Monday, February 27, 2012

The Dysfunctional Catholic “Home” : Loving the Abuser

Being the gadfly that I am, I often comment on news stories posted on the Religion News Service. That they haven’t banned me [yet] is a marvel and a credit to their impartiality.

Last week I left my mark once again on a story about a priest who was fired by the Catholic Church for refusing to say a revised form of the Mass prayer. I had protested that the Catholic cult is quick to fire him, but seems to have difficulty firing their child raping shaman. I pondered how Catholics can stand by and be silent participants in the shamefulness the Church represents.

I received this response from a reader claiming to be a Franciscan:

“Speaking as a Catholic who loves my faith, but is offended by the abuse scandals and the cover-up, I respond: I remain in the church because it is my home. Because it is my faith. Because I will not be run out of my home by politics, legalism, or other sundry aspects of this admittedly dysfunctional family. … There is a world of difference between a shaman and a priest…and between a cult and a church for that matter, your feigned outrage and inflammatory language notwithstanding”. - Thomas Rooney OFS

And my reply:


My outrage is not feigned. It’s quite real. Oh, not about the fired priest…one less priest is a good thing.

If your faith is predicated on managing a women’s uterus for her; or objecting to the happy union of gays; or condemning third world peoples to massive over population on one hand, or death by AIDS on the other through demonization of condoms… none of which are teachings of Jesus … then perhaps your faith is simply part of the problem, and an obstruction to a solution.

A world of difference between a shaman and a priest? Really?
Shaman: “A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a medium between the visible world and an invisible spirit world and who practices magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events.”

The catholic priest is certainly a medium between the natural world and the spirit world. He practices magic in the form of prayers and incantations to a make believe deity, and encourages others to pray to sway natural events through supernatural means.

But in another sense you’re correct: the Catholic Church also venerates/reveres dead body parts of beatified corpses … something many Shaman would find repulsive.

As for there being a world of difference between cult and religion? Hmmm… not in the dictionaries I’ve accessed:

Cult: “A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.”

One man’s cult is another’s religion. The early Roman’s saw Xtianity as a cult (“The Christians as the Romans Saw Them” Robt. Wilken). Little separates cult and religion except perhaps as it relates to accumulation of wealth. A religion is a cult with a large treasury. In that respect, perhaps Catholicism isn’t a cult. In all other respects it is. The Pope is the charismatic figure, and you all live not as thinking 21st century purveyors of reason and reality, but in the unconventional manner of medieval credulous peasants.

Now, let’s get back to the child molesting priests and the hierarchy that covered it up. How many were promoted, reassigned, and handed a nice retirement package? How many were fired, or excommunicated like the nun in Arizona who permitted doctors to save a mother’s life and conduct an abortion of an already soon to be dead fetus?

That you are still a member of a church steeped in hypocrisy, delusion, corruption, sexual obsession and patently evil precepts makes you an enabler and as much a part of the problem as the dysfunctional church itself.

As for it being your “home.”: When a home becomes a source of abuse people with a grasp on reality, courage, and self respect find another.

The truth hurts. I’m thinking my days commenting there are numbered.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Escape from Religious Oppression: Medieval Judaism at its worst

[note: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher]

Recently Oprah Winfrey, in her seemingly endless need to manufacture cursory and superficial religious themes, spent a day (24 full hours!!) with an Hasidic family. She aired the show on her failing network, declaring the Hasidic culture to be remarkable - indeed endorsing its apparent family focused, culturally rich and loving life style. One can pretty much surmise that had she spent 24 hours in the Central American jungle with Jim Jones’ cult that she’d have been similarly moved.

Coming from an ultra reformed Jewish family, I was always remotely aware of the orthodox Jewish (AKA Hasidic) community. But it wasn’t until reading “Unorthodox” that I realized how a people who have borne so much oppression and are oft thought of as educated, can themselves form a culture that is so utterly oppressive and bereft of respect for broadening the mind..

