Less Religulous

Interesting new survey:

When it comes to religion, the USA is now land of the freelancers.

The percentage. of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.

These dramatic shifts in just 18 years are detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), to be released today. It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.

Among the key findings in the 2008 survey:

• So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, “the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,” the report concludes.

In not unrelated news:

A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication in Brazil of the mother and doctors of a young girl who had an abortion with their help.

The nine-year-old had conceived twins after alleged abuse by her stepfather.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told Italian paper La Stampa that the twins “had the right to live” and attacks on Brazil’s Catholic Church were unfair.

It comes a day after Brazil’s president criticised the Brazilian archbishop who excommunicated the people involved.

Brazil only permits abortions in cases of rape or health risks to the mother.

Doctors said the girl’s case met both these conditions, but the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law.

For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.






102 replies
  1. 1
    J says:

    And of course, the bishop didn’t excommunicate the stepfather who raped the girl in the first place, because as the church has always maintained, raping kids doesn’t break any of God’s laws.

  2. 2
    jon says:

    I really don’t care who the Vatican and their minions excommunicate, but the curious thing about the story is that they didn’t take steps to excommunicate a guy who raped his nine-year-old stepdaughter. Priorities like that are what makes me know that they are full of shit.

    If they want to excommunicate someone, that’s fine. But if they also make a point of not excommunicating someone, they are up to all the criticism they bring. Standing up for child rapists may as well be Catholic canon by this time, but I guess they don’t mind. To their hierarchy, that’s probably a feature not a bug.

  3. 3
    comrade thalarctos says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    Don’t forget, the first Pope denied Christ three times.

  4. 4
    ksmiami says:

    Just be careful, as I experienced, once you go atheist you never go back

  5. 5
    NonyNony says:

    I’ve been reading of predictions of a drop-off in religiousness in the US for a number of years now. The predictions were based on the idea that the US had entered another "Great Awakening" at some point in the 1970s and that we were due to exit it at the turn of the millennium. It looks like those predictions may have been right.

    And the Catholic Church can bite me at this point. I was raised Catholic but crap like this makes me want to go find that bishop and punch him in the face. If the Church would let their priests have children stuff like this would never happen because I can tell you that any parent who didn’t do the exact same thing as the mother in this situation would have to be a monster of the highest order. Wanting to force a nine year old girl to give birth to twins fathered by her rapist stepfather? I wish I still believed in Hell, because it would give me some comfort to think that someday that bishop is going to suffer some ironic and well deserved punishment for his vile inhumanity.

  6. 6
    Robin G. says:

    Interesting that they’re also not kicking out the girl herself. I mean, she’s the one who had the abortion. (Anti-choicers have never been able to explain that to me in a way that made sense.)

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    The funniest thing of all, not, is that this comes at the same time as Crunchy Con Rod Dreher’s musings on how normal and ordinary murder is, while how shocking mere tolerance for bisexuality among teens must be. In one case the imagined "murder" is worse than the real rape, in the other the real murder is not as bad as "I kissed a girl."

    The real outrage to me isn’t that the catholic church refused to excommunicate the rapist/father but that they had the insolent gall to act as though the two events were connected only in that the girl’s abortion made the father’s rape look unimportant. In a sane world the church could at least have assigned the same moral value to the father’s rape of his child and the abortion. But the bishop actually makes the moral error of comparing the two "crimes" in order to dismiss the rape as less significant.

    On the thread over at LGM someone points out that the rapist becomes an agent of god, apparently, when his act results in a pregnancy that the church insists is a "gift."

    Its one sick religion, and thank g-d its going to topple under its own weight of sickness.

    aimai

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    This can only mean that this year the War on the War on Christmas must be fought that much more fiercely. No more will we be able to nonchalantly say "Merry Christmas" when others say ‘Happy Holidays.’ We will have to beat down every door in the middle of the night and scream "MERRY CHRISTMAS! CHRIST! CHRISTMAS!" to any and all.

  9. 9
    aimai says:

    In re nonynony’s point up above. I wish I could believe that a married clergy would prevent this kind of abomination. But it clearly wouldn’t. Read any expose of the Mormons, both regular and polygamous, and you will find an extremely high tolerance for child abuse and for coverups of same among men who are married and have their own children.

    aimai

  10. 10
    itsbenj says:

    Well I can’t complain about this as a development. I think the developed world has been grossly lacking in skepticism and has suffered, woefully, through a sterile decade full of forced, ultimately empty religious platitudes and piety.

    If people start actually taking responsibility for themselves, doing the right thing, and treating each other with respect, it would be an amazing development. No doubt religion holds people back on this front. When you think that some all-powerful being has always cleaned up humanity’s messes, or if you believe that no matter what you do to someone, it can be made all better by going into a closet with a stranger and ‘confessing’ (but never doing shit to make it right with the person you did something to in the first place) and as long as silly men (and pretty much only men) in ridiculous hats and outfits that were dreamt up during some victorian closet-case’s gay nightmare think they "know" the will of God and seek to impose it on all others – these things retard and oppress humanity.

    I do personally hope that humanity starts to value and celebrate one another’s cultural heritage and cultural differences. But I also hope they will stop ‘believing’ in them. The earth isn’t flat. God did not command a person to build a large boat and collect 2 of every single species on the planet. Condoms are good. A fertilized embryo is not a human being. Etc. For me, we can’t get rid of this mentality fast enough, but its not really up to me. Glad to see people are catching up en masse though. We’ve got real problems to solve. Religion really just gets in the way at the philosophical and motivational levels.

  11. 11
    Napoleon says:

    My theory is that part of the reason there has been an increase in those claiming no religion is the insanity of the Christianist over the last 8 years or so. Whereas before someone might have just called themselves Christian even if harboring doubts, now they don’t even want to acknowledge any potential connection to a movement that has become to be identified with its most rightwing (and more importantly wacko) elements.

