Monday, April 21, 2014

"Sight" Revisited

Here in London Easter is a national holiday and most businesses give you the Friday before and the Monday after off. This mean I had a four day weekend. Needless to say I had a lot of free time. During this time I often found myself looking back on my life and reminiscing. I listened to songs I used to love, reread various sections of books I enjoy and I went through my computer looking at some old writing I had done. While doing this I stumbled over a piece I wrote in 2004 the day after Easter. I first found it interesting because I was reading it almost exactly ten years after I had written it. What I wrote then was not a message or idea related specifically to Easter but I did find it interesting because it documented a time when I was first beginning to move away from my faith. Now if one reads what I wrote I don’t think that will necessarily come across. Rather what comes across is that I am afraid. I am afraid that for the first time in quite a while I am feeling alone or unable to see Christ in my life.

The description of fear was noteworthy because only the day before I had written on Facebook that my move away from faith was not caused by a feeling of abandonment by god. I was responding to a friend who commented on one of my threads. I wrote, I felt god's (the Christian one) love as well most of my life. In fact I never felt that love disappear nor did I feel abandoned by god or any of those feelings that many people assume I must have had to lead me to reject my faith. Rather I spent my life studying my faith out of my love for god and desire to know him better. I studied the theologians, scholars, monks, priests and mystics of Christianity's history and what I found or should I say failed to find was one single worldview or version of Christianity that actually worked and remained consist with itself. Every version of god I found worth worshiping was one that couldn't account for the existence of this world or a majority of the tenants of Christianity and every god I found that could create this world and uphold a majority of Christianity's main belief was a god not worthy of devotion, praise or belief. Most of Christianity's short comings became clearest to me when I viewed them through the eyes of a person outside of the faith where I discovered a god who failed to love them as he had chosen to love me. (Click here to see full thread) So here I said that I did not feel abandoned by god whereas in 2004 I wrote that I was afraid that my sight of (connection to) Christ was being taken from me. Obviously these are not the exact same things, fear you are losing something is not the same as feeling abandoned but still I found it interesting that I was reading this only a day after making that comment on Facebook. Sometimes I think I forget just how difficult and scary the journey from believer to non-believer was for me. When I talk about my de-conversion now I think I often fail to give the emotional aspect of it its proper due. The truth is that while I believe my decision to no longer be a Christian was one that was triggered and ultimately cemented by intellectual factors my emotions did play their part. I know there were times I was angry, lonely and just depressed and those times are part of my story as well.

For fun I thought I would include the piece I found. I wrote it on the 12th of April 2004. And while that isn't ten years ago to the day it was the day after Easter just like today is. Now it would still be five years before I decided I could no longer be a Christian yet I can’t help but read this piece and see not only the person I was but the beginnings of the person I would become, a person I never could have guessed I would be and a person I wouldn't have wanted to be back then.

Please note that I have not changed anything I wrote from then so there are a few typos as well as some other grammar mistakes but I felt I should leave it the way it was. And yes I am scared/embarrassed to share this because of how odd most of it sounds to me now.
So here’s what I wrote. I titled it “Sight”

