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/

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U.S. courts shut down Catholic employers’ campaign against contraceptives

 Source: LA Times

Author: Michael Hiltzak

Emphasis Mine

Ever since the federal government mandated that health insurance cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act without cost-sharing--that is, no co-pay charges or deductibles–Catholic employers have been trying to undercut the requirement.

Fortunately, they’ve been batting zero at the appeals court level, most recently before the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, which last week knocked down an assertion by two Roman Catholic high schools and two Catholic healthcare systems that their religious rights are violated by even the requirement that they put their objections to contraception on the record so the government, their insurers, and their employees can make other arrangements.

The 2nd Circuit thus joins six other appeals courts in finding that the notice requirement doesn’t impose a burden on their religious exercise. No appeals court has ruled the other way. The 2nd Circuit ruled that “the only obligation actually imposed on plaintiffs is identifying themselves as religious objectors” through “a modicum of paperwork,” and that doesn’t come close to a burden on their religious observance. Since the plaintiffs in these lawsuits include many Catholic institutions operating in the secular world, including the University of Notre Dame and Wheaton Collegeit’s proper to examine how far they’ve been willing to go to try to impose their own religious views on thousands of employees and students who may not share them–even when the institutions are exempt from the mandate itself.

At issue in these cases is the “accommodation” the Obama administration provided to the religious employers objecting to the contraception mandate. According to the accommodation, religious employers that didn’t want to provide these services to employees via their health plans merely had to file a form with their insurers and the Department of Health and Human Services stating that they objected. That filing would make the insurers, not the employers, responsible for providing the contraceptives–in some cases with profitable funding from the federal government.

Yet some employers thought even that procedure made them complicit with a sin. So the government offered a further accommodation: they merely had to send a letter identifying themselves as objectors. That still wasn’t enough. Sending the letter, Notre Dame asserted, still made it a “conduit” between the health plans it contracted with and its employees and students. The law forced it to “contract with a third party willing to provide the very services Notre Dame deems objectionable.”
The judges in these cases take the sincerity of the plaintiffs as, well, gospel. But as Appellate Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit observed in May, their lawsuits aim to extend the reach of their religious objections awfully far–imposing them on private corporations (Aetna and its other insurers) and even on the federal government. No dice, Posner ruled in the Notre Dame case; the accommodation actually serves to “lift a burden from the university’s shoulders.”

His words were echoed last week by the three-judge appellate panel in New York, which found that the burden on the high schools and other plaintiffs was “merely one of notification, equivalent to the burden historically placed on draft registrants to indicate their conscientious objections to military service.” Once they opt out, the law doesn’t require them to play any role whatsoever in providing birth control to their female employees.

From the inception of the Affordable Care Act, the government has leaned over backward to meet the objections of Catholic employers. First it offered its accommodation to religious entities such as churches, then extended it to secular employers with religious affiliations, like Notre Dame. When some of these objected to submitting a government form attesting to their objections to the mandate, they were permitted to just send a letter. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, extended the rights of religious-affiliated employers to private companies owned by people claiming religious scruples.

The plaintiffs have moved from asserting their own right to not provide contraceptive services to asserting their right to prevent any entity with which they have even a tenuous business relationship from providing these services to their employees, and then to preventing the U.S. government from doing so in their stead. What’s next? Asserting that employees who cash their paychecks shouldn’t be allowed to buy contraceptives with their money?

The courts are right to call a halt to this trend. But the battle isn’t over; although so far every circuit is in accord, nothing stops the Supreme Court from deciding to weigh in. Then all bets will be off, once again.

Keep up to date with the Economy Hub. Follow @hiltzikm on Twitter, see our Facebook page, or email michael.hiltzik@latimes.com.

 

See: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-catholic-campaign-against-contraception-20150811-column.html

How Christian Fundamentalism Helped Empower the Top 1% to Exploit the 99%

From AlterNet, by Frank Schaeffer

N.B.: Separation of Church and State!

“As the Occupy Wall street movement spreads across the country and the world, we must bring attention to the enablers of the top 1 percent exploiting the 99. Fundamentalist religion made this exploitation possible.

Evangelical fundamentalism helped empower the top 1 percent. Note I didn’t say religion per se, but religious fundamentalism.
Why? Because without the fundamentalists and their “values” issues, many in the lower 99 percent could not have been convinced to vote against their (our) economic self-interest; in other words, vote for Republicans who only serve billionaires.
Wall Street is a great target for long-overdue protest, but so are the centers of religious power that are the gatekeepers of Republican Party “values” voters that make the continuing economic exploitation possible.
Fundamentalist religion –– evangelical and Roman Catholic alike — has delegitimized the US government and thus undercut its ability to tax, spend and regulate.

