Why Right-Wing Christian Leaders Are Often Indifferent to Needless Suffering

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

The American Life League mobilizes devout Catholics against medical options that, to their way of thinking, violate God’s will. If you should drive past a Planned Parenthood and see elderly women fingering rosary beads next to pictures of the Virgin Mary, or young men holding Bibles and praying, American Life League probably had a hand in their presence there. Ironically, ALL also spreads misinformation about birth control, for example via a Pill Kills campaign — which means they feed the line-up of Catholic women waiting for abortion services.

ALL promotes a passive, “let go and let God” approach to the dying process as well as family planning, so with death with dignity approved this fall in California, the group is fighting back—by touting the benefits of suffering. “Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.” So proclaims an ALL meme making its way across the internet.

Mother Teresa – “The Kiss of Jesus”

This is not a fringe position in the Catholic Church, which has long extolled the spiritual virtues of suffering. Mother Teresa’s attraction to pain shaped her ministry to the dying, and one of the most serious criticisms of her Calcutta homes was that patients were denied modern medical care to relieve pain even when the Missionaries of Charity had the funding to do so. By her own report, Mother Teresa once told a woman to imagine that her suffering was kisses from Jesus. “Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that he can kiss you.”

“Tell Jesus to stop,” the woman responded.

The message the saint failed to absorb from her own story was this: Many people—Catholic or not, ill or not—reject the idea that suffering is a virtue. Whether we’re talking about nuns who would rather not self-flagellate, dying elders who would rather receive relief or even hasten the end, or desperate parents who would rather prevent the next childbirth—many people would rather not “let go and let God” manage their suffering or that of a loved one in their care. Many of us believe that causing unnecessary suffering or failing to mitigate suffering when we can is evil. Based on our moral and spiritual values, denying relief is not just wrong—it is horrific.

Catholic Hospitals Subject to Pro-Suffering Directives

One place this clash of values is playing out is in hospitals and outpatient clinics across the U.S. that have been absorbed by Catholic healthcare corporations. The mergers leave no non-Catholic care option in many communities—as, for example, in seven Washington counties where all hospitals are now Catholic owned or managed. By design, merger contracts between secular and Catholic health care systems often require that once secular institutions become subject to the “Ethical and Religious Directives” of the Catholic bishops. Like ALL’s meme and Mother Teresa’s homes, these religious directives promote suffering over patient choice in dying:

Catholic health care institutions may never condone or participate in [death with dignity] in any way. . . . Patients experiencing suffering that cannot be alleviated should be helped to appreciate the Christian understanding of redemptive suffering. 

Although hospital systems vary in terms of how forcefully they apply the Directives, in theory strict adherence is non-negotiable; and the aim of the bishops is to move Catholic-owned institutions toward more rigorous enforcement:

Catholic health care services must adopt these directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition of medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel. 

Watchdog groups like CatholicWatch.org and MergerWatch.org warn that—thanks to increasingly bold religious freedom claims by Catholic institutions—unsuspecting Americans may find themselves, like Mother Teresa’s patient, experiencing the kiss of Jesus as they wait for the end.

Suffering with Jesus 

The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . .” (Romans 5:12) This kind of thinking is used to explain why Jesus had to die, and why his blood cleanses all of our sins, preparing us for heaven.

But, as any moviegoer can tell you, a swift and painless death rarely makes a very satisfying story. In particular, a swift and painless death of Jesus might not seem sufficient to make up for all of the evil in the world since, according to the story, he remains dead for only three days. Consequently, Christians—and Catholics in particular—have long played up the protracted torture in the crucifixion story.

In the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors competed to create the most graphic, visceral depictions of blood and anguish in the crucifixion story. Even today, the interior of many Catholic churches is ringed by a series of images called “The Stations of the Cross,” which depict the stages of torment leading up to the death scene. Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” turned this sequence into feature-length torture porn, and churches bussed children and elders to witness the spectacle. Gibson sought to convey the exquisite skill with which our Iron Age ancestors inflicted protracted pain, a skill our species mastered early. This is the “passion” story in which the American Life League invites us all to participate, holding it up as a preferable alternative to choice in dying. Only their invitation isn’t really an invitation, because what they actually want is to prevent any of us from choosing otherwise.

Eve Cursed to Suffer

Catholic opposition to family planning including abortion has many roots, but one of those roots is theological glorification of pain and even death during childbirth. According to the Genesis story, Eve brought sin into the world, and the trauma of labor is her divinely appointed punishment:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

Centuries later, the New Testament writer of 1 Timothy reminded his audience that “women will be saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15).

Church fathers and leaders through the ages have echoed the Iron Age view of the Bible writers that women are filthy and morally vacant and must subjugate themselves to men.

In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, Father of Latin Christianity 

I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine. 

In this view—at its most extreme—if a woman should suffer or die in childbirth, that is simply the right and proper order of things. “Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, that is of no consequence; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.” – Martin Luther [Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 538].  

Given the words of the Bible writers, and given the words of Christianity’s patriarchs, one can understand the muddled mentality that allows right-wing Christians to feel virtuous while promoting policies that force people to suffer against their will. If only pain has the power to cleanse sin, and only God gets to decide when enough is enough, then offering people choices about the beginnings or end of life denies the devil his due.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com. 

See:http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/why-right-wing-christian-leaders-are-often-indifferent-needless-suffering?akid=13514.123424._3uRdd&rd=1&src=newsletter1042914&t=4

20 Vile Quotes Against Women By Religious Leaders From St. Augustine to Pat Robertson

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Talico

With diatribes about entertainers who invite rape and moms who are destroying America by supporting their families…with ignorant arguments about fetuses that masturbate, and females who might as well if they use contraception, and fetal personhood that trumps the personhood of females…it’s tempting to think that Christian conservatives have reached some new pinnacle of hating women and sexuality. But the sad reality is that even the media’s most unabashed misogynists like Michele Bachmann, Michael Burgess, Lou Dobbs and Juan Williams are actually tame compared to their ideological ancestors, including some of the biggest names in Christian history.

In past centuries, men who were hailed as church fathers, patriarchs, doctors, and even saints boldly expressed their view that females are inferior and loathsome, and they explained at length why God shared their perspective. Lest we fall into the conservative trap of thinking that the past was somehow better than the nasty messes we face today, it’s worth pondering some of the lovely tidbits the Church has thought fit to preserve and promote in the centuries since Christianity was founded. Here are some of the most savory. “FatThey come from three waves of religious leaders: “Fathers” of the Catholic Church, Protestant reformers, and American patriarchs who inherited the mantle of both.

Church Doctors and Fathers

·         [For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2

·         In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

·         Woman is a temple built over a sewer. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

·         Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God. – Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

·         Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

·         Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

·         As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

Protestant Reformers

·         The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

·         No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

·         Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

·         Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude. John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564)

·         Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . . of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God.  –John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791),  letter to his wife, July 15, 1774

American Patriarchs (Puritan, Mormon, Baptist, Evangelical)

·         Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior. – John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten CommandementsPuritan guidebook first published in 1603

·         The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection. – John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten CommandementsPuritan guidebook first published in 1603

·         The root of masculine is stronger, and of feminine weaker. The sun is a governing planet to certain planets, while the moon borrows her light from the sun, and is less or weaker. –Joseph Smith, founder of LDS movement (1805-1844)

·         Women are made to be led, and counseled, and directed. . . . And if I am not a good man, I have no just right in this Church to a wife or wives, or the power to propagate my species. What then should be done with me? Make a eunuch of me, and stop my propagation. –Heber C. Kimball, venerated early LDS apostle (1801-1868)

·         A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. –Official statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)

·         The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. — Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930–)

·         The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands. –James Fowler, Women in the Church, 1999.

·         Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise.  (1970–)

Why has the main current of Christianity produced a steady diet of misogyny for over 2,000 years? The answer may lay partly in human biology and culture. But it also lies in the Iron Age texts of the Bible itself. The Judeo-Christian tradition of building up men by tearing down women goes all the way back to the most ancient parts of the biblical collection, to the opening pages of Genesis, and continues unabated through the New Testament. (I’ve written elsewhere about 15 of those Bible verses because they partly explain the conservative assault on women.) As Mr. Driscoll likes to remind his followers, “Every single book in your Bible is written by a man.”

Say no more.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/20-vile-quotes-against-women-religious-leaders-st-augustine-pat-robertson?akid=10642.123424.g7Odcn&rd=1&src=newsletter862731&t=7

Carter: Religions Perpetuate Women’s Woes

Source: AP via NewsMax

Former President Jimmy Carter says religious leaders, including those in Christianity and Islam, share the blame for the mistreatment of women and girls across the world.

The 88-year-old human rights activist said Friday that male religious leaders perpetuate misguided doctrines of male superiority, from the Catholic Church forbidding women from becoming priests to some African cultures mutilating the genitals of young girls.

Carter says the doctrines contribute to a political, social and economic structure where political leaders passively accept domestic violence against women, sexual trafficking, and inequality in the workplace and classroom.

Emphasis Mine

 

Equality for Women Is Clearly Not on the New Pope’s Agenda

Source: Al Jazeera  English

Author: Marwan Bishara

“In light of the historic resignation of one pope and the election of another, my Al Jazeera show Empire  [3]has travelled to Rome [4] asking after the future of the Catholic Church as it bleeds worshipers and loses influence. As we take stock of the new Pope‘s priorities, it’s clear that the role of the women in Church isn’t one of them.

Ever since the 4th century Christianisation of the Roman Empire, which gave birth to an imperial Vatican, the Church has had a global reach like no other.

The Vatican has enjoyed religious authority worldwide, directly controlling more than a million bishops and nuns who are followed by 1.2 billion worshipers: more than any other Christian sect.

However, in recent decades, the Church has been losing the faithful at an alarming rate.

In Latin America, the home of half a billion Catholics, the Church has been losing more than a million adherents each year.

And in North America, US bishops closed down 1,373 churches from 1995 to 2010, according to Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church [5] – that’s more than one parish per week for fifteen years.

While there’s been a surge of believers in Africa and Asia [6], the Church has lost even more in Europe, including in Italy, which has witnessed a two thirds-drop among churchgoers over the last several decades.

Sex abuse scandals

There is little doubt that the latest sex abuse scandals have played a major role in shrinking the Church’s membership and undermining its credibility.

In a recent New York Times article “Beyond the Bedroom [7]”, columnist Frank Bruni argued that “It’s on matters of sexual morality that the church has lost much of its authority. And it’s on matters of sexual morality that it largely wastes its breath.”

And that’s true to a large degree, Ending mandatory celibacy would go a long way to deal with much of the hypocrisy witnessed over the years. It would also confirm the Church’s pronounced commitment to the family and so-called “family values”.

However, sexual matters in all forms – abusive, excessive, “sinful” – are symptoms of a greater problem facing not only the Vatican but also the other organised Abrahamic faiths.

The problem is the monopolisation of power among old men who are unwilling to change any aspect of religion or matter of faith.

Indeed, it’s the absence of women from the all decisive and leadership roles that sets up the antiquated Vatican and other organised religions against progress.

Keeping the women down

Within the church, it’s the hundreds of thousands of nuns that are the true global foot soldiers for the Catholic empire.

They staff and “man” healthcare centres, hospitals, schools, and orphanages in mostly impoverished Catholic societies around the world where people earn on average less than $2 a day.

But women can’t ever reach senior positions in the church. They can’t become priests, let alone cardinals or popes: positions that determine the governance of the church and the articulation of its doctrines.

The Vatican has rejected pleas [8] by one umbrella group that represents most American nuns to include women “in all ministries of our church”, including the priesthood.

Instead, the Vatican accused [9] the “Leadership Conference of Women Religious” last year of numerous grave breaches of doctrine and decorum.

According to news reports, The Vatican has rebuked the organised nuns for spending extra time “promoting issues of social justice” and not enough time speaking about “issues of crucial importance to the life of the church and society”, such as abortion and gay marriage.

The new, conservative Pope Francis has thus far shown himself to be more humble and open than his predecessor. But avid observers I spoke with in Rome don’t see in him as an advocate of equality for women in the Church.

It’s no coincidence then that American nuns are also leaving the church in record numbers, according to Catholic World News. Their number has dropped [10] from 180,000 nuns in 1965 to 75,000 in 2002, and to 56,000 today. They are expected to drop to well below 40,000 by 2020.

Democratising the Church

The Church has long made humanitarianism, at least in theory, a hallmark of its Christian mission. But the humanitarian surely begins with fairness and equality to half of humanity: women.

It is common sense that women who make up the majority of the Church’s worshipers, should have equal influence over a church in crisis and incapable of truly reforming itself.

Strangely, the Church recognises hundreds of women as “Saints” for their “great deeds or meritorious conduct”, yet won’t recognise them as priests or cardinals.

Many women have lost their lives in defence of the faith, but they aren’t entrusted with the bureaucracy of the Church.

Just as women are breaking the glass ceiling everywhere to become ever more influential in most fields, the Vatican is lowering the ceiling on its own.

But Pope Francis who comes from a predominantly Catholic country knows all too well that Argentina and its neighbours Brazil and Chile – all influential Latin American nations – have been led by democratically elected women, Kirchner, Dilma, and Bachelet, respectively.

Why not the Vatican? Why should it remain an exclusive club for men?

It’s hardly revolutionary to argue that progressive and feminist voices are ever more needed – on all levels of authority – to undo the terrible imbalances and abuses of power in the church.

In fact, only such infusion could truly save the church from its own excesses and better prepare it to deal with modernity. And I don’t mean dealing with issues limited to women such as contraception, but rather the broader challenges facing the church in the 21st century.

And this is a bottom-up struggle as it is a top-down necessity.

While I am not sure that nuns can or even want to liberalise the church, I am certain women are more likely to be progressive and fair than the men currently controlling and, in some cases, abusing the power of Vatican’s bureaucracy, the Curia.

Alas, lack of fairness and equality isn’t limited only to the Vatican. After all, a woman cannot become Pontiff for the same reason that she can’t become an Ayatollah, a Chief Rabbi, head of Al Azhar, or a Patriarch: it’s about old men controlling powerful institutions in the name of god.

Remember, power has no religion.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/equality-women-clearly-not-new-popes-agenda?akid=10489.123424.Fhj55M&rd=1&src=newsletter846370&t=7&paging=off

 

Atheists Rejoice! Pope Francis Says You’re O.K.

Source: Salon

Author: Mary Elizabeth Williams

“It likely doesn’t matter much to the atheists of the world that — of all people — Pope Francis is on their side. But he is. And that’s a cool thing for all of us.

In a message delivered Wednesday via Vatican Radio, the new pontiff distinguished himself with a call for tolerance and a message of support – and even admiration – toward nonbelievers.

Naturally, a guy whose job it is to lead the world’s largest Christian faith is still going to come at his flock with a Jesus-centric message. But he’s taking it in an encouraging new direction. In his message, Francis dissed the apostles for being “a little intolerant” and said, “All of us have this commandment at heart: Do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not (a) Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must.”

And the pope spoke of the need to meet each other somewhere on our on common ground. “This commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” It was a deeper affirmation of his comments back in March, when he declared that the faithful and atheists can be “precious allies… to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation.”

That’s a message that’s vastly different from Catholicism’s traditional “We’re number one!” dogma. Six years ago, the Vatican reasserted the church’s stance that while there may be“elements of sanctification and truth” in other faiths, “that fullness of grace and of truth… has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.” In other words, close but no cigar, everybody else.

