The Business of Church

Here’s an interesting article about taxes and churches.

This is the gist if you don’t have time to read: “The deductibility of donations to religious organizations creates a discriminatory religious subsidy. One is free to donate to the religion of one’s choice, but government support of these donations burdens every American, even the non-religious, with support for the faith industry.”

I agree.

Here’s one way of looking at it. Churches are businesses, too, and they have financial goals, special interests and goods that are exchanged, albeit intangible. When you give money to a church, you are receiving a few things: hope, community, inspiration, motivation, a moral structure, a “spiritual home,” forgiveness, life coaching.

The rest of us have to pay for these services from secular businesses. So should a preference for belief in a god allow some taxpayers to deduct their payments (donations)? Nonbelievers, no doubt, would like to deduct the cost of their yoga classes, therapists, marriage counselors, personal coaches and club memberships.

Sure, some monies donated to churches do eventually go to charities, but the bulk of the income received from the community is used to support the club church and “grow God’s kingdom.” A really big question comes to mind: why does God need petty solicitors if he’s omnipotent, all-powerful, all-knowing and other-worldly? Why does he even need money to spread his word? Doesn’t it make sense that if there’s one true god who created man, we’d be preprogrammed to know exactly who or what god is just as we’ve been preloaded with all this other software, such as how to smile, when to sleep and what hunger and fear mean? Wouldn’t there be consensus?

I know. I digress. But the point is, the business of church is just that. A business. They help people “spiritually,” yet they receive payment (call them tips, if you must) for their services, and they should not receive special tax consideration.

Unlike you and me and many of our local businesses who have to pay taxes on our income and taxes on the property we own, churches do not. Aren’t megachurches and millionaire preachers reason enough to change our laws? This special treatment has allowed some of God’s head salespeople to reap huge rewards. (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Kenneth Copeland, etc, etc.) Imagine what sort of soup kitchens they could run if only they lived in modest homes and drove modest cars.

And one more thing–churches that spread prejudice rather than the Christian values they supposedly subscribe to (ahem, Westboro) should not only pay taxes, but also a penalty. The rest of us don’t want to subsidize hatred and, in fact, would like to discourage it. Preachers who abuse their power should be required to tithe 50% of their earnings to a fund that promotes humanism.

To make a long story short, I sure hope the tax code is reformed so that we (all) don’t continue to subsidize the preference to believe in God.

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133 responses to “The Business of Church

  1. The reason churches were tax free historically was because they were the ones who took care of the poor. That situation has dramatically changed.

    • I cannot agree more. When I was first married my husband and I researched tons of churches from methodists, catholics, protestants, etc. (He was super religious) not ONE donated over 5% of their income. NOT 5%?!?!?!?!?! That was the very beginning of our journey away from religion.

    • @LT “The reason churches were tax free historically was because they were the ones who took care of the poor. That situation has dramatically changed.”

      Funny you say that because last time I was in the lobby of a church, the poor box was locked. (I wasn’t trying to get into it; I just noticed that!)

  2. I think only a percentage of what gets “donated” to churches should be tax deductible (whatever the average amount is used for charity), or churches should just have a monthly fee, just like my YMCA membership, and then have separate charity donations. However, since we are in the minority in this country and so many other benefit from this tax advantage I doubt tax reform on churches will pass. Even if those tax dollars would then go to help the poor and needy, many religious people (i.e. Republicans) would not like that.

    • @Stephanie I agree–and that’s a good idea, having a monthly fee and then a separate collection for charity donations.

      • Deb, to be fair, I belonged to a local mega church with a wealthy congregation. On many many occasions, the pastor addressed the congregation about a specific need a family or individual had. A special offering of money would be collected on-the-spot and given directly to that family or person. Several times he’d make it known that someone needed a car, a job, a place to live… And always, every single time, someone would either give them an extra car they had, or they’d go out and buy a new car for the family in need. Someone always came forward to give them a place to live, or gave them a job. It warmed my heart. :) People can be so generous. I think most people would love to give to charities and help others out, but they’re afraid they and their money will be exploited. This always gave them an opportunity to give directly to an individual in dire need.

  3. Religion is big business. Here in North Texas, I think there are more churches than 7-11’s and other convenience stores. It’s like Starbucks. There is practically a church on every corner, and if there isn’t one, it usually does not take long for the void to be filled up.

    I found it amusing at one corner in a struggle strip mall, there was place called “God, Inc.” It’s no longer there. I guess God went bankrupt.

    I personally detest the property tax exemption churches get. Unfortunately, I do not think much can be done about it since the Supreme Court that such exemptions are constitutional: http://ffrf.org/faq/state-church/item/12601-tax-exemption-of-churches. I definitely agree with Justice Douglas’ sole dissenting opinion.

    It appears exemption is up to the States though. But seriously doubt that state like Texas will ever repeal exemptions for churches.

    • @ewh Thanks for that good link. I do see what Chief Justice Berger is saying, and he does make a good argument. But as it mentions later in the article, IRS rules do show favoritism to churches. (I didn’t know that churches don’t even have to file a 990.)

      I live near you, and I know that there are churches on every corner! (And on Sundays, you see the signs where even more church services are being held in schools, daycare centers, etc.)

  4. Reminds me of a story:

    A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew were discussing how much money to give to the church.
    The Catholic said, “I’ll draw a circle on the ground, throw all my money up in the air, and whatever lands inside the circle, I’ll give to God.”
    The Protestant said, “I’ll draw a circle on the ground, throw all my money up in the air, and whatever lands outside the circle, I’ll give to God.”
    The Jew said, “I’ll throw all my money up in the air and whatever God wants, He keeps!”

    But on the serious side, I agree. As a taxpayer, I am tired of subsidizing the churches. I don’t think this is even a matter of belief vs. disbelief in religion or god; churches are businesses and should be treated as such.

  5. Megachurches and millionaire preachers are the exact reason the laws don’t change. They are huge lobbying entities in and of themselves, or they pay off lobbyists to make sure their interests are served. And it’s not just Christian “spiritual millionaires” who take advantage. *ahem* James Arthur Ray. BTW, he’s out of jail already.

  6. Since so many churches like to play at politics these days, I think they should pay the piper just like everyone else. They meddle in things beyond the spiritual for their own benefit….they are no different than corporations with a less tangible product to “sell”….tax ‘em all and be done.

  7. As far as I’m concerned, when they start preaching politics instead of religion they should lose their status as churches. They can’t have it both ways.

    • @PiedType, Amen! When churches start telling their congregants how to vote and which politicians to support, they are no longer churches. They should be taxed like any other business. Churches that spend their time and money to take care of the poor and indigent should be tax free. But that’s such a tiny percentage of what happens in these huge churches these days.

  8. One is also free to donate to the charity of your choice. That charity may spend all, but in most cases only spends a fraction of what you donate on actual charity work. Much of the rest may go into marketing, providing gifts to those who donate and other services. Churches are not significantly different from this financially. In addition, churches are non-profit. While you may obviously argue that point with some churches, that is in general the trend. As such, they should qualify just as well as other charities. Now, if your yoga instructor, therapist and marriage counselors want to become non-profit organizations, then I think anyone that provides a charitable service, doesn’t insist on being paid to provide that service and is a non-profit entity, then they should be able to qualify as a tax-deduction.

    I guess if you want to remove all tax deductions for charities, then I would be willing to consider removing it for churches. If you want to come up with a criteria that is non-discriminatory for a charities that qualifies whether items are tax-deductible or not, I might find that acceptable. If, however, you choose to discriminate against churches because they combine charity with proselytizing, then you are discriminating. Understand that most people at church receive their “services” for free. I would like to see your yoga instructor, therapist, marriage counselor, personal coach or club do that.

    • I think the difference is that for non-religious charities, part of the donation goes to administrative “overhead”, and that’s it. When the government allows you to deduct a donation to a church on the other hand, and there is no clear paper trail showing that all of the money is going to charity with the exception of some small overhead, that can be problematic in the sense that it gives the appearance that the government is, in effect, subsidizing the proselytizing aspect of the church’s mission.

    • @Kidnike Having a charitable service does not mean that you don’t “pay” yourself. Many pay themselves quite well. Many NPOs make good money; they just have to keep their profits and reinvest in the organization.

    • @kidnike, I’d be fine treating them like any other charitable organization, which have to file reports detailing how they’ve spent their money. Currently churches do not have to file the same reports that other charitable organizations do.

  9. David Widmark

    Your on the “money” in more ways than one!

    Being a recently retired elected city councilor for 10 years, of a large urban city. I respectfully asked the local ministerial association, if they would consider taking a voluntarily offering once per year, to help our financial strapped city. Explaining to them that we provided fire, police and other accentual public services at no cost and now we needed their help. Was flat out told, “no!” Later was told by one minister I should be ashamed of myself for even coming to ask for help.

    They are always first in line when freebees are handed out, but ask for help they sure don’t practice what they preach…

  10. Hi Deborah,

    I’ve read all of your blog entries here since January 16th. As I shared in my intro post last April, I’m a former atheist. After a sincere and thoughtful search for the Truth, I’ve been a Christian for the past 36 years. I have only posted replies here a few times. Though I rarely agree, you may have noticed that most of my posts have been positive, expressing praise when we agree. I’m not inclined to spout criticism, looking for areas of commonalty whenever possible. And honestly, I feel it’s important to seek understanding of others, especially if they have a different point of view.

    However, your post today compels me to say that sometimes your blog messages lack objectivity, and at times are simply anti-Christian rants, far astray from the theme “Raising kids as independent, logical thinkers.” I’d like to share a few concise “food for thought” responses to your essay today:

    All not-for-profit tax exempt organizations are businesses. This includes secular charities, churches, arts institutions, etc. In order to qualify as tax-exempt, any such organization must be doing service which benefits the community. The other main qualification is that there are no dividends nor distribution of profits — as there are no share holders. Being a “not-for-profit” organization does NOT mean they are not profitable. All businesses must be profitable in order to be viable. The big question is, are they using their profits to expand their services? Or is it being funneled into internal/administrative. Being objective and even-handed, the worst offenders (by far) are the CEOs of secular charities and arts institutions. Check out: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Media/Slideshow/2012/12/20/10-Insanely-Overpaid-Nonprofit-Execs.aspx. For two additional examples, Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is paid $1 million per year. And the CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, has a base salary of $500,000. Imagine what sort of soup kitchens they could fund if they voluntarily capped their salaries at $100,000.

    Again, regarding lack of objective even-handed commentary, this statement today is misleading: “some of God’s head salespeople to reap huge rewards. (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Kenneth Copeland, etc, etc.)” If you read the article which you linked to, the following text was provided:

    Joel Osteen stopped taking his $200,000 annual salary several years ago after being critiqued for his massive wealth. But he has made tens of millions of dollars off his numerous books. (Not from his church).

    Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has made tens millions of dollars off his books, such as “A Purpose Driven Life.” He’s made so much that, in 2005, he returned 25 years of salary to the church and stopped accepting new paychecks. Warren and his wife say they are “reverse tithers” who give away 91 percent of their income to charity and live off nine percent.

    Lastly, if I may suggest… Rather than the frequent finger pointing and judgmental gripes about others, how about more positive messages in your blog? Constructive ideas and brainstorming about making this planet a better place would be much more inspiring to the kids who read this blog.

    Take care,
    Steven

    • Hi Steven.

      I will not be overreacting if I say that there was not a shread of objectivity in your post yet you claim others posts…

      The reason those godly salespeople are able to double-facedly able to donate most of their income is because they have been ripping people off for so long. Do you think that Osteen would sell A book if not for exploiting his Church-Mart?

      Pleas do tell me how on earth is it acceptable for a mega-church to be tax-exempt to begin with? How is it fair and christian?

    • Hi Steven,

      I working backwards through the comments. I understand you are sensitive about this topic, but it does not change the fact that churches do get special treatment over what amounts to no more than a person’s preference to believe in myths.

      I am aware that many secular not-for-profits are sometimes run irresponsibly and that many of the staff are paid exceedingly well (like United Way). And, of course, many are profitable. (How could they not be?) I highly doubt the worst offenders are the “CEOs of secular charities and arts institutions.” They’re just offenders on a bigger scale. From the few charities I’ve worked for, I’ve seen how easy it is to abuse at ANY level, from any position. And from what I’ve seen, it’s actually easier to do as a smaller charity because there is less oversight. However, it’s just as wrong. Abuse is going to happen regardless of whether you’re a church or a school or an arts institution.

      Again, all I’m saying is that it is not fair to give special tax treatment because an organization believes in a god. I’m not being disrespectful–none of us are. Would you think it’s fair for me to get tax breaks because my business believes in Santa or Big Foot or Unicorns? If I distribute 5% of the donations I receive to a Unicornism outreach and keep the rest to live on, would that be fair? Would it be fair to allow those making donations to me to write off their contributions?

    • @Steven, the reason that you can know the salary of the CEO’s of organizations such as the Red Cross is because they are required to file reports to the IRS. Churches are exempt from this. There are no financial disclosure requirements for churches. Let’s let them have non-profit status, but let’s require them to meet the same requirements as all other charitable organization.

  11. I wouldn’t mind having donations to churches tax deductible provided it can be shown by way of a paper trail that the money went directly to a local soup kitchen, thrift store, clinic, or some other charitable organization. That would make the issue a lot cleaner, and less constitutionally … questionable.

  12. Dear Saab93f,

    Yes, you are overreacting. Calm down… It’s objectively true that secular charities and arts organizations are by-and-large the worst offenders regarding executive over-payment.

    Per Deborah’s link, Joel and Rick’s income is due to book sales. So far as I can grasp, people buy them of their own free will. Have you read a single page of their books? It’s reasonable to do so before judging them.

    The most important thing was my final comment: Rather than the frequent finger pointing and judgmental gripes about others, how about more positive and constructive messages here? :-)

    Steven

    • @Steven I don’t see how Saab93f is over-reacting in any way. I highly doubt their book sales have padded their income that much. Can you show me where you found their income break down?

      Asking if we’ve read the book has no relevancy.

      I’m not finger pointing at all. I feel like we’re pretty tolerant of beleivers. I’m just saying your preference to believe in god should not give you tax breaks. It’s not about being positive and constructive–it’s simply pointing out an inequity.

      • Hi Deborah,

        Re your comment, “Steven I don’t see how Saab93f is over-reacting in any way.” It is certainly an over-reaction for Saab93f to say, “there was not a shread of objectivity in your post.” The objectivity in my post was to point out examples of how various groups (including secular charities) over-pay their executives. Personally, I am opposed to ANY charity over-paying their executive team — secular or church based.

        Re: “I highly doubt their book sales have padded their income that much. Can you show me where you found their income break down?” The link you provided has this text:

        “Joel Osteen stopped taking his $200,000 annual salary several years ago after being critiqued for his massive wealth. But he has made tens of millions of dollars off his numerous books.” (Not from his church).

        “Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has made tens millions of dollars off his books, such as “A Purpose Driven Life.” He’s made so much that, in 2005, he returned 25 years of salary to the church and stopped accepting new paychecks. Warren and his wife say they are “reverse tithers” who give away 91 percent of their income to charity and live off nine percent.

        The implication in your blog, when you wrote “some of God’s head salespeople to reap huge rewards. (Joel Osteen, Rick Warren…)”, is the misleading idea that they are paid by their church. The article you linked states that those two men (who you specifically called out) do not accept income from their church. Regarding Rick Warren…come on, who do you know who gives 91% of his self-earned income to charity? Perhaps Bill and Melinda Gates. That’s the kind of behavior that should be praised, not criticized.

        Steven

        • I did post on here a comment earlier, but I see that it didn’t post before my Internet went down. I was too heavy-handed in this post, but I do think the IRS rules re churches are too lax and should be tightened up.

          As far as Rick Warren is concerned, yes, it is a good thing that he gives away so much money (from what I’ve read, it all goes back to his church–if you know differently, please provide links). However, even though he’s got a net work of $25M, he still receives special tax treatment. http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/2010/01/04/rev-rick-warren%E2%80%99s-extre me-philanthropy/

          I also wonder, if he is giving all the money to his church as the article states, isn’t he just building his own empire?

          • Hi Deborah,

            Thanks for the apology. I did a quick search and found references stating that Rick Warren gives to three charities. So, I think that Len Burman is cynically ASSUMING that Rick gives to his own church. (That just wouldn’t make sense!) Regarding Rick’s net worth, we are all taxed on net income, not net worth. :-)

            Steven

    • Steven, Saab93f isn’t over-reacting. Neither is Deborah or any of the rest of us. And yes, I have read so many of the books written by pastors of mega churches. For many many years, Dr. Charles Stanley was my ultimate favorite!!! Even that I’m now a non-believer, I still sometimes watch his sermons on TV because he speaks so eloquently about the challenges all of us have in our lives. I’ve read the Purpose-Driven Life too many times to count. I don’t feel Rick Warren, Joel Olsteen, Dr. Stanley, or any of the others, are bad people. But I do believe that they use their positions as pastors of major Christian churches in the U.S. to make big time financial profits, for themselves.

      A memory that I have of my late brother is many years ago, like back in the 1980’s, he and I were driving along our local interstate. And there next to us, was a priest who was driving a new Mercedes. I remember my brother saying, “Now I’ve seen it all.” He was so disgusted, and so was I.

      • @shelly: That was my point exactly. Those godly hotshots created themselves an empire that then allowed them to show themselves as charitable. It is easier to give 91% of your income if you have several millions in your account already.

        The art foundations and similar which you so eloquently portrayed as the worst abusers do rely on their headpersons ability to market and gain more income that then can be used to support artists or enhance the collection. That is a marketable and quantifiable business – could Yahweh OTOH not do with less money….?

        I have never understood the churchs’ tax-exempt status before LT pointed out that they historically tended for the poor. It is very difficult to draw that conclusion from those private jet-flying ministers.

        • …art foundations, which Steven condemned, not you…
          Sorry for that, was making pasta bolognese while typing :-)

        • Dear Shelley and Saab93f,

          I suspect we’d be in agreement about the following: All organizations must be profitable in order to be viable–The big question is, are they using their profits to expand their services to the community? Or is it being funneled into internal/administrative. Aiming to be objective and even-handed, I am opposed to ANY charity over-paying their executive team — secular or church based. And to @the frogman, I agree with your comment: “Let’s let them have non-profit status, but let’s require them to meet the same requirements as all other charitable organization. ”

          Steven

  13. Patti OSullivan

    The gripes come from the feelings of frustration and alienation many non-believers feel. If we cannot gripe here, among like-minded people, who can we gripe to? Why deny non-believers a forum for venting their feelings about religious institutions? Why must atheists be positive about the things that aggravate them? Telling the author of this blog and her followers to be positive and constructive is a projection of Christian ideals on a group that is not Christian. Perhaps if Christians (and people of other religious persuasions) were more positive and constructive themselves, non-believers wouldn’t gripe so much about them. Rather than criticize non-believers for not being positive and constructive, how about addressing some of the real concerns they have?

  14. Patti OSullivan

    Deborah, Americans do not pay any tax dollars to support abortion in this country because religious groups protested so much about supporting ‘evil’ with their taxes. That is fine with me. However, non-believers should likewise be able to rest assured that their taxes are not being used to support institutions that discriminate against women, homosexuals, and atheists. I wrote about this topic extensively in a 10-part series called The Poison of Government Assistance: http://www.patricia-osullivan.com/2012/04/poison-of-government-assistance-part-i.html

    • @Patti Thank you for the link. These are very interesting posts. I’ve only read the first two, but will go back today and read the rest. I can’t believe how much the House and Senate Chaplains make.

      It is also much easier to file for a 501(3)(c) status if you are a church–or at least it used to be.

      As you bring up in your posts, we don’t want to give government handouts, but yet we give them out all the time to churches–and businesses. We all benefit from subsidies–food, energy, education, housing….you name it.

  15. Something else that is missing in this discussion is the comfort of politicians in America. Right now the politicians are free, for the most part, from DIRECT political interference by churches. Churches (extremists like the Westboro Baptists and their ilk excluded) are restrained in the amount they can preach and the boundaries they can preach in if they want to retain their tax exempt status. They CAN NOT tell their parishioners who to vote for or even what party to vote for. If they do they will lose their tax exempt status.

    There is a substantive and objective difference between preaching on faith and morals with the intention of clarifying the teachings of the individual church and saying “thou shalt vote for Candidate X or Y.” Churches typically do the former not the latter.

