Patriarchy knows best

We’re an equal opportunity religion basher here at Pharyngula, so after ridiculing the Islamic attitude towards female genitals, it’s only fair that we look at the other major Middle Eastern religion, Judaism and its extremists.

And in Jerusalem, they are having a conference on innovations in gynecology — it’s Science! In the 21st Century! Yay!

Except…women will not be allowed to speak at the event. They can attend, but will be segregated into a separate section.It’s being held at the Puah Institute, which is apparently a bastion of Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy.

As far as Puah is concerned, it operates on a strictly kosher basis, as required by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. While there are women on its board of directors, its public face is strictly male, and the two sexes are not allowed to mix at its events.

To be sure, not all sectors of the ultra-Orthodox community support these exclusionary tactics, explains Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a Hebrew University sociology professor and author of the recently published book Theocratic Democracy. “But most people are too afraid to speak out.”

Isn’t that typical? Whether it’s Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, the exclusionary extremists all rise to prominence and start imposing their superstitious nonsense on everyone else…while the more numerous moderates tremble and hesitate to speak out against folly, and start looking for compromises. You cannot build a better world when you start by compromising with idiocy.

1. unbound says

I have worked for, and had working for me, Orthodox Jews. Both were extremely friendly, and I would count them as good people overall. One was definitely very intelligent, but, like any other fundamentalist, they are blind to what they have been indoctrinated into and have been taught not to question their religious beliefs. It was very odd that you wouldn’t be able to reach either of them from Friday at sunset until Saturday at sunset (among other odd beliefs). The women didn’t have as many rights as the men, but they aren’t bothered by that either since it is simply their place in the world per the religion they are not to question.

But it is a difficult battle to fight as long as the religious hierarchy brokers no debate to their rules and plenty of men are benefiting from their power. Hopefully the reformed Jews will continue to gain power and at least reduce some of the nonsense.

2. Dick the Damned says

The orthodox, or ultra orthodox, or fundamentalists of other religions, are all of a similar mindset, i presume, despite their differences in dogmas. Fuck them all.

What I find amazing is how anti woman they are, insisting on complete sausage fests with the women locked away doing womanly things…. yet they also hate teh ghey.

Maybe if they let women into their little parties they could pretend they were hetero and not have to be so anti gay all the time.

4. KG says

it’s only fair that we look at the other major Middle Eastern religion, Judaism and its extremists. – PZ

Just as an aside, there are considerably more Christians than Judaists (followers of Judaism) in the Middle East, although their number is probably falling due to emigration exceeding population growth. Effectively all the Jews live in Israel, where they are about 75% of a population under 8 million – say, 6 million. Middle Eastern Christians are estimated at 12 million, mostly in Egypt but with significant numbers in Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Palestine. Not all the Jews, of course, are Judaists.

5. From the link in #6

To destroy an important, vital organization that provides free counseling, day and night, to thousands of individuals and couples from all sectors of Israeli society. Our rabbis and counselors regularly answer halachic and medical questions concerning issues of marriage, the laws of family purity, pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding, contraception, genetic problems, arranged marriages for people with special needs, support and counseling on how to maintain fertility for cancer patients, and of course fertility.

Emphasis mine.
Any institution that obviously acts as pimps for people who trade persons unable to consent into marriage should be destroyed on the spot.

6. says

I saw this on Rebecca’s twitter feed earlier, and read this line from the article out loud to my work collegues, causing violent laughter :

The conference on “Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha [Jewish law]” is being held by the Puah Institute this Wednesday in Jerusalem. It will include such topics as “ovary implants,” “how to choose a suitable contraceptive pill” and “intimacy during rocket attacks,”

The rest of the paragraph :

in which there are many qualified female professionals, but none will be permitted to speak, at least not from the podium.

Not so funny.

7. says

All of my interactions with the Orthodox here have shown that for many underneith the politeness is a elitist entitled ideology obsessed with blood purity

8. slc1 says

Re KG @ #5

The current population of the State of Israel is 7.8 million, according the the Jerusalem Post.

9. raven says

Just another example of Hitchen’s Rule.

Religion poisons everything.

The ultra-orthodox fundies seem to go out of their way to find new and more extreme ways to oppress their women. I guess everyone needs a hobby but some are more worthwhile than others.

