Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Iranian Atheists: Waiting to Come Out

01 Iranian family

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Asked about atheism in Iran, a group of women at the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran said that they were unfamiliar with the concept. Eventually, an amiable elderly lady in a black headscarf said in a puzzled tone, “Maybe, there are people like that abroad. We wouldn’t know”. There’s no faulting her, given that atheists and agnostics don’t exist in Iran… officially. A 2011 nationwide census put the share of Muslims in the country at 99.4 percent, with Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians making up another 0.2 percent, and the rest… about 300,000 people… fell under the “other” and “unknown” categories. Yet, there were some doubts about the reliability of these statistics, and, certainly, there appear to be Iranians who question God’s existence… although they don’t speak about it openly, for a public coming-out to embrace Christopher Hitchens and his ilk could land them on death row.

Milad, an Iranian IT professional now living in London, said, “There are quite a lot of [Iranian] atheists, including myself to some extent”. Like all people interviewed for this article who acknowledged the existence of non-believers in Iran, he asked to have his name changed, fearing persecution. Milad is right to be cautious, despite residing abroad, because the government isn’t above cracking down on dissenters’ relatives, said Cyrus, also a native Iranian, who works in the American media. Cyrus said that he knows of at least one case where police arrested the Iran-based father of an émigré who ran a pro-atheism group on Facebook, releasing him only after the group was shut down. He gave no details. Nevertheless, arrest can amount to getting off easy, given that punishment for apostasy under Sharia… the prescribed standard for Iranian judges… is death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females.

One problem is that Iranians must spell out their religious affiliation in numerous official documents, such as college applications, relatively early in life. For the majority, that means formally-identifying themselves as Muslim. Once that’s done, there’s no turning back to embrace any other belief system. There have been no executions of atheists reported from Iran in recent years. However, apostasy is often cited among régime opponents’ crimes, lending extra weight to the accusations against them. In a high-profile case in 2002, a court convicted Professor Hashem Aghajari of apostasy just for criticising Iran’s theocracy and gave him a death sentence, later replaced by three years’ imprisonment.

Tempting Fate on Facebook

The administrator of the Iranian Atheists and Humanists group on Facebook (not the one that was shut down) wrote to RIA-Novosti in response to questions last month, “If you try to lie, or don’t say anything about your beliefs, no one will do anything to you”. None of the self-proclaimed Iranian atheists reached by RIA-Novosti agreed to in-person interviews. One of them quipped, “This would make me a very dead Iranian girl”. The administrator of the Facebook group, who wouldn’t even give his/her gender, added, “[But he] who dares, wins, so we’re acting anonymously”. There are several Iranian pro-atheism communities on Facebook, run in either English or Farsi, mostly focused on aggregating pictures poking fun at religious figures (not limited to Islam… for example, the recently-resigned pope also got skewered). The groups have anywhere between 2,000 and 40,000 likes each, although many supporters seem to be foreigners. This form of protest may seem toothless by Western standards, but it amounts to something more daring in the Iranian context. Whilst the apostasy punishments are by far the scariest stick in the government’s arsenal, there are more-mundane reminders of the risks for Internet activists… Iran blocks Facebook and local authorities don’t take kindly to irony; they’ve even banned toys based on Simpsons characters as “Western propaganda”.

Take Off That Scarf

Online dissent may be just the tip of the iceberg, the nameless Facebook administrator said, noting, “We aren’t alone. The population of people who’re atheist is growing”, adding that there are many atheists and agnostics in Iran among well-educated residents of big cities. These middle-class urbanites were the driving force behind the 2009-10 opposition protests in Tehran that, at their peak, brought three million people to the streets of a city with 12 million residents, according to Time magazine’s estimates. The protests… brutally suppressed by the authorities… were aimed against alleged election fraud believed to have robbed a reformist candidate of victory, and were the biggest civil unrest in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The protests had no outright religious agenda, but they called for more freedom… including personal freedom. In a telling gesture, female protesters removed their headscarves when camping out in Tehran’s city squares… a move that, under normal circumstances, would have likely led to immediate arrest for defying the country’s strict Islamic moral code.

