Thank God I’m and Atheist December 7, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Religion, Religion.
Tags: anti-choice, church misogyny, church patriarchy, faith, first communion, guilt, marx religion, religion, religious belief, repression, roger hollander, roman catholic, Roman Catholic Church, sin
by Roger Hollander, December 7, 2009
Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!
Tom Lehrer, “The Vatican Rag”
You hungry, ain’t you, babies.
Lord Buckley, “The Naz”
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
I live in what is referred to as a “Catholic country” in South America. The Church and its rituals and its paraphernalia are ubiquitous.
I have a profound disrespect for institutionalized religion, and that most certainly includes the Roman Catholic Church.
I make it a point, however, not to disparage individual believers or to show disrespect, although, if the circumstances permit, I will quite willingly enter into debate on questions of faith and belief.
This weekend I had occasion to attend the first communion ceremony of a ten year old niece. I sat patiently through the mass and participated in the après mass family photo taking and then the party at the parents’ home.
Here is a short list of what offended me about the ceremony:
- The indoctrination of young children
- The emphasis on confession, guilt and a repressive notion of sin whereby war can be OK, but masturbation or pre-marital intercourse can send you to you know where
- The false, arrogant and unctuous attitude of the priest and his attempt to appear “cool”
- The display of ostentatious wealth in a dirt-poor country (this was an upper-middle class all white congregation); the money spent on designer dresses, thousand dollar suits, beauty parlour hair-dos,and expensive digital cameras could feed the population of the near-by slum ghetto for a year
Here is a short list of what offends me about the Roman Catholic Church:
- A pope who is a former Nazi youth and who, as a Cardinal and chief defender of the faith, did all he could to destroy local autonomy and suffocate the promotion of Liberation Theology
- The Church patriarchy, its misogyny, the policy of celibacy, its protection of child abuser priests, and its aggressive stand on therapeutic abortion, which has caused untold death and suffering for women around the globe
- The Church’s past and present active support for dictatorships and authoritarian regimes
I endured a mass through which I sat with bitterness in my heart, and this little essay is my attempt to get it off my chest. Having done that I would like to end on a positive note by saying that some good things happened as well. Children were made to feel special (this was “first communion weekend” in Ecuador, with thousands participating; at the mass I attended there were about 35 children taking their first communion). It brought families together in joyful celebration. Most children will end up living their Catholicism as a cultural artefact and will resist the authoritarianism of the Church.
Karl Marx’s classic statement (cited above) about religion is usually taken out of context and wrongly considered to be anti-religious. I do not believe it is inconsistent to be Marxist and Christian (or any other religion) at the same time. Even within the Catholic Church there have been and are those who struggle and sacrifice for the good of humanity. Marx was not a critic of the spiritual; rather he wished to replace the misguided hope for the relief of suffering via faith in a future heaven with the revolutionary struggle to transform human social structures as a means of alleviating human suffering on earth.
ps. for the record, in case God is listening, I consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist, but I couldn’t resist the oxymoron title.