    • There are ways around this, Joe K.

      I was the moral issues ministry leader for one semester at Bible school and an alternate for Dallas county. (If I’m not mistaken, the pastor himself cannot say behind an actual pulpit who he specifically supports politically). I remember while at Bible school in the early1990s my school had right-wing supported brochures on where each candidate stood on the issues out in the lobbies and foyers of their main buildings. I also remember a local Republican politician (whose daughter was a student) talking to our student body wearing a huge George Bush campaign button as he stood behind the podium. He even said in front of all of us that he knew he wasn’t supposed to do this, but basically said “Oh, Well!” I think it’s funny that Christians are so extremely against New World Order because it’s the ushering in of the Anti-Christ, but were such huge supporters of (Dad) Bush who ALWAYS encouraged NWO! Even during the 1992 primaries our student center only allowed voters to put in their ballots for Republican candidates. This was awkward because the facility was a public polling place and the local neighborhood was mostly Democrat. Voting for both parties was allowed during that main election though.

      I knew a small Baptist Church pastor in central Florida in the mid to late 1990s who would warn his congregation in the middle of a sermon that he was walking away from his literal pulpit so that he may talk politics, and he would do this at different times.

      During the 2002 election I went to a good size AG “revival” church, and I remember us having super long prayer times in our services to pray for W to beat out the other candidate during the whole CHAD debate. The lead pastor would start that activity then he would hand off his microphone to someone like a deacon or a ministry leader from within the church to pray for God’s choice, George W Bush, to win that election. (How convenient to run for the presidency while the very state your brother is governor of at that time has voting ballot issues as you’re in a close race with your competitor.)

      Often I’ve seen conservative literature spread out on tables in Churches that are clearly sponsored by moral majority types. The only exception I’ve personally seen to all of this is an Assembly of God church in southwest Georgia that was about half Black and half White. (I know, an actual integrated Church.) I remember during one election period they had one local Republican candidate speak to the congregation, and the next Sunday had a local Democrat candidate speak. Rick Warren has done this at Saddleback as well.

      • @Charity Thanks for those insights. I’m sure this happens at a lot of churches. I remember the priest at my mom’s church talking politics, telling people to vote for the candidate who supports the church’s values, reminding the congregation what the church stands for.

      • Oops, I meant to say the 2000 election, NOT 2002. Sorry Joek and Debbie.

      • Hey Charity-girl! :) Your memory of the 1992 elections and how your student center only allowed voters to cast Republican ballots reminds me of the primaries before our last Presidental election in 2012. I live in a small rural town in Alabama, population 4,000. We have 14 churches here. When I went to vote in the primaries – the one where you must choose a party – I said “Democrat” when asked which party I wanted to cast my votes on. I was handed a little blue ticket, while the other 30 people standing there beside me all had yellow tickets. I felt 30 pairs of eyes boring into me, the odd man out, I could hear the whispers of the people behind me in line. What the crap? I’m an American citizen, born and raised, and you’d think I’d feel free to vote for whomever I choose. Not here.

        • Hey Shelley,

          You know, as much as I’m not crazy about certain politicians and religion as a whole, I would like to get to the point where we all quit judging each other harshly. It really sucks that you were judged for basically just showing up to vote. Then again, it was clear to me that this past election was very racist. I say that because there are people who consider Obama to be Muslim and Romney is Mormon. There was a time just years ago when Mormons were considered more evil than Muslims because Mormons were an evil cult using Jesus’ name in vain. However, during this last election those same people who felt that way were suddenly supportive of Romney. The same people! NOT saying that everyone who voted for Romney are racist, but clearly some are around these parts who supported him. It’s why he was pushed like crazy on bumper stickers, and billboards, declaring he was God’s choice for the presidency! (In spite of his liberal political past.)

          During our elections we are assigned to vote at the nearest polling place, which happens to be that Baptist Church I told you guys about. The one where my family was actively involved for half a year, left for a good while, and began to attend again, but stopped after a month or so because we saw the same ole, same ole. It was the last church we were apart of while we were still Christians. I do whatever I can not to vote there. I go out of my way for early voting at a governmental building just so I don’t have to go there.

          I want to be much more understanding than what I am and fight that urge to react when I feel incredibly misunderstood. Even before my de-conversion, my ideas were already different from my small Tennessee town. So often in a conflict I would stand up for my family then shut-up to keep it quick as others would continue their rant, as well as tell me how nice they’ve been to me. As I ‘ve said before, I believe that around here if your neighbors don’t burn a cross on your front yard and you’re an outsider they consider that being “nothing but nice to you”.

          I don’t want to sit around and cry about things though. I’m learning to keep myself active and busy with my little family and the things that I like to do. I admit, coming out to two people this summer has actually been very, very healing for me. I got tired of giving my angst power by keeping it to myself all the time. One of the people I told took an insane amount of courage for me, but as I told one blogger, that relationship was already dying, I might as well be myself.

          • @Charity: I really need to plan on early voting, to avoid my big local Church of Christ where I’m forced to cast my ballots – in front of all the scrutinizing and judgmental eyes that are laid upon me. They intimidate me, and I don’t like it, not one bit.

    • Having a multi-generational LDS family, I’m sure y’all can only imagine what this last Presidential election was like for me with Mitt Romney running. When I was a member of the LDS church, many many times I sat there in the congregation and was TOLD who I had to vote for, that it was a part of my “calling” being LDS, that it was my duty. Having had to listen to my LDS family and friends rally for Romney during this past election – for a whole year – made me want to puke. Even so, I kept my opinions to myself and I always respected their beliefs. Never once did I let on that I wasn’t on board with them. Sometimes, it’s not worth the hurt that we, as non-believers, can cause to those we love and care about. At least it’s not usually worth it to me, personally. :)

  16. RE: Sen Jason’s comments about transparency… As a board member on a 501(c)3 I know we are required to maintain our financial documentation which is subject to IRS inspection. I suspect Churches have a similar requirement. I also suspect due to the volume of 501(c)3s out there, the IRS can’t check them all. Additionally, you make the claim that there is a lack of transparency, but have you verified this or are you going on popular perception. I know for a fact that the Churches I have encountered publish, annually, their financial budgets and expenditures for the parishioners to review.

    • @JoeK Surely you jest. I know there are plenty of ways to hide money for 501(3)(c)’s.

      • Do you knwo from experience :)

        • Yes. I know from having served as treasurer, president and vp that it would be very easy to hide or misuse funds. (That’s no surprise; you hear about it in the news.)You really have to trust the people you’re working with and CYA as much as possible.

    • I’m not claiming there’s a deliberate lack of transparency, only that we need it in general in order to show there’s effectively no tax deductions for proselytizing. The question is (and I don’t know the answer), does the IRS even require this of churches? Is it even necessary? Or is it good enough that you write a check to your local parish to get the entire amount deducted from your taxes?

  17. Patti OSullivan

    Churches do tell their congregations how to vote and the IRS turns a blind eye to this practice. When specific denominations like LDS and the Catholic Church lobby against specific pieces of legislation such as the birth control mandate, Prop 8 in CA, and personhood amendments in several states, that is a direct influence on the political process.

  18. Patti, I do not dispute that the Catholic Church has lobbied strongly against the birth control mandate and for personhood ammendments (I remain silent on Prop 8 because I am ingnorant on the goings on with regard to that topic).

    But, is there not an objective difference between telling voters, “when you go to the ballot box you should press button X and not button Y” and calling politicians to tell them that forcing people to pay for birth control pills is a violation of the 1st ammendment (i.e. forcing people to act contrary to what their free expression of religion would entail) and that killing human beings is immoral?

    One other thing to ponder, something that intitially started me down the path from being an outspoken agnostic to invesitgating the Catholic faith was the contradiction presented by many anti-Catholic agnostics.
    It was those that on on hand argued..
    1. the Catholic Church was evil because they did not speak out against Hitler killing millions of Jews during WWII.(Which I found out latter happened to be false BTW.)
    and on the other opposite hand argued that…
    2. the Catholic Church is evil because they speak vehemently against government authorized and promoted killing of unborn human beings.

    Which one is it? Evil for not speaking against killing or Evil for speakign against it?

    • As we discussed in another post from a few weeks ago, there is a significant difference between allowing a woman the personal bodily autonomy to continue or terminate her pregnancy as she sees fit to the systematic extermination of an entire group of living, breathing people based on their religion, culture, or ethnicity.

    • @Joe K, the choice you pose is not a contradiction. As Patti (my wife) has pointed out, the Catholic Church acts only in its own best interest.

      It’s wrong for you or me to molest little boys, but when one of the clergy does it, well, that needs to be hidden and the Church’s liability protected.

      Priests are not allowed to get married, unless it is in certain parts of the third world where priests need to get married so people will listen to them.

      Going along with the Axis Powers in WWII guaranteed the Church certain liberties, should the Fascists win. (It’s not false–you’ve been reading Catholic apologetics and propaganda. And let’s not forget Catholic Fascist Spain, the cozy relationship between the Church and governments in third-world dictatorships, etc.)

      Restricting women’s rights to birth control and abortions helps the Catholic patriarchy maintain power over women and children (and men, who are supposed to provide for said children).

      The Church is not in the salvation business. It is in the power business, and you can turn a blind eye to that if you want, but you’re only burying your head in the sand.

      • @all I highly recommend Patti’s 10-part series as she addresses the topic of this post in much greater depth:

        http://www.patricia-osullivan.com/2012/04/poison-of-government-assistance-pa rt-iv.html

        @deosullivan3 & @Patti O’Sullivan Funny. I wondered about you two when Patti said she liked deo’s name…

      • @deo ouch… I know this digresses from the topic at hand but as a Catholic who fully agrees with the church’s stance on birth control I must correct you. The thought that the church opposes birth control to ‘maintain a patriarchy over woman’ is such an archaic thought. It is almost as bad as when people say its because the church wants to breed more members and priests (this assumption usually results in a head-banging-into-the-wall session for me).

        The pill does two things to prevent pregnancy. 1. It prevents an unfertilized egg from being fertilized. 2. If an egg is already fertilized, it encapsulates and prevents that egg from attaching to the uterine wall. As you can see, it is the second part of the process that the church considers in-line with abortion.