  12. 12
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    No one could have anticipated that portraying that God as anxious to send you straight to hell if you did something his interlocutors disapproved of would cause people to leave organized religion.

  13. 13
    Dork says:

    Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law.

    Translation — we dont give a fuck if a 9 year-old dies. Really, we dont. Double plus true if we get to fondle and abuse them first.

  14. 14
    DougJ says:

    The thing is this pope and the jack ass who preceded him have already effectively killed the Catholic church in western Europe and the US. Now say good-bye to Brazil as well.

    What horrible people.

  15. 15
    NonyNony says:

    @Robin G.:

    Interesting that they’re also not kicking out the girl herself. I mean, she’s the one who had the abortion.

    Yeah, don’t give them any credit for that one – it’s only because she’s a minor and therefore was incapable in their eyes of making the decision for herself. Her mother gets the excommunication because she’s the one who made the decision – if the girl had been older, she’d be the one excommunicated (along with the doctors).

    @jon:

    the curious thing about the story is that they didn’t take steps to excommunicate a guy who raped his nine-year-old stepdaughter. Priorities like that are what makes me know that they are full of shit.

    Yeah, well, that’s because abortion is among the ranks of sins so heinous that God won’t forgive you for them. Along with giving confession to a priest who breaks his vow of celibacy, ordaining a woman as a priest, and attempting to assassinate a Pope. Rape, on the other hand, is something that God is totally forgiving of. As long as you repent and do your penance, God will understand. Ordinary murder (i.e. not murdering a Pope) is also totally forgivable, just so we’re clear on that too.

    Seriously, the Church is messed up about this. There are very few things that can get you excommunicated – most of them involve attacks on the Church hierarchy or things that a priest does that undermines the hierarchy. The fact that they’ve classified abortion in with these sorts of offenses tells you exactly what they think of abortion – it’s not unforgivable because it’s somehow more horrible than any other sin. It’s unforgivable because it is an attack on the authority of the hierarchy.

  16. 16
    bootlegger says:

    Let me be the first to say that this is good news for John McCain.

    Driving down to Alabama last night to check on my real estate empire (the house I haven’t sold yet, been almost 2 years now) I heard an interview on NPR with an ex-xtian who had to go agnostic once he studied the bible in seminary and realized what a fetid piece of nonsense the book is. His biggest beef was the irreconcilable views of god and jeebus in the book. The two are at turns loving, moral philosophers and angry, genocidal apocalyptics. He finally caved over the still unanswered question of how a just and loving god can allow suffering and evil. John’s post I think highlights the fact that many people are waking up to the same glaring contradictions.

  17. 17
    Napoleon says:

    @aimai:

    Read any expose of the Mormons, both regular and polygamous, and you will find an extremely high tolerance for child abuse and for coverups of same among men who are married and have their own children.

    A few weeks ago on NPR I heard a report about the same problem in the Ultra-Orthadox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

  18. 18
    Punchy says:

    You’d think the Catholic Church would just step the fuck back from this case and thank the mightly Lord that, for once, they’re not the ones implicated in such child sex abuse.

    But no. I now firmly believe the Church has hired Rhesus monkeys as their PR staff.

    Dammit, Dork got there first.

  19. 19
    bootlegger says:

    @aimai: Also, the rates of sexual abuse among non-catholic clergy are no better.

  20. 20
    Comrade Stuck says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    God doesn’t do earthly staffing. That’s Handled by Jiffy Temps, inc.

  21. 21
    Athenawise says:

    They didn’t excommunicate the girl because she’s only nine years old and can’t be held accountable. But, hey, she was old enough to be a slut who enticed her stepfather to have sex with her. Getting pregnant was her own fault. She should be thrown out of the Church.

    /sarcasm off/

    And, as for the survey that we’re becoming less religious: Thank God.

  22. 22
    woody says:

    A few weeks ago on NPR I heard a report about the same problem in the Ultra-Orthadox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

    This kind of thing seems endemic in closely-held, patriarchal communities, most of which claim "religious" dispensations for their closed, in-bred associations.

    And they seem also to have "fundie" tendencies. I knew a guy when I as in service, a really avid, Irish Catholic fella, who claimed that, when he got married and if he had a daughter, he was gonna be her first lover, so she learned ‘right.’

  23. 23
    Brendan says:

    I’ve been furious about that Dreher column since I read it. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone, Aimai.

  24. 24
    bootlegger says:

    @Napoleon: Here’s the son of one of the current movement’s founders, pretty much agreeing with you. I heard an interview with him last night that just blasted how Reps manipulated and took advantage of Evangelicalism. Of course he’s still a True Believer, just now convinced that religion and politics are better off when they are far away from each other. What an interesting idea. If only someone had the foresight to consider it before…

  25. 25
    Zoogz says:

    I hope that the religous survey made sure to tell the Jedis apart from the Siths, instead of lumping them all into one Force-loving homogeny.

  26. 26
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    @Napoleon:
    From 1st Falwell, Ch. 3, Verse 18:
    "The number of thy homes shall be many and thine automobiles beyond count. Thou shalt have a seat at the table of the powerful."

  27. 27
    A Mom Anon says:

    As a godless heathen,I laugh maniacally,mwahahahaha. My evil plan is working. Tee to the Hee.

    My parents attend a bornagainjesuslovesmeandeffyousothere church,one that actually encourages families to literally kick out family members who don’t believe like they do. I haven’t seen or spoken to them in 6 yrs. My mother actually told me that my autistic son is punishment for not being a"good christian". Nice. She can’t remember his birthday OR spell his name right. And yet,she dotes on her best friend’s grandkids,goes to their school functions,etc,while ignoring her only grandson.

    And she has the nerve to wonder why I am not a big fan of organized religion. What a deep mystery.

