Upcoming radio interview

Listen to my upcoming interview with host Senator Redfield about how religion makes people more violent:

Straight Talk with Redfield
Sen. Holland Redfield
AM 970 WSTX
U.S. Virgin Islands

Wednesday July 6th
12:30pm ET/9:30 PT

Listen live at http://wstxam.com/. I will try to get the recording to the interview so you’ll be able to listen to it later as well.

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Does religion make people more violent?

Listen to my interview with Rick Barber on 850 KOA News Radio Denver, where we discuss whether religion makes people more violent.

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Pondering about the killers of Jesus

Reverend Martin wrote an interesting piece in the Huffington Post titled “Who Killed Jesus? An Examination of the Evidence“. There are some issues with this article: it doesn’t matter how many scholars write about the Gospels, or what the Catholic Church believes they mean, ultimately those are works of religious teaching and thus are not bound by the rigors of historical scholarship. The writers of the Gospels had a clear agenda, and that was to distance the early Christians from mainstream Jews. Rev. Martin says, “The Gospel accounts are not necessarily eyewitness accounts”. They certainly were not, as people who did not know Jesus personally and were not present during the events wrote these books 35 to 80 years after the events they describe.

Even the title of the piece is problematic, because of his use of the word “evidence”. There is no evidence of the existence of Jesus, let alone of who killed him. Moreover, from a Christian theological perspective one can make the argument that his death was preordained and meant to save everyone, which means that who his killers were is immaterial. I would even venture to say Christians should be grateful to whoever did it.

Rev. Martin makes an interesting point about Bogosian’s supposed Jewish appearance. Indeed, Christianity, from the Gospels onward, taught that Jews were minions of the Devil. Gibson’s film actually portrays a demon, or the Devil himself, moving among the Jews, thus suggesting they were his people.

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An interesting analysis of Pope Pius XII’s canonization process

I would like to point out the very interesting ongoing analysis of the process the Vatican is currently engaged in to turn Pope Pius XII into a saint that Irvin Mermelstein has been posting on the Jewish Survival blog. Pope Benedict’s book Light of the World makes statements and claims about Pope Pius that are likely based on what we have already discussed here as the misleading efforts of Pave the Way Foundation and its researcher, Michael Hesemann.

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Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the Church

The Bolshevik Revolution was a watershed event that brought down the Romanovs and a long tradition of Tsarist rule in Russia. But the October 1917 revolution that took the communist ideas of Karl Marx and twisted them into the ideas that eventually dominated the landscape of the Soviet Union brought with it an even more dangerous idea: atheism. The Catholic Church had been reeling from more than a century of modernist ideals that began during the Enlightenment and were widely adopted after the French Revolution. The various populations of Europe had been gradually embracing secular ideas with a concomitant loss of Church power and control of the population. In this environment, a revolutionary movement that brought down an empire and imposed atheism by force clearly posed an intolerable risk to the Church.

After the Great War, a cataclysmic event that marked the end of the old order, brought down several empires and dislocated millions of Europeans, the Church hierarchy had no doubt of whom the real enemy was. Long before the Nazis came to power in 1933, Pope Benedict XV sent Achille Ratti (the future Pope Pius XI) to Poland in 1918 to improve the situation of the Jewish community there, but instead Ratti did everything possible to impede any Vatican action on behalf of the Jews. He wrote in a report of his experience in Poland, “the Jews form the principal force [of Bolshevism] in Poland” and, relating his experience in Warsaw, Ratti reported, “I saw that the [Bolshevik] Commissioners . . . were all Jews.” The association of Jews and Communism in the Christian worldview would have lethal consequences just a few short decades later.

There is a report that Archbishop Pacelli (the future Pius XII) gave Hitler money while he was nuncio in Munich in 1919 so Hitler could fight the Communists. Would Pacelli actually finance a movement he considered ‘anti-Catholic’? The answer is, most likely yes. People make deals with all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons, if it’s beneficial to them. Western democracies make deals with their self-declared enemies, fundamentalist theocracies, openly anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-freedom, anti-women, anti-gay and anti-everything the West stands for, because the West has something to gain from that sort of relationship. To Archbishop Pacelli, who had a personal hatred of communists and Communism, and who understood very well that a Bolshevik victory in Europe would mean the demise of the Catholic Church, engaging a Catholic rabble rouser and self-avowed defender of the world against Communism must have made a lot of sense, even when this Catholic thug may have appeared to be “anti-Catholic”. I believe this understanding of the dynamics at play dominated Pacelli’s life from that point onwards.

