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Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / August 6, 2008)Illinois will soon permit gay marriage (WebCite cached article). And Thomas Paprocki, bishop of that state’s capital, is not happy about it. He’s so angry, in fact, that — as CNN’s Belief blog reports — he plans to exorcise gay marriage from his state (cached):

According to a Catholic bishop in Springfield, Illinois, Satan was behind his state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage.

So, next Wednesday, at about the same time Gov. Pat Quinn signs the gay marriage bill into law, Bishop Thomas Paprocki will hold an exorcism ceremony “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.”…

In September, the Pope said the church has no right to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of gays and lesbians and chided Catholics who “obsess” about fighting culture war issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But Paprocki calls same-sex marriage “contrary to the plan of God” and says all Catholics who support it — from legislators to county clerks who issue marriage licenses — are “culpable of serious sin.”…

Paprocki says the ceremony will follow the Catholic Church’s Rite of Exorcism, which explains that Satan not only possesses people, he can also invade places and things, including the church itself.…

“We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church,” Paprocki said.

For most of the last century or so, the Roman Catholic Church has downplayed exorcism. Sure, there’s an exorcism liturgy; some priests have been trained as exorcists; and they are occasionally performed. But it’s not something the Church was usually willing to discuss very much, and it’s tightly controlled (an exorcism can only be performed with a bishop’s express approval).

Even so, in the last couple of years, the Church has been a little more open about it, and the numbers of priests trained to handle exorcism has been increasing. As it turns out, Paprocki is one of the hierarchs behind this renewed push into exorcism. Hmm. Coincidence? I think not.

In any event, I’m not sure how Satan is involved in gay marriage; how a couple of gays marrying someplace harms Paprocki, or any other Catholic for that matter; how useful a political tool exorcism may be; and still less do I understand what Paprocki’s exorcism rite is supposed to do about it. But then, what could I — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — possibly know about such dreadfully important things?

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune.

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Important update: It turns out there are some problems with the original story described in this blog post. Severe ones. In fact, based on what the New York Post reports, it looks as though it was fabricated (cached). I can no longer stand behind it. But I don’t simply want to delete this post. I’m leaving it as it was — but with this update prepended — as evidence that this was an erroneous report. (Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.)

I'm a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, NJ and THIS is what happened to me today..... / Have a Gay Day Facebook timeline photoChristians using their religionism to justify saving a buck by not tipping the folks who wait on them, apparently continues to be a problem. They don’t seem to understand that tipping is the prevailing custom in the U.S. Or maybe they do, but think that withholding tips is a valid way to teach people lessons and coerce them into changing their ways. It isn’t, but that doesn’t seem to matter much to them.

In any event, on the heels of a similar situation just a short time ago, another gay waitress was treated to a stingy dose of “the Religion of Love” (WebCite cached article):

A $93.55 check netted one New Jersey waitress an unexpected tip. Former Marine Dayna Morales, a server at Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater, got no money for the service she gave one family, but a note that read, “I’m sorry I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle and the way you live your life.”

In an email Morales sent to the Facebook page, Have A Gay Day [cached], she writes:

NEVER in a million years did I think this would happen. Not only was it a family with two kids, but as I introduce myself and tell them my name is Dayna – the mom proceeds to look at me and say “oh I thought you were gonna say your name is Dan. You sure surprised us!”

I am THOROUGHLY offended mad pissed off and hurt that THIS is what her kids will grow up learning and that I served in the Marines to keep ignorant people like them free.

Now, I know there are some Christians who disagree with this behavior. And that’s all well and good, I suppose. But there’s a deeper problem here, and that lies in the nature of their religion and in the manner in which some of their co-religionists adhere to it. They cherry-pick Christianity’s metaphysics in a continual effort to rationalize anything and everything they want to do — no matter how rude, mean, or nasty it might be. That’s something that other, clearer-headed, Christians are going to have to fix. To date, they aren’t doing so … at least, I’ve never heard of any of them doing it. They just continue letting sanctimoniously-furious Christofascists be sanctimoniously-furious Christofascists. That doesn’t help anyone; in fact, the more reasonable Christians’ inaction is viewed as a kind of approval by the Christofascists … so they just keep on doing whatever they want to do, to whomever they want to do it, and they won’t change. Because — obviously! — no one is forcing them to change.

