Posts Tagged “Religion”

Word of Faith Fellowship Church grounds in Rutherford County, N.C. / CBS affiliate WSPAI just blogged about the case involving North Carolina’s “abuse church,” Word of Faith Fellowship in the little town of Spindale. But only a short time later, the trial of one of the abusive pastors imploded … and as CBS News reports, it happened in remarkable fashion (WebCite cached article):

A judge held a juror in contempt and declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a North Carolina church minister charged in the beating a congregant who says he was attacked to expel his “homosexual demons.”

Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus immediately sentenced the juror, Perry Shade Jr., to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Gavenus said the juror brought in three documents, including one related to North Carolina law, but it wasn’t the right law pertaining to the charges in the case.

Gavenus said he had warned the jurors not to bring in outside material.…

[Word of Faith minister Brooke] Covington was the first of five church members to face trial in the case. Each defendant will be tried separately. Covington’s trial began May 30.

And that’s not all, either:

Chad Metcalf, 35, was brought to Gavenus in handcuffs after he allegedly told the jury in a hallway to reach a verdict. Deliberations had begun Monday.

“I take this very seriously,” Gavenus told Metcalf.

The juror who was held in contempt was the same one who reported Metcalf’s comment to the judge.

Gavenus said Metcalf could face 39 months in prison and set a $100,000 bond.

This case was years in the making, given that indictments were first handed down in December 2014 (and likely had been the result of no short amount of proceedings) … so I expect it’ll take several years more for a retrial to take place — if they even have one. The fix really was in, where Word of Faith was concerned; as the Associated Press’s investigation showed, some area prosecutors were members of the church who actively helped shield them from prosecution. It also doesn’t take rocket science to understand that North Carolina is a Bible-belt Bobble Bayelt state, and I’m sure the good ol’ boys who run it aren’t any too happy about having to prosecute a fundamentalist church over its practices (in this case, literally beating the demons, devils, whatever out of people).

Photo credit: WSPA-TV, via CBS News.

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Christmas market near Kaiser Wilhelm Church, BerlinYes, folks, it’s time again for us to see yet another sterling example of the “Religion of Peace” in action. Yesterday, as CNN reports, it appears a Muslim refugee drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany (WebCite cached article):

The man suspected of deliberately ramming a large truck into a Christmas market in Berlin is a refugee from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, two German intelligence officials and a police official told CNN.

The sources said the suspect in Monday evening’s attack, which killed 12 people and injured dozens more, arrived in Passau, a city on Germany’s border with Austria, on December 31, 2015, after traveling through the Balkans.

This attack could have political repercussions in Germany:

“I know that it would be especially hard to bear for us if it was to be confirmed that a person (who) committed this act … was given protection and asylum in Germany,” [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] said.

Monday’s attack could cause further political upheaval for Merkel, who has come under criticism over her government’s generous acceptance of refugees. Germany has taken in more than 890,000 asylum seekers in the past year, a marked difference to other European nations.

Note, too, this attack was a virtual copy of the Bastile Day attack earlier this year, in Nice, France (cached). Islamist groups have pushed for adherents to use vehicles as weapons against soft targets, so we can probably expect more such attacks in the future.

Photo credit: Sergey Galyonkin, via Flickr.

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Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) / via IMDBThe Roman Catholic Church is facing a crisis. No, I’m not referring to the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked the Church for over 15 years, nor the resulting problem of dioceses experiencing financial straits and even bankruptcies. The Church’s problem is a shortage … but not of priests — a problem it’s faced for the last few decades (WebCite cached article).

While those are genuine problems the Church faces, they’re not the dire crisis I’m blogging about just now. That happens to be a different kind of shortage: A shortage of exorcists. Satanism and the occult are spreading like rashes, as the (UK) Telegraph explains, but the Church has too few anti-demonic personnel to fend them off (cached):

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.…

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.”…

“It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”

Cascioli’s complaints about the spread of what his Church considers black magic practices and “a decline in faith and values,” reflects the bellyaching of the main character in my last blog post (a Connecticut police chief who thinks the growth of atheism is making the crime rate go up). This sort of thinking is common in Christianity, what with its persecutorial psychopathology that causes them to delude themselves into believing they’re under siege and about to be wiped out at any moment.

Really, Cascioli has nothing to be worried about. Demonic possession never happens. There are no demons or devils, no Satan leading them, and no such thing as black magic, either. Exorcisms occur only in horror movies. There’s no viable reason for the Roman Catholic Church to divert any resources to creating a demonology school (which Cascioli has demanded). It’s all metaphysical nonsense, which until just a few years ago, the Church had de-emphasized through most of the 20th century. They should resume that policy and ignore Cascioli’s absurd kvetching about Satanism and “black magic.”

