Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Cognitive Dissonance of Mother Teresa's Defenders

Celeste Owen-Jones has written a ridiculous response to some criticisms of Mother Teresa. The very end of her article contains the jist of the whole: [...]if Mother Teresa did such a bad job helping others, why not save that time spent criticizing her to instead try to make a difference in this world?

I really wonder, would Ms Owen-Jones respond thusly to criticism of anyone else? Would even a publication as silly as her employer, The Huffington Post, publish such a defense of anyone else? It's absurd in several different ways.

Perhaps most obviously, Mother Teresa's critics ARE trying to improve the lot of the sick and destitute in Calcutta -- by shining a bright light on the shortcomings of Mother Teresa's clinics, they're trying to improve the chances that these people will receive competent medical care, in sanitary conditions, by people with enough compassion to give pain medication to someone who's in agony.

The author seems to think that the last sentence of her article is somehow more than an attempt to change the subject and impune the character of the critics. But how does she know how much money and time Mother Teresa's critics give to charity and to the support of more humane governmental policies, and other efforts to help mankind? She doesn't know, obviously. Rather than even attempt a substantive response to the criticism, she hurls ridiculous, childish insults. When has it ever made sense to respond to criticism of an historical figure by asking the critics to shut up and go forth and do good works (and assume that they don't do good works already)? But perhaps the final words of Ms Owen-Jones' article actually are more than a change of subject and a silly insult. More, and not in a good way. If you look around through the readers' comments under this article in The Huffington Post, it seems that "Why doncha try ta do better n Muddah Teresa, huh? Ya ijit, ya!" combined with a complete obliviousness to the substance of the criticisms -- that the clinics were filthy breeding grounds for disease, that hypodermic needles were rinsed in cold water before being used again, instead of being properly sterilized and instead of accepting abundant numbers of clean needles which people tried to give to the clinics, that doctors and nurses who volunteered to treat the patients were turned away and the patients attended to by nuns without medical training instead, among other accusation which are even more chilling -- is the rallying cry of a veritable horde of pious fools blind and deaf to the faults of saints and soon-to-be-saints. It's obvious that Hindus aren't the only ones with sacred cows. How do we reason with people determined to remain unreasonable?


  1. I never got past the first sentence...when you start with calling someone's reasoned opinion "ridiculous" you forfeit the right to listened to.

  2. No, it's OK to state one's thesis in the opening sentence.