Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The moral bankruptcy of religion

One of my very first posts on this blog involved the odious and equally idiotic Iris Robinson: former member of the fundamentalist and fundamentally noxious Democratic Unionist Party. I wrote about her views on homosexuality - arguing that, while being perfectly compatible with scripture there were other biblical recommendations she might have liked to mention - slavery for one, killing heretics another, or even - alas - the punishment for adultery - yep death again. In fairness, we could acquit her of bigotry only on the conviction of idiocy. Developments in the time since, however, force me to revise this assessment: not only is Iris guilty of moral midgetry but also of breathtaking moral hypocrisy.

Her “sin” was to seduce and sleep with a teenager; a boy, old enough to be her grandson. Now, I would contend that this tryst is not especially interesting, nor indeed, seriously wrong. Though the affair would have received similar attention had it happened to any politician or public figure; it was, however, her earlier actions - as a votary of God’s good works that made this revelation something of a schadenfreude moment. While her affair was a straightforward case of hypocrisy, from what I gather, she was fucking him around the same time as she was calling homosexuality “vile” “immoral” and in need of medical intervention. When the story broke, it was Iris however who needed the psychiatrist; though if one were not overly cynical, one would think that all that was needed was “forgiveness” and the grace of god.

What is more dubious, and more important is the possibility that Iris had manipulated the young man in order to obtain money for her own private purposes. This would elevate the affair and Iris Robinson from a woman brought down by earthly passion, to more sinister case of sexual predation for financial gain. Not only has Iris suffered the political consequences - psychological ones as well, her husband, Peter Robinson, has been made to feel the electoral lash as well for he too has some questions to answer over possible financial malfeasance. It seems no surprise to learn meanwhile, that the people of Northern Ireland have dubbed them: “Swish family Robinson”.

The lessons from this are obvious when we regard religion: it does not make people better, but in invariably makes them worse; in this case - quick to persecute, fulminate and pontificate, while ignoring the large specks in their own discriminating, deluded and woefully myopic Iris. That religion, in order to avoid embarrassingly displays of emptiness, shrillness and hypocrisy should shun politics and public life and tend its own garden - that is, it should preach and practice in quiet.

Even this last thought may need to be revised - that we should aim to shunt religion off into some quiet corner when we come to consider what is surely one of the greatest scandals in history. A scandal - one intensified in the last year - a disgrace, institutionalised and subsequently covered up by a religious organisation; occurring not just in one country or even one continent - but a truly worldwide phenomenon - a grizzly testament to religion’s claim and indeed - proof of its boastful universality. I am of course, speaking of the Catholic child rape scandal.

While it should not be necessary to point out that nothing in the Church’s teaching or its doctrines could ever justify such actions (the same alas cannot be claimed for another monotheism which I’m coming to shortly), it is impossible however to deny that this decades long racket of paedophilia and corruption is a direct consequence of the Church’s cleaving to power; its enforced secrecy; its belief that it is a law onto itself. Even the current Pope - Herr Ratzinger, has himself been implicated in the cover up of Priests guilty of abuse. The reason seems, to be nothing so “gross” or material - so human and man made as the need to protect its earthly power and prestige, to prevent the disfiguring of good name of the Church, to maintain its craven desire to survive at any cost - and of course - not to give ammunition to its enemies: the “Jews and atheists”.

The Church’s record on human rights - or if you like - its record breaking success in promotion and propagation of human suffering - forces upon us the conclusion, that there is no other organisation, religion or institution whose sole purpose self-evidently seems to be the accumulation of power, the retention of authority in all aspects of life with the purpose of propagating abject misery, delusion and division - especially to the poorest and the most venerable.

As parlous as the Catholic Church is, it appears to be in a running battle and indeed, what ever its misdeeds, appears to be losing the title of greatest enemy of civilization to Islam. The problem with Islam does not need to be stated in terms of the clash with the west. No. The first thing to say is that it is Muslims men and women themselves who suffer most under the totalitarian shadow of the Koran. Hardly a day passes, when another Mosque has been bombed with a fresh score (at least) of dead Muslims littering the prayers halls. Last Christmas, to take one example from many - it would appear that a fanatic was so incensed by a volleyball match that he unmade himself and fellow co-religionists with a bomb strapped to his body. Not to mention the persistent and flagrant abuse of its women with the constant trickle of reports of beatings, honour killings and rapes.

All of this, is Muslim on Muslim violence. While there is much made of Western humiliation of Islam, or the damage done to Muslim minds and Muslim societies by for instance the civilian death toll from Iraq or the pictures of Abu Graib. This is, of course, true and important. This thesis however (that pain and anger have been caused by the West) can be swallowed whole, while simultaneously admitting that the biggest cause of humiliation and the greatest damage done to Islamic societies is the contents of the Koran and the details of Sharia law itself.

The depressing and absurd conclusion however is that much of this is simply slurred over, denied or explained away. Blandishments like “all religion has its fanatics” “ we need to address the educational and economic factors of this malaise” “we should not blame an entire religion on the actions of a small minority of its members” “ we need to remember all the good that religion does”. All of the these statements could apply equally to the Catholic Church as well as Islam, though I could modify the first statement by saying: “all religions have its paedophiles” - though in the case of Islam following the example of its beloved prophet - thinks it perfectly acceptable that grown men should marry and enjoy full “conjugal” relations with girls as young as nine. Maybe the only difference is that Catholicism keeps its child rapes secret - while Islam boasts of it - that you tell you something at least about the “clash of civilisations.”

It is time we ended the dogma that there is such a thing as freedom of belief or respect for beliefs that have nothing supporting them but ignorance and tradition, either a belief is supported by the evidence or it is not, if it is not then it should be abandoned. Religious belief has the same ontological status as fairies, ghosts and goblins. Its books belong to the same shelf as the Odyssey; Arabian Nights; or the Lord of the Rings. People are killing and dying in the name of nothing. Organizing their lives around a fiction. Religious moderates, condescending secularists and liberals are all engaged in the ponzi scheme that religion is useful and necessary for the uneducated and the unwell. The results of this Faustian bargain with faith meanwhile are bodies piled higher than the sun, the slavery of many millions of women, the relentless demonising of Jews and homosexuals and the abandonment of children to religious demagoguery and sexual predation.

Truly, God loves his children.

No comments: