Sunday, April 08, 2007

Michael Coren ... Revisionist

Usually I try to ignore Michael Coren - and then there's the days where he's so insufferably stupid that he deserves a more thorough swatting about. This week's column in the Sun newspaper chain is an exceptionally egregious assault on both reality and reason.

More people have died in the name of religion than anything else. Not true. There is a story that the Devil asked God for one century. Fine, said the Almighty, have the 20th century.

And hundreds of millions were slaughtered by atheist regimes led by Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and their friends. It is the absence of belief rather than its presence that has led to the most suffering.

There's a few bits of illogic here. I'm not sure what twist in scripture Coren uses to derive that God handed the 20th century over to the Devil - I'm not sure that I care. Causal legends don't go very far in helping us understand what really happened. I am, however, rather offended by his bone-headed linking of political totalitarian regimes with atheism. At best such a link is spurious - coincidence rather than causality; at worst, it is nothing more that a childish smear - implying that a worshipful Christian politician is less likely to be a bloodthirsty maniac.

But, that's just his opening assertion, his reasoning becomes ever more unhinged as one reads on.

Hitler was a Catholic. Not at all. He was born a Catholic but hated Christianity and some of the most devoted Nazi theorists wrote that their contempt for Judaism was based less on anti-Semitism than the fact the Jews gave the world Jesus.

Wow - that's a choice little bit of revisionism - been talking to Ernst Zundel again, Michael - or did you forget to put on your tinfoil hat before going out last week?

What about the Crusades? A geo-political response from Christian Europe to the massive military expansion of Islamic armies into the Christian heartlands of North Africa, Palestine and Syria. There were certainly aspects of it that were dreadful but it says nothing about the truth of Christianity.

How do you explain the Inquisition? Actually there is not a lot to explain. The number of people killed under its authority was very small and most European towns saw an Inquisition delegation once every 10 years.

Here's where Coren demonstrates not only his fundamental ignorance of history, but he mangles his interpretation of it as well.

He claims that the Crusades said nothing of the truth of Christianity - yet those same crusades were sanctioned by, if not sponsored by, various Popes. Last I checked, according to Roman Catholic dogma, the Pope is the only member of the clergy with a "direct line" with God - presumably those same Popes shared that line of communication. Besides, even if one says that the Catholic Church does not "represent the truth of Christianity", it's damnably hard to deny that the Crusades were undertaken in the name of Christianity. Trivializing it, and the long lasting consequences of western military and cultural intervention in the Middle East, is facile and stupid on Mr. Coren's part.

[Update 09/04/07]
A regular reader has pointed out the following overview of the Christian Crusades - with a certain amount of hint at the underlying motives at play - none of them exactly paint Coren's oh-so-noble Christianity in a very pleasant light...

As for his dismissal of the Inquisition as having only killed a few people, once again, Coren utterly misses the point. The inquisition was a part of the power structure - it was part of how the Church maintained its hold on not just spiritual power, but political and economic power. As anyone who has read the Malleus Maleficarum will confirm, the Inquisition structure was designed to be a no-win situation - once accused, you were going to die - it was merely a matter of how, and how quickly. It was a powerful tool for keeping a population controlled - in a manner than any 20th century dictator would have admired - from Lenin and Hitler through to Marcos or Duvalier. (Or perhaps, Mr. Coren would like to examine the oh-so-devoutly Catholic leaders of some South American countries who have perpetrated their own evils?)

It is not the numbers that the Inquisitions killed that matter - it is the purpose and intent not just of the inquisition, but the church itself in creating the inquisition. A roaming body of people meting out "the lord's justice" based on some extreme twisting of scripture and logic is little different than the death squads and "disappearances" of numerous regimes.

That the Sun chain pays Mr. Coren is astounding - that they print his monumental stupidity only goes to show the lack of editorial wisdom at the board.

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