Friday, 26 July 2013

Religiously Hypocritical.

Justine Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
BBC News - Archbishop of Canterbury 'furious over' Church investment in Wonga

This made me chuckle. The background to the story is that the new Archbishop of Canterbury and pastoral head of the world-wide Anglican Community, Justin Welby, had said that he has told the head of Wonga, a notorious loan-sharking company , "we're not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence; we're trying to compete you out of existence". Wonga specialises in luring poor people into spiraling debt then hitting them with extortionate penalty payments they can't possibly afford, eventually sending in baliffs to seize their possessions, like a blood-sucking parasite bleeding its victim to death with all the morality of the financial marketplace.

Before going into the church, Justine Welby, a multi-millionaire Old Etonian aristocrat, who was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron, a multi-millionaire Old Etonian aristocrat, was a banker. Once ordained, he was given accelerated promotion to the top and only now seems to be gaining some insight into how the Church of England works. He knows well enough how politics works when his old school chums are running the country and knows that any attempt to legislate against these parasites would be a non-starter, if for no other reason than that it would risk damaging an important Tory Party income stream as well as that of many of their MPs and constituency committee members. So, it's to be a high-profile, 'valiant', but of course ultimately ineffective, struggle against a social wrong which leaves everything as it is but enables the CofE. to claim to occupy the moral high-ground whilst pretending to be on the side of the poor.

Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time. By attacking the fundamentals of virtually every branch of science, it widens the chasm between the scientific and spiritual worldviews, just at a time where a pathway toward harmony is desperately needed. By sending a message to young people that science is dangerous, and that pursuing science may well mean rejecting religious faith, Young Earth Creationism may be depriving science of some of its most promising future talents.

Francis Collins, The Language of God
It seems that the CofE. has itself been profiting from Wonga's loan sharking and from the desperate plight of poor people made worse by the financial collapse caused by Welby's former banker colleagues and by cuts in welfare by Welby's old school chums Cameron and Old Etonian multi-millionair aristocrat Chancellor, George Osborne, gleefully imposed using the financial crises as an excuse for some Nasty Party class hatred to appease the grassroots Tories who went into politics to show the plebeians just who's boss around here.

The CofE. has £75,000 invested in Wonga out of its investment portfolio worth £5.5bn. (That's five and a half billion!) Just imagine how much debt that could pay off and how much poverty it could relieve if only the Anglican Church was bothered enough to do what Jesus supposedly told them and give their money to the poor. Instead, it is invested to make even more money with all the morality of the financial marketplace where the terms 'good' and 'profitable' are synonyms and the only wrong is failing to get the highest possible return.

Instead, Welby has decided to take the Church deeper into banking and money-lending, apparently planning to turn the churches themselves into places where poor people can get a pay-day loan - at a competitive rate of interest or course. I wonder if this 'service' will be restricted to Christians.

Anyway, what made me chuckle was how this news item illustrated the routine hypocrisy which passed for Christianity (and, to be fair, other religions too) nowadays. The contrast between what they claim Jesus told us to do, what they tell us to do using Jesus as an excuse, and what they do themselves is stark. It is probably one of the main reasons for the collapse in support for religions and the recent phenomenal rise in support for secular bodies and the abandonment of superstitious beliefs and a willingness to self-identify as a non-believer.

The story comes hard on the heels of another scandal involving the Christian Church, this time the Catholic version. Not the normal almost universal child sexual abuse by priests and cover-up scandal, but similar. This one involves the Catholic Church in Spain, which could rely on the fascists regime under Franco to turn a blind eye, stealing and selling babies. Under the fascists the Catholic Church had thrived and had been given virtual control of all social services in Spain including the hospitals. Catholic priests had been compiling list of suitable 'devout' but childless Catholics couples and nuns in the hospitals had been stealing newborn babies for them from usually poor, unmarried girls whilst Catholic doctors lied about the fate of the newborn baby to its mother and the hospital organised a fake funeral for it.

All this was done by people under the pretext of religion and by people who had no moral scruples about lying for money and power and who saw nothing wrong with being hand in glove with fascists who had abolished democracy and routinely murdered their political opponents.

Imagine that you are a teacher of Roman history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world — for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammar as exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That’s a big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class’s attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunate pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romansh: all these languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously and separately into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin.

Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth
The conclusion that, to those who still profess to be religious, religion is nothing more than an excuse for antisocial attitudes and behaviour, or their excuse for laying claim to undeserved power and privilege, to which they cling tenaciously rather than take responsibility for their own actions, is now inescapable. In practice, hypocrisy in religion is no longer regarded as a sin, but an essential component of it. Moral bankruptcy is now taken for granted and almost any behaviour can be permitted if you quote religion and blame a god or an old book. It's a delicious irony that an official condemnation of hypocrisy isn't matched by actions. Even their condemnation of hypocrisy is an example of their hypocrisy.

This can be readily seen on practically any of the social media on the Internet. Sites dealing specifically with science or almost any serious subject, for that matter, have to take steps to keep out or reduce the abusive hate-messages and comments from Christians and Muslims, especially on any matter concerning evolution or which is not in strict accord with the early medieval understanding of those who wrote their holy books. This abuse is frequently, indeed usually, personal, threatening and often insane.

