Archive for the “Religion” Category

Posts concerned specifically with religion

Side of Polk cty (FL) school bus, via the (Lakeland, FL) LedgerWe all know that militant Christianists are a sanctimonious and hateful bunch. They think nothing of going after whoever they want, whenever their overpowering sense of moral superiority overcomes them. (Which happens quite often.) Their problem is, they’re infantile, so when they get caught up in whatever made them sanctimoniously angry, they can’t — and more importantly, won’t — control themselves.

A great example of this took place in Florida. A Polk county bus driver, as the (Lakeland, FL) Ledger reports, told the child of two mothers that his entire family is hell-bound (WebCite cached article):

The Polk County School District has placed a bus driver on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation into accusations that she told a second-grade boy he and his moms are going to hell because of his parents’ same-sex relationship.

Bus driver Violeta Jacobo didn’t face disciplinary action after an initial review of the incident, causing community members to speak out in support of the boy’s mom, Nathaly Encarnacion, and their family.

Initially, the school district had “investigated” and determined nothing untoward had happened. Jacobo’s paid administrative leave, and the promise of a second investigation, only came about due to an online petition. Some courage the Polk county school district has … they had to be pushed into doing the right thing!

First, and most obviously, I have to ask what this “paid administrative leave” bullshit is? How is this any kind of meaningful punishment? It’s actually a free vacation.

Second, what ethical person goes after a child when it’s his/her parents that s/he has a beef with? Seriously!? How is this behavior acceptable, even in dour Christianist terms? What is the point in doing such a thing? I think it’s all about cowardice; Jacobo didn’t have the courage to speak with the two mothers, so instead she felt free to demean a second-grader.

Photo credit: The (Lakeland, FL) Ledger.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Militant Christianist Bus Driver Targeted a Child

Rutherford Cty (NC) Court House / via North Carolina Court System Web siteIt seems officials in North Carolina finally awakened to the idea that maybe … just maybe! … there’s been a little corruption going on, surrounding abuses at the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in the town of Spindale. The Associated Press’s coverage of this story continues, with a report that there might be a corruption investigation (WebCite cached article):

A district attorney has asked the state to investigate two assistant prosecutors after an Associated Press story that quoted former congregants of a North Carolina church as saying the men derailed criminal probes into allegations of abuse by sect leaders.

David Learner said Wednesday that he wants the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the accusations against his employees, who are members of the evangelical Word of Faith Fellowship church.

The AP story, released Monday, cited nine former Word of Faith members who said Frank Webster and Chris Back provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.

The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law, helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.

As the AP reported and I’ve blogged, Word of Faith believes in beatings and other kinds of abuse as a way of exorcising demons and devils. Or at least, that’s their rationale for the abuse.

It’s nice, I suppose, that there might be a probe into Webster and Back, but really, I’m not confident it will go far. This is, after all, a Bible Belt (er, Bobble Bay-elt) state, where churches are sovereign, and no one questions them much. So this might die on the vine, just as past investigations into Word of Faith’s affairs did.

Photo credit: North Carolina Court System.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »

The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes Spring Equinox ritual at an ancient temple of Goddess Artemis in Peloponnese, Greece, in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons / via Religion News ServiceI saw this article on the Religion News Service and thought it interesting. There are people trying to revive the ancient Greek polytheistic religion, as RNS explains, right here in the US (WebCite cached article):

[Article subject Dean] Cameron’s group has 15 members who regularly attend events and prayers, but the Facebook group it maintains has almost 160 members.

Local U.S. Hellenic chapters do not report to any national or international body. Worship is based on word-of-mouth traditions and classic ancient literature, said Cameron.

The Hellenes of Dodecatheon, a loose organizational group, reports around 2,000 followers in the U.S., but 100,000 believers use the traditions as a baseline for their religious practices.

Hellenism is a mainly domestic religion in which prayers and offerings are given in the home. There are designated holidays for different gods, but much of the worship is a guessing game based on scholarly interpretations of ancient text.

“As you can imagine, it’s really hard to find a Hellenic calendar,” Cameron said.

