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Apr. 12 2010 - 11:41 am | 481 views | 1 recommendation | 43 comments

Matt Taibbi and the anti-theists won’t let a good crisis go to waste

“When I see a Catholic priest chanting his ridiculous incantations and waving his holy smoke over someone’s gravesite or at a wedding, the vibe I get is exactly the same as the one I get watching a plumber groan and moan and babble gibberish about all the different things wrong with your kitchen pipes, when in reality all he had to do was replace a washer. It’s the same as picking up your car after an oil change and listening to the mechanic rattle off a list of charges totaling thousands for the nineteen extra things he looked at under your hood, just out of concern for your safety… And when you protest, no, there was nothing wrong with my alternator, I’m not paying for that, he tries to bullshit you — oh, yes there was, trust me, if we hadn’ta fixed that, your car woulda died on the highway within a week.

That’s all the church is. They’re a giant for-profit company using predatory salesmanship to sell what they themselves know is a defective, outmoded, basically unnecessary product. They’ll use any means necessary to keep their market share and if they have to lie and cheat and deflect and point fingers to keep the racket going, they’ll do it, just like any other sleazeball company.” ~ Matt Taibbi

I’m pretty sure the only polite way to respond to such a slimy post as this (and Matt has slimier, albeit briefer posts) is to thank Taibbi for making so plain the fact that this latest dust-up surrounding the pope has nothing at all to do with facts or evidence or any of the sorts of things that responsible journalists would require before making the claims Taibbi is making. It doesn’t even really have to do with the sexual abuse scandal. No, this is quite simply a personal vendetta. Taibbi and Dawkins and Hitchens and all the other anti-theists and anti-Catholics out there won’t let a good crisis go to waste. The fact that they have little more than gross speculation and favorably slanted reporting at their disposal is irrelevant. Taibbi will still write his hit pieces, and his British counterparts will run their little book-selling PR campaign.

This is Taibbi’s bread and butter after all. His formula is quite simple, really.

Step one: Choose a topic with wide popular support on the left. Wall Street bankers are Evil! The Catholic Church is a criminal enterprise! David Brooks is a schmuck!

Step two: Find ways to make the most of widespread antagonism toward said Wicked Entity in order to make them look ridiculous. Call the pope a douche! Make fecal jokes about David Brooks! Just be extreme and use lots of bad language. (They’ll eat it up! They’ll call you the second coming of Hunter S. Thompson!)

Step three: Act really smug and self-satisfied as all the praise is heaped on by adoring fans.

And that’s it. Fancy potty humor. That’s Taibbi’s entire shtick, whatever the topic is. It doesn’t matter that he has just about all the facts wrong in his anti-Catholic screed. Who needs fact when you have such strong opinions? It doesn’t matter that he’s done absolutely no legwork whatsoever in finding out if the things he believes line up with the facts on the ground. After all, when you’re working backwards from a preconceived notion, it’s much more important to align the facts of the story with your opinions than it is to actually check those facts against reality. Gotta connect those dots no matter how tortured the lines between them become.

It doesn’t matter to Taibbi (or the rest of the press, apparently) that Ratzinger was not in fact in charge of overseeing sexual abuse cases in the 1980’s or 1990’s. Somehow, in this skewed version of events, Ratzinger “seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial.” Taibbi doesn’t bother to dig any deeper here – where he would discover that in fact when the case finally did reach Ratzinger’s office there was almost no time to carry out the trial since so much of the evidence had been destroyed during the decades of cover-up and since the priest in question died almost immediately thereafter. Nor is there any evidence Ratzinger ever even knew about the case.

No, instead you get a whiff of what religious freedom might look like under the rule of an actual far-left regime (as opposed to our current president who is anything but ‘far left’ as he is so often painted by his political opponents):

But I think it’s time we started considering that what the church is is even worse than that. It’s possible we should start wondering if the church is also a criminal organization that in this country, anyway, should be broken up using RICO statutes.

After this nice little revelation, Taibbi goes on to repeat the tired old celibacy canard.

I’m not personally opposed to priests being allowed to marry, but I do have to wonder about this claim that somehow celibacy in the Catholic church leads directly to sexual abuse. As if married men don’t sexually abuse children, or this problem had never occurred in public schools or daycares or other churches or any other institution but the Catholic church itself.

Taibbi claims that it’s natural for these sorts of problems to arise amidst a population forced into celibacy. I suppose I can see how celibate priests might break their vows, but I don’t see how non-pedophiles would somehow become pedophiles just because they were forced into celibacy, or, conversely, how pedophiles would somehow no longer be pedophiles just because they were allowed to marry adult women. This isn’t how human sexuality works. Gay men aren’t going to become straight just because they’re allowed to marry women either – and yet somehow this all boils down to celibacy.

