Abortion Care at Catholic Hospitals

“When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals.” American Journal of Public Health, vol.98, no.10 (October 2008).

While writing my recent post about how the Catholic church ordered a hospital to let a pregnant woman die, I came across this letter from the ACLU about hospitals’ legal obligation not to deny life-saving care. And I noticed that the letter mentioned an article in the American Journal of Public Health about “religiously-affiliated hospitals denying emergency reproductive care to patients”.

Well, I went and found that article, which was published in the October 2008 edition and is available for free online, and it’s even more appalling than the subject matter implies. The authors of the paper interviewed doctors working at Catholic hospitals in different parts of the U.S. They observe that “Catholic-owned hospitals are the largest group of religiously owned nonprofit hospitals”, about 15% of those in the country, and in some regions they’re the only hospitals available. Many women go to them for convenience, or because they’re the nearest one in an emergency, without knowing in advance how this limits their options for both routine and emergency care.

In the Phoenix case, permission to perform a life-saving abortion on a critically ill woman was granted by the hospital’s ethics committee, including a Catholic nun, Margaret McBride (who was, naturally, excommunicated for her sin of valuing a woman’s life over a bishop’s dogma). But at other Catholic hospitals, the ethics committees aren’t always so rational and compassionate. In several cases detailed in the paper, as long as there was a fetal heartbeat, doctors were instructed to do nothing – even if a miscarriage was in process, even if the woman was hemorrhaging, even if she’d become septic. One doctor’s account in particular turned my stomach:

I’ll never forget this; it was awful — I had one of my partners accept this patient at 19 weeks. The pregnancy was in the vagina. It was over… And so he takes this patient and transferred her to [our] tertiary medical center, which I was just livid about, and, you know, “we’re going to save the pregnancy.” So of course, I’m on call when she gets septic, and she’s septic to the point that I’m pushing pressors on labor and delivery trying to keep her blood pressure up, and I have her on a cooling blanket because she’s 106 degrees. And I needed to get everything out. And so I put the ultrasound machine on and there was still a heartbeat, and [the ethics committee] wouldn’t let me because there was still a heartbeat. This woman is dying before our eyes. I went in to examine her, and I was able to find the umbilical cord through the membranes and just snapped the umbilical cord and so that I could put the ultrasound — “Oh look. No heartbeat. Let’s go.” She was so sick she was in the [intensive care unit] for about 10 days and very nearly died… Her bleeding was so bad that the sclera, the white of her eyes, were red, filled with blood… And I said, “I just can’t do this. I can’t put myself behind this. This is not worth it to me.” That’s why I left.

As you’d expect, most doctors suffer agonies of conscience when forbidden to save the life of a dying woman. This one ignored the hospital’s orders and covertly cut the umbilical cord, slightly speeding up an inevitable fetal death, so that he could get permission for an abortion while there was still time to save the woman’s life – and even so, she hovered on the brink of death for days afterward.

In another case where a woman was septic and hemorrhaging, the doctor was told by a colleague to put her in a bed and try to keep her alive with blood transfusions until the fetus died. Another doctor sent her critically ill patient to the nearest secular hospital, a 90-mile ambulance ride, because she judged that this long and hazardous journey would result in her getting a needed abortion more quickly than waiting for the ethics committee at her own hospital to give permission.

In none of these cases did the woman actually die, although it’s statistically all but certain that it’s happened at least a few times. But regardless of the actual outcomes, these accounts show the Catholic hierarchy’s cold, callous attitude. Whether a woman dies is of no importance to them, so long as their dogma is respected, and they’re ready and willing to enforce that on every woman who comes into their power. The most hideous absurdity is that these monsters have the audacity to label themselves “pro-life”, when their beliefs have the exact opposite effect in practice.

These stories resemble nothing so much as the Catholic-backed anti-abortion law in El Salvador, in which no abortion is permitted for any reason, not even to save the woman’s life, as long as there’s a fetal heartbeat. Even women with ectopic pregnancies are denied abortion until their Fallopian tubes rupture inside them. If the bishops had their way, that sadistic, woman-killing policy would be the law of the land in the United States and throughout the world. These stories are further proof, if any was needed, that society’s embrace of this or any other religious dogma is incompatible with the life and health of women, and that hospitals must not be allowed to use religion as a justification for withholding the life-saving treatments that science and reason make possible.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Eurekus

    After reading this I feel physically sick. Misogynist mongrels.

  • anon

    This is the exact reason you should stay at this hospital. Who is going to have the common sense to save the next woman’s life who is in danger?

  • Dan

    An excellent example of why your advanced healthcare directive should state explicitly that if you are unable to participate in medical decision making and you are in a Catholic hospital, you must be transported to a secular hospital immediately. These kinds of abhorrent situations also occur in end of life care. And if you don’t have an advanced healthcare directive, why not? Google “Five Wishes” and fill out a directive that is legally valid in 44 US states.

  • Supertec

    And this is why there should be no religious exemptions for any law, regardless of their pleading – it’s disgusting that they allow people to die because of their twisted beliefs.

  • L.Long

    When hearing about this schite you have to ask …..
    WHY are women a part of any religion when they are treated this way…
    do women like being treated like schite????
    Afterall if 50% of the catlicks (women) got up in church and said pluck-yew
    all we are sick of being treated this way. Here in america I’d like to think that something would be changed. But then I may well be wrong.

  • Douglas Kirk

    I second supertec. Religious exemptions are fine when it comes to preferences (don’t want to go on a field trip to the natural history museum? fine), but no one should be able to exempt themselves from the law. It’s disgusting.

  • Elizabeth

    This is literally making me nauseous…especially since I was raised Catholic and I was actually part of the pro-life club in my Catholic high school…
    To think I even partially supported this attitude makes me very ashamed…

  • Camille

    Separation of Church and State. Is it not bad enough that Catholic priests like to touch little boys? If there is a God, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t condone that kind of behavior. There is an old saying, I think it goes something like, Practice what the fuck you are preaching!!!

