04 June 2008

Vile "ancient virtues"

The Briefing Room is the blog of Investigate Magazine, the magazine that would prefer digging up dirt about Helen Clark's sexuality than investigating the real truth behind the Urewera 17, or the scaremongering nonsense politics of Jeanette Fitzsimons, or the promoters of violence within the Maori Party is - no. It has a Christian bent, and my attention was brought to this post - digging up the old vacuous claim that atheism isn't enough, and the reason why reason evading dictators kill millions.
It has a point. It is why I am an objectivist. Nobody can credibly claim atheism is a comprehensive philosophy, it simply is the denial of the supernatural. The post is full of absolute nonsense, implying that atheists are devoid of morality, and that somehow Nietzsche and hedonism are the alternative to ghost worshipping. The truth is that there are umpteen ideologies that have nothing to do with ghost worshipping, much like there are umpteen that include ghost worshipping. It is tired and ludicrous to claim atheists share one set of views, anymore than damning all religions for all the trouble in the world.
However, the post continues saying "The ancient virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience are universally despised".
I'm so disgusted beyond words. Poverty is a virtue. The same repulsive ideology propagated by Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who received succour from the murderous Duvalier's in Haiti and the Hoxha atheist communist dictatorship in Albania. The suffering of the poor is glorious, the sick sadistic life-destroying face of Christianity. Sacrificing people to poverty as a virtue. Of course nobody who actually IS in true poverty believes that.
Chastity is the least offensive. At least it is a choice if you wish to deny sexuality from your life. However a virtue? A virtue to deny from your life the pleasure of touching and enjoying touch from someone you feel intimately close with? The implication that it is filthy and disgusting, like your body, like the "original sin" that conceives children. The ideology that sex is tolerated only to breed within marriage, but the most virtuous are priests and nuns - and we all know the universally virtuous record they all have.
Obedience is a virtue? Yes just blindly follow what others tell you do. "I was only following orders" says the concentration camp commandante, says the Khmer Rouge cadre, says the Red Guard, says the inquisitor in the Middle Ages, says the slave owner, says the husband whose wife swore to "love honour and obey", says the Police who hounded Alan Turing to suicide by enforcing the hideous criminal laws on homosexuality.
This post continues thinking Christianity is "the great Faith that set Europe free from the superstitious fear of pagan deities, that converted Rome and Byzantium, that today brings hope and joy to millions in Asia and Africa". What were the Dark Ages but a time of superstitious fear? In fact what is most of Western history before the Enlightenment and the rebirth of reason? It was superstition, fear, murder and destruction.


ZenTiger said...
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ZenTiger said...

These are not actually virtues when used in this connection. They are "Evangelical Counsels" which has a different meaning to the concept of a virtue.

For example, poverty in this sense is a call to "perfect charity", the willingness to give away ones possessions to help others.

They were common amongst Monks, who would live a spartan existence, so it's not poverty per se, but after meeting the immediate needs and food and shelter, having the capacity to look for the welfare of others.

My understanding of these counsels is a call to resist the opposites - where one seeks excesses of gratification, material goods, and exalted positions that would result in feeling superiority over fellow man.

To look at it another way, we have the capacity to feed the world, but not the collective will. A little more charity and compassion would be helpful in this regard.

ZenTiger said...

When ropata said these 'virtues' were universally despised, were you not agreeing with him then?

I think you were.

So we could also add to "universally despised" and "largely misunderstood".

In the final analysis, people should be free to live how they choose, and if they wish to take a vow of poverty, so be it.

Mother Theresa cared for the sick and dying in the streets of Calcutta. Until she came along, that's where they died. She made their final moments easier, and if I was dying in the streets of Calcutta lonely and ignored I too would appreciate that some-one cared enough to put a roof over my head and be with me in my final moments instead of left to die in the gutter like some rat.

Mother Theresa tried to make sense of it all by seeing a value to this suffering, one that would do them well in the afterlife.

I think the likes of Hitchens who wouldn't lift a finger for these people, and yet criticises her perception of suffering in such a way that I am sure he has never understood, or tried to understand shows how unfounded, misguided and unhelpful his criticism is.

Libertyscott said...

Zen I took from Ropata's post that he was approving of those "virtues", if not then fine. Yes people can choose how they wish to live, perhaps spartan is a better term than poverty - poverty implies desperate need, and that is never a virtue.

Theresa I have no time for, she provided support for the Duvaliers and Hoxha, which is unforgivable. IF she only saw suffering in the context of an afterlife then I can understand where she is coming from BUT since I don't believe in an afterlife - and since I know life exists and suffering exists, the idea than a person's suffering has "value" is plainly sadistic.

