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      As you’d expect from the title, both more and less than it seems. The impact on oil prices is not that big a deal, despite the screaming. If they were to, say, wind up at $75/barrel for a few months, well the last time we had prices that high was… less than a year ago. […]
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How religious narcissism works

Ah, the Duggars are making headlines again.  They’re little headlines but you should pay attention anyway because they are part of the pattern of religious narcissism that I have written about previously.

Jessa Duggar, the hot one, is dating courting Ben Seewald, another obnoxious Jesus freak Southern Independent Baptist.  I can’t remember where I heard this, it might have been somewhere in the free thought skeptic media, but it turns out that the Duggars follow this self-annoited preacher named Bill Gothard.  If America has a Taliban, and it does, Gothard would be its leader and his IBLP, Institute of Basic Life Principals, would be its Sharia Law.  Wait, that would have been last year.  THIS year, Gothard has resigned his position at IBLP due to sexual improprieties, as well as failing to report child abuse cases.  Yes, the man who brought America the chaste “side hug” has been accused by dozens of young women of inappropriate touching, groping and other no-nos.  Maybe their knees were exposed briefly and were asking for it.  So much for self-control. (Funny side note: while I was writing this, the WordPress autocorrect function kept replacing “Gothard” with “got hard”.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

In the Duggars’ world, the Southern Baptists are too worldly.  Yes, those teetotalling, non-dancing, patriarchical fundies are just too wild and crazy for the Duggars so the Duggar family mostly worships at home with other similar families.  Note that they don’t form “friendships” with these families.  They “fellowship”.  The distinction is significant.  That’s because if one of these families steps out of line, they have to be ready to jettison that family before the infection spreads.  It’s cold and unloving but their own salvation is at stake, so it’s necessary.

So, Ben Seewald, who is 2 years younger than Jessa, who is all of 20 or 21, writes a twitter about his catholic friend.  It’s been erased but someone has been kind enough to save the content.

“I have nothing against individuals who are Catholic. I know a lot of Catholics who are great people. What I DO have a problem with is the teaching that man can merit God’s favor through his own works or the works of other fallen men.

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

Where to begin.  On the face of it, it looks innocent enough.  I mean, IBLP has been around for less than 100 years and is a niche sect, appealing to authoritarians and people who watch TLC and think it’s perfectly Ok to train children to be smiling, non-thinking, personality free, well behaved, chaste automatons in the name of Christ. (As my favorite aunt says, “Someday, one of those Duggar kids is going to write a book.”) The Catholic church has been around for 2000 years and has branch offices all around the world.  Catholics don’t have anything to fear from some American fundies in Arkansas.

But the debate of “saved by grace alone” vs “saved by good works” has been raging since Martin Luther.  In retrospect, Luther ignited a firestorm that to this day we can’t put out.  To many of us freethinkers or panentheist non-Christians, this debate is intensely boring and about as meaningful as how many angels dance on the head of a pin.  Really, who the hell cares whether it’s faith or good works??  Does preferring one to the other preclude you from being a good person?

Anyway, the money quote in the above tweet is:

“My conscience is captive to the word of God. Where my Catholic friends adhere to God’s Word, I adhere. Where they depart from Scripture, I will in no way support, but will call them out because I love them and desire that they be turned from their deadly errors.”

I’m sorry, who died and made Ben Seewald god?  That tweet almost sounds like it could have come from the pages of the Old Testament.

But this is pretty typical of the religious narcissist.  YOUR faith is not important to them.  Only THEIR faith is important.  They make it their business to interfere and make it their responsibility to set your ass straight.

Let’s recap: The Southern Baptists aren’t good enough for them.  They are superior to most of the denomination they consider their closest allies.  They worship at home because it’s safer for them and they can control who can bask in their reflected glory and who can’t.  They hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and expect that you show them respect for their life choices that they say are more moral than yours.  And they do not respect your boundaries as far as your life choices or religious beliefs are concerned.  Your beliefs are inconsequential and fungible, theirs are not.

I’m pointing this out now because a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of anti-choice protestors interrupted a service at a Unitarian church in New Orleans.  Amanda Marcotte wrote of the protests recently, describing the actions of the protestors:

Some of the anti-choice activists invaded the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans while members were observing a moment of silence for a deceased congregant and proceeded to abuse and harass the people inside the church. The folks from Operation Save America were hardly ashamed of this deplorable behavior, instead bragging on their website about disrupting services at the “synagogue of Satan” and making special note of haranguing the female pastor, who they called a “pastor,” in scare quotes. (But they’re in this for “life” and not because they have a problem with women!) This behavior isn’t necessarily any worse than the miseries they subject clinic patients and workers to, but it serves as a reminder that the reason anti-choice “protesters” get into the lifestyle is that they are bullies, full stop.