  28. 28
    woody says:

    Two related injunctions:

    "Humanity will never escape barbarism until the last brick of the last church falls on the last priest."

    "People will never have liberty until the last aristocrat is strangled with the intestines of the last priest."

    the former was, i think, Zola; the latter is Voltaire.

    There’s probably a decent fundie novel in the title: The Last Priest.

  29. 29
    NonyNony says:

    @bootlegger:

    I heard an interview on NPR with an ex-xtian who had to go agnostic once he studied the bible in seminary and realized what a fetid piece of nonsense the book is.

    This is actually a real problem with fundamentalism. They insist that the Bible has to be read literally – that there’s no other way to read the Bible, actually. But if you have someone thoughtful, who actually reads the Bible rather than just memorizes passages of it, it rapidly becomes evident that the book cannot be taken literally. Not only is it contradictory, but it becomes obvious to anyone that reads literature of any kind that the book is full of metaphor and hyperbole and poetry.

    If you’re raised in a mainstream faith this isn’t really a problem. Catholicism, for example, maintains that the book is history, metaphor and primitive myth all jumbled together and that relying on the Bible by itself leads to problems (which is conveniently why you need a hierarchy of scholars to interpret the book for you, but that’s another story). But you’re raised in a faith that insists that everything in the book is supposed to be literally true, and you find something in the book that isn’t, you’re faith is easily shattered. Fundamentalism is a very fragile form of faith, and a lot of atheists and agnostics are coming out of the American fundamentalist churches these days.

    (I recommend the book "Misquoting Jesus" to those interested in this, by the way. The author was a fundamentalist who went off to become a minister and ended up becoming both a professor of theology and an agnostic. His entire output is great reading, but "Misquoting Jesus" is a great one to start with IMO.)

  30. 30
    bootlegger says:

    @A Mom Anon: Wow, that’s a kick in the nuts. This is that xtian contradiction between the loving god and the vengeful god.

    The xitans make a big deal that atheists can’t be moral because they don’t have an alien presence to tell them what to do. I see the exact opposite, xtians and other religulous wingnuts from around the world bear no personal responsibility for their heinous and immoral acts because their "god" told ’em it was okie-dokie. Instead we get twisted morals like the Brazilian case or your batshit insane mother (I hope you’re ok with me calling her that).

  31. 31
    bootlegger says:

    @NonyNony: I think that’s the same author from the interview.

  32. 32
    Josh Hueco says:

    Christian faith worships a god who forcibly impregnated a fourteen-year-old girl. So it’s not surprising that the Church won’t excommunicate the stepdad, because they’d then have to excommunicate God.

  33. 33
    Rainy says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    Actually if God made these decisions, he’d be telling everybody to leave the Catholic church. No need for a Pope or confession. You can talk directly to him. Everything else is pageantry.

  34. 34
    Napoleon says:

    @NonyNony:

    (I recommend the book "Misquoting Jesus" to those interested in this, by the way. The author was a fundamentalist who went off to become a minister and ended up becoming both a professor of theology and an agnostic. His entire output is great reading, but "Misquoting Jesus" is a great one to start with IMO.)

    He was interviewed on Terry Gross’ NPR show last Wednesday (at least that is when it played here). It was very interesting. (PS – I would assume it is the same person Bootlegger is refering to – PPS – I see Bootlegger agrees).

  35. 35
    NonyNony says:

    @Napoleon:

    He was interviewed on Terry Gross’ NPR show last Wednesday (at least that is when it played here). It was very interesting.

    Ah thanks for the heads up – I’ll need to look to see if I can find a podcast. I’ve heard a couple of interviews with him in the past and he’s always really informative.

  36. 36
    bootlegger says:

    @Napoleon: Yep, it was a replay of Fresh Air I was listening to. Definitely worth a trip to the website.

  37. 37

    The law of their god has always been about controlling women. It has never been about "life". This action is just more evidence of that.

    It is heartening to see that so many people no longer claim a religion. Whether or not they believe in a god is another matter, but it is a ray of hope that people may be moving toward a more rational based existence.

  38. 38
    r€nato says:

    I recommend the book "Misquoting Jesus" to those interested in this, by the way.

    Both you and Bootlegger @ 17 up above are referring to Bart Ehrman (sp?), a somewhat-frequent guest on Fresh Air. He started out his academic career as a fervent evangelical fundamentalist Christian. Studying the Bible in great depth for years eventually led him to become agnostic.

    And that says it all right there, doesn’t it? No wonder the Bible considers the Tree of Knowledge to be evil.

    I strongly recommend listening to the Fresh Air archives’ interviews with Ehrman.

    As for the original post – I’d just like to point out that the Bible has nothing to say about abortion, not one word – while Jesus sure had something to say about harming children:

    But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. – Matthew 18:6

    Of course, the Catholic Church has been making shit up that ain’t in the Bible for nearly 2000 years; there’s nothing in the Bible about limbo, for instance.

  39. 39
    John PM says:

    Happy Monday! At the rate John and DougJ are going, I will need to start bringing a fifth of scotch with me every time I read Balloon Juice.

    I saw two news reports this morning on that survey. Even though identification as Christian has decreased by 11% since 1990, 76% of people still identify themselves as Christian, which is still a lot of people. Despite this overwhelming superiority of believers, however, (1) Christmas is still in danger, and (2) Muslims are going to overthrow the United States.

    As another commentor already said, this survey is no doubt good news for John McCain and the Republican party, because they now have the impetus they need to really cram Christianity down the throats of all non-believers.

    As for the Catholic Church, over the past few months during Mass we have been requested to contribute extra to our offering in order to help the Church offset things such as legal expenses. Odd that they never specify what these legal expenses before. I would contribute more money if part of it were also used to excommunicate the priests who molested the children and those who covered up the crimes. Of course, if that were to happen, there would be no hierarchy left (which would not seem like a bad thing to me, but what do I know).

