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I hate when people quote MT about abortion. She said something to the effect of, "Why should tiny Christian white babies die so that you can live your life as you wish?" and the nutty Catholics at my college would quote it endlessly. Abortion, in my mind, is the most basic human right, symbolic of all other rights that the Right try to take away from us. If we can't even make decisions about our own health care, how can we expect to have sex with whatever people we wish, or put our state funds into helpful programs, or (every other goal of a liberal society)?

Great post. I know some Christians are fan wanking the problem away (on, Mike C explained how religion explains MT's lack of closeness as meaning she was really close to God, and he totally knows people who knew her, and she was awesome blah blah blah.) but I do think it is an interesting thing to think about, when the usual level of discourse on the woman is generally:

Atheist: I actually fundamentally disagree with the sainting of-
Christian: Shut up! Hitchen's is going to Hell!


i agree, it makes her a little more human, however for the rest of us when we feel or understand the absence of god we become aethist, we do not seek to injure others. for the women amongst us when we realise how totally anti women the christian faith is we choose to stand up for our sisters. Either way we do not take our internal confusion and pain and twist it. "That way lies dragons."

Bill Brent

"They were essentially warehouses for people to convert to Catholicism and die."

Gee, Greta, that sounds a lot like Auschwitz with a bit of superfluous frou-frou tossed in.

I keep saying, the only God is the god within. If you don't believe in yourself and do what you believe in, then yeah, you ARE damned.




I've always been very leery and suspicious of larger than life religious figures....the Pope, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, etc. etc. I'm also really leery of organized religion, especially Mormonism, Catholicism or any other "ism."

I don't know much about Mother Teresa. I know she was extremely religious. Whether or not she had a living, spiritual walk with God who knows? Often the extremely outwardly religious are the farthest from God. Flowery talk, fanciful prayers and bringing undue attention to one's fasting are all frowned upon in the New Testament, which encourages people to pray in secret and to "not let the right hand know what the left is doing" when giving to the poor.

Hers does sound like a terrible position to be in though..and I agree, at least from what I've read in your blog, that the 'religion' she's put forth in the world may not be that worthy at all - in fact a detriment.

Bill Brent

Oh, here's another way of putting it:

"The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart."

I'm not a Buddhist, but sometimes I think like one. :-)


The Ridger

Jesus certainly didn't denigrate faith, but he made it clear that showy religion was bad, and that not everyone who claimed to follow him would go to heaven but those who DID God's will, which was - in essence - to love and care for people. MT may have loved the poor, I don't know; but care for them?

Norman Doering

I linked you blog post here:

Al Young

Good day. Let me explain. I just finished Dawkins "The God Delusion" and it was a bit of a shock in the sense it has stirred me up, made me a lot angrier about a lot of things. It's the first serious lit about atheism I've read. So I went looking on the enet onto your website while stumbling around looking for for interesting stuff. Just interested. I confess I've always been an atheist but in my case I never openly admitted it for various personal reasons I just didn't tell anyone I wasn't a believer if that qualifies. I've never met an atheist or known about it. Do they look wildly different?. Do they have secret signs hand signals to let others know? I don't mean to take up your time but am just enjoying a chance to spout. I'm a brand new boy in town just sniffing around. I find your stuff very interesting and I'll be a long time looking.

J Hougendobler

It is simple to arrange a visit to one of the Missionaries' houses to see for yourself what's up. I think that it would give your blog more credibility.


I'm having a hard time understanding this. Obviously, she thought God was deeply important. But if she didn't believe in him emotionally--if this disbelief went on for FIFTY YEARS--why didn't she just stop? Quit being a nun. Give up the whole pursuit of poverty thing. Find out what she actually could commit to emotionally. I think it would have been a lot healthier for her to stop trying to live a lie and to cease attempting to believe in something that she obviously didn't.

And where did she get the idea that because she was miserable, God not only wanted her to be miserable, he wanted EVERYONE to be miserable? That doesn't sound like faith. That sounds like chronic depression. I was physically ill and in pain every day for five years. I know about chronic depression. It does feel like the whole world, the whole universe wants you to be miserable, and that maybe you should just give in and stop fighting, because this is obviously the way that it's always going to be. And given her world view, I can see that "the whole world wants me to be miserable" would translate to "God wants me to be miserable."

I just don't see why she didn't do something about it. I don't understand why she decided that being miserable was all that she or any other human being could or should achieve. I don't know why she didn't say to herself at some point, "I don't LIKE having to pretend that I believe something I don't. I'm not happy doing what I'm doing. I'm going to try something else." And then, you know, DO it.

It's the passionate commitment to to a situation that has been proven not to work that gets me. It's completely illogical. And I cannot understand why a supposedly sane human being would put herself through that.

I'm outraged by her actions, yes. I don't see any point in making other people miserable because you're miserable, though I'm sure she thought she was purifying their souls by harrowing their bodies.

But frankly, I think that she and countless other people would have been a lot better off and her charities a lot more charitable if she'd seen a decent psychiatrist and obtained some Prozac.

Agnostic. Can you tell?

R Cameron

Mother Teresa may have had doubts, questioned her beliefs and, sadly, even suffered from depression. I would say that makes her human.

nurse Ingrid

R Cameron:

Right. Exactly. Human. Not a saint. Human.

Greta makes the point, in her post, that this new information, parodoxically, made her feel MORE sympathy toward M. Teresa, not less.


No, she was a saint *because* she lasted for 50 years. Atheism is easy, being an intelligent believer is hard. The real test of a mind is how much strain it can take. In that sense Mother Theresa probably had a tougher head than anyone.


I actually think Mother Theresa's life makes perfect theological sense and that I can see why someone would emulate it or see her as a saint. (These are things that make me a weak atheist/borderline atheist, probably agnostic).

1. Why did she carry on suffering? People are acting as if they know nothing about Christian theology which makes me wonder about the credibility of atheists, especially since most have been atheist their entire lives. MT felt OBLIGATED to live EXACTLY as Christ lived: an austere life with passive acceptance of suffering as a means of demonstrating faith and washing away sin. It took me YEARS to get to this point in my thinking, because I felt obligated to follow Christ's example. It is a spiritual ultimatum, the most monumental ultimatum imaginable (serve or be eternally damned). It's not something you "just stop" because you "don't like it".

2. Why make others suffer? Because she truly felt that she was doing her duty as a Christian, was called to do this work, and that others were gaining admission to the kingdom of heaven.

3. Who is she to decide for others? They went to the Mission of their own accord. They could have gone somewhere else. There is a large Hare Krishna Mission in Calcutta also. Besides, she truly felt this was God's decision, not hers.

4. Then why did she seek Western medicine for herself? She was probably pressured by colleagues to get medical attention so that she could keep serving as a PR person for the RCC.


It is easy to tear down. It is much harder to try to build. If you are dissatisfied with her life's accomplishments, then you try to feed the hungry, and work for the poor. When you have achieved more than she, you will have my respect. Until then you are merely a dissenter who has done nothing to fix the problems in the world, except to criticize those who try to help.


Since I have actually fed the poor and provided medical help to those in pain, I will say that I *have* acomplished more than she. Because she did not do that. She kept them poor and denied them release from their pain.

And I agree whole-heartedly with what Greta Christina has to say here.

Nurse Ingrid

"Atheism is easy, being an intelligent believer is hard. The real test of a mind is how much strain it can take."

Oh, man. If Joreth hadn't commented just now, I would never have spotted that little gem. This is one of the most insulting and wrongheaded things you can say to an atheist.