The protestors did not recognize the authority of the female pastor and they violated the boundaries of the congregants’ faith in a very literal way.

Now, the Unitarians are not really Christians in the strictest sense of the word.  They’re more deists or pantheist non-Christians who are respectful of Christians.  You can even be an atheist at a Unitarian church.  On the scale of churches, Unitarians are waaaaay over there on the commie left.  So, what’s going on here?  Marcotte’s theory makes sense:

There are many pro-choice churches, but the religious pluralism of the Unitarians is what really sets fundamentalists off. Indeed, there’s a strong reason to believe that the religious right is basically using the battle over reproductive rights to advance a much larger agenda against religious tolerance. And the strategy is to argue that their own “religious freedom” cannot be protected without taking yours away.

There’s an actual quote about that somewhere from one of the Christian fundamentalist imams.  I think it might be in this video from a recent free thought convention.  Found it.  Here’s the quote attributed to Gary North, former curriculum advisor for Ron Paul:

“So let us be blunt about it, we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education and no neutral government.  Then they will get busy in constructing a bible based social and political order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of god.”

But Catholics are hardly Kumbaya strumming hippies.  The church has its own authoritarian issues and, even though its members might think a bunch of red beanied single old dudes in Rome are cracked when it comes to reproductive health, it has had a significant impact on the American public through the appointment of 5 conservative Catholics to the Supreme Court.  The uber fundie independent baptist taliban in Arkansas has little to fear from Catholics.  They’re getting everything they claim they want through them.  Except that the Catholics don’t believe what they believe, and therefore, they must be “saved”.

No one is safe from this kind of religious narcissism.  First they came for the atheists and there are still laws on the books in some states that prohibit an atheist from holding a public office.  Then they came for the Unitarians because they’re all about inclusion and social justice.  They have no qualms about calling out Catholics.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the 5 member majority in the Hobby Lobby case had “ventured into a minefield”, she only scratched the surface of the problem.  Political motives aside, the  conservative majority has given a tacit nod to the religious narcissists to continue to breach other people’s boundaries.  I think we’re going to see more of these protests and pretty soon, you won’t be able to go anywhere before some righteous religious person decides your beliefs need an attitude adjustment.  Countries have and are still to this day fighting religious wars.  Many people are hurt and lives are ruined over religion in other parts of the world.  For more than 200 years, we have decided we as a nation weren’t going to subject our citizens to a test when it comes to religion.  Are we now going to throw away that detente and for what reason?

What do we do about the religious narcissist?  I’m still trying to find the answer to that question.  There are some suggestions for dealing with narcissists in general.  I’ll talk about some of them in a future post.

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Wednesday: What’s wrong with EJ Dionneism?

I realize that I am about 36 hours late to this party.  But did you ever have a topic that has been swishing around in the brain for a couple of weeks but didn’t quite know how to write it?  It’s not that the topic doesn’t have a theme song or plenty of examples.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  This topic has so much material to work with it’s hard to know where to start.  Sort of like cleaning a very cluttered and dirty house, but I’ll get to that at the end.

So, EJ Dionne, one of the few ostensibly “liberal” bloggers wrote a silly, misguided, male-centric column the other day in the Washington Post about the campaign year decision that the Obama administration made to enforce the “free contraception for all!” rule for women with insurance regardless of who was providing the insurance, including the Catholic church.  The red beanie guys have been on Obama’s case for months now trying to get him to back off on this.  But Obama, smelling an opportunity to get back in the good graces of women, has decided to make this a campaign issue.  You can bet that this will be cited in the campaign literature delivered to the houses of women between the ages of 17-52 who have been data mined with pin-point accuracy as caring about these kind of things.

For Dionne, the Catholic schoolboy, this was an unwise decision for the president to have made.  If Obama wants to increase his chances of winning this year, he should have appealed more to the religious right.  Never mind that women requiring birth control outnumber Catholic bishops and cardinals, it is much more important to the Dionnes out there that we not upset the beanie boys.  In actuality, Obama tried to work out a deal with the bishops so that they didn’t have to provide the contraception but they would have to inform their female enrollees how they could get it.  They wouldn’t budge.  So, the administration told the church there would be no exceptions.  I don’t know why this is a praiseworthy act.  It should be so routine that none of us should even be aware of it.  Birth control is good.  Free birth control even better.  No one would have batted an eyelash about this in the 70’s.  But that was before the religious had to be appeased.

