Friday, November 30, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI Markets Hate

Pope Benedict XVI exposed a part of his moral character today as a hate-mongering bigot in an encyclical critical of modern atheism. As reported in the International Harold Tribune, the encyclical says that, “[Atheism] had led to some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" ever known to mankind.”

Hate-mongering involves the selling of hate, typically for a profit or for the benefit of some group or organization that the hate-monger favors. It is like fish-mongering, which involves the selling of fish, as in a public market, typically for the sake of realizing a profit.

Fish-mongering, of course, is not a moral crime. Neither is hate-mongering, on its own. Hate-mongering (like fish-mongering) becomes a moral crime when the peddler uses lies and sophistry to manipulate others into buying their product. Yet, here, there is an important difference. It is disreputable to lie and manipulate somebody into buying fish. However, this is nothing compared to using lies and sophistry to sell hate the way Pope Benedict XVI does.

Hate-mongering has far more victims than the hate-monger’s deceived customer. The people who he has sold his hate to will, in turn, exercise their hate on the victims that the hate-monger has picked out. Pope Benedict is using lies and sophistry to peddle the hatred of atheists. He is using his lies and sophistry to try to convince people that atheists may be hated and feared – that they are dangerous people, and that as such they are to be despised. I am an atheist. So, I must live the only life I have surrounded by the distrust and hatred that he has manufactured and sold to the public.

His marketing technique involves leading them to believe that I am somehow responsible for the moral crimes of Marxism – that they need to fear and hate all people like me because, so long as atheists exist, their liberty and well-being is under threat.

Naturally, if Pope Benedict has any actual prove that I am at all responsible for any cruelty or violations of justice, then his accusations would have some weight. If there is actual evidence that a neighbor is a rapist or murderer, then it may well be appropriate to make the neighbors aware of this fact. However, it is another matter to make unfounded accusations against a person, to use lies and sophistry to convince neighbors to hate somebody in their community that there is no good reason to hate.

The previous paragraph marks an important distinction. It is not a moral crime to sell hate – there are people on the world who deserve our hate. The moral crime comes from using lies and sophistry to sell hate – to force others to live their lives facing a hatred that he manufactured and sold himself.

The Used Car Salesman

Let us assume that, instead of selling hatred, Pope Benedict sold used cars. He has a nice red car that he wants people to buy. He faces two competitors. One of those competitors produces a green car that is a piece of junk. The other produces a green car that is actually far superior to the one the Pope is selling. See, the Pope’s car is an old model. At the time, it was the best car that people could produce given what they new about engines, aerodynamics, and safety. However, his car’s design has not changed for some large number of years. The new green model, on the other hand, has all of the advances and safety features that intelligent human beings have been able to discover since the red car was invented, and it sells for a much lower price.

Of course, in order to sell red cars, Pope Benedict needs to denigrate this new model. So, what he does is he points to the piece-of-junk green car and says, “Green cars have all of these poor qualities. Certainly, you do not want to purchase a green car. You want to purchase my red car instead.”

Intellectually honest and morally responsible would not say these things. Intellectually honest and morally responsible people will condemn any salesman who makes these types of claims. The salesman, basically, is a lair. His ‘false advertising’ certainly lands him on the disreputable side of any moral law and, if he was actually selling cars (instead of hate) may land him on the wrong side of the criminal law as well.

Marxism

The piece-of-junk green car that Pope Benedict is using is Marxism. His claim – pointing to Marxism and saying Atheism is a piece of junk, is no different than the used car salesman pointing to the piece-of-junk green car and saying, “Green cars are a piece of junk.”

I am not selling Marxism. I do not know of any prominent atheists in the western world selling Marxism. Yet, the Pope accuses us of selling Marxism, and is doing so precisely because (1) this particular lie happens to be useful, and (2) the Pope does not care that he is using lies and sophistry to sell hate in the public market.

In fact, for Pope Benedict to accuse me of being somebody worthy of hate because of Marxism is as absurd as saying that the Amish are worthy of hate because of 9/11. I do accuse the Pope of being guilty of wrongdoing, but I will only hold him accountable for the wrongs he actually commits, such as hate-mongering.