The pope was not, of course, addressing the non-believers of the world in his Wednesday sermon, or trying to win them over. Instead, he was telling his Catholics about the importance of cutting outsiders slack. And it’s a hugely important message for Christians to hear. It’s not about being right. It’s about being loving. And it’s a necessary concept, one that needs to be expressed again and again, in a world in which the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor  in Virginia is justifying his repulsive hate speech against gays and lesbians because “I’m a Christian, not because I hate anybody, but because I have religious values that matter to me.” Coming within a week when atheists have been stepping into the spotlighthere in America with their own messages of live-and-let-live tolerance, it’s downright refreshing to get a similar message from the biggest Christian in the world.

There are plenty of atheists out there who will no doubt take the pope’s message with a grain of salt or even flat-out disdain. The last thing somebody who doesn’t believe in heaven could possibly need is some guy in a funny hat telling them that they’re okay in God’s eyes anyway. But maybe, whatever we believe or don’t believe, we can consider that the man is on to something when he speaks about “the culture of encounter.”

Francis notes that the apostles were “closed off by the idea of possessing the truth,” an arrogant certainty that no one group currently has a monopoly on. Where we find each other is in practicing tolerance for our differences, and in finding the commonality of our values. “Doing good,” Francis says, “is not a matter of faith.”

It’s not that faith, for the faithful, doesn’t matter. It’s that belonging to a church isn’t what saves us. It’s belonging to each other.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter@embeedub.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/atheists-rejoice-pope-francis-says-youre-ok?akid=10473.123424.jYYz0V&rd=1&src=newsletter844873&t=3

 

Mother Theresa’s Masochism: Does Religion Demand Suffering to Keep People Passive?

Source: Alternet

Author:  Valerie Tarico

“With a new Pope at the helm, the Catholic hierarchy has set about to polish its tarnished image. Can an increased focus on the poor make up for the Church’s opposition to contraception and marriage equality or its sordid financial and sexual affairs? The Bishops can only hope. And pray.  And perhaps accelerate the sainthood of Agnes Gonxha, better known as Mother Teresa.

In the last century, no one icon has improved the Catholic brand as much as the small woman who founded the Missionaries of Charity, whose image aligns beautifully with that of the new pope. In March a team of Canadian researchers noted the opportunity: “What could be better than beatification followed by canonization of [Mother Teresa] to revitalize the Church and inspire the faithful, especially at a time when churches are empty and the Roman authority is in decline?”

The question, however, was more than a little ironic. The team of academics from the Universities of Montreal and Ottawa set out to do research on altruism. In the process, they reviewed over 500 documents about Mother Teresa’s life and compiled an array of disturbing details about the soon-to-be saint, including dubious political connections and questionable management of funds—and, in particular, an attitude toward suffering that could give pause to even her biggest fans.

Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance ofavoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”  Or consider thisanecdote from her life:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Mother Teresa’s outlook on suffering played out in her order’s homes for the sick and dying, which doctors havedescribed as deficient in hygiene, care, nutrition, and painkillers. Miami resident Hemley Gonzalez was so shocked by his volunteer experience that he has founded an accountable charity to provide better care. “Needles were washed in cold water and reused and expired medicines were given to the inmates. There were people who had chance to live if given proper care,” . . . “I have decided to go back to Kolkata to start a charity that will be called ‘Responsible Charity.’ Each donation will be made public and professional medical help will be given,” Gonzalez said after returning to the U.S. He also launched a Facebook page called, “Stop the Missionaries of Charity.”

Even her critics mostly believe that Mother Teresa was devoted to God as she understood him and that she was devoted to serving the poor. And yet, it would appear that her institutions have offered a standard of care that would provoke international outrage if it were provided by, say the United Nations rather than an affiliate of the Vatican. How are we to understand this paradox?

Mary Johnson is a former nun who joined Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, at age 19. For the next twenty years, she lived a life of service and austerity among the sisters, which she has described in her memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst. But beneath the stark simplicity of her daily routine stirred a host of emotional, interpersonal and spiritual complexities, including the order’s tangled view of love and pain. Johnson’s thoughtful observations offer a window into the woman who inspired her spiritual vows and who ran her order of women religious.

Mother Teresa has inspired millions to acts of sacrifice or service, much as she inspired you. But even as the Catholic Church moves toward making her a saint, others are saying she was a fraud. Your book suggests something more complicated.

One of the reasons I wrote An Unquenchable Thirst was that none of the images of Mother Teresa in the media corresponded with the person I knew. The mainstream media created an image of Mother Teresa that reflected our desire for a perfect mother more than it reflected who Mother Teresa really was. On the other hand, those who called her a fraud often seemed determined to discredit her because they want to discredit religious faith. I very much admire the fact that Christopher Hitchens, who had been one of Mother Teresa’s most adamant critics, eventually revised his assessment of her.

The Mother Teresa I knew was a remarkably dedicated, self-sacrificing person, but not one of the wisest women I’ve known. Both empowered and shackled by religious faith, Mother Teresa was generous and unreasonable, cheerful and never content, one of the world’s most recognized women and one of its loneliest and most secretive.

As a postulant in the Missionaries of Charity, one of your superiors, Sister Dolorosa, told you, “Mother always says, love, to be real, has to hurt.” Did you believe that?

