I’ve always considered myself a quiet non-believer, because atheism as a public militancy seemed useless to me, but now I’m changing my mind. The reactionary insolence of the catholic church needs to be answered with the insolence of lively intelligence, of reason, of the responsible word. We can’t let the truth to be offended everyday by the self-proclaimed representatives of god on earth, whose only real interest is power. The church doesn’t care about the destiny of souls, what it has always pursued is control over the bodies. Reason can be an ethics. Let’s use it.”

José Saramago, interviewed by Paolo Flores D’Arcais on the October 14th 2009 issue of “Il Fatto Quotidiano”.

23 Responses to “José Saramago (1922-2010)”

  1. #1 Tom T. says:

    I had not heard of this person, but an episode this week of The Daily Show, a satiric "news" (comedy) show, had one of their staff interviewing a group of priests and nuns who were out to trash Goldman Sachs and Wall Street in general. One quoted the Biblical injunction defining "usury" as the earning of *any* interest on money, which did not come from Jesus, but from those several centuries later who pretended to speak in His name. They criticized Wall Street’s lavish lifestyle.

    Interviewer: "Have you seen the ceiling of the Pope’s house?"

    Priest; (pause) "Well, it was already like that when he moved in".

    Turns out that this group was heavily invested with Goldman and the other Wall Street firms, fully familiar with credit default swaps and other exotic "derivative" investments, so it seems that they were kind of earning a return on their large wealth themselves.

    Killer point:

    Group member: "We want more transparency and visibility from these people in high places".

    Interviewer: "The Catholic Church is calling for more transparency and visibility?"

    Befuddled looks; they don’t get it.

    Interviewer: "Do any of you follow the news at all?"

    Group member: "Well, yes, some."

    Interviewer: "And are you aware of any issues with your Church regarding transparency and visibility"?

    Long pause…. "Well, we’re dealing with that."

    That was from memory. Video clip: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-17-2010/holier-than-dow

    Mr. Saramago was courageous and correct about the pursuit of power, documented as far back as the second century A.D. in, e. g., Gibbon’s "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".
    I’m sorry that I’ve not been aware of Mr. Saramago before. I’ll read more about him.

    Thanks for posting this. I honor his memory.

  2. #2 Morgan says:

    My friend Kevin gave me Blindness for my birthday one year, and it remains one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.

    Both Manute Bol and José Saramago just passed away - two very different, very special men. Rest in peace.

  3. #3 computerfreaker says:

    "reactionary insolence of the Catholic church"??? What in the heck is this guy thinking??
    Sure, some Catholics probably need to re-examine their ethics. So do many other people. However, I don’t believe the Catholic church can be classified as "reactionary" or "insolent" except by somebody who’s delusional. Sorry if that offends anybody, but that’s my honest viewpoint on the matter.

    I’m a Catholic, and can affirm that many, many Catholics aren’t "reactionaries" or "insolent" at all. If anything, we haven’t reacted enough to the state of affairs in the world today. If we had reacted more (and reacted correctly), perhaps the world would be better off than it is today.

    computerfreaker

  4. #4 Tiago Sá says:

    Saramago was an incredibly good man and I’m a proud compatriot of his. I freaking hated his writing style though, but I mourn him nonetheless.

    I remember something about people saying he "is a good man, but he’s communist". Later they went "he’s communist, but he’s a good man". He was definitively an important piece in the freedom of this sucky country that is Portugal from the grasp of fascism and, to an extant, religion. We owe him much, and our hearts are with the family.

