Category RELIGION

KD Interviewed

A few months ago, we were fortunate enough to sit down with Kevin Devine.

Listen in to to hear some wise words from an honest, thoughtful, and well-read artist.

EDUCATION & RELIGIOSITY

A Michigan Institute for Social Research study found that education majors are the likeliest of any college demographic group to become more religious within six years of graduating high school. The institution determined religiosity based on rates of participation in religious services, as well as how important a role respondents said religion played in their lives.

ATHEIST: Put Religion in Public Schools

The Pew Forum’s recent study detailing the abysmal religious literacy demonstrated by most Americans is disturbing, but not at all surprising. The smear campaign waged against Muslims over the past few months has been a painful reminder of how–especially in a country where gross ignorance of religion is the norm–opportunistic blowhards can easily manipulate matters of alleged supernatural significance. With vast majorities unable to correctly answer even the most basic questions about Islam, for example, is it any wonder that an innocuous Islamic center in Lower Manhattan could spur so much misinformation and hysteria?

SELF HATING WHO?!

In last month’s edition of The Perspective, I published a blurb which praised the Obama administration’s recent firm stance on Israeli settlement expansion. I did not explicitly criticize the State of Israel – but merely suggested the Obama administration’s relatively nuanced stance on Israel could have positive ramifications in the pursuit of Middle East peace.

After reading the quarter-page blurb, a key figure in the Jewish campus community believed he had adequate evidence to state, “There’s nothing worse than a self-hating Jew.”

In response to those who would label Jewish supporters of Obama’s Israel policy as “self-hating,” I would like to call your attention to a recent Haaretz poll. The poll, released on April 13, found that 73% of American Jews agree with Obama’s policy towards Israel – characterizing relations between Israel and the U.S. as “positive” or “very positive.” Do three out of four American Jews hate themselves?

I will not delve into the multitude of reasons why this individuals’ snarky comment about me is absurd, but will instead use it as an opportunity to elaborate on the message of last month’s blurb. Pejoratives like “self-hating Jew” or “anti-Semite” are representative of the exact issue I wished to address in the article.

Until it is acknowledged that an individual can oppose an Israeli government policy—which happens to be illegal under international law—and not be anti-Semitic, no substantive progress can be made in peace processes in the Middle East.

The dialogue surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict is so crippled by taboo, it is impossible to hold any sort of meaningful discussion on the matter without being accused of either ignorance or hatred.

The blurb was intended to give credit to President Obama for not caving into the fear of being labeled an “anti-Semite” by some fringe hard-lined Zionists. I encourage others to follow suit, and not be afraid to stand openly against unjust Israeli policy.

Editor’s Note: Glenn Eisenberg is also known as Glenn Eisenblurb

Breaking News: No Free Will!

Wednesday, International Union of Sociochemistry representative Daryl Wayne announced that free will is merely an illusion. The president of the renown organization urged the public to remain calm, adding that people need not panic if they find they cannot control their response to this scientific breakthrough.

“Thoughts,” Wayne declared at the annual conference,“are simply chemical reactions in our brains, and humans have been acting out a predetermined chain of sociochemical events since they first came to be.”

According to the New Jersey State Police, since Wednesday’s announcement, incidents of criminal activity and tomfoolery have sharply risen.

“I was just walking down the street, when a man approached me, tore off his pants, and began to jump up and down in a humping motion,” one anonymous woman informed The Perspective. Reports also indicate that the man was saying “unntz unntz unntz” as he harassed at least a dozen other Ewing citizens late Wednesday evening.

Witness Sarah Smith incredulously added that there was no camera crew. Neither Johnny Knoxville nor Bam Margera could be reached for comment.

Riots have also broken out on two different fronts.

One group of demonstrators has formed near the entrance of the International Union of Sociochemistry headquarters in Trenton touting WWJD gear and signs reading messages such as “Helaman 14:30,” “Free My Will,” and “Your Mom is Predetermined”; one participant’s sign read caustically, “Did You Predetermine This, Asshole?”