When one thinks of religious fanaticism, cultish fundamentalist Christianity and Islam typically come to mind. This book has broadened my perspective considerably. Deborah Feldman’s memoir is a journey though the mental, emotional and physical enslavement of a religious sect ensconced in ancient (and no so ancient) fundamentalist Judaism. It was a real eye opener. One can only wonder how anyone raised in such an insulated culture could retain the strength and courage to test the limits, and eventually break free.

The product of a mentally impaired Hasidic father, and a mother who abandoned her as a child, the author recounts her upbringing by ultra religious Hasidic grandparents who escaped the Holocaust... an event they attribute to God’s punishment for Jews leading secular lives and abandoning the unyielding constraints of Talmudic law.

The author’s mind and body and spirit are incessantly assaulted by demeaning modesty obsessed dress codes including head shaving and mandatory wigs, peculiar feminine hygienic laws, sexual repression, demonization of the secular world including the English language. Just harboring the concept of assimilation into American culture is considered a fall from grace, an unforgivable insult to God.

Cult like in its inflexibility, this culture practices self imposed alienation from anything outside their sect and section of Brooklyn, NY. It is a sub-culture with a quasi-caste system, where other Hasidic sects are looked down upon; non-Hasidic Jews are dismissed as heretics and gentiles are openly reviled. A male dominated society where women are treated as little more than valued chattel, baby making machines, and housekeepers; are shunned as unclean during their menstrual cycle; and where a simple stroll on the sidewalk is fraught with the danger of touching or making eye contact with a man. This is a culture that gives rise to punishing a child’s masturbation by mutilation and even unreported murder, and turns a blind eye to their pious kinsman’s serial child molesting ... preferring to let God mete out judgment.

That anyone could find the courage to escape from the drabness of this religiously driven archaic medieval existence and emerge into the light to live as a modern, functioning, motivated, and well adjusted adult - is a tribute to human perseverance.

This is a fascinating account of personal triumph against the odds, albeit, there is some repetition and focus on otherwise mundane details. The writing style is unremarkable, the narrative is rather flat. It stirs the curiosity, not the emotion.


What’s of additional interest is the reaction to this book from the Hasidic community. I try to give my reviews fairly, unfettered by any personal agenda. I'm more often than not successful in doing so. Unfortunately, Amazon reviews have become a sort of peculiar battle ground where people feel compelled to state their cause and defend their ideology irrespective of the literary work's value, and whether or not the book was actually read. Some of the reviews I read are so inarticulate, so venomous, and so transparently agenda driven that it does more to discredit the reviewer and their cause, than the author and her book. “Unorthodox” was just released last week and is only garnering 2 ½ stars because of the Hasidic community’s campaign of outrage.

What you'll see there is a concerted and well orchestrated effort by the Hasidic community to punish one of their "wayward sheep" apostates, and defend their chosen lifestyle. It's a vindictiveness that comes from a victim mentality, an elitist perspective of ones group, and a need to mete out retribution to those who expose the least attractive traits of their sole focus in life. The Mormons, Muslims, Catholics and the Scientologists exemplify that mindset, why not the Hasidic community? If anything it tends to reinforce and give credibility to Feldman's memoir..

I rate it 3 ½ stars. (4 on amazon).

Friday, February 17, 2012

“Muslim Threat? What Muslim Threat?” The Denial of a Professional Muslim Apologist.

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. An award-winning teacher and speaker, his most recent book, "Memories of Muhammad," looks at the biography and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The above is the profile of a blogger who writes for the Religion News Service, a website where I often pick up recent religious news and general craziness from around the nation and the world. That’s his photo above.

My description of him is a little less glowing: He’s an American Muslim apologist, a denier of Muslim inspired unrest; an apologist for Iran, terrorism, anti-Jewish/ anti-Israel sentiment, and anything else that makes Islam look bad to civilized and thinking people.

