Religion did not play a significant role in my life growing up. My parents did not force me (or, later, my sister) to attend church on Sundays or Wednesdays, or Christmas or Easter. I’m sure my parents had a BIble or two in the house, but I don’t recall seeing a copy (my memory becomes hazier the further back I try to recollect, so they might have had one and I don’t remember). We said grace before big holiday meals like Easter, Turkey Day, and Christmas. Mom and dad would occasionally pray to god for one thing or another and mentioned that they didn’t want to belong to any one church, so they were non-denominational believers. Aside from that, religion was not a presence in my life growing up. No Bible was ever put in front of me, nor was I told I had to read verses before bed or other stuff many kids have to do. In fact, to this day I’ve not read the Bible cover to cover*. Church was such a non-presence in my life that by age 21 I had only been inside three churches. The first time was for a funeral. Second time was for a wedding. The other was a trip to New Orleans with friends and we walked around a cathedral (can’t recall the name of it, but I think it had some really nice stained glass windows).
For all that we weren’t a church-going family, we did consider ourselves believers, even if nominally. My parents used to say “we don’t believe in organized religion, but we do believe something is out there” (I’ve occasionally thought about discussing this with them bc the statement “we don’t believe in organized religion”–taken on its face–is nonsense, given that organized religion *does* exist and here in the Southern United States, we have evidence of it on what seems like every other damn street). I don’t ever recall asking my sister her thoughts on religion, though with the eight year difference (she’s younger) she may not have given it much thought until her teen years bc our parents did not foist religion upon us. For my part, I remember as a teen holding beliefs about a vague universal guiding force that created everything. I didn’t worship him (and yeah, of course he was a him, thanks patriarchy), but I believed he existed. When I finally started coming out of the closet, my views shifted a bit, bc I wasn’t seeing any evidence there was a god. So I became an agnostic. And when I went to college and took some philosophy courses and an intro to logic course, I ditched agnosticism and chose atheism (though technically I’m an agnostic atheist, as I don’t know for sure there is or isn’t a god, but either way, I don’t *believe* in a the god of the Bible any more than I believe in any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created).
One thing I noticed as I got older was how much in the dark I was about religious issues. My lack of religious background as a child left me incredibly ignorant on many things that others find mundane. When I first heard about PZ Myers’ Communion Wafer incident, I had no clue what a Communion Wafer was or what Communion was (now that I do? what a weird belief). I knew nothing about the Establishment Clause and how important it is to our secular society, nor had I heard any of the cognitive fallacies that theists engage in when trying to demonstrate their deity exists. I also knew virtually nothing about Judaism or Islam.
Then there’s the harmful stuff I knew nothing about. The morally repulsive stuff. The stuff that leads to an increase i suffering. Among the deeply disturbing information I discovered about christianity was the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to the use of birth control, the Religious RIght’s war on queers, the use of the Bible to support slavery, and the history of child sexual abuse cases from the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking of the child sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Church, another example came to light today: Cardinal George Pell, the third highest ranking Vatican official has been accused of multiple sexual offenses:
“Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges … and there are multiple complainants,” Victoria police’s deputy commissioner Shane Patton said. The charges were “historical sexual assault offences”.
Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.
Pell has consistently denied all allegations against him. After the possibility of his being charged was raised publicly, Pell told reporters: “I’d just like to restate my innocence.”
“I stand by everything I’ve said at the royal commission [on child sexual abuse] and in other places. We have to respect due process, wait until it’s concluded and obviously I’ll continue to cooperate fully.”
Asked if he would be prepared to go to Australia, he said: “I will continue to cooperate fully.”
It is so far unclear just which allegations Cardinal Pell has been charged with.
Of course he restated his innocence. I don’t recall the last time someone accused of sexually assaulting children said “I did it”. In any case, it does not matter whether he denied or not. We do not live in a world where sexual assault is a rare occurrence. To the contrary, sexual assault occurs frequently–too frequently. According to the World Health Organization, in 2002, approximately 150 million girls and 73 million boys worldwide were the victims of sexual violence. That’s just an estimate and most likely a low one bc of differing definitions of abuse and under-reporting. Between the multiple people who have come forward to accuse Cardinal Pell of sexual assault, the prevalence of this global problem, and the fact that the RCC in particular has such a long history of sexual assault and abuse of children–I am of the mind that charging Pell was the correct move. And as with the case of Bill Cosby, when multiple people step forward to accuse the same person of sexual assault, the likelihood they are lying diminishes and the chances the accused is guilty increase.
The Catholic Church has been known to obstruct justice, relocate priests accused of sexual assault, engage in victim blaming, and has refused to turn over pedophile priests to law enforcement officials. Church leadership has proven time and again, that they are more concerned with the image of the church than they are with doing the right thing and fully participating with official investigations. And that’s something else, too. You’d think that questions about child sexual abuse would be easy for the church to answer, seeing as they have a hotline to “he who created morality”
Questions like these should be easy!
“Should priests who sexually molest children be turned over to authorities?”
“Should we take the initiative and root out the child molesting priests bc that’s the right thing to do?”
“Should we offer a sincere public apology as well as offer financial compensation to all living victims of priestly sexual abuse?”
“If we’re truly concerned with our reputation, shouldn’t we be transparent in our actions and fully cooperate with law enforcement officials?”
“When adults speak up about their victimization as children, should we engage in victim blaming?”
“Should we support changes in legislation to allow child victims of sexual abuse to seek justice as adults?”
Somehow, they are actually difficult for officials in the Roman Catholic Church to answer correctly. It’s almost as if an organization that fails to correctly answer questions about the handling of sexual abuse of children by priests is in no position to dictate to anyone else what is moral in matters of adoption, marriage, and sex. The RCC has nothing to teach about morality that cannot be gleaned through a non-religious ethos like say, humanism. They have demonstrated that instead of a symbol of all that is moral and just in the world, they are a purveyor of suffering and have utterly failed to protect children (in the latest example, between 1980 and 2015, more than 4,000 people reported having been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia). In my book, that makes them evil.
*I did try–twice (why is Yoda’s voice in my head right now?). I took a break from reading it when I reached the monotonous section with the bajillion begets after begets after begets. That was so damnably tedious that I wanted to throw the book in the trash, but I didn’t. Instead, I waited a few months before continuing. I made it through the begets, but the last straw for me was the section where god hardened the pharaoh’s heart–again and again. I just was so over the mind-numbing repetition (especially bc I couldn’t discern what the fucking point was). Plus I was done reading the adventures of an all-powerful, supposedly all-good, source of morality that is a vicious, immoral, unethical, genocidal monster