One woman, incensed by the implications this news has on the existence of a Judeo-Christian God, captured the crowd’s sentiments with a pointed question, “Without free will where does peoples’ accountability go? What does this mean for good and evil?”

The other party of protesters, described as donning tie-dyed shirts and smelling of marijuana, has begun peaceful protests in front of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Perspective reporter on the field has reported rally cries such as, “Hell no, we can’t go!” and “Together we stand; together we fight; we have no choice but to demand our rights!”

One young man at the rally told our correspondent, “I knew I wasn’t to blame for my unemployment and drug habits; if we don’t have control over our actions, we shouldn’t be forced to suffer from their consequences.”
Others at the gathering demanded that relatives or loved ones be set free from jail, reasoning that, without free will, the prisoners couldn’t be blamed for their actions—they were merely victims of circumstance.

When asked about how he planned to respond to the International Union of Sociochemistry’s statement, which effectively decreed all human behavior inculpable, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder maintained that law will continue to be enforced as usual; Holder cited his own lack of volition as reason for deciding so.

As of now, the fate of mankind is uncertain: with doubt cast upon the existence of God and peoples’ newfound immunity to blame, some are desperately grasping at the straws of morality, seeking out the few morsels left untouched by this pivotal discovery. Based on the current rate of society’s disintegration, some sociologists project that by late 2012, society as we know it will collapse upon itself.

Creationism Revisited

By DAN CARDINALE

I’m just going to come out and say it. Creationism is not science. If it were, it would be bad science. Not just incorrect, which it is, but bad science, right along side HIV and climate change denialism. To pretend otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of both science as a discipline and creationism.

To begin, let’s examine just what science is, and what a scientific theory is. Science is simply the process of using controlled experiments and observations to test hypotheses about the natural world. Put another way, as stated by Ken Miller during Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (the “intelligent design” case), “science is finding natural explanations for natural phenomena.”  Scientific theories must fulfill two criteria. They must have broad experimental support and they must make empirically testable positive predictions. In the approximately 150 year life of the theory, evolution biologists have made thousands of predictions, in fields as diverse as microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, ecology, paleontology, and biogeography, and these predictions have been overwhelmingly confirmed, providing extensive support to evolutionary theory.

Creationism, on the other hand, makes no empirically testable predictions, at least not those that would lend positive support for creationism should they be accurate. Rather, the predictions made by creationism are negative predictions aimed at what evolution cannot do, or where evidence is supposedly lacking. For example, consider the concept of irreducible complexity, used by creationists to attack evolution, which states that if there should exist a system or structure that fails to function if any one of its components should be removed or defective, then that system cannot have evolved, because the probability of all of the components assembling in their present configuration is prohibitively small. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that such a structure were to be discovered. Would this lend credence to creationism?

Before I answer that question, let me first examine the underlying premise, that irreducible complexity (IC) carries with it some degree of scientific weight. This premise is not just false, but absurd. There have been numerous systems identified as examples of IC. These include the bacterial flagellum, the eye, and mammalian blood clotting. By the “textbook” definition of IC, each of these systems qualifies, since they are essentially non-functional should any part be lost or significantly altered. Evidence of this fact is the long list of defects that cause hemophilia in humans. But does this mean that such systems can’t have evolved? Hardly. For every example of an IC system that requires every part, there exists a homologous system that functions just fine without one or several components. The flagella found in E. coli may require dozens of parts, but other species make due without the P ring, or the L ring. Dolphins lack several clotting factors critical in humans, but as a species do not suffer from chronic hemophilia. It isn’t even required that the intermediate or incomplete stages of a structure have the same purpose as the modern forms in order to be favored by natural selection, only that there is some benefit to having the intermediate stages. For example, birds’ feathers probably weren’t for flight originally. It’s more likely that early feathers were used for thermoregulation and were only adapted for their present use more recently.

