Sunday, 2 April 2017


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Why I Am Not a Catholic and Why I Am a Humanist
Todd Stiefel

Todd Stiefel

At age eighteen, I attended an all-boys Catholic high school wearing a gold cross attached to a necklace. Of course, in the homophobic halls of religious instruction, this jewelry would never be called a necklace. We labeled such an adornment with the more macho-sounding “chain.” At the time, the irony of “chaining” myself with a cross was lost on me.
Those were the days of feeling the spirit while attending school-sponsored religious retreats. One was an amazing emotional roller-coaster called “The Encounter.” While there, we were peer-pressured to confess our most painful thoughts publicly, bonding with each other as we shared the darkest parts of our minds. Imagine teen boys dropping their alpha-male facades and crying as we took turns revealing emotional horrors and feelings of inadequacy. The most memorable story was that of a friend revealing his father’s descent into madness.
It was okay, though; the leaders helped rebuild us with Jesus as our support. Plus, we had games and music to lighten the mood. It was a fantastic feeling of brotherhood, being together for something so powerful. Sure, we were all hungry, because little food was provided. We were exhausted as well, because they kept us up late and woke us early. Yet, for a few days, it was worth it to experience spiritual exultation. I most certainly did not see the parallels to the tools of brainwashing . . . yet.
I found myself believing and praying while my skeptical nature rested in hibernation—not dead but not alert either. I knew that I doubted what I was taught more than most of my friends, and I definitely seemed to ask more questions. I found the answers good enough to put off probing too deeply but poor enough to sustain a lingering sense of uncertainty. My inquiries dodged the big picture and instead focused on pieces of the puzzle. I was up for tackling bizarre, obvious myths of the Old Testament, but I simply was not prepared to dig into the examination of the existence of God. Perhaps this was because my identity included sporting Jesus around my neck.
In hindsight, it appears that my subconscious was already tackling the big question. I clearly recall creating a stir as a result of my salutatorian graduation speech. A part of me spoke the unspoken to a theater full of proud Roman Catholic parents: “Regardless of whether or not you believe in God, someone or something gave us everything we have, made us who we are.” This tribute of gratitude to my parents fascinates me in retrospect. At a time when I still believed in the divine, I used my farewell to Marist Brothers education as an opportunity to project my theistic doubts on the audience. While I was not ready to address the question of whether I believed in God, I was ready to tip the hand of my religious incredulity by recognizing theistic doubt—not in myself, but in the crowd.
It was not long before I began to answer the questions, this time with the benefit of neutral educational resources. As a Duke University undergrad, I chose to take an elective in Old Testament history. I was amazed to hear many things that were never presented in my four years of required religious study during high school. It seemed more than coincidence that I had not been taught about the ancient pagan origins of many of the Bible stories, let alone how some of the exact phrases in the Old Testament are taken from previously existing myths. I found out that there is absolutely no extra-biblical evidence for the Jewish enslavement in Egypt or the Exodus.
My Catholic education certainly did not teach me about how the Ugarit gods were inherited by the early Israelites. I had not been taught how the Jewish Yahweh was closely associated with El, the king of the Ugarit pantheon. It was at Duke that I first learned that El ruled over a court of less powerful deities in just the way Psalm 82 speaks of Yahweh ruling over an assembly of lesser gods.
I was shocked to learn that my Yahweh was simply one of many competing local Middle-Eastern war gods, different primarily in that his adherents switched from polytheism to monotheism. I learned that this process started in order to promote the idea that Yahweh was superior to the many other gods mentioned in the Bible. Eventually, it led to a denial of the existence of other gods altogether. These monotheistic religious memes were violently intolerant of other gods and beliefs, which made them far superior in demanding replication of themselves and the destruction of opposing memes.
I asked myself how I came to believe in Yahweh. I realized it was simply an accident of history. The Israeli god’s followers slaughtered their enemies and spread their religion by forceful intolerance of other faiths. Which god the Israelites believed in did not matter; he was just one of thousands. If a different tribe had been more successful, their invisible lord would have been the one that survived to be adopted by the early Christians. In turn, if Constantine had chosen a different deity to inspire his soldiers to conquest, Christianity would not have flourished in the Roman Empire.
I came to understand that my god was simply the one that had been passed down to me by my ancestors. I was the descendant of people who had been subjugated by followers of El/Yahweh/Jesus. My god was not even the original one; he was just the modern form of gods that had merged and evolved over millennia. He was a god that was predated by the gods of hundreds of cultures. My god was younger than the pyramids. I had always accepted that all other religions simply believed in false deities that had been handed down to them. I finally recognized that my religion was no different. Catholicism is no more true or false than any other religion.
After my Old Testament course, I embraced the term agnostic. I looked on the world with fresh eyes, free from the bias of religious presumption. I was enlightened. But I was also disgusted. Free from my rose-colored faith goggles, I was better able to see the tragedies created by religious extremism. I was horrified by the offenses of the Vatican. I seriously considered founding a religion without dogma, supernaturalism, or authority.
A decade after I became an agnostic, I was turned on to the writings of the “new atheists” by a customer of my family’s business. I realized that the word atheist applied to me as well. I had not known if there was a god or not, but I had also not believed that there was. I continued my reading and found that the religion I had considered founding already existed. It was not a religion at all; it was an alternative: humanism. I had been a humanist for over ten years without even knowing that there was a word for my belief system.
Humanism exchanges fear for a free mind. It rejects religion’s hunger for power and instead empowers the individual. It condemns theocracy and embraces secularism. Humanists are accountable to humanity, not to a deity. We give our lives meaning through how we live them. We reject violence as a means to spread beliefs. Humanism respects people, not ideas. We accept science, not supernaturalism. Humanism flourishes with free inquiry at the expense of dogma. We thrive on love, equality, and compassion.
Ultimately, I am not a Catholic because I am a humanist.



