Blind Faith

As the fires burn over “offensive” cartoons in the Muslim world and our own front pages are filled with stories of priests and scandals, I wonder just what it is about religion that sparks such low points in human behavior. Is there anything further from “God” as a concept than what human beings do in Its name?

I try to understand religion and why it means so much to some people, but I always come up empty. As a lapsed (cured) Catholic, I watch the machinations of the Vatican and its calculated operations which allow priests to escape prosecution and I wonder. I see the constant cycle of allegation and transfer and wonder how many have just escaped their past and are starting fresh somewhere else today. I watch Francis George sputter his own sorry defense and I wonder why he chooses not to err on the side of children, but instead covers his and the church’s ass.

How is it that these church leaders who are responsible for allowing this to continue over decades are not arrested and put in jail? How is the Pope not responsible for any of this?

There are people rioting and killing over cartoons and we shake our heads, because it is an outrageous overreaction, religion gone wild. And just a step above them, the pews are filled in Catholic churches of America with silent followers who refuse to fix what is wrong. Allegation, transfer, cover your ass. By the time the children speak up, it is always too late, if they ever do. Who is responsible?

What is it about religion that blinds so completely?

17 Comments so far

  1. zed (unregistered) on February 8th, 2006 @ 10:23 am

    I think it’s the fear of dying and nothing happening that keeps people acting like loonies.

  2. Ben2 (unregistered) on February 8th, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

    My opinion is that it has less to do with religion and more to do with religion mixed with ignorance or power. Let me explain:

    In the past and now, some religions use their constructs to hold people down through power. It is a horrible thing that something with positive intentions is warped as such.

    The Catholic church during the medieval times was used both as an object of power and oppression of the ignorant peasantry and of spirituality. Sadly individuals sought to be Pope more for the power it held than its spiritual side. I believe that that is less the case now. The current Catholic scandal, though, merely shows that people want to save the face of the Catholic church and their own face.

    The Muslim religion is used today to oppress through ignorance throughout parts of the Middle East and the world, though it is also used for good. By disallowing women to be educated or vote, and keeping media stiffled, it serves as a method to keep Mullahs in power and the people ignorant of freedom, speech, and other points of view. Thus the rioting over a simple set of cartoons. Do Christians riot when CNN displays the “art piece” “Piss Christ” on their website? No because nowadays they are by and large more educated and freer.

    Only when a religion is freely chosen and located in a free society can it become what it is meant to be, but it takes personal responsibility and less stringent rules than pervade major religions now. Thus the Evangelical movement.

  3. nikkos (unregistered) on February 8th, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    Coincidentally, Salon posts an article today called: “Dissecting God
    Philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that America is drowning in religion — and that faith needs to be analyzed with the tools of science.”

    Check it out:

  4. Ben2 (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 10:27 am

    It’s an interesting article, and looking at religion through a scientific lens is quite interesting and is a hobby of mine. They are much more compatible than a quick glance may show.

    Science, as you may see, is only allowed free inquiry in a free country. So only free countries can look at religion through science…. which is why the free countries are not oppressed by religion.

  5. Danny Doom (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 10:54 am

    good article, I have stayed away from Salon lately since I got tired of watching the ads, but used to read it daily.

    I would argue that our very free country is being oppressed by religion too often, as when the Terri Shiavo case took center stage and definitely with the constant and deep history of abuse in the Catholic church that unearths new cases all of the time. The fact that intelligent design has been suddenly raised up in debate vs. evolution in this country is a head-smacker, I can’t fathom folks who want to teach this in schools. And in general the rise of fundamentalists in this country and their ties with politics is, I believe, great cause for alarm. Oppressed, yes, i feel that our free country could use a lot less religion and a lot more science.

    I agree completely with this statement in the article:

    Just about every major problem we have interacts with religion: the environment, injustice, discrimination, terrible economic imbalances and potential genocide. In our own country, the religious attitudes of people are clearly interfering with the political discussion.

  6. nikkos (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

    I’m surprised this post hasn’t elicited any strong reactions regarding the cartoon furor. Midwesterners are just too polite, I suppose.

  7. Danny Doom (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 12:51 pm

    Christ, it’s boring as hell! Isn’t anyone pissed that a few loons can cause so much trouble, all because of a bunch of made-up shit? Santa Claus is not real!

    Don’t make me post my cartoon of Jesus dancing in leather with his boyfriend!

    And are people are afraid to publicly denounce a religious leader like Francis George for continuing the Catholic policy of sweeping it under the rug?

    I do like what Zed said.

  8. nikkos (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    I think it’s astonishing the amount of violence and outrage these cartoons have sparked.

    On the other hand, when you poke a hornet’s nest with a stick, don’t be surprised when the hornets come buzzing out.

    There is a lot of anger and outrage in the Middle East (at the U.S., the West in gernal and of course at their own governments) and something like this acts as a catalyst. Look at riots right here in the U.S. (or anywhere really)- they are always catalyzed by a current incident but the real casue of the riots is a long-simmering displeasure with the status quo, mute rage at social conditions over which the people have little control, as well as the feeling that politicians do not represent their interests, nor listen to their concerns.