  40. 40
    Xenos says:

    @aimai: A better point of comparison/contrast would be with the Orthodox Church, which has its own issues but is not a weird 19th century cult that derived from peculiarly American social movements.

    For point of reference, the Greek Orthodox Church allows someone to be divorced up to three times, but is opposed to abortion and does not approve of contraception. But since the Orthodox church has to operate within its role as the official church of various countries, it is generally not allowed to interfere with the public health policies of Greece, Russia, and so on. So it states a moral point of view but does not go around excommunicating people and interfering with marital relations as a democratic backlash could directly affect the priests’ paychecks.

    It has been a long time since I read Rousseau, but I recall his support for official state religions as a way to keep the religious under control. The record of the Roman Catholic Church in securing power by backing authoritarian political movements seems to belie that approach.

  41. 41
    Calouste says:

    @itsbenj:

    Oh, please take of your blinkers. The US isn’t the same as the developed world. Religion in the rest of the developed world (or should I say in the developed world) doesn’t play by far as much of a part as it does in the US. In a 2005 survey (PDF) only 52% of the population of the EU and candidate countries said Yes to the question "I believe there is a God."

    Thanks to the Religious Right, the US has stood still in this regards while the rest of the world was moving along.

  42. 42
  43. 43
    gbear says:

    Is this the guy that everyone is talking about? Frank Schaeffer. This was a pretty good interview. He doesn’t hold back his contempt of fundies.

  44. 44
    aimai says:

    NonyNony,
    I agree about Misquoting Jesus. Its a terriffic book. I loved his book "Lost Christianities" too, about the various heresies and early gospel forms that were kicked to the curb.

    I also agree with everything everyone here has said about the link between sexual abuse and patriarchal religions and societies generally. Not exactly OT but years ago I read a very interesting law and society article (where legal practice meets sociology and anthropology) about the difference in the way paternal/child incest was treated as opposed to mother/child incest. It turned out (this is more than twenty years ago) that the sexual abuse by fathers of their children always happened in the context of an extremely "normal" family structure–that is, where the father was playing out the role of the extreme protector of the family circle and its autonomy from society. At least, that is the way the prosecutors and police saw it. They were horrified by the abuse, but the father was seen as, in a sense, "normal" just kind of hypertrophic. After all, the outside world really "is" a scary place and girls really are sexually active at a young age so what is a protective father to do but try to keep them inside the family circle. While the relatively few sexually abusive mothers were seen by court and psychiatrists and police as extremely depraved and pathological. There was simply no way to fit their behavior into "normal" ideas of female sexuality and behavior. The authors argued that was because "normal" male sexuality was seen as inherently agressive and abusive and domineering so even when it was aimed at children or family members that was just too much of a good thing. While female normal female sexuality was assumed to be passive and to require domination so when mothers or women in general were sexual abusers the whole world was seen to be at risk. They weren’t just absusers or incestuous they were unnatural. The punishments for male sex abusers and fathers were, apparently, quite a bit lower than for women convicted of the same or lesser crimes.

    aimai

  45. 45
    r€nato says:

    over the past few months during Mass we have been requested to contribute extra to our offering in order to help the Church offset things such as legal expenses.

    oh really?

    Last I recall, the Catholic church was rather rich in assets. Maybe they should think about selling some of them off.

    I can hardly think of many things more contrary to the teachings of Christ than a church which is as wealthy and powerful as the Catholic church is. They have prime property smack in the middle of Rome, status as a nation-state, ambassadors all over the world, etc etc etc.

  46. 46
    bootlegger says:

    @r€nato:

    there’s nothing in the Bible about limbo, for instance.

    And if there’s one thing they love in Brazil, its some limbo.
    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  47. 47
    NonyNony says:

    @r€nato:

    Of course, the Catholic Church has been making shit up that ain’t in the Bible for nearly 2000 years; there’s nothing in the Bible about limbo, for instance.

    The reason for that is that the Bible is so contradictory and so vague that attempting to defend the faith with nothing but the Bible leads to the Church being unable to answer key questions that believers are going to insist on knowing (like, what happens to the soul of an unbaptized child). Saying "I don’t know" is not a valid response when you’ve presented yourself as the group that Knows All The Answers, so coming up with answers to stuff like this kept the theologians busy for a long time. And is why the Catholic Church used to very openly tell believers that reading the Bible is for professionals and should not be tried at home.

    The alternative is to either use only what’s in the Bible or to say "I don’t know". Fundamentalists try to do the former and that’s why if they’re intelligent their faith is so fragile. Some other religions actually do a good job of the latter, though you’ll find ministers who just make shit up when they’re asked the tough questions. (I like posing hard questions to pastors – I’m an asshole that way. But then I like posing hard questions to scientists and philosophers too, so I’m an equal opportunity asshole.)

  48. 48
    ksmiami says:

    There are some great George Carlin videos available on youtube where he talks about religion and how amazing it is that God could create the world in 6 days, but he can’t seem to manage his finances. Seems he always needs money; that and if you do something wrong he will torture you through the end of days,… but HE LOVES YOU…

    I went to Catholic school and always knew faith was crap. I did become very good at napping with my eyes open though.

  49. 49
    bootlegger says:

    @gbear: Yes, that interview was full of win. He voted for Obama and seriously blasted the whole Rep/Fundie relationship as dysfunctional codependency.

  50. 50
    John PM says:

    @r€nato: #46

    Yes, really. Apparently you are not aware of the fact that each diocese is a separate and distinct legal entity, such that Vatican:diocese::Parent company:subsidiary. At least, that is the position the Catholic Church has taken. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently held that a lawsuit directly against the Vatican can proceed on the child abuse scandal. I do not know the exact theory upon which the Vatican is being sued; it might be conspiracy or something similar. The plaintiff’s attorney was quoted as saying that he wants to take Pope Benedict’s deposition. I look forward to that case proceeding.

