American biologist and secular blogger Jerry Coyne dubbed the “godicoddling” journalist Andrew Brown as “The Guardian’s resident moron” for his increasingly stupefying apologias for religion and attacks on science. Now, I’m not in the habit of resorting to such schoolyard name-calling, but I am strongly inclined to bestow such a derogatory moniker on Dr Tim Stanley, British Catholic blogger for The Daily Telegraph.
The good Doctor has been given a patch on the website of Britain’s best (only?) quality broadsheet daily and throughout the year, he has posted a litany of religious nonsense that has lead me to suspect strongly that he must be a mole planted by America’s Finest New Source, The Onion.
Firstly there was this utterly lame defence of outgoing Pope Benedict XVI bemoaning the modern media’s wilful misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. Opening with the line, “The identikit headline seems to be, ‘Elderly Homophobe Quits Misogynistic Institution Because He Can’t Hack It’,” the very first commenter told him, “Well done, Tim. No-one else has put it quite as succinctly. I quit the article at this point, while you were still ahead.”(!)
Stanley’s hilarious post continues thus:
Let’s name and shame a few media sins:
1. Defining Pope Benedict as a “conservative”. In Catholicism there is no Right or Left but only truth and error. A Pope is there to articulate doctrine, not to “turn the clock back” or “embrace progress.” If he tried to force his personality upon the Church then he’d probably break with dogma and stop being infallible. Benedict was an orthodox pontiff. Sometimes his orthodoxy corresponded with a classically conservative position (gay marriage). Other times he sounded like a socialist (he called for regulation of international banking). Either way, Christianity doesn’t conform to modern political idioms. It’s far too radical.
Face palm moment or what? Stanley effectively admits that Catholic dogma is very dogmatic and it’s more important for the pontiff to cling onto outmoded and antiquated ideas and give the appearance of being infallible rather than to embrace new knowledge and change as exciting new ideas are brought to light. Imagine if science or medicine was run like this? We would still be adhering to Hypocrites’ theory of the Four Humours and leeching medical patients dry rather than giving blood transfusions and antibiotics. Why doesn’t the Church return to supporting slavery or preaching Holy War against Muslims while they’re at it!
Indeed, Stanley’s diatribe has echoes of The Onion’s comment that Ratzinger “no longer has the strength to lead church backward”:
According to the 85-year-old pontiff, after considerable prayer and reflection on his physical stamina and mental acuity, he concluded that his declining faculties left him unable to helm the Church’s ambitious regressive agenda and guide the faith’s one billion global followers on their steady march away from modernity and cultural advancement.
“It is with sadness, but steadfast conviction, that I announce I am no longer capable of impeding social progress with the energy and endurance that is required of the highest ministry in the Roman Catholic Church,” Benedict reportedly said in Latin to the Vatican’s highest cardinals. “While I’m proud of the strides the Church has made over the past eight years, from thwarting AIDS-prevention efforts in Africa to failing to punish or even admit to decades of sexual abuse of children at the hands of clergy, it has become evident to me that, in this rapidly evolving world, I now lack the capacity to continue guiding this faith back centuries.”
“Thus, I must step down from the papacy,” he added. “But let me assure every member of the Church that the Vatican’s commitment to narrow-mindedness and social obstruction will long live on after my departure.”
Word of Benedict’s resignation—the first for a sitting pope in nearly 600 years—reportedly stunned the world’s Catholic faithful, many of whom believed the German-born pontiff still had years of stymieing female advancement in Church roles, opposing stem cell research, and inflaming tensions with Jews, Muslims, and Anglicans left in him.
If you penned this superb slice of religious satire, Doctor, now would be as good a time as any to own up to it.
The next episode in this syllabus of errors is Dr Tim’s rant against atheist biology professor Richard Dawkins asking, “If we’re cracking down on Twitter abuse, can we include Richard Dawkins and the atheist trolls?” Stanley wails that Dawkins is “a clever but horrible man.” Aside from Jerry Coyne’s spat against Andrew Brown outlined above (which to be fair is understandable, if not excusable), I don’t think I have ever heard/read Dawkins or any of the other New Atheist spokesmen resort to such childish language. The most angry Dawkins has been towards an opponent is calling Christian apologist William Lane Craig a “professional debater” and subsequently “an apologist for genocide”, both of which mere statements of fact as opposed to schoolyard insults.
