Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Seal of the Diocese of Trenton, via WikipediaNearly 2 and a half years ago, I compiled a list of the many evasions and excuses offered by the Roman Catholic Church for why it’s not responsible for the worldwide phenomenon of child abuse at the hands of its own clergy. At the time, I’d already compiled quite a list of whiny, sniveling excuses. But the Church has added to it since, and has done so in some rather astonishing ways.

The latest excuse of this sort, as reported by Religion News Service, was spewed by a diocesan attorney in front of the Delaware Supreme Court (WebCite cached article):

Chris Naples says something snapped inside him that January day.

The New Jersey resident sat in the gallery of the Delaware Supreme Court earlier this year watching as a lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton N.J., told the justices that the Rev. Terence McAlinden was not “on duty” — or serving in his capacity as a priest — when he allegedly molested Naples on trips to Delaware in the 1980s.

McAlinden, who once headed the diocese’s youth group, had introduced himself to Naples at a church-sponsored leadership retreat in Keyport, N.J.

Yet McAlinden wasn’t officially a priest when he took a teenage Naples on trips to Delaware, the lawyer argued.

“How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty?” one of the justices asked, according to a video of the session on the court’s website.

“Well,” replied the diocese lawyer, “you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example. … A priest abusing a child is absolutely contrary to the pursuit of his master’s business, to the work of a diocese.”

There you have it, Gentle Reader. The absolute, final cop-out for the R.C. Church. The Church as an organization, its dioceses, and its clerical orders can never be responsible for any crime ever done by any of its clergy, because once one of them begins a crime, s/he is automatically “off the clock” because — by definition — no “on duty” cleric can commit any crime.

I’m not sure which is worse … that some poor excuse of an attorney actually offered this defense in open court, or that the court actually bought into it:

The lawsuit comes after the Delaware courts ruled Naples didn’t have jurisdiction to sue the diocese in that state because he couldn’t prove the trips were church-sanctioned.

The RNS story relates several other examples of the Trenton diocese’s behavior:

Naples said the diocese told him in 2007 that McAlinden would be removed from the priesthood altogether, or laicized. Yet five years later, at the time of the deposition, McAlinden said he remained a priest, albeit a retired one, and drew a pension from the diocese. He augmented that pay by working as a real estate agent, he said.

Having posted this, I expect a lot of the Catholic Church’s defenders will angrily respond by saying that child abuse isn’t just a “Catholic” thing, that it happens in other churches and even in non-religious venues. Well, no shit Sherlock. Of course it does! I’ve never said it didn’t, and have even been rather explicit in pointing that out. The problem is that the R.C. Church claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet, yet it refuses to hold its own clergy responsible for their actions; protects them from prosecution by secular authorities; fiercely blocks attempts by others to learn what happened; and when the truth finally comes out, they excuse themselves from their obligation of living up to their own claimed high moral standards. Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Not for a fucking second.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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Snake-handling-lejunior-pentecostal-ky2A little over 3 months ago, I blogged about a “Signs Following” (or snake-handling) Pentecostal preacher who was killed by one of his poisonous ritual charges. It appears his son, also a snake-handling pastor, didn’t get the memo about poisonous snakes being dangerous, and as NPR reports, was also bitten, himself (WebCite cached article):

Snake-handling is a tradition for the Coots family of Kentucky. But months after taking over for his father to lead a Pentecostal church, Cody Coots says he was bitten this week. His father, Jamie, died of a poisonous snakebite in February.

The fucking idiot proudly refused medical attention for his snake-bite:

He tells the Lexington Herald-Leader [cached] that after he was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday, his family sent an ambulance away.

I guess life must be pretty cheap down in Kentucky if people refuse to learn simple lessons like this one. I wonder why the Coots family is so serious about wanting to kill itself off? Is it to impress their deity or something? Or to impress their congregants? I have no idea.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Sacrifice of Isaac-Caravaggio (Uffizi)The co-called “Binding of Isaac” (which I think ought to be called “the near-murder of Isaac,” since that more clearly describes the event) is one of those pivotal Bible passages that carries a lot more meaning and significance than one would think a mere 18 or 19 verses would seem to. This story, which comprises the majority of Genesis 22, tells how Abraham nearly killed his own son Isaac because his deity, YHWH, had demanded he do so. Just as Abraham was about to plunge a knife into Isaac, YHWH — satisfied his minion had demonstrate a willingness to kill his own son for him — provided a ram as an alternative sacrifice, saving the boy at the very last minute.

