Monday, July 21, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part III

This is Part III of a three part series.  (Go read Part II if you've not seen it yet!)


America is in the middle of a severely dysfunctional period of political and social change.

Over the last hundred years, technology has rocketed us from the horse and buggy days to jet aircraft and rockets to the moon.  From simple telephone tech to cell phones and computers in our pockets.

A hundred years ago, information was limited to those who could read, which for the population of the US as a whole was about 90%.  In 1979, that rate was 0.6%.  The ability of people to distribute information was limited.  For a regional audience, newspapers were the norm, and was limited to what the editors would print.  A wider audience could be reached in book publication, but that was limited to what the major publishing house editors thought would sell.

Accordingly, the public picture of what was normal was limited to what people could read, and that was tightly controlled, even with what was then a fairly free press.  The abnormal was easily ignored and any contradicting speech or dissension was often swept under the rug.

Until women got angry, and began working to change things.  By 1920, the 19th amendment allowed women the right to vote after a long and contentious public debate, including protests outside the White House, often resulting in arrests.

Today, information is everywhere.  The Internet allows instant connection to just about any repository of information that has an online presence.  Many traditional repositories of information, including the Library of Congress, are rapidly digitizing their collections.

The Internet has changed communication as well.  In the early 20th century, overseas telephone calls were expensive and rare, requiring coordination by letter so both parties were available at a coordinated time.  While this got easier with time, even as late as the 1960's, calling overseas often required advance reservations of a time slot, and were still not cheap.

By the 1970-'s, with modern satellite communications systems well under construction, such calls became both cheap and easy compared to just a decade earlier.

The Internet changed all that.  Today, there are multiple methods for connecting to people, even across the globe.  Email, texting, land line calls and even cell phones can be used to connect to people instantaneously.  While the online bulletin boards of the early 90's allowed communications by text, today, with such Internet giants as Facebook and Google, communication with huge numbers of people across wide swaths of the globe are as easy as sending an email, posting to a Facebook page or setting up a web site.  Skype and FaceTime allow instant face to face communication across the globe.

Any of this can be done on a cell phone.

This communication explosion has greatly changed the character of our political discourse.  While Americans slowly and quietly moved away from devout religious observance during the course of the late 20th century, the 21st, with the advent of instant internet communication, has resulted in an explosion of secular movements and groups.  The demographic of "None" as related to religious affiliation is the fastest growing category world-wide, not merely in the US.

Many in the movement attribute this to the Internet and the ability of people of a secular point of view to see - for the first time - that they are not alone and are part of a growing and dynamic community.

The growth of secularism, from the 60's on, resulted in a backlash of religiosity, starting with the Moral Majority, and Ronald Reagan's Presidency.  This backlash has grown in political influence, spurred on by the Republican Party allying itself with the religious right in a bid for increased political influence.  Successfully, I might add.

The Religious Right (RR) has gained influence on a regional and local basis through intense local organizing and political activism.  The resulting political power thus gained has allowed the Republicans control of a substantial majority of State Houses, allowing the RR to bend the political discourse far to the right of center.

A movement known as Dominionism (of which I've written here extensively) has orchestrated much of the successful passage of laws undermining education and science, causing much social controversy and political division, especially in the area of abortion and women's reproductive health.  In many States, there is a virtual dearth of any legal means of abortion, and now the fight is being directed towards a subject everybody thought was won decades ago - contraceptives.

So, today, after decades of successful advancement of women's rights, including the right to vote, the right to divorce, including no fault provisions, the right to contraceptives and abortion, and the right own property (largely won in the 19th century), women's groups are now having to gear up and spend vast amounts of money fighting for the continued existence of rights once thought secure.

Most of this is due to religion.  Patriarchy, biblical proscriptions against women (whether real or not) and a Dominionist movement intent on converting the US from a democracy to a theocracy have all brought the American political scene to a complete and utter standstill.