But that didn’t answer the original question. Even should IC be a credible, testable concept with broad experimental support, and natural selection discredited, is creationism supported? The short answer is no, it isn’t. To use IC (or some other invented deficiency of evolution) as support for creationism establishing a false dichotomy, one that states that the only two options on the table are evolution by natural selection or special creation. Could there not be some other hypothetical evolutionary mechanism that could produce such a structure? Certainly; IC favors neither that nor creation over the other. In order for creationism to have actual support, there must be positive, experimental evidence in its favor, rather than merely against evolution by natural selection. Because it lacks such evidence, it cannot be considered even a remotely credible scientific theory.

Let us now examine the issue from a different angle. Creationism is not science, and has no positive support, but what of the supposed deficiencies in the theory of evolution? How can sexual reproduction have evolved? Complex structures such as the eye? Systems as layered and complex as blood clotting? In the interest of space and accessibility (assuming the reader is still awake), I’ll look at only the first example I’ve mentioned: sexual reproduction. The objection goes something like this: sexual reproduction requires two individuals of opposite sexes (or mating types), so they would have to have evolved independently and simultaneously, which is highly improbably, essentially statistically impossible. How did evolution “know” to develop sex?

I frame the question thusly since that is representative of the most common presentation when a counter-evolutionary argument is made, but to ask such a question is absurd. Evolution doesn’t “know” anything. Evolution is a process, not an entity. Even natural selection, the actual driving force of evolutionary change, isn’t forward looking; the traits of those organisms that have higher fitness (meaning reproductive success, not that they work out every day) will be present in higher proportions in the next generation.

Going back to the question itself, we have a case where a faulty assumption is implied. Reproduction is not either sexual or asexual, with no room for compromise. There are abundant examples of organisms that exhibit both sexual and asexual reproduction, from primitive bacteria up through multicellular animals, such as aphids. Which reproductive strategy a particular organism employs is often based on its environment: a relatively stable and nutrient rich environment will maintain purely asexual reproduction. Essentially, it’s a case of “it it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” where “fixing it” through sexual reproduction actually reduces the fitness of many individuals. However, in a dynamic environment with relatively scarce resources, propagating the same clone infinitely will have little benefit. Instead, the genetic diversity (and corresponding adaptability) created by sexual recombination is a winning strategy. Those organisms that employ both “know” when to utilize each simply through natural selection against those individuals that reproduce sexually too often or too infrequently, leaving only those that exercise the right combination. As a casual read through an evolutionary biology textbook or journal archive would reveal, this information is not a secret.

This brings me to my next objection to “scientific” creationism: its proponents and adherents, in order to support creationism, must (knowingly or ignorantly) selectively ignore swaths of data in order to find problems with evolutionary theory.  Creationists pretend to be creation scientists while trampling all over the scientific method. They claim that evolution cannot account for this feature or that system, while ignoring stacks of research on that very subject (sometimes quite literally). This is symptomatic of the most unscientific feature of creationism: beginning not with a question, but with the conclusion, and tailoring the data to support it, either through omission (“there is no evidence that sex could evolve”) or misrepresentation (“Darwin said the eye couldn’t evolve”). This leads to objections to evolution based on the argument from personal incredulity: “there may be evidence for evolution, but it isn’t good enough for me.” While this may be personally persuasive, it carries no scientific weight.

When push comes to shove, creationism isn’t about science; it’s about faith. Philosophically, faith and science are in complete opposition to each other. The former is belief without evidence, or in many cases in the face of contrary evidence. The latter is the refusal to accept a proposition without supporting evidence.  To draw this distinction is not close-minded. There have been countless experiments testing the veracity of evolutionary theory, each one a chance for the theory to fail. The fact that it hasn’t in a century and a half of examination is testament to its strength. In order to receive serious consideration in the scientific community, Creationism or any other theory must stand up to similarly rigorous investigation. The fact that Creationism has failed to do so is simply further evidence of its scientific vacuity. These are not merely two theories competing in the open forum of scientific investigation. Creationism violates each of the most basic components of the scientific method; evolution defines what a good scientific theory should be.