This story exemplifies the sociopathy of the Old Testament deity and the murderous demands he made of his earthly followers … which would, later, go far beyond merely asking for one boy to be killed, extending to genocide orders (such as instructing King Saul to exterminate the Amalekites).

Most followers of the Abrahamic religions don’t consider this a serious problem. Their apologists have surmised — even though nothing to this effect can be found anywhere in Genesis — that Abraham knew, in advance, that YHWH would either intervene before he had a chance to kill Isaac, or that YHWH would resurrect Isaac afterward, had Abraham actually executed him. (This latter supposition, for instance, is mentioned in Hebrews 11:17-19.)

Judeo-Christian-Islamic thinkers have pontificated endlessly over how wonderful it was that Abraham had so much faith in his deity that he was willing to kill his son on his orders (appearing not to realize that praising Abraham for this degree of faith contradicts the idea just mentioned that he’d merely been “going through the motions” of showing he was willing to kill his son, knowing the whole thing wasn’t serious). They seriously wonder if they ought to have that much faith themselves, and try to put themselves in Abraham’s shoes — and, one assumes, would do the same if they’d been asked.

Sadly, WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, FL reports that one devout Christian woman decided to take this “test of faith” herself (WebCite cached article). She appears to have passed it, at the expense of two children:

Right now police are investigating whether a bible verse drove a woman to allegedly kill her ex-partner’s 2-year-old daughter and attempt to kill the girl’s 10-year-old brother.…

A local pastor is nearly speechless Tuesday night as Kymberley Dawn Lucas, a member of her congregation, is spending her first night inside the Palm Beach county jail.

Lucas is accused of killing her ex-partner’s 2-year-old daughter Elliana and attempting to kill the girl’s brother 10-year-old Ethan.

According to a newly released police report, inside the Jupiter home, police found a computer left on with a message for whoever found it.

WPEC has a copy of this note on their Web site, if you can stomach reading it.

Perhaps the worst part about this, though, is the reaction of this murderously-religious woman’s friends and fellow congregants. The minister whose sermon on “the binding of Isaac” apparently triggered it, doesn’t seem to have a grasp of what happened, and is unapologetic:

The pastor at Metropolitan Community church stands with the heartbroken family, and she stands by that sermon talking about biblical sacrifice.

Pastor Dr. Lea Brown, “It’s what I was called to do, there’s no way anyone could have predicted this.”

For thousands of years, the Abrahamic God’s followers have raved fanatically about how magnificent it was of Abraham to have had so much faith in their deity that he’d nearly slaughtered his own son on the deity’s orders … yet now, they pretend not to know why one of their own wanted to try the same stunt, herself?

Seriously!? This surprises them? How and why would it? What surprises me is that this hasn’t happened more often. Instead of feigning befuddlement, maybe it’s time for Christians … both within Palm Beach’s Metropolitan Community Church and elsewhere … to rethink just how sanctified and virtuous they think the near-sacrifice of Isaac was.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Crying babyLots of gay-haters and ardent religionists in Europe — and in the rest of the world — have got their knickers tied in knots over a drag queen winning the Eurovision Song Contest for 2014. Apparently this sort of thing just isn’t allowed to happen … but now that it has, cataclysm has ensued. Supposedly. Among those who’ve thrown tantrums over it, was the Russian government, which forbade holding a parade in the winner’s honor (WebCite cached article).

Yeah, it was that important. I guess.

In light of titanic flooding in the Balkans (cached), the (UK) Guardian reports some Orthodox Church officials have decided the outcome of this year’s Eurovision contest had to have been the cause (cached):

Conchita Wurst is responsible for flooding that left over 50 people dead earlier this month, church leaders in the Balkans have claimed.

The Austrian drag artist, whose real name is Thomas Neuwirth, seized international attention after winning Eurovision 2014 with his hit Rise Like a Phoenix.