I find myself up at 1 in the morning, which is not that abnormal in and of itself but for the first time in a long time I am haunted by my thoughts to the point I cannot ignore them. My life has been one of sleepless nights; nights filled with tossing and turning, to awake just happy to get out of bed and away from the work of sleeping. The past semester has been one little different except in one important area; fear. I find myself truly afraid to turn off the TV and have to listen to my own mind. Most nights I stay up far too long watching Sports Center two or three times in a row until I simply pass out only to awake to the professional Table Tennis or the 1994 Cheerleading Championships being held somewhere in Texas. I then pull myself to bed where I instantly press play on my computer jukebox program that provides music to drown out any last thoughts that may have survived the numbing journey thus far. Like I said, tonight was no different except that I am sitting at the computer typing the thoughts that would not be silenced.
I began simply uttering, “I am afraid Christ” for that is all I had. There was no bright flash of light or instant feeling of peace and tranquility but my eyes popped open. It was not that I wasn't tired but my eyes just opened and I saw. I saw the pillow lying right in front of me and I saw the shadows of the dark room surrounding me. I saw in the dark, in the fear, I saw. And then it hit me, I've always seen.
Sight has been the one gift that has most defined and dominated my life. It is a gift that was granted to me early in my life and has always, in some way, been who I am. The day I became a Christian, in fifth grade, it was due to sight, a sight that has followed me every since. Every spiritual pursuit of my life has been spearheaded by sight. My actions, my thoughts were no more than my sights. From foresight in the big picture of the world to minor perceptions about the person who was sitting across the table from me sharing a meal. What I see is what I know. My father has on many occasions thanked God that I received my mother’s brains, though I often lack his good sense, but truly all my academic success has been one of sight. I pursued art for years and excelled in drawing, still lives and figure drawing were my favorites, because I could see. I drew what I saw and that is why I could draw it. I have since chased after history fascinated by people and what drives or motivates them. The science of history is amazing simply because it isn't a science despite what many well-to-do historians of the 50’s and 60’s want to think. And to put it quite simply, and by this point predictably, I see history. One scholar fights with another over the validity of one text over another text, in which the one text contradicts the other while negating a third text, and though it all I see history. I see the disputes of history played out before me in the disputes of modern scholars. I see the stories, the bias, the contradictions, the beliefs, the people, and the divine. Then, of course, there is the series of events that change everything about who I am that began the day I met Cynthia. A series of events that truly were, despite my spiritual lackings, a time of unequaled clarity of thought, of will, and of desire. Lastly, I am obsessed with humor and comedy for me, more often than not, is simply about seeing. Seeing the simple, everyday situation in a way others don’t. That in fact is perhaps what I am really trying to say in all of this, my whole life I have seen in a way that others do not but only recently have I felt like that original sight, my sight of Christ, has been taken from me. So each night I approach my bed afraid, afraid I will never see it again and be left with staring at the shadows surrounding me. Did it have to be taken away from me for me to see it more clearly or is my sight to be forever exiled to the realms of simple observations and historical inquiry?

So there it is, Zach from 2004. When I read this yesterday I winced a little at its overdramatic nature as well as the slightly haughty tone it seems to have, I still do.  Still each time I read this I can’t help but smile and remember my past fondly. There are often times I wish I could go back and experience much of it again but there are rarely times I wish I could go back and be that same person again. I’m glad I've changed and I’m glad I've “lost” that sight that I had. If nothing else I've found over these past ten years that not only do I not see was well as I thought I did but that it’s okay not to “see” everything.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Being a Pastor

I just finished my first week of work in over a year. Since I moved to London last November I have spent a majority of my time filling out forms and going through various avenues in order to get my marriage visa, which would allow me to work here in the UK. I finally got it all worked out about 3 months ago and then began searching for work only to just find a job last week. During this long search it has been hard not to look back and wonder where I might be if things had gone a little differently. When one examines my resume, particularly my education it’s easy to see that what I was really trained to be was a Christian pastor or minister. The truth is getting a master’s degree in theology from an evangelical seminary really does not provide you a lot of opportunities for work outside of a church.  University level teaching could be a possibility but to do that I would have to continue in my education and get a doctorate, which at this time is not possible so currently I’m kind of stuck in the middle. 

When I look at the role of a pastor I can’t help but think that despite that fact that I am no longer a Christian I would still be really good at the job. I know the bible, I know the proper doctrine/dogma of the church (multiple ones) and I know what the Christian god(s) wants from his followers. Further I know I can present these things to congregants in a way to interest/challenge them. Beyond just Sunday sermons I believe I would be a good leader, counselor, delegator, budgeter and friend. Perhaps most strangely I think that despite my lack of faith I would still have fun being a pastor and work always seems to go better when it is something you enjoy doing. Not to mention I could make quite a bit of money doing it, certainly far more than in any of the other jobs I seem qualified for at this point in my life.

