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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible)I’ve blogged before about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who some 2½ years ago had been convicted of failing to report the abuse of a minor (WebCite cached article). In the real world most of us live in, being convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on the job usually results in an automatic firing from that job.

But in the strange, surreal, alternate universe of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that doesn’t hold true. The bishops don’t generally like to have to pay too much attention to insignificant little things like criminal courts. They’re above all that, you see. So Finn was able to keep his post.

Until today. As Religion News Service reports, at long last — 2½ years after his conviction — the Vatican deigned to allow Finn, finally, to resign (cached):

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who was found guilty of failing to tell police about a suspected pedophile priest.

The Vatican on Tuesday (April 21) said the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

The resignation was offered under the code of canon law that allows a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” to resign.

What’s remarkable about this is not that it took so long for the Vatican to act, or for Finn to quit. The Church had long resisted admitting Finn had done anything wrong in the first place — even after his conviction. But what’s remarkable is that he was let go after 2½ years. That amount of time strongly suggests there was no intention of having him leave. Something changed that made this happen … but what? I have no idea.

The other thing I’ve noticed, in reporting on this, is that media outlets (including the RNS article I cited, plus many others) make little or no mention of the 2½ year delay between Finn’s conviction and his resignation. I can’t imagine why that’s the case. This delay is certainly noteworthy, and anyone reporting on it ought to have mentioned it … even if only to concede there’s no known reason for it. Religion reporters appear to have taken a pass on that part of the story. It’s hard to imagine why, but they have. For this reason, I’m marking this as an example of a “journalism FAIL.” The delay should have been reported, if not thoroughly investigated — but it wasn’t.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23, NAB.

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Loch Ness Serpent Dragon, via PixabayThe folks over at Google have a remarkable sense of humor. One of the ways they express it is through their “Google Doodles,” or graphics/animations/minigames they show, just for one day, on their main home page.

Today’s Doodle is a rather amusing choice — given its circumstances. It involves the Loch Ness Monster … and more specifically, the so-called “Surgeon’s Photograph” which made Nessie the most famous nonexistent creature on the planet:

Google Doodle for 4/12/2015 — Loch Ness Monster

Google Doodle for 4/12/2015 — Loch Ness Monster

Google further adds to the amusement by allowing folks to use its “Street View” feature to roam Lake Ness itself to search for “Nessie.”

Here’s the “Surgeon’s Photo” itself, in case you don’t recall it:

'Surgeon's Photo' of Loch Ness Monster / by Robert Kenneth Wilson, published in Daily Mail (UK) on 4/21/1934 / via Buzzfeed (URL: http://www.buzzfeed.com/brendanklinkenberg/explore-loch-ness-with-google-street-view#.fkQNdV7zq)

‘Surgeon’s Photo’ of Loch Ness Monster / by Robert Kenneth Wilson, published in Daily Mail (UK) on 4/21/1934 / via Buzzfeed

The most endearing part of all of this is that the photo this Doodle commemorates — which for many constitutes unassailable “proof” there’s a monster in the Scottish lake — is actually a hoax, as Time magazine explains (WebCite cached article). Yes, I’m sorry to break it to all of you who actually think it’s a real photo of an actual lake monster, but it truly is not. It is, instead, a small serpent’s head that had been attached to a toy submarine.

The cold fact is that every search that has ever been done for “Nessie” — and there have been a number of them, including some using technology that was state-of-the-art in their times, the most recent in 2008 — has utterly failed to find anything like the fabled lake monster. That’s right … there is absolutely no foundation to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Bupkis. No amount of insisting it “must” be there, because it’s been reported to be there, can ever make this so.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Dr. Oz at ServiceNation 2008I’ve blogged a couple times about the woo and nonsense spewed by the famous “Friend of Oprah” Dr Mehmet Oz. The insipid nonsense he reels off has been questioned both by journalists and by US Senators. But he’s been able to keep his TV show and his jobs at Columbia University … feathers in his cap which grant him more apparent credibility than he deserves (WebCite cached article). The Associated Press reports a number of physicians have petitioned Columbia to remove him due to his pseudomedical advice (cached):

Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments.”

