Stranger Than Fiction…oh wait, it IS Fiction

Here’s Some Breaking News from the Vatican:

It would appear that the sky fairy’s personal messenger, Pope Benedict XVI, has “revised” the Catholic Church’s stance on what happens to little babies who die without having been baptized. “We can say we have many reasons to hope that there is salvation for these babies”, says Rev. Luis Ladaria the spokesperson of the (wait for it)…International Theological Commission.

It had previously been thought that these babies would go straight to hell, having been born out of original sin and all that. This was then revised such that these babies ended up in “limbo”; not hell, but not in eternal communion with God.

It now appears, however, that there may indeed be eternal life for these children, which is, I suppose, fantastic news. The parents of these children, who previously had to endure the endless agony that accompanies the loss of a child, should now feel free to go about their business as before; we have “many reasons” to think their babies are safe in heaven. Goody!

A couple of lines from this appalling story really stuck out for me.

The author writes, “Pope John Paul II and Benedict had urged further study on limbo, in part because of “the pressing pastoral needs” sparked by the increase in abortion and the growing number of children who die without being baptized, the report said.” (emphasis added)

I’m trying very hard to imagine what possible “further study” could have been done. Reading scripture? Consulting with Catholic leaders? Tarot cards? Ouija boards? Anything where we could get some actual knowledge about the physical reality of death? I wonder how many neurophysiologists were consulted?

The very idea that this could be ‘studied’ at all is, of course, ludicrous. Benedict doesn’t know anything about god at all; he believes fervently, based on no evidence. What is there to study?

Along the same lines is this little nugget from the original article,

Ladaria said no one could know for certain what becomes of unbaptized babies since Scripture is largely silent on the matter. Catholic parents should still baptize their children, as that sacrament is the way salvation is revealed, the document said.” (emphasis added)

Am I the only one reading here? How does this pass for journalism? If I were to say, “Parents should dance around their children’s room, on one foot, while reciting the alphabet, in French, backwards, no less than four times per day, as that sacrament is the way salvation is revealed”, I would be rightly labeled a lunatic. Can someone explain to me why what these people are saying is ANY different than my example? As far as I can tell, the only difference is that people having been baptizing their children for 2000 years, while I made my example up in my office in about 30 seconds. But, in truth, what is the functional difference? True, many people believe that baptizing their children is the way salvation is revealed. But this gets us nowhere. What is the evidence that baptism does anything except get young children (and their parents) a little wet and pad the pockets of the Holy See?

I’m also flabbergasted at the lunacy of the statement “no one could know for certain…since Scripture is largely silent on the matter”, as if everything else in Scripture was factual. Where is the journalistic criticism here? Does it not trouble anyone else that this stuff gets printed (by the Associated Press, no less)? Why does religion get a free ride past all rational discourse, while the rest of us are forced to provide actual evidence for what we know “for certain”? I’m sure no one at the AP thought for a second of asking, “Umm, excuse me, Benny? Yes, umm, how do you know that baptism is the way salvation is revealed and that Scripture is factual?” In every other aspect of our lives, “How do you know?” is a valid question that demands a real answer. Here, it seems, “Just because, alright!!!” is fine and dandy!

Richard Dawkins once remarked (and I’m paraphrasing here) that consulting the chef or the gardener would be just as fruitful as consulting the theologian, when it comes to matters related to god. Yes, the theologian makes it his (and in this case, we can safely assume I’m using the proper pronoun) business to read about what people have said about god, and about the history of belief. But in reality, he knows nothing at all of any value. He has no good reason to think that any of it is literally true, and he ignores the mountains of evidence suggesting he is dead wrong (until he’s forced to ‘reconcile’ his position with what is plainly obvious…see the Vatican’s recent love affair with Evolution by Natural Selection).

These babies are dead, and that is a horrible shame. My heart goes out to any parent who has ever had to deal with what must be the most horrific pain imaginable. What an insult to the memory of their children this stuff must seem to anyone who has faced such an ordeal.

Shame on the Associated Press for giving this any coverage at all; this is a non-story if there ever was one. “Old German Man Says Dead Babies Live Forever”, would be a more fitting headline, since it exactly describes the article inside.

I remain,

Michael

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