Note, these “jerks for Jesus” presume themselves to be able to dictate to other people how they should or shouldn’t live. But I’m not aware anyone gave them a vote on the matter. They may dislike gays, and want them to no longer be gay … but that doesn’t mean they have any power to force them not to be gay any more. So why do they assume they have this authority? I’d like to know who passed that law, and when.

Photo credit: Have a Gay Day timeline photo, via Facebook.

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The number of the Beast … 666 … or, is it 616 instead? (cf. Revelation 13:18) / PsiCop originalThe whole thing about 666 being “the Number of ‘the Beast’” and Christians, especially of the fundamentalist sort, being terrified of it for no rational reason, continues to be a problem. WLEX-TV in Lexington, KY reports on a runner who refused to enter a race because she’d been assigned the number “666″ (WebCite cached article):

A Whitley County student athlete says it would have gone against her religious beliefs to run with the race number ’6-6-6′. She and her coach tried to get her a different number, and were told they could not.

Nerves over the race turned to frustration for Whitley County High School junior Codie Thacker because of a different number. It would have been her third time running this race. “I’ve trained since June for this race,” she said.…

“666″ is, according the the bible, the mark of the beast. Thacker couldn’t bring herself to run while wearing “666″ because of her faith. So, she and her coach tried to get a different number. They asked three different officials. They were told no three different times.

“I didn’t want to risk my relationship with God and try to take that number,” said Thacker.

You can view the station’s video report, right here:

I honestly wonder about this kind of reasoning. How can this girl’s supposedly-deep relationship with an omnipotent being can truly be put at “risk,” because she’d been randomly assigned a “666″ bib? Is her deity stupid and unaware this wasn’t her choice? Is he so powerless that his relations with people can be demolished over mere symbology?

Give me a fucking break already!

I’ve commented before on this particular idiotic controversy, and as I’ve mentioned, it’s not even clear that 666 is truly the Number of the Beast in Revelation: While most manuscripts have 666, some have 616. This is a curious coincidence, because as it happens there’s someone whose Greek name written in Hebrew letters is “666″ while his Latin name transliterated into Hebrew is 616. That someone is the infamous Emperor Nero. It’s difficult to find any other person whose name happens to fit this dual numerology. Since Revelation had been written near the end of the 1st century CE, this means its author wasn’t predicting the future; instead, s/he had been describing the past.

It’s time for Christians to get over this whole “Beast of Revelation” business already and move on with their lives. Putting on a number isn’t going to kill anyone.

Photo credit: PsiCop original.

Hat tip: PSENEX at General Philosophy on Delphi Forums.

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Stay tuned ... for the next exciting episode of ... Jerks for Jesus! (PsiCop original graphic)A lot of the time, the things fervent Christianists say are merely amusing. Stupid, asinine, and irrational, yet entertaining nonetheless. Like when they tell people to beware of demons that might tag along with thrift-shop clothing. But other times they say things that are insulting, hurtful, and even counter-productive.

A prime example of the latter comes from the mouths of preacher Kenneth Copeland and Rightist-historian-who’s-no-historian David Barton, as reported by the Religion News Service (WebCite cached article):

On a Veterans Day broadcast program, televangelist Kenneth Copeland and controversial historian David Barton told listeners that soldiers should never experience guilt or post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from military service.

Reading from Numbers 32: 20-22, Copeland said, “So this is a promise — if you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war … you shall return, you’re coming back, and be guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.”

“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me,” Copeland said as Barton affirmed him. ”You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.”