When I was little, my fundie grandparents used to foist kiddie bible stories on me. I liked to read, so I read them. One had a story about two roads: a big, wide, flat, easy road that led to hell, and a steep, narrow, difficult road that led to heaven. Of course all the nonbelievers were depicted as sauntering along the wide road, on their merry way to hell without a care in the world, while the brave Xians were slogging determinedly up the narrow road, with God and Jesus helping them along.

I was a little kid, and I didn't know what I thought about all this religion stuff yet, but I HATED that story. I mean, were they seriously trying to argue that following dogma is "harder" than, you know, thinking for yourself?

(And contrary to what sexposfemme said, many atheists have NOT been atheists our whole lives, but have arrived here after much thought and internal struggle. And the atheists I know seem to have a better grasp of the bible and theology than your average true believer.)

Miss Debater

I read the Hitchens book just a few months ago, and did a little more poking around into the life of Ma Teresa to see how accurate it was. This blog only emphasizes what I came to believe long ago: To the same extent that faith in God can be wonderful, belief in a religion can be perilous.

Thank you for this piece.


Gosh, I feel like I must be the only person in the world who had never heard about this. Very interesting read, thank you.


I'm a little shaken. You're claiming that MT, in a way, intentionally erected death camps under the innocuous guise of hospitals in order to purposely inflict suffering?

Bruce Gorton


Not simply that, but to make money off of the suffering. The same thing happened in Ireland - the Christian Brothers were getting paid per kid by the Irish government.

So they maximised the number of kids they got, frequently seperating kids from perfectly good, if poor, homes in order to get the tax money.

And then, once they had the kids, they built up a whole system designed specifically to abuse them - so that they could point to the kids who would underachieve, or fight back or become angry or sullen and say "look at what we have to work with, give us more money."

And of course, those who didn't come out of it as being damaged, the "success stories" well, they could point to those as their good work.

You see the thing with faith, the perversity of it, is this sort of thing plays right into the religious perceptual bias - no real difference to miracle healings when you get down to it. The Irish situation went on for decades before the scandal broke.

And was pretty much the same thing that makes me as an African oppose missionaries, and aid to Africa. The aim of these charities is not to solve problems, it is to make the problems profitable.


My friend twitted the link to this blog, and I read it more for the excellent style than for its substance. I feel blessed for I never had any reason whatsoever to even wonder where am I on the theology scale. Truly blessed. I just don't take sides because I don't need anything from either of them. I'm a single mother who doesn't need to get married to a representative of any gender, I treat depression with Zoloft, and generally ignore anything I can't prove via senses or logic. When I see a sufferer, I give.
I've been thinking of the downsides of being blessed in this way, but couldn't find any.

Not A Judge

I think whatever MT had done, she had done according to her capacity as a human. It's not easy believing in something so wholeheartedly and in the entirety of mind and without any doubt even for a single minute – let alone for a span of a lifetime.
Humans are not perfect. To doubt is one of the prime imperfections of humans. I think faith is a neverending battle and one is definitely bound to slip off somewhere along the way. How'd you people feel if you have to run all day long? You're bound to slow down and even stop entirely. Call it another shot, maybe...soon? Later? Or even, tomorrow? How about never?
For 50 years MT had lost faith in God... So what? Come judgement day, God will get His payback on HER - and not somelse in her place. She might had pretended, but who can say for definitely that the religion she held was false? And if Christianity is the right religion and many people had been inspired to give more, help more, be kind more and not to just casually abort babies because of her - wouldn't God be counting her been doing the right things all these times? And inspiring people to be better, kinder and more helpful despite your inner turmoil, is that a bad thing?
Besides, 50 years is a very long time to keep a faith strong. No human could withstand that kind of stretch without having doubts clouding their faith somewhere along the way. I don't believe that for the 50 years she claimed to have not had faith, there couldn't be one tiny and single moment that she actually believed God and had faith in Him. So, keep it real people. Even saints were just human. Whether she was right or wrong, it's not for us to judge because we are just human, like her, doubtful and flawed.

V. Harran

Who do you think you are?