She kept people alive, she didn't alleviate poverty. The British Medical Journal reported how, despite vast donations, her missions gave patients cold baths, reused hypodermic needles for years. She placed a wreath on the grave on Enver Hoxha giving propaganda to his wife, the "Madame Mao" of Albania. This report, when Albania was still a hardline communist dictatorship is telling:

ZenTiger said...

Would you normally be one of the people raging against those that think they know how best to spend other people's money?

Is your expectation that if some-one receives a lot of donations they should know how to spend it? Should we donate food to Africa or teach them to fish? This is where your conversation is going when discussing why you know better on how Mother Theresa should spend her money. In the perfect Liberal world, she would have left the streets of Calcutta, purchased a big building in New York, with naming rights, and turned up for work each day in an Armani Habit to log in and trade funds on the stock exchange to ensure each of her modern day missions of charity could build hospitals for the government and provide a free service for every one who needed it. Yeah, right.

Why doesn't NZ sell the Treaty documents to some European art collector, and donate money to the children's charity since the socialists say they care. Surely, Hitchens would support this as a sensible thing to do, since he was very critical of Mother Theresa's inability or unwillingness to morph her job into international CEO of Charities of Mercy?

She kept people alive, she didn't alleviate poverty.

I thought she tended to the dying. I didn't think she was trying to alleviate poverty. But then again, neither was Hitchens or the Indian Government. And they didn't show up on the streets either.

What's your beef with Mother Theresa visiting her home country, a country that has persecuted religion, and yet she continues to demonstrate, by her actions, love and faith as a gift to Albanians that they might see the value in religion and reject the persecution that came with communism, marxism and atheism?

Libertyscott said...

Last things first, I don't have a beef with her visiting her home country, but sorry - what she DID there is like a Jew visiting the grave of Hitler and putting a bouquet on it, and then praising Eva Braun. She COULD have played the role of Pope John Paul II with Poland, as he was a rallying point for opposition, she could have spoken out in public about the regime. It would not have dared touch her - but no, she provided succuour to a regime second in evil only to the Ceaucescus in post war Europe.

How about praising the Duvaliers, visiting them saying they love the poor, while the TonTon Macout raped and pillaged the Haitian countryside and she took money from them! Pope John Paul II visited Haiti and publicly said there needed to be change, she said the opposite.

Both those in themselves show either incredible naivete or foolishness, or a softness towards unspeakable evil. She could have changed Albania with her visit, but the dictatorship rolled on for two more years before the revolutions that surrounded it finally fed through by osmosis.

Beyond that she raised a vast amount of money, on the basis of a reputation of helping the poor. That would be fine, except much of the money was spent on. The cult of suffering she promoted, which a spokesman for the Catholic Church admitted, "she wanted people to live in impoverished conditions, so she could identify with the poor whom she was serving". That is pure evil. Who WANTS people to live like that? I doubt you do.

She COULD have had a hospice with comfortable chairs, beds, NON-communal toilets, ample array of painkillers, NEW syringe needles instead of washed (not sterilised) ones - no she has a home for the dying that is so spartan, that shaved their heads (presumably more hygienic and quicker than offering showers and baths). She tended to the dying with the philosophy that their suffering brought them (And her) closer to God. I find that despicable.

No! Her warmth to dictators, which I haven't shown (Hitchens hasn't shown), her raising of vast sums of money on the pretext of alleviating poverty, but maintaining it and spending it on spreading religion (fine if the money had been raised with that purpose expressed) and her worship of suffering is beyond the pale.

It is no defence to any accusations that "other people didn't do what she did", they are not obliged to do so. The simple point is she was not what she was made out to be.

I'm not saying she should've become some great global capitalist. Had she not provided moral support to dictators, she could not be accused of it. Had she spent the money raised in her name for the poor ON the poor and giving them comfort rather than subsistence little short of a WW2 POW camp, then she could not be accused of fraud.

Her reputation was as one who alleviated suffering, the evidence doesn't support that.

You can judge Hitchens or the Indian government or myself on whatever basis you wish. That is a diversion.

ZenTiger said...

Lots of material in your reply, but I only came for the 5 minute argument, not the full half hour :-).

I'll see if I can tackle some of these points over time, as they are worth discussing further, I think.

Right now, I've got a huge queue of posts to do and a bigger queue of real life stuff to sort too.

Keep up the blogging though, I enjoy reading your views.