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Posts tagged ‘religion’

I’ll be on the Skeptic Canary Show today!

The Skeptic Canary Show

Yay! I’m going to be on the Skeptic Canary Show today (Wednesday, June 12th). It airs at 7 p.m. BST (which is 11 a.m. PDT/ 2 p.m. EDT/ 6 p.m. GMT, etc.). It’s a fantastic show hosted by Tom Williamson, David James, and Paul Hopwood.

From the episode description:

For this episode your hosts will be joined by writer, speaker, skeptic and atheist Miranda Celeste Hale. We will be talking about the upcoming TAM conference, skepticism, religion and education.

You can listen live, join the discussion in the chat room, or call in via Skype or telephone (here’s more info on how to call in to the show). If you can’t listen live, or if you prefer the podcast version, the episode will also be available to listen to/download here and via iTunes.

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Catholicism’s rhetoric of suffering

I’ve been thinking about Catholicism’s celebration of suffering. Despite the strange and disturbing nature of this perspective, it is rarely discussed or questioned. This is unfortunate. A celebration of suffering lies at the heart of, and, in the minds of many Catholics, justifies emotionally abusive childhood religious indoctrination, and acknowledging and questioning this rhetoric of suffering is, I’d argue, one way to assist in removing the taboo that often prevents open discussion of the negative after-effects of Catholic childhood religious indoctrination. I’ll offer a few brief thoughts here and I encourage you to offer your own, in the comments section or elsewhere.

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Child abuse and Catholic indoctrination: on being ‘kindling wood for Hell’

I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope, but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, she will not be compelled to believe that ninety-nine chances in a hundred she is raising kindling wood for hell.

Robert Ingersoll

No one, let alone a small child, is “kindling wood for hell”, yet it is that message that is at the core of Catholic childhood indoctrination.

I’m in complete agreement with the sentiments and assertions expressed in this recent article by Richard Dawkins. I think that teaching small children to believe in a literal Hell and to believe that there’s a very real possibility that they will spend an eternity in this literal Hell is child abuse (relatedly, teaching small children that they are worthless and that their guilt, fear, and anxiety are valuable blessings from God is also child abuse). The Catholic Church hierarchy loathes and abuses children.

To be clear: I certainly do not believe that the vast majority of those who raise their children in the Catholic faith are child abusers. For the most part, they’re just continuing the cycle. Their parents permitted the Church to indoctrinate them, and now they are doing the same to their own children. This mindless continuation of the vicious cycle of indoctrination may never stop, but we can at least try to raise awareness of the fact that the core tenets of Catholic childhood indoctrination are indeed abusive to children.

I rarely write about this topic anymore. Doing so requires me to write in a way that makes me rather uncomfortable. I don’t  like writing about my personal life or personal experiences (I’m a very private person). I’d much rather create a rhetorically-effective, well-reasoned, and thoroughly-supported analysis/argument than discuss my personal experience with any given issue.

But, when it comes to this topic, personal stories can be extremely powerful. I learned this two years ago, when I first wrote and published the essay that I’m reproducing here. Of everything that I’ve written on Catholicism (and I’ve written quite a lot), it has received by far the most attention and responses, both positive and negative. For me, the most important and moving responses came from people who could relate to my experiences and who were relieved to know that they are not alone. That meant the world to me. However, a little over a year ago, I started to feel uncomfortable having something so personal posted online, so I took it down. This week, though, I finally decided to repost it, and I’ll also reproduce it below. I’m still a bit squeamish about it, but, if it helps you to feel less alone, or if it helps you to understand why/how the core tenets of Catholic childhood indoctrination are abusive and often cause life-long emotional damage, then reposting it is absolutely the right thing to do.

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A dirty little girl, her head hanging in shame

(This essay was originally published on September 19, 2010. It was reprinted at RichardDawkins.net and excerpted at The Daily Dish)

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I cannot remember a time before I knew I was a Catholic. I knew it just as clearly as I knew that I was a girl, or that I had brown eyes. These traits were inherited, fixed, unchangeable. It took me a few years to understand that I hadn’t actually been born Catholic, and many more years after that to realize that Catholicism was optional.

Why did it take me until I was sixteen years old to figure out something so obvious? Simple: Catholic childhood religious indoctrination is chillingly effective. Its most powerful weapons are guilt and the fear of a literal hell. When a child is taught that the simple act of doubting or questioning any of the Church’s teachings is a sin, and that even the tiniest of sins can result in an eternity spent in a literal hell, they quickly learn to suppress those doubts and to feel intense shame, guilt, and fear when they fail to do so.

Think for a second about how cruel that is. To ensure that the Catholic mind virus is passed down through the generations, the Church is willing to crush children’s curiosity and to stifle or completely destroy their ability to think critically.

Then there is the guilt. According to Catholic teaching, humans are born sinners and cannot help but continue to sin throughout their lives. The only way for a Catholic to atone for these sins is to confess them to a priest, do the required penance, and be absolved. As a child, I obsessively recorded in a little notebook anything that I had said or done that could possibly be considered sinful. Then, when the time came for confession, I would recite this list to the priest, my head hanging in shame, my cheeks burning. I’d do my penance and be absolved. For a fleeting, blissful moment, I would feel light and pure and holy. But soon I would sin again, the guilt would return, the little notebook would be filled up with a record of my indiscretions, and I would return to the confessional and repeat the process over and over again.