And let’s not forget . . . Pope Benedict is using this sophistry to sell hate. His goal is not to get people to buy an inferior car. His goal is to get people to buy hate.

Because I tend to write my essays in the form of complete arguments – because I focus heavily on the relationships between premises and conclusions – I often worry that a reader may take these points as having only an academic interest. That reader would be missing a point. The fact that one can prove, by means of sound argument grounded on true premises, that somebody is a murderer, for example, or that the release of a particular biological agent would kill most of the population, does not imply that the conclusion has only an academic interest.

Pope Benedict XVI is a hate-mongering bigot who is using lies and sophistry to sell hate on the open market. That is what this argument shows. As such, Pope Benedict XVI (and any who support and endorse his actions) deserve the condemnation that is fitting of hate-mongering bigots who spend their lives committing injustices against others and profiting from the results.

Furthermore, he demonstrates these moral failings even though he claims that his religion gives him a moral map and compass that is far superior to that used by those he wants his audience to hate. Yet, somehow, this ‘superior map and compass’ did not help him to navigate away from being a hate-mongering bigot. Perhaps there is something wrong with his map and compass. Perhaps this perfect moral guide that he boasts to have available to him is not as perfect as he claims.

The proof that it is not is in his own actions. The reason that his map and compass are flawed are because they came from his own hate-filled mind. They did not come from God. He only claims that they came from God to give them an authority that they do not deserve . . . to deflect the questions that morally responsible people would ask.

Atheist Bigots

At some point, some readers might think, “Alonzo, you say this is wrong. However, I know of atheists who have done the same thing. They take some crime that is committed by somebody who is religious and they say that religion itself is to blame.”

Yes, some atheists do that. I would be a hypocrite if I condemned the Pope for using falsehoods and fallacies to sell hate in the public market, but not atheists who do the same thing. So, I do condemn those atheists. It is as much of a moral crime to blame all theists for the Crusades as it is to blame all atheists for Stalin. I have made this position clear in my essay, “The Hitler and Stalin Cliché”, and I do not soften my words when atheists are guilty.

However, the fact that some atheists are guilty does not absolve the Pope from being a hate-mongering bigot. Imagine some child rapist in a court of law offering the defense, “You may not accuse me of doing anything wrong because I am not, in fact, the only child rapist in the world.” The Pope does not have to be the only hate-mongering bigot on the planet to be a hate-mongering bigot.

An Absence of Protest

A truly frustrating aspect of this claim is that, if the Pope markets hatred of Muslims or Jews, if he proves his moral deficiencies in this way, others will call him on it, condemn him, and force some sort of retraction. I predict that, in spite of the fact that atheists make up a substantially larger population than other potential victims of papal hate-mongering, no protest will be launched loud enough to force a retraction.

Many atheists will blame ‘others’ for this silence. However, no atheist may blame ‘others’ who has not at least contributed his own voice to the call for condemnation. In fact, if everybody who would blame ‘others’ for silence would speak up, there would be very few ‘others’ to blame.

It does not require atheists to make this point. Any organization who is interested in condemning hate-mongering bigotry in any of its forms – based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion – has reason to condemn the Pope in this instance for being guilty of just such a moral crime. And it is a provable moral crime, as I have demonstrated above.

Now, let’s just all be quiet for a moment. Maybe if we are patient we will hear the sound of moral leaders demanding an apology and a retraction from the Pope, explaining that no institution truly devoted to moral behavior uses lies and sophistry to profit from the marketing of hate.

. . .

Still waiting.

11 comments:

eenauk said...

i think you're hating the pope overly much (and for hating at that). here's the passage you're referring to:
"If in the face of this world’s suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope."

he might not like atheism, and he might think it has caused lots of harm in the world, but he's not hate-mongering! If we replaced "atheism" with "religion" we'd have the makings one of your own posts!

Alonzo Fyfe said...

eenauk

Actually, it seems to me that if you replaced "atheism" with "religion" you would end up with a type of post that I take pains not to write

I do not blame 'religion' for the world's ills. Nor do I hold that a false belief is sufficient to cause harm. I have said repeatedly that desire utilitarianism is compatible with a belief in God - that one can believe that a God created a universe in which the propositions of desire utilitarianism are true.

