“I’m a good Catholic girl”

I’m at a conference and the moderator at a session that I attended gave us an anecdote during which she said “I’m a good Catholic girl”. Was I offended at her injecting religion into a secular meeting? Of course not. She wasn’t preaching to us, it was just a passing comment, inserted for humorous purposes and we all laughed.

But what if she had said, “I’m a good atheist girl”? I bet you that that there would have been sharp intakes of breaths and some mutterings that she had delivered a gratuitous slap at religion. This is the protective shield that religion has built around itself that has to be dismantled.


  1. Matt says

    There have been a few times where I said something like that. Two times in particular that I can remember, and they got two completely different results.

    The first time I was at a baseball game, sitting near the visitors’ bullpen. The folks behind us were clearly on an organized trip sponsored by their church. When a relief pitcher started warming up in the bullpen, he first crossed himself. The guy behind me said something like, “ooh…I want to yell bad things at him, but I saw he crossed himself so I should probably lay off.” I turned around to the guy and said, “That’s OK, I’m an atheist. Whisper to me what you want to yell and I’ll do it for you.” Everyone in the group chuckled, taking it very much like your moderator’s comment was taken.

    The second time I was throwing darts and had a bad turn. I probably let out a light obscenity. My opponent jokingly said, “Hey…don’t say that, especially on a Sunday.” I said, “that’s OK, I’m an atheist.” My opponent and two guys near me all stopped what they were doing and it was clear that they were quite taken aback. Very strange -- if anything, I’d expect a church group to have a negative reaction and the beer-chugging dart players to laugh it off, but it was the other way around.

  2. Eric says

    Mano --

    I don’t think the problem here is a deference to religion; I think the problem is the intertwining of religion with moral structure. By claiming to be a “good Catholic girl,” your moderator is stating, in short form, that she follows the structure of morality which is attached to Catholicism, and adheres to it.

    By contrast, saying “I’m a good atheist girl” is essentially meaningless. Atheism, by definition, doesn’t have a moral structure tagging along with it. Of course, all atheists have moral structures, but they don’t originate in atheism per se; rather, they originate in a rational understanding of right & wrong, and exist alongside atheism.

    Saying “I’m a good girl” means she follows a moral structure and adheres to it; adding the “atheist” modifier does nothing to describe the moral structure she follows.

  3. Anonymous says

    People insist on defining morality by their religious belief as if morality can ONLY be defined within a religious context. This is where religion has “protected” itself and where separation must occur so that calling oneself a “good Catholic girl” or a “good atheist girl” should carry equal weight (and as Eric points out; that weight should be NIL!).

    I was watching a historical documentary on TV a few weeks ago and the narrator was describing an ancient indian people in Peru who were pagan, “yet they somehow had a very moral culture.” Even these historians, who should be more objective, couldn’t separate morality from religion! How sad.

    Mary Ann

  4. says

    It seems that Christians get attacked more than any other group, and any mention of one’s religion is grounds to call them a “radical”.

    To be honest I am sick of the “political correctness” and that we have to watch every word we say to avoid offending someone.

    Most people don’t even listen to what we say anyway, so I don’t get why they are so touchy about certain words.

    Ever notice how they like to hide, say behind a pair of sunglasses, rather than let us see their eyes when we talk to them?

    We all need to lighten up a bit in this country.

  5. HP Bryce says

    If you think that is bad, try “I am a good Pagan/Wiccan”. You would be shocked at the reactions that still provokes in America today. I will have to admit that every other country I have lived and worked in; stating you are a Pagan or a Wiccan is just accepted and no attempts are made to save my eternal soul.

  6. says

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  7. says

    i hear people say “o he’s a great christian man”, like it’s supposed to imply he is of moral character and has his priorities straight. i find it weird though. there are plenty of crooked christians. just ask Reverend Cecil Newton

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