I find it completely plausible that Pacelli would have funded an anticommunist group, and anticommunist the Nazis certainly were. Defenders of Pope Pius XII typically argue that Pacelli did not become fanatically anticommunist until after the war when he feared a Communist takeover of Italy. But in reality Pacelli had become an anticommunist right after WWI when the communists that had taken over the government of Bavaria attacked him at the Munich Nunciature. In 1919 Hitler did not have enough sources of funding. Like any politician of his time, and of any time, he sought and received funding from many sources, and that surely included the Apostolic Nuncio.

Also, Pacelli continued to invest in this “anti-Catholic” devil, as as Vatican Secretary of State during the 1930s he was instrumental in persuading Pope Pius XI to make enormous investments in Germany, including investing the vast sums the Vatican received from Mussolini as a result of the Lateran Pact.

Cardinal Pacelli said that Nazism was a greater heresy than Communism. However, both Nazism and Communism were secular regimes, so the notion of heresy when applied to them is nonsensical. So, that Pacelli thought Nazism was a great heresy is immaterial to any discussion. In any case, neither his boss Pope Pius XI nor Pacelli himself once he had become pope felt this “heretical” regime to be sufficiently bad to dissociate the Catholic Church and the Catholic faithful from it beyond 1933.

Indeed, in 1937 the Dutch weekly Der Deutsche Weg wrote in amazement about the warm attitude the German bishops showed toward Nazism. They wrote that “despite the inhuman brutalities perpetrated in the concentration camps, despite the currency and defamation trials, despite the personal insults against individual princes of the Church, against the Holy Father and the entire Church, and in spite of all hostile measures amounting to another Kulturkampf, . . . the bishops find words of appreciation for what [next to Bolshevism] is their worst enemy.” As Hitler told Cardinal Faulhaber before the war, “The Catholic Church should not deceive herself: if National Socialism does not succeed in defeating Bolshevism, then Church and Christianity in Europe too are finished. Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the Church as much as of Fascism.”

The Church knew very well that if the Communists won, that would have been the guaranteed end of the Catholic Church. In the titanic struggle that ensued during the Second World War, Pope Pius XII knew that the Nazis were the only bulwark against Communism, and we must keep this in mind when pondering about the Pope’s silence vis-à-vis the heinous Nazi crimes including the extermination of the Jews. As much as the Pope may have disliked Nazism and Hitler, in his realpolitik calculation the sacrifice of six million Jews must have been acceptable if that was what it took to save the Catholic Church from what to them was a mortal and implacable foe.

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Opening the Gates of Hell

On January 27, 1945 the Red Army advancing in Poland arrived in a sleepy town called Oswiecim. Next to it, they found Hell. As they crossed the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, they saw discombobulated walking skeletons staring at them with empty eyes. Emaciated corpses were strewn everywhere. The stench of death was overwhelming. Over a million people—mostly Jews—had been murdered there. Auschwitz was the largest and deadliest of the 20,000 concentration camps built by the Germans to create a new world order free of Jews and political dissent.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs on January 27, was designated by the United Nations to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The date, which marks the day in which Auschwitz was liberated, was chosen as Auschwitz has become emblematic of the Holocaust. Of course one could ask the question of why the United Nations thought it necessary to select a new date, given that there already was another Holocaust Remembrance Day date which commemorates the revolt of the Warsaw Ghetto. But a more important question is what the meaning of the word liberate is in this context.

Obviously from a literal point of view the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, in the sense that prior to their arrival the prisoners lived and died under the German boot and after the Red Army arrived those that were still capable of surviving were freed. From this perspective it’s also valid and true to say the American Army liberated Dachau, and the British liberated Bergen Belsen. But I would argue that we need to qualify the word “liberated”, because what the Allied armies did was remove the German occupiers everywhere in their path. None of the Allied armies had as a military objective the liberation of these camps. None of them specifically sent troops in the direction of the camps with the objective of liberating the prisoners there. No, the camps just happened to be in their path. As a matter of fact, most of the Allied troops were understandably appalled by what they found, but they were surprised because they didn’t even know those camps were there and what they had been used for.