10. elronxenu says

Shorter version of Puah director:

Will you all stop being so strident! We have accomplished great things by accommodating to the prejudices of the Haredi, and all it took was pushing the women to one side and hiding them from the menz. Our tradition is to keep the women out altogether, so you cannot complain that we are now allowing them in, so long as they wear bags over their heads. We have unified the Jewish people, and now you’re threatening that with your offensive demands for “equality”.

Why can’t you just be nice? Then we can all get along.

11. lilith says

I’m glad to say there was a considerable public outrage in Israel about this thing, and many doctors cancelled their participation. The main thing is that this organization is supported by the government. I hope that will change, but considering the structure of our government, it’s not very likely. The other way is just to make it irrelevant, is might be happening now.

To gilliel @ 7 –
Lets not get outraged about the wrong things here. There are many people with special needs that are perfectly able to consent to marriage. In the communities this organisation work with most marriages are arranged. You might have a problem with the very concept but other those conditions, helping people who are less likely to find a partner find one might not be that bad.

And to slc1 @10 –
As KG rightly noted, not all the population of Israel is Jewish.

12. dianne says

First reaction: “Well, that’s stupid.” Second reaction, much the same. Third reaction…I don’t seem to have much to say here except that banning women from a conference on OB/GYN is just dumb. Whatever your excuse.

The response ibbica links to says, among other things, that if they didn’t ban women then fewer rabbis would feel comfortable attending. Well, so? Who’s more important in a conference on OB/GYN: women, including women OBs or rabbis? The rest of the response could be paraphrased, “But some of my best friends are women and you’re MEAN!”

13. says

Staggering, isn’t it, that once you get to the fundamentals of almost all major religions it amounts to a ten year old’s pyjama party: NO GIRLS ALLOWED!

14. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

Shorter version of Puah director
Even shorter version of Puah director:
*looks at a woman sternly*
*sends a significant look towards the kitchen*

15. Rey Fox says

the exclusionary extremists all rise to prominence

A certain metaphor comes to mind.

Also, “Intimacy During Rocket Attacks” is the title of my new indie rock album.

16. Brownian says

To be sure, not all sectors of the ultra-Orthodox community support these exclusionary tactics, explains Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a Hebrew University sociology professor and author of the recently published book Theocratic Democracy. “But most people are too afraid to speak out.”

How is that possible? Everyone but New Atheists knows that the sort of fringe fundie types we like to make fun of are an infinitesimally tiny proportion of religious individuals, and the vast majority of religious individuals (like, the percentage is approximated by $\lim_{x \to 100}\$) are moderates that put the ‘reason’ in reasonable.

So, how is it that in this case, the nutbars excercise such power?

Accommodationists, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

17. Matt Penfold says

Accommodationists, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

You know what they will say. They will blame the new atheists.

18. lilith @#13
Yes, I really need to cut them some fucking slack.
Since the very concept of arranged marriage has always been about matching two equal partners and we’re talking about scumbags who think that the very idea of men having to listen to women is an abomination to Nuggan Allah Yahwe, it’s absolutely reasonable to assume that they’re talking about giving people with special needs a platform and support so they can find a partner in life.
Yes, how prejudiced of me to think otherwise.
Seems like we never can have everything.
Talk about women, throw special needs people under the bus.

19. Brownian says

You know what they will say. They will blame the new atheists.

Not always. Once Chris Stedman surprised me by writing about how amazed he was at how much he had in common with religious people working with the same liberal interfaith youth group he was working with. I mean, what are the chances that a moderate liberal Jew, a moderate liberal Christian, a moderate liberal Muslim, or a moderate liberal Buddhist working with a liberal interfaith youth group would be interested in interfaith approaches to liberal issues affecting youth much in the same way a moderate liberal atheist is? Bam! Mind blown.

So, sometimes they have a lot to teach us.

20. The SO, who was Jewish before he became an atheist, points out that Ultra-Orthodox is a misnomer: they should be called radical or extremist or fringe Jews.

21. Matt Penfold says

So, sometimes they have a lot to teach us.

The accommodationists do not seem to get out much do they ? Finding that you have a lot in common with other liberal minded people, even if they do happen to believe in god, is hardly news. Julian Baggini also seems to have been taken by surprise that when religious people say they believe things that are silly they mean what they say.

It is as though in between the events that lead to these great insights they are kept locked away.

