Monday, March 12, 2012

It's More Complicated Than The Freedom From Religion Foundation Seems To Understand

Hmmm, we should probably dump that whole Genesis as literal thing. 

The New York Times ran an advertisement from the Freedom From Religion Foundation which is generating a lot of comment in Catholic circles. Some people seem to think it's just another salvo in the Times crusade against Roman Catholicism. Those people must have forgotten the Times also ran the Manhattan Declaration ad, but that was a few years ago so maybe they just forgot.  The current ad is based on a letter to liberal and nominal Catholics written by Annie Laurie Gaylor which was posted on the home page of the FFRF website.  I thought I would be so kind as to answer her letter.

'You are an enabler. And it's got to stop.'

Dear 'Liberal' Catholic:

It’s time to quit the Roman Catholic Church.

It's your moment of truth. Will it be reproductive freedom, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or Bishops and their wrongs? Whose side are you on, anyway?
The vast majority of Catholics already practice reproductive freedom.  We've already chosen sides, and we certainly know our votes vastly out number our Bishops votes.

It is time to make known your dissent from the Catholic Church, in light of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ ruthless campaign endangering the right to contraception. If you're part of the Catholic Church, you're part of the problem.
Granted the campaign is pretty ruthless, but I also think being a member of the Republican party is also being part of the problem.  Thank God most women see the duplicity and power mongering going on in both the RC Church and the Republican  Party.
Why are you propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club? Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly and publicly announced a crusade to ban contraception, abortion and sterilization, and to deny the right of all women everywhere, Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers?  When it comes to reproductive freedom, the Roman Catholic Church is Public Enemy Number One. Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Church's antiquated doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed.
I know, I know, you make some valid points, but the real problem globally is lack of education for women.  Give women enough education and even the big bad meanies in the Catholic Church can not sway a woman's decision to make her own choices about her reproductive life.  The big bad meanies just haven't accepted the fact that once women reach a certain understanding there is no going back to their thought control. 

A backer of the Roman Catholic presidential candidate says that if women want to avoid pregnancy we should put an aspirin between our knees? Catholic politicians are urging that the right to contraception should be left up to states? Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court upheld contraception as a privacy right, we’re going to have to defend this basic freedom all over again?
But seriously, this isn't about liberal Catholics.  This is about a small bunch of men fearful they are losing control of society and trying turn back the clock.  As you point out, they lost this battle fifty years ago.  It's embarrassing and annoying, but then doddering old uncles frequently are.

You’re better than your church. So why? Why continue to attend Mass? Tithe? Why dutifully sacrifice to send your children to parochial schools so they can be brainwashed into the next generation of myrmidons (and, potentially, become the next Church victims)? For that matter, why have you put up with an institution that won’t put up with women priests, that excludes half of humanity?
Actually I sent my daughter to Catholic schools precisely so she could experience the brain washing and learn how to defend against it. As to women priests, that's coming, but first things first.  The clerical system as we know it has to continue to implode.  Something new will Rise from the ashes.  Catholics believe in Resurrection and that hope is hard to let go of, irrational as it may seem.

No self-respecting feminist, civil libertarian or progressive should cling to the Catholic faith. As a Cafeteria Catholic, you chuck out the stale doctrine and moldy decrees of your religion, but keep patronizing the establishment that menaces public health by serving rotten offerings. Your continuing Catholic membership, as a "liberal," casts a veneer of respectability upon an irrational sect determined to blow out the Enlightenment and threaten liberty for women worldwide. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.
A very large chunk of us are not patronizing the establishment-at least financially- and I don't think my continued participation casts a 'veneer' of respectability on anything. It's my choice, and it's not really enabling because I don't pretend to agree with or support the more irrational  sexual aspects.   I prefer to think of this choice as witnessing a counter sign and some Catholics pay a huge price for that witness.