RR's efforts haven't stopped there.  There is a litany of things they are working on.

abstinence-only education - Instead of medically accurate information and thoughtful conversation about intimacy and childbearing, teens get promise rings and slut shame. 
Opposing protections and rights for children.  Thanks to the influence of biblical Christianity, the U.S. stands alone with Somalia in failing to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  
Undermining science - The scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief. We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth, neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness, mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases, and the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.
Promoting war - George Bush didn’t need to seek input from his earthly father about the invasion, because he asked his Heavenly Father.  Besides, Jesus is coming soon and war in the Middle East is predicted in the Bible.  That makes it not only inevitable, but—in a manner of speaking—desirable.
Abuse of LGBT persons and refusal of equal rights - They've fought equal rights for these folks for decades, and still are, and it would be bad enough if we were simply talking about history. But homophobic American Christians, thwarted at home, have turned to inciting oppression in Uganda and Nigeria where their hatred still finds fertile ground.
Destroying Earth’s web of life and endangering future generations - Climate change denial and refusal of reasonable methods of keeping our air and water clean and unpolluted is based on biblical scripture giving man "Dominion" (there that word is again) over the earth and all its animals, as well as the believed inevitability of the Second Coming, where God will simply create a new and better Earth guarantees that the RR will refuse to assist in doing anything to protect the environment or protect future generations from the consequences of our irresponsibility today.  Add Republicans' devotion to Corporate welfare, and the die is cast.
(Thanks to Valerie Tarico at for her ideas and some of her language.)

I guess the greatest harm in general that religion (right wing fundamentalism in particular) does to this country is through its insistence that we support Israel.  The most vile technique they use is to accuse detractors of being anti-Semitic.  Even people who have reasoned and logical arguments against that support are branded with that epithet.

I am not, in principle, opposed to Israel.  I am not even against some form of support for it.

But our foreign policy regarding Israel is held hostage by the RR for religious reasons (because of the Second Coming) and tolerates no deviation from complete and total support.  Regardless of whether American interests are harmed or even devastated by that support, they insist that we continue to support Israel, blindly and without digression.

This has resulted in anger towards the US and much hatred of us by the Muslim world, and has resulted directly in the attacks on the World Trade Center (both of them), and a continued campaign of terrorist activity against American interests.

Our responses to that have been goaded by the RR to the point that our constitutional rights are now under attack at home and US Intelligence has eroded America's reputation for even handedness and high standards of morality to the point of almost nonexistence.  The RR's toleration and indeed, insistence on, classifying water boarding and "advanced interrogation techniques" as acceptable has completely destroyed the ability of this country to hold other countries accountable for similar actions against our own citizens, resulting in the inability of the government to protect American Citizens overseas.

Even if the Progressive movement (such as it is) managed to gain political ascendancy in the next election by some miracle, it would take decades for us to regain our good reputation for being a humane and law abiding nation.  As it is, forget it.

Obviously, this examination of the negative affects of having the population of this country believe in superstitious Bronze Age beliefs is incomplete.  If I tried to classify it all, I'd have to write a series of books.  One wouldn't be enough.

But the short story is a beginning.  If the only negative affects of religious belief were what I have touched upon here, it would be bad enough to justify organizing the secularists of this country to incite political influence and action to combat it.

But it is far, far worse than this.  The struggle to overcome religiosity and its negative affects on this country will continue into the future, and may never be fully complete.  Christianity, Judaism and Islam have been here, collectively, for over three thousand or more years.  That kind of influence doesn't go away overnight; we've been fighting it since the beginning of the Renaissance in the 12th century.

Let's not allow it to make a comeback.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part II

This is Part II of a three part series.  (Go read Part I if you've not seen it yet!)


The subject of sex in the US is so screwed up, and it is mainly because of religion.  The system of patriarchy discussed above forces men and women into gender based roles.  While the social aspects of patriarchy are bad enough, the affects on sex and human sexuality are even worse.