These two compound their “insulting morons for Jesus” talk by appealing to Old Testament-style language:

Barton added that many biblical warriors “took so many people out in battle,” but did so in the name of God.

“You’re on an elevated platform up here. You’re a hero, you’re put in the faith hall of fame,” Barton said. “… When you do it God’s way, not only are you guiltless for having done that, you’re esteemed.”

Yeah, that’s right guys, ramble on about the Lord of Hosts and all that ferocious drivel. That’s sure to clear up whatever ails returning soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines!

… Not!

The idea that mental illness doesn’t exist … or it does but is no big deal and can be overcome easily by a little appeal to God … is an old refrain among religionists, as I’ve commented previously. But just because people think these things, doesn’t make them so. Mental illness, which includes post-traumatic stress disorder, is very real and can’t just be waved off. It certainly can’t be cured by metaphysics, or by reveling in what a mighty warrior one’s deity is.

Video of this enlightening, pious exchange is available courtesy of Right Wing Watch, via Youtube:

The article quotes some other Christian experts who condemn what Barton and Copeland said, which I suppose is positive. And they’ve managed to stir up some outrage. Even so, Copeland’s television ministry remains on the air. If the majority of American Christians were truly angered by these dismissive, insulting remarks, his show would have been yanked already. But it hasn’t been. So pardon me while I point out that any Christian criticism of these two jerks for Jesus is — basically — non-existent, so long as these two vile creatures retain their voice and their influence.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicBy now most of my readers have heard of the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which arguments have been heard, and which will be decided in the middle of next year. Lots of ink has been spilled … and bits transmitted … about it. And there will, no doubt, be much more to come. Religionists rail and fume at the insolence of the plaintiffs for having dared sue in court over the town of Greece, NY opening its council meetings by leading everyone present in Christian prayers. Non-believers laugh at the insipidity of many people publicly mouthing words up at a being that may or may not even exist to hear them.

But what no one is saying — at least, not that I’ve yet heard — is that this case should, by all rights, never have even seen a courtroom, because public prayers of the sort being proclaimed in Greece, NY are thoroughly, demonstrably, and undeniably un-Christian.

You read that right: they’re un-Christian.

As I’ve blogged many times before, and described in my page cataloging Bible verses that nearly all Christians staunchly refuse to obey, Jesus unambiguously condemned any and all forms of public piety. His words on the subject, as recorded in the gospels, are clear and explicit. There are no caveats, and no wriggle-room. Read for yourself what Jesus said about public piety:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

On another occasion, Jesus condemned public piety using this brief story as an example:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

The scriptural evidence is in, and it’s clear: Jesus didn’t want his followers trying to impress others with their righteousness. This has many implications, some of which Christians will find inconvenient. Among them, is that they shouldn’t be praying in public. Now, I fully understand … having been a Christian myself … why they feel compelled to do it. What good is it, after all, to be a Christian, but not let others know it? Since Christianity is the majority faith in Greece, NY and nearly all of the U.S., what better way to make it known you “belong,” than to be seen praying to the same Christian God that most everyone else prays to?

I honestly get it. Really, I do. The emotional satisfaction — and personal pride — that come from publicly expressing one’s piety is seductive and compelling. It’s a natural manifestation of human nature. Even so … Jesus did expressly forbid this kind of behavior. No matter how normal it may be for Christians to engage in expressions of public piety, it contradicts Christ’s own teachings. Christians shouldn’t be in the position of defending public piety — not before the Supreme Court, and not anywhere else. Instead, they should just not be doing it. At all.

I’m left asking myself, “What part of ‘go into your inner room’ do Christians not understand?”

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on Mt 6:6.

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Flames shot up from the 'King of King's' statue of Jesus Christ early Tuesday morning after it was struck by lightning. / By Tiffani West-May, AP, via USA TodayBelievers seem to be impressed that, despite everything else in Tanauan in the Philippines having been leveled by Typhoon Haiyan, a Jesus statue remains standing. This is remarkable enough to have been specially noted by CNN’s Belief blog (WebCite cached article).

