28 February 2010


You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

How the Churches Have Retarded Progress

You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, "This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children." Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.
That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy."
(from Bertrand Russell's lecture
Why I Am Not A Christian, March 6, 1927,
later published with other essays in 1957)

Find the full text of Why I am Not a Christian HERE.

24 February 2010

BERTRAND RUSSELL #3 - Religion and Cruelty

That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
(from Bertrand Russell's lecture
Why I Am Not A Christian, March 6, 1927,
later published with other essays in 1957)

21 February 2010

BERTRAND RUSSELL #2 - Christ and Morality

The Moral Problem

Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.
You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell." That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come." That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.
Then Christ says, "The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." He continues, "And these shall go away into everlasting fire." Then He says again, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.
There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. "He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: 'No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever' . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: 'Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.'" This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.
(from Bertrand Russell's lecture
Why I Am Not A Christian, March 6, 1927,
later published with other essays in 1957)

18 February 2010


the Foundation
of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

(from Bertrand Russell's lecture
Why I Am Not A Christian, March 6, 1927,
later published with other essays in 1957)

13 February 2010

CHRISTIANS BEHAVING BADLY #18 -Clueless Missionaries

I'm sure most of you have heard about Laura Silsby and her group of missionaries who were arrested for kidnapping on 01/29/10 in Haiti while allegedly attempting to take 33 children across the international border into the Dominican Republic without proper authorization from the Haitian government. The Dominican consul general has said he warned the group's leader, Silsby, about trying to cross the border without proper documents.

Why would Silsby ignore such a warning?

Like many religious people, she may have thought she was above the law or that god would protect her from prosecution. Or perhaps she just assumed that there was so much chaos in Haiti after the earthquake, that no one would notice.

But Ms. Silsby apparently has a history of ignoring the law.
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, she and her Boise-based company, PersonalShopper.com, have numerous claims against them for non-payment of wages, wrongful termination, and fraud. A jury trial is set for February 22.
She has a history of failing to pay debts, and the $358,000 house at which she founded her nonprofit religious group, New Life Children's Refuge, was foreclosed in December, according to a report in the Idaho Statesman. In March she is scheduled in court for non-payment for services performed by a law firm.
I have to wonder if her non-profit organization was founded, in part, so she could collect tax-free funds to support her legal problems in at least eight civil suits.

At first Silsby claimed the Haitian children were orphaned, but then she admitted her group was taking at least some of the children with their parents' consent to an uncompleted orphanage she is building in the Dominican Republic, although her web site indicated she would be taking them to the U.S. ---but without documents, I doubt that could happen. Apparently parents were shown pictures of the orphanage which does not yet exist.
How does she have the funds to build an orphanage if she can't even pay the mortgage on her group's headquarters?
However, if she does have the funds to build, staff, maintain, and run an orphanage, and if she truly wants to help the children, why not provide them and their families with food, water, and shelter, allowing the children to remain with their parents or extended families? Her group could work to help the families find the services they need. Surely building and maintaining an orphanage is far more expensive than providing such services to families. For the short term, meet their immediate needs of survival. Then, help the parents rebuild and learn marketable skills. Provide education for the children.
She promised parents she would not offer the children for adoption, but her web site says the children would be available for adoption. So, at the very least, she is incompetent or a liar.
I presume that part of Silsby's "mission" is to proselytise the children from their current religious beliefs. Nothing I have read convinces me Silsby had the children's best interests in mind.
But whatever her motives, she was breaking the law by attempting to transport children across international borders without proper authorization.

To put this in perspective, during Hurricane Katrina, how would U.S. citizens have felt if a group of (for example) Spanish missionaries came to the U.S. and tried to take 33 children, without proper authorization, across the border to Mexico to place them in a Catholic orphanage. No matter what the group's motives, most American citizens would be aghast, and those who were evangelical Christians might be outraged that the children would be indoctrinated into Catholicism. Americans would be doubly outraged if they discovered most of the children had living parents or other relatives and were not orphans at all.
Remember that during the Asian tsunami, several children were spirited away and never found. It is suspected they were taken for illicit reasons. The Haitian government has the right to be doubly cautious in such situations.

At first I thought the nine people accompanying Silsby were somewhat clueless, that they may indeed have been well-intentioned, that SIlsby had left them in the dark about the necessary paperwork after she had been warned. However, according to CNN, the group had made an earlier attempt at taking 40 other children three days earlier and were turned back without proper documents. If the "Clueless 9" were not attempting to do something illegal, they were just plain stupid.
My understanding is that a Haitian judge has decided to release the missionaries, not because they were found not-guilty, but because the Haitian government can't afford to create bad will with the U.S. which is providing most of the relief effort there.

I understand there are many religious folks who are doing a great deal of good in Haiti. As long as they are helping with issues of food, water, shelter, and medical care without taking the children out of the country illegally and not proselytising, I'm fine with that. But this group, and especially its leader, seemed especially aggressive, and even after being warned, they were willing to break the law in the name of their god.

Christians are not always right. They don't always do the right thing. They may be well-intentioned, but sometimes have ulterior motives. And sometimes their faith blinds them to reason and common sense.



NBC Evening News with Brian Williams


Also find many great comments on "Should the 10 American missionaries stand trial in Haiti for trying to take children out of the county?"
As of 4:30 EST 2/13/10, out of 55,219 votes, the poll results were:
69.6% Yes, it needs to be determined whether they broke the country’s laws.
No they were only trying to help kids left destitute by the earthquake.
Not sure.
Comments near the top of the page are short responses. Longer comments are near the bottom. I was unable to read all of them (to date there are 26 pages) but someone who calls her/himself NotKidding made many especially good comments from at least page 22 to 26 (although there may be more.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...