I will now diverge significantly from my previous discussion, and turn towards a considerably less straightforward subject: that of right and wrong. As a scientific theory, evolution neither takes nor implies a position on morality. For the purposes of scientific investigation, methodological naturalism (investigating natural causes of natural phenomena) is required, but this is separate and distinct from philosophical naturalism, the belief that nature is the entirety of that which exists. But can evolution by natural selection lead to a sense of morality?

Natural selection acts to increase the fitness of populations, and many species exhibit altruistic behavior, increasing the fitness of their respective populations, even if their personal fitness is adversely affected. This is especially the case when close relatives benefit. Is it such a mental leap of faith to posit that this inherent tendency, coupled with a brain intelligent enough to perceive the effects of one’s actions on the well being, both physical and emotional, of others, leads directly to an intrinsic sense of right and wrong? Are we to believe, that for all the depth and complexity of the human mind, it takes an outside force to impose some sort of order on our species, that we are not up to the task ourselves?

No.

All available evidence tells us that evolution, not God, has created beautifully complex beings in humans. Our self-awareness is, as far as we can tell, unique among living things. We can perceive when we benefit others, and when we harm them, and thanks to our well-developed brains, we can go beyond perception. We can empathize, we can imagine. And we know that have to respect that. I don’t need God to tell me what’s right and wrong, nor does anyone else. We’ve learned it, collectively, over the lifetime of our species, and to put it back in evolutionary terms, those that learned the right lessons survived, while the populations that failed to do so died out. The development of an intellect sufficient to care for others because it’s right, and for no other reason, might be the crowning achievement of evolution.

Huckabee Rips Steele, Romney, LGBT Activists

Calls Romney’s Healthcare Plan “Dismal Failure,” Compares Same-Sex Marriage to Incest

UPDATE: PERSPECTIVE RESPONDS TO HUCKABEE CLAIM THAT HIS VIEWS WERE ‘GROSSLY DISTORTED’ IN ARTICLE (4.13.10)

In an interview Wednesday, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in on embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, slammed his potential 2012 presidential primary rival Mitt Romney, and reiterated strong opposition to same-sex marriage and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’

IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH

TCNJ STUDENTS HONORING GOD’S CALL TO MARRIAGE

Jolynn and Matt Graubart, both graduating from TCNJ this spring, met and began dating when they were fourteen years old. As a hardened cynic, I was shocked, amazed, and slightly disappointed to learn that no family feuding or double suicides had occurred along the way. Imagine my further surprise, then, when I was informed that this undergrad pair had in fact been married – and happily so – for the past year and a half.

CREATIONISM: THEORY OR MYTHOLOGY?

BY PAUL SOON, TCNJ PROTESTANT BIBLE FELLOWSHIP OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Before the average reader reads the title and brands this article as some fairy tale written by some hick from the woods, please consider the appropriate background. Contrary to popular belief, all Cre­ationists are not logically-impaired, reason-deprived, brainwashed zombies. We’re academics. So before you brand me as someone not familiar with the scientific method or empirical studies, keep in mind that I am actually a biology major. Or if you prefer to preclude Cre­ationism as an antiquated philosophical system, please keep in mind that I am also a philosophy major. The point is not to flaunt creden­tials, but to illustrate the most important point about Creationism or naturalism (the idea that life arose out of only natural causes without divine intervention), that people in both camps are intelligent, ana­lytical, but far too often perilously closed-minded. The most impor­tant thing is to approach both sides with an open-minded, scientific mindset, forsaking the burning urge to label our opponents. I write this piece partially as a student of biology, partially as a student of philosophy, partially as a theologian, but most importantly as a fel­low TCNJ student.