The neopagan movement stems from ancient Greek mythology that centers on religion, philosophy and tradition.

The article explains that this movement began in Greece, the religion’s native country, but due to the influence and power of the Greek Orthodox Church, it’s illegal there.

I’m glad those involved are willing to admit this revival of Greek polytheism is a “guessing game,” because it is. The forms of worship from pre-Christian Greece have — in spite of a wealth of literature, especially mythology, left behind — been lost. It’s interesting, too, that the focus of this revival is domestic. Ancient European polytheism was multi-layered; there were immediate-family rites, extended-family rites, tribal rites, community rites, state rites. These were done in homes, in the wild, in small private sanctuaries, and in magnificent temples. All these approaches could vary considerably. On top of these, and the fact that each state had its own form of religion, there were also the “mystery religions” to which some (in some locales and times, many!) belonged. Those, themselves, sometimes were subsumed as parts of the tribal, community, or state religions. I just don’t see all of that complexity in what these people are doing … but I suppose it could come in time, as more people become part of this movement.

This isn’t the only example of an attempt to resurrect a pre-Christian religion. For example, Asatru is a modern version of the old Norse religion. And there folks who call themselves Druids and want to recreate the old Celtic religion. There are, in fact, lots of kinds of Neopaganism, as well as other things like Wicca, which pretends to be a long-lost pagan religion, but which actually is a modern invention.

What many of these reconstructed/rebuilt/restored/reacquired religions miss, is the underlying approach of the religion. Modern people are looking for spiritual experiences and insights, because they’ve been raised under the influence of a soteriological religious tradition (i.e. of Christianity, and in turn to Abrahamic beliefs). But ancient polytheism was predicated on something very different. It was, in its essence, propitiatory. That is, its rites and customs were intended to curry the deities’ favor and mollify them so they wouldn’t afflict harm on people or even wipe them out. Granted, in classical times, ancient polytheism began to veer toward a deeper “spiritual” approach. This is especially true of the “mystery religions.” But even then, most of these “mystics” still practiced propitiatory rites nonetheless. Any reconstructed religion that doesn’t take this into account, isn’t really a reconstruction … it’s a new invention, but cloaked behind the trappings of an older religion.

I do, however, wish these folk luck in their effort to recreate an ancient religious tradition. I hope they’ll probe deeper into the tradition they want to restore, and move in a direction that’s not anachronistic.

One final pedantic note: I must point out, it’s not entirely anachronistic for people to “invent” new forms of polytheism! This actually happened in the ancient world, probably many times. We know, for example, that the cult of Serapis was, more or less, an invention of the regime of Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s generals, as he took control of Egypt. It was a hybrid cult, joining native Egyptian religious practice with Hellenic traditions. (A deity called Serapis mights have predated Ptolemy’s rule, but he and his dynasty actually built the Serapis cult — and the Serapeum — and made it prominent.)

Photo credit: Religion News Service.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »

Photo from Word of Faith FellowshipThe Associated Press continues to report on the vile shenanigans that have gone on at the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, NC, which I blogged about just a few days ago. I wondered, when I first posted on the subject, how and why this church was able to continue doing what it’s been doing for decades, unaffected by the North Carolina legal system. Well, this latest AP report explains why. The fix, it seems, was in (WebCite cached article):

At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect.

Among the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators were two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker, the ex-followers told The Associated Press.

Frank Webster and Chris Back — church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties — provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith.

Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley’s son-in-law and lives in her house, also helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to nine former members.

Yeah, that’s right. This church employed all its legal connections to derail prosecutions, for example:

According to nine former members interviewed by the AP, at least five other congregants who are lawyers participated in or were present during coaching sessions designed to circumvent investigators.

Back and Webster also helped sabotage a Rutherford County Department of Social Services investigation in 2015, according to Jeffrey Cooper’s brother, Chad Cooper, an attorney who said he attended a church meeting convened to undermine that probe.

Chad Cooper, who left the church last year, said also participating in the meeting was Word of Faith member Lori Cornelius, a longtime social services worker assigned to a nearby county.

