Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Saturday, June 7, 2014

"...for good people to do evil..."

Nobel laureate in Physics and atheist, Steven Weinberg, once observed that good people will always do good, and evil people will always do evil.  But for good people to do evil, that takes religion.

That's the only possible explanation for the following ongoing atrocious report coming out of Ireland:

800 long-dead babies found in septic tank by home for unwed mothers

 The bodies of nearly 800 babies have been found in a septic tank by a home for unwed mothers in a small town in Western Ireland in County Galway.

“The Home”–as it was actually called–housed thousands of so-called “fallen women” and their children from 1925 until it closed in 1961. While the women often left “The Home” after their period of indentured servitude was up, many of the children were not so lucky. This, apparently, is what became of many of them.

The children were not murdered by the Bon Secours nuns whose care they were left in, not deliberately anyway. Documents simply show that these children had a very high infant mortality rate due to malnutrition and neglect, as well as diseases like measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. This was hardly uncommon for these type of homes, as the infant mortality rrate for “illegitimate children” was nearly 25% during this period. The records show that nearly two babies died a week at “The Home,” and apparently, upon death were thrown in the septic tank rather than buried.

This is the natural outcome for any religion whose emphasis is concentrated on sexual sins and on punishing only women for them.  We see this sort of misogynistic hatred in many of the world's major religions, where women are seen as unclean temptresses who, even when raped, are blamed for the shame they bring upon their families, and are often murdered because of that shame.  

In Catholic Ireland, a young woman who became pregnant out of wedlock brought shame to her family and village.  She was sent to a Catholic home run by nuns where she probably gave birth in terrible pain and suffering after which her baby was taken from her to be cared for by the nuns until it was sold for adoption or died from sickness and thrown into mass grave.  She was then indentured to that Christian facility to pay for her sins and sentenced to many years of forced labor  as a washer woman or other servile work that those who ran these homes meted out to these young women.  

And make no mistake, the goal was to make these young women suffer for, as Andrew Sullivan wrote, "...the crippling, toxic, near-insane fixation on sexual sin as the core ideology at work here. A view of sex that is riddled with shame and disgust, in which simple human nature must be so expelled and exterminated it requires a secret mass grave to keep the lie in place." 

From Salon:  "Though the full details of what happened to those children may never fully be explained, the strong implication of severe abuse and neglect cannot be ignored. But horrific as the record of deaths is — a rate of at least one every two weeks, for decades — and the cavalier way in which these tiny human beings were disposed of, it would be almost easy to consider these atrocities a thing of the distant past. Speaking on RTE last week, secretary of the Tuam archdiocese Father Fintan Monaghan said, “I suppose we can’t really judge the past from our point of view..." 

But judge is exactly what the Catholic Church did to the young unwed mothers who were placed in these homes and condemned for their mistakes.  Those young women were judged to be undeserving of compassion and tolerance, and their children were judged to be less than human and treated as such. So, yes, Fr. Monaghan, we really CAN judge the past and the atrocities committed by your organization.


The Tuam historian Catherine Corless discovered the extent of the mass grave when she requested records of children's deaths in the home. The registrar in Galway gave her almost 800. Shocked, she checked 100 of these against graveyard burials, and found only one little boy who had been returned to a family plot. The vast majority of the children's remains, it seemed, were in the septic tank. 

Corless and a committee have been working tirelessly to raise money for a memorial that includes a plaque bearing each child's name. For those of you unfamiliar with how, until the 1990s, Ireland dealt with unmarried mothers and their children, here it is: the women were incarcerated in state-funded, church-run institutions called mother and baby homes or Magdalene asylums, where they worked to atone for their sins. Their children were taken from them. According to Corless, death rates for children in the Tuam mother and baby home, and in similar institutions, were four to five times that of the general population. 

A health board report from 1944 on the Tuam home describes emaciated, potbellied children, mentally unwell mothers and appalling overcrowding. But, as Corless points out, this was no different to other homes in Ireland. They all had the same mentality: that these women and children should be punished. Ireland knows all this. We know about the abuse women and children suffered at the hands of the clergy, abuse funded by a theocratic Irish state. 

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish calls this a crime against humanity which, so far, seems to be an apt description of what was done to these women and children: 

 Let us call this what it is: a concentration camp with willful disregard for the survival of its innocent captives, a death camp for a group of people deemed inferior because of the circumstances of their birth. When we talk of mass graves of this kind, we usually refer to Srebrenica or the crimes of Pol Pot. But this was erected in the name of Jesus, and these despicable acts were justified by his alleged teaching.

"...for good people to do evil, that takes religion."


Infidel753 said...

