Mother Teresa

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mother Teresa in 1988.
Christ died for
our articles about

Icon christianity.svg
Devil's in the details
[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of Mother Teresa. Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.
Christopher Hitchens[1]

Mother Teresa, real name: Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, (1910–1997) was an Albanian nun who, depending on your level of gullibility/cynicism, is one of the following:

In the beginning[edit]

The myth of Mother Teresa was created by journalist/propagandist[2]:50-52 Malcolm Muggeridge.Wikipedia Shortly after Muggeridge's conversion from agnosticism to Protestant Christianity in around 1969 (albeit a Protestantism that was peculiarly Catholic-supporting when it suited him[2]:49),[3] exemplifying the zeal of the convert, Muggeridge co-starred with Teresa in a credulous BBC TV movie Something Beautiful for God in 1969.[4][5]:26-27 This was followed up by Muggeridge's book based upon the movie, Something Beautiful for God,[6] which was very popular and translated into multiple languages. Upon Teresa's death, Catholic Times confirmed Muggeridge's responsibility for the PR campaign, "[But for Muggeridge] perhaps even now no one would have heard of her. Maybe she would have been like the vast majority of giving souls whose works are only known to 'clients' and to God."[2]:46[7] The foreigner-as-savior for the poor had fit in nicely with the widespread White Savior trope that has been common in the Western World,[2]:47 and so was ripe for confirmation bias.

Protestant fundamentalism[edit]

Teresa’s life is a great teaching aid for Protestant apologists, who point out that despite a lifetime of "good works",[note 1] she is burning in Hell right now because she never said the magic words, "I Accept the Risen Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior!"[citation NOT needed] Even Ted BundyWikipedia did that before he died.[8][9][10]

Women's rights (specifically contraception and abortion)[edit]

Mother Teresa opposed both contraception and abortion. She was an enemy of women's rights.[11] She so successfully opposed the rights of women, that she effectively become the Excalibur of the Catholic Church's war on women.[12]

It was kind of sado-masochistic that she wished half of humanity, herself included, to be oppressed. However, one finds that she seems to make exemptions for masochism as one goes on.

Closet atheism[edit]

Mother Teresa could make herself look very sincere in her faith. In reality, she experienced a crisis of faith and became more like an atheist or agnostic, writing privately:

I call, I cling, I want … and there is no One to answer … no One on Whom I can cling … no, No One. Alone … Where is my Faith … even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness … My God … how painful is this unknown pain … I have no Faith … I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart … & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them … because of the blasphemy … If there be God … please forgive me … When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very xfc. I am told God loves me … and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.[13]

Teresa made the poor, helpless people in her institutions suffer for Jesus, but was not even certain if God/Jesus exists.

Politicizing the Nobel[edit]

She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.[note 2] Being all modest and not wanting to take the money credit, she immediately thanked God for it and proceeded to characterise abortion as the greatest threat to world peace.[14]

Meet the stars![edit]

See the main article on this topic: Appeal to celebrity
Mother Teresa with Saint Ronnie.

"What may be most telling about Mother Teresa is how often she ended up in front of the cameras. In pictures, she is either shaking the hand of someone powerful, glamorous, or ruthless — Ronald Reagan, Princess Diana, François DuvalierWikipedia — or leaning over someone too weak to stand", according to Moira Donegan.[15] Teresa was photographed with numerous world leaders, also including Yasser Arafat, Edward Kennedy, Indira Gandhi, V. P. Singh, and members of the British Royal Family. Media studies academic Gëzim Alpion wrote a book called Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity?, documenting her active fame-seeking.[16] Teresa's relationships with other dubious figures included the Haitian dictators François and Jean-Claude Duvalier and fraudster Charles Keating.[17]

The Missionary Position[edit]

In his book, The Missionary Position,Wikipedia author Christopher Hitchensgasp! shock! horror! — dared to criticize Mother Teresa for her work. His accusations include that she was primarily a political opportunist, abusing her fame and charity to spread her religious message, rather than help her humanitarian work.[5]

Suffering for Jesus[edit]

Mother Teresa allowed suffering in her institutions with such depressing regularity one would assume she was sure suffering in the name of Jesus is a good thing. Teresa was not even sure that God or Jesus exists:

Mother Teresa is thoroughly saturated with a primitive fundamentalist religious worldview that sees pain, hardship, and suffering as ennobling experiences and a beautiful expression of affiliation with Jesus Christ and his ordeal on the cross. Hitchens reported that in a filmed interview, Mother Teresa herself tells of a patient suffering unbearable pain from terminal cancer, "With a smile, Mother Teresa told the camera what she told the patient: 'You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.'" Apparently unaware that the response of the sufferer was a put-down, she freely related it, "Then please tell him to stop kissing me."[5]:41-42

