Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Carolyn Castiglia: a liberal feminist comedian and her beliefs about God

Note: Earlier versions of this post were edited and proof-read by Mary and Dina, whose help I greatly appreciate.

I noticed this article that was mentioned on the latest Reasonable Faith podcast. The article is written by a liberal ex-Catholic woman whose 7-year-old daughter is an atheist. What I want to focus on is her own article on Babble.com, but I really recommend that you listen to Bill Craig’s commentary on it as well.

First the biography of the author:

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. You may recognize her hip-hop alter ego Miss CKC from Comedy Central, VH1 and MTV2. Carolyn’s web vids have been nominated for an ECNY Award and featured in two issues of EW magazine. She’s appeared in TONYThe NY PostThe Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post.

Look at what she wrote:

I was raised Catholic, and like most people my age who were raised Catholic, I no longer attend church on Sundays. We’re “recovering Catholics.” That’s what so many of us call ourselves. We’re still disgusted with the Church for the way it covered up the sex abuse perpetrated against my generation and roll our eyes at the Church’s stance on things like abortion, gay marriage and women’s rights.

[...]I learned a lot about being a Good Person from the things I heard in church… I wanted to be a Good Person, not just because only Good People go to Heaven. I just liked the idea. The meek shall inherit the Earth. It sounded right. Somehow all this shit I’m swallowing now, it’s gonna pay off later.

I’m pretty much agnostic now (sometimes believing more strongly, other times thinking the concept of God is kind of a joke), but I value the way the idea of God has gotten me through the rough patches. And that has been the payoff. Somehow this notion that there is a giant man in the sky with long hair and a big robe who will hug you from heaven if you need it and carry you on the beach when you’ve had one too many wine coolers to walk without falling down and getting sand all up in your bikini has been very comforting to me. The image of Jesus but as God but totally as a bro (a homeboy, if you will), there’s something righteous about it, if you know what I mean.

But the way I imagine God has changed over the years — He’s gone from being a person, a man, to being more of a Thing, a notion. Goodness. The Oneness of the Universe. With something female in there. The energy that keeps the whole thing afloat. God as I know it now when I know it is kind of a cocktail made from a shot of Buddhism, a shot of feminist activism and a splash of ginger ale (because that, my friends, is something you can always count on).

Now the Christians who are reading this will be cringing because we know that these beliefs are not taken out of the Bible. She seems to be speaking more about her opinions rather than what is true. She doesn’t seem to be focused on finding truth, but more on being a “good person” and having God as a crutch to pull out if she falls down while pursuing her own plan.

She’s wrong that “good people” go to Heaven. Only people who accept Jesus as their leader (Lord) and accept his death as a sacrifice for their rebellion against God (Savior) are resurrected to eternal life. If she is a relativist, then I guess what she means by being a “good person” is that she thinks of herself as good and that the people around her think of her as good. However, the main purpose of Christianity is not to be a good person, or to have people like you or to be happy and comforted.  The main goal of Christian living is to puzzle about the truth about God’s existence and character, and then to re-prioritize your life based on who God is and what God has done. So the focus in Christianity is on truth, and that’s what her church should have taught her from a young age.

In my opinion, the Catholic church is NOT a good place to learn the full story about what the Bible says about God, nor to learn the importance of searching for truth over and above being a “good person”. It’s not surprising to me that she would catch the idea from Catholicism that God is more interested in humans being good to other people than in having true beliefs. In my experience, Catholics emphasize doing good works more than they emphasize having true beliefs that are rooted in evidence rather than church tradition and authority. Catholics believe many things that are not in the Bible or history based on authority.

For example, Jesus strictly forbids calling church leaders “Father” in Matthew 23:1-12, as well as having elaborate garments for church leaders. But the Catholic church has an entire hierarchy of titles from Father to Holy Father, as well as special uniforms for church leaders up to and including elaborate costumes for the pope. Catholicism claims that Jesus has no brothers and sisters, but the Bible (and history!) says he had brothers and sisters, including James, whose role in the early church is solidly attested by history. Catholicism says that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven, but there is no record of that tradition in history for 700 years after Jesus died. The earliest records even have a burial location for her. Catholics also embrace inclusivism, which is the idea that you can be made right with God by being a sincere adherent of a religion that does not teach the truth about who Jesus was and what he did. So clearly the emphasis there is not on having true beliefs.