As noted above, men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into.  This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.

Why?  Why is it damaging?

Several reasons.  (Stick with me - I'll get to LGBT issues in a bit.)

I think the most obvious is in personal confidence.  Body image, and how a person portrays him or herself sexually is extremely important in this country.  Heck, for that matter, in much of the world.  It affects our social standing, our family and how it is viewed by the larger society, and eventually, how and whether we are accepted as marriage potential.

Accordingly, we are obsessed by sex, we are obsessed with youth and the sexual aspects of it.  The secular commercial realm tells us that sex is good, it is natural and wholesome and, well, whoopee!


In American society, sexual beauty and attractiveness is so skewed from the norm that millions of Americans, both men and women, suffer from severe lack of self confidence because they perceive themselves as unattractive, through failing to live up to an artificial and false vision of beauty.  No, this isn't because of religion, it is because of rampant and unregulated capitalism.

Religion, or the so-called "Judeo-Christian" or "Abrahamic" religions, especially in this country, as mentioned above, enforce a patriarchy.  A large part of that system is the second class status of women, and therefore, control over their public behavior.

Christianity especially, enforces a view of sex that restricts sex to the role of procreation within a family context.  This comes, probably, from the role of the family, or the clan, as the center of Roman life.  The individual wasn't important, the family or family group, was.  Loyalty to that group was paramount, and for women, that meant only having sex with their husband, to preserve the purity of the bloodline.  Hence the religious obsession with sex as procreation, looking down on both abortion and contraception.  One because it is an "illegal" rejection of the man's seed, and the other as rejection of a man's control over his woman.

So, religion forces us into this weird, twisted image of sex - the patriarchal picture of gender roles, mixed with the god-smacked rejection of women as full humans, subservient to men, and under their full control.

This results in our social culture allowing this culture of rape.  Men are supposed to be virile, strong and manly, which is supposed to drive women into raptures of sexual frenzy.  Women are supposed to belong to men, which means they owe us sex, and they owe us their love and devotion.  Women who reject this and refuse to go along are subjected to campaigns of hate and vitriol, threats of rape and violence.

If a guy doesn't fit that manly, virile picture, he is a failure, and is ridiculed as such.


For women, you have to fit this image of womanhood that reflects the stay at home mother, homemaker, sexy wife and willing brood cow, while the larger social milieu tells you that you've got to be beautiful, sexy, and available to any guy that pinches your ass.  If you don't, you're a prude, and you'll never find a husband, especially if you are ugly.

In the meantime, religion tells you that if you DO, you are a slut, a sinner and you'll go to hell.

Guys, largely, get a pass on the religion thing because, you know, patriarchy.  Unless, of course, they aren't manly, so they're failures.  Or if they allow their wives to "hen-peck" them, they aren't following the bible, so they'll go to hell then, too.


Especially if they are rejected by the ladies.  Since this isn't anticipated by the traditional patriarchal framework, guys that see themselves as manly and virile who get rejected by the ladies anyway can't comprehend that rejection.  They get mad and blame their failure on the ladies, who, of course, OWE them sex.  Severe mental pain and emotional confusion are common resulting from this condition, and has been known to generate violent reactions.

Is it any wonder that Americans are so screwed up about sex?  The true wonder is how any of us manage to grow up with normal pictures of reasonable and responsible relationships in time to have families.

But wait, I'm not finished.  Not everybody is a cis-gendered, heterosexual human being.  Some folks are homosexual.  Some folks are trans-gendered, and some are bi-sexual.  There are other categories, but I don't feel qualified to talk about them.

These traditional roles I spoke of above, as screwed up as they are, aren't the whole picture, especially since they ignore our LGBT friends.  That alone is responsible for untold misery,  family fights and estrangements.  Since these folks don't fit the "normal" categories, they have traditionally been either ignored or forced into playing roles they were not comfortable with, and often beaten or killed for refusing.  All of them are condemned by religion, and totally ignored by the patriarchal system unless they rock the boat.

