The Arrogant Specificity of Religious Beliefs Still Dominates Secular Governance

By Donald A. Collins | 14 October 2014
Church and State

(Credit: Catholic Church England and Wales / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Pope Francis has made waves around the world by presenting himself with humility. His symbolic rejection of the overt trappings of supreme pontifism adopted by most of his predecessors prompts frequent accolades.

Let’s be fair. He has done so as much as one could expect, after the examples of his two predecessors and against the richly laden pomposity of his inherited environment, since coming on the world scene on March 13, 2014. My wife and I were in Buenos Aires that day and experienced ample sights of citizens excited by the news. After all, they should have been as Francis was the first Pope to take the name Francis, symbolic of the gentle priest from Assisi, and the first Argentine Pope in RCC history.

World hopes were and are high for changes so desperately needed by a hierarchy which demands utter dictatorial powers over anyone who wants to be a Catholic and which wield vast earthly power over secular affairs.

Admittedly, many presume they can be good practicing Catholics without submitting to the present strictures of the present ruling junta, since many versions have existed in the long history of the RCC. However, since March 2013, many Catholics and others with whom I have spoken have been very optimistic about the bright prospects of meaningful change. No, not quickly, but perhaps Francis can get the most obvious odious rules undone, most people seem to think.

The first glimmer of such possible constructive change came a couple of months ago when Francis made a “live and let live” kind of statement about gay people and now in the October 13, 2014 NY Times, the article, “Vatican signals more lenient stance on gays and divorce” we learn:

An important meeting of bishops at the Vatican used remarkably conciliatory language on Monday toward gay and divorced Catholics, signaling a possible easing of the church’s rigid attitudes on homosexuality and the sanctity of marriage.

The gathering of bishops from around the world called on pastors to recognize, among other things, the “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.”

The meeting, or synod, was called by Pope Francis to discuss issues related to the family in contemporary society. A report was given on Monday of the main considerations under debate in the first week of the two-week gathering.

Can gays and those who paid sizeable money to the church to get annulments in the past now say “Hooray”? We can only hope so, but I presume the proof will be in the experiences of these poor benighted second class citizens yet to be adjudicated. Ok, they were not called “benighted” or “second class” but isn’t being gay or divorced an implied lesser status, a flawed state for which allowance can only be grudgingly made?? Hope not.

As one who long ago had a divorce, but not being a Catholic, I never felt I was a lesser being because of being involved in what was for me a non religious secular action. No one ever regards a marital failure as a welcome event, although divorces are as necessary as abortions in some cases. In short, the human actions of all of us come without need of any pontification by anyone save the party or parties involved.

As one so long un-churched, I can only express my intense angst when I get exposed to the specificity of any set of religious principles, since none come from a provable god.

It so annoys me that we constantly hear “In God we trust” which is on all our coins and “God Bless America” coming out of the mouths of our politicians at the end of every speech. In a nation allegedly dedicated to complete religious freedom, we still fall miserably short in actual practice as it pertains to secular rights.

Folks, please feel free to have your rabbit’s foot or any other amulet that you might use for good luck. Some guys think they play better golf in shirts of a certain color. A cross blessed by the Pope or other Catholic official won’t keep a football player from getting CTE from concussions. The similarity between religious hope and belief in good luck charms seems obvious to me.

But what is now so blatantly disturbing are the strictures of religious practice of these powerful monotheistic religions, onerously inflicted on people all over the world in the governance of our lives.

There are as we know countries where women aren’t allowed to drive a car, vote, go without head coverings and be in public without a relative. But here in the US, are we completely superior to such places? How about here where getting a safe, economical abortion can be a life threatening experience, not to fetal tissue as some allege, but to the impregnated women, because of some kooky religious belief being improperly wielded by religious power over their decision to obtain a medically safe, secular choice.

Angst? No, actually what I feel is outrage at what religious zealots here in the allegedly enlightened 21st Century USA have been able to inflict on women despite the secularly enlightened Supreme Court Roe vs Wade decision of January 1973, diluted ever since and intensely recently by the myriad of undercutting state and local anti-choice laws.

Thus, when we hear that Pope Francis is trying to liberalize faulty restrictions, note that there are still no women priests in that faith, no birth control allowed except the rhythm method also known as Vatican roulette, and no appetite for urging condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS. Okay, there are admittedly far worse religious strictures inflicted by other faiths, which just shows how far our planet’s humans have to travel.

While the clear fact of species evolution allows me hope that such positions will soften, only the decoupling of such devastating absurdities from secular governance can bring justice to women and their families and, yes, to their communities. However, full attainment of full reproductive choices for women won’t come anytime soon. He may be a well intentioned Pope, but don’t count on Francis for a new, sane revolution in RCC rules on birth control.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
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  1. Don Collins hits the nail on the head. As with all ancient religions, they operate from the past, from outdated beliefs and from a power paradigm entrenched over the centuries. The Catholic Church (as well as Islam and other religions) causes more misery in the world via its stance against birth control–because so many followers birth endless babies into poverty, misery and starvation. Those old men in the Vatican refuse to look into the real world and deal with real consequences of their antiquated actions. While they eat well, get fat on pasta and walk around in opulence–millions of Catholics suffer from overpopulation, too many babies, not enough food or water–and no hope. At some point, the Catholic Church will become SO outdated that no one will pay attention to the Pope and his armada of outdated old men in robes. Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler


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