The teaching a pastor does must be challenging because the pastor has to teach the congregation the proper doctrines, which they as believers have already accepted as true and make them seem new or fresh. Of course this isn't true for all pastors and congregants. Some people like coming to church both to hear the same things over and over again and to know that they are hearing the same things over and over again. But most of the newer evangelical types of churches are led by pastors who are trying to make Christianity seem new and modern. They are trying to take old doctrines and put a new spin on them in order to show people how these things can relate to their modern life. I know this because I did this for most of my life and as I said before I think I would still be quite good at it. In a way pastors are trying to make things that most people find boring more interesting. The pastor must provide the shorthand version of the church’s biblical and theological teachings and do it in such a way that none of the congregants walk away questioning why they believe such things. Now don’t get me wrong the congregants should walk away from a sermon with questions but those questions should surround how they can change their lives to better match the church’s teachings not whether those teachings are true. Similarly the congregants should not walk away with any reason to doubt their beliefs but rather they should walk away only doubting themselves, their lifestyle and their lack of faith.

One of the key ways to accomplish all this is through guilt. The pastor must make their congregants feel guilty so that they can than provide the “good news” and bring a sense of comfort to their congregation. This use of guilt provides the pastor a way to hold the listeners’ attention, to stir their emotions and to peak their interest all while staying within the tight framework of their doctrine. Also by creating and sustaining a need that only the church can fill it ensures people will constantly come back for more. Still a pastor cannot focus solely on the bad or they might lose members of their church. No, the pastor must balance the good and bad in their message very carefully and remember that people usually want to feel better in the end.

The pastor must also function like the church’s blanket and insulate its members from other beliefs that might challenge their own. Now some pastors are better at this than others. Usually the ones that are better are the ones who don’t insulate themselves from conflicting beliefs but rather study things that oppose what they already believe and preach. But those types of pastors are difficult to find. I think most pastors are like their congregations in that any time they actually spend in study is used to study books or ideas that they already agree with, which at best will provide them new ways to say the same things. Now this is understandable because people only have so much time in their life and most people want to use it to do things they already like doing not looking around to see if there is something they are missing from their life.

I believe most pastors are quite genuine with what they do. They truly believe what they are teaching and think that they are doing their god’s will. They are seeking out their god and trying to hear that god’s voice and teach others what they find. The problem is that they restrict what they can find from the outset by already deciding what their god can and can’t tell them. If they hear a voice telling them to study and obey the Qur'an well that clearly isn't their god whereas if they hear a voice telling them they must raise money for a new church building than it must be their god or at least it can be. Granted any voice they hear will likely only tell them things that already fit within their framework of belief since the voice is really coming from their own mind. One of the hardest things for me to realize as I grew up was that when you limit what you study and where you search for answers you predetermine what you can learn in your spiritual journey and the journey becomes quite limited even hollow.

Finally, beyond the teaching, the study and the guiding comes the money. The fact is while most pastors won’t or can’t admit it one of the most important measures of success for their job, like most other jobs, is the money. If the coffers are full than they are doing their job well whereas if they coffers are empty than they are not doing their job well. Now I certainly don’t think most pastors are in it for the money, I know I wouldn't have been. But the fact is that they need the money and whether people choose to notice it or not after every sermon the collection plates are passed around for the congregation to donate and thus validate the pastor’s message with money. This is one of the reasons why a pastor must be careful what they preach because even though it is really their job to say the same things over and over each week they must not say it in a way that bores their congregation because the money will stop coming in. Conversely the pastor can’t be too wild or controversial because they don’t want to push anyone away nor do they want to produce questions or doubts that may lead to a divergence from their set doctrines and thus a decrease in church attendance also leading to less money.

So would I be a good pastor? There really is no way to know but I believe I would be. I'm surprised how often I find myself thinking even dreaming about being a pastor because it’s a job that involves things I like doing and things that I believe I would be good at. Also sometimes I just miss being in church and having that community to share things with. Plus I can’t lie it would be nice to make more money, which also happens to be tax free. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Return to Writing

It has been over two years since my last post. During this time I have moved from California (Sacramento) to China (Shenzhen) and from China to the UK (London).  I also had a few stops in Colorado (Denver) while waiting for various visas to clear.

