The Roman Catholic cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster (UK), Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, retired back in April of this year. And it’s a good thing, too, because he said something outrageously stupid, which — by virtue of his now-unofficial status — the Vatican won’t have to apologize for (or perhaps more likely, swerve out of the way of apologizing for because in reality, they all agree with him). In a BBC interview, this sanctimonious idiot called atheists “not human.” Here’s a YouTube video containing this audio passage:

Commentary on the man’s insane drivel can be found all over the Web, including here and also here. Curiously, this story has not been picked up by the mass media — which contrasts the case of restored Bishop Richard Williamson, whose Holocaust denials, misogyny, and other venomous and crazy spew were widely reported. (Hmm. I wonder why.)

Murphy-O’Connor is guilty of various logical flaws, including conflation, as well as the old habit of projection. The syllogism goes like this:

  1. I, retired Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, am human.

  2. I believe in “the transcendant”

  3. It must be a property of “being human” to believe in “the transcendant”

  4. Atheists do not, however, believe in the transcendant

  5. Therefore, atheists cannot be human (conclusion)

His conclusions about what it means to be “fully human,” therefore, are premised on his own personal and subjective experience, not on objective or verifiable criteria. Generally speaking it’s never a good idea for folks to decide who is or is not “human” (or to use Murphy-O’Connor’s phrase, “‘fully’ human”) based on any arbitrary criteria, such as whether or not they believe in “the transcendant.” Historically, determinations of this type have led to horrible conclusions, such as that those “less-than-human” lives are subject to abuse, enslavement, imprisonment, punishment, or even death.

I also suspect that Murphy-O’Connor is being a bit subjective about what he refers to as “the transcendant.” There are a great many people in the world who believe in something “transcendant.” (In fact, the majority of humanity does.) Their versions of “the transcendant” vary greatly … both within his own religion, Christianity, and in other religions. But I’m not sure he’d grant all of their versions of “the transcendant” equal merit. I’m betting he’d dismiss the versions of “the transcendant” espoused by — say — Hindus, or Sikhs, or Wiccans, and maybe even of the other Abrahamic faiths such as Islam. Is Murphy-O’Connor willing to concede that a Neopagan (for example) is just as “fully human” as he is? Maybe … but I wouldn’t bet any money on that proposition.

When are religionists going to grow up and stop making incorrect, and possibly dangerous, assumptions about other people, based on their own subjective beliefs? Haven’t we had enough of this crap yet?

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