Recently he posted an article explaining how very few deaths Muslim terrorism causes in the US compared to total murders. The FBI stats are 33 Muslim terrorist caused deaths per year on US soil post 911, compared to approx 20,000 murders a year country wide. A tiny proportion that the Professor says doesn’t warrant the hysteria and disproportionate expenditures of resources we are spending to thwart Islamic murder of US citizens. Here’s the article:

His stats are all true. Good solid objective reporting one might think, if one was in a coma or is a Muslim. Just a minor point to consider, however:

The “underwear bomber” is Muslim. He was the guy who tried to blow up an entire plane over US soil. Just sentenced to life in prison, he proclaimed Allah’s greatness a number of times during the sentencing.

Naturally, no sense in bringing up the Times Square Muslim bomber, and his van full of explosive tanks ,since it failed to ignite in midtown Manhattan.

Or the bearded Massachusetts Muslim who was in contact with Al Qaida and wanted to acquire weapons and kill Americans, intercepted by the FBI and now in custody.

So what could we estimate might have been the result of these attacks? Well, an entire plane full of people... perhaps 250 dead had his crotch bomb ignited as planned? Times Square during rush hour? Hard to say, maybe 50 dead if the perp had better technical skills?

Those two evens alone would have increased the body count of “religion of peace” devotees ten (10) fold., bringing Muslim terrorist’s body count on US soil post 911 from 0.17% of all US murders, to 1.7% Still not that bad a rate., that is until you realize that Muslims represent only approximately 0.6% of the US population. How many more terrorist events were averted or failed in execution to keep the number to “only” 33? We likely won’t know.

But for good luck and bad planning by the terrorists the rate of deaths caused by Muslims on US soil would be over double the proportion of Muslim representation in the US. Sounds like the FBI resources are being spent wisely.

But hey, the Muslim terrorist plans that are thwarted or go awry just don’t mean anything when calling for a responsible sense of proportion. Muslims prefer not to think about them, or even take ownership of it. After all, the lack of terrorist competency and success shouldn’t be taken as a threat.

I imagine this uncomfortable set of facts will be dismissed as racist, by the good professor. The denial shall begin that would be terrorists aren’t “true” Muslims. Or it’s a Zionist inspired lie. Or mass murder failed attempts just don’t count.

Apologists for religion, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim are full of shit

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ask the Hump: "So what’s up with this Xtian love for Israel?"

Jim from Washington state asks on facebook:

“Hump- something has bothered me for a while, so of course, I turn to you. What's the damn deal with fundamentalists, especially those who are end-times prophecy-afflicted with their adoration of Israel?

Has it something to do with the book of Revelation? Something about all Jews being returned to Israel? Something to do with all Jews being converted to Xtianity? Isn't there a hint of anti-Semitism in some of this?

Any light you can shed will be greatly appreciated.”

Jim, fasten your seat belt. This is going to be a scary ride.

The fundies interpret Ezekiel and the book of Daniel to mean that the third rebuilding of the original Temple in Jerusalem is necessary before the End Times, the Apocalypse, the 2nd coming of Jesus can occur. This is why they want the Jews to build, why they support Israel so fanatically and why they say that anyone who proposes bringing peace to the Middle East is the Antichrist.

They are called “Christian Zionists.” This is a relatively new phenomenon with the Xtian right, only coming to the forefront of American politics since the 1980’s. Pat Robinson, Jerry Falwell(d.), John Hagee, many GOP congressmen and senators, Sean Hannity, “The Family” on Washington’s K Street, among many "civilian" fundie Xtians are Christian Zionists.

Don't misinterpret their support for Israel to be the elimination of the traditional Xtian rabid anti-Semitism - it's all about the prophecy of the rebuilding. They still hate “Christ Killer” Jews as much as they always have they just aren’t as open about their disdain as they used to be when they blocked them from medical schools, and “restricted” them from their country clubs, and burned crosses on their lawns.

