Sunday, March 26, 2006

Do Unto Others

It's Sunday morning, so it's time for some religious studies. And this is some study!

Citing this Pew Survey, Bill Maher discusses the hypocrisy of those religions (and their followers) who condone torture despite religious teachings to the contrary, with Reza Aslan, author of "No god but God," on Real Time: Do Unto Others.

In the Nation article accompanying the Pew survey, entitled "Americans, especially Catholics, approve of torture," it was observed that the public is not just apathetic about the use of torture, but that "a majority of Americans actually approve of the use of torture under some circumstances." Among the findings:

A survey by the Pew Research Center in October showed that 15 percent of Americans believe torture is “often” justified, and another 31 percent believe it is “sometimes” justified. Add to that another 17 percent who said it is “rarely” justified, and you have two out of three Americans justifying torture under certain circumstances. Only 32 percent said it is “never” justified, while another 5 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

But the portion of Catholics who justify torture is even higher, according to the survey. Twenty-one percent of Catholics surveyed said it is “often” justified and 35 percent said it is “sometimes” justified. Another 16 percent said it is “rarely” justified, meaning that nearly three of four Catholics justify it under some circumstances. Four percent of Catholics “didn’t know” or refused to answer and only 26 percent said it is “never” justified, which is the official teaching of the church.

In contrast to these statistics, 31 percent of Protestants believe torture is never justified, while 41 percent of people identifying themselves as secular oppose torture under any circumstances. So those godless athetists don't believe in torture. No wonder they are so reviled.

The article also interviewed Catholic theologians who affirm that "the church is unequivocal in its denunciation of all torture." It would have been interesting to compare whether those same people are in the pro-life and in the homophobic camps of the Church. I wouldn't be surprised to find a corollary in these views. The irony, of course, is that the justification for the anti-gay and pro-life views are Church teachings -- the same source that is disregarded when the subject is torture.

Of course, if you're Catholic, you can understand why torture is viewed differently. Especially if you went to Catholic school. It was something the nuns excelled at.

If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses. -- Lenny Bruce

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