The Privileged Cruelty of Religious Right Sex Rules

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Source:valerietarico.com

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

Sexual intimacy and pleasure are some of humanity’s most cherished experiences. The so-called “best things in life” include natural beauty, fine dining, the arts, thrilling adventures, creative pursuits and community service. But love and orgasms are among the few peak experiences that are equally available to rich and poor, equally sweet to those whose lives are going according to plan and to many whose dreams are in pieces. (N.B.: in 20th century America African Americans utilized human sexuality to compensate for what was denied them elsewhere.)

Religious conservatives think that these treasured dimensions of the human experience should be available to only a privileged few people whose lives fit their model: male-dominated, monogamous, heterosexual pairs who have pledged love and contractual marriage for life. Some true believers—especially those in thrall to the Protestant Quiverfull Movement or the Vatican—would further limit sexual privileges even within hetero state-licensed, church-sanctified marriages to only couples who are open to intimacy producing a pregnancy and a child. Take your pick: it’s either reproductive roulette or no sex—although you might be able to game God by tracking female fertility and then bumping like bunnies during the low risk times of the month.

Why Christianity is Obsessed with Sex

To be clear, I’m not saying that Christianity’s sex rules are only a function of patriarchal Christian privilege. During the Iron Age, from whence Christianity’s sex rules got handed down, society was organized around kin groups, and the endlessly-warmongering clans of the Ancient Near East were more at risk of extinction than overpopulation. Legally-enforced monogamy created lines of inheritance and social obligation, clarifying how neighbors should be treated and who could be enslaved.

Also, hetero sex necessarily carried the risk of pregnancy, which made it adaptive to welcome resultant pregnancies. Children do best in stable, nurturing families and communities, and in the Ancient Near East, “No marriage? No sex!” may have served to protect the well-being of mothers and children as well as the social power of patriarchal men. But in today’s mobile, pluralistic societies with modern contraceptive options and social safety nets, God’s self-appointed sex police have little credible excuse save their own compelling need to bully and boss and stay on top.

It should come as no surprise that Church authorities want an exclusive license to grant “legitimate” sexual privileges. Over the centuries, religious authorities have sought to own and define virtually all of the experiences that touch us deeply: the birth of a new person (christening, bris), art (iconography), music (chanting and hymns), eating, morality, mind altering substances, community, coming of age, family formation, and even our dying process. In each case religious authorities seek to legitimize some forms of the experience and denigrate those that don’t fit their model. Powerful people and institutions want to control valued assets so they can leverage those assets to get more power. And controlling sex is powerful!

The Egotism and Cruelty of God’s Self-Appointed Messengers

Religious authorities like Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan or Evangelist Franklin Graham or Religious Right icon Pat Robertson quote the Bible and talk as if their self-righteous sex rules came straight from God, which of course is hooey. Set aside for the moment the fact that declaring oneself a spokesman for God is stupefyingly egotistical. Anyone who claims to know the mind of God is simultaneously making a rather bold claim about the superior infallibility of his own mind. The same can be said for anyone who boldly declares that the Bible is literally perfect and that he knows what God was trying to say.

But beyond egotism, telling people they can’t have sex based on Iron Age rules collected in the Bible or medieval rules pontificated by some kiss-my-ring Pope is just plain mean. It’s cruel and selfish and heartless, because the sex rules that served Hebrew patriarchs 2500 years ago and that helped the Vatican breed more tithing members 500 years ago deny sex to a whole lot of people who would otherwise find sexual pleasure and intimacy precious.