If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Catholic,” you are doing “bad” to women’s rights. You’re kidding yourself if you think the Church is ever going to add a Doctrine of Immaculate ContraCeption.
I'm not trying to change the doctrine on BC. Why change something very few follow anyway? It's the gay rights issue I am working on.  That one drives teenagers to suicide and impressionable terrified young gay men into this very dysfunctional priesthood.  What I don't think you understand is there is another Catholic Church beneath the USCCB.  That river beneath the official river flows much cleaner and much more Christ like.  That's the Catholic Church I'm enabling.

It is disgraceful that U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to the Catholic Church’s bizarre opposition to medically prescribed contraception. No politician should jeopardize electability for failure to genuflect before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Question to ask your Bishop: Does he hold up an umbrella against the rain? Isn’t that just as “unnatural” as using a condom or diaphragm?)

Every politician has free choice.  Perhaps you should be reminding politicians there is often a price to pay for doing the right thing. Besides, astute politicians have to be seeing that on the issues you raise the majority of the flock will not vote the Bishops' line.
Your Church hysterically claims that secular medical policy is “an assault against religious liberty.” You are savvy enough to realize that the real assault is by the Church against women’s rights and health care. As Nation columnist Katha Pollitt asks: Is it an offense against Jehovah Witnesses that health care coverage will include blood transfusions? The Amish, as Pollitt points out, don’t label cars “an assault on religious liberty” and try to force everyone to drive buggies. The louder the Church cries “offense against religious liberty” the harder it works to take away women’s liberty.
Believe me I get all that.  The task is then is to engage fellow Catholics in conversation so they too can get all that.  Leaving isn't going to change any one's vote, or correct any of the lies coming from the USCCB.  A handful of liberal Catholics can probably change more minds over coffee and donuts than this $52,000 ad in the Times. Both sides can't seem to accept the fact $$$$ only goes so far.  It's one on one engagement that really changes peoples attitudes.  It is precisely for that reason gay marriage is gaining acceptance.  Sometimes some other face besides Benjamin$ is more effective.
Obama has compromised, but the Church never budges, instead launching a vengeful modern-day Inquisition. Look at its continuing directives to parish priests to use their pulpits every Sunday to lobby you against Obama’s policy, the Church's announcement of a major anti-contraception media campaign — using your tithes, contributions and donations — to defeat Obama’s laudable health care policy. The Church has introduced into Congress the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, ” a bill to place the conscienceless Catholic Church's "rights of conscience" above the rights of conscience of 53 percent of Americans. That the Church has "conscience rights" to deny women their rights is a kissing cousin to the claim that “corporations are people.” The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to oppose contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny contraceptive rights to non-Catholics.
I do get the 'institutional' conscience scheme.  I also get the USCCB changed course in mid stream to individual consciences--the Taco Bell talking point--because some attorney somewhere must have told them the institutional conscience thing was never going to be court approved. This is a dangerous game the Bishops are playing because a number of my Catholic friends are now taking the conscience tactic to their taxes--remote complicity and all that. There could be a silver lining to this freedom of conscience debate.  Imagine if thirty million Catholics refused to pay for another neo con war.
But is there any point in going on? After all, your misplaced loyalty has lasted through two decades of public sex scandals involving preying priests, children you may have known as victims, and church complicity, collusion and coverup going all the way to the top. Are you like the battered woman who, after being beaten down every Sunday, feels she has no place else to go?
No, I actually feel like the big sister who offers a place to go--a refuge with in the family.
But we have a more welcoming home to offer, free of incense-fogged ritual, free of what freethinker Bertrand Russell called “ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men,” free of blind obedience to an illusory religious authority. Join those of us who put humanity above dogma.
Oh oh, my dogmatic self righteous radar just went off.
As a member of the “flock” of an avowedly antidemocratic club, isn’t it time you vote with your feet? Please, exit en Mass.