Ashley Espino

The writer of this article should be embarrassed to even call themselves a writer. What an uneducated, dull person, who relies on no evidence at all for her article. And by the way, if you think abortion is so justifiable, why shouldn't we murder all the poor that are suffering anyway? It's better to kill innocent babies that can feel everything, that don't even get a chance?

Hemle Gonzalez

More details on the medically negligent and financially fraudulent work of her organization:

Frank Incense

Dear Ashley Espino: What a waste of space your post is. And this creepy self-righteousness of yours. Why don't you crawl back under your slimy stone?


Dang is anyone good in your eyes?



just the good ones.


I read the article about mother teresa and her works. I feel you are not understood her humane and divinity properly. It is easy to criticize somebody but to do that same activity is very painful. I challenge you all to do the works she had done. Good attitude always look good of the other. You need to change your attitude towards human being and their suffering. You can not judge the intention of the other on any matter. Because we can not understand a human being in its totality. You will not be able to understand your self at least 20%. so think before you judge. Let she live in the heart of the poor and the needy. If you can help people without any profit show it. Actions speak louder than words.


I have heard this claim about her withholding pain medication before, but I have not seen it substantiated. The charge that conditions were poor in the hospices could be due to the overwhelming numbers of people seeking their help, and the lack of adequate resources.

Keith Harwood


Of the overwhelming number of people seeking her aid, most were turned away, they were referred to as `family cases'. The reason the resources were not adequate for the few she did accept was that most of the money she raised went straight to the Vatican and most of the rest went to founding convents elsewhere.


What annoys me about you is that you seem to speak from a pedestal as if you've done anything along the works of what she did.

She has made 610 missions in 123 countries, and who are you to speak about how bad they were, no doubt living in your comfortable upper-middle class suburban fortress? You think everywhere has the resources and money to make a perfect hospital?

She has inspired hundreds and has a legacy of charities and community service today. She had a positive effect on the world in terms of actually helping people.

Even as an atheist myself, I have to say, what the fuck have you done? I'll quote another guy who you conveniently refuse to respond to

"It is easy to tear down. It is much harder to try to build. If you are dissatisfied with her life's accomplishments, then you try to feed the hungry, and work for the poor. When you have achieved more than she, you will have my respect. Until then you are merely a dissenter who has done nothing to fix the problems in the world, except to criticize those who try to help."

What seriously pissed me off was Joreth implying that her little help at soup kitchens and administering medical relief is even comparable to Teresas influence on the world.

Again, this is coming from an atheist. I doubt you'll respond, as you always seem to conveniently avoid the hard questions and comments.

R. Bauer

@ Chanceux:

Please note that arguments do not become more true when not responded to. Your case was as true or false at the moment you typed it as it will ever be - its truth value will not improve if Greta fails to answer it (a comment, I note, on a four year old post, made days before she moves this entire site.)

And if a person believes that medical care should transmit disease, or that the sick and injured should be in pain rather than not, I will feel free to hold myself superior to that person, thank you very much, whatever her reputation. If she couldn't supply her clinics with the bare essentials of medicine then she shouldn't have bothered. A "hospital" without clean needles or painkillers or even basic sanitation is not a good deed, it is an inefficient abattoir.


R. Bauer: thank you for writing what I started to write, but deleted because I couldn't say it as well.

I will say that the Missionaries of Charity do a great deal of good work other than their hospitals, sheltering and feeding many people.

But Mother Theresa's name is often used as a synonym for charitable perfection, and that's simply not true.


Why do any of you care if a religion you consider ridiculous makes someone a saint? You read a couple of books that don't seem to have much proof and suddenly you're experts...what do any of you do for the poor? Writing a shitty blog doesn't make you anyone special. The net is full of you clowns. The fact is you guys all sit and preach you're own style of religion and mock others who do the same....Grow up. Live and let live.


In this article and these comments, people lie to themselves and others to feel good about not helping the poor. Sad.