Those are just a few examples. The Catholic focus is more on doing good deeds, and they do a lot of that, especially on opposing abortion, promoting adoption and defending marriage. But there is a disadvantage for people raised with a focus on good works compared with a person who is focused on developing true beliefs. In Protestantism, each person is responsible for reading their own Bible and for testing and debating everything against science and history. Protestants prefer people like William Lane Craig and Mike Licona, because they study things using evidence outside the Bible and church tradition, and then debate outsiders to see what is true and false. Catholics are more likely to prefer people like Mother Teresa, who do lots of good things, but then on the other hand they encourage Hindus to be good Hindus and Muslims to be good Muslims. This is not what Jesus actually taught about the exclusivity of salvation. Catholics care about doing good actions. Protestants like good actions, too, but those good actions are secondary in importance to loving God. See Jesus’ own words in Matthew 22:36-40. And in order to love God, you first have to have accurate beliefs about who he is and what he’s done. That’s what Protestants emphasize.

I think another problem with a Catholic upbringing is that there is too much dependence on authority figures to tell people what to believe. I once worked with a Catholic guy who dismissed my every question about what he believed with the same line: “whatever the Catholic church tells me to believe, that’s what I believe, because I’m Catholic”. This sounds similar to what happened the woman who wrote the article. We really need to make truth the main thing about Christianity. We really need to show people how to develop true beliefs by using the laws of logic and empirical evidence. It’s important for us to show our work and explain how we arrived at our beliefs instead of just picking and choosing what we like from what people around us (or over us) say.

But there is more to her story – her child has been affected by her problematic views of Christianity and God.

She writes:

My daughter, on the other hand, at the ripe old age of 7, is convinced that there is no God. Not even a god. Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.

It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”

Is it a good idea to take scientific advice from a 7-year-old child? Children who grow up fatherless are already predisposed towards atheism. I think that we should instead prefer to learn from scholars who research and debate issues in science and religion, and then teach the child based on what we have learned. Perhaps the woman could get the debate between Mike Behe and Keith Fox, or the debate between Stephen Meyer and Peter Ward, or the debate between William Lane Craig and Peter Millican and teach the child from that. This is why it was so important to emphasize how people arrive at true beliefs in the church. If she had done the work herself to arrive at true beliefs, then she would know what to say to her child’s presumptuous ignorance.

More:

The other night over dinner my daughter looked up at me and said, “Who created the Earth?” And I said, “Well, some people believe that God created the Earth, and some people believe that nature is a creation unto itself.” My daughter replied, “I think nature is a creation unto itself.” I said, “You know, you’re pretty staunch about the fact that there is no God.” And she told me, “Well, I don’t think he exists. If he does, he’s a ghost, and that’s weird. I just don’t believe it. You know, there are Universes beyond our Universe. Once you get outside the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot more stuff out there.”

Wow. When I was 7 I didn’t know there was a world outside my town.

So the universe created itself? How could it create itself? It would have to have existed in order to do anything like create. So it would have to have existed… before it began to exist. That’s a contradiction, and so it cannot be true. It would be great if the mother had read books or sought out people who had thought about logic and science, so that they could  advise her child about self-contradictory statements as well as the Big Bang cosmology. But she never did the work. We should be teaching people to do the work in church, not to just be spectators and then pick and choose what feels good. Nobody picks and chooses what feels good when it comes to chemistry lab or the stock market. In church, we need to show that religion is no different from anything else in life that can be studied. Truth is the main thing.

She continues:

Oh sure, my mother thinks raising a child without religion is dangerous. “I understand you don’t think she needs God now, Carolyn. But you gotta give her religion so it’s there for her when she needs it later.” When the shit hits the fan, when everything falls apart. When you realize there is no one but God you can trust.

See, here is where she needs someone to point out that it’s not God’s job to help you through crises. It’s not his job to make you happy. It’s not God’s job to make sure that your selfish pursuit of pleasure ends well. It’s not God’s job to keep you free from suffering and evil. This is where it would have been great if she had taken some of her time to read the Bible, and real theology books. It would have been better if she had sought out real scholars instead of relying on her mother for theology. But again, that’s her decision, to believe the people who tell her that religion is a crutch, instead of seeking truth and then bending her will to fit what is true.

Don’t be that gal

One last point. You might be wondering where the father is, since it is the father’s responsibility to teach the children about spiritual and moral things in Christianity. That’s what Christian women should be taught to look for in a man, along with protecting and providing abilities. That’s what the church would be telling them to look for if the church was not thoroughly compromised by feminism and egalitarianism. In the case of the woman who wrote the article, she has separated from the father of her child. She says so in the article.

Did she pick a man who was good at theology, apologetics and moral issues? Well, we don’t know. But judging from her politics and her profession, I would say that she did not. If there is one thing that liberal feminists absolutely detest in men, it’s exclusive truth claims about religion and exclusive moral judgments. They tend to choose men who know nothing at all about God as he really is and morality as it really is. They want to avoid men who will try to lead them on moral and spiritual issues. Unfortunately, though, a man who does not know what he believes and why he believes about religion and morality cannot persuade anyone. And a man who cannot persuade cannot lead.

What happens to children when such women choose men who cannot lead on moral and spiritual issues? Men like that have no reason to stick around in a marriage, because they have no plan and no purpose for the marriage other than pleasure. A religious and moral man sticks around in a marriage because he has a plan and a purpose that is above his own feelings and needs. He is motivated to teach the children and to lead the wife, because he has definite spiritual and moral convictions, and he is able to persuade others to buy into them using evidence and arguments. Smart women choose men like this when they are looking for someone to fulfill the father role. Women need to know the duties of the married man, and choose the right man for the job.

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10 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I usually enjoy your posts, but as a Catholic I have to disagree with a lot of what you just said. In regards to Jesus’ injunction about calling people father, please see this: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/call-no-man-father.

    In regards to Jesus having no brothers and sisters, isn’t is plausible that they could be step siblings? The fact that Joseph was dead at the start of Jesus’ ministry suggests he was a good deal older than Mary. He could have been previously married and had children with a first wife who predeceased him. When Jesus was born, Joseph would have adopted Him and would have been his Son just as if Jesus was his biological Son. Ephraim and Manneseh weren’t biologically the children of Joseph, yet they are still counted as part of the twelve tribes of Israel. Even today, if I was adopted, my adopted siblings would still be my brothers and sisters.

    In regards to good works. Well it is written “Faith without works is dead” and “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Just doing good works isn’t enough, but neither is faith alone sufficient. Satan isn’t an atheist. He knows Jesus is the Son of God. Does that merit him Heaven? I think not.

    As to which people denominations focus on, why does it have to be both? You say Protestants focus more on people like William Lane Craig and Mike Licona while Catholics focus more on Mother Teresa. Just because the former two are Protestant and the latter Catholic proves what exactly? You love the Kalam Cosmological Argument, so do I. The Big Bang was a theory first introduced by a Catholic priest. Genetics was founded by an Augustinian monk. You often reference the work of Michael Behe, who is Catholic. You have referenced the work of Edward Feser, who is Catholic. Many Catholics love science and reason and philosophy. Personal holiness doesn’t exclude those things.

    You talk about authority being a bad thing. Well, if you’ve ever recited the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed in church, that’s from Authority, specifically Catholic Authority. Catholics were the ones who put Scripture together. There is no divinely inspired table of contents. Without authority there is Scriptural relativism, hence the proliferation of denominations. We need an Authority, and the Catholic Church is the one established by Christ through St. Peter and his successors.

    I enjoy your blog. I just think you’re wrong here.

    • I guess it’s possible that Jesus’ siblings were children of Joseph and not Mary, but there is no reason to think so and several reasons to thin otherwise.

      First of all, if there were pre-existing children of Joseph from an earlier marriage, they would have had to go with Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the census to register. I mean, if pregnant Mary had to go and she was only betrothed to Joseph at the time, then surely his children would have had to be there too. The Romans didn’t make exceptions. But there is no such mention of any children with Joseph and Mary on that trip.

      Also, the fact that Joseph was dead during Jesus’ ministry says nothing at all about his age. Many people died young of accidents or illness in those times.

      Of course, Jesus’ ministry began when he was 33. That 33 years is plenty of time for Joseph to have been siring and raising children with Mary before he died. In fact, it would have been singularly odd for him not to have had some natural children with Mary unless one of them was infertile. After all, she was his wife. That means she had sex with him. A marriage wasn’t a marriage in those times until it was consummated. So Mary couldn’t have both stayed a virgin and been the wife of Joseph. Nor would it have been right for her to live as Joseph’s wife while remaining a virgin. It is a sin for a woman to deny her husband all the time. The Bible commands a husband and wife to come together regularly. Thus, Mary, being a good woman, would have lived as good wife and satisifed her husband sexually. And no doubt she had childen as a result.

    • steve hays says:

      Michael says:

      “Just doing good works isn’t enough, but neither is faith alone sufficient.”

      That’s equivocal. The question is what faith is sufficient for. According to Paul, faith is sufficient for justification (in the Pauline sense of justification).

      Quoting James doesn’t prove your point, for the fact that two writers use the same word doesn’t mean the same word denotes the same concept.

      BTW, why are you quoting James? Does that mean you think you can interpret the Bible on your own?

      “Well, if you’ve ever recited the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed in church, that’s from Authority, specifically Catholic Authority.”

      Once again, that’s equivocal. It may be “Catholic,” but it’s not specifically *Roman* Catholic. So your appeal either proves too much or too little.

      “Catholics were the ones who put Scripture together.”

      The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox beg to differ.

      “There is no divinely inspired table of contents.”

      Where’s the divinely inspired table of contents listing the true popes (in contrast to antipopes)?

      Where’s the divinely inspired table of contents listing the ecumenical councils?

      Where’s the divinely inspired table of contents listing the infallible papal teachings?

      “Without authority there is Scriptural relativism, hence the proliferation of denominations.”