The 21st century's success in this country in advancing marriage equality for homosexual couples is a remarkable story of the LGBT movement's ability to go mainstream, but is still being fought tooth and nail by the religious right.

Demographics tells us that the religious will lose this fight.

But wait!  That's not all, folks!

Let's examine some other issues, like clergy abuse of both children and adults, sexually.

Everybody knows, by now, of the Roman Catholic child abuse scandal.  The RCC has spent millions of dollars in the US alone just to make this go away.  Not much to actually stop the abuse, but surely to make it go away.

One wonders, as one examines the issue and how the RCC hierarchy responded to the scandal at first.   How prevalent IS the abuse of kids by Catholic clergy?  And how long has it been going on?

There are some clues.

First, in Ireland, we've all heard of the "laundry scandal", where unwed mothers and their children were warehoused by the Church (with complicit authority from the Irish government of the day) in homes, and were made literal slaves in big laundries.  Scorned by the Church for their sexual sins, their children were as badly treated as they were.

This broke even bigger a couple of years ago and again recently when news broke (over here) of the discovery of almost 800 graves in a hidden graveyard, with an unknown number of bodies even hidden in an old unused septic tank.  Graves going back over a hundred years.

Also in Ireland, the scandal of a few years ago of stories of child abuse and murder in Irish Catholic monasteries. possibly going back hundreds of years.  Horrific stories of terrible abuse, both corporal and sexual, often combined.

In Europe a number of decades ago, there were archeological discoveries of monasteries and cloisters, built fairly close by one another, with hidden tunnels linking the two.  The most horrific part of the discovery were chambers off that tunnel containing the graves of infants and fetuses, most of whom were probably buried hours after or before birth.

All of this is evidence of a terrible epidemic of sexual malfunction in a religious hierarchy, over a thousand years old, denied sexual release and access due to official greed, excused and justified by religious scripture.

(For those who don't know, the RCC finally outlawed marriage not for religious reasons, but to end the bleeding of "church" property through inheritance to families of clergy, especially to noble families with large estates.  With no marriage allowed, thus no heirs, their property was "inherited" by the Church.)

Don't think that only the RCC is involved, preachers of almost every Protestant denomination regularly are arrested and either fired or also charged for either child abuse or sexually predatory abuse of adults.

It's all over the place.

Not to be outdone, Islam isn't far behind, as you may have noticed in the recent re-emergence of the quote of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.
He says: ‘A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However, he should not penetrate vaginally, but sodomising the child is acceptable. If a man does penetrate and damage the child then, he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl will not count as one of his four permanent wives and the man will not be eligible to marry the girl’s sister… It is better for a girl to marry at such a time when she would begin menstruation at her husband’s house, rather than her father’s home. Any father marrying his daughter so young will have a permanent place in heaven.’ 
Read more.
Not only is this considered child abuse, but Islam has doubled down on it and authorized it because Mohammed did it.

At least, the Muslims are honest - they'll tell you God wants this to happen.

Talking about child abuse, let's talk about masturbation, something Christianity in most of its forms doesn't like to do.  In many denominations, it is banned and called out for being sinful and of the devil.

But now, scientifically, we know that it is not only a natural urge (even infants play with themselves) but it is known to be actually good for you!  It releases hormones and endorphins that make you healthier and live longer.

Heck, we know, both from scientific study and from statistics that people who have a long term sexual relationship that is happy for both parties not only stay together longer, but also live longer.  Regardless of whether they have kids or not.

So, in summary, religion in this country (and throughout the world) twists sex and sexuality in humans to the point that millions of people are, at best, dysfunctional and at worst, mentally ill and twisted towards pedophilia and sexual predatory practices, even the clergy.

It taints our marriages, our dating practices, and inculcates a culture of rape that regularly threatens the lives and well being of over a half of all women in the United States and probably causes a significant percentage of our divorces.