Live and Let Doubt

Although no reliable studies exist, all the Iranians and Iran experts interviewed for this article (those who admitted familiarity with the concept, that is) said that explicit atheism appears to remain a rarity in Iran. Lana Ravandi-Fadai, a researcher in the Iran section of the Moscow-based Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said, “I’ve heard some friends say that they’re atheists or agnostics, but they don’t admit it publicly”. American-based Cyrus shared similar observations, saying that those who admitted atheistic views even in their own social circle could face a judgemental response. Nevertheless, several émigrés and Iran-based atheists said that religious practices have shifted, with more people giving up active worship whilst still embracing Islam as part of their cultural identity. According to London-based Milad, who said that he still keeps in close contact with relatives and friends in Iran, “Many have never even set foot in a mosque despite identifying themselves as Muslims”. Ravandi-Fadai said, “In my personal view, the local mosque often serves social and even psychotherapeutic functions in addition to its spiritual significance. For instance, I know many women who spend their days at the mosque in order to socialise and talk over problems with others”.

Nonetheless, politicians for whom Islam is dogma stir up more public ire than the little-discussed atheists, Cyrus pointed up, and others agreed. Ali, a native Iranian living in Moscow, said, “Some claim there are fewer true believers in Iran now than before the Islamic Revolution. People are put off by being forced to believe”. It seems, judging by a smattering of conversations at least, that ordinary Iranians’ identity-over-ideology approach to Islam leads to a spirit of live-and-let-live when it comes not only to other religions, but also even to the lack of any religion at all. None of the half-dozen religious Iranians interviewed by RIA-Novosti, including two Tehran clerics (they said they were unfamiliar with the concept of atheism), expressed any hostility toward non-believers. Reza, a 30-year-old taxi-driver from the southern city of Bushehr, said, “I’ve never met such people, but I’d just want to speak with them and understand them. I’m really interested in them. I’m not thinking I’m better than them just because of my religion”. He was visiting the Khomeini mausoleum with his wife and toddler son. Reza came to the shrine to “enjoy the calm and peace” (an effect to which his child seemed immune). Later, the family strolled along the enfilade of stores that ring the tomb of Iran’s great religious leader offering snacks, carpets, Parker pens, and other items as appealing to the religious as to atheists, if any happened to pass by.

19 March 2013

Aleksei Yeremenko

Mikhail Gusev

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20130319/180108603/Iranian-Atheists-Waiting-to-Come-Out.html

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

6 March 2013. What the ROCOR Bishop of Caracas Really Thought about Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías… Aren’t You Ashamed to Have Listened to Rightwing Blowhards Such as Potapov, Paffhausen, or Whiteford?

00 Chavez and Kirill. Blessing. 08.10.12

THIS is what the REAL Church did… any questions?

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The Russian émigrés who established our Church fled not socialism but godlessness, militant atheism, and persecution. The people who run Venezuela today aren’t the Soviet state. President Chávez may be a socialist, yes, but he isn’t an atheist. Moreover, he openly calls himself a believer, he doesn’t persecute the Church, and he doesn’t propagandise atheism. Today, Venezuela finds itself in a profound social crisis, so, something must be done, so I lean towards sympathising with him. It isn’t the Church’s lot to involve itself in politics or to decide which is better, socialism or capitalism. The Saviour commanded us to tend to our neighbour, to help the poor and orphaned. Christianity isn’t alien to the concept of social justice… unless it’s harnessed to godlessness. At the same time, many of our parishioners have a justifiable mistrust of socialists, which is characteristic for the ROCOR. Orthodox Christians in Latin America are very politicised, and that’s the way it always was. For instance, during Allende’s time, they fled Chile en masse.

Bishop John Berzins of Caracas and all South America (ROCOR)

http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/47525.htm

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The REAL Church doesn’t condemn socialism… only American phonies teach such. HH thinks, “Socialism is Good” (as the old Chinese song put it). He SUPPORTS state-provided single-payer universal healthcare (and a complete palette of state-provided social services)… and Potapov, Paffhausen, and Whiteford are against it (they support the wicked and grasping Anti-Life greedster agenda of the Republican Party). Oh, yes, HH BLESSED Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías and his Bolivarian Revolution (and he hasn’t changed his mind). You can support HH and the REAL Church… or you can support the Unholy Drooling Republican Trinity with their bootless “marches”, alliances with the heterodox rightwing, and witch-hunts of the “unclean”… that’s the only choice on offer in the real world. I support HH and Christ’s REAL Church… what about you?

BMD

 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Life Without God: Non-Believers in Post-Soviet Russia

Christ is Risen!