22. Zinc Avenger says

@Markita Lynda, 22:

Ultra-Orthodox is a misnomer

Hmm, I dunno… I could really get behind calling the radical, extremist, or fringe parts of any religion “Ultra”. Extremist christians? No! Now they’re ULTRACHRISTIANS. Radical islam? Those are ULTRAMUSLIMS!

After all, they may be “extreme”, but they’re only practicing what even moderates preach…

23. Active Margin says

@Brownian

In a hurry, but here’s a quick aside…

The nutbars excercise such power in Israel because the religion is so interwoven with society, even for the non-religious. In the US we have politicians who are religious (Perry for instance). In Israel, they have religious who are politicians. As such, laws are on the books that are strictly religious control mechanisms.

As a non-Jew, I was not permitted by the rabbis to marry my wife (a Jewish Israeli). Thus, we couldn’t get a marriage license that would be recognized by the government. So we married in Cyprus instead, received a marriage license that the government would recognize, and then returned to Israel for our wedding celebration with the whole family present.

Wouldn’t you know it? Some rabbis tried crashing the wedding. Of course, we added to their ire by hiring Israel’s version of the director of the ACLU to preside over the exchange of vows. But that’s a whole other story.

In my experience there, there was a fine line between those who were culturally Jewish and those who were religiously Jewish. My wife’s family, for instance, still don’t mix dairy and meat, and last I knew fasted on Yom Kippur, even though you wont ever catch them in synagogue aside from bar mitzvahs, and they admit to not believing in any higher power, etc.

They simply haven’t had enough time for the secular to tear themselves away from the religious IMO. It’s a young country, but it’s progressing.

And as for intimacy during rocket attacks, I can attest to the fact that it is exceptional. There’s nothing like the (perceived or real) threat of death to help one enjoy sex. And we always had protection handy. We kept our gas masks within reach on the nightstands.

24. says

@Active Margin

Could you tell us some of how these people are viewed by the secular majority in Israel? I seem to be getting the impression that they’re being viewed as social parasites.

25. Brownian says

Hmm, I dunno… I could really get behind calling the radical, extremist, or fringe parts of any religion “Ultra”. Extremist christians? No! Now they’re ULTRACHRISTIANS. Radical islam? Those are ULTRAMUSLIMS!

After all, they may be “extreme”, but they’re only practicing what even moderates preach…

Exactly. It would be convenient for the moderates if everyone labelled the ultras ‘fringe’ so they could distance themselves from them.

Moderate Catholics, for instance, may feel that the RCC is right on about contraceptives while wringing their hands about how they themselves use condoms (but shucks, y’know, money’s tight right now, and we can’t really afford to have another child, but we really shouldn’t be using condoms so we’ll drop another five in the collection plate on Sunday). They may not like how pushy the hardliners are, but deep down they’re not actually disagreeing.

Of course, those same Catholics are perfectly happy to include the hardliners in a census when playing My Church is Bigger and Better than Your Church.

26. Gregory Greenwood says

Silencing women’s voices at a gynecology conference? Is it just me, or does extremist religion completely destroy the capcity of its adherants to think rationally? Then again, moderate religion isn’t much better. What is the betting that there are plenty of self confessed religious ‘moderates’ who are prepared to defend this offensively stupid and bigoted policy in the name of championing religious tolerance?

This just goes to show that you can’t put the blame on any one religion – it is religion in general, in all its forms as a highly pervasive social construct, that is the problem here, mostly because it acts as a vehicle to enforce and codify patriarchal privilege.

27. Brownian says

@Brownian

In a hurry, but here’s a quick aside…

I was being facetious, Active Margin. It’s the accommodationists and the moderates who claim that the ultras are extremist and fringe and therefore not very relevant when one is criticising religion, not me. I know very well how much power fundamentalists wield in the US, Canada, and Israel, though admittedly I don’t know much about politics and policies in Israel, so thanks for sharing your experience.

As for danger sex, I know what you mean. You haven’t had sex until you’ve played the game in which neither of you gets the antivenom until both of you have orgasmed. I do miss having sensation in my feet, though.

28. Matt Penfold says

This just goes to show that you can’t put the blame on any one religion – it is religion in general, in all its forms as a highly pervasive social construct, that is the problem here, mostly because it acts as a vehicle to enforce and codify patriarchal privilege.

Exactly. Even the nice cuddly Church of England, which is supposed to be full of all those nice liberal believers, cannot yet bring itself to accept being in possession of a vagina does not mean you are not capable of being a bishop. Although I do think most of them would have no problem letting a women gynaecologist use their lavatory.

