Recently Stephanie Zvan of “Almost Diamonds” refuted the following ubiquitous meme: “When atheists criticize religion, we alienate the religious. The more harshly we criticize it, the more we alienate.” To paraphrase her argument, while a person may not change their mind during the discussion, they may change it later after they have done some thinking. Even religious fundamentalists can change their mind, as Dan Finke constantly demonstrates. And sometimes being able to present the argument from an atheist helps those who are outraged by their church to criticize the theological establishment. As Stephanie put it, “The point is that my religious friends were free and able to voice their dismay and anger over this because of something I wrote. They could do this because of a harsh criticism of religion, a harsh criticism of the behaviour of religious people, written by an atheist.”
Also recently, PZ on Pharyngula posted a no holds barred rant against Catholic hospitals following the sad story of Savita Halappanavar, the woman who was refused an abortion in Ireland because “this is a catholic country” even though the cluster of pulsating cells that were killing her were doomed. Those cells did kill her, and I can’t figure out why no manslaughter charges can be laid against the doctors who refused to operate to save her life. They killed her as surely as if they had taken a scalpel to her throat. That aside, I resonate with Professor Myers’ anger and sent a link to his rant along to my mother in law, a lifelong Catholic.
Dear _____ This made me feel sick to my stomach.
I know you are attached to your church. And it’s probably cruel of me to keep harping on what an evil organization it is. But I think you will find it hard to disagree with this article.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
With love _____________
Here’s the reply I got back:
“You will be happy to know that I forwarded this to the Catholic Bishops of Canada on your behalf. I agree with you, the RC Church has done & is still doing a lot of stupid things that have hurt people. I regularly e-mail them with their stupid words & actions, like training priests to perform exhort-isms, who was qualified to judge who needed to be cleansed? When they should have been spending time & money helping all the people that the abusing priests had harmed. Another time I had just got home from church where they had been asking for money to be bequeathed, so I told them about all the property in BC that the church had had to sell to pay for the Bishops gambling debts. My query was why did they have the property in the first place, why it was not all sold & the money been used to give the poor help. I have not had any answers from them to date. I hope I am giving them another point of view for their dealings with all of us. Thanks for your input. LOVE _____”
PZ pulled no punches with his rant: “Bloody butchers and pious toads who mask their medieval ignorance with a pretence of charity and care; it’s long past time to end the illusion and recognize the barbarism of the church.” So for my mother in law to take his point means something.
So, there is some value to making religious people confront the vile implications of their various dogmas. Those with a heart will pass our views along to their administration. Who knows, maybe things will change. It’s too much to hope that they will give up believing in fantasy beings and stupidity like transubstantiation, but maybe they’ll stop killing women in Catholic hospitals because, in the words of PZ Myers, “a mob of celibate old puppetmasters (who) don’t give a damn about anything other than their theology and will happily sacrifice human beings on the altar of their vile and backward religion” may finally get the message.
I would also like to see Ireland do something about their Catholic churches, like charging doctors with manslaughter when they stand by and allow a young woman to die. Better yet, get the Catholics out of the health care business. They are only in it so they can enforce their idiocy on non-Catholics.