Poison for the mind

It’s hard to think of any other reason for Roberto De Mattei’s latest comments than his deep religious commitment:

The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians was due to the spread of homosexuality. The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals and they infected many others. The invasion of the Barbarians was seen as punishment for this moral transgression.

It is well-known that effeminate men and homosexuals have no place in the kingdom of God. Homosexuality was not rife among the Barbarians and this shows God’s justice throughout history.

I keep hearing that religion is this necessary good thing that humanity will never outgrow because it needs it. I keep hearing that atheists construct straw man arguments for religious belief to tear apart on their blogs. But all one has to do is listen to a De Mattei to see that the ideas themselves are often pernicious. And that largely the only reason for holding such opinions is the adherence to a religious dogma like Catholicism, with its outspoken antagonism towards anything but the most rigorous “biblical” sexuality. Of course, that’s an invention and they are lying to us. But belief is belief and dogma is dogma. And even a smart fellow like De Mattei is reduced to wicked demagoguery by his piousness.

» More on Roberto De Mattei here and here.

Roberto De Mattei responds to his critics

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.


It gets worse

It gets worse. In 2006 De Mattei said the following in an interview with Zenit, a Catholic news agency.

“Italian identity isn’t just generically Catholic, but is defined by the function of the papacy. Italy’s vocation isn’t simply to host the papacy, but to serve it, to permit the papacy to perform its universal role. Italy is itself when it serves the Church, and it betrays its own identity when it reneges the Church.”

Here we go again: I’d love to know why these people think throwing around the word “universal” makes them sound so important, so profound. No religious confession is universal in character.

This is a prime example of the way Italy has been compromised by the Catholic Church. Italy is a sovreign nation, not a hotel for the papacy. This kind of thing is disrespectful to millions of Italians who are not believers in the supernatural fairytale of Roman Catholicism. It’s wholesale bollocks.

There are countless people running around saying idiotic crap like this. They want us to buy into their obsession with authority. They want us to kneel and kiss rings and fawn at the riches of the papacy. They want us, in short, to stop thinking and let them catapult us back to the Middle Ages.

Well, no thank you.

Creationists say the darndest things

Roberto De Mattei is back. He’s a crackpot creationist who also happens to be the Vice President of the National Research Council (CNR). From an American perspective, he might be comparable to Francis Collins. Both are outspoken Christians, though they would probably argue over which version is the true one.

Collins may be a bit of a clown, but I’m convinced he would never resort to the kind of malicious theodicy that De Mattei has with regard to the recent disaster in Japan. Speaking – or, preaching – on Radio Maria, De Mattei has posited that the catastrophe is part of (surprise, surprise) Almighty God’s plan.

Quoting a Monsignor Mazzella he said, “Great catastrophes are a terrible but paternal sign of God’s benevolence which call attention to the ultimate scope of our lives.”

To this he added: “If the Earth offered no danger, pain or catastrophe it would fascinate us to no end, and we would too easily forget we are citizens of heaven.”

And, “…catastrophes are the just punishments of God” inasmuch as “to the guilt of the Original Sin are added our personal and collective sins, and while God awards and punishes in eternity, it is on Earth that he awards and punishes nations.” Listen to him here if you know some Italian.

Now, I’m not surprised by any of this. If you really believe there is a God who made the world, destroyed it by flood, remade it, intervened occasionally here and there with his prophets, and has an ultimate plan for all of us, then I suppose such reflections are only natural. That, we might say, is the root of the problem.

Religion warps minds. There can be little doubt about this. It has the capacity – I’m paraphrasing Steven Weinberg – to make good people do evil things. De Mattei’s speech, like so many American pastors’, fits this bill.

What happened in Japan is nearly unthinkable: an earthquake accompanied by a tsunami cut loose an atomic disaster. Many lives have been lost or ruined, and at present we have little or no idea what’s in store for the Japanese people. There’s radiation in the seawater, and there’s no reason to thing this thing will end tomorrow.

I can think of no better reason, if you believe in God, to abandon that belief this instant. Natural disasters necessarily come under God’s plan if you believe he has one. That is, if he is benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient. If he’s not, then your God is no better than a broken air-conditioner. Get rid of it.

The “reasoning” of De Mattei and anyone else who searches for God’s benevolence in the untold sufferings of humanity is hardly worth responding to. But it’s the maliciousness, the arrogance of De Mattei that irks me. He should be shunned for such assertions instead of made Vice President of the CNR.

But this is Italy – what do you expect?

* You can sign a petition calling for De Mattei’s resignation here.