“In my city nearly all the hospitals are run by religious organizations”

I’m not sure the best way to start an opinion piece is announcing your own longstanding boredom with the subject, and yet how often one sees that very thing – as in Chris Orlet’s sparkling-fresh commentary on (groan) the new atheists in the American Spectator.

I long ago lost interest in the God Wars, the bombastic clashes between Christians and the New Atheists over whether the Man Upstairs exists, whether He is good or evil, whether Judeo-Christianity has been a blessing or a curse. Put simply, whether Christopher Hitchens is resting in peace or roasting on a spit.

Oh haha, it’s all so funny, such a weary joke. Why is that then? Why are we supposed to simply take it for granted that criticism of religion and theism is wrongheaded and adolescent? No really, why? It’s not as if religion makes nothing happen! It’s not as if it’s just obviously defanged and harmless, let alone obviously beneficial and without bad side effects.

And as for adolescent, how cheap is that stupid cheap shot in the last sentence?

Today, when I hear snide comments from atheists – who often assume I too am an unbeliever because my knuckles do not drag the ground – I spontaneously slip into Defender of the Faith mode. I wait patiently while he (for it is almost always a he) rants about the Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, the pedophile priest scandals, the pope’s silence during the Holocaust, and a thousand years of Jewish pogroms.

Well that’s enormously big of him, isn’t it. Note the same assumption, made slightly more explicit – all that is so passé, so uncool to talk about. Why? Why would it be?

And by the way no it’s not almost always a he. Hello “it’s more of a guy thing” yet again.

He admits all that, he says generously, but there’s more to it.

How, for instance, can one overlook the role faith communities have played in health care? In my city nearly all the hospitals are run by religious organizations like the St. Louis-based Franciscan Sisters of Mary, who operate 18 nonprofit hospitals in four states, partner with more than 40 rural hospitals, and run two nursing homes. The Mercy Health Ministry, also headquartered here, operates 28 hospitals throughout Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. (Fly-over states. Who cares, right?) Franciscan nuns also founded nearby St. Anthony’s Hospital, while the Jesuits run a local medical school whose doctors treat mostly inner-city patients.

Oh jeezis that’s a terrifying fact, and he doesn’t even realize it. He doesn’t even realize that this is not benevolence or charity but a takeover, and a way to impose religious rules on helpless captive people. This is the only way the Catholic church can force its stinking theocratic anti-human rules on unwilling people: by grabbing up all the hospitals. It’s horrifying that Orlet is ignorant enough of the consequences that he boasts of the completeness of the takeover. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt in assuming it’s ignorance as opposed to deliberate indifference.

Perhaps the largest provider of social service programs in our area is Catholic Charities. What do they do? What don’t they do? Their programs provide shelter, counseling, and education to battered women, as well as treatment to women with addictions and mental illness. Their professional counseling agencies offer education and mental health services. There is day and residential treatment for troubled youth, including diagnosis, treatment, education, and healthcare. For families, Catholic Charities provides expectant parent counseling, and foster care, adoption, and residential services.

All of it Catholic. Notice that it apparently doesn’t even cross his mind that Catholic “counseling and education” to battered women might have some flaws, as might all the rest of the services he lists.

I am still waiting for a single atheist group to open a hospital or school, offer free health clinics, beds for the homeless, food for the hungry, or transportation for the elderly. I have yet to see worshipers of the flying spaghetti monster establish a prison ministry or send their members overseas to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

The issue isn’t atheist groups, it’s secular groups, and of course there are secular groups that do all those things. Apparently Orlet prefers his charities to have theistic strings attached.



  1. Pteryxx says

    Doctors Without Borders.

    I have yet to see worshipers of the flying spaghetti monster establish a prison ministry

    Uh huh. Meanwhile, UU churches (which often are unbeliever-friendly) are often active in prison outreach and support, helping provide legal aid, social contacts, and services like giving rides to paroled or released prisoners who just get dumped out the gates with the clothes on their back.

  2. wmdon says

    One good thing about that original article; every time I read something like this:

    I am still waiting for a single atheist group to open a hospital or school, offer free health clinics, beds for the homeless, food for the hungry, or transportation for the elderly.