“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.…

The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” They said he has “misled and endangered” the public.

But Columbia clearly has no problem with one of its faculty peddling pseudoscience and gibberish, and refuse to heed this petition:

The New York Ivy League school responded Thursday, issuing a statement to The Associated Press saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”

Yes, Columbia University thinks “academic freedom” is a license to dole out lies and misinformation. I don’t see those in any definition of the phrase that I’ve been able to find, but they’re the ones who run an ivory tower, so I have to assume they know more about it than I — or the doctors who signed the petition — do.

Let’s face it, the man makes a shitload of money and has a daily nationally-syndicated TV show; he probably attracts a lot of attention for the college. That must be a lot more important than valid science.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Note: There’s been more news about this; see below.

Bill O’Reilly is one of those sanctimoniously-outraged Religious Right nutbags who, sometimes, I think can’t possibly actually believe the lunacy, stupidity, and childishness he spews. Every year, for example, he blusters and fumes about a putative “war on Christmas” that he claims exists, but which most certainly is not happening — no matter how often he or any other furious Christianist insists otherwise. I fail to see how someone could actually believe there truly is an effort underway to outlaw Christmas in the US.

But recently the Billster ran up against one of his own Fox colleague and fellow Rightist (though not of the religious sort) John Stossel, and as Raw Story and other outlets explain, O’Reilly inadvertently revealed the depth of his insanity (WebCite cached article):

Self-avowed “secularist” John Stossel challenged Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday, arguing that the Factor host was overstating his allegations that Christianity was under attack in the U.S.

“Your ‘war on Christianity,’ you’re just a 10-foot-tall crybaby,” Stossel told O’Reilly. “It’s not so bad. Christians aren’t being killed.”

“Not yet,” O’Reilly replied.

“Not in America, and they’re not going to be,” Stossel countered.

“They’re verbally being killed,” O’Reilly insisted. Stossel scoffed in response, asking, “So what?”

In case you find it difficult to believe a grown adult could reel out something this asinine, here’s video of their exchange, courtesy of Media Matters:

Now, I’m not precisely a fan of Stossel. He’s far too close to the Teabaggers for my taste. Yeah, he was once a talented investigative reporter for ABC News, but that was long ago; since then he’s made himself into a corporatist shill. Even so, I appreciate that he stood up for secularism and was willing to call his own colleague on the carpet for his religionist lies. So thanks, Mr Stossel!

It’s true that Christians are, in fact, being persecuted in other parts of the world, which makes it all the more obscene that the Billster would dare equate their tribulations — which are very real, to the point of sometimes being lethal — with US Christians merely feeling “persecuted” because they’re not always obeyed, by claiming American Christians are being “verbally killed.”

I mean, seriously … “verbally killed”? Really, Bill!?

As for “respect,” that’s a two-way street. It can’t be demanded of someone — not any more, anyway. These aren’t ancient or medieval times when monarchs would order people hacked to death for failing to kneel quickly enough before them. Christians have no right to stomp around and dole out orders with the expectation those orders will automatically be obeyed out of “respect” which they think is owed them by virtue of their beliefs. To presume so is childish and needs to fucking stop already.

As I’ve mentioned many times previously, I understand what’s happening here. I get why Billy-boy wants to think he’s being persecuted for Jesus. It’s because a desire to be martyred is embedded deep within the psychopathology of his religion. He and his fellow Christianists really and truly can’t help themselves. They want to feel persecuted, so in the US, which is majority-Christian and therefore there is no persecution of Christians, he and they are required to invent it. The problem comes about when they try to impose their self-delusion on other people and punish them for something they haven’t done. It just doesn’t work, because rational thinkers know this delusional thinking for what it is, and don’t subscribe to it. The Billster and other Christianists can stamp and fume and screech and holler until they’re blue in the face, but no amount of them claiming to be persecuted can ever make them actually persecuted.

