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Nov 30 2011

Womb raider

Oh that naughty Satan, always getting into mischief and going where he shouldn’t.

Recently The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic diocese of Boston, published a column in which the author Daniel Avila alleged that homosexuality is caused by Satan, saying that “The scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil” and “described homosexuality as a ‘natural disaster’ caused by Satan invading the wombs of mothers of LGBT children.”

This is yet another example of religious people using ‘scientific evidence’ to support their crackpot theories. Unfortunately the article does not address the really interesting question of how sneaking into women’s wombs helps Satan create gayness in children because that would help answer the age-old nature/nurture question. Does he do some pre-natal intervention and change the DNA? Or does he use subliminal messaging techniques on the embryonic mind?

The column caused a bit of a fuss with gay rights groups condemning it and the paper has since withdrawn the column saying that they did so because the church does not have a “definitive theory on the origins of same-sex attraction” and thus the speculation that Satan was behind it was a “theological error”. This is no doubt the topic of a future doctoral dissertation in some theological seminary. Avila also apologized for his theological errors and later resigned from his position as Policy Advisor for Marriage and Family with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I see progress here. When the Catholic Church has to withdraw, under pressure, an anti-gay column from its own official newspaper (whatever the excuse they give), that is a sign that human rights are advancing. Religion no longer gets a free pass on its crackpot theories to justify its bigotry.

It is quite extraordinary how much license religions are given. For example, some religious groups advocate beating children as young as six months in order to discipline them. A preacher named Michael Pearl has published a book To train up a child that advocates beatings, which he refers to as ‘biblical chastisement’. He has a website where he recommends using a flexible plumbing line that can be bought for a dollar at any hardware store and can be carried in your pocket and so is handy whenever you think your child steps out of line and needs a thrashing.

Of course, the author realizes that some of us may not be as enlightened as he is in interpreting what Jesus meant when he said “suffer little children” and on seeing a small child being assaulted with a plastic tube may try to stop it or report it to the authorities, so he recommends “Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom.” On the plus side, he says that you can also use the beatings as a means to help children practice arithmetic.

I have told a child I was going to give him 10 licks. I count out loud as I go… Pretending to forget the count, I would again stop at about eight and ask him the number. Have him subtract eight from ten, (a little homeschooling) and continue with the final two licks.

This book has sold 670,000 copies and was implicated in the death of a child.

Late one night in May this year, the adopted girl, Hana, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, officials determined. According to the sheriff’s report, the parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs. The mother had praised the Pearls’ book and given a copy to a friend, the sheriff’s report said. Hana had been beaten the day of her death, the report said, with the 15-inch plastic tube recommended by Mr. Pearl.

The beating of children used to be common practice until we became more enlightened. In many countries corporal punishment is now banned entirely. But in the US, some religious people still think of it as a good, and even necessary, part of child rearing.

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