Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
They are anti-theists, an attitude that dates back at least to the 18th century. As for atheism—disbelief in God, with no particular animus against believers or religion—that dates back as far as religion: it is certainly not to be supposed that no one ever disbelieved. People vary, and some will not believe.
Jack Jenkins has a very nice report at ThinkProgress:
ASHEVILLE, NC — It was a rainy October morning when Associate Minister Gary Mitchell half-sprinted up to the glass entrance of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheville, North Carolina, waving frantically as he approached. He looked excited but slightly out-of-sorts, a white robe flapping over his shoulder and rainbow-colored pastoral stole clenched in his first.
“Can I help you?” Mitchell asked, a smile widening across his face as he swung open the door. I explained that I was a reporter, here to interview the head pastor. He looked disappointed.
“Oh, I thought you might be here to get married,” he said. “People keep walking up, ringing the doorbell, and asking if we’ll marry them.”
The minister raised his stole aloft, grinning again: “I just finished one!”
First Congregational UCC has hosted dozens of same-sex weddings since North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down on October 10 of this year. Built out of stones and mortar and celebrating its 100-year anniversary this past June, the anachronistic exterior of the church belies a cutting-edge theology preached within: over the past three years, the medium-sized congregation has become the epicenter of a burgeoning faith-based movement for LGBT justice in North Carolina, supporting advocates and organizations to help bring marriage equality to the Tar Heel State. Most recently, the church played a crucial role in helping muster faith-based support for the lawsuit that struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The story behind General Synod of the UCC v. Reisinger — which was filed by a group of progressive clergy and facilitated by the Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBT advocacy group housed within First Congregational UCC — is an unusual anecdote within the larger narrative of America’s slow embrace of gay rights. Public opinion has shifted towards acceptance of marriage equality in recent years, but religious groups have remained staunch opponents of LGBT rights, especially within the American Southeast, where opposition to marriage for same-sex couples is the highest in the country. Yet the efforts of First Congregational UCC, the Campaign for Southern Equality, and a constellation of other faith-based advocates in North Carolina paint a very different picture of gay rights organizing, and may offer a glimpse into the future of LGBT advocacy in the South. . . .
Very interesting interview with Julia Scheeres, author of Jonestown. From the link (which has now been fixed):
The more I understood what actually transpired in Jonestown, the more offended I became by the notion that Jones’ victims “drank the Kool-Aid.” I felt a duty to defend them, to tell the true story of what happened in Jonestown. The central argument of A Thousand Lives is that Jim Jones murdered his congregants—it was mass murder, not mass suicide. He fantasized about killing them for years before they moved to Guyana and lured them there by making them believe they could return to California whenever they wanted. Once he had them sequestered in the middle of the South American jungle, he refused to let anyone go. “If you want to go home, you can swim,” he told disgruntled residents. “We won’t pay your fucking way home.” I found many heartbreaking notes from residents begging Jones to let them go home, offering to send down paychecks for the rest of their lives, etc. The hardest to read were from parents who, once they realized Jones was intent on killing everyone, were at a loss for ways to insulate their children from Jones’ madness. A third of the 918 people who died in the Jonestown massacre were minors. They didn’t “drink the Kool-Aid;” they had it forced down their throats.
And it wasn’t even Kool-Aid. The poison was mixed with a cheap knock-off called “Flavor-Aid.” That unfortunate phrase has worked its way into the cultural lexicon, but few young people know of its Jonestown origins or how offensive it is to Jones’ victims.
As you’d imagine, the phrase offends survivors. It reduces a mass tragedy to the level of banality. Jonestown residents didn’t willingly drink poison—they were forced to do so. Jones gave them a choice: drink cyanide or be shot to death by armed guards. Living was not an alternative. Many decided to drink the “potion,” as Jones called it, with their families. Those who refused to comply were forcibly injected with it. A 12-year-old girl named Julie Ann Runnels kept spitting the poison out, so two of Jones’ lieutenants forced her to swallow by it by pulling her hair and clamping their hands over her nose and mouth. She did not “Drink the Kool-Aid.” She was murdered—as were all the 303 children who died that night. We need to stop disrespecting Jones’ victims with this odious and wildly inaccurate phrase.
Read the whole thing.
The Mormons spent millions in California to ensure that gays (whether Mormon or not) not be allowed to marry—another prime example of how a religion attempts to force non-believers to follow its rules. The Mormons were very explicit that the only form of traditional, Biblical marriage was one man and one woman—though of course the very founder of the Mormon religion took 40 wives. But that doesn’t matter, somehow. (One thing about religion: it does not have to make sense, and since it doesn’t have to, it seldom does.)