In the end the problem Taibbi and Dawkins and Hitchens (et alia) have is not, in fact, with sexual abuse in the church. That’s just a segue. Sexual abuse and the cover-ups of sexual abuse is a problem we can all agree on without arguing that the US government should use the RICO statutes to break up the church, or that the British government should arrest the pope. These attacks from the anti-theists are really about what the church teaches and believes, or as Taibbi writes:

Just as it refuses to change its insane and criminal stance on birth control and condoms, the church refuses to change its horrifically cruel policy about priestly celibacy. That’s because it quite correctly perceives that should it begin to dispense with the irrational precepts of its belief system, it would lose its appeal as an ancient purveyor of magical-mystery bullshit and become just a bigger, better-financed, and infinitely more depressing version of a Tony Robbins self-help program.

Therefore it must cling to its miserable celibacy in order to keep its sordid business scheme going; and if clinging to its miserable celibacy means having to look the other way while children are serially molested by its sexually stunted and tortured employees, well, so be it.

If you look at it that way, the church’s institutional behavior is far worse than is commonly believed. It’s not just a matter of an intractable bureaucracy responding too slowly or too insensitively to some scattered accidents of fate. This is more like the situation of a car company that continues selling a cheap but faulty brake system because it has calculated that it stands to make more money selling the cars than it does to lose in lawsuits. The only difference is, a car company can fix the brakes if it wants to. What the Catholic church is selling is by definition faulty. It can’t change, or it will be out of business. So even if not changing means kids will be continue to be molested, it doesn’t change.

This ignores the fact that, well, the church has changed – and immensely so, over its very long history. Oh it may not have changed the way that many would like. It may not take opinion polls or done user surveys or tapped into Matt Taibbi’s brain in order to find out just how it should go about changing in order to please the most people, but it has changed. And under the guidance of Pope Benedict it continues to reform and modernize its policies toward sexual abuse in ways that are long overdue.

But that doesn’t really matter to Taibbi or other self-professed enemies of the Catholic church. This whole scandal really works to their benefit. Richard Dawkins sells more books. Christopher Hitchens gets to advocate the deaths of more innocent Muslims in his endless advocacy of the war on terror and still look good for ragging on the pope. And Matt Taibbi gets to find clever new ways to use swear words and more sophisticated potty humor.

Because this stuff sells, whether or not the dots get connected in the end.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’m not anti-Catholic or anti-church of anything but Taibbi’s article makes a ton of sense.

    These priest have done this for centuries and someone always makes an excuse for these predatory pedophiles.

    Time is up, and enough is enough.

    The are what they are, and you shouldn’t sugar coat the molestation of children in any fashion regardless of a time limit offered up by law. Deflecting the bad deeds of these slime pedophiles using Matt’s writing style as the excuse stinks as bad the priest underwear that just freshly sodomized their latest victim.

    It’s repugnant, and disgusting and Matt is 100% dead on whether you dislike is fucking profanity or not.

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      Glad to learn that Matt is against pedophilia. That’s a pretty courageous stance, especially given the high rate of approval pedophilia enjoys in Western culture.

      Is he against murder and rape, too? Robbery? Stealing?

      Ladies and gentlemen, we are blessed to have this Renaissance Man in our midst, without whose guidance we would be but snorting brutes slipping in our own poop. Matt is my hero.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I think your confusing a hostility towards the gods with a distatse for perderasts.

    You know you’re really sick, or at least part of a sick ethos, when an attack on the sexual abuse of children by men of power is perceived or spun as an attack on faith or belief.

    I’d say at this point the most notable contributions of the catholic church are buggery and the excellent job they did helping the CIA get the more useful elements of the SS out of Europe. We used those guys to fight the commies. And we never could have done it without you guys.

    http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/62/266.html

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      “You know you’re really sick, or at least part of a sick ethos, when an attack on the sexual abuse of children by men of power is perceived or spun as an attack on faith or belief.”

      Attacks on the Pope are typically presented in the form of attacks on faith or belief. I’m no fan of the Catholic Church, so attacks on the Pope are fine with me, though a recent NYT piece has convinced me that the present Pope inherited most of these issues and is thus taking the heat for the previous, much more charismatic (and far less competent) guy. It’s Bush I/Reagan all over again.

      At the same time, it should be an easy (if not a required) task for professional writers to qualify their points, to avoid using a single instance, however disgusting, to construct a specious attack on the whole. Either younger journalists aren’t taught how to create and maintain context or they don’t care whether or not they come across as carelessly biased. Which suggests a lack of respect for their vocation. I hope it’s not that.