But this was not the case with the top military echelons, or of the highest political figures. Indeed, a long time before the Soviets arrived in Auschwitz a detailed report of the inner workings of the extermination camp was circulated in the Vatican, in Washington and London. A little over half a year before the liberation of the camp the Germans began the deportation and extermination of Hungary’s Jews. Many Jewish organizations pleaded with the Allied authorities so that they would bomb the railroad tracks going from Hungary to Auschwitz, and even the gas chambers. Churchill ordered his military to look into that very possibility, but was told that the railroad tracks and Auschwitz were outside the range of British bombers. The American Air Force gave similar excuses.

But the reality is that both the railroads and Auschwitz were indeed within range of American bombers already operating in Italy. As a matter of fact, the Americans had already photographed Auschwitz from the air and conducted several bombing raids of the German industrial facilities surrounding Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stray bombs actually fell in Birkenau. So, the American Air Force definitely had the capability of severely hampering the German deportation efforts from Hungary and even of destroying the gas chambers, thus severely hampering the German extermination effort. But saving Jews was not an Allied military objective, and neither the railroad tracks nor the gas chambers were bombed. As the American Air Force dithered, over 10,000 human lives were consumed in the flames of Auschwitz every day.

These facts should give us pause when we consider the meaning of the “liberation” of the concentration and death camps.

As the world commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, it’s also important to understand, and remember, what drove the Germans and their helpers in the various countries they invaded to perpetrate the Holocaust.

In Nazi Germany, the ancient hatred toward Jews had evolved into something secular and pseudo-scientific. This was something the post-Enlightenment, highly cultured German people could accept as a replacement for the ancient Christian anti-Judaism of their ancestors. By the time Hitler came to power German antisemitism was firmly grounded on the notions that Jews were racially inferior and for being a threat to Christian Germans and everything that was good. Ultimately, any message of hatred that conformed to the conception of Jews established by almost two thousand years of certain Christian teachings made sense and was acceptable.

Elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the East where the genocide took place and where the Germans found no shortage of auxiliaries for the genocidal duties that took place there, the situation was different. None of the locals who willfully collaborated in the execution of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” had been brainwashed by Nazi racial propaganda. In those countries the locals hated Jews for the same reasons other Europeans had hated Jews for centuries: for killing Jesus, for desecrating the Host, for poisoning wells, for bringing about the Black Plague, for killing young Christian boys to extract their blood to make Passover bread, for being minions of the Devil, for being greedy money-lenders, and any number of other baseless accusations.

But it’s not enough to understand and remember what the motivation of the perpetrators was, because the perpetrators would have been unable to execute their monstrous deeds if it hadn’t been for the fact that the majority of the populations of the world had the choice of acting to stop the genocide and chose not to. Even though it’s true that some chose to remain silent bystanders out of fear of the Germans, many overcame the fear and acted to save people. We do not know with certainty why the American military authorities chose not to bomb Auschwitz, but we do know that many in the military establishment and the State Department were antisemitic and felt no compassion as millions of Jews were mercilessly slaughtered.

So, now that the world is paying attention to the consequences of this hatred when looking-in through the old electrified fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau, we should not forget where antisemitism came from, and recognize that despite the great progress in Jewish-Christian relations made since the Second Vatican Council, more work needs to be done.

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Silence Implies Approval

Often, religious people cling to their religion because it provides them with solace and succor during times of despair or hardship. Many times religious people go to their priests, rabbis or imams for advice on matters related to morals and ethics. Given this background, anyone studying religion might conclude religion and its institutions are good things, and religion is a force for good in the world.

But, is that really so? Has religion in general been a force for good in the world? Has it made people more compassionate, more respectful of others, more tolerant of their beliefs? Has the advice given by the authorities of the various world religions been good and made people behave any better?

I would argue the opposite is true, and that any study of the effects of religion throughout human history would show for the most part a direct correlation between religiosity and intolerance, brutality, ignorance, discrimination, lack of compassion and immorality.

