Atoning

David Klinghoffer is looking for reasons to apologize. That’s all I can conclude from his latest post at the Disco. ‘tute blog: On Yom Kippur, Considering the Moral Meaning of Theistic Evolution. He writes about the Yom Kippur liturgy, probably the holiest moment in the Jewish year, when we apologize to those around us for our failings in the last year, and then take a deeper look at the offenses we may have caused to no person in particular, but which still deserve apologies.

Klinghoffer’s point, to the extent we grant that it is a point, is that this moment is also a good time to pursue his ongoing theological disagreement with theistic evolutionists. You might object that this is not in the spirit of atonement and forgiveness that should be at the root of Yom Kippur.

But then you wouldn’t be David Klinghoffer. Unlike you, Klinghoffer has nothing to seek atonement for this year, certainly not for his ongoing campaign to blame Charles Darwin for anything bad done by anyone who has heard of evolution.

Speaking of atonement, how about that Pope?

Benedict XVI used the first papal state visit to Britain to launch a blistering attack on “atheist extremism” and “aggressive secularism”, and to rue the damage that “the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life” had done in the last century.

The leader of the Roman Catholic church concluded a speech, made before the Queen and assembled dignitaries at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, with the argument that the Nazi desire to eradicate God had led to the Holocaust and a plea for 21st-century Britain to respect its Christian foundations.

I’d like to think that if I had been in the Hitler Youth, had worn the Nazi uniform in combat, went on to head a church that ? through the blood libel, pogroms, Crusades, Passion plays, and Inquisitions ? has done more to sustain a culture of anti-Semitism in Europe than anything else, and if I held the same position in that Church as Pius XII, who abetted the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, not to mention the toxic nationalism that they exploited, and if Hitler had been an adherent of my religion, I might just shut the fuck up about who is to blame for Naziism, World War II, and the Holocaust.

If it were me, I wouldn’t launch an effort at trivializing the Holocaust during the Jewish Days of Awe, the holy time between the beginning of the year and the day of atonement. But I’m not a wizened procurer for pedophile priests who gets regularly mistaken for Emperor Palpatine, so what do I know.

And if I were not only the head of a Church which suppresses dissent vigorously, and which is only beginning to grapple with the campaign of murder it waged in Iberia, the Americas, and elsewhere through the Renaissance, and if I were formerly the head of a body dedicated to stamping out Catholic social justice movements in Latin America, condoning the murders of nuns and priests (not to mention laity) if they didn’t toe my conservative political and theological line, and if I were still persecuting the remnants of that movement and dishonoring its martyrs, and if I had a record of lying about the causes of AIDS to those most afflicted by it, and if I had reversed historic steps toward reconciliation between Catholics and Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox achieved by my predecessor, I might not claim to be defending “traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.” At the very least, I’d stop covering up the massive conspiracy of child rape by priests, unless I wanted people to think that child rape is one of the “traditional values and cultural expressions” being besieged.

My only consolation is that, as PZ Myers notes in a different context, “practicing Catholics seem to ignore official papal decrees fairly routinely.” They’d do well to ignore just about everything this Pope decrees.

This is all by way of saying that this Pope could afford to do some atoning of his own this Kol Nidre.

And on that note, for those readers who have been hurt in any way by my actions or words in this last year, you have my sincerest apologies, and my pledge to be more respectful in disagreements and ever more appreciative of friendships.

Comments

  1. #1 Porlock Junior
    September 17, 2010

    With fair warning that this links to a religious blog, and a catholic[sic] one at that, I recommend this:

    http://thewoundedbird.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-am-not-amused.html

    (It alludes to an item a couple of days ago noting that if the Queen met the Pope she would have to be wearing black.)

    Long live their gracious Queen!

  2. #2 zackoz
    September 18, 2010

    Josh, tell us what you really think. Don’t hold back in that namby-pamby way!

    Yes, trying to blame atheism and secularism for Hitler is really pushing it; and when it’s dear old ex-Hitler Youth Pope Benny doing the blaming, comedy turns into black farce.

    Incidentally, I didn’t know Jews on Yom Kippur went round seeking atonement for any sins they might have committed against others. The Muslims I know (a fair number) do that sort of thing during Idul Fitr at the end of the fasting month.

    The practice must have come from Judaism – I’ll be so delighted to tell them that!

  3. #3 george.wiman
    September 18, 2010

    Fabulous! Wonderfully said.

    I’m getting really, really tired of people associating atheism with Nazism. Germany was arguably more a Christian country than the US at the time of the holocaust, which was mostly carried out by Christians, and we don’t blame Christianity. I suppose we will go to any lengths to avoid blaming the real culprit, humanity, for our inhumanity; that would strike a little too close to home.

  4. #4 David Gerard
    September 18, 2010

    The really good bit, of course, is that Hitler was a lifelong Catholic. This is as uncontroversial a fact as him being Austrian.

  5. #5 Free Lunch
    September 18, 2010

    Klinghoffer and Ratzinger together again for the first time.

    On this Yom Kippur, I can thank the gods I do not believe in that I am neither one of those disgusting offenses against humanity.

  6. #6 Deepak Shetty
    September 22, 2010

    I’d like to think that .. …so what do I know.

    So when did you become a new atheist?

  7. #7 J. J. Ramsey
    September 23, 2010

    Deepak Shetty: “So when did you become a new atheist?”