      Probably, it’s simply that rabid, rant-y, insult-packed writing is considered really cool these days. When, in fact, it’s neither cool nor writing.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Well, but look. The atheist position isn’t just that the Catholic church is a religion that just happens to have a sex abuse crisis; it’s that religion itself makes these sorts of crises much more likely, is in fact the root cause, if not of sex abuse of children, than of the institutional power and incentive to sweep these cases under the rug to preserve their apparent spiritual and moral authority.

    So Dawkins and Hitchens can’t be said to be exploiting the crisis, any more than a prosecutor is “exploiting” a crime by prosecuting the criminal who committed it.

    And, frankly, if Catholics don’t want atheists to seize on these examples to make our case against organized faith, maybe you could, I don’t know, have your priests stop fucking children? Just a thought.

    • collapse expand

      “I don’t know, have your priests stop fucking children? Just a thought.”

      DUH!!! How simple of a solution is that?. I bet the Pope wishes he would have thought of that one.

      So simple and so full of common sense, yet the concept escapes most folks.

      Congratulations Justin, you see the trees but it appears most folks just see the forest.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      I am not referring to ‘atheists’ but rather ‘anti-theists’ – and I think the distinction is important. I have no bones to pick with atheists or any other faith or non-faith.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        I think the distinction is between apathy and interest, not atheism and “anti-theism.” What you call an “anti-theist” is simply an atheist who gives a damn.

        But, it strikes me that you’ve evaded my point. You seem to take it for granted that the pedophile priest crisis has nothing to do with the faults of religion in general and the Catholic church specifically. Is it impossible for you to imagine that Dawkins and Hitchens completely disagree?

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Which is their right. So, have they made an actual case for religion being the root of all the evils they blame it for? A good, solid, logical, critically-tested case? Or do they elect instead to cast aspersions, make vast generalizations, insist on the most literal possible reading of religious myth, and basically bash faith for the shortcoming of not being science or philosophy? I’d say, way more the latter than the former.

          Wherever strong bias (make that revulsion) exists, the skeptic has to be all the more careful not to wrap data around a general perception, because doing so eliminates the most important part of data gathering–that of critically sifting it.

          What I’ve read by Dawkins and Harris doesn’t suggest to me that the conclusions on display are the result of a careful and objective consideration of all the available data. Dawkins, in particular, likes to “prove” one assertion or observation by justifying it with another. This is circular reasoning in sequential form–A is true because B is true, which is true because C is true, which is true because D is true, and so on.

          By the way, does “Is it impossible for you to imagine…” actually mean something closer to “Are you seriously doubting the word of….”? Hate to sound so suspicious, but….

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            So, have they made an actual case for religion being the root of all the evils they blame it for? A good, solid, logical, critically-tested case?

            Yes, I would say they both have, in a pair of books you may have heard of but probably not read, based on your comment.

            This is circular reasoning in sequential form–A is true because B is true, which is true because C is true, which is true because D is true, and so on.

            Which is by definition not circular! Amazing. Dawkins likes to prove assertions with observations, according to you. The rest of us usually call that “supporting one’s contentions with evidence.” It’s just too bad you couldn’t be bothered to do the same.

            By the way, does “Is it impossible for you to imagine…” actually mean something closer to “Are you seriously doubting the word of….”?

            No. It means “Dawkins and Hitchens have an argument that protecting pedophile priests is the inevitable result of organized faith, and you’ve not even bothered to grapple with that argument – you’ve just assumed that it can’t be right.”

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            I read Dawkins’ best-selling “book” “The God Delusion,” and he offered nothing beyond supposition and the garbage science of “memes” as evidence for religion being the root of all evil. Of course, keep on assuming that anyone unconvinced by the “case” against religion either doesn’t understand it or hasn’t sought it out. Otherwise, you’d have to meet the same standards of accountability you impose on people of faith.

            “The rest of us usually call that ’supporting one’s contentions with evidence.’”

            I’m well aware of that. And, again, I’m pointing out that “A is true because B is true” bypasses the requirement of proof, since it substitutes association for critical examination. An assertion is true in its own right or else it is not true. I would never in my life have thought of this as a fine distinction, but apparently it is. And, yes, the series I described is simply an expanded version of A=A, i.e. “A is true because A is true.” That’s the essence of circular reasoning. I’m simply noting that, in real life, it tends to appear in the form of a fallacy I call infinite association. (I just coined that as we speak.) It’s the fallacy that something is true because it is. Logic by association. Whether we state it as A=A, or stretch it into forever with A=B=C=D, etc., we’re playing the same game against logic.

