The Religious Right�s continuing anti-human campaigns -- Part 2
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 3, 2009, 00:14

Through their Howdy Doody front man, George W. Bush, the Religious Right ruled America for eight years. George is out, but the Religious Right and their pocketed GOPers continue their illogical, anti-reality agenda.

President Obama has begun reversing some of the damage done during the eight years of the Religious Right�s rule through King George the W. Freeing medical research -- embryonic stem cell research -- from religious ideology was a good first step. The disingenuous reaction from Focus on the Family and the hysterical one from Don Wildmon did nothing but further expose their stale, irrational arguments.

On March 10, 2009 Focus on the Family�s CitizenLink featured a Commentary by �Dawn Vargo, bioethics analyst.� It began:

President Barack Obama�s decision Monday to open the floodgates of federal funding for destructive embryonic stem-cell research (ESCR) is a step backward for science -- and a step backward for the millions of Americans suffering from disease and disability. . . .

With all due respect to Ms. Vargo (whose academic credential are not given), how can promising new medical research be �a step backward for science -- and a step backward for the millions of Americans suffering from disease and disability�? That�s prima facie illogical and irrational.

A prequel to Ms. Vargo�s assessment, appeared on March 9, 2009. It was penned by �Jennifer Mesko, editor� of CitizenLink:

Obama Creates Incentive to Destroy Tiny Human Embryos

In another blow to family advocates, the president also wants to overturn rules that protect health care providers� freedom of conscience.

As promised, President Barack Obama has overturned his predecessor�s policy and created an incentive to destroy human embryos for federally funded research. . . .

In another blow to family advocates, Obama announced Friday he wants to overturn rules that protect health care providers� freedom of conscience.

Ms. Mesko quoted �Carrie Gordon Earll, senior bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family Action� as saying calling the funding of ESCR the latest government bailout� of a �morally bankrupt and failing industry.�

Apparently �bioethicists� abound at Focus on the Family. Unfortunately, neither of the two quoted made much sense. How can an �industry� that hasn�t been allowed possibly be failing? �Failing� presumes a viable attempt. In America, ESCR has never been allowed to get off square one. Something cannot fail if that something has never been tried in reality, can it?

Carrie Gordon Earll also referred to ESCR as �morally bankrupt�: the accusatory battle cry of the sanctimonious. What�s more moral, allowing the blastocysts that would be used in ESCR and that are currently in storage at fertility clinics succumb to freezer burn or simply being discarded, or to use those cells to save the lives of living human beings? (Is there a Christ-like �giving one�s life to save others� message in there?)

Ms. Mesko also quoted Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): �It�s particularly sad since recent scientific breakthroughs have made it completely unnecessary to even consider research that destroys human embryos.�

�Completely unnecessary . . . research�? On what does this Republican ideologue base that statement? Does he know more about stem cell research than the trained medical researchers that claim ESCR might hold the cure for many diseases and debilitating conditions? That�s like saying, �Hey! We got penicillin, so why bother looking for more effective, wider spectrum antibiotics?�

And then there was Don Wildmon�s March 10, 2009 Action Alert, �Obama OKs embryonic stem cell research; actions are immoral and ineffective�:

Embryonic stem cell research is immoral and ineffective. It is immoral because it destroys human life at its earliest stage of development by harvesting the stem cells for body parts. It is ineffective because it has yet to be used a single time in any therapeutic application. . . .

Wildmon does have a way of twisting things into unrecognizable shapes: �destroys human life at its earliest stage of development.� As previously noted, the blastocysts will be destroyed anyway, something Wildmon either doesn�t understand or simply ignores. If a cluster of undifferentiated cells can save a human life, isn�t that the truly moral way to go? Or are those doomed cells more important than people . . . real-life living human beings?

�By harvesting the stem cells for body parts.� What is this man talking about? Does Wildmon really believe one can take stem cells, put them in a Petri dish, wave a magic wand over them, and BINGO! They grow into a fully functional human arm or leg (depending on the type of magic wand used)? Or is he just plain . . . lying in true ideologue form?

And speaking of ideologue formulations and current efforts to reverse the harm they�ve already caused:

In the final days of the Bush Administration, regulations that could limit LGBT patients� access to health care services were rushed through the Department of Health and Human Services (�HHS�). The regulations purport to interpret federal law to allow a health care provider to refuse to provide any health care service or information for a religious or moral reason. These regulations could impair LGBT [and other patients�] patients� access to care services if interpreted to permit providers to choose patients based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or family structure.

Now, the Obama Administration is considering rescinding these regulations . . .

The next step in the rule making process is allowing for
public comment. . . . [links added]

GOP ideologues are being confronted with common sense on other fronts as well and, not surprisingly, mouth the same old nonsense:

GOP blasts Obama pot rule

(Washington) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is taking aim at the Obama administration�s policy change over medical marijuana.

The Justice Department has announced it will target California�s medical marijuana distributors only if they violate both federal and state law. That�s a break from the Bush administration, which targeted dispensaries under federal law even if they complied with the state�s law allowing sales of medical marijuana.

Grassley said the new policy, outlined by Attorney General Eric Holder, is harming health care reform and will lead marijuana users to try harder drugs. [italics added]

�Harming health care reform�? How is adding another inexpensive, effective tool -- one with substantively fewer, less dire side effects than many (most?) prescription drugs -- to modern medicine�s pharmacological toolbox �harming� health care? How does it �harm� the health care system�s reform when it is a cost-effective reform?

