Oh, Andrew Brown. Wrong in the very first sentence.
Why is it that we are more shocked by what happens to dead babies than to live ones?
There, that’s done; no need to write the rest of that piece.
But of course he did write it.
The story that almost 800 dead babies were buried in a disused sewage tank outside Tuamin rural Ireland turns out to be problematic. It is certain that 796 babies did die under the care of nuns in a home for unmarried mothers there between 1925 and 1961 and that is in itself a shocking statistic. But what gave the story wings was the claim that their bodies had been dumped in a septic tank…
No it wasn’t. That was a squalid, mean, brutal detail, to be sure, but the terrible death rate was the real story.
Twenty babies dropped in a cesspit as corpses is a horrifying figure. Even one would be dreadful. And of course the whole story fits wonderfully into the larger stories of Irish nuns as heartless and cruel, which many undoubtedly were. But what’s interesting to a student of religion is why the desecration of dead bodies should be so very much more shocking than the deaths of living babies.
It’s not. It’s not, Andrew. Get a grip. It may be a poignant detail that startles people into paying more attention, but that doesn’t make it actually soberly more shocking than the terrible death rate. Don’t be so damn silly.
Then he says the same thing all over again – the death rate in the home was very high, way too high, surprisingly high –
But it still doesn’t horrify us in the same way as the thought of dead babies tossed into a cesspit does.
In the same way, possibly not, but that’s not to say it horrifies us less.
But Andrew gets himself to his own desired conclusion anyway.
This story will undoubtedly be used to attack religion. But what it actually shows is how very deeply religious instincts operate within us.
That’s what it shows, is it?! I say what it actually shows is that religion doesn’t stop people from being the most awful shits.