At this point I will resist the temptation to use the clearly insane behaviour of Manuel de Dios Agosto, the failed priest, notorious Internet stalker and abuser who currently posts dozens of increasingly bizarre comments on this blog almost every day, as an example. This would be unfair to normal Christians and Muslims who, one assumes, are still employable, capable of living normal lives and are not confined to their unfortunate mother's house by hostile neighbours.

Besides, picking one clearly disturbed, dysfunctional person as representative of the whole is unscientific, tempting though that might be, and it's certainly not fair on the majority of sane and law-abiding religious people. Not all religious people have a narcissistic personality disorder, although very many who stalk the Internet seem to have. It would be like assuming all Catholics are child abusers just because some of them are and a very large number of their priest have been exposed as such and just because the Catholic Church establishment conspired to facilitate their criminal activities, or that all Muslims are suicide bombers or routinely behead those who disagree with them, just because some do and are encouraged, even instructed, to do so by some Muslim clerics.

Devout Christian and Muslim defending their religion against the science of evolution.
Does it look to you as though they believe a god is watching them?
Nor would it be fair to assume that, just because a few people like Kent Hovind, Ken Ham, Dwayne Gish, Michael Behe, William Dembski, David Barton and William Lane Craig earn their living by misinforming and misleading gullible and ignorant people about science, history, mathematics, logic, etc, that all religious people are cheats and frauds.

I simply note how in all these cases, religion is the excuse and how this behaviour is very clearly the act of people who either don't believe in the god they purport to believe in, or have concluded by some bizarre mental gymnastics that it has exempted them from the rules of normal civilised behaviour. I tend to the view that they no more believe in a god of truth and honesty than I do but are too small as people to take responsibility for their own actions and need to cling desperately to something to hide behind.

It is difficult to draw a distinct line though between these clearly mentally disturbed individuals and the generality of those professing to share their faith in whichever god they profess to believe in. It is also hard to exclude the hierarchy of faiths which facilitate abuse and sanctions inhuman acts.

But it is perfectly fair to include those who willingly lie or abuse for their faith because lies and abuse are not the acts of truly religious people, and this seems to include almost all of them. It's also fair to point to the frequency with which a professed belief in a god of is not matched by the actions of the faithful. And they are so easy to expose. See how many of those who claim to 'love Jesus' or to follow 'The Prophet' use obscenities and abuse as common currency in their defence of them. Just like Jesus or Muhammad did!

Try asking one of these questions of any true believer and you will almost invariably get the same result - evasion, abuse, condescension, judgmentalism and lies.
  1. If you believe you get your knowledge of right and wrong from your holy book, how can you be sure it wasn't written by someone or something wishing to deceive you? In other words, if you believe in Satan or in evil gods, how do you know they didn't write your book of morals to mislead you?
  2. If you believe in free will can you make a decision your god hasn't always known you will make and your god still be inerrantly omniscient? If not, you don't have free will. If you can, your god isn't inerrant or omniscient.
  3. If your god is omnibenevolent, why is there suffering in the world it created and why do diseases and misfortune exist? For there to be suffering your god either doesn't care, doesn't know about it or is powerless to prevent it. None of these are consistent with an omnibenevolent, omnipotent god.
  4. If your god is infinitely merciful, why do we need to do anything to earn its forgiveness and avoid its 'justice' when an infinitely merciful god would forgive anything, including disobedience, disbelief and/or worshipping a false god?

I can guarantee you will almost never get an honest answer to any of these questions because they all undermine the very foundations of the faith they purport to hold on to. They would rather lie, evade and abuse than admit their faith is founded on flawed logic at best and a lie at worst. Yet, if they believe a god of truth and honesty is watching them and punishes dishonesty and false witnessing, they would honestly admit they can't answer these questions and that their 'faith' is founded on falsehood.

I don't reject Christ. I love Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.

Given the choice between conforming to what they claim their god requires of them and admitting they have no basis for their faith, they sacrifice personal integrity, adopt dishonesty and do anything but behave they way their faith supposedly requires them to. The normal response will be to hurriedly break off the conversation, usually with a departing curse and a disguised threat, either real or passive-aggressive.

The very concept of sin comes from the Bible. Christianity offers to solve a problem of its own making! Would you be thankful to a person who cut you with a knife in order to sell you a bandage?

Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist
In other words they adopt hypocrisy, and so reveal that you've peeled back the disguise they were hiding behind. Beneath it you will have found a judgmental, hypocritical bigot, usually full of hate for strangers, whose response to questions reveals how they would behave towards others if only they had the power to. Scratch the surface of almost any sanctimonious theist and you will find a stinking hypocrite trying to keep well hidden. The God Delusion must be maintained at all costs because the individual has invested far too much in it. It takes a very rare, brave and honest individual to be like Dan Barker and admit first to themselves, then to their friends and family, that they have realised their faith was wrong and had no rational basis.

It takes too much honesty to begin the self-questioning process then to begin an honest evaluation of the evidence, or the lack of it, for the average devout theist to even countenance doing so. And what does Atheism offer to those who need an excuse for their personality and a reason to avoid taking personal responsibility for themselves and their opinions?

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