Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why We’re Secular, part 240

The dogmatic just don’t get it, do they? If they did, then they wouldn’t be dogmatic! Of course, the circular logic of a dogmatic belief system is successful in preserving itself precisely because a central tenet of an enduring system of dogma is that its assertions are beyond question; or, cleverly, beyond our ability to question; or even more cleverly, that belief in that dogma is a “gift” of some sort, hence the inability of dogmatic believers and followers to break free of whatever arbitrary and capricious system of dogma that entraps them.

Dogma need not be the full foaming-at-the-mouth kind that motivates terrorists and other zealots. Dogma can, in fact be totally mainstream and socially acceptable in polite company, but its acceptability renders the acceptor incapable of arguing against competing dogma even if it is indeed full foaming-at-the-mouth style dogma. A baseless and faith-held belief system has as much reason to support it as the next one.

Take for example our old friend, the God Squad’s Rabbi Marc Gellman. Considered a “moderate” by many, he seems unable to recognize the pointlessness of even bothering to use reason or logic (even poorly) when answering religious questions. Check out this exchange which appeared in Newsday on Saturday, March 07, 2009:

Question from a reader: I'm sorry that as a Jew you cannot accept the biblical fact, but Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and He came to save the world from sin and give us eternal life. If you accept this, you are saved; if you don't, then you're not. The scripture is clear that we are told these things so we may know that we have eternal life. Can't you acknowledge this truth? – B. via email

Answer: Not.

Does Rabbi Gellman realize that his answer to this reader’s question would suffice as an answer to his own question posed to an atheist on whether they could accept that God exists? Duh, I guess not!

The implications of faith-inspired tunnel vision and dogmatism encapsulated in this little exchange are mind-boggling and apparently totally lost on Rabbi Gellman. If he did see the implications he’d immediately become agnostic and understand he has no answers worth offering on the question of the existence of God.

Consequently, the need to continually justify his dogma often leads him into vicious and slanderous territory. Readers of the INQUIRER are well aware of his past attacks on non-believers (and his left-handed apologies). In the same column as his dogmatic rejection of salvation from a concerned dogmatic Christian letter writer comes the following piece of nuttiness:

Question from a reader: Considering, over many centuries, events like the Inquisition, countless and unceasing religious wars, the Crusades, 9/11 and the recent Mumbai killings, can you say that, on balance, religion has caused more good than bad things to happen? -- A., Melville, N.Y. via email.

A: Group A: (Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham, and Father Tom Hartman)

Group B: (Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin)

My conclusion: Group A wins over Group B.

(Go to

What is implied by these two groups and by what random process did he select the groups? Group A has two genuine heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, two homophobic Popes who believe that condom users deserve eternal damnation, a religious fanatic who believes that any woman who uses a contraceptive is incapable of love, an anti-Semite and a close friend of the Rabbi. You could ask yourself however, where are noted theists bin Laden and David Koresh?
Group B does indeed have all villains but includes Communists, a Muslim and a Catholic.

Oh yeah, I get it – in Group B they’re all really atheists because they are evil no matter whether they actually believe in God or not. The actual facts are irrelevant. I did notice that noted non-theists Christopher Reed, Pat Tillman. Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Robert Ingersoll, Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Kurt Vonnegut and John Lennon were omitted from Group B; it must have been an oversight!

But in the same newspaper edition that Gellman is attempting to claim that Group A (the “religious”) are better than Group B (the “atheists”) we have the following reality checks:
Senior leaders of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah offered international support Friday to Sudan's president after he was charged with war crimes in Darfur, a sign that the bid to prosecute him could sharply radicalize his regime.

For a third straight day, President Omar al-Bashir's supporters marched and vowed to defend him against what his government called a "colonial" conspiracy to overthrow him. Hundreds emerged from mosques after Friday prayers, chanting "jihad," or holy war, and shouting, "With our souls and blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you, al-Bashir."

After the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for al-Bashir, Sudan's government responded by expelling 13 of the largest aid organizations in Darfur.
The U.N. human rights office said in Geneva that it was examining whether the expulsion could itself constitute a war crime.

The order opened a giant hole in the safety net that has kept many Darfur civilians alive during six years of war in the vast, arid region of western Sudan. Without the groups, 1.1 million people will be without food, 1.5 million without health care, and more than 1 million without drinking water — and outbreaks of infectious disease are a greater danger, the U.N. said.

"To knowingly and deliberately deprive such a huge group of civilians of means to survive is a deplorable act," said its spokesman, Rupert Colville. "To punish civilians because of a decision by the ICC is a grievous dereliction of the government's duty to protect its own people…"

Jennifer Cooke, head of the Africa program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Western reaction "may drive al-Bashir further to the hard-line radicals."