            Proving something requires taking the evidence–ALL of it–and weighing it against itself. In the case of condemning religion as the primary cause of evil in the world, we’d have one hell of a lot of work to do, not the least of which would be comparing the evil impact of religion (which we would have to substantiate far more precisely than Dawkins and Harris bother to) to the evil impact of other popular institutions. And by country, state, etc. Then comparing and contrasting. Then we would have to demonstrate that the primary impact of religion is, in fact, evil. And we wouldn’t be allowed to simply ignore, Dawkins-style, every instance of religion as a force for good or progress.

            The burden of proving an assertion (e.g. religion is evil) does not allow for arriving at the investigation and/or debate with an assumption in place–the moment we start from the premise that something is correct, we’ve leaped back a couple millennial or so in the evolution of logic. Do we put people on trial on the assumption that they’re innocent or guilty? If so, we wouldn’t bother with trials. Substitute “test” for “trial.”

            Re “you’ve just assumed that it can’t be right,” the burden of proof is on the person making a claim, not the skeptic (in this case, me). In asking Dawkins and Co. to pony up and show me their case, I’m not refusing to believe it–rather, I’m testing it. If you’re seriously suggesting that Dawkins’ ideas are beyond challenge, then you’re not walking the walk of a skeptic. And that’s my point–neither is Dawkins.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Oh, and of course Dawkins makes the most literal kind of Christianity (making sure to toss in the crank “science” of Creationism) as the template for religion. And he does this even after conceding that fundie, bone-literal religion is the exception to the rule! Such inconsistency is par for the Dawkins course.

            He knows that, to “prove” something to highly literal, culturally uneducated minds, that all he need do is pile up data and make specious BUT LOUD connections between each body thereof. This tactic never fails with people unversed in critical analysis.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            I read Dawkins’ best-selling “book” “The God Delusion,” and he offered nothing beyond supposition and the garbage science of “memes” as evidence for religion being the root of all evil.

            You liar. According to my indexed copy of The God Delusion, “memes” appears on only 10 pages out of the 374 page book. It’s clear that, at best, you thumbed through it. Doubtless with a complete preconceived notion that Dawkins had already been refuted, somehow.

            And, again, I’m pointing out that “A is true because B is true” bypasses the requirement of proof, since it substitutes association for critical examination.

            Hardly, if B is the proof of A. Using A to prove itself is circular; using B to prove A is the definition of proof.

            That’s the essence of circular reasoning. I’m simply noting that, in real life, it tends to appear in the form of a fallacy I call infinite association.

            How exactly does Dawkins pull off “infinite association” in a 370-page book?

            It’s the fallacy that something is true because it is.

            But that’s not a fallacy! By definition that’s not a fallacy. If something is true because it is, it’s a tautology. Tautologies are true! They’re generally useless, and frequently so obvious as to be not worth talking about, but tautologies are not false. By definition, they can’t be.

            Proving something requires taking the evidence–ALL of it–and weighing it against itself.

            This makes zero sense. “Weighing it against itself”? Weighing something against itself results in a balanced scale. An identity is always equal to itself, there’s no way to “weigh something against itself” and have the result be anything but a balanced scale.

            In the case of condemning religion as the primary cause of evil in the world

            True, so it’s a very good thing that neither Dawkins nor Hitchens has ever called religion the “primary cause of evil in the world.” You’re arguing against a strawman. (That is a fallacy, by the way.)

            . Do we put people on trial on the assumption that they’re innocent or guilty?

            In my country? Innocent.

            Re “you’ve just assumed that it can’t be right,” the burden of proof is on the person making a claim, not the skeptic (in this case, me)

            Dawkins and Hitchens have amply met that burden. It’s up to those who disagree, now, to prove them wrong. You’ve simply proved that you have no idea how logic works or what a fallacy is. (Hint – you can’t make up your own, as a general rule, just because you’d like a certain mode of argumentation to go away.)

            Oh, and of course Dawkins makes the most literal kind of Christianity (making sure to toss in the crank “science” of Creationism) as the template for religion.

            That kind of religion is incredibly popular, so it’s worth examining, but Dawkins refutes the more mealy-mouthed “moderate” forms as well. The common claim that his book doesn’t address “sophisticated theology” (examples of which are never given by his critics) are completely false.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            “You liar. According to my indexed copy of The God Delusion, ‘memes’ appears on only 10 pages out of the 374 page book. It’s clear that, at best, you thumbed through it.”

            Whatever. Apparently, you possess ESP. And the manners of a Teabagger. I don’t even know how to answer the “only 10 pages” charge. How many pages should it appear on? 20? 30?

            “Hardly, if B is the proof of A. Using A to prove itself is circular; using B to prove A is the definition of proof.”

            Work with me, please. HOW DO WE KNOW THAT B IS THE PROOF OF A??? We just take the claimant’s word for it?? Yeah, that’s a great way to advance the burden of proof principle. (“What’s B?” “The proof of A.” “Oh. Cool.”) Critical thinking in action.

            “In my country? Innocent.”

            Ummmm, actually, it’s “innocent until proven guilty.” Those other three words modify “innocent.” If we assumed people were innocent, we wouldn’t try them in the first place, now would we?

            “You’re arguing against a strawman. (That is a fallacy, by the way.)”

            You’re failing to recognize a literary device called “hyperbole.” That’s called not being a word person.

            “This makes zero sense. ‘Weighing it against itself’?”

            Weighing pro against con. Weighing evidence which appears to support a claim against evidence which appears to work against it. UFOs, for example, are probably not real, given the absence of proof for their existence vs. all the reasons we have to assume they’re NOT real. Probability states they’re likely nonexistent.

            How, by the way, do we critically process evidence if we don’t compare and contrast?

            “Dawkins and Hitchens have amply met that burden. It’s up to those who disagree, now, to prove them wrong.”

            You liar. Dawkins made an extended circular case that proved not a thing. He simply hopped from one assumption to another. Since you don’t like “infinite association,” how about “preponderance of assumption”? Re 370 pages, “infinite” can go at least 400 pages, I’ve been assured.

            Re tautology, the dictionary tells me it’s a needles repetition of an idea, statement, or word. To prove something true in the first place, you still have to prove it so.

            “That kind of religion is incredibly popular, so it’s worth examining, but Dawkins refutes the more mealy-mouthed ‘moderate’ forms as well.”

            Yes, and the reason you put “moderate” in quotes is because you think there is no such thing. In other words, the most literal, conservative brand of religion is the true/only kind, in your view. You’re using it as the model for all, which happens to be what I accused Dawkins of doing, too.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            . I don’t even know how to answer the “only 10 pages” charge. How many pages should it appear on?

            How many pages should it be on if your claim that “d he offered nothing beyond supposition and the garbage science of “memes” as evidence for religion being the root of all evil” is true? Most of them, I would think. If the book literally contains nothing but discussions of memes, I would expect that matter to comprise most of the book, at least – instead of a paltry single mention in the index.

            HOW DO WE KNOW THAT B IS THE PROOF OF A?

            Elementary logic. If A can be derived from B by the elemental transformations of logic (which are, by definition, truth-preserving) then we know that, if B is true, A must be, as well.

            The fallacies, of course, come in when A is derived from B by logic that is not truth-preserving, such as when someone attempts to derive from the conditional to the unconditional (the fallacy of affirming the consequent), or from the personal to the impersonal (the fallacy ad hominem), and so on. But attempting to derive A from B is not itself fallacious – that’s the very basis of logic itself.

            If we assumed people were innocent, we wouldn’t try them in the first place, now would we?

            Why on Earth not? Only if you can’t tell the difference between an assumption and a conclusion, I guess. And the phrase in its entirety is “presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” We begin with the assumption that a defendant is innocent, then we test that assumption in court. If it cannot be contradicted, the defendant is considered innocent, even if they were unable to prove that they were innocent. We don’t even ask them to prove it!

            Not a complicated concept.

            Weighing pro against con.

            You’re simply not expressing yourself very clearly. Pro vs con isn’t “something against itself”, but Dawkins and Hitchens very much do weigh the pros of religion vs the cons, and like myself have determined that the cons far outweigh the pro.

            Since you don’t like “infinite association,” how about “preponderance of assumption”?

            What?

            To prove something true in the first place, you still have to prove it so.

            True. And the way that something is proven true is by deriving it from a more basic proposition known to be true, by a series of transformations that preserve truth-values. D, therefore C, therefore, B, therefore A. Or, if you prefer, A because of B, B because of C, C because of D.

            This is not a fallacy. It’s only circular reasoning if it’s actually circular. Proving one thing by derivation from another thing is no fallacy, it’s the essence of logical reasoning.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Well… it’s clear we’re not getting anywhere with this. We disagree about religion, about what I’m actually saying, etc. I hate nit-picking–I prefer to debate the things and issues that are biggest and most apparent, and you insist Dawkins has defined and made a great case regarding those big issues (religion as a force for evil, as something anti-science, and so on). Whereas I don’t.

            Ten posts later, we’d be in the same place, respectively. So…. thanks for the back and forth, and so long.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    You don’t like the man. Who cares? What he wrote sounds like opinion based on facts. Religion as business seems true to me.