  5. #5 Giorgio says:

    @computerfreaker:
    I was born a catholic, raised in a very religious family, been involved in many catholic movements and associations. I know about this religion much more than most “believers” (among which you can actually find many good persons who just don’t have a clue). Today I’m a proud debaptized and I haven’t the slightest intention of making my children suffer a baptism and be unwillingly turned into subjects of the pope.
    When you live in Italy like I do, you can easily realize (provided that you’ve got some brain left) how the catholic church is one of the very few remaining absolute monarchies, obscenely rich, absolutely amoral, trying to suppress free thinking and progress in every conceivable way, corrupting both politics and the society at large.
    I’m talking of nowadays catholic church, and I’m keeping out the pedophilia scandal. Don’t let me started about its criminal history which can’t be compared to any other organization, thanks to its longevity and its ability to merge with the major conservative secular powers over the centuries, be empires or fascist dictatorships. The sooner this plague fades away, the brighter the future of humanity can be: let’s hope this creepy Palpatine clone who sits on Peter’s throne right now lasts long enough, because he does give hope…

  6. #6 César Salgado says:

    Even though I live in Spain, my community still speaks a Portuguese dialect (Galician), and José Saramago is one of my favourite writers. Furthermore, Saramago as a public figure always spoke clearly what he considered to be the truth and had problems because of that. The fable says something similar happened to Jesus of Nazareth… :-)

    I was raised as a Catholic (99.9% of Spaniards of my generation were). Now I do not belong to any church, and I think most churches (meaning institutions, not individuals) are evil, but this does not impede me to believe in God. So, excepting for the word "atheism", I completely endorse Saramago’s words.

  7. #7 Tom T. says:

    @computerfreaker: I hope that we can all compartmentalize, which is to say, not let differences in personal beliefs affect our cooperation in IT matters, including your very welcome and helpful participation at NoScript Forum, and, for that matter, that we can all remain friends.

    Having said that, I would suggest - if you can find the time — reading the pertinent portions of the book I cited in my first post, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", by Edward Gibbon. The strife and power-lust among competing factions of the Church, at around, say, 300 AD, no doubt contributed to the weakening and eventual fall of the Empire. Example: The "Arian Controversy", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arian_controversy, in which the winners deposed and banished the losers. The torture of nuns by priests on "the other side" of this doctrinal dispute is a bit graphic, and probably would be R-rated as a movie, but that doesn’t make it not true — the book was written in the late 1700s, in very dry, academic style.

    A much shorter, easier to read, and entertaining account of these violent (literally) intra-church battles is in Gore Vidal’s semi-fictional novel, "Julian", factually true about the last pagan Emperor to rule Rome.

    One of the hazards of intent focus on a field such as IT is missing the broader world-view, especially if the education is directed by an institution with its own agendum. This was why the "liberal arts" curriculum was a staple a while back - education should produce well-rounded graduates who had been exposed to many fields of study and point of view.

    I support fully your right to your beliefs and to practice them, but wouldn’t knowing the full history of the faith make you better-informed, more able to understand past and present (and future) events, and be able to disavow the mistakes made while practicing the positive tenets and ethics of your faith proudly?

    For what it’s worth, atheists are the last unprotected minority in the US. Those who "go public" regularly receive death threats and other threats of retaliation, generally from "Christians" - which apparently is true in Portugal as well, as Mr. Saramago seems to have been persecuted. Such behavior against women, Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, etc., wouldn’t be tolerated, but atheists are fair game. Ironic — in its early years, Christians were persecuted, but once they got on top, they became the persecutors. (That happens to many other groups as well.) Especially ironic because Jesus said to love your enemies. Atheists aren’t even enemies; like Mr. Saramago’s early years, they generally keep to themselves. They tolerate Christians and every other religion, but most religions don’t tolerate atheists. Why do the devout feel so threatened, if they are secure in their faith?

    Anyway, study and learn from the past, then you can make an informed and voluntary choice of faith, which would be much stronger than unquestioningly accepting ancestry and schooling.