Todd Stiefel is the founder and president of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, the primary sponsor of the 2012 Reason Rally. He is the cohost of the Humanist Hour podcast and the winner of several humanist awards.

PAT SAYS:

I find the above article very interesting.

I have been invited to Humanist meetings on a regular basis and have always been impressed with their sincerity, integrity and honesty.

It makes me ask myself the question: "WHY AM I A CHRISTIAN AND NOT A HUMANIST"?

MY ANSWER:

I am a Christian NOT because of anything anyone else ever taught me, told me.

I am a Christian because I in my heart I can be nothing else and because I believe that I have had a number of close encounters with God and Jesus.

I am a catholic (small c) Christian because I was born into that branch of Christianity and because I like the warmth of the liturgy, sacraments etc.

However I believe that the Institutional Roman Catholic Church is in many ways a perversion of true Christianity and in fact is responsible for a great deal of human suffering and evil.

TODAY'S MEMORIAL MASS FOR MARGARET AT THE ORATORY - 12 NOON

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34 comments:

  1. Mournemanmichael2 April 2017 at 10:17

    MourneManMichael2 April 2017 at 01:51
    Anon @ 22:29 seems to be trying to somehow get you Pat to "repent and change". ("you've painted yourself into a corner, .....you know not the day nor the hour".)
    From following your blog this past few years I think you're made of sterner stuff than to be "blackmailed" by this all too familiar RC deployment of the cradle catholic guilt complex and piling on the 'fear of the unknown'.
    I would say stay true to the consistent message and path you've advocated for a considerable time now. The more perceptive, intelligent and thoughtful contributors to this blogsite consistently confirm their understanding, agreement, and acceptance of the integrity of your stance vis a vis the self serving lack of probity of much of orthodox RC church behaviour.
    I contribute as a Humanist not because I seek to deride any deist belief. I'm content that anyone may choose to believe as they will. I'm just not content that so much time, effort, and financial contribution is directed naively into an institution (the RC church organisation), time and time again to have been shown as corrupt and a long way removed from the central tenets of the central message of Christianity. (The Golden Rule derived from much older belief systems : "Do as you would be done by")
    So stick with what you're doing Pat in exposing all the dark and unseen corners.
    MMM

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    1. That a Humanist has any view on a faith based institution is itself a contradiction. Sadly many who pose for us a humanists are in reality vicious 'enemies of the cross of Christ' as St. Paul put is so eloquently. This blog falls under the same condemnation. Like it or not the Roman Catholic Church is the authentic Church all others are in error.

