May 31, 2017

Say goodbye to History for Atheists

I don't always blog about changing my blogroll. But, I do on occasion, since it's a small list, when there's a significant reason for it.

And, there is.

I keep a fairly slim blogroll, as well as general webroll, on this and other blogs. But, blogs I link to, or even incorporate into my feed list, aren't necessarily ones I totally agree with. I'll keep ones that I find stimulating when in disagreement, especially if the disagreement is more on matters of philosophy rather than empirical facts in the hard or social sciences, or interpretation thereof. That's especially true as long as exchanges between me and other authors remain halfway personable.

Well, Mr. O'Neil's History for Atheists blog, which had been linked here, is gone again. (He'd originally been placed here and one other blog after he'd commented favorably on something I wrote.)

His blog is primarily about refuting Gnu Atheist claims about religious figures and ideas in history. And, on people such as Giordano Bruno, he has some good refutation. (And he's not alone in that.)

I won't link to him, though.

When he's wrong, he can sometimes be howlingly wrong.

And he was, a month ago, in trying to defend the papacy in general, and Pope Pius XII in particular, against charges of anti-Semitism. If he had stuck with the title of the blog post and ONLY defended Pius against charges of being a toady to Hitler, he might have had something. But, both the body and in responding to comments, he couldn't stop there.

One medieval papal bull he cited, Sicut Judaeis, was honored as much in the post-Crusades-era breach as in the observance. And, no, it was not "honored" in the breach by "just everyday Catholics." It was "honored" in the breach by popes, the papacy, the Vatican, the Papal States.

Directly related to that, O'Neill refused to even discuss the much later, 1860s-era, Papal States kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. And, it's hugely relevant to refuting his claims. The kidnapping itself, the existence of a ghetto inside Rome — which undercuts later Vatican attempts to distinguish between religious-only anti-Judaism and ethnic anti-Semitism and more.

Also relevant to undercutting him is Catholic hierarchy in the US ignoring physical anti-Semitism as late as World War II. (About halfway down the piece.)

He refused to discuss books by professional historians — non-Jewish as well as Jewish — that undermine his claims about Pius XII. And, I've read several such books.

One such book is "The Popes Against the Jews," just read and reviewed by me here. Its author, David Kertzer, previously wrote "The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara" and "The Pope and Mussolini," both of which I have read, and reviewed the latter here. (Pius XI comes off as better than Pius XII, but that's praising with faint damns one of the worst popes of the last 200 years or more. And don't forget that Pius XII, as Vatican Secretary of State, negotiated and signed the Reichskonkordat.)

Kertzer also wrote an NYT op-ed about the Vatican whitewashing its interpretation of the sealed documents which it invited him and select others to review, which is an excerpt from "The Popes Against the Jews." That said, per Kertzer, it also seems that JP II was trying to blame Italian nationalism in the 19th century for the kidnapping of Mortara and other issues, rather the reality, that the Mortara kidnapping fueled Italian nationalism.

Also related to this is all the different Catholic journals' histories of anti-Semitism in the 18th, 19th, and perhaps 20th centuries. These are official Catholic societal journals, at least theoretically controllable by "nihil obstat" and "imprimatur."

Then, he says, after I told him I hadn't listened to his podcast attached to the post — but without answering at all to Mortara, high-placed priests' post-WWII involvement in the "ratlines" and Vatican knowledge of that — and active involvement with one of the two — and more — his only answer is "go listen" to the podcast" followed by a stream of insults. That "Vatican" knowledge included Pius' personal knowledge, and support. Oh, and Pius XII knew about the Croatian Catholic Church's involvement with the Ustashe, too.

And, even as an opponent to Hitler, that opposition became much more attenuated after June 22, 1941. And O'Neill knows THAT too. It's why Pius supported the ratlines. After Barbarossa, everything was filtered through a Red Scare lens. And, O'Neill knows THAT, too.

That said, there are many Jews who support Pius' actions. (Unfortunately, the main book supporting his post-Barbarossa actions is published by winger publishing house Regnery, and written on commission.Worse, its author, David Dalin, per Wiki on the book itself, cuts the papacy the same blank checks O'Neill does.) I think, pre-Barbarossa, they're halfway defensible. But, after that, especially once the Final Solution started (and I am sure Pius had at least hearsay about it) they're not.

As to O'Neill's dismissal of books critical of Pius XII, I had never read Cornwell's "Hitler's Pope," and don't intend to. Cornwell's not close to being in Kertzer's class as a historian. And, O'Neill knows THAT, too.

Pius' Christmas 1942 radio broadcast is the only real token of support for his defenders.

In any case, the possible, or actual, anti-Semitism of the papacy in the last 300 years is not limited to Pius XII.

Beyond that, my most charitable explanation is that, even though he's an atheist himself, O'Neill is still some sort of "cultural Catholic."  Or, more accurately, given his much higher regard for Rodney Stark than I have, perhaps he's a "Christianist" in the same vein as Samuel Huntington et al. And, this also shows that being a non-Gnu Atheist is no more a guarantor of moral or intellectual honesty than is being an atheist in general.

If it's the same Tim O'Neill being referenced here on an online forum, he's also wrong about other issues related to the Holocaust. Among them? Hitler did not come to power via a "backroom deal." Instead, he was duly accepted as chancellor by President Hindenburg as the agreed-upon representative of a parliamentary coalition. That's the way chancellors, premiers and prime ministers are selected. And, his particular selection, as far as negotiations between coalition partners, was no more of a backroom deal than with any other parliamentary coalition in Germany or any other country.

With all of that, my less charitable explanation is that, whether he's conscious of it himself or not, beyond Christianism, O'Neill has some carefully nuanced anti-Semitism in his veins. And, frankly, given the vitriol of his willful whitewashing of the papacy, I'm going to ascribe that less charitable interpretation.

So, Tim, I've got one bit of vitriol back for you.

Go fuck yourself. (And per a comment of yours, I'm too busy to try to open the mind of an apparent close-minded bigot. See last line of this post.)

And, thus, note that being an atheist is no guarantor against various forms of bigotry.

My personal take is that the papacy, overall, and not just "Catholics out there," has centuries of history of off-again, on-again, anti-Semitism, but that that never totally disappeared until, oh, say the 21st century. It may have been less than that of "Catholics out there," but it still clearly existed. For Pius XII, I believe that he had a mix of low-grade anti-Semitism in a generic sense, moderate-grade support for Jewish needs in Europe before the Holocaust, and a virulent subsumation of all other foreign policy issues to anti-Communism.

Beyond the actual war issues, his Edgardo Mortara-type stance toward Jewish children baptized during the Holocaust as a smokescreen is another black mark.

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