Well-meaning people donate money to Mother Teresa's organisation and imagine that they are helping people. Few realise that donations sometimes help Mother Teresa's order of nuns to hurt people rather than help them. Hemant Mehta relates the following:

Over hundreds of hours of research, much of it cataloged in a book he published in 2003, Dr. Chatterjee[18] said he found a “cult of suffering” in homes run by Mother Teresa’s organization, the Missionaries of Charity, with children tied to beds and little to comfort dying patients but aspirin. He and others said that Mother Teresa took her adherence to frugality and simplicity in her work to extremes, allowing practices like the reuse of hypodermic needles and tolerating primitive facilities that required patients to defecate in front of one another. "[Western audiences] don’t care about whether a third-world city’s dignity or prestige has been hampered by an Albanian nun," he said. "So, obviously, they may be interested in the lies and the charlatans and the fraud that’s going on, but the whole story, they’re not interested in."[19]

Donors expected what they gave would go to help poor people. It did not:[20]

A widow, Sarnakar said she was admitted to Nirmal Hriday a decade ago with tuberculosis. Medical care was basic, and Sarnakar recalled that many in the women’s ward did not survive. “The ones who die, they die,” Sarnakar said. “But for those who can get better, the sisters are very good to us.” They die if they don’t get medical treatment. The nun could have spent the money to make that happen, but she gave it to the Vatican instead.[21]

While Mother Teresa was a sadist, she wasn't quite so masochistic when her own death was approaching:

[W]hen it came to her own death, Teresa refused to be treated in one of her own unsanitary facilities that glorified and promoted the suffering and pain of others. Researchers said that when it came to her own treatment, “she received it in a modern American hospital.” Apparently for Teresa, suffering was beautiful only if it was someone else doing the suffering.[22]

Disturbingly, nuns who worked for the Missionaries of Charity were "expected to flog themselves regularly"[23] with a rope or chain. According to former member Mary Johnson, the whole thing was decidedly cult-like.

Of course, Mother Teresa's devotees have rushed to defend their saint from such charges, stating that the Missionaries of Charity are "fully in line with the Universal Church".[24] "The Missionaries of Charity Society is clearly not a cult, and Mother Teresa was not a cult leader."[24] Oh, and cancel culture is to blame too, apparently.[25]

Support of Albanian nationalism[edit]

Mother Teresa visited her ancestral homeland of Albania in August 1989, four years after the death of Enver Hoxha, a brutal Stalinist dictator who turned Albania into the "world's first atheist state". Rather than take this as an opportunity to denounce the Hoxha regime's suppression of religion and the murder of her own people, Mother Teresa practically endorsed it.[5]:81-82 She was received by Hoxha's widow, Nexhmije, who later described Mother Teresa as a "true patriot" and a "great Albanian" who "came with an open mind and praised our achievements".[26]:102-103 She subsequently laid a bouquet on Hoxha's grave, and placed a wreath on the statue of Mother Albania,[5]:81-82 which according to Hitchens:[5]:82-83

The ‘Mother Albania' monument, it might be worth emphasizing, is not an abstract symbol of sentimental nationhood. It is the emblem of the cause of Greater Albania. A nearby museum displays the boundaries of this ambition in the form of a map. ‘Mother Albania' turns out to comprise — in addition to the martyred province of Kosovo — a large piece of Serbia and Montenegro, a substantial chunk of formerly Yugoslav Macedonia and most of that part of modern Greece now known as Epirus.[5]

Mother Teresa herself never offered any excuse for these actions, and had furthermore nothing to say when her portrait was being flouted by pro-Greater Albania zealots in Macedonia and Kosovo.[5]

This criticism made Hitchens deeply unpopular with people who simply couldn't get their heads around the idea that Mother Teresa might be anything other than an absolutely perfect and spotless saint, even causing him to be angrily cut off during an interview on, of course, Fox News (so much for "Fair and Balanced").[27][dead link] Criticisms similar to those made by Hitchens were made in the "Holier Than Thou" episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! in 2005 (Hitchens also appeared as a guest on this episode).