So first of all, as an unashamed Creationist I do not pretend that evolution has no evidence, nor do I think that all who believe in evolution are close-minded God-haters. As a student of biology I am well acquainted with many of the arguments for evolution and admit they can be convincing. However, in my opinion they are not enough. Two broad camps exist in this debate: Evolution vs. Creationism. However, more broadly, the camps of Naturalism vs. God-believing are created. Above all my intellectual might, I believe in Creationism because I believe that the Word of God is true. This is where your adrenaline pumps up and the temptation to brand this article as the work of a Bible-thumper shoots up precipitously. So don’t worry – I’m a science student too. Above any science, above any philosophy, above any popular fad of man­kind I believe that God holds the truth. Even before any scientific or philosophical argument, I confidently reject naturalism on the simple self-evident assumption that humanity is more than just chemicals. It is something sacred. Some might take exception to that statement, and I will accept arguments on one condition: That you are a strict vegan. Anyone who is not a strict vegan will­ingly accepts the assumption that our lives are worth more than any other quantitative life. If you believe in evolution you must reconcile the idea that humans are different than other life with the idea that, well, we’re no different from other life. If you believe in evolution you must accept that humans are nothing more than very advanced animals, nothing more than the most finely-tuned genetically regulated product of nature. You must accept that hu­manity has no intrinsic rights or value above that which is granted by evolution.

That proposition leads to some serious problems.  One is the problem of the normativity of ethics.  Normative ethics supposes that ethics has the power to deem whether acts are wrong or right.  If ethics are not normative then it can be said that murder results in death, but it cannot be said that murder is wrong.  I don’t know about you, but I believe that murder is intrinsically wrong.  If you believe that humans are the products of evolution you must find a convincing entity that has the authority to administer right and wrong.  We can do this with various philosophical theories but these can run into problems.  Utilitarianism has no need for God.  Yet philosophical theories of ethics that do not rely on God run into problems, such as “Why should we listen to your system of right and wrong?” Utilitarianism itself creates certain ethical dilemmas such as, it is okay to cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend as long as they don’t find out, it doesn’t hurt your relationship, and total happiness is increased.  Now I believe that most of you would believe cheating is inherently bad (what I mean is that if you found out that your significant other was cheating on you would feel deeply hurt and feel wronged.)  Now as someone who would prefer not getting cheated on (as I am sure you are as well) I believe in a normative, objective system of ethics.  Evolution has no rules save one.  Survival of the fittest.  Sounds altruistic to you, no?  Actually I can think of few things less altruistic than survival of the fittest. It appears rather intuitive that evolution by survival of the fittest would preclude the existence of morality as we know it, a morality where sacrificing for others is praised and being selfish is denounced. So how then could a normative objective ethical theory evolve through evolution?  I believe that an ethical theory that is the product of evolving from survival of the fittest to be a system most bereft of any morals at all. But some scientists have proposed a system where altruism may have been introduced through evolution. This is where I will finally turn to science.

Evolution is the selection of traits that give a population reproductive advantage. So if a new trait is introduced into a population of organisms it can be ether beneficial, neutral, or deleterious to the reproduction of the population. So if some organism exhibits a trait that gives them an advantage they survive, reproduce and pass on their traits.  Evolutionists surmise that because altruism is beneficial to a population it was selected for and not against.  Possible, perhaps.  But how does this work?  If one has a trait which causes them to be self-sacrificial (altruistic) it may be good for the population if they sacrifice their life for the good of the population, but how does that sacrificial individual pass on their traits if they are well, dead.  Doesn’t work too good.  The only way that altruistic traits could be selected for if evolution somehow knew that those traits were good and thoughtfully selected them.  Any science teacher worth their salt will say that evolution doesn’t know anything, it has no mind!  But I have several times sat through class hearing the teacher proclaim, “It’s remarkable, it’s as if evolution knew this would be beneficial!”  This is one of my major gripes about evolution.  There is considerable circumstantial evidence that organisms may have evolved from each other.  However, scientists have no clue how it happened, just that it appears to have happened.