I stopped writing this blog in part because I became busy with other things as I’m sure anyone who tries to keep up a blog can relate with. But I also stopped writing because in a way I stopped caring enough about what I was writing to keep doing it. This blog began as a blog about my time in Korea but soon morphed into a blog dealing with issues about religion, faith, philosophy and the like. I wrote from the perspective of a person who used to be a bible believing, Christ following, Evangelical Christian. I believed almost everything my churches had taught me and thought it was my mission to carry that message to the rest of the world. After years of dedicating my entire life to the Christian faith (one version of it) and seeking ‘God’ everywhere I could, particularly in the study of history, philosophy and the bible I had to give up my faith as I discovered the beliefs of my youth simply were not true.

Leaving the church and my faith was difficult. My entire life had revolved around these things since I was a child and everything I had done and studied up to that point had been for and about these things. As I left my faith I found myself drowning in school debts for degrees that prepared me for nothing except work in the church. I was also lonely as I lost most of my social life and my Christian friends just couldn't be my friends in the same way anymore. In many ways I felt I had been robbed of much of my life and so I began blogging about my experiences hoping to engage with others who had had similar experiences as well as those who were still Christians in hopes of “helping” them escape their faith as I had. This led to many interesting blogs some of which were fairly harsh in criticizing Christianity. But after a year of writing about these things I became less passionate about what I was writing and thus found it difficult to keep writing. In a way I think up until now this blog has served as a source of release and healing for me. It allowed me to express my frustrations with my past and many of the beliefs I had held. Then as my frustrations began to wane so too did my desire to write about Christianity, religion or other faith based topics. In a way I was tired of “fighting” about these things.

But in the past few years I have found that while much of my anger about my past has dissipated my interest in these topics has not. I still enjoy reading about religion, church/biblical history, philosophy and modern science.  And while there are times I still feel a bit annoyed with believers I don’t have the same need to compete/fight with them over these issues. Now perhaps the one time I still want to “fight” is when religion crosses paths with politics and those of faith try and impose their beliefs on others. When that happens I can get quite riled up again. But for the most part I find I am much more relaxed about these issues than I was a few years ago.

So I come back to this blog with the intention of once again writing about issues of religion, faith, history and so on but I hope to write about them with less hostility than I previously did. Now I’m sure there will be times when things may get heated with various readers just due to the personal nature of these topics but for the most part I hope this blog will just be a place to encourage critical thinking, open dialogue and humor. I will be offering my own thoughts on various topics and share other people’s ideas that I find worth examining whether I agree with them or not.

I encourage anyone who chooses to read this blog to offer their own thoughts on anything and everything because I have found that I tend to learn the most by interacting with other people. I had made some good friends through this blog as well as some good competitors and hope they will return. Further I hope many new people will show up and help me once again have a fun blog about hard issues. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Taslima Nasrin - A Simple Truth

"If any religion allows the persecution of the people of different faiths, if any religion keeps women in slavery, if any religion keeps people in ignorance, then I can't accept that religion.”
                        -Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi Author

I have to agree with Taslima and so I say, “so much for the god of Abraham.” Those are all things that the Abrahamic god both supports and commands. Sometimes I look back and can’t believe how long it took for me to reject Christianity. When one simply steps back and examines the fruit of religion, monotheism in particular, it is just so painfully obvious what a moral pit it is and what a monster the god of Abraham truly is.  The Abrahamic god fails almost all tests of reason but it is his huge moral failings that led me to reject him and that I hope will led others to do likewise so that we may focus on making the world a better place here and now for all of us rather than waiting for some person of faith to destroy the world as the god of Abraham so eagerly awaits to do.  

Taslima Nasrin is an author who rose to global fame by the end of the 20th century owing to her feminist views and her criticism of religion in general and of Islam in particular. She currently lives in Sweden after expulsion from India where she was denounced by the Muslim clergy and received death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. She works to build support for secular humanism, freedom of thought, equality for women, and human rights by publishing, lecturing, and campaigning. 