But here’s the rub: the ruins of the old temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt, has one of Islam's most holy sites on top of it -the Dome of the Rock- where Muhammad is believed to have beamed up to heaven hand in hand with archangel Gabriel. It’s been there since 691 AD.

So for Israel to rebuild the temple would require the destruction of the Muslim shrine provoking the worst religious war the planet has ever known, pitting all 2.2 billion Muslims on earth against Israel’s 5.7 million Jews (what is that, like 400 to 1?); potentially inciting a nuclear exchange. There’s the Apocalypse, and that’s the end game.

The Christian Zionists wouldn’t shed a tear if 90% of the population of Israel (not to mention a few million Muslims and X number of Christian bystanders) where to be exterminated as long as the temple is rebuilt. One has to be in awe of how these people can reconcile this utter madness with their religion’s founder’s supposed “Prince of Peace” persona.

How does Israel perceive all this? Israel is nothing if not pragmatic. They will take fanatical support for their nation from whomever will give it. It's a matter of survival in a region that considers them illegitimate, and a world that has historically abandoned the Jews. They have no intention of helping bring about their own destruction by fulfilling this crazy Xtian concept of prophecy.

Israel has no illusions as to what the true feelings of the Xtian fundamentalists are toward the Jewish people. But they will play along, welcome their unswerving support in Washington, and play host to Xtian congressmen and their insanity to ensure Xtian lobbying for Israel is not weakened and a 2nd Holocaust at the hands of their Muslim neighbors is not realized. It comes down to a matter of survival.

Religion infects everything: the mind, the body, the health of the planet and potentially it's very existence.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hump’s Advice to the Non-Religiously Afflicted: Responding to “God’s Plan”

From time to time I am asked for my opinion by freethinkers on how to handle debate questions or deal with personal issues related to religion. The following was posed to me by a Facebook friend who finds herself under siege by platitude spouting God Virus infected Bible belt denizens.Kelly from Tennessee writes:

“Dear Hump,
99.9999% of my fb friends are xtians. What is the best response to people who claim
‘I must trust in God no matter how much I suffer, he has a plan for my life.’

Dear Kelly,

Naturally there are a number of responses, but I assume you want to keep these religious nutters as your fb friends, so that narrows the options. The simplest and most direct reply is this:

"Trusting in an imaginary friend is something thinking people gave up once they outgrew toddlerhood. If one finds comfort in believing their life is guided by the imaginary friend they have opted to retain in adulthood, that's fine for them. Suffering, sadness, death, happiness, success, failure, comfort...they are part of the facts of life, part and parcel to man's existence - no spirit thing is involved, nor need be invoked.”

“I prefer to take control of my life; do my own planning, set my goals and objectives, and work toward them with education, self reliance, and with eyes opened to the reality of the world...the only reality and the only world there is. It works for me, thank you."

See how that goes over. If they are unable to comprehend this, which many won't; or if that doesn't end the proselytizing, and it probably won't, may I suggest as a last resort my alternate approach to wit: "Well go screw yourself and the man-god you rode in on."

Hope that helped.

This Xtian need for their lives to have a plan managed for them by their god thing must be very comforting. It absolves them of any responsibility for their lot in life, and sets a low expectation for the effort they put into controlling their own destiny.

If their child dies from an untreated disease; if an infant is born with an alcohol induced birth defect; if their double wide is destroyed in a hurricane; if they lose their job; if they get kicked off of public assistance; if they roll their pickup and break their neck; if their club foot isn’t cured by the faith healer; if they drop their long neck beer bottle during a bar fight; if the road kill they scrapped off the interstate for dinner has mange rendering it unfit to serve to the visiting Pastor - somehow, some way, it's all part of a complex plan that their Sky Buddy has laid out for them.

Of course, when Cousin Mary Ellen came out of the closet and declared her full blown lesbianism, that wasn't part of God’s plan at all, nuh uh! That was Satan at work.