�Will lead marijuana users to try harder drugs.� The only response to this preposterous allegation by Sen. Grassley is �Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?�

The American Medical Association deems marijuana effective for treating side effects of HIV/AIDS and some forms of cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Does Sen. Grassley really think people suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis are going to view their medically prescribed marijuana treatment as an invitation to try crack and PCP?

Whatever effective treatments can ease people�s suffering and improve their quality of their life should be allowed. Period. Physicians should make medical decisions, not senators . . . and certainly not the pope: ��You can�t resolve [AIDS] with the distribution of condoms,� the pope told reporters on Tuesday, [March 17, 2009] aboard a plane headed to Africa, a continent ravaged by AIDS. �On the contrary, it increases the problem.��

European reactions to the pope�s comments were swift and poignant:

Eric Chevallier, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, said in an online briefing: �France voices extremely sharp concern over the consequences of Benedict XVI�s comments. While it is not up to us to pass judgment on church doctrine, we consider that such comments are a threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life.� . . .

Laurette Onkelinx, Belgium�s health minister, said the pope�s comments reflected �a dangerous doctrinaire vision.� �His declarations could demolish years of prevention and education and endanger many human lives,� she said.

In Berlin, German health minister Ulla Schmidt and development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul [said] �Condoms save lives, in Europe as well as on other continents. . . . Modern assistance to the developing world today must make access to family planning available to the poorest of the poor especially the use of condoms. Anything else would be irresponsible.�

A New York Times editorial expressed similar concerns:

The Pope on Condoms and AIDS
Published: March 17, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI has every right to express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, in accordance with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. But he deserves no credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus. . . . [italics added]

Like everyone else, the pope has the right to express his opinions, but let�s not call them �moral� or based on �moral ground.�

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites �comprehensive and conclusive� evidence that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are �highly effective� in preventing heterosexual transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. The most recent meta-analysis of the best studies, published by the respected Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that condoms can reduce the transmission of the AIDS virus by 80 percent.

Telling people not to use something that has been scientifically and medically proven to reduce the spread of a deadly virus is blatantly immoral.

No. Condom use will not �resolve,� as the pope put it, the AIDS pandemic. But their use can save some lives �His Holiness� seems quite willing to sacrifice in the name of anti-human dogma concocted by an institution that covered up decades of child abuse by its priests. Some of that abuse, according to the Philadelphia Grand Jury�s report, included:

  • An 11-year old girl who was raped by her priest and became pregnant. The priest took her in for an abortion.

  • A fifth-grader who was molested inside a confessional booth.

  • A 12-year-old who, raped and sodomized by his priest, tried to commit suicide and remains in a mental hospital as an adult.

  • A 12-year-old, repeatedly raped by his priest, was told by that priest that his mother had approved of the abuse.

Add to that the fact that Benedict XVI -- who lives in a palace, wears robes made of the finest linen, eats the finest foods, and who made his anti-health statements while aboard his private jet (does any of that sound like something Jesus would approve of?) -- and his so-called �moral ground� becomes a mountain of sanctimonious hypocrisy with a 24k gold miter on top. And along those same lines . . .

The dictated-by-God (and therefore inerrant and not subject to change) dogma of Christianity has a nasty habit of opposing scientific and medical, social and cultural progress, even if it means fudging a bit on its foundational, unchanging dogmatic facts. The Catholic Church claims it has always insisted the �the soul� enters at the moment of creation, hence its claim that using blastocysts in ESRC is �killing a human being.� But the Church�s claim is not quite true, historically.

St Thomas Aquinas, the proclaimed �Doctor of the Church,� is arguably one of -- if not THE -- greatest Catholic theologians. He, as well as other earlier (and later) Catholic theologians, believed in �late ensoulment,� also known as �delayed hominization.� Basically, they believed �the soul� enters at some time well after conception. As Robert Pasnau, professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, wrote in Aquinas and Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of Summa Theologiae, 1a 75-89 (Cambridge University Press, 2001):

There is an unfortunate tendency to conflate interest in medieval philosophy especially on the work of Thomas Aquinas, with sympathy for the Roman Catholic Church. Inasmuch as the Church�s intellectual foundations lie in medieval philosophy, above all in Aquinas, sympathy for his work naturally should translate into sympathy for Catholicism. But the conflation is still unfortunate, because in recent years the Church has identified itself with a noxious social agenda -- especially on homosexuality, contraception, and abortion -- that has sadly come to seem part of the defining character of Catholicism. So it should be gratifying, for students of medieval philosophy, to see how in at least one of these cases Aquinas provides the resources to show something of what is wrong with the Church�s position.

To be sure, some Catholic apologists dispute Professor Pasnau�s conclusions. To do so they use the tortuous esoteric arguments apologists have made infamous. But the basic facts remain:

  • �God,� �soul,� �sin,� �angels,� �witches,� �devils,� �demons,� and all the rest of religion�s cast of characters as well as religion�s dogma are human creations with a less than humane history;

  • Used properly, condoms are an effective tool in combating HIV/AIDS;

  • Proper condoms used integrated with comprehensive sex education -- something the Bush administration blocked and the Obama administration unblocked -- are even more effective tools in combating HIV/AIDS.

Perhaps Spain (and FaceBook users) had the most appropriate (and effective) response to the pope�s anti-science, anti-human statements:

Spain Counters Pope, Sends Condoms to Africa
March 18, 2009

Spain announced that it will send a million condoms to Africa to fight the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS in the continent. . . .

Religion claims it is the source of morality, but its dogma is often anti-human. And that�s not moral.

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