Dmitri Moor (Dmiri Orlov)

1922-30

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A bus full of people, covered in inscriptions in Russian such as, “You don’t believe in God? You’re not alone!” romps across Moscow streets. The bus is a shabby flash animation on the website Atheists.org.ru. It’s the only Russian incarnation of the international Atheist Bus Campaign, launched in Britain in 2009 in response to a similar campaign promoting faith.

Though They Make Up a Significant Part of the Population, Atheists Are Almost Invisible in Present-Day Russia

Artyom Jouravsky, the head of the atheist/secularist Good Sense Foundation lobby group said that all attempts to stage a similar real-world drive in Russia have fallen through, saying, “We wanted to do our street billboards saying, ‘There is no God,’ in response to billboards with religious propaganda in Russia in 2009, but it turned out to be impossible. This prompted us to create our foundation”. Atheists are sorely underrepresented in Russian public space, despite the latest polls showing that they comprise about 13 percent of the population, or a solid 18 million people. Atheist spokesmen blame their lack of media exposure on the dominance of the Orthodox Church, one of the biggest national institutions, whose many hierarchs are putting every effort into turning its teachings into the country’s dominant ideology, a role fulfilled by atheism in the Soviet times. Atheist champion Aleksandr Nevzorov said, “It’s plain scary to be an atheist now. I know cases where people were sacked for this from police and the army by former Communist Party bosses, no less”.

However, analysts say the situation is rather due to Orthodox Christianity becoming a staple of the post-Soviet Russian national identity, if only for a lack of alternatives. Sergei Filatov, an expert on religion with the RAN Institute of Oriental Studies, said, “Something needs to unite the people and society into a nation. For us, currently, it’s World War II and Orthodox Christianity. We have no other big ideas supported by the populace at large”. However, atheists comprise a significant part of the Russian society, and the church’s increasing involvement in political and societal affairs is creating a backlash that will only give them more adherents and public representation, both experts and non-believers say. Jouravsky said, “We’re just late in deploying our forces for the battle, like the Soviet Union in 1941. Give us another year or two”.

The Invisible People

Jouravsky said that there are at least a dozen atheist rights groups in Russia such as the Good Sense Foundation, which is a member of the Atheist Alliance International. He avoided saying how many members his own group has, noting only that it limits its activity to Moscow and the surrounding region. The foundation’s Facebook page has earned a modest 800 “likes”. Most atheist groups are unknown to the public, while their most renowned spokesman, Aleksandr Nevzorov, is a controversial star of perestroika-era shock journalism that hasn’t had his own TV show since 1999. Church spokesmen, such as Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin and Vladimir Legoida, make headlines on a weekly basis.

This is a distinct imbalance between population and representation, given that the most recent survey of Russians’ relations with the divine, by pollster Sreda in the spring of 2011, showed that 13 percent of the populace didn’t believe in God. Another five percent were undecided, possibly, but not necessarily, marking them as agnostics, according to the poll, which covered 1,500 respondents and had a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points. The poll showed that Orthodox Christians were 42 percent, with the rest divided between various other traditional religions and a belief in some divine being without following a particular faith. Religion expert Filatov said, “Atheism is now invisible, like Christianity used to be in Soviet times”.

Swinging Back and Forth

When Russian Navy officer Alexander Voznitsyn abandoned Orthodox Christianity for Judaism in 1738, the Senate ordered him burned at the stake along with the Jew who converted him. Christianity was the dominant religion in Russia for almost a millennium, with its status protected by criminal legislation in tsarist times, when apostasy was a felony and being irreligious was forbidden. However, when the Bolsheviks brought down the old order in 1917, the church went down with it. Sergei Solovyov, editor in chief of Scepsis, a self-described online “magazine of science and social criticism” that promotes anti-clericalism said, “The poor peasants and the working class brought down the crosses in the 1920s”. The church was too firmly associated with the tsarist state, which was too obsolete and retrograde, hampering social progress with its old ways inherited from feudal times, some historians say. The Bolsheviks, for whom religion was an ideological enemy, did their best to foment widespread negative sentiment toward the church, both through promises of a new, better, godless society and relentless repressions of the clergy.

Next, came the time of militant atheism. Though the communists didn’t ban religious worship outright in Soviet Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, believers became pariahs in the eyes of both society and the state, which had arguably the world’s fiercest repression machine at its disposal and wasn’t afraid to use it against priests and their flock, thousands of whom were jailed or executed. It took the greatest war in history to turn things around. In 1943, with the Nazi Wehrmacht and the Red Army still locked in a deadly fight, and the Germans had opened thousands of churches in occupied territories to the population’s liking, Iosif Stalin allowed reopening churches for services, spelling the end of active anti-church repression.