No Sex for the Weary

Who would men like Dolan, Graham and Robertson (or their predecessors like the Apostle Paul, Augustine, or Martin Luther) exclude from the privilege of sexual intimacy? Most of humanity—including, probably, you and a lot of people you love. The list is limitless:

  • College students who face long years of study before being ready for partnership and parenthood.
  • Parents who want to commit their finite emotional resources to the children they already have.
  • Young singles whose bodies are at peak libido, but who aren’t ready to form families.
  • Queer folk.
  • Those who, whether married or not, want to commit their lives to some form of calling that isn’t parenthood.
  • People who perceive balance within the web of life as moral or spiritual imperative, whose conscience guides them to limit childbearing for the sake of other species and future generations.
  • Poor people who want to get a step ahead instead of (or before) having a child.
  • People who are saving up for marriage.
  • Cohabiting couples who don’t buy into the traditional marriage contract.
  • Empty nesters who are rediscovering why they like each other.
  • Travelers whose mobile lifestyle makes it impossible to offer a child a stable nurturing community and whose opportunities for intimacy flit past.
  • Unmarried soldiers.
  • Loners and eccentrics whose personal qualities or desire for solitude make partnership and/or parenthood a poor fit.
  • Puppy lovers.
  • Elderly widows and widowers for whom remarriage doesn’t make sense.
  • Famine-plagued women whose hungry bodies can ill sustain the risks of pregnancy or demands of incubating a healthy child.
  • The ill or those at risk of illness, who must navigate love in the time of chemo or love in the time of Zika.
  • War zone civilians and refugees who may not know whether they’ll survive or how, but know there is comfort in each other’s arms.

I could go on but I suspect there’s no need. Under what set of delusions is the world a better place because people like these are denied the pleasures of intimate touch, or the respite of a sexual interlude, or the acute pleasure of orgasm?

What The Sex Police Really Want

Wait a minute, a reader might say. Don’t overgeneralize. A minority of lay Christians believe that married couples must give up sex if they don’t want a(nother) baby —even if that is the official word from the pulpit for Catholics and some Protestants. So, this fight is really about people who want sex without marriage.

True. Well, partly true.

It goes without saying that conservative Christians want above all to deny sexual intimacy and pleasure to people who are single—especially girls and women. That is because the Bible’s Iron Age Sex Rules were meant, first and foremost, to ensure that females, who were economic assets belonging to men, produced purebred offspring of known paternity, who were also economic assets belonging to men. The Bible sanctions many forms of marriage and sexual slavery but all converge on one point: they guarantee that a man can know which offspring are his. That is why, after the slaughter of the Midianites in the book of Numbers, only virgins can be kept as war booty. It is why, in the Torah’s legal code, a rapist can be forced to buy and keep the damaged goods.

The Old Testament prescribes death for dozens of infractions (you yourself probably belong on death row). But when it comes to sex, the death penalty is for females who voluntarily give it up (or who don’t scream loud enough when they are being raped). The meanest, sickest part of this archaic and morally warping worldview is the idea that, for women, sex itself should be a death penalty—or at least a roll of the dice. It’s simply divine justice that sex should sooner or later lead to the pain and potential mortality of childbirth, because that’s the punishment God pronounced on uppity Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16 NRSV.

There you have it. Female sexual pleasure and intimacy without the risk of labor pain and death is cheating God—as well as the male who rules over her.

Control at Any Price

The ways in which God’s Self-Appointed Sex Police try to obstruct intimacy and orgasms are legion. Denying young people information about their bodies, promoting sex negativity, fostering a cult of virginity, spreading lies about masturbation—and above all shaming, shaming, shaming anyone who might dare to have sex without their approval. But the surest way the sex police can stop single females from cheating their way out of Eve’s curse is by making sex risky, which is why the religious right is obsessed with denying women access to birth control and abortion.

Globally, today 215 million desperate women want modern contraception and are unable to get it, thanks in part to American Religious Right politicians who explicitly excluded fertility management services from international HIV prevention. Church induced hang-ups about sex mean that reproductive empowerment gets left out of conversations where it is fundamental to wellbeing: family prosperity, early childhood development, mental health—even education of girls and career advancement of women.