Take for example, sexual reproduction.  Asexual reproduction is easy, clean, and pretty safe.  You live so why not make more of you.  Most bacteria utilize asexual reproduction.  Sexual reproduction is a totally different beast.  Sexual reproduction is risky (might not have mates!), costly (more energy used than asexual), and dangerous (deadly if you’re eaten!).  Now we know that sexual reproduction is an essential component of evolution, in that it increases genetic variation.   But how did sexual reproduction arise?  As aforementioned, the world of sexual reproduction can be a scary thing! (I’m talking about microscopic organisms and the origin of sexual reproduction, not humans, although I’m sure it might also ring true to us geeks who are awkward with the opposite sex).  In early organisms sexually reproduction should have been selected against.  Yes, it’s useful for future explanations but who would know that?  The only explanation is that somehow evolution knew that sexual reproduction would be useful in the future and made the sacrifices to create it.  But evolution doesn’t know anything!

One more example, and this one isn’t just one I created.  Creationists call it irreducible complexity.  The basic premise is this: all organisms, even to the simplest cellular level, are extraordinarily complex.  Without getting into the specifics (that’s the pain of biology majors), the idea is that things are so amazingly complex that if just one thing went wrong the entire organism might die.  There is only one right way for biological complexes to work, but billions of wrong ways.  Irreducible complexity states that in light of the aforementioned statements, it seems exceedingly unlikely and probably impossible for evolution to create such complex structures.  Take for example the origin of life.  “Simple” life is really, really, complex.  For basic life, DNA, RNA, proteins, nucleotides, and thousands of enzymes are needed.  Each protein is coded for by thousands of “letters” of DNA.  If only four or five of those letters are incorrect, the protein would almost certainly be doomed.  So how in the world could primordial soup somehow create such stunning complexity?  Most likely it can’t. Evolution must have somehow known what complexity to make.

Evolution works best (or in my opinion at all) if it is directed by some all knowing being. If you believe in evolution you must exhibit remarkable faith in the possible explanations of how certain things evolve. Evolution must be a powerful force indeed if it can know how to direct organisms’ evolution and has the power and creativity to craft complex structures out of nothing. So if you believe that evolution is so powerful and so wise, then I think that it makes perfect sense for evolution to be your God. You must have faith that evolution is so knowledgeable as to create us.

KNOW YOUR DOGMA: WHY CATHOLICS SHOULD BE OUTRAGED

Academic observers of contemporary religion have consistently noted the surprising lack of articulacy displayed by young American adults asked to describe their faith’s doctrinal tenets. Sociologist Christian Smith, who conducted a comprehensive, nation-wide survey of religiosity among this demographic, found that despite their nominal affiliation with a given religious tradition, young adults tend to be “spiritually indifferent, uninformed, and disengaged.” The trend was especially observable, said Smith, among Catholic youth.

This is not to say, of course, that there are no young people who demonstrate a thorough understanding of Catholic theology and practice. But the data certainly suggests that such individuals are few and far between.

What are we to make of this?

(UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)

To be sure, decoding papal edicts and delineating the Vatican’s hierarchical structure are no easy tasks. But if an individual chooses to declare his or her adherence to a particular religion, especially a religion whose leadership claims a singular role in professing and promulgating moral truths, it seems to logically follow that such an individual should have at least a basic understanding of the pronouncements made by those who speak on behalf of the Church. The decision to forego any such inquiry represents an especially toxic brand of cognitive dissonance – and it should trouble us all.