As one example out of many, we may look at the role religion played during what was likely the most horrific time in human history, the Second World War. At that time, we find man’s worst behavior toward man, at a level and scope unprecedented until that point. It will be interesting to see what role religion played during this cataclysmic event.

Unfortunately for religion, organized or otherwise, it doesn’t look very good. Clearly the Nazis went on their genocidal rampage motivated by secular reasons, but both the Germans and the vast numbers of helpers they easily recruited in the countries they occupied had all been brought up in the Christian tradition. What this meant is that when the Nazis began their anti-Jewish campaign they found that—like themselves—the population already felt deep antisemitism and already believed the Jews to be evil and enemies of everything that was good. Therefore the Nazis had very little to invent in their campaign against Jews and had no difficulty in persuading anyone to denounce, hunt down and murder their Jewish neighbors.

If the Nazis were not driven by religious zeal in the execution of the Holocaust, we must then ask the obvious question of what role religion played during that watershed event. Given that the perpetrators had been instructed by their Christian tradition to feel compassion and love for their neighbors, do we have any evidence the majority felt any moral qualms or refrained from murder when asked to kill Jews? Or did the perpetrators willingly and eagerly behave toward Jews in a way that was consistent with what they had been taught for almost two millennia, that is, with contempt and even hatred for them? The answer is also obvious.

For the sake of brevity, it will be interesting to focus on an aspect of the Holocaust that rarely gets the attention it deserves, and that is what happened in Croatia. In that country a puppet Nazi state was established in 1941, led by the terrorist group the Ustasha with its Poglavnik (leader) Ante Pavelić at its helm. From its inception until its demise in 1945 the Ustasha were responsible for the most barbaric acts of the war, making even the German SS pale in comparison. During the rule of the Ustasha regime, more than half a million innocent civilians were slaughtered, many of them using medieval methods: eyes were gouged out, limbs severed, intestines and other internal organs ripped from the bodies of the living. Some were slaughtered like beasts, their throats cut from ear to ear with special knives or saws. Others died from blows to their heads with sledgehammers. Many more were simply burned alive. Some Ustasha perpetrators wore necklaces made from the eyes or ears of their victims.

The actions of the Ustasha are important and relevant in this discussion because the Ustasha were ultra-Catholic and they killed in large part in an effort to rid Croatia of its non-Catholic elements, that is, the largely Orthodox Serbs, the Gypsies, and of course the Jews. Many of the perpetrators were actually Catholic priests. One of them was a Franciscan friar who continued to act as a member of his order as commandant of the notorious Croat concentration camp Jasenovac, where he committed the most heinous atrocities. Sometimes he even wore his Franciscan robes while perpetrating his crimes.

Did the perpetrators consult with their religious leaders before committing these crimes? Did their religious upbringing play any role in making them act the way they did? During the Croatian genocide the Vatican had compiled a list of Croatian priests who had participated in massacres of Orthodox Serbs and Jews with the intention of disciplining them after the war. They never did. Not only that, many perpetrators were protected and given passage to safe havens around the world by members of the Vatican who housed them in Vatican properties, clothed and fed them, and eventually helped them evade justice so they could regroup to fight Communism.

You’d think that during the war the Catholic Church would very publicly and loudly object to the genocide taking place in Croatia, given that the impetus behind the genocide was ultimately the propagation of Catholicism, but it didn’t. You’d think that the Catholic Church would attempt to stop the perpetrators, given that they were Catholics strongly loyal to the pope, but it didn’t. You’d think the Catholic Church would give advice and guidance to the Croatian Catholic faithful in an effort to rein them in, but it didn’t. You’d think the pope, Pius XII, would feel shame and embarrassment and distance himself from the Croat Catholics and their leader, but he didn’t.

Indeed, the leader of the Ustasha, Ante Pavelić was a mass murderer who revered Pope Pius XII, and was aware that Pius XII and his senior advisers thought highly of his militant Catholicism. In April 1941 Pavelić was received by the Pope, creating an uproar at the British Foreign Office who was dismayed that the Pope would even consider meeting with such a notorious mass murderer. They thus described the Pope as “the greatest moral coward of our age.” As the Foreign Office later told the British ambassador to the Holy See, the Pope’s reception of Pavelić “has done more to damage his reputation in this country than any other act since the war began.”