  • Monty

    I can understand opposing abortion in non-emergency situations. I disagree for the most part, but at least I can understand the position. But this…I really cannot begin to comprehend what sort of thought process leads a person to believe that two deaths are better than one.

  • http://politicalgames.posterous.com themann1086

    I just threw up a little bit in my mouth here at work. That is just… disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

  • Alex Weaver

    I really cannot begin to comprehend what sort of thought process leads a person to believe that two deaths are better than one.

    Why, the thought process that literally any conceivable number of deaths is better than having to let go of a little bit of your power by admitting you were wrong about something, of course.

  • Sarah Braasch

    Since everyone wants to bandy about the trite “death panels” charge as of late, I think we’ve happened upon a target worthy of the moniker and all that that implies.

  • Maynard

    I really cannot begin to comprehend what sort of thought process leads a person to believe that two deaths are better than one.

    This kind: The Catholic Church holds it better for the Sun and Moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die from starvation in extremest agony … than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse. Cardinal John Henry Newman

    (via Hitchens in National Post)

  • http://killedbyfish.blogspot.com feralboy12

    I was going to compare the “ethics committee” to a death panel, but Sarah beat me to it.
    If I correctly recall the quote by the bishop in that one case, it was his authority not being respected that he was worried about. In other words, his personal right to make life or death decisions regarding strangers, vested in him by the church, needed to be honored here.
    Decisions don’t have to be right, they don’t have to be life-affirming in any way, they just need to be made by the correct authority.
    I should probably stop here before I godwin this thread.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Since everyone wants to bandy about the trite “death panels” charge as of late, I think we’ve happened upon a target worthy of the moniker and all that that implies.

    Brilliant, Sarah. That sums this up so well.

  • javaman

    I wish pictures of this could be published mainstream if they existed with pt. permission , similar to pictures of aborted fetus to show the public the results of religious dogma

  • Lion IRC

    More of the same atheist mantra.

    Get rid of religion so someone else, can play God instead.

    It is rightly called an agony of conscience when medical uncertainty cannot resolve the matter of one person’s life being weighed against the potential of another.

    But the ethical/conscientious sword cuts both ways.

    So stop pretending that your ethics are better than those which motivate others – people who have a reason for placing human life in the category of something sacred. So sacred, in fact, that trying to save two lives is perceived as such a worthy goal that it is placed ahead of the (lesser, lazy, simple,) option to save only one life – the one which is deemed more worthy (and easier to save.)

    Take a similar medical scenario in which limited resources require a choice between saving an unborn embryo’s life and that of a vegetating Alzheimer’s patient .

    The medical staff who opt to save the fetus instead are merely speeding up an inevitable geriatric death – right?

    What about saving the life of a person who (we know) won’t have as good a “quality of life” as the competing life of the alternative patient?

    Indigenous people have a shorter life expectancy. How about speeding up their inevitable death in order to provide a heart transplant?

    Lion (IRC)
    PS – Camille, please post more ignorant, gutless, generalizing slurs against all Catholic priests on behalf of atheism as often as possible. Especially here on Ebonmuse’s site. I appreciate your help to drag down the reputation of atheist fora. That way I can use your posts as examples when I make generalizations about atheists. Same goes for you L. Long. You be sure to keep up all those disgustingly sexist gender bias remarks like “…WHY are women a part of any religion?” The more atheist discussion boards are filled up with folk like you and Camille the more convincing it is that atheism doesn’t cure self-righteous hypocrisy and brute ignorance. You don’t want to get rid of religion – you just want to replace it.

  • http://www.avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    that society’s embrace of this or any other religious dogma is incompatible with the life and health of women

    Is this what you meant to say? Maybe that is what you meant; I disagree with part of that statement if that’s the case. I feel strongly that one should not generalize so broadly about religious dogma. It appears to me you’re asserting that not one religious dogma is compatible with the life and health of women, but surely this is not the case?

    Is there any part of the definition or the concept of religious dogma which is inherently biased against women? I say “no”. Now, I agree that Catholicism and many other religions are inherently biased against women, but I am sure there are other religious dogmas which are less biased or not at all biased against them. I am confident that this would not be hard to demonstrate.

    This criticism may seem to be a minor quibble, but I believe it touches an important point. When religious people who sympathize with an atheist’s condemnation of the excesses of religion hear unwieldy generalizations, I think it can tragically and unnecessarily undermine the chances that sympathetic and critical religious people work with atheists and skeptics to end the worst, actual abuses of religion.

    You don’t want to get rid of religion – you just want to replace it.

    You hit the nail on the head. I don’t want to get rid of religion – I do want to replace it! But you utter this “charge” as if it’s a bad thing – are you sure it is? I think you should really make up your own mind on that one – is religion is a bad thing overall, or is it not? Perhaps you thought you would trap us in your logic: “they think religion is bad, so I will show they are just as bad!”

    But this backfires: if you were really consistent, you would show that our ideas are bad because we are not like religion, if religion is something you value. But if you support religion, and atheism is like religion in some ways, then shouldn’t you congratulate us on our enlightenment, instead of attacking us for embracing a position like yours?

    I think it is a mistake to assume that atheists naturally oppose every feature of religion. It seems an unwarranted presumption to me, for religion is a diverse phenomena which consists of many elements, several of which I think atheists would tend to regard highly. Are atheists against collective organization? I doubt it; many of us support charities, labor unions, and other clubs. Are atheists against morality? Not by a longshot; many of the most advanced moral theories and ethics have been proposed and implemented by atheists. Are atheists even against spirituality? I would say no; Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins and others have articulated astounding and beautiful spiritual ideas, invoking an admiration of science and the natural world around us.

    Yes, as an atheist, I do not want to get rid of religion – I want to replace it as it currently exists – and that is the honest truth. I would like to know what makes that such a bad thing.

  • http://peternothnagle.com Peter N

    Lion IRC,

    I will let others address your insults and your slew of bizarre hypothetical situations if they are so inclined. For my part, I just have a simple question for you. I’m not laying a trap, I truly want to know. What is your religion? If Christian, what denomination?

