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Religion: Just Make Shit Up...
...And say god said so.


The latest idiocy is the debate on where unbaptized babies go, to heaven or "limbo" -- some no-man's land probably invented by some priest trying to scare up a few baptismal bucks for the church. Michelle Tsai writes on Slate:

The Vatican announced on Friday the results of a papal investigation of the concept of limbo. Church doctrine now states that unbaptized babies can go to heaven instead of getting stuck somewhere between heaven and hell. If limbo doesn't exist, what happened to everyone who was supposed to have been there already?

They've probably been in heaven all this time, but no one knows for sure. Until the recent announcement, the limbo crowd was thought to include anyone who hadn't been baptized but would otherwise deserve to go to heaven—like infants (including aborted fetuses), virtuous pagans, and pre-Christian Jews. Those who had been baptized, on the other hand, either joined God in heaven, made up for their sins in purgatory, or suffered forever in hell.

If limbo never existed in the first place, you might assume that these souls passed straight through St. Peter's gates. But the carefully worded document from the Vatican's International Theological Commission stops short of certainty in this regard, arguing only that there are "serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope," rather than "sure knowledge."

Next topic for up for debate: Whether or not invisible men wear scarves. A better topic: Why the church protected all the kiddie diddlers instead of all the kiddies. (It's business, Gertie.)

photo by Gregg Sutter

Posted by aalkon at April 25, 2007 3:01 PM


What a load of garbage. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school and was indoctrinated with all this nonsense, which a young child (especially one as approval-seeking as I was) can be forced to accept despite its irrationality, especially with that threat of damnation hanging over you. And it's very, very difficult to believe that grown, educated people waste their time on these subjects, but they do, and it truly is a shame.

That said, I want to state that one can have religious beliefs and not be "tragically stupid," as I've heard here. I am no longer a member of the Catholic Church or any religion, but I do believe in God and pray. I don't have irrational beliefs in damnation or the evil of sex, etc., I don't pray just so I'll get the equivalent of a huge cash prize in heaven, I don't force my beliefs on other people or do any harm because of them... they are something that help ME live my life better and be happier. And that is not stupid, in my opinion.

I am very respectful of the fact that religion may be useless to many intelligent people. I believe everyone has the right to come to their own conclusions on these matters and to my mind there's no "correct" answer as long as it doesn't involve persecuting others or forcing your beliefs on them. And one can certainly argue that established religion in general does more harm than good. However, please believe that there are individuals who humbly profess that they are sane, kind and care about the state of the world NOW, and also profess some kind of faith. These things are not mutually exclusive!

Posted by: Debra at April 25, 2007 3:57 AM

One note: limbo was actually invented to make people feel better about their babies who had died before they could be baptized. It was also expanded to include good/noble people who had lived before, or not had the chance to convert to, Christianity. It's a relic of a different time, and the Church actually should have ditched it long ago. I wish they'd spend more time metaphorically going through the rolls and throwing out outdated ideas and less spouting off about gay marriage (sigh) myself.

As for what religion motivates people to do, I spent some time last night reading through the blog of this guy, a minister who says specifically that his faith inspired him to adopt 10 kids from foster care, many of them older, with severe difficulties (one of whom appears to have become near-psychotic): . Religion motivates some people to kill, and others to discuss its finer points ad infinitum...but it motivates some to staff soup kitchens, trek down to hurricane zones to help the wounded, send money to Africa to help with AIDS victims, and adopt children that no one else wants. Is that the only thing that motivates people to do good? Of course not - but it does set up in their minds that there's an *obligation* to do good, and I don't think the people receiving the aid really care about where it comes from, as long as it does.

Posted by: marion at April 25, 2007 5:13 AM

I do think the people receiving the aid care when the aid comes with a prohibition against using condoms, or propaganda against using condoms, and they get AIDs.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 25, 2007 6:05 AM

Super post, Amy.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at April 25, 2007 7:21 AM

I’ve always been confused about the “fish on Friday” thing that Catholics practiced until Vatican II. When the rules changed did the people in hell for breaking them get sent to heaven?

Posted by: Roger at April 25, 2007 7:55 AM

It's sort of a mixed views about the reasons behind the aid.

From personal experiences, I find the sense of obligation to do good as a form of self deception. This includes both religious and secular do gooder types. Also, in many cases, dealing with these types would increase my chances of getting harmed or killed by the locals or the hazardous environment.

Posted by: Joe at April 25, 2007 8:19 AM

I was quite religious as a child, and I prayed for the babies in Limbo all the time. I worried about the babies in Limbo. I stressed out about them. And now they tell us, "Oh, guess what. There really isn't a Limbo. The babies have been in Heaven this whole time."

The Vatican is seriously fucking with my head. Someone is going to have to pay.

Posted by: Sister Lena Cuisina of the Most Holy Assumption at April 25, 2007 8:21 AM

People usually imagine themselves in heaven at the height of their powers (though I imagine this could be disconcerting for others who got to know them at some other stage in their lives). Do babies that go to heaven just stay as babies for eternity?

Posted by: Norman at April 25, 2007 8:37 AM

Yes, Norman. Babies in Heaven remain babies forever. The angels use them as throw pillows.

