Friday, 26 February 2010

I hate massive generalisations as you know, but...

Bertrand Russell, polemicist, atheist philosopher and author of 'The Pursuit of Happiness'

The atheist is concerned primarily with what will make him happy. He is concerned with his happiness and finds but a fraction of it.

The Christian is primarily concerned with what will make God happy. She is concerned with His Happiness and finds it in its fullness.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta


Anonymous said...

Bertrand Russell, mathematical logician, heroic campaigner against senseless slaughter amidst the unquestioning British patriotism of the Great War, campaigner for female rights, campaigner for nuclear disarmament etc etc, is probably the worst example of a self-serving atheist you could possibly have selected.
Mother Theresa, insane old bag who siphoned donations to procure religious trinkets amidst the great suffering of those she was trusted to help, is probably the worst example of a socially beneficial religious figure you could have selected.

berenike said...

Er, well, the Christian is supposed to do what you say. I can't say I do :(

Mr Anonymous - "siphoning off" - from what? Donations to the sisters are for the work of the order. The work of the order includes praying, eating and sleeping. And indeed wearing clothes. Do you mind the fact that the sisters' habits and beds, and indeed everything, come from donations? If not, give your money to a charity staffed by volunteers who pay for their own keep (though if you find another one in a damp British city where four little Indian women with dodgy English run a twelve-bed men's hostel, feed sixty people a two-course meal six days a week and visit the housebound and prisoners, you'll be doing well.)

Anonymous said...

See the above link reviewing the book I got my information from (I had to search long and hard to find a review on a non-atheist blog, which obviously wouldn't have satisfied you. Since the publication it is reviewed in is one of the most respected literary journals in the Western world I trust its summary will be adequate). As far as I know the claims it contains are not refuted by any church authority, and are in any case substantiated by detailed footnotes. As the review is rather long I direct your attention to the following plums:

much of the money she receives remains unspent and unaccounted for. Hitchens’s contention is that Mother Teresa’s ambitions aren’t material at all, in the ordinary sense of that term; her aim is to establish a cult of austerity and suffering. The most disturbing section of the book, the first part of the chapter entitled ‘Good Works and Heroic Virtues’, does something to support this contention. Among the testimony of others (former nuns, social workers), we are given an account by Robin Fox, editor of the Lancet, written after a visit to Mother Teresa’s ‘operation’ in Calcutta. Dr Fox, although favourably disposed towards Mother Teresa’s work, found that medical facilities for the ill and the dying were not only woefully inadequate, but even prohibited or deliberately circumscribed beyond a certain point. Sterilised syringes, antibiotics and choloroquine for malaria were unavailable. Blood tests were seldom permitted. According to Fox, ‘such systematic approaches are alien to the ethos of the home. Mother Teresa prefers providence to planning; rules are designed to prevent any drift towards materialism.’ Moreover, ‘how competent are the sisters at managing pain? On a short visit, I could not judge the power of the spiritual approach, but I was disturbed to learn that the formulary includes no strong analgesics.’

Mother Teresa has been working in Calcutta for four and a half decades, and for nearly three of them she has been favoured with immense quantities of money and material. Her ‘Home for the Dying’, which was part of her dominion visited by Dr Fox, is in no straitened condition. It is as he describes it because that is how Mother Teresa wishes it to be. The neglect of what is commonly understood as proper medicine is not a superficial contradiction. It is the essence of the endeavour, the same essence that is evident in a cheerful sign which has been filmed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s morgue. It reads: ‘I am going to heaven today.’

I don't mean to be incendiary, and I don't want to seem like I am snapping at you. I do appreciate that the image of a frail old woman cradling a child is very appealing to most people in our age of iconography. however, the bible advises us well when it warns against the production of such icons (though as your church stopped you reading it for centuries it must have never struck you as odd that you worship in opulent palaces filled with such icons). My point has nothing to do with Theresa's habits (except for her negligent ones) - I don't care if she had a nice new veil every week. I only observe that money was forwarded to a senile old woman in good faith by people who expected it to be used in the care and protection of the sick and starving, not to fund some lunatic ascetics project of INCREASING world suffering!

The Bones said...

All I am saying is, she was Happy. Blessed. She fulfilled the beatitudes, not perfectly, none of us can do that, but God made her happy in this life and the next.

Anonymous said...

Bertrand Russell was happy too. He helped people. And Nepth will bless him in the after world. I have just as much evidence for the third claim as you have for yours and I stand by it

berenike said...

I'm less than not at all bothered about something being on an atheist website. Why should I be?

From what I've seen first hand of the sisters' work, and from what I've read by people who work(ed) with them or with Mother Teresa herself, (this could be a gross slander) I'm surprised any money stays with them long enough to be accounted for. Have you seen any MC convents? What mysterious inappropriate purposes do you (or Hitchens, or whoever) think it's gone on? Or is it just sitting around in bank accounts because ... - what? Do please say.

