This is truly tran­scen­dently stu­pid. The Daily Mail, among quite a few other sources, is report­ing that the Vatican — pos­si­bly in an early run to begin apol­o­gism for its cur­rent Pope’s his­tory — has gone on record as say­ing that Hitler and Stalin were pos­sessed by the Devil, which is why they were such awful, awful men.

I guess that explains the footage shot by Leni Riefenstahl of the Nuremberg Rally that shows Der Führer spew­ing what appears to be pea soup as his head spins madly around.

This is a state of denial. It’s much eas­ier — and vapid, and more dan­ger­ous — to attribute evil actions to a super­nat­ural agency than to admit that reg­u­lar human beings can do hor­rif­i­cally ter­ri­ble things.

After all, if you start down the path of blam­ing peo­ple for their own mis­deeds, you quickly arrive at the con­clu­sion that any­one could be a Hitler or Stalin, pro­vided (1) insan­ity and (2) enough power.

And many peo­ple don’t want to reach that con­clu­sion, because it ter­ri­fies the hell out of them.

I can under­stand that. But in the year, cen­tury and mil­len­nium we cur­rently inhabit, falling back on this super­sti­tious idiocy is uncon­scionable. (Next thing you know, we’ll have rep­re­sen­ta­tives of world gov­ern­ment insist­ing — against cen­turies of his­tor­i­cal fact — that intel­li­gent ques­tion­ing of those in power is some­how wrong.) It’s saner and safer to face, directly and with­out resort to mag­i­cal think­ing, the very real fact that the seeds for Naziism lie in all of us, as do the seeds for pros­per­ity, peace, lov­ingkind­ness and genius.

The way to keep memetic tumors from erupt­ing is not to hand-​​wave them off as the results of some phan­tom entity or as bizarre excep­tions to a puta­tive norm; we must look coura­geously and hon­estly into the faces of all our “demons” and do our best to under­stand — and dis­em­power — them.

The Catholic church, with its centuries-​​long his­tory of denial of real­ity (begin­ning with Galileo and end­ing with raped altar boys) is emphat­i­cally not a source of ratio­nal, sane or intel­li­gent dia­logue about the mod­ern world or any his­tor­i­cal event that has ever occurred.

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