Could this be the grand finale? The glorious death knell for the ugliest portions of organized religion and its relentless, impressive beat-down of the stubborn female species for lo these past 2,013 years? Can we at least hope?
This much we know: Here in the stumbling, fumbling first world, where minorities have suddenly become the majority, gay marriage is increasingly no big deal, sexually awake women are surging into leadership roles like never before and the scales of influence have tipped away from frightened white males, organized religion is somehow looking even more dangerously, even cruelly out of touch and hostile to all that is beautiful, positive and worthwhile in the world.
I know! Hard to believe. It was pretty far gone to begin with. But still.
Much has already been written -- some of it by me -- about how older white males (AKA the classic institutional patriarchies) are flailing and failing to find a coherent identity in the new era, as traditional male roles collapse, labor forces evolve and women increasingly become the prime movers of the information age.
Even more has been written -- lots of it by me -- about how Obama's stunning victory in 2012 was propelled in large part by women of all ages and demographics who are in full support of the Democratic Party's intrinsic belief in the social safety net, Planned Parenthood, free contraception, abortion counseling and services, health care, college loan reform, support for single mothers, and so on.
What you don't hear as much about, however, is how 89 percent of Catholics in America support birth control. How 99 percent of all sexually active women in America have used contraception at some point in their (obviously slutty, godless) lives. How church attendance among the young is in sharp decline while non-denominational spirituality is surging. How even most practicing Christians don't agree in the slightest with extremist groups like the Tea Party, Fox News, evangelicals or hate groups like the Family Research Council.
Result: It's becoming abundantly clear just how awesomely wide has become the chasm between religious groups and the rainbow-hued, female-charged, Obamafied modern era. I know! It's been pretty wide for ages. But now the span is more like a goddamn galaxy.
It all comes to mind as I read how the Obama administration just offered further concessions to faith-based groups who refuse, for all the usual antediluvian, anti-choice reasons, to provide free contraception to women, as required by the ACA. They can opt out, Obama says. Now, easier than ever.
Isn't that nice? Isn't that generous and fair, considering how no one of any nimble intelligence believes birth control is a sin, Timothy Dolan is admirable, or women are dangerous, lesser-than temptresses to be feared and locked down?
Oh yes, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. That guy. The same guy who handed out huge cash buyouts to rapist priests when he was Archbishop. The guy who remains the harshest, most outspoken opponent of women's right, gay rights, the ACA's contraception rule, sunlight, joy, music made after 1750 and sexual freedoms in the land. The man who (presumably) fully endorses the Vatican's recent hateful crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (AKA American nuns) who dared -- dared! -- to care more about social justice than bashing gays and protesting abortion. He's a real prince, that guy.
But here's the interesting part: To me, the Obama administration's latest compromise, while certainly more than generous to religious groups (and scowling Dolan) who don't really deserve such attention, considering how many tax breaks and federal moneys they already get from the government, will only serve to amplify the generational/ideological chasm even more. To the groups' own detriment.
Put another way: Religious groups and faith-based clinics refuse to provide contraception and basic counseling for women? The same women who voted for Obama en masse? The same "Lena Dunham generation" who own their sexuality like never before, who Rush calls "sluts" and the church calls whores, who already mistrust, even detest much of what these exclusionary, anti-everything groups stand for? Knock yourself out, boys. You are writing your own epitaph.
It all points to the most intriguing possibility of all: Two millennia into the church's brutish rule of guilt, shame, abuse and fear of anything with an active vagina, we might finally be at a point where organized religion is hammering the final nails into its own coffin. Or perhaps refusing to remove all those it put there 2,000 years ago. Whichever.
This appears to be the general rule: When your misogynistic ideology stagnates for generations, when you refuse to adapt even the slightest bit to the heat and pulse of the times, when your notions of love, sex and God are so constricted, joyless and exclusionary as to repel an entire generation, you die. It's just a matter of time.
While the church has been brilliant, even masterful at keeping itself intact and alive all these centuries -- usually through fear, guilt, money ($2 billion, if not much more, in sexual abuse settlements, and counting), oppression and preying upon the lesser-educated and minitories, eventually, the tides turn. Or rather, turn back.
In short: Women will win. There is zero doubt. America's multicultural, pro-gay, pro-women future is here, and it could all spell doom for church and its dour influence. Maybe forevermore. Hey, the divine feminine had the lead for 10,000 years before Christ, before the church forcibly stripped the fiery goddess of her chthonic power and turned her into a ruinous Eve, a dumb virgin, or a repentant whore. She's sort of overdue to bust out again. Don't you think?
I know, it ain't over yet. The GOP's relentless war on women...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He's also a well-known E-RYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...