    I raise my monthly donation to MSF by a couple of bucks. If there really was such a thing as “God’s work”, those brave people would be the ones doing it.

  3. steve oberski says

    The RCC may run the catholic hospitals but it’s the taxpayer who foots the bill:

    A 2002 study of nearly 600 religiously affiliated hospitals in the United States found that they received more than $45 billion in public funds. Approximately half of their revenues are comprised of funds from Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs. Despite receiving government money, these hospitals routinely deny basic reproductive health services

    There are more than 600 Catholic health care institutions in the United States, 12% of the total, and about one in six Americans is treated in a Catholic health care institution each year.In 2003, there were more than 15.4 million emergency room visits and more than 86 million outpatient visits to Catholic hospitals. This would be of little interest or importance if it were not for the fact that, as a result of Vatican-imposed guidelines, a full range of reproductive health care services are routinely not offered at Catholic facilities.This especially impacts people living in areas where the only health facility is a Catholic one, where it is not obvious that a local facility is Catholic and low-income people who routinely rely on emergency rooms at charitable hospitals for primary health care.


  4. maddog1129 says

    Secularists don’t need to create extra charities when secular public taxes support things that charities do, such as providing child welfare, housing, education, jobs and job training, health care, etc. etc. etc.

  5. steve84 says

    Also, the vast majority of Catholic Charities’s funding comes from the government. The next biggest part is donations. Only a miniscule amount comes from the church.

  6. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    steve oberski —

    The RCC may run the catholic hospitals but it’s the taxpayer who foots the bill:

    This also means that taxpayers fund denial of medical care to women, including an effective death penalty for women with dogma-unfriendly complications in pregnancy or miscarriage. We fund that. We also fund isolating patients in the hospital from their same-sex partners; we fund the deliberate disregard for the medical needs of patients when brought to the attention of the hospital by said partners; we fund intimidation of rape victims and the withholding of relevant medical information from just about everyone. It’s disgusting.

  7. latsot says

    I’m not sure the best way to start an opinion piece is announcing your own longstanding boredom with the subject

    Heh, I recently noticed that I have a tendency to start talks by explaining in detail how I’m going to fail. Since I can’t seem to break the habit I’ve started to lampshade it instead.

  8. latsot says

    @various steves

    Well that’s a good point. Being paid to do something isn’t exactly philanthropy. Using your organisation’s influence to generate extra donations with the promise that good is being done and hell for donors being avoided doesn’t sound much like it either.

    This setup seems appalling. It isn’t just that powerful religious groups get to foist their doctrines on everyone, which can only result in people being denied the care they need. It’s that this is endorsed by government, presumably because it’s a bit cheaper.

    Secular groups can’t do anything like it because they don’t have that kind of influence. And you know what? I’m not sure they *want* that kind of influence.

  9. medivh says

    Yeah, why haven’t atheists started prison ministries?! Checkmate.

    Jeez, with the mental image you’ve just given me, I’m going to have to try pretty hard to not straw man Orlet. I’m now imagining him as Zapp Brannigan…

  10. iknklast says

    Mercy Hospitals. I’ve stayed at one in Oklahoma. They gave me good care. Why? Because they were run on the modern principles of medicine, not faith. When the bottom line comes down to it, they are hiring qualified doctors (my doctor was not Catholic); using nurses who are well trained; using all the trappings of modern secularism to treat patients, then when you wake up in the morning, a nun is standing by your bed praying over you and taking the credit. I requested no more visits from the nun (particularly since I suffered from insomnia, and I was tired of being wakened at 5:30 in the morning by a penguin just an hour after I got to sleep; I had to struggle to realize I wasn’t in Antarctica, and that wasn’t a penguin preying on me, it was a nun praying on me). The request was duly noted in my chart, and duly ignored by the penguins…er, nuns…who continued to show up every morning.

    Meanwhile, my non-Catholic doctor and I managed very nicely to get my treatment taken care of and get me home in better shape than when I left. The prayers over the intercom in the morning made no difference at all. It was purely scientific, secular medicine that cured me. And the church always takes the credit. Bah.

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