Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Catholic Church, Dawkins, and the sexual abuse of minors

 The Catholic Church clearly teaches that sexual abuse of children is a grave sin. They may have failed to penalize and remove offenders the way they should have and failed to protect their parishioners as they should have, but they do teach that this is very wrong. Atheist Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, has said that being molested as a child was not such a big deal


Kevin said...

Intellectual lightweight Dawkins thinks that simply raising a child in Catholicism is more evil than a child getting molested.

Very similar to dimwit Sam Harris, who would wave his magic wand and eliminate home Bible studies before he would eliminate the violent rape of women, because home Bible studies are "religion" just like violent Islamic groups.

One does not go to these atheists to seek wisdom. Just ridiculous propaganda and ignorant talking points.

One Brow said...

It is unfair to say that Dawkins thinks little of child molestation generally, simply because he did and does not regard his experience as traumatic.

As he himself put it:
"Well, in a way yes, but it more irritated me that people are so illogical: Dawkins says A is bad, B is worse. Therefore he’s defending A. Now that is just totally illogical."

Mind you, I agree with Kevin that Dawkins is an intellectual lightweight on many issues that he comments on (and worse, IMO), and I agree with the very low opinion of Harris. I just think it's sufficient to roast them for the views they actually hold, rather than mix in some over-reaches.

Starhopper said...

Those (including some who comment on this site) who insist on equating Catholicism with child abuse either forget or never knew that the only reason the modern world regards child abuse as wrong (or even evil) is because of the Catholic Church.

The ancient world was absolutely awash in child abuse. It was an integral part of society. Great philosophers, Roman emperors, and men of letters (there were no women of letters) not only participated in such abominations, they celebrated them.

It took the Catholic Church to thunder condemnations against the practice, and work to eliminate such things throughout the Christian (eventually to be equated with the known) world.

But then, Dawkins is a biologist, and probably knows as much about history as he does about philosophy.

Papalinton said...

Dawkins an intellectual lightweight?
Compared to whom?


Starhopper said...

In his chosen field (evolutionary biology), Dawkins is most definitely not an "intellectual lightweight. However, once he steps outside the limits of his expertise, he unfortunately displays an embarrassing incompetence. This is a sad consequence of Dawkins' scientism, the belief that all knowledge other than "scientific" knowledge is ultimately not valid.

I say this with sorrow, because, having watched numerous videos of Dawkins discussing or debating the philosophical implications of his scientific research, he strikes me as someone whom I would very much like to know. He's not a "bad" person, simply a misguided one. But Dawkins (with a few unfortunate exceptions) is known for respectfully engaging with religious persons. A great example of that is here, beginning at 14 minutes, 20 seconds in.

That linked discussion is, by the way, how all religious debate ought to be conducted. It sets the standard for civility and genuinely listening to the other side.

One Brow said...

Dawkins an intellectual lightweight?

You dropped "on many issues" from your comment. Do you disagree that Dawkins tries to speak with authority about issues he has, at best, a shallow understanding of?

Kevin said...

A poll cast by readers that received 10,000 votes, which also features another anti-religious character on top in Pinker, and that's supposed to impress me about Dawkins? Really?

And yes, he is a lightweight. I don't care how many IQ points you have bouncing around in your skull or how wrinkled your brain is or how knowledgeable you are in your area of expertise - when you start pontificating on subjects you obviously know little about, and mock those who know more about them than you do, and make up strawman after strawman to attack, and inspire other edgy lightweights to pollute the internet with ridiculous propaganda and catch-phrases, you are a complete fool.

No matter how influential online (which is what the poll measured), you are a fool if that describes you. It describes Richard Dawkins perfectly. The only respect he warrants is within evolutionary biology, the rest is cringeworthy nonsense. That he gained massive popularity for his foolishness over his competence simply shows the type of person that idolized him.

Starhopper said...


I lived in England for a little over 3 years, and found it to be, when it comes to religion, a land of contradictions. They have a deep love for their Anglican traditions, and even the most hardened atheist seems to know practically every song in the hymnal. Even Dawkins has admitted that his "humming" tunes of choice all come from Evensong, and at odd times he's found himself unconsciously humming "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" or "It is a Thing Most Wonderful".

But on the other hand, England is the birthplace of the "New Atheism", and the attitude of downright hostility to any expression of religious faith is omnipresent. I was immune to the hostility on the grounds of being an American, so I was assumed to be a believer. What would throw them for a loop was when I told people I was a Catholic. Then I became unclassifiable.

Kevin said...

