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Atheists 'not fully human', says Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

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19-05-2009, 10:34   #1
plekhanov
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Please note I do not want this thread to be another about the existence or otherwise of god/s but about what I regard as the huge double standard in our society when it comes to judging the behaviour and speech of theists and atheists.

This double standard is I think exemplified by the lack of any notable outccry when the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales used a recent BBC interview to deny the humanity of atheists. You can hear the exchange here or read a transcript:

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Roger Bolton – a lot of church leaders speaking on national matters sound rather defensive but you’ve gone on the attack because you’ve talked about secularists having an “impoverished understanding of what it is to be human” they might find that quite offensive mightn’t they?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor - I think what I said was true, of course whether a person is atheist or any other...there is in fact, in my view, something not totally human, if they leave out the transcendent. If they leave out an aspect of what I believe everyone was made for, which is, uh, a search for transcendent meaning, we call it God. Now if you say that has no place, then I feel that it is a diminishment of what it is to be a human, because to be human in the sense I believe humanity is directed because made by God, I think if you leave that out then you are not fully human.
Now aside from the fact that regardless of whether or not we are “made” to “search for transcendent meaning” it’s an absurd strawman to claim that atheists don’t “search for transcendent meaning” (it's possible for people to search for something and come to a different conclusion from you Cormac). It’s amazing that this man could deny the humanity of a significant section of the population of this country and the world there be barely a murmur about it. If he’d said the same thing about Jews or Muslims there can be little doubt that this would be front page news.

Atheists & secularists such as Dawkins are frequently accused of being ‘extremist’, ‘shrill’, ‘strident’, ‘intolerant’… simply for questioning the claims of theists and challenging the privileges of religious groups. Dawkins has said he thinks that theists are deluded, foolish, wrong and so forth and sometimes motivated by their beliefs to commit evil acts yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dawkins even come close to denying the humanity of Catholics or any other religious group.

So far as I can tell Dawkins & other New Atheists tone and language would be thought unremarkable if they were challenging any other idealogical grouping other than theists. Politicians, columnists & religious leaders say far more 'extreme' things both in terms of language used and what they're actually arguing for all the time without attracting such opprobrium.

Just imagine if on national radio an atheist had said something like; “I think what I said was true, of course whether a person is catholic or any other...there is in fact, in my view, something not totally human, if they deny rationality. If they leave out an aspect of what I believe everyone was made for, which is, uh, a search for transcendent meaning using reason and evidence. Now if you say that has no place, then I feel that it is a diminishment of what it is to be a human, because to be human in the sense I believe humanity is directed because we were not made by a magic man in the sky, I think if you disagree then you are not fully human.

Would there not be howls of outrage that the BBC would give a national platform to something expressing such a hateful message? Would Catholics not be demanding that the speaker be prosecuted for 'inciting religious hatred'?

Once again please note this is not a thread about the existence or otherwise of god/s, there's already a thread for that. This thread is intended to be about whether or not there is a double standard in the way theistic and atheistic/pro-secular speech and actions are judged in this country.
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19-05-2009, 10:43   #2
DaFoot
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You will get double standards all over the place, not just in this discussion.

You get double standards from all sides in all discussions, you just need to dig around a bit for it sometimes.

Double standards are not unique to people involved in the theists 'vs' atheists arguments.
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19-05-2009, 10:51   #3
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He hasn't denied anything - he has stated his beliefs. Note the use of "in my view" and "I believe" which you seem to have carefully not bolded!
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19-05-2009, 10:51   #4
plekhanov
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaFoot View Post
You will get double standards all over the place, not just in this discussion.

You get double standards from all sides in all discussions, you just need to dig around a bit for it sometimes.

Double standards are not unique to people involved in the theists 'vs' atheists arguments.
When did I claim or even imply that double standards are in anyway unique or confined to how theists and atheists are judged?
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19-05-2009, 10:53   #5
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Some might say there is something not quite human about the child abusers whose vile actions are practised and/or condoned by many in the catholic priesthood, not forgetting the cruelty inflicted on the helpless by many in the sisterhood.

Look inward Mr O'Connor before you condemn anyone else as 'not quite human'.
Give me an atheist any day over your lot.
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19-05-2009, 10:54   #6
plekhanov
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evildrneil View Post
He hasn't denied anything - he has stated his beliefs. Note the use of "in my view" and "I believe" which you seem to have carefully not bolded!
So if I was to say "in my view Jews are not fully human" or "I believe that Catholics are not fully human" you wouldn't think I was denying the humanity of Jews or Catholics?
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19-05-2009, 11:00   #7
saxon51
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I vaguely remember some geezer with a wierd 'tache and unmanageable fringe back in the 30's once stating that he believed Jews, Slavs, Homosexuals, Gypsies, and the disabled not to be human. Wonder if Canon Cormac Murphy O'Connor is a mate of his?
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19-05-2009, 11:01   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evildrneil View Post
He hasn't denied anything - he has stated his beliefs. Note the use of "in my view" and "I believe" which you seem to have carefully not bolded!
My "belief" is that a moderator should be expected to realise the irrelevance of that.



