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Monday, June 18, 2012

Freedom of Religion and Children

Does freedom of religion mean the right to enforce your religion on your children?  I know that there are some extremes we will not allow.  You can't use sharia law to justify killing your daughter who had premarital sex, or use Leviticus to justify killing your homosexual son.  We won't allow religious people to hide behind their dogma to beat their children, but it seems to be fine to verbally abuse them using religious texts.  They can certainly use their religious beliefs to dictate their children's diets, education and clothing.  They can force them to to attend their religious rituals and participate in their ceremonies.

I'm not going to use this entire post to bash circumcision, but it is a problem.  Recently in the news, a baby boy died and 10 others were hospitalized because of an ultra-traditional bris.  What was so traditional about it?  Orogenital suction after removal of the foreskin.  Know what that means?  The mohel sucks the blood off the bleeding penis!  How is this legal?  How is this not considered sexual molestation of a child?  Sadistic molestation, at that, since the poor kid is screaming in pain after cosmetic surgery preformed on his genitals without anesthesia while this is going on.  Of course, to any normal or rational person, this sounds like a bad idea, since the human mouth is riddled with bacteria and microorganisms that could possibly harm a newborn baby with an immature immune system.  The mohel in this case had the herpes virus in his mouth.  Herpes is far more dangerous to a baby than it is to an adult, as indicated by the one death and 10 hospitalizations.

I would go so far as to argue that non-religious circumcision (though pointless, painful, mutilating and unnecessarily traumatic) is better for the child than a bris.  At least in a medical environment there is a chance that the child will have some sort of anesthesia, that the environment will be sterile, and the child will be observed for possible complications.

But it is their right to do this to their kids, right?  Freedom of religion.  What about the rights of the children?  No baby boy has the power to say no to his circumcision (or I daresay there would be no circumcised men,) no child has the right to refuse their parents' religious homeschooling and attend public school to better prepare themselves for college, no sick child has the right to access medicine (unless they're on death's doorstep and someone intercedes in time) if their parents believe only in prayer for healing, and no child has the right to refuse religious ceremonies/rituals/teachings that they disagree with until they are 18 or they are emancipated.

Why is this? Why are we so fast to defend the rights of adults to be free to express and practice their religion, but the rights of their children who may disagree with them are so utterly dismissed?  Children have the ability to think, and therefore to decide how they think the universe works.  Why can't they come to their own conclusions and have those conclusions protected?

Enforcement of one's religion on children is child abuse, as far as I'm concerned.  Children can be forced to fast for Ramadan, to attend Catholic catechism, to don skirts and dresses only in the name of "propriety" if they are girls in a fundamentalist family, to attend "counseling" to reject the "gay lifestyle," to sit still for hours listening to sermons that amount to little more than hate speech, and all this is considered normal and protected.

Is this where our modern conservative movement got the idea that it's fine to enforce one's religious beliefs on the rest of the populace?  It makes sense to me that children, who were forced to acquiesce to their parents' beliefs, now think it's fine as adults to force the entire nation to accept their dogma as law. There is no other reason to have a National Day of Prayer, the words "under god" in the pledge of allegiance, a 10 Commandments monument on public property, or the ridiculous new restrictions on abortion.

It is true that most children are not raised in religiously oppressive or harmful homes, but I think it's important to consider the rights of children who are.  Worse than their inability to leave as the abuse is happening, is the 18 years of brainwashing they can legally be subjected to, possibly changing their minds in the end, and allowing the cycle to continue.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Abortion "Safety" Regulations

It's happening again.  There's another round of legislature worded to sound like the intent is to "improve the safety of abortion for women" in the works.  Let's be clear, here.  Abortion is one of the safest procedures you can have done.  The odds of death from surgical abortion are 1 in 160,000.  To contrast this, be aware that the odds of death from general anesthesia are 11-16 in 100,000.  The odds of death from toxic shock syndrome as a complication of having an incomplete medical (pill) abortion are less than 1 in 100,000.  In fact, only 6 of these cases have been reported in the US and Canada combined.   Odds of death from complications of pregnancy and birth are 14.5 per 100,000 births and 12 per 100,000 live births, respectively.

My question is, if these abortions are going off without a hitch, why do we have legislature aimed at making them "safer?"  Why are we not drafting bills to make pregnancy and birth safer?  Oh yeah, because then we're worried about the safety of women, not fetuses.  My mistake!  Fetal and embryonic demise is so "in" this political season as a subject of note.  Women and their rights are just blase.