After another crackdown under Nikita Khrushchev in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the surviving churches were allowed to operate under strict government control, but being an open believer would ruin one’s career as surely as dissident thinking would. The unexpected consequence was that religion itself became associated with protesting against the oppressive and increasingly-rotten Soviet bureaucratic machine. It came into vogue for the intelligentsia to keep Orthodox icons at home, and some of the dissidents, such as Gleb Yakunin, were priests.

The next turning point came during perestroika. When the Soviet state actively promoted the celebration of the millennium anniversary of the baptism of Russia in 1988, it was a clear sign that things had changed again, and the pendulum was swinging back toward the religious quarters. In 1991, 24 percent of Russians identified themselves as believers; in 2005, according to in-depth research into new Russian religiosity by Kimmo Kaariainen of the University of Helsinki and Dmitry Furman of the RAN Institute of Europe, published in 2007, the figure stood at 53 percent, with a further 24 percent registering as “not sure”.

Corporation Church

Solovyov of Scepsis magazine said that there’s an old building on Leningradsky Prospekt in northern Moscow, an almshouse in Tsarist times and part of a state hospital under the Bolsheviks, which is now leased to various commercial establishments, including a plastic surgery clinic. The building belongs to the church, which won it back in 2002 as property unlawfully confiscated after the Revolution. Creeping clericalism is the main complaint of the Russian atheists, who say the state relies on the church for ideological support and lavishly rewards it with money and assets to the delight of many priests, who are more concerned with earthly riches than with heavenly salvation. Solovyov said, “The Russian Orthodox Church is part of the state’s ideological apparatus. No wonder the authorities dislike criticism of the church”.

The alliance of the church and the state has indeed been a hot topic in recent years. Both President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev stress their religiousness, attending important church services in front of the cameras. There’s hardly a single atheist politician on the political scene, including Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. The list of atheists’ grievances includes the introduction of taxpayer-funded chaplains in the army, the city-backed program to build 200 (previously 600) churches in Moscow’s suburban districts, and a new subject that would allow teaching religion basics in schools, although only at the student’s discretion. In 2010, the Kremlin authorised a sweeping restitution program that has seen the government return real estate confiscated by the Bolsheviks to various confessions, even though the buildings now often house secular establishments, including hospitals and museums, such as the one on Leningradsky Prospekt. Commercial real estate once owned by the church isn’t part of the programme.

According to research by the Openspace.ru online magazine, the current church is among the country’s richest non-governmental organisations, with assets in real estate, banks, factories, publishing companies, and funeral services firms, with estimated total church assets at above 1 billion USD in 2011. The church itself is notoriously opaque about its business activities, and whilst it often denies allegations of financial misconduct, it rarely provides credible information on its economic record. The Kremlin’s benevolence wasn’t for nothing. During the presidential election this year, the church leader, Patriarch Kirill, endorsed Vladimir Putin’s candidacy while urging the flock against attending the anti-Putin rallies that swept across Moscow.

Atheists also complain of a media ban. Solovyov said, “In federal media, criticising the church was taboo until recently. They were either not interested or afraid of being accused of insulting believers’ feelings”. Nevzorov said some atheists have lost their jobs over their convictions, but refused to name anyone, saying this could land the allegedly aggrieved in more trouble. However, the situation may not be as straightforward as church critics describe it. Nevzorov himself admitted in a recent interview to the Russian edition of Rolling Stone magazine that a lobby group in the Kremlin asked him to spearhead an atheist effort, campaigning for secularism on ideological grounds. He revealed no names and said that the group is overpowered for the time being by its opponents, who see religion as a useful tool for population control, but that the balance of power could shift in the unspecified but near future. Nevzorov said about his championing of atheism in a separate interview in March, “I was asked to spend some time in this foxhole with the promise that the Red Army is on the way”. However, as he told Rolling Stone in June, “[the Red Army] will probably not come”.

In Soviet Russia, God Doesn’t Believe in You

Archdeacon Andrei Kurayev, a popular Orthodox Christian media figure, said, “Real atheists are so rare, I’ve been saying for a long time that they should be put on the list of endangered species. At the same time, atheism does not necessarily imply fighting God. I have deep respect for some forms of atheism, such as Sartre’s or Camus’s. Kurayev, although he’s a prominent Christian missionary, earned his first academic degree in “scientific atheism”. He dismissed atheists’ claims of persecution, saying they were just a means of attracting slipping public attention, saying, “Atheism has no state or media backing… and neither does the church”.