  51. 51
    Xenos says:

    @John PM: talk about piercing the corporate veil…

  52. 52
    The Moar You Know says:

    Cardinal Battista and Archbishop Sobrinho should be thrown out of the airlock, it’s a goddamn shame we don’t have one.

    So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists.

    This is the best news I have heard in years. Seriously.

  53. 53
    Napoleon says:

    @John PM:

    I would assume it is because the Vatican was moving abusive priest between diocese, and if they happened to know of or should have known of the problems, then the allegation is they are responsible on that basis.

  54. 54
    John PM says:

    @Xenos: #52

    I know, although wouldn’t it be fun to get a judgment against the Vatican and then serve a citation to discover assets to satisfy the judgment:

    Q. Identify all real property owned by you, and the value of each.
    A. Sistine Chapel – $1 billion; etc., etc.

    If this is a conspiracy theory, you do not need to try to pierce the diocese’s corporate veil in order to go after the Vatican. All you have to show is that two or more people (or organizations) decided upon a particular course of action. E.g., the Vatican knew that there were problem priests, but instead of removing them, approved the plan by the dioceses (or whatever larger organization would be in charge) to move them to different parishes.

  55. 55
    NonyNony says:

    @r€nato:

    Last I recall, the Catholic church was rather rich in assets. Maybe they should think about selling some of them off.

    Ah, but you see, due to the structure of US non-profit law, the various diocese of the Catholic Church in the US are all structured as independent not-for-profit corporations. Each of them have their own budgets and their own fundraising requirements. There’s some sharing between parishes within a diocese, but in general very little gets moved around between diocese.

    So if one diocese is in trouble financially, they probably are selling off assets. Notably land – closing a church or an elementary school in a recently gentrified neighborhood and selling the land off to developers is not an uncommon thing to do. Especially lately as the various diocese are hitting financial troubles.

  56. 56
    Leelee for Obama says:

    @woody:

    And they seem also to have "fundie" tendencies. I knew a guy when I as in service, a really avid, Irish Catholic fella, who claimed that, when he got married and if he had a daughter, he was gonna be her first lover, so she learned ‘right.’

    Arrgh! I can’t wash that statement out of my mind! Talk about an ear-worm!

    I was raised catholic and one of the main reasons I stopped being one at about 14 was the hypocrisy of the Pastor who railed against teen-agers for their sexuality when we all knew the "housekeeper" at the rectory that he said was his sister was nothing of the sort. That woke many of us up to DOUBT at a very early age. I wish there was a hell-some people deserve it.

  57. 57
    Ash Can says:

    It drives me apeshit that an otherwise decent religion (emphasizes service to others, science-friendly, no batshit fundamentalism) insists upon scuttling itself with its maddening and actually very inconsistent approach to valuing life. A mother and her doctors are excommunicated for saving a 9-year-old’s life, but state officials who carry out executions go scot free. Civilian casualties of war fly right under the radar. And stem cell research is bad, but people dying for want of its benefits, oh well, that can’t be helped.

    ::headdesk::

    The Catholic Church has survived popes that were worse than this one, and I wouldn’t expect a different pope to work miracles in dragging the Church into the 21st century. Benedict’s days, however, are shaping up to be particularly trying ones for us progressive Catholics.

    And BTW, @Josh Hueco:

    a god who forcibly impregnated a fourteen-year-old girl

    Not true. Gabriel conveyed God’s message to her as a request, and she agreed to go along with the plan. There was nothing forcible about it. (My skeptical agnostic husband once asked me what would have happened if Mary had said "no." I think it’s an excellent question.)

  58. 58
    Svensker says:

    @Josh Hueco:

    Josh, I’m sure that sounds amusing, but it is ignorant bs. No offense.

  59. 59
    r€nato says:

    Apparently you are not aware of the fact that each diocese is a separate and distinct legal entity

    oh, I am well aware of that; just not buying it. If we were talking about any entity other than the Catholic church, that shit would not be allowed to stand. The Catholic church has a great deal of authority over each individual diocese, yet each diocese’s finances are separate and distinct from the mother church?

    A good attorney or three could bust that shit down. But it’s the Catholic church and when push comes to shove, they have no problem in breaking out the legal brass knuckles and busting some figurative kneecaps.

  60. 60
    r€nato says:

    The plaintiff’s attorney was quoted as saying that he wants to take Pope Benedict’s deposition.

    Good luck with that; he likely enjoys some sort of diplomatic immunity given that he’s a head of state.

  61. 61
    Josh Hueco says:

    (blushes) Sorry. That’s not how I’d read the passages originally but I’ve been shown to be wrong. Thanks to you both, Ash Can and Svensker, for the correction. :)

  62. 62
    r€nato says:

    Oh by the way, if you want to see what the Catholic church will get up to when its financial interests are directly threatened, go read up on the Vatican bank scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The plot of the movie Godfather III was based on a somewhat fictionalized version of those events, so if you want the Cliffs Notes version watch the flick (try to avert your eyes when Sofia Coppola is ‘acting’), keeping in mind that some specifics have been fictionalized but the main points are more-or-less accurate.

    It’s just a conspiracy theory, but there’s more than a little suspicion that Pope John Paul I’s sudden death was not exactly natural and had everything to do with the Vatican Bank scandal. Google "Paul Marcinkus" on that one.

  63. 63
    EL says:

    There was an interesting article not long ago on importing foreign priests – mainly South American, Central American and African – into the US since the Catholic Church is lacking home grown priests to supply the US. (Of course now I can’t find the article). I wondered how long before US Catholicism was transformed into a majority foreign priesthood, and how that might play out. Once you get to the point that a bishop of a major city with a thick foreign accent is telling the Speaker of the House and various legislators what to do and what to vote for, will people rebel?(not that our current speaker and many legislators will listen, thankfully.)