In the beginning of my life as a sister, I tried my best to believe what I was told, including that the greatest sign of love was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. I’d never known the sort of mutual love in which two people rejoice in each other, strengthen each other, enjoy each other. I do believe that true love is willing to suffer for the beloved when necessary, but I don’t believe that suffering is the truest or best sign of love. I certainly now reject the notion that love demands the immolation of self for the beloved, though that’s something Mother Teresa seemed to believe all her life.

During your time with the sisters, you gave up all possessions—your hair, which had to be shorn every month, an audiotape sent by your parents, even photographs. How does this relate to the fusion of love and pain?

The Missionaries of Charity set out to live like the poor they serve. We each had two sets of clothes, which we’d wash by hand every day in buckets. We are rotting vegetables and stale bread that we’d begged from wholesale grocers. We slept in common dormitories, without any privacy, on thin mattresses we’d made ourselves. Living poorly day by day convinces you that life is hard. For a Missionary of Charity, ideal love was self-sacrificing, even to the practice of corporal penance.

Your first session of self-flagellation is imprinted in my mind: “My knees shook. I took the bunch of knotted cords into my hands. From Sister Jeanne’s stall, I heard the beating sounds, one, two, three. . . . I swung harder. The skin of my lower thighs turned red, then red with white streaks as I hit harder.”

When I took that rope whip into my hands, I was scared, I was excited, I hoped that I was on my way to conquering my selfishness and becoming a holy person. When you visit the homes and shrines of various saints, you often see hair shirts or whips or spiked chains on display. This is a religion in which nearly every house of worship, classroom, and private home has as its most prominent feature the image of a bloodied, tortured man. We were taught that wearing spiked chains and beating ourselves allowed us to share in his work of redemption. I know it doesn’t make much sense when you say it just like that, but within that entire system it had its own weird logic.

After Mother Teresa’s death, the public learned of her struggles with anguishing doubt. You quote the words of a priest who comforted her with words that glorified her pain: “Your darkness is the divine gift of union with Jesus in his suffering. Your pain brings you close to your Crucified Spouse, and is the way you share His mission of redemption. There is no higher union with God. 

I often wish that Mother Teresa had found someone who would have encouraged her to look at her doubts honestly, to examine them, to confront them. But instead of finding someone who encouraged her to think for herself, she found Father Joseph Neuner, SJ, who spun Mother Teresa’s doubts in such a way that the doubts themselves were deemed a sign of her holiness. I believe that the anti-intellectual bias of the Missionaries of Charity can be traced to the day that Mother Teresa was told that the content of her doubts was something she ought never explore. We all tell ourselves stories that help us cope; wisdom looks at those stories and knows how to distinguish the true stories from the coping mechanisms. Mother Teresa swallowed the stories whole.

Help us to understand the theology under this mindset.

Ah, Valerie, theology is a story that seeks to explain things. In the Catholic Church, official theology is determined by the hierarchy, who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. When Mother Teresa admitted to the priests and bishops who were her spiritual directors that she was tormented by feelings of distance from God and by doubts in God’s existence, these priests and bishops didn’t want to encourage real questioning; they probably didn’t even give themselves permission to question deeply. Unquestioning faith enables the system to continue undisturbed. Official theology often serves politics.

In this particular case, Father Neuner taught Mother Teresa to reframe doubt as a sign that she had drawn so close to God that she shared the agony of Jesus, who cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mother Teresa’s doubts did not therefore require examination, but a greater, unquestioning faith. The adoption of such a dogmatic stance proscribed any questioning of the Church’s teachings, including those that caused such suffering to those Mother Teresa served—like prohibitions against birth control and the effective relegation of women to second-rate status in the Church. When these priests convinced Mother Teresa never to question, they were molding her into one of the most outspoken proponents of official Church teaching. The same thing happens on a smaller scale whenever a member of the faithful is taught that reason must be subjugated to belief.

Because of her opposition to contraception and her seeming disinterest in modern medicine, some have called Mother Teresa a friend of poverty rather than a friend of the poor. How do you see that?

Most people today would say that we help the poor by helping them out of poverty. That was never Mother Teresa’s intention. Mother Teresa often told us that as Missionaries of Charity we did not serve the poor to improve their lot, but because we were serving Jesus, who said that whenever service was rendered to one of the least, it was rendered to him. Jesus promised eternal life to those who fed the hungry and clothed the naked. Mother Teresa was undeniably interested in reserving a really good spot for herself behind the pearly gates. I remember once when we were having dinner and a sister was serving water for the other sisters. Mother Teresa stopped the table conversation to point to that sister and tell us, “Jesus knows how many glasses of water you’ve served to the poor. He’s counting. When you get to heaven, he will know.” I do believe that Mother Teresa had a great deal of compassion for the poor, but it’s hard to deny that she was more interested in improving everyone’s lot in the next life than in this one.

The enthusiasm for Mother Teresa’s life and work doesn’t seem to jibe with the conditions in her homes for the sick and dying. My husband and I support relief agencies like OxfamPATHWater 1st and Engender Health, and like many secular donors we take time each year to make sure they are making smart use of appropriate science and technology. Why don’t supporters hold the Missionaries of Charity accountable?

Supporters of the Missionaries of Charity are often theologically similar to the sisters, interested not so much in the (to their minds) short-term goal of helping the poor as in the long-term goal of getting everyone to heaven. It’s a little bit like certain evangelical Christians who look forward to nuclear holocaust in the Middle East because they believe devastating war will herald the end of the world and the union of all the good with God.