    And let’s all stay friends. Religion should bring peace, not war, else it’s not serving its purpose, right? :-)

  8. #8 Pam P. says:

    You have to be aware that the catholic church is just a religious group, that works like mobs, but we have to leave God out of this conflict, I was born in Ecuador, I was catholic since my birth, raised in many catholic schools, grew to hate all that was related to God, but I can say now that when I used to live in Miami, because of thinking live was a game in which only if you accommodate to the world and do as if everything bible says is just an exaggeration, I went so far, I ended up in jail, with a 25 years sentence, in a maximum security prison, and I did not even committed such a bad crime was just involve in a trap, but well to many of you that may not even know how is that case, I can only say what I learned, something that is my treasure, I got know God for who HE is not what people say, because people is deceitful, they will betray you, hurt you everything you can expect bad, people can do things you can’t not even imagine, and it happen in there, one day after weeks of been in there, I grabbed an old bible, now I know it was an old version, and is way different to the catholic bible, because it doesn’t have as much books like the last ones at the old testament, which were written many years after the first apostles, in the room I was there was only and old lady that didn’t have much, some food and a bible, this day after they turn off the lights, I looked thru this tiny window and saw the downtown of Miami around, and a beautiful night full of stars, and while I was crying my tears were dripping over the bible, so I grabbed the bible and said to God, if you really exist I want to do things over, I know I don’t deserve anything from you but if you take me out of here, I promise I will serve you the rest of my life, to make the longest history I have short, every time I will even had a though of what I was reading was a bad exaggeration written, something will happen in there that will show me it was real, so I started saying to God please talk to me, I need someone with me, so I will started to open the bible in many places and use to copy scriptures, every time I used to wait for court, you guys don’t even imagine the conditions, I just to take my little paper with scriptures like God is my shield, and many I collected, use to say them to the air while I was in court thinking if I say them out loud something magical may happen, what did I had to loose, to many this can seem crazy, but I did, I attended every sermon of any religion that will go to visit beside the catholic ones, and there is one I liked and that I keep it as my personal decision (of course I am not catholic…), but to finish this history, I am out of jail after a couple of miracles, all compound (inmates) use to say that nobody beats the government of the United States less if you are a bit guilty, even my state lawyer was in shock, let me tell you, I am not only free after seven months of putting my faith in God even if I knew it was kind of impossible, since the less people use to get was about three years, I am happy, I may not have nobody lost everything and everybody that was important to me, but GOD my GOD gave me a new life surrounded to people that are not perfect as I am not either, but we young people where I am try to make a difference, we don’t get people into a religion we just follow the bible and show people that GOD doesn´t need no body’s religious ways to show his glory… let me only leave you a thought… I dare you to tell GOD if you exist I want you to show me you do, and you me what you say is truth… don’t ignore the signals ok…..you can lie to anyone but you will know…… I CAN SAY HE IS 100% ALL AROUND…

  9. #9 computerfreaker says:

    @Mr. Maone:
    Yes, the Catholic Church has had its share of scandals and abuses. Yes, it’s sometimes joined with rulers to force people to do things (the Inquisition comes to mind). However, I don’t believe the Church today is a "monarchy". A few years ago, one of the few remaining traditional Catholic cardinals had an opportunity to speak to the Pope alone. He asked "Why don’t you do something?" (referring to the chaos caused by the "modernist" movement in th Church), and the Pope’s reply is truly memorable. He pointed to the end of the room and said "I can’t. My power reaches from here to there."
    I fully believe that most, if not all, of the Church’s problems have come from the modernist Vatican bureaucrats. This includes, as you put it, "hindering free speech and progress". These bureaucrats have even attempted to silence traditional Catholic priests who try to preach on "sensitive" issues (e.g. issues the Vatican really doesn’t want talked about).
    If we could get rid of the modernist movement within the Catholic Church, I believe that even life-long Catholics would be surprised by the results. That’s what a relatively small group of Catholics (myself included) have been fighting for for years.
    btw, don’t expect the Church to vanish anytime soon (or anytime at all). Jesus promised that the Church will stand until the end of time, and, even if the bulk of the Church is corrupted, there will still be some true Catholics left.
    I also feel that the current Pope (who is *not* an evil Palpatine clone, btw) does bring some hope. He’s probably one of the few people who could stop, or at least greatly slow, the modernist movement within the Church. I know he wants to.