    And let’s not forget that Muslims have every right to be angry. That being said, I do not condone killings, violence and widespread property damage as a proper response either.

    I think the American news media has been incredibly timid in even showing the cartoons, and they are doing Americans a disservice in the process (what else is new?). At this point, the cartoons are news themselves, so there is really no justification for letting the American public look at the cartoons and to let them decide for themselves what to think. Yet, the american news media insists on protecting us from such harmful, controversial images, with the inevitable result- Americans, for all our wealth and access to informatin, are less informed than your average 15 year old Palestinian when it comes to this incident.

    Right wing commentators- Michelle Malkin in particular- have seized upon this incident as yet one more demonstration that Muslims are subhuman. Of course, they never come right out and say it, but go visit Michelle Malkin dot com and decide for yourself. Yes, the wingers couch their disapproval in the mantle of “free speech,” but the subtext of everything Malkin has written on the topic thus far is “See! I TOLD you these people were barbarians!!!” And of course, the obvious corollary to any attempt to dehumanize one’s opponents is that it’s easier to feel OK about killing the subhuman, the barbarian, the savage. On top of that, the right has begun an absurd “Buy Danish!” campaign. Watching them rack their rains trying to find Danis products worth buying is amusing. I mean, how much Havarti can one person consume?

    Franic George? He should rot in jail with the rest of ’em.

  9. Scott (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 11:51 am

    What is it about religion that makes so many nonreligious bloggers and commenters think they know enough about what’s going on to make authoritative pronouncements and ask sputtering, anguished questions about cause and effect? Like religion blinding so completely? Seems to me that people can close their eyes and blind themselves based on just about anything. If religious people act blind, it doesn’t follow that the religion is what blinded them. There’s a faith, and there are adherents to that faith. The blindness of some adherents doesn’t logically negate the faith. There are religious people with eyes wide open who do about as good a job as possible both at being faithful and doing good for others. (I don’t claim to be one.) It’s possible to spend some time thinking and researching before pounding out a slamfest denigrating a faith and all of its adherents in the most vulgar terms imaginable.

  10. Danny Doom (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

    I don’t think anything I said was vulgar, unless you think Jesus dancing with a man in leather is vulgar (I don’t), but I do find the actions of Francis George and many many others quite vulgar, the way they have consistently acted to protect the church first and the children second (or last).

    I was raised Catholic and know all too much about this specific religion; less so about the Muslim religion. Obviously, extremists are hurting the cause as far as the cartoon furor and the terrorist connections to the Muslim religion, but I know that there are plenty of perfectly rational followers who do not believe that killing in the name is appropriate behavior.

    But isn’t it, or shouldn’t it be the job of those who care about their religion to try and save it from the people who are destroying its reputation? For Catholics, shouldn’t they be doing something to get rid of this ongoing problem that has haunted them for decades? Francis George is part of the problem. He deserves to be called into account for what has happened. I don’t hear much of an outrage.

    I guess my point is that I think the Catholic church, from the Pope on down, deserves to be slammed for its lack of response to a recurring problem, and a serious problem at that.

    Without getting much deeper into it, I can also say that I think the Catholic church holds irresponsible, naive and intolerant views on birth control, abortion, homosexuality (very un-Christian-like stance in particular on gays), and the fact that women are not allowed to become priests, well, I find to be downright insulting.

    Other than that, I’ve got nothing.

  11. Marty (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 4:21 pm

    I have the dubious honor of being a (mostly) lapsed Catholic and work with juvenile sex offenders. I have in my office an article from a suburban paper where I spoke out against the sexual abusive of children by Catholic Priests; I’ve found the Cardinal’s responses to be pathetic and evasive. He should be excommunicated. Pure and Simple. I agree with Danny Doom on the church’s views on women, abortion and homosexuality-but at least the Vatican is consistent on Prolife issues (ie at least they are against the death penalty).

    However, in regards to sexual abuse, it should be remembered that this is still the most underreported crime in the nation–probably the world. Sexual abuse is not addressed by anyone in any real capacity. For instance, this idea of Stranger Danger is a, pretty much, a useless gesture. Less than 10% of all sex offenses are committed by “strangers”; yet Stranger Danger is the most talked about anti sex abuse strategy (Even John Walsh is involved in it now). The church’s take on this–ban Gay Seminarians–is ludicrious. Sexual abuse has less to do with orientation and significantly more to do with issues of power and sexuality.

    At the same time, while I agree that Parishioners need call for more drastic reforms in the church (I have no inherent problem with people of faith. I have problems with people who use faith as weapons, or with people who forget that there is a little thing called the Constitution which separates Church from State), the problem of sexual abuse by clergy suffers not just from the problem of “loyalty” (ie the parishioner will protect their priest) but also from addressing sexual abuse in general. While I think the church should be held to a much higher standard, the general problem of sexual abuse needs more attention.

    I came within inches of posting something about this, but, I’m not so sure people want to read about the nitty gritty realities of sex offenders.

