Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pastors Gone Wild: Curtis Bryant

Who is Curtis Bryant? A pastor who changed the locks on the doors of his church to prevent its members for ousting him over allegedly misappropriated funds.

Metro officers responded around 5 p.m. to a report of a near-riot involving as many as 300 people at the church near the intersection of Jackson and 13th streets.

Church members were angry enough to riot. I find this hard to comprehend. Why not just fire him?

Bryant deny's any wrongdoing, and does not see a need for an audit - because he's a pastor and would never steal (pay no attention to my Porsche).

"Our grandparents, great grandparents worked really hard to pay for this church, and how dare anybody take God's money and do anything that's not right!"

Can you still tar and feather somebody in Nashville?

Clinton pastor charged with sex abuse

Christians, usually members of the accused pastor's church, write me with two arguments. 1. Innocent until proven guilty, or 2. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. They have a point. So do I. When I find somebody like pastor William Procanick, who is charged with first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child, I report the facts and then I get snarky. It is a First Amendment thing, facts, then snarky. It's in there. I'm sure of it.

Procanick is alleged to have touched the buttocks and inner thigh of a 7-year-old girl. The girl talked about the incident to another adult, who informed police. Procanick resigned his position prior to his arrest, which was the right thing to do. I am disturbed by comments made by Jim Dever, chairman of the church council.

Rev. Procanick has had serious charges unfairly brought against him," Dever said in a statement issued by the church. "Because of the nature of these charges, he voluntarily submitted his resignation to the church in April.

It looks like another case of stand by your pastor. Why do they do this?

Procanick was pastor of the Resurrection Assembly of God.

I was just peeing

This story is just bizarre

Fans of gospel music likely know the name Tommy Tester well. He's a staple at WZAP 690 am in Bristol, Virginia, and has been for almost 25 years, but his recent arrest, has put his station in a tight spot.

Johnson City police arrested Tester Thursday night on charges of indecent exposure and public drunkenness. Police say the preacher was driving drunk when he stopped at a car wash and urinated with children present. Investigators say prior to his arrest, Tester, who was wearing a skirt at the time, made sexual advances to them.

WZAP Owner Al Morris says he has relieved Tester of his duties at the radio station until the facts of the case are determined. Morris says Tester's arrest came as a surprise to him and everyone at the station. Since the arrest, Morris says he has spoken with Tester, who he says denies all of the allegations. Morris asks everyone to pray for the man.
It seems people are taking that request to heart, including members of Tester's congregation. He is the pastor of Gospel Baptist Church. We're told, Sunday's service was packed.

I read this and thought, what the hell? Tester was driving drunk, stopped to pee, and then hit on some kids. I find it hard to believe this guy is a pastor.

I love the line "who was wearing a shirt at the time" - does this mean he was not wearing pants?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why religion and politics don't mix well

I found this while surfing today. I think it is an insightful look at a touchy subject.

Via The Political Guru:

As my friend The Reverend has made a post about religion and how it will cause a stir among people, I would like to ad that when did religion play a role in politics. What about the issues, immigration, laws and big government by this article below that CNN has commented on just shows more and more that religion controls the government not the people. I guess the religions are taking over our government and it has even happened in Ohio recently with the strip club laws forced by you guessed it religion fascists telling our politicians what is right and what is wrong. If this continues to be allowed will we be another Iraq where we all have to practice one religion and one religion only?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What is faith?

Atheist blogger Mikayla from Bits of Starstuff asks the question, what is faith? She's using YouTube to get the message out to the faithful in an effort to start a dialog.

I like this idea. It's nice to see the face behind a blog, hear a rational voice, and open a dialog. Stop by and leave a comment or spread the work.

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Evangelicals pray for Armageddon

Via Chadmac Speaks - Evangelicals pray for Armageddon

A truly disturbing video. I can only say it is because of Christians like John Hagee that I write this blog. They scare me.

I have a friend who will tell me not to judge Christians by these people. I don't buy it, they have money, influence, and a mission. While mainstream Christians sleep, nutball Christians plan the end of the world. I have no choice but to judge Christianity by their actions.

Max Blumenthal disserves a medal.

Pharyngula: Come out!


Pharyngula is calling for Atheists to come out.


A while back, I floated the idea of a logo for the godless. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the idea, and a lot of good design ideas came out of it … maybe too many good ideas. And being a mob of atheists, there was absolutely no consensus on what was the best symbol to use. Finally, I didn't want to impose a logo on anyone, so I just let it drop to see if anyone would simply start using one of the suggested designs, that maybe a consensus might coalesce. I saw a few of the logos on scattered sites, but there wasn't much of a spontaneous response, and alas, every single site used a different logo. Typical atheists.


I like the idea. I'm not so much into wearing a t-shirt, but posting the big A on my site and maybe a sticker on my truck are within reach.

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Tillman comrade recalls final moments

 An Atheist to the end , Tillman did not pray in his foxhole. His last words speak of action.

"Hey, O'Neal, why are you praying? God can't help us now.'"

Sgt. Bryan O'Neal, refutes a nameless chaplain who claims Tillman was abusive and degrading.

He never would have called me 'sniveling,'" O'Neal said. "I don't remember ever speaking to this chaplain, and I find this characterization of Pat really upsetting. He never once degraded me. He's the only person I ever worked for who didn't degrade anyone. He wasn't that sort of person.

The way my government has handled Tillman's death makes me feel angry and ashamed. I hope the investigation take off. speaking of lies, I hear Bush is already claiming executive privilege.

It is nice to hear the truth spoke by the man who stood by Tillman's side when he died.

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New blog: Shared Difference

I found Shared Difference via Atheist Revolution. The first post I read made me feel a little better.