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    2. If the RC Lot are the authentic church I would hate to think what the others are !!!

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    3. MournemanMichael2 April 2017 at 13:12

      Dear Anon @ 10:18 I'd be grateful for your further explanation of your first sentence above. I just don't follow its logic so kindly help me understand.
      MMM

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    4. I wonder is there any organisation in this world which is perfect.
      Political organisation e.g. Irish Governments, American, Syrian, the Yemen all proclaim that they are flawless - yet scarcely a day goes past without some scandal emerging - the Gardai etc. Even minor organisations - football, golf clubs are occasionally hit by faults in their management or membership.
      Yet in spite of all this the majority of members of states and organisations are good, honest people.
      It is the same with the Church.
      The flawed elements within the Church do not even count numerically when compared with the good people who do their utmost to follow the teachings of Jesus!
      Not long back from Mass and as always was impressed by the reverence of those present and by the priest - no genius nor expected to be so - who celebrated his Mass with care and devotion.
      The Church is less than perfect but is what we've got - it can and will - we hope - improve. It is the best we've got and still does immense good.

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    5. No there is no perfect organisation.

      But how many organisations have abused children, covered up abuse and buried 800 babies in a septic tank ???

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    6. Over the past few years many organisations have been involved in child abuse any by implication have been involved in 'cover ups.'
      Sports clubs, scouts. schools not to mention the greatest number of child abuse cases which apparently occur within families. The greatest number of cover ups occur within families.
      Even Oxford, that great city of learning is involved in a particularly vile case - seven people charged as from yesterday.

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    7. 10:18, the Roman Catholic Church does not, and has not for a very long time, taught unconditional, non-exclusive love of neighbour.

      Jesus distilled Mosaic Law into two commandments : first, love of God above all things; and second, loving others as if they were our very selves.

      The fact that the Roman Catholic Church (and other Christian denominations) have not traditionally officially observed the second of these commandments (and, therefore, the first as well) means that it teaches in very serious error.

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  2. Pat do you know how much a Humanist charges for a wedding? €500 and that was ten years ago. To be honest in my opinion its all a con, be it the Church or Humanist. On a personal note Pat, I am sorry to hear of the death of your sister. X

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    1. I know churches that charge Euro 750.

      My fees which I pay tax on are £300.

      Or poorer folk pay £0 - £30.

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    2. Pat,Many RC Churches stipulate no set fee and leave it to the discretion of the parties. Those churches who set fees in the hundreds are generally places that people choose because of the picturesque locations and the fee is set to discourage them choosing a venue outside their home parish. So it's disingenuous of you to quote the highest figure you are aware of. Parishes generally have the rule that if the bride's family are supporters of the weekly collection there is no fee.

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    3. MournemanMichael2 April 2017 at 16:48

      I believe there has been internal disagreement within the Irish branch of humanists over the role and nature of humanist ceremonies and leaders. Apparently some did not like any formalisation of the role.
      I'm not actively involved so am out of touch but note their magazine, formerly called Humanism Ireland is now New Humanism with different editor.
      Pat: Stiefel article is excellent and thank you for sharing it.I can identify with much of his journey
      MMM

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  3. Is it possible to be a fraudulent humanist?

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    1. I would imagine it is - if you claimed to be a humanist and were not; or if your life contradicted humanist principles or ethics ???

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  4. God thankfully doesn't conform to man's rules, I am glad that I believe in God. I agree that all organisations are flawed Pat or in your words no organisation is perfect. It's those ones who think that they are the only right ones and threfore perfect, are the ones to be avoided at all costs.
    The Roman Catholics are not the only authentic christian church... Thats just self righteousness.

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  5. There are no humanists in foxholes.

    The terror of human powerlessness and vulnerability has us all cry out, de profundis, when those chips are seriously down. But will humanist pride admit this?

