FFRF talks about their Daily Show experience
When the Daily Show did a segment on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s quest to stop a Mother Teresa stamp from being issued by the US Post Office, I figured that we atheists would end up looking not so hot as a result. After all, talking shit about MT nowadays is the equivalent of ripping up a picture of the pope on TV in the early 90s … no one really knows the nasty details about her, so we end up looking like a bunch of dickheads.
And yep, that’s basically what happened, but that’s okay … what’s a little bit of ribbing from a great TV show when you’ve got reality on your side? Still, it was fascinating to read FFRF co-president Dan Barker’s account of the experience – great reading if you want to know more about how the Daily Show does it’s thang or just want a little bit of info on why Mother Teresa isn’t the saint everyone makes her out to be:
The staff seemed genuinely interested in the factual claims about Mother Teresa. I held up Christopher Hitchens’ book The Missionary Position as one example that documents the inferior quality of her clinics, her lack of financial accountability and her cozy association with corrupt politicians such as Haiti’s “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
I mentioned how she pleaded with the court for leniency in the sentencing of convicted financier Charles Keating because he was a good man who had given her $1.25 million, and how when the court asked her to return that stolen money, she declined to reply. We don’t know where that money went, but we do know that she spent millions to build new convents named in her honor and increase her religious order while she spent considerably less on real charity.
“Mother Teresa did some good,” I agreed, “but her real genius was as a powerful PR machine for the population policies of the Roman Catholic Church.” In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, she was more concerned about condemning legal abortion than feeding the hungry. What did she actually do for world peace? Soon after that speech she went to Ireland to tell them that their best hope for peace was for everyone to return to the Catholic Church.
“The Daily Show” staff seemed surprised and sincerely interested when I spoke about the documentation of shoddy “medical” practices at her clinics. They asked me to repeat the story about how the nuns at her hospital for the dying (which has posted the words “Today I am going to heaven” on the wall — some hospital!) were secretly baptizing all patients, including Hindus and Muslims, pretending to be cooling their foreheads with a wet cloth while performing the religious ritual.
When Jason held up the stamp of Martin Luther King Jr., I countered that he was honored for leading the civil rights movement, not for religion, and besides, he was an American. With Mother Teresa, it was the other way around: Her charity work was secondary to her religious mission, and she said so many times. Her small Calcutta orphanage, she said, was a front line in the fight against abortion and birth control.
For more less than complimentary info on Mother Teresa, I give you Mr. Christopher Hitchins.