  • Leum

    Lion IRC: This incident isn’t about one of those situations where they can either try to save both lives or can only try to save one. It’s a situation where they choice was let both die or let only one die. There was no possibility of them both living. It was a clear-cut decision that should require no agony of conscience.

  • Alex Weaver

    Lion IRC: This incident isn’t about one of those situations where they can either try to save both lives or can only try to save one. It’s a situation where they choice was let both die or let only one die. There was no possibility of them both living. It was a clear-cut decision that should require no agony of conscience.

    As far as Lion IRC and other anti-choicers are concerned, there was only one HUMAN BEING to consider there and the doctors killed it.

  • Snoof

    Get rid of religion so someone else, can play God instead.

    Ironically, even God doesn’t play God. He prefers to leave making statements of morality up to senile old men, charismatic sociopaths and people on the internet.

  • http://www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com Danu

    Growing up Catholic in an unquestioningly ‘pro-life’ household, I was always told that the Catholic anti-abortion position did not preclude ANY needed medical care for the woman. That the woman would get all medical care she needed and if the foetus died as a result it was an unfortunate side-effect but not abortion. Abortion was the deliberate killing of the foetus. I was furthermore told that there was NEVER an occasion where the foetus had to be deliberately killed in order to save the mother’s life.

    Guess that, along with a lot of other stuff they told me about, wasn’t true …

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    @Snoof

    Ironically, even God doesn’t play God. He prefers to leave making statements of morality up to senile old men, charismatic sociopaths and people on the internet.

    I am so stealing that :)

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So stop pretending that your ethics are better than those which motivate others – people who have a reason for placing human life in the category of something sacred.

    In this case, mine are certainly better. The situation was that two lives were dying, one was savable, one was not. My ethics say that we should try to save the life that is possible to save. Your ethics (or the ethics of the church at least) were to let them both die because it’s more important to follow dogma than to care about people, especially women.

    The medical staff who opt to save the fetus instead are merely speeding up an inevitable geriatric death – right?

    Want a torch to ignite that strawman of yours?

    …disgustingly sexist gender bias remarks like “…WHY are women a part of any religion?”

    Because it’s sexist now to point out that women are denigrated by religion and to wonder why women are willingly subjecting themselves to it? I’m sure it’s racist to protest the KKK now too, right?

  • heliobates

    You be sure to keep up all those disgustingly sexist gender bias remarks like “…WHY are women a part of any religion?”

    Feminism: u r doing it rong.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Camille, please post more ignorant, gutless, generalizing slurs against all Catholic priests on behalf of atheism as often as possible. Especially here on Ebonmuse’s site. I appreciate your help to drag down the reputation of atheist fora. That way I can use your posts as examples when I make generalizations about atheists.

    Because, of course, Camille speaks on behalf of all atheists? Oh yeah, it’s part of that whold “making generalizations about atheists” thing, isn’t it? At least you’re admitting you’re a bigot.

  • javaman

    I am a male R.N. who has worked for seven years in the emergency room of two inner city hospitals. I have several times witnessed and cared for woman who were rushed into the ER who were having spontaneous abortions, and were in mid to late second trimester. When I say rushed in, I meant the head of the baby was exiting the vagina, and gave birth in the ER. A fetus has to gestate in utero for a min. of at least six mths before the lungs produce surfactant which prevents the inner lung surfaces from sticking together to allow normal breathing .In these cases , no CRP or any other medical intervention was going to save the day.We would allow labor to progress catch the baby in a metal pan and watch it for several minutes trying to take weak feeble breaths and just watch it die , call time of death,and send the remains to pathology. My point is not all pregnancies go to term with a happy out come , This case of a 19 mth old fetus had ZERO change of living , The immaturity of the lungs were just not ready for life. As a compassionate,moral caring person this was a very emotional painful experience, but life is what it is, But some religious individual just can’t handle the truth, their hearts are in the right place but their god is going to fail and disappoint them as usual.

  • heliobates

    Get rid of religion so someone else, can play God instead.

    A bishop commanding a doctor not to perform a life-saving procedure is as much a God-Stand-In as a doctor relying on ethical principles and medical knowledge to actively save a life.

    See, Cupcake, religious people play God all the time. Believers may feel that they’re “guided”, or “instructed”, or they have a clear understanding of what “God meant”, but in the end, it’s human beings making human decisions and claiming to speak on behalf of God.

    Edit: Damn, missed Snoof’s comment above. Much more succint and powerful.

  • Paul S.

    @ Lion IRC:

    If you’d read Camille’s post, you would have seen that she wrote, “…is it not bad enough that Catholic priests like to touch little boys?” Would you please point out that what she said was “ignorant”? Do Catholic priests like to touch little boys? Yes, some do. She didn’t say “all.” Are you going to argue the validity of this main point or are you going to pretend indignation that all Catholic priests are being painted with a broad brush? Last I checked, the Roman Catholic Church has paid more than $2 billion in the US alone (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/settlements/). What’s “gutless” about her statement? It’s true, isn’t it? What’s gutless is the Catholic Church’s repeated efforts to cover-up its clergy’s crimes. What’s gutless is your pathetic attempt to minimize the horrors perpetrated on children by members of your religion’s clergy. As I said before, Camille made no “generalizing slurs against all Catholic priests on behalf of atheism.” Isn’t it be bad enough that ONE priest likes to touch little boys?

  • Lion IRC

    @ Leum – I do not accept your interpretation that there was no intent to save both lives. What you call a clear cut decision is debatable. What bothers me is that if one takes away religion as the “True North” on a moral compass and replaces it with “managed care” by health insurance company share holders, the “value” of life takes on a whole new meaning.

