Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thought contraception

I distinctly remember in eigth grade, after we had sex ed. in Catholic school, which was a pretty hilarious ordeal to begin with, a friend of mine named Carrie (all names changed to protect identity) and I were talking about sex and birth control. She maintained that there was no point in using any birth control at all because, "No method is 100%. If it's God will you get pregnant, then it will happen anyway."

I tried telling her, "What if you use two methods? That's more than 100%"

"But it's 198% out of 200%," she explained, she she was correct mathematically, but not logically.

We went around and around in circles until eventually agreeing to disagree. I never thought much of her argument, but I never forgot it either. Recently, with all the Obama vs. Catholicism contraception kerfuffle, I've been thinking about it a lot. We were just kids, 12 years old, and already one of us had been brainwashed by Catholic thought contraception. We went to the same school and I never had that attitude, which means it came from home.

Her parents were big time, old school, hard core Catholics and all around Jeebus freaks. I even remember her mom bragging about how much going to see Billy Graham "rocked." I also remember, even as a kid, thinking, "Lame." The reigns were tight at their house. Even during Robinhood: Men in Tights, during the scene where Robinhood is serenading Maid Marian in front of a screen and the shadow of his sword makes it look like he has a raging boner that would put John Holmes and Ron Jeremy to shame, her dad said, "I dunno, this is getting suggestive," and made us turn off the movie.

Doubtlessly, the attitude toward birth control was coming from home. What scares me is how early it begins. If she had already been brainwashed by 12, when did the programming begin, age 10, age nine, even younger? It's a miracle any girl graduates Catholic high school without a couple of kids clinging to her teets! I guess God is good at picking which ones really need to have kids.

On a side note, I didn't continue to Catholic high school, but one of the girls I went to school with did, got pregnant, and has a child that is now a student in the very school that I attended kindergarten through eight grade. My mother is a teacher a that school and upon seeing the little girl's last name on her class roster said, "Oh, you must be Angie's daughter (name changed)."

"No," the little girl said confused, "Angie's my sister."

The more I think of the "it's not 100%" attitude, the more it scares me. If you can apply "God's will" to equate a 1% chance with a 99% chance, isn't that just encouraging reckless endangerment? You'd think with the Catholic church's zero tolerance policy toward suicide that reckless endangerment would be strictly governed as well. Sadly, it's not.

Seat belts aren't 100%, nor is a helmet, nor a sidewalk, nor any kind of health treatment, nor medication, nor exercise program, nor riding a unicycle across a tight rope over a tank of sharks and crocodiles. So, if it's God's will for you to die, it will happen. Of course, if you do die, do you burn in Hell for suicide? Technically, it wasn't suicide because you weren't trying to kill yourself, you just happened to die doing something you knew was likely to kill you. Wait, if God considers that suicide, why would God will you to die? Just so he can send you to Hell? What a dick.

So, go ahead, kiddies have sex without condoms. We'll see if it's God's will that you get knocked up, get an STD, or turn into a total skank. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll get all three! How's that for a holy trinity? Pin It

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ass Wednesday

Ah, the old Catholic tradition of walking around all day looking like the douchier sector of your friends tried to Hitler you and missed.

This day-long embarrassment is followed by 40 days of refusing to do something you enjoy and swarming Captain D's every Friday. Supposedly, the 40 day "sacrifice" is supposed to mimic the way Jesus chose to deal with his negative body image. He "fasted" in the for 40 days before starting his public ministry. Well, what else was he supposed to do? It's not like they had Spanx back then. Of course, not eating Hershey Kisses for 40 says obviously very comparable.

Then again, maybe giving up a food item is really just making up for all the donuts you ate on Fat Tuesday. How perfectly religious. Engorge yourself the day before making a minimal sacrifice, but still somehow convince yourself that the sacrifice has outweighed the engorgement and made you more holy. This is a whole set of customs I've never understood.

Even growing up in Catholic school, I thought this whole idea was, in a word, retarded. I didn't see how not doing something I liked made me love Jesus more or made me more like him. I usually would lie about giving something up, or I'd give something up for about two days and then go back to doing it. Though, bearing the sign of a true Catholic, I did feel guilty about it....not enough to stop, just enough to feel ashamed of myself.