        The church fully supports natural forms of both control. I have studied and taught the creighton method – a natural family planning method that is 99% effective when used correctly. The church sponsors many programs that teach and support this natural method of birth control. They don’t want you to have more kids than you can afford or desire either.

        Interestingly, we even get many non-Catholics or non-religious students who are concerned about the very real health side effects correlated to long term use of the pill (increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, among others). I have already spoken about the emotional benefits of NFP in that it makes a couple united in birth control. And honestly, my husband loves me too much to make me take a pill that tricks my body and pumps hormones into me. He would rather just abstain from sex 5 days a month. (You can see why I love NFP… Haha…)

        I just wanted to clarify that point. You don’t have to agree with the church’s stance on birth control, but if you want to criticize it make sure you understand the actual reasons behind it.

        • Hey Molly,

          I thought the pill prevented ovulation and that there wasn’t ever an egg released to be fertilized?? At least that’s what I thought when I took the pill in the 80’s and 90’s. Not like the IUD that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting every month. The natural rhythm method never would have worked for me. LOL Both my boys were “planned.” With my second son we’d been trying for several months to get pregnant, I was taking my basal temperature first thing every morning for months and charting it. It was because of a total fluke I got pregnant on the 9th day of my cycle, not the 15th or 16th day. I had to go out of town for four weeks that month, and my kids’ dad visited me on the 8th and 9th day. I remember thinking, “Well there goes another month…” And that was the month I got pregnant.

          Because of my understanding of the pill, it’s always bothered me that the Catholic Church was so against it. If there’s no egg to be fertilized, how is that different from using the natural method?

          Sorry to be so graphic for some people, especially the guys. I mean no offense to anyone. Just trying to understand, that’s all… :)

        • 2. If an egg is already fertilized, it encapsulates and prevents that egg from attaching to the uterine wall.

          That’s new to me; where did you read this? The only medical claim I’ve ever seen is that the Pill and Plan B changes the uterine lining, potentially affecting implantation … but numerous studies have failed to demonstrate that the implantation rate after fertilization is compromised.

          Here’s some sources:

          Leung, Vivian W. Y.; Marc Levine, Judith A. Soon (February 2010). “Mechanisms of Action of Hormonal Emergency Contraceptives”. Pharmacotherapy 30 (2): 158–168.

          “The evidence strongly supports disruption of ovulation as a mechanism of action. The data suggest that emergency contraceptives are unlikely to act by interfering with implantation, although the possibility has not been completely excluded.”

          Gemzell-Danielsson, Kristina (November 2010). “Mechanism of action of emergency contraception”. Contraception 82 (5): 404–9.

          “LNG-EC [a very common form of EC] has no effect on endometrial development or function. In an in vitro model, it was demonstrated that LNG did not interfere with blastocyst function or implantation.”

          Article “Emergency Contraception’s Mode of Action Clarified”. Population Briefs (Population Council) 11 (2). May 2005.

          “The researchers found that levonorgestrel inhibited ovulation totally or partially, depending on the timing of treatment and the dose administered. However, the drug had no effect on fertilization or implantation when it was administered shortly before or after mating or before implantation.”

          Here’s something I wrote on the topic too. Same idea.

          And honestly, my husband loves me too much to make me take a pill that tricks my body and pumps hormones into me.

          Please don’t turn this issue into some sort of barometer for measuring the degree of love two people have for each other. This isn’t about love; it’s about using something that reliably gives you the ability to determine whether, when, and how you get pregnant. Or, for some people, it just regulates their cycles. For others, it treats polycystic ovary syndrome. It’s not perfect, and there are varying side effects depending on the type … but after about 40 years of regular use by a significant percentage of the female population, I think it’s being tolerated fairly well.

          One last thing. There’s a reason why people think – for right or wrong – that this issue isn’t about life for the Catholic Church, but about punishing female sexuality … namely stories like this. They happen pretty often, and they all teach the same lesson by example: get pregnant, and we will abandon you. Or, just get an abortion and act like it never happened.

        • @ Molly,

          This is hilarious, because, for all your arrogant pontificating (pun intended) and as Shelley points out, you don’t really understand how the pill works at all. You’ve been reading too much Catholic propaganda.

          Furthermore,if there are health risks associated with the pill, because taking aspirin and Tylenol carries health risks as well, namely uncontrolled bleeding and liver damage, respectively.

          And don’t give me this voodoo about birth control pills that trick the body, blah, blah, blah. Will you say the same thing about pills that trick your you or your husband’s body into working against conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol?

          Modern medicines “trick” our bodies by manipulating enzymes, hormones, etc., all of the time. Catholics only seem to care about such things when it comes to sex and pregnancy.

          My thoughts are not archaic. (BTW, my exact phrase was “Catholic patriarchy maintain power over women,” not “maintain a patriarchy over women,” which makes no sense whatsoever–that’s incorrect English). It’s the Church’s teaching on sexuality that are archaic.

          If you’re feeling “ouch” again, sorry, but you asked for it.

          • @deo @senator @shelley Because choosing natural family planning was a difficult decision for me, I have an extensive knowledge of how the pill works based on all my research. (And most of my research was secular because I wanted to use the pill and thus wanted to convince myself it was okay. Unfortunately I did not find the data to put my conscience at ease). All of my research concluded what I stated previously. “The lining of the uterus is also affected in a way that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting into the wall of the uterus”. http://womenshealth.about.com/od/thepill/f/howpillworks.htm

            Also explained here:

            http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html

            You will see these websites are not Catholic affiliated at all. I can give you a million other resources but I’m not here to convince you that the pill is wrong. You can believe what you want. But these are the facts. Sorry if you don’t like them. I didn’t like them either and felt convicted to use NFP at a time in my life when I “could not get pregnant” – I was getting my masters degree abroad. Lucky for me, NFP is very effective. But at the time I was nervous.

            I just think its silly to criticize the church’s stance on birth control without fully understanding the reasons behind said stance. The church believes in ‘birth control’ but only the natural form. In fact a big mission of Mother Theresa’s was teaching this to women in the slums who could not afford birth control (and definitely not children!)

            @Deo You compare the pill to a low blood pressure medication like the woman’s cycle is a problem to be cured. That is sad. The woman’s body is an amazing thing that works to create life every month. I would never suppress that cycle artificially so that I was sexually available to my husband at all times. Instead, my body cycle trumps his sexual needs. See, it’s actually very empowering for a woman. I am the priority. We celebrate my cycle, we don’t ‘fix’ it.

            Now I realize this is not a black and white issue. For whatever reason some people need to be on the pill and that is the best choice for them. For example if a woman is getting repeatedly raped, or her spouse is abusive and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, then she should do whatever see has to do. For me, in a consensual and respectful relationship, it works.

            Sorry Deb, for getting off topic! ;-)

            • Molly: ” I would never suppress that cycle artificially so that I was sexually available to my husband at all times.” What a very Catholic thing to say. If you have sex just to please your husband, what kind of relationship do you have to begin with? It’s all about controlling women and growing the church membership. And you, like other Catholic women, have been brainwashed into believing that you are a second class citizen. How sad.

            • @Molly No worries on the topic as this is an interesting discussion and reveals a lot about religion.

              It just seems to me like the Church is trying to manipulate the women. It says, “We don’t believe in birth control, yet you may practice this natural family planning.” (Which IS a form of birth control.) Sure seems a bit hypocritical.

              I already mentioned that the church wants you to abstain during the times that you most desire sex. That. Should. Suck.

              As for women in abusive relationships taking the pill, wouldn’t it be far better for a woman who is not respected to leave the relationship rather than take birth control pills? Ditto with a woman that is repeatedly raped. Before I’d go to the pharmacist, I’d call the police!

              • @Deb yes of course! That woman should leave the relationship! I was just thinking of an example of when the pill is a good option. Not a good example. :-)

                @Kathy Re the thought ‘the church wants to grow its members’. Sigh. Head bang. Wonder why all the research and effort on part of the church into teaching Natural Family Planning? As Deb said, it is birth control. It just never has the opportunity to ‘abort’ a fertilized egg. That is the difference. Maybe not in your eyes, and that is fine. To each their own. I’m not here to convince you the pill is wrong. Just to explain the reasons we think it is.

                To a Catholic, hearing ‘the church opposes birth control to control women and grow its members!” is as ignorant and baseless as hearing “without Jesus you will not be saved!’ is to an Atheist. You know how that latter comment makes you want to scratch out your eyes for the ridiculousness of it? Ditto for me on the former.

            • I can give you a million other resources but I’m not here to convince you that the pill is wrong. You can believe what you want. But these are the facts. Sorry if you don’t like them.

              I’ve shown you facts too, but I don’t know if you read them. Facts from medical researchers who have examined and found no evidence for the claim that the changes in the uterine lining affect implantation. I’m not “believing what I want”, but showing you that while the possibility is known to exist, it hasn’t yet been demonstrated that the implantation rates are any different after fertilization.

              @Deo You compare the pill to a low blood pressure medication like the woman’s cycle is a problem to be cured. […] We celebrate my cycle, we don’t ‘fix’ it.

              I’m glad that your cycle is consistently regular, predictable, and free from the problems that plague other women every month, but some women want or need their cycles to be regulated, either for health reasons or to prevent pregnancy a little more reliably than using a calendar. That’s pretty empowering in its own right.

            • Yes, I am comparing the pill to other pharmaceutical products. Absolutely. I’m calling it the way I see it. I live in the real world and don’t attempt acrobatic twists and turns in my worldview to accommodate a bunch of old men who want to control the way people relate to each other sexually.

              Unwanted pregnancy is a problem. It is very much a problem that needs fixing, and we now have several very convenient and safe ways of going about it: pills, shots, IUDs, patches, condoms, and all the rest.

              Look, I was a Catholic for 40 years. Went to CCD, Catholic school and college, got married in the Church, baptized our kids, started our kids in religious ed, yadda, yadda, yadda. Hell, I’ve even taught religious ed, for chrissakes. So don’t tell me that I don’t understand the Catholic position on these things and/or the science. I understand these things all very well, thank you very much.

              Yeah, you teach NFP, but as far as I’m concerned, the Catholic NFP curriculum is a bunch of propaganda that puts people out of touch with the modern world. My parents-in-law taught it for years before giving it up because the Church didn’t really want to invest many resources into it and the priest in charge of the program turned out to be sleeping with a married woman.

