Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition - A Response


This article was written in response to an outrageous anti-religious rant "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" that was published in Canada's Globe and Mail on May 6, 2002.

In his recent editorial, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." May 6, 2002, the Globe's own Spiderman, Spider Robinson, comes off much like the movie, long on entertainment, short on reality.

The article is good reading — give Spider an A for flair and style — but give him an F for factual accuracy. The points he makes are either plainly false or so stripped of context as to be effectively misleading.

If there were a mark for it, we might also give him an F for what he claims to hold in highest disdain "damnable hypocrisy". For Spiderman does precisely what he (selectively) condemns religious believers for doing, arguing theology with their neighbours. He is telling his neighbours precisely what God is like, and what true religious belief means. And he is not just arguing, but preaching his theology while misrepresenting that of others — all with the kind of vitriol that sounds suspiciously like the narrow-minded intolerance he so vigorously claims to detest.

In his rant against organized religion Robinson asserts, "It cannot be a bona fide religion if it permits (much less requires) spilling human blood for God."

Now let's get real. What organized religion in Canada today permits "much less requires" the spilling of blood for God? Is this guy casting back to the Aztecs for his ideas of religious belief and practice or is he thinking perhaps of Planned Parenthood, whose religious affiliations are dubious at best?

Coincidentally, the National Post ran an article the same day as Robinson's rant, "Religion's defender in a secular state" in which that old man of comparative religion, Huston Smith, clears up some of the misinformation scattered around by Spider Robinson.

"Ages of religious wars where people fought over doctrine are past," declares Smith, "today religion enters by providing the identity for each side in the conflict. But after doing that, the causes of the conflict are not religious, they are historical."

That ethnic and historical tensions are the problem behind Middle East, Northern Ireland conflicts, etc. and not doctrinal differences is obvious to anyone who has done the least reading on these matters. If some Jewish Rabbis or Moslem Imams get on the vengeance bandwagon, that is their failure to live according to their own beliefs, not a consequence of them.

But I'll let representatives of other faith groups speak for themselves. I'm a Catholic and I have my own bone to pick.

When Robinson asks rhetorically, "How many Catholic cardinals have condemned those who murder abortionists?" I answer from the record, not from my imagination. "All the Cardinals have condemned them" every single one of them in Canada and every bishop I've heard speak on the subject. Those who violate the principle of life don't represent a pro-life position which must, by definition, always be non-violent.

When Robinson asks how many Cardinals have condemned "Pius X's quiet complicity in the Holocaust," I say to him, Pius X died in 1914, 20 years before Hitler came to power.

I must assume that, in his easy way, Robinson here means Pope Pius XII and the ridiculous and totally discredited charges that he contributed to the Holocaust. During and after the war, many well-known Jews — Albert Einstein, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharett, Rabbi Isaac Herzog, and innumerable others — publicly expressed their gratitude to Pius. Pinchas Lapide (who served as Israeli consul in Milan and interviewed Italian Holocaust survivors) declared Pius XII "was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands." The evidence contradicting these charges is overwhelming.

That terrible things have been done by men and women claiming to be dedicated followers of religion is a fact, a horrendous and hypocritical fact. The shocking scandal of so many priests loose in the land engaging in serial sexual relationships with teenage boys, and even children, and the shameful cover up of this outrage by prominent members of the American Hierarchy is an unspeakable scandal and horror to all of us.

But the distortion involved in suggesting that such immorality and hypocrisy is the heart and soul of the religious message is to add a distortion of fact and context and to feed a kind of religious intolerance that is also very much abroad in the land. As Huston Smith noted, "We live in a secular culture in which the sins of religion are paraded before us and dinned into our ears every day."

Organized religion is not going to go away in Canada, however much Spider Robinson would like it to. To those, like Robinson, who point accusingly at Judas Iscariot and declare this to be the face of religion, I say you need a broader balancing consideration. There are eleven saints you had to ignore to make that statement.

(Note: This article was turned down for publication by the Globe and Mail newspaper. Click here to read Mr. Field's response to their lack of interest.)



J. Fraser Field. "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." Unpublished Commentary article submitted to the Globe and Mail Tuesday May 8, 2002.


J. Fraser Field is Executive Officer of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center and Western Canada Media Director for the Catholic Civil Rights League. Email Mr. Field at

Copyright © 2002 J. Fraser Field

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