Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Girl Reporter on Religion

That would be me, a sort of divine version of Nancy Drew, and you will get the benefits of this transformation.

First, the Catholic church is telling God that some changes will now be made to limbo, the place where unbaptized babies go to slumber:

According to Italian media reports on Tuesday, an international theological commission will advise Pope Benedict to eliminate the teaching about limbo from the Catholic catechism.

The Catholic Church teaches that babies who die before they can be baptized go to limbo, whose name comes from the Latin for "border" or "edge," because they deserve neither heaven nor hell.

Last October, seven months before he died, Pope John Paul asked the commission to come up with "a more coherent and enlightened way" of describing the fate of such innocents.

Nancy Drew has trouble with this. Either there is a limbo and God arranged it to exist or there is no such thing, and the church has been telling stories about it all these centuries. If there is one, how can the church find "a more coherent and enlightened way" of describing it? And if there isn't one, why all the lying?

This is linked to the questions Nancy Drew has about how saints are created. It seems to her that it's mortals on earth who decide on sainthood and that seems wrong. Shouldn't it be God who does the sorting of the sheep and the goats? And why is it only celibate men who decide on the quality of limbo and on what makes people saints?

I guess that is what faith means? Religions have done a lot of good but I (Nancy) really think that believers should make a distinction between gods and their followers.

Some of these followers don't actually believe in any divinities at all. They just cynically exploit religions to cause people to rise up and vote for them or even to rise up and kill for them. The first version of this is evident in the United States. As James Wolcott wrote recently:

"'A year ago, I asked Kristol after a lecture whether he believed in God or not. He got a twinkle in his eye and responded, "I don't believe in God, I have faith in God." Well, faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1, "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." But at the recent AEI lecture, journalist Ben Wattenberg asked him the same thing. Kristol responded that "that is a stupid question," and crisply restated his belief that religion is essential for maintaining social discipline. A much younger (and perhaps less circumspect) Kristol asserted in a 1949 essay that in order to prevent the social disarray that would occur if ordinary people lost their religious faith, "it would indeed become the duty of the wise publicly to defend and support religion."'

"Here we have a guy who plainly doesn't believe in God, but who thinks that well-padded intellectual elitists like himself ought to evade the issue in public for fear of demoralizing the proles and perhaps jeopardizing some padding thereby. I can't think of anything nice to say about that; and in fact, the only things I CAN think of to say would not be suitable for a family website...

Straussian stuff. And how exactly does religion work as a social discipline? Rorschach links to this piece of news about it all:

A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said that the two men who beat him made references to the class that was to be offered for the first time this spring.

Originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies," the course was canceled last week at Mirecki's request.

The class was added after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

"I didn't know them," Mirecki said of his assailants, "but I'm sure they knew me."

One recent e-mail from Mirecki to members of a student organization referred to religious conservatives as "fundies," and said a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face." Mirecki has apologized for those comments.

Lt. Kari Wempe, a spokeswoman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, said a deputy was dispatched to Lawrence Memorial Hospital after receiving a call around 7 a.m. regarding a battery.

She said Mirecki reported he was attacked around 6:40 a.m. in rural Douglas County south of Lawrence. Mirecki told the Lawrence Journal-World that he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

"I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind," he said. "They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out."

He said the men beat him on the head, shoulders and back with their fists, and possibly a metal object.

Wempe said Mirecki drove himself to the hospital after the attack.

This is what religion does in the little puddles of Kansas. What it does in the much larger waves of Iraq does not bear thinking about.