Cooper said social services personnel were investigating complaints that students were beating classmates at the church-run K-12 school to cast out devils, and that teachers, including Whaley, encouraged the violence.

There’s more — a lot more! — to this story, which is much longer and more substantial than the AP’s earlier piece (cached). I urge you to read it … all of it. It shows how, as with the Roman Catholic Church and its “priestly pedophilia” scandal, this church used its status as a religion, and its deep connections to the region and the legal system, to ensure it was, effectively, above the law. But the interference went beyond just church members who were attorneys and social workers (which, by itself, is quite bad enough). Brad Greenway, for a time District Attorney of Rutherford County — and who is not a member of this church — was quick with excuses for why he couldn’t prosecute at least one case:

Asked why he didn’t do more — especially since he said he believed people were being beaten — Greenway said, “I don’t know what you’re expected to find if you went there. You’d find a building. … Are you going to find shackles? Handcuffs?”

Greenway said outsiders don’t understand what it’s like to try to make a case against the church.

Here’s my paraphrase of Greenway’s whine: “Boo hoo hoo! It’s just too hard to develop a case! There was nothing <sniff> I could do! It was all <snuffle> just so hopeless! We had no choice <sniff> but to let a church we knew was abusing people <sniff> continue doing so! Boo hoo hoo!” Any DA who can’t make a case when s/he knows there’s one, should just fucking resign and let his/her betters take over the job. (Which may be why he’s no longer in that position.)

But actually, it appears Greenway was much more sympathetic to Word of Faith Fellowship than just unable and unwilling to make a case. As the AP explains, he actually tipped them off to key developments:

One of the former congregants interviewed by AP, attorney Jeffrey Cooper, also said that … Greenway … leaked information to him and other church lawyers about a 2012-2013 grand jury investigation he was conducting into the church.

Greenway told the AP that he talked to Cooper and other church attorneys about the investigation, but couldn’t recall specifics of the conversations. But he denied supplying the church with “inside information.”

He acknowledged, however, that when asked by Cooper and church attorney Josh Farmer “something about ‘What are you going to do? What do you think is going to happen’…I might have said, ‘We’re going to the grand jury.'”

Look, I get it. This is the Bible Belt (er, the Bobble Bay-elt) where churches are sovereign … just as R.C. hierarchs were (and often still are) sovereigns. No one messes with a church, even when that church is messing up people really badly. They’re all godly outfits, you see, so it must be just fine. Right?

Photo credit: Word of Faith Fellowship Web site.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »

Bible-706658Way back in the day, when I was a college-going Christian fundamentalist, I frequently heard how the Catholic Church discouraged its adherents from reading the Bible. Since I was studying medieval history, I was well aware that the medieval Church didn’t want the Bible in the hands of non-clergy, and forbid translating it into languages the common folk might understand (i.e. anything other than the Latin of the Vulgate). The Church backed up this prohibition with force, which sometimes proved fatal, as for example to William Tyndale, who’d translated the Bible into the English vernacular.

Having been raised Catholic, though, I knew that the R.C. Church had ended this policy. In fact, the Church has translated the Bible into many languages, including the New American Bible released in 1970, a copy of which we had in our house. And after Vatican II had called for Mass to be said in the vernacular, Bibles were being read openly to parishioners in their own languages, in Catholic churches around the world.

Yet, many of the Protestant fundamentalists I spent time with persisted with the notion that the R.C. Church still didn’t want lay Catholics to read the Bible. Nothing I said about it could dissuade them. They weren’t buying it … at all.

I’ve long since left that particular crowd behind, but I still hear Protestants (especially of the fundie variety) saying pretty much the same thing. It’s a fable that just keeps being passed around among them, even though it’s no longer true. I imagine they’re all going to be disappointed by something Pope Francis just said, as reported by Vatican Radio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”

The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.…

“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.

Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”

It’s not true, of course, that the Christian Bible “is always topical.” It’s actually the collective product of its times, with its various constituent books having been written between the middle of the last millennium BCE and the middle of the 2nd century CE. Those documents are all much more relevant and timely to those who wrote, and first read, them than they are to modern people. Even so, I’m amused that Pope Francis just skewered a common anti-Catholic fundamentalist canard that’s been thrown around for ages. Make no mistake … the lie that the R.C. Church doesn’t want lay Catholics reading the Bible, is exactly that: A lie the fundies’ use to disparage Catholicism.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 1 Comment »

Saint Patricks Cathedral in New York - NYC - USA - panoramioFallout from the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal continues raining down all over the place. The latest example comes from New York City, whose archdiocese wants to borrow money to improve their cashflow, as Reuters reports, which has been choked due to payouts to abuse victims (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is seeking permission for a $100 million mortgage on some of its valuable Manhattan property to fund its compensation program for people sexually abused by its priests, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The archdiocese said last October it would compensate people who had accused priests of abusing them as children, including those prevented by statutes of limitations from filing civil lawsuits. It said at the time it would seek loans to fund the payouts, which are being decided by two independent arbitrators.

On Monday, the archdiocese filed a petition in New York state court in Manhattan seeking approval for a one-year mortgage from JPMorgan Chase on land it owns behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Lotte New York Palace hotel is located on the site. The petition was necessary under a New York law governing the use of church property, Joseph Zwilling, an archdiocese spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

“Because we have begun the process of paying out the compensation to victims, the archdiocese has taken this short-term loan to cover the payments,” Zwilling said.

As Reuters explains, the archdiocese is also soliciting claims by abusers who haven’t come forward yet, which may well add to their liabilities. That’s laudable, as such, but really, it’s the least they could do at this point. As with almost every other diocese on the planet, they spent years, and maybe decades, covering for abusive clergy and effectively enabling the abuse by continuing to grant abusers access to children, even in cases when they were known abusers.

It’s widely assumed that Catholic dioceses are wealthy … and nearly all of them are. But in many cases, their wealth is tied up in real estate, and while it has value, it’s not cash in the bank that they can write checks against. Hence, tactics like this, borrowing against their real estate. But I can’t say I’m sympathetic. As I said, this scandal was decades in the making and was fuelled by depraved and amoral hierarchs who put the reputation of their precious Church above everything else — even the welfare of children in its care. Disgusting.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 2 Comments »

Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)I can’t really say this story surprises me. Pope Francis’s “abuse commission” was doomed from the moment he announced its creation, several years ago. There is no way any such group was ever going to be able to investigate “priestly pedophilia” or bring about any changes that could prevent child abuse in the future. It quite simply was not going to happen. As the Religion News Service reports, an Irish abuse survivor who’d been invited on the panel, has given up and quit (WebCite cached article):

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has accused the Vatican bureaucracy of “shameful” resistance to fighting clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church as she quit a key panel set up by Pope Francis.

In a major setback for the pope, Collins on Wednesday (March 1) announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church.

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Collins is not the only abuse survivor on the panel to have had trouble with it. A year ago, Peter Saunders was sidelined by the commission, and he condemned it — although, as RNS explains, he hasn’t resigned.

Look, any veteran watcher of the R.C. Church could have predicted this outcome. The Vatican is the most change-averse organization on the planet. They resist change at all costs, all the time. There’s a kind of defiant psychopathology that sets in with all the hierarchs once they become princes of the Church. They can get petulant and even angry about having to change, and about being faced with their own wrongdoing, as with New York’s Cardinal Egan back in 2012, retracting his namby-pamby pseudo-apology for what happened while he’d been bishop of Bridgeport, CT. Really, they’re all very childish … which should be no surprise, since immaturity and the religious mind go hand-in-hand.

At any rate, I am disappointed for Ms Collins. It appears she had thought the Pope’s commission might accomplish some good, back when it started, and she still says the Pope himself sincerely meant it to work out. But it didn’t, and it won’t, because it can’t. That’s just how the Vatican, and its black-robed denizens, are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Comments Off on Abuse Victim Resigns from Vatican Panel