Monday, July 10, 2006

How Far Can You Go (or: the Trouble with Catholicism)

I have, occasionally, been accused of "Islamophobia". Never by a Muslim. Always by someone in or around the SWP, or that part of the 'left' influenced by it. My standard reply is: "Yes I am Islamophobic: just Like I'm Judeophobic, Hinduophobic, Christianophobic, Buddistophobic and Tree-Huggerophobic. This might strike you as a somewhat facetious reply, but I mean it. The European and American left is in danger of losing its tradition of militant secularism, atheism ( yeah, I know they're not the same thing) and general hostility to religion both organised and unorganised, in the trendy rush to cultural relativism and the patronisation and infantilisation of non-European/non American "peoples". The brain-dead campaign to equate hostility to religion with racism hasn't helped, either.

David 'T' over at Harry's Place (must get the hang of these links- in the meanwhile, use the one on the right), has an interesting and (I think) broadly accurate commentary on Muslim alienation /victimhood in Britain today.

However, although Islam is the most militant and self-confident religion at the moment, and is clearly providing an inspiration, example and piggy-back to more decadent superstitions like Christianity, Sikhism and Hindusim in their battles against free speech and rational thought, it is not necessarily the most reactionary or misogynistic religious force in the world today: I would argue that that accolade goes (by a short head) to Catholicism.

The present Pope, Benedict XVI (at the Catholic 'World Meeting of Families'), has given his unequivocal backing to the Spanish Catholic Church in its battle with the Spanish Socialist (ie: reformist) government over such issues as marriage and adoption rights for homosexuals and a relaxation of the divorce laws. Well he would, wouldn't he? Is the Pope a Catholic?

But ol' Benedict's henchman Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has gone further, threatening to excommunicate scientists who carry out embryonic stem cell research. This sanction will (according to the Cardinal), be applied "to the women, doctors and researchers who eliminate embryos and to the politicians who approve the law".

Dr Stephen Minger, of King's College London said (to the UK Daily Telegraph), "Having been raised a Catholic I find this stance outrageous. Are they also going to excommunicate IVF doctors, nurses and embryologists who routinely put millions of embryos down the sink (instead of using tthem for research)? I would argue that it is more ethical to use embryos that are going to be destroyed anyway for the benefit of mankind".

Professor Julian Savulescu, an "expert in applied ethics" at the University of Oxford told the Telegraph: "You can say it's a step back to the Inquisition. This amounts to religious persecution of scientists, which has no place in modern liberal societies. Presumably God will be the one to judge the scientists, not Church leaders".

Professor Cesare Galli, Italy's leading expert on cloning, likened the Vatican to the Taliban. "I was raised as a Catholic, I share Catholic values but I do not need to be told by the Church what to do or to think. Having been nearly arrested foe having cloned Galileo, a bull, I think I can bear the (threat of) excommunication".

But all this is only the most recent manifestation of the utterly reactionary nature of the catholic Church (not, incidentally, of all Catholics - many of whom are decent people) : what about the Church's support for Franco and the fascists during he Spanish civil war; or Pope Pius XII's less than heroic attitude towards Hitler (I avoid use of the term "collaborationist", for fear of being excessively provocative)?

However, the Catholic Church's geatest crime against humanity is its continuing opposition to the use of condoms. What was once (in the long-ago wonderful world before Aids) merely an inconvenient and routinely cruel piece of irrational dogma, is now a criminally irresponsible continuing act of violence against the peoples of Africa and the world.

David Lodge (a lapsed Catholic) , in his tragi-comic novel about decent Catholics in the swinging '60's, How Far Can You Go?, discusses Pope Paul VI's long-awaited 1968 encyclical letter on birth control, Humanae Vitas (stating "no change" in the Church's opposition to contraception):

"Of course, if the Pope had come down on the other side of the argument, there would no doubt have been am equally loud chorus of of protest and complaint from the millions of Catholics who had loyally followed the traditional teaching at the cost of having many more children and much less sex than they would have liked, and were now too old, or too worn-out by parenthood, to benefit from a change in the rules - not to mention the priests who had sternly kept them toeing the line by threats of eternal punishment if they didn't...

