From today’s Corriere della Sera:
The attacks on me are a typical example of the relativistic dictatorship denounced by Benedict XVI. I’ve done nothing other than reaffirm the traditional Catholic doctrine of providence.
First of all, I wasn’t speaking as Vice President of the CNR but as a citizen and a believer. I limited myself to quoting a 1911 book written by Monsignor Mazzella, Archbishop of Rossano Calabro, who was commenting on the 1908 earthquake in Messina and the mystery of evil*. The point is, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, nothing happens in the universe that isn’t willed – or at least permitted – by God for precise reasons. And we can’t exclude the hypothesis of divine punishment, even if we can’t be sure.
There’s a short interview which follows this tasty tidbit. It’s the same old music about persecution of Catholics by the scientific establishment for belief in “anti-scientific” doctrines like transubstantiation.
Then the standard invective against atheists, who refuse to debate him (he’s a creationist). Maybe they won’t bother because his ideas are worthless – did he ever think of that? Then a word or two on “practical Catholic atheism,” “for whom God is absent from history, and who created the universe only to wash his hands of it.”
It’s a great interview, really. It says so much about the warped mentality of believers. If I find time, I’ll translate the whole thing; it could be useful.
*De Mattei, if you’re reading, I will resolve the mystery of evil in four words: There is no God.
Last week I had my beef with Susan Jacoby on her reading of the Gaza flotilla raid as a kind of capsule version of Israel-Arab tribal rivalries. This week she hits the mark in a wonderful, highly critical column about Israel’s Haredim – or ultra-ultra-orthodox Jews – proving that it is possible to criticize Israel without falling into the myopic, anti-Semitic tropes of people like Jose Saramago.
For the record, I share Jacoby’s worry about the Haredim. They are religious extremists dedicated to a Torah-only vision of life on this planet. As an atheist, a secularist and a half-Jew (like Jacoby herself) who cares deeply about the present and future of Israel, I can only applaud her claim that these fanatics imperil Israeli democracy from within.
The sight of thousands of Jews taking to the streets of Israeli cities to fight for the right to wall themselves off in their own ghetto within a Jewish state–and at the expense of that state–is utterly dispiriting. These are people who want to write Baruch Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn out of Jewish history. They want to shackle their own minds and let other Jews–the Jews who who played such a vital role in creating the modern world—do their fighting for them. And they want the rest of us to shut our mouths out of fear that we will be charged with anti-Semitism for saying that their form of religion is rigid, retrograde, and contemptuous of the beliefs of others. That the State of Israel, founded by men and women of far-reaching vision, should tremble in awe of these fearful people is a shame and a disgrace. And it breaks the hearts of those of us who can never forget the hope and pride we once invested in Israel’s future. Even more, it breaks the hearts of the sabra grandchildren of the tough, proud, secular Jews–men and women of reason who hated the very idea of spiritual or physical ghettos–who devoted their lives to the creation of Israel.
So these are the same problems dogging countries like the United States and Italy. The US has its evangelical nutjobs, and Italy its criminal Catholic Church which intimidates Italian politicians in a way strikingly similar to that of the Haredim in Israel. Of course, the Church is a multi-national institution representing the world’s largest religious denomination, and the Haredim are a small percentage of one of the world’s smallest peoples. But they both want theocracy in the end.
So why can’t the Israelis stand up to them? The history of the Jewish people is so rich, so ennobling, so varied and engrossing that the Haredi version palls in comparison. To think that Torah, or the Gospels, or the Qur’an is unequivocally the best guide to life in the twenty-first century is beyond laughable. It’s dangerous. I’m with Susan on this one.