My Business Card Purity Pledge

Since coming home I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning my bedroom and getting rid of old items I don’t use or need. Some of the many things I’m having trouble getting rid of (even though they’re thoroughly embarrassing) are my diaries from when I was in middle and high school. I wrote in them sporadically, usually about boys, and I’m not entirely sure how my fiancé would feel picking up and reading the diary I filled with entries about my high school crush who never liked me back. As cliché and whiny as these diaries are, I did find one hidden gem:  a purity pledge I made between my junior and senior years of high school. I had tucked it between random pages of the diary, probably because I had no idea where to store it. Here it is:

Front

Front

Back

Back

I’m not 100% positive, but I believe I got this card at the Steubenville conference I attended that summer. The date that I signed is right around when I went, either during or right after the event. The best part? This supposedly binding promise to myself is on a business card. Someone went through the trouble of designing business-card-sized purity pledges that could be passed out like the much more-effective condoms of actual sex educators.

Despite the brevity of this particular purity pledge, I do have something to complain about when it comes to its contents. Ignoring the fact that it’s clearly meant to be a promise to myself AND God, whom I no longer believe in, there’s one particular sentence that doesn’t sit well with me:

“As a daughter of the King, I pledge now to live my life in a way that will guard my dignity, my purity, and my beauty…”

In a promise that’s generally understood to mean “I’m not going to have sex until I get married,” what are “beauty” and “dignity” doing in there? How does having premarital sex compromise a person’s beauty or dignity? Have I gotten uglier as a result of having sex? Do I no longer have dignity? This is especially disconcerting when one considers the definition of dignity:

“The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.”

Does a woman surrender her dignity when she has sex? Is she no longer worthy of esteem or respect? Do people who have premarital sex not deserve respect?

With just a few words, this pledge becomes disturbingly dehumanizing. It ties a woman’s worth to the state of her genitals rather than to the fact that she is a human being with a brain, and feelings, and all the things that go into a person. Furthermore, in the process of trying to get young women to choose abstinence, it puts down the people who don’t.

Regardless of whether or not you think purity pledges are a good idea, this kind of language shouldn’t be included in them. It’s degrading, it’s sexist, and it’s wrong.

Have any of you made purity pledges? What do you think about them? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

ABC’s What Would You Do Portrays Christians as Persecuted by Atheists

If you’re a big fan of ABC’s What Would You Do or are subscribed to Jaclyn Glenn’s YouTube channel, you may already know about this. Jaclyn explains it perfectly. I like this show, so I’m saddened to see it portray something so ridiculous that fits into the Christian right’s propaganda machine, and especially its persecution complex. Check out Jaclyn’s video.

I’ve just sent a complaint to ABC, and the video includes a link showing where to do that if you feel so inclined.

Thoughts on this episode, or the show What Would You Do in general? Feel free to leave a comment.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

An Atheist Explains why Catholics are Christians

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are a number of Christian groups that claim Catholics are not Christians, and the more I encounter this nonsensical idea, the more I bang my head against the wall.

Disclaimer:  I was raised Catholic and am now atheist, so that’s the experience I’m coming from with this. The arguments I’m using do come from Catholic apologetics, but in this particular instance, I think they actually hold some water.

Here’s the definition of “Christian” I was taught:  a Christian is someone who is a Christ-follower.

Simple. Basic. To-the-point. I think this is an extremely inclusive definition, to the point where fringe groups that Catholicism doesn’t recognize as Christian, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, still fall under the category of “Christian.” I think there can be some argument made for both sides when it comes to those groups,  but when it comes to Catholicism, there’s really no question about it.

To get into more specific details in order to narrow down a definition of Christianity, Christians worship the Abrahamic God, and use the Bible, both the New and Old Testaments, as their holy book. While not all take the entire Bible literally, especially certain parts of the Old Testament, Christians generally take the Gospel literally–it’s the story of Christ, after all. Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, and they believe he was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and will come again someday when it’s time for the world to end.