"Thus it came about that the first important test of the unity of the Catholic Church after Vatican II, of the relative power and influence of conservatives and progressives, laity and clergy, priests and bishops, national churches and the Holy See, was a great debate about - not, say, the nature of Christ and the meaning of his teaching in the light of modern knowledge - but about the precise conditions under which a man was permitted to introduce his penis and ejaculate his semen into the vagina of his lawfully wedded wife, a question on which Jesus Christ himself had left no recorded opinion".

The above was written (in 1980) about the 1960's before Aids. What was simply cruel and bloody ridiculous then, is now criminal. We should not tolerate it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ar right, religion is baaaaad it's all so clear now

3:53 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...


Jim darling, this feels like a dance we've done many times before, but it is not "brain dead" to acknowledge the social fact that there is a connection between racism and Islamophobia. In fact, especially in the post-9/11 climate of media scares about "Muslim terrorists", coupled with ongoing marginalisation of the various predominantly Muslim communities in the UK, it strikes me as more than a little blinkered to suggest that there's not such a relationship.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous boogski said...

If someone doesn't like Jahovah's Witnesses because they're annoying assholes; Is there a connection to racism in that case as well, Volt? Sometimes I think you could find a connection between racism and the hair on my dog's ass. :D

Speaking of marginalisation, how can you un-marginalise a group which, by all indications despises your culture?

Good piece, Jim. Although I just don't see an eminent threat from the Catholics.

5:28 PM  
Blogger ajohnstone said...

Since in a previous post you mention the Socialist Party of Great Bitain . Are you aware that those of a religious bent are cannot become members of the SPGB , and in fact , those individuals with a belief in god and religion are ineligible for membership .
Principle before party card recruiting and the numbers game .

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Jim Denham's Mum said...

Sorry mate but if we have to tolerate thick, white people like you, you have to tolerate kickass religious/ethnic minorities like us.

In my view, there's a rational case for depriving uneducated dumb-fucks like yo' saggy Ing-er-lish ass - gently but firmly - of the vote.

But I accept that in a multi-cultural democracy, even loony-tunes fruit-loops like you have civil rights.

I will say this: its amusing to read you, dumb as a plumb, struggle with the finer points of theology and bio-ethics. You're the kind of gloriously uneducated philistine who just doesn't give a damn about his intellectual limitations. I like your style.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Catholism and Islaism, two sides of the same coin.

At the same time, we reject political Islamism, we can acknowledge racism against immigrants needs to also be fought.

The left needs to regain its secular, anti-church militantcy.

8:14 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

"Islam", "Muslims" and "Islamism" are not different words for the same thing.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Sorry Mum: obviously the rhythm method didn't work.

1:41 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

I never knew your mum was a member of the SWP masquerading as a member of a "religious/ethnic minority", Jim...

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Jim Denham's sister said...

Anti-Religion is not Marxism.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Sis: who said it was?

3:18 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Denham: check your bloody email, man.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sis: who said it was?"

You did!

"The European and American left is in danger of losing its tradition of militant secularism, atheism ( yeah, I know they're not the same thing) and general hostility to religion both organised and unorganised"

2:10 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Sis: I can find no mention of the "M" word there (though, contrary to what the SWP now say -misrepresenting his famous "sigh of the oppressed" comments and a weak article "On the Jewish Question", Marx was, of course militantly anti-religious). But *nowhere* do I claim that being "anti-religion" makes you, ipso facto, a Marxist. Simple logic would make such a position nonsense, and I would never put it forward.

Yours fraternally,

4:45 AM  
Blogger morbo said...

"Marx was, of course militantly anti-religious"

No he wasnt, stop talking bullshit

3:36 PM  
Blogger morbo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Morbo: yes he was, and if you don't understand that, you understand nothing about Marx. It runs through all his work like "Blackpool" in a stick of Blackpool rock. He was an atheist, and thought hat all socialists should be atheists. He was in favour of religious freedom - which was why he was a secularist. The "sigh of the oppressed" did *not* mean that he thought religion was OK...what the SWP (now that Paul Foot is dead) try to make out.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Southpaw said...