Maybe we should excuse the Pope and the Church for not acting during the war because of the fog of war, lack of communications, the desire to remain neutral, etcetera. But these are all hollow excuses. Moreover, even if we were willing to accept them, what could possibly explain the lack of acts of repudiation after the war for the genocide in Croatia?

In May 1945, after having learned of Hitler’s death, Cardinal Bertram of Breslau ordered that “a solemn requiem mass be held in commemoration of the Führer. . .” so that the Almighty’s son, Hitler, be admitted to paradise. A solemn requiem mass is celebrated only for a believing member of the Church and if it is in the public interest of the Church. Hitler was not a believing member of the Church and only a Church deeply steeped in their own anti-Jewish teachings and the grotesque twist to them that Hitler gave them could think that a solemn requiem for Hitler was a good, moral thing to do and that it was in the Church’s public interest. Did the Pope or the Catholic Church rebuke Cardinal Bertram, then or any time after that? No, it did not.

Given this background, we should not be too surprised to learn that just as the year 2010 was coming to a close a mass was celebrated in a Zagreb church honoring the 49th anniversary of the death of the Ustasha mass murderer Ante Pavelić. The mass was held by priests Vjekoslav Lasić and Stanislav Kos, who referred to Pavelić as a respectable man who made sacrifices for all of Croatia. You’d think the Catholic Church would take advantage of this opportunity to very loudly and publicly repudiate the actions of the Ustasha and its leader Pavelić, but you’d be wrong. What was the official reaction of the Catholic Church to this outrageous mass? So far their reaction is consistent with their reaction during the Holocaust: a deafening silence.

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To Recognize or Not to Recognize Israel: That is the Question.

When it comes to the issue of Vatican non-recognition for the State of Israel, apologists for the actions—or lack thereof—of Pope Pius XII during the Second World War period often focus on the following things:

• The Vatican’s non-recognition for the right of the Jewish people to establish a homeland in their ancient land of Israel may have been influenced by concern with the safety of Christians in Arab lands
• Political and diplomatic issues
• Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli’s (later Pius XII) excitement at the prospect of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine
• Pope Pius’ refusal to recognize the State of Israel because he would have a preferred a state of religious Jews
• Pope Pius’ 1945 prediction to an audience of 80 Jewish survivors that “soon you will have a Jewish homeland.”
• Pope Pius pressured other Catholic countries to recognize the State of Israel

Let’s look at these explanations or justifications in more detail: the Vatican’s non-recognition for the right of the Jewish people to establish a homeland in their ancient land of Israel may have been influenced by concern with the safety of Christians in Arab lands, but given the small number of Christians in Arab lands one must wonder if this was sufficient for the Vatican to delay recognition until 1993. This theory doesn’t hold water.

Perhaps the Vatican was concerned with realpolitik issues. Maybe there were political or diplomatic issues, and maybe the Vatican, who always thinks of consequences to its actions in the long term, thought it imprudent to recognize the Jewish state right after its founding in 1948. But did the Vatican continue to feel it imprudent to refuse recognition for decades after most other countries ceased to have any qualms to do so? This theory does not hold water either.

It is possible that the Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pacelli, had been excited at the prospect of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine during his tenure in the 1930s. If so, that would have been a jarring contradiction with the track record of previous Vatican officials who had opposed just that in the most callous ways. In any case, regardless of what Cardinal Pacelli may have thought about the prospect of establishing a homeland for the Jewish people, the Vatican refused to recognize Israel when the state was founded in 1948 and Pope Pius was in command of the secretariat of state and in a position to do this.

I find the assertion that Pope Pius refused to recognize the secular State of Israel because he would have a preferred a state of religious Jews sadly pathetic. Even if this was true, who did Pope Pius think he was to pretend to dictate to Jews the nature of their own state? If this had been the true reason for the refusal to recognize the state, this would be more proof of Christian contempt for Jews and, if anything, betrays the pope’s true feelings for Jews and Judaism.