              And you can say that we have the right to believe what we believe (which doesn’t depend upon you saying it, by the way, we’ll believe what we want anyway), but your Church is trying to stand in the way of health reform in this country, whether or not the people affected are Catholics. It tries to control people, which is where this blog post started: the business of church. The business of religion is to control people through fear, fairy tales, and promises of pie in the sky.

              • @senator for what it’s worth – although irrelevant- my cycle is highly irregular. I have endometriosis and severe POCS. So, the thought that NFP only works for women with perfect 28 day cycles is wrong. In my experience about 1 in 5 women are so lucky. The method still works for those of us who are not. As I stated several times on this page, I agree the pill is the right choice for some. My point, as stated elsewhere on this page, is that the ‘possibility’ as you say, of preventing a fertilized egg from implanting exists, thus making this wrong in the pro-life stance of the church. Doesn’t that make sense? Yeah you found articles that said it ‘could’ happen and I found articles that said it ‘does’ happen. Okay we are both good at google. The possibility is enough for me to avoid the pill.

                @deo this was your experience and opinion of the church, it isn’t mine. The church is big, it’s universal, sorry you had a bad experience. Mine has been good. Mine has been one that values women, respects the female body, and strongly opposes abortion in all forms. Could the church (and all pro-life groups) make a better effort to move towards a pro-life stance over a pro-birth stance? Absolutely. My husband and I often lament that we wish some poor abused children had never been born, versus the suffering they are born into. I don’t have the answers here, just know there is work to be done. My only point was an institution that opposes abortion, if fully understanding how the pill works, would also oppose the pill. All of you are pro ably pro-choice anyway, so what does this detail matter to you? The fact that the pill can prevent implantation shouldn’t matter to you if you suppprt abortion at any stage in pregnancy? I just wonder why it seems to matter to you so much…

                • It matters to me, Molly, because–as I wrote and you conveniently glossed over–your church is trying to impose its view of contraception and abortion on America writ large. That’s wrong.

                  Yeah, you’re right that there is work to be done. There are still people out there who believe in fairies and myths. Until people give up their delusions, we will remain a backward society.

                • Yeah you found articles that said it ‘could’ happen and I found articles that said it ‘does’ happen.

                  No, I found medical journal articles that say there’s no evidence that changes in uterine lining affects implantation, despite the theoretical possibility that it may do so. You cited about.com and “Pharmacists for Life” that simply make the claim that it does. I’m sorry, but I’ll trust the papers published in peer reviewed scientific journals. If there’s a large body of supporting evidence to the contrary, then I’ll gladly change my position in light of additional data.

                  You can feel the pill is right or wrong for you at your own discretion. I’m only taking issue with your claims about how it works along with your implications that its use was somehow indicative of a lower degree of intimacy and love between two people (which you later clarified).

                  As for the Catholic Church – or others – they can take any stance on birth control as they like. However they have no right to tell the secular world how to deal with the issue, nor do they reserve the right to object over insurance policies covering the service … especially when it’s not on their dime anymore.

                  Last, you may have missed my comment on why some people view the church with such disdain about women’s rights. I made no claims specifically about birth control in this regard, only the fact that they apparently deal with unplanned pregnancy by ostracizing and shaming the woman in question. As a former Catholic for 20 years, this is one of the things that makes me glad I left without ever turning back.

              • @senator @deo Also, I addressed several of these things elsewhere in comments. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I won’t repeat myself here. Please do read them if you desire further clarification of my opinions.

                Thanks for the discussion. We can agree to disagree on whether or not the pill is right or wrong. I simply wanted to explain what I believe is the real reason the church opposes it. Hope I at least opened some minds. I know some of you have opened mine in the past.

                And the next time you – along with your evangelical Protestant counterparts in this issue (ouch) -say ‘Catholics oppose birth control to breed members and hold down women!’ I hope you think about that statement a little harder. And ask yourself if that is an accurate statement, or a biased opinion.

                • Sorry, but you have NOT addressed the issue of who the Catholic Church seeks to impose its view on American society as a whole.

                  You say that you’re being honest and that you’re letting others hold their opinion, but that rings false in the face of your refusal to acknowledge your church’s active efforts to do exactly the opposite.

                  While you may not be out and out lying, you are being disingenuous and displaying the cognitive dissonance that is typical of religious people.

                  The Catholic Church seeks to control the thoughts of its members and extend that control beyond its membership. Period. And that is an accurate statement.

                  • @deosullivan3, @Kathy, @SenatorJason, @Deborah Mitchell – I took Sunday off and was really going to let this whole thing rest. But then, on way home from a vacation in Branson, I stopped for Mass in Topeka. There, outside the Catholic church I was entering, Westboro church was picketing and protesting (a very common occurrence, I travel to Topeka often for business and see this any Sunday at the Catholic churches). In addition to the lovely signs “PRIESTS ARE FAGS” and “NUNS ARE DIKES”, there was also one that said “CATHOLICS ARE BREEDERS”. I literally laughed. Because, although this is something I would fully expect from hateful, ignorant bigots like the Westboro Church, it is not something I would expect from a self-proclaimed fair-minded and fact-based group of non-believers like the commenters on this page. Congratulations, you stand on common ground with Westboro. I assume this is not a proud day for you.

                    The ONLY points I wanted to make is a) the Catholic Church is pro-life (do I need resources for this or can we agree this is true?). b) the Pill is an abortifacient. @SenatorJason you wanted medical references so I called my best friend (a female Catholic doctor… can you believe it? Didn’t she get the memo that a woman’s place is in the home? I guess she missed that propaganda in her Catholic upbringing too….) In her Physician’s Desk Reference, sort of her “bible of medicine” as she put it, it stated the following:

                    There are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills:
                    1. inhibiting ovulation (the primary mechanism),
                    2. thickening the cervical mucus, thereby making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg, and
                    3. thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.
                    As you can see, the first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive. She provided several other resources / medical journals that confirmed this, but lets move on, shall we? If a) the Church is pro-life and b) the Pill is an abortifacient, then c) wouldn’t the Church oppose the Pill? The answer is yes, the Church DOES oppose the Pill. The reason for opposition is because it is an abortifacient, not because it wants to breed more members.

                    I realize this takes the credibility out of your favorite “the Catholic Church opposes the pill to breed more members” claim, sorry about that. If you desire to criticize the Church, it is still an easy task. The Church has made countless mistakes over the past hundreds of years and are still making them today. You don’t need to make up lies, or false assumptions, to criticize the Church. You can criticize it on true facts. Attack it on the basis of the terrible child molestation scandal and cover up- that is indefensible. Attack it on the fact that there are no women leaders- that might help your “women are subservient” claim in the church. Really, there is a lot of ammunition… you don’t have to rely on a lie… and saying the Church opposes the pill to breed members IS a lie.

                    If these facts don’t open up your mind to the truth, then you are no better than those Westboro people out picketing the Church. I hope you are better than that.

                    Even though I feel frustrated at your closed-mindedness on this issue, some good has come of it in my own self-reflection. I used to have very similar opinions that you have about Catholics about the LDS church… I have worked with several Mormon men and always got the impression from them that women were not nearly as valuable as men, and I always felt judged by them for being a working mom. My reaction to this was to judge the entire Mormon population as “sexist and backwards, where women are forced to be in the home”. I realize now, after hearing how full-of-hate and ignorant you have sounded in your claim about “the Catholic Church wants to breed members” that I was also making judgements about Mormons without any real experience or knowledge of their beliefs. I was judging them based on the dozen Mormons I had encountered… probably not a fair representation of the entire population. If there is even ONE working Mormon mom out there, then it isn’t a fair judgement on my part to assume the entire group is backwards and believes women are subservient. I won’t make that claim about the LDS church again. Maybe part of the reason I judged those Mormons was because they made me feel inferior as a mom because I worked while my kids were at daycare. Maybe it was because, after dropping my kids off crying at daycare to run to my high-powered job, I envied those women in their “subservient, child-bearing lifestyle”. I realize now that those judgements said more about ME than they did about the Mormons I was judging. I had to deal with my own insecurities and short-comings as a working mother without externalizing those emotions.

                    I am not assuming you are jealous of Catholics or feel inferior by their birth control stance… but I do wonder…. if some of this is more about you than it is about us? It seems most of you who passionately need to convince everyone that the Catholic Church degrades women and wants to breed more members are ex-Catholics yourselves. If you left the Church, I assume it was for good reason and with lots of thought and contemplation. I assume it was the right decision. I assume you are happier now. But shouldn’t you have peace in that decision? Shouldn’t you feel sorry for the rest of us slobs that haven’t seen the light and are still a part of the Church? If you still feel you need to validate your decision by criticizing or insulting the Church, please do so with facts, not lies.

                    • Wow. Comparing me to the WBC, huh … maybe you should have let this whole thing rest after all.

                      As for the only relevant parts of your comment – i.e. the Catholic Church is “pro-life” and the Pill is an abortifacient, let’s take a look. The Catholic Church has a long history of opposing any and all forms of birth control – even the use of condoms in Africa to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. They repeated, as late as 2003, the outdated and dangerously wrong information that the disease is small enough to pass through the latex in a condom, thus undermining the efforts of the WHO and other organizations working in sub-Saharan Africa. The pope was more concerned about the “breakdown in sexual morality” than the millions of people dying from a virus whose spread can be checked with regular condom use. It wasn’t until 2010 that Pope Benedict stated it was acceptable in the context of disease prevention.

                      I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again here. Their stance on this issue was not about life. It was about maintaining their position on sexual morality and staying “on message”.

                      Second, I’m glad you cited a medical book about the Pill this time … even if you tried to get a dig in by assuming I think the Catholic Church is against women getting out of the kitchen or something. (Swing and a miss, by the way. It’s their self-evident reputation for slut shaming I brought to your attention.) Hormonal birth control and Plan B – no matter how many times you’ll try to say otherwise – is not an abortifacient. Even if it did work by preventing implantation, it does not terminate a pregnancy which, according to the AMA and ACOG begins at implantation, not at fertilization. Now … about whether it does this at all. As we both agree, the uterine lining is affected by the Pill. That knowledge prompted the medical community to initially state that one of its mechanisms could potentially be the prevention of implantation. However, an ever increasing body of recent scientific research (like what I already pointed you to the other day) is showing that there is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics is so convinced of this that they issued a statement last year to this effect, saying that the Pill only works through the prevention of ovulation.