You will get some variation on things like the Eucharist (literal flesh and blood or a sign?), Mary’s virginity, creationism vs. actual science, religious icons, age of Baptism (adults or babies?), the garden of Eden (was it literal or figurative?), is there such a thing as Purgatory, and position on social issues like abortion, access to contraception, marriage equality, etc. There’s a pretty long list of differences. But if there’s one thing all Christians agree on, it’s Jesus. Jesus is the savior. Jesus is the reason for the season, and all that hooey.

Catholics believe in all those things. Catholicism is the trunk from which Protestantism branched out. To call Catholicism “not Christianity” is like calling a root “not part of the tree.” That’s such a Catholic thing to say that I’m a little embarrassed to write it, but I think in this case the analogy stands. You can read about Martin Luther and Henry VIII. The Protestant Reformation brought about the many branches of Christianity we see today. The Anglicans, (also known as the Church of England) hold a worship service that’s nearly identical to the Catholic mass. The Lutheran services are pretty darn close too (I’ve been to one). This is because their faiths branched directly off of Catholicism, and they retained a lot of the same practices and rituals. Then other churches branched off from them, and with each new branch that got further and further from the earliest one, new traditions were added and old ones were rejected. That’s why you can go to a megachurch and watch the preacher on a big screen between Christian Rock songs, you can go to a Pentecostal church and watch people “speak in tongues,” and you can visit the Amish and leave the 21st century behind. Christianity is practiced in vastly different ways from church to church, but they all believe they’re following Christ, so they’re all Christian.

This is the point where Catholics generally state that Catholicism is the form Christianity founded by Jesus, and its traditions have been carried on by the apostles through the priests and the hierarchy. I am among those who wonder whether or not Jesus even existed, but regardless of whether it was founded by Jesus or just a group of human beings, everyone generally agrees that Christianity had a beginning. It had early adherents. It had to start somewhere. Before the reformation, there was just “Christianity.” There was no need to have a separate name like “Catholicism.” There were no “Catholics” in 300 AD, or 500 AD, or even 1000 AD because it had always been one group (I’m oversimplifying a bit to skip the orthodox churches, but you get the idea.) Once the split happened, there needed to be a unique name for the religion that stayed as it had always been.

While I’ve made plenty of posts bemoaning the Catholic Church’s refusal to keep up with the times, their rigidity really helps this particular argument. If you’ve ever sat in a western civilizations history class, you’ve probably learned about the church hierarchy as part of your study of medieval times. And you know what? The church has the same hierarchy today, the same structures, and the same basic rituals with only minor changes (like saying mass in the vernacular instead of Latin). All in all, Catholicism is as Christian as the Anglican church, and its people are as Christian as the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherens, the Evangelicals, the Amish, the Mennonites, and the whole kit and kaboodle.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise the Catholic church, and wish they would get with the times and stop raping children and covering it up, but if there’s one thing I’d like to impart to its critics, humanists included, it’s that they are definitely, without a doubt, Christian.

Have any of you encountered this “Catholics aren’t Christians” idea in person? I seem to only encounter it online, at least where I live. Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

When Christians Aren’t Biblical Literalists: a Video Recommendation

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Blimey Cow. Yes, they’re Christian. They’re also former homeschoolers, so they get me. They’re pretty down to earth, and they seem to genuinely use their brains. Their content walks a fine line, avoiding topics that would offend most liberals and conservatives alike, and I generally get the sense that regardless of what their religious beliefs are, they like to observe the way things genuinely are, things everybody knows are there, and talk about them. I get the impression that they aren’t literalists when it comes to the Bible. Sometimes their own religion isn’t off limits, and I appreciate their openness to talking about that. Their latest video is a great example. It’s called “Five Awkward Things in the Bible,” and I think the points they make are spot on.

