Mar 26, 2010

Jesus Would Be Turning Over in His Grave... As Children Being Raped by Clergy

It's time we keep asking the hard questions even if it makes the majority of people uncomfortable. The longer we keep quiet, the longer we'll have to wait to change a bad situation. It is a systemic problem with organized religion not just a failure in leadership by the current Pope or other church  officials. Covering up crimes was the policy. Has this policy changed? Or, the admission of the crimes and repentance takes place after the crimes become public despite the church's effort to keep them secret?

The cover-up [Memo to Pope Described Transfer of Pedophile Priest] and [Scandal Tests Catholics' Trust] is immense and new cases (those that haven't made headline news already) are being uncovered everywhere the church has a presence. No one knows the exact number, but there are thousands of children who have been molested, raped, and abused by priests--just counting the cases where the Church has admitted responsibility along; probably there are many more. [Here's the article on the sexual abuse of 200 deaf children in Wisconsin, US]

What's unconscionable is that most those priests were known to the church for their pedophilia! But, they were transferred from parish to parish instead of being criminally punished. They weren't event expelled! Now, any other common organization would have gone out of business if it repeatedly failed its "customers" or broke the law in similar fashion.

This raises another interesting point. If the church was serious about punishing the perpetrators, it would excommunicate them; and this would be a good start in addition to calling in the authorities and have them arrested. But, the church doesn't operate like this, and that's why we can't remain silent. I would like to know how many priests have been excommunicated because of their failure to uphold the reputation of the church by committing crimes. Read yesterday's NY Times front page, Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest.

Remember last year when a 9 year old girl was raped by her step father in Brazil? She became pregnant, but her small body wouldn't be able to carry a baby. She would have died if the pregnancy continued, so an abortion was performed. The Brazilian Archbishop, with the Vatican concurring, excommunicated the ..mother and the doctor. No, the rapist wasn't!

The Pope can instruct his followers that the foundation of their faith is obedience to the church, not what Jesus said. Obedience and fear are the staples and the means of control. Oh, and the devil. Yes, the devil plays a very important role--obey or he'll destroy you! OK, he can be under the Fear category too.

Further, Catholic church doctrine holds that the Pope is infallible in matters of faith. Somehow, a man who was complicit in covering up the rape of children got divinity when he became the Pope.  He received more wisdom by donning new robes and becoming in charge of a palace--the Vatican--that also doubles as a sovereign state. Martin Luther was on to something when he said the church and priests were unnecessary.

The former Cardinal Ratzinger, currently the Pope, is the same person who told Africans that AIDS is indeed bad but condoms are worse! He condemns abortions but also condemns birth control--those family planning methods that are effective unlike the rhythm method. 

He and many other religious leaders are fit for the Dark Ages, and it's unfortunate that they are the spiritual leaders of 21st century humans. It's no wonder why we have so many people who not only don't understand science but don't want to either. The same people who opposed the current health care legislation because it could provide funds for abortion--never mind if there was a case where abortion was deemed by a doctor as a medically necessary procedure.  Care to guess which people are against sex education, birth control, and evolution theory?

In a few days, Christians will mark Easter--the most important Christian holiday. I know many who are decent human beings, really nice people who care about their neighbors. I'm not talking about them. I'm focusing on the ones who have taken Jesus in name only and have used dogma to turn this world into a worse place... all in the name of Jesus.

Like the tele-evangelists who have to buy a new Lear jet with your money in the name of Jesus, of course. Like those clergy who claim to be experts in knowing the word and will of the creator of the universe!  This creator presumably gave us a brain with which to reason! But, it seems the religious authorities don't want us to think. Faith--accepting dogmas with no evidence or reason--is the currency upon which the flock of sheep is organized and preyed upon. It's no wonder why the rewards for the faithful will come in the afterlife and not in the real world today!

We must ask the tough questions and try to infuse more reason into our social discourse. We are capable of governing ourselves through reason as mature, responsible adults without fear being the motivating factor. Of course we are not perfect but we are not (nor should we be) governed by original sin. We have evolved.

Fear is is the foundation of religion. It worked for primitive peoples but we deserve better nowadays. The shackles of the body are being broken everywhere, although the shackles of the mind still remain intact. Where's religion has more power, the stronger those bonds are. 

Shouldn't, at least, an Almighty protect the innocent children in his own house? Why did he allow children to be raped by clergy that supposedly serve Him? Or, is child rape punishment for the sins of parents?  If either is true, then I know, I can't worship any deity that makes these allowances or tests faith in such a manner. Of course, the religious authorities peddle fear to paralyze us into obedience and prevent us from asking reasonable questions. Once we start questioning their "wisdom" we may come out of the self-imposed delusions and stop paying money & respect to them. 