Recently I spotted an Alpha poster showing a climber gazing at a breathtaking mountain vista; below a caption asked “Is there more to life than this?”. “What? Isn’t that enough?”, I spluttered, after a brief fit of coughing to clear my suddenly blocked throat.

I eventually read every post at Shared Difference. I am hopeful that he will join the Atheist blogroll. I think he will make a great addition. Stop in and give him some encouragement.

Gogol Bordello - Supertheory of Supereverything

Via Evil Genius at the LITTLE things.

Evil Genius tipped me off to this amazing song and video. It is now officially my Sunday morning theme song.

First time I had read the Bible
It had stroke me as unwitty
I think it may started rumor
That the Lord ain't got no humor

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Boycott Chuck Norris

I thought Chuck Norris was dead. I was surprised to find that he still lived.  I even jumped out to Wikipedia to make sure he was still with us. You see, good old Chuck Norris wants to tattoo a flag  with the words "In God we Trust" on my forehead.  And yes, I realize he is trying to be funny while saying "screw you" to the atheist community. I don't like being screwed.

I thought Chuck Norris was dead. I wanted him to be dead. Not as in I want him to die. It is  more like, if he were dead, I could tell this story I have about him without fear of getting sued.

You see, my grandfather owned a Shell service station on the corner of Atlantic and Rosecrans  in beautiful Compton California. It was a less successful time for Chuck, back in the late 60's and early 70's before he had fame and money. Chuck Norris was on my Grandfather's shit list. Apparently, they had some dispute... I was told to to never sell him gas.

I'll tell the whole story at some point. For now, I will settle for a complete and total boycott of Chuck Norris. With the notable exception of any movie he appears in where Bruce lee kicks his ass.  

Hat tip The Serenity of Reason.

Silent on Tammy Faye Messner

A few of my fundie followers have written to ask why I did not post on the death of Tammy Faye Messner a.k.a Tammy Faye Bakker.  The answer is simple. She was a complete and total fraud. I did not consider her a Christian of any substance or influence. I considered her a bad joke. She was in it for the money. She lost her credibility when the world found out her dog slept in a better doghouse than most of the people that sent in their pennies and dimes.

She's dead now and I do not mourn. She lived a life of privilege by sponging off the weak in her religion. I have no kind words, nothing nice to say. I am sorry she suffered in the end. I watched the Larry King video of her last day. It was sad. She appeared to be holding on to life with everything she had. It was hard to watch.

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The pot calling the kettle black

The "Reverend" teaches us sinners how to be nice to our spouses, and then he goes home and slaps his bitch up.

GARY, Ind. An anger management instructor was charged with domestic battery after his wife accused him of grabbing and beating her during an argument, police said. The Reverend Robert Nichols, 49, has taught anger management classes for defendants in Gary City Court for several years, but his contract was voided while the misdemeanor charge against him is pending, City Court Judge Deidre Monroe said. "It's our policy that anyone working in the court system can't have criminal charges," Judge Monroe said Monday. Rev. Nichols was arrested early Thursday after the couple's young daughter called police to report the fight, police said.

I hear these stories so often I'm beginning to think they are the rule rather than the exception.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Music

Via the LITTLE things - The Wombats - Kill the Director

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10 Ways to be an Atheist Activist

Via The Second Mouse's Guide to Life:

So you’ve come to understand that you are an atheist. Now what? To the uninformed, it might seem that there isn’t much to do as an atheist. You’ve just decided to not be religious, time to get on with your life right? Well, in fact there is quite a bit to do as an atheist that encourages community, support for church/state separation issues and the national understanding of atheism. The following is a partial list of constructive and useful ways to positively demonstrate your atheism and lend your energies to a national movement. By no means is this a complete list and for the most part, they aren’t ranked in any particular order. Read on to find the ways that best suit your interests and above all else, be steadfast to your ideals.

Some good ideas here.

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Pastor admits seeking sex from boy

Todd Turner Brock just wants to get back to serving people. He hopes registering as a sex offender will not get in the way of his service to others.  I am sure some Baptist Church will hire him after he goes through some official de-gayification process.

Brock resigned from his position at Tabernacle Baptist Church before he was arrested in March. Brock, of 507 Old Mill Road in High Point, was charged with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, dissemination of obscenity, promoting prostitution of a minor and solicitation of another to commit a felony.

so... he tied to pay young boys for sex, no problems here. Move along, move along. No wait, there is more!

Brock admitted sending Internet-chat messages to the 17-year-old, who lives in Kernersville, about a video in which Brock would pretend to use chloroform to knock the boy out, then tie him up, paint his nails and put Goth-style makeup on him...

...Brock had asked the teenager to have sex with him in the video and to have a third man, a 20-year-old from Virginia, join them.

Brock never touched the boy, he just begged for a gay sex threesome. Brock was sentenced to 10 months in prison were he will have ample time to fulfill his fantasy.

A new low

A volunteer youth pastor at the First United Method Church of Gilbert was arrested on suspicion of molesting a mentally disabled girl. The alleged victim was 14.

James Ward Chapman III has some explaining to do:

Court records show Chapman admitted he touched the privates of the girl, who was a family friend, in December 2006 while the pair were watching television. She was not a member of the church, officials at the church said.

Chapman initially told police he did not molest the girl, but then after showing signs of deception during a lie-detector test that analyzes voices, he admitted to touching her, records show.

Chapmen was removed from his job as a pastor after a separate incident where a youth accused Chapmen of "being too friendly". Of course, church leadership is now coming to grips with the fact that not reporting Chapmen may have contributed to his newest alleged crime.  Were they worried about bad press?