Toward the end of your book, you say, “So much depends on the stories we tell ourselves, and on the questions we ask, or fail to ask.” The words are a comment on Mother Teresa and her response to doubt, but I can’t help but think they also are a comment on your own journey.

I’ve learned that every question is worth asking, even when answers elude us. I’ve learned that the stories we tell can help us live more firmly in reality or they can create an alternate reality that causes us to relate to the world in a distorted way. When I allowed myself to question the stories that I’d been told, I could finally begin to live in the real world, and I can’t tell you how liberating that felt, how freeing, how wonderful. Faith teaches you all the answers; it doesn’t tell you that those answers may be wrong. I prefer to live with the questions, and with stories that mirror the world as I experience it rather than as I’d like it to be. I wrote An Unquenchable Thirst in hopes that if I were honest about the story of my life, then I could perhaps encourage others to be honest about their lives as well.”

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/mother-theresas-masochism-does-religion-demand-suffering-keep-people-passive?akid=10375.123424.dSaK1i&rd=1&src=newsletter832014&t=5

 

Pope resigns: An atheist’s reflections

Source:  Examiner

By: Staks Rosch

“On Feb. 11, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI), announced his retirement. He is the first pope in 600 years to resign from the position. The reactions have been mostly that of surprise. Even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the top Vatican official in the United States was completely stunned.

As an atheist, I’m a little stunned too. I’m surprised that Ratzinger was so willing to give up the power of the pope. I thought they would have to pry that scepter from his cold dead hand.

In hindsight, I’m not all that surprised. This pope has been a bit of a disaster for the Catholic Church. While it was pretty well known that Catholic priests have been sexually assaulting minors for a long time, the scandal really erupted during Ratzinger’s reign. Plus, his involvement in covering up these crimes prior to pope-hood and his continued obstruction of justice around the world as pope has been devastating. If that wasn’t enough, his lame attempts to blame atheism, gays, and the media didn’t help his legacy.

The Pope has been particularly vocal in his attacks on atheists. His comical attempt to reach out to atheists called, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles” was a complete failure. Then he had the audacity to associate modern atheism with the Nazis. And just a few months ago during the Winter Solstice season, the Pope tweeted that atheists deny human dignity. How’s that for spreading good will?

I’ll be happy to see this pope’s reign come to an end. Hopefully, the new pope will be someone who is more progressive-minded and will be less hateful toward atheists and gays. It would really be something if the next pope was actually a woman, but the likelihood of that is about on par with Christopher Hitchens being anointed to sainthood.”

Please check out the Atheism 101 Series for frequently asked topics.

If you enjoy this article, please share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Reddit, and others. Be notified by e-mail about the latest articles by the National Atheist Examiner using the “Subscribe” button.

Emphasis Mine.

see: http://www.examiner.com/article/pope-resigns-an-atheist-s-reflections

Does the Internet Spell Doom For Organized Religion?

From: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

“As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching [3] while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home [4]” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand itself [5]. A hipster mega-church[6] in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.

In October 2012 the Pew Research Center announced [7] that for the first time ever Protestant Christians had fallen below 50 percent of the American population. Atheists cheered while evangelicals beat their breasts and lamented the end of the world as we know it. Historian of religion Molly Worthen has since offered [8] big-picture insights that may dampen the most extreme hopes and allay the fears. Anthropologist Jennifer James [9], on the other hand, has called fundamentalism the “death rattle” of the Abrahamic traditions.

In all of the frenzy, few seem to give any recognition to the player that I see as the primary hero, or if you prefer, culprit—and I’m not talking about science populizer and atheist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson [10]. Then again, maybe I am talking about Tyson in a sense, because in his various viral guises—as atalk show host [11] and tweeter [12] and as the face [13] of scores of smartass Facebook memes—Tyson is an incarnation of the biggest threat organized religion has ever faced: the Internet.

A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden [14] to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull [15] moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist Uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does [16]!)

Religions have spent eons honing defenses [17] that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments [18] to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have Twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling.

Here are six kinds of web content that are like, well, like electrolysis on religion’s hairy toes.

1. Radically cool science videos and articles.

Religion evokes some of our most deeply satisfying emotions: joy, for example, and transcendence, and wonder. This is what Einstein was talking about when he said that “science without religion is lame.” If scientific inquiry doesn’t fill us at times with delight and even speechless awe at new discoveries or the mysteries that remain, then we are missing out on the richest part of the experience. Fortunately, science can provide all of the above, and certain masters of the trade and sectors of the Internet are remarkably effective at evoking the wonder—the spirituality if you will—of the natural world unveiled.  Some of my own favorites include Symphony of science [19], NOVA [20], TED [21], RSA Animate [22], and Birdnote[23].

It should be no surprise that so many fundamentalists are determined to take down the whole scientific endeavor. They see in science not only a critique of their outdated theories but a competitor for their very best product, a sense of transcendent exuberance.  For millennia, each religion has made an exclusive claim, that it alone had the power to draw people into a grand vision worth a lifetime of devotion. Each offered the assurance that our brief lives matter and that, in some small way, we might live on. Now we are getting glimpses of a reality so beautiful and intricate that it offers some of the same promise.

