I Don't Hate Catholics, and Neither Should You

"The Vatican issued a new set of rules Thursday to respond to the worldwide clerical abuse scandal, cracking down on priests who rape and molest minors and the mentally disabled." The document also states that ordaining a woman is a sin on the same level. That's right, anyone who ordains a woman is, to the Catholic Church, as bad as someone who sexually molests children. The actual sin, is ordaining anyone whom a bishop* has not given the okay to ordain, but since that permission will never be granted for a woman (and I use the word "never" consciously, given the context under which the action is described in the aforementioned document), that sin will always be as great as the destruction of a child's life. Of course, women and children always get lumped in together, and the Catholic Church has a pretty bad record with both. This is pretty offensive stuff, but it's unsurprising given that the Church is run by men.

Here's the point of this post, and weirdly, it's not to kvetch about the Catholic Church: I can't post this to Facebook. My first instinct on hearing the news this morning, was to put up a link on Facebook, and say "Oh look, The Dudes in Rome have done it again." I've done so before, when an American nun was excommunicated because she told a pregnant women that she was allowed control over her own body, to save her own life. I framed it as a feminist issue, because it is. I posted a link to an article about the case to my profile.

Catholics don't have a lock on denying women agency over their own bodies. In fact, most of the American anti-choice agitators are Protestant. Moreover, religious people aren't the only ones who openly practice misogyny. My point, when posting about the nun, is that anytime you have a group of (mostly) men running something, women are going to get the short end of the stick. That's the way it works. It could be sexual harassment in publishing, the Catholic Church, or the Canadian government. Of course, with a total lack of female voices in positions of power, the Catholic Church will commit especially egregious crimes against women. This does not mean that religious people are bad. This is one of the responses I got, however, on Facebook.

A dude missing the irony gene decided to tell me what is and is not a feminist issue. "I don't see this as a feminism issue at all," he said. "It's another notch in the RCC's hypocrisy belt. I still say draw the line: You either condemn the entire organization, or you endorse their behaviour." He went on to say "Focusing on the feminist slant only imposes a different form of oppressive discourse." Yep, if I'm interested in how women are treated, I'm imposing an oppressive discourse. The commenter's basic argument was that the Church, not the men who run it, are the source of oppression. Rather obviously, I disagree.

This went back and forth for hours but it's not isolated. I've seen people trash religion all over, even on the pages of people who are deeply committed to their faith. I've read of someone being "disappointed" that a celebrity they liked is an active Catholic. It's en vogue to paint people who believe in God (however you define that god) as stupid and/or evil, in part due to a mindset Terry Eagleton calls "Ditchkins" in his excellent Reason, Faith, and Revolution. The Dawkins/Hitchens school takes dogmatic -- and weirdly evangelical -- atheism as a higher calling. I have seen a form of hate spewed forth from Dogmatic Atheists directed to the religious, that I have not seen from those who are practicing Catholics, Jews, or Muslims (and yes, I count all these among my friends) in the other direction. Frankly, I'm fucking sick of it, and I call it out whenever I see it. Atheism and evil are not mutually exclusive.

I've been everything from a baptized COS Presbyterian, child atheist, LDS church attending friend, atheist again, Wiccan,** possible Jew, to finally agnostic. The thread that runs through my life, is that atheism never lasts long. I always come back to knowing that there's something out there, and I think it's bigger than me. I don't know what "God" is, but I think it's a mistake to discount it because evolution is real. I also think some atheists make a huge mistake in engaging in a form of bigoty because it's fashionable. There are certainly horrible things done in the name of religion, but in the absence of God, a lot of horrible things would still have happened and continue to happen.

So I won't post this to Facebook, because frankly I don't feel like reading all the misdirected hate.

Fight the real enemy.



* Archbishop? Cardinal? I'm not really sure who gets to make these decisions.
**It was the 90s. I was 19. Most of my cohort was Wiccan at some point.

8 comments:

Jack said...

"Of course, women and children always get lumped in together, and the Catholic Church has a pretty bad record with both.

Interesting side-note: women, children, and the mentally ill are the three main groups that Michel Foucault states are the objects of discursive power in the first volume of his History of Sexuality. As Foucault notes, there is evidence that the Catholic Church, along with various state powers, revised its stance on sexuality to exert more control over a population of subjects, vis-a-vis bio-power.