Someone who is not so dismayed by this intellectual apathy might rightly point out that many turn to religion simply for a reliable social network, and thus an extensive knowledge of theology is not particularly necessary. That same person might also assert that the Catholic “label” is as much a source of cultural and familial identity as it is religious affiliation. No argument here – many of us are imbued with a sense of religious devotion from the earliest of ages, before we have developed even the faintest ability to comprehend what it is we are actually chanting from the pews. But cultural or familial ties, I would contend, are not good reason enough to retain a religious identification. If there is something in which we claim to believe, we should be able to develop reasoned arguments in favor of such belief. We should understand the implications of the endeavors undertaken by the institution to which we declare allegiance.

Treading along idly as a “Cafeteria Catholic” – a Catholic who picks and chooses bits of the religion he or she happens to find pleasant – might appear to be harmless at first glance. If it makes you happy, then what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that your euphemistic neglect of Church doctrine constitutes serious intellectual apathy, and intellectual apathy indeed harms everyone. Without question, those apathetic in their apprehension of religion – which is of course supposed to inform (if not dictate) our views on law, ethics, and the very nature of the universe – are probably also apathetic in other aspects of life. Indeed, these same people comprise the voting electorate, and thus the absence of any analytical rigor in their thought processes does a disservice to the rest of us who must live with the politicians for whom they have cast their vote – and the policies implemented thereafter.

The Catholic Church’s recent direct engagement in New Jersey’s political affairs underscores this need for consistency and clarity. Those who identify as Catholics must take a serious look at what their religion’s spokespeople are saying and doing in the name of God, and decide whether they are content to be represented by these spokespeople in the cultural marketplace of ideas.

To start, on November 28, Catholic bishops from diocese across New Jersey issued a letter strongly denouncing same-sex marriage, and called on parishioners to pray that the bill legalizing such unions would fail to become law. Priests were instructed to read and distribute the letter during that weekend’s mass.

In the letter, the bishops bemoan “a broad cultural shift away from religion and social traditionalism and toward a belief in personal independence and tolerance for diverse life styles – otherwise known as ‘secular individualism.’” They allege that the legalization of same-sex marriage would “threaten [heterosexual] marriage and, in turn, children and the public good.”

“Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws,” the bishops write, “[marriage] did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore, neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage.”

This sort of hostile rhetoric is nothing new for the Catholic Church. In 2005, Pope John Paul II labeled homosexuality an “ideology of evil”; in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI called it “a destruction of God’s work.” That same year, a Vatican spokesperson decried homosexuality as a “a deviation, an irregularity, a wound,” and official Church catechism holds that it is a “disorder.”

On November 11, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. threatened to withhold charitable services for the impoverished if the city went ahead with a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.

I must ask: as a Catholic, do you also regret the cultural shift towards personal independence and tolerance for diverse lifestyles? Are you in agreement with Church leadership that advocacy in favor of same-sex marriage is but a veiled attempt to corrupt the moral grounding of credulous children? Should the Catholic conception of God’s will be enough to dictate secular law in a pluralistic society? Is homosexuality evil, a disorder, or some combination of the two?

In a sense, we are fortunate that the debate over same-sex marriage has entered into the public sphere and forced “traditionalist” religious figures to take a firm stance on matters related to homosexuality. They are now obliged to be upfront with their illogical and hysterical condemnations, and are thereby exposed to a harsh reality: our generation is leaving them behind. More and more, we are willing to let them to wither in the tatters of discrimination, bigotry, and ultimately irrelevance.

Motivated apologists have gone to great lengths to couch their vilifications of homosexuality, offering friendly but deceptive qualifications. It is not the homosexual him or herself that deserves condemnation, they sometimes claim, but rather homosexual acts. As such, the sin committed by a homosexual is not so different than a sin committed by a heterosexual out of wedlock. Sin is sin, they say, regardless of sexual orientation.

But according to the Church, heterosexual acts are not inherently sinful. By contrast, as per Catholic doctrine, there are no circumstances under which two homosexuals could consummate their desire for physical intimacy without committing a sin. When a heterosexual commits the sin of lust, he or she does so only insofar as the act of lust is a sin.