Honestly, it’s long past time for the Billster and his fellow Christofascists to fucking grow the hell up already and start living in the real world … in which “respect” is earned, not demanded or coerced.

Update: The Billster did precisely what any crazed paranoid lunatic would do, after being called out as a crazed paranoid lunatic: He doubled down on his persecutorial delusion, declaring that white men like him are “under siege” and about to be wiped out (cached).

Photo credit: Based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist, Salon, RationalWiki, and many more.

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Grundy Cty High School / WCRB-TVThe problem of Christofascists imposing their religion on public school kids is an old one. It continues, especially in the South, in spite of court decisions like Engel v Vitale (1962) and Abington SD v Schempp (1963).

Let’s face it, people who are fanatic enough tend not to fucking care whether their desire to impress their religious beliefs on other people is legal or not. All they’re aware of is their rabid impulse to spread the gospel — which, they fantasize, no on else on earth could ever possibly have heard before. And when these fanatics are thwarted, they don’t take it well. The latest example of this, as WCRB-TV in Chattanooga TN reports, illuminates this tendency quite clearly:

“Bible Man” is known as a staple in Grundy County Schools. His name is Horace Turner, and he’s been visiting there for decades. But now his visits are raising legal red flags.

National groups warn that his message is unconstitutional. Many local supporters are fighting to keep his mission alive. But not everyone is comfortable with “Bible Man” in the classroom.

“We don’t want people to be mad, we just want people to make sure there’s an alternative something for the kids to do,” said one Grundy County mom. She didn’t want to be identified for fear of community backlash for her non-Christian views.

She said Bible Man’s religious convocations at her son’s school were uncomfortable. They included religious teachings like songs and Baby Jesus displays. Their family is Atheist.

“At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go,” she said. “As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”

The good folk at WCRB helpfully tried to make it seem as though this unconstitutional practice was just fine:

Bible Man has been visiting Grundy County Schools for nearly 40 years without any problems, until recently.

The problem with that defense, of course, is that just because something has been done — even for a very long time — cannot and will never automatically make it right or legal. To think so is to fall for an appeal to tradition, and it’s fallacious. This ought to be glaringly obvious: For instance, for thousands of years, humanity thought the earth was at the center of a universe only a few thousand miles in diameter. We now know this not to be the case. Are we to dispense with modern astronomical science, because it conflicts with thousands of years of tradition? Of course not!

But really, all of this is an old story. As I said, Christianists hammering their Jesus into public schools is old news in many parts of the country. That it was happening in Grundy county, TN is unsurprising at best. The real point of this story, though, is this:

While the concerned mom says she’s glad it’s being addressed, she still worries about the lack of acceptance for those who don’t support Bible Man.

She points to threats made on Facebook against her child that include pictures of a burning house.

“We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts,” she said.

Ah yes. There we have it. “Christian love” at its finest: Threatening people. Indeed, this is the “religion of love” doing what it does best — demanding deference, if not abject surrender, from everyone and everything else, and launching into full-bore sanctimonious rage when it doesn’t get it.

I can’t think of a finer example of the utter failure of Christianity to live up to its own professed ideals. Can it really be the divine religion its followers say it is? I can’t see how. It just doesn’t work.

All I can say to you Christianists is: By all means, please keep up your whining, bellyaching, sniveling and threatening! I can’t think of any better way for you keep showing — for the entire world to see — what’s really wrong with your fierce, dour religionism.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: WCRB-TV.

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baby cryingPope Francis is, in a lot of ways, refreshing. As I’ve noted a number of times, he frequently walks to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes he steps on the toes of his own Church, but other times it’s someone else he pisses off. The latest example is of this latter sort. This past weekend, as CNN and many other outlets report, he dared refer to the Armenian Genocide which kicked off in 1915, a century ago now (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis risked Turkish anger on Sunday by using the word “genocide” to refer to the mass killings of Armenians a century ago under the Ottoman Empire.

“In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies,” the Pope said at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian massacres.…

His use of the term genocide — even though he was quoting from the declaration — upset Turkey.