    @ OMGF – So which is it? Bigoted generalizations about what RCC priests “like” or a reasonable, well thought out contribution to intelligent debate on a forum? As for the (predictable) strawman allegation, you can burn that strawman to ash in seconds by simply saying …”no I don’t think we should devalue geriatric life based on what medical personnel think about their inevitable death.“ You had your chance to burn the strawman down but guess what? Its still standing. (BTW – it was a rhetorical/hypothetical question.) In relation to whose ethics are better we have to work out a better way of deciding than “mine are certainly better”, no they aren’t, yes they are, no they’re not, are too, are not, my dad can beat your dad in a fight, can not, can too……… (I recently listened to CD book on morality and ethical choices by Hugh McKay “Right and Wrong”. What a waste of 9 hours just to be told to decide things for yourself.)

    @ Peter N – I’m not falling for your cunning Jedi mind trap. “Oh it’s just a simple question…what’s your denomination…no hidden agenda”. Yeah right. That’s what they all say. Well don’t think you can trick me into revealing anything about my religious views. I’ve spent my whole life keeping it a secret and I’m not gonna let my guard down now.

    @Teleprompter – Thanks for underscoring my point about what Peter Hitchens correctly identifies as the real atheist agenda. It’s the reason why atheism and communism go hand in hand. So it’s no surprise atheists want to get religion out of politics. Nor is it surprising that when you ask atheists what a world like religion would be like they so often do their best goldfish impersonation. The mouth opens and closes but nothing comes out. An atheist on Rational Scepticism told me recently that there would be “no difference” between a world without religion and one with religion. Seriously. How hard is it for atheists to just admit they don’t really know what might happen once religion disappears and their atheist “utopia” begins?

    @ Paul S – Hang on Paul S, I have Camille on the other line….”right, uh, huh… but that’s not what you said…no they don’t…imagine if I said atheists are pedophiles without qualifying the remark…ahhh so now you do see my point…exactly… 50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies….OK see ya…

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    that society’s embrace of this or any other religious dogma is incompatible with the life and health of women

    Is this what you meant to say? Maybe that is what you meant; I disagree with part of that statement if that’s the case. I feel strongly that one should not generalize so broadly about religious dogma. It appears to me you’re asserting that not one religious dogma is compatible with the life and health of women, but surely this is not the case?

    Hi Teleprompter,

    Yes, that is what I meant to say. I maintain that every religion, without exception, that’s large enough to be even a marginally significant influence on world affairs contains severely prejudiced and misogynist teachings against the rights and equality of women. It’s amazing how consistent this is even among religions that otherwise have nothing in common, and I’ve speculated on the reasons for it. But regardless of the cause, the effect is clearly visible and brooks no argument.

    What you call a clear cut decision is debatable.

    No, Lion, actually it’s not. In each of the cases described in this paper, there was no possibility whatsoever that the fetus would survive. The only question was whether the doctors would perform an abortion and save the woman’s life, or wait for the mother and the fetus to die from a lethal complication of pregnancy. There’s nothing “debatable” about this. That you think otherwise only indicates to me that you either didn’t read the original post or have some sort of mental block against accepting what it’s saying.

    Well don’t think you can trick me into revealing anything about my religious views. I’ve spent my whole life keeping it a secret and I’m not gonna let my guard down now.

    Yes, a “secret” held by someone who’s fervently against abortion and who is mightily offended by people correctly describing the extent of pedophilia within the Catholic church. It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination.

  • javaman

    Loin IRC -???

    Well don’t think you can trick me into revealing anything about my religious views. I’ve spent my whole life keeping it a secret and I’m not gonna let my guard down now.????

    Dude ! are you playing with all your marbles?! No seriously , Forget the Jedi mind trick stuff, if you packing a pair of balls , Stand proud , or stand down, From one male to another male I mean that in a good way. Respect

  • http://www.punkassblog.com Antigone

    Lion IRC-

    We know you’re some flavor of Christian, my guess is Catholic. Seriously, quit trying to be “secretive”. As for “– I do not accept your interpretation that there was no intent to save both lives..” I have to ask: What medical ability and knowledge of this case do you have that we lack? I mean, I’m not even going to go into the fact that you feel comfortable saying you have a right to what goes on in my body (without any evidence or particular knowledge) but let’s talk about your medical ability to diagnose what trained professionals said was not possible.

    As for ethics, we decide what value you ascribe to and see which situation maximizes that value. If you value “human happiness” and “greatest care” or even just easy-to-quantify: “maximum amount of life” our values kick the crap out of the Catholic churches.

  • heliobates

    50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies….OK see ya…”

    It’s the cover-up, stupid! Yanno, the pervasive denial of responsibility–extending all the way up to the current Pope–and in some cases the active enabling or protection of child rapists by the church leadership that exposes the RCC as the morally bankrupt institution it is.

  • 2-D Man

    50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies

    What is wrong with you? Seriously? How many times do we have to fucking tell you this? What pisses us off about the Catholic sex scandals is not that they had pedophiles in their midst. That’s generally considered unavoidable for any organization, and most people here would be willing to forgive the church if that were their only crime. What pisses us off about the Catholic sex scandals is their reaction to finding out that the people they had hired were pedophiles. That’s something they can control and they did so extremely poorly.
    And that’s only the beginning; they didn’t just fail to act, but then they proceeded to call their inaction the only justifiable response to the whole shenanigan.
    It indicates that your deity doesn’t care to help when his followers cannot tell the difference between a monster and a man. It indicates that your deity is an asshole when his followers cannot tell the difference between the monstrous and the mundane.

  • 2-D Man

    To tie my last comment back to the OP: a doctor assisting with a birth is mundane. A doctor standing around watching a woman die from pregnancy complications is monstrous. And the Catholic church says that both are desirable.

  • Mothman

    LionIRC, I believe a world without religion would be better in many ways. Parents would not force their children to die because their religion forbids treatment, no one would die during exorcisms, people could get genuine help for their mental illnesses instead of blaming on gods or demons, there would be no “witch” killings, misogynists and homophobes would have to work a lot harder to get anywhere without the automatic respect afforded to their religious views, religious teachings would no longer interfere with education and scientific progress, we could gain an accurate understanding of the world and its functions instead of relying on ancient myths, religious teachings would no longer interfere with healthcare efforts such as immunization, we would have much lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion thanks to comprehensive sex education, there would be no religious persecution against anyone who differs from the dominant religion, those who do not follow a region’s dominant religion would not be legally forced to obey its laws, there would be no religious wars(although there would still be wars in general), people could make decisions and laws based on facts and not unprovable dogma, and religious buildings could be converted to useful buildings.