29. From the link at #6: “THE ACCUSATIONS thrown at our institute and our conference over the past week have been nothing less than appalling.”

Indeed. Such controversialist accusations seem like a pretty ineffective way to work to actually improve any situation, such as for example increasing women’s participation at medical conferences, or at least seem to be far less effective than would be making better conference staffing and programming decisions, so I hope they at least result in an uptick in “internet drama.”

Also, I’m sure he has been told by at least two people now who have been personally involved with that controversialist flashmob in Bet Shemesh that there has been explicit direction from that flashmob’s organizer to call him mean names.

Lilith: Fuck off. Arranged marriages are oppressive, regardless of the ability levels of the participants. Sorry you’re too blinded by ZOMG ITS THEIR BEWEEEEEFS!!! to see that.

Markita Lynda: I understand that the ultras find the term “Ultra-Orthodox” offensive. Therefore, I’ll continue to call them “ultras,” except when I’m calling them “black hats.”

30. Gregory Greenwood says

Matt Penfold @ 30;

Exactly. Even the nice cuddly Church of England, which is supposed to be full of all those nice liberal believers, cannot yet bring itself to accept being in possession of a vagina does not mean you are not capable of being a bishop. Although I do think most of them would have no problem letting a women gynaecologist use their lavatory.

Especially if they were left in unsupervised charge of any pre-pubescent children she might have…

Typical of religion really – raping children? Just an entirely understandable little slip, what with those seductive toddlers and all. But possessing a *shudder* adult vagina? Unforgivable! Unforgivable, I say!

31. says

Will all of the power point slides be censored as well? I am assuming that at some point in time, there is going to be an illustration or picture of some women of the parts of the woman’s reproductive system. Are they just going to have black bars on every diagram. Is there going to be a rabbi, with an air horn to beep out naught offensive woman parts every time one gets mentioned?

St Mandi

32. carlie says

Giliell, I kind of teared up a bit watching that video.

33. says

Lilith: Fuck off. Arranged marriages are oppressive, regardless of the ability levels of the participants. Sorry you’re too blinded by ZOMG ITS THEIR BEWEEEEEFS!!! to see that.

Monogamous or polygamous marriages are oppressive. I could potentially see someone justifying egalitarian, open arranged marriages.

34. frog says

Gregory Greenwood @ 28: “Silencing women’s voices at a gynecology conference? Is it just me, or does extremist religion completely destroy the capcity of its adherants to think rationally?”

–>My thoughts exactly. If they don’t want the women in the same space with the men, it would seem more sensible to exclude the rabbis and just let the women have their own conference.

(Leaving “women’s problems” to the women alone is not a good thing either; men have contributions to make and knowledge to acquire, too. But leaving women out of any discussion of what uteruses do should be obviously bonkers to anyone with more than one brain cell.)

35. Gregory Greenwood says

frog @ 36;

My thoughts exactly. If they don’t want the women in the same space with the men, it would seem more sensible to exclude the rabbis and just let the women have their own conference.

Agreed, but I don’t see the rabbis’ egos being able to survive being so cruelly cast aside merely so that women can discuss issues of women’s sexual health without the apparently indispensible wisdom of a bunch of medically unqualified misogynist creeps.

How do you explain to people like this that a gynecology conference is *shock, horror* not all about teh menz?

(Leaving “women’s problems” to the women alone is not a good thing either; men have contributions to make and knowledge to acquire, too. But leaving women out of any discussion of what uteruses do should be obviously bonkers to anyone with more than one brain cell.)

And therein lies the problem. These rabbis have billions of brain cells each, but sadly none of them are set to rational thought mode. Their dials are all permenantly stuck at ‘away with the fairies’…

36. anuran says

The Charedi communities and their religious thuggery are the greatest threat to the existence of Israel. That’s not just my opinion. It’s the considered, professional opinion of the former head of Mossad, a number of generals and several high-level serving Intelligence officials in that country.

I call them “Jewhadis” or “Tallitban”. As a group they are violent, intolerant, woman-hating racists. Those are their good points. They quite literally believe the world was created for their benefit and their benefit alone. Anyone except them – this includes other Jews – was put on Earth to be their servants and exists only on sufferance. They don’t serve in the IDF. Their education is entirely religious indoctrination.