Posted by: Lena at April 25, 2007 9:11 AM

Pillow fight!

Posted by: eric at April 25, 2007 9:36 AM

Ohhh good. I'm glad "The Church" decided there is no limbo, so now I can stop worrying about the waiting line to get into heaven when I die. Did they throw out the deli-number-dispenser, too?

I'm just thrilled that a bunch of guys sit around, shoot the breeze and make up crap. Crap that, in their opinion, sounds good and makes sense to them...and then proceed to throw it at people and say that it's God's word.

Did they jump on the last shuttle launch and go chill in the high heavens and discuss these things with God? Whether there is a god or not isn't the point - it's the fact that the church can just make stuff up on a whim and claim that it's god's will.

If there IS a god, I doubt s/he is stupid so why would god create purgatory only to rule it out as a "bad idea" after a few thousand years? If god is all knowing and an intelligent creator, wouldn't god be able to make up his/her mind and stick to his/her guns?

Bottom line: if God exists, and the doctrines of a religion are "the truth" then shouldn't those things go unchanged over time? They shouldn't adjust to reflect the mores of society for the exact reason that facts stand unchanged. This abolition of purgatory reinforces my idea that organized religion is a bunch of made up hooey subject to change on whim for no reason.

Posted by: Gretchen at April 25, 2007 10:41 AM

...sorry, not the abolishment of purgatory, but the "amendment" to the rules....the idea still stands: if the word of God (via the church) were legitimate it wouldn't just change.

Posted by: Gretchen at April 25, 2007 10:43 AM

The sad part is there are plenty of people who believe in the existence of these psych devices (hell, purgatory, limbo, heaven, paradise, reincarnation, rapture, armageddon and many more) all over the world. Basing their decisions and behavior on these deluded beliefs.

Posted by: Joe at April 25, 2007 11:13 AM

Funny how an organization that claims to possess absolute truth bases so much of it's dogma on abstract concepts that can be amended at a moment's notice.

Or as my ol' man said: "Anyone who claims to have 'all the answers' is trying to sell you something."

Posted by: RedPretzel in LA at April 25, 2007 11:41 AM

Lena, I think you saved those babies. And even if there is no Heaven nor Hell nor Limbo, surely your tender-heartedness alone has redeemed Humanity to the godless Cosmos.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at April 25, 2007 1:25 PM

Hey, I always thought Dante invented Purgatory. Any theologians in the lion's den...?

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at April 25, 2007 1:28 PM

> Basing their decisions and
> behavior on these deluded
> beliefs.

Not as often, I'd wager, as they base the beliefs on their decisions and behavior. People do what they wanna do, and go to the church that let's them get away with it.

(This is why I hate Scientology most of all: They don't even PRETEND that there's anything supernatural involved, it's all about making arguments. Also, fuckers owe me for a long weekend of work in 2005.)

> amended at a moment's notice.

Oh, PUH-LEEZE. That news item represents a historic shift in a scheme that's been sustained for CENTURIES. What's going on in your head that's going to mean as much for so long, and what did you have to do with its creation? Will it clarify an ethical verge for someone as neatly as limbo did for dozens of generations?

> if the word of God (via
> the church) were
> legitimate it wouldn't
> just change.

Why not?

Posted by: Crid at April 25, 2007 1:33 PM

Can't stop thinking about those babies. D'you suppose they get to join the cherubim gang? And suck up to Eros? Oops, wrong heaven.

What about nappies? Perhaps changing heavenly nappies for eternity is a punishment. Or perhaps heavenly babies don't shit. Does anyone know? The church seems so damned vague and evasive when you start asking questions...

Posted by: Norman at April 25, 2007 2:20 PM

I used to love listening to George Carlin's riffs on Catholicism. Some of the best are on his album "Class Clown."

Posted by: deja pseu at April 25, 2007 2:43 PM

It goes back to what is applicable and inapplicable texts. They have no effect on current populations, except for a small minority within the Church. A vast majority of Catholics are of the cafeteria persuasion and they pick and chose what they want to believe. The Vatican knows this and begrudgingly accepts the current situation, because they want St. Peters full during the various holiday masses.

The real question is how the Vatican and other faiths adapt from a rules-based morality to a standards-based one? This decision is a leading indicator of future reversals. The problem is the slowness of the Vatican's decision making process. There’s even a rumor within the Vatican that the Pope may reverse the decision on banning condom use for the deterrence of AIDS in various developing nations. But that may take years.

Posted by: Joe at April 25, 2007 2:45 PM

Given the historically high infant mortality rate, there must be a heck of a lot of babies in heaven - possibly more than adults, given that some adults don't make it to heaven, while all babies do. Doesn't anyone see a logistical probem here? Shouldn't the church do something? Throw pillows are OK but you can have too many. And babies are slippery to walk on.

Posted by: Norman at April 26, 2007 1:20 AM

There is always room for more babies.
Please don't throw them.
And no, they don't poop.

Posted by: God at April 26, 2007 5:24 AM

I'm glad that God is finally clearing everything up.

Posted by: Chrissy at April 28, 2007 6:35 AM

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