    Other than that, it really would be pretty much the same. People would still enjoy spending time with each other and helping their communities, people would still make and follow laws(after all, it benefits them to do so), people would still attempt to behave morally(yes, there would be severe disagreements on morality, but what does religion do to change that?), people would still make beautiful pieces of art(just not religious art), people would still have moments of transcendence, and people would still find meanings in their lives. There would still be major disagreements about politics, economics, and morality, but without the notion that an all-powerful superbeing has deeply held personal feelings about these issues and will punish anyone who doesn’t conform to them, we would be forced to examine the real-world effects of various ideologies and make decisions based on reality. That’s what a world without religion would be like it. Religion isn’t truly necessary for anything, and it does great harm, so the world would be better off without it.

    How do you like my goldfish impersonation?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    There’s also this post, which I expect Lion will ignore in much the same way he ignores other things whose existence he’d prefer not to have to deal with.

  • Mothman

    And by the way, about atheism and communism? Ayn Rand would like a word with you.

  • heliobates

    An atheist on Rational Scepticism told me recently that there would be “no difference” between a world without religion and one with religion.

    The atheist was right. The differences for modern, technological Western societies, were religion to disappear entirely, would be barely noticeable on a day-to-day basis. If you look at the Scandinavian countries or a multicultural metropolis like Toronto, you’ll see how a secular society has to function. Religion is not a predominant part of the public discourse. However important religious beliefs are to the believer, in the public sphere, religion is treated as a private matter—more of a hobby or a charming anachronism than a worldview. I’m thrilled to live in a part of the world that approaches this atheist “utopia”.

    Tom Clark of the Center for Naturalism capably articulates a vision of a post-religious world, or at least the necessity of public secularism. You could start with http://www.naturalism.org/secularism.htm , though I fear your brain might break should it have to accommodate an opposing point of view.

    In short, if it’s serious discussion you’re after, there’d be no shortage. But then you’d have to approach the matter with a commitment to intellectual honesty and a desire to engage rather than a clear intent to troll and poison the discussion.

  • Alex Weaver

    50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies

    Citation fucking needed.

  • Lion IRC

    Alex Weaver.
    Its a big problem.
    Sounds like you really do want to find out more.
    Dont be lazy now. Off you go.
    And certainly dont just take my word for it.
    Lion (IRC)
    PS – Mothman, you forgot to put the words “I believe” in front of your prophecy that in a world without religion parents killing their children (abortion) will decrease and you forgot to include some…(whats that words?)..oh yeah…EVIDENCE!

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Sounds like you really do want to find out more.
    Dont be lazy now. Off you go.

    …you forgot to include some…(whats that words?)..oh yeah…EVIDENCE!

    Say what you will about Lion, but you really have to admire the magnificent lack of self-awareness that it takes to put those two statements in such close proximity and not notice anything problematic.

  • Lion IRC

    I have started my stop watch.
    If the 50,000 over 30 years number versus the 150 million a year number is wrong I will be bombarded by contradictions in 3…2…1…seconds.
    What? Nobody here who can put that theist in his place?
    OH well.

    BTW Ebonmuse, I read the “What will replace religion” link – thanks.
    It conspicuously fails to mention that in order to rid the world of religion its going to take a dose of Stalin or Mao. It also fails to show any substantial differentiation. If that is your blue print – religion is safe for another few hundred thousand years.

  • http://politicalgames.posterous.com themann1086

    I heard that Lion blows goats.

    His failure to contradict this assertion with EVIDENCE is proof I am right.

  • TEP

    BTW Ebonmuse, I read the “What will replace religion” link – thanks.
    It conspicuously fails to mention that in order to rid the world of religion its going to take a dose of Stalin or Mao.

    Hardly. All it needs is a few more people like you to draw attention to just how silly religion is, and people will be leaving in [bigger] droves.

  • Alex Weaver
    50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies

    Citation fucking needed.

  • 2-D Man

    Based on the way this thread’s been going, I get the impression that Lion initially thought ne* could handle atheists’ arguments and thought PZ’s banning was evidence of that. But when the converts weren’t quick to appear anywhere else, ne just started resorting to outright lying; the persistent lack of converts since then has been eroding ner sanity. Just guessing, but without medical intervention, it’ll be a few months, maybe a year, before Lion’s posts mostly consist of “GOATS ON FIRE”.

    I’m not even going to try getting back on topic here.

    *ne/ner is the non-gendered pronoun that I use.

  • heliobates

    I think Lion’s referring to the 2006 WHO report Preventing child maltreatment: a guide to taking action and generating evidence, but it’s hard to say because he can’t be bothered to cite his sources (the minimum exercise of intellectual integrity). If this is his source, by trying to imply that those “150 million” children are in fact “within the remit” of secular organizations and the Catholic Church’s conduct towards child rape should look better by comparison, Lion elevates his game from a “liar for Jesus” to the ranks of the fractally dishonest.

  • Mothman

    Here’s some evidence. Be careful, it’s a PDF.

    http://www.siecus.org/_data/global/images/research_says.pdf

    Abstinence-only sex education does not prevent teenagers from having sex in any way, meaning that teen pregnancy is just as likely, and therefore abortion is as well. Teaching teenagers about contraception will give them the tools to prevent teen pregnancy, thereby precluding the need for abortion. Religion does nothing but get in the way.

    Also, while it may take unacceptable measures to completely eradicate religion, it is entirely possible to marginalize it peacefully, through discussion and education.

  • Alex Weaver

    Based on the way this thread’s been going, I get the impression that Lion initially thought ne* could handle atheists’ arguments and thought PZ’s banning was evidence of that.