I’m not defending Richard Dawkins’ Tweets; frankly, I think he is putting himself down and playing into the hands of those who want label him as an atheist fundamentalist with Tweets such as “Don’t ask God to cure cancer & world poverty. He’s too busy finding you a parking space & fixing the weather for your barbecue.” I suppose a 140 character Tweet means that you have to be brutal and to the point, which is why I do not think it is an appropriate forum for making public statements that you expect to be taken seriously. However, Stanley has a somewhat greater word limit with which to play, yet is no closer to being viewed as a mature adult:
When you insult my faith you go right to the heart of what makes me me. When you’re trying to convince me in 140 characters of sub-GCSE philosophical abuse that God doesn’t exist, you’re trying to take away the faith that gets me up in the morning, gets me through the day and helps me sleep at night. You’re ridiculing a God without whom I suspect I might not even be alive, and a God that I prayed to when my mother was going through cancer therapy. You’re knocking a Church that provides me with compassion and friendship without asking for anything in return – perhaps the greatest, most wonderful discovery of my adult life. You see, people don’t generally believe in God for reasons of convenience or intellectual laziness. It’s usually fulfilling a deep need – filling a soul with love that might otherwise be quite empty and alone.
The words “dummy”, “out” and “spit” spring to mind. It never ceases to amaze me how easily offended the faithful get when someone disses their imaginary best friend. If Dawkins is wrong, if your invisible god exists and if he is so great, then I’m sure he can withstand a few brief moments of criticism from a lowly heretic who is both wilful ignorant of his mysterious ways and in any event is hell bound as punishment for his unbelief. But I like how Tim credits Yahweh (as opposed to Allah, Krishna or Zeus) for comforting him while his mother was dying of cancer rather than actually providing a cure.
In short, when you try to destroy someone’s faith you’re not being a brilliant logician. You’re being a jerk.
OK, so Dawkins along with David Hume, J L Mackie, Victor Stenger, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Steven Weinberg and innumerable other atheist scientists and philosophers are not trying to liberate people from their Iron Age god of war fantasies with that annoying little thing known as The Truth. They’re just being stuck up little jerks spoiling Christmas for all the little children by telling them the truth about Santa Claus.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not calling for Dawkins or his ilk to be banned.
Really? The title to your post suggests otherwise.
I’m thick skinned…
All evidence to the contrary.
…and I can take the odd badly spelled Tweet telling me that I’m a simpleton. But if we are having a grown up conversation about what is and isn’t offensive, can we Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and All Of The Above be a part of it, too? Or is [sic] only liberal secularists who are allowed to take offence?
And you berate others for poor grammar.
Dr Tim’s tirade begs the question as to why he even follows Richard Dawkins on Twitter. If Dawkins’ Tweets upset him so much, why doesn’t he just unsubscribe and block him? His position is akin to Mary Whitehouse trying to ban most of British television’s output: “I don’t like it; therefore no one else should watch it!”
I could not find a mirror image in America’s Finest News Source on that occasion, but take a gander at Dr Tim correcting the World’s media on Pope Francis allegedly saying that atheists and agnostics will still be welcome in God’s Holy Kingdom after they are through with this veil of tears and…
[The mainstream media have reported Pope Francis as saying] that belief in God isn’t a requirement to get into Heaven. Of course, it absolutely is. If you arrive at the pearly gates and still refuse to accept that God exists then the odds are that St Peter won’t let you in. Everyone has to confront that reality at some point in their lives – so only the mad and the stubborn are likely to spend an eternity as unbelievers.
…and try to spot the difference if you can with this recent gem from The Onion:
VATICAN CITY—Following Pope Francis’ tolerant remarks Sunday about homosexuals and the Catholic Church, Vatican officials reportedly went into crisis mode, announcing that the Pope’s thoughtful message of understanding was clearly taken out of context. “It is not the official stance of the Pope or the Catholic Church that all people of good will who seek the Lord, especially gay people, should be accepted by Christ,” a visibly nervous Vatican spokesman told reporters, adding that the Holy Father was clearly tired after his long trip to Brazil and never meant for his comments to sound caring or realistic. “Homosexuality is a disorder. And this in no way means that, going forward, the Catholic Church will be an open-minded, more sensible organization. I assure you we are just as prejudiced and backward today as we were yesterday. Thank you.” According to an anonymous source close to the Vatican, the Pope is currently being yelled at by Church officials, who are telling him, “You don’t just go off script like that. Who the fuck do you think you are?”
Blowed if I can find a link to it now, but I do recall reading on good old fashioned newspaper at the time that long before the Iraq War The Daily Telegraph’s satirist, Peter Simple, gave up trying to parody former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair because quite simply his subject was his own best parody and could not be improved upon.
The same principle applies to Dr Timothy Stanley.