The nation recalled its ambassador to the Vatican for “consultations” just hours after Francis’ comments, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Earlier, Turkey summoned the ambassador from the Vatican for a meeting, Turkish state broadcaster TRT reported.

As a matter of national policy, Turkey has denied the Armenian Genocide since it occurred, and never tolerates anyone suggesting it did happen. Not only do they deny the word “genocide” applies (using any number of specious, convoluted semantic arguments to do so), they’ve downplayed each and every specific aspect of this atrocity, making it seem as though it was “no big deal,” that not many people were killed, and some of the Armenians killed had rebelled, and that some Turks were killed, too. Note that most of these arguments resemble those used by Holocaust deniers, who are similarly fact-deprived and deluded.

Turkey was so angry over this, that country recalled its ambassador to the Vatican over this … as though this were some kind of meaningful event. If I were Pope Francis, I’d say, “Good riddance! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!” Perhaps it’s appropriate that the Turks used this childish tactic; the Vatican pulled the same stunt a few years ago, recalling their nuncio to Ireland after Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny criticized the Holy See after the Cloyne Report‘s release.

At any rate, it’s long past time the Turks grew up, accepted what happened a century ago, and admit their ancestors tried to wipe out the Armenian people. There’s no reason for them not to own up to it; after all, 100 years later, no one who took part in this genocide is still alive to be tried for “crimes against humanity.” If Canada could apologize for the residential school system, and if the U.S. could apologize to Hawai’ians for seizing their kingdom, then Turkey certainly can grow up, suck it up, admit the truth of its own past, and stop childishly denying historical reality.

Photo credit: e OrimO, via Flickr.

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Idaho Capitol BuildingAmerican Neocrusaders continue to obsess over the idea that what they call shari’a law” will be imposed on the US in the very near future. Toward that end, they repeatedly contrive all sorts of maneuvers they think will protect them from Islamic law’s relentless creep into American life. That they don’t even know what shari’a is, that it’s not uniformly recognized by all Muslims, or that no religion’s law-code can ever be forced on Americans against their will, isn’t enough to dissuade them. They’ve gone as far as to enact state constitutional amendments forbidding it, which is every bit as ridiculous and extreme as it sounds.

But they also use lesser measures to throw hurdles in its path. One of the latest examples of this comes from the Idaho state legislature. On top of the inherent ridiculousness of trying to prevent a form of law from being enacted which can’t ever be enacted here, as the Boise Weekly reports, Christianists there actually derailed productive and effective legislation (WebCite cached article):

A bill that would have helped Idaho track and enforce child support payments stalled Friday in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee over concerns that it would allow Sharia law into the U.S. Court system.

Senate Bill 1067 [cached] would have brought Idaho up to date with federal regulations, allowing the Gem State to use the government’s system for tracking and enforcing child support payments.

The Christianists’ objection has something to do with the fact that this bill would align Idaho with federal law, which recognizes the Hague Conventions, to which the US is a party. This, apparently, is the mechanism by which “shari’a law” would be imposed on Idaho:

Amendments to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act include agreements with the Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance, which has among its members Muslim-majority countries such as Bosnia and Albania.

That was enough for [GOP state Rep. Sheryl] Nuxoll and others to see an inroad for Sharia law into Idaho’s justice system.

Quoted by the Associated Press [cached], Nuxoll told House committee members, “There is no specific language in the bill that would protect the rights of those dealing with parentage, child support and support orders from a foreign country that would contradict our laws here. There are other countries listed in the treaty—France, Belgium— that have recognized Sharia courts as quasi-courts. So I just feel that you should be aware of those facts.”

The problem with the failure of this bill is that the state of Idaho will remain hamstrung in its efforts to recover back child support from delinquent parents. All because a bunch of delusional Christofascist wingnuts think passing it will lead to shari’a law in Idaho. What a fucking joke. Well done, Christianists! You must be so proud of yourselves! You protected your state from an affliction that can never come its way. My hat’s off to all of you for that major accomplishment.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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