About the Author

SHEILA T. HARTY has a BA & MA in Theology. Her major was in Catholicism, her minor was in Islam, and her thesis was in Judaism. Yet, her definition of God more closely resembles quantum physics.

For 20 years, Harty employed her theology degrees in the political arena as "applied ethics" in Washington DC, plus 10 years with Ralph Nader.

She also worked with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

She is an award-winning author; her first book, Hucksters in the Classroom: A Review of Industry Propaganda in Schools, won the 1980 George Orwell Award for Honesty and Clarity in Public Language.

Harty taught Business Ethics at University College Cork in Ireland. Later, she was an editor with the Congressional Budget Office, United Nations University, and the World Bank.

She also consulted with international consumer groups in Geneva, The Hague, Oslo, Dublin, and Penang.

She is now retired in St. Augustine, Florida, still editing and often giving talks such as these.

Preface to "SINS OF FAITH" by Theologian Sheila T. Harty

If one has lived a life of input, consuming book after book after book, what is the distillation for output? In 1998, I was offered the opportunity to deliver a sermon óany sermon, my choice. I thought that would be the first, last, and only such opportunity. What then should be the content? The sermon that resulted was what I observed as predominant about religion in America:
"Intellectuals are Truly Neglected Sheep."

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Table of Contents

Annotated List of Topics
SECTION 1: Ethics without Zeus
Intellectuals Are Truly Neglected Sheep
Ethics of Citizenship from a Nader Raider
The Just-War Principles of Augustine
Absolute Nothingness & the Absence of Meaning
SECTION 2: Debunking Myths
Demythologizing Religion with Joseph Campbell
Heaven & Hell: Survey of a Belief
Noah, Gilgamesh, and the Black Sea Flood
Myths of Church-State Separation
Darwin Deletes Original Sin
SECTION 3: Roots of Islam
Appreciation of Classical Islam
Sunnis & Shiites: Origin of Islamís Schism
Fundamentalism: Christian & Muslim
How Mesopotamia Became Iraq
How Zoroastrian Persia Became Shiite Iran
Islamís Brilliant Era was Our Dark Ages
SECTION 4: Critical Eye to Scripture
Arguments Against Biblical Literalism
Deconstructing the Old Testament
Deconstructing the New Testament
Unwed Pregnant Teen Becomes Mother of God
The Gnostic Challenge to Orthodoxy
SECTION 5: Patriarchs on Gender
The Much-Maligned Mary Magdalene
Lady, Witch, and Immaculate Conception
No Good Reasons Why No Female Priests
God Uses Beauty like Danteís Beatrice
SECTION 6: Heretical Light on Catholicism
Fourth Century Heresy Against the Trinity
Teilhard de Chardinís Theology of Evolution
Thomas Mertonís Last Talk: Bangkok 1968
Assessment of John Paul IIís Pontificate
Papal Encyclical on Faith & Reason
SECTION 7: Denouement
In Metaphor We Trust

My message of disenfranchisement from faith because of intellectually unacceptable formulations went over well. I was asked back once a month for a year. Consequently, the initial exerciseóto determine what one has learned that is important enough to shareónow had to be repeated a dozen times. Then, as requests followed from Unitarian Universalist fellowships around the state, topics had to be chosen over the next ten years. What to say?

The essays in this collection are the result. They are not arranged in a chronological but in a thematic order. My second talk was on Islam, as we should learn more about the youngest and most rapidly expanding monotheistic religion. Current events prompted other topics: the pope issued a surprisingly nondogmatic encyclical; a California Appeals Court ruled the pledge of allegiance unconstitutional; Bill Moyers' interviews of Joseph Campbell on "The Power of Myth" repeated on PBS; and U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq resuscitated Augustineís just-war principles. Gender issues had emerged in graduate school while studying the polemics of medieval Church Fathers. Other topics simply reflect my theological mentors (Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton) or my favorite provocations (gnosticism and quantum physics).

What is evident in my choice of topics is some analytic leverage on the dumbing down of faith and the uncritical acceptance of the "master story" as received truth, particularly when rooted in biblical literalism. Under the sacred canopy of Judeo-Christian culture, some of us need more intellectual breathing space.

The title of this collection reflects the many ways that faith is misused and abused. Confusing metaphors of faith as facts of history is one such "sin of faith." Preference for belief over nonbelief, is another as is the assumption that all beliefs are equal. Sins of faith exist in power battles between nations and when people donít think beyond the beliefs they were taught as children. Such sundry sins of faith are illustrated in these essays.

Sheila T. Harty
Fall 2011