Here’s the part of Dionne’s column that bugged me the most:

Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.

Yeah, you know, as an American liberal, I don’t see it this way at all.  I don’t think religious pluralism imposes ANY obligations on government.  The only rights that religion imposes on government is the right to exist without having anyone shoving stuff down the gullets of the individual members of that religion.  For example, the church must offer contraceptive coverage.  The individual members of that church don’t have to use it.  No one can force you to  prevent pregnancy in this country.  But EJ has it backwards.  EJ thinks that it’s OK for the religious to force certain people, specifically women, to obey its proscriptions whether they are Catholic or not or even whether they believe in God at all.  When did the Constitution allow for the 4th century thinking of a collection of men in a different country to direct the lives of women here in the US against their own consciences?

It is unacceptable for any religion to direct the consciences and behavior of American women against their will.  It is especially egregious when the fallout of this coercion affects their ability to choose the number and timing of their family.  It violates their first amendment rights of freedom of religion.  It probably violates their civil rights as well.  It’s just wrong, EJ.  The Catholic church has a right to exist in this country and conduct worship services that are open to the public and that’s it.  I don’t remember any other parts of the constitution where it was allowed to impose any other obligations on government.

But let’s take EJ’s theory to its logical conclusion.  Let’s say that religion is allowed to impose obligations on government.  We’re not talking Taliban or Wahabbi territory here where there is only one flavor of religion.  This is America after all and we still have a religiously plural society.  Let’s think of another example where there is religious pluralism where the fundamentalists have been pandered to in the manner that EJ suggests.  How about Israel?  Recently, the ultra orthodox fundamentalist Jews have been having a field day in Israel screaming and spitting at little girls, having fits over women singing in public and denying female scientists the right to receive professional awards at ceremonies or speaking about their expertise.  These last two examples were the decisions of the governmental minister of health.  All of the ugly details about what Israeli women are experiencing even though most of them are not ultra orthodox, can be found in this NYTimes article, Israel Faces Crisis over Role of Ultra Orthodox in Society.  And here’s the money quote that shows just how wrong EJ is:

They have generally stayed out of the normal Israeli politics of war and peace, often staying neutral on the Palestinian question and focusing their deal-making on the material and spiritual needs of their constituents. Politically they have edged rightward in recent years.

In other words, while rejecting the state, the ultra-Orthodox have survived by making deals with it. And while dismissing the group, successive governments — whether run by the left or the right — have survived by trading subsidies for its votes. Now each has to live with the other, and the resulting friction is hard to contain.

In other words, if you start making deals with the religious right for votes, they’re going to want something in return.  And this *something* tends to bite women in the ass. Give them an inch and they’ll start humiliating female scientists at professional conferences. The reason why the religious right have been able to get away with it for some time now is because of men like EJ and Chris Matthews types who never have to live with the results of those deals.

But nevermind.  Women already know this.  And they know it will get worse the more politicians pander.  Now it’s birth control, pretty soon, it will be allowing employers to discriminate against women without cover.  They do it now anyway and I could swear it got worse after the 2008 election because after all, the president and his party got away with vicious misogyny and discrimination without being held accountable.  What women in the private sector is going to be able to successfully challenge the old boys club now?  Party on, boys!  That’s why the layoffs initially hit men hardest but spared women in public sector, education and health care jobs, but when it comes to hiring back in the corporations, it’s helpful to have a penis and a male supervisor or director who lunches only with other males and doesn’t see the women in his groups as real people needing real jobs.  That’s why it is not uncommon for the majority the women in a department to lose their jobs in a layoff but not the men.  Yes, this really happens.  I have witnessed it myself.   That’s why men get internal job interviews and not women.  I thought I was crazy until the company doctor told me that she heard the same complaint from many, many women in my company.  They are passed over, shoved out, laid off and never heard from again.  It’s partially because no one challenged the shit that happened in 2008 or laid down the law in subsequent years or formed an exploratory committee to find out why it’s happening.  No one gives a shit.  It’s just women.

And why doesn’t anyone give a shit?  Have you seen how many male column writers we have in major American newspapers compared to females?  Have you ever read the evening round up on The Plum Line when male blogger after male blogger is cited with a bare sprinkling of female opinion thrown in as a garnish?  We hear mens’ opinions 24/7 ad nauseum.  And their stupid, clueless opinions usually give a pass to the religious right and their stubborn insistance that we all obey the writings of another bunch of male columnists  from the end of the fricking Bronze Age who swear, without any proof at all, that they were taking dictation from God himself.