  5. collapse expand

    Although I have no love for the Catholic Church as a gay man, I agree with you that this is pretty ridiculous. Of course! Religion is the source of all evil in the world! Let’s just ignore history and pretend that the Soviet Union never existed. I think it’s pretty sad when ideologues try to exploit something incredibly tragic such as this scandal and try to force it to fit in with their assumptions about the world. This has a lot more to do with abuse of power and the resulting cover-up than any particular fault of religion as a whole. I mean, what about the prison system? There’s pretty widespread sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers and prisons… *sigh* Just more fodder for the ever-pointless culture war…

    • collapse expand

      Religion is the source of all evil in the world! Let’s just ignore history and pretend that the Soviet Union never existed.

      I’m not sure why you think the Soviet Union somehow proves that religion is not a source of evil. The Soviet Union was hardly an areligious state; it was the position of the Soviet government, after all, that Stalin had the magic power to see through any painting of him.

      “God is the state; the state is God” is not a statement of atheism. It’s a conflation of religion and political power. Hey, a lot like the Catholic Church!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        “I’m not sure why you think the Soviet Union somehow proves that religion is not a source of evil.”

        The claim being rebutted is that it’s the source of ALL evil. Some evil vs. all evil are two vastly different claims. And any across the board claim can be sunk with just a single example. That’s the danger of making absolute claims–they never stand.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          Speaking of single examples and absolute claims, I wonder if Taibbi actually ever wrote or said that religion is the source of ALL evil. Can someone please provide a single example of this absolute claim? Anyone?

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            The quote wasn’t mine. MY take on neo-atheism is that it treats religion AS IF IT WERE the source for all evil. That doesn’t require that they (neo-atheists, anyone else) actually, literally label it as such–in fact, the standard neo-atheist game is to assert everything up to but not including an absolute, across the board damnation of faith. Though there are some on-line amateurs who do just that (typically, on comment pages)–they’re not properly schooled in the art of provoke and run.

            I haven’t read enough Taibbi to know if he’s the type to call religion the source of all evil. All I know is that his writing is hyperbole turned to 11 and that much of it focuses on David Brooks’ private parts. If I enjoyed his kind of prose, I’d still be in high school.

            Again, an expert like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris damns his target in every possible way SHORT OF calling it the one and only and ultimate evil. Then he denies, on technicality, everything he’s actually said to that point, including “I had eggs for breakfast.” Dawkins, for instance, wrote in the Washington Post that he thinks the Pope should be arrested. Dawkins has reported working toward that very goal. But when the Times credited him (in a headline) with saying he’d personally arrest the Pope when the Pope comes to England, Dawkins seized the op to play the I-didn’t-say-that game. His fans, who can’t (or won’t) read, love it.

            That game was most memorably summed up by Spike Jones in 1949:

            Mary: Bonsoir, John. Prosit. Auf wiedersehen. Au revoir. Adios. Aloha.

            John: How do you like that? She didn’t even say “goodbye”!

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Unfortunately, this reply to Savio’s reply to my post above will probably appear way later in the thread due to T/S’s crappy thread followup scheme, but:

            Savio, thanks for the followup, but I wasn’t really directing that post to you in particular other than your choice of the words “single example” and “absolute claims” – hence the “anyone?” at the end. Sorry for the confusion about the quote.

            As for your reply, point taken, but I’m going to have to respectfully discard it as anything useful here, I’m afraid. It’s too interpretive and I’m not looking for personal opinions on semantic interpretations of meaning or your opinion of Taibbi’s or other anti-theist writing style or prose. No offense.

            I’m looking for a quote. Something tangible. If Taibbi didn’t actually say or write what Aaron Wiegel is accusing him of saying or writing, or something (anything) paraphrase-ably close, I have no choice but to consider Wiegel’s entire argument nothing more than a textbook example of strawman argumentation.

            I will say that on its face Wiegel’s statement – and frankly your ensuing argument – is suspect even in the interpretive sense. Taibbi aims his rhetorical cannon at lots of targets besides Catholic Christianity (to say nothing of the catch-all ‘religion’). So if we’re going to wrangle ‘evil’ out of all the things he writes about and attribute it entirely (“ALL!”) to definitive sources not specifically named by him as such in the “as if it were” sense, why then do we not pick Goldman Sachs or David Brooks (or, funny enough regarding Wiegel’s original statement, why not the USSR?) as the source of all evil?