Although I left Catholicism fifteen years ago, on occasion I still catch myself wondering what I need to do in order to rid myself of the guilt, shame, and feeling of dirtiness that, in one form or another, is almost always my companion. I sometimes find myself feeling frustrated: why, I wonder, can’t someone just tell me what penance to do? I obviously no longer think in terms of sin or feel the need to go to the confessional, but the desire for absolution remains, like an itch that cannot be scratched.

Who can deny that this is a form of child abuse? The mere act of writing this is making my hands shake and my stomach churn with anxiety. Fifteen years ago, I made the choice to leave Catholicism, something that, among the family and community I grew up in, just isn’t done. This choice was, without a doubt, the best and most liberating choice that I have ever made. However, I do not have a choice when it comes to the ever-present guilt, shame, and anxiety that resulted from my childhood religious indoctrination, and which, to varying degrees of intensity, will always be with me.

The Catholic Church loathes children. Loathes them. To the Church, children are Catholics first and humans second, and the lifelong trauma caused by childhood indoctrination is mere collateral damage in the Church’s battle against the outside world. As is so often the case, the Church unashamedly places their own interests above all other concerns, including the welfare (physical, emotional, and mental) of children. And an organization that despises and preys upon its weakest and most vulnerable members (who haven’t even chosen to be members) is undoubtably a force of great evil in the world.

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Thank you so much for reading. ♡

More on the USCCB

As I mentioned in my previous post:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

Well, someone in the media is asking the tough questions, shedding light on their tactics and activities, and raising consciousness about the influence that they wield and the dangers that they pose. Rose Aguilar, an author, journalist, and the host of “Your Call“, a daily call-in show on San Francisco public radio, has been doing much-needed and important work on this issue, and is calling out the USCCB in a way that most in the media have refused to.

Last Monday’s episode of “Your Call” asked the question “How did the US Conference of Bishops become so powerful?”. It was an excellent episode, and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. And today, Rose’s op-ed, “The birth control bishops“, was published on Al Jazeera English. I’m honored and so happy to have been quoted/used as a source in it:

Speaking of damage control, over the course of my research, I ran across an analysis of a May 2011 USCCB 143-page $1.8m report [PDF] analysing the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church titled: “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010”. The report was compiled by the research team at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

“It is important to note that, although the research was carried out by the John Jay College, the UCCSB had the final say on whether or not to authorise publication of the report,” writes Miranda Celeste Hale, an English professor at North Idaho College, who writes about politics and the negative effects of childhood religious indoctrination.

Hale spent her spring break reading and analysing what she calls a worthless and dangerous report, which blames the cultural revolution of the 1960s for the abuse.

Hale says one of the most egregious aspects of the report was that the researchers arbitrarily redefined paedophilia as sexual abuse of victims that were ten years old or younger at the time, despite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) sets the cut-off age at 13.

Redefining paedophilia allowed the researchers to claim that 22 per cent of sexual abuse victims were age ten and under, while the majority of victims were pubescent or post-pubescent, but Hale points out, if the researchers had used the DSM’s definition, that percentage would jump from 22 per cent to 73 per cent.

“The redefinition of paedophilia was really shocking,” she says. “Normally, a high percentage of priests would have been considered paedophiles and suddenly it’s fewer priests. No media outlet bothered to mention that or the fact that the report was funded almost solely by Catholic affiliated organisations.”

Hale believes the report is a “major setback in the movement towards church accountability”. She writes: “No, we must not shut up. We must not allow the Church to dominate the discourse. Speak out in whatever ways you can. On its own, what you or I say or write may not have any effect on the Church or the discourse surrounding this issue. Taken as a whole, though, our words provide a clear indication that there are many of us who will neither blindly accept the Church’s domination of the conversation nor quietly sit by while they evade justice time and time again.”

Rose is doing really great work, trying to keep media attention & scrutiny on the USCCB and their destructive activities and attitudes, and I’m really grateful for that.

Anyway, please go read her article– it’s excellent & I hope that it (and all of her work on this issue) gets the attention that it deserves. ♥

GOP Debate Bingo!

Mes amis, in preparation for tonight’s CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate, I bring you GOP Debate Bingo! Click on the image to download a .pdf of the bingo card:

And, as usual, I’ll probably be Twittering a bit about it. Find me at @mirandachale. :)

The dangers posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

New video discussing the various dangers posed by the unchecked privilege, power, influence, wealth, bigotry, and bullying tactics of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The description that I posted at YouTube:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful, wealthy, and dangerous organization. They wield a great deal of influence over many politicians, affect the outcomes of various aspects of the legislative process, and pose a direct threat to the basic human rights of many Americans. Their priorities are skewed, their claims are frequently baseless, and they protect the Catholic Church over all else, no matter the cost. They get away with this because no one holds their feet to the fire and makes them answer the tough questions. Let’s ask those questions. Let’s shed some light on their tactics and actions and raise consciousness about the harm that they cause. They’ve gotten away with this for far too long.

& My analysis of the USCCB’s “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” can be found here.

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