    Eh? *checks*

    Insipidity, Godbotting … The stupid comments would have been tolerable (at least, ignorable) if they hadn’t been accompanied by such undeserved self-pride in his attempts at wit, and such unwarranted and affected pretension. In other words, dumb as a turd and completely oblivious to it.

    Heh, sounds about right. Maybe my approach is too understated.

    Lion, cite your sources and explain the scope you’re trying to argue about. There appear, for instance, to be less than 150 million children in the entire United States and Europe combined, and that’s where the bulk of discovered child abuse by the Raping Children Church has occurred.

  • Alex Weaver

    (Since I actually give a damn whether what I say is accurate I should note that the figure of children for Europe plus United States does in fact rise to over 150 million after all if Eastern Europe is included. Nevertheless, he’s basically saying 80+% of children in the Western world are sexually abused at least once a year.)

    …really, Lyin? You got a source for that?

    (This reminds me of whatsisname’s claim that Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Wilson all engaged in “electronic surveillance” much more intrusive than was practiced by the Bush administration.)

  • Lion IRC

    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”
    but never mind.
    Play on…..!

    Shock Horror
    PZ Myers doesnt want someone like me posting on his web page?
    WOW! Somebody alert the media!

  • heliobates

    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”

    Okay, now you’re just being a dick. If you didn’t get it from the WHO report, then the Catholic League talking point you cribbed it from did. And mis-quoted the estimate, btw.

    Way to dodge the rest of the criticism. You’re trying to bury the direct involvement of the RCC in these abuses under worldwide estimates (as in everywhere, under all circumstances) of child sexual abuse, so that you can minimize the culpability of your beloved institution. It’s the cheapest form of dishonesty and really, that’s best you could come up with?

    You and your church stoop to “they did it too!” as a defence for actively covering up and in some cases abetting child sexual abuse. So much for any credible claim to moral authority.

    PZ Myers doesnt want someone like me posting on his web page?

    I’d be booting you from any site I ran. Fractal dishonesty doesn’t endear you to rational people.

    According to Lion and the pope, here’s the Catholic defence of their handling of child rape within their ranks:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKIaS0lh-uo

  • Alex Weaver

    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”

    In fact, you didn’t cite anything at all. You just pulled the number out of your ass. You have no reason to believe it’s accurate and are too pathologically dishonest to be bothered by this.

    Prove me wrong.

  • Lion IRC

    @ heliobates,
    I see that in your haste to label someone as dishonest you didnt notice the log in your own eye. Insofar as accusing me of defending a cover-up of pedophilia crimes in the RCC I didnt. I havent. And I wont.
    http://www.rationalskepticism.org/christianity/richard-dawkins-i-will-arrest-pope-benedict-xvi-t4867-160.html#p132964

    @Alex Weaver,
    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”
    In fact, you didn’t cite anything at all.
    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”
    In fact, you didn’t cite anything at all.
    I dont recall citing any WHO report or saying “western world”
    In fact, you didn’t cite anything at all.
    Can anyone hear an echo? Thats what happens when theres nothing but agreement on a discussion forum (heliobates!)

  • Lion IRC

    If the 50,000 over 30 years number versus the 150 million a year number is wrong I will be bombarded by contradictions in 3…2…1…seconds weeks.

  • Alex Weaver

    It is not necessary to disprove something for which no attempt at proof has even been made.

    If the 150 million a year number is right then it would be trivial for you to cite your source. The fact that you refuse to make even this tiny gesture of argument in good faith is contradiction enough.

    And you know this perfectly well.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Lion, you seem to be under the impression that it’s a very clever debating tactic to make a vague assertion with no supporting evidence and then goad people into trying to guess what you’re talking about. In this belief you are mistaken. Your behavior doesn’t meet the standards of honesty or good faith that I expect from commenters, regardless of whether or not I agree with their views. I require that you either cite a source of some kind for this claim or withdraw it.

  • heliobates

    I see that in your haste to label someone as dishonest you didnt notice the log in your own eye.

    Hmm. Interesting, for someone who’s trying to demonstrate that he conducts himself honestly. From your link:

    There are perhaps a billion catholic victims of this abuse wondering how any one in charge could have been so stupid and egotistical as to think “the reputation” of the church was worth selling so cheaply.

    Which is it Lion? 50,000 victims? One billion? A different number from you the next time Adam posts about this topic?

    Insofar as accusing me of defending a cover-up of pedophilia crimes in the RCC I didnt. I havent. And I wont.

    You’re fucking kidding, right? Your proof that this:

    50,000 cases in the RCC over 30 years compared to 150 MILLION cases of child sexual abuse in a ONE SINGLE YEAR directly within the remit of SECULAR agencies….OK see ya…”

    …is not a defence of the RCC, is to make reference to a post you made on another forum 8 MONTHS AGO!

    What a tool.

  • heliobates

    Can anyone hear an echo? Thats what happens when theres nothing but agreement on a discussion forum (heliobates!)

    You really have no idea how this stuff works. Your caricature of this discussion resembles an echo chamber in the way that a tapir is the spitting image of Heddy Lamar.

    How do you dress yourself in the morning?

  • Alex Weaver

    Hey, tapirs are cute. :(

    A more relevant example: it’s about as honest as living in Sacramento and telling someone that Gualala, CA, is “near” San Francisco.

  • 2-D Man

    If the 50,000 over 30 years number versus the 150 million a year number is wrong I will be bombarded by contradictions in 3…2…1…seconds weeks.

    Okay, I’ll contradict you. In fact, there have been 35 cases of child molestation under secular authorities.

    Wow, this debating stuff is, like, EEE-ZEEE!

  • heliobates

    Okay, I’ll contradict you. In fact, there have been 35 cases of child molestation under secular authorities.

    Donny, you’re out of your element!

  • Lion IRC

    Ebonmuse,

    I am not attempting a debating trick. If I did want to debate the actual number I would.
    Note my complete indifference to whether or not people accept the number. (Just like my indifference to 2-D Man asserting 35 cases per year.)

    Nor am I trying to goad anyone into doing something they don’t want. (Since when do “rational” people have rings in their noses or respond to “the goad”?)