I remain unimpressed by this … as should everyone else, believers included. Haiyan (aka Yolanda) demolished a good part of that country and claimed the lives of thousands of people (2,500 or so is the count as of the time I typed this). Hundreds of thousands of other people are homeless, and have little or no access to food or potable water. The toll, not just in terms of death but in simple, sheer human misery, is almost uncountable.

But somehow, that a statue of Jesus was untouched by the destruction, is a noteworthy “miracle”?

Seriously!?

Wouldn’t it have been far better for the “miracle” to have been of another, far better sort — say, sending Haiyan out into the heart of the Pacific where it wouldn’t have hurt anyone, instead?

Besides, I’m not sure how much of a “miracle” it is for a freak circumstance to leave a statue untouched, when elsewhere, other freak occurrences have destroyed them out of nowhere, leaving everything else unscathed. A great example of this is the so-called “Touchdown Jesus” statue in Monroe, OH which was destroyed in spectacular fashion by a lightning strike, some 3 years ago (cached). If a Jesus statue being left untouched in the Phillipines is a sign of divine grace, then by the same reasoning, the sudden destruction of another ought to be viewed as a sign of divine wrath, no?

It’s time for believers to get over crap like this and stop letting appearances run away with them.

Photo credit: Tiffani West-May / AP, via USA Today.

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Jesus WeptA man working for a church who committed a long serious of sexual assaults. His supervisors who found out about it and got him out of the way. Those same supervisors never reported the assaults to police, and what’s more, tried to block an investigation. One would think I was talking about the Roman Catholic Church — but I’m not. I’m talking, instead, about the VineLife Church in Longmont, CO. It’s some sort of Protestant evangelical church; I haven’t been able to find out which exact denomination, if any, it belongs to. In any event, KMGH-TV in Denver tells the sorry tale of abuse and cover-up (WebCite cached version):

Five officials at Vinelife Church in Longmont are accused of failing to report that a youth pastor had allegedly sexually assaulted a church member since she was 15 years old.

Boulder police said Wednesday detectives have served summonses on Vinelife Church executive pastor Robert Phillip “Bob” Young, pastor Luke Humbrecht, pastor Edward Bennell and church elder Warren Lloyd Williams. A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado, said police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. Police will identify the fifth after he’s been charged.

Each official faces one charge of duty to report child abuse, and is accused of failing to report the alleged child abuse to law enforcement or human services officials.

Boulder police arrested Vinelife youth pastor Jason Allen Roberson, 35, on Sept. 4 and charged him with one count of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. After reviewing the case, the Boulder County District Attorney added one count of stalking.

The alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, is also a former church staff member. She told police the “inappropriate” relationship with the youth pastor began when she was 15 years old and continued for seven years. She said she “trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others,” police said.

VineLife insists it’s done nothing wrong. On its Web site, the church claims to have cooperated with police — which police say is not true — and contend they’re not subject to mandatory child-abuse reporting laws (cached). They even threw their own lawyers under the bus over that last point:

[T]he Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated that the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but it’s not difficult to look up the relevant law here (Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, Persons Required to Report Child Abuse or Neglect) and see that it clearly states that “clergy” are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. So I’m not sure if VineLife’s excuse will fly.

At any rate, for you Catholic apologists out there who read my blog (yes, there are some of you!) and are incensed that I seem to “only” report child abuse cases when it’s R.C. clergy who’ve done it, this post constitutes a refutation of that tired whine. Not that it was true before today, in any event; I’ve certainly mentioned child abuse by other sects’ or religions’ personnel before. I’ve never said, nor even suggested, it was “only” a Catholic problem, even if you think I have. So stop lying already, and stop bellyaching about how I dare criticize your precious Church.

Photo credit: Jenner8675309, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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