    There is a strange logic to human vulnerabity which, in its experience, actually brings not just acknowledgment but confirmation of the divine: that there is something which we know, deep down, is NOT vulnerable and which has us, instinctively, cry out to it in searing moments.

    The ancients knew it by various names (Molech, Ba al, etc), but the point is they KNEW that such a divinity existed; they just didn't know its full nature. This nature was revealed in Jesus the Nazarene.

    Unfortunately, the institutional Roman Catholic Church has rarely followed Jesus' teaching comprehensively.

    I mentioned the Canaanite god, Molech. The Israelites turned to this god during their apostasy (chronicled in 1 Kings) and sacrificed their newborn children to him for personal and communal gain. This was done by heating a large metallic image of Molech until it glowed. The newborn were then placed in the arms of Molech and burned to death while the parents looked on.

    I see parallels with this today in the abortion industry, and, sadly, in institutional Roman Catholicism. It's high priests sacrificed the mental, emotional and physical welfare of children for personal gain. Just like the ancient Israelites. And yet, these pious hypocrites had the gall to teach and preach against abortion.

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  6. Humanism seems to me a religion without God. There are deductions of logic or principles which are used as guidelines which is fair comment for what it is worth. With religion there is someone or something called God. The "gurus" interpret for God and instruct the masses. The problem is when the interpretations become so powerful the Gurus think they own God-Enter the scribes, pharisees and many through the ages who follow in their wake. Is it Alcoholics Anonymous that has the saying " let go and let God?" Many of our "gurus" are afraid to go.

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  7. 10 18 All others are in error? Says who? Which came first Church or Magesterium? St Paul wrote to the Churches not the Church

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    1. The Church you now claim to belong to don't forget was built on rot.

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    2. 22:12, you are absolutely correct. And that 'rot' was the morally corrupt church of Roman Catholicism in the 16th century.

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    3. 22.12 I must agree with you on this one. The "rot" belongs to all and is identified in the Book of Genesis when Adam and Eve were "taken in" by the snake. Adam blamed Eve. R C blames defectors. Society blames R C. Recon we need the great Physician to set us straight instead of throwing mud at each other

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  8. How much people usually attend your Sunday Services, Pat?

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    1. What exactly is a Sunday Service?

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    2. Shouldn't that be "How MANY people.."?

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  9. Your chapel is so ugly.

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    1. 00.13 Another one of the beautiful people. I thought you were editing out this rot.

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  10. Very sad that only one person seems to have attended the mass and he only reveals his left foot. Maybe he was a left footer?

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  11. brian redmond japan3 April 2017 at 01:47

    Dear Pat, Please accept my condolences on the deaths of your sister and your nephew. If it's any comfort to you, know that we love you and think of you.

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  12. What's the latest with Gorgeous?
    Most people aren't interested in Humanism or other such topics Pat.....that's clear from the low number of comments today! Most want to hear more about Maynooth, King Puck, Gorgeous and the like......just saying!

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  13. Its a pity that the title not what it should be "Why I am not a ROMAN CATHOLIC".

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  14. Blessings Pat, I have been away for a while and was saddend to read in the blog that your beloved sister Mags has returned home to house of the father to be with her loved son Chris. May the two be reunited together and pray for us mere souls on this island.

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  15. Pat do you have an easter vigil at the oratory? I seen in yesterdays paper that the nuncio has left for Albania before we have a new nuncio here. There must have been a reason why the pope moved him on - its so strange after the ad limina visit he was moved - it seems that our bishops have massive power in rome. The whole maynooth thing is making lots of sense now - the bishops did nothing on this massive scandel and rome said nothing - what is going on ? Would love to see more on the blog about this. Pat i pray for the truth and you are the beacon of truth

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  16. Dear Bishop Pat how beautiful the little Oratory looks with the tributes to your beloved sister before the Altar of the Lord. I feel sure she is now at peace and smiling down upon you, her big brother, from the vantage point of heaven where her sufferings are at an end and her joy complete. I ask her to stay for you and give you strength as this has been a hard year for you with several bereavements. God bless you and protect you and give you strength and peace.

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