But when a homosexual lusts, he or she is sinning both because the act of lust is a sin, and also because the object of his or her desires is a member of the same sex. By calling homosexual acts immoral, the next logical step is unavoidable: homosexuality, one must conclude, is intrinsically sinful. Let us not be fooled. John Paul II, inaccurately considered by some to represent a kinder, gentler pontificate, reaffirmed this principle on multiple occasions, and with considerable vigor. His successor, Benedict XVI, has followed suit.

What these homosexuals need, apologists often say, is compassion, understanding, and ultimately rehabilitation. Their innermost identities need to be changed; it is for their own good. How dreadfully insulting.

Do you, as a Catholic, agree with the pontiffs? And if not, are you aware that by disagreeing you are technically committing an act of heresy? The pope, after all, is supposed to be infallible.

Of course, let us not forget the various other Catholic teachings and practices that could be mildly described as morally repugnant. Charities that bear the Catholic name are forbidden from distributing condoms in AIDS-stricken Africa, because according to official Church policy, the need to prevent the moral scourge of contraception apparently outweighs the need to prevent the suffering of millions. Medical services that are provided typically come with strings attached: recipients must enroll in Bible-study classes and take oaths of abstinence before they are offered relief. The pope, of course, mandates these inane decrees from a lavish, anachronistic relic of a palace that more embodies the dark history of religious warfare in medieval Europe than it does a beacon of hope and compassion to the world.

Let us not forget that the Catholic Church stood by in deafening silence as the Jews were slaughtered, despite their claims of moral clairvoyance and certitude.

Let us not forget the shockingly rampant crimes of pedophilic rape committed by depraved priests who were entrusted with the most intimate of relationships with children. This revolting behavior, as we have learned, was not confined merely to a few ‘bad apples.’ Priests in parishes from Los Angeles to Dublin have been tried and convicted, and those only represent the incidents that have as of yet been reported. Countless more victims undoubtedly remain in the shadows. But perhaps even more grotesque than the crimes themselves was the subsequent systematic cover-up, which was ordered from the highest levels of Church hierarchy. For many, saving face was more important than saving the children.

Let us not forget the daily shame and torment that those who have been molested must endlessly endure. Only recently has Benedict offered even his most modest regrets – but he can just as well retract them. No scant words of conciliation will ever repair the torn psyches of the priests’ innumerable victims. And now, those same Church leaders whose inaction (and, in many cases, complicity) enabled interminable abuse have the audacity to attempt to set state-crafted social policy? This is appalling. This deserves our outrage.

Let us not forget that the Archdiocese of Portland, Maine had the audacity this fall to send around a second collection plate during Sunday mass to collect funds for the anti-same-sex marriage crusade in that state, ultimately pouring $550,000 into a duplicitous smear campaign marked by fear-mongering and bigotry. These tactics also proved tragically effective in New Jersey, where bishops killed marriage equality in Trenton by intimidating legislators and demonizing gays. Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who opposed the same-sex marriage bill, cited his Catholic upbringing in explaining his no vote. This opportunistic scapegoating needs to end.

Let us not forget that the bishops have held hostage the impoverished of Washington, D.C. in still another effort to stymie social progress. Thankfully, there they were unsuccessful, and same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.

Let us not, even if it hurts, shy away from an honest assessment. Are cultural and familial ties worth affiliation with this contemptible institution, especially if such affiliation allows for the legitimization of a loathsome and toxic political agenda? And further, would any non-religious organization with this abhorrent a track record be afforded the same respect and adulation that cultural etiquette supposedly mandates for the Church?

The decision is yours to make. But let us not pretend that intellectual apathy affects only the apathetic.

TALKING RELIGION

talking religion

Maddie Patrick (left) talks with Craig Hargrove.

Here at The Perspective, we strive to facilitate an on-campus dialogue that is more open, more honest, and more substantive than what the status quo currently offers.