At home, the U.S. squandered almost two decades and 1.5 billion dollars on abstinence-only “sex ed” that was an abject failure. Over the last three quarters of a century, conservative Christian obstruction of sexual literacy and family planning programs has driven humanity to the verge of collapse and has devastated families, condemning desperately poor people—like those who trusted Mother Teresa (who in turn trusted the Pope)—to lives of even deeper desperation.

Righteous men with access to the halls of power thwart sexual agency and then make criminals of women who abort the resulting ill-conceived pregnancies—all for the sake of maintaining their own authority and that of their institutions. And if the campaign to stop single women from having sex makes things hard for some married folks—the refugee couple, for example; or the poor parents trying to take care of the kids they already have; or those facing the prospect of a Zika baby with calcified and deformed brain structuresso be it.

The Small and Large of It

Think of the suffering as collateral damage— a form of collateral damage that is relatively benign by the standards of ecclesiastical history.

During the peak of Christianity’s political power, the Dark Ages, the Vatican launched a crusade against a sect of French Christians, the Cathars, who the Pope had declared heretics. When the crusaders arrived and began their slaughter, local people fled into churches, and sorting out who counted as a real Christian got confusing. So an inquiry was sent to the abbot, asking who should be killed and who spared. He replied by messenger: “Kill them all, God will know his own.”

By contrast with medieval butchery, collateral damage in the form of intimacy denied, or lives burdened with shame and stigma, or unwanted children born into the world with the odds stacked against them, seems minor.

But that is the only standard by which denying people sexual intimacy and pleasure is trivial. As I said, these are among humanity’s most treasured experiences. There are few freedoms that we value more than being able to form the love bonds and families of our choosing. In Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan—and even among immigrant Muslims in the West—young people risk and lose their lives for love.

Going for Broke

Religious authorities fight to maintain monopoly control over sexual privileges precisely because these privileges are so valuable—so to the heart of who we are as human beings. Sexual pleasure sweeps over us; it can bring us to our knees. Sexual intimacy allows us to transcend the boundaries of time and space, body and psyche—to lose the self in the other.

If these seem like religious terms, they are. It is no accident that vocalizations during carnal ecstasy sounds a lot like prayer or that erotic music often has religious overtones: Take me to church; I’ll worship like a dog. . . . In your temple of love . . . halleluja (Hozier; Rod Stewart; Leonard Cohen). Or vice versa: You hold my hand and hold my heart; I give it away now, I am on my knees offering all I am (Parachute Band).

The Church hierarchy’s determination to define and control “legitimate” sex may be cruel and transparently self-serving. But it is smart. Sex endlessly attracts and compels us, making sexual guilt the perfect currency for institutions trafficking in sin and salvation. When religious authorities hold exclusive power to forgive sexual transgressions and then dole out (or deny) sexual privileges, they can redirect sublimated love and loyalty and yearning and passion into the kind of peak experiences that religion itself has on offer—experiences like spiritual ecstasy, selfless service, or mystical union with the Divine—all scripted and doled out by the very same religious institutions and authorities, of course.

But God’s self-appointed spokesmen are losing their grip. If their proclamations seem crazier and their political maneuvers seem transparently cruel—as in recent bullying of transgender kidsthat is because they are desperate. People are noticing that the cage door is open and that the world outside offers a rainbow of possibilities.

Sex and love that are not controlled by the Church compete with the Church. If individuals who are young and elderly, stable and transitioning, queer and straight, partnered and single, parenting and childfree, claim the right to pleasure themselves and each other and to form intimate bonds based on no authority save their own mutual consent and delight, the Church is screwed.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

See:https://valerietarico.com/2016/05/27/the-privileged-cruelty-of-religious-right-sex-rules/

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Papal Decree on Abortion Shows How Religion Hooks People By Inducing then Absolving Guilt

Source: Valerietarico.com

Emphasis Mine

John Stewart famously said, “Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.”