            Frankly, I don’t think Taibbi’s the sort even to use the word ‘evil’ in anything but a tongue-in-cheek way, nor the type to call any one thing THE source, but then that’s my interpretation. One would actually have to ask Taibbi about this or find it in his writing like I asked. Most professional wordsmiths and editors that I know dislike this word in secular writing as one that has irrational and religio-arcane implications built into it, and avoid it unless we’re using it playfully. Same with “wicked.”

            Regards,
            -M

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Pretty typical response from savio, I’d say – his sole complaint about atheists seems to be that they’re not making the cartoonish claims he knows how to refute, but rather temperate and restrained claims about the on-balance-negative effect of religion on our politics, culture, and civilization.

            That doesn’t require that they (neo-atheists, anyone else) actually, literally label it as such

            That’s a pretty neat trick – respond to claims you know your opponent isn’t making as though they had actually made them! Boy, if you could just substitute a trivially untrue claim for the claim your opponent had actually made, that would be a much easier way to have appeared to successfully refute their point. I wonder if there’s a name for that?

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            You’re replacing common sense with specious analysis, and I just suffered a round of that. I’m surprised I’m without a headache right now.

            “Interpretive”??? It’s called reading. We can’t think about things without examining them. Maybe someday we’ll evolve into optical scanners, but until that happens, some people, anyway, will read words with a mind to figure out what they’re saying. Unless we want to simply believe everything we encounter in print. UFOs? Cool! Bigfoot? Wow. Obama too liberal? No doubt.

            “So if we’re going to wrangle ‘evil’ out of all the things he writes about and attribute it entirely (‘ALL!’) to definitive sources not specifically named by him as such in the ‘as if it were’ sense, why then do we not pick Goldman Sachs or David Brooks (or, funny enough regarding Wiegel’s original statement, why not the USSR?) as the source of all evil?”

            You’re misreading my claim. Generalizing across the board about a single thing is the opposite of aiming a single charge at everything.

            Back to topic, I pointed out that it’s quite easy (con artists do so AS A LIVING) to make absolute claims without making them in full. This is totally relevant to your post.

            Watch any 1-800 ad in the a.m., and you’ll see shysters attributing every last possible power of healing, wealth-building, appearance-perfecting, etc. power to a tube of whatever they’re holding, and they do it by making a series of broad and unsupported claims, mixed with inept testimonials (“I used this product for thirty days and a month passed”).

            The cumulative message of such ads, with their barrage of miracle claims? “This product is the answer to everything.”

            Yet, that actual statement will probably not be present anywhere in the piece. But it’s a matter of what the uncritical viewer HEARS.

            What people receive is not necessarily exactly what’s been said. Con artists are acutely and profoundly aware of that.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Justin, be real. Propaganda is a real thing, and its features are very well documented. Making a false case against someone or something by tossing out broad and unsupported charges–standard procedure. If you want to carry on as if you never heard of such a thing and/or don’t see how it’s possible, then I’ll have to hope you’re kidding.

            Your game is tiresome. If I refer to a doughnut, you’ll act as if the concept is too abstract to be of any use, since a “nut” can be any number of things or types of people. None of my claims are remotely out there.

            I respect your opinion that any charge of dishonesty or manipulation against Dawkins and his fellow atheist celebs is logically impossible. I’ll treat it as I would treat any other magical claim–with patronizing courtesy.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            Propaganda is a real thing, and its features are very well documented.

            Sure. For instance, an example of it might be “there are no atheists in foxholes”, despite the long record of valorous service of avowed atheists, many giving the full measure of their devotion, such as Corporal Pat Tillman.

            Making a false case against someone or something by tossing out broad and unsupported charges

            Like “atheists claim religion to be the root of all evil”?

            I respect your opinion that any charge of dishonesty or manipulation against Dawkins and his fellow atheist celebs is logically impossible

            “Impossible”? Not at all; simply unsupported, especially by everything you’ve posted so far.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        I don’t consider it specious analysis. What is that?

        I look for truth in words. If one needs other words to re-describe what previous words have said, that’s interpretation, especially in the “as if it were” sense as description of an absolute; you distort the use of the message when you do that. In this case it’s even worse, since you haven’t even shown a single quote by Taibbi to reinterpret with your other words. Instead you aim at his style and some nebulous “as if” construct about seemingly all “anti-theists,” lumping them into the same categorical construct.

        This is a Wittgensteinian concept, if you are unfamiliar with this stuff on a philosophical level. Did he say it? Yes? No? “Imply ALL” is bull to anyone with a sense of reason, especially if you can’t back it with even quote #1. Words are what I do for a living. I’m very, very sensitive to this stuff. ALL is ALL. No ifs, no “maybe he means this,” no “I think he’s aiming at…”

        I’m only asking for validation of this claim, not decorative interpretation masked by claims of “common sense.” Can you provide it, or are you willing to let your own totally subjective interpretation stand for something he never once objectively said? And again, why is religion the source of ALL evil by your reasoning, and not Rush Limbaugh, or any other thing he’s attacked? Absolute is absolute. All means everything, last I checked. Does his vituperative nature somehow have more sting when he talks religion as opposed to gopniki or credit default swaps or D. Brooks? If so, why?

