Thursday, March 13, 2008

The 7 deadly sins 2.0

What’s this? could it possibly be the Catholic church engaging in the great “debate”, challenging the rationalist position, providing evidence of the divine, delivering a crushing logic bomb that finally destroys the enlightenment, well not quite. I'm sure the cynical amongst you would say that it’s a just the usual mediaevally inspired attempt at thought control and that here we have a bunch of old virgins clinging onto the vestiges of power by trying to kid everyone that they actually care about humanity. You might even point out the blatant hypocrisy when it is so transparently obvious that its their own petty vested interest being shoved down our throats here and very little else, perhaps you would be right, let's see.

Well folks here we have it, 7 new deadly sins, these little beauties will instantly condemn any transgressor to an eternity of torment in the furnaces of hell, no question, well, ahem, unless they slip the big guy a few quid and he supplies an “indulgence” which lets them off the hook (but that’s a different topic), back to those “mortal sins”, let’s take a closer look..

Environmental Pollution – Yes, this is bad, no doubt about that, but it’s not a black and white issue really is it, who is culpable if an oil tanker is blown onto the rocks, who is going to fry for that? Then there is the issue of where the largest contribution to environmental destruction actually comes from, any guesses?, could it be OVER-POPULATION, what is the most likely religion of those engaged in slashing and burning the rain forest? Does this mean that contraception is now ok, so long as it’s to prevent environmental destruction because of over-population?

Genetic Manipulation – The doctrine isn’t too clear on this one, what kind of manipulation is kosher and what is not, or are they saying any manipulation is off limits. Surely they aren’t talking about the artificial selection process that Norman Borlaug undertook in the 50s that resulted in more hardy, disease resistant varieties of wheat that conservative estimates conclude have directly saved more than 1 BILLION human lives since then, or perhaps the work of the countless scientist using genetic manipulation to produce vaccines for say, smallpox or polio, all but eradicating them, although you have to say that this has been achieved in the teeth of opposition from religions like Catholicism see here

I suspect the thrust of this one is targeted firmly at those engaged in stem cell research, particularly those using embryos as the source of those cells. I smell the vile whiff of DOGMA folks, yes, we’re expected to believe that a Petri dish containing a blastocyst of 150 cells has a, wait for it, A SOUL; yes we’re back into the realm of MAGIC people. How can those nasty scientists destroy clumps of 150 cells, clearly the suffering involved trumps the suffering experienced by an 11 year old school girl with MS. As for where this soul actually is, well, those know-all scientists just can’t be using the right kind of micro-scopes can they, don't they know you need to close your eyes to see them. What these Catholics don’t seem to appreciate is that more cells are actually destroyed when you pick your nose, and yes, all of them have the potential to create human life, one little abbreviation for you, DNA, its truly magical stuff, I recommend reading a few books on it, they might be a revelation!

Accumulating Excessive Wealth – Well, this one is unclear too, perhaps I need an example, oh yes, the Catholic Church, how refreshing, honesty at last.

Inflicting Poverty – I must be stupid or something, I feel I need concrete examples to help me understand the deeper meaning of these sins. In this case perhaps denying the rights of women to control their own fertility thereby keeping them under the yoke of male domination and in the grip of poverty might provide just the ticket? If I’m not mistaken Sister Theresa of Calcutta was the expert in this field, and although she didn’t actually believe any of the nonsense of the Catholic Church, she was very keen on poverty and keeping people in it so that they remained subservient to the Catholic Church, something that is exposed pretty conclusively in Christopher Hitchens book, “The Missionary Position” a good read!

Drug Trafficking & Consumption – Can’t argue with this, although I’m slightly uncomfortable about what the main causes of drug consumption are, feelings of helplessness caused by poverty perhaps caused by over population and poor environments, rebellion against irrational authority, are we really saying that the silly teenager who takes a quick drag on a joint will pay for that with eternal suffering in hell, seems a bit stiff? I can’t help thinking that since humans have been taking drugs of one kind or another since long before the Catholic Church existed and probably will long after it disappears, it would seem like this is more complicated than this black and white statement seems to suggest.

Morally Debatable Experiments – Ah ha! I feel we are well and truly back in the comfort zone with this one; remove ambiguity by introducing the qualifier of “Morality”, no one can argue with that can they. Hold on though, who decides what is moral and what is not, oh yes I remember.

Of course, morality is God given isn’t it, so it’s infallible, much like all the Popes have been, well, err, um, apart from Limbo, Slavery, vaccination, woman’s rights, evolution, abortion, contraception, cosmology etc. etc. I know, perhaps we could say that religion itself is a morally debatable “thought control” experiment now there is a topic worthy of a good argument.

Violation of Fundamental Rights of Human Nature – A couple of questions on this one, (sheesh, what a dummy I am!) since we mentioned cosmology in the previous point, I can’t resist mentioning Galileo, were his rights violated? Do woman have the right to abort an unborn foetus? “Violation” is such a tricky term isn’t it, are children "violated" when they have the penis of a Catholic priest inserted into one of their bodily orifices against their will? is homosexuality part of “human nature”, if it were, would denying it be a violation of rights? questions, questions.

It would seem that these so called “sins” aren’t so clear cut as they first appear, for myself, I tend to be old-fashioned when it comes to ethics, it seems to me that certain ethics were much clearer before the Catholic (or Christian) Churches existed, the Chinese and the Greeks seemed to have a much better handle on the basics long, long ago, after all, most of Christian “ethics” are based on what came before, and most of what we have now has been codified after the enlightenment. I’m quite happy with a secular, democratic, evolutionary approach to ethics, if I ever broke the law, I wouldn’t want any jury to judge me based on any of the tenets of “revelation”, “authority” or “tradition”, they simply haven't stood the test of time in my view.

When we finally realise that morality comes from humans and not from magical sky dwelling entities or "special" books, and that what is right and wrong changes and evolves over time as we do, we will have truly figured something out for ourselves as a species.

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