Too much book-learning makes baby Jesus cry

19 11 2008

In 1378 John Wycliffe first translated the Bible into English . . . and it appears certain rightwing Catholics are rueing the day.

The Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, the Bishop of Lancaster, has claimed that graduates are spreading scepticism and sowing dissent. Instead of following the Church’s teaching they are “hedonistic”, “selfish” and “egocentric”, he said. [. . .] While not naming names, he suggested that such people had been compromised by their education, which he said had a “dark side, due to original sin”.Prominent Catholics in public life include Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director general, and Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister.

Bishop O’Donoghue, who has recently published a report on how to renew Catholicism in Britain, argued that mass education has led to “sickness in the Church and wider society”

In short, too much education is teh evil, because those Catholics who have eaten of this forbidden fruit and have become influential have “corrupted the faith of those who had not gone to university.” And what’s worse,

In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.”Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.

Just think . . . all this time I’ve been depressed and unproductive because I lack belief in the existence of deities. Ditto, these sad and lazy fools.

But O’Donoghue isn’t the first British Catholic clergyman to attack thinking: earlier this year the highest-ranked Catholic in the land warned that reason leads to terror and oppression. It’s just O’Donoghue is far more abrupt about what is at stake: educated Catholics, their minds poisoned by the “dark side” of their education—“original sin and concupiscence”—leading the sheep astray. Is this the voice of an institution worried about its waning power and influence, and increasing irrelevance? Or is it the voice of an institution that is in so much despair about its ability to defend its theological claims with reasoned argument and evidence, that it simply falls to demonising reason itself and demonising those who, having set foot inside the gates of a university, have developed the capacity to question Catholic dogma (and we can’t have that)?

Perhaps it’s both.

Is there really much difference between religion and insanity?

31 05 2008

Or at least, between religion and woo-woo?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged on Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. He was calling for the BBC to be biased in favour of Christianity and to give unopposed air time to Christian voices, accusing secularists of being “Christophobic” and wishing to “close off every voice and contribution other than their own.” He later claimed that reason “leads to terror and oppression.”

This post isn’t about O’Connor. This is about his personal exorcist, Father Jeremy Davies . . . though I suppose, given O’Connor’s stance on reason, it makes sense that he would have a “personal exorcist.” Davies has joined the flea circus of apologist tomes published as a backlash against the “new atheists” with a new book, Exorcism: Understanding Exorcism in Scripture and Practice, in which (according to the National Secular Society) he maintains that

the “spirits inspiring atheism” were those who “hate God.” [. . .] Father Davies writes that Satan has blinded secular humanists from seeing the “dehumanising effects of contraception and abortion and IVF (in vitro fertilisation), of homosexual ‘marriages,’ of human cloning and the vivisection of human embryos in scientific research.

“The result, he said, was that Europe was drifting into a dangerous state of apostasy whereby “only (through) a genuine personal decision for Christ and the church can someone separate himself from it.”

Davies also blames atheism for “perversions” such as homosexuality and extra-marital sex. He condemns atheism, blasphemy, attacks on the Church and “resisting God’s grace” as “rebellions against God”; but, just to prove that he doesn’t go in for that woo-woo nonsense, he also warns against yoga and massages, which the former doctor regards as equally demonic as seances, astrology and acupuncture. Fortune-tellers and mediums are bad, he claims, because attempts to contact the spirits of the dead are “direct invitations to the devil which he readily accepts.”

As the good Father and official exorcist in the Diocese of Westminster reminds us, “Sanity depends on our relationship to reality.” Read the rest of this entry »

Irrational and proud of it

10 05 2008

Ben Stein on science:

Anyway, I couldn’t give a [profanity] whether a person calls himself a scientist. It doesn’t earn any extra respect from me, because it’s not as if science has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill all the Jews. Scientists were telling Stalin it was a good idea to wipe out the middle-class peasants. Scientists were telling Mao Tse-Tung it was fine to kill 50 million people in order to further the revolution. [Via Memeplex]

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on reason:

if you go just by reason, I think, without faith, without belief in God, you can imagine, for instance in the last century, some of the faith(less), or supposedly faithless societies – people, whether it’s like Hitler or Stalin, bringing up – having a country in which, if you like, a God free zone, a dictatorship ruled by reason, and where does it lead? To terror and oppression [Richard]

Regarding the second quote, Richard Dawkins remarked that while the use of the reductio ad Hitlerum against science is commonplace, “this is the first time I have heard any reputable spokesman (a) say that Hitler and Stalin’s dictatorships were ruled by reason, and (b) say that reason leads to terror and oppression.”

Further reading: Memeplex and Terry Sanderson at <i>The Guardian</i>.

The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Why does the Archbishop of Westminster hate democracy?

8 05 2008

He’s demanding unopposed time for Christians to proselytise on the BBC. From the National Secular Society:

The BBC should not apply its impartiality rules when it comes to religion, and the Corporation should be biased in favour of Christianity, said Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor last week. [. . .] Murphy O’Connor also said that Christianity should have unopposed time to deliver its message on the BBC. “Sometimes the adversarial aspect — if you’ve got one view you’ve got to have the opposite view — supplants what we need.”

Murphy O’Connor is a representative of the whiny conservative wing of Catholicism, which unfortunately occupies many of the key positions in the Church and keeps the hierarchy of that particular denomination firmly entrenched in the Middle Ages. In 2001 he was wailing about the decline of Christianity in the UK, advancing the claim (with zero justification) that in the absence of his preferred dogma “Society had been demoralised, with people seeking transient happiness in alcohol, drugs and pornography.” In 2006 he sacked his press aide for being homosexual, and then declared that “the Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against gay persons.” He has also complained about taxpayer-funded “faith schools” being “threatened with having to take a quota of non-believers” (never mind the fact that their parents pay the taxes that fund those faith schools), and has not been reluctant to play the poor-persecuted-Christian card, accusing secularists of being “Christophobic:”

They wish to close off every voice and contribution other than their own. Their inability to see the Christian seed in what is noble and good in Western culture chills the possibility of a true pluralism.

They wish to close off every voice and contribution other than their own. Do not adjust your monitor. The man who wants Christianity to have unopposed time to deliver its message on the British national broadcaster, in a country with significant non-Christian religious communities, and in which only 38% of the total population (and I assume, taxpayers) believes in a deity, actually said that.

Via Dogma Free America.