I do distinctly remember a much better suggestion during one of the many Ash Wednesday services I was forced to attend. One priest said that giving up something in this land of plenty hardly showed our love of Christ or made us more Christlike. Anything we could give up would be a miniscule sacrifice by comparison. Instead, to become better Christians, indeed, better people, doing something proactive to help ourselves, each other, the community would be more purposeful and would more closely fit Christ's mission in life.

He suggested doing things that most people reserve for Christmas time. Donating money to charity, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, doing canned food drives. If we weren't healthy ourselves, we could exercise daily, start diets, which are like giving up candy for Lent, but then stay on them after Easter. If we had friends going through grief, to be there for them. He explained that the whole idea of self indulgent suffering was silly.

It was one of very few sermons that truly touched my heart, and as a kid who spent kindergarten through 8th grade in Catholic school, I heard a LOT of sermons (most of them sucked). What a great idea! Improving oneself! HELPING others! Surely, if Jesus (well, the figure of Jesus we were supposed to believe in) were alive today, he wouldn't want us sacrificing stupid things like bubblegum or individually wrapped peppermints. He'd want us building bridges together, helping each other, making ourselves better people, making the world a better place. I couldn't wait to get home and tell my mom this brilliant notion..

Of course, as a young child, ideas are usually squished by the nearest adult. I remember going home and having my parents be the sacrifice enforcers. I understand why they did. What a pain in the ass. We have to take our kids to go do something every day? No. They're already in softball, basketball, tennis, art club, and theatre. Plus, with my dad being out of town for work so much, this meant mom had to do it all. So, once again, I ended up sacrificing orange creamsicles and learned nothing of it, since the day after Easter, I'd doubtlessly be given whatever it was I had sacrificed for 40 days prior.

Despite my childhood inability to accomplish it, the idea remains solid. If you want to "celebrate" Lent and you believe Jesus a Ghandi+hair kind of guy, then don't give up ice cream, or dirty words, or masturbating. None of that makes you a better Christian human being and it's incredibly selfish to think it does. Giving to someone else is better than taking from yourself. And don't wait for the calendar to tell you when to do it! You could be doing this every day. Alas, if you need the calendar to tell you, then at least 40 days a year, you could do something good for humanity. Besides, if you're going to go around all day having everyone think you've been Hitlered, wouldn't you at least like to get a better sense of self from it? Otherwise, you've just spent a whole day looking like an ass. Pin It

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lent: Mindless Fridays

My parents had me over for dinner last night...well, actually, I invited myself, but they were happy to have me. Mom made a roast chicken and was telling my dad to take it for lunch the next few days, then stopped herself and said, "BUT don't forget, NO MEAT on Wednesday because it's Ash Wednesday." I have a long standing tradition of giving my family the business about Ash Wednesday and meatless Fridays during Lent, a tradition that I imposed long before I became atheist.

First, came the objection to fish. I didn't understand how fish was not meat. Somehow, with no degree in biology, food science, or bioethics, the pope is able to distinguish these highly debatable concepts to a level of certainty that Catholics trust. Fish isn't meat because the pope says so.

Then came (and still often comes), the idea that, okay, the pope says fish isn't meat, but you still don't have to eat fish. I've always liked fish and didn't have a problem with that as a child, but I did have a problem with my folks constantly whining, "Oh, it's so hard to drop by Captain D's during Lent. Oh, fish is so expensive this time of year. Oh, I'm so tired of fish.....oh, blabla, similar whining, whiney whine waaaaah."

As someone who's gone mostly vegetarian, I have lots of advice to give a couple of folks that think meat at every meal is not only preferable, but a human necessity. I love being told my health philosophy is wrong by two obese people with arthritis, body aches, and type II diabetes, by the way. I told them to stop agonizing over fish. They could try omelets, quiches, stir fry, noodles, veggie stews, veggie soups, falafel. Hell, I even told them to order pizza with no meat toppings and THAT wasn't good enough either!

One Friday a few years ago, I distinctly remember practically forcing my mom to make eggplant parmigiana (I would have gladly made it for them, but my mom is a control freak about the kitchen at times). She was all distraught about what to make because it was a year my dad was out of work and the family couldn't afford fish. I, again, presented the argument that you don't have meat at every meal anyway, and that you don't have to have fish. I told her how cheap eggplant was, printed a recipe, and put it in front of her.

"'s really easy! I thought it would be difficult."

Everyone raved about how delicious it was. How many subsequent times has she made it? Zero.