  64. 64
    John PM says:

    @r€nato: #61

    Good point that had not occurred to me. But surely a man of God who had nothing to hide would want nothing more than the chance to set the record straight once… Oh, I can’t even finish that comment.

    BTW, back to the decrease in identifying as Christian. There is a woman in my office who is very Catholic and teaches Sunday School; however, she has said that she is going to skip the chapter on abortion because she doesn’t believe the Church’s teaching on that topic. At the same time, she has also given up sweets for Lent. The first time she said this, I responded that I had given up God for Lent, which made everything much easier. She flinched. I asked if she was moving away from the imminent lightening strike. She laughed and changed the subject. Moral of the story: to be a modern American Catholic is to hold all sorts of contradictory and irrational beliefs.

  65. 65
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    Moral of the story: to be a modern American Catholic is to hold all sorts of contradictory and irrational beliefs.

    To be a modern anything is to hold all sorts of contradictory and irrational beliefs. The schizophrenia of modern life is a challenge to human rationality, regardless of religious or spiritual orientation (or lack thereof). This is a large part of the reason why Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard get so many book sales.

  66. 66
    Svensker says:

    @Josh Hueco:

    No worries, mate.

    Ditto on Yellow J’s suggestion in the other thread on the Benjamin Moore paint, or less expensive Behr from Home D.

  67. 67
    Josh Hueco says:

    @Svensker:

    Thanks. :o)

    Also, thanks for the paint rec. I’m heading to the Benjamin Moore store here in town to check it out. I’m interested in their zero-VOC Natura brand.

  68. 68
    Martin says:

    I saw two news reports this morning on that survey. Even though identification as Christian has decreased by 11% since 1990, 76% of people still identify themselves as Christian, which is still a lot of people. Despite this overwhelming superiority of believers, however, (1) Christmas is still in danger, and (2) Muslims are going to overthrow the United States.

    This will only lead to the increase in extremist groups in the US similar to Unitarian Jihad. You’ve been warned.

  69. 69
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    In re nonynony’s point up above. I wish I could believe that a married clergy would prevent this kind of abomination. But it clearly wouldn’t. Read any expose of the Mormons, both regular and polygamous, and you will find an extremely high tolerance for child abuse and for coverups of same among men who are married and have their own children.

    Amen. It’s not celibacy but the anesthesia of reason that causes monsters.

  70. 70
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @A Mom Anon:

    I have a cousin who is autistic. He is a delightful child. I wouldn’t say autism is any kind of punishment at all.

  71. 71
    A Mom Anon says:

    @bootlegger: I call her worse,lol. She’s not only nuts,she’s a really MEAN kind of crazy. Ick. @Notorious P.A.T.:

    Yep,it’s their loss. I’m really proud of him. He’s almost done with his first year of high school,and he’s holding a high C/low B average. He even managed to make a friend this year for the first time since elementary school. He’s the bravest person I know,plus,he’s really funny sometimes.

  72. 72
    Comrade Dread says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    There are times when he probably regrets giving us all free will.

  73. 73
    The Populist says:

    I was hanging in a Best Buy trying to decide on buying Bill Maher’s documentary. Some guy sees me looking at the DVD and stops to stare. I look at him and look away in annoyance. He says to me: "Why would you be interested in such a movie?" I tell him because I am open minded to the opinions of all. He shakes his head and tells me that it’s because of people like me Obama is president. I joked and asked him why he thinks I voted for Obama? He says because I would entertain buying a DVD like that. I laugh and ask what if I told you I voted for Ron Paul (didn’t, being argumentative to suss the guy out). I then add that folks like Ron Paul wouldn’t care if I watched or purchased a movie like this. The guy (who looks like a poor white trash guy with a buzz cut and a porn mustache) then finishes with me: "Ron Paul? Why would you waste a vote on a guy like that?" He then walks off.

    I decided to follow him, not being the type that likes being lectured to by assholes, and ask him what’s wrong with Ron Paul? Maybe the Republicans would be better off with a guy like that leading them. He laughs and reminds me that America is great because commies were defeated and are making a comeback. He then lectures me in why I need to find God and push back the liberal threat on this country. He tells me I can vote for "wackos" like Paul but it won’t stop the liberal nuisance.

    I then stop him, politely, and ask him one question: "Did you know the USA was founded on liberal principles?" He screams at me to leave him alone and go "crawl into the hole where other liberals will be buried and shot one day."

    True story.

  74. 74
    itsbenj says:

    @Calouste: um, you’re reading for more than is necessary into that one word. strike it. but I think its true that if you survey the ‘wealthy masters’ class in whatever country you’re talking about, they will in large numbers usually profess devout ‘faith’ in "god".

    and jeez, chill the f out, you’re going to give yourself a heart thrombosis or something.

  75. 75
    bootlegger says:

    @A Mom Anon: I coach a kid in soccer with autism. He holds the entire team back and we basically play a man down when he’s on the field, but I wouldn’t trade him for the best player in the league. What we, the kids, me, the parents, get from him is more than winning any game. Besides, its fun to win with him on the field, and the little dude just flat out hates to lose so he’s full of energy if short on skill and attention span.

  76. 76
    The Populist says:

    I think its true that if you survey the ‘wealthy masters’ class in whatever country you’re talking about, they will in large numbers usually profess devout ‘faith’ in "god".

    It’s because these doofuses think God likes them more than the rest of us. They love to throw around the word "blessed" like He made them rich out of divine love or something.

    Argh.

  77. 77
    bootlegger says:

    @The Populist: God hates poor people, it was his radical commie son that was all into the poor.

