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Oct 06 2011

Not to defend the Catholic Church but to smear the New atheists

As long as we’re on the subject of Brendan O’Neill…let’s stay on it a little longer. I neglected him last year when he was making contorted attacks on critics of the pope and the Vatican. Allow me to make amends now.

He made a heavy-breathing correction to claims of how many priestly rapes there had been, then he explained why he did that.

Why point out these basic facts? Not to defend the Catholic Church, which  clearly has a sexual abuse problem, or to minimise the suffering of those  individuals who ”only” suffered being verbally abused, shown dirty photos or  fondled over their clothing by priests – all of those acts are abhorrent and  potentially punishable by law.

No, it is worth pointing out the reality of the extent of allegations against  the Catholic Church to expose the non-rationalist, anti-humanist underpinnings  of the current fashion for Catholic-baiting among the liberal, opinion-forming  classes. The wildly inaccurate claims suggest that modern atheism has zero interest in applying the tools of rational investigation and critical questioning, and is hellbent on using the politics of fear to invent a fantastical rape-happy ogre, in contrast to which it can pose as the pure defender of childlike innocence and integrity.

What a ridiculous specious malicious perverse claim. The people who oppose the Catholic church’s habit of protecting child-molesting priests are not doing anything anti-humanist. It is the Catholic church’s habit of protecting child-molesting priests that is anti-humanist. Opposing that habit is not “Catholic-baiting” and it’s sheer demagoguery to say it is. It’s not just atheists who oppose that habit – at least I certainly hope it’s not, for the sake of the self-respect of non-atheists – and opposing the habit is hardly slam-dunk evidence of zero interest in applying the tools of rational investigation and critical questioning. As for the politics of fear – really? It’s “atheists” who go in for that in contrast to the Catholic church? Please. And spare us the crap about “the pure defender of childlike innocence and integrity”; there’s no need for sentimentalism about children to think they shouldn’t be sexually abused by adults in positions of ulitmate power.

What a crappy crappy thing to do – defend the sinister self-interested self-protecting thugs and smear the people who would like to make them stop the thuggery. What a shameful toady Brendan O’Neill is.

In the past, it was the Catholic Church, especially during the Inquisition,  which demonised its enemies as depraved perverts. Now, the so-called New  Atheists have adopted these tactics in their drive to depict religion as the  greatest evil of our age.

Shameful. Toady.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    quantheory

    In the past, it was the Catholic Church, especially during the Inquisition, which demonised its enemies as depraved perverts.

    This falsely implies that it stopped doing so. Maybe it’s not a ubiquitous policy to use such strong language, but certainly a lot of Catholic clergy and Catholic apologists bemoan the perversion of modern culture.

    I do remember a lot of Catholics blaming gay men for their own priests’ rape of children. I do remember a lot of talk about divorce, abortion, birth control, and the licentiousness of modern culture. Did I miss some big announcement recently, where the Church decided that it was going to stop this knee-jerk criticism of the sexual habits of outsiders?

    Where does Brendan O’Neill denounce Catholic clergy for linking homosexuality to pedophilia, or secularism to divorce and sex addiction?

  2. 2
    Random Engineering

    “Now, the so-called New Atheists have adopted these tactics in their drive to depict religion as the greatest evil of our age.”

    Wait, it’s not the greatest evil of our age? All that time and energy I’ve wasted supporting that idea was for naught?

    Brendan wishes it wasn’t the greatest evil of our age, but observations lead to me believe otherwise.

  3. 3
    Nathair

    Wait, it’s not the greatest evil of our age?

    Well… Facebook.

  4. 4
    David Leech

    Wait, it’s not the greatest evil of our age?

    Well there is of course Islam so there is only one way to be sure.

    FIGHT!

  5. 5
    Roger

    “In the past, it was the Catholic Church, especially during the Inquisition, which demonised its enemies as depraved perverts.”

    “During the Inquisition”? No historian speaks of a time known as “the Inquisition”. Does O’Neill mean “In the past, it was the Catholic Church, especially the Inquisition, which demonised its enemies as depraved perverts.”?
    That isn’t true either, even if it takes more sense than the original. The Inquisition demonised some of its enemies as heretics and invented enemies by torturing people into confessing to wirchcraft. Then- as now- it had depraved perverts and ignorant fools in positions of power who protected themselves and attacked people who pointed out the faults of the church.

  6. 6
    Sarah

    You’re right. They did bad things so it’s totally cool to use innacurate figures to attack them.

    Those victims were only statistics so it’s ok for people to exaggerate and lie about them – there’s nothing disrespectful about that, and if you correct those inaccuracies you’re just an evil smear merchant defending rapists.

    There is nothing wrong with criticising bad institutions for more than they did wrong, the only bad thing is to object to that.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Well all O’Neill actually offers in his talk is one claim by the Independent that

    in America more than “10,000 people have come forward to say they were raped as part of this misery-go-round” overseen by his holiness and his lackeys.

    He gives no specifics so it’s not possible even to check whether the Independent actually said that. He points out that the 10,000 said they were sexually abused, not raped.

    He draws very large conclusions from that one small (and reference-free) item.

  8. 8
    Sarah

    You’re right he fails to prove his point by failing to justify a) That this misrepresentation is widespread, b) that it is held/promulgated by either the secular ‘chattering classes’ or ‘New Atheists’, or c) that it is motivated by anti-Catholicism rather than simple alarmism, tabloid-style scandal exaggerations or any other reason.
    .