I do not blame Catholics for the words of the Pope, and I do not blame Muslims for the actions of those who want to execute the teddy-bear teacher. I direct my attention specifically to those who who are actually guilty of the wrongs that I argue have been committed.

In short, I would never argue that an "idea" has lead to the greatest form of cruelty and violations of justice. I lay the responsibility for these things squarely on the people that the evidence shows have been cruel and unjust.

Where I have held that true beliefs are valuable, I have also argued for a form of 'triage' - in which we recognize that some false beliefs are worse than others, and that we have reason to focus on the false beliefs where our efforts can produce the greatest benefits.

And that the proposition, "At least one God exists" is not that proposition because it carries absolutely no moral implications.

In all of the writing I have done, I may have slipped from time to time and blamed 'religion'. Yet, I hope that my writings in general would show far more consistency with the themes I identified above.

Atheist Observer said...

Alonzo,
I take issue with two of your assertions in this post. The first is that hate mongering is not a moral crime, and the second is that some people deserve hate.
The problem I see with them is that hate is an emotion. And by definition an emotion is not a rational process. In fact strong emotions very often lead to irrational behavior.
If someone commits acts that harm others, they should be treated in ways that discourage or prevent such behavior in themselves and others, with the severity proportionate to the harm they do. This is a moral and rational response. By introducing hate into the situation, you simply make it more likely that the response will be disproportionate and irrational. You make just and moral behavior less likely.
Just as you have pointed out that the drunken or reckless driver is morally negligent, if the hate monger creates an environment of hate, his actions directly contribute to the lynching, terrorizing, or other irrational acts that hate often engenders.
Is hate a natural emotion? Yes. Do some behaviors cause us to feel this emotion? Yes. But do we benefit in the long run as a society by inciting and generating more hate, even to those we think “deserve” it? I see no evidence that the level of morality of a society can be raised by the introduction of more hate.
Hate often blinds us from a careful examination of a situation, and a reasoned analysis of causes and solutions. Hate prevents us from empathizing with others and understanding other ways of looking at events. I think hate, like other emotional reactions, evolved before animals were capable of rational thought. To encourage this most negative of emotions rather than rational thought is a moral error.

Anonymous said...

The big problem is your fundamental misinterpretation of the pope's text. He doesn't blame atheism tout court but atheists who believe that the godlessness of the universe means that humans must remake the world according to our own standards of justice, to create our own "Kingdom of Man" in place of the "Kingdom of God." Many atheists do not believe that, which is why atheism as such is insulated from this statement from B16. But I think the pope is right to say that those who do think this have brought much cruelty into the world.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

anonymous

I can't find a coherent interpretation to your sentence.

The best interpretation I can find is, "The pope is not condemning all atheists - only those who believe there is no God."

eenauk said...

here is what i just posted as a response to your comment on my blog:

alonzo - thanks for the comment. I didn't so much want to accuse you of hate-mongering as defend the pope from your accusation. I don't agree with your definition of hate-mongering.

Of course, we can and must argue against hate-mongerers and do so with the sort of clear logic that you use so well on your blog. However, in this specific case, i don't think the pope was preaching hate. He accused atheism of producing the greatest forms of cruelty and injustice (the standard "Stalin, Hitler and Mao" argument) but he is, in that, no more and no less right than those who use the "inquisition, 30-years war and al-quaeda" argument.

The Pope would be hate-mongering if he were telling us to go out and kill/lynch/spit upon atheists. Or if he were telling us they were _all_ intrinsically bad people. But he is not. He is simply saying that atheism has no moral foundation and can lead to much evil. The former argument is wrong and the latter half-way correct. But that isn't hate, it's formulating an ethical or metaphysical disagreement with, perhaps, dubious arguments.

I don't in the least agree with the pope and find him painfully conservative, retrograde and blindly stubborn. But in the end he's participating honestly in a theological/philosophical discourse. We might think his arguments are hopelessly weak, but he thinks the same of ours. He's no more bigoted than we are.

Francisco said...

Atheism had nothing to do with anything. Stalin and Zedong were paranoid leaders who feared losing power in a one-party system where every politician was striving to overthrow them. It had nothing to do with Atheism. It's called a dictatorship ladies and gentlemen. The Pope's comments disturb me because many people follow him and listen to him intently.

Jonathan Baker said...

"Pope Benedict XVI is a hate-mongering bigot who is using lies and sophistry to sell hate on the open market." Why is this not hate-mongering bigotry itself, Alonzo? Certainly it falls under your definition in the original post. Actually Pope Benedict is very sympathetic to the question of atheism per se, as the full quote (thanks, eenauk) clearly shows, which you have completely distorted. I strongly suggest you read the first chapter Ratzinger's (B16's) "Introduction to Christianity" in which he grapples with the difficulties that atheism rightly raises.

Atheism leads to "the greatest forms of cruelty etc..." only when it becomes an ideology and thereby seeks to impose a utopian and necessarily revisionist vision on humanity. The best historical example of this is obviously Marxism, hence the example. (NB because of this Marxist is essentially atheistic despite incoherent attempts of theists to hold it).

so, "He is using his lies and sophistry to try to convince people that atheists may be hated and feared – that they are dangerous people, and that as such they are to be despised" is quite wrong. If you wish I could give you some names of atheists who have been influential on the Pope's thinking, and interesting colloborations he has had with them.

Anonymous said...

"I strongly suggest you read the first chapter Ratzinger's (B16's) "Introduction to Christianity" in which he grapples with the difficulties that atheism rightly raises."

Good suggestion. Personally, I'd find it highly refreshing for Alonzo to know what the hell he's talking about. It would be a nice change of pace.

It's obvious to me that blaming a certain worldview for something doesn't mean you're blaming every single adherent to that worldview. So obvious, in fact, that when I see atheists make comments about "religion" being responsible for X or Y, vehemently disagree though I may, I never take it to mean they're blaming me personally. These sorts of debates are about IDEAS, and the ramifications of ideas. Thinking ideas have bad ramifications is not bigotry.

Eneasz said...

So obvious, in fact, that when I see atheists make comments about "religion" being responsible for X or Y, vehemently disagree though I may, I never take it to mean they're blaming me personally.

Anon, I take it that you are not one of a hated minority. You might react different if you where. It is very easy to make the quoted statement when you are not in any danger.

For example, I live in America. There is no derogatory term for "white person" here. There are some attempts, such as "cracker" or "honkey", but no white person I've ever met has thought of these as anything but a quaint term, a punchline perhaps. They cannot be a serious insult, because white people in general are in no danger of such words. On the other hand, "nigger" or "spic" are very inflamitory.

Likewise, there is no good insult for (generic) male, because men generally are in no danger from women generally. You can call a man a "prick", but it barely even registers, where "cunt" still elicits gasps frequently.

"Fag" is inflamitory. "Breeder" is barely noticed.

What do all these cases have in common? Words cannot hurt those in power. They are not in any real danger. A hated minority, on the other hand, can rightly fear words because they can (and sometimes do) turn into action by those who are among the privledged, powerful group.

So before you make a statement along the lines of "These sorts of debates are about IDEAS, and the ramifications of ideas. Thinking ideas have bad ramifications is not bigotry." take a moment to consider if you would be making this statement if you were a jew in 30's Europe, or a black man in 60's America, or a homosexual throughout most of history.

If you could hear someone say "[Jews/Blacks/Gays] have led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather... A world with [Jews/Blacks/Gays] is a world without hope" and continue to say "I never take it to mean they're blaming me personally" without even a bit of worry or fear, then you are obviously in the opresser majority, and not the targetted minority.

Jonathan Baker said...

"Anon, I take it that you are not one of a hated minority." Alas, Eneasz, few of us are not, today. You may think atheists get the worst of it (especially if you live in the US, which I used to) but you have to admit, surely, that many believers today(especially Catholics, Evangelicals and Muslims) but perhaps not New Agers, all have to face an agressive media.

In today's world, whenever you stick your neck out and take a position, you are liable to have it chopped off.

We live in a basically relativistic society which unfortunately means that it is difficult to dialogue in a respectful manner - if you disagree with someone, you are a messenger of "hate". This is very sad. We could all learn a great deal from those who disagree with us and have good reasons to do so. Indeed apart from personal experience, the ONLY other way to know something is through the testimony and experience of others (I hope I don't throw a spanner in the works by suggesting that that is precisely what faith is).