  78. 78
    Comrade Dread says:

    Actually, the Old Testament lays out some financial ideas that are pretty ‘hippie’-esque.

    No interest on loans. (Socialism!)

    Family property that is sold has to be returned after 7 years. (Oppressing the capitalists!)

    If you’re a farmer or have a plot of land with crops, you only get one pass and the rest belongs to the poor. (Welfare!)

  79. 79
    jrg says:

    Anyone want to start taking bets on how long it takes the GOP to start claiming that the religious left is responsible for the decline in church membership?

    I’m going to bet 2012: "Church membership is taking a big hit because the liberals keep using the church to push their culture wars"… I’d rather this talking point come out tomorrow, however, so that the nation can have an honest discussion about the tax-exempt status of churches that exist only to further political goals.

    It’s coming – just wait. As soon as these inbred GOP twits figure out that "separation of church and state" is meant to protect both the Church and the State, they will use their time-honored tradition of blaming thuh liburuls for the problems they created.

  80. 80
    patrick says:

    For a large part of its history the catholic church did not assert early abortion was a sin. In fact:

    t. Augustine: "The law does not provide that the act [abortion] pertains to homicide. For there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation when it is not formed in flesh and so is not endowed with sense."

    Joseph Donceel on Thomas Aquinas "he spoke of six weeks for the male embryo and three months for the female embryo." In Aquinas’s hylomorphic theory, the matter had to be ready to receive the appropriate form. According to such principles, as Rosemary Ruether points out, "Thomas Aquinas might well have had to place the point of human ensoulment in the last trimester if he had been acquainted with modern embryology."

    Aquinas is considered the greatest church theologian of all time. The term "St." in front of both Aquinas and Augustine’s names indicate, according to church teachings, that they have — guaranteed — both gone to heaven. So, it’s pretty clear you can be an important abortion preaching theologian and still go to heaven.

  81. 81
    NovShmozKaPop says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    Aren’t those sorts of decisions supposed to be up to us?

  82. 82
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @ksmiami, I’m late to this thread, but I’ll second this. Quitting church is like quitting television. The more distance you get, the less tolerable it becomes, until one day you realize you must have been an utterly different person to even withstand five minutes of it.

  83. 83
    Comrade Darkness says:

    It’s unforgivable because it is an attack on the authority of the hierarchy.

    It’s an attack on their strategy in winning the breeding wars. It’s not valuing ‘life’ at all, as situations like this so clearly demonstrate; it’s valuing control over reproduction so as to maximize it. It’s been clear throughout history that the more opportunities and rights you give women the fewer children they will have. It still works. Successful economic development projects in poor countries make good use of this fact to pull villages out of the depths of poverty simply by providing small business opportunities to women.

    Controlling reproduction also has the added benefit of making church doctrine the only outlet for un-sinful sexual expression. Other religions have taken this much farther, and it’s produced some pretty twisted people. Most of the ones on our watch lists.

  84. 84
    SLKRR says:

    The Catholic church here in Brazil has been on a steady decline the past few decades, with the largest growing religious groups being atheists and evangelicals. This case will only hasten that decline.

    I can’t speak for those excommunicated, but I would be happy to be out of any religion that tells me that a repeatedly abused nine-year-old should be forced to carry a pregnancy by her stepfather to term!

    As for the local archbishop, que babaca filho da puta. I guess we know why these jagoffs prefer the altar boys…

  85. 85

    Latest update: the Cardinal and Vatican have not only refused to take any action against the rapist stepfather beyond making excuses that "at least he didn’t take a life", they’ve now said that the doctors should have left the girl to go to at least the 4th month so that the twins might reach viability and then extract them via C-section, using hospitals to keep them alive as preemies. So rather than "angering God" the doctors should have used science (which the church has been opposed to for centuries) in order to "play God". And had the (unviable) preemies not survived, it still would’ve been the doctors’ faults and not, you know, God’s or the rapist’s.

  86. 86
    srv says:

    For an omnipotent and omniscient being, God has made some really lousy earthly staffing decisions.

    Being a retired Catholic, I will only feel the guilt you can fit on the head of a pin when stealing this.

  87. 87
    notKeith says:

    Imagine how the world would be if humans had evolved, somehow, without the need to attribute unknown phenomena to gods.  What if, from the very first, when confronted with something "magic", pre-humans had simply shrugged their pre-shoulders and said/thought "WTF?" and went on evolving. What if, instead of bowing and worshipping over this "magic", they instead made a mental note: "gotta figure that shit out someday".
    Every war ever waged, to some degree, has been about religion.  All the currency spent, energy and lives wasted, all the diversion from steps that could have been taken to enhance our existence..  It boggles the mind to think what would be now, if humans had evolved without the "god" gene, forever causing cancer in the race.

  88. 88
    SLKRR says:

    @ReallyEvilCanine:

    the Cardinal and Vatican have not only refused to take any action against the rapist stepfather beyond making excuses that "at least he didn’t take a life", they’ve now said that the doctors should have left the girl to go to at least the 4th month so that the twins might reach viability and then extract them via C-section, using hospitals to keep them alive as preemies.

    If the priests want to make medical decisions now, I think it’s only fair that the doctors get decide church law. What’s fair is fair.

    As for the stepfather, who cares if someone excommunicates him? The church, by its actions, is demonstrating exactly how little its membership is actually worth.

  89. 89
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    Laying all notions of empathy and compassion aside, because the only people that have been rising in the Catholic Church for the past 20-30 years are "yes men", who have no guts and a espouse a conservative agenda…this is one stupid move. I have been speaking with other Catholics for years about the Church needing a PR firm to tell them why the pews are empty and the local feel-good Churches are packed. This is a perfect example of why. This was a battle that never needed to take place. What parent, in his or her right mind, would allow a nine-year old to be punished for the vile sins of an adult caretaker? And that’s exactly what a 9 month pregnancy for a little kid like this is….a continuing punishment.