The fundamentalists have replaced economic and political justice with a bogus (and hate-driven) “morality” litmus tests of spurious red herring “issues” from abortion to school prayer and gay rights. The result has been that the masses of lower middle-class and poor Americans who should be voting for Democrats and thus their own economic interests, have been persuaded to vote against their own class and self interest.
This trick of political sleight of hand has been achieved by this process:
  • Declare the US government agents of evil because “the government” has allowed legal abortion, gay rights, etc.
  • Declare that therefore “government is the problem,” not the solution.
  • The government is the source of all evil www.amazon.com/Sex-Mom-God-Strange-Politics/dp/0306819287/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0, thus anyone the government wants to regulate is being picked on by satanic forces. The US government is always the bad guy.
  • Good, God-fearing folks will always vote for less government and less regulation because “the government” is evil.
  • So unregulated corporations, banks and Wall Street are always right and represent “freedom” while government is always wrong and represents “tyranny.”
Like most evangelical/Roman Catholic fundamentalist movements in history, from the Bay State colonies to the Spanish Inquisition, the American Religious Right of today advocates the fusion of state power and religion through the reestablishment of the “Christian America” idea of “American Exceptionalism” (i.e., a nation “chosen” by God), the form of government adopted by the Puritans’ successors during the age of early American colonialism.
Thus the division between “real Americans” and the rest of us is the “saved” and “lost” paradigm of theological correctness applied to politics. Thus President Obama isn’t a real American, or even a born American, he’s “Other,” a Muslim, an outsider, and above all not “one of us.”
In other words you’re not just wrong, but evil if you disagree with the Elect over abortion, or for that matter peace in the Middle East because you’re “not supporting Israel.”
“Bring America back to the Bible” is really no more subtle than the claim of the Iranian Mullahs to rule in “God’s name” so that Iran too can come back to God. And if you can get Americans to worry about the Bible and not fairness and justice, then you have handed a perpetual victory to Goldman Sachs and company.
How Did We Get Here?

The unstated agreement went like this: Republicans will pander to the Religious Right on the social issues — abortion, gay rights, prayer in schools, creationism in textbooks, and not so subtly the endorsement of religious schools to help white evangelicals and Roman Catholics avoid integration — as long as the Religious Right turned a blind eye to the fact that the Republican Party would sell the soul of the country to corporate America, a country-within-a-country where 1 percent of the population have more wealth than the 99 percent.
Deference to religion masquerading as politics must end, now.
 
Religion masquerading as politics is not true religion or politics– it is a theocracy-in-waiting. This charade of power grabs in God’s name needs to be exposed, and destroyed.
Democracy will not survive the continuing dirty combination of theocracy and oligarchy. That’s where we’re headed: bankers running the world backed by preachers who don’t care about God but care about power.
The timely destruction of the economic elites and their religious facilitators begins by calling fundamentalist/evangelical/Roman Catholic “religion” what it is: a political grab for power based on literal madness of the sort that makes many terrified of modernity, truth, science and facts and leads them to deny evolution and global warming while believing that Jesus will come back any day now.
To the post-Roe Religious Right, hating America became the new patriotism. If it had not been for the evangelicals demonizing the federal government over abortion and gay rights (as they did before over civil rights) how else would the economic oligarchy have gotten away with making the underclass vote against their own interests?
‘I’m Pro-Life and I Vote’ Bumpersticker Says It All

The evangelical Right helped stall the Obama presidency. And they are only getting going, as their 87 Tea Party congressional freshmen proved by being willing to plunge the US economy over a cliff in order to satisfy their hunger to clip the wings of the “evil” US government and render it useless.
When my late evangelical father and I were running around back in the 1970s and ’80s signing up Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan to “take a stand on abortion” we were outsiders and agitators. Today, the agitators are now actually running the heart of the Republican Party. Some of the most extreme of their number — Perry and Bachmann — are actually running for president.

That’s why no one was surprised that Rick Perry kicked off his presidential race with a prayer meeting surrounded by extremist bigots from the far, far evangelical right.
Protest Churches and Religious Organizations, Along With Wall Street
Fundamentalist religion of all kinds is the enemy of democracy and thus of America. It is also the enemy of working people everywhere, when its bogus moral crusades empower the rich to thumb their noses at our government.
Fundamentalist religion here and around the world must be stopped in its anti-fact, anti-progress crusade. The alternative is chaos, decline, oligarchy and theocracy.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152724/how_christian_fundamentalism_helped_empower_the_top_1_to_exploit_the_99?akid=7719.123424._z7XFi&rd=1&t=5

Darwin, Galileo, and the Vatican: After nearly 400 years

And more than forty years after Apollo 11, the Vatican finally apologized to Galileo.

Will we have to wait until circa 2300 for it to accept Darwin?

Actually, the Roman Church accepted Evolution several decades ago, but might be wavering, according to an Americans United For Separation of Church and State post.

see: http://blog.au.org/2009/02/26/praying-for-the-stimulus-package-white-house-needs-to-drop-invocations-at-rallies/