It directly harms our LGBT friends through violence and intimidation, forcing them into hidden lives and damaging stress by denying them a happy and healthy lifestyle.

And because sex keeps us healthy and can help us live longer, by discouraging sex in most forms and twisting our sexual practices so badly, religion is also killing us.

Are you mad yet?

(Come back tomorrow for Part III)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Negative Consequences of Believing in Superstition - Part I.

I was perusing Ophelia Benson's Facebook page Saturday morning and ran across a post she put up Friday about the post on Dave Muscato's wall regarding Jaclyn Glenn's Youtube video slamming feminism and how she is disappointed - no, outraged - that AA is supporting Glenn's anti-feminism.

One of the comments (which I can't find to quote, dang it) made a comment about the negative consequences of believing in superstition.  It rang a bell with me, so here we are!

There are numerous negative things religion brings to society which many religious folks either overlook or are brainwashed into thinking they are good, mainly because they believe it's good because they're told it is, but have never actually examined the issues to see what the reality is.

But today, we're going to look at a few things.

As I see it, there are at lease three major areas in which religion (believing in a superstition) brings negative consequences to society.

  1. Patriarchy (Part I)
  2. Sex (Part II)
  3. Politics/Law (Part III)

Of course, these aren't the only things at issue, but each of these are major, affecting broad areas of society.  So, let's take them one at a time.

(This is going to be a long post, so I will post in installments.  This is the first, the others will follow tomorrow and Monday.)


Patriarchy is defined as:
1.  social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly :  control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
2.  a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
This sounds very clinical, and almost reasonable, doesn't it?  But what are the consequences of these things?

In the modern context of our present day political scene, the relevant part of that is about the legal dependance of women and children, though we will see other consequences of it as well.

In today's western society, especially the US, the practice of patriarchy is at least partially based on religion.  In the Republicans' "War on Women", it IS based on biblical strictures requiring men to be the head of the household, and women being denied the right to be "in charge of" men.

In other words, they are relegated to second class citizens.

Now, in the larger US society, in the last hundred or so years, we've managed to back some of that off.  Women can now own property in their own names, vote, drive cars, work outside the home (and in fact, at jobs traditionally reserved for men), and can marry (or not) according to their own wishes.

But, I am going to back things up a bit and note some negative consequences of allowing the Fundies to begin denying women those rights, as they seem to want to do - which will highlight some ways in which we have failed to progress into a more modern way of thinking about women.

First of all, think about the term "dependance" in that definition above.  Legal dependance, especially. What does that entail?  Briefly, it means a woman (or a child) has no legal rights of her own.  She has to have a male guardian who has the right to "care" for her, as a legal responsibility.

That has two consequences.  The most obvious is that she has no rights of her own.  He can pretty much force her to obey his every wish, and she has no legal recourse, unless he is neglecting her welfare.  She is, in fact, virtually his property.  In many countries, this is in fact, the case.

But wait, there's another side to it.  HE is obligated to care for her.  That means he is responsible, legally, to feed her, clothe her and provide her with shelter.  This isn't something he has a choice in, it becomes his legal obligation, for which he is liable if he fails.

What if he can't?  What if his resources aren't up to the task?  Sure, he can neglect her to her detriment, but that leaves him vulnerable to accusations of neglect which may, if his society cares, cost him.

Either way, this kind of situation isn't exactly fair to either one.  Worse for the lady, since she is the one losing rights, but if she is prevented by the social or legal rules to not be able to work, the whole family suffers.  In fact, the entire society suffers.

This is actually the worst part of the patriarchal system.  The entire society, from the individual, to the family, to the potential employer, to the city, State and the entire country, everybody suffers, both socially and economically.  To stop half of the population from working is to cut your potential GDP in half, at the very least.  Even if you only go halfway and allow women to work, but restrict them to certain jobs (and, equally, restrict men to certain jobs) you are still preventing people from working in their best way and potentially most skilled career.  The potential of people working at their best level and in a skill that they are best suited for is huge, and the frustration (for both men and women) in being prevented from doing that is as huge as the potential.  The cost of such false restrictions based on arbitrary and unnatural reasoning is perhaps not as bad as a complete ban on women working, but it is a non trivial figure.

