Paris Hilton makes sex tapes. Mother Teresa had just been made a saint.
Question for every reader: So who's the better person, Paris Hilton or Mother Teresa?
I ask because the Pope has just declared that Teresa deserves elevation to his church’s second-highest realm of worship; and because several years ago Paris was put forward to play the priestess in a putative film, and the subsequent furore made it clear that not everyone sees Teresa the same way the Bishop of Rome does. Yet her life and work and the church’s responses to it certainly do pull back the curtain on what lies beneath religious faith and its ethic of altruism.
At the time Paris was being promoted, for example, Penn & Teller's Penn Jillette was outraged at the vile suggestion ...
On his CBS radio show, Penn Jillette commented on the rumour that Paris Hilton may play Mother Teresa in a movie. He said Mother Teresa "had this weird kink that I think was sexual" about seeing people suffer and die. He also said that "Paris Hilton is so far above Mother Teresa on the moral scale, she should not lower herself" to playing the saintly nun. After comparing Mother Teresa to Charles Manson, Jillette again said she "got her [sexual] kicks watching people suffer and die."
He concluded by saying, "Paris Hilton. You're so much better than that. Don't take the gig. Keep making good wholesome porn films. Just do that. Do what you're cut out for. Don't lower yourself to playing Mother Teresa."
Naturally, the Pope’s emissaries in the US were outraged, demanding Penn and Teller be sacked from CBS for plumping for Paris and and dissing the imminent saint.
But I thought of the argument again when the Pope threw around the Holy Water yesterday.
Because I'm still with Penn. Whatever else she might do, Paris (I'm told) does make good sex tapes. Which is at least some sort of achievement. Whereas the woman who made a life celebrating suffering (which is what she made her life’s work) is nobody to worship. Christopher Hitchens pointed this out some years back in his all-warts bio of the woman he observed watching people suffer and die, arguing:
Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?Surely not. But how could someone elevated to sainthood be such a vicious crone? Perhaps because the very ethic of altruism (i..e, otherism) that sainthood demands. This brief excerpt from 'The diabolical works of Mother Teresa,' by then Auckland University's Robert White helps explain:
You see, Mother Teresa believes that poverty and suffering are "gifts" from God. And the sisters in her order, The Missionaries of Charity, are taught that suffering makes God very happy. Mother Teresa once recounted, with a bright smile, how she had told a terminally ill cancer patient, who was suffering from unbearable pain, that, "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you." Now, get that. According to Mother Teresa, Jesus, who, remember, is a moral ideal in her religion, expresses his "love" through tormenting the sick and the dying, while his father - God - gets his kicks from watching their suffering. This is pure sadism. And, unfortunately for the poor, Mother Teresa was ruthlessly intent on making God a very happy deity.'
I would describe mother Teresa as a fraud, a fanatic and a fundamentalist [concluded Hitchens]. Everything everybody thinks they know about her is false. Not just most of the things ... all the things.
So this, perhaps, is the irrevocably logical conclusion of altruism, an ethic seemingly demanding kindness to others but increasingly needing their suffering to demonstrate your own “goodness.” Not an ethic that can or should be practised for too long.
Even if you remove from the equation the intended suffering of others, if faithfully followed (as the church commands), it is impossible to achieve the ethic of other-ism without suffering.
Civilization would literally come to a stop if people stopped pursuing their own interests. Famine and poverty would immediately overtake not just the United States and the Western world, but all of humanity. Billions would die, and they’d die quickly. This is morality? Granted, there would be a lot of needy people desperately crying out for the efforts of a Mother Teresa. But even Mother Teresa, or her contemporary equivalents, would all be famished and diseased themselves, since all of civilization had stopped working. How would she and her Pope fly in their airplanes, and cure their own illnesses, so they could regain their strength to aid the needy? Where would they get the money to fund their projects? In a collapsed economy, there would be no donations.
Without the pursuit of the self-interest they damn, the church itself would not even have the riches it so fastidously hoards. So thank Galt we’re not all Mother Teresa, says Michael Hurd.
Funny how even today, 900 years after Maimonides demonstrated that the best way to help a poor man is to fund a business that will give him a productive job, and with it the self-respect and independence that come from productive work, Christians still think that the best way is to build him a hospital to die in - without even analgesics to ease his pain - when he gets ill from one of the many diseases caused by staying poor.
Michael Dell employs 8600 people in India. Larry Ellison (Oracle) somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000. IBM 39,000. Together, that's around 60,000 workers; with their families, about a quarter million, who in the unlikely case they get sick (people with good jobs do not get sick anywhere as often as the really poor) can afford real medical care, including analgesics - instead of the unmedicated pain dealt to the poor in 'Mother' Teresa's hospital down the road.
So, if you really want to throw some money at poverty in India [advises Adam Reed], invest in Dell Computer, in Oracle, in IBM. The people of India will grow richer, and you will too. Harmony of interests and all that.
Paris at least can be criticised for being no more than a hedonist, whose pursuit of short-term pleasures is at least some kind of pursuirt of happiness, and ultimately may at least hurt no-one but herself. Constrast that with the Catholic philosophy, which preaches that suffering is moral, that guilt is unearned and (in the words of Mother Teresa herself) "the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."
But the church’s advocacy of suffering and the litle witch’s own sadism is much, much more damaging, and not just to the others that the ethic of other-ism ultimately demands. So perhaps this why, towards the end of her life this grizzled Albanian witch who now wears the robes of Christian sainthood began to question her calling, her faith, and even the very existence of the god the was supposed to be worshipping in her work (abundant evidence in her letters that the Vatican chose to ignore).
According to her own letters, Mother Teresa was "tormented" (her word) by "doubts concerning her faith."
... The silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves but does not speak ...
As one wag said at the time, “That’s ‘cos there's no one there dear!”
Yet pathetically the Church used even this “doubt” (hardly a strong enough word to describe the self-hatred and emptiness at the heart of her black soul) to massage their own argument for faith.
Mother Teresa’s response to her own bewilderment and hypocrisy (her term) reveals just how like quicksand religious faith can be [observed Sam Harris]. Her doubts about God’s existence were interpreted by her confessor as a sign that she was now sharing Christ’s torment upon the cross; this exaltation of her wavering faith allowed her “to love the darkness” she experienced in God’s apparent absence. Such is the genius of the unfalsifiable. We can see the same principle at work among her fellow Catholics: Mother Teresa’s doubts have only enhanced her stature in the eyes of the Church, being interpreted as a further confirmation of God’s grace. Ask yourself, when even the doubts of experts are taken to confirm a doctrine, what could possibly disconfirm it? [Emphasis mine.]
Such is faith: when its loss is confirmation of its existence.
Such is altruism: when self-sacrifice is demanded then self-destruction and suffering can never be far behind.
How much less damaging than a saint then in every respect is a semi-celebrity porn actress famous for being famous.
And how heartening to see in Stuff’s posting of the story that the majority of commenters would seem to agree [scroll down for comments]..
The church may call her a saint, but it appears many New Zealanders at least see that news or the witch as nothing at all to worship.
- Penn & Teller on the Albanian Witch – YOU TUBE;
- Penn & Teller on the Friends of the Albanian Witch – YOU TUBE