2. Curated collections of ridiculous beliefs.

Religious beliefs that aren’t yours often sound silly, and the later in life you encounter them the more laughable they are likely to sound. Web writers are after eyeballs, which means that if there’s something ridiculous to showcase, one is guaranteed to write about it. It may be a nuanced exposé or a snarky list or a flaming meme, but the point, invariably, is to call attention to the stuff that makes you roll your eyes [24], shake your head in disbelief, laugh, and then hit Share.

3. The kinky, exploitative, oppressive, opportunistic and violent sides of religion. 

Of course, the case against religion doesn’t stop at weird and wacky. It gets nasty, sometimes in ways that are titillating and sometimes in ways that are simply dark. The Bible is full of sex slavery, polygamy and incest [25], and these are catalogued at places like Evilbible.com [26]. Alternately, a student writing about holidays can find a proclamation [27] in which Puritans give thanks to God for the burning of Indian villages or an interview on the mythic origins of the Christmas story. And if the Catholic come-home plea sounds a little desperate, it may well be because the sins of the bishops [28] are getting hard to cover up. On the net, whatever the story may be, someone will be more than willing to expose it.

4. Supportive communities for people coming out of religion.

With or without the net (but especially with it) believers sometimes find their worldview in pieces. Before the Internet existed most people who lost their faith kept their doubts to themselves. There was no way to figure out who else might be thinking forbidden thoughts. In some sects, a doubting member may be shunned, excommunicated, or “disfellowshipped” to ensure that doubts don’t spread. So, doubters used to keep silent and then disappear into the surrounding culture. Now they can create Web sites, and today there are as many communities of former believers as there are kinds of belief. These communities range from therapeutic to political [29], and they cover the range of sects:Evangelical [30], Mormon [31], Jehovah’s Witness [32], and Muslim [33]. There’s even a web home for recovering clergy [34]. Heaven help the unsuspecting believer who wanders into one of these sites and tries to tell members in recovery that they’re all bound for hell.

5. Lifestyles of the fine and faithless.

When they emerge from the recovery process former Christians and Muslims and whatnot find that there’s a whole secular world waiting for them on the web. This can be a lifesaver, literally, for folks who are trapped in closed religious communities on the outside.  On the web, they can explore lifestyles in which people stay surprisingly decent and kind without a sacred text or authority figures telling them what to do. In actuality, since so much of religion is about social support (and social control) lots of people skip the intellectual arguments and exposes, and go straight to building a new identity based in a new social network. Some web resources are specifically aimed at creating alternatives to theism, like Good without God [35], Parenting Beyond Belief [36] or the Foundation Beyond Belief [37].

6. Interspiritual okayness. This might sound odd, but one of the threats to traditional religion are interfaith communities [38] that focus on shared spiritual values. Many religions make exclusive truth claims and see other religions as competitors. Without such claims, there is no need for evangelism, missionaries or a set of doctrines that I call donkey motivators (ie. carrots and sticks) like heaven and hell. The web showcases the fact that humanity’s bad and good qualities are universal [39], spread across cultures and regions, across both secular and religious wisdom traditions [40]. It offers reassurance that we won’t lose the moral or spiritual dimension of life if we outgrow religion, while at the same time providing the means to glean [41] what is truly timeless and wise from old traditions. In doing so, it inevitably reveals that the limitations of any single tradition alone.

The  Dalai Lama, who has led interspiritual dialogue for many years made waves recently by saying as much: “All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”

The power of interspiritual dialogue is analogous to the broader power of the web in that, at the very heart it is about people finding common ground, exchanging information, and breaking through walls to find a bigger community waiting outside. Last year, Jim Gilliam, founder of Nationbuilder, gave a talk titled, “The Internet is My Religion [42].” Gilliam is a former fundamentalist who has survived two bouts of cancer thanks to the power of science and the Internet. His existence today has required a bone marrow transplant and a double lung transplant organized in part through social media. Looking back on the experience, he speaks with the same passion that drove him when he was on fire for Jesus:

I owed every moment of my life to countless people I would never meet. Tomorrow, that interconnectedness would be represented in my own physical body. Three different DNAs. Individually they were useless, but together they would equal one functioning human. What an incredible debt to repay. I didn’t even know where to start. And that’s when I truly found God. God is just what happens when humanity is connected. Humanity connected is God.

The Vatican, and the Mormon Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Southern Baptist Convention should be very worried.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/belief/does-internet-spell-doom-organized-religion?akid=9929.123424.Cam74x&rd=1&src=newsletter777738&t=7&paging=off

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, In final Interview Before Death Says Church ‘200 Years Out Of Date’

From: Reuters, Via Huff Post

(Reporting By Naomi O’Leary)

Emphasis Mine.

“ROME, Sept 1 (Reuters) – The former archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said the Catholic Church was “200 years out of date” in his final interview before his death, published on Saturday.

Martini, once favoured by Vatican progressives to succeed Pope John Paul II and a prominent voice in the church until his death at the age of 85 on Friday, gave a scathing portrayal of a pompous and bureaucratic church failing to move with the times.

“Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous,” Martini said in the interview published in Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the pope and the bishops. The paedophilia scandals oblige us to take a journey of transformation,” he said in the interview.