Mother Teresa: Not as Good as She Would Have Us Believe - An Excerpt from God and His Demons a book by Michael Parenti

This blog is about Mother Teresa and how her image as a saintly woman sacrificing herself for the good of others is not well-rounded and requires a true blindness to all of Mother Teresa's words and actions. Mother Teresa has a much darker side that did not gain the public attention it deserved. This writing is by Michael Parenti and comes straight out of his book "God and His Demons" It can be found in Chapter 8 titled Mother Teresa, John Paul, and the Fast-Track Saints. It provides more examples of the danger of blind faith and how it makes it so easy to not do what is actually best for people here and now in this life and leads to needless pain and suffering. 

Michael Parenti writes the following:
During his twenty-six year papacy, Pope John Paul II elevated 483 individuals to sainthood, more saints than any previous pope. Just as he packed the College of Cardinals with ultraconservatives, so did he attempt to populate heaven’s pantheon itself.
One personage John Paul beatified but did not live long enough to canonize was Mother Teresa, the media-hyped Roman Catholic nun of Albanian origin who was courted by the world’s rich and famous and showered with kudos for her “humanitarian work” with the poor. What usually went unreported were the vast sums she received from sometimes tainted sources, including a million dollars from convicted Wall Street swindler Charles Keating, on whose behalf she sent a personal plea for clemency to the presiding judge. When asked by the prosecutor to return Keating’s gift because it was money he had stolen from small investors and depositors, she never did. (1) Teresa also accepted rich offerings from a Duvalier dictatorship whose wealth was siphoned from the Haitian public treasury. (2)
Her “homes” for the indigent in India and elsewhere, usually described in the media as “hospitals” and “clinics,” were actually hospices in which seriously ill indigents were afforded a place to die. (3) One young doctor, Marcus Fernandes, was taken aback by the substandard conditions. He pointed out that many of the inmates were not dying from fatal diseases but suffering from malnutrition and could be saved if fed a modestly improved diet that included vitamin supplements. But he could not persuade Teresa, who showed no interest in medicine or in treating patients with vitamins. Dr. Fernandes also unhappily discovered that expensive medical equipment donated to Teresa was left to rust, completely unused. (4)
A disillusioned British volunteer at Teresa’s Calcutta center concluded that the “standard of health care was atrocious.” Jack Preger, a Catholic doctor who had worked with Teresa, reported that “needles for injections are simply rinsed in cold water after use and passed from one patient to the next. And patients with TB are not isolated, despite the highly contagious nature of the disease.” (5) Wendy Bainbridge, a British nursing nun who had worked at mainstream hospices, was stunned by the squalor and lack of minimal amenitites at Teresa’s establishment. There were no aids to mobility, no toilet paper. “The toilet was an open gutter running behind the washroom and waste was washed away with a bucket of water.” (6)
Dr. Robin Fox, later the editor of the prestigious medical journal the Lancet, wrote a sharp criticism of the medical practices at Teresa’s Home for the Dying in Calcutta. He complained that suffering inmates were denied strong analgesics. Nuns and volunteers lacked basic tests to distinguish the curable from the incurable. Their lack of medical training encouraged potentially fatal errors. The failed to provide minimum comforts and did little pain management. They sometimes overmedicated to a dangerous level while missing opportunities to offer simple but effective treatments. (7)
Other visitors testified that Teresa’s hospices were “unsafe” and provided “neither proper nursing nor loving compassion.” Suggestions for improvement regularly went unheeded by Teresa. When one of her nuns was asked, “What do you do for [patients’] pain?” she replied, “We pray for them.” (8)
On one occasion, when staff members asked Teresa to try saving a teenager on the verge of death, she blessed the boy and said, “Never mind, it’s a lovely day to go to Heaven.” (9) One young volunteer recalls that on the infrequent occasions when surgery actually was performed at the hospice, anesthesia was not provided, it being considered too costly. Instead attendants told patients, “Pain is Christ kissing you.” (10)
When tending to her own ailments, however, Teresa preferred anesthetics over Christ’s kisses. She checked into some of the costliest hospitals and recovery care units in the world for state-of-the-art treatment, including angioplasties, CT scans, pacemaker implants, a personally designed spinal brace, and lifesaving heart surgery. (11)
When a Union Carbide plant spewed lethal pesticides over Bhopal, India, in what was history’s worst industrial accident, killing over twenty thousand (at last count) and seriously injuring an additional hundred thousand, Teresa made a brief media-saturated appearance, walking among those who suffered agonizing burns in their eyes and lungs, saying “forgive, forgive.” The luckless victims and their families were being asked to harbor no ill feeling toward the criminally negligent corporation. Teresa then swiftly departed Bhopal, never sending in her order, the Missionaries of Charity, to assist. (12)
Teresa journeyed the globe to wage campaigns against divorce, abortion, and birth control. When visiting Egypt she urged housewives to “have lots and lots of children”—at a time when the Egyptian government was trying to promote family planning to counter the nation’s population explosion. On numerious occasions she said she would never allow families that practiced contraception to adopt any children from her orphanages. (13) At her Nobel award ceremony in 1979, she announced that “the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.” And she once suggested that AIDS might be a just retribution for improper sexual conduct. (14)