It's not for them to understand God’s plan, it never is. After all, who but their omniscient God could conceive of the plan behind why Aunt Mildred couldn't find her way out of her darkened house crammed with 60 years of accumulated bibles, paper church fans, pictures of Jesus, unpaid electric bills, magazines, newspapers, fried chicken bones, assorted trash, seventy-two cats (living and deceased) and their associated waste when she dropped a lit Pall Mall onto her bed bug infested urine stained mattress and burned her and her house into oblivion in twenty-five minutes?

But God must have had an ulterior motive. Clearly, Aunt Mildred (aka Crispy Milly) was just a small wheel in the big cog of the inner workings of God's ultimate game plan for her and the universe. Even Mildred knew this.

I, however, prefer to think it was nature's way of thinning the herd, natural selection at work - and at its best.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Seems I’m “Threatened by Christians and our God!” Well, she is half right.

My review of the NIV Bible on amazon now has over 200 comments. It never seems to stop, attracting religious fanatics and proselytizing nutters seeking to bring me to Jesus. Some of my readers here have commented effectively with reasoned retorts, which I appreciate

One of the latest comments in particular caught my attention and inflamed my ire. Not sure why, perhaps it is because the writer has zero understanding of, or exposure to, atheists and why many of us condemn religious teaching and thought. This was her comment:

Such hateful, evil responses to people you personally know nothing about. If ever there is an example of someone who is so miserable in this life, it would be you. Spending so much time responding so hatefully, I would say you are truly threatened by Christians and our God! Amy L. Wright, 1/28/12

And my reply:


I don't have to know someone personally to be disgusted by their knee jerk proselytizing, or the investment of their lives in nonsensical superstition. I'll venture there's a whole lot of people, historical and modern day, who you dislike. That said...

Yes, indeed, threatened is a good word: America is threatened by religious fanatics claiming to all have been called by their Sky Daddy to be president; threatened by rejection of intellect, science and learning preferring myth and blind rejection of objective evidence; threatened by attempts to make this a theocracy at worst, or giving preferential treatment to the majority religion at best. Threatened by fanatical religious intrusion into peoples lives, what they do with their genitalia, wombs, and pursuits of happiness...if that happiness isn't in step with what their imaginary god likes; threatened by Christian ideals which obstruct scientific advancement, or condemns women to bear the children of their rapist or their own relative.

Yes, we are threatened by Christian rejection of global warming; threatened by evangelical fundies' desire to see Israel rebuild the temple on top of an existing Mosque to see the End Times prophesy fulfilled; threatened by their trying to collapse the Wall of Separation between Church and State; threatened by the "true Christians" of Cranston, RI whose harassment and threats of violence toward a 16 year old girl and her family who sued a School for a constitutional violation and won the case requires them to have police protection; threatened by that state’s Representative who promoted hate toward her by declaring this girl "an evil little thing", much like the words uttered before a witch burning by his 17th century good Christian predecessors.

I'm threatened by religionists’ attempts to dumb down our schools by trying to equate religious myth with science; threatened by religious fervor to go to war at the drop of a hat to fend off "Gog and Magog" as your born again president Bush, Jr. so brilliantly espoused. I am threatened by president GHW Bush's comment that “atheists aren't patriots or maybe not even Americans,” while I and thousands of other "atheists in foxholes" put their lives on the line, or lost them in the service of this nation.

Indeed Amy, I and millions of freethinkers and progressive Christians, feel threatened. And now you have only a very small inkling as to why.

As for your god: I am as threatened by your god myth as you are by Wolfman or Isis or Athena ...probably less so, seeing as how your credulity may well permit you to accept the Wolfman myth as real.

Amy, I'm sure much of this is way beyond your meager ability to comprehend. I doubt you have the reasoning capacity to even understand what half of these things mean. But I'll be happy if you just possess the intellectual curiosity to get to the end of this sentence.