A story from my day or how Islam pissed me off

I went out for a few beers with a friend last night. We met at the Irvine Spectrum, had a Guinness at The Yard House, and then watched The Simpson's Movie. After the show, we dinned at a sports bar while doing some people watching.As a place to watch people, the Irvine Spectrum is high on my list. So many well to do people, all dress in their best outfits, strutting around as if they owned the world. I had fun just watching them walk by.

All good things must end. My friend and I parted company late in the evening. As I walked to the parking structure with chocolates for my wife in hand, I fell in behind three young Muslim women. I could tell they were Muslims by their stunningly beautiful Hijabs.

I arrived at the parking structure first. I pressed the button and waited for the elevator to arrive. When it did, I held the door open for the Muslim women just as I would for anybody else. They refused to enter. They were young women and small. I figured they were afraid of me as I am the opposite of young and small. I was wrong. One of the three women told me their religion does not permit women to be alone with men. I kept my thoughts to myself, and politely told them I would catch the next elevator - but it was too late. Two old men walked in and thanked me for holding the door. The door closed. I was still on the outside feeling stupid.

I pressed the button again, waited a few minutes, and then let the young women ride up without me. I pressed the button again, waited a few more minutes, and then rode up by myself. I was no longer feeling generous or polite. My apologies to the half dozen people I cut off in the 15 minutes it took me to exit the poorly designed parking structure.

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a Koran in every toilet

Via LGF - Stanislav Shmulevich was arrested for a hate-crime at Pace University. His hate-crime... throwing a Koran in a public toilet.

Stanislav Shmulevich of Brooklyn was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and aggravated harassment, both hate crimes, police said. It was unclear if he was a student at the school. A message left at the Shmulevich home was not immediately returned.

The Islamic holy book was found in a toilet at Pace's lower Manhattan campus by a teacher on Oct. 13. A student discovered another book in a toilet on Nov. 21, police said.

Shmulevich actions were in poor taste. However, I do not believe they constitute a hate crime. Shmulevich owned the Koran, he is free to treat his property in any way he pleases, including making a public statement about Islam. His actions are covered by the 1st Amendment. This is a free speech issue.

Shmulevich's arrest is clearly another act of political correctness aimed at appeasing Islamic activist. If Shmulevich had thrown a Koran in in the trash, Muslims would argue he committed a hate crime. If he had burned a Koran, pissed on a Koran, or feed it to pigs, Muslims would claim a hate crime. Yet, we live in America - his actions are protected by the constitution.

btw - I borrowed the title for this post from LGF member Skul who wrote "A chicken in every pot, a koran in every toilet".

Islamic Tomfoolery

A Judge in the The Maldives, the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in Asia,  has responded to the rape of a 12-year-old girl by blaming the victim. The four men who broke into the victims home and raped her were instead convicted of  consensual sex outside of marriage. The Judge determined the girl consented to  gang raped by four men.

On January 31 the men aged between nineteen and twenty-five used an axe to smash the window of the girl’s bedroom before taking her from her bed and having sex with her. The state charged the four men with rape.

But in his summation the judge noted “the girl had reached puberty” and found “she was a willing partner,” because she had not screamed, struggled or told her sister-in-law or step mother about the event.

The message to Maldivian men is simple, rape as you will. The law will protect you.

Will an honor killing follow? I mean, she asked for it... Her family's honor has been besmirched. i bet her uncles are out looking for stones as I write this.

Religion poisons everything

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Christians behead Muslims

For people looking for further proof that religion breeds violence, they should look no farther that the conviction of 17 Christians convicted of beating 2 Muslims to death, beheading them, and then hiding their bodies.

A dozen Christian men were convicted Thursday and sentenced to up to 14 years in jail for beating to death and beheading two Muslims to avenge the government executions of three Christians in Indonesia last year.

Five other Christians received eight-year terms for burying the pair, who were set upon by a mob as they drove though a Christian neighborhood on Sulawesi island a day after the Sept. 22, 2006, executions of Fabianus Tibo and two other Christian militants.

There are no excuses here. No "they are not Christians" rants will be accepted. The Christian murders waited a year to act. When they acted, they did so with all the brutality and hate they could muster. They killed two men because of their religion. Does religion - no, does Christianity, make one moral? I don't think so.

Blogroll Update: 350 members

The blog EnoNomi has the honor of becoming our 350th Blogroll member.  I keep a few stats, if all bloggers who joined were still active, our blogroll would have 470 members. Unfortunately, many people start well and then stop after a few months. If you know of a defunct blog, please let me know so I can prune our ranks.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

I do not think this will help the cause

Three teens are alleged to have vandalized a church in New York. They painted Long Live Atheism in blue letters above the entrance to the Church.  The crime occurred over the 4th of July weekend.

What were they thinking?

"The suspects not only burned the American flag but also spray painted slogans and symbols on the church which lead us to believe this is a hate crime," says Investigator Cindy Mullen of the New York State Police.

This is no way to treat our neighbors. We might not agree with them, but expressing contempt in the form of vandalism is simply unacceptable.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

A picture a day

flatbedI am forcing myself to shoot again. A picture a day...

After five minutes at a signal, I shot the back of a truck in frustration. I liked the weathering.

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The OC Atheists meetup

An OCAtheist

I meet two web Atheists tonight. Jake, pictured at the left (who has a much longer beard than I do), is the author of After Faith and the Atheist Network. After Faith is an OG on the Atheist Blogroll. It was nice putting a face to his blog. 

I also met Blair Scott of Alabama Atheist. Blair told me twice he was on the Atheist blogroll. It turns out he does not have a blog. I guess he was confused.

Virginia Kean was the organizer for this little dinner gathering. She was well organized and did her best to engage everyone in the various discussions. Another picture of the group can be found here.