Understand this: the only reason to draft these bills is to restrict access to abortion, make it more cost-prohibitive, and make it more difficult for doctors and their facilities to provide them.  It's the wording that they've chosen that allows them to feign interest in women's health and well-being, and allows others ignorant of the situation to believe them!  Do not allow anyone in your hearing to say that abortion needs to be safer or intimate that any of these bills have women's interests at their roots.  They are anti-choice, pure and simple.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Catholic Church is Evil. Period.

So, now that I've totally railed on the Catholic church on a personal level, I'm going to take some time to tell you why that institution is bad for our nation, and humanity as a whole.

Everyone likes to tell me how wonderful the church is, and how much charity work they do.  That argument is not going to work on me because everything they do can be done better, with a greater percentage of the money going to actually helping people, if it was done by a secular charity.  In recent news,  the Vatican been attempting to prevent nuns from attending to the types of issues we traditionally think of as christian charity work (working in homeless shelters, food kitchens and healthcare facilities) in favor of them furthering the church's political influence.  The gall that they have to so publicly state that their focus is not on helping people anymore, that it's on influencing politics, should appall everyone in this day and age.  All the good Catholicism does in the world is wiped out, and then some, by all the horrors it visits upon it.

I could rehash the priests abusing children argument, but it's old.  We all know it, we know that the church doesn't deny it anymore, and we know that they're still not holding those priests accountable for their actions.  Oh, some are being prosecuted in the US, but on the whole, the church's policy of moving molesters to new parishes, often in other countries, to sweep the issue under the rug is well known.  The fact that the Catholic church, as an organization, was content to just get away with it quietly, for the sake of keeping its name clean, for so long speaks volumes of its character.

This one issue has brought up other problems, as well.  Since homosexuals are not considered inherently sinful in the Catholic church so long as they abstain from "acting on their homosexual urges," and they are therefore encouraged (and often feel like their only real choice in life) is to become a priest.  So, with an inordinately high percentage of the priesthood known to be homosexual or bisexual, and the child molestation issue so prevalent in the news and media, the unwarranted link between homosexuality and pedophilia has become reinforced.

Furthermore, this covered up and drew attention away from the girls who had been abused, as well as the nuns who had been raped.  This is a problem inherent in a Church that vilifies sex, and treats the "sin" of masturbation the same as the sin of rape, pedophilia or murder.  Yep, everything I just listed was a "mortal sin" to be confessed and washed away by a priest's assignment of a few "Hail Mary's."  Sure they're not necessarily truly equal in the "eyes of god," but any priest will tell you that masturbation is a sin that could send you to hell just like the others.

I'm not bringing up the church's specific dogma to argue it.  They can believe whatever crazy shit they want.  The point is that this is the culture they have created.  It is one with an emphasis on guilt over sexuality.  Do what gets you off, but feel really awful about it and confess later.  This is the root of many kinks and perversions.  Kinks are fine.  Enjoy getting off while rubbing a balloon on your balls and singing showtoons on top of the kitchen table.  That does not effect my life one bit, and if it enhances yours and doesn't hurt anyone in the process, you have my blessing and sincere hope that you find someone to share in your kink.  Perversions, such as pedophilia and rape-fantasy, though, are a different story entirely.  The people who have these perversions almost always seem to have some sort of sexual guilt instilled in them early on.  So, this Catholic attitude toward sex is like spinning the wheel of chance and hoping for kink over perversion.  Odds are, most people are going to come out with kinks (or prudish hang-ups,) but it's not fair that the church gets to get away with creating any perverts, few though they are.

So, we all know that the Vatican is rich as well.  I could wax on forever about how those greedy bitches could use some of that over-the-top wealth to actually feed, clothe and educate people, but that argument is also tired.  It's been made, and we all know that the Catholic church is nowhere near that virtuous.  No, they would much rather ask their members for money, and then use that money for things like the miseducation of Africans regarding HIV.  I wonder how many HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths could be directly linked to the Catholic church's campaign to tell people that condoms don't prevent transmission of the disease?  It would be interesting to know.  Of course, killing one person with a lie like that is unconscionable, but somehow I bet the pope sleeps just fine beside his massive, silly hat.  After all, he's the voice of god on earth.

