Church of Sweden Ineptly Tries to Smear Humanist Association

i-c7d3bd9e283ba4d4eedcae69c4204d8f-gerle.jpgThere’s a parliamentary election in Sweden on the 19th, and everybody’s hoping that the country’s little right-wing populist party won’t get over the 4% threshold needed to grab any seats. The “Swedish Democrat” party mainly offers a We Hate Foreigners ticket, with some Law & Order and Respect Your Elders thrown in to attract voters in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

The SD is generally despised among mainstream political parties and the media. So I was surprised but entertained when I found the ailing Swedish Church trying to smear the Swedish Humanist Association by means of a far-fetched guilt by association involving the SD.

The Reverend Elisabeth Gerle works for the church’s secretariat for theology and ecumenics, and also teaches ethics at the departments of theology in Lund and Uppsala. A press release on the church’s web site advertises her forthcoming book, whose title translates to “Dangerous Simplification. Religion and Politics From the Perspective of the Swedish Democrats and the Swedish Humanist Association”. Here’s her argument (and I translate):

“The Swedish Democrats have strong xenophobic traits that many politicians denounce. With regard to the Humanists, though, the authorities and politicians appear blind to the fact that an aggressive hostility to religion also targets recent immigrants. Is it possible that the Humanists are paving the way for the Swedish Democrats?”

This is of course such poor logic that it borders on the unethical. Gerle’s argument is that if I dislike woolen hats in general, then this means that I am specifically and discriminatingly hostile to green woolen hats.

The SD are hostile only to certain ethnic groups. The Humanists are hostile to all religions. The only ways the comparison between the two organisations might work would be if either a) the Humanists targeted only certain religions, or b) the SD were hostile to all ethnic groups including Swedes. Neither is true. Furthermore, the SD wants to kick people out of the country. The Humanists want them to stay and become secularised like everybody else here.

The Dept of Theology in Uppsala used to share a staircase with the Dept of Philosophy. Philosophy undergrads often (unethically) removed two letters from the theologians’ sign in the entrance, changing Teologiska to –ologiska. Ologiska means “illogical”…

Via Olle Svensk Strand and Jens Runnberg.

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13 thoughts on “Church of Sweden Ineptly Tries to Smear Humanist Association

  1. I think you mean “recent immigrants”. I wouldn’t consider college pranks like punning signs unethical, especially not when this appropriate 🙂


  2. I have had the unfortunate experience of arguing with Gerle on an opinion blog. That she is capable of immense poor logic was shown plenty, and her own incapability to get beyond apologetics was saddening.

    However, I didn’t know that Gerle has officially joined the “New Accommodationism” movement (as she speaks of New Atheism, an poor logic invention of said movement).

    At the same time it was news to me that a swedish university is officially letting religious people wrongly characterize other groups. (Read: strawman.) Gerle accuses “New Atheism” of scientism, as it notes that religion is superstitious (true) and oppression (unfortunately often true, see Dawkins’ comments on the subject).

    My own position is that “scientism” is basically an ill defined philosophic invention to strawman science success in empirical matters, or to strawman empirical criticism in general. (Say, telling superstition from facts.)

    Nowadays I preempt these strawmen by noting that science has shown itself successful (never an assumption; who would know beforehand?) in empirical matters, so for practical purposes we can define the formerly ill defined claim as precisely that and have it over with: yes, science has fast resulted in its scientism by natural means.

    That transfers over with empirical atheism, the one so eminently described by Dawkins (say) in his “The God Delusion”.


  3. Much as it isn’t a pleasant experience I should have read Gerle’s article first. In addition to what was already mentioned she ironically call the complement to her woolen hat argument ‘simplified’.

    The final strawmen are again directed against New Atheists; she seems to have an easier time understand the sentiments and arguments of SD. She characterizes Humanisterna as New Atheism dogmatism, a religion unforgiving position.

    The first strawman is the dogmatism. Atheists seem to be capable of stating exactly what will make them abandon it, and often do so, which is unheard of in religious groups. They use the “confirmation bias” card as ‘evidence’, which is exactly the method of pathological science.

    The second is the ‘unforgiving’. It is very rare to se any atheist opposed to freedom of religion. In fact, the strongly opinionated PZ Myers have claimed that the day religion is seen as a social knitting club, with exactly the same empirical and financial claims as these groups do, he is willing to stop criticizing it. They may continue arguing among themselves and other groups about the best table cloth motive, what harm could we protest?


  4. I doubt of SD will get more than 4%.

    I remember I was at a library in Huddinge in 2005 where a sociology professor said right wing parties aren’t needed in Sweden because in recent times all the main-stream parties have adopted conservative immigration policies. Her argument was that since New Democracy was elected, and immigration became politically profitable, Sweden has harmonised itself with the rest of the EU and adopted restrictive refugee quotas.


  5. I’m afraid you may be overestimating the SD’s potential voters. They don’t know what Sweden’s immigration policy is like. They believe the SD when they say immigration is a problem.


  6. “everybody’s hoping that the country’s little right-wing populist party won’t get over the 4% threshold”

    For me, neither of the two small right-wing populist parties – The Swedish Democrats and the Christian Democrats (the latter coining themselves the representatives of “real people” (in good old fascist style), and unfortunately in the parliament since some years back).


  7. It looks like the Swedish political barometer has swung to the right. I was just looking through DN and an article about how Swedish army officers think their units aren’t prepared for war, had the following entry:

    Vad skall vi med ett forsvar till nu nar vi redan blivit invaderade?

    (Why do we need an army when we’ve already been invaded).

    But some witty soul gave the perfect response:

    Vad skall vi med försvar till? Öppna några surströmming burkar så flyr fienden.

    (What do we need an army for? Just open a tin of pickled herring and the enemy will flee.)

    Made me laugh anyway …



  8. It is bad enough that “Theology” is taught in public places of learning, with control over curricula and personnel largely left to ecclesiastical bodies.
    Here in Germany, we do one better by retaining several chairs (Konkordatslehrstühle) in other disciplines such as Philosophy and Sociology which can only be filled with the blessing of the RC church.


  9. Well Martin, I don´t think that the Humanists really bother about peoples’ personal beliefs, what they aim at is secularisation of the society, i.e. that religious beliefs should not be mixed into politics, governmental desciscions, the education of our children et cetera – which I find decent enough.


  10. They don’t want to kick out anyone! Where in heavens name did you get that from? The immigration and integration policy is really bad, they want to change that. Me too, and many immigrants agree. Stop the smear talk, we have enough of it in Sweden. A man got stabbed yesterday- he was mistaken for a Swedish democrat. is that democracy? Sounds more like White Russia to me.


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