Religion, philanthropy and Mother Teresa

Gott ist tot.

Or “God is dead”. Thus spake Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course, there is no evidence that God ever existed in the first place, but Nietzsche meant that in another context. Even if there were any evidence from the past that it did (I have always had a queasy feeling referring to the supposedly Supreme Being as a “He”. Yes, even before I became an infidel), evidence (and/or the lack of it) from the present would certainly have repudiated it. And if God did indeed exist, it certainly has much less authority over anything than even winds do over mountains. It does nothing to rapists of infants , but must take issue with homosexual love . It is never sure which religion it wants people to follow, but must rail against those who don’t believe in it:

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Matthew 12:30

Drinking wine and eating pork are graver sins than liquidating “unbelievers”(complete with the apologist’s rather enlightening take). One would also like to ask why it suffers from so much social anxiety that it can never afford to make a public appearance, especially to those damned gadflies called “skeptics”. So, if the “good God” ever did exist, it’s either dead or just as good as dead.

One very troubling thing God has on its conscience (assuming it has any) is socioeconomic disparity. Let us compare:

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Bill Gates obsession in the ’70s vs that in the 21st century
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Malnourished children through the ages

Apparently, Bill Gates has evolved. So “philanthrocapitalists” do. The “poor” people don’t seem to. I apologize if the pictures of malnourished babies I have posted are a pain to look at. I admit I can’t look at them myself. But I needed to do it to make clear the outrage of it. As this article says:

McGoey enumerates three obvious problems with philanthrocapitalism, illustrating each with reference to the Gates Foundation.

……….the Gates Foundation is the single largest donor to the World Health Organisation (WHO), donating more than even the US government. While the WHO is accountable to the member governments, the Gates Foundation is accountable only to its three trustees – Bill, Melinda, and Warren Buffet. It is not unreasonable to wonder if the WHO’s independence would not be compromised when 10% of its funding comes from a single private entity “with the power to stipulate exactly where and how the UN institution spends its money.”

Just for verification, I found the 2014 WHO report which actually sets the Gates Foundation at the second spot -with a net contribution of $256.5 million- behind the US which made a contribution of $300.7 million, so if McGoey has used data from 2014, then she is slightly off the mark there, but we have to remember that we are comparing a nation whose GDP is $17 trillion against a handful of philanthropic oligarchs. No other entity on that list comes anywhere close to the Gates Foundation. It’s inarguable that the Gates family are the greatest philanthropists on Earth. Yet, it’s distressing to find that the number of malnourished people, most of them children, has not come down much, even though the numbers might have come down in terms of percentage of total population (I don’t want to go into how merely addressing malnutrition and hunger doesn’t necessarily do anything to alleviate poverty). Even worse is the fact that the number of children dying of hunger hasn’t come down. I’m not blaming anyone, nor saying that these efforts or contributions should not be made, but evidently prime-time philanthropy has not come to the kind of rescue you would expect. Malnutrition and hunger are much more complex than mere numbers might suggest. So complex, that if some estimates are to be believed, the world has the capacity to feed 12 billion mouths while the total population of the world is 7 billion. In spite of this, there are still almost 800 million people going hungry today. 3.1 million children under the age of five die each year because of malnutrition. That’s about 45 percent of all deaths in the 0-5 age group. Also,

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

However, the source of this conclusion tells us that:

Of course, the relationship shows only correlation, not causation, and the direction of causality could run in either direction (or in both directions).
In any case, even intuitively one can deduce that if societies have educated women (acting as free agents) contributing to their agricultural workforce (or any sector, for that matter), it’s bound to make a significantly positive contribution to overall production. But then again, greater production doesn’t mean better distribution. The problem seems to be distribution of food rather than production. Gender equality, however, is not merely indicated in only one social disease, and we know that very well.
But coming back to the point. Philanthropy doesn’t necessarily contribute much to tackling poverty, as can be seen. Also:
“philanthropy, by channelling private funds towards public services, erodes support for governmental spending on health and education.” With governments everywhere slashing their budgets for public goods such as education and healthcare, the resultant funding gap is sought to be filled by philanthropic money channelled through NGOs. But with one crucial difference: while the citizen has a rights-based claim on government-funded social security, she can do nothing if a philanthropic donor decides to stop funding a given welfare project – as has happened time and again in many parts of the world.
Indeed, donations can be contingent upon personal vagaries such as a divorce. This is too much power for one person or a small group of persons to have on the fates of millions of underfed and starving people. And, how is the very reason behind inequality -if not poverty itself- supposed to get rid of it?
the same businessmen who made their money through unhealthy practices that worsened economic inequalities are now, in their philanthropic avatar, purporting to remedy the very inequalities they helped create. In the case of the Gates Foundation, Microsoft’s illegal business practices are well documented in the US Department of Justice anti-trust case against the company. As McGoey puts it, the fortune now being administered through the Gates Foundation “was accumulated in some measure through ill-gotten means.
I can’t help quoting the late, indefatigable razor Christopher Hitchens again, talking about Mother Teresa :
The rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for “the poorest of the poor.”
I will come back to Mother Teresa in a moment, but the above assertion applies equally well to philanthropy. You have to be seen to be doing “good”. And to most people “giving to the poor” is a good thing. You give to the poor and then forget about them. Forever living on aids and donations is unlikely to do people much good, though. Because they are just that, people. Not pets. Philanthropists make a slick business out of this collective social predilection for penance for their “good fortune”. Very often, NGOs and the philanthropists funding them do not have a workable plan that is needed to tackle the complex problem of poverty, even if they have the best of intentions. That is something that the governments need to do, with all the credible (mostly) data and the human resources they have at their disposal. Governments usually have Constitutions and the people in a welfare state that they are answerable to, philanthropists do not. I would not discourage philanthropists from donating, but I would urge governments not to let their commitments to the people that they rule and the people that rule them (at least theoretically, in a democracy) waver.
It’s not much of a surprise that philanthropy has pretty much always been an attraction to the religious. For example, the Hindu religious text Rig Veda says:
II, 28, 9 – Varuna Sukta: The name of God in itself symbolises the twofold virtuous implication, – of always giving out help and never accepting help. In fact Varuna sukta is full of such frets, strands or reeds of that divine melody.
In other words, you should be arrogant enough to assume that you are “God” who can keep giving and never take anything. It certainly doesn’t take the miserable failures that human beings are into account. You almost need the poor people to exist to even deceive yourself that you can achieve such an impossible feat.
The Bible has this to say:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

