Religious frenzy

My previous post on humanist ritual-making has generated a firestorm of comments, including several from Dan, a fellow New Mexican who often comments critically on my political posts, and who has now weighed in on the Catholic Church. Dan writes:

The whole original point of my post, which was a response to Moralia’s post lambasting Humanists for seeking to create their own conditions when religious (specifically, Christian) traditions already exist. My argument is that the only reason Humanists are having to create their own traditions now is that the intolerant religions (particularly the Catholic Church) intentionally destroyed the social traditions the pre-dated Christianity itself and its conquering of various non-Christian regions.

I wouldn’t exactly call what I wrote “lambasting.” I don’t want to prevent humanists from creating their own rituals; I just think it’s sad that they feel the need to. As to the intolerant Catholic Church having destroyed the tolerant pre-Christian religions, well, on that one I have plenty to say.

Nobody conquered with more efficient, systematic brutality than the pagan Romans. Read Thucydides and tell me the pagan Athenians were peace-loving free spirits. Read Caesar’s commentaries and tell me that classical paganism was a religion of peace. And Roman militarism and Roman paganism cannot be separated, were both integral parts of the Roman social fabric. When Rome became Catholic, it wasn’t a case of an intolerant, greedy, violent religion crushing a peaceful, tolerant one. Yes, the Romans were tolerant in the sense of being syncretists — we’ll worship your gods if you worship ours, and it’s all good; you Jews put a statue of Jupiter in your Temple, and we’ll put one of Yahweh on the Capitoline. The Romans didn’t try to stamp out other religious cults unless they perceived those cults to be a threat to their state religion, as the Bacchic cult was in the 2nd century BC, and later the Christians were. I suppose you can define the pagan Roman sack of Jerusalem and looting and desecration of the Temple, and the martyrdom of early Christians as political rather than religious persecution, and still consider Roman paganism a cool, tolerant, non-judgmental religion.

I suppose if Constantine had lost the battle of the Milvian Bridge, the Lupercalia and Dionysia would still around, so the humanists could race around naked flailing goatskins at infertile women, or drink themselves into a state of alcoholic enlightenment. That would be much better fun than a mass, no doubt.

The point of my post wasn’t that the Catholic Church is perfect. That isn’t a point I’m going to argue. No human institution is perfect, and though its purpose is to worship God, the Catholic Church is a human institution that has been administered by flawed, imperfect, sinful men for two millennia. And it will go on being administered by flawed, imperfect, sinful men for as long as it remains in existence. Some of those men will revel in the power and status of their position rather than ministering to their flock. Some will steal and lie. Some will seduce married women. Some will, saddest of all, molest little boys. But neither Innocent III nor Alexander VI nor the pedophile priests of our own day can indict the Church as an institution sufficiently to make faithful Catholics abandon it. A Christian accepts the existence of sin in the world. A Christian strives for virtue, prays for forgiveness, and moves forward rather than dwelling on the sins of the past and casting out the baby (the Church) with the bathwater (the Crusades, the Borgias, and the pedophilia). A Christian does not seek to justify the Church by explaining away the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. A Christian understands that the Church does not require such justification. We can admit the sinfulness of churchmen without abandoning the Church. The former does not require the latter.

If you think it does, then there is little point in my debating you, because we’re starting from contradictory premises, and we’ll never agree. I’m willing to accept that. Those who disagree with me, it seems, are not.

Comments 24

  1. Foxfier wrote:

    My only complaint: counting the Crusades, defensive wars, in the same arena as molesting kids.

    I know it’s hard to defend, in an English culture, but it pisses me off as much as the endless news reports of Israel “breaking” a cease-fire for daring to fight back.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 7:34 am
  2. Bowden Russell wrote:


    Isreal’s right to self-defense isn’t hard to explain, unless said explanation is to the likes of Catholic haters or the UN.

    I like your blog by the way. Keep up the good work.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 11:34 am
  3. Patrick wrote:

    Nicely said, Brigette. I agree on all counts. And as I said in a comment to Dan, Thomas F. Madden’s “Concise History of the Crusades” makes clear without whitewashing their excesses that the Crusades were (as Foxfier says), defensive wars.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 1:33 pm
  4. Brigette Russell wrote:

    You’re right, Foxfier. I didn’t mean to imply that the Crusades were on the level of child molestation, only that they’re both things that people try to use to discredit the Church, and that neither is reason to abandon it.