Society suffers in other ways.  Women are, actually, as smart as men, and as capable of doing anything men can, save perhaps (on average) some jobs or tasks requiring major body strength.  (...and even there, some women exceed that standard and do quite well in those circumstances, as on the other hand, some guys fail!) In the US, after over a century of women working, there is plenty of evidence that many aspects of society are better off with the participation of women.  Corporations find that women make better organizers, deal better with adversity and are better at mediating conflict.  In politics, women (when allowed to work independently) are often better at compromise and negotiations than men.

As costs have risen in recent decades, women have been forced into the workplace, bringing in much needed resources and allowing single women to raise children alone under better economic conditions than once was allowed.

I could go on, but it is obvious from these examples (which are only a few examples of many) that were women forced back into the home, the economy of the US would take a hit that would guarantee our immediate slide into third world status.  Poverty would become, instead of merely commonplace, rampant and virtually the norm.  The middle class would be destroyed, and those in poverty would be devastated completely.

Notice that I haven't even touched on the health care aspects of women's rights, and the devastation the American family would suffer were women no longer allowed to control their reproductive rights.  In fact, the proposed restrictions on contraceptives would be devastating to not only women, but to the entire country, as it would push us back into a time where women were not capable of stopping pregnancy.  (This does, of course, include the prohibitions against abortion.)  The social consequences of this would be to push many women out of the workforce, and reinstate the social pressures against allowing women to work, with the consequences noted in the previous paragraphs.

I haven't addressed the other side of the issue, which is the damage to men a patriarchal system can and does do.

This system not only imposes restrictions on women, but imposes strict (depending on the time period and the culture involved) roles for the two different genders.  (Note here, the refusal of this system to even acknowledge the existence of the LGBT folks!)  This framework of strict roles is restrictive and limiting for both men and women.  Men may have a larger menu of choices, but they are no less prevented from crossing that line than women are.

Some women are great corporate managers.  Some are great politicians.  Some aren't.  Many men just suck at those roles, and choose to do other things, including these days, staying home to take care of the kids.  Numerous articles have been written by guys who have done this, and it is liberating for them to be able to do so.  As it is liberating for women to be able to be corporate managers.

Some guys are fantastic secretaries, or office managers, or nurses.  Men can be social workers, cooks, day care workers, pole dancers and strippers.  And they can be good at it.

Patriarchy would prevent them from doing all this, as those are not "traditional" men's jobs.

Men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into.  This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.

It also forces men into this culture of rape we all know so well, but I'll deal with that in the "sex" topic.

In short, patriarchy is not a system that is supportive of society, but is damaging and harmful to a society that hopes to progress into a modern, peaceful, and productive society which accords equal rights for all citizens.

In short, it is un-American, in accordance with the ideals declared by us in the Declaration of Independence.

Some of the last points I raised also apply in the next section.

Come back tomorrow for Part II!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Aaghhh! Demons!

Ah, but which is the demon?

Is it a malicious evil being out of medieval church belief or is it the exorcist himself - or maybe just the belief?

According to this ABC News article, exorcism is widely believed in the US.  In Africa, demonic possession is so much a part of the social fabric, you are probably a bit strange if you don't believe in it!

But for my purposes today, the focus will be on the Catholic Church.  It seems the Pope has accepted the rite of exorcism and a group of priests who practice it as an integral part of Catholic Dogma.

Pope Francis is said by some to have performed an exorcism on this young boy.

Obviously, that means that the Catholic Church really, truly believes in the existence of demons.
This is not good, folks. This is medieval stuff, superstition.

