21 April, 2010

An Arresting Development

I don’t often quote other articles in large chunks, but a piece by Sam Leith in the London Evening Standard says it all for me on the subject of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins attempting to have the Pope arrested.

On the face of it, one can't but be gripped: one imagines Dawkins going the full Tatchell and having his face rearranged by the Swiss Guards, while Hitchens handcuffs himself to the Popemobile and bounces shouting along the street.

There's a serious point, though. Many of us take the view that Pope Benedict is a very bad hat.

His organisation, on his watch, systematically covered up child-rape on an institutional scale, and we'd like to see him answer to a rather more robust court than his own conscience. But Dawkins and Hitchens leading the charge against him muddies the waters.

They had a philosophical beef with the Pope before they had a legal one, and they will appear to many people to be acting in their roles as professional atheists with books to promote.

Full article HERE, third headline down.

I couldn’t agree more.
I know you shouldn’t question people’s motives but frankly, I question their motives. There’s no question that church hierarchy has to be held accountable not only for what was done but for what wasn’t done to stop it, but it’s interesting to see groups with other agenda lining up to put the boot in. The two foremost evangelical atheists, with no previous overt interest in child welfare, arranging to arrest one of the world’s most recognisable religious leaders? It’s all rather convenient, isn’t it?

Dawkins, as a product of the English public school system ought to know a bit about institutionalised abuse and Hitchens, as an unrepentant supporter of the Iraq war, has some gall talking about covering up human rights abuses. To give Hitchens his due, he did volunteer to be waterboarded to settle that nagging question of whether making a prisoner think he’s drowning is torture. Hitchens’ verdict is that it is. But his outrage about crimes committed in a war he supports is not on a par with that of a war he didn’t support (Vietnam) or by an institution he despises for different reasons.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the Catholic church is being victimised here. They have brought it upon themselves. I’ve heard it said, by Catholics and non-Catholics that one child being abused by one priest is one too many. I don’t think that goes far enough. That implies there’s something special about priests. One child being abused by anyone in any way is one too many.

The reaction to the Hitchens/Dawkins scheme has been interesting. From what I have seen, it’s the believers who are saying Dawkins has a fair point, while comments from atheists have been more along the lines of, ‘I like him, but he’s being a dick.’

Another excellent comment I read recently was that what Dawkins rails against is his own definition of faith, which is not necessarily something that any spiritual person would recognise. Again, I agree. Since it’s fashionable to quote Sinéad O’Connor at the moment, this is something she wrote before the infamous Saturday Night Live appearance:

“You’re a fool to attack me, for an image that you built yourself.”

My thanks to Twitterers Mike Scott and Kate Anderson for some of the links and ideas behind this post.


  1. There have been more than a few Brits lately who want to arrest people who aren't British and aren't within Britain's jurisdiction. I think if they want to show their moral superiority they'll have to find something better than a jail cell.

    And if they can't figure out how to arrest their own former PM then they've no business trying to arrest everybody else.

  2. They're citing the arrest of Pinochet as precedent, and I have no problem with that arrest, but it cheapens the notion of justice to use it as street theatre.

    If someone is deemed to be of unsuitable character, then they should simply be denied entry into the country. If they are going to start issuing visas for the purposes of luring people to be arrested, then there are numerous international fugitives who should be higher on the list.