This meetup had a different flavor. I did not connect. Most of the talk was of making fun of Christians, topics related to Atheism seldom made the rounds. Although, I must admit, Blair was full of stories from the South, where it appears being an atheist takes more effort than it does here in the OC.  

This meetup was more like dinner with friends. A few people talked a lot. A few people listened. I was in the latter group. I think my problem is that I do not connect with the likes of the Rational Response Squad. I don't care to tweak the nose of the religious, I prefer a knife fight to protect my rights.

I'll give it a few more meetings, but my gut tells me it is futile. Long Beach was a little more my style.

Pastor gets 15 years in child sex abuse case

At this rate our prisons will no longer need to hire chaplains. The Apostle Gerald Griffith is looking at 15 years of hard time.

A convicted pastor's tearful plea for leniency, impassioned testimony about his character and a courtroom jammed with supporters failed to sway a Howard County Circuit Court judge, who sentenced the religious leader Thursday to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing a teenage boy who said he once viewed the man as a father figure.

As Gerald Fitroy Griffith, 41, was led away in handcuffs, some supporters from Redemption Christian Fellowship Church in Woodlawn who had been quietly crying and sniffling broke into wails and sobs and one thrashing man was restrained by companions. The screaming and crying continued as the pastor's supporters, who had filled two buses and could not all fit into the courtroom, filed out of the courthouse and onto the parking lot.

This case is a classic. When the victim came forward, his church cast him out. Church member lined up to defend their pastor, the victim was cast a a liar. No man of god could repeatedly rape a young man. It was unthinkable.

Now that he has been convicted and sentenced, perhaps his title of "the apostle" can be retired. Or perhaps he will wear it proudly when he appears in court next month to face charges for allegedly molesting five other young boys. I bet the courtroom will be filled with his supporters then too.

Griffith actually had the nerve to beg for home incarceration so he could go on helping people. What the hell?

I've written about Griffith before. His church members have sent me nasty hate mail. I am comforted that he will shortly begin a term as junior bitch in prison. People like Griffith need to be kept away from our children.

Note to Pastor Gerald Griffith: The very first thing you should buy from the commissary is KY. You are going to need it. But then, you already know that right?

Pastors are adapting

When the old methods don't work any more, a new breed of pastor/child predator is adapting. Text messaging, myspace, and chat rooms are the new weapons of pastoral abuse. Take Pastor Claude Wallace of Ware Shoals, S.C. Wallace was arrested for sending 20 sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old member of his Church.

Would anyone like to guess Pastor Wallace's denomination? He's a Baptist. At least he was up until his arrest. Now Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Gaffney will need to decide if they stand by their newly accused pedophile pastor, or look for a new one.  Who knows, with Baptists, maybe it is better to deal with the devil you know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows

My self-imposed blog break has ended. I finished The Deathly Hollows tonight. I will not review it. I liked the book too much to dissect it. Suffice it to say that my family purchased one copy. My wife had the first read, I was up second. I read after she fell asleep and any other time I could get my hands on the book. I picked it up full time yesterday. What a great read. I love it.

On another note, my blog received almost 10,000 hits today. It is the highest single day hit count my blog has ever experienced. The cause... Kimberly Bell announced she would be appearing in the November issue of Playboy. If you type her name in Google, this post appears on the front page. It looks like a lot of people what to see what she looks like.

The Candy Man gets nine months

Andreas Garcia, 71 and pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista del Sur Colirio, was convicted for sticking his candy infused tongue in the mouth of a 12-year-old girl. Garcia said the devil did not make him do it, but that the devil took and vantage of his weakened state. Garcia had been fasting and taken communion.

“Temptation is always around you but you just have to force yourself and I just didn’t make it,” - Andreas Garcia.

Garcia claims to not have any sexual feeling for the girl. He's feelings are more like a father/daughter. News Flash: (and I mean this in the nicest way), you sick fuck - do you know the word incest?

Garica also does not understand why he is now classified as a sexual predictor. After all, he was just tonguing the youngin, that can't be wrong. She wanted to taste the candy.

“What makes this case more aggravating is that the defendant was the pastor of a church, and should have held himself to a higher moral standard,”

I don't agree. What makes this case most aggravating is that "pastor" Garcia did not even hold himself to normal standards. Higher moral standards do not exist.

No word on if Garcia will remain a pastor.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another youth pastor arrested for alleged rape

Wendel Nix joins the growing ranks of Baptist youth pastors charged with child molestation and rape. Nix is alleged to have raped a 14-year-old girl who was a member of his youth group at Aztec Bible Baptist Church.

The victim alleged that she has attended the church for the past year, and over time, she and Nix grew close. Last month, Nix began sending her text messages saying how good he thought she looked and how well her clothing fit her, states the affidavit for an arrest warrant. Then he began calling her, hoping to get her away from her friends so that he could familiarize himself with what he called the "real her," the affidavit states.

After agreeing to take a drive into the hills with Nix at the end of last month, the victim said Nix kissed her, but then she became scared and demanded she be taken home. A few days later, after exchanging more electronic correspondence, they arranged another meeting and Nix picked up the girl and headed out toward Navajo Dam, the arrest affidavit states.

That was when the first of several sexual encounters the pair would have took place, according to police documents. This sexual relationship is believed to have lasted until Saturday, July 14, when the victim decided to put an end to it.

Nix sounds like a peach. Of course, he could be innocent. I should play nice. Or not....

What does a catholic priest do when off duty?

Would soliciting gay sex and committing lewd acts sound about right?

Three men including an Assistant Pastor at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Nipomo are under arrest for allegedly having sex in public.

Undercover Officers made the arrests Thursday morning after getting complaints from residents about people having sex near Pirates Cove.

Revered Geronimo Enrique Cuevas is charged with committing lewd acts in a public place.