    He hasn’t. He’s just shown that the name “accommodationist” is a somewhat misleading label that obscures that so-called accommodationists aren’t particularly accommodating toward fact-twisting and reality denial, especially not when the welfare of children is involved.

  8. #8 Norwegian Shooter
    September 23, 2010

    Josh, this is not smart ass, because I truly don’t know. Is a blanket apology to unnamed persons for unnamed acts in the spirit of atonement and forgiveness that should be at the root of Yom Kippur?

  9. #9 James Sweet
    September 23, 2010

    My knee-jerk reaction was along the lines of Deepak Shetty, but after pausing for a moment I think that is very wrong. If we generally disagree with Rosenau about the appropriate degree of religious deference, we shouldn’t take the chance to mock him when we do agree. That’s “Being A Dick”.

    Anyway: Right on Josh! Loved the post!

  10. #10 Anton Mates
    September 23, 2010

    But then you wouldn’t be David Klinghoffer. Unlike you, Klinghoffer has nothing to seek atonement for this year, certainly not for his ongoing campaign to blame Charles Darwin for anything bad done by anyone who has heard of evolution.

    More accurately, I think, Klinghoffer has nothing to atone for with reference to other humans. His conception of Yom Kippur is apparently based entirely around asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness; mere mortals are of no concern to him.

    Also, mercy is apparently only applicable to family members, and Klinghoffer has trouble with the concept of “unmerited.”

  11. #11 Josh Rosenau
    September 23, 2010

    Deepak: What J.J. said.

  12. #12 Josh Rosenau
    September 23, 2010

    Norwegian Shooter: IMHO, sincerity is the important thing. Sometimes we forget offenses offered, or we don’t want to reopen old wounds by citing the particulars of a past offense. As with so many things in Judaism, you’ll get different answers depending who you ask.

  13. #13 Pierce R. Butler
    September 24, 2010

    … the Yom Kippur liturgy, probably the holiest moment in the Jewish year, when we apologize to those around us for our failings in the last year, and then take a deeper look at the offenses we may have caused to no person in particular, but which still deserve apologies.

    So that‘s why Benjamin Netanyahu was on his knees at the Gaza border checkpoint, and why Ehud Barak spent all day on the phone with survivors of the Mavi Marmara massacre.

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    September 24, 2010

    … a wizened procurer for pedophile priests who gets regularly mistaken for Emperor Palpatine…

    Y’know, some people would call that “dickishness”. Just sayin’…

  15. #15 Mandrellian
    September 24, 2010

    Pierce @ 14:

    Some would call that “dickishness” an honest appraisal of the facts.

  16. #16 Deepak Shetty
    September 26, 2010

    @Josh, @J J Ramsey
    So if Richard Dawkins or P Z Myers wrote the same words about the Pope , and the religious pointed it out as one more example of strident new Atheists, you’ll would be up defending Dawkins and Myers?

    And seriously, the Pope did all this by himself? The Church hierarchy didnt help? Where’s the criticism? What about the Catholic people who turned up in droves to pray with the Pope? Where’s the criticism? And if you can do the above then there is no difference between the accomodationists and the new atheists! And bear in mind its the accomodationists who coined the phrase “new atheists”

    Oh and Im not mocking Josh – I’m happy he can write the above post but he should recognize that if P Z Myers goes after some bigot and utters some choice insults, the accomodationists get into a tizzy.

  17. #17 Paul W., OM
    September 28, 2010

    This is exactly the sort of strident and shrill thing that gets the New Atheists in so much trouble.

    Keep it up.

  18. #18 Paul W.
    September 28, 2010

    Some would call that “dickishness” an honest appraisal of the facts

    I’m pretty sure I can speak for Pierce when I say precisely!

    What the New Atheists do is generally what they (and Pierce and I) consider an honest appraisal of the facts, and a blunt and forceful criticism.

    I sincerely think that Josh is spot on here, and it’s refreshing to see him stating the truth about a religious figure so forcefully. It’s right, true, very well said, and not at all dickish in intent.

    Seriously, I think what Josh wrote here is incredibly good. I didn’t know he could write such galvanizing dead-on prose, and wish I could write so well. It is the sort of thing that can piss people off, however, precisely because it’s infuriatingly well-done.

    You can bet that many Catholics would see it as a dickish attack on Catholicism and on them as Catholics. Many might privately agree with Josh on several points, but still be offended that he, as an outsider, would say this sort of thing in public about the leader of her church. It’s just uncivil to say such things, true or not. Many Catholics would be pissed off that he did it so articulately, as well—that often strikes less articulate people as unfair.

    They would be wrong, of course. It’s not Josh’s fault that the Pope really is a corrupt and dishonest hypocrite, as Josh makes so unforgivably clear. And it’s not Josh’s fault that hundreds of millions of people revere him, and would be personally affronted by this sort of incredibly offensive thing—and it’s not his job to temper the painful truth by making it less exciting than the content merits.

    This is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be said until people stop expecting knee-jerk “respect” for people and ideas that haven’t earned it.

    It demonstrates exactly the kind of respect that people really do deserve—taking what they say and do seriously, rather than humoring them. The Pope has a lot of explaining to do, and a lot of apologizing, and nobody should pretend otherwise to spare people’s delicate feelings. That would be effectively condoning his behavior, in much the same way his behavior has condoned child rape and dooming millions to die of AIDS.