About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The cult of misery always hard at work

I see that his holiness Pope Benedict, wants to introduce a whole new batch of mortal sins, such as the sin of engaging in morally debatable genetic research. It's reported in The Times, together with some spirited discussion.

It's nice to know that the Church is hard at work for our souls - always dreaming up new sins for us to worry about and new rationalisations for attacking our freedoms. Personally, I think it's reprehensible to bring up innocent children in what amounts to a cult of misery, or to teach them to accord moral authority to popes, priests, pastors, preachers, presbyters, and other such pretenders. It's not exactly a sin, though, since "sin" implies a deity to sin against, and I haven't noticed any deities around these parts of late.


Blake Stacey said...

Along with a whole bunch of other stuff which is just obviously wrong and backward, that "morally debatable" part bothers me. In my book, "morally debatable" means that something might be right or might be wrong, that a decision hasn't yet been made because, say, the evidence is lacking or there are good arguments on both sides. How does "debatable" translate to "definitively wrong"?

Yet that's what Bishop Girotti says: "carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments".


Anonymous said...

Cult of misery? What? I'm always confounded when people have this idea that the Catholic Church is so terrible because it's a great big bloody guilt trip and so on. It's not. I was raised Catholic and I found it a completely wonderful and enriching experience.

I wouldn't recommend it, because I don't believe that it's true, but that doesn't mean it's some sort of sado-masochistic moral-torture cult. Think of it as being like that film, "The Truman Show" - it's not terribly unpleasant, the Director just has a very narrow vision of what "the good life" consists in (and of course the constitutions of the small world of both the Church and the movie are based on dubious premises).

This new business about these "globally conscious" sins is a case in point - they're terribly worried (as they always have been) that the things which people are liable to get up to in the contemporary world will stray from this lovely little doll-house reality and out onto the scary moral grey area of the big, flat open tabletop.

Of course we shouldn't be listening to them - we should be able to behave like adults (or at least adolescents) by now. Looking back into the Catholic Church (as with most established religious traditions), we shouldn't feel smug and superior about the childhood we've grown out of, but we must recognise that a fundamentally childish mentality isn't a one suited to moral and intellectual independance. You can't run a household by insisting on never touching the stovetop because Daddy isn't around to do it for us.