There are real problems with any religion that encourages its members to get its information from a person, rather than to read, explore, and find it themselves.  In fact, depending on which definition you use, this pyramid-style structure of leadership and funding could define the Catholic church as a cult.  The sing-song sermons, which were given in Latin until fairly recently, are designed to be hard to follow.  The wording is such that the meaning isn't always obvious, and it's clear that church members are supposed to have a relationship with the priest in which they ask his opinion directly.  He'll then spout off the pope's policies, and the congregation will just have to accept that the notions of right and wrong coming from a celibate, ancient man living in a house of gold in Italy, are from god himself.

When I was young I noticed that I was told to pray to this saint or that, to pray to Jesus or the virgin Mary, but I was never really advised to pray to god himself.  My catechism instructor told me often that I wasn't supposed to pray to god directly because we could not really understand him, but that the saints and Jesus, who were once mortal, could carry my messages there better.  This sounded like such a  crock to me.  Even as a child, I thought that dealing with a "middleman" was a waste of time and effort. But it seems important to the Catholics to keep their god "untouchable," and the pope is another way of reinforcing this.

The Catholics have really pissed everyone off lately with their insistence that the women they employ not receive birth control coverage.  It is not a violation of their religious rights and freedom to make sure that all their employees are treated the same as employees everywhere else in the nation.  It is not fair to make women employed by Catholic institutions, such as colleges and hospitals, have to pay out of pocket for contraception that they do not have to pay a penny more for.  It is their way of continuing to subjugate women and treat them as though they are worth less than men.  What makes this all really ridiculous is that the Catholic institutions don't even have to offer the birth control...the insurance company does.  They're obviously doing this willingly since paying for birth control is considerably cheaper than paying for a pregnancy, birth and then a child.  But the church does not want their employees to even have the ability to obtain birth control coverage separate from them.  It's inexcusable misogyny, pure and simple, especially since over 90% of Catholic women themselves have or will use birth control in their lifetimes.

The Catholics are responsible for atrocities across the globe.  How is this tolerated by the people?  How is this possible?  It has to be the vast numbers of "casual, cultural Catholics," whom I will now refer to as CCC's.  The CCC population makes up the majority of Catholics.  They do not agree with all the church's dogma, most of them scoff at the idea that the pope is god's voice on earth, that birth control is "against god's will," that marriages preformed outside the church are invalid, that condoms do not prevent AIDS, or that women are in any way less than men.  Why the hell are they still Catholic, you ask?  Why, because their families are.  It's how they were raised, and the church has done an excellent job of convincing people that their children need a "religious foundation" to grow up to be good, moral citizens.  So, people who may move away from attending mass while they are young adults (but still claim to be Catholic) will drift back in during the pregnancy with the first child, have them baptized, and then attend church on a regular basis to start the cycle all over again.  Their children will then think that they "needed" this moral training, and have memories of baptisms, catechism, weddings, first holy communions and confirmations in the church, pancake breakfasts, bingo nights and various fundraisers put on by the nuns or the youth group.  They'll think again about how they want to be buried in the same (Catholic) cemetery as their family, and how Catholicism, though deeply flawed, is "part of their culture."  It's so deeply ingrained in the Italian, Mexican and Irish cultures in this country that it's nearly assumed that people with these backgrounds are Catholic.  They have their own traditions that intricately involve the church or its stories to make them make sense.  Keep in mind that the Catholic church accomplished this by taking the native traditions and stories and redefining them to be Catholic oriented.  So, for many CCC's (because they don't know any better,) their own culture does not make sense without Catholicism.  They have happy memories they want to pass on to their children, and there is a lot of pressure to stay within the church's ranks from family and friends.

What do CCC's have to do with AIDS in Africa, transferring child molesters across seas or birth control policy?  Well, the church couldn't do any of these things without funding.  Since the majority of Catholics are CCC's, it stand to reason that the majority of their money comes from them.  Furthermore, in this country, we don't even tax them, despite the fact that they run for-profit entities, like hospitals and universities.  The CCC's complacently allow this to happen.  By not withholding money from the church, by lending a voice to the huge number of Catholics, they are distant enablers to the horrors committed by Catholicism today.  The church is able to claim that they should have their policies allowed because x-percentage of the population is Catholic.  It's unacceptable, and most CCC's have no idea that they're even remotely contributing to it.