Officers also arrested a 45-year-old Oceano man and a 25-year-old Grover Beach man. Investigators say all three men solicited undercover officers for sex acts and exposed themselves.

Now that children are off the menu, I guess sexually repressed priests are cruising for sex in our local parks.

Religion beat became a test of faith

Michael, ene of my new reality based Atheist friends, sent me a link to this article published in the Los Angeles Times this morning. William Lobdell, a long time religion writer for the Los Angeles times, tells how he lost his faith. It makes for an amazing read.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul.

He reported on all aspects of religion and corruption within the church. After years of seeing the real story, the truth won out.

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The Long Beach Atheist meetup

Rodney and Mike

Rodney and Mike from the Long Beach Atheist meetup. A second photo is posted here.

Despite my misgivings, I have only good things to say about my visit with a few real atheists. The people involved were polite, engaging, and well informed. I spent three hours talking. I enjoyed every minute.

The venue was appropriate, Hometown Buffet was a great place for the meeting. There was plenty of room for a lingering discussion. The food was OK as long as you stuck to meat, and I actually liked the relaxed atmosphere.

I leaned a few things

  • When planning a meeting, make sure to have it someplace where there will be an associated cost.Rodney, the event organizer, explained that the cost keeps away the crazies.Apparently, a few questionable people have attended the meetup in the past, but few repeat.
  • There is a whole world of Atheist who do not blog, who do not read blogs, and who are not interested in blogging at all. Yet, they remain active, informed, and focused on the same issues I am. I found it refreshing to find fresh perspectives and new ideas from people who had never read Atheist Revolution or Deep Thoughts.
  • The common thread which wound through our collective conversations was activism based on distrust of President Bush and his theocratic tendencies. Which made me wonder just how much Bush is responsible for the recent Atheist surge.
  • For my next meetup, I will make sure to bring business cards. In my case, something which identified my blog would have been helpful. I don't know what I was thinking. I did not even have a pen with me.

The event itself was painless. The organizer made sure the front desk knew of the meetup. All visitors need do was ask where the Atheist meetup group was located. The rest was a blur of handshakes and introductions.

I found it ironic that the restaurant was full of Jehovah Witnesses. Large family groups occupied many of the tables near where we sat. They minded their own business, we minded ours. It made for an interesting dichotomy. A small group of rational thinkers surrounded by the faithful. Their furtively glances reminded me we were the minority. I had an urge to slam doors...

The topics covered in our conversations ran from sports to politics, religion, and entertainment. Most Atheists had traveled abroad, so many of the stories related to religion and atheism abroad. My favorite conversations dealt with how each of us arrived at Atheism. I was fascinated. Each story was unique, insightful and real time interactive. I've got to look into this whole face to face thing. It beat reading a comment thread hands down.

My only compliant was that there were too few of us. I was told that the numbers can vary significantly. Our host suggested I attend the Atheist United meeting in Los Angeles where several hundred people meet on a monthly basis. Their newsletter shows how much is going on in the world of Atheism which I was not aware of.

In summary, this event was a blast. It did not bear any relationship to the socially inept libertarian meetings I have attended in the past. I immediately starting thinking of these men (there were no women) as my friends. I enjoyed spending time with them. I plan on continuing this process. I expect there is much more to this reality based atheism thing than I ever imagined. I'll post about my experiences here.

My thanks go out to Rodney Schearer, the event organizer. Meetup.com charges a few bucks a month to set up a meetup. Rodney graciously declined my donation. He believes in serving the Atheist community through hosting these little events. Thanks Rodney!

The next meeting is August 17th. See you there!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Troy liked them young

After all, he's a youth pastor!

It looks like a potential pedophile youth pastor was caught out before he could hurt the innocent children in his care. Troy Deal was busted in an Internet sting soliciting sex from someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl.

Deal is to be charged with using the Internet to solicit a child for sexually abusive activity, distributing sexually abusive material to the child and nine counts of using the Internet to communicate with a child for immoral purposes.

If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

I once conducted an experiment in a chat room. I changed my profile to that of a 15 year old boy. Within minutes, dozens of men tired to contact me. Times have changed, but the web is still a dangerous place for children. I supervise my 12-year-olds son's computer usage. I will until he is mature enough to handle himself. Experience has taught me that this is the best thing to do. People like Troy Deal are waiting to steal the innocence of any child who will take their bait. That fact that Deal is professional clergy somehow makes the whole situation that much worse.

I applaud the effort of the investigators who take predators like Deal off the streets. The job cannot be fun.

Is paying for sex wrong?

Not in my book. As a libertarian, I support the effort to legalize the world's oldest profession. It will never happen. Like most libertarian causes, it will go on forever and ever without resolution.

When is paying for sex wrong? When you are a pastor and moral activist fighting for the elimination of prostitution. Like Pastor and Cabarrus County Commissioner Coy Privette. He was busted for paying for sex with a known prostitute on six different occasions.

Privette, currently serving his second term as a Cabarrus County commissioner, is a former state representative and was a pastor at many local churches. He was president of the Baptist State Convention, has been outspoken about his conservative views and even questioned the conservative stance of fellow politicians.

Privette is 74, if Viagra had not been invented, this would not be a story. I have one word for Coy Privette - Hypocrate!

I'm a joiner

Well... kind of anyway. I'm sticking my ever-so-private toe into the big scary world of meetup.com. I've signed up for a local Atheist meetup, at Hometown Buffet no less.

I am not a social animal. Every attempt I have ever made at social events with people outside of my family/friend circle has resulted in several incomprehensible libertarian men pounding tables to make some obscure point on the efficacy of public transit subsidies.  After a few beers, I usually start pounding tables too.