"He is framing the ICC's decision as yet another Western attempt to undermine the sovereignty of a Muslim developing state," she said. "And realizing he can rally support, whether from the Arab League or more radical elements, and possibly the (African Union), it gives him less incentive to move back on his decisions." (Go to .)
Yes, support is lining up behind al-Bashir on a religious basis with supporters of al-Bashir depicting the “secular West” as colonialists when their only true motivation is mere religious chauvinism. (This is not to say that the religious elements in the “West” do not at times exhibit the religious chauvinism as well.)

If a religious “moderate” takes exception to the above story as non-representative, we offer another story regarding the supposedly non-extremist Catholic Church, the largest church on earth:

“The Vatican has defended the excommunication of those involved in helping a nine-year-old girl get an abortion in Brazil after she was allegedly raped by her stepfather.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the head of the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops, told the Italian daily La Stampa over the weekend that the unborn twins the girl was carrying had the right to live.

"It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated," he said.

The senior cleric's comments come after Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, criticised Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the Brazilian archbishop who excommunicated the girl's mother and the doctors involved in aborting the baby, but not the stepfather who allegedly raped the girl.
Lula said that as a Catholic, he deeply regretted the archbishop's "conservative attitude".

"It is not possible to allow a little girl raped by her stepfather to have that child because it could put her life at risk," he said.

"I believe that in this sense, medicine is more correct than the church."

But the cardinal said "life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified".

The nine-year-old from the northeastern state of Pernambuco in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation, was found to be four months pregnant last week after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.

Abortion is a crime under Brazilian laws except in cases of rape, if the woman's life is in danger or if the foetus has no chance of survival

Doctors said they decided to terminate the pregnancy because the girl's life was in danger due to her young age, and because she was carrying twins.

But Sobrinho, the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, in declaring the excommunication, said the abortion went against "the law of God".

The stepfather was not excommunicated because the church said that his action, although deplorable, was not as bad as ending the life of an unborn child.

"It is clear that he committed a very serious sin, but worse than this is the abortion," Sobrinho said.

Under church law, excommunication is automatic for followers who have, perform or help procure an abortion.” (Go to .)

Let’s summarize: the Roman Catholic Church position is that the raped 9 year old child should risk death so that the product of her rape not be terminated – not that they have a good chance of surviving this pregnancy anyway! In other words, a form of involuntary human sacrifice to an angry God! Yes the girl and her doctors would go to hell, but her rapist just needs to turn to Christ and he’ll be welcome in heaven!

To the reader; ask yourself what is the cruelest thing that a person could do to another person? The easy answer by definition would be to consign another person to an eternity of the ultimate in torment, misery and suffering. The Roman Catholic Church, believing in the reality of hell, has purposely and willfully committed the cruelest act possible; this is the horror of what they think they have done via ex-communication! And they have no remorse! They’re, in fact, righteous about their infinite punishment to a finite “crime.”

But wait! You might argue that an abortion, even to save the life of a child, is somehow immoral. Let’s go with another example of the “moderation” of the moderate and non-radical or extreme Roman Catholic Church, the world’s largest church.

While visiting Cameroon, where AIDS is a huge problem, the Pope said about the battle against AIDS, “You can’t solve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.” (Go to .)

France’s health minister, Roselyne Bachelot said that the Pope “proffered a monstrous scientific untruth.” In other words, the Pope lied.

Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communication and research for Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said the Pope should be promoting condom use if he wants to help fight AIDS. “Instead,” she said, “his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

While the Pope lies, people die.

In the meantime, back in the US, one of the leading activists on behalf of the suffering people of Darfur is actor George Clooney.

Here is a quote from Mr. Clooney: "I don't believe in Heaven and Hell," he says. "I don't know if I believe in God. All I know is that as an individual, I won't allow this life -- the only thing I know to exist -- to be wasted."

Rabbi Gellman, where does Mr. Clooney go: Group A or B and where does the pious al-Bashir and all his sanctimonious supporters belong?

To give you a clue, in recorded history, probably no war has been fought in the name of a non-belief (not counting self-defense) such as atheism or a failure to believe in capitalism. Wars are motivated by a strong positive belief in an economic system or religion or a form of nationalism; by something that compels many to give up their lives for an idea – in other words, a dogma.

Doubt leads to introspection and consideration of all the possibilities; it is certainty that can lead to fanaticism.

Advice to Rabbi Gellman: he should begin to appreciate the non-dogmatism of secular humanism.
At least we don’t think he deserves to rot in hell forever for his failure to accept the alleged “Truth” as some of his “fans” do.

No comments: