Saturday, October 04, 2008

When religion takes over.

I sometimes get chastised, actually bitched at, because I’m openly non-religious. I don’t believe in supernatural anythings. I’m not in gods, demons, angels, spirits, etc. And I’m rather open about finding religion to be a predominantly negative force in the world.

Too often I’ve seen religion turn sane people into lunatics. Nice people can find their religion and suddenly become either nasty or persistent pests constantly harping at you to “find Jesus” or whatever deity they imagine they have stumbled upon.

I’ve fought with myself over whether to mention a specific case or not. There is a woman who once was a relatively sane libertarian, at least by libertarian standards, which I suspect are a bit looser when it comes to the sanity standard. Admitted I did find some of her actions rather bizarre. When she and her boyfriend, who were shacking up, decided to make it official they held a private ceremony denouncing any state or church to declare themselves married. I heard her speak to a student meeting at the University of Chicago on her take on libertarianism and it seemed a bit odd to me, not quite right, but close enough not to bother.

I suspected that much of her actions were purely reactionary, that she was reacting to the Catholicism of her youth. A lot of people do that, of course. I always find that sort of anti-religious viewpoint rather dangerous. It is dangerous because it is not genuine. These people are not, in my opinion, genuinely non-believers. Quite the contrary, they can’t escape the religious indoctrination of their youth. They can react against it but they are reacting the way a child might to a parent who has hurt them. Nothing can stop them from being their parent’s child. They can hate it, they can rage at it, they can surrender to it, but they can’t escape it.

Such non-believers are then ripe for some sort of “conversion” later on where they return to the indoctrination of their youth, often to become even more fanatical than anything they were taught as children. And that is what I believe has happened to the woman in question.

Back at the University of Chicago Jenny Roback was trying to lead some sort of libertarian student group. She seemed to have a desire to be in the front of some sort of movement and her recent choices indicate to me she doesn't care what kind. She was living in sin with her boyfriend, Rob Morse and presented herself as something of a feminist and social liberal. She was the antithesis of the working-class Catholic family into which she was born.

Some years later I heard that she had been becoming something of a rabid Catholic. She was reverting to her upbringing with a zeal that was disturbing. And all her political viewpoints were now changing to match her rabid Catholicism. Soon she was rewriting economics to match her faith. She wrote a silly book on the “laissez-faire family” filled with what I thought were poor arguments. When I read that I figured she had just gone off the deep end mentally and was now letting her faith turn her into the worst kind of Catholic.

I thought it sad. She was never what I considered a particularly brilliant economist. I could read her few articles or listen to her and learn absolutely nothing new, something I saw about few economists. I just got nothing out of her ideas. A few times she said things that were more “original” than typical of her but those were precisely the things where I thought she was most off track. I wondered how far she would go with her fanatical Catholicism.

Now I see she is marketing herself as “Dr. J” -- no doubt a direct attempt to market herself like “Dr. Laura”. Jenny, however, has become one of these hard core Catholic “pro-family” lunatics that want to use the state to impose their religions values on everyone. She goes around speaking on why gay couples shouldn’t have the right to marry -- her reason is pure Catholic theology -- gay sex isn’t reproductive.

People tend to forget that the Catholic Church invented this sexual pathology which says that all sex is evil unless it can lead directly to giving birth. And they mean all sex, in spite of their own hypocritical dalliances with altar boys to the contrary. In Catholic morality a married couple may not use condoms, they may not have oral sex, etc. Sex which may not cause a woman to become pregnant is immoral. That includes masturbation as well.

In fact, one of the neglected facts about modern religion in America is the way that Protestant fundamentalism has become Romanized in regards to sexual issues. Fundamentalists never got riled up about abortion in the past. That was a Catholic concern. And they didn’t preach that sex was only justified if it had the potential of leading to birth. Sure, they thought sex was dirty and sinful and immoral outside marriage. But within marriage there was absolutely no preaching about sex having to have the potential of pregnancy. Married fundamentalists had a lot of leeway when it came to sexual practices between a husband and a wife. But in recent years we have witnessed them starting to repeat Catholic reasoning on sexual morality. I suspect the main reason was that it was the only argument they could find that sounded as if it had some reasoning behind it.

I read several pieces by Roback on the Catholic scandal -- the fact that hundreds and hundreds of priests have sexually molested children. She tends to call this "misconduct" or priests not living up to their vows. For someone so worried about bearing children she almost seemed lacksadasical about what happens to them after they are born. But I was once told that a conservative is someone who believes a fetus has rights from conception right up to the moment it is born, at which point they cease. Roback's take on the epidemic of child abuse in Roman Catholicism is that the cause for it is that "Catholics no longer believe in or even understand, the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist."

So priests attack children because Catholics don't worship the communion host enough. She writes: "It is no acciedent that the same generation that produced this sexual disgrace (another euphemism to avoid naming what is happening) is the same generation that allowed Eucharistic devotions to atrophy." So priests rape kids because Catholics don't worship the eucharist. To remedy this Roback says she spends at least one hour a week in "Perpetual Adoration" of the communion host, worshipping it as Jesus in the flesh. She goes so far as saying "Eucharistic Adoration saved my marriage."

