridiculing the religious.


It’s worth asking why otherwise fairly intelligent thinkers get so dementedly exercised over the pope and the Catholic Church. What exactly is their beef? What are they objecting to? Very few (if any) of the pope-hunters were raised Catholic, so this isn’t about personal vengeance for some perceived slight by a priest or nun. And despite their current lowdown, historically illiterate attempt to equate a priest fondling a child with a state’s attempt to obliterate an entire people – under the collective tag ‘crime against humanity’ – the truth is that some of these pope-hunters don’t really think child abuse is the worst crime in the world. In 2006, Dawkins criticised ‘hysteria about paedophilia’ and said that, even though he was the victim of sexual abuse at boarding school, he would defend his abusive former teachers if ‘50 years on they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers’. Yet now he wants to put abusive priests on a par with genocidaires.


Yet despite the lack of any obvious, sensible reason why they break out in boils at the mention of the words ‘Benedict’, ‘priest’ or ‘Catholic’, the pope-hunters’ campaign has acquired a powerfully pathological, obsessive and deafeningly shrill character. It is screeching and emotional. It talks about ‘systematic evil’ and discusses the pope as a ‘leering old villain in a frock’. It uses up almost all the intellectual and physical energies of men and women who consider themselves to be serious thinkers. What is going on here?

The reason this crusade is so hysterical is because it is not really about the pope at all – it is about the New Atheists themselves. The contemporary pope-hunting springs from a secularist movement which feels incapable of asserting a sense of purpose or meaning in any positive, human-centred way – as the
great atheists of old such as Marx or Darwin might have done – and which instead can only assert itself negatively, in contrast to the ‘evil’ of religion, by posturing against the alleged wickedness of institutionalised faith. It is the inner emptiness, directionless and soullessness of contemporary secularism – in contrast to earlier, Enlightened and more positive secular movements – which has given birth to the bizarre clamour for the pope’s head.

[Read the whole thing]
My Comments:
A devastating indictment of the intellectual lameness of the modern-day secularists and the "new atheists".

(Hat tip: Eric Scheske)

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At 4/22/2010 4:34 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I'm disappointed (but not surprised) you practice removal of non-obscene comments which challenge your opinions. It implies you lack confidence that your opinions will fare well under scrutiny.

At 4/22/2010 4:45 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

As a general rule, I don't delete comments (unless they are profane or include personal attacks). So, to say that you are "not surprised" by my decision to delete your initial comment is presumptuous.

I removed your comment for one reason and one reason only: you questioned my "family values". If you can come here and debate an issue without making snide personal comments, I will be more than happy to leave up your posts.

If you'd like to resubmit your initial comment without the last sentence, I will gladly leave it in place.

At 4/22/2010 4:56 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

In fact, I'll post your comment for you (snide personal remark redacted):

Mike said:
"Interesting that the "Inquisition" is used as a pejorative...the very Office Ratzinger headed up when he issued the Church's policy instructing Bishops not to turn accused pedophiles over to the secular authorities. Most morally normal people would be more concerned about the veracity of the accusations rather than the ulterior motives of the accuser. Did he obstruct justice or didn't he?"

I freely allow comments at this blog, but remember that I don't owe anyone a forum. It's easy enough to start your own blog if you feel the need to respond to something I've written or posted and just can't resist engaging in snarkiness. I can handle substantive disagreement, but get mightily pissed off when someone takes a dig at me using my own comment boxes. I owe you no forum for that.

Note that you've pushed it, as well, with the "most morally normal people" comment, but I'll let that one slide.


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