    I can make quite easily make the case, if I want, that every member of the catholic church is a victim of the abuse and its cover up – yes more than a billion!

    So to make my point very clear – I am NOT interested in citing a source just so that some atheists here, (all very well meaning people I’m sure,) can then start to nit pick over the definition of “victim” and whether only the children in the “western world” should be included and whether one of the people responsible for the source data was a “catlik”. If the exact numbers are worth haggling over in the interests of the formal academic excellence demanded by (well meaning) people who value the intellectual rigours of statistical analysis, that’s fine. Knock yourself out.

    But, if you have a high standard of enforcement for people “citing sources” to justify their comments, how about you start with the person who stated that “catholic priests like to touch little boys.” There are over 400,000 catholic priests.

    No, I am not going to cite a source for that 400,000 number – but nor am I going die in a ditch arguing that it’s correct if someone else wants to go off and do some (of their own) research and then come back here with a different number.

    Lion (IRC)

  • Alex Weaver

    So in other words, you openly admit that the truth or falsity of your beliefs, or at least your statements, is of no importance whatsoever to you.

    What are you FOR then?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I am not attempting a debating trick. If I did want to debate the actual number I would.
    Note my complete indifference to whether or not people accept the number.

    Oh dear, oh dear. I don’t think you understand the purpose of these comment threads at all, do you, Lion? Well, let me give you a hint: They’re not here so that people with opposing viewpoints can just fire salvos of assertions at each other to no effect, like two armies bogged down in trench warfare. I have comment threads so that we can have a discussion: that is, learn from each other, correct each other’s mistakes, and grant the same rational consideration to other people’s viewpoints as we desire those people to show to our own. Your “indifference”, as you put it, to citing sources suggests that you’re not here for the same purpose as the rest of us. That’s not good at all.

    Nor am I trying to goad anyone into doing something they don’t want. (Since when do “rational” people have rings in their noses or respond to “the goad”?)

    Your comments up till now have clearly been taunts directed at us (“What? Nobody here who can put that theist in his place?”). Are you saying we should display more maturity than you’ve shown so far and ignore your antics? We certainly could do that, but again, I expect good-faith behavior from all commenters.

    So to make my point very clear – I am NOT interested in citing a source just so that some atheists here, (all very well meaning people I’m sure,) can then start to nit pick over the definition of “victim” and whether only the children in the “western world” should be included and whether one of the people responsible for the source data was a “catlik”.

    So, what you’re saying is you’d rather not sully the purity of your sources by exposing them to our unclean eyes?

    Yes, if you show your sources to us, we’re likely to debate them, question them, examine them critically. That’s what sources are for. Their presence allows us to judge your claims on their merits. Without sources or evidence, you don’t have a conversation, you just have people shouting pointlessly at each other, and that’s not what my comment threads are for. As I said, we’re here to have a conversation, and one important part of that is something called the burden of proof (here’s some remedial reading, if needed). If anyone makes a claim, I expect them to support it – not to dare other people to research it themselves and disprove it if they can.

    In my previous comment, I wrote that I “required” you to either cite a source for this claim or withdraw it. Well, I wasn’t being metaphorical. Here’s how it’s going to be: I’m setting up a filter just for you, Lion. Starting now, any of your comments that don’t do either of those two things will be put into moderation and held, indefinitely if necessary, until you post a comment in this thread that does do one of them. I suggest you apply yourself to the task without delay.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    FYI – in a comment that will not be posted (for I like to think I’m as good as my word), Lion refused my offer: “I guess my future posts are going to just sit in moderation ‘indefinitely’.”

    I find it hard to believe that he would be that averse to citing a source, if he had one. I think the only reasonable conclusion to draw here is that he just made up the “150 million” number, and he’d rather give up commenting here entirely than swallow his pride and admit it. So be it.

  • heliobates

    I think the only reasonable conclusion to draw here is that he just made up the “150 million” number

    This may wind up being one of these memes like “we only use 10% of our brain”, so I’ll do my part to squash it.

    I don’t know where Lion got the number, though he hints at the fact that he probably did a quick Google search but there is some substance behind it. It’s just not the finisher that Lion is hoping for.

    Its origin is probably a 2006 WHO report (though it may come to Lion by some Catholic talking point) which explains its derivation here:

    Global Estimates of Health Consequences due to Violence against Children, op. cit. at note 8, based on estimates by G. Andrews et al., Child sexual abuse, chapter 23 in M. Ezzati et al., (2004) Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and regional burden of disease attributable to selected major risk factors (Geneva, World Health Organization, 2004), vol. 2, pp. 1851-1940, and using data of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs for population under 18 years.

    As presented in the above report, “WHO estimates that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence during 2002.”

    The WHO elsewhere clarifies:

    There are no reliable global estimates for the prevalence of child maltreatment. Data for many countries, especially low- and middle-income countries, are lacking.

    Child maltreatment is complex and difficult to study. Current estimates vary widely depending on the country and the method of research used. Estimates depend on:

      the definitions of child maltreatment used;
      the type of child maltreatment studied;
      the coverage and quality of official statistics;
      the coverage and quality of surveys that request self-reports from victims, parents or caregivers.

    Nonetheless, international studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, while 25–50% of all children report being physically abused. Additionally, many children are subject to emotional abuse (sometimes referred to as psychological abuse) and to neglect.

    Okay, so yes, the WHO has acknowledged that this is a massive problem and even has a program of suggested initiatives to reduce the worldwide effect of violence against children, including sexual violence.