Not so with my soon to be new Atheist friends. Tomorrow I will eat glazed pork and swill tepid ice-tea while they regal me with stories of the their Atheist struggles. Or... maybe they will talk about D&D since most of them are part of the local D&D group too. Who knows for sure, tomorrow I dine with my kind for a change. That should be something to look forward too. Right?

I'll take notes and pictures. I am sure more good stories will follow. After all, I'm eating at the hometown buffet, I hear that is where all the action is on a Friday night in the heart of a big city.

Not that I am complaining, but my local atheists must be poor because 6 good restaurants and 3 great bars within two miles of this little hell hole of a restaurant. They better be poor, because if given the choice between glazed communal pork and sushi, I choose sushi ever time. If I find out they have money but like Hometown Buffet, I'm going to go all libertarian on them and start pounding tables!

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'Tis the season for a Sony Cyber-shot


This shot is of my friend John attempting a ten foot putt on the 18th hole at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. I love this gentle and relaxing game. I could play it every day. I play with a couple of guys from work each week in a regular game. It is a good way to blow off steam.

I shot this as a test of the new Sony Cyber-shot Digital Camera DSC-T100/R. I fired into the sun to check lens flare and focus, and to see if the camera could freeze action. I had a little trouble catching my friends in the act of throwing a disc. The delay is about a half second. With practice, I was able to get the hang of the timing.

The DSC-T100/R fits an amazing combination of high-tech features into super-slim dimensions. It has high-resolution 8.1 MP imaging, a powerful 5X optical zoom lens and a huge 3.0" Clear Photo LCD Plus™ screen that lets you snap and share photos easily. Innovative technologies like Face Detection, in-camera retouching, D-range optimization and HD (high definition) output expand the possibilities of digital photography -- and the Sony Double Anti-Blur Solution lets you shoot in low light without flash to preserve the mood. The Cyber-shot DSC-T100 is available in four colors, including silver, black and red.

With the Face Recognition option activated, the pictures are always in focus. My main problem was seeing subject. When shooting into the sun or at a reflection, the view screen develops vertical white streaks which are distracting. The problem surfaces whenever a bright light source is in the frame. However, it does not translate to the image.

The macro feature is outstanding. Short of spending a few hundred dollars for a good lens, the macro and extreme macro capabilities are impressive. I shot my G15 key board in ambient light from two inches away and found the result usable. I'm not going to show the picture here because apparently my keyboard needs a cleaning. One important thing to keep in mind is that even a slight misalignment of the digital film plane and the subject will result in distortions. The most common being bending lines.

I noticed a problem with over saturation in my earliest tests. I took a couple side-by-side comparison photos with both the Cyber-Shot and my Nikon. Photoshop showed the Sony with deeper saturation levels on the reds and greens, while blue seems slightly less saturated. A slight adjustment corrected the problem - but who want to buy Photoshop?

My main beef with the Sony Cybershot is that it is to small for my thick manly hands. It felt like I was holding a $350 toy. My guess is the camera was designed around a woman's hand size. For example, the control buttons on the back way too small for my thumbs to use without fumbling and checking my orientation.

I tend to shake when I shoot with a small camera, so the image stabilization feature is a valuable feature. The face recognition feature guarantees good portraits. I've tried to screw things up on purpose and was unable to take an out of focus picture. Where was face recognition when I was shooting film?

The Cyber-shot comes with a USB cable interface. I tried uploading on an iMac, Windows laptop and desktop systems. The interface was seamless. I was moving files into Picasa or iPhoto in seconds. Anybody could do it.

In general, I would give the camera high marks for the ease of use designed around a novice photographer needs and high marks for overall utility. It is a camera my wife, young son, or even (gasp), a user could handle without any special training. Which means I will be buying lots of them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

my muse departed

truck and flames I stopped taking pictures for a few weeks after meeting somebody who was so much better than me that I did not feel worthy of picking up my gear any longer. He happened to cover the same event as me. After seeing is pictures, I felt like I had never picked up a camera before.

I thought about the issue while I tried to recapture my love for the hobby. I remembered the words of one of my favorite writers (and fellow Atheist), Harlan Ellison. He said that he could not read other writers without it affecting his work. If he read Asimov, he tended to write like Asimov. Instead, He focused on developing his own voice. So... I'm back at it. I'll try to develop my own voice while I put my envy away.  It is not easy.

I looked out my truck window this morning to find a big scary truck inches from my door after the sound of emergency breaking. I did not have my Nikon with me so I shot that truck that almost ruined my day with the new Sony Cybershot I am currently evaluating for my work. I like the little camera. It is  easy to use, takes great photos, and has high quality optics. My only complaint, some of my test pictures came out over saturated when I used the flash.

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Tip of the iceberg

The press is full of stories about the Catholic church's $660M settlement in L.A. Archdiocese sexual abuse case. I don't cover sexual abuse in that Catholic church for two reasons. I am a protestant Atheist, or I should say, I was brought up in a protestant environment before becoming an Atheist. I know very little about the Catholic church, so I don't like to write about their problems. Plus, several website's do an outstanding job of tracking catholic clergy abuse, like the Rick A. Ross institute

I find it interesting that the Vatican felt it necessary to spread the blame today. To quote Father Federico Lombardi, "other institutions should take steps to deal with such wickedness within their own ranks". He's talking about the Baptists. We all understand that... right?

Several people have asked me how many sexual abuse cases are reported each year with the various protestant denominations. According the the Insurance Journal's Rose French, the estimated  is about 260 cases per year.

The largest company, Church Mutual, reported an average of about 100 sex abuse cases a year involving minors over the past decade. GuideOne, which has about half the clients of Church Mutual, said it has received an average of 160 reports of sex abuse against minors every year for the past two decades.

