Catholic Position on Religious Liberty Has Changed

To see the Bishops in the Catholic Church of the United States wringing their hands over the term “religious liberty” today, one might conclude it had always been against government involvement in religious matters.

The concept of the founding fathers that government would endorse no religion seemed a bad idea to an earlier Catholic Church.  Better that the government endorse and enforce a religion.

On the site, Religious Dispatches, today was an account of the Church’s change in thinking.   Leo XIII was Pope for 25 years in the late 1800’s.  He is known for being a big thinker with an eye on the future.

One thing that upset him was the Catholic Church in the U. S.  In addition to not liking the Constitution, he was upset with some of the U. S. Bishops who seemed to have the outlandish view the U. S. Church was going to be different than that of Europe.  He chastised a U.  S. Bishop for saying the Church needed to adjust to the local culture.

About church and state, Pope Leo XIII noted it would be a mistake for other countries to separate church and state like the U. S.  The church would be better off if it “…enjoyed the laws and the patronage of the public authority.”

Before the current requirement the church offer birth control to its employees doing government work, the Catholic Church liked the European way of church and state in bed with each other.

Dick Cheney Outs Himself

Last week, the State Legislature in New Jersey passed a bill allowing gay marriage.  It passed by barely a majority, and, the Governor vetoed.  There will be a public vote.

Two Republicans voted with the majority.  At least one of the two said he received a call from former Vice President, Dick Cheney, urging him to vote to allow gay marriage.  It is well known  Cheney’s have a daughter who is lesbian and, with her partner, have a Cheney granddaughter.  Other high level Republicans made calls on behalf of the bill as well.

In every state where gay marriage has been voted on, it has been defeated.  It remains in effect in states that have not had such votes.

Ronald Reagan once said, “Politics is a place where the unexpected often happens.”  Polls show more and more acceptance of gays and gay marriage.  Yet, it loses in state-wide votes.

My thinking is gay marriage will begin to win these state votes.  A couple to watch are coming up in New Jersey and Minnesota.  The New Jersey situation has the elements of an upset.

The Cheney endorsement is perhaps the highest level Republican Party defection from its orthodoxy and Platform we have seen.  Add to that, New Jersey’s proximity to New York City and you have something different than all the other state votes.

Every year is an exciting one in the march toward equity for gay and lesbian citizens.  This one will be exciting as well.


Deliver Us From Evil

This phrase from “The Lord’s Prayer”implies there is a literal Satan.  While the idea of the literal Devil has lost ground in the U. S. over the two centuries, it remains a concept with lots of juice.

Having personally abandoned the concept of Satan long ago, it struck me a very odd that a Presidential Candidate, Rick Santorum, would say in stump speeches U. S. society is at “war with the Devil.”  Because it struck me as odd does not mean it struck his followers the same way.  Obviously, millions of people still believe in the literal Devil.

I can’t help but wonder how Santorum, if elected President, would use the literal Satan.  When a problem popped up and he had no explanation or solution at hand, would he claim it was the work of “the Devil”?

While President Bush referred to an “axis of evil”, and other Presidents have routinely used Biblical terms, I can’t recall any of them making quite to same literal reference to the Devil as Santorum.  An election of Santorum would make complete the transition started under President Bush.

That transition is from a nation governed by a secular government and policies to one engaged in a great battle between God and Satan.  To support the President in such a battle is to support God.  To not support that President is to support Satan.

More secularism would be refreshing in Republican Party politics.



What’s Next for Women?

It was just a few years ago I argued with someone that anti abortion politics would spread to become anti birth control politics.  This person scoffed.  “Birth control is so widespread there is no way politically the small anti birth control believers could get traction.”

Anti birth control politics has arrived.  I think this sends a dark cloud over the future for women unless we all stand up to stop it.

The nature of some people is to never be satisfied with the advantages they have.  In the conservative realm, some accomplishments are never enough–some always want more.

Limiting the availability of birth control will only satisfy these parts of the social conservative political circles for a short while.  They will want even more.  What might that be?

I’d suggest  the answer lies in what we can see with our own eyes in the Catholic Church and parts of the Protestant church.  We see men running things.  Behind what we see is a theology that the proper role for women is to not be in charge of anything important–to serve men.

The passion for putting women back in “their place” should not be underestimated.  It is in the Bible, preached from pulpits and taught by parents to their children.

The desire to limit opportunities for women is alive and well.  Those that feed the anti abortion and birth control beasts should not think that is where the political road ends.

This Makes People So Mad When I Say It.

Recently, four young women, students at our local NDSU, were killed in an automobile wreck. People will talk about this for a while.   But, nothing will be done about the 100 lives a day lost in car wrecks in the U. S.

One of my interests has been on to measure the value we on put different human lives.  By  measuring how much time and money we spend preventing different kinds of deaths we can see a reflection of how we value life.

Our culture puts different values on lives depending on how death occurs.  The amount we spend preventing deaths in fires tells us each of those lives in worth more than the life lost in a car wreck.

Since 9/11 every school, tiny local government office and airplane has been made “safe” from attacks.  And, then there is abortion.  Each life lost in these events is worth more than any lost in a car wreck.

I used the words “car wreck” instead of the usual, “car accident.”  Little about them is accidental.  We can predict that 12 months from now 40,000 people will have died.  We can prevent nearly all of them.

We don’t do anything about this because it affects us personally.  Lower speeds, wearing helmets, bigger penalties, heavier fines on the impaired and more traffic tickets would save most of these 100 people a day.  Neither elected officials nor preachers bring these up.

The four students will be forgotten soon.  Nothing will be done.

Churches Getting Government Money, Give It Back.