    @Tom T.:
    I’m more than willing to compartmentalize; I’ve learned that, no matter where I go, I will work with people who I strongly disagree with on at least one important issue. Refusing to work with them because I don’t agree with them would be both arrogant and pointless. Therefore, I’m happy to work with people who disagree with me, then argue about the issues after hours. ;)

    I hadn’t been aware of the violence during the Arian heresy. It was definitely wrong, as was the entire heresy, and the power struggle only made it worse.
    On a related note, there seems to be another power struggle going on in the Church today: traditional Catholics vs. the modernist movement. Hopefully this struggle will #1 be peaceful and #2 (as the Arian power struggle was) will eventually result in the victory of good.

    I was also unaware that atheists have been, and continue to be, persecuted. True Catholics shouldn’t (and most probably don’t) do that; atheists, like the rest of us, have free will. Each of us has the right to try to persuade others to join us, but persecuting others because they don’t share our viewpoint is, IMHO, wrong regardless of who does the persecuting and who is persecuted.
    I don’t agree with atheists *at all*, but I do respect their right to their beliefs. And in the end, only God can decide who’s truly in the right and truly in the wrong.

    Peace!

    computerfreaker

  10. #10 VonGüldenstein says:

    @computerfreaker: So I guess you are one of those who want to revert the Second Vatican Council (since AFAIK it was an example of modernism in the catholic church to some extend)?

  11. #11 atheist says:

    "only God can decide who’s truly in the right […blah]
    And how does god promulgate her decisions?
    Do you hear a voice telling you that you’re in the right?
    Why doesn’t god tell me I’m wrong?

    What’s that god? You’ve never spoken to any blog commenter in your life?
    Until right now?
    Fuck off god.

  12. #12 computerfreaker says:

    @VonGüldenstein: yes, I definitely want to revert Vatican 2. IMHO, most of the Church’s problems began there, and most will end once Vatican 2’s harm is undone.

    @atheist: You *have* that little voice telling you when you’re right or wrong. It’s called a conscience.
    Even if you didn’t have a conscience, God’s laws are still there. They’re known as the Ten Commandments.

    And considering that God created you, and that He can remove you from Earth with a single thought, some respect is in order.

    -computerfreaker

  13. #13 untheist says:

    So get down upon your knees,
    Fiddle with your rosaries,
    Bow your head with great respect,
    And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

    Get in line in that processional,
    Step into that small confessional,
    There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
    Tell you if your sin’s original.

    thanks Tom Lehrer.

  14. #14 VonGüldenstein says:

    @computerfreaker: LOL, if wanting the Latin mass back is not reactionary, what is?

  15. #15 aclericist says:

    "if wanting the Latin mass back is not reactionary, what is?"
    May I have a go at an answer?
    The Vatican Cabinet wanting the mass back in Latin, the cracker back on the tongue, probably sees the way the wind’s blowing against the Roman Church all across the secularised, developed Western countries, and is looking to revive these externals of Roman Church practise in preparation for using the identity politics that minorities need for protecting themselves from assimilation into the dominant polity.
    The defence of the Vatican’s obscenity of wealth, and whatever corruption of the work of improving the life of the majority that it is still able to manipulate, will certainly need all the spin that Rapsinger’s mob can summon to argue that they shouldn’t be subject to the basic laws of the land. All churches still get away with some ghastly practises against secular society, but the world is gradually working against them.
    Right now it doesn’t look as though Joe’s got the guts or the brains for the work of making his crooked mob look good, so I look forward to the lava flow of human rights improvements rumbling along nice and steady and putting every cleric where they belong: with their crooked mouths shut and doing real work for a living.

    Most certainly it was Saramago’s clear voice that helped Portugal to become one of the first to fully recognise that women need to control their own fertility and that gay marriage is no more harmful than any other state ceremony.
    Less than a fifth of Portugal goes to church (of any kind) any more.
    Contemplate that you cleric lovers :-)
    Vale José Saramago.

