Loss is Love Suffered: An Ode to Marie Alena Castle

by | June 18, 2018


By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Marie Alena Castle was the communications director for Atheists for Human Rights. She was raised Roman Catholic. She became an atheist later in life.

She has since been an important figure within the atheist movement through her involvement with Minnesota Atheists, The Moral Atheist, National Organization of Women, and in writing Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom (2013). 

Please read some previous publications, probably her last, between the two of us: Session 1, Session 2, and Session 3.

I have loved and love many people, in different ways and so not simply its romantic or sinewy heartthrob manifestations. Some, as you live some tad longer, become noticed as loved only through their absence, sometimes permanent departure. Marie Alena Castle was born on December 20, 1926 and died on May 25, 2018.

In the tone given in title and prior paragraph, I feel a proper loss today. I only found out about a quarter of a day ago now.

Castle knew lots. She worked from a place of authority. Her work spanned several domains of activism, where most activists focus on a particular issue including children’s rights, human rights, Indigenous rights, labor rights, reproductive rights, or women’s rights, and so on. In fact, her work spanned several of these areas, which seems impressive in contrast to the monochrome activism prominent in the modern day.

I found the work with her, in her 90s, powerful. She spoke with an authority, which I did not find feigned or ill-conceived. There was a tremendous weight of proper seriousness given from deep time experienced, assiduous work in writing, and real suffering and striving from activism where the stakes were higher than now. Our current era merely experiences the first retraction in different domains in our lifetimes in, for example, women’s rights.

We stand atop a pile of bodies, literal and metaphorical – often women, who fought for equality. In my own country, women earned the right to legal rights as persons in a democracy through the right to vote less than a century ago: staggering, true, and unsurprising. Castle knew this. I know this. To give a glimpse, please give a good ol’ gander at one question-and-answer banter regarding inculcation of protective critical thinking and education for the young here:

What can be some buffers, or defenses, against these direct attacks on the new media and communications technologies, e.g. to educate and inoculate new generations?

Marie Alena Castle:

  1. No one cares about any social effects so this has to be made personally self-serving. Start with sex/contraceptive education in schools. Impress the girls that they are NOT a public utility and whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is entirely their business, not the church’s, not the state’s, not their sexual partner’s and not the Roe v. Wade regulations. Impress the boys with the fact that if they get a girl pregnant they are liable for 18 years of child support. Use social media to pass this around so it gets to the students at religious schools.
  2. Try for some social effects by calling to account the “pro-life” propagandists as misogynistic, ignorant liars. (They make outrageously stupid claims about embryos and fetuses.) Put up billboards next to their 6-month-old-white-baby ads showing women (various ethnicities) asking why it is anyone’s business but hers and declaring she is not a public utility and asking what the “pro-lifers” have done for real babies lately other than only opposing welfare/child care/educational aid.
  3. Run anti-terrorist ads everywhere pointing out the group that has done and is doing the most damage – the anti-abortion violence prone clinic vandals, death-threateners, bombers, murderers (give the numbers since 1973). Note the clinics’ need for excessive security, bullet proof vests, randomized doctor routes to get to clinics, etc.
  4. OK to note the desperate situation women find themselves in and needing an abortion (rape, abusive relationship, health issues, fetal deformity, poverty, etc.) but don’t do much of this because the general public doesn’t care.

The clarity of thought, the moral authority, the extensive time perspective portrayed, the realism without becoming a cynic, the optimism inherent in the provision of actionable activism items, and the simple straightforward comprehension of progressive change happening from people, from human beings, behaving in coordinated ways to improve their lot over long periods of time.

It does not come from on high. It comes from down low, of those dead, forgotten, and wasted away with a hope for a better tomorrow – for peace between the “races” and “ethnicities,” between men and women, between sexual and gender minorities and majorities, and those at war in various ways over territory, ideas, faiths, politics, and resources.

I feel proper loss here.

Even though, 150,000 people or more die every day. Individual human beings become the great source of inspiration, influence, and emotionally salutary components of life. Life becomes process. People become a part of it for one another. Activism is the form in which life and people coalesce to make change together for a shared, positive future.

In personal life, most deep, close, real friends rather than by title, have been elderly women. I do not know why, nor do I figure any solution to this quandary of personal life in the near future either, for me.

In the proper loss, I feel proper love. I loved interviewing her. I loved reading the force of the thinking and the evocative power of the phrasing with the spirit or breathe of life in systematic representation. I have loved many people in a similar way, who left waves in my emotional life of solitude. It becomes both sufferings for the loss and realizations of the loss as underlying love.

I feel a proper love there.

Her obituary statement was as follows:

I have enjoyed being one of the luckiest people on Earth. Fate gave me a 91-year break from otherwise endless oblivion and a life filled with political skullduggery and social activism for the rights of workers, women, gays, and anti-war efforts. I built a dome home, raised five good kids, built atheist and political organizations, worked as a journalist, and wrote Divided We Fall: Religion, Sex and Politics, and the Political Blunder That Brought Religion into Public Life and Opened the Door to Trump. None of this uphill climbing has been especially pleasant, but it has been interesting.

Women in most societies lose prominence beyond prime reproductive age. Why? Women get seen as vessels for new life alone. As Castle noted from nearly a century of experience, women and girls get seen as public utilities. By implication, and as a testable hypothesis, their value to the public should decline proportionally over time, especially as they become older.

As women age into the darker years and leave into the yonder twilight, societies lose track of them; we stop keeping track of them: “How was your day? How are you feeling? What is new with the cat(s)? (As one stereotype might go.)”

As women enter the deep night of societal perception, I can reflect on the influence of Castle and other elderly women who made a tremendous impact on me. Their loss brings a sense of love left best to individuals influenced by them. There is a strength in the decades-long activism and persistence – a certain hopeful ebullience about life and its positive aspects apart from the negative.

Its hardships and difficulties.

And its losses,

and from there a realization of odes to love.

Original publication in The Good Men Project.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

One thought on “Loss is Love Suffered: An Ode to Marie Alena Castle

  1. Mark

    This an interesting and well-written piece. It is almost poetic!
    I am not well-versed in the abortion debate because, to me, abortion has always felt instinctively wrong. I still maintain that position, however this article has provided some alternative arguments to consider. Although, unless one ignores or twists the brute fact that innocent life is being destroyed then I still find justification for abortion to be a moral wrong.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.