Papal apologists sometimes claim that Pope Pius XII made a prediction to an audience of 80 Jewish survivors in 1945 that “soon you will have a Jewish homeland.” Can they be serious? What do they think that proves? What else do they think the Pope would have said in 1945, when the League of Nations mandated Britain in 1917 to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine? Do they find that statement particularly prophetic 28 years later in 1945? They say that the pope didn’t oppose the partition plan of 1947. Again, so what? Is this proof the pope supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland, or was he just accepting reality? Moreover, I find it particularly callous of Pius XII to have prodded Spain to recognize Israel in 1950, when he himself refused to do so at that time and the Vatican would continue to do so for another 43 years!

No, none of these things hold water or ring true. I will tell you the actual reason. It began long before Pope Pius XII. In 1904 Theodor Herzl, who was spearheading the Zionist dream of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, met with Pope Pius X with the intent of securing Vatican support for that effort. But Pope Pius X did not recognize the right of the Jews to exist as Jews: “The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people . . . The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity.” And so he denied support. So did the Cardinal Secretary of State, who earlier had also denied support by saying, among other things, “But in order for us to come out for the Jewish people in the way you desire, they would first have to be converted.” Almost 40 years later, during the Nazi period, Undersecretary of State Tardini (under Pius XII) also opposed Jewish emigration to Palestine, the only place where Jews could have been saved from the Nazi onslaught: “The Holy See has never approved of the project of making Palestine a Jewish home . . . [because] Palestine is by now holier for Catholics than for Jews.” Pius’ Secretary of State Maglione also opposed the possibility of establishing a Jewish homeland there, because according to him Catholics had a right to the holy places, and their “religious feelings would be injured and they would justly feel for their rights if Palestine belonged exclusively to the Jews.” When we read these statements we must remember the historical context of when they were uttered. At that time, Jews were harassed, deprived of citizenship and their livelihood, physically attacked, economically disenfranchised, thrown into ghettos, and worse.

Just in case anyone wants to exculpate these individuals because perhaps they didn’t really know what was going on (they knew very well, but anyway…), after the horrors of the Holocaust became widely known and the State of Israel had been declared in 1948, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which was the closest publication to the pope in the Vatican, felt necessary to declare, “Modern Israel is not the true heir of Biblical Israel, but a secular state . . . Therefore the Holy Land and its sacred sites belong to Christianity, the True Israel.” So, I think it’s important to call a spade a spade and recognize the real reasons why the Church and the Vatican acted the way they did vis-à-vis the Jews before, during and after the war.

Ultimately, the Vatican would shamefully continue in its refusal to recognize the State of Israel until 1993, 45 years after its founding and 14 years after its greatest foe, Egypt, had recognized its right to exist in 1979. The Vatican was one of the last states in the world to do so.

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Being Protector of Morals-in-Chief

The Catholic Church claims to be the highest moral authority on Earth. It also teaches to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to avoid doing to others what we don’t want others doing to us. These are of course wonderful, lofty goals and the Church is to be commended for holding them at the very top of their priority list. Yet, given the history of this institution, one wonders to what extent these are goals they strive to live by, or whether to them they are just nice-sounding goals on paper they just pretend to live by. After all, one needs to wonder given the attitudes of the Church as well as that of millions of Catholics during the Crusades, the religious wars in Europe, the persecution of others they considered to be heretical, their abominable behavior toward the natives in the New World, the Inquisition, and the deafening silence of the Church as millions of Catholics actively or passively participated in the murder of millions of Jews, Roma, Orthodox Christians, and others during the Second World War.

When you are the self-avowed protector of morals, silence is not an option when faced with moral outrage.  When Catholic Father Tiso, the leader of Slovakia, deported Slovakian Jews to their deaths during the 1940s, the Vatican merely made some token effort to try to stop him. The Vatican would have excommunicated Father Tiso if it had believed that what he was saying and doing was not in agreement with Catholic teachings and Church policy. Instead all he got was a slap on the hand meant to show the Church disapproved of his actions, while clearly that was not the case. What they truly disapproved of was the embarrassing situation Slovakia was getting the Church into, because so many members of the Slovakian government, including its president, were Catholic priests.