Edit: As plekenhov and saxon51 have pointed out so obviously.
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19-05-2009, 11:08   #9
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It doesn't interest me one bit what this guy thinks about atheists - why should it bother any convinced atheist ?
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19-05-2009, 11:15   #10
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does he not mean in a spiritual sense i could be wrong.
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19-05-2009, 11:19   #11
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The opinion of a man who believes in fairies, bearded or otherwise, is not something that would greatly concern me.
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19-05-2009, 11:22   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greybeard View Post
It doesn't interest me one bit what this guy thinks about atheists - why should it bother any convinced atheist ?
It's bothersome that somebody can say something so hideously offensive about ANY group and get away with it. As previously said ... try getting a major public figure to say that he/she believes Jews are "not fully human" and see what happens.

Why doesn't the same thing happen when it's said of some other group?
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19-05-2009, 11:28   #13
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Can't add much that hasn't been said, but yes, this is deeply offensive and would probably lead to massive media outrage if applied against any other group of people.

Try 'homosexuals are not fully human'; 'women are not fully human'; 'black people are not fully human'.

The only defense against there not being such an outcry is perhaps that atheists may not be quite so touchy, having not been particularly discriminated against in living memory.
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19-05-2009, 11:30   #14
esme
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I think I'm fully human and I have no need for supernatural deities who will reward me if I'm good and punish me if I'm bad, but thats my opinion I could be wrong

I think he's deluded and if he had any real power and authority possibly dangerous but he hasn't so I'm not worried, but thats my opinion as well I could be wrong again

see the thing is I admit I could be wrong but I'd need strong evidence to convince me that I was

this guy will not admit he could be wrong because that goes against the idea of faith, in this one thing he is absolute and unshakeable

which viewpoint is more reasonable, the one that can be swayed by evidence or the one that is cast in stone

I have been compared to a "beast of the field" before, to which my usual response is "flock off back to your shepherd if you are so much better than me" usually the irony seems to escape the person making the initial comparison though
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Last edited by esme; 19-05-2009 at 11:33.
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19-05-2009, 11:30   #15
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As an atheist myself I feel as though I should be outraged by his comments but strangely I am not, because although I disagree with his personal theist beliefs, I totally understand what he means by 'searching for transendent meaning'.

He is wrong in what he says though, as with myself being proof, you don't have to believe in a magical god in order to be a spiritual person. For him to generalise against all atheists just because they don't believe in his particular view of god and heaven is extremely misguided.
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19-05-2009, 11:33   #16
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But surely, to be human is to embrace our primal desires, emotions and instincts, not deny them like religion teaches?

Humans are animals with the same urges etc. By denying them, does that not make us less human?
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19-05-2009, 11:35   #17
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I bet this numpty is flogging himself rotten for not being around to join in the magic and wonder of the Inquisition, the Witch Hunts nor the burning of Joan deArc.
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19-05-2009, 11:36   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plekhanov View Post
So if I was to say "in my view Jews are not fully human" or "I believe that Catholics are not fully human" you wouldn't think I was denying the humanity of Jews or Catholics?
I wouldn't no. I'd see it as the views of a close-minded person, a bit like what was said by the Cardinal himself
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19-05-2009, 11:38   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greybeard View Post
It doesn't interest me one bit what this guy thinks about atheists - why should it bother any convinced atheist ?
Normally I would agree, but it's quite possible that this guy is about to be offered a seat in the House Of Lords:

http://www.secularism.org.uk/murphy-...g-the-ho1.html

Please sign the Number 10 petition calling on the Prime Minister not to award Murphy O’Connor a peerage
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19-05-2009, 11:43   #20
DaFoot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plekhanov View Post
When did I claim or even imply that double standards are in anyway unique or confined to how theists and atheists are judged?
You didn't explicitly state it was confined to athiests/theists, however you did state, "what I regard as the huge double standard in our society when it comes to judging the behaviour and speech of theists and atheists".

Just seems a mute discussion. Double standards are everywhere, why pick out this particular subject to highlight double standards?

That's all.
I'm outta here before I get drawn into yet another atheist/theist argument
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