Xenophobia from the pulpit

Disclaimer: I have tried to translate the original German lines from the report and Mr. Algermissen’s sermon as close to their intended meaning as possible. When in doubt, check the original report in German linked to in this post. My original post in German is available here.

It‘s not a new fact that the church – especially the catholic church – is somewhat arrogant and presumptuous. Apart from historic events like sale of indulgences, crusades, the inquisition, and – somewhat more recently – abuse of children by church „dignitaries“. And that‘s only the catholic church. For now, I’ll just stick to them (for obvious reasons). With its track record, one would think they ought to weigh their words a bit more. But then, that gets us back to the “arrogant” part. If your resident boss is the only infallible human being on earth, something like this can easily happen …

At least that’s the impression one gets when reading about the Easter message from the Fulda, Germany, bishop Algermissen, as reported here and here (German news sites, original version – click here and here for Google translation to English).

The title line of the first article in my opinion is audacious and an affront for any non-christian person – no matter if they are a believer or not: “Humans without belief in Easter are a great security risk”. Excuse me, Mr. Algermissen (please add the stereotypical raised voice of an african-american lady to the line for full effect)!? Sure, the connection is easily made, especially with the background of current events in Belgium, Turkey, Pakistan, … (the list could be continued for quite some more, even if western media doesn’t like to report on events outside their target audience’s areas of attention). With such a line you are firing up xenophobes, but also it is a slap in the face for peace-loving blievers of whatever denomination or faith, as well as humanistically oriented people (or let’s call them by what they are: atheists). With the continuation of your speech, refugees are depicted as often having a “strong belief” (implicitly – of course – referring to Muslims), while our country has a decrease in belief. Let me think, where have I heard something like that before…? Mr. Algermissen, say, have you been at an AfD (nationalistic, right wing party in Germany) or Pegida (self-proclaimed “patriotic europeans against the islamisation of the western world” – right-wing, nationalistic and xenophobic) event lately and borrowed some of their “arguments”?

Have you noticed, that even with the “notoriously extremistic” Muslim believers the overwhelming number of people are moderate, progressiv and peaceful and are against the terrorist acts as much as believers of Christian (or Jewish, or many other) faiths. So why do you, Mr. Algermissen, portrait anybody not sharing your faith as a “security risk”? What would Christians say if, based on the attacks on refugee housing, all people of Saxony were said to be terrorists? (OK, bad example, has already happened to a certain degree) Or if all people of North Rhine-Westphalia, as based on the plain numbers, more anti-immigrant acts were recorded there in 2014 than in all of the five eastern states combined! The percentage of extreme islamists in all Muslims is probably similar (or even lower). The outrage of people like Mr. Algermissen, Mr. Seehofer (Bavarian minister-president) or Mrs. Petry (front-womand of the AfD party) would be instantaneous.

Just because (currently) the number of Christians in Germany (definitely in the rather conservative Fulda) is still high, Mr. Algermissen can spew such a sermon.. Luckily, Germany doesn’t have a state religion (at least on paper), we still have freedom of religion, though freedom from religion might not be so present – equality in front of the law still means (as in many other countries) that religion profits from a multitude of advantages not granted to non-religious people. But that’s a topic for another day.

Regretably, Mr. Algermissen did not stick to religious scenearios of fear, but also had to digress into worldly topics, namely genetic engineering. Surely nobody can deny that the potential for abuse is real, but Germany (and Europe) does have some strong legislation limiting it. To a point that even scientific research that is needed for treatment and possibly curing life-endangering diseases like cancer is restricted or prohibited by purely religious arguments (keyword embryonic research – which scientifically reasonable arguments – and proofs – are there to attribute a cluster of cells that do not even have started to form a brain with a “soul”?)

Well, let’s just keep it at that, and turn to the next insolence: (trying to translate these prose sentences accurately…)

Without Easter and without the resurrection of the crucified and his victory over the power of death humans would have to “suffocate in the breath of the powers of death”

The hope in the resurrection of the dead be “our perspective and future”.

It lets us live humanely and die in the hope of partaking of the everlasting Easter celebration.

Wow. Mr. Algermissen, you do see that these arguments are pretty similar to those used by fanatic islamists as a vindication of their suicide-attacks? Instead of living and celebrating their lifes, instead of making this world into a better place for all humans (which, admittedly, won’t be easy – or cheap), the hope in reaping rewards for one’s actions after death is raised. A hope without a single shred of proof (sorry, but a 2000 year old story-book isn’t proof, most definitely not one that will stand the test of scientific method).

Without the crucified and resurrected our existence resembles a question without answer, and a journey without destination.

Hm – maybe you should look at it this way: In life, the journey should be the destination! Every human deserves a life worth living! But that brings us back to the “not easy” point. Regrettably, even the catholic church doesn’t seem to want to take much action to further the well-being of humans, considering the amounts of worldly wealth and estates it own, instead of giving it out for the sake of helping people in dire needs!

The other points in the report on the sermon also do not stop any humanistic, scientifically orientied human with a brain and the ability to think from shaking one’s head in disbelief over the amount of brain-washing contained. Topics like christ having “fought for the hope in everlasting life” (why does an all-powerful, loving god require his worldly clone to be killed? If I love somebody, shouldn’t I forgive without my doppelganger suffering for it?), or that the bible being right about the report of the empty tomb, because it appears similarly in multiple books of the new testament? Anybody slightly knowledgeable on the topic of the bible’s history must scratch his head here – starting with the fact (and it’s not a belief, even bible scholars acknowledge this) that the books of the new testament don’t consist of reports written independently at the same time of the events, but partly well apart over multiple centuries, citing parallels as “proof” is laughable. Add to that the fact that the new testament was put together by the church several hundred years later, based on the opinions and standards of the church’s leaders at the time, only adding scriptures that suited them, even though many more scriptures from Jesus’ time existed, some/many of which partly contradicting them. So, with only scriptures fitting to each other added to the bible, using those same similarities as proof for their correctness is a circular proof and therefore no proof at all, showing once more how much the church thinks of truth and provability.

To add to that, Mr. Algermissen refers to “bible scientists”, which in my opinion is an oxymoron. Apart from some few historic facts none of the parts relevant for anything of the christian belief can be scientifically proven (otherwise one wouldn’t need belief, as it would be fact). And just because the grave is supposed to have been empty, and one “would believe if one had seen it” doesn’t make it any more true: The (assumed, based on the reports in the bible) fact that Jesus wasn’t really very well-liked by the roman rulers could have led to his body being removed in fear of his perceived martyrdom. Also, the belief in his resurrection could have also helped keeping down protests due to his crucifiction – after all, if his death were to be seen as inevitable base for the forgiveness of sins, you can’t really blame the romans for fulfilling Jesus’ destiny, right?

OK, continuing in the report … or rather repeating the said in different words:

In the light of Easter, one’s life gains a perspective; it relieves from the rush of existence and the lust for life, which are a hidden fear of life. “The human without Easter lives by the merciless motto: whatever you have not achieved until you die, that you have lost”

One could say: With this attitude you (try to) pacify a society where the gap between the different levels of prosperity is ever widening. Society’s gains as economical prosperity for many, which had manifested beginning with the industrial revolution is once again being lost. While few amass more and more wealth, a growing percentage of society find it hard to live decently on an honest job’s pay (and usually hard jobs, too). Which is something that was happening during the “glory days” of the church (e.g. during the dark ages). Religion managed to protect the ruling minority (part of which it was itself) with its message of peace and the belief in a better hereafter, while earning great wealth from the stupid subjects (through indulgences and “voluntary” offerings)

Nowadays, the churches have a problem: More and more people aren’t the stupid, obedient sheep anymore. Secession from the church, partly (but not solely) due to the abuse of children by priests, are increasing constantly. If believers were more honest to themselves, and if children weren’t infused with the belief in god with cruel threats (what, threatening a child with everlasting hell fire and torture isn’t cruel? Well, in my book it is! That’s child abuse if you ask me!) the numbers would probably be very much greater. The question left is whether believers shouldn’t start understanding the mental attitude of the church, with people like Mr. Algermissen, who ought to be a paragon for his “sheep” (for once, the term is fitting), deliver a sentence like:

The human without belief in the resurrection becomes a great security risk for his social world, as his precipitousness and fear of existence make him “strike and destroy”. He litterally will go over dead bodies, before he turns into one himself. We just now see this happening in these weeks and months.

Dear Mr. Algermissen, I do not know how many people you would have killed had you not your belief in god and the resurrection. I’m not sure if I want to know, either. I, though, do not believe in it anymore, and you know what: Due to my non-believing, I have murdered, beat, abused and raped all of the people I wanted to! And do you know how many that is?

The number of people is “0”. Because my morals – and the morals of almost all that do not (and do) share your belief – have progressed independently from the “moral instance” called the church. Morals that are not outdated by 2000 years of stagnation and ignoring millions of scientific discoveries, but on par with a thinking, feeling, empathizing, loving and learning society and humanity.