The Weinberg quote is a favorite of mine, but in this case, I see no reason to think that the Bon Secours nuns were good people. The Catholic Church has now been caught red-handed in so many atrocities that it seems more like an organization which attracts evil people, provides a set of theological justifications for sadism, and shields such criminals from the secular authorities (sometimes even controlling the latter outright).

The dehumanization of "immoral" people does help make monstrous behavior easier, but the people who ran "The Home" were still monsters.

Lurker said...

I respectfully and politely disagree.

Human nature, not religion, is the cause of so much murder and suffering. We're bastards.

The biggest mass murderers in history (Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the All Time Champion, Chairman Mao) were not motivated by religion.

Rather, men and women believe in something (religion, ideology, whatever), that their cause is so righteous, and they license themselves to do anything, including horrible atrocities, in its name.

The vast majority of religious practitioners live their lives peacefully. A few 'true believers' at the fringes who commit atrocities do not damn the entire project any more than horrible mass-killing technology damns the science that spawned it.

No doubt, this discovery is the product of evil, in a secular humanist and Christian view, but the seeds do not spring from religion.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"...but the seeds do not spring from religion."

But is it not evident that in this particular case it was the belief by the religious authorities that the sin of fornication was the ultimate offense against God, even though their own gospels show Jesus/God admonishing those who would punish a woman they believed to be a fornicator to cast the first stone--to not judge?

Did those in authority not deliberately ignore the central doctrine of Christianity, which is forgiveness and love and cause these girls, women and children misery and pain? If they, who preached the gospel of love and forgiveness, could not be counted on to do the mercifully right thing, how can we expect their followers to do so?

I don't think that this is the time for a discussion on human failings and atrocities throughout our shameful human history.

The central question in this discussion is, I think, that all religions seem not to be able to overcome monstrous human behaviors. And many people believe that without religion, we'd be nothing more than unprincipled beasts. And yet we see unprincipled beastly behavior within religious people all over the world: September 11, priests sexually abusing children, the workhouses in Ireland (there has to have been more than this one example in Galway) that used slave labor and treated innocent children abominably because of the circumstances of their births. The Hindu religion, for example, tolerates the murder (if a family believes she's an unworthy wife for their son) and rape of girls and women, genital mutilation, I could go on and on.

And while it may be true that most religionists mind their own business and go about their lives peacefully, that doesn't solve the problem of adhering to ruinous traditions that mutilate young males and females and tolerate behaviors that are criminal under civil law.

Shaw Kenawe said...

For the several anonymous commenters who bring up this argument (which has NOTHING to do with this blogpost:

"There exists a very tedious theist argument that keeps popping up, and no matter how many times you kill it, it keeps coming back, in fact its almost akin to a game of whack-a-mole at times. It goes like this …

Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were atheists, they all were responsible for terrible mass murder; therefore, atheism is responsible for terrible mass murder.

Do serious christians really take this line? You bet they do. To find an example, just click here to read the article in the Christan Science Monitor by the bestselling author, Dinesh D’Souza, that takes this precise line …

In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people."


Shaw Kenawe said...

"OK then, lets move on and tackle the big three.

Hitler – the atheist tyrant, as D’Souza called him, intent upon creating a religion-free utopia. Really!! … that claim has a couple of flaws. The most notable is that Hitler was not an Atheist, he was Catholic. Hitler frequently spoke positively about the Christian German culture, and his belief in the “Aryan” Christ. He also remained a formal member of the Catholic Church until his death. In Mein Kampf Hitler speaks of the “creator of the universe” and “eternal Providence.” And as for his supposed plans to create a religion-free utopia, utter bollocks – Hitler often associated atheism with Germany’s communist enemy, and not as a goal. In a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933, Hitler stated: “We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out“. During negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordat of April 26, 1933 Hitler argued that “Secular schools can never be tolerated”.

Atheist Tyrant? … er no, not one jot of evidence exists for that claim."

Shaw Kenawe said...

"Stalin – Most definitely a tyrant, no doubt of that, and also one that openly opposed religion. Now this is where we come to our “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy … “Stalin was not a believer, Stalin killed millions, therefore atheism caused the death of millions”. The fundamental flaw here is that Stalin was in fact a believer, a fanatical Marxist believer – he personally led the Russian revolution in 1917 alongside Lenin and so he created his own myth. The cause of all that happened and all that followed was not non-belief, but rather was rooted within the combination of his fanatical Marxist idology, his unstable personality, and also his ambition and lust for total power. In fact by 1922 Lenin came to realise that Stalin was too unstable and wanted him removed, but due to his stroke was unable to do this. So what was the root cause, what really made him tick inside …non-belief? No quite clearly not, Stalin was in fact a psychopath, with a lust for power who rose high enough to be able to leverage total control and then proceeded to eliminate any and all opposition.