Her concern for the unborn child was matched only by an indifference toward the living child. What social conditions caused hundreds of thousands of children to die of malnutrition and disease in Asia and elsewhere was a question that failed to win her attention.   
Teresa gave no accounting of the many millions of dollars she gathered from donations across the world. One nun who handled funds in New York estimated that there must have been $50 million in one Manhattan bank account alone. Additional bank deposits were reportedly kept in London and the Vatican. The bulk of her money was believed not to be in India because Indian law required auditing of accounts. (15)
In 1993 the Co-Workers, an organization of lay helpers who raised substantial sums for her, were required as a registered charity in the United Kingdom to produce accounts of their finances. Teresa suddenly and swiftly closed down the entire organization and announced that all future donations were to be funneled and announced that all future donations were to be funneled directly to her Missionaries of Charity. This decision, she assured everyone, reflected “the will of God for the Co-Workers.” (16)
Teresa produced a continual flow of promotional misinformation about herself. She claimed that her mission in Calcutta fed over a thousand people daily. On other occasions she jumped the number to four thousand, seven thousand, and nine thousand. Actually her soup kitchens fed not more than a hundred and fifty people, six days a week. She said her school in the Calcutta slum contained five thousand children when actually it enrolled fewer than one hundred.
As one of her devotees explained, “Mother Teresa is among those who least worry about statistics. She has repeatedly expressed that what matters in not how much work is accomplished but how much love is put into that work.” (17) Was Teresa really unworried about statistics? Quite the contrary, she consistently produced numbers that inflated her accomplishments. All her statistical “errors” went in a direction favorable to her.
Teresa claimed to have 102 family assistance and nutritional centers in India, but longtime Calcutta resident Aroup Chatterjee, who did a highly critical investigation of her mission, could not find a single such center. Rather than building new hospitals, orphanages, and schools, or upgrading the ones she had, Teresa spent many millions on convents all over the world and on training priests for missionary work. According to Chatterjee, shiploads of clothing and food donated to Teresa from abroad were often expropriated by the nuns and their families in India or sold off to local merchants for income rather than distributed to the needy. (18)
Over the years there were numerous floods and cholera epidemics in or near Calcutta, with thousands perishing. Various relief agencies responded to these disasters, but Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity were nowhere in sight except briefly on one occasion. (19)
When someone asked Teresa how people without money or power can make the world a better place, she replied, “The should smile more.” She herself was rarely seen smiling. During a press conference in Washington, DC, when asked, “Do you teach the poor to endure their lot?” she indicated that poverty was a soul-cleansing experience for the poor: “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion [suffering] of Christi. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.” (20)
Mother Teresa is a paramount example of a “saint” who supposedly assisted the poor but without every bothering to ask why they were forced to live as they do. She caressed poverty rather than opposed it. The poor were her pets and her props. She uttered not a critical word against social injustice or against those in power. One of her former nuns describes her as “colluding with wealth.” (21)
Teresa spent as much as eight months a year traveling abroad, quartering at luxurious accommodations in Europe and the United States, jetting from Rome to London to New York in private planes. (22) While counseling victims to suffer patiently, she herself was known to have been impatient and unforgiving with her staff over petty matters. The two times I saw her on television, she sounded more like a crabby scold than a loving saint.
When Teresa died in 1997, the denizens of Calcutta did not turn out in any visible numbers to attend her funeral. Her burial procession rolled through empty streets. The impoverished population apparently felt they owed her nothing and most and never even heard of her.
After Teresa’s demise Pope John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before beginning the beatification process leading to sainthood. The five-year delay is intended to ensure a sober evaluation, after which any claims made on behalf of a candidate are subjected to critical challenge by an advocatus diabolic, a “devil’s advocate.” John Paul brushed aside this entire procedure. In 2003, in record time Teresa was beatified, the final step before canonization.
A few years later, her canonization hit a bump in the firmament when it was disclosed by Catholic authorities who investigated Teresa’s diaries that she had been continually racked with disbelief: “I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist,” she wrote. “People think my faith, my hope and my love are overflowing and that my intimacy with God will fill my heart. If only they knew.” She goes on: “Haven means nothing” and “I am told God loves me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul…I have no Faith.” Rome’s popular daily newspaper, Il Messaggero, commented: “The real Mother Teresa was one who for one year had visions and who for the next fifty had doubts—up until her death.” (23)

1.      Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (London/New York: Verso, 1995), pp. 64-71.
2.      Christopher Hitchens, “Teresa, Bright and Dark,” Newsweek, August 29, 2007.
3.      For a sharply critical view of Teresa’s hospitals, see Aroup Chatterjee, Mother Teresa: The final Verdict (Kolkata, India: Meteor Books, 2003), pp. 196-97, 224, and passim.
4.      Anne Sebba, Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997), pp. 59-61.
5.      Both the volunteer and the doctor are quoted in Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 188-97.
6.      Sebba, Mother Teresa, p. 142.
7.      Ibid., pp. 127, 135-36.
8.      Ibid., pp. 141-42, 148, 152.
9.      Observer (UK), August 26, 1990.
10.  The remark of the student, Ajanta Ghosh, was reported to me by the writer Heather Cottin, October 30, 2007.
11.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 189, 209. 385.
12.  Washington Post, December 11, 1984; Deepak Goyal, “Bhopal: 20 Years Later, the Misery Continues,” Siliconeer, December 2004.
13.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 227, 231.
14.  Mother Teresa, Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1979,, and Hitchens, The Missionary Position, pp. 88-89.
15.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 227, 231.
16.  Ibid., pp. 106-107
17.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 19-22.
18.  All the information in the above paragraph is from Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 23, 32-33, 92, 106-107, 157, 170, 179-80.
19.  Ibid., pp. 332-33
20.  Hitchens, The Missionary Position, pp. 11, 95.
21.  Sebba, Mother Teresa, pp. 218
22.  Chatterjee, Mother Teresa, pp. 2-14, 95.
23.  Serena Sartini, The Night of Silence,” Inside the Vatican, November 2007; Bruce Johnston, “Mother Teresa’s Diary Reveals Her Crisis of Faith,”; and Hitchens, “Teresa, Bright and Dark.”
24., and Curtis Bill Pepper, “Opus Dei, Advocatus Papae,” Nation, August 3-10, 1992.
25.  Edmond Paris, Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945 (Chicago: American Institute for Balkan Affairs, 1961), pp. 201-205, passim; also How the Catholic Church United with Local Nazis to Run Croatia during World War II: The Case of Archbishop Stepinac (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Federal Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia, 1947), posted August 2, 2004,
26.  Eamonn McCann, “The Other Side of Miraculous Monk Padre Pio,” Belfast Telegraph, October 25, 2007.
27.  Ibid.
28.  Barry Healy, “Pope John Paul II, a Reactionary in Shepherd’s Clothing,” Green left Weekly, April 6, 2005.
29.  As reported to me, October 29, 2007, by political scientist James Petras, who interviewed civil war survivors.
30.  Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2007.
31.  RAI report, “Rissa a Roma tra giovani dei centri sociale e fedeli dell’Opus Dei,” October 28, 2007.
32.  Gordon Zahn, In Solitary Witness, the Life & Death of Franz Jagerstatter (Austin: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964).
33.  New York Times, May 14, 2005.