Tuesday, 7 September 2010

More self-serving hot air from Brendan O'Neill and Spiked

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Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

In this article for the online magazine Spiked, its editor Brendan O'Neill, self styled "radical humanist" and tireless campaigner against "neo-Malthusianism" (me neither), calls out New Humanist for being part of a campaign to demonise the Pope. New Humanist, he claims, along with the other New Atheists, have turned Benedict XVI into an atheist Antichrist. As evidence O'Neill cites some of the contributions to this issue's cover story, An Audience With The Pope, especially those by Richard Dawkins, Francis Wheen, Johann Hari and Claire Rayner, that are quite hostile to the Pontiff.

Well of course it is true that we have a few points we'd like to raise with the Vatican, and welcome a debate about whether the Pope's visit to the UK should be a state visit paid for in part by the taxpayer. But still, O'Neill's depiction of us is somewhat partial. His gloss of our coverage, for example, conveniently omits the sincere and powerful pieces written by committed Catholics Conor Gearty and Tina Beattie ("As a Catholic committed both to my faith and to the egalitarian values of modern society, particularly regarding the role of women, I do not believe that my only choices are to shut up or get out. What would you do, in my situation?"), the personal appeal to the Pontiff by child abuse survivor and campaigner Graham Wilmer ("All that is needed is a single sentence of support from you, no more, no less. I ask you, therefore, to help me help those who still suffer in silence...") or the serious questions posed to the Pope by Peter Tatchell, Philip Pullman and Richard Wilson (who begins, "At its best, the Church has been a compassionate advocate for the most vulnerable. But in recent years it has actively sided with human rights abusers..."). I can see why O'Neill left all this out – it would complicate his picture of New Humanist as simplistic God-bashers, as compared, I suppose, to Spiked's sophisticated iconoclasm and rigorous non-middle classness.

For some background on why we shouldn't expect much better see this piece from the LRB and to find out more about O'Neill visit his self-penned biography, where you can read what he thinks of himself: "When he’s not writing for and editing spiked, and commissioning journalists who have something to say and the guts to say it, O’Neill writes widely for publications on both sides of the Atlantic."

And if you want an accurate picture of where New Humanist stands on the Pope and the visit read Paul Sims' report from a recent debate on the subject.
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