The MCs stick to the most basic of help. A chap I studied with spent a summer in India with them - he was literally carrying corpses through the streets. He said you can't imagine how poor people are until you see it. I would imagine the reason facilities are basic is because any money left over after covering a minimum of comfort goes to providing the minumum somewhere where it's not yet available. From what said friend said, people really do live on a couple of square metres of mud with their entire family. It might seem terrible not to be providing strong drugs to people in pain once you've brought them in out of the mud, but money spent on strong drugs in one place would mean n number of people somewhere else left to die unwashed in pain on the street without water. One Indian sister I worked with once made a sad remark about the fact that, compared to other places she'd worked in, the Brits coming to the soup kitchen wouldn't know material poverty if it hit them in the face. I don't mean that being poor you shouldn't have the best medical care. But the MCs work is not providing the best medical care - it's providing a minimum of comfort for folk who don't have any.

Other congregations and organisations run hospitals and other operations that of their nature require more "plant". The MCs by design try to provide a minimum of comfort to as many people as possible. I ran out of money at the end of this month, and it was odd to see how desperately I was digging through pockets, bags and pen jars trying to scrape enough together for a half loaf of bread - the money I normally throw without thought into a vending machine for a cup of tea I don't even want, and abandon half drunk on a window sill, never mind how many loaves of bread I've spent this month on books and beer alone. I don't know how much the drugs the doctor wanted to see would have cost, but I expect the money would cover roof, blanket food and water for one person for a good few days. What would you do? Buy the drugs for one person and leave the others to rot?

And the thing about the "cult of death and sufferring" is just weird :) Says more about Hitchens than about MT rofl.

Anonymous said...

Well the book was, as one might imagine, well received amongst militant atheists (about whom the less said the better), and so naturally most of the reviews will come from a biased perspective (though, of course, all perspectives are, by definition, biased). I would rather supply you with a nicely written review from a culturally savvy journal than the mutterings of some lunatic. Or rather I sought to take the culturally savvy review and process it into the mutterings of a lunatic for your benefit.

Your second paragraph suggests that you read neither the linked review nor the extracts from it that I took the time to supply you with (knowing full well you would get bored reading the full thing - I at least thought you could manage a few lines though). Please see the extract again - it makes it quite clear that the threadbare provisions of MT's churches and hospitals was not to be taken as evidence of poverty, but of a refusal to spend the money she did receive. And yes, since you ask, the book suggests that the money is sitting in some bank account. Naturally one does not have access to the details of Vatican finances but we can assume that they have many such bank accounts. The book, which I don't currently have to hand, specifies that something like (you will excuse my memory if this is false) $2.5 billion was donated to Theresa's mission - quite enough to provide every citizen of Calcutta with first class education, health care, accommodation etc. Theresa, as an ascetic/opus dei, did not wish to see such a pitiful sight as human happiness which, after all, distracts the mind from Christ's suffering. So... she did not spend the money. Just telling you what's in the book pal.

Secondly, I have noticed that a lot of the discussion you, and others, have raised is based on some sick 'white man's burden' fantasy in which you jet in from the world of reason to cure the poverty of the savage. In any case, your points are still incorrect, since it was not a lack of funds that led to MT's refusal to procure adequate medical provisions, but a lack of will. As the extract notes, a doctor writing in the Lancet (an august medical publication that we in the medical community rely upon), who was otherwise sympathetic to her mission (i.e. a Catholic), was horrified to see the extent to which she was neglecting the children in her care. Can I point out again that this is not a witch hunt, I am merely observing that if you are placed in a position of responsibility which ultimately gives you control over the lives and deaths of thousands of people, and furthermore if your position elicits $2.5 billion worth of donations from well-meaning souls, you have an obligation to care for those people. She did not, and is therefore to some extent culpable. Venial moral failings are common - refusing to help the sick and dying is not. MT is not a saint, please use the reason God has endowed you with rather than assuming that media hype must translate into God's will.

オテモヤン said...


Anonymous said...

My sentiments exactly, well said sir

berenike said...

Mr or Miss or Mrs or Mzzz anon:

I slept in horribly this morning because I went to bed very late because I was writing a reply to your comment. Then blogger wouldn't post it, claiming it had too much html (even after I took all the html out). And now I have thought of a less verbose way of putting it. But Idon't have time to write it now. I'll be back on Monday, I hope. Have a nice Sunday :)

Anonymous said...

Look forward to it. I'm still puzzled by the Japanese text (if indeed it is Japanese). Sorry to have kept you awake with an unnecessarily polarised debate (since I suspect we both agree on certain basic positions)

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