Jenny has become progressively frumpish as she morphs into the stereotypical Catholic mother. It is astounding how she has changed over the years just because she is letting her religious imaginations run lose. She recently published a claim on her web site claiming that letting gay couples marry will actually turn more people gay! She posted an essay claiming that “legalization of same-sex marriage... will result in more individuals living a homosexual lifestyle.”

By the way, one clue that a writer is clueless is the term “homosexual lifestyle”. Consider the equivalent “heterosexual lifestyle” to see how absurd it is. You can be a frumpy, fanatical Catholic and be a heterosexual. You can be a pushy, feminist, politician married to a cheating husband and be a heterosexual. You can be a celibate, a prostitute, or in a long-term relationship. There is NO heterosexual lifestyle but many lifestyles. And there is NO “homosexual lifestyle” either but many lifestyles lived by many different people. The use of the term is usually a major indication that what you are about to read comes out of some inner need to demonize gays.

In reality the religious values of “Dr. J” attack many heterosexual relationships as well. She says marriage is “about bringing the genders together to create a child” and that to her, is all it is about. She has turned women in breeding stock, meant to get pregnant to satisfy God. She opposes gay marriage because if gays can marry that means people can marry for a reason other than reproduction. “Now marriage is something different. Now marriage is about the love relationship between the adults....”

Notice that this is quite specifically Catholic theology. This woman is trying to impose her theology into the law of the land. She says marriage ought to be about having children not about love. Of course, some of the worst disasters in the world are couples that don’t love one another having children. In her view marriage is an obligation to unborn individuals. A man and a woman, let alone anyone else, should only marry because they are obliged to have children. Love is secondary, children primary.

She has gone so far as to found an “institute” with the purpose of convincing women to get pregnant. She writes that having children is “as essential to women’s well-being as a successful career and financial independence.” Her institute is trying to get women “to combine child-bearing with education and career”.

Roback goes so far as to say that heterosexual relationships are entirely natural because men and women “come together to create children”. But gay relationship are “completely a creation of the state” because “the state must coddle and protect same-sex ‘marriage’ in ways that opposite sex marriage does not require.” And it is the state, she claims, which is intervening “to make people believe (or at least make them act as if they believe) that these two types of unions are equivalent.”

This is how clownish she has become. The fact is that the State is a major institution fighting the recognition of gay relationships. Jenny and her crowd use state law to prevent gay relationships from having the respect that many private people and organizations which to give them. Private society is well ahead of the state on this one. Roback is inventing claims to argue that it is the state pushing gay equality on civil society. In truth civil society has led the way. But it has led in a direction that is not acceptable to Roback’s theological viewpoints so she resorts to this sort of bizarre claims.

Eventually the state will recognize the truth that major institutions of civil society have already recognized. It may be unacceptable to the religious crazies we have to deal with but the general consensus is that marriage is about love and not about becoming breeding stock to satisfy some imaginary being in the sky. As people realize that marriage is first and foremost about the loving commitment that individuals make to one another, and as they realize that gay people are just as human as themselves, people begin concluding that gay couples ought to be treated the same when it comes to that loving relationship.

Roback must downplay love due to her unloving religion, and she must emphasize the need to breed. She may practice her faith as she see fits. But when she wants to make the law reflect her theology then she is going too far.

In a free society there would be room for gay couples and the Robacks of the world. Both should be free to live their lives unmolested by the other. If she hates gay marriage then she shouldn’t be forced to go to a gay wedding or forced to marry a woman. (Of course, no such threat exists.) She should be free to shun gay couples or even preach fire and brimstone at them if she wishes, provided she isn’t trespassing to do so or intentionally disturbing the peace (such as bullhorns at 2 am). She should be allowed to breed as often as she thinks her god demands of her. If she can, she may have entire litters for all I care.

But like other religious fanatics Roback doesn’t want to be left alone. She doesn’t want to have the same rights as others. She wants to have superior rights. She wants to be able to meddle in the lives of others and to strip them of recognition for their loving relationships merely because her stilted theology doesn’t allow it. In essence she is demanding the right to live her life as she believes is best but she also wants the right to live the lives of others as she thinks best as well. She doesn’t want freedom for all, just freedom to impose Catholic morality on the nation through legal institutions. It is precisely this sort of theocratic tendencies in rabid, orthodox Catholicism that has lead various individuals to claim that Catholicism is inherently anti-freedom, anti-inidividual rights.

Ludwig von Mises wrote that Catholic opposition to classical liberal values throughout history directly “prepared the soil for the destructive resentment of modern socialist thought.” He argues that anti-liberalism, such as Roback’s, does “nothing to extinguish the fire”. In fact, by fighting liberal values this attitude blows “upon the embers” of such views. Roback’s conservatism is in direct conflict with classical liberal values. Worse such attitudes directly encourage statist measures as individuals, long denied their equal rights before the law, overreact and then wish to violate the equal rights of others. Justifying statism in the name of “family values” doesn’t justify family values. It justifies statism and that statism will eventually fall in the hands of people with different values.

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