Whether Marx was or wasn't, very clearly Lenin didn't think that all Bolsheviks should be atheists (and yes, I also dislike people who quote the renowed - but here there is a relevant point).

The latest SWP's 'International Socialism' has an interesting article on religious practice in the early Soviet Union such as communnists tolerating Sharia courts fining people for drinking alcohol!

The article is clearly there for their own contemporary purposes but some of the principles are good: religious toleration - if you want to follow your own superstitions without adversely affecting others then that is a private matter - and should be for revolutionaries, too.

But why also all these referring to the 'Muslims' (who once would have been called Asians, Pakistanis, etc?) Are indigenous people in the UK called the 'Christians'?

Why do the Mullahs' work and force a religious identity onto a (mainly racial) groups. Is 'Tariq Ali' part of the 'Muslim community' or a Brit and /or Pakistani and/or Asian.

8:44 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...


Serious question. I know of the various esoterica and jumping around that happens when trying to use "the books" to justify one's organisation's (in your case the SWP's) political shifts. But let's get down to brass tacks. Are you of the view that Marxism is neutral or pro on the question of whether religion is a buncha BS?

2:13 AM  
Blogger morbo said...

Marxism and also any tradition followed in it's name afterwards sees religion as coming from materialist roots, that people turn towards religion as a consequence of their own alienation and powerlessness, sigh of the opressed, heart in a heartless world and so forth.

Lenin adds to the theory. Lenin went to great lengths to argue that the Bolsheviks should provide state money to faith schools, to set up sharia courts in the East, publish newspapers aim at religious people. This attempt at working with people of religious faiths was not damaging to 'socialist principles' but actually started to win people over to Bolshevism, as it was these very people who had carried forth the revolution and set up soviets and fought back against the whites and got rid of their bosses. He fought against people in the party who wanted to expel those that were not athesists.

Trotsky was also of this tradition, when he was building the red army to fight the whites, he issued a decree stating that people of a religion that advocates non-violence should not be forced into joining the red army.

The SWP is part of this tradition, as it defends all Muslims from racism and islamophobia.

Stalinism and 'militant secularism' are not a part of this tradition, because it denies the existence of materialism. Anyone for hijab burning? Stalinism managed to completely reverse Marxism and turn many more people to Islamism. Then it just stuck them in the gulag.

The issue is not religion, it is capitalism. Capitalism uses petty differences between us to divide us and separate us from one another. The way revolutionaries should act is to build with people of so-called 'differing' groups. By acting in a way that promotes solidarity over division we win more people to socialist and left wing ideas than the AWL could possibly (and embarrassingly for them) imagine.

People use religion to justify their conservative or either progressive views. Jewish people in Poland rose up in Solidarinosc, the people of the east participating in the Russian revolution, the two RESPECT tower hamlets councillors that have joined the SWP.

If you want me to simply answer yes Marxism likes religion or no Marxism doesn't like religion, I can't give a straight answer, because there isn't one :)

3:02 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Actually you answered it in your first paragraph when you said that religion had material roots. Ergo, not divine ones.

Now, I'm sure you'll agree that I did not say "likes or dislikes" religion, nor did I call on you not to defend Muslim people from racism/Islamophobia. Quite the opposite, especially in the latter case - I think it's very important for the left to be actively engaged in anti-racist work with all communities, including those whose religion is predominantly Muslim.

However, I think you can safely acknowledge the fact that it's not the case that a Marxist understanding of the world has much room for believing in divine origins or following an organised religion, would be appreciated. ;)

3:22 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Southpaw: I think we are in substantial agreement. Morb: there *is* a simple answer, and it's a resounding "NO". If you don't understand that, youunderstand nothing. By the way, how times have changed. About twenty years ago, in an advertisement for their Skegness Easter event, the SWP published a cartoon (by "Tim") of a man nialed to a cross, with the caption, "get rid of your religious hang-ups". That was before they started deliberately misundrstanding Marx, and taking lenin and the Bolshevics out of context, to justfy sucking up to religious reactionaries.

3:24 AM  
Blogger morbo said...

Yes Marxism is an atheist ideology. Is it anti-religious, no. Do some people consider themselves both Marxist and religious, yes. Do we recruit people who have religious ideas, yes -- but the reality is that religious ideas melt away when the material base for them melts away and is replaced by Marxism.

"to justfy sucking up to religious reactionaries." - fuck off dickhead

3:40 AM  
Blogger morbo said...

Is that a clarification, voltaires? By the way your friend, Jim, I don't like him, he creeps me out. :)

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jewish people in Poland rose up in Solidarinosc"

You sure, mate?

I was kinda under the impression most of the Jews in Poland were dead by the 1980s, and the ones that weren't had fled to Palestine as refugees...sorry - 'colonial Zionist settlers'....

4:37 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

"Fuck off dickhead": I see SWP's level of polemical rhetoric is at its usual standard of wit, sophistication and erudition. Worthy of Oscar Wilde or SJ Perelman.

7:20 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Yes Morbs, it was a clarification. You know, I think you guys would get a lot less flak if you made that view of religion more plain, more often. ;)

8:35 AM  
Blogger morbo said...

"I see SWP's level of polemical rhetoric is at its usual standard of wit, sophistication and erudition. Worthy of Oscar Wilde or SJ Perelman. "

No it's because I don't like you

10:16 AM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Yes, Morb: and the feeling's mutual. But the difference between you and me is that I can express that dislike in civilised terms. By the way, have you read the SWP's most recent apologia for the Iranian regime and (in this particular case) its police attack on a womens' demonstration, whih he SWP apologise for and justify. wvweal Iranian leftists and feminists have written an open letter to the scabs and Iranian-government apologists of the SWP protesting: a new depth has been reached. But by now, very little aboutthe degenerates of the SWP surprises me.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Southpaw said...

Jews in Solidarity - of course

e.g. Marek Edelman
last leader alive of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, interned during martial law as Solidarity reprsentative and Anti Zionist

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Jim, your blog entry is just a standard unlettered anti-Catholic rant. Bio-ethics, theology and philosophy are alien subjects to you, that much is obvious.

The point of interest, such as it is, comes in the final sentence. "We should not tolerate it," you declare of Catholic teaching.

Precisely what do you mean by that? Are you arguing that the Roman Catholic Church should not be free to teach what it does, or that individuals should not be free to follow its teachings?

Further, are you contending that the teachings of religious groups be subject to official approval? That those which do not meet your definition of acceptability be declared verboten and their more stubborn adherents be subject to legal sanctions? The mind boggles.

How would you enforce such thought-control - for that is what it is - by clamping down on the free-press? Imprisoning dissidents in gulags? Manufacturing statistics about the outcomes of condom-programs in Chad?

And where, for that matter, would your thought-control end? Would all creative human endeavour be policed by a politically-reliable beaurocracy? Would we witness the bizarre sight of an army of dreary Jim Denham clones (horrors) patrolling the corridors of academe so as to ensure no deviation from the offical party line?

And what in Marx's name, makes you think that the masses are going to accept your arbitrary, ignorant impositions this time around?

In 1989 they told you to get lost. Why don't you get the message?

6:18 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

I think, in fairness to Jim, that to compare his ideas with those of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe which began to collapse in 1989, is just nonsense.

As to what he's arguing, I think that the central point he's making is that a lot of Catholic doctrine is very conservative, and he doesn't like it. You may or may not agree with that, but it seems to me that saying such a stance "betrays a lack of understanding of bio-ethics" (which sets up the alternative formulation that "people who understand bio-ethics" agree with Catholic doctrine) says rather more about your own biases, than it says about his. As does your bizarre overreaction to his post.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Voltaire's Priest, you have - typically - missed my point.

I'm not interested in Denham's (or yours, for that matter) tedious, ignorant misunderstandings about Catholic doctrine. You're just another pair of flabby bigots, who've wandered into intellectual territory beyond your competence. No big deal.

The salient point remains unaddressed. So I'll repeat it.

Jim Denham quite clearly says that Roman Catholic teaching should not be tolerated.