Mao Zedong -Yes, another fanatical Marxist and also a non-believer whose Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, are blamed for millions of deaths. He demonstrated an astonishing disregard for individual human lives and repeatedly affirmed his willingness to sacrifice up to a third of the Chinese population in a nuclear war, an utter fanatic devoted to grasping, then consolidating total power and imposing his ideology upon all, driven not by non-belief, but by a belief in himself and his personality cult.

So where does all this lead us? its simple really, Atheism doesn’t kill people, Fanaticism kills people, be that religious or political.

So what really is the root cause behind all that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other similar tyrants did? All of them have one common cause, in each instance they were psychopaths. Note that I’m not using that as a form of insult, I’m giving you a diagnosis. A psychopath is somebody who manifests superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self-worth, is cunning and manipulative, lacks remorse or guilt, is callous, has a lack of empathy, and fails to accept responsibility for their own actions.

Religion does indeed stand guilty of some truly hideous crimes and a direct root cause within a delusional belief can indeed be established (think 9/11 as an example), but the attempt to put a lack of belief in the dock on the basis that some fanatical psychopaths committed truly hideous crimes on an industrial scale is simply an instance of the “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy, the root cause was their Psychopathy."


okjimm said...

Lurker truly has not studied history....especially the Holy Crusades.

'Let God sort them out"

"The biggest mass murderers in history (Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the All Time Champion, Chairman Mao) were not motivated by religion."

...nor has he studied Hitler's belief's

"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

nor has Lurker thought of the Muslim-Hindi massacres that left millions dead after the partition of India.

Shaw, good post. I caught this report elsewhere, and it did not surprise me. Another reason,among many, that I worship beer.

10. No one will kill you for not drinking Beer.

9. Beer doesn’t tell you how to have sex.

8. Beer has never caused a major war.

7. They don’t force Beer on minors who can’t think for themselves.

6. When you have a Beer, you don’t knock on people’s doors trying to give it away.

5. Nobody’s ever been burned at the stake, hanged, or tortured over his brand of Beer.

4. You don’t have to wait 2,000+ years for a second Beer.

3. There are laws saying Beer labels can’t lie to you.

2. You can prove you have a Beer.

1. If you’ve devoted your life to Beer, there are groups to help you stop.

Infidel753 said...

Shaw -- good responses. Hitler's Catholicism is very well documented. The Nazi regime actually banned writings that disrespected Christianity.

Also note that neither Hitler nor any of the other Nazi leaders were ever excommunicated by the Catholic Church, with the exception of Goebbels -- who was excommunicated only because he married a Protestant.

As for Stalin and Mao, I've always argued that Marxism is almost a religion, with its prophet (Marx), its dogmas which are to be upheld regardless of evidence, its priesthood (the party), its promised future utopia, etc. The only thing it doesn't have is a god. Stalin, also, was trained for the Eastern Orthodox priesthood. Obviously it didn't help.

Remember that atheism isn't an ideology or belief system. It just means lack of belief in a god. I assume Stalin didn't believe in unicorns either, but that does not show that lack of belief in unicorns leads to evil behavior.

But if we found that a firm belief in unicorns repeatedly correlated with horrible crimes like the tormenting and deaths at Tuam, mass child molestation and covering it up, etc., then we might well conclude that believing in unicorns has genuine harmful effects.

But it's predictable that the pro-religion side would react to a post on Tuam by pointing fingers in all directions other than the actual topic. Because they know that this is completely indefensible.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Hitchens on the false claim that Hitler was an atheist.

Duckys here said...

The Calvinist wing of the Catholic church has staked out Ireland for some time.

In order to heal the church, I believe Pope Francis has to admit that the church has been in error and that the church has committed grave sins.
I doubt that can happen.

Lurker said...


Thank you for the reasoned response.

I appreciate Okjimm's concern for my history education, but Hitler did not practice Catholicism or even any form of Christianity in adulthood.

He used religion, as good fascists do, because it was a fixture of the society he sought to dominate and control.

I mentioned history's bloodiest tyrants not to blame atheism for their deeds, but to counter the thesis you posited that it takes religion to get good people to do bad things.

The historical evidence is clear: People can perform atrocious deeds regardless of religious beliefs.

It does come down to human nature. Leaving God and religion aside, every group and civilization on earth has put in place systems of morality of one form or another that include many strictures against our baser instincts. Why?

It's not just women who are dangerous, we all are. Man is the most dangerous animal on the planet.

Anonymous said...