— Luke 6:20

A glib assurance to the poor, and basically telling people that serving the poor is equivalent to serving God. As I said earlier, there is little to suggest that any such thing as God exists, let alone a “kingdom of God”. So the Bible, in a veiled manner -and perhaps unwittingly- assures the poor that they are consigned to a life, as well as an “afterlife” endowed with diddly-squat. Almost all religions have a similar  poverty fetish. Like most practical aspects of human life which religion addresses in a simplistic manner , the religious idea of poverty is imbued with a sense of mysticism and the bizarre concept that somehow the poor are the ones who are blessed more by God than the less (more?) fortunate.

 

Which brings me to Mother Teresa. The picture below explains Mother Teresa’s modus operandi :

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This is not a robot (nor a zombie), in case you were wondering

There is word in some circles that suggest that Christ, like his fabled Father, was a myth as well. Irrespective of what the truth is, it is for certain that he wasn’t alive enough to “deceive” anyone when Mother Teresa said that. When I look at this picture, which is a snapshot from a video, it does send a shiver down my spine; the very idea that she needed “broken bodies” in order to satisfy her lust for kindness is sinister and has a distinctive psychopathic component to it. Mother Teresa was once involved in spiritual trade with Ponzi scheme racketeer Charles Keating, who was busted after he was discovered to have drained thousands of hapless people of their hard-earned money. After he was indicted, Mother Teresa asked the judge who heard the case to pardon him:

Dear Honorable Lance Ito,

We do not mix up in Business or Politicts (sic) or courts. Our work, as Missionaries of Charity is to give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.

I do not know anything about Mr Charles Keating’s work or his business or the matters you are dealing with.

I only know that he has alway been kind and generous to God’s poor, and always ready to help whenever there was a need. It is for this reason that I do not want to forget him now while he and his family are suffering. Jesus told us ‘Whatever you do the least of my brethren…..YOU DID IT TO ME. Mr Keating has done much to help the poor, which is why I am writing to you on his behalf.

Whenever someone asks me to speak to a judge, I always tell them the same thing. I ask them to pray, to look into their heart, and to do what Jesus would do in that circumstance. And this is what I am asking of you, your Honor.

My gratitude to you is my prayer for you, and your work, your family and the people with whom you are working.

God bless you,
M. Teresa

The following was the response of the prosecution lawyer:

Dear Mother Teresa:
I am a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County and one of the persons who worked on the prosecution of your benefactor, Charles H. Keating, Jr. I read your letter to Judge Ito, written on behalf of Mr. Keating, which includes your admission that you know nothing about Mr. Keating’s business or the criminal charges presented to Judge Ito. I am writing to you to provide a brief explanation of the crimes of which Mr. Keating has been convicted, to give you an understanding of the source of the money that Mr. Keating gave to you, and to suggest that you perform the moral and ethical act of returning the money to its rightful owners.

The biblical slogan of your organization is ‘As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren. You did it to Me’. The ‘least’ of the brethren are among those whom Mr. Keating fleeced without flinching. As you well know, divine forgiveness is available to all, but forgiveness must be preceded by admission of sin. Not only has Mr. Keating failed to admit his sins and his crimes, he persists in selfrighteously blaming others for his own misdeeds. Your experience is, admirably, with the poor. My experience has been with the ‘con’ man and the perpetrator of the fraud. It is not uncommon for ‘con’ men to be generous with family, friends and charities. Perhaps they believe that their generosity will purchase love, respect or forgiveness. However, the time when the purchase of ‘indulgences’ was an acceptable method of seeking forgiveness died with the Reformation. No church, no charity, no organisation should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal.