Photo credit: Still from The Exorcist (1973), via IMDB.

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Residents came out to show thier [sic] supports [sic] for Bridgeport Police Officers with a community march in solidarity in Bridgeport, Conn., on Saturday Sept. 24, 2016. Dozens of residents joined members of the department and local clergy and officials at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on Park Avenue and then proceeded to march to police headquarters nearby.  / Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut MediaIn the world of sanctimonious Christianist nutjobbery, atheists are only just a shade better than Lucifer himself. They’re to blame for almost everything that ever goes wrong, and even Christian-world villains like Muslims and pagans earn more respect from Christianists. An example of this sort of thinking, as reported by the Connecticut Post, came from the chief of police in Bridgeport, CT (WebCite cached article):

Teens joining gangs? Shooting incidents on the rise?

The city’s top law enforcement officer thinks irreligiosity is a major factor in the problems facing the city.

“We need God in our lives,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez said Saturday to a group of around 50 people following a police solidarity march.

Perez, who is Catholic, addressed a group of mostly church members between the police department and City Hall.

“The problems that we’re having is because people have abandoned church, people have abandoned God, and that cannot happen,” he said.…

Perez, in his remarks, advocated a lot more praying.

“Let’s bring God back in our lives, back in our church — bring our kids — in our city, in our schools — absolutely,” Perez told the crowd.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Perez said that he didn’t advocate a specific religious belief, though he stood by his statement about religion in schools.

Gee, it was nice of the Chief not to demand that everyone in Bridgeport convert to a particular sect of a particular religion; it’s OK by him, I guess, if that city’s citizens join a religion of their choice. But, he does appear to think everyone must belong to one religion or another. Non-belief isn’t an option, in his book.

He wouldn’t be alone in that regard. There’s a significant wing of American Christianism that genuinely thinks there’s no such thing as freedom from religion; that it’s possible — and legal! — to force every American to have to be a religious believer … of some sort. (Yes, they do. For real.)

Chief Perez doesn’t seem to realize that, although non-belief has been rising over the last several years, crime rates haven’t matched that curve. Despite his whining about atheism growing, the majority of Americans are religious believers (cached). And the proportion of folks in prison who’re atheists is actually lower than that of the general population (cached) … meaning that atheists are less likely than believers to have been convicted of crimes.

Crime and non-belief are not linked lock-step in the way he asserts. To be generous, the Chief is blowing smoke; to be more blunt, he’s lying through his teeth.

It’s long past time for religious believers to grow the fuck up for once and get over the fact that atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) exist. They need to stop getting their panties in bunches over the insolence of those of us who refuse to believe in their absurd metaphysics. They erroneously think they’re personally harmed by the presence of non-belief in their communities; that’s just fucking absurd. They object to atheists (and other sorts of non-believers) for only one reason: They’re insecure in their beliefs, and knowing there are people who don’t believe as they do, only serves to heighten those insecurities. Since they’re not mature enough to handle those insecurities, they lash out against them, like infants. “Waaah! Mommy, the bad people are <sniff> atheists! Wah waah! <sniff> Mommy, make the bad atheists go away! <sniff>” What a damned joke.

Photo credit: Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media, via Connecticut Post.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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A PNG image of Pikachu, arguably the most recognisable Pokémon.This is another of those times I’d never expected to blog about a topic, but find it necessary to do so. Most of you have heard, by now, of the suddenly-wildly-popular mobile game Pokemon GO (why it’s “GO” and not simply “Go,” I have no idea, but that’s how marketing works, I guess). What you probably haven’t heard is that Pokemon is un-Islamic. Yep, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic police decided that, many years ago. As Reuters reports, the popularity of Pokemon GO inspired them to re-issue their fatwa against it (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body has renewed a 15-year-old edict that the Pokemon game franchise is un-Islamic, Saudi media said on Wednesday, although the fatwa made no mention of the successful new Pokemon GO mobile game.

Nintendo’s augmented reality app, in which players walk around real-life neighborhoods to hunt and catch virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens, has become an instant hit around the world.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars said it had revived a 2001 decree against a Pokemon card game in response to queries from believers.

The Council argued that the mutations of the creatures in the game, who are given specific powers, amounted to blasphemy by promoting the theory of natural evolution.

“It is shocking that the word ‘evolution’ has been much on the tongues of children,” the fatwa read.

It also said the game contained other elements prohibited by Islamic law, including “polytheism against God by multiplying the number of deities, and gambling, which God has forbidden in the Quran and likened to wine and idols”.