Brotherhood Mutual said it has received an average of 73 reports of child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct every year for the past 15 years. However, Brotherhood does not specify which victims are younger than 18 so it is impossible to accurately add that to the total cases.

260 is the reported number. French estimates the number is significantly higher. 260 is the tip of the iceberg because independent protestant churches are not compelled to report abuse. Some prefer to handle sexual abuse cases internally. If we take a conservative approach and say 100 extra sexual abuse case per year go unreported, then my tag line of "Another week, another Baptist Pedophile" needs revision. Perhaps the line should read "Another day, another pedophile pastor?"


Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Wiccan molestation case

Well this is a first (as least for Deep Thoughts). Sean and Rachelle Pelino have been arrested for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15 year-old girl. They are accused of using drugs and the Wicca Religion to lure a young girl into a year-long sexual relationship.

"We don't worship the devil and most of us don't accept the concept of absolute evil," said the Wiccan believer.

People who practice Wicca follow a set of rules called the Rede.

It states: "Harm none, do as you will."

Right. I believe that.

Are we all terrorists?

John Walters is our nations drug czar. He views marijuana use as a lapse in moral character.  He's fought medical marijuana tooth and nail since his appointment. He's another Bushite fundamentalist trying to remake our country to an evangelical blueprint.  No he is calling people who grow marijuana terrorists.

The nation's top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their "reefer blindness" and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public's health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the "Operation Alesia" marijuana-eradication effort.

Of course, he offers no evidence for these assertions. Instead of fighting terror, it looks like a long summer of beating the hell out of a straw man.  I'm starting to sense a pattern here. Go after Osama bin laden by attacking Iraq, redefine torture to exclude waterboarding,  stop terrorists from entering the country by rounding up hard working Mexicans, and fighting the war on terror by going after Dr. Green Thumb.

Walters, whose official title is director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said too many people write off marijuana as harmless. "We have kind of a reefer blindness,' " he said.

We don't have reefer blindness. We understand that marijuana use is a social issue and should not be lumped into the same category as international terrorist. Legalize it! Why waste money on the useless effort to stamp out growers? It's funny really. The effort to stamp out growers is akin to "the surge" in Iraq. The targets adapt and move on.  How dumb is that?

If you want to ban a movie...

...ban a good movie. No one cares if Malaysia's bans Evan Almighty. Take it from me, the movie sucks. Why ban a movie that sucks?

Malaysia's influential Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) said the comedy, which plays on the story of Noah's ark and features actor Morgan Freeman as God, was insulting to Islam.

"The movie refers to the big flood during the time of Prophet Noah, but this has been turned into a comedy which is insulting to Islam," Secretary-General Maamor Osman told news agency Bernama.

"Featuring a human being as God in the movie is also against Islam," he added

Malaysians should watch the new Happy Potter flick, The Order of the Phoenix. It does not have any god depictions or floods, so it should be ok. I'm not so sure about the whole witchcraft thing. Muslims might take exception, we should just stop sending any movies to Malaysia. They can't ban it if they don't have it.

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What Does a Naturalist Believe?

Via Letters from Le Vrai:

I actually think the atheistic Existentialists, à la Jean-Paul Sartre, provide the clearest rejoinder to this criticism:

Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares with greater consistency that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man or, as Heidegger has it, the human reality. What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing – as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.

I consider myself a existentialist and a naturalistic Atheist. I found this post refreshing.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Blogroll update: Spam problems

It had been a week or so since anybody new asked to join the Atheist Blogroll. I was beginning to suspect a problem. I checked my gMail spam filter and found a half dozen applicants mislabeled as spam. I don't know why it happened. I'll keep an eye out for it in the future.

I want to take a moment to highlight a new member. Onion Breath is a blog about an Atheist themed children's book project.  

This is the blog about Steph & Dan Allosso's new kids' book, Onion Breath. It will cover the ongoing story of the creation and production of the book, as well as its public reception.

Their project looks righteous (as in California surfer dude righteous). Stop by an give them a some encouragement.

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The very definition of conspiracy

What do three Baptist pastors do when they find actual evidence that a child molester is prying on children in their church? Do not even think they called the police. Do not even think they did anything honorable. No, they told the alleged perpetrator to turn himself in after allowing him to prey on children in their church for nearly a year.  I understand they washed their hands together a few minutes after shooing Paul Lavertu out the front door.

Three Loveland pastors may have believed they needed to answer to a higher authority when they found an alleged child molester among their flock.

They encouraged the 23-year- old man to turn himself in with an attorney.

But now the Rev. James W. Rice, and assistant pastors Thad Gunderson and Eric Mowen, at Gateway Baptist Church, will have to answer to a Larimer County judge.

They are accused of failing to report the series of sexual assaults when they discovered the first one had occurred last summer.

One would think the only reasonable course of action would be to immediately call the police. Especially given the problems with clergy sexual abuse within the church. Instead of turning in Paul Lavertu, they provided pastoral counseling. Unfortunately, this allowed Lavertu to continue abusing children. Don't pastors have any common sense?

Police believe that the church member, Paul Lavertu, of Windsor, assaulted at least five children - girls ages 14 and 10, and boys ages 8, 10 and 14....

Lavertu, who was an adult member of a youth group, is considered to be mentally disabled, Avery said...

I smell a conspiracy. Lavertu is mentally disabled, a known child molester, and a member of a closed protective Baptist church. They protected their own without considering the impact to the children in the church and the other children Lavertu came in contact with. The civil suit from this case will bankrupt Gateway Baptist Church.