I remind myself of the biblical admonition of the Prophet Micah: ‘0 man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you. To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.’ We are urged to love mercy but we must do justice. You urge Judge Ito to look into his heart – as he sentences Charles Keating – and do what Jesus would do. I submit the same challenge to you.

Ask yourself what Jesus would do if he were given the fruits of a crime; what Jesus would do if he were in possession of money that had been stolen; what Jesus would do if he were being exploited by a thief to ease his conscience? I submit that Jesus would promptly and unhesitatingly return the stolen property to its rightful owners. You should do the same. You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the ‘indulgence’ he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it!

If you contact me I will put you in direct contact with the rightful owners of the property now in your possession.

Before I forget, Mother Teresa never offered any answer to that. She had 5 years till her death to do that, by the way. Christ cannot deceive, but Charles Keating did. And Mother Teresa was happy to make use of that CHEATING (CHarles kEATING (sorry for the transgression)) money without giving any account for it, a practice that is innocently protected by Indian law to this day. In the video I linked above, apologist Bill Donahue says that Mother Teresa is “the most revered figure in India after Mahatma Gandhi.” He is certainly right about that, as this article will suggest. Hardly anyone in India dares to question Mother Teresa and her legacy death cult, the Missionaries of Charity. In fact, hardly anyone has ever questioned them:

I had recently come to know that the Missionaries of Charity had stopped giving orphans up for adoption, principally because of Catholic fundamentalist, homophobic objections to allowing single parents to adopt. That was probably the only thing that they had going for them, only redeeming feature, if you will. Or maybe now the abandoned babies have a better chance of getting proper care. Only time will tell, perhaps.

 

So, I decided I needed to check this out myself. I decided to check out the Missionaries of Charity office, or the “Mother House” first:

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The saint’s tomb

I wasn’t allowed to take photos of Mother’s museum, or of the bed in which she supposedly breathed her last (I was left to wonder why… maybe because the Missionaries hold her sacred). The nuns here were cordial enough. There were people (all evidently believers in the Mother myth) from Portugal, Spain and Japan, and they said they were having a wonderful experience. There was also a group of students from a school in the state of Odisha, who said they felt “great”. The place is pretty well maintained, neat and clean by any standards. I then drove to the hospice called Nirmal Hriday or the House of the Dying, and I wouldn’t blame you for detecting a macabre ring to it. When I reached there, close to a Hindu temple -and in such a crowded place that you could be excused for missing the building- I found that the doors were shut. For a moment, I thought they had shut shop for the day, before a Portuguese volunteer burst out of the door with a few colleagues. I asked her if I could go inside. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I don’t know.” I got in anyway, and found two grumpy old men guarding the door, and one of them asked me in a gruff voice, “What do you want?” I said I was just there as a visitor. He said, “There is nothing to see here. Just patients in a hospital.” I made excuses to find my way in anyway, saying I had come from afar just for this. After I got in, I completely missed the notice on the wall forbidding anyone from taking pictures. Here is the one picture that I managed to take:

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Does this tell you a story?

It was only after a gentleman, a volunteer I suppose, politely pointed to me what was hidden to me in plain sight, that I subdued the eager photographer in me. But the picture does manage to tell something, I guess. There were no doctors (still), just nuns and volunteers administering doses of God-knows-what to injured and terminally ill (ones with shaved heads) patients with makeshift drip arrangements. The needles still aren’t sterilized, and they still use stretcher beds to comfort the dying. I didn’t witness any deathbed conversion during my short visit. It was frankly difficult for me to stay there. To its credit, though, the Missionaries of Charity use a better lit hall and a cleaner room to do their shady business in. Not sure that makes much of a difference to the ones who are directly affected. I also wonder if the volunteers see nothing problematic with the entire practice. I forgot to ask them.

 

Mother Teresa herself boasted of being the leader of more than 500 convents during her lifetime. She was always seen with the rich and the powerful, the rich and the corrupt. She would also be seen with the “poorest of the poor” in order make the rich people feel better. India provided her with the perfect launchpad to promote a Nurse-Ratched-kind-of-cold and calculated religious fanaticism, since it has abundant desperately poor, ignorant and superstitious people, many of whom are severely ill and abandoned, and the Missionaries of Charity have slavishly and unquestioningly adopted her methods after her death. Mother Teresa invented her own myth, and successfully shoved it down the collective throat of the desperately hungry conscience of the petit bourgeois and the rich. That continues to live on in the minds of people, and in the legacy of negligence and death and suffering that she has left behind. Many people who could have been saved with timely intervention, died and continue to die because of this, untended, uncared for, sometimes in great agony and pain. The Indian government might not be able to find a solution to the poverty situation in India any time soon, but it must stop coddling the fundamentalist religious values that many people in India hold dear, and act in the interest of humanity by protecting the right to life of those hapless victims of cold-hearted fanaticism. God is dead, and Mother Teresa is the living (or dead) proof of that.

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