In a brief but excoriating piece in the U.K.
Register Guardian, “The Deification of Stupidity,” philosopher A.C. Grayling notes why groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are imploring the United Nations to ban the speaking out against religion: because the very business of the worst of the lot, from Islamic theocracies to the increasingly contemptible Pope, is debasing and shredding the very idea of human rights, meaning that criticism of their machinations from the saner corners of the world is loud and beseeching.
If [the OIC] succeeds in turning criticism of religion and its main beneficiaries into “defamation” … here is another thing we might not be able to discuss. The Pope’s iteration of his church’s doctrine on contraception, while on his way to visit Africa where 21 million people in sub-Saharan countries are infected with HIV, millions have died of Aids, and millions of Aids orphans live in frightful conditions of semi-slavery and destitution, has been rightly condemned by many around the world.
But the HIV/Aids tragedy of Africa is only the tip of an iceberg. Opposition to control of family size in the poorest part of the world condemns women to endless pregnancies if they are not – as many are – killed or incapacitated by childbearing in difficult circumstances. The difficulty of looking after numerous children in abject poverty is, on its own, a grinding oppression, to say nothing of the immense barriers to the opportunity for decent lives later on for the children. These brutal facts are as nothing to the Pope: in his view the blight of too many pregnancies, too many children, infant mortality, starvation, disease, poverty and immiseration is all part of the deity’s plan. For anyone who goes by evidence, if there is a deity, this suggests that it devotes its spare time to pulling wings off flies.
The Pope’s attitude to sex is mainly informed by having to deal with child-abusing priests (latest reports say that in the US complaints against abusive priests rose to 800 in 2008: that’s more than a dozen a week), which is why his advice to them – abstinence – seems to be the only thing he can think to suggest to everyone else, and most of all as a guard against HIV infection. Plenty of people lack insight into the deep imperatives of human nature, so let us not blame the Pope for adding this particular deficit to his already rich repertoire of them: but let us ask whether a marrying clergy might not be part of the solution to sexually abusing priests, if there has to be a clergy at all. Best of all as a policy for the Pope and his church on matters of sex might be silence. To adapt Wittgenstein, “Wherof you know nothing, shut up.”
The chief point is that Vatican policy on contraception is in every sense a hideous crime against humanity and ought to be treated as such.
This is exactly why idiots like Matthew Nisbet, who continually call for reining in of harsh criticism of religiously motivated solecisms, are floridly misguided. People can bitch about “New Atheism” all they want or they can raise their chins off their chests and actually look around at the world. The best possible way to combat atrocities of all kinds is to drag their perpetrators into the light of day and label them for what they are.
It’s easy when you live in comfortable North America to pretend that mollycoddling backward institutions is a decent course of action, because at the end of the day there is very little overt slaughter going on and therefore no compelling reason to hurt anyone’s feelings. One might just as easy claim that mass starvation and genocide are amenable to education and gentle blog debate; after all, these things are not in evidence in the U.S.
Sometimes, the apple cart needs upending, and things like the Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights demonstrates exactly why.