730: BERTRAND RUSSELL ON CATHOLICS AND SYPHILIS

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the world’s only Christian/atheist blog. Like Jeremy Corbyn I spend my weekends digging my allotment. We grow loads of veg. and put a lot of it in the freezer (e.g. beans) for future use. I usually have my DAB radio on for company and heard an ad on Premier Christian Radio for a conference in mid-May to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Bertrand Russell’s famous essay “Why I am not a Christian”. The station occasionally interviews atheists, and this Christians-only conference is to help believers win over both atheists and Moslems to the  Christian way of thinking. An interesting project. I must say, as a born-again atheist, I would love to be targeted by these earnest evangelicals! I should point out that it’s not my policy to try and convert anyone to anything; after all my opinions could be wrong; I am quite happy for evangelicals to remain evangelicals and for Moslems to remain Moslems, etc. as long as they don’t bother me. Then if they  do  try and convert me I can give as good as I get! Quite frankly other peoples’ beliefs are none of my business.  I pose my questions and vent my spleen on this blog, and after nearly 5 years I can’t think of a single case where I have offended anyone or ‘converted’ anyone. It’s an intellectual exercise, a ‘Christian/atheist polemic.’

Growing up, I was a great admirer of Britain’s top 20th century philosopher. Bertrand Russell died in 1970 and was famous as a freethinker and as an opponent of nuclear arms. He was jailed twice for his political activism. His short landmark booklet “Why I am not a Christian” (19 pages) was written in 1927 and was immediately labelled as ‘one of the most blasphemous philosophical documents ever written.’ I don’t mind betting that not a single participant at the Premier Christian conference will have read it, and that there won’t be a single copy of the book in the hall. If I could afford the £35 entrance fee, I might go myself. I am sure I would find something to interest me.

The following is an extract from ‘Why I am not a Christian’ followed by an extract from a 1930 essay called ‘Has religion made useful contributions to civilisation?’

I hope you find this interesting,
In solidarity,
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”

Catholics and syphilis 

“Supposing that an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man, in that case the Catholic Church says: ‘This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must stay together for life.’ And no steps of any sort must be taken by that woman to prevent herself from giving birth to syphilitic children. That is what the Catholic Church says. I say that that is fiendish cruelty, and nobody  whose natural sympathies  have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.”

“The conception of Sin which is bound up with Christian ethics is one that does an extraordinary amount of harm, since it affords people an outlet for their sadism which they believe to be legitimate and even noble. Take for instance the question of the prevention of syphilis. It is known that by precautions taken in advance, the danger of contracting this disease can be made negligible. Christians, however,  object to the dissemination of knowledge of this fact, since they hold it good that sinners should be punished. They hold this so good that they are even willing that punishment should extend to the wives and children of sinners. There  are in the world at the present moment many thousands of children suffering from congenital syphilis who would never have been born but for the desire of Christians to see sinners punished. I cannot understand how doctrines leading to this fiendish cruelty can be considered to have any good effect upon morals.”

Well, I can’t help wondering what Premier Christian Radio would say to that. Russell is making several serious accusations which will probably not be addressed at their conference; mainly because they realise there is no answer to these charges. They are irrefutable evidence that the church does not occupy the moral high ground, and Christians are very good at turning a blind eye to that.

Source:
Russell, Bertrand “Why I am not a Christian. And other essays on religion and related subjects” Routledge Classics (1996) (Pages 17 & 23)

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