Church vows to help accused pastor

From The Crosswalk:

A Louisiana pastor says his church is hopeful that an associate pastor arrested last week on sex charges will be exonerated, according to OneNewsNow.com. But even if he's not, they still plan to minister spiritual help to him. Mike Raspberry, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Slidell, says police arrested James Griffin, 67, on charges related to child molestation and possession of child pornography, after executing search warrants on computers at Immanuel Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church, where Griffin previously volunteered, and at Griffin’s home in Pearl River. The Times-Picayune reports that Griffin has been charged with two counts of aggravated sex crimes and 47 counts of possession of child pornography. Raspberry says Griffin had no contact with children in his associate role with the church, which he has held since 2004. "We will continue to minister to the man, and to help him in any way that we can," says Pastor Raspberry

No word yet on what Pastor Raspberry is doing for the alleged victims.

I posted James "kiddie Porn" Griffin alleged crimes here.

Pastor fathers child with a child

DNA paternity tests have confirmed that Modesto Reyes has fathered a child with a 12-year-old girl member of his church. Reyes is contesting the DNA test results. He asserts that he is the 1% in the 99% statistic. He hopes an independent test shows this. Of course, he is a fool. Prosecutors offered him a 15 year plea bargain. He turned it down because he actually thinks he has a chance with 1%. He does not realize  the statistic is actually 99.99%. He has a .01 chance of not being the father. Which is to say, he has no chance at all. Plus, he has no chance of being excluded. The only thing the test will do is confirm his guilt. When he goes to prison on a 35 year sentence, 15 years is going to look real good.

Reyes was arrested in June 2006. He was pastor of Iglesia De Dios, Cristo Te Llama. At first, his church protested his arrest. 40 members crowed court proceedings. the crowd has dwindled to three as details of his alleged crimes have surfaced.

The girl, who is identified in the records as Jane Doe, told police that Reyes first forced himself on her in August 2005 after driving children home from a church function in a van used to transport church members, the records say. After dropping off all the other children, the girl told police, Reyes drove her to a lot near an empty loading dock on Ledyard Street, where he sexually assaulted her without using a condom, the records say.

A month later, as the church was marking a "fasting day" in which worshipers give up eating for a day to show their devotion, Reyes called the girl into his office and told her he was suffering from heart problems, the records say. He then locked the door and asked her to sit in a soft-cushioned seat, where he again lifted her skirt and forced her to have intercourse, the records say.

Reyes, records allege, would tell the girl he was suffering from heart problems as a ruse to get her to come to his office at the church.

In October, Reyes telephoned the girl at her home and told her he was sick and needed her to come to his office, the records say. The girl told detectives she felt bad for Reyes because he was crying, so she went to the church, the records say.

But when she got to his office, the girl told detectives, Reyes was waiting for her with his pants off. She told detectives she realized the true reason he called, and began crying as she lowered herself in the same chair and Reyes again assaulted her, the records say.

The girl told detectives the final assault happened over the weekend of Christmas, when she allegedly received a cell phone call from Reyes in which he again told her he was sick and in pain and believed he was having a heart attack, the records say.

Again, the girl told detectives, she ran to the church, only to find Reyes laying on the same chair in his office, apparently asleep, the records say. When she tried to wake him, the records say, Reyes began crying and pretended to have a heart attack, and then tried to lift up her skirt. Although she tried to stop him by grabbing his hands and telling him to stop, the girl told detectives, Reyes managed to again remove her underwear and force himself on her, the records say.

Heart attack my ass. This guy disserves to rot and die in prison.

I did a blog and Technorati search to look for a response from the faithful. As usual, the subject was ignored.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The "wound"

Is calling a protestant a "wound" like calling somebody a stain? The Pope has expressed his thoughts, Protestants are not Christians. A just released document called the Dominus Iesus makes the claim, it is bond to be controversial. The Pope seems bent on creating division. Is another holy war in the works?

All it will take for the Pope to back away from this position is for Protestants to rise up like the Muslims did when the Pope criticized Islam. A few riots, maybe burn a church or two....

I've had two conversations in the last month where people I know have tried to convince me other groups are not actually Christians. My position is simple, if you claim you are a Christian, then who am I to judge?

A young relative who is stuck in the slightly stupid age of 14, went on an anti-catholic rant at my family's independence day calibration. He's a Jack Chick fundie who thinks everyone but a few of his bible believing cohorts are not real Christians. I eventually had to shut him down, several of my Catholic relatives were getting upset. We have an unspoken rule at family parties, no politics or preaching. it helps keep the peace. 

The other was a pastor friend who calmly tired to tell me that virtually everyone I know who professes to be a Christian is not really a Christian. Beside accepting Jesus as your savior, the is some special set of rules that determine if your actions make you a true Christian. Everyone else, especially the Catholics, are going to hell. Even my mom, whose concept of what a Christian is is as simple as it gets. I grew so upset by the arrogance express in this mans believes that I swore off ever talking about religion with him again. It was simply mind boggling.

A step in the right direction

As an Atheist, I have always been uncomfortable with the tradition of prayer in the Senate.  It seems like another opportunity for Fundamentalists to point at the Senate and say "We even pray over our government".

There are two solutions. Ban prayer at government functions, or broaden the program to include all religions. Of the two options, I vote for the latter. I have no wish to stick my finger in they eye of my fundamentalist counterparts by banning prayer. However, I do desire to stick my elbow in their eye by allowing every religion on the planet a chance to lead the Senates morning prayer.

It happen today, my elbow feels righteous.

A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the Senate's morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors' gallery.

Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day's Senate session. As he stood at the chamber's podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting "this is an abomination" and other complaints from the gallery.

The Christians were pissed

For several days, the Mississippi-based American Family Association has urged its members to object to the prayer because Zed would be "seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god."

Next up is a Wiccan high priestess. She plans on delivering the prayer skyclad.

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