About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Losing an aunt to Jesus, could have been worse
This sort of “logic” born of unbearable pain and shock is, of course, very familiar to atheists, and exceedingly irritating. The people of Peru, and of Pisco in particular, have been hit by a random catastrophe like those that have struck human populations since the dawn of time. It is a tragedy that calls for human empathy and for material support to the survivors, but does it really justify a flight from elementary reason in the name of grief?
We don't live in the ancient times when people had no idea of what caused earthquakes and other natural calamities. It may have made (some) sense then to attribute the latest disaster to Zeus' anger over not getting his way with yet another human female, and to attempt to calm the god down with prayers and sacrifices. But it seems an unbearably sad reflection on the educational status of modern humanity that in the internet age the people of Pisco look for “small miracles” to justify clinging onto a faith they should instead seriously question.
The leader of the Church of San Clemente, Alfonso Berra de Urralburu, for example, considers it a miracle that he escaped unscathed, even though the walls were crumbling down all around him. Apparently, it doesn't occur to Mr. Urralburu that such a sense of cosmic gratitude is a direct slap in the face to the two priests that did die that same day, not to mention the dozens of his worshipers that didn't make it out of the building alive.
Ah, but we have evidence of yet other small miracles (is that an oxymoron?), so everything must be right after all. The “evidence” is the fact that a statue of Jesus “somehow” remained intact. Yes, and we are supposed to be thankful to a god that cares more for his own image than for the lives of those who were there praying to him. It seems to me that such a god nicely fits the definition of a psychopath.
Urralburu said that this tragedy was actually an opportunity. “We will use this chance to modernize ... These things have a way of purifying us.” Indeed, but god could have simply told you to take a bath and call in the painters, no? Did he really have to make tens of thousands homeless so that you could “modernize” one of his places of worship? This is not just nonsense, it is an insult to human dignity and suffering, camouflaged as caring and empathy. As Voltaire aptly put it, Ecrasez l'Infame!