    Putting the rights of fetuses ahead of the rights of the living makes the Church look foolish and uncaring. ….Another few thousands paying customers out the door on this one.

  90. 90
    Kathy in St. Louis says:

    John PM….I know what you mean about modern Catholicism. I am close friends with a nun…well, actually a relative. She also thinks that the "boys from Brazil"…the two Archbishops who made this into a cause celebre’ are idiots for fighting this battle. It’s not just a loser, but their actions are offensive to millions. Most Catholics, especially women, wonder most of the time why they are even still members of such an anachronistic organization…..one that values women so little. The Catholic Church is probably a dying institution. Its hierarchy would claim that it is because of modern-day materialism. I think it has more to do with their lack of a sense of reality.

  91. 91
    Scruffy McSnufflepuss says:

    @notKeith:

    I disagree. Every war has been about economics. Religion was a useful cloak; it was replaced by the nation-state in the 18th and 19th centuries. If they hadn’t fought over religion, the ancients would’ve found some other excuse to slaughter one another. The moderns usually have.

  92. 92
    Mrs. K8 says:

    Regarding child molestation and the RCC — I think it has less to do with "religion" and much more to do with the
    authoritarianism.

    And for that reason there is so much perversion in the ranks of the GOP.

    People who are DEEPLY afraid of impulses within themselves (even if they manage to keep "awareness" of their own impulses to a more or less subconscious level in day-to-day life) are drawn to AUTHORITARIAN structures in an effort (oftentimes still subconscious) to keep those impulses at bay.

    Now, some of these impulses can be ones that civilized folks can finally recognize in recent decades as not being pathological — like homosexuality, for instance — in which it’s not so much "impulse" as it is the very core of sexuality in a human being. People who are horrified at the thought they might be gay are sometimes (when sufficiently brainwashed by their religious/political upbringing) drawn to authoritarian structures (Roman Catholic Church, GOP). Other impulses are much, much darker, to the point of criminal pathology (pedophilia and other forms of child abuse).

    It’s not just that authoritarian structures promote psychic repression — it is that those who feel they desperately NEED repression are drawn to authoritarian structures, and if they cannot find one in their environment pre-made for the job (GOP, RCC), they’ll create one for themselves.

    The fact that this "defense mechanism" is doomed to failure in the long run will not deter people who feel compelled to hide what’s inside themselves out of fear (regardless of whether that fear is misguided or horribly justified).

  93. 93
    guyermo says:

    i’m surprised no one’s linked to this yet, but there IS a pretty decent response to this whole "religion" thing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o

  94. 94
    Catsy says:

    I really don’t care who the Vatican and their minions excommunicate, but the curious thing about the story is that they didn’t take steps to excommunicate a guy who raped his nine-year-old stepdaughter. Priorities like that are what makes me know that they are full of shit.

    Dingdingdingding! A winnar–it’s you!

    Authorizing and performing a legal abortion on a raped nine-year-old girl pregnant with twins that will likely kill her: excommunication!

    Actually raping said nine-year-old girl: God will forgive you.

    There are reasons the Catholic church is losing influence and relevance in civilized countries. Skewed priorities like this are a big part of it, and I’m not sad to see such a toxic and medieval religion suffer for it.

  95. 95
    Ruckus says:

    @notKeith:
    Here, Here….
    I’m not sure every war was/is about religion but the vast overwhelming number have at least had it as one of the reasons.
    I have a question for everyone – religion has infiltrated so much of our culture that we use the term god for so many things. What do we use in it’s place? I find myself starting to use the term and have to stop and find another to suit. For example: we say godspeed when someone dies. I’ve seen it suggested to say be safe and drive fast. I like the concept but not sure it explains the thought.
    BTW I fall into the no religion group from about age 11-12 when I was sent to bible class and decided to actually read the entire bible.

  96. 96
    Comrade Michael "Babe" Brown says:

    Hey Nony:

    I was raised Catholic but crap like this makes me want to go find that bishop and punch him in the face. ….I wish I still believed in Hell, because it would give me some comfort to think that someday that bishop is going to suffer some ironic and well deserved punishment for his vile inhumanity.

    Same here. If you promise me I can follow up your punch with a double off my old Louisville Slugger, I’ll buy us a pair of roundtrips to Recife.

  97. 97
    SLKRR says:

    @Comrade Michael “Babe” Brown:

    Same here. If you promise me I can follow up your punch with a double off my old Louisville Slugger, I’ll buy us a pair of roundtrips to Recife.

    Since I live in Recife, I can drive you to his house, or at least to where he "works." ;-)

  98. 98
    JOHN SMITH says:

    lET HE WITHOUT SIN BE THE FIRST TO CAST A STONE!

  99. 99
    BrYan says:

    Don’t treat this like it is good news. These people are not becoming more rational. They are just replacing one organized, central irrational view of the world with a less organized, more personal irrational view of the world.

  100. 100
    Wlodarek says:

    Like many of the other posters, this is the kind of thing that drove me out of the Roman Catholic Church. The more I read this article, the more dumbfounded I am. The fact that they excommunicated the mother and not the step-father says it all. Then again, had this pervert raped a nine-year-old boy, he’d probably find himself bishop of Rio.

    What a sad devolution for the Church to go from the foundations of Jesus and the Apostles to a corrupt band of pedophiles led by a clueless ex-Nazi.

  101. 101
    SLKRR says:

    I read an interview yesterday with one of the excommunicated nurses, and her response (translated) was, "Thank God, I was excommunicated for doing the RIGHT thing!"

  102. 102
    shoreline says:

    I stopped referring to the Catholic Church by name a while ago and started calling it the "anti-abortion church." Since then everything the church does makes a lot more sense…

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