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Richard Dawkins: The God Shaped Hole

“Sexual abuse is disgusting, but it’s not as harmful as the grievous mental harm of bringing children up Catholic in the first place.” I’ve copied the rest of the article below to save it in case it disappears. (Originally posted here and HT to Jeremy).

The God Shaped Hole

Richard Dawkins assesses the legacy of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and enters a plea for a religion-free society.

I am delighted that one of the leading Roman Catholic seminaries for the training of young priests in Ireland is closing down because it can’t get any recruits. When I read that in the newspaper, it left me smiling for the rest of the day. However, if the Catholic Church does die in Ireland – and I devoutly hope it will – I hope that it will not be replaced by some other idiotic superstition like New Age-ism or some other kind of religion.

The Roman Catholic Church is one of the forces for evil in the world, mainly because of the powerful influence it has over the minds of children. The Catholic Church has developed, over the centuries, brilliant techniques in brain washing children; even intelligent people who have had a proper, full cradle-Catholic upbringing find it hard to shake it off when they reach adulthood. Obviously many of them do – and congratulations to them for it – but even some really quite intelligent people fail to shake it off, powerful evidence of the skill in brainwashing that the Catholic Church exercises. It’s far more skilled than, for instance, the Anglican Church, mere amateurs in the game.

The Catholic Church also has an extraordinarily retrogressive stance on everything to do with reproduction. Any sort of new technology which makes life easier for women without causing any suffering is likely to be opposed by the Catholic Church. Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place. I had a letter from a woman in America in her forties, who said that when she was a child of about seven, brought up a Catholic, two things happened to her: one was that she was sexually abused by her parish priest. The second thing was that a great friend of hers at school died, and she had nightmares because she thought her friend was going to hell because she wasn’t Catholic. For her there was no question that the greatest child abuse of those two was the abuse of being taught about hell. Being fondled by the priest was negligible in comparison. And I think that’s a fairly common experience. I can’t speak about the really grave sexual abuse that obviously happens sometimes, which actually causes violent physical pain to the altar boy or whoever it is, but I suspect that most of the sexual abuse priests are accused of is comparatively mild – a little bit of fondling perhaps, and a young child might scarcely notice that. The damage, if there is damage, is going to be mental damage anyway, not physical damage. Being taught about hell – being taught that if you sin you will go to everlasting damnation, and really believing that – is going to be a harder piece of child abuse than the comparatively mild sexual abuse.

The word atheism sounds negative; let me call it rationalism. It is a rational view of the world where you stand up proudly, in your humanity, you look life straight in the face, you look the universe straight in the face, you do your level best to understand it, to understand why you exist, what the universe is about, you recognise that when you die that’s it, and therefore life is very, very precious and you devote your life to making the world a better place, to leading a good life so when you die you can say to yourself I have led a good life. Now, that seems to me to be a worthwhile goal to put in place of the medieval superstition which is religion. Belief in God doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I think it’s a very demeaning thing to the human mind to believe in a falsehood, especially as the truth about the universe is so immensely exciting.

At the beginning of the 21st century, we humans have a real opportunity to learn about and understand the universe, the world, humanity, life, in a way that none of our predecessors have ever come close to. That is a huge privilege, and belief in God simply gets in the way of that. Religion is an irrelevance, it’s a distraction, it’s a rather boring, parochial falsehood that stands in the way of the glories of true understanding.

In conversation with Emily Hourican
“The Dubliner”, this site, and it’s contents ? the Dubliner 2001

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One reply on “Richard Dawkins: The God Shaped Hole”


people just have misconceptions or are not truly clear on the stand of the Catholic church with regards to some matters. Who says that you will go to hell if you are not Christian? IT is perhaps because people have not delved deeper into research on the church’s teachings and hey just take what other misguided people tell them. E.g. parents who can’t be bothered to really find out the accurate answers themselves and just give easy slipshod answers to fend off their children’s incessant questioning.

Also, the Catholic church’s teachings are founded on rationalism in addition to other philosophical and theological etc. stuff, it considers using the intellect as important when trying to figure things out. Mind, body and spirit/ will. Just because it includes the spiritual dimensions does not mean it’s founded on some random thinking…

i have a suspicion that people reject religion/ spirituality because it is inconvenient, and not readily apparent. even i, as a Catholic am guilty of this and I question some of the church’s teachings. And yet i sense that there is something very truthful and real here and if i care to read more and take into the CONTEXT of which some of the church’s statements are made there are always RATIONAL answers.

Pure rationalism by itself is dangerous I think. That would mean there is no purpose to life and we would be given over to wanton hedonism, there wold be no right and wrong and we would all be nihilistic. The very fact that some ‘rationalists’ can live such ethical, generous lives shows that they have an intrinsic morality, which is NOT AT ALL RATIONAL and cannot exist just like that. Like what, it vapourised into existence from thin air??

The church, I think, is an institution that helps us to be aware of good and evil and to help us choose good. Does not mean that even it’s religious servants will not succumb to perverse/ repressed desires… i wonder if they were NOT celibate priests who had committed the crime, would there be such a big outrage.

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