If you’re a homeschooler or know any homeschoolers, they’re known for their “You Might be a Homeschooler If” videos. Here’s the first one:

What Republicans Don’t Get about the US Supreme Court

Picture from Wikipedia’s page on the Supreme Court building: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Supreme_Court_Building

Growing up, I was taught that, and I quote my mother on this:  “Abortion is an unjust law.” She would elaborate, “It [Roe v. Wade] was made in a way that breaks the law. The Supreme Court can’t make laws, but they made one anyway, and now abortion is legal.”

If you know anything about the US Supreme Court and how it works, this makes absolutely no sense. Worse, Republican presidential candidates are beginning to make the same claims about Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court case that just legalized same-sex marriage throughout the US.

Mike Huckabee, for instance, recently said:

“The Supreme Court can’t make a law; the legislature has to make it, the executive has to sign it and enforce it. The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with a ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is to equal branches of government.”

The best thing about that statement is that it’s a fairly accurate description of the United States’ branches of government and the system of checks and balances that are in place so that laws can’t just be made willy-nilly. Huckabee seems to think those checks and balances were ignored in Obergefell v. Hodges. But that’s not what the Supreme Court did in this case, nor is it what the Supreme Court ever does.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, like in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court did exactly what it’s supposed to do:  it interpreted the constitution. The case wasn’t a question of whether or not there should be a law saying yes to gay marriage. I’m not even sure how that would work. There is still no law saying “gay people must get married.” I’m sure that, as is the case with straight cisgender people, not everybody in the LGBT+ community wants to get married. (Additionally, I’d question the constitutionality of any law requiring any demographic to get married. But I digress.) The case was nothing of the sort. It was about whether or not the constitution allows the country to maintain laws that were already in place:  laws which BANNED same-sex marriage.

It wasn’t a question about a law being made, but rather about whether currently standing laws, which had already been made, were constitutional. The Court convened, they argued, and they concluded that no, those laws were not constitutional. The constitution grants equal protection under the law, and gay marriage bans defied that equal protection. So now those gay marriage bans have been lifted, and the US has achieved legal marriage equality, minus a few rude county clerks in the Bible Belt.

Republicans have been quick to argue that the judges broke the law by making that ruling–but the fact is, they didn’t. If Republicans want to continue to fight against marriage equality, they should be arguing that gay marriage bans are, in fact, constitutional. OR, they should look for secular reasons to ban gay marriage and use those to build an argument toward a constitutional amendment. They’re unlikely to win either way, so they’ve created this ridiculous straw man. My favorite part of this situation is that they clearly understand what the Supreme Court’s job is, yet they simultaneously haven’t been paying attention enough to the details of the actual case to realize that the judges did in fact do their jobs.

I’ve heard some people argue that a state-by-state legalization would have been better for the country. I see what they’re saying, but I don’t think it was necessary. Maybe doing it that way would have avoided this whole ridiculous “They broke the law!” claim by Republicans. However, waiting for the states to decide would have slowed down progress on what is without a doubt a civil rights issue. When there’s injustice going on, it doesn’t make sense to wait for each state to meander towards the right conclusion. At least, that’s how I see it.

I’m not an expert on constitutional law, so if I’m mistaken about anything please do not hesitate to inform me.

Have you encountered this crazy “They broke the law!” argument? What do you think? And would a state-by-state approach have been better, or just slower? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

The Exclusivity of the Catholic Pro-Life Movement

Found this photo on an old phone of mine. I believe this is from the 2008 March for Life, which was extremely well attended because Obama had just been elected for his first term.

Found this photo on an old phone of mine. I believe this is from the 2008 March for Life, which was extremely well attended because Obama had just been elected for his first term.

