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.
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.
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.
. . .