                      The bottom line for me is that even if it did prevent implantation, I still give more priority to living, breathing people than I do to fertilized eggs … so this entire discussion is purely academic.

                    • @Molly

                      Wow. As one of “the commenters on this page,” I’m more than highly offended being told I “stand on the same ground with Westboro.”

                      The Catholic Church doesn’t want its members to use any form of birth control. To pick apart and make assumptions for the reason(s) why that rule is imposed is no different than the Mormon Church not wanting its members to drink coffee. Both are man-made rules. Members of both religions have their own personal thoughts about “why” these rules are imposed. But since the leaders of either church don’t fully explain those reasons, assumptions are inevitably made, by both members and non-members.

                      Among other things, the Pill DOES normally affect the lining of the uterus, making it less likely for a fertilized egg to be implanted. Just like using the natural/rhythm method, the pill is used to prevent pregnancy. Both are obvious forms of birth control. Who’s to say because a Catholic woman has sex using the natural form of birth control hasn’t created a zygote that is expelled from the uterus? She would probably be completely unaware of it just like a woman using the Pill as her chosen form of birth control. I honestly don’t see the difference. Having sex always creates the possibility of a spontaneously-aborted “potential” baby. Does that make every woman who has sex using the natural method an abortionist? Does it make a woman who takes the Pill and has sex an abortionist? As long as a woman has sex, it’s always possible that she may cause an egg to be fertilized and unable to implant itself, whatever her form of birth control may be.

                      BTW my Mormon sister is also a medical doctor (imagine that), she didn’t “get the memo” either. Even so, she still chooses to practice Mormonism. She judges me because I choose not to, exactly the way you have judged me as a commenter here. However, my sister would never ever tell me that I’m on the same ground with Westboro. She has too much class for that. In fact, it would never enter her mind.

                    • Hi Shelley,

                      As you’ll see from my response, I didn’t waste any more time arguing with Molly. She’s clearly not interested in understanding anyone else’s point of view. She criticizes Protestants, Mormons, and atheists, lumps us all together with people like Westboro (guilt by association, in some bizarre, twisted way), and brands us all as people who are just too close-minded to see the “wisdom” of her church.

                      As much as she says that we’re welcome to have our own opinions and believe what we want, it galls her to no end that she can’t convince us that she’s right. It’s eating away at her because ultimately she’s unsure of her own choices.

                      So yeah, I could be offended, too, and don’t blame you or anyone else at being offended, but I almost pity her. She strikes me more like a scared child than an adult, which brings me back to that Dylan Moran video posted above. Religion allows people to remain little children who don’t need to take responsibility for their choices rather than develop into adults who make their choices and live with the consequences.

                      All my best to you, Shelley, and I’ll be reading your comments in the future.

                    • @deo – Yea I’m done with this off-topic. Thank you for your nice comments to me.

                    • @Shelley I truly am sorry. You have always seemed like a kind person and are usually very polite on this blog. I did not mean to include you in my Westboro comparison. You see, therein lies the damage in stereotyping an entire group of people. You are always wrong about some of them.

                      @SenatorJason you seem to understand my point and you’re right – fundamentally we won’t ever agree on birth control b/c I believe a fertilized egg is a baby and you do not. My point was never to change your mind on this front, simply to explain the REASON Catholics oppose the Pill.

                      @deosullivan3 as I often have to do with my one-year-olds, I’ll pick my battles here. You don’t get it, and that’s fine. I’m fortunate to be at peace with my choices regarding NFP, I hope you can find peace in your choices too.

                      Thanks again for the discussion. I think we’ve beat this one pretty dead.
                      and thanks @Deb as always, for hosting the conversation.

                    • Sorry, I am just now getting to my comments.

                      I guess the thing that disturbs me the most about your comment, Molly, is that you equate someone who uses name-calling and offensive language with people who tell you that, after much reading and study, their interpretation of history is different than yours. (@deosullivan3…is it different from or different than…can’t remember!)

                      It’s ironic that you continue to call others close-minded when you are doing EXACTLY the same thing you accuse others of–you’re sticking to the facts you’ve learned. We are doing the same.

                      The lady doth protest too much; this is clearly a sensitive issue for you. Perhaps YOU feel like a breeder.

                • Molly: “And the next time you – along with your evangelical Protestant counterparts in this issue (ouch) -say ‘Catholics oppose birth control to breed members and hold down women!’ I hope you think about that statement a little harder. And ask yourself if that is an accurate statement, or a biased opinion.”

                  It is absolutely an accurate statement, especially the part about holding down women. There are none so blind as those who will not see. And to suggest that this thought somehow makes us bedfellows with evangelical Protestants is asinine. Evangelical Protestants believe that the earth is round, and so do you. Does that mean that you and they are of the same mind?

        • I’m kind of late to this discussion, but since others have already addressed some of the things I wanted to add about the pill, I’ll just say 2 short things. Molly, when you say “…my husband loves me too much to make me take a pill…” that language suggests that you secondary, that you take orders from him. I feel this is how the Catholic church sets up the hierarchy: men, then women, then children. He should not “make” you take any pill.

          Most importantly is this: that 5 days a month you abstain, should be the time that YOU most enjoy sex. So, the church is placing the burden on you, as a woman, to control your desires. There are other birth control methods–like condoms–which would stop Mr. Sperm from meeting Ms. Egg.

          This whole thing where women are supposed to NOT like sex and supposed to be the gatekeepers really sucks. It’s not natural. And the church discourages us as women from fulfilling and embracing our natural desires.

          And, yes, I still think, that the church discourages the use of birth control in order to grow its membership. That was its original intent, especially since so many children died young. The church just never adapted with the times.

          • @Deb I did not mean to imply it was my husband’s decision. Actually during our marriage prep classes after Natural Family Planning was introduced to us we both did our own research and came to the same conclusion. Nor did i mean to imply that a husband loves his wife less if she does take the pill. They just don’t have the same opinion that we have. Yes, it requires some sacrifice on both of our parts at times.

            And funny you mention that sometimes it requires abstaining during a woman’s most desired time. A lot of our NFP students were non-religious women that hated how the pill suppressed their sex drive. Another side effect for some women. So, there is nothing natural about that either!

            I am not here to convince you birth control is wrong. That’s my opinion, it doesn’t have to be yours. But my point is the reason for the church’s stance on this is the abortive features of the pill. Again, not trying to convince you this is abortion or that a fertilized egg is a baby. This is my opinion, it doesn’t have to be yours. But this is the reason- the sole reason- the church opposes birth control, not to suppress women or breed more members. The church has spent millions researching and teaching this birth control method. The church does not oppose the thought ‘I don’t want / can’t afford children right now’. Its only opposition is to abortion at any stage.

            So if you disagree with the church’s birth control stance, disagree on the premise that those silly Catholics think a fertilized egg is a human! And that egg has rights equal to a woman! Yeah, disagree on that premise. If you say it’s to breed more members, I think you lose a lot of credibility because it sounds biased, ignorant, and silly.

            • Molly, I don’t mean to offend, and you seem like an intelligent, likable woman, but I believe that “biased, ignorant, and silly” describes the stance of the Catholic church on birth control, and on women in general. And if NFP works so well, why do so many Catholic families have 7, 8, or 9 kids that they can’t afford, both financially and emotionally? My husband was raised in a very strict Catholic family, in a very Catholic neighborhood, and when we go back there, I’m appalled at what I see. Women who believe that being subservient to their husbands and popping out as many kids as their bodies will allow is what god wants, priests that take advantage of their parishioners, bigotry toward gays, hypocritical attitudes about abortion, and a steadfast refusal to provide assistance to the young women who get pregnant and desperately need help. I don’t mean to pick on Catholicism, because I believe that many religions belong in this category, but it happens to be the subject of the day. Okay, end rant.

              • @kathy it’s okay. I’m not offended. Thank you for the kind words. In general commenters on this blog are very courteous and I try to be too. I am not on a pro-life blog, so I expect resistance. But I have learned things about non believers here so hope that you can also learn things about believers.

                There are things I disagree with that the church preaches- opposition to gay marriage being one of them. But I think in the church’s very pro-life stance that opposing e the pill is in line with that belief. Right or wrong. It is consistent.

                I too know people for whom NFP has been ineffective. I also know people who have gotten pregnant on the pill. When done correctly. NFP is 99% effective. Again, I’m not trying to win you all over to NFP.

                Like I also said, it is not for everyone. I know wonderful mothers and women who use birth control (yes, many are Catholic. Shocking, right? Haha). For many people- for whatever reasons- this is the right choice for them.

                I have tried to support my comments with facts, research, or at least experience. Is the same said for those supporting the popular ‘the church opposes birth control to breed more members’ comment? If so I am unaware. In my extensive research, catholic experience, educations, networks, and upbringing, I have never heard or even sensed this message. It was never a ‘propaganda’ of the church in my experiences. But if there is actual data or resources that support this – if it says somewhere in Vatican 2 that ‘thou shall breed a catholic army’ then I stand corrected. I think, rather, this is just an assumption non-Catholics make without any evidence or base for said assumption. It is like when believers assume that non-believers have no morals. There is no basis or evidence for this assumption, it is simply made out of ignorance, bias, and a closed-mind.

                • Molly, I have learned a lot from religious people on this blog and I enjoy the back-and-forth discussion and debate, and agree that most on this forum are courteous and polite, which I genuinely appreciate.

                  You said that you’ve never heard or sensed the message from Catholic leaders that the church opposes birth control to breed more members, and I agree that at this date and time it makes no sense. But as Debbie noted earlier, I do believe that that was the motivation at some point in history because so many children died young, and the church has failed to adapt and realize that we are living in 2013. Many of the Vatican’s policies, in fact, are antiquated ideas that made sense 2000 years ago, but not today. The same can be said of many other religions, Judaism in particular. We can’t pretend that things haven’t changed, and if we do, we’re doomed to fail. The Catholic numbers (and all other religions) are diminishing quickly, I believe due to the fact that the churches and synagogues have turned a blind eye to the changing times. That’s not to say that I would still be an active participant in my religion if they had changed with the times – I wouldn’t – but I think a lot of people would be more likely to be regular church-going and church supporting members if they had.

                  • @Kathy & @Molly Yes, Kathy said it much better than me here: “Many of the Vatican’s policies, in fact, are antiquated ideas that made sense 2000 years ago, but not today. The same can be said of many other religions, Judaism in particular.”

                    That’s exactly what I meant.

                    I also think they continue to hold women at arm’s length. No business would be allowed to discriminate against women in the way the Catholic church has. That’s too bad we teach our girls that they’re not good enough to be a priest or bishop just because they were born female.

                • @Molly I’ve never read that “thou shall breed a catholic army.” I will find some resources for you, but not today. I’ll have to go back through my books.

                  I appreciate the discussion.

                  I’m not trying to sway you from your faith–I respect how much it means to you and that you are so willing to defend it.

                  It’s just frustrating to me to see that the church is still so repressive. Of course, women play a part in subjugating themselves.

              • Also to all- I’m sorry if this topic ruffled feathers. I’m not trying to be controversial. I just want to clear up what I believe is a misconception about the catholic church’s reason for opposing birth control. Many misconceptions on my part about non-believers have been cleared up by this blog and I’m a better person for it. I think that is my point.

                The first time I heard the ‘church opposes birth control to breed members’ I remember thinking ‘oh my, how silly. Do people really believe that?’ And I hear that a lot. In addition to this group, the strongly evangelical Protestants are the worst about making this comment. I’m not sure that’s a camp you guys want to be in?

                • @Molly I only believe that because, in my course of study about the history of ideas, which included a lot of study about religion/science/magic, I read plenty of information that supports the claim. That’s probably not something I’m likely to change my mind about because I figure the church would rather tell women today that, “Of course, it was never our intention to make a subservient breeder out of you.” No, they want women to be an important part of the church–just like priests and bishops and the pope. You know the saying, “If it walks like a duck…”

            • @Molly I’m aware that the pill kills a woman’s sex drive. There are always condoms. Still, you know that NFP, along with the pill, suppresses a woman’s natural desire. But that’s okay because we’re just here to serve.

              I am aware that this is your opinion, of course, as you know what’s mine.

              Did you know that the NFP was only recently (1960s) adopted by the church as an “option”? Did you know that Vatican II, in part, was a way to try to keep the church from losing so many members, that the church finally realized it needed to adapt? The church has always taken the stance that to interfere with “god’s” plan of sex = procreation is a bad thing. That includes masturbation, as you know. If you study the history of the Catholic church, there is plenty of history to prove that the church wanted babies to grow god’s kingdom.

              I did go back to the Catholic church and take a course with them, at church, after my kids were born. I thought I’d give them a chance to believe. Some of you might have read earlier blog posts about this before I took it down. So, not only was I brought up as a Catholic all the way through confirmation (and, yes, I took those horrible CCD classes), I also went to their pre-marital course before getting married and then went back as a nonbeliever and took a course on those disenfranchised who were coming back into the church. I know how much the church is willing to tolerate so that they don’t lose church members.

              I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I just want to tell you that when you use the words “biased, ignorant and silly” these are the words that many nonbelievers think of when we hear the religious talk.

              If you can’t see that you’re considered the second-class sex in the church, where women can have NO flipping say, where they can hold no important office, where you are nothing more than a baby-making machine, then we will never be able to relate. You’re trapped by the church and their dogma.

              • @Deb this is probably a topic for another day – but yes I agree the Catholic Church has a long way to go in incorporating women in the clergy and leadership. I’d love to see women priests and bishops someday.

                However, did this impact my sense of worth as a woman? No. Maybe my family is to thank for that. I always grew up knowing I was smart, capable, and valuable. Gender was never an issue for me. It won’t be for my daughter either, if I can help it.

                At least you – moreso than other commenters- attempted to provide some support for the claim ‘the Church opposes birth control to breed members’ (man I’m tired of typing that sentence!). Still, this has not been a message, theme, or propaganda of the church that I have ever gotten a sense of. And even if I’m the only Catholic who feels this way (and I’m not) I think its wrong to stereotype an entire population because of even the one person you are wrong about.

                Of course I can’t speak for all Catholics, we are a big group. As with all groups that include humans, there are some inspiring examples of love and service in the Church and some horrible, corrupt people in the Church. Again, this is a topic for another day. I have had a positive experience in my personal faith journey. Deb I know you aren’t trying to convert me- nor I you.

                Thanks again for the discussion. My only goal here was to open minds. As you said, the words ‘biased, ignorant, and silly are the words many non-believers think of when we hear believers talk’- that was my point in choosing such words. To make a bold (false, in my experience and research) claim about the motive of the church in its birth control stance without any evidence or support is very much the type of thing i would think people on this page would disapprove of. I wouldn’t even have this discussion with zealous Protestants who share your opinion. It wouldn’t be worth my time. I guess I expected more from this group. Goes to show in our own ways, we all (yes, even those rational and fair-minded non-believers) have our biases and believe what we want to believe regardless of the facts.

                • Molly, regarding your last sentence, to what “facts” do you refer?

                  • @Kathy I addressed this above and re-stated the facts. Somehow this discussion got divided up into two different sections.

                • @ Molly

                  You’re only goal was to open minds? Huh? How?

                  You came to this discussion and said, hey guys, I know you don’t believe this but the Catholic Church teaches XYZ, which I believe, and you should validate my reasons for believing that.

                  That’s opening minds?

                  Who do you think we are? What do you take us for?

                  You can compare us to whomever you like–Protestants, bakers, and candlestick makers–and say you expected more or different from us, but that’s not our problem. It’s yours.

                • Molly, Because people do not agree with you on a certain point does not mean that they’re not open-minded. You’ve come to your conclusions through reading or from what you’ve been taught. Others have come to different conclusions from what they’ve read or been taught. The participants here in this conversation are a pretty educated group, and they’re also very fair.

                  I listen to and hear your opinion. I just don’t agree. The Catholic church has an incredible history that you may or may not know about, a history beyond what the church teaches about itself. Do you know why the altar boys ring bells during mass? Do you know why the church changed the rulings about where they would place the host (in your hand or your mouth)? Did you know that church members used to be seated by men, women, rich (in front) and poor (in back)? The church has changed dramatically over the years. It has evolved, but it still holds to some old traditions and beliefs.

                  Yes. I believe that the church (its people) show examples of “love and service.” It’s clearly the place for you, and I’m not trying to take away your right or desire to worship. My gripe (and I think others feel this way) is that we don’t want YOUR church involved in our schools or our laws. You don’t want abortion? Great. Don’t get one. You don’t like birth control? Fine, don’t use it. Have as many children as you can afford. You don’t like gay marriage? Fine. Don’t marry the same sex. (And I know you don’t agree with your church here.)

                  Most of the information we all acquire is second-hand (or more). We know the world is not flat, but we know this because we’ve learned it, not because we’ve seen this ourselves. So we all may acquire information, and sometimes the same info, but we don’t come to the same conclusions.

  19. The church I was born into “requires” its members to pay a 10% tithe on their gross incoming, which for me also meant the meager child support I received. If I didn’t pay a full 10% I was not allowed to enter their temples of worship. I did it because I thought I was doing what was right, it was all I knew at the time. And then I finally opened my eyes, at age 35.

    • @Shelley I’m sorry. I know you could have used that money. Even for people who are not struggling right now, that 10% could go towards saving for retirement…

    • @Shelley, it just steams me that bishops might require tithing to be paid on child support, too. This is something that my previous bishop tried to do with my ex-wife as well. I told him that I’d choose to pay or not pay tithing on the money first, and then give it in trust to my children to be utilized for their support. Luckily I put up a big enough stink that the stake president advised him to back off rather than risk causing a dispute between me and my ex-wife over the child support.

      • @the frogman: That’s awesome that you stood up for your wife that way with her bishop! Unfortunately, back then my children and I didn’t have anyone there to stand up for us. After meeting with my then-bishop and requesting an “exemption” or “waiver” from being required to pay my 10% tithes, I met with the next bishop who was “called” to serve. And he told me the exact same thing. So sad that some churches literally prey upon their most vulnerable members…

        • @Shelley, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t doing it only for my ex-wife. I mostly just didn’t want to continue supporting the church with my hard-earned dollars. Thinking about your situation, I could find it tolerable if they had taken your tithing and immediately turned around and given you some help from the fast offerings funds to support your family. But driving you $10,000 into debt so you could be “worthy?” Yeah, that galls….

        • Shelley, I really empathize with you. Geez, it’s awful the way you were treated. Ugh. What church was that??

  20. Steven, you claim to have read all of Deborah’s blog posts since January, yet for you to suggest that her blog is full of finger pointing and anti-Christian rants shows that you have not, in fact, read many of her posts. Her thought provoking and intelligent missives are generally gracious and gentle. As for a lack of objectivity, this isn’t a daily newspaper. It’s a blog about living without religion, and if you don’t like it, then don’t read. I disagree entirely with not only the content of your comment, but the tone, as well. If you don’t like what Deborah and others write on this blog, then why keep reading? There are plenty of people out there like you, so please find a group with whom you can agree.

  21. Patti OSullivan

    Joe, the Catholic Church does what is in the best interest of the Catholic Church. Sometimes their interests intersect with the interests of those who believe in human rights for all and sometimes their interests do not. I see little difference between telling people in the pews that supporting gay marriage, abortion, and the birth control mandate is sinful and telling people who to vote for and whether they should press ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the ballot box. When religious organizations help write and help fund legislation, that is crossing the line.

    • Patti, Am I correct in understanding that you’re making the assertion that abortion is a human right applied to ALL humans?

  22. Kathy, I have read all of Deborah’s posts since January 16th. This was only the second “critical” post from me, along with a few complimentary ones. Deborah has always encouraged diverse commentary from readers here. Contrary to what Patti wrote (above), this blog is not an exclusive club for atheists. I will continue to read and to comment from time to time.

    Voicing one’s criticism of things in an objective even-handed manner is intelligent and constructive. The theme of this blog is “Raising kids as independent, logical thinkers.” I actually think that a bit more on-topic discussion and brainstorming would indeed be productive and valuable.

    Steven

  23. Televangelism is a very well disguised form of extortion. A lot of churches, with the way things are done, are also performing types of extortion. I find it alarming that people, in turn, can use those “donations/obligations” as exemptions when they file their income taxes. For some reason, it feels dishonest. So, you’re giving to God? Then, you turn around and take that money back out of the government? Ummm, helllloooo?

  24. I agree 100% dqfan2012! For many years, decades, I was one of those church-going Christians who took advantage of my charitable tax breaks. I remember one year specifically, when I was able to write off $3,500 of my cash charitable contributions, and my income that year was only $17,000. I was a new single mom with $7,000 in daycare expenses that I also wrote off that same year. I was barely surviving financially, always just a hair above qualifying for welfare, subsidized rent and daycare, food stamps. Actually, I wasn’t “surviving.” My generous parents sent me money several times a month, for seven years. That was what kept my kids and me from drowning.

    I was giving everything I had to my church, literally – and the church took it!!!! Several times, I met face-to-face with my church leadership. I told them that I couldn’t afford to pay my 10% tithing. I was told that if I didn’t continue to pay my 10%, that the church wouldn’t be able to “help me” later on, if I needed it. Are you f-ing kidding me?????

    As a result, after a few years of giving my beloved church so much money I didn’t have, I ended up with over $10,000 in credit card debt. After giving my church all my money (yeah right, I didn’t HAVE any money!!) I was forced to charge my children’s daycare expenses, their diapers and food, to my credit cards. When I was able to finally open my eyes to the exploitation that was being perpetrated on me through a lifetime of being brainwashed by them, I left. Thank GOD!!! I left them all. And over the next several years, with the help of my very supportive family who loves my children and me, I was able to pay back every single cent to my credit card companies.

    That’s all “water under the bridge” to me now, 15 years later. But I’ll never forget how my church blatantly exploited me – a financially struggling single mom with two little preschool-age boys. Talk about SICK. Sick and greedy bastards.

    So yeah, I know what extortion feels like. First-hand.

    • I’m just glad you’re out, Shelly. I don’t know how you did it after generations of it, I’m just glad that you did it! You’re quite the example of bravery for your boys when you walked away.

    • Shelley, I really empathize with you. Geez, it’s awful the way you were treated. But I guess I’m not surprised. LDS Mormonism is not Christianity, and their teachings are very contrary to what Jesus said. Ugh, EVERYTHING you’ve described about what they said and did to you was opposite of the New Testament. I concur with you, I’m thankful you escaped!

      • Deborah Mitchell

        @Steven Nonbelievers (atheists, agnostics, humanists) don’t believe any religions so Christianity is no more right than any other. I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can understand what it means to escape religion.

        • Since I’ve been where you are, an atheist, I indeed understand. You and I simply don’t agree. I believe that Jesus of the New Testament is the truth. I know that you were raised Catholic. Did you ever actually believe in Jesus?

          • I appreciate your perspective, Steven, really I do!! Yes I’ve been a Christian, for most of my life actually. I’m 50 years old, and I left it all behind when I was around 42. It’s very difficult for me to understand how “intelligent” and “well-educated” people in 2013 can actually fall for the story of Jesus being the savior. I mean no disrespect, none whatsoever towards you, or any other believer!!! Like Deborah, I’m very much open to hearing your thoughts and opinions. It’s what makes her blog such an awesome place for us all to be a part of!! :)

            • Hi Shelley,

              Thanks for your very nice messages to me this evening, I appreciate both of them! And yes, I am glad that Deborah’s blog is such a great forum for respectful discussion and sharing of ideas, including different perspectives. I’d be glad to discuss thoughts and opinions with you too. For now, I’ll share one simple but important thing: Consistently for these 36 years, I think that believing in Jesus of the New Testament is the most intelligent and reasonable decision we can ever make. :-)

              Steven

              • @ Steven, I think that you’ll find many if not most of us in this forum were once religious and, by that, I mean Xtian. I was raised Catholic and dumped it all after 40 years.

                I’m not surprised to learn that people go the other way — atheist/agnostic to religious — as I’ve come across some, though I will admit it’s rarer these days than the other way around.

                I can understand why people believe, too, and I’ll tell you, but I don’t think you’re going to like my answer, but I’m only being honest, ok?

                People are religious out of fear. They fear the unknown and the idea that there is no god can be terrifying. Life doesn’t come with an instructional manual, and it’s easier to pick one up ready made — the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, etc. — than to spend one’s life trying to figure one out.

                Death, of course, is what people may fear the most, and the belief that if I believe in Jesus (Mohammed, the LDS god who lived near the star Kolob, etc.) then I will escape death. It is a powerful temptation, but it is, I believe, delusional. Of course, no one believes they’re being delusional — which is why it’s called delusion — and so they justify their belief with ultimately subjective and non-provable statements like, “It’s about faith” or “God called me.”

                I won’t go into how organized religion exploits these ideas for the purpose of garnering power, wealth, etc. I’ll just stick with the basic premise of why people want to believe and leave it at that.

                And for a bit of comic relief, here’s Dylan Moran, an extremely funny Irish comic (our name is O’Sullivan, after all) on the subject:

                • @deosullivan3, thanks for your honesty! Yes, I’ve gathered that a lot of folks here were once “religious”, raised under Catholicism — shoved down your throats by parents, parochial teachers, etc. I truly understand your departure from that institution. It’s very “fear based”, primarily the fear of “Am I doing enough?”, “Am I working hard enough to be worthy?” Honestly, it’s exhausting just thinking about so many man-made rules within Catholicism, all of the shoulds and shouldn’ts, dos and don’ts. I totally understand why you departed that — the burden of trying to “be religious” is enormous, and not very rewarding.

                  I was an atheist, raised with no religious beliefs. At a certain point I began to perceive that there is more to this world than what we can see/touch/hear with our physical senses — that there’s some kind of underlying spiritual realm. And of course, that provoked a lot of personal questions, such as “Why am I here?”, “What is the causality force behind all of this?”, and “What is my spiritual destiny, my future beyond this short Earthly life?” I began a sincere search for “The Truth.” After many years of diligent pursuit and inquiry, several extraordinary things occurred which lead me to believe in Jesus. As I read the New Testament for the very first time, I found that the God who I was reading about was the very same God who was revealing himself in my life. That was 36 years ago. Throughout all this time, among many many things learned, I feel that the most important thing I’ve learned about God is that he wants us to have a real and experiential relationship with him. He’s given us the option to choose, he does not force himself upon us. My experience with him is that he’s extremely sweet, gracious and patient. To echo a passage from the New Testament, I love him because he first loved me.

                  Jesus spoke a lot of how it’s not about being “religious” nor about being compelled by fear. Here’s something pertinent he said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

                  Take care,
                  Steven

                  • @ Steven, you make some very strange distinctions. I don’t see how the Catholic Church relies on fear more than any other religion, organized or free-wheeling Christianity. There are puh-lenty of mainstream and non-mainstream Christians that tell us non-believers that we’re going to hell if we don’t believe, that our lives without Jesus are empty, etc.

                    And please don’t quote the bible to us. We’re sooooooo tired of it. My comeback is always the same: “Even the devil can quote, blah, blah, blah.”

                • @deosullivan3 Loved that Dylan Moran clip!

      • Thank you Steven, I truly appreciate your understanding and compassion about what happened to me. Mormonism is considered, by some, to be the world’s largest cult. Having researched many cults over the years, that’s the same conclusion I’ve come to. I’m not into bashing any religion, Mormons, any Christian beliefs, Muslims, Hindus, no one! I respect everyone’s choice to believe the way they choose. My family are still all Mormons. I love them dearly, and totally respect their choice to believe! Thank you, my new friend… :)

  25. LanceThruster

    Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion – several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.

    ~ Mark Twain

  26. Reblogged this on Thinking & Driving and commented:
    I really appreciate the perspective of a non-believer on the money side of the church. One commenter makes a point about a portion of the revenue of a church being tax free. I’ve been associated with church for a long time and understand all to well how the finances are used. I’d agree that there should be a cap on the tax exemption status of a church. What do you think?

    • I really really love the Top Gun soundtrack. Danger Zone was not the only great song Kenny L has given us. OTOH the only other great song comes from the same soundtrack, namely “Playing with the boys”.

  27. Where is that instruction manual on raising kids? You know, the one the hospital gives you just before you leave with your new baby?

  28. Thanks for bringing up a valid argument about many church activities that should be taxed. I agree that certain activities of churches should be taxed. Churches should pay taxes on sales when they operate bookstores, gift shops, coffee houses, etc., and in some states they do. They should pay tax on profits made from for-profit business enterprises. They should pay real estate taxes on property that is leased or rented to others. When I contribute to my church, I am helping to provide solar power for water systems in Haiti and elsewhere, I am supporting a community garden that feeds the hungry by providing fresh produce for local food pantries, I am providing meals for the local homeless shelter, I am providing clothing for those who cannot afford to buy clothing, and the list goes on. Many other non-profits benefit from tax-exempt status for such humanitarian activities, including some humanist organizations. If my church were busy engaging in political activity or failed to help those who are unable to help themselves, I would stop contributing and would disavow my membership.

  29. Nice to her that your church, Jim, does else than just wishes. Have you thought about taking the charity one step forward and discarding the religious altogether? There are charities like the Red Cross or Oxfam or UNICEF which do the work but have no hidden agenda.

    • If I thought the good that my church did in the community was because of any motive other than providing help where help is needed, I wouldn’t be a part of it. There’s no attempt to convert those who are helped–when our congregation sees a need that we can meet, we try to do so. This is not to belittle the work done by many other non-profits, but our church’s efforts are targeted at specific needs that are often not addressed by large non-profits, and some of our work (like preparing disaster assistance kits) is done in conjunction with larger charitable organizations like the Red Cross. I hope that all of us working together can make a difference in the world, including “progressive” Christians, adherents of other religions, and “progressive” atheists. Shalom.

  30. If they are non-for-profit church or otherwise, we as the public need to be able to view their tax positions. Most non-for-profits are required to do this, churches need the same requirements. We as the people are paying more taxes then necessary because of churches. Where is the separation of church and state when we as the state are required to remain blind to their financial statements and yet pay for their subsidies? An uninformed public is a public left in darkness. Start with full disclosure laws,this idea may not be tradition, but it is NOT unconstitutional. Show me the meat. I want to know.

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