Religion expert Roman Lunkin, from the RAN Institute of Europe, echoed this position; however, he conceded that some problems do exist, saying, “There’s no direct censorship of atheists, but we can speak of certain ideological pressure, especially on state-owned television channels. Federal television is turning Orthodox Christianity into some sort of a sacral symbol”. Nevertheless, Kurayev said this isn’t the reason for the lack of atheist presence in media, noting, “Some topics just lose immediacy and go away. Arguing with atheism is not relevant anymore. Such people have nothing to say beside criticism”. He admitted that the modern church is riddled with problems, but said believers are better equipped to expose them and actively fight them. Without elaborating, he said, “I can criticise church life too. I’m inside it, and I see more shit than anyone on the outside looking in”.

Expecting a Backlash

On 21 February 2012, churchgoers and tourists at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour were treated to a sight they hardly expected in one of the country’s prime Christian churches… five apparent females in tacky dresses, leggings, and balaclavas shouted a song on the bema, asking the Mother of God to banish Putin.

Dumbfounded guards were too shocked to detain any of the young women, who scattered after 41 seconds by the altar, police established later. However, three of the performers are now in jail, awaiting a trial that threatens to land them behind bars for up to seven years. This was the first in a series of scandals that rocked the church this year and damaged its reputation, especially among the educated urban population. In the case of Pussy Riot, the name of the female group, it wasn’t the event itself… but rather the church’s endorsement of the jail term for the performers… that many critics deem harsh to the point of being repressive.

In March, the media reported about a relative of Patriarch Kirill living in his posh penthouse outside the Kremlin, trying to take over the neighbouring apartment of a former federal minister-turned-priest in a lawsuit. The story of a church hierarch owning a downtown penthouse generated a storm in the blogosphere, as did the lawsuit’s questioned pretexts. Kirill was also spotted wearing an expensive wristwatch, which was clumsily edited out of a photograph of him on the MP official website. Most analysts saw the string of scandals as the reaction of well-off liberal-minded urbanites’ reaction to the church’s increased presence in social life and support for the government.

Lunkin said that before the elections, even non-believers saw the church as a moral authority standing above everyday political squabbles, but throwing its weight behind Putin robbed it of its image of infallibility in the eyes of the opposition-minded public. The church was the most trusted institution in the country in 2011, with a support rating of 60 percent, beating the army with 58 percent and the government with 46 percent, according to a study by GfK Verein. However, between 30 and 38 percent of people who attended mass anti-Putin rallies in Moscow in February and March were non-believers, according to a Sreda poll. The Sreda poll said that the number of protesters associating themselves with the Orthodox Church fell from 28 to 19 percent over the same period, after Patriarch Kirill said that believers should not go to political rallies. Lunkin said that the negative feelings in some segments of the populace toward the church over its marred image and loyalty to the Kremlin have yet to be reflected in future polls.

They Will Return

Religion expert Filatov said that atheism never was a free choice for the Russian populace, as it was imposed as part of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Nevertheless, atheist champion Nevzorov said neither was Christianity, which was also imposed by the country’s rulers and upheld by draconian laws, saying, “This is Russia’s tragedy; for a thousand years, the people never had freedom of conscience”. Lunkin, who also works for the Sreda, said that as the church mounts its ideological pressure on society, criticism will mount and more people will embrace atheism as the main available alternative to religion.

Solovyov of Scepsis magazine said, “They think they came to stay. They’re repeating all of their mistakes, imposing their ideology. People will grow disgusted of it, and it’ll be another cycle [of destruction], same as during the revolution”. Yet, some predict a milder outcome. Filatov pointed up, “In modern Italy, the two main ideologies are Catholicism and atheism, and they coexist peacefully”. Filatov thinks that for this to happen, however, Russia needs to drift closer to Europe, embracing secularity voluntarily and without being coerced into it by the government, like in the Soviet times, saying, “When our recent past… say, 20 years or so… will look like Europe’s, we’ll have a secular conscience coexisting with a religious one”.