      What’s wrong with a proliferation of denominations? There was a proliferation of Jewish sects in 1C Judaism. Why didn’t God institute a Jewish papacy?

      “We need an Authority, and the Catholic Church is the one established by Christ through St. Peter and his successors.”

      Why should we believe your claim?

  2. ECM says:

    Catholics emphasize doing good works more than they emphasize having true beliefs that are rooted in evidence rather than church tradition and authority.

    Yes, because there aren’t any Evangelical Protestants that teach the same thing…

    *rolls eyes*

  3. Kunoichi says:

    As an ex-Catholic, NONE of the experiences of Catholicism described here reflect my own experiences growing up in the Catholic church!

    I do feel rather sad for her 7 yr old.

    • So there was not a focus on helping the poor? Because I have heard from Catholic women who don’t like the socialism in the church that the doing good is REALLY hammered into them. and Catholics tend to vote FAR more to the left side of the spectrum than evangelicals, who are 90% pro-life and 90% pro-marriage. I realize that mass-attending Catholics are more conservative, but not 90% conservative. I think it’s because of the works focus.

      • Kunoichi says:

        No, not really. If there was anything like that, it was from groups such as the Catholic Women’s League or the Knights of Columbus, and even then it wasn’t any more than the Kinsmen or any other specialized group. Sure, we got the basics of the need to do good, help our neighbours, etc., but it wasn’t something that was pushed or focused on in any way that set it apart. About the only thing that maybe matches was the Ascension of Mary, and that was either just another celebration on the calendar, or a Polish church (a lot of cultural and historical reasons behind that).

        Perhaps it had more to do with the priest we had when I was growing up. Like my parents, he was from Poland. Many of our neighbours were WWII survivors in one way or another. Most of these people saw first hand how deadly the socialist road was. However, when that priest retired and we went through a number of priests until a new, permanent priest was found, none of them were any different in those areas.

        I have Catholic family members that are both sides of these issues. Most are strongly connected to pre-WWII Europe in one way or another (first or second generation Canadians), and they are overwhelmingly conservative, pro-marriage, pro-life, including the ones that no longer go to mass regularly. The ones that aren’t are from the East Coast, have been in Canada generationally for longer than Canada has been a country, are Liberals in favour of abortion and SSM. Only one of them is a regular mass attendee, though another has stopped attending regularly for health reasons.

        There is one exception, and that’s branch of my family that is extremely active volunteers in their local parish and dedicated attenders of mass. Much to my surprise, they are quite liberal in social views re: marriage (not sure about abortion; it’s never come up with them).

        Still, no huge focus on acts, etc. And that whole “I believe whatever the Church tells me” thing? I honestly have never met a Catholic that has that attitude – not even my mother! – though I’ve seen that attitude in people in relation to others things (like politics).

        I find myself wondering how much of it has to do with regional culture.

        • Mariangela says:

          This is a painful article to read on many levels (although the editing is well done, thank you Mary and Dina).

          I think a Catholic coming from Poland, like Kunoichi said in the comment above, like John Paul II who had a sit-down with Hayek, is much more likely to be able to maintain and express the authentic Catholic faith.

          Traditions have a very important place in the dissemination of information and as a faith based entirely on those passed on from the Jews, need not be dismissed so easily. The ideas of independent thinking differ from anarchy and as such the Catholic Church has much more of a tradition of conservatism than anyone that calls themself a Protestant.

          Unfortunately, while the Catholic Church has done well at conserving the traditions that make the Church “a city on a hill.” It is doing rather poorly at conserving the message of the gospel. Socialism permeates every encyclical, and the traditions of free market thinking that you can find among Catholic scholars as early as 10th century England have been set aside in favour of German school economics and solidarism (which pope Benedict was citing in his writings).

          Of course the effects are regional. In Catholic Italy for example those that are conservative are still Catholic while those that are communist have left the Church, while in places like Ontario, Canada 90% of those attending Catholic Church are on the left and are voting liberal, because it matches what they are hearing from the pulpit; supported by papal encyclicals. The sticking point is that the role of the Church is to teach us about, and lead us to salvation.

          Socialism is a perversion that distracts and alters the focus, but it is not limited, as ECM mentioned in the comment above to one Church. Any church that subsitutes a “being good” doctrine for Salvation is on their way to irrelevancy as you don’t have to belong to any Church in order to be good.

          As far as having a tradition of authority, anyone who has ever been around small children will understand that while kids yearn for structure and discipline their favourite question is “Why?” Christ said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to ones “such as these.”

          • Yes, the Catholic church is far more to the left on fiscal issues than the evangelical Protestant Christians like me. Catholic bishops in the U.S. favored Obamacare and they tend to be more in favor of amnesty as well. They don’t really see the dangers of big government to family integrity and religious liberty. By not speaking clearly about fiscal conservativism and peace through strength, they do give support to the party that favors abortion and gay marriage, etc.

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