Sainthood based on phony miracles[edit]

Following her death, the Vatican decided to waive the usual five-year waiting period to open the beatification process. [JAC: As I recall, it took only a year.] The miracle attributed to Mother Teresa was the healing of a woman, Monica Besra, who had been suffering from intense abdominal pain. The woman testified that she was cured after a medallion blessed by Mother Teresa was placed on her abdomen. Her doctors thought otherwise: the ovarian cyst and the tuberculosis from which she suffered were healed by the drugs they had given her. The Vatican, nevertheless, concluded that it was a miracle.[28] Mother Teresa’s popularity was such that she had become untouchable for the population, which had already declared her a saint. “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of this model to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?
—Serge Larivée, Carole Sénéchal & Geneviève Chénard[29][30]

She was canonized 4 September 2016, reigniting some of the debates about her "charities" and the value thereof. Gregory Clark said:

It’s nice that Mother Teresa miraculously healed two people, according to her church. How unfortunate, though, that she didn’t bother to heal the many others who have died under the care of her Missionaries of Charity, often in squalid conditions with poor medical treatment, despite the unaccounted-for millions of dollars raised in her name.[31]

External links[edit]


  1. Which weren't actually that good, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
  2. Which is given out by the Norwegians, not by the Swedes. Don't look at us!


  1. Mommie Dearest: The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud. by Christopher Hitchens (October 20, 2003, at 1:04 PM PT) Slate (archived from October 23, 2003).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Mother Teresa: The Untold Story by Aroup Chatterjee (2016) Fingerprint!/Prakash Books India. ISBN 9788175993310.
  3. Jesus Rediscovered by Malcolm Muggeridge (1969) Family Library.
  4. Something Beautiful for God (1969) IMDb.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens (1995) Verso. ISBN 185984054X.
  6. Something Beautiful for God: Mother Teresa of Calcutta by Malcolm Muggeridge (1971) Harper & Row. ISBN 0060660430.
  7. Catholic Times (12 October 1997)
  8. Mother Teresa: In Heaven or Hell? by Don Boys (August 26, 2007) Christian Aggression (archived from June 15, 2010).
  9. Is Mother Teresa in Hell and Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven? Yahoo Answers.
  10. Mother Teresa Sent To Hell In Wacky Afterlife Mix-Up (September 9, 1997) The Onion.
  11. Saint Cruelty by Ophelia Benson (Sep 12th, 2016) Butterflies & Wheels.
  12. Mother Teresa is a weapon in the Vatican's war on women by Padraig Reidy (c. 2015) Little Atoms.
  13. Was Mother Teresa an atheist? Letters from one of the Catholic church's best known figures reveal the crisis of faith that afflicted her. by Andrew Brown (24 Aug 2007 09.30 EDT) The Guardian.
  14. Nobel Lecture by Mother Teresa (11 December, 1979) The Nobel Prize.
  15. Selling love by Moira Donegan (14 September 2016) LRB blog.
  16. Mother Teresa: Saint or Celebrity? by Gëzim Alpion (2006) Routledge. ISBN 0415392470.
  17. Mother Teresa: Why the Catholic missionary is still no saint to her critics: Her reputation was undercut by persistent allegations of misuse of funds and poor medical treatments by Adam Taylor (18 December 2015 19:32) Independent.
  18. Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict by Aroup Chatterjee (2003) Meteor Books. ISBN 8188248002.
  19. Don’t Let Mother Teresa’s Sainthood Whitewash Her Harmful Legacy by Hemant Mehta (September 3, 2016) Patheos (archived from September 9, 2016).
  20. The poor did not get their bread by Ophelia Benson (Sep 7th, 2016) Butterflies & Wheels.
  21. Such views remain unpopular by Ophelia Benson (Sep 5th, 2016) Butterflies & Wheels.
  22. Sadistic Religious Fanatic: Mother Teresa Was No Saint by Michael Stone (September 2, 2016) Patheos.
  23. New Revelations from Former Nuns Suggest Mother Teresa Lead a Cult by Hemant Mehta (May 22, 2021) Patheos.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Debunking the Myth of a Mother Teresa Cult by Ines A. Murzaku (June 5, 2021) The Catholic Thing.
  25. Cancelling Mother Teresa? by Thomas Griffin (12/10/20) Empty Tomb Project.
  26. Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators by Riccardo Orizio (2003) Walker and Company. ISBN 0802776922.
  27. YouTube — Hitchens cut-off
  28. Pope John Paul II Gives Approval to Miracle Attributed to Mother Teresa (20 December 2002)
  29. Mother Teresa: Anything but a saint (1-Mar-2013) EurekAlert! AAAS
  30. Les côtés ténébreux de Mère Teresa by Serge Larivée, Carole Sénéchal & Geneviève Chénard (2013) Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 42(3):319-345. doi:10.1177/0008429812469894.
  31. Utah Professor Slams Mother Teresa’s Sainthood: “Rejecting Reality is Not Reason to Rejoice” by Hemant Mehta (September 12, 2016) Patheos (archived from September 13, 2016).