In the last decade the Church has been accused of failing to fully address a series of child abuse scandals which have undermined its status as a moral arbiter, though it has paid many millions in compensation settlements worldwide.

Martini, famous for comments that the use of condoms could be acceptable in some cases, told interviewers the Church should open up to new kinds of families or risk losing its flock.

“A woman is abandoned by her husband and finds a new companion to look after her and her children. A second love succeeds. If this family is discriminated against, not just the mother will be cut off but also her children.”

In this way “the Church loses the future generation“, Martini said in the interview, made a fortnight before he died. The Vatican opposes divorce and forbids contraception in favour of fidelity within marriage and abstinence without.

A liberal voice in the church, Martini’s chances of becoming pope were damaged when he revealed he was suffering from a rare form of Parkinson’s disease and he retired in 2002.

Pope John Paul II was instead succeeded in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI, a hero of Catholic conservatives who is known by such critical epithets as “God’s rottweiler” because of his stern stand on theological issues.

Martini’s final message to Pope Benedict was to begin a shake up of the Catholic church without delay.

“The church is 200 years out of date. Why don’t we rouse ourselves? Are we afraid?”

Martini was much loved and thousands paid their respects at his coffin in Milan cathedral on Saturday.”

See:

Religious Concern over growing secularism

From: Catholic Free Press

By:Chaz Muth, Catholic News Service

Emphasis Mine.

” Arianne Gasser of Canton, Ohio, is proud to call herself a graduate student at a prestigious Catholic university, and she also is proud to call herself an atheist.

The pride she has in her atheist status is part of what inspired her to travel from the Philadelphia area, where she is enrolled at Villanova University, to Washington in March to join thousands of other atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers for the “Reason Rally,” an event that was billed as an assembly to unify secular people nationwide.
Carrying a sign that reads, “This is what an atheist looks like,” Gasser is part of a growing segment of Americans under the age of 30 who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics.
It’s a movement that concerns Catholic leaders worldwide, including Pope Benedict XVI.
“We have morals and we have beliefs and we have these values,” said Gasser, as she walked along the National Mall and marveled at how many people turned out for the rally. “People just think that we’re evil, God-hating. We’re just people. We just don’t believe that something happens to us after we die.”
A survey released in 2009 by the Pew Research Center found that a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 surveyed said they were atheists, agnostics or had no religion.
“Radical secularism” threatens the core values of American culture, the pope warned a group of U.S. bishops visiting the Vatican in January. He called on the church in the U.S., as well as politicians and other laypeople, to render “public moral witness” on crucial social issues.
“The larger concern with secularism is that it damages people, and that it actually keeps people from being reasonable with one another,” said Chad C. Pecknold, assistant professor of systematic theology in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
“It creates a great level of intolerance for people of faith. I think secularism for Pope Benedict is a feature of this growing bifurcation between faith and reason,” he told Catholic News Service.
Pecknold, who also is the author of the 2010 book “Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History,” said secularism is a greater threat to humanity than to the Catholic Church because it could lead to great social unrest and fragmentation.
Vilification of Muslims in the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania can be viewed as an example of secularists’ intolerance.
Richard Dawkins, vice president of the British Humanist Association and author of the 2006 book “The God Delusion,” was quoted as saying religion is dangerous “because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others.”
His remarks are an illustration of hostilities toward people of faith, Pecknold said.
“These are all examples of an attempt to cause civil unrest, which I don’t think are sustainable,” he said. “It could actually lead to greater and greater social unrest, and could potentially give so much power to culture wars that we become an increasingly fragmented society.”
The greatest threat to civil society comes from militant atheists, Pecknold told CNS.
Gasser and many of the atheists and agnostics who gathered at the “Reason Rally” said they don’t see the secular movement as a threat to society. They just want people to respect their right to shun organized religion and to have their voices heard by politicians and policymakers.
They carried signs that read “Good without a God,” “Proud to be an atheist,” and “It’s OK to be an atheist.”
Others carried signs or wore shirts that had more provocative messages, such as “If you really believe prayer worked, you’d stop voting,” “Freedom is the distance between church and state,” and “No God, No Devil, Just Us.”
Gasser said she just wants her voice to be heard with the same volume as Christians, Muslims and Jews.
“I’m not really into politics, but I do think that secular beliefs need to be treated equally with people who are believers,” she told CNS. “I don’t think we’re recognized in the government policies and the way people cover campaigns. It’s just all appealing to religious people, but there are so many of us who want to have a say in how our country is run.”
The poll numbers revealing growing atheist numbers and events like the “Reason Rally” have theology scholars focusing on what they believe is driving the secularism movement.
The cultural conditions have become more conducive to atheism. We can see that in economic ways in that we are encouraged to think of ourselves as economic individuals,” Pecknold said.
“We see that in the Tea Party, a libertarian approach to economic good in which economics is something that is merely representing my own self-interests,” he said. “That kind of radical individualism in economic terms or philosophical terms is itself kind of a practical atheism, in which you detach yourself from any sort of transcendent notion of the good, any sort of sense of a common good that you would participate in.
“A kind of view in which I can participate in something bigger than myself is kind of eroded from our economic practice as human beings.”

See:http://www.catholicfreepress.org/spiritual/2012/04/20/secularism-in-america-growing-american-movement-raises-concerns/