26 June 2012

Aleksei Yeremenko

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20120626/174256633.html

Thursday, 19 April 2012

19 April 2012. Atheism is On the Rise… and We’re the Main Culprits…

In God’s Country, That Is, The USA

N Kogout

1930

Bezbozhnik

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Things haven’t changed much in some ways… we should turn our gaze not to notional “sinners” outside us, but rather to our own very real shortcomings and failings, and try to remedy THEM…

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Atheism is on the march, and I believe that so-called “Christians” are the main cause of it all. Firstly, read this. Note the following from it:

Only between 1.5 and 4 percent of Americans admit to so-called “hard atheism”, the conviction that no higher power exists. However, a much larger share of the American public (19 percent) spurns organised religion in favour of a non-defined scepticism about faith. This group, sometimes collectively labelled the “Nones”, is growing faster than any religious faith in the USA. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers; 24 percent are lapsed Catholics and 29 percent once identified with other Christian denominations. …

It’s primarily a backlash against the religious Right, say political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell. In their book, American Grace, they argue that the religious Right’s politicisation of faith in the 1990s turned younger socially-liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. The churches’ Old Testament condemnation of homosexuals, premarital sex, contraception, and abortion turned off the dropouts. The Catholic Church‘s sex scandals also prompted millions to equate religion with moralistic hypocrisy. Putnam and Campbell wrote, “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction”. As society becomes more secular, researchers say, doubters are more confident about identifying themselves as non-believers. Author Diana Butler Bass said, “The collapse of institutional religion in the first 10 years of this century [has] freed so many people to say they don’t really care”.

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Now, let’s look at a possible reason. Read this. Here’s some of the guts of that:

The Catholic Church is up in arms over President Obama’s upcoming rule requiring “Catholic institutions” to provide free contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans. That’s hogwash because the institutions themselves aren’t Catholic. They’re business entities, not living humans with brains, and, as such, can hold no religious belief. They aren’t Catholic institutions. They’re institutions run by Catholic people.

The Catholic Church is really objecting to Catholic executives being unable to impose their dogma on others. Question: Whose religion prevails if the employee’s religion requires sexual acts? The CNN report also mentions the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) releasing a document called Our First, Most Cherished Freedom that repeats the claim that religious liberty is under attack. Unless “freedom to impose your religious will on others who do not want it” is the definition of religious liberty, it isn’t under attack at all.

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Let’s not put too fine a face upon this. The Catholic Church is upset that it can’t ram its beliefs down the throats of employees of Catholic institutions, people who may NOT be Catholics. This isn’t about religious freedom at all… it’s about the Catholic Church being above the law. Look at how they dealt with their paedophilia scandals. That certainly doesn’t raise one’s confidence in their credibility, does it? The Catholic hierarchy REFUSED to deal with the scandal until they were dragged kicking and screaming into court. Indeed, the current ranting about “religious freedom” is an attempt to divert people’s attention from the rather sorry state of the Catholic Church in the USA. The only thing that saved their gnarly arse from penury is that there’s no “Catholic Church in the USA, Incorporated” registered as a legal entity in any US state. Legally, nothing exists above the individual diocese in the Catholic Church. Therefore, no court can recover damages from any body higher than that.

Here’s something for Orthodox to think about. Legally, “umbrella” corporations DO exist, such as the “Orthodox Church in America” and the “Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’ (to name two). This means that a court CAN assess recovery for damages against a national body, as it’s a “legal person” with “legal existence”. The “Catholic Church in the USA” certainly has an existence in actual, objective, and existential terms, but it has no legal embodiment, ergo, no one can make claims against it. So far, we’ve “dodged the bullet”… I think that’s ending. I’d watch the Storheim case in Canada carefully.

Why is atheism rising? One reason is that we’ve failed the test, as far as character, honesty, and honour goes. Another is that we’ve allowed the “loudest” faction to grab the wheel, making it appear as though the Church is more in favour of the Radical Right agenda than it actually is. Lastly, we’re allowing mewling infants to speak for us; putting us in the same boat as such Sects as White Evangelicals, Mormons, Moonies, and Pentecostalists, just because they’re part of the American Right.

The Church is the Big Tent… it isn’t Gideon’s Band… it isn’t the Little Flock. Christ came for all us sinful-ginfuls, and the conventional goodthinkers of his time saw to it that He was tacked to a cross to die slowly, painfully, and horribly. Today’s “Christians” would do likewise, to speak bluntly. That’s why atheism’s on the march. We’ve not lived up to our profession of faith. Why should anyone put credence in those who demand freedom for themselves, but deny it to others? I’m not alone in wondering that…

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Thursday 19 April 2012

Albany NY

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