Repost: Fossilized Opinions

[Author's Note: I'm reposting some old favorites while I'm away on vacation this week. This post was originally from March 2010.]Sam Harris is famous for the argument that religion, even moderate religion, does harm by teaching that faith is a virtue that should not be questioned, which encourages militant and violent strains of fundamentalism. Today, I want to talk about another way, subtle but unmistakable, that religion causes harm to human beings.Because of its tendency to treat … [Read more...]

New Pope, Same Old Dogmas

Earlier this summer, I wrote about some conciliatory (but ultimately meaningless) remarks from Pope Francis about gay people. Now he's given a longer interview to the Jesuit magazine America in which he appeared to suggest that the church has been talking about abortion, contraception and gay rights too much:"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was … [Read more...]

Moral Relativism in the Catholic Church

Back in March, I wrote a post about how the Catholic church isn't a democracy and therefore has no obligation to change its teachings in line with popular opinion. One theist commenter enthusiastically chimed in to agree and to insist that this was exactly the point:From my own perspective, the constancy (and internal consistency) of Church teaching is an enormously reassuring thing. How am I supposed to trust a religious tradition which claims to teach about right and wrong but is willing … [Read more...]

The Perils of Scriptural Morality

I was cheered by a story I saw last week about about heroic activist groups working to end the barbaric custom of female "circumcision", aka female genital mutilation, that's practiced in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. FGM isn't unique to Christianity or to Islam, but is found across a range of traditional societies that fetishize female virginity and purity and view girls as unfit for marriage if they aren't cut. The harm to women is immense: death from infection and blood loss, … [Read more...]

Winning a Two-Front War Against Anti-Feminists

This past weekend, while I was attending Women in Secularism 2, I was also reading Kathryn Joyce's Quiverfull. Joyce's book is an outstanding piece of reporting on the network of fundamentalist Christian churches and preachers who teach that the only role of women in life is to get married, to be completely obedient to their husbands and to bear as many children as possible. Depending on how extreme they are, Quiverfull preachers and other members of the Christian patriarchy movement teach that … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Harassment of Church-State Plaintiffs

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, Outrageous Attacks on Supporters of Church-State Separation: Death Threats, Murdered Pets, and Vandalized Property. In it, I report on the campaigns of harassment, persecution, and even criminal violence that are all too often waged against First Amendment advocates in religious areas of the country. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:As often happens in these cases, FFRF plaintiffs asked to have their identities concealed … [Read more...]

Facing Up to the Bible’s Darkness

Via Slacktivist, I came across an interesting essay by Greg Boyd, Getting Honest about the Dark Side of the Bible. (You might remember Boyd as one of the theologians interviewed in Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ, as well as his more recent and praiseworthy stand against the use of Christianity to support American imperial militarism.)I have to give Boyd credit for doing something I've rarely seen Christians do: facing up squarely to the dark and savage morality of the Bible. In his post, … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: International Women’s Day Edition

Yesterday was International Women's Day, so in honor of that, all the links in this week's roundup are feminist-themed. And there's a lot of news to cover:• Anita Sarkheesian of Feminist Frequency has released the first in her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series, exploring the cliche of the damsel in distress. (Hilariously, a group of "men's rights" advocates who solicited donations for a rebuttal video series appear to have taken the money and run.)• A brutal, poignant … [Read more...]

Submission Theology Is Abuse Theology

I've written a lot about the child-abuse coverup by the hierarchy of the Catholic church, but not because I believe Roman Catholicism is the only religion guilty of these crimes. Far from it! Any religion that preaches the virtues of submission and obedience is inherently vulnerable to abuses of this kind. When religious leaders are believed to possess special wisdom or special favor from God, it's only too easy for them to abuse that power to violate those who trust them.It's happened at a … [Read more...]

Fifty Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church

This article was originally published on AlterNet.Last year in Ireland, Savita Halappanavar died, and she shouldn't have. Savita was a 31-year-old married woman, four months pregnant, who went to the hospital with a miscarriage in progress that developed into a blood infection. She could easily have been saved by an abortion of the already-doomed fetus. Instead, her doctors did nothing, explaining that "this is a Catholic country," and left her to suffer in misery for days, only intervening … [Read more...]


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