That's interesting. Do they view Catholicism differently? I know a lot of vitriol that gets thrown at evangelicals in particular is their conservative political leanings more than actual Biblical beliefs.

Is Christianity largely reduced to cultural leftovers in England?

Starhopper said...

Part of England's problem is they have a state religion, and for several generations now the Church of England has been increasingly identified with the monarchy and the Conservative (Tory) Party. The Royal Family's popularity has plummeted in recent years, dragging the Church along with it.

I fear that the same thing could happen here. The disastrous alliance between Evangelical Christianity and right wing Republicanism, along with their embrace of insane conspiracy theories has dragged the name of religion down into the mud in the United States. Far too many young people equate religion with science denialism, racism, bigotry, and Trumpism. It will take decades to recover from this devil's bargain.

However, the American Catholic Church, other than a few extremist outliers, has largely avoided such entanglements. We can thank Pope Francis for much of this. I highly recommend reading his two encyclicals, Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti. (Next to T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, they happen to be the two most marked up, underlined, highlighted, and annotated works on my bookshelves.) Like they say, when you are routinely condemned by fringe elements from both extremes, you must be doing something right. This is noticed in England, and appreciated.

bmiller said...

England has historically been the Christian country most opposed to Catholicism.

Here's How the English Learned to Hate Catholics

Seems like now, it's mostly the secularists rather than believers that still hate the Catholic Church.

David Brightly said...

Bear in mind that the Prospect readership (circ 45000) is largely in the classical liberal, social democrat, secular humanist camp. I began taking it when it came out in 1995. Over the years it seems to me to have moved leftwards, but maybe I've become more conservative. I've always thought its Top Public Intellectual poll rather daft. It used regularly to publish stuff of philosophical interest. A 2003 critique of Richard Rorty by Simon Blackburn comes to mind. Nice line: Why would we [Brits] want to choose between Marx and the Pope when we have the Church of England to relax in? Here.

David Brightly said...

A deep love for Anglican traditions and an omnipresent hostility to any expression of religious faith do indeed sound inconsistent. I suspect we English are rather embarrassed by public expression of faith. One of two things not to be talked about in the pub. But we are embarrassed by lots of things. At least, people of my generation often are. But things are changing, though not necessarily for the better.

We don't think of Anglicanism as a state religion. We say it's the established religion. That is, it's the Queen's religion and she is Head of the Church of England. If Charles were to swim the Tiber he would forfeit the Crown. She appoints the Bishops. That is, the PM does so on her behalf on recommendation from the CofE hierarchy. The Bishops sit in the House of Lords, and the Church takes part in the Spectacle of Monarchy and other aspects of national life like the Millennium celebrations. In addition to its annual income from investments, etc, of about £1B, the CofE receives about £30M from government to support the upkeep of its thousands of buildings, seen as part of the historic national fabric. It is answerable to Parliament. Virtually all schools, colleges, hospitals, etc, that were once run by the Church are now within the state system or independent, though they may still retain their religious affiliation. Apart from that Anglicanism is on a par with other religions, though there are far more Anglican churches than RC. And synagogues and mosques. The CofE is obliged to marry you and bury you if that is your wish even if you are not of the faith. You just have to have lived in the parish for six months.

Although it was once said (in 1917 apparently) that the CofE was the Tory party at prayer, I'm not sure it's seen as particularly attached to the Monarchy or the Conservative Party. Nor that the Monarchy's popularity has plunged recently, though we are currently undergoing a little local difficulty. William and Kate are very popular, if Charles less so. We recently had our ten yearly census with its question about religious affiliation. For the first time I was tempted to tick 'Christian'. After all, I was brought up in the CofE (though never confirmed), I have that affection for it that Starhopper describes, and I fully realise its place, and that of Christianity generally, in our history and our formation. But I'm not a regular church-goer. So 'no religion' it was.

The reasons for the decline in regular church attendance are probably many. For me it's the metaphysics, such as they are in Anglicanism. I recite the Creed with everyone else but feel a bit guilty. I'd quite like to return to the Church of my childhood. But the CofE has 'modernised' the liturgy to make it 'relevant' to the contemporary world. A mistake I think. With the old language dating from the 16th and 17th centuries one felt in the presence of something ancient and permanent. That sadly has gone. It feels now like just another self-help group.

bmiller said...
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bmiller said...


I read the article.

Would the Prospect publish the same article today? I'm thinking the wokesters would ban it here in the US.

David Brightly said...

