Chicago's Cardinal Francis Georges suffers a lapse in both reason and morality in a recent attack on high-school atheists.
(See National Catholic Reporter, Cardinal George's plan to evangelize America)
He laments the fact that there are atheist clubs in high school where there was none five years ago, and adds, It's the mirror image of a kind of fundamentalism, because it's very restrictive in its use of reason. It's also very triumphalistic and self-righteous..
So, now, I have to ask, if the existence of atheist clubs in high school is indicative of a “kind of fundamentalism” that is "restrictive in its use of reason", "triumphalistic", and "self-righteous", when what does the existence of religious clubs in school indicate?
Somehow I suspect that if somebody would have argued that Americans should be worried about the religious clubs in school because it indicates a religious fundamentalism that is the "mirror image" of the atheist fundamentalism that Georges condemns, Georges himself would have condemned that argument.
In fact, he may well have used it as an example of the very self-righteousness, triumphalistic, abandonment of reason that he criticizes.
In other words, we have here an example of a person making a statement in which he exhibits the very qualities that he is condemning.
It appears that Georges training and education on his rise to the post of Cardinal seems to have neglected training in the application of a very powerful moral heuristic. He has decided to do unto others something that he would almost certainly have condemned if it was done unto Catholics.
If Georges would have taken only an instant to reflect on the morality of his action, he could have asked himself, "What would I think or feel if an atheist were to condemn the very existence high school students forming religious clubs and organizations as indicative of a form of religious fundamentalism that abandons reason, is triumphalistic, and self-righteous?" He would have seen that he would have had an instant objection to such a claim. And, from here, assuming that he cares sufficiently about morality, he would not have done unto others that which he would not have wanted others to do unto him.
His argument also represents an lapse of reason – ironically embedded in a statement that condemns the abandonment of reason. The objections that Georges would have had to claims linking the mere existence of religious clubs in school to religious fundamentalism that abandons reason, is triumphalistic, and is self-righteous proves the unreasonableness of his assertion against atheists. However, Georges seems to be as disinterested in the reasonableness of his claim as he is in the justness of the claim.
We must be on guard against the bigots inference, which begins with reason to condemn the actions of a specific member of a group and ends with conclusions condemning all members of that group. I have warned atheists and theists alike against the bigotry found in taking the faults of a specific atheist or theist, and concluding from this that atheism or theism itself is flawed.
However, we can make claims about a culture (as long as we recognize that those claims are not true of every person in that culture) by looking at the general tendencies within that culture.
Here, even though Georges claims violate basic principles of reason and morality, I suspect that there are few within his culture who are so concerned with reason and morality that they would condemn him for it. In fact, the cultural norm seems to be that unreasonable and unjust claims against people outside the culture are perfectly legitimate – even praiseworthy.
Again, this does not imply that every person in the culture praises unreasonable and unjust accusations against non-members. It does imply that those who are truly interested in reason and justice are so rare and so weak that they have little or no influence in the culture in which they belong.
They have influence to the degree that we can hear their voices protesting, "Hey, condemning the mere existence of atheist organizations in high school and asserting that they abandon reason, are triumphalistic, and are self-righteous is as unreasonable and unjust as making the same claims about religious organizations in high school."
So, are we hearing a cultural interest in reason and justice?