The rise of the Internet, however, made information more readily available. Whatever the Mormons might hide in the fastness of Utah and their temples, individual Mormons with a web browser could easily search and find interesting facts probably not prominent in Mormon teaching—such as the utter fraudulence of Joseph Smith’s “translations” of a scroll of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Google “joseph smith translation of hieroglyphics” and you’ll find much information that the Mormon church has not wanted people to know and certainly strove to keep from Mormons. (Joseph Smith claimed to have translated another book, as you will recall, and we no longer have the manuscript to study—but we do know how Joseph Smith went about translating: he made it up.)
Laurie Goodstein in the NY Times points out how the Mormon church is now recognizing the easy access even Mormons now have to facts about their religion, and they’re belatedly trying to get ahead of the curve:
Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.
The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.
“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.
She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.
Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives, because some were “sealed” to him only for the next life, according to the essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was “an excruciating ordeal.”
The four treatises on polygamy reflect a new resolve by a church long accused of secrecy to respond with openness to the kind of thorny historical and theological issues that are causing some to become disillusioned or even to abandon the faith.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is formally known, has quietly posted 12 essays on its website over the last year on contentious topics such as the ban on blacks in the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978, and accounts of how Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the church’s sacred scripture.
Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.
I wonder whether they document the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, in which Mormons murdered 120 emigrants, men, women, and children, heading for the West Coast. Why slaughter 120 innocent civilians? They were not Mormons.
Maybe all religions are like the Taliban once you strip off the finery. In any event, it’s interesting how free access to information is threatening to religions.
Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin write in the NY Times:
WITH the success of Republicans in the midterm elections and the passage of Tennessee’s anti-abortion amendment, we can expect ongoing efforts to ban abortion and advance the “personhood” rights of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.
But it is not just those who support abortion rights who have reason to worry. Anti-abortion measures pose a risk to all pregnant women, including those who want to be pregnant.
Such laws are increasingly being used as the basis for arresting women who have no intention of ending a pregnancy and for preventing women from making their own decisions about how they will give birth.
How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.
In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”
In Utah, a woman gave birth to twins; one was stillborn. Health care providers believed that the stillbirth was the result of the woman’s decision to delay having a cesarean. She was arrested on charges of fetal homicide.
In Louisiana, a woman who went to the hospital for unexplained vaginal bleeding was locked up for over a year on charges of second-degree murder before medical records revealed she had suffered a miscarriage at 11 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Florida has had a number of such cases. In one, a woman was held prisoner at a hospital to prevent her from going home while she appeared to be experiencing a miscarriage. She was forced to undergo a cesarean. Neither the detention nor the surgery prevented the pregnancy loss, but they did keep this mother from caring for her two small children at home. While a state court later found the detention unlawful, the opinion suggested that if the hospital had taken her prisoner later in her pregnancy, its actions might have been permissible.
In another case, a woman who had been in labor at home was picked up by a sheriff, strapped down in the back of an ambulance, taken to a hospital, and forced to have a cesarean she did not want. When this mother later protested what had happened, a court concluded that the woman’s personal constitutional rights “clearly did not outweigh the interests of the State of Florida in preserving the life of the unborn child.”
Anti-abortion reasoning has also provided the justification for arresting pregnant women who experience depression and have attempted suicide. A 22-year-old in South Carolina who was eight months pregnant attempted suicide by jumping out a window. She survived despite suffering severe injuries. Because she lost the pregnancy, she was arrested and jailed for the crime of homicide by child abuse.
These are not isolated or rare cases. Last year, we published a peer-reviewed study documenting 413 arrests or equivalent actions depriving pregnant women of their physical liberty during the 32 years between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005. In a majority of these cases, women who had no intention of ending a pregnancy went to term and gave birth to a healthy baby. This includes the many cases where the pregnant woman was alleged to have used some amount of alcohol or a criminalized drug.
Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week. . .
The Catholic church is planning to drastically limit reproductive and maternity care, not just for Catholics but for all patients, regardless of their religious beliefs. The Catholic church will impose its own restrictive rules—e.g., no contraception or birth control is allowed—on non-Catholics because they will have the power to do that in many communities, served only by Catholic hospitals.
Nina Martin of ProPublica reports on the curtailment of medical services, thanks to the Catholic church:
The 2011 merger of the two remaining hospitals in Troy, N.Y., had many potential benefits —and one huge hurdle.
Samaritan was secular, committed to providing the widest possible spectrum of reproductive and maternity care to its Albany-area patients. St. Mary’s was Catholic, limiting or banning many reproductive options— and any merger partner had to abide by the same rules.
It took several years of negotiations among three different health systems, much back-and-forth with women’s advocates, and the sign-off of the local bishop. But in the end, the parties struck a deal that all of them could live with. The centerpiece was the brand-new Burdett Care Center, housed on Samaritan’s second floor.