Very truly,

Annie Laurie Gaylor
Freedom From Religion Foundation


 Ms Gaylor made some good points, points I myself have made, but like a lot of non believers, she does not seem to understand the attraction of religion.  If Catholicism was just a club it would be much easier to leave.  But it's not a club, especially for cradle Catholics.  It's very much who we are because it's how we grew up and some of us grew up steeped in the dream of Vatican II about a Roman Catholic Church which would walk it's talk and not hide behind it's ritual.  Unfortunately a minority of our leadership were too scared or too self centered to come out from behind the ritual. Their personal ego needs controlled the dream, turning the dream into a nightmare for too many Catholics.  Liberal Catholics get all that.  The Church won't wake from this fear induced nightmare if it's left to the devices of the hierarchy.  There has to be another voice crying out in the dream wilderness. 

The other point Ms Gaylor misses is the existence of that other Catholic Church.  The river beneath the river.  The one that is pastoral, that does practice what it preaches, that has been the soul force for social justice movements through out the Church's millennia.  The USCCB is not in sync with that river at all.  They are sailing their silly barges on the other river.  That river flows on the back of money sources that far exceed those of the other river, but money is not the fuel that really powers the true Church.  That fuel is love.  So no, I don't really think liberal or nominal Catholics need to fully deconvert.  They just need to keep their lights lit with in the church and have some patience while the hierarchy continues it's trajectory towards implosion.  Oh yea, and vote because we out number the bishops and their true believers by the millions and millions.  No amount of bishop ranting can change that fact.


  1. The NY Times ad comes across either as an excuse to spew bigoted hate speech and ridicule towards the Catholic Church, or as a sign of desperation and instability in FFRF:
    Parody translation of the FFRF ad at:

    1. I'm not sure I'd classify it as hate speech. I would classify it as somewhat sophomoric in it's condescension and obvious assumption liberal Catholics need help seeing their way past the rhetoric of our bishops, which of course is not the least bit true---except for those who write for Commonweal, America, Micheal Sean Winters and some others at NCR, and EJ Dionne.

    2. I agree that it is sophomoric.

  2. Annie Laurie Gaylor makes the same argument I've seen other atheist evangelists make, that the liberal believers are enabling the fundamentalists. I think that's a flaw in the argument she makes. Not only that, but many liberal believers would rightly read the account she gives of Christianity as allegorical rather than literal. Ms. Gaylor makes the mistake of assuming all Christians accept a literal reading of Scripture, which is very far from being the case. Madalyn Murray O'Hair made similar arguments.

  3. Fundamentalists do not need liberals to enable them. They do a good job of that for each other, and they have the USCCB patting them on the back for being fundamentalists.

    I imagine atheists would have a much more difficult time dealing with Christians who don't take Scripture literally. Take the left brain arguments away and what do they have left to argue?

    1. What do they have left? Well, the Flying Spaghetti Monster I suppose. It is hard not to like a criticism that refers to pew occupants as myrmidons. But, those of us on the inside, she seems somewhat uninformed. Whom does she thinks tithes these days?

      Nonetheless she does identify my greatest objection to the church as conceived by the bishops, that is, its inexcusable discrimination against women.


    2. Those male bishops have had thousands of years of other male bishops and religious leaders from which to learn their inexcusable discrimination. Hence it's not discrimination, it's the way things have always been.

      I wonder if the mother thing isn't preeminent because the clerical culture stops them from 'seeing' women as anything other, and after all, the only close intimate relationship they have with a woman is the one they have with their mother. (Theoretically)

    3. So it's in the air they breathe so to speak.

      John f

    4. There is one point on which the fundamentalist religionists [Catholic, Christian or otherwise] and the evangelical atheists have in common. They use different tones of voice and expect the single answer totally supportive of a particular point of view; but they ask the same questions about scripture: Why believe some parts are literal and other parts are not? How is the average human supposed to figure out the difference?

      I find it hilarious that they are so busy talking past each other they can't see they are coming from the same spiritually deprived point in their respective lives. And I find it incredibly sad at the same time.

    5. That's a question I've wondered myself, how do they determine which parts are literal and which parts are allegorical? I fid this especially confusing when it comes to the Leviticus purity codes. How did they determine out of all those codes which were abominations only the sodomy one is still an abomination. Quite convenient I would say.