"The Dawkins/Hitchens school takes dogmatic -- and weirdly evangelical -- atheism as a higher calling."

While this is true, this "school" of atheism is just the vocal minority. Paying undue attention to it is akin to paying attention to the worst voices in Christianity. Just as not every Christian is not in-line with the Westboro Baptist Church, not every atheist is a horrible loudmouth. Sure, the ones who get the most attention likely are, but that isn't an accurate characterization of atheism as a whole.

"I have seen virulent hate spewed forth from atheists, that I have not seen from those who are practicing Catholics, Jews, or Muslims"

This seems disingenuous; I assume you mean a specific sort of "virulent hate" comes from atheist camps, but if you're saying more "virulent hate" comes from that direction than from fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims the historical record begs to differ. Let me know when atheists are putting "heretics" or "believers" to the sword en masse. Also, modern religious rhetoric begs to differ. "Us versus them" religious fanaticism is alive and well in the 21st century and is currently taking a much larger human toll than atheism at large.

"I also think it's a mistake to be a bigot because it's fashionable."

Or, atheists believe as they do not because it's fashionable, but because they're sick of being told that they're going to be put in a Vaguely Fiery Place by the Invisible Sky Daddy for not following the outdated moral prescriptions of some bastardized and moldy book. Or because it's a rational stance to take and they honestly believe that there is no god. It's nice that you believe in something out there, but that doesn't make someone a "bigot" because they disagree with you, you know?

Panic said...

Paying undue attention to it is akin to paying attention to the worst voices in Christianity
I'm talking personal experience here though. "Friends" talking to each other, and the athiests hate on religon, while the religious don't do the same. I've not seen "You godless souls are going to hell" but I have seen "My child and I were on the streetcar and I told it that the person we saw reading the Bible was an idiot" (to a response of *high-fives*).

Let me know when atheists are putting "heretics" or "believers" to the sword en masse. Also, modern religious rhetoric begs to differ. "Us versus them" religious fanaticism is alive and well in the 21st century and is currently taking a much larger human toll than atheism at large.
I'm not talking about the crusades, or current religious war zones. I'm taking issue with the way people talk to each other, and how hating the religious is okay, even encouraged. How is that any different from the religious bigotry they're decrying?


My other point, is that human violence will exist with or without religion, and that by blaming religion, people take an easy way out. If there were no Gods, people would still beat the shit out of each other for profit.
And without God, a group of men with power will still make women's lives pretty shite.

that doesn't make someone a "bigot" because they disagree with you, you know?
I never said it did. I said that when you hate someone for no reason other than religious affiliation, yes, you're a bigot. An atheist who says "all religious are sheeple" is no different from a Christian saying "Muslims are all evil."

Ben said...

I recall a similar experience I had recently. A friend IMed me venting about a conversation with a non-mutual friend, who is apparently a little evangelical. And she went into a strong anti-Christianity rant. So I just ignored her until she stopped typing, and then I said, "Are you done?" Because I'm not a big fan of Christianity, but I consider my dislike of Christianity subservient to my commitment to rationalism. And despite what my friend, Dawkins, and Hitchens might claim when their passions are engorged, indicting an entire religion (or individuals who subscribe to that religion) is far from a rational enterprise.

Whenever I'm tempted to judge someone because he or she is Catholic, and thus associated with the views of the Catholic Church, I just remind myself that I am an atheist and have no desire to be judged based on an association with Dawkins and Hitchens. Conflating individuals with the organizations with which they are affiliated (and in many cases for religion, very loosely affiliated if one is not particularly devout) seems to impose yet another form of oppressive discourse!

Seriously though, in what sense does looking at an issue from a feminist perspective even qualify as oppressive discourse? It's not as if labelling something as a feminist issue automatically consigns it only to the purview of feminism here and forever after. It sounds like your opponent was more interested in starting an argument than defending any sensible position. . . .

Is there a reason beyond anonymity that you feel this venue will result in less "misdirected hate" than Facebook?

Anyway, I'm pretty certain the real enemy is Trogdor.

Panic said...

t sounds like your opponent was more interested in starting an argument than defending any sensible position. . . .
Yep. He's actually not that bright, really.

Is there a reason beyond anonymity that you feel this venue will result in less "misdirected hate" than Facebook?
Smaller audience. :)

Damn that Trogdor!!!

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