Joe Rogan has one of the most popular podcasts in America. He features a wide diversity of guests, from actors, musicians, intellectuals, political commentators and everything in between. His podcast is long form, lasting 2 and a half to 3 hours, and takes place with an easy conversational style. In other words, his podcasts are unlike the really short, strained, formal interviews one often sees on regular television and news channels, where everyone are just frantically rushing to get in their two cents in the quickest way possible before they cut to the next commercial break or get forced by their schedule into another segment. This is definitely one of the elements that makes the Joe Rogan podcast appealing, because it sounds relaxed and natural, almost like you happen to sit in on two people having a chat and neither had any idea that the conversation was being recorded for mass consumption. Rogan is very good at this, at creating this relaxed atmosphere, at making the conversation flow even if he doesn’t know much about whatever his guest is talking about, and at keeping it interesting.
This being the case, Rogan is usually gentle when he disagrees with his guests and tries to lead the conversation forward to a different point rather than dwelling on disagreements. However, whenever the conversation turns to Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, he is unusually abrasive and scornful. The times I watched the podcast, the only times when he truly seemed angry was when he was talking about religion and sometimes the far-left. But apart from this, he either deliberately misrepresents Christianity or is simply ill-informed about it.
For example, here he is speaking with Gavin McInness:
“I quit booze for Lent. I didn’t have drinks on Thursday…”
“Are you Catholic?”
“I just became Catholic. I…”
“I grew up atheist”
“How old are you?”
“What the f***’s wrong with you? Why are you becoming Catholic now?”
“I had kids. I realized there’s something else going on. That’s why I want…”
“There’s something else going on? What? A cult of child kid f***ers?”[i]
He later suggests that these “kid f***ers” also run the Catholic Church. It is strange that Rogan has such a strong animus against the Catholic Church since he was not exposed to Catholicism for long. In a different podcast he explains that he had a very short exposure to Catholicism when he was young ( and again adding that it’s “all nonsense”). “To say I grew up that way would be hard, because I was out by the time I was out of first grade.” When asked whether his parents forced him to attend church he said, “They did, a little bit.”[ii] So why would he have such a strong animus against Catholicism, since he had a very nominal, half-hearted upbringing in the faith? Wouldn’t you rather expect someone who received an upbringing by cruel religious people to be hostile toward it? It may be because Rogan himself seems influenced by the New Atheists, having had Sam Harris and Lawrence Krauss on his show. Rogan himself is not an atheist, and is very vague about what he actually believes about God, which seems typical in Hollywood. He seems to be some sort of agnostic or agnostic theist.
But let’s address here his claim that the Catholic Church is a “cult of kid f***ers”. The Catholic Church is a massive institution with hundreds of thousands of priests. About 2-5% ( depending on which reports you believe) of those priests have been implicated or plausibly implicated in sexual abuse. When you have a massive population of individuals, their individual characteristics stop being relevant in determining anything about the character of the things they have in common. So you cannot say that the fact that there are some catholic priests who are molesters implies anything about the character of the institution. The rate of pedophilia ( broadly defined) in the general population is, by one estimate, about 5%, which is equivalent to the higher estimates of predatory priests within the church. And if you believe this BBC article (from which I got the 5% estimate), pedophilia and ephebophilia among catholic priests roughly tracks the same in the general population. So calling this institution a “cult of kid f***ers” is about as accurate as calling the whole human race a “cult of kid f***ers.” The reason the abuse has been such a scandal is not the rate of pedophilia among priests, but the anguish caused by someone who violates a strong fiduciary duty in such a terrible way, and the fact that priests are expected to be more moral than the general population, although I don’t know why you would expect that. There is certainly nothing in the Bible that suggests that Christian leaders are more moral than others, although there is a requirement expressed that they must have morally exemplary behaviour. But this requirement is obviously no guarantee that it will be the case everywhere the Christian message spreads.
This does not even consider the fact that the priesthood, given its celibacy requirement, has always been a popular avenue for those with deviant sexual proclivities, because it provides a respectable “cover” for being single rather than having to face questioning gazes about why so and so is not married already. So even given this fact, the rate of pedophiles in the Catholic Church is still not higher, or at least not much higher, than it is in the general population. I’m not a Catholic myself, and I disagree with some Catholic doctrines and practices ( the celibacy requirement being one), so I don’t want this defence to be some unqualified endorsement of Catholicism. Also, it is legitimate to criticize the Catholic’s hierarchy’s treatment of some of these abuse cases. But Rogan’s polemic here is completely off base and the Catholic Church is also an institution that does a great deal of good.
I will continue my critique of Joe Rogan’s comments on Christianity in my next post.