The painful irony of Stewart’s words is obvious to us all. What may be less obvious is the underlying pattern: Offering solutions to problems that religion itself has created is one of the key means by which religion propagates. The Pope’s recent limited-time offer of confession and forgiveness for women who have aborted pregnancies perfectly illustrates this pattern.

The Reality of Women’s Lives

Few women end a pregnancy on a selfish whim. All around us—all around you—are women (or couples) who have chosen to end pregnancies for reasons that are prudent, compassionate, service-oriented, or self-aware. Sometimes the reason is simply, “I can’t do this right now,” or “I don’t want to, and children should be wanted.” Sometimes a woman commits to an education, or to take one step forward out of poverty, or to join the military, or simply to devote her finite energy to the children she already has or to her community or our world. Under most circumstances, these are kinds of decisions that we honor, even if they are difficult and require letting go of one possible future to embrace another.

But choosing to carry forward a new life—or not—is one of the most momentous decisions a person can make, and inevitably some people regret it, just as some people regret smaller decisions like the choice of a college or career or spouse. Each of us is far more likely to feel regretful or even eaten-up about a decision we have made if it violates our own values or if people around us say that it should. And when it comes to parenthood decisions, that creates an opening for religion to create (or at least feed) a problem it can solve.

Turning Prudence into Sin

The Bible teaches that sin came into the world through woman, that a woman’s reproductive capacity belongs to man (her father “gives her” to a husband), and that women will be saved through childbearing. Biblical literalists who have internalized this view actively work to induce shame and guilt in women who end pregnancies, because a woman actively managing her fertility and her life fundamentally violates their worldview.

To make matters more complex, abortion is about ending a budding life that has the potential to grow into a person. Normal, morally intact people feel emotional resistance to ending a life—even that of a bird or mouse. We also feel an instinctive protectiveness toward things that remotely resemble human babies or children (for example, stuffed animals, puppies or big-eyed LOL cats). This makes it very easy for religion to induce distress about abortion, even to the point of inducing pathological shame, depression or trauma, or a sense of personal worthlessness and irredeemable guilt—from which it then offers redemption.

In some Christian churches this may take the form of offering abortion support groups that—rather than helping a woman embrace her own courage and wisdom or helping her process normal mixed feelings or regrets—that instead deepens her sense of guilt and shame. “You have committed murder,” she may be told, “But the blood of Jesus cleanses even the most depraved of sins.” She may be told she will meet her “child” in heaven, and may be given the opportunity to practice asking forgiveness. She may be given a diagnostic label coined by abortion foes—“post-abortion trauma syndrome”—to validate her conviction that she is damaged but can be healed by the solution they offer. All of this deepens her dependence on the religious community and their version of God.

A Catholic Self-Correction

The Catholic Church has long erred on the side of driving away couples or women who engage in thoughtful family planning, especially if this includes an abortion decision. Officially, since 1869 abortion has been a sin worthy of excommunication, for which only a bishop could grant absolution. But this harsh stance wasn’t working. Research suggests that Catholic women in the U.S. seek abortions at about the average rate, approximately 1 in 3 ends a pregnancy at some point during her childbearing years. The Catholic stance simply led women to avoid the Church and sacraments. By granting a reprieve and allowing women to confess to priests, Pope Francis puts a kinder, gentler face on Catholicism and invites these women back into the fold.

What he fails to do—and what the Church fails to do more broadly—is to recognize and honor their courage, wisdom and moral autonomy, the deep commitment to love and compassion that guides so many abortion decisions, and the extraordinary lengths to which women go to help ensure that their families can flourish. It fails to recognize that for women who choose abortion (like me), an acorn is not an oak tree and a fetus is not a child; that we women can hold ourselves deeply responsible to the people around us—their hopes and dreams and needs—that we can love our children to the point of being willing to give our lives for them, while remaining convinced that a fetus is only a potential person like the potential people we decline to bring into the world each time we use birth control or abstain from sex.

