Peter Mullen believes that his faith holds the claim to being the origins of human charity. Let's stop and consider this.
In my post yesterday about religious attacks on secularism I briefly referenced Reverend Dr Peter Mullen’s quite astounding assertion that “the roots of charity lie in Christian doctrine”. As that post was focusing on other matters I did not think it appropriate to dwell on this statement too much, but I would like to come back to it now and have a proper look at why this claim is clearly nonsense.
Now I’m going to precede this with the disclaimer that I cannot take the credit for several of these criticisms I’m about to make, as it was my friend Alan Grant who brought Mullen to my attention and who made several excellent points about his claims. You can find Alan’s blog, THE RUNDOWN, by following this link and I would highly recommend you check it out; he’s a smart guy who’s blog covers a lot of the same subjects mine does but with far more intelligence and wit than I could ever hope to muster.
But yes, let’s have a good look at what the good reverend is alleging. I’m going to quote directly from his blog post throughout to highlight the parts of Mullen’s statement that I object to.
Mullen is apparently writing in response to the allegations that “civil servants are allegedly denying the funding of Christian charitable groups on the grounds that these groups have doctrinal commitments and they might seek to proselytise those to whom they do good”. This is ‘aggressive secularism’, apparently. If you say so, Peter; I’d call it a sensible move on the part of our civil service. Christian aid groups do not deserve public funding, because as has been stated they have an ulterior motive to their ‘charity’. That motive is proselytising; they are seeking to spread their dogmas and beliefs through their aid work. Even groups that initially claim not to be doing so are fooling themselves and others. Yes, I’ll grant you that maybe your Christian charity doesn’t show up with a truck-load of Bibles to give to disaster victims alongside food and medicine; it saddens me that some groups are so obvious with their motives in this manner. But you are still attempting to spread Christianity. Simply by showing up to these places you are spreading your dogma to an area, either by publicly speaking about your faith or through the crosses you carry and the uniforms you wear. Why should public money be given to you for this goal? Why should a Muslim taxpayer be forced to help spread your faith? Or an atheist taxpayer, for that matter?
The good reverend and I clearly disagree on this one, though. Not that this is surprising; Mullen is the man who called for homosexuals to be tattooed with health warnings back in 2008. The sinister parallels between this and what went on in Nazi concentration camps should be noted. His next few statements really need to be read in their full idiotic glory; I don’t think I could paraphrase this much stupidity:
“Go back as far as you like: to the evangelical Clapham Sect and the High Church Clapton Group who did so much to help the poor in London in the early 19th century. It was in both cases their Christianity which impelled their charitable motivation. The same is true of the Salvation Army. Think of almost any of the great moral crusades of the last two centuries – the abolition of the slave trade, for example – and you will generally find that it was committed Christians who organised them.”
Let’s start with the part that, for a student of history, is the most striking falsity; this idea that it was Christianity that did away with the slave trade. Let me make this emphatically clear; Christians were not the route cause of the abolition of slavery. This is a gross overstatement and an insult to the many brave men and women of many faiths (and none) who at times risked their very lives in their crusade against the horror that was the slave trade. Mullen shits on the memories of these great people when he makes remarks such as this. He also totally ignores the fact that in many places it was the Christians who defended the slave trade. Look at the Southern States of America, for fuck’s sake; it was Christian pastors in their pulpits quoting from the Old Testament who argued that it was a white man’s God-given right to keep slaves.
As for the Salvation Army, those assholes are hardly a shining example of Christian morality. I mean, they’re openly against homosexuality. Sure the phrasing is all sweet and nicey-nicey, but look behind the false front of Christian love and you can see homophobia rearing its ugly head.
But then I imagine Mullen would see this as a shining example of Christian morality, being a homophobe himself.
Anyway, let’s see how he wraps this whole debacle up.
“Besides, as a Church of England parson for forty years, I have had considerable experience of charitable organisations sponsored by churches. What I have noticed is that, so far from ramming religion down the throats of those to whom they would do good, they are mightily restrained in dogmatising, preferring the good works to speak for themselves of the God from whom all goodness flows.”
Ah, the good old Argument From Personal Experience. This is a favourite of the religious, despite being deeply flawed. Mullen is stating that, based entirely on his own personal experiences, Christian charities are awesome and anyone who doesn’t think so is false. So let’s consider what sort of a person Mullen is, shall we? I’ve already mentioned how he’s an outrageous homophobe, but did I also mention the fact that he was censured in 1989 for committing adultery with a member of his own parish? I think it’s safe to say that we can question any ‘personal experience’ such an unpleasant person has. In this statement he’s also confirming that Christian charities don’t preach and push their faith openly but instead use far more insidious means to do so (“preferring the good works to speak for themselves of the God from whom all goodness flows”).
Finally, I come to the excellent point that Alan made about the good reverend’s article and its central point; this idea that charity comes from Christianity. That’s right. Peter Mullen wants you to believe that the origins of human charity come from a faith that has only been around for a couple of thousand years, that for the hundreds of thousands of years before this we were all selfish douchebags towards each other. Seriously? You think that it took a carpenter in the middle of a fucking desert to make us all be nice to each other? Charity is an aspect of human kindness; without this, how did the incredible empires of the Greeks and the Chinese come to be? Hell, how did we even survive long enough for Christianity to come into existence?
Christianity does not have the monopoly on charity. It has never had it, no matter what Peter Mullen believes.
I don’t buy his bullshit, and you really shouldn’t either.