However, several church leaders have now claimed the recent devastating flooding across the Balkans, which was the worst in a century and left over 50 people dead, was “divine punishment” for Conchita’s victory.

“This [flood] is not a coincidence, but a warning,” Patriarch Amfilohije of Montenegro said, according to e.novine.com [cached]. “God sent the rains as a reminder that people should not join the wild side.”

Patriarch Irinej, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Serbs, reportedly said the floods were “divine punishment for their vices” and that “God is thus washing Serbia of its sins”.

This is a classic example of shoehorning, and is also an application of what I call disaster theology, and what Julie Mason of Sirius XM calls “disasterbating.”

Such reasoning is a hallmark of arrogant, sanctimonious religionists who think the entire universe revolves around them and their beliefs. It hasn’t occurred to these pompous assholes that a drag queen winning Eurovision has nothing to do with them, their deity, or their religion … because in their eyes, nothing that ever happens anywhere in the cosmos could possibly fail to have something to do with them and their faith.

I have to say, these guys are far too old to be acting like infants. It’s long past time they grew the fuck up, for the first time in their lives, and stopped sniveling and whining about things that, really, are none of their goddamn business.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus Facepalm: He gave up too so please stop this foolishness (Demotivators; defunct)Sometimes when I post about a new revelation in the over-a-decade-old-but-still-going worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal, a correspondent will contact me and complain that I’m “picking on the Catholic Church.” Each time, I patiently point out that this just isn’t fucking true … as it turns out, I’ve blogged many times about the abuse of children — by personnel from other Christian sects, from other religions, and even from non-religious institutions.

Not one of those correspondents has ever replied by conceding this point. Apparently Catholic apologists don’t have the courage or maturity to admit when they’re wrong. (This is OK; I actually expect it. The experimentally-observed, and apparently powerful, psychological phenomenon called the backfire effect essentially prevents them from doing so, and even entrenches them in their lie, in spite of the fact that they’ve been corrected. They quite literally cannot help themselves, being mired as they are in their own delusional universe. It’s sad, to be sure, but quite understandable.)

In any event, it brings me no joy to post again on this subject. It’s absolutely true that child abuse — and covering up for it — is not solely a Catholic problem. The Christian Post recently reported on yet another example of the horrific combination of a child abuser and superiors in a charismatic church who shielded him from prosecution for years (WebCite cached article):

A megachurch pastor confessed to covering up sexual abuse claims during this week’s trial of a youth leader accused of molesting several boys. Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted Thursday of sexually abusing three young boys between 1983 and 1991.

Covenant Life Church former pastor Grant Layman admitted on Tuesday while testifying about allegations against Nathaniel Morales that he withheld incriminating information from the police about the abuse.

Public defender Alan Drew asked Layman if he had an “obligation to report the alleged abuse?”

“I believe so,” he replied.

“And you didn’t?” asked Drew, to which Layman responded “no.”

Morales’s abuse of children in his care went on for years … and so, too, did the cover-up by his superiors at Covenant Life Church:

According to Brent Detwiler, who attended the trial and is a former Sovereign Grace pastor who now runs a watchdog blog about the ministry of which Covenant Life Church was part of until 2012, Layman acknowledged that over the course of 1992 he learned that Morales had abused two boys, but did not go to authorities with these claims.

Detwiler added [cached] that the father of two of the boys “contacted the Covenant Life pastoral team again in 2007 when he learned that Morales was a pastor in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire pastoral team talked about how to handle the situation with Morales. Layman was given the assignment to contact Morales. Layman talk to Morales by phone. During this conversation Morales admitted to the sexual abuse of boys but claimed he couldn’t remember the details. None of the pastors at Covenant Life Church reported this confession of sex abuse to the police. They knew Morales was a serial and predatory sex abuser.”

Covenant Life Church is part of a clique of apparent evangelical churches known as Sovereign Grace Ministries. The CP article goes on to describe some of SGM’s inner machinations. I can’t be sure whether or not this church is still part of SGM.

