One talk too many

Hmm. Paul Sims at the New Humanist is still enthusiastic about the possibilities of dialogue between believers and non-believers. I agree that that can be a fine thing, or an anodyne thing, much of the time…but there are limits. I’m not sure Paul is sufficiently aware of what the limits ought to be.

Last night, I attended a meeting between representatives of Catholic Voices and members of the Central London Humanist Group (CLHG), which took place in the hall of St Saviour’s Church in Pimlico. It was the second such event, the first having taken place in central London last October – the point, as I explained in a piece in the current issue of New Humanist, is to experiment with the idea of humanists and Catholics sitting down and engaging with each other on contentious issues in a cordial manner.

But as I mentioned last December, the humanists weren’t sitting down with “Catholics,” they were sitting down with Catholic Voices

a bureau of Catholic speakers able to articulate with conviction the Church’s positions on major contentious issues in the media.

Shills. PR reps. Propagandists. Apologists. They’re not just random Catholics, they’re people who have appointed themselves to defend whatever the church decides is its “position.” No, I don’t think there is any merit in having a nice chin-wag with people who are in the business of not changing their minds.

And then there is the substance.

They talked about the bishop of Phoenix. Discussion was somewhat heated, but…

it never quite spilled over into an outright argument. This, I think, was helped by the nature of the meeting – the fact that it consisted of just 21 people sat around a table provided a check on it descending into a shouting match, and encouraged people to listen to the points being made. There was, of course, no prospect of full agreement on this most contentious of issues, but I do think we reached a degree of understanding in certain respects…

Fuck that. There is a limit, and the bishop of Phoenix is way beyond it. I don’t want to reach “a degree of understanding” with people who think it’s all right to try to force hospitals to let women die because saving them requires ending a pregnancy of 11 weeks. I don’t want to reach “a degree of understanding” with people who think a woman and a fetus should die instead of a fetus only. I want to say they’re supporting a terrible, evil, immoral policy, and if they can’t see that there’s something wrong with their thinking.

I don’t want to have a “dialogue” with the Taliban. I don’t want to have a “dialogue” with al-Shabab. I don’t want to have a “dialogue” with anyone who defends the bishop of Phoenix’s actions.

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