The men don’t work real jobs because they get stipends to sit on their asses in religious schools all day. Meanwhile their wives have to keep the (huge) families together and try to supplement the meager government subsidies with jobs that guarantee they’ll be isolated from all contact with men.

Their treatment of Gentiles is shameful. Spitting on priests and nuns is considered a religious duty by some of the sub-cults.

They do the same and worse to Jews whose level of observance doesn’t meet their standards of purity and fanaticism.

Throwing acid on “immodest” girls including “immodest” six year old girls, spitting on women and forcing them to walk on designated sides of the street and to sit at the back of the bus, physically stopping women from voting and eradicating all female images from print and screen is a religious duty for them. And they carry it out fanatically.

Jews of African descent are denied housing, disciminated against and insulted in Charedi areas. Observant Sephardi girls are not permitted in Charedi schools or are confined to Sefardi-only classrooms and playgrounds because their religious traditions just aren’t good enough.

The Charedi rabbinate gets to decide who is a Jew and retroactively “de-Jews” thousands every year, invalidating their marriages and making their children non-persons. In many cases it means revocation of citizenship and expulsion. They have complete power over Jews getting married and have shut down all attempts at the institution of civil marriage.

How do they get away with it? Two reasons.

First, Ben Gurion gave them a number of concessions like the stipends and religious authority back in the early days. The idea was that a few exceptional scholars were needed to keep Jewish culture and learning alive post-Holocaust. And if they were met part-way perhaps they would make the effort to integrate with the rest Jewry for the benefit of their people and their nation.

We see how well that worked.

The second reason is simpler. Numbers. They breed like rabbits; a couple of prominent rabbis have declared that if there are more than two years between children a couple is guilty of “murdering” potential Jews. And those large numbers vote in rigid lock-step with the dictates of their rabbis. That makes the ultra-religious parties kingmakers in Israel’s proportional representation Parliament.

37. Brownian says

The Charedi rabbinate gets to decide who is a Jew and retroactively “de-Jews” thousands every year

They’re in cahoots with the Mormons!

They breed like rabbits; a couple of prominent rabbis have declared that if there are more than two years between children a couple is guilty of “murdering” potential Jews.

So, they understand probability about as well as the average weekly lotto player.

38. rogerfirth says

You cannot build a better world when you start by compromising with idiocy.

This is my new favorite quote! I smell a bumper sticker.

39. says

I notice that these thugs and bullies are the first to invoke Godwin’s law whenever anyone suggests that maybe their ideas are somehow less than optimal for the rest of human survival, although as anuran noted above for them that may be a feature not a bug.

40. raven says

The men don’t work real jobs because they get stipends to sit on their asses in religious schools all day.

I read that 60% of the men don’t work. They also don’t educate their kids past the barest essentials of basic literacy.

They rationalize it by saying that the highest duty is to study the Torah. Which is only 5 books out of the bible and they aren’t even all that long. Take you longer to read Harry Potter.

Try and run a society where the men don’t work and see how long it lasts. Right now, they are parasitizing the very people they demonize, other Israelis who support them.

Which means they have a huge amount of free time. Which they spend insulting and attacking people who don’t share their extremist views.

I don’t live in Israel so it isn’t my problem. But someday Israel is going to have to deal with them or sink into a morass of idiot fundamentalism.

41. raven says

They breed like rabbits; a couple of prominent rabbis have declared that if there are more than two years between children a couple is guilty of “murdering” potential Jews.

Average family size is 8. So how do you support 8 kids without a job or any marketable skills?

It’s really easy. You don’t. Someone else does. In this case, the Israeli taxpayers.

42. says

I know how inhumane this sounds but the image that keeps coming into my mind as I read this if of a cancer growing in Israeli society. Utterly selfish yet completely dependent on its host and growing out of control.

Before anyone sees this as some veiled call to violent action I would suggest the first course of treatment should be to sever the blood vessels supplying the cancer i.e. the taxpayer stipends they recieve. I know that they’d scream and protest and do their damndest to paralyse the government but this issue will only get worse if it isn’t addressed.

I know that the men chosen by G-d for this sacred task will then simply transfer the financial burden onto the women, but what that may start to do is increase contact between the groups as I’m sure the women will take “unseemly” work to ensure their children are fed. I suppose I’m taking the Hitchens viewpoint, that the startpoint for development is emancipation of women. Being required to work to feed the family may not sound like emancipation but it would seem better than the status quo.