People have evolved from those days,terrible as they were. We now have Safe Havens ,many which are Catholic hospitals.
Now if we can just get that primitive
Culture of Islam to catch up and stop their oppresion of women and gays and their killing of innocents in the name if Allah and stop slaughtering Christians maybe we can call that a true victory

Shaw Kenawe said...

"...every group and civilization on earth has put in place systems of morality of one form or another that include many strictures against our baser instincts. Why?"

Possibly because those baser instincts unchecked could be the ruination of every group and civilization unless prohibitions against such behaviors are agreed upon by the group. In a rational world, the group would find a humane way of dealing with unplanned, unwed pregnancies.

I remember reading years ago "Coming of Age in Samoa" by Margaret Mead, and was struck by how that culture did not punish adolescent experimentation with homosexuality, or any sexuality. It was natural and the young people grew into healthy adults, accepting of who they were.

The draconian punishments meted out by certain religious sects--in this case, the Catholic Church for sexual misconduct--resulted in misery and pain for countless girls, women and children.

okjimm said...

Lurker said, " He used religion, as good fascists do,..."

yup, pretty much like the fascist TeaParty. Yet, you did not as much refute my points as walked around them. Convenient,huh.

...and what is up with this little tidbit, "It's not just women who are dangerous...", ah, that reveals, ah, a bit of disclarity...perhaps you limp when you try to think?

God ? said...

A political ideology is not comparable to a religion, because it has no God it worships as the end result of its policies.
Most political parties claim God is on their side to pander to the people. Did God, or Jesus claim a political affiliation?
To say atheism is like a religion is absurd, even if they preach like an evangelist and have an authority institution like the church.
Hitler was raised Catholic and could never accept his God favoring Jews as his chosen children. Which brings the question why God would have a chosen people that he protected over others; setting up the jealously which leads to violence. Is it possible the Jews created the story that way thousands of years ago? If you believe the God of the Bible, then you have to believe Jews are God's chosen children and take favor over others by God.
If you believe in God, love God, want his acceptance, it must be hard to know God considers you second class to his chosen children, the Jews.
The story of Cain and Able was not about religion. It was about murder and violence in the heart of man, a natural tendency in man. To progress to be more civilized is the goal. Don't wait for God to change things, God is waiting for you to change things.

Anonymous said...

"God is waiting for you to change things."

Well he's been waiting since our cousins, the chimpanzees, fell out of the trees.

Lurker said...


Why the attitude?

I addressed your assertion directly. Hitler used the cultural symbols to manipulate the masses, a common fascist tactic.

He was raised Catholic, eschewed all religion in his personal life as an adult. History shows that. I'm not making any wild claims here.

What's next? Are you going to tell us Chairman Mao, murderer of over 80 million, was a fundamentalist Christian?

As I said, I'm not blaming atheism for these heinous acts, merely offering them as historical refutation of the quote by the Nobel Prize winner.

My comment "It's not just women who are dangerous..." was a piggyback off off this, from Shaw's article:

"We see this sort of misogynistic hatred in many of the world's major religions, where women are seen as unclean temptresses..."

I agree with her. Women have been unfairly blamed and punished throughout history, and it continues today.

I stand by my statement:

It's not just women who are dangerous, we all are. Man is the most dangerous animal on the planet.

Maybe you should have a few more beers, lighten up and cut others some slack?

Shaw Kenawe said...


I think Weinberg's statement means that otherwise "good people," who go about their lives without malice or intent to do harm to others can be persuaded to do evil if they believe it is in service to a god, and those people look to the clergy, whom they believe have a special insight to exactly what gods want their followers to do, even if it means evil. How would they question "the will of gods?"

Nontheist regimes such as described above were first and foremost political. They murdered and pillaged for power, world dominance, not to do God's will.

In both instances, the outcome is horrific. However, one expects those communities whose clergy and followers believe gods are telling them that their particular cause to commit atrocities is righteous--one would expect those folks to question if it is indeed a god telling them to slaughter their fellow humans or their own innate beastliness.

KP said...

I want to visit Ireland on my bike. I will re-read some Flann O'Brien while I am there; while the rest of you pretend to solve the worlds problems. Brings a smile to my face.

Dave Miller said...

KP... so good to see you! I hope all is well. I'll be in San Diego later this month. Maybe we can get a cup o' joe...

Robert D. said...

"One doesn’t have to have the intellect of Dante to understand that attacking the despicable behavior of priests and bishops, and demanding that they be held accountable, does not make one disloyal to the Catholic Church, but can even be a sign of greater loyalty. It is in the interest of the hierarchy to portray all critics as motivated by anti-Catholic bias, but it is not in the interest of the Church, and it is certainly not in the interest of children and families who were victims."