To all appearances, Burdett was a typical maternity ward. But in reality, it was a separately incorporated hospital-within-a-hospital, secular and thus free from the Catholic restrictions that Samaritan had agreed to follow. Burdett could provide birth control and perform tubal ligations; if a woman was having a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, doctors could treat her according to generally accepted standards of care.
Complicated? Yes. Cumbersome? Very. Still, as a compromise to preserve access to care in Troy, “it’s worked very well,” said Lois Uttley of the nonprofit group MergerWatch, which helped broker the arrangement.
Soon, though, compromises between Catholic health systems and their non-Catholic partners may be rarer and harder to achieve — and that could have profound implications for women’s access to reproductive services in hundreds of communities across the U.S.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore this week, and members are considering whether to begin the process of revising — and likely tightening — its directives governing health care mergers and partnerships. The goal, according to a USCCB press release, would be to incorporate Vatican principles ensuring that Catholic institutions do not “cooperate immorally with the unacceptable procedures conducted in other health care entities with which they may be connected” or “cause scandal” as a result of such collaborations.
The USCCB — whose members oversee Catholic health care systems in their individual dioceses — didn’t respond to a request for an interview about what the new directives might say or how the revision process might proceed. A spokesman for the Catholic Health Association of the United States, whose members control 1 in 6 hospital beds around the country, also declined to comment.
But women’s groups and consumer advocates are worried. Stricter rules, they say, would probably doom workarounds like the Burdett center — and could affect everything from employment contracts for doctors and nurses at Catholic facilities to deals with third-party suppliers such as testing labs.
“The scope of Catholic health care in this country is big,” said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director for Catholics for Choice in Washington, D.C. “The restrictions on reproductive healthcare that [the bishops] already place on Catholic health systems are far-reaching and growing. Any changes the bishops make to further limit [care] … should be very concerning to everyone.” . . .
Note the “cause scandal” comment in the story. “Scandal,” in the eyes of the Catholic church, is the very worst thing that could ever happen—certainly “scandal” is much worse than raping children, because the Catholic church allowed priests and other religious to continue their pedophilia because having them accused and tried for their crimes would have caused “scandal,” so thousands more children had to be sacrificed to avoid “scandal.”
It’s peculiar that an institution that would do that would be so concerned about morality—concerned enough to curtail full healthcare for non-Catholics, who (in their own view) are being perfectly moral in availing themselves of contraception and medically necessary abortions.
I think this is a travesty of religion.
UPDATE: In all fairness, I should note that this behavior—insisting that others follow your own religion’s rules and punishing those who do not—is not uniquely Catholic and indeed seems typical of authoritarian religions. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are attacked if their dress is deemed immodest by what amount to religious police. And of course the Taliban is notorious for such behavior, such as attempting to kill a young woman who was getting an education and encouraging other women to be educated, something strictly against the Taliban’s religion. The Catholic church is similar in its approach: rules for believers must also be followed by non-believers.
Later in that article:
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which governs every Catholic hospital, clinic, nursing home, and health-care business in the country. The 72 directives ban elective abortion, sterilization, and birth control. They also restrict fertility treatments, genetic testing, and end-of-life options.
In some instances, the ERDs have been interpreted to limit crisis care for women suffering miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, emergency contraception for sexual assault, and even the ability of doctors and nurses to discuss treatment options or make referrals. The impact of the directives is felt especially in communities —often in rural areas — served by just one hospital. In Bartlesville, Okla., for example, the only medical center in town tried to force all OB/GYNs with admitting privileges to stop prescribing birth control to female patients. (The hospital later backed down.)
Yet many patients have no idea that the ERDs exist or that their hospital or clinic has begun partnering with a Catholic facility. “It’s a huge problem in terms of getting care or even getting information about your care,” said Louise Melling, the deputy legal director for the ACLU, which is suing the bishops conference over a botched miscarriage treatment at a Catholic hospital in Michigan.
In Washington, which has seen more religious-secular partnerships than any other state in recent years, Seattle’s archbishop tried to force a Catholic hospital with the only lab in the area to cease running tests for Planned Parenthood. Catholic health systems also have pressured doctors with admitting privileges to stop helping terminally ill patients who want to make use of the state’s “death with dignity” law. This past summer, theACLU stepped in to stop a deal involving Washington State University and a Catholic system that would have made a planned teaching clinic in Spokane subject to the ERDs (the clinic will be secular).
So they will not only refuse to give you the medical care you need, they don’t even allow you to hear about it so you can seek help elsewhere. And note the effort to shut down birth control for everyone in town, whether Catholic or not: that’s the spirit of the Taliban.
The Catholic church takes it to a new level of oppression, however, by not even informing patients that their choices are restricted and incomplete. Keeping the restrictions secret does avoid arguments, but it is a stunning example of bad faith and dishonesty.