What great deeds have you done in this world? What arrogance and audacity you have to attack someone who attempted to be a social worker for the God she believed in. And, apparently you do not understand the context of her prayers and journals, which captured her hunger for the presence of God, not her unfaithfulness. She never claimed to have a 5 star hospital; she contributed to providing basic essentials to those, who otherwise would have not had ANYTHING. Do you propose that this world would have been a better place, if all that Mother Teresa did, was never done? Have you given a poor man a place to sleep, hungry child bread? If there was a world like you, who attacked women like Mother Teresa, neither great missionaries, nor small acts of kindness would take place or encouraged. Giving a little is a lot better than attacking someone who gave. I work in a hospital, and let me assure you, patients appreciate bed baths, conversations, and visits more than morphine. With her missions aside, let’s turn to her foundation. Read her quotes, read her books, and you will find that she never advocated for evil. She only spoke words of hope, love, and kindness. Look at your blog, filled with judgment, hate, malice, and illogical –contorted views. Perhaps that’s why you haven’t received a Nobel Peace Prize: Peace is in your actions and words, something you perhaps are incapable of understanding.


Apparently you have your basic rights mixed up. I suggest taking a moment to read the constitution. Abortion, was never including in our basic rights, life is.
Our Declaration of Independence clearly states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness .”



The Christ

To love man must struggle, in struggle man will suffer, in suffering man finds purpose, in purpose man finds joy, in joy man finds peace.

Atheism is as much an institution as Catholicism. Truth, and thus God, is represented by the individual and his purpose, not by a collective agreement of terms.

The purpose of evil is to perfect good. Good is strength, acquired in battle and defeat of evil. Evil is ignorance, Good is the knowledge of Evil. God is a gnostic, an individual with perfect knowledge of oneself.

Life is a challenge. The struggle that is life tests the mind, searches the heart, and establishes that which is eternal.

Mother Teresa enter the battle, she searched and found herself. You who write this blog sit cowardly on the sidelines. You are just an opinion. There is no truth or desire here. You know nothing of yourself, good, or God.


Well, The Christ, please tell me then who is my pope. You see, I don't recognize anyone on this world or outside it as such.

"The purpose of evil is to perfect good."
Yeah, that's why all those patients had to be denied pain killers - to perfect the good Mother Theresa.

For your information: I don't sit on the sidelines. I live and teach at the edge of the Surinamese jungle, in former civil war area.

Emily Ruegg

What type of anesthetic is given to a baby during the abortion? The woman has depression medication to "overcome" the aftermath of the abortion, but is it the parent's fundamental right to end the life of their offspring at will; if so, at what age does a child acquire "fundamental rights" of their own? Does the parents' rights to the freedom from responsibility trump the fetal human's right to life? The parent, in most cases of abortion in the US, had every right to abstain from sexual activity if they were unwilling to bring a child into the world.


I suppose when any of you decide to forgo your current life and pick up the dying and the destitute then I will listen to you. You have become the hypocrites that you abhor.



When you and your ilk cease your opposition to state-mandated torture and slavery (i.e. your opposition to assisted suicide) I will perhaps consider you compassionate.

But not before.

Shea Whitmore

Mother did not miss the point, she saw the point more clearly than anybody. Did Christ not suffer more on the Cross than we can imagine? She refers to suffering as Christ's embrace, and that is the most beautiful opportunity in the world because it allows us to abandon ourselves to the Lord and touch the sublime. Who damn cares what happens to our bodies anyway; it would be awful to lose eternal life because of worry about mental and physical health.

Janie Scott

Shea Whitmore - So because this guy supposedly suffered and died on the cross, we should suffer too? Who cares what happens to our bodies? Do you treat your body badly and then just suffer if you get sick or feel pain? Do you ever go to the Dr. or take any pain killers? Why? Do you think everyone should suffer so that we can "abandon ourselves to the Lord and touch the sublime"(whatever that means)?

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