    All of that is fair an accurate criticism of his article, as is your post above. What’s not fair criticism is to describe his attack on inaccurate reporting and poorly evidenced conclusions as:

    a crappy crappy thing to do – defend[ing] the sinister self-interested self-protecting thugs and smear[ing] the people who would like to make them stop the thuggery. What a shameful toady Brendan O’Neill is.

    Criticising people for being inaccurate in their attacks (and evidencing one incident of that occurring) is not a defense of people who have been accurately attacked. Criticising the wrong people is smearing them, but you’ve made no attempt to demonstrate that he has criticised the wrong people.

    He does not claim that:
    “The people who oppose the Catholic church’s habit of protecting child-molesting priests are [] doing anything anti-humanist.”

    He claims that New Atheists exaggerate the scale of the abuse (unevidenced) and that is an anti-humanist choice.

    You must surely agree that lying about the scale of the abuse and using the victims as pawns in a vendetta is an anti-humanist choice. You disagree that New Atheists are doing this (a valid objection).

    So why misrepresent his position when you could easily attack it factually as it is actually stated?

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    He does not claim that:
    “The people who oppose the Catholic church’s habit of protecting child-molesting priests are [] doing anything anti-humanist.”

    He claims that New Atheists exaggerate the scale of the abuse (unevidenced) and that is an anti-humanist choice.

    No, he does more than that – he does what I quoted. He claims that “it is worth pointing out the reality of the extent of allegations against the Catholic Church to expose the non-rationalist, anti-humanist underpinnings of the current fashion for Catholic-baiting among the liberal, opinion-forming classes. The wildly inaccurate claims suggest that modern atheism has zero interest in applying the tools of rational investigation and critical questioning, and is hellbent on using the politics of fear to invent a fantastical rape-happy ogre, in contrast to which it can pose as the pure defender of childlike innocence and integrity.” That’s an enormous smear.

  10. 10
    Sarah

    “it is worth pointing out the reality of the extent of allegations against the Catholic Church”

    i.e. to show they are exaggerated

    “to expose the non-rationalist, anti-humanist underpinnings of the current fashion for Catholic-baiting

    i.e. they are exaggerated and this is non-rationalist and anti-humanist

    among the liberal, opinion-forming classes.

    All atheists according to him. He has failed to evidence that they did this, that it is prevalent and that they are atheists.

    The wildly inaccurate claims suggest that modern atheism has zero interest in applying the tools of rational investigation and critical questioning,

    Poetic licence/exaggeration. He either means ‘very little’ or is simply wrong.

    and is hellbent on using the politics of fear to invent a fantastical rape-happy ogre, in contrast to which it can pose as the pure defender of childlike innocence and integrity.”

    Unproven, emotional terms, but hardly a smear. Clearly many people do see the Catholic church as a rape-happy ogre, the politics of fear are used when you exaggerate crimes to scare people into an opinion and while he has not proven that it is widespread he has shown that it has happened in at least one case.

    I don’t see an enourmous smear here, I see someone with an unproven allegation of exaggeration, which is very plausible – that’s how reporting works these days-, who blames it on the chattering classes/atheism, which is silly and unproven and he is getting very upset about it.
    Then you are getting very upset about his unproven allegation but have not actually shown that his allegations are unfounded, unevidenced or wrong, you have just attacked him as a toady and got misquoted him to suggest that he is talking about “everyone who opposes the Catholic church’s habit of protecting child-molesting priests” when he is clearly talking about “The ones who oppose it by lying about or exaggerating the figures.

    That’s an enormous smear.

    No it’s a poorly evidenced theory unfairly blamed on a group that’s far to general to possibly be accurate.

    He has not shown that exaggeration is widespead.
    He is wrong to blame “the chattering classes” and atheists.
    You have not shown that he’s a toady
    You are wrong that he’s defending monsters/smearing critics.

  11. 11
    Sarah

    Sorry I’ve changed my mind, you’re right, I’m wrong. It was a smear in that he blamed a vast group of people with varying views and positions for something he’d barely proven was happening, and didn’t provide any evidence that it was them. And put the post in sanctimonious emotional terms.

    Your post was a smear too in that you imply that by “Catholic-baiting” he meant “Opposing the cover up of child abuse” when he clearly meant “Exaggerating the scale of the abuse”, claim he is “defend[ing] the sinister self-interested self-protecting thugs” when he’s clearly attacking people who criticise them incorrectly and unfairly blaming atheism for the incorrect attacks, and suggest that it’s because he’s a “toady” without providing any evidence. And put the post in sanctimonious emotional terms.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    “and suggest that it’s because he’s a “toady” without providing any evidence.”

    Again (as with the Iona Institute, on a different thread, with a different critic), that’s because there’s background. O’Neill has been doing this for awhile. He did it when the pope paid a “state visit” to the UK. As usual I’m expecting most of my readers to share some background knowledge. The alternative is to go into tedious detail in every single post. I opt for brevity instead. That’s fairly normal for blogs and even for opinion magazines and the like. Writers don’t usually explain and document absolutely everything in every article, because that’s neither possible nor desirable.

  13. 13
    Sarah

    Fair enough.

  14. 14
    Sarah

    Though you could do what Orac does and include some links.

  15. 15
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Sarah, you’re on the internet!

    Here’s a handy string to put into the Google search box:
    site:www.butterfliesandwheels.org Brendan O’Neill

    I’ve done all the hard work for you; all you need do is cut and paste.

    (I’ve used the other site, since this particular site has only been going three months)

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