In any event, it’s clear that this sort of thing goes on in all kinds of human institutions. A desire to protect one’s associates and the reputation of one’s “tribe” — even at the risk of allowing harm to others — is a compulsion deeply embedded in human nature. It’s something a lot of folks just can’t help. That said, in the case of religions like Christianity which supposedly promote high morals, there can be no excuse for it. Anyone who claims to follow a profoundly moral deity whose teachings demand the highest moral conduct, cannot fall back on the excuse that “I couldn’t help myself” or “But I didn’t know any better.” Evangelical churches like CLF teach absolute morality. They leave no room for ignorance, evasions, or excuses.

Of course, having said that, I’m not kidding myself about this. Of course these guys will likely fall back on their old saying that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” This grants them license to do anything they want, whenever they want, maybe cry a little when they’re caught doing wrong (cached), but then claim it’s no big deal that they refused to obey Jesus’ teachings, because — after all — it’s just too hard for the poor little things to actually live according to their religion’s ideals.

For any Christian out there who might not be clear on what’s wrong with purposely allowing children to be preyed upon, for decades, may I suggest s/he shove a crowbar into the Bible s/he long ago slammed shut, and actually read some of it:

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Just stop already with the sniveling, whiny, juvenile excuses; grow the hell up; and start obeying your own claimed religion fercrissakes.

Oh, and it hardly merits mentioning to my Catholic-apologist correspondents not to take be too gleeful about this story. That other churches’ personnel have abused kids and their superiors shielded them, hardly makes it acceptable for the Catholic Church to have done the same. To think so is to fall for “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and that’s fallacious.

Photo credit: Demotivators (defunct).

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“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 6:6 (NASB) / PsiCop original graphicLast year, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the Town of Greece v. Galloway. Today they released their ruling, and given that it’s a majority-conservative (and, maybe more importantly, majority-Religious-Right) court, they ruled in favor of government agencies leading people in sectarian prayers. CNN reports on the case and the Court’s decision (WebCite cached article):

The Supreme Court gave limited approval on Monday to public prayers at a New York town’s board meetings, citing the country’s history of religious acknowledgment in the legislature.

The 5-4 ruling [cached] came in yet another contentious case over the intersection of faith and the civic arena. It was confined to the specific circumstances and offered few bright-line rules on how other communities should offer civic prayers without violating the Constitution.…

The conservative majority offered varying interpretations of when such “ceremonial” prayers would be permissible. Kennedy, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, focused on the specifics of the Greece case and did not offer a broad expansion of legislative prayer.

This mention that the ruling is specific only to Greece, NY is belied by the fact that it is very typical of towns around the country that also open town-council sessions with prayers. I don’t see any way this ruling won’t be expanded to just about every locality and every government agency in the country. At least, I’m not stupid enough to think the nation’s Christofascists aren’t going to use this as a wedge to get prayers into just about every public venue possible, and that they won’t succeed at it.

The really bizarre part of this case is that Christians are explicitly forbidden — by Jesus, the founder of their religion — to pray in public in the first place! The gospels report that he said:

“(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.… When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1,5-6)

I’ve blogged before about Christians’ tendency to disobey Jesus and happily engage in the practice of pubic piety, and even created a static page on the subject, which may be useful if you need more details. In any event, the result is that a lot of Christians went to court to establish a right to government prayers, and the Catholics on the Supreme Court granted them that right … all in very clear violation of what their own Jesus taught! They also love to litigate over Decalogue monuments, which is likewise exceedingly un-Christian. In fact, as I explain at length, there are a lot of Jesus’ instructions that Christians historically have refused to follow.

I note that Justice Kennedy relies upon an appeal to tradition in order to support what the town of Greece was doing. The US was historically Christian, he’s saying, therefore it’s fine to ram Christianity down all Americans’ throats. The problem with this is that appeals to tradition are fallacious. Just because something was done in the past, doesn’t make it a great idea forevermore. For instance, humanity had a long history of slavery, which was even legal for the first decades of this country; that long tradition, however, doesn’t mean we should reinstitute slavery. I’m not sure Justice Kennedy realizes he’s following this line of reasoning, but in fact, he is.

The bottom line here, is that America’s Christianists have finally won the right to force everyone … Christian and non-Christian alike … to pray to their own deity. I wish them the best of luck forcing me to pray with them. I invite them to track me down and give it their best shot! It won’t work, but they’re certainly welcome to try. Obviously they feel it’s important that every American pray to their Jesus; thus they have no rational reason not to do their utmost to make this American do so. So have at it, Christianists! Do your worst! What are you waiting for?