By now, we should be so far beyond this, it should be laughable.  We live in the 21st century.  We fly in aircraft that hold 500 people at a time from one side of the planet to the other.  We have cured diseases that killed people for centuries, and delved into the very DNA that makes us human.  We've flown to the moon and gazed through the eyes of our robots at the furthest reaches of our solar system.

Even in the US, people really, truly believe in demons.  Look at this Catholic forum on exorcism.

But I'm not laughing, because in Africa, they still BURN witches. Exorcisms are, literally, torture sessions where priests torture children, in the guise of driving out demons.  Beatings, burnings, cutting.  (Not Catholics, by the way, from what I saw.)

This is evil, incarnate. I don't care how reasonable Pope Francis seems to you, this drives that right out of the conversation.  The belief in demons is superstition.  It is worse than believing in ghosts, it assigns the designation of evil to invisible yet supposedly powerful beings in order to prevent human beings from looking into the true reasons why people do bad things, and as in the exorcisms in Africa, give people an excuse to torture innocent children which hides the actions of malicious adults who would be the true perpetrators.

I suppose the RCC doesn't condone torture as a way to exorcise demons.  Not any more, I'd hope, at least not physically.  But to have the most powerful and pervasive Christian Denomination in the world tell the entire planet that it believes, as part of its dogma, that demonic possession is real and can be "cured" by a ceremonial ritual gives the others an excuse to continue to practice the worst of the rituals that DO involve torture.

Until now, my picture of the Catholic Church as an organization that condones some evil was limited to the child abuse scandal.  That the Church itself, as dogma, didn't condone the abuse, but that it was condoned by the priests and higher ecclesiastical ranks as individuals - a kind of invisible, good-ole-boy network from the remote past that would be hard for the "good" priests to root out.

Not any more.  This is rot of the highest order, straight from the top, condoning and actually teaching superstitious dogma as fact.  In your face, institutionalized evil incarnate.

For me, the Pope just stripped his friendly face completely away and exposed the ugly underside of religion.

Raw, unadulterated superstition.

#childabuse, #cruelty, #mentalhealth, #HarmfromReligion, #Religion, #RomanCatholicChurch,

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Concrete Angels Never Make it to Heaven.

For the first time in a while, I took a walk around the block this evening.  It was hot, and I'd changed into shorts.  I like to wear my headphones, too, when I'm going to be alone in a quiet space for a while, to listen to my music library.  It is an eclectic collection, ranging from country to celtic to classic and way back to the rock & roll of my youth. (Ha!  I had you there with all the c's, didn't I?)

When I set the iPhone music app to "songs", it bounces around and I never know what song will pop up next, or even which genre!  Kinda nice sometime.

I was about halfway around the block when one of my favorites came on, Concrete Angel by Martina McBride.  It's the story of a child, a girl, and how she is abused physically by apparently a parent or guardian, which results in her death.  Hence the "concrete angel" part, describing both her outer defensive facade in life and the statue on her gravestone in death.

The verses describe the story, which is literally legion around the world, and is not unique, so I won't bother to quote any of it here.  What I want to talk about is the refrain.

Through the wind and the rain she stands hard as a stone

In a world that she can't rise above

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 
concrete angel

Now, Martina McBride is a wonderful singer and performer, and her recording of this song is truly magnificent.  She is really one of my favorite country performers.  She is a devout Christian, apparently, and she makes no apologies for it.  Her music reflects that belief, which I do admire.  (The reflection of the belief, not the belief, folks.  I'm not re-converting!)

I also admire her use of her music and her public platform as such to stand against both child abuse and violence against women.  She deserves full and complete recognition and credit for doing that - many people wouldn't have the guts.

So, don't take this as any criticism against her personally.  It isn't.

This is something I noticed in the past week or so, but it really didn't hit me until now, listening to that song - the refrain, specifically.

There has been another spate of men being caught molesting children recently.  Some ministers, some not.  This is not a screed against religious guilt in child abuse.  Not today.  I want to mention that what I noticed is that we focus primarily on the abuser.