In Croatia the situation was worse, as many of the actual perpetrators were priests who were members of the ruling regime. Many committed the most heinous crimes imaginable. The commandant of the concentration camp of Jasenovac, a place where the crimes committed made even the SS cringe, was a Franciscan priest who had no qualms in cutting hundreds of throats of people in one night while wearing his Franciscan robe. These were priests with literally blood on their hands. Many more were part of the genocide through the incitement of their sermons and writings, the antisemitism they continued to spread throughout the war, and their failure to tell the faithful to stop. Given that the Croatian regime was in a crusade to eliminate Orthodox Serbs and Jews and forcibly convert thousands of Orthodox to Catholicism, the Vatican, and Pope Pius XII at its helm, remained as silent about this genocide as they were about the genocide the Germans and their helpers were perpetrating everywhere else in Europe.

Typically papal apologists confuse “silence” with “actions”. Even if the Pope did take actions to save Jews—and I’m quite skeptical—the fact remains that the Pope was indeed silent irrespective of what these actions may have been. He never publicly condemned the extermination of the Jews in language that anyone other than the curia and the Nazi hierarchy understood. He never admonished the faithful and his entire Church network to save Jews. He never told the flock and his vast network of priests that denouncing, hunting down, and killing Jews was a crime and a mortal sin. He never instructed the German Catholic Church to avoid helping the German government in any way, and failed to reprimand them once they helped the Nazis identify the Jews. He never told the German Church, and thus never told the faithful, that obeying Catholic principles and being loyal to God was more important than obeying the authorities, particularly when those authorities were asking the faithful to do things that were contrary to the teachings of Christianity. He never threatened the faithful, or Nazi authorities, with excommunication if they persevered with the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. He never told his priests to tell the flock to refrain from having any part in the exterminatory campaign. He never reprimanded or even less told German Army Bishop Rarkowski to instruct his priests to admonish the troops to refrain from participating in any exterminatory actions.

It’s true the Germans are responsible for the Holocaust. It’s also true the Nazis wanted to make Nazism into a neo-pagan cult. But it’s also true that despite all efforts they failed, as the vast majority of the population remained Christian. In any case, any claims to neo-paganism are immaterial given the widespread active and passive participation of ordinary Christian civilians in the occupied countries, most of whom were Catholic. It’s disingenuous to say that the Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians and others are not responsible for the Holocaust too. Sure, Germany was the force behind it, but the Germans would not have been able to do what they did without the willingness—indeed, eagerness—of others that enthusiastically denounced, hunted down, and killed Jews. It’s a canard to say that they were forced. No one was forced to kill Jews. The belief that that was so is an already discredited post-war myth. The commanders of the killing squads gave their platoon members the option to not participate in killing operations. Only a handful did so, and they suffered no consequence for it. The willing auxiliaries in the East, the vast majority of whom were Christian and not brainwashed by Nazi racial propaganda but rather but the teachings of Christianity, were very happy to sign up for the task. They were very happy to join the Waffen SS and help in the killing squads. They were very happy to finally solve the “Jewish Question”. No one put a gun to their heads to do anything. No one forced the French police to round up the French Jews. And neither the Pope nor anyone else in the Roman curia reminded any of them that Jews were human beings too, and that murdering them was contrary to the Golden Rule, contrary to Christian teachings, a crime and a mortal sin.

I realize papal apologists tend to think they can counter these arguments by looking under the rocks for someone who can say the Pope told them to save a Jew, or a Jew that is thankful to the Pope for having saved him. But they are missing the point, because even if by his “heroic” behind the scenes actions the Pope was successful in saving tens of thousands of lives, he would still be a moral failure because he failed to do all the things I mentioned above, which could and most likely would have completely changed the course of history.

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Are all Cultures Equal? Primitivism and Tribalism

History has shown us that the so-called “advanced” or “progressive” societies have been in certain regards as primitive as the “primitive” ones. Western Civilization has always been quite savage under the—sometimes not very good—cover of advanced civilization, from the Spartans throwing “useless” girls and malformed boys off a cliff to Roman bloodthirstiness to the horrors of the Dark Ages (under the veil of Christian devotion!) to the corruption of the Middle Ages. When we compare the “primitive” societies of the Americas and those of Africa and the Polynesia with the European societies that brought them “modern” technology, culture, and Christianity, can we honestly say the Europeans were more advanced? Why? Because they had muskets instead of bow and arrow? Because they believed in one god instead of many? Were these Europeans really less primitive than the peoples they colonized?