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

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Pope Francis recognized two of his most famous papal predecessors in a ceremony St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIt’s been coming for months now. In office only just over a year, Pope Francis … with his retired direct predecessor Benedict XVI on hand … today canonized two of the most famous popes of the twentieth century, if not of all time: John XXIII and John Paul II. The New York Times reports on this canonization rite and some of its ramifications (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis made history on Sunday, elevating to sainthood John XXIII and John Paul II, two of his most famous papal predecessors, in a ceremony bearing themes of hope and reconciliation for the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.…

Francis, who made the decision to hold the joint canonization, portrayed the two former popes as “men of courage” who shared a place in history.…

Never before had two popes been canonized at the same time, and the pairing attracted large, joyous crowds tramping through Rome, with many people waving flags or banners. Francis declared the two men saints shortly after the Mass began, a pronouncement greeted with rising applause from the square and followed by the presentation of relics linked to the two new saints.…

Notable among the cardinals and political leaders seated near the outdoor altar was Benedict XVI, the former pope who has remained largely out of the public eye since his historic resignation last year. His decision to step down led to the papal election of Francis.

As the Times explains, the Vatican has been veering away from the (rather obvious) appearances evoked by this unprecedented event:

In the days before the ceremony, however, Vatican officials had sought to dispel the political subtext of the event — that the two former popes are icons to different constituencies within the church, and that by canonizing them together, Francis was making a political statement as well as a religious one.

John XXIII is a hero to many liberal Catholics for his Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s, which sought to open the church to the modern era. John Paul II is a hero to many conservative Catholics — not only for his anti-Communist heroism and personal charisma, but also because of his resistance to liberalizing elements of the church.

By pairing their canonizations, Francis sought to de-emphasize their differences, many analysts said, in the service of trying to reconcile divisions within the church and finding consensus as he prepared for the meetings, known as synods, centered on the theme of family.

I for one do not, for a single moment, buy into the idea that this couldn’t have been a way for Francis to appeal simultaneously to both the liberal/reformist and conservative/reactionary factions of his Church. Both factions were sure to be pleased by the elevation to sainthood of each of their most recognizable recent leaders. There’s just no way around it; the Vatican’s efforts to insist differently, are simply not credible.

A lot of ink has been spilt … and bits transmitted … concerning the unusual speed of John Paul’s canonization and the lack of two miracles to support John’s. For instance, Religion News Service asks why their canonizations were so speedy (cached):

Yet despite the vast popularity of the two popes, there is intense debate about whether these canonizations are nothing more than an elaborate public relations exercise — and whether they should be taking place at all.

John Paul II will hold the record for the fastest saint to be canonized in the history of the Catholic Church [sic]. John XXIII is even more controversial since Pope Francis approved his canonization with evidence of only one miracle — instead of the two normally required.

“It’s controversial among the saint makers at the Vatican, who consider themselves sticklers when it comes to the miracle requirement,” said longtime Vatican watcher John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries.”

The article is incorrect when it says John Paul was canonized sooner after his death than any other saint (which is why I put a “sic” after that sentence above). Both St Anthony of Padua and St Peter of Verona, for example, were canonized much more quickly … each less than a year after their deaths, around 20 years apart during the 13th century. Despite this error, it’s true John Paul’s canonization is the quickest to have occurred in modern times. Moreover, consider as a comparison the protracted elevation of the Martyrs of Otranto: Killed in 1480, they were beatified just under 3 centuries later in 1771, and finally canonized almost 250 years after that, in 2013. Overall, their canonization took over 5 centuries to happen. The just-over-9-year span between John Paul’s death and canonization is a drop in the bucket, when viewed alongside that.

The Vatican and Church officials have, so far, defended these actions (i.e. John Paul’s quick elevation and John’s elevation without a second miracle) as proper within the boundaries of canon law and Church rules. For all I know, they may be correct about that. However, these moves are definitely unusual for a Church that’s known for not moving very fast on anything and for being fiercely legalistic about everything it does. To say otherwise is fucking laughable.

Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the NY Times.

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