Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Religious Vagina: the Godly Clown Car

Lately I have found an interest in the Quiverfull movement. If you've not been living under a rock you've heard of the Duggar family and their litter of 19 spawn (which undoubtedly has doubled by the time I publish this post). My curiosity led me to research their religious beliefs, and discovered they are part of the "Full Quiver" movement.

Quiverfull as an unofficial movement is relatively new, but as a Christian ideal for some Christians it is, and always has been, their way of life. The movement gained strength in the mid-80s and has been growing ever since, though there are no actual counts of followers that I have found; as a guestimation, I will venture to say there are around several dozens of thousands. It's not a major movement, but it is significant enough to have its religious and social implications considered.

Something most interesting to me personally is that a major advocate of QF, Mrs. Mary Pride, is an acquaintance of my family's. As a kid I knew she was a holy roller home-schooling mom with a lot of kids and that she had written a lot of books, but it wasn't until this week that I've understood her impact and its significance. You can Google Pride if you're curious.

The heart of the QF movement is a maniacal attachment to Psalms 127:3-5 that says, "Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court." Amazing how these few verses have inspired a whole movement. QFers don't see themselves as starting a new movement as much as going back to basics, returning to the Word of God. When early authors like Mary Pride and Rick and Jan Hess started to write about what we now call the QF movement, they were actually trying to explain why rejection of birth control and letting God decide how many children were born was biblical, and what everyone should have been doing all along.

If you've noticed, QF is a movement and not a religion. You can be any Bible-believing Christian and be a QF. In fact, traditional Catholics who reject birth control--especially the hardcore Catholics who also reject NFP and the Rhythm Method--are QF, or nearly QF, though they don't call themselves that. But QFers differ from Catholics and most other Protestants because of the extremes they go to, and because QF (like a lot of religion) is accompanied with good ol' fashioned patriarchy. What makes QF unique is the combination of extreme Christianity, total rejection of any birth control, a spiritually militant mission, strict patriarchy, all happening in the 21st century.

Another essential element of QF is that it is spiritually militant, that is, it isn't just a complete openness to pregnancy and children: it is creating children to be soldier's in God's army. I have so many problems with this I don't know where to begin! If you read QF websites you'll quickly see that they believe spiritual warfare is impending, so they are stocking up the ranks. QF believe God "opens and closes the womb" and that God should be allowed to be wholly responsible for family size. Don't worry about health or money, they say. God will provide. Predictably, spiritual entitlement ensues. Unspoken birthing contests take place between women. Since children are a gift from God, it follows that no children are a curse. If you're trying to be fruitful and multiply but you just can't get knocked up, then you must have done something to piss God off. If you are infertile you are obviously not holy and submissive enough, and will be looked down upon by fellow QFers.

You can imagine what I think about this movement. No? Well, let me spell it out for you.

Where is the foundation for this movement? Ohhh, yeah. In the Bible. The one that was written thousands of years ago, that's full of inconsistencies, that was written by humans, that has been translated and edited and picked to taste. That one. That's is, folks! I'm writing my own bible, and I'm calling it The Book of Purple Unicorn. *cue angelic chorus* And I will make up stores and tell people how they must worship his divine majesty the Purple Unicorn, and how the Purple Unicorn has all sorts of rules to follow, and how Purple Unicorn will run you through for disobedience. Then the Purple Unicorn and the Flying Spaghetti Monster can have great battles in the sky for Best God rights until they finally call a truce, fall in love, and make babies that shit rainbow sparkles and tomato sauce. It's perfectly credible!

Patriarchy is abuse. QF women are commanded to be submissive and subservient to their fathers and husbands, and not speak unless spoken to. They receive only a high school homeschool education, aren't allowed to work outside the home, and taught that their highest calling is motherhood. Think about this for a minute. Think about what it would be like to be under that kind of control. If you were to drop my bitchy feminist self into this situation, do you know what would happen? I would have a hearty laugh at their ridiculous bullshit and hitchhike my way back into normal society. I would fight my way out, even if it killed me. No way, no how would I submit. Not this chick! But these women, especially the daughters, are brainwashed into thinking this is their duty before God. It is God's will that they not have their freedom, their personal sovereignty or any other life path than being barefoot and pregnant; and isn't God great to provide us stupid women with wise fathers and husbands to explain God's loving will to us?

And that's only one aspect of it. Consider the naturally selfish nature of humans. Now imagine if you raised a little boy and told him all his life that he could grow up to be whatever he wanted, get the education he wanted, follow his dreams and passions, and that he would have a "helpmeet" wife who would obey him, honor him, cook and clean for him, bear his children and provide sex on demand. Imagine if you taught that little boy that he is lord of his own house, that he is the sole decision maker, and that his wife is to do as he says, constantly and cheerfully and without hesitation, because he personally is endowed by almighty God to do so. Imagine if you taught this boy that you can and should control your wife with love, because for her to disagree with you is a sin, and that that love could include physical discipline. And when this boy is grown, what do you think you'd have? A narcissistic, controlling abuser. An asshole full of himself and his own righteous glory. A pathetic bully who believes he is special just because he has a penis. When you demolish that bubble of respect each human being deserves, and allow for total control under the pretense of God, you create in the mind of the controller that every little thing he does not like is a sin. How does he know this? Because God told him. Because he's the one with the testicles. Because the Bible said so.

What of the women? Women are the only ones who could think themselves out of this cult, but they're generally too brainwashed to do so. Men are allowed to think, but are too busy enjoying being worshipped to bother to change.

