Ratzinger’s blood libel against atheists

Not exactly a denial of God, is it?

It reminds me of Durban: a gathering of peace-minded folks from all over the globe getting together to discuss problems which afflict us all. But all they can talk about is Israel. The love-fest turns into a blood libel against the Jews.

Joseph Ratzinger knows that he can’t aim his pious invective at the Jewish people as his predecessors did. So this most contemporary pope takes aim at the next best enemy of his faith: atheists. It’s another blood libel in the making. Here are his words from Assisi yesterday*:

The enemies of religion…see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.

Do we really demand that religion disappear? Or do we just demand that it know its place and stay in it, and not meddle in things which aren’t its business? And there in that last line is the blood libel: that Nazism was the outcome of atheism. But Ratzinger was in the Wehrmacht as a young man, and knows perfectly well that Nazi anti-Semitism was a Christian inheritance. Adolf Hitler was a Catholic who has never been excommunicated and Mein Kampf was never added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum as, say, Kepler, Voltaire, Locke, Mill and Galileo were. Kettle black enough for ya’?

The absence of God leads to the decline of man and of humanity. But where is God? Do we know him, and can we show him anew to humanity, in order to build true peace? Let us first briefly summarize our considerations thus far. I said that there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.

See? There it is: “the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.” While religion can be used either as a means to violence – as Ratzinger knows only too well – or peace, atheism inevitably leads to the degredation of humanity and the violent corruption of society.

He’s telling fibs again. The happiest societies on Earth are the most secular. Sociologists know this. Ask anyone who has escaped from religion and they will likely tell you they are happier and feel “free” for the first time in their lives. This is not uncommon at all, no matter which religion is being left behind.

This knowledge is making the pope shit his pants.

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* One year ago, almost to the day, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said some disturbingly similar things about atheists. And he published them in a Vatican newspaper, to boot.

Israelis are not Nazis. Duh.

I try to be very patient with people I disagree with. This hasn’t always been the case, but I’ve learned that there is much to be learned from trying to engage people who see things differently – sometimes very differently – than me.

Yesterday on Twitter a woman I follow tweeted:

To which I responded, saying that the tag #Nazis seemed far-fetched, whatever her quarrel with the Israeli government was. I was greeted with absolute certainty that the tag was descriptive of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, that they are doing what the Nazis did to them, so…

What did the Nazis do, and to whom? I asked.

No answer to that. I wonder if this person is aware that the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany are not the same people as sit in the Israeli Knesset today. If not, her knowledge of history is atrocious.

It’s tiring and disheartening to point out to people that the term “fascist” cannot be applied with impunity to everyone one disagrees with. “Nazi” should be used even more judiciously, and preferably when talking about actual Nazis. “The Israelis”, no matter how much disgust they may fill you with, are not Nazis or even fascists. To use such words is to abuse them and confuse others. You end up looking like the extremist, not Netanyahu.

Get your terminology straight, or people will stop listening.

The War Against the Jews

An incomparable description of Hitler’s mental world:

“The Jews inhabited Hitler’s mind. He believed that they were the source of all evil, misfortune and tragedy, the single factor that, like some inexorable law of nature, explained the workings of the universe. The irregularities of war and famine, financial distress and sudden death, defeat and sinfulness – all could be explained by the presence of that single factor in the universe, a miscreation that disturbed the world’s steady ascent towards well-being, affluence, success, victory. A savior was needed to come forth and slay the loathsome monster. In Hitler’s obsessed mind, as in the delusive imaginings of the medieval millenarian sectarians, the Jews were the demonic hosts whom he had been given a divine mission to destroy.”

(Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews p. 21)

I find this passage utterly chilling.

In the Realm of Hades

Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive by Samuel D. Kassow

Milk can

This book almost defies description. It is as much a biography of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum as it is a history of the Oyneg Shabes, a resistance group in the Warsaw ghetto whose self-appointed mission it was to document life under Nazi occupation. The probability of their endeavor ever seeing the light of day was very small indeed. Only a few people involved in the group—originally composed of dozens of historians, economists, poets, and sociologists—survived the war. The only one who knew where to dig up the buried archives from the rubble of the destroyed ghetto saved himself by jumping from a train bound for Treblinka . Had he, too, perished it is likely that the entire archive would have been lost—as part of it still is—beneath the modern city of Warsaw.

The archive consists of documents of every type: diaries, interviews, historical and sociological studies, poems, photographs, children’s art, candy wrappers. The idea was to leave a record of what the contributors increasingly understood to be a lost civilization—that of Polish Jewry. As the ghetto went from bad to worse, and the first reports of Nazi gassings and mass murder filtered in through underground channels, the Oyneg Shabes (“Sabbath joy” in Yiddish) realized they were responsible for writing their own history, lest it be blotted out forever.

To get the flavor of the context in which these people lived, wrote and died, we might read the words of Stanislaw Rozycki, a Jew who had made his way back to his native Warsaw from Lwow (Lviv). Crossing from the “Aryan” side to the ghetto, he wrote:

“I entered. I crossed the boundary not just of a residential quarter but of a zone of reality, because what I saw and experienced cannot be understood by our reason, thoughts, or imagination…the very act of crossing reminded me of some rite of passage, a ceremonial initiation, a crossing into the realm of Hades.”

It was in this “realm of Hades” that the doomed Jews of Warsaw set down their own record of events. It was a daily struggle against poverty, hunger, displacement, disease, deportation, beatings and murder. The psychological terrorism of the Nazi program underscored all these factors, creating a hand-to-mouth existence with little or no hope for the future. If anyone ever lived “in the moment,” these people did.

Under these conditions the Jewish underground revolted in an armed struggle against the Germans. It was a heroic, last-ditch effort by a people unjustly remembered for passivity in the face of Nazi atrocities. As historian Melvin Konner put it, “It took less time and thought for the Germans to conquer the French nation than to put down the Warsaw ghetto rebellion.” Jewish resistance, Kassow’s book reminds us, had many faces.

Published in The American