Who knows, we may eventually become less afraid of an angry, jealous, vindictive, genocidal, racist, homophobic, ethnic cleanser, and misogynistic God. Or, that we may discard the god we made in our own image back in the Iron Age and finally move into world of reality and humanism without primitive superstitions.

I understand this post will make many people uncomfortable and angry. I wonder what Jesus would say if he was around...

Update: Various links on the child abuse and the church.

Mar 24, 2010

It's Time To Be More Vocal Against Ignorance, Stupidity, and Bigotry

It's not about free speech--a principle we must defend. It's not about the right to hold any opinion. It's about time to put an end to stupidity and ignorance. Our polity doesn't improve if we remain silent about the fear mongering, the peddling of superstition, and bigotry. 

This is an excellent editorial by Bob Herbert in the NYT. Here are some excerpts:


At some point, we have to decide as a country that we just can’t have this: We can’t allow ourselves to remain silent as foaming-at-the-mouth protesters scream the vilest of epithets at members of Congress — epithets that The Times will not allow me to repeat here. 

It is 2010, which means it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship. 

A party that promotes ignorance (“Just say no to global warming”) and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country.

Mar 21, 2010

Ignore the Right-wingers and Do the Right Thing: Pass Health Care Reform!

Today, 3/21/10, the House votes on an extremely important piece of legislation on the path to universal health care coverage in the US. This bill is far from perfect, and I have been on the fence because it is not comprehensive enough, however, as an important step it must pass.  Finally, the president is showing some leadership on the issue. He also chose to use the Democratic majority to get things done--slow learner, but maybe he understood that the sole aim of the Republicans is to obstruct and to make a disaster out of any Dem initiative. The GOP knows that the voters won't give a passing grade to Obama & the Dems just for trying!

Universal health care is something any advanced democracy (where the government acts on the public interest) should have. It makes sense, it promotes longer, healthier, happier lives. We can save more lives and reduce suffering through this than by spending on ..armed defense more than the whole world combined!

A sticking point for some conservative Dems have been whether public funds would be used for abortions. Abortion should be a decision left to the individual woman who should have access to all legal medical services without irrational and ideological restrictions placed on her and her doctor.  Unfortunately, there are some religious stiffs who have a problem with sex. Yes, it is about sex as they define it. Reproductive choice, they argue, should not be an option!

There is some very interesting news regarding this issue. After Massachussetts passed its health care reform, the abortion rates when down. Furter studying of this is necessary but here are some observations:

  • the knowledge that her child will have access to health care may reduce abortions; MA Medicaid provides help to the poorest women to have an abortion but even so abortions went down in MA.
  • with regular, affordable check ups, women can make better choices, including birth control.
  • in other countries there's a strong correlation between abortion rates and the strength (or absence) of health care; the US ranks highest among advanced democracies.
We often don't have debates on the core issues; I understand it's not always possible to start from square one.  If a person believes that human life begins when 2 cells meet, then they'll oppose any method that prevents the 2 cells from ..carrying on. Science illiteracy is another factor. What's strange is that the same people who oppose all abortions--including methods that are not abortion--also oppose contraception, access to it, and access to birth control, sex education, and any social/medical services associated taking care of newborns.

But, I suppose it's the Biblical principle that dictates the children pay for the sins of their parents...

To the opponents of reform: Is health care a human right or a privilege? Should the US save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans by extending coverage to those who don't have health care and/or are under-insured?   The answer will determine the kind of society we are.

PS>This OpEd by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof is a worthy read. 

Mar 13, 2010

What Would Jesus Say About Social Justice in the US Today?

Have christian values changed over the years? Is it because there's been an evolution of thinking and changing times? Or, is it because certain scriptures have been interpreted wrongly? Whatever it is, Glenn Beck may have put his foot into his big mouth by equating social justice with communism, fascism, and everything he thinks the progressives stand for. Maybe the rest of the media isn't willing to take on the Fox Network for the latter's distortion of journalistic standards, but many people of faith are now taking on this fool.
There are many conservatives who have placed a higher value on capitalism than on social justice, so Glenn Beck isn't an exception. I wonder what Jesus would say about the current state of wealth inequality in the US. What would he say when Americans suffer personal bankruptcy, unnecessary pain and early death because they don't have health insurance. Or, that there are close to 10 million children living in extreme poverty and go to bed at night hungry; or that 1 million of them are homeless in the wealthiest country on earth!

It's been said that there's not  much logic in religion, but I think it depends how religion is perceived--from the inside (believers) and the outside (the secularists). The insiders are divided into two groups. One of those who use it as a guide to be better moral people; the other is of those who use religion to justify their actions.

The outsiders are also divided into two groups. One of those who think religion can (not always, as we know) be a force of goodness. The other of those who think that religion has shackled human reason and progress. 

At any rate,  the notion of a social contract is that free people enter into a civil society and establish government in order to promote the welfare of all people, not just the few. So, what's happening in our country?....