Women are never allowed to follow their dreams, or even have them. What's the point? A woman's highest calling, most important job--and only allowed job--is wifedom and motherhood. Like my mother once said, what's the point of girls going to college when all they are eve going to be is wives and mothers?

Children lose their individuality. Children are wanted, yes, but not for their sake; only because they are a new soul, a warm body unto God. A soldier. Girls never get a glimpse of freedom and are prepped to be babymakers from the day they're born. Boys are taught to be full of themselves and that they have dominion over the "lesser" sex. All the children are forced to be caretakers of the others because Mommy simply can't do it all. Some of this is good for them, but I argue that generally it deprives them from the innocence of childhood and the ability to dream and play and doodle--which, I believe, is what our adult dreams and professions are based on. What if a child needs his or her mother? She's too busy taking care of everyone to give children the one-on-one attention and emotional support that they may occasionally require.

I'm not claiming that every product of QF is bad, that every child loses their childhood, or that every man is abusive. But it's undeniable that these things are very present (and actively fostered) in religious extremism of all kinds. Two principles need to always be followed, 1) don't believe anything without evidence just because someone teaches it to you, and 2) respect others; your rights end where theirs begin. Unfortunately, religion throws both of these out the window with glee.

Check out Quiverfull.com and No Longer Quivering.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happiness Without God

It's the ultimate form of arrogance from the religious, that only those who believe in God (and their particular version of God) are happy. There are plenty of more modern religious people who are open to more than one pathway and people finding happiness suited to their personality, but there are millions more who wholeheartedly believe their way is the only way.

My mother falls into the latter category. Familial relations between her and my siblings are... strained, to put it mildly. Lately my mother and I have gotten to the point where we can exchange emails on neutral things such as funny YouTube videos, wacky news stories and the like--but we haven't seen each other or spoken on the phone in a year. This is progress. Which is why I was surprised yesterday when she invited me (by text) to lunch since she is in town visiting the good children (my religious siblings, not atheist me).

She knows that I don't believe in any religion and that I question God, but I haven't said the word "atheist" to her. The predictable thing about my relationship with my fanatically religious family is that I have never, ever, not once, done anything wrong to any of them personally, but they've ostracized me exactly as if I had. That fact is exactly what irritates me so. My offense is in questioning God and religion (and finding no substance there), not in actually causing them any harm, yet they react as if I had. As my mother once put it, and I quote, "our religion is our universe. You've chosen to leave it so we cannot have the relationship with you that you want." The 'relationship I want' was an agreement of mutual respect to agree to disagree but still be a family. That is literally all I asked for, but that is too much for them. Unfortunately, this is a very typical scenario, and truthfully my situation is better than many.

But I will not back down. She demanded that, if I wanted my family to have a relationship with me and my boyfriend, that I would have to sign and submit documentation to the local bishop proclaiming my official exodus of the Catholic Church. She also quoted Catholic Cannons to me (threw the book at me, so to speak) telling me why I should make my non-religion official. Of course I refused. It would be exactly like me submitting documents to the government of France letting them know I'm not French. Totally pointless. I need do nothing more than stop believing and stop participating for it to be official.

So probably against my better judgment, I agreed to lunch. I used to be so intimidated by her opinions and I was so convinced of her righteousness. Now as a freethinking adult, I can see her for the human being she is. A close-minded, arrogant, religious fanatic who feels she has the right to judge others because "God" disagrees with actions x and y, so she is allowed to look down on people because they do actions x and y--never noticing that it is a group of very imperfect humans who "educate" everyone as to what God likes and dislikes. But of course those humans claim that through a miraculous divine intervention known as ex cathedra, no official teaching of the Catholic Church will ever be wrong because God speaks through them at that time. Even if they are adulterous murderers who eat children and puppies, whatever they say ex cathedra is GOD'S WORD (yes, this is what I was taught and what the Catholic faithful believe).

I am looking forward to today. I have now become a humble, open-minded person who knows that she doesn't have all the answers, but is able to reason and use her brain enough to not attribute the universe to a figment of humans' imagination. As hard as it has been, I would not take any of it back. I would never, ever trade the truth for a relationship with people that is based on lies and fairy tales. My family believes I am a godless heathen (well, that's kinda true) who is perverted by hedonistic pleasures and has chosen my selfish self over obedience to God. Quite the contrary, it is my honest, sensible nature that prevents me from believing in something that doesn't make sense. I can't take seriously the idea that this invisible, inaudible, nonphysical being has total control over me and my soul. Where is the proof of such a being? In your "feelings"? In your fear of being wrong and going to hell? My sister actually explained her belief to me, that the Catholic Church is 2,000 years old so she figures it knows what it's talking about. That's what your faith is based on? Because enough idiots have been around long enough to perpetuate foolish ideas, so they must be right? That's not enough for me.

I am looking forward to showing my mother that I am a beautiful, happy, healthy person. I am honest and open, and do not live my life in fear. All my life growing up I was taught by her that you cannot be truly happy without God. After she became a Catholic 17 years ago, she more narrowly defined this idea to be you cannot be truly happy without being a good Catholic. And if you made the mistake of thinking you were happy without being Catholic, you were incomplete as a person, and lying to yourself. But if you become an ex-Catholic (*gasp*), why then you knew what you were doing was wrong and you did it anyway, which makes you evil and vile, narcissistic and selfish, and going straight to hell. I fall into this category. ;)

The truth is, I am happier than I have ever been! I am free and liberated and can just be a human without wasting my life in the purposeless shackles of religion. I am deeply, truly, and honestly happy and I'm not lying to myself.