Enough, already.  There are many of us who no longer believe in the god of the bible.  There is a growing movement of non-believers, atheists, panentheists, freethinkers, skeptics and agnostics who do not agree that the religious impose ANY obligations on government outside of the right to exist.  At the very least, the religious should have to prove to everyone that what they believe is real and rational beyond a shadow of a doubt before they impose any obligation on anyone.

So, until the red beanie guys can show conclusively, incontrovertibly and with all of the tools of the scientific method at their disposal that there is an actual God  and that this God actually cares and does not want women to put substances in her body to prevent the conception of children, they should keep their unfounded, harmful, discriminatory impositions to themselves.  At the very least, God should be required to make an appearance in a form other than a talking herbaceous wildfire hazard before we are forced to pay any more attention to the religious right or any politician who panders to them.

Including Obama.

The Confluence CCD Class for Incorrigible American Women

If anyone had told me two years ago that I would be teaching a CCD class for incorrigible women, I would have thought they were playing a practical joke on me.  For one thing, I’m the LAST person on earth who should be trying to whip anyone into line where Catholic theology is concerned.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have morals and ethics.  It’s just that until Bart Stupak and his Vatican campaign staff came along, I thought I had a choice of religion.  Silly me!  I’m just a woman.  An *American* woman.  In France, I am told by one of my colleagues, there was a recent bill passed that provided greater compensation to doctors who provided abortions.  Apparently, the doctors in France felt they were being underpaid for the service and fewer of them were willing to perform the procedure.  So they government decided to make it easier for women to get this service by paying doctors more. I’ll see if I can find a citation, er, that’s not in French.

But I digress.

See, American women are not French.  No, we need the guidance of our ministers and fathers and husbands and boyfriends and guys who belong to a 2000 year old men only club who only recently apologized to Gallileo for dissing his heliocentric theory and sell their sopranos to foreigners for sexual pleasure that they aren’t technically supposed to be dabbling in anyway.  (There’s probably some clause that they invoke about how the choirboys haven’t officially taken any vows of chastity)  THEY can get away with it.  YOU cannot. Why can’t you?  I have no frickin’ idea.  I’m just here to teach this CCD class, not make the rules.

Now, I know that some of you are not Catholic.  You may be Protestant or Buddhist or atheists or neo-pagan universalists.  You may have thought you had the right to decide for yourselves whether you believed that zygotes have immortal and innocent souls that needed protection and that you are tainted with original sin for having SEX(!) or being created from the union of two tainted individuals who had SEX(!).  See, this is where you are wrong.  It’s not up to you to decide this stuff.  I don’t know why you can’t decide.  That’s not my job.  As I said before, I don’t make the rules.

Anyway, enough of the groundwork.  Where shall we begin?  Well. let’s start with saints.  To me, saints look like a holdover from polytheism but that might just be my mother’s protestant influence on me.  Saints have feast days in the Catholic calendar.  Saints can intercede on our behalf with the head honchos in heaven.  But each one of them is in a different department and carry out only a single function.  Like St. Anthony is supposed to help you find things.  St. Christopher is supposed to help travelers.  If St. Anthony and St. Christopher got together, they might market their services to people who lose their luggage at airports.

Now, who is the saint for March 25?  You may be surprised to know (or not), that there are many saints available for March 25.  But I have found the perfect one for incorrigible American women who after yesterday’s executive order signing ceremony (that wasn’t televised at lunch to nauseate the unsuspecting diner) are newly converted Catholics.  Her name is St. Dula.

From the Saints and Angels page we learn that St Dula was a:

Virgin martyr at Nicomedia, in Asia Minor, also called Theodula. The slave of a pagan soldier, Dula died defending her chastity.

What a brave, shining example St. Dula sets for us.  We should all go out and do likewise.  She probably couldn’t help it that she was a slave but original sin is powerful.  Her parents were probably responsible for her misfortune because they had SEX(!).   Nevertheless, this poor woman, and by poor I mean a working class person making little or no money, died rather than submit herself to the indignities of having SEX(!).  I find this story strange because had Dula become pregnant from rape, she might have been able to qualify for a federally funded abortion.  But never mind the inconsistency.  Believers in 2000 year old religions have to live with such things and so do you.  From now on.  Until we elect a woman.  Next time.

I pray.

Now, be good and pure or it’s off to the laundries with you.

The Magdalene sisters will getcha if you don't watch out!