The current flap over a requirement that faith-based organizations be required to offer birth control as other organizations are required to do should be a wake up call for all of us.

I am a taxpayer who helps pay religious organizations to perform public services.  I support the Federal Government’s policies on insurance coverage to employees.  I’m one of those who wants religious organizations to either reject the federal money or conform to its requirements.

Military service might be an example of how things work.  When there was a draft, it was possible for someone who had a religious aversion to war, to opt out of certain kinds of service.  When serving in the military became voluntary, that option was mostly gone.

I heard the Catholic Church takes in something like 2 billion dollars in government money.  There is a way it can receive federal money and none of its employees using birth control.  Just persuade them not to use it.  Good luck with that.

Some of us think over populating our planet is a moral issue.  It takes away opportunities for future citizens.  Withholding birth control from health benefits violates this moral principle.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.  Everyone can worship at the church of their choice.  It does not require every public contract include religious accommodation.

Religious organizations that push their own view of morality at the expense of the views of others should not be accommodated.


Does Religion Give Us Humility?

Currently, there is a little flap among  atheist authors.   I don’t know anything about the “temple” they are arguing about,  but the general views of British author, Richard Dawkins, and Swiss author, Alain de Bottom, are both worth considering.

de Botton is generally critical of Dawkins because of Dawkins’ broadside attacks on religion.  Dawkins sees mostly negative results from the practice of religions across the world.  de Botton, on the other hand sees a benefit to human kind from them.

What strikes me as curious is the benefit de Botton assigns to religion.  He says religions place people in a vast universe where they find themselves insignificant.  This humbles people and benefits us all.

This is counter intuitive.  While I don’t think there is anything harmful about religion when kept out of politics and government, and many feel they are helped by religion,  I have to take a different view on the humility issue.

Real humility comes from people seeing themselves as not important.  The messages of all religions is that each of us is a big deal.

Religion tells people their god knows them.  Their god is talking to them, listening to  them and watching over them.

To worship a god is to feel self important, to be noticed by someone important.  To not have a god is to have more humility.

Unlike faith, building egos is not part of the atheist, agnostic or freethinking heritage.  This, even though some, like me, could benefit from a little more humility.


Are You Forgiven For Your Sins? It Depends.

While  there are many versions of Christianity, a couple of the main branches are (a) it is about sin and (b) it is about being forgiven for sin.  I have my own impression about which is the stronger of the two:  The sin branch is more important than forgiveness one.

The old version of the sin branch would be represented by the Southern Baptist Convention.  The worst sin for a 150 years was interracial marriage.

It was such a grave sin, slavery followed by segregation was necessary to keep the races from intermarrying.  During those times, God’s view of marriage was between a man and woman of the same race.

Today they have dropped the race part so gay marriage can be the major sin.  Southern Baptists are joined by Catholics and several other Protestant branches in the focus on sin.

The branch which focus’ on forgiveness is known generically the emerging church.  This group does not focus on the cross and hell but on the acceptance of sinners by Jesus.

I think the impression of the majority of Christians and non Christians alike is the faith is mostly about sin.  I’m not alone in this.  Religion Professor, Stephen Prothero , God is Not One, thinks the street level understanding of Christianity focus’ on sin. It is the topic of most of the articles about religion on

Are you really forgiven for your sins?  My advice would be, don’t worry about it.

How Much of the World’s Population Did God Kill?

There is a piece of information bouncing around atheist websites just now.  It asks, “How many people does the Bible say God killed?”  The answer given is about 2 1/2 million.   But, even this number does not include those drowned by Noah’s flood.

This number of 2 1/2 million killed was about five percent of the world’s population at that time.   According to estimates of those who study ancient times, world population around the Biblical “beginning of time,” 6,000 years ago, was about 5o million.

One wonders if killing that many sinners lowered the level of sin.  Did it accomplish what God hoped that it would?

The flood which Noah and his family escaped in the ark would have wiped out of the entire population,  50 million.  In spite of removing those 50 million sinners, we have today what some call the gravest sin ever known, gay marriage.  That being the case, I wonder what the god thinks was gained by the flood?

The same data being passed around says the Bible assigns only ten killings to Satan. If this is true, and we have such Satan-inspired sin today as gay marriage, it seems like Satan’s technique of bending people to his will is better than the killing done by God.

I need to add a disclaimer here that I did not personally count the killing attributed to either God or Satan in the Bible.  Others may come up with  different numbers.

What ever the number, the killing of people by God makes the popularity of faith hard to understand.

We Have Too Many Santorums.

One of the great forms of entertainment here in the U. S. is watching people argue over “what the Bible means.”

The rule is everyone knows better what the Bible means than everyone else.  If you think you have some gift for understanding the Bible you are not unique. You are but one of the hords that think the same thing about themselves.

There is the lower rung who quote scripture.  But, scripture contradicts itself.  There are the elites who prefer the Bible’s overarching message.  But, they don’t agree on what it is.

A few days ago, Candidate Rick Santorum said about Obama’s religion, “It’s about some phony ideal.  Some phony theology.  Not about a theology based on the Bible.  A different theology.”

This comment was followed by an essay from the Huffington Post’s religious editor who pointed out Santorum does not really understand the Bible.  He quoted from Santorum’s remarks to an audience in Detroit.

There, Santorum spoke almost reverently about how wonderful it is we have an unequal distribution of income.  This in a city with some of the poorest and wealthist people in the U. S.   There is lots of scripture questioning the behavior of the rich.

In economic terms,  we have a surplus of people who say they know exactly what the Bible means.  We have a shortage of those with the humility to admit they have no idea, or, think it means nothing.

There is a surplus of Santorums.