  16. #16 Tom T. says:

    @ atheist: Your questions were reasonable enough until the last line, which was totally uncalled for — from *any* POV or *anyone’s* POV. computerfreaker and I had each agreed that we respected each other’s rights to their private beliefs, but putting profanity into the discussion is irrelevant, immaterial, disrespectful, and a sign of a limited vocabulary. I complain of persecution of atheists, and you give people reason to persecute them. It *is* possible to disagree politely - please do so. You can tell me to f@ck off, too, but as the old saying goes, "The man who throws the first punch has lost the argument". Same here - the first one to resort to foul language has lost the argument. (You also lose some readers — some parents install parental-control sw, and their children, who might be very high on the tech scale, might find themselves blocked from reading this blog, or wherever you post.)

    @ computerfreaker: Although the Catholic Church has some nasty history of persecutions, like the Inquisition that you mentioned, most of the *modern* persecution of atheists in the US has not been from Catholics, but rather, from the extreme fundamentalist (Protestant, I guess) "evangelical Christians". Attempting to persuade is fine; threats and violence are not. I’m sure we agree on that. :)

  17. #17 computerfreaker says:

    @VonGüldenstein: Vatican 2 was reactionary. Wanting the *traditional* Latin Mass back isn’t reactionary; if anything, it’s conservative or even ultraconservative. We Traditional Roman Catholics don’t like our Mass changed.

    @aclericist: first, I find it necessary to correct several terms you used. The so-called "cracker" is the Sacred Host, also known as the Sacred Eucharist. The "mob" is actually quite peaceful, although we are definitely not happy with the modernists.
    The bulk of the Catholic Church *is* modernist. There’s not many Traditional Catholics left, certainly not enough to force Rome’s hand on anything. If they’re bringing back the Latin Mass, it’s because His Holiness is finally taking control back from the modernists. All I can say is, "it’s about time".
    No offense to Mr. Saramago, but if it was his "clear voice" that caused Portugal to introduce two major sins (gay marriage and abortion), he’s going to have some serious explaining to do to God.

    @Tom T.: Yes, we definitely agree on the proper way to try converting people. :)

  18. #18 Giorgio says:

    @computerfreaker:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reactionary

  19. #19 computerfreaker says:

    @Mr. Maone: well, that’s embarrassing. I seem to have confused reactionary with revolutionary. Thanks for correcting me.
    Sorry for the mix-up, and yes, I am quite reactionary.

    computerfreaker

  20. #20 Tom T. says:

    @ computerfreaker and Giorgio Maone: What’s ironic (almost funny) about that Wiki article is that "reactionary" seems to apply to almost anyone, depending on who’s doing the applying. For example, I oppose the current trend and state of affairs in the US, with Govt. eavesdropping, warrantless wiretapping and searches, no habeas corpus, assumption of non-existent "Executive Privilege" by the POTUS (many POTUS, over the past 100 years), and a return to the principles of the Founding Fathers: The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and a strictly-limited government which is the servant, not the masters, of the people.

    So I guess that makes me a "reactionary atheist". Strange, indeed! :-)

  21. #21 atheist says:

    Portuguese Playboy got their Portuguese tribute to Saramago about right.
    http://gawker.com/5581656/jesus-appears-in-portuguese-playboy
    But of course the USA hegemon couldn’t be stopped from steamrollering the
    Portuguese back into the theist tarmac.
    Apparently smut is ok in the USA, but the Nazarene on a stick can’t go near it.
    Big ups to Portugal!

  22. #22 Gym says:

    If I thought that the Roman Catholic church represented Christianity, I think I would probably be an atheist too. The RCC is so far removed from what the Bible teaches that one has to wonder how many atheists its anti-Christianity has created.

  23. #23 aclericist says:

    Oh, ha ha. Very Xtian of you Gym; love your neighbour - - but only if they’re your flavour of patriarchal oppressor.

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