The Broader Pattern

The reason the Pope’s announcement so perfectly illustrates the Church’s broader pattern of inducing problems and then solving them is that (unlike the sectarian conflict cited by John Stewart) most of these problems are psychological in nature. They come from ways in which religious teachings create fear, guilt, helplessness, self-doubt, and even self-loathing that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

Guilt, Self-Loathing, and Absolution: If you listen carefully to the words of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” you will hear the phrase “a wretch like me.” In contrast to Hinduism, which teaches that each child contains one spark of the divine light, Christianity teaches that we are all born bad thanks to Eve’s “original sin” in the Garden of Eden. Calvinists use the term “utterly depraved” to describe a person who isn’t saved. Fortunately, the perfect sacrifice of Christ on the cross offers us redemption. We are “washed in the blood of the lamb.” As one hymn puts it, Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Helplessness, Dependency and Authority: According to Christian tradition, everything bad we do is either our fault or the fault of Satan working through us, but God or the Holy Spirit should get credit for the good we do. “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,” says the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2:20NIV). Christians are taught not to trust their own moral core, their own strength, or even their own intellect. “Lean not unto your own understanding,” says the psalmist (Proverbs 3:5), and his words are echoed in modern vernacular: Let go and let God. This attitude undermines autonomy and agency to the point that one Episcopal theologian, John Shelby Spong, commented in frustration that “Christians don’t need to be born again, they need to grow up.”

Fear of Outsiders and a Safe Haven: Many religious groups teach that outsiders lack a moral core and are not to be trusted, and even interfaith groups may teach this about atheists. Outcry erupted in Britain recently about Orthodox Jewish school materials teaching children that non-Jews are “evil.” This type of belief is common among Muslims and Christians as well, and it serves to create in-group cohesion and interdependence. Some former Christians describe being frightened of outsiders and even of themselves when they first left their church. If the outside world is a scary place, that makes the religious in-group all the more important, and it serves as a deterrent to leaving. Walls that might otherwise feel restrictive instead offer a sense of security.

Protection from Eternal Torture: “Devote yourself to me or I’ll torture you.” Wife abusers, dictators, gang members, and Italian mobsters use demands of this sort to elicit demonstrations of loyalty and faithfulness. And yet we all recognize that when a mobster provides “protection,” he is offering a solution to a problem he himself has created—the threat of his own violence. In an abusive home, this trade-off may be hazier, as in Pat Benetar’s song, “Hell is for Children,” in which she says “love and pain become one and the same in the eyes of a wounded child.” For centuries, Church leaders terrorized the faithful and those who were wavering with horrendous images of hell—from Dante’s Inferno, graphically illustrated by Botticelli (and now the underlying structure of a best-selling Dan Brown novel), to the iconic sermon by Puritan Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” to the hellfire and brimstone tent revivals of the 20th Century. Today many evangelists prefer to focus on the (dubious) delights of heaven, but few reject altogether the powerful threat of eternal torture.

Exemption from this torture is precisely what Pope Francis now offers women who have ended pregnancies, with the implication that it is otherwise deserved. For those who think it through, his proclamation rivals John Stewart for irony:

In his attempted kindness and mercy, Francis offers women the means to be forgiven for prudent, responsible, courageous, compassionate actions that the Church has twisted into sins. The offer extends only for those who accept the burden of theologically-induced guilt in order to be relieved of it, and only for a limited time. In exchange, women are granted protection from after-life horrors conceived in minds of Iron Age men and elaborated in the Dark Ages, when the Church’s inquisitors sought to foreshadow here on earth the tortures God had in wait for those who fail to repent.

But perhaps the greatest twist is this. Women are expected to be grateful and to see this as an act of conciliation—which, ironically, it is.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author ofTrusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

See: http://valerietarico.com/2015/09/04/papal-decree-on-abortion-shows-how-religion-hooks-people-by-inducing-then-absolving-guilt/

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

 

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.”

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Emphasis Mine.

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