    As Patrick has noted, the Crusades are far more complex than the “sound byte” history that Catholic-bashers make of them. It simply isn’t possible in the context of a blog post or comments to discuss them in all their complexity. For the record, however, I agree with you and Patrick that they were essentially defensive wars, and that the atrocities committed during the course of the many crusades doesn’t change that fact. American soldiers shot captured Germans in cold blood during WWII, but that doesn’t make the American fighting of WWII a war of conquest or unprovoked aggression.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 4:02 pm
  5. Dan wrote:

    Talk about missing the point. Feel free to defend your superstition as much as you want to, but it doesn’t change the fact that the reason humanists are creating their own traditions is that organized religion has ruthlessly stamped out non-religious social traditions. All your hand-waving about the Romans is irrelevant.

    Additionally, regardless of how you try to defend them, the Crusades were no more defensive wars than the 2003 invasion of Iraq was.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 4:10 pm
  6. Brigette Russell wrote:

    What non-religious social traditions, specifically, are you talking about?

    While I find your ranting amusing, and would hate to lose such wonderful entertainment, Dan, you ought to remember that this is my blog, and there is a limit to the insults to my husband that I will tolerate. Because he began the ad hominem attacks on the previous post, I am allowing your comment to remain, but my goodwill is wearing thin.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 4:18 pm
  7. Dan wrote:

    The fact that you don’t even know the difference between pedophillia and homosexuality is very telling.

    It sure worked out well when the rest of society let Catholicism deal with its crimes internally didn’t it? That “well lets just transfer the rapist to another unsuspecting parish” thing they did for decades worked out really well for everybody! Stupid mainstream media and their meddling in internal Catholic affairs!

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 7:30 pm
  8. Bowden Russell wrote:

    The fact that you don’t even know the difference between pedophillia and homosexuality is very telling.

    Over 80% of the Priest who molested young people did so against males.

    You were saying Dan?

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 7:36 pm
  9. Dan wrote:

    Molesting children is pedophilia regardless of their gender Bowden. Are you really incapable of understanding that basic fact?

    Wait, is this your convoluted way of pretending that molestation by priests is actually the fault of evil Homosexuals? Here’s a hint for you Bowden: Homosexuals like adults of the same gender, not children. Pedophiles like children.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 7:39 pm
  10. Dan wrote:

    In response to your actual blog post Moralia, you’ve done an excellent job of beating up that straw man. Where was it that I claimed that paganism is somehow more peaceful or better than Christianity? You act like my post was about how paganism is preferable to Christianity.

    You also pretend that “paganism” is some coherent religion and not just the Christian term for anyone who doesn’t believe in their particular divine pantheon. Kind of like how your husband believes that “The Left” is some coherent group that is plotting to ruin the world for good god fearing warmongers like himself.

    Posted 01 Jan 2009 at 10:13 pm
  11. Julia wrote:

    Dan, Brigette asked what non-religious social traditions the Church destroyed, and you never answered. And she never said “paganism” was a uniform religion. She only wrote about Roman paganism, and never said it was a unified church. And when you say the humanists only have to make rituals because the Church destroyed pre-Christian social traditions, and then go on about how violent and hypocritical the Church has been, you certainly do imply that those pre-Christian religions were better than Christianity, at least the Catholic version.

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 2:22 am
  12. Foxfier wrote:

    Molesting children is pedophilia regardless of their gender Bowden. Are you really incapable of understanding that basic fact?

    Actually, “pedophilia” is the abuse of children before puberty– ebophilia is the abuse of teenaged folks who are sexually mature.

    Most of the molestation was against post-puberty minor males.

    For the secular version, go look up NAMBLA, or “school girl” style pr0n.

    Mr. and Mrs. Russell– thank you.