43. anuran says

@raven, when they say “Torah” they don’t just mean the Pentateuch. They mean the other books of the Jewish Bible, the commentaries on them, the 63 volumes of the Talmud, two thousand years of legal opinions, the writings of various rabbis and sometimes the various Kabbalistic texts.

@andrewbrown, it’s disgusting. They are quick to call anyone who doesn’t get down on his knees and really put some tongue action into giving them rim jobs of being Nazis. Almost all Jews are disgusted by this beyond comprehension. But so far the Jewhadis have gotten away with it. Not too much longer, I think. The Knesset has taken up a bill to outlaw such use of Nazi symbols and imagery.

44. anuran says

@andrew brown…

I know how inhumane this sounds but the image that keeps coming into my mind as I read this if of a cancer growing in Israeli society. Utterly selfish yet completely dependent on its host and growing out of control.

That’s pretty close to how most Israelis and most Jews see it. But we tend to think of it more as parasitism. Caring for the sick, the elderly, children, those unable to work and those unable to find work in times of economic dislocation is a proper function of a just society. It’s normal metabolic load. Those who not only don’t work but refuse to ever work and demand an ever larger share of the country’s resources are like parasites. A healthy organism can support a certain parasite load. But when it gets too large it can kill the host.

45. Active Margin says

@anuran #38

This.

I was contemplating on the drive home how best to describe these nutbags and how they affect Israel, and you nailed it. They are some of the most frightening, volatile, irrational people I’ve ever had to interact with in my travels/years.

I had a much more thorough post in reply, but the forums monster ate it.

Random aside…

One of my first cultural lessons when I began working in Israel was on my first payday. I was standing with a couple coworkers as we all received our pay stubs. As we opened them up, my coworkers remarked sarcastically that their “second families” would be eating well that month…referring to the large amount of tax deducted from their pay.

@andrewbrown – I know quite a few Israelis who refer to them in exactly that way.

46. says

That’s just it anuran. All societies need to care for their most vulnerable and disadvantaged, all it takes is one mistake whilst driving and you might join their ranks.

The thing which disgusts me is the use and abuse of their wives and children, this is clearly a society utterly dominated and set up for the comfort of adult males. The role in life of a boy is to become an adult male and a girl’s role is to become a mother who can be fucked and reproduce. As a boy the mother takes care of the boy’s every need, as an adult she does the same for her husband and has to produce litters of babies as well.

How many of those men would choose the life of a haredi wife if they could? Not one I suspect.

To my mind, my job as a husband is to increase the happiness of my wife as much as I can. I don’t for one minute pretend to be perfect, I can still forget anniversaries and leave the bathroom messy if I’m taking a shower, but it seems the adage of “Happy wife, Happy life” wouldn’t work for these guys as a woman is little more than a domestic animal whose happiness is incidental to theirs.

47. says

On the original topic, it’s still acceptable to exclude in western society in a very similar way to this. I have just had an email exchange (until they refused to reply) with the British Medical Association about a conference at which half the day is going to be discussing the ethics of withdrawing treatment from a disabled, brain-damaged woman. I wrote to them pointing out that there was no one on the panel who was disabled, or even representing the views of the disabled.

Their reply was essentially that ‘this subject will be adequately discussed without the need for a disabled person to be involved’. My blog posts about it are here:

Whether the excuse is religion, patriarchy or ableism, as a species we really need to get over the idea that one group can speak for a minority who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.

48. Moderate Catholics, for instance, may feel that the RCC is right on about contraceptives while wringing their hands about how they themselves use condoms (but shucks, y’know, money’s tight right now, and we can’t really afford to have another child, but we really shouldn’t be using condoms so we’ll drop another five in the collection plate on Sunday). They may not like how pushy the hardliners are, but deep down they’re not actually disagreeing.

Not true, Brownian.

49. They rationalize it by saying that the highest duty is to study the Torah. Which is only 5 books out of the bible and they aren’t even all that long. Take you longer to read Harry Potter.

Torah study also includes the Talmud and Midrash.

50. Not true, Brownian.

I don’t think he was making a general claim about all moderate Catholics – hence the “may feel.” Obviously, in this case it would be strange for anyone to try to characterize the Vatican‘s position as “fringe” rather than “ultra.”