Wednesday, June 20, 2007

201)Preston Manning pretends to be a Roman Catholic Cardinal writing a letter to Richard Dawkins; Atheists, the new Spanish Inquisitioners?


An Inquisition in science's name

Preston Manning imagines what one 17th-century cardinal would tell an eminent atheist

June 20, 2007
The Globe and Mail, Canada's National Newspaper

Dear Prof. Dawkins:
I am writing to you as one who was once as convinced as you are that I understood the nature of reality and how it was best interpreted. Like you, I also regarded those who embraced alternative conceptions of reality as dangerously deluded, and did everything in my power to prevent their further propagation.

Unfortunately, in pursuing this course of action, my colleagues and I made a grievous mistake - a mistake that, in the end, seriously discredited ourselves, our conception of reality and the organizations through which we advanced and defended it.

I am writing this letter in the sincere hope of dissuading you, the author of The God Delusion, and your colleagues - scientists and atheists, as I believe you describe yourselves - from repeating our mistake and thereby inadvertently discrediting the methods and institutions of science.

My name is Robert Bellarmine. I was born in Tuscany in 1542 and joined the Jesuit order in 1560. Like you, I became a professor at a leading university. I specialized in theology, then considered "the queen of sciences," much like biology is becoming the queen of sciences in your century. Eventually I was summoned to Rome by the Pope and made a cardinal and archbishop.

The conception of reality to which I, along with the most highly educated people of our time, subscribed was that revealed by faith and scripture as interpreted by the Holy Catholic Church.
We regarded our definition and interpretation of truth as a sacred trust that we were obliged to promote and defend. But notwithstanding our control of higher education, our authority was increasingly challenged by those who claimed there were alternative routes to truth.

Like you, we at first regarded the proponents of these views as deluded and sought to counteract their influence by teaching and persuasion. It was at this point, however, we made our great mistake.

When these delusions continued to spread in number and variety, we felt obliged to take harsher measures. We labelled the deviants "heretics." We established the Office of the Inquisition to hunt them down and expose the fraudulence of their claims, and to sentence them to the most extreme penalties if they refused to recant. We burned their books and then we burned the heretics themselves.

With the passage of time, we no longer confined our pursuit of heresy to the obviously ignorant and deluded. We extended it far and wide - I myself even became involved in the trial for heresy of the eminent astronomer Galileo Galilei.

What was our great mistake? It was to assume that we the church had an absolute monopoly on how truth was to be defined, discovered, and interpreted; to ignore the teaching of the great apostle of our own faith that at best, "we see through a glass darkly" and can only "know in part, and prophesy in part"; to believe that we had the right, not simply to fight perceived error through teaching and persuasion, but also to curtail and deny the freedom and liberties of those whose experience and perceptions differed from our own.

I realize, of course, that you - as a professor and educator - would never personally participate in the suppression of the rights and freedoms of those whom you regard as deluded on these matters, and would rather seek to turn them from the error of their ways by persuasion and education.

But it seems to me that some of your more zealous colleagues and disciples may be less tolerant and prudent than yourself. For example, does not Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith) display disturbing signs of the inquisitorial temperament that would deny freedom of conscience and expression to those whose positions cannot be scientifically tested and validated?A modern Inquisition conducted in the name of science to root out what you call "the mind virus of religion" would naturally have access to much more subtle and sophisticated technologies than were available to us. Whereas we employed fire (literally), you have access to firewalls and anti-virus software that conceivably could relegate most correspondence and written communications infected with the God virus to the cultural trash bin. I worry, however, that, once unleashed, the Inquisitional temperament will go too far and end up discrediting the very truths and institutions it purports to defend.

And when you suggest "maybe some children need to be protected from [religious] indoctrination by their own parents," I worry you may be straying down the same authoritarian path we once trod.

In Canada, for example, where you are lecturing this week, the most spiritual members of the population are aboriginal peoples. Many profess to believe something "spiritual" resides not only in every human, but also in animals, rocks, and trees - by your lights, an unscientific notion.

****(Quote of this blogpost; insertion by blogger easynash:
"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God." (Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954).)****

But to suggest their children should be taken away from them and re-educated in some sort of scientific residential schools would be to make a grievous mistake - exactly the same mistake we once made.

I conclude by suggesting that the proponents of faith and the proponents of science should agree on at least one vital point: The rights of human beings to freedom of conscience and expression should never again nor in the future be abrogated in the name of either faith or science. Do you agree?

Yours respectfully,
Robert Bellarmine

Cardinal Robert Bellarmine
(1542-1621) became a cardinal
of the Roman Catholic Church in 1599 and an archbishop in 1602.

Preston Manning is president
and CEO of the Manning Centre
for Building Democracy.


Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation:Aga Khan 4(2006)
The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being:Aga Khan 3(1952)
Our interpretation of Islam places enormous value on knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of faith if it is used properly. Seek out that knowledge and use it properly:Aga Khan 4(2005)