That is, it should not have the freedom to teach what it likes and individuals should not be free to accept its teachings.

Jim Denham reveals himself as uneducated vandal, an extremist, a thought-controlling Stalinist.

9:15 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Your poorly crafted post contains an achilles heel, namely the word "typically". On that basis I gather that we've encountered each other before.

Now, please do tell me why, on the basis that I disagree with your beliefs on things like abortion, and conservative ideas on things like homosexuality (if you are who I think you are, then I consider gayness to be OK and you don't), tell me why you think I'm the bigot in this conversation. Come on, tell me why I'm a "flabby bigot" - whatever the hell that is - simply because I disagree with you, and I think women should have the right to control their own bodies, and I think homosexuality is not offensive to my eyes.

And whilst you're at it, tell me why it's "beyond my intellectual competence" to disagree with you about a subject on which you're evidently so swivel-eyed and doctrinaire that you won't listen to reason (quel surprise)? Beyond my capacity to listen to you droning on it may be, but beyond my intellectual competence to dispute your view, it most certainly is not.

You also clearly don't know what a "Stalinist" is, so please head off and look it up.

4:44 PM  
Blogger morbo said...

curious shut up before I bite your legs off

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Bite away baby, but there's no way you're going upwards.

And wrong, totally, utterly, boringly wrong, Voltaire's Priest. You haven't encountered me before. And I consider gayness not only ok but positively beautiful. The most cursory glance at Western culture shows the outstanding contibution gay people have made throughout the ages. And that's not all. There are countless examples of self-sacrificing gay love which put many crummy heteros to shame.

But don't digress, Voltaire's Priest. Jim Denham has said that Catholic teaching cannot be tolerated.

He should come onto this thread and defend his own Stalinist sentiments.


He is calling for Catholicism and by extension, other religions and philosophies to which he takes exception, to be banned.

He is calling for legal sanctions against religious and other groups.

He is advocating the persecution of practising Catholics, Moslems, Frum Jews and others who disagree with him.

He is advocating censorship of ideas, expression and the press.

He believes in thought-control.

He is a Stalinist.

He should answer these charges fully, by himself.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Curious: don't be silly. I'm *not* calling for stae bans on religions. In fact (as I think I made it clear in the piece on Catholicism), the great thging about secularism is that it is the best gurantee of religious freedom. But socialists, and in paricular, Marxists should wage ideological *war* on religion. The idea that hostility to religion is "Stalinist" is an extraordinary SWP lie: in fact, the Stalinists have always been *soft* on religion: just like their continuation, today's "S"WP,

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Sorry Jim but that won't do.

You said Catholic teaching should not be tolerated and explicitly described it as criminal.

If you are not calling for a ban on Roman Catholic teaching and persecution of believers, I advise you to withdraw your comments.

Otherwise your position is clear.

In which case all that remains is a fleshing-out of the AWL's policy on Human Rights, specifically those concerning Freedom of Conscience, Expression and the Press.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Jim Denham said...

Catholics should be free to express themselves and argue for their beliefs: we are free to denounce those beliefs as a lot of superstitious nonsense: the people should be free to agree with whomsoever they choose. Fair enough?

8:51 PM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...


What on earth are you blithering on about? You appear to have managed to annoy just about everyone of every political persuasion under the sun on here, whilst accusing me falsely of "bigotry" and falsely accusing Jim of wanting state bans on the church. Not mention saying that "typically" I've misunderstood you, when to be "typical" it couldn't possibly be our first encounter. Sorry me boy, but you fell at the first hurdle.

It really is getting dull refuting your peripheral and shallow arguments, but nevertheless I suppose it provides one with a useful bit of target practice.

Hell, you've even got Morbo and Jim agreeing on something; that's a first.

And you still don't know what a "Stalinist" is.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Curious said...

So Jim, let me see if I get you correctly.

Are you or are you not backing down from your previous statements that Roman Catholic teaching is not to be tolerated and criminal? Yes or no?

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Curious said...

Heh heh. No answer from the rarely-lost-for-words Jim Denham. As I suspected: He's all mouth and no action.

3:31 PM  

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