        Please provide some proof. Simple thing to do, and expected in any academic or peer-reviewed field where such a claim is made.

        Again, no offense, but you’ve offered no refutation of my points at all with this line of reasoning. “Specious” and “common sense” only go so far for those who rely on reason rather than simple rhetorical tools. Ok, maybe they do go far on the internet, but that’s not good enough for those of us who operate in the real world with real words and concepts.

        Since this is what I do for a living, I have to take issue where I see it. This whole thing is strawman.

        Ugh. I hate that I have to write this at all.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    I guess if you leave aside years of covering up priests sexual abuse and the verifiable fact that the Neo-Nazi Ratzinger actively participated in said cover up then yeah there sure is no evidence or facts behind this “dustup”. What a crock. I live for the day the Catholic Church ceases to exist.

  7. collapse expand

    It is not the Church (the one the holy the apostolic CATHOLIC church) which institutionalizes pedophilia, but rather the institutionalization of the precepts of the Church which protects, harbors and thereby fosters pedophilia. When formed a new institution makes its reason for being formed secondary and its first raison d’etre immediately becomes staying in business so that the next goal in line can be met. It is not possible for the Church to stop being the Church, not sociologically, not theologically, not realistically, not ever, as far as I can see (I am nearsighted).

    What is possible is for communities to react to allegations of child abuse by calling social and government authorities (the Police). What is possible is for children to recieve sex education with clear discussion of abuse so they may be prepared to talk about it afterwards. What is possible is to lock up the child abusers one by one, and keep track of them and to forbid them from professional contact with children. What is possible is for Church-goers to stop going, or to find another church (small “c”) such as the Anglican church. What is possible is for the Church to allow marriage (straight only of course) so that a larger number of sexually normal men (no women please) would be interested in the priesthood, minimizing the depleted ranks of Priestdom created by imprisonment of the abusers. And so it shall be.

  8. collapse expand

    “minimizing the depleted ranks of Priestdom created by imprisonment of the abusers. And so it shall be.”

    SHOULD READ

    “minimizing the depletion of Catholic Priestdom created by imprisonment of the abusers. And so it shall be.”

    N.B. The Catholics get blamed for it all, but there are many many other men (very few women) who prey upon children, even among them some Baptists and Witnesses.

  9. collapse expand

    speaking of ignoring facts, you didn’t really disprove any of taibbi’s facts on the moral and ethical crimes of wall street or the church or the hypocracy of brooks’ class warfare.

    instead you use that whole convenient left/right red/bluestate marginalization and file his work under “defender of the left”.

    the only thing you end up really taking him to task for is the “tone” of his arguements and not the actual substance (facts supporting his case) using a convenient “lefty” label to cover up the sloppy arguement for your case.

    i’m sorry, but any organization that serially covers up such unspeakable crimes and the loss of future further victims should be held accountable and subject to law and order like anyone else. especially when it comes to something as supposedly morals-oriented as religion.

  10. collapse expand

    The real head-scratcher of the church’s stance on celibacy is that the church is pro-marriage, and expects the priest to sermonize, counsel, advise, and take confessions about marriage (not to mention conduct weddings), children, pregnancy, etc.

    Also, I find it vaguely insulting to one’s intelligence when they call the priest’s celibacy (and abstinence) “a special gift from God.”
    Canon 277 (§1)
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PY.HTM

    With special gifts like this, who needs enemies?

  11. collapse expand

    Sorry, Justin, I’m afraid it didn’t. One of my best friends is about to become a Jesuit, and I had the good fortune (of course, some might disagree with “good”) of visiting a meeting of about 20 last weekend. They discussed giving relationship (in this case, marriage) advice, and they’ve found demand has skyrocketed the past five years. I actually didn’t believe them at first, but the geographically diverse group all agreed. They actually complained about being TOO busy lately. They found that contemporary couples are more trusting of priests (the non-abusive ones, of course)precisely because of their celibate lifestyle — another perspective, if you will.

    And to be totally transparent, I myself am the product of 17 years (K-college undergrad) of Catholic education, and I know many folks who have solicited relationship advice from priests. Feel free to attribute a bias to me (or to question the argumentation of the Jesuits themselves), but I must disagree with you based on my own experience.

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