Wednesday 28 October 2009

On Faith Panelists Blog: Give us your misogynists and bigots - Richard Dawkins

Give us your misogynists and bigots

What major institution most deserves the title of greatest force for evil in the world? In a field of stiff competition, the Roman Catholic Church is surely up there among the leaders. The Anglican church has at least a few shreds of decency, traces of kindness and humanity with which Jesus himself might have connected, however tenuously: a generosity of spirit, of respect for women, and of Christ-like compassion for the less fortunate. The Anglican church does not cleave to the dotty idea that a priest, by blessing bread and wine, can transform it literally into a cannibal feast; nor to the nastier idea that possession of testicles is an essential qualification to perform the rite. It does not send its missionaries out to tell deliberate lies to AIDS-weakened Africans, about the alleged ineffectiveness of condoms in protecting against HIV. Whether one agrees with him or not, there is a saintly quality in the Archbishop of Canterbury, a benignity of countenance, a well-meaning sincerity. How does Pope Ratzinger measure up? The comparison is almost embarrassing.

Poaching? Of course it is poaching. What else could you call it? Maybe it will succeed. If estimates are right that 1,000 Anglican clergymen will take the bait (no women, of course: they will swiftly be shown the door), what could be their motive? For some it will be a deep-seated misogyny (although they'll re-label it with a mendacious euphemism of some kind, which they'll call 'an important point of theological principle'). They just can't stomach the idea of women priests. One wonders how their wives can stomach a husband whose contempt for women is so visceral that he considers them incapable even of the humble and unexacting duties of a priest.
For some, the motive will be homophobic bigotry, and a consequent dislike of the efforts of decent church leaders such as the Archbishop of Canterbury to accept those whose sexual orientation happens to deviate from majority taste. Never mind that they will be joining an institution where buggering altar boys pervades the culture.
Turning to the motives of the poachers, here we find cause for real encouragement. The Roman Catholic Church is fast running out of priests. In Ireland in 2007, 160 Catholic priests died, while only nine new recruits were ordained. To say the least, those figures don't point towards sustainability. No wonder that disgusting institution, the Roman Catholic Church, is dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp: "Give me your homophobes, misogynists and pederasts. Send me your bigots yearning to be free of the shackles of humanity."
Archbishop Rowan Williams is too nice for his own good. Instead of meekly sharing that ignominious platform with the poachers, he should have issued a counter-challenge: "Send us your women, yearning to be priests, who could make a strong case for being the better-qualified fifty percent of humanity; send us your decent priests, sick of trying to defend the indefensible; send them all, in exchange for our woman-haters and gay-bashers." Sounds like a good trade to me.
By Richard Dawkins  |  October 23, 2009; 12:54 AM ET


  1. I have never understood how any person whose identity is rejected or deemed inferior by any institution could possibly support it. Yet, it happens all the time. I am completely bewildered by this phenomenon and would be interested in hearing peoples' theories of the psychology behind it, if it's not driven purely out of fear. Like all cultural obversations, though, I realize that oftentimes the very things we criticize are things we ourselves take part in in one way or another without knowing it. But this one is interesting. The only explanation I can think of is internalized oppression of those particular identities. Hmph.

  2. Do you think it is probably all down to childhood indoctrination? You must know the Jesuits claim; "Give me a child before 5 and I will have him for life". (Not sure about the age). The religious meme once planted grows to infect all thought processes; no part of the brain is left available for rational analysis of their plight.

  3. I think this makes sense. Maybe I was just lucky enough to have escaped ever being pushed into a situation where I was forced to be part of an institution that flagrantly viewed me as subordinate (that I can think of; I'm sure it's happened many times). And I suppose there is a lot to be said about what happens in our childhood affecting our adult lives (funny, I'm currently blogging about Freud). Though, I'm still sometimes puzzled by the lack of conscious resistence. For example, I grew up Catholic and - to this day - still fear evil as a living entity, which I know is complete and utter absurdity. There is not a sliver of rational thinking within me that could even begin to make the case for the existence of Catholicism's devil. Yet, as a result of the terror I experienced as a kid, the fear has never gone away. I have, however, resisted it. I think I would very much like to ask any female or homosexual member of the Catholic Church, "If not because of fear, how can you possibly support this system that hates you?" Though, there is a theory that oppression, emotionally, feels like "home" to most people because the culture we grow up in is inherently oppressive; maybe that's part of it as well. I'm going to stop typing now :)