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 11:38 am
  13. Dan wrote:

    Actually Julia, I gave two examples, both done by the Catholic church. I’ll restate them for you:

    The Winter Equinox was a traditional cultural celebration for thousands of years in both the UK and in Northern Europe. The Catholic Church declared Christmas to coincide with their understanding of when the Equinox occurred – December 25 (its actually on the 23rd) despite the historical evidence that Jesus was actually born sometime in June.

    Similarly, the Church declared Jesus’s death to coincide with the Vernal Equinox, another traditional pagan/secular holiday.

    Both of these were done to both stamp out the existing cultural traditions and to facilitate in converting the populace to Catholicism.

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 3:48 pm
  14. Dan wrote:

    Foxfier, you’re right that pedophillia is differentiable from ebophillia (Its also referred to as ephebophilia). I haven’t seen any numbers indicating whether most of the victims were pre- or post- pubescent, have you? At what age do kids become eligible to be altar boys?

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 4:04 pm
  15. Bowden Russell wrote:

    “Actually, “pedophilia” is the abuse of children before puberty– ebophilia is the abuse of teenaged folks who are sexually mature. “

    I love how Dan conveniently ignores the fact that the vast majority of victims were males. It’s almost like he doesn’t know the definition of “homosexual”.

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 4:05 pm
  16. Dan wrote:

    After a little more reading it appears that hebephilia would be the best term for someone attracted to early pubescents, whereas pedophillia is an attraction to pre-pubescents and ephebophillia is an attraction to late pubescents.

    This is all pretty gross. Lets change the subject.

    Posted 02 Jan 2009 at 4:09 pm
  17. Foxfier wrote:

    hebephilia is a synonym for ebophilia; translation would be “youth lover” vs “teen lover,” loosely.

    On a side note, Dan, your striking ignorance of Christmas vs. “traditional cultural celebrations” can only be matched by those who insist that Christmas is of equal religious significance as Hanukkah.

    Posted 03 Jan 2009 at 7:46 am
  18. Dan wrote:

    Feel free to educate me on the real reason Christmas was declared to coincide with the Winter Solstice Foxfier. Does anyone seriously believe Jesus was born on December 25?

    Posted 05 Jan 2009 at 6:59 pm
  19. Foxfier wrote:

    Your nonsensical separation of “traditional” celebrations and Christian ones has STILL not been supported.

    Posted 06 Jan 2009 at 7:18 am
  20. Foxfier wrote:

    We were discussing terms. Foxfier brought up ebophillia and I agreed and further broke it down into ephebophillia and hebephillia, and he agreed with me, saying that ebophillia is a synonym of ebophillia.

    No, Ebophilia is ebophilia, not a synonym of itself.
    I did not “bring it up”– I corrected your assertion that *pedophilia* was molesting children; given that “child” often refers to all of those below the age of consent, the difference between those before puberty and after puberty is relevant.

    This only after you started to get nit-picky about the gender of the abused in an attempt to use it as a weapon– as if the vast majority of abused pre-adults being the same gender as the abusers was something to ignore?

    Ebophilia, despite your attempt at “breaking down”, is still the same as hebephilia.
    Which is why I said:
    hebephilia is a synonym for ebophilia; translation would be “youth lover” vs “teen lover,” loosely. in reply to your comments.

    Don’t try to pin the subject on ME. YOU brought it up, I just pointed out where you were factually incorrect.

    Posted 06 Jan 2009 at 7:35 am
  21. Kat wrote:

    I visited your blog, Foxfire, and read your homophobic post about lesbians f***ing in the barracks. Why am I not surprised that you’d be sticking up for Moralia?

    Posted 08 Jan 2009 at 11:30 pm
  22. Julia wrote:

    Foxfire is a patriot who risked her life serving our country in the Navy (I visited her blog too, so I know). If I wrote a blog, I’d be proud to have her stick up for it and me any day.

    Posted 08 Jan 2009 at 11:36 pm
  23. ai wrote:


    Posted 11 Jan 2009 at 9:30 am
  24. Foxfier wrote:

    Thank you.
    Just got back from dropping my husband off for a month active duty (The AF’s new digi-camies are so cute!) so I missed the attack and your defense of me.

    *bow* Mostly, I risked my sanity due to boredom– but here’s hoping we all our guys have times as boring as mine!

    Posted 12 Jan 2009 at 12:07 am

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