No, apparently, they'd much rather complain than solve their problems simply. Such is the life of a Catholic. They seem to take some sort of petty pleasure in knowing they've suffered. On a side note, never get two suffering Catholics in a room together. It will become some kind of weird, masochistic pissing contest to determine who is suffering more.

As if fighting the American institutionalized OMG MEAT mindset weren't difficult enough, always the question of religious tradition came and was, in their minds, defeated by being ignored. For young parents out there that know they have a reasonably intelligent kid, don't subject them to ridiculous rituals and expect not to have to answer a few questions. Alas, my parents never did and to this day never do address it.

My mother is main culprit. My dad kind of rolls his eyes and says, "I dunno," which in this case the pacifistic marital euphemism for, "I don't actually give a shit, but your mom does all the shopping and all the cooking, so she decides." Once in a while, he'll do what any decent husband should do and stand up for her, even when he knows she's being ridiculous, and say, "It makes your mom feel better, so let her do it."

How doing something that totally inconveniences one's life makes one feel better is beyond me. Again, I claim it's that Catholic affinity for suffering. Just ask Mother Theresa. Still maintaining the silliness of it all, in adulthood, my questioning has gotten to be bolder, "Mom, why do you do this? You don't go to church, you don't say the rosary, you don't even know what's in the Bible -coughandmeatlessfridaysaren'tintherecough-, you don't even like doing this because you always complain you can't get fish, but you refuse to eat vegetarian, and you know exactly how silly it is because in your life time, eating meat on any Friday went from being a mortal sin to being a venial sin, and even at that, now it's only a few weeks a year. Why do you bother?"

Every time we get on the topic, her body and mouth visibly tense up, as if the strain of thinking about these things is too much, and the answer is, "Because!"

Shortly after, we get to the argument that any child above age three has had with at least one parent, "Why?"


"Because why?


Somehow, in the mom mindset, saying, "Because," with determination means you win.

WORSE! She informed me last night, "Well, technically, I don't have to do it because of my age."

"When did that happen?" I asked. I honestly never knew there was an age limit.

"You only have to do it ages 14 to 59," she said. She likely never told us this because as children, my sister and I would have objected and she certainly wasn't going to provide separate meals for us.

"Since when?"

"Since always," she said.

Then I remarked how it added yet one more layer of ridicule to the whole practice, but of course it got me nowhere but the Daytona 500 of why/because.

In my unmentioned number of years on this planet (I don't like to share my age, but let's say I'm at least old enough to have been drunk a lot) I have yet to get an answer beyond that. Sometimes, perhaps when she doubts it herself, she'll actually say something to the tune of, "It's the last straw. If I don't at least cling to this, then it means I have no connection with the Church."

...which is exactly my point. Of all the finer points of Catholicism, THIS is the one that proves you still have faith? How obscene. Speaking of obscenity, why should a meddling, young woman stop her mother from doing something that gives her mother "great comfort?"

I have seen the direct harm clinging to faith has done to her and the rest of the family. Though she doesn't do it the traditional, Catholic way with beads and and pre-written monologues, she claims to pray. She knows there is no power in prayer. She's been praying for a good decade and a half for my parents' economic situation to improve. It never has. Yet, she keeps holding out, keeps clinging, thinking there may yet be a silver lining on this 15 year storm cloud, thinking that God is watching and waiting for the precise moment when it's perfect to help them. Meanwhile, my heart breaks as I watch them both deteriorate, getting closer to returning to the earth's crust from whence they came, never stopping to embracing these autumn years as they should, but rather victimizing themselves while helplessly hoping to be rescued.

She has seen the direct harm it has done to the family. In fact, when I was a child and questioned when her parents visited (they lived in Michigan, we lived in Georgia), why her father never went to church. She avoided the question for years, using the why/because defense as usual. Eventually, when he was close to death and I was still worried for his soul, she told me her father didn't go to church anymore was because one of the many times he had cancer and he and my grandmother struggled to survive physically and financially, the Church told them to just keep supporting the Church financially, and all would be as it should be. He got angry and never returned. How that message never penetrated the females of the family is beyond me. I know that even as a fairly young child, it shook my reality a bit.

So, despite all knowledge to the contrary, they cling to this suicidal hope that someone is going to rescue them. I watch them starve themselves emotionally. If there were anything in the world I thought I could do to change the situation, I would, but they're set in their ways strictly as a matter of principle. They'd rather die than admit they're wrong, and sadly, I know they will. Pin It