Wednesday, June 01, 2005


That new fangled religion The National Post ran a large part of this terrific UK Spectator article by atheist Andrew Kenny today. I was just going to link it and add some of my own witty and erudite commentary on it, but the Spectator web site made it almost impossible to get access to it (it is a freebie). To save you that hassle, I'm quoting most of the last page. After talking about the banning of DDT in 1972, Kenny argues that it is among the worst deeds that modern religion - ideology- was done. It has competition in the Soviet gulags and the Holocaust, but Kenny argues that malaria deaths are even higher and growing. He neglects to compare the figures to deaths caused by abortion and some types of embryonic research, but manages a very fair reading of history nevertheless. (If you're a keener, you may want to try going there yourself. Use IE if you do, because there's a hugely annoying macromedia ad smack in the middle of the page and I was unable to close it using Firefox. Really, it was a lesson on how drive people away from your site, swearing never to come back again. A-hem...)
Here is the key difference between ideology and religion. Here is the fundamental reason why so many ideologues hate the Catholic Church. It was best articulated by Savitri Devi, sometimes called 'Hitler's Priestess', the green mystic, pagan and worshipper of Hitler, who said that Christianity was 'centred on man' whereas her green and fascist creed was 'centred on life'. She is right. The Bible tells men to 'be fruitful and multiply' and 'have dominion' over other living things. This is anathema to the greens. (Greens are closer to browns than they are to reds. The red ideal is progress via central committees, steel works and tons of concrete. The brown ideal is a static idyll of forests, Alsatian dogs and flaxen-haired maidens tripping through the wheatfields.) Of course when the Bible speaks of 'man', it means all of mankind, whereas when Devi speaks of 'life', she means only selected types of life, such as Aryans and tigers. Some other forms of life are best exterminated. I have mentioned only one of the crimes of the ideologues, although the worst. In Africa they have also caused dreadful misery by promoting destructive policies such as command economies and by financing and encouraging calamitous leaders such as Julius Nyerere, who drove the economy of Tanzania to destitution. The Pope in Africa follows the Biblical injunction. He is for human life. His guides are the enduring truths of his faith and the Word of God. These, and not the latest political fashion or trend in sociology departments, are what direct him. However, the Catholic prohibition on contraception does not seem to have any Biblical foundation, apart from the story of Onan spilling his seed on the ground, which is a special case. It seems more likely to have come from Aristotle, the source of much bad doctrine. It is illogical to allow contraception by the rhythm method while banning other methods. Why is it more natural to study a calendar before engaging in sexual congress than to put a bit of rubber over your winky? However, this is the teaching. What harm has it done?
Here I have to jump in and point out "Why is it more natural to study a calendar before engaging in sexual congress than to put a bit of rubber over your winky." Interestingly, The Post changed the phrasing of that... Canadians... such prudes. Anyway, Catholics don't use calendars today, they use Natural Family Planning, which means consulting... well, how do you explain this to prudish Canadians? Here is Dr. Janet Smith explaining what the admonition to be "open to life" means. You might recall that Rebecca and I saw her speak a few months ago:
“Open” does not mean wanting a child now; it means having done nothing to close out the possibility of having children. There is an odd phrase used currently to describe sex without contraception: such sex is called “unprotected” sex. This phrase may help us here. Those using NFP are having "unprotected" sex; though the couple may be quite certain that they cannot conceive at this point, they have done nothing to close out the possibility of a child. A woman does not make herself periodically infertile, nature does; thus, in having sex during the infertile periods, she has not done anything to close out the possibility of having children; nature closes that possibility. And, since she has no obligation to have sex, in not having sex during her fertile period, she also does no wrong in abstaining. To use the phrase of the pope, the couple using NFP is not telling a lie with their bodies; they are still allowing sex its full, natural meaning. In short, the naturalness of NFP is obvious: It recognizes fertility as a good and does nothing to deny this good...
Forgive Kenny his boo boo, for his conclusions are still good. He continues:
Aids is devastating Africa, even if the exact scale of the devastation is not well known. Condoms are an effective barrier against the HIV virus (despite silly attempts to pretend otherwise). However, in South Africa it is believed that a high proportion of infection comes from 'non-consensual sex', where the man is never going to use a condom, even if the Pope orders him to do so. African women tell us that their husbands and lovers would beat them up if they asked them to use them. The breakdown of the black family and the high incidence of married middle-aged men copulating with young girls hugely exacerbate the spread of HIV infection. The Pope's message of abstinence outside married life and faithfulness within it would be effective if it were followed - more so than a message of free love and condoms. In Uganda President Museveni seems to be very successful in reducing HIV incidence by calling publicly for abstinence, faithfulness and condoms, which seems to me the best possible advice. (The ideologues are furious with anyone who promotes family life and seem actually frightened of the concept of abstinence.) What the balance of effects is between the Church's promotion of faithful family life and its ban on condoms is impossible to calculate, but my guess is that it has prevented more infections than it has caused. To say that the Pope is a mass murderer is ridiculous. The Catholic Church has been an immeasurable force for good in Africa. It has educated, treated, fed and brought hope to a multitude of Africans. It has quietly worked against evil systems, such as apartheid and African tyranny, in just the same way that the great John Paul II worked against communism. While rich young things from international aid agencies flit briefly through Africa in designer safari jackets and air-conditioned 4x4s before settling down to cosy careers in the rich countries, humble priests and nuns spend heroic lives in little villages in the hills and bushes of Africa spreading a gospel of learning, medicine, nutrition and decency, and preaching the equal worth of all men and the promise of redemption for everybody. As for the other charge against Pope Benedict, I found myself chatting to a most genial man in a Cape Town pub shortly after his election. I said to him that Ratzinger was in the Hitler Youth. He said cheerfully, 'So was I!' In 1942, at the age of 12, he was co-opted. He said it was like compulsory Boy Scouts. While Jews were being transported to the death camps elsewhere in the Reich, adolescent Germans in the Hitler Youth, like Ratzinger and my affable drinking companion, were picking up litter, making Christmas presents for poor children and helping old ladies across the street. Hardly the mark of Cain.

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