That video has been on my YouTube for a while and I've just made time to watch it. Not at all sure about the 'last respectable prejudice'. And Ryrie doesn't talk about the geopolitics of the late 16C and 17C in which Protestant England had good reason to fear the Catholic states of Spain and France. Even after the Act of Union of 1707 Scotland could not be relied upon. Not too dissimilar perhaps from the Cold War tension between USA and communist USSR. Then there is the unhappy relation with Catholic Ireland running almost into the present century, with direct attacks on the British state in the name of the Catholics of Northern Ireland. Fear and hatred are neighbours. But I think you are right that the Catholic Church is now most hated for its principled stand against liberalism.

bmiller said...

I'd quite like to return to the Church of my childhood. But the CofE has 'modernised' the liturgy to make it 'relevant' to the contemporary world. A mistake I think. With the old language dating from the 16th and 17th centuries one felt in the presence of something ancient and permanent. That sadly has gone. It feels now like just another self-help group.

Lots of Catholics feel the same way regarding the attempts to bring the Church up to date. The Latin mass was all but outlawed for a while, but once it was allowed to be a choice again, it became very popular and not just among the old fogies. Mainly for the same reasons you cite.

David Brightly said...

Would the Prospect publish the same article today?

Dunno. The editorship has changed a couple of times since founder David Goodhart in 1995. They are clearly not in thrall to wokism, unlike the NYT, say. But my impression is that the articles in their Philosophy category have become more lightweight over time. The Blackburn piece is quite hard-going, I think. Reading it again I noticed the paragraph towards the end:

A final moral may be this. In Britain and the US theories of knowledge and truth have seldom been seen as politically relevant. But this is changing. The US has seen a conservative furore against postmodernism as something that has sapped the ideological resolve of the west, and my being asked to write this article in a non-specialist journal is part of this rise in awareness. But when the political temperature rises, each side needs a self-image that preserves confidence and authority. People want to shake off relativism, scepticism, and even philosophies like that of Rorty’s which sound similar, even when they take themselves to have got beyond those labels.

The intellectual direction the West was moving in was apparent in 2003 and before. It seems to me to have got a whole lot worse since then.

bmiller said...

If you think things have gotten worse, then I'd say it wasn't you that got more conservative but the leftward societal train kept chugging along. You just got off at a train station along the way.

Some progressives (even here) stayed on the train and now welcome things they condemned yesterday and condemn things they welcomed yesterday.

bmiller said...

If Charles were to swim the Tiber he would forfeit the Crown.

Out of curiousity, what if Charles took the crown and then converted to Islam? Would he have to step down?

David Brightly said...

Yes, absolutely! There is an Act of Parliament requiring the monarch to be Anglican. We can be tough on our rulers! Edward VIII was obliged to abdicate merely for wanting to marry a US divorcee. Not strictly a constitutional issue, but deemed 'unacceptable to the country'.

bmiller said...

So are most Brits antidisestablishmentarianists? (I just had to use that word ;-))

It seems that the Queen is obligated to preserve the established Church of Scotland although it is not Anglican. Seems quite a complicated situation.

David Brightly said...

No, it's not a live issue, except maybe for Scrabble players. We have some republicans of course, but a single-issue republican party would get nowhere. Further reform, even abolition, of the House of Lords, might do better.

Yes, historical compromises mostly. First in 1603 with the union of the crowns of England and Scotland. James VI of Scotland became James I of England, ie, king of both distinct countries, each keeping their parliaments. The Kirk, being Presbyterian, has no Head, as such, and a different form of government from the Anglican Church. The Scottish King is merely its protector. Then in 1707 under Queen Anne the Act of Union merged both parliaments into the Westminster parliament. Basically the English bailed out the bankrupt Scots after their disastrous colonial adventure in Central America. They have held it against us ever since. Much more recently we have had devolution for the nations in the UK (but not for England!) recreating a separate Scottish parliament of MSPs but the Scots also send MPs to Westminster. Yes, it's a dog's breakfast, but it's the way we have always done it. No written constitutions for us! Decidedly new-fangled Enlightenment idea.

Starhopper said...

The English/Scottish relations get even more convoluted when you realize that, once Queen Elisabeth II crosses north of Hadrian's Wall, she is only Elisabeth I, since the first Queen Elisabeth was not queen of Scotland.

On a different matter, I recall that some years ago Prince Charles announced that, were he to become king, he would not be "Defender of the Faith" but only "Defender of Faith". Perhaps that's why he's still Prince Charles, and not King Charles.

bmiller said...

No written constitutions for us! Decidedly new-fangled Enlightenment idea.

HA! Like having a written constitution means people won't claim it says anything they want it to say.

bmiller said...

Pro-Megan or Anti-Megan?