Most of the people in the “advanced” societies that conquered the “primitive” societies did not believe that the universe operates according to natural law rather than by supernatural powers. On the contrary. And just like the “primitive” societies they conquered and decimated, the Europeans did not believe that by observing nature and applying reason through the scientific method, people could understand natural law and successfully apply that understanding to the task of living on Earth. No, rather they read the Bible believing it was the immutable word and law of God and blindly followed the Church’s dictates. They did not think that by assuming self-responsibility, each individual could shape the course of his own life, rather than being controlled by the tribe, but rather they accepted their life was in the hands of God and/or the Church. What the “more advanced” societies definitely had was better technology.

Unfortunately, the ideals of the Enlightenment are not as prevalent as we would like (and as they should). Recent polls show that about 98% of Americans believe in God. A large number of those think that Evolution through Natural Selection is not only wrong, but evil, and truly believe that the Creation, as narrated in the book of Genesis, is actual and indisputable truth. We are talking about millions of people who do not believe the Scientific Method is—so far—the best epistemological system we have, and also the only system that has proven to consistently provide correct answers to questions about the natural world, time after time. The Scientific Method opposes the dogmatic view, and it is a self-correcting system. To the millions of religious people —the nice couple next door, you could say—the word of the priest (or God) has always been more significant than that of the scientist. To them, if the Bible says that sodomy (or whatever) is bad or wrong, it’s enough to burn those people’s houses or lynch them. Even to this day, at the beginning of the 21st century, there are people in the “advanced” societies who refuse to accept modern medicine and prefer to see their family members die of some disease while they pray by the bedside. It was only a few years ago that the Pope officially acknowledged that the Church had made a mistake in condemning Galileo for supporting Copernicus’ heliocentric theory… To me, they are not any less primitive than any society we wish to call “primitive”. We are not any better than them just because our telephones work.

It is very important to be aware of the memetic heritage any social group has, and how that determines the identity of the group. Ethnicity—determined by their gene pool—is clearly not the factor that matters the most: there are myriad of different groups who share a Caucasian, or black, or Polynesian, American Indian or whatever origin and yet they can be not only totally different but also mortal enemies. The differences are cultural. Culture evolves and propagates through a memetic process in a way analogous to the way genetic evolution occurs: through Natural Selection. The memes that conform a society—the beliefs, ideas, thoughts, hopes—go through a constant battle for survival, exactly as our genes do. The memes that survive are those that can replicate, that is, they get transmitted to another brain which in turn transmits it to another brain and so forth. The memetic pool of the western powers which “conquered” the world were spread and inculcated in the colonized societies that endured them. The Jesuits had (have?) the specific purpose of proselytizing the Catholic creed. The Mormons are one of the most phenomenal cases of successful memetic propagation in modern times. But this is not limited to the great religions and/or ideas: even simple memes like “Say no to drugs!” get propagated.

In the history of the world many cultures have come and gone. Some of those cultures were seminal in their advancement of human thought, such as that of the ancient Greeks; some others were the incarnation of evil, such as the one that flourished in Germany during the Nazi period. The reasons for their demise are numerous and irrelevant to this discussion; what matters is that whether their legacy survives or not happens through a selection process. Their memes either propagate or not: there are a limited number our brains can deal with, so the competition for survival (replication) is very tough.

Whether any “primitive” cultures eventually get assimilated into the mainstream of the memetic pool or not remain to be seen. The question is whether any “primitive” memes can compete with the mainstream, “modern” memes. When someone is faced with the option of having a refrigerator where to preserve food fresh or have to deal with spoiled food, or when someone has to choose between a proven penicillin shot or the local shaman’s incantations, etc., it is very likely that, if the person really has a choice, they would choose the former. From this regard we call the societies that subscribe to the latter ideology “primitive”, in the sense that they maintain an epistemological system that has—historically speaking, at least—not advanced.

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