I used to make it no secret that I was, as I used to say, “vehemently pro-life.” In the past year, since my deconversion, my opinion on abortion has evolved significantly. I’m definitely in the pro-choice camp now.  With that being said, I used to be a proud member of the Catholic pro-life movement. I’ve attended the Washington D.C. March for Life twice (I took the above picture at one of them several years ago), and prior to my deconversion I had every intention of going again. In high school, I was president of a teen pro-life club in my area, and sometimes joined prayer groups outside of abortion clinics. There’s something about the pro-life movement today that I discovered during my time as president of that pro-life club in high school, and it’s something that still bothers me about the movement, at least in the areas of the east coast where I participated in protests:  it’s predominantly Catholic, to the point of near-exclusivity.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of non-Catholic pro-life organizations. But in my experience, the Catholic ones seem to have the loudest voice, the most prominent posters and protests, and the biggest groups.

Some of that may be thanks to the fact that being pro-life is part of Catholicism. It has literally been written into the religion at this point, so much so that throughout my Catholic upbringing, I often heard my parents and their church friends declare that they vote primarily based on whether or not a candidate is pro-life. “That’s the biggest issue,” they would say. “Everything else comes second to that.”

Naturally, a religion like that would easily band together to protest what they believe is a terrible injustice. But they aren’t the only ones who think abortion is wrong, and sometimes pro-life organizations run by Catholics, even ones that aren’t affiliated with a particular church and exclusively seeking out Catholic members, can end up being fairly exclusive. Take the club I ran, for example.

It was fairly small. About 10-20 members. Because of this, we were always looking for ways to get new members. Some advertised to their parishes (we came from several different ones). Others proposed inviting Catholic homeschoolers they knew. I, however, suggested something that shouldn’t have been terribly radical:  why not just invite pro-life friends, regardless of whether they’re Catholic or not?

I was met with blank stares, and some mumbling about how we weren’t a secular organization.

“I don’t know if non-Catholics would fully agree with our message,” one person said.

“We pray at the beginning and end of meetings. How would we do that with non-Catholics?”

“We could branch out to just Christians at least,” I suggested. “Come on, we could read Bible verses and say the Lord’s prayer. Most Christians wouldn’t object to that.”

“We pray the rosary in front of abortion clinics. We’d have to change that too.”

“So? We could still pray, and we’d have more people doing it. They worship the same God we do.”

“I don’t even think I know anyone who isn’t Catholic who’s pro-life,” one member said.

“I do,” I offered. “She’s a really  nice person, and I’m going to invite her.”

But I never did. I was too stunned by the negative response I’d received. Too surprised that a club I had thought was focused on a political, not a religious agenda, would rather be exclusive than increase its membership.

A popular pro-life poster from studentsforlife.org

The club didn’t last long after that. Dwindling membership as some went off to college, and dwindling interest wore us out. But I did talk to my pro-life protestant friend a bit once, just to see what she thought about protesting with Catholics. Her response shocked me. I had been taught that I was part of a pro-life generation, and that most young people were pro-life. It wasn’t mainly Catholics, I was sure of it. She said,

“I’ve been to the March for Life before. It was mostly Catholic people. I felt really out of place.”

“Would you consider going again?” I asked.

“Not really. There are other ways to protest. I agree with the people protesting there but it felt so weird that everyone was Catholic. They were all praying the rosary and stuff.”

And suddenly I understood. At the time, I didn’t realize that not as many people in my generation are pro-life as I had been taught to think. But I did realize what was happening. My movement, my glorious movement to save the babies, was being run by too many people who couldn’t let go of their religious superiority complex long enough to partner with people who agreed with them, but didn’t necessarily share the exact same faith. I’m not saying this validates the pro-choice argument, or invalidates the pro-life one, but this is not the way to run a movement. Seriously people, if you want something to happen, you need to partner with all kinds of people. You need to secularize your argument so you can appeal to non-religious people, but more importantly so that your argument doesn’t involve anything that conflicts with the first amendment.

The word “secular” was thrown around my club like a negative thing, but it’s the type of government we have for a reason.

Have any of you been involved in the pro-life movement, or another political movement that gets bogged down by faith?

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy