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Friday, December 19, 2008

Religion As a Societal Illness

Religion As a Societal Illness

Archbishop of Toledo, Antonio Cañizares, said that removing crucifixes from a public school in Valladolid, “Shows a Christian-o-phobia that, ultimately, is self-hatred. Our society is very ill.” Whatever you say, church boy. I'm sure the archbishop would like to return to the good old days of Franco when the Catholic Church enjoyed a favored place along side the fascists in power. Back when priests were actually paid by the state, back when pederasty was in full bloom in the sacristies of Spanish churches and denied by church officials. Now that was a sick society. I have heard many Christian leaders declare that our modern times are decadent and lacking in morals. I couldn't disagree more.

We have a long way to go but we have made significant strides to include all citizens into the framework of modern society. Most of this has been done without the aid of organized religion and many gains made by certain sectors of the population have come about while incurring direct opposition from religious groups. The Catholic Church still wants to deny homosexuals certain rights. It's not like Catholics have ever been on the vanguard in any of the epic struggles to free the oppressed. The Church has always been content with incurring the favor of whatever party is in power, no matter how despicable these leaders may be. In Spain, the Catholic hierarchy just can't get over the fact that Spain is now a secular state.

If church leaders had their way Spain would go back to criminalizing abortions as is the case in every Latin American country. This doesn't eliminate abortion, it just threatens the lives of thousands of poor women annually who seek to end their unwanted pregnancies. Up to 5,000 women die each year from abortions in Latin America, and hundreds of thousands more are hospitalized. Latin American women also have more abortion, on average, than women who live in countries where abortion is legal. Of course, the Catholic Church is also violently opposed to birth control and has been successful in keeping it largely unavailable in the desperately poor nations of Latin America. Of course, wealthy women in Latin America can find birth control and can obtain safe abortions, just like any other place where these things are illegal so the Catholic stance against birth control and abortion only hurts the poor.

Religion also doesn't care about the economic well-being of anyone other than themselves. I find Catholics who supported McCain in the past election to be incredibly inconsistent in their thinking. Many Catholics seem to be one issue voters with the one issue being a return to the criminalization of abortion. This give-birth-at any-cost stance prompted Pope Benedict XVI to label as blackmail the economic aid packages developed countries give to poor nations with stipulations that the undeveloped countries will work to reduce population growth. When I came across the headline for this article in Le Figaro “Pope Accuses Rich Countries of Blackmailing Poor Countries” I first thought to myself that perhaps for once the pontiff had taken a stand against income inequality. Nope, he just wants poor nations to continue pumping out as many little undernourished and desperately poor people as they possibly can. His contention that population growth is a great resource and not a contributing factor in poverty is completely contrary to any sane economic theory. Forget about economic theory, it violates common sense: If you have more babies it will be harder to feed them.

Of course, the pope doesn't care about ending poverty. That has never been a big concern of the Catholic Church. Much more important to the Church than spiritual matters, be they individual or for all mankind, is simply perpetuating their own bloated and decadent empire. This is why they take such offense—as did the Archbishop Cañizares—to the further erosion of Catholic power in secular countries like Spain, a country that for centuries was under direct control of the Church. For the first time in the recorded history of mankind, the power of religion is fading in many parts of the world. For the average person, life in these secular areas of the globe is better than it has ever been. There is more democracy; health care is available to everyone; there is greater equality as far as race, gender, sexual orientation; and we enjoy greater freedoms of thought and speech. All of this has been accomplished without religion and much of it in spite of the actions of one church or another. These societies are healthier than they have ever been.

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