when priests resort to insidious scare tactics

July 17, 2010

Bad things happen to everybody, and while some treat their bad fortune as something to overcome as quickly as possible, others rub their hands with glee and use it to bully others. Case in point, Reverend Robert Barro, whose position in society is vaunted as that of noble community leaders who teach love, compassion and the need for charity, and whose views must be automatically respected because he read a book that claims to be the word of a deity. Like a vulture waiting for a meal, he’s perched himself over Christopher Hitchens, who was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and started squawking about God teaching the outspoken and controversial atheist a lesson, all while transparently telling the faithful that this is what happens when if you dare to question God in a public forum. The deity will reach out and smite you with something really nasty…

So this is the kind of compassion and love that priests are supposed to teach us? Do what I say, believe what I tell you to believe, or God will come down from the heavens and strike you down? How can anyone possibly consider this good for any community? It’s basically bullying and death threats wrapped in hymns and a story about what happens to good kids who follow the priests’ words to justify the tyrannical nature of our organized religions. And this is far from the only time the mortality of an atheist or a skeptic has been used to threaten or rally believers who may have found themselves questioning their faith, even if their suffering was invented by a priest who was particularly intent on a fire and brimstone sermon. Just look in my local paper, for a story of an atheist who dramatically said that “if there is a God, let him fill my grave with snakes.” As soon as he died and his body was buried, the local churches deliberately started the rumor that grave robbers found a huge swarm of snakes wrapped around his coffin. But when these rumors were exposed as nothing more than the vicious gossip of would be televangelists, the priests changed their story to include a deathbed conversion.

In other words, those priests are just made of pure class, tact and compassion. Except when they glaze over the horrendous abuse that happens in the name of belief and use barbaric scare tactics to keep people who want to question their faith from doing so under the threat of a slow or painful death. There’s disturbingly little difference between Barro’s acid pen and a mugger holding up a gun to your head and demanding your wallet in exchange for your life. In fact, the only real differences I can think of is that Barro is part of a group which over millennia of indoctrination and on many occasions brute force, mandated that it’s to be held at the pinnacle of human civilization, and that his gun is a vengeful, tyrannical, petty, passive aggressive tyrant who’ll smite what amounts to an insignificant little speck of a being because that speck isn’t convinced of his existence. Truly, if there is a God out there and he heard just a small sampling of what two-faced monsters like Barro say and do in his name, he would open an Atheist Nexus account. And as for the Reverend Barros of the world, I wonder how they live with themselves after spending another day of further dividing, alienating and separating people who they’re supposed to bring together with kindness and love. My guess? By enjoying the tax-free cash they scare out of believers with their fiery sermons in order to fund their very base and Earthly needs.

[ illustration by Koren Shadmi, story idea by Jerry Coyne ]

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  • Alan

    BASTARDS!! I hate them with a passion! Every last snivelling conniving lying last one of them. I only wish there was a hell so they would have somewhere to rot and fester.

  • badbass9

    Let’s just say for a moment that what they preach is true. When the esteemed Rev. Barro passes on to his reward, what will he receive? If there is a hell, it’s fires await them, not us. Frank Zappa, liner notes on Thing Fish.

  • mary

    Religion is a sneaky business, eventually the Catholics will loose face and their power, I believe Zeus and his immortal gods with his demigods lost Mt Olympus, so will the Catholic Church. Like Zeus the Pope will be dethrone, and the people will look for another god and Savior.

  • Bruce Coulson

    And they ignore events that could be taken as a sign of their Deity’s displeasure (http://newsoftheweird.com/archive/index.html). Like the book they quote at great length, many priests choose to selectively choose their examples to cast themselves in the best light.

    The sad part is the core of their faith; the idea that we should treat each other better, show more respect towards others, tolerate things that do not concern us; is still a worthwhile message for people. But many of the ‘leaders’ of the faith choose to focus on hate instead of love.

    Perhaps the true message of their prophet is, “Preach love and be hated; preach hate and be loved”.

  • Nicholas Claassens

    We are all atheists…

    Some of us just go one god further…

  • Jypson

    @ Nicholas Claassens, I think you mean:

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

  • Pierce R. Butler

    How strange that Barron’s [not Barro's, at least according to his blurb at the cited link] article miraculously omits words like “smoking”, “tobacco” and “cigarettes”.

    As for the story about Chesteron & Shaw drinking together after their debates: only a crass and theologically unsophisticated materialist would be so strident as to mention that Shaw was a famous lifetime teetotaler.