    However:

      the “150 million” is not a hard number for anything, it’s an estimate for the number of girls affected by sexual violence and the WHO acknowledges both the source of and problems with this estimate
      the “150 million” is an estimate of all girls, in all circumstances, everywhere in the world. Lion wants to lump rapes in Darfur and Sudan with sexual assautlts within US schools (he did say “directly within the remit of SECULAR[sic] agencies”
      I can’t find an online source for the “50,000 cases” in the RCC, though Lion did mention it here, where he’s doing an identical soft shoe about “you atheists should be mean to other people too!”
      Note how he presents the numbers: “50,000 cases” versus “150 million cases”. The most probable source for “50,000 cases” is an aggregate of all complaints/charges registered or filed and that’s going to be problematic. Consider that some 25,000 children were in the care of the Christian Brothers in Ireland. While some 1,000 complaints were filed, the Commission found that physical and sexual abuse was “endemic” and relying only on reported incidences will certainly understate the extent of the problem within the RCC. Lion wants to glide right over that in his rush to make the argument that “it’s a big problem everywhere–what are you going to do about it”, which is his version of missing the point entirely. The 150 million is an estimate, not based only on reported incidences. Conflating the two numbers is flatly dishonest.

    See Lion, if you’re still reading, numbers do matter. Your reasoning has to be based on valid inferences from correct information and honest discussion not only expects and assumes this, but demands it as well.

  • Alex Weaver

    Do those figures include sex trafficking?

  • heliobates

    Do those figures include sex trafficking?

    I don’t know. I can’t get free access to the original research, and I’m not paying $200 US plus shipping and duties to find out. but the numbers are presented in a context that includes a discussion of sex trafficking.

    Page 10 of the above-linked WHO report provides their estimate of children involved in “dangerous occupations”, including prostitution:

    Recent ILO estimates indicate that, in 2004, 218 million children were involved in child labour, of whom 126 million were in hazardous work.[14]

    Estimates from 2000 suggest that 5.7 million were in forced or bonded labour, 1.8 million in prostitution and pornography, and 1.2 million were victims of trafficking.[15] However, compared with estimates published in 2002, the incidence of child labour has diminished by 11 per cent and 25 per cent fewer children were found working in hazardous occupations.[16]

    … and those footnotes are to:

      14 The End of Child Labour: Within Reach. Global Report (Geneva, International Labour Office, 2006).
      15 A Future Without Child Labour. Global Report (Geneva, International Labour Office, 2002).
      16 Global Trends in Child Labour 2000-2004. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and Statistical Information and Monitoring Programme on Child Labour (SIMPOC) (Geneva, International Labour Office, 2006).

    HTH.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Lion (in case he can actually ever become honest enough to continue to post),

    So which is it? Bigoted generalizations about what RCC priests “like” or a reasonable, well thought out contribution to intelligent debate on a forum?

    It was a satirical comment obviously not meant to be a blanket statement about all priests. But, given the revelations about the depth of the corruption, one that pretty well skewers the RCC.

    As for the (predictable) strawman allegation, you can burn that strawman to ash in seconds by simply saying …”no I don’t think we should devalue geriatric life based on what medical personnel think about their inevitable death.“ You had your chance to burn the strawman down but guess what? Its still standing.

    Um, you do know what a strawman argument is, don’t you? It appears that you don’t. Would it have been better had I also pointed out it was a red herring? Probably not I’m sure.

    (BTW – it was a rhetorical/hypothetical question.)

    And a stupid one, because it didn’t relate to anything that anyone actually argues.

    In relation to whose ethics are better we have to work out a better way of deciding than “mine are certainly better”, no they aren’t, yes they are, no they’re not, are too, are not, my dad can beat your dad in a fight, can not, can too………

    Sure, why not? Let’s use your own supposed moral code of being “pro-life” then, shall we? Your way of dealing with the imminent death of a fetus is to ensure that the woman dies as well, meaning that more life is lost. Doesn’t sound very “pro-life” to me. My ethics would save more lives. So, even if we went by your supposed ethical system, my ethics come out on top. Of course, we all know it’s not about being pro-life, but being pro-enforcementofauthorityoverwomen. Considering, however, that your ideas of ethics would violate the golden rule, I’m still coming out on top.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    That’s some outstanding research, heliobates. You didn’t have to, but thanks for taking the time. Now, if Lion would like to confirm that this was in fact his source, I’ll remove the filter just as I said I would.

  • denelian

    I am brand-new here. [linked from the blog "Forever in Hell"] but i wanted to back up this set of facts with a personal anecdote.
    and i know this is a months-old thread. but – Catholics almost killed me. or rather, a Catholic “hospital”

    i have accute intermittent porphyria. in real-life terms, this means i’m photophobic, am losing the melanin in my skin, am “allergic” to 80-dozen things, am in constant pain – and that pregnancy will kill me.

    when i was 20, i had to go to the ER for what i thought was just a very bad acute attack. i needed HEME.
    HEME is tetrogenic, so of course they did a pregnancy test.

    the doctor walked back into the room, and he said something along the lines of “this isn’t a porphyrin attack, you’re pregnant, and we need to abort you before you die”. he also told me his best guess was 72 hours at MOST – probably 48.
    it was a friday afternoon.
    the hospital was Catholic.

    while he was setting up for an abortion, my then-boyfriend went to the hospitals administration and protested.

    they stopped the doctor, told him he absolutely COULD NOT do anything for me until the ethics committee met and decided what to do.
    on Monday morning.

    i was lucky. he knew the doctor who ran an abortion clinic, and he made arrangements to have me transfered RIGHT THEN – even went with me.
    the admin person who told him he couldn’t treat me tried to tell him he couldn’t transfer me. he pointed out that it was up to ME, that they had no legal way to STOP me from transfering – and if they tried, he’d bring a wrongful death suit against the hospital. [also against my then-boyfriend, who wasn't my boyfriend from the moment i found out he tried to stop me from getting an abortion. he KNEW pregnancy would kill me, because i told him often. he later admitted to someone else that he poked holes in the condoms and switched the spermacide for plain lube]

    there is no way i would have LIVED long enough for that “committee” to get together and decide whether or not they were going to save my life.

    thankfully, i live in a city with 2 other hospitals, neither of which are Catholic [and i've been better about picking partners, and i've never again trusted someone else's condoms, and got back on Norplant, then ImPlanon - and FINALLY at age 34 i'm getting Essure, which is a form of steralization. i've only been trying to get someone to do this for since i was 18!]

    i didn’t die. i KNOW others have.


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