The reissuance declaration even accused Pokemon of promoting “global Zionism” — whatever the hell that might be. A lot of people accuse parochial outfits like the Council of Senior Religious Scholars of being out-of-touch. That, clearly, is not the case here. These guys definitely are in touch with what’s going on in the world. It can’t be mere coincidence that — at the very time Pokemon GO has gone viral to the point where it’s making headlines — they reissued their anti-Pokemon fatwa. They’re much more clued into the world than would otherwise seem to be the case.

Back in the day, I used to laugh at evangelicals who condemned Dungeons & Dragons as “Satanic” and claimed that players conjured up demons (cached). This kind of bullshit pronouncement is really no different, other than the religion that made it. It’s every bit as irrational and asinine.

Photo credit: Ken Sugimori/Nintendo, via Wikipedia.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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'If you KNOW about it, but will not CORRECT it, then you CONDONE it!' / PsiCop original graphicThis morning on his satellite-radio show, Michael Smerconish brought up the case of Wendy Bell, a local television anchor in Pittsburgh who’d been fired because she put something racially insensitive on Facebook (WebCite cached article). He mentioned it because she’d just initiated a lawsuit against the station over her firing (cached).

I bring this up not in order to discuss Ms Bell’s case specifically — it’s part of a larger story that began in early March with the massacre of a family in a Pittsburgh suburb (cached) — nor do I have any way to know how her lawsuit will turn out. What I can say, is that, without regard to whether or not the TV station that employed her should have done so, they’d fired her over what she’d put on Facebook. And they did it for the simple reason that it made them look bad.

This contrasts mightily from what happens when other kinds of folks, particularly preachers and pundits, say things that are often far worse than what Ms Bell said. All too often, they suffer no consequences — at all. On the contrary, extremists and lunatics are allowed to rant and rave any way they want, without being punished and without having to endure any negative repercussions.

We had a few examples of this recently in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando FL. Multiple religionists said some horrible things, including expressing the hope that some of those wounded would soon die of their injuries. The only consequence any of those folks have suffered is that the church run by one of them has been told its lease will run out early next year (cached). Otherwise, none of them has been punished. (And I’m not sure how much of a hardship losing a lease will turn out to be. So that’s not much of a consequence.)

Still, it’s not just these creatures I’m talking about. Christianists have a very long history of saying horrific things but never being punished for them. For example, Jerry Fallwell — with Marion “Pat” Robertson’s assent — said that the September 11, 2001 attacks were caused by “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” “the ACLU,” “People for the American Way,” and so on (cached). Yet, Falwell was never reprimanded, disciplined, or punished at all. He kept his ministry and his university. Robertson still has his television network, and still appears on his own show.

If you need another example, here’s one: Virginia legislator Robert G. Marshall announced, 6 years ago, that children are born with handicaps due to abortions. As horrible as that claim was, he remains in his office in the Richmond capitol. So his constituents clearly didn’t disapprove of his hateful spew.

Another example: A North Carolina pastor, during a sermon four years ago, called for all gays to be rounded up, then penned up somewhere and allowed to die off. He still has his position; in fact, his own congregants have defended him.

Oh, and another example: An African-American pastor in Texas claimed that African-Americans had been better off as slaves than if they’d been free. Yes, he said it … and he still has his job, too.

It shouldn’t be necessary at this point, but here’s yet another example: Ray Comfort, a well-known Christian evangelist once made fun of Hindus who’d been killed or injured when a statue of their god Ganesh fell. He was actually happy about it and considered it a justified example of “God’s wrathful judgment.” In spite of his giddiness over someone’s death, Comfort too still has his job and his ministry. Like the others I’ve mentioned, he’s paid no price for his words or actions. None.

I could go on, but won’t. There have been all sorts of nasty, offensive words that have tumbled off the lips of religious leaders throughout the US … but they’re left alone. The cold fact is that lots of sanctimonious Christianists say and do a lot of outrageous things, that — if they’d been said or done outside of a religious context — simply would never be permitted. They’re the sort of thing that tend not only to get people fired — as happened with Ms Bell — but can even end people’s careers entirely.

Granted, a lot of other Christians protest that cretins like Falwell and Robertson don’t speak for them … but those are only words, and they mean nothing. Not. A. Single. God. Damned. Fucking. Thing.

The stark reality here is that, what you refuse to correct, you condone. If you let monsters like Falwell blame 9/11 on the ACLU, then you’re telling others who think like him that they’re free to say the same thing, or something related, if not even worse. Remember that extremists are speaking in the name of your religion, and in the name of its founder, Jesus Christ. If you refuse to prevent them from doing so, then you’ve chosen to allow them to make your religion look bad to the rest of us who aren’t part of it and only know its meaning from the words and actions of those who claim to belong to it.

If you’re a Christian who disagrees with any of the militant Christianist creatures who’ve said horrific things in the name of your religion, then don’t just say you disagree and leave it at that. Get off your ass and do something about it. Correct them, discipline them, punish them. Measures can range from getting them removed from their offices or pulpits, to having their clerical credentials (if they have them) revoked, to … well, pretty much anything, as long as it’s legal and it affects them in a meaningful way. You can do it … but only if you want to.

Of course, you could just throw up your hands, and continue to let the extremists keep saying and doing vile things in the name of your religion, its founder and your deity. Leave your religion up to the hatemongers! Let the extremists control it. Yeah, that’s always an option. How important is the integrity of your religion? Do you think well enough of it to police it? It’s really up to you to decide.

Hat tip: Michael Smerconish, via Twitter.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic.

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'FBI raids FLDS businesses' / KSTU-TVNote: I have a little good news to report on this; please see below.

I’ve blogged occasionally about the antics of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka FLDS. They’re a sect of Mormonism that broke away from the main LDS church when it banned polygamy. Since this split took place, the FLDS church has become even stranger than the predominant LDS church (which is already pretty strange, if you know anything about Mormonism). They’re also reclusive, living in communities they come to dominate, which is necessary since their polygamy is illegal and they need some way to fend off Johnny Law if they want to practice their religion. The current chief FLDS prophet, Warren Jeffs, is currently in prison, convicted of statute rape of underage girls who were part of his harem back in 2011.

Since then, the FLDS has effectively been run by Warren’s brother Lyle, but it seems he also has trouble operating within the bounds of the law. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lyle and a number of other FLDS leaders have been indicted for a food-stamp con (WebCite cached article):

In a case that some say could destroy Utah’s largest polygamous sect, federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced indictments against leaders and members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on charges related to food stamp fraud.

Lyle Jeffs, who has been running the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, is one of nearly a dozen people named in an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday while FBI agents and sheriffs deputies searched businesses in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., that are owned by members of the FLDS.

Also indicted was Seth Jeffs, full brother to both Lyle and FLDS President Warren Jeffs, the religion’s prophet, who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.…

Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, are home to the FLDS church. Isaac Wyler, a former member of the church, said Tuesday’s action appears to be the largest law enforcement raid in the towns since 1953, when Arizona authorities arrived to arrest polygamists.

“There are officers all over town,” Wyler said.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 other FLDS church leaders and members were indicted Tuesday in Utah and South Dakota, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The article explains various ways this scheme worked; among them:

The prosecutors’ indictment says the alleged fraud is rooted in the FLDS church’s “United Order,” instituted in 2011, which instructs all adherents to donate their lives and all their material substance to their church.

Members were told to divert their food stamp benefits to the church by purchasing food from church-owned businesses like the Meadowayne Dairy Store and Vermillion Cliffs Produce and then bring those items to the FLDS Storehouse for “donation,” according to the indictment.

“These leaders also provided instruction on how to avoid suspicion and detection by the government,” the indictment alleges.

FLDS leaders also told members to transfer their SNAP benefits to the church-owned stores without receiving any food products, according to the indictment.

On one occasion, [indicted John Clifton] Wayman [the former bishop of Short Creek] is accused of taking an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card — which operates similar to a debit card and is linked to a SNAP account — from a qualifying person and giving it to an unauthorized person to buy food and goods.

There’s more there, but this is enough to give one a taste of the machinations the FLDS engaged in for years. Overall, this racket accumulated multiple millions of dollars in fraudulent SNAP benefits. According to another article by KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City, which provides details from court filings (cached), this amount was over $12 million. It also includes details of Lyle’s and Seth’s operations, which naturally included crimes on the side such as “Failed to report incidents of underage sex abuse.” Sigh. I guess Warren’s conviction never taught them anything.

A lot of articles I’ve read on this case assert that, with these indictments and arrests, the FLDS church is finished. That, however, would be wishful thinking. Various states had gone after Warren Jeffs and others in the FLDS for a decade before he was finally jailed for his pedophilia*, unsuccessfully until the state of Texas finally got a case they could prosecute. The FLDS has been up to no good for a very long time, and has managed to continue being up to no good for an even longer time. I truly doubt this will finish them.

* As I’ve blogged so many times before: Yes, it’s really not just a Catholic problem.

Update: Lyle Jeffs has finally been captured (cached). His idiotic attempt at passing himself off as someone else — namely, as “Jeffs Lyle Steed” instead of “Lyle Steed Jeffs” — failed miserably. What a fucking perverted moron! Someone that catastrophically stupid could only have been on the run as long as he was, with the help of others. Hopefully they, too, will be prosecuted … but I’m not betting it will happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: KSTU-TV.

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