The stories always tell us about the abuser who commits these horrid crimes, but we quickly turn the page (so to speak) and shake our heads, thankful that another one is getting removed from where he (or she) won't hurt any more kids.  That IS true.  We ARE glad of that.

But what about the kids?

This country is supposed to have one of the best health care systems in the world (it really doesn't, by the way) but one thing we lack is a competent and easily accessed mental health system.  The system we have is expensive and is usually covered by health insurance only minimally, if that.

We know, from research, that children who have been molested sexually have a fairly high number of victims who turn into perpetrators.  And those who do have a fairly high rate of recidivism if not treated immediately after their victimization by competent mental health professionals who deal professionally and often with these victims.

As a country, we fail miserably to care for the victims of crime in general, but especially those victimized by pedophiles.  One reason, of course, is that it is a difficult crime to detect, and is often not reported or prosecuted properly.  Another, I think is embarrassment.

But, I have different idea why not.

Look at the refrain of the song.

But her dreams give her wings and she flies to a place

Where she's loved 

It is often difficult to interpret someone else's poetry - and poetry set to music is what a song is.  It is often imbued with double meanings, and this one is no different.

Obviously, it speaks of her dreams in life - dreams of having a loving family or at least someone who cares and won't abuse her.  We do "fly" in our dreams, don't we?

But there is another meaning here, and the song's title reflects it.  Angels fly, too.  And they fly to heaven, where they will, in the modern sense of the Christian afterlife, be loved.  So, according to this song, even though abused and eventually beaten to death (Look at the video of the song, and that is heavily implied), she flies to heaven and is there loved as she never was in life.  The video implies that she will be joined with other abused kids there, where they apparently form a self-help group.

As an atheist, my attitude is different.

Having no faith in an afterlife, and having the belief that once dead, we simply cease to exist as living entities, I think this gives a false and deceptive picture of a happy ending where in life, sadly, there isn't one.

Every single child who is killed by an abusive adult will never grow up.  He/she will never know the pleasure of getting out from under the cruel control of that abusive adult, and experience the ability to control their own life.  This false picture of a happy ending gives us cover.

It gives us the cover to ignore how badly we fail to protect children from abuse and how badly we fail to provide the healing treatment needed by the survivors.  It gives us the false impression that even if we have failed (as God says we do every day) He will step in and take care of these kids in our place.

Forever, right?  So, hey, it might have been bad for them on earth, but they're in God's arms now, right?  Happy?  Loved?

Not so fast.

From my perspective and the perspective of every atheist on the planet, there is no heaven, no loving arms of god, there is only...death.  A life cut short, and not cut short by accident, but cut short in cruelty, in violence, in raw, unadulterated anger.  A loss for all of us, for all the decades of productive adulthood cut short and thrown away, like trash.

How can I convey the horror, the sheer terrible loss of just one single child, and the decades of life lost?  How can we, even with a false sense of relief over an imagined happy ending, ignore the cruelty of that child's death?  However temporary one might see this mortal coil to be, while here, it is very real, and we feel, deeply and at our deepest levels, every emotion, every physical cut or bruise or broken bone.

It should cut us to the center of our being, that failure to protect.  The failure of care, of healing for the survivors.

For some, it does, and those folks do all they can to help.

But for others, we see the false ending, the happiness of "heaven", and imagine that there is a god who has our backs.  And we sit back and turn the page or click on the next story.

Religion hurts.  It provides, every day and in a thousand ways, the excuses for us to sit back and keep on being comfortable in our faith that this deity, this "father" figure, will make it all right.

Well, I hope from now on, you'll see those concrete angels and remember.

Thanks, Martina, for a beautiful song, and for using your platform to speak of human cruelty and the need to fight it.

#childabuse  #cruelty  #mentalhealth  #healthcare  #martinamcbride  #concreteangel  #harmfromreligion  #violence  #violenceagainstwomen