  12. Gabe (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 6:21 pm

    “with people who forget that there is a little thing called the Constitution which separates Church from State”

    The Constitution does not mention, whether implicitly or explicitly, about the separation of Church and state. The phrase “separation of church and state” comes from Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (1802). He was addressing their concerns over religious liberties that they felt were granted by their legislatures rather than they were immutable rights granted by God.

    The constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” It doesn’t say that it can’t have a national symbol that includes a cross or ten commandments in a common area of a courthouse or a nativity scene in a city park.

    I mention this because I don’t feel that this country is oppressed by religion as some people have mentioned here. You are still free to believe or not believe and if you don’t wanna hear it, walk away. I think that religious people are finally beginning to speak up because they have felt oppressed by others that have chosen to denegrate them or use the legal system to stop them from even speaking at all. Do I condone what was done by the priests in the Catholic Church? NO WAY! I agree that people of the church need to do something to fix the damage that this has caused to the Church (I mean the church in general and not just the catholic church).

    BTW, I’m not catholic.

  13. Marty (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 6:28 pm

    Hi Gabe

    Amendment 1 has also been used to establish the seperation of church and state:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    I am commenting more on sex abuse than constitution issues; I don’t want my snarky comment to derail the thread. Thank you for your time.

  14. Ben2 (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 9:04 am

    I just have a few things to point out here:

    Secularism is responsible for more deaths and oppression in the 20th century than religious regimes were by far. It seems like a lot of people are almost “afraid” of religion because of its history of oppression and violence but fail to realize how impotent it is in a free society as a human construct to do those things. Only where it is the law (Muslim countries) does it oppress. Here in the West we have very little problem with religion other than what people choose to do.

    I also believe the Muslims have a right to be offended, though their pick-and-choose version of offense is quite unnerving. The cartoons were displayed in an Egyptian paper 4 months ago… no outrage. They repeatedly break their laws against displaying Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, etc… no outrage.

    And worse yet is the media’s pick-and-choose sensitivity. Why show “Piss Christ” prominently on their website and headline it when they won’t show a drawing of Muhammad, much less the offensive drawings of Muhammad. Christians aren’t violent as a whole, but are we going to allow the Islamicists to tell us what we can have in our own press?

  15. Danny Doom (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 10:39 am

    I believe that the cartoons should be shown in our newspapers so we can see what exactly the religious extremists are overreacting to.

    The oppression in our country is much less obvious (more insidious, I’d say), but it takes the form of pharmacists refusing to do their job because of religious beliefs and a president who vows to vote against stem-cell research on the basis of supporting “life” (as reported on 60 Minutes last night) and politicians (including the president) who take a brain-dead woman and prop her up for thier religious constituents to prove they are “pro-life enough.” (just a few examples)

    In particular, the 60 Minutes piece last night showed how ridiculous the religious extremists in this country can be (these are people in our government working for George Bush), as they vow to keep frozen embryos frozen rather than use them for research. There are a large surplus of embryos, too many that will ever be used, and their fate is to eventually get thrown out, but the religious faction would rather keep them in storage as long as possible than using them to help actual living beings. Because, as one said, they have “dignity.” They are cells, frozen in tanks, with “dignity.” This is what pro-life means to these people.

    It’s life and death, either way, it’s just that the religious extremists in the Muslim world are a little more obvious in their tactics. This is why, in my original post, I stated that in this country they are a step above. A small step, but still not at the level of fanaticism to inspire such reaction. Not many guys are out there shooting abortion doctors these days, to their credit.

    I did notice the apologists for Francis George rallying yesterday, even some with kids on their shoulders. When I speak of blind faith, well, there you go.

  16. Ben2 (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    Danny Doom-

    It is a little disturbing that you are saying that “religious conservative” beliefs are oppression… especially when a large portion or even a majority of the country believes in these things. Why do you label the people that don’t agree with you “oppressive?”

    At least their positions are consistent. And while stem cell research may seem crazy when embryos are sitting in a freezer, it could be attributed to politics and not the actual life-first beliefs.

    We can argue every one of these issues… abortion, euthanasia, stem cell, but labeling the opposing side oppressive and using that to compare “religious conservatives” to Islamic Fanatics who bomb people is wrong.

  17. Danny Doom (unregistered) on February 13th, 2006 @ 11:37 am

    it’s not a matter of agreeing with me or not, it’s a matter of these religious beliefs taking precedent over actual real-life situations: a woman trying to get a morning-after pill is refused because of another’s beliefs; a woman who’s husband is suffering from Alzheimer’s (let’s use Nancy Reagan as an example) and pleads for stem-cell research to help fight the disease, to no avail; a man whose wife is brain-dead and believes that she would not want to continue living in this state is denied because of politics inspired by religious beliefs.

    In all of these cases, the religious beliefs of others are over-stepping the bounds and affecting other people’s lives. Highly intrusive seems to underestimate it. Over-bearing? Yeah. Oppressive? Well, it